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REVIEW:
G.I. JOE 8" SOLDIER - TOXIC ZARTAN
By Thomas Wheeler


Here we have TOXIC ZARTAN, a rather interesting repaint of the Zartan figure added to the 8" G.I. Joe line when it was still going by the name "Sigma Six". Normally, I'm not really one for repaints. Unless they're sufficiently different, and sufficiently interesting. I wasn't entirely sure about Toxic Zartan, but with the unfortunate demise of the line, I decided that if I wanted him at all, I should probably get him while there was still a decent chance to do so. And in many respects, he was sufficiently different from his predecessor.

The first 8" Zartan figure is particularly notable for how similar he is in basic appearance to his original 3-3/4" ancestor from 1984. This is especially remarkable given how many Zartan figures there were in the 3-3/4" world, and how different some of them looked. The Ninja Force Zartan from 1993 was vastly different from the original. There was a Zartan in the newsculpt line that appeared to be wearing a red sweater, that was different enough from its predecessors that had it not been for the trademark face-paint around the eyes, you'd've never known it was a Zartan. I suppose this is to be expected from a so-called Master of Disguise.

So it was interesting to me just how similar the first 8" Zartan was to his original 3-3/4" counterpart. Now granted, Zartan had also appeared in the Sigma Six animated series well BEFORE his figure emerged in the toy stores. However, I think it is reasonable to assume that Zartan, most likely along with Destro, were having their figures worked out as that series was in production, given the rather considerable lead time necessary in the world of toy production.

Even so, the first 8" Zartan was so close in basic appearance to his 1984 ancestor that the figure even matched the exact same color of burgundy on the hood and trousers. THAT can't have been all THAT easy given over 20 years separation between the two figures. Somebody at Hasbro must have been a pretty good record-keeper on colors used for the original line. Overall, the 8" Zartan was a good basic match, design-wise, for the original. There were some mild style differences, of course, but most of these could be attributed to the different design of the figure line as a whole. The original 8" Zartan looked entirely as if someone had taken the original 3-3/4" Zartan, stretched him up to 8" in height, and Sigma-styled him, for lack of a better word. And it certainly worked to produce a very impressive 8" Zartan for the figure line.

Toxic Zartan is a different matter. Although he uses the same molds, for the most part, as the first 8" Zartan, the color scheme is like nothing previously seen on any prior Zartan figure. As his name might imply, Toxic Zartan has worked to develop hazardous waste and toxic chemicals into weapons. This is something that the G.I. Joe Team has dealt with before. In the early 1990's, Cobra employed the services of an individual named Cesspool, a former corporate CEO who had been physically scarred by exposure to the very toxic waste that his own company produced. Cesspool enlisted his own Sludge-Vipers and a new incarnation of the Toxo-Vipers to construct weapons using industrial pollutants. In response, the G.I. Joe Team developed the Eco-Warriors. This special team received a somewhat mixed reaction among fans, given the bright colors of most of the figures and the rather "Captain Planet" type attitude of the concept. One can understand why Hasbro wouldn't really want to bring Cesspool back in the 8" size, and yet certainly bio-weapons based on hazardous materials is a legitimate enough scenario. So they gave the job to Zartan.

The figure borders on being downright eerie in its appearance. It's a sort of color-aesthetic thing, but if you want a fictional character to look particularly heroic, it's not a bad idea to use primary colors. Look at Superman. Red, blue, and yellow. Consider Spider-Man. Red and blue. Look at the main Gundam from just about any Gundam series out there. It will be mostly white, with a fair amount of red, blue, and yellow on it.

Granted this isn't always possible. G.I. Joe, representing the military, couldn't really use primary colors for the good guys, but here was a case where reputation and concept helped out with that.

If you want a character to look evil, or at least suspicious, you use darker and secondary colors. Doctor Doom has dull grey armor and a dark green cloak. Lex Luthor, when he dresses in his armor suit, is garbed in green and purple. Batman, although a good guy, still dresses to promite fear in others, and so he dresses in grey and black.

This practice, intentional or not, has clearly been carried over to Toxic Zartan. The original's color scheme, although not really using any primary colors, at least had a moderate look of normalcy to it. Zartan's skin color was a standard flesh, and his uniform, no doubt through its similarity to its 3-3/4" counterpart, had a certain look of familiarity to it.

Toxic Zartan is another matter entirely. This is one very creepy-looking figure. This Zartan's skin is a pale yellow, almost looking zombie-like. The mask or face paint around the eyes is green. This color, which also appears on the lower arms, which are a very eerie transparent green, is the closest to a specific primary or secondary color anywhere on the entire figure, but the overall color scheme of the figure is so bizarre that you almost don't recoginize it as such.

