Originally, the plan was to release these two figures, both of them tank drivers, with recolored versions of the popular MAULER tank, which was originally released in 1985, and was essentially the successor to the MOBAT. The Mauler was a larger and in many respects more sophisticated tank, and remains a highly popular entry in the world of G.I. Joe.
There would have been one G.I. Joe version of it, and one Cobra version. Unfortunately, just as production was going to commence, the molds were damaged. Nobody's fault, really. Just one of those things that happens as much from age as anything.
However, the tank driver figures had been produced, and the Club decided to release them, even without the tanks. And I am very pleased that they did. As much as the loss of the tanks was an unfortunate tragedy, a far greater tragedy would have been if these two figures had never seen the light of day.
STEELER - Steeler was the original G.I. Joe Tank Driver. He first came with the original MOBAT in 1982, and was quite a popular figure at the time, as well as today. While most of the first year G.I. Joes shared as many body parts as possible, Steeler had a very distinctive and unique torso piece, with a high collar that seemed to give him a certain air of authority. Granted, driving a tank helps that image. He came with a helmet that had the unique feature of a visor that slid down that appeared to be designed to allow for a binocular effect.
Steeler never appeared again in the original line, and in fact would not appear again until the comic-based three-packs that started up in 2004. As with many of the new versions of the earliest G.I. Joe characters, the Steeler figure was certainly acceptable, but seemed in some respects to be a little uninspired.
I believe that one of the reasons the 2007 Convention Set has been so well received is that it has offered updated versions of many of the most classic characters -- Grunt, Clutch, Flash, Grand Slam, Rock 'N' Roll, and others, that are truly worthy and amazing updates of these classic G.I. Joe Team members. And certainly the new Steeler fits into this category.
The headsculpt is a good one, a well-sculpted face with a crewcut. Curiously, the hair is blonde, even though the original Steeler had brown hair. However, I believe that here we have a little nod to the animated series, in which Steeler was portrayed as a having blonde hair. And honestly, Steeler seemed to get more attention in the animated series than in the comic book, most notably in the amazing two-part episode "Worlds Without End", which saw a group of G.I. Joes transported to an alternate Earth where Cobra ruled, and in which the Baroness was actually a double-agent, and in love with her world's Steeler, who had perished. Steeler, along with Grunt and Clutch, opten to remain behind, in one of the decidedly surprising and astounding moments of the animated series.
Given all of that, I don't have a problem with a blonde Steeler. The eyebrows are a light tan, entirely appropriate for a blonde-headed individual, and the whites of the eyes have been painted, with black eye pupils and an "eyelash" line over the top. Really superb detail.
The body used for Steeler is a good choice simply because of its relative obscurity. In 1989, there was an interesting little flying craft called the Mudfighter. This strange vehicle had a rather squat, oval-like body with a large rear propeller. It came with a pilot named Dogfight who, unfortunately, never saw much time in either the animated series or the comic book. Given the time period, this isn't unusual, although it is a bit of a shame. Dogfight is a very nice G.I. Joe figure, and the Mudfighter, although certainly peculiar, has its own certain coolness.
Steeler's body is derived from Dogfight. Obviously it's been extensively recolored as well as detailed to better match the color scheme of the G.I. Joes from this particular set. Steeler is wearing a brown jacket, a tan shirt, green trousers, and black boots. But once again, that extra level of detail that the G.I. Joe Club is always willing to take comes through very nicely here.
Steeler appears to have a black undershirt, which puts a bit of black at a good spot to offset the boots. The silver zipper of his jacket is fully painted. The black web-like belt around his waist is fully painted, with a very nice silver buckle, and extends down the right leg to his holster, which holds a silver gun. There is a triangular insignia on his upper left sleeve, a match for the one shown on the Convention Set box. It is a three-colored triangle with a black lightning bolt in it. A green circle with a black lightning bolt is also printed on the front of the jacket, in a sculpted area from the original Dogfight. Certainly preferable to leaving it blank.
Most remarkable of all, the buttons of Steeler's shirt have been painted! And there's eight of them. All painted in a slightly darker than than the shirt, all the way down. Wow!
Steeler comes with a brown helmet, which has a superb visor attached to it, a rifle and a pistol, and a transparent stand. His file card reads as follows:
Code Name: Ralph "STEELER" Pulaski
File Name: Pulaski, Ralph W.
Primary Military Specialty: Armor Driver
Secondary Military Specialty: Transportation (88A)
Birthplace: Pittsburgh PA
Steeler was selected as the Executive Officer in charge of the G.I. Joe Team's tank division. As one of its original members, he has taken part in countless operations against the Cobra organization. While he is recognized as a tough and dedicated soldier, his frequent clashes with superior officers keeps him stationed in the motor pool. Coming from a blue-collar middle-class background in which you proved your mettle through physical contests, he frequently challenges team members to tests of strength and stamina.
Steeler's current assignment is to field-test the latest upgrade on the MAULER MBT-X (Manned Battle Tank) as well as overseeing the NCO (Non- Commisioned Officer) qualifications for cold weather training in Fort Carson, Colorado. He knows that many of the original members don't get into the field too often, and this is a perfect opportunity to keep their skills and equipment running like a fine-tuned machine. Everything changes when Cobra launches a surprise attack on a chemical weapons storage facility in his vicinity. Now he and his crew of experienced veterans are the only hope of stopping them from releasing havoc on the world.
"Prove you're right, prove you're tough, then drop and give me fifty!"
An impressive file card, obviously written when it was still expected that the tanks themselves would still come out, bit still providing a superb background on the character as well as the main storyline behind the Convention Set.
Now let's consider...
RIP IT -When Hasbro introduced its first enemy tank for Cobra in 1983, the HISS (High Speed Sentry), individuals or even specialized Cobra troopers were in short supply. 1982 had given us Cobra Troopers, Cobra Officers, and Cobra Commander. 1983 would add Major Bludd and Destro to the mix, but the core army of Cobra was still -- Cobra Officers and Cobra Troopers, whose "code names" on their file cards were simply, "The Enemy". We had yet to encounter Tele-Vipers, Night-Vipers, Snow Serpents, Flak-Vipers, or any of the various specialized troopers that would become a part of the massive Cobra organization in the years ahead.
So when it was decided to include a driver figure with the HISS Tank, he was simply another "The Enemy" figure, designation, "HISS Driver". Not a whole lot to work with name-wise, although the figure was certainly evidence of the design potential of Cobra specialist troopers that we would see in the years to come. The original HISS Driver wore a rather bright red uniform, with a blue chestplate with a silver logo on it, and high, deeply ridged black boots. His helmet covered his entire face, with large silver goggles over his eyes.
The HISS Driver was really a very impressive figure, especially for his time.
During the course of the 2000-2002 G.I. Joe series, one of the vehicles offered was a recolored HISS Tank, officially dubbed the HISS III. (The HISS II, a completely different mold, had been released in 1989, with a figure called a Track-Viper.) For the HISS III, it was decided to bring back the original HISS Driver figure. Except this time, he would be given an individual character name.
He was named Rip-It. While that name doesn't sound particularly Cobra-ish, it wasn't a bad name, and was in fact based on a golf term, which was cited on the original Rip-It's file card.
Rip-It was a recolored HISS Driver. In this instance, the figure was colored a sort of steel blue, with a black chestplate with a red Cobra insignia on it, red belt and cuffs, high black boots, and a black visor with a red face mask. It was a very cool recoloration of the original HISS Driver, really, and certainly an interesting addition to the G.I. Joe collection, as well as effectively an entirely new character.
So -- who are you going to put up against the G.I. Joe Team's most experienced Tank Commander? Cobra doesn't have a lot of individual tank specialists. Really, Rip-It is it. But the original red-uniformed HISS Drivers and the original blue-uniformed Rip-It figure had better be prepared to take a back seat to the 2007 Convention Rip-It, and anybody who has ever thought for whatever reason that the HISS Driver molds looked the least bit goofy somehow had better be prepared to be amazed to the point of apology, because never before has any HISS Tank Driver or Tank Commander named Rip-It looked THIS imposing and dangerous.
The figure uses the same molds as the HISS Driver and the original Rip-It. However, this time, the figure has been molded in BLACK. The chestplate is black, with a bright silver Cobra logo right in the center. The helmet visor is silver, as is the belt buckle. The belt, cuff, and high boots are a dark Cobra blue, as is the face mask beneath the visor. The only trace of red on this figure at the little shoulder bands, which interestingly have not been a painted element on any previous version of this figure.One additional new painted element is the ridge over the top of the helmet has also been painted, in this case, painted blue.
This Rip-It means business. He's not bright red. He's not blue with red trim. He's black with blue trim, and if you have the slightest doubt as to his allegiance, there's that silver Cobra emblem, front and center. I sincerely believe this figure to be one of the highlights of the entire, and very impressive 2007 Convention Collection.
Rip-It comes with a shotgun and a transparent base stand. His file card reads as follows:
Cobra Name: Cobra Rip It
File Name: Booth, Fredd T. III
Primary Military Specialty: Heavy Equipment Operator
Secondary Military Specialty: Armor
Birthplace: Fall River, MA
Rip It is the Cobra chief heavy equipment operator and tank battalion commander. He is a talented but utterly vicious individual. The man has no allies, even within the devious ranks of Cobra, yet has risen quickly through their hierarchy based on his inarguable skills alone. Other Cobra troops consider Rip It to be a coward because he unleashes his metallic mayhem safely enshrouded in a cocoon of multi-layered titanium alloy. But in or out of a tank, most troops avoid him when he is in a bad moon - which is all the time!
Although he prefers the maneuverability of the H.I.S.S. (High Speed Sentry) series of vehicles when sowing chaos on the battlefield, his working knowledge of virtually all tracked vehicles makes him the de facto leader of the Cobra armored vehicle division. He is also the perfect candidate to drive a recently developed prototype of the upgraded G.I. Joe Manned Battle Tank. His mission will be to quickly blast into the Rocky Mountain Arsenal in the Colorado Rockies. Using the familiar vehicle profile to temporarily confuse U.S. military ground radar, will allow an elite task force of Cobra Night Stalkers to continue on their mission inside the facility.
"The Cobra blue paint job is an improvement, but I would have used black. It just looks MEANER!"
Yeah, no kidding it does -- on the driver, if nothing else...!
Again, a superb file card, which does a good job of providing character profile as well as the Cobra side of the storyline of the Convention Set.
If you've been having doubts about these figures because they do not come with the tanks -- don't worry about it. Get the figures. They're both extremely impressive. If you need tanks to assign them to, well, I think I have a Patriot Grizzly around here that Steeler can have, and there was that recolored HISS II that the Club produced as a Convention Exclusive a few years ago. That didn't come with a driver. Rip It can use that.
Tanks or no tanks, the Official G.I. Joe Convention STEELER and RIP IT figures are extremely impressive, and they have my absolute highest recommendation!