REVIEW: SDCC EXCLUSIVE G.I. JOE SGT. SLAUGHTER
Thanks to the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con, the most feared and respected drill instructor of the history of the G.I. Joe team has returned! That's right, SGT. SLAUGHTER himself has been brought into the modern line, and modern style, of G.I. Joe action figures! And you'd better pay attention to this review, or else I'm sending the Sarge out your way, and the first words out of his mouth will be "Drop and give me fifty!" And that's if he's in a good mood!
The San Diego Comic-Con has become increasingly known as a place where the major toy companies offer a remarkable array of exclusive merchandise for fans and collectors. The 2010 entry from the world of G.I. Joe was the very popular character of Sgt. Slaughter! Technically, there were two versions available. One in an outfit akin to his wrestling togs, another more along the lines of the military-type outfit that he wore in the animated series. I was able to get the former, but not the latter. Both are cool figures, certainly, but I sort of wanted the wrestling-gear version first and foremost. Reportedly the other version is distinctly the scarcer of the two.
I personally found it rather remarkable that this figure even came to be. After all, Sgt. Slaughter is also part of the WWE, and that license is presently held by Mattel, and they do have plans to produce a Sgt. Slaughter figure. Additionally, before they lost the license, Jakks Pacific produced Sgt. Slaughter as part of their WWE toys, including a very decent 4" scale "Build-n-Brawl" version which, although designed differently, works with modern G.I. Joe figures fairly well.
But, there's nothing like having the genuine article, and from what I understand, Sgt. Slaughter owns the rights to his own likeness, so if Hasbro wants to make arrangements with him to turn out a special edition action figure for their G.I. Joe line, then it's going to happen, even as Mattel prepares for their WWE entry. This is likely also how the Sarge found his way into a G.I. Joe Convention Set a few years back.
Sgt. Slaughter is a real-life individual. His real name is Robert Remus, currently considered semi-retired. He's worked for the National Wrestling Alliance the American Wrestling Association, and of course World Wrestling Entertainment. He does have legitimate military experience, serving in the Marines as a torpedo launcher specialist.
He was in the AWA when he received his greatest push, between 1985-1990, which was also when he was brought into the world of G.I. Joe. He wouldn't become involved with the WWE until 1990. Here, he was actually a heel (bad guy) for a time, ultimate facing off against the WWE's top draw at the time, Hulk Hogan. Following this, he was gradually restored to the patriotic good guy he had best been known as.
Slaughter eventually became more active behind the scenes, although occasionally appeared in ring, and in uniform/costume, when the occasion called for it. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004, the night before WrestleMania XX.
Currently, according to his official Web Site, he serves in a semi-retired capacity as an "Ambassador" for the WWE, doing goodwill work for the company, appearing on television once in a while, and appearing at events such as WrestleMania Axxess and the like.
Slaughter's involvement with G.I. Joe went far beyond just allowing his likeness to be used as an action figure, although that's certainly where it started. The first Sgt. Slaughter figure, upon whom one of the new figures is based, was released as a mail-order figure in 1986. The second version of Sgt. Slaughter, upon which the other Comic-Con figure is based, also turned up that year, as the driver of a small tank-like vehicle known as the Triple "T" (Tag Team Terminator).
Sgt. Slaughter would be one of the major characters of the second season of the animated series. He was brought in by General Hawk himself to improve discipline in the ranks, and made an impressive debut during the "Arise, Serpentor, Arise" mini-series, which kicked off the second season, when he showed up during an attack by Cobra Battle Android Troopers directed against the G.I. Joe team's base. Sgt. Slaughter almost single-handedly turned the B.A.T.s into a pile of scrap metal. Over the ensuing days, he whipped the Joe Team into shape with his rough, tough, take no guff, in-your-face approach.
Even Cobra Commander seemed impressed by the Sarge. He was captured during one of the raids that Cobra staged to locate DNA for their project to genetically bring about Serpentor, and it was decided that Sgt. Slaughter's DNA would be added to the mix. Needless to say, Slaughter was less than impressed with this idea. At one point, when he was stunned and put into a holding cell, he awoke so rapidly that Cobra Commander remarked, "That man has the constitution of a vending machine!"
The real-life Sgt. Slaughter voiced his own character in the animated series, and would go on to do so in the 1987 animated movie, where he would receive credit in the opening credits alongside Don Johnson (Lt. Falcon) and Burgess Meredith (Golobulus). Here, in the movie, he was seen as the trainer for several malcontents known as the Renegades. Lt. Falcon was unceremoniously dropped on them after causing more trouble at the Joe Team's main base than could be tolerated.
Slaughter continued voicing his own animated character, right on into the DiC-produced series. In the opening mini-series, "Operation: Dragonfire", Slaughter is seen leading a new special team, picked from among the Joe Team's top specialists. These were Slaughter's Mauarders. The team was, of course, based on a new special team in the toy line, which was a team of six G.I. Joes led by Sgt. Slaughter, with distinctive camouflage patterns on their uniforms, and three assorted tanks as their vehicles. The Sarge never really drive anything lightweight. The previous year, 1988, a new figure of Sgt. Slaughter had been offered as the driver of a vehicle called the Warthog AIFV, a semi-tank that was reportedly so difficult to drive that only the Sarge could control it.
Sgt. Slaughter clearly enjoyed his participation with the G.I. Joe product line, and continued as its spokesman in commercials for several years. Additionally, he put in a number of appearances in slightly edited versions of the original animated series, which were grouped together for additional syndications several years after their original run.
Sgt. Slaughter didn't appear that much in the original Marvel comic. He was brought in during a storyline in which Zartan had infiltrated the G.I. Joe team's headquarters, in issue #48. By issue #51, he accompanies Cross-Country in a HAVOC to pursue Zartan and the Dreadnoks after another escape attempt. This was his last comic appearance, although he is listed among the team members in the massive roster in the Devil's Due comic G.I. Joe: America's Elite #28, and he can be seen in a flashback sequence as a drill sergeant for incoming Joe Team trainees.
The last G.I. Joe-related Sgt. Slaughter figure was the G.I. Joe Convention exclusive in 2006, which also featured Sgt. Slaughter as its special guest. Sgt. Slaughter also put in an appearance at the San Diego Comic-Con on behalf of the G.I. Joe line, so clearly his interest in and enjoyment of being a part of the G.I. Joe universe continues.
So, how's the figure? Well, actually, I'd like to discuss the packaging a bit first. The figure is carded on a more-or-less standard G.I. Joe figure card, designed to resemble the original cards. This is all packaged in an overall protective plastic case which has a San Diego Comic-Con sticker on it, and the G.I. Joe logo embossed on the back. A star and a Cobra logo are embossed at the top.
The front of the package card features a nicely done painted illustration of Sgt. Slaughter in his wrestling gear. The back of the card, along with his file card, of course, features a rather interesting image. It's a letter from Sgt. Slaughter. His whistle, part of his hat, his sunglasses, and the edge of a typewriter can be seen in the background. I admit I find myself wondering where Hasbro found a typewriter these days. They must have had some in office storage.
The letter, which is on a piece of paper that has the Sarge's emblem on it, encircled with the words "G.I. Joe Training Facility" and "Slaughter's Marauders", reads as follows:
From: Sgt. Slaughter
To: G.I. Joe Recruits; San Diego, CA
Subject: Recruit Training
Listen up, maggots!
"I'm Sgt. Slaughter and nobody's tougher than me. You may think you are, but you're wrong! I know what it takes to pound a team into fighting shape. I know what it takes to fight the enemy. You don't have my respect if you don't want to train hard and fight hard. You want to mess with the best in the world, then come and see me. Cobra is tough, but I'm tougher - and so is the G.I. Joe team, because I trained them to be that way!"
And if that isn't enough to get the message across, there's his file card:
File Name: Classified
Just about every member of the G.I. Joe team is qualified to be a drill instructor, so it takes a special brand of heavy-duty honcho to keep 'em squared away. Sgt. Slaughter fits the bill the way his bullet head fits his hat. Let's face it, the man be rough and he take no guff.
"They say he cut his teeth on a bogey wheel from a Patton tank and that his first words were 'Semper Fi'. They say that when the Sarge dresses down a boot in Camp LeJeune, the trainees cringe all the way to Pendleton. Most boots would rather dive for apples in the grease trap than cross the Sarge. They say he can blow a month's pay on one night in Thule, Greenland. Of course, jarheads are prone to exaggeration. We all know it's impossible to blow a month's pay in Thule, Greenland."
This is essentially identical to the character's original file card, and it also pays respect to the real-life Sgt. Slaughter's actual Marine experience, as well as the fact that, according to the information I looked up, he really is from Parris Island, South Carolina.
Now -- how's the figure? Extremely cool. Now, I'll admit I will always have a distinct preference for the original-style G.I. Joe figures. At the same time, I realize that we have a new format, which has been in effect since the 25th Anniversary of the line. Given that, there are some characters that one would not mind at all seeing brought into this new format. I am convinced that Sgt. Slaughter is very near the top of a relatively short list on the part of most fans and collectors. And now, we finally have him!
The figure is slightly taller than average for the format. Honestly, he could have stood to be slightly taller than he is. The original Sgt. Slaughter figure was distinctly taller than the rest of the crowd, essentially "Destro height" of a full 4", rather than 3-3/4". The new Sarge is closer to the same height as most of the others, but that doesn't mean that he doesn't look as though he can take care of himself. He's still got a distinctly more powerful build than the average modern G.I. Joe figure.
And here is where I need to deal with something with a certain amount of -- well, I hate to use the word "delicacy" when it comes to the Sarge. The original Sgt. Slaughter figures were given rather muscular, almost exaggerated builds. The real-life Sgt. Slaughter was no body-builder. He's a big man, and I wouldn't want to be on his bad side, but he definitely had a stockier physique than his almost super-heroic-looking action figures. The new Sgt. Slaughter figure is technically more accurate to the real-life Sgt. Slaughter in this respect, in that although certainly sizable, the arms do not have the same extreme muscle definition of the originals, and the abdominal region is somewhat broader. Don't get me wrong. He still looks as though if he stood in the path of an oncoming tank, it'd be the tank that'd take the most damage. And, interestingly enough, the figure feels a good bit more sturdy or solid, and certainly a good bit heavier than the average 25th-style G.I. Joe figure.
The headsculpt is excellent. Like the rest of the figure, it's not quite as exaggerated as the original, but it still certainly looks like the Sage, complete with the mirrored sunglasses, mustache, and that crack-a-coconut-on-it chin. Sgt. Slaughter is of course wearing his traditional hat, very nicely detailed.
The figure is dressed in an olive green tank top, with the letters "USA" imprinted across the front in red, white, and blue. Here is the one area where the new design format of the figures has an adverse effect. The mid-torso articulation point really splits the shirt very visibly. I've never really understood why this switch from waist articulation, where there's already an apparently splitting point, was made. And, unfortunately, the "USA" letters are split across the articulation point. I have the feeling that this is the one instance where the other Sgt. Slaughter figure might have been a little better. That version is wearing a black tank top with no letters across it. The black would keep the mid-point from being quite as obvious, and there would be no letters to be divided across the point.
Sgt. Slaughter's arms are bare. He is wearing red wristbands and black gloves. The left hand is particularly interesting, as it was sculpted with the index finger extended. Just the thing to point to a raw recruit to chew him out.
Sgt. Slaughter's outfit continues with a white belt with a gold buckle, black tights, and green and black high boots. These have a sergeant's emblem on their outsides, and are very impressively detailed with extensive laces. The traditional G.I. Joe logo has been imprinted on the outside of the left leg.
The original Sgt. Slaughter figures tended to have a whistle on a thin rope around the neck. This was, of course, sculpted as part of the figure's torso. The modern G.I. Joe figures like to add separately-molded parts whenever possible, whether it's belts, harnesses, vests, or whatever. But there wasn't a lot that could be done with that on the Sarge -- except the whistle. It's been molded separately. It's on a black cord, and the whistle itself has been painted gold. It doesn't look like it's intended to be conventionally removable. I don't think it would quite get past the hat brim. I do think it would be possible to pop the head of the figure off and remove the whistle.
Of course, the Sgt. Slaughter figure is very well articulated, and is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows (including swivel), wrists, mid-torso, legs, double-jointed knees, and ankles. The figure stands extremely well. I've had a little trouble with some of the modern G.I. Joe figures that I have picked up, getting them to keep level footing. Sarge stands just fine.
Let's talk accessories, which is one of the reasons I wanted this particular version of the figure -- which I know sounds odd since I'm generally not one to emphasize accessories. Of course, Sgt. Slaughter comes with the gold-topped brown "swagger stick" that the original came with. This version is somewhat larger and more extensively detailed than the original. He also comes with a small black object which initially threw me off a bit, since it wasn't something the original Sarge had come with. Turns out it's intended to be a microphone, which arguably is one of two concessions this Sgt. Slaughter makes to his wrestling background.
The second such concession, and in my opinion the coolest accessory in the lot, is a G.I. Joe Championship Wrestling Belt! Now, this is a slight stretch. Sgt. Slaughter's real-life wrestling background was never once officially brought up in the animated series, or for that matter the comic book. He was a powerful combatant who admittedly used some wrestling moves. His fights against the creature initially unleashed by Dr. Mindbender on the way to developing Serpentor, as well as his battle with Nemesis Enforcer in the animated movie, are proof of this, as well as other examples. But it was never stated that he was a professional wrestler.
Mind you, as someone who enjoys watching the WWE, I'm not complaining. It's a very cool accessory. It's just the right size, mostly black, very thick, with four ornate copper panels to either side of a huge copper centerpiece, very ornate, that has the G.I. Joe logo on it, emblazoned in full red, white, and blue against a black background. This is really a very cool and very impressive piece of work!
So, what's my final word here? I'm extremely impressed. Okay, I have one issue with the articulation, but that's hardly exclusive to the Sarge. It's just a bit more obvious on him than some. And honestly, as cool as the entire figure looks, and as welcome an addition as the Sarge is to the modern G.I. Joe collection, I'm well prepared to overlook it. The accessories are cool, especially the belt. The figure is superbly well-made, looks like the Sarge, and works well with the rest of the figure line -- which had better be ready to be whipped into shape once again!
Neither version of Sgt. Slaughter is easy to come by at this point. Neither are they impossible. And if you're a G.I. Joe fan, especially a fan of the modern collection, but also remember how much fun the addition of the Sarge was to the line, and how much of a supporter of G.I. Joe the real-life Sgt. Slaughter is, and all the great times he's brought to the world of professional wrestling as well as G.I. Joe, then you've really got to have this figure.
The SAN DIEGO COMIC-CON EXCLUSIVE G.I. JOE figure (or figures) of SGT. SLAUGHTER definitely has my highest recommendation!
At ease, disease! DISMISSED!