Toxic Zartan's costume is a very dark purple, very dark blue, and black. The hood is black, the chest plate and shoulder pads and purple, the lower torso and trousers are dark blue, and the boots are purple with black trim. The only evidence of highlight colors are silver pegs at the shoulder pads, a white skull-and-crossbones insignia on the chest plate, of the type one would expect to see on a bottle of rat poison more than a pirate's flag, and white knee pads, which look very much like an afterthought since they look to my trained eye to have been hand- painted. Reasonably neatly, at least.

The end result is this very creepy-looking figure that would not be out of place at all in a Halloween display. Between the pale skin and the dark uniform, the design for which does have a certain malevolence to it regardless of the color scheme, what we have here is a character that is very clearly a villain, and nasty-looking enough to probably bother even those who are on his side whom he's working for.

Honestly, the skin color is such that I half-expected him to glow in the dark, and really, it wouldn't've been inappropriate. It's about the right color, and it would've fit in rather well with the concept. Unfortunately, his skin does not do so, although I do wonder if it was something that was at least considered for this figure, and dropped for whatever reason before production began.

The really creepy part of this figure is the arms. I don't even want to think about what sort of toxic substance could turn a man's arms transparent green, but there they are. Hasbro did a good job designing this "effect". The lower part of the upper arms are lightly sprayed with a green paint that pretty much matches the color of the transparent green plastic, although they themselves are not transparent. Then below the elbows, the arms are molded from a very distinct trans[arent green plastic. Given that Zartan wears these huge, thick gauntlets, which are also transparent green, it comes across as a very prominent part of the figure.

One almost has to wonder -- is this the effect of some sort of toxic substance Zartan has been working with, or is he using his "Master of Disguise" capabilities to produce this effect just to unnerve those around him? Certainly wouldn't put it past him.

The one structural difference between Toxic Zartan and the original is the addition of Kung-Fu Grip. This special feature was, of course, a highlight of the Adventure Team line back in the 1970's, during the run of the original 12" G.I. Joe. It basically involved molding the hands in a grasping position, and making them out of a particularly flexible plastic, so they could hold their own accessories and other small objects, such as pencils and the like. Kung-Fu Grip has been adapted for the 8" figures, and is only used on the right hand, whereby the fingers are articulated and attached to a spring, which snaps the fingers inwards. This way, the figure can maintain a good grip on his weapons and other accessories.

What's interesting about Toxic Zartan using this feature is that, unlike its other recipients in the line, Zartan's hand is molded in a somewhat transparent plastic, and you can get a somewhat better look at the overall mechanism.

Toxic Zartan comes well-accessories, and of course his accessories are appropriately themed. Most of them have either the skull-and-crossbones on them, or a "Hazardous Materials" label, and just as with Zartan himself, the main colors seem to be green purple, and black, although there's a fair amount of silver, as well.

Zartan comes with a staff and a sword, but his main weapons are a combination "Toxo-Blaster" and "Bio-Sludge Backpack". This is actually a small squirt gun device. You submerge the weapon in water, work the backpack to draw the water into the weapon, and then you can use the backpack again to fire the water -- or "bio-sludge" -- out of the weapon.

As far as I know, this is the first squirting weapon ever in the 8" G.I. Joe series' weapons array. It's also, intentionally or otherwise, in keeping with the 3-3/4" line's Eco-Warriors division, which also used squirting weapons.

Zartan's file card on the back of the package reads as follows:

COBRA MERCENARY

Code Name: TOXIC ZARTAN

Specialty: Disguise

Personal History: Zartan is always looking for new weapons, and he's not squeamish about where he finds them. Hazardous waste, to Zartan, was an untapped resource. He combined materials to create a toxic sludge that poisons on contact: one blast of it and you are infected with a substance that attacks you in a dozen different ways, all of them unpleasant. He is immune to it except for turning a sickly green color, which is a small price to pay for the opportunity to hit G.I. Joe with a nasty surprise.

Anyway, as for Toxic Zartan, although I tend to avoid repaints, which the 8" G.I. Joe line has certainly had no shortage of in its unfortunately rather brief history, Toxic Zartan was sufficiently different from the original, and sufficiently interesting in his own right, for me to add to my 8" G.I. Joe collection. I have no idea what his availability may be once this review appears on MasterCollector, but if you have any opportunity through whatever means to add TOXIC ZARTAN to your 8" G.I. Joe Collection, he definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation!