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GI Joe Classified Retro Series
by yo go re

Kickin' (and karate choppin', and judo-throwin', and shootin') it old-school!

A martial artist who started practicing at age 9, Scarlett graduated summa cum laude from two Ivy League universities and went on to excel in training courses at all four branches of the armed forces.

"All four"? Suck it, Coast Guard! Her original filecard was more specific, citing Advanced Infantry Training and Ranger School, as well as special education in Covert Ops School, Marine Sniper School, Special Air Service School, and a Marine Tae Kwan Do Symposium. Of course, there's (officially) no such thing as "Covert Ops School," two of those are for the Marines, and the SAS is British Australian (per Larry Hama's hand-typed original dossier), not American, meaning we still don't know specifically what she learned from the Navy or Air Force. Or maybe it's just being very literal, and she jus got a great time on various physical obstacle courses - climbing a wall, crawling under wire, all that.

The original Classified Scarlett was a truly lovely figure, with the best face any Scarlett's ever had - they were really taking advantage of the larger canvas afforded by the figure being 50% larger than usual. Given all the Retro Collection figures we've had before have been glorified repaints, it's surprising to see this one doesn't even reuse that old head.

This new Scarlett was sculpted by living conduit into another dimension - a dimension not of sight and sound, but of pure artistic endeavor - Paul Harding. His goal was, in his own words, "to give her more realistic proportions while maintaining that athletic look," and indeed he did. This is Scarlett in her classic Tactical Battle Unitard. You'd think that, being a special ops soldier surrounded by guys wearing various types of green uniform, she would also simply wear a green uniform, like Shooter did, but no, apparently that's not good enough for her. I mean, Ron Rudat's original designs for the character were under the heading of "master of stealth weapons," but her preliminary filecard only listed her job on the team as "girl." The sculpt is more intricate than it seems at first glance. There's a texture on the yellow swimsuit part, tiny snaps keeping the pouches on her boots closed, padding on her knuckles, zippered pockets on the left side of her stomach and up by the shoulder, and more. A lot of it is easy to overlook, but it's there.

The paint is a bit disappointing. This is a "Retro Collection" figure, and so it's based on the 1982 original. But the 1982 was drastically shortpacked (max of six of her in a case of 48 figures, which is still more than the four Cobra Troopers or Officers you'd get), so no one knew her from the toy, they knew her from the cartoon or comic. And while those two sources had a very vibrant yellow for her costume, the toy was exactly the kind of ugly, faded color reproduced here. She looks like she was left out in the sun all summer. The throwing stars and derringer on her left glove get their own paint apps, as do the zippers on her torso, but the padding on her right shoulder looks undersized because the edge of it is the same yellow as her suit, not red like the rest of it.

From the beginning, Scarlett has been a martial artist, so it would be nuts if she for some reason didn't get as much articulation as everyone else. Why would they do that? What would they have been thinking? Well, you don't need to speculate, because she does have all the same articulation as everyone else. Plot twist! [the plot twist is that there is no plot twist? --ed.] Yes! Retro Scarlett has retro swivel/hinge ankles, retro swivel shins, retro double-hinged knees, retro swivel thighs, retro balljointed hips mounted on a retro hinge, retro balljointed chest and waist, retro swivel/hinge wrists, retro double-hinged elbows, retro swivel/hinge shoulders on retro pectoral hinges, a balljointed retro neck, and a modern barbell head. She also gets one better than the previous Classified Scarlett, with a swivel where her ponytail joins her head.

That's because she comes with two ponytails, which is two more than the 1982 figure she's meant to be homaging. So for those keeping track at home, Hasbro considers it vital we keep the ugly old paint colors, but not vital we keep the ugly old haircut. Got it. One ponytail hangs staight down, while the other is designed to drape over her backpack. The only accessory vintage Scarlett had was her crossbow, which this toy duplicates, but also gives us a small olive drab backpack, a knife for the sheath on her leg, four crossbow bolts, a two-tone green pistol that can't be stored anywhere, an M16 rifle, and a version of that laser gun the Joes always used in the cartoon, the XMLR-3A (Cobra's version was identified as the "L-88 7.65mm general purpose machine gun"), which was ultimately based on a Colt R75. The rifles can store on the sides of the backpack, thanks to tiny pegs, but again, the pistol can go nowhere, making it kind of useless. Also, while she's got a sling on her hip to store her crossbow bolts, no one actually put a moment's thought into it, because all four bolts have specialized tips - three different arrowheads, and one grappling clamp - and those don't fit into the openings in the quiver! If you put them in upside down (pro tip: arrows in a quiver do not have their points sticking up where you could stab your own hand on them by accident) you can fit three of the four, but that's it. It's a clever effort, but falls down badly in execution. The figure includes hands with the trigger fingers extended, or closed fists.

Retro Collection Scarlett is a good figure, but she could have been great. Give her a more vibrant yellow, give her plain crossbow bolts that could actually fit in the sling the way they should, lose the pistol and the M16 entirely and instead give us some other martial arts hands in their place, paint the XMLR the tan it should be instead of this inexplicable green... there are enough changes available that Hasbro could theoretically do a "cartoon edition" rerelease and make us buy her all over again.

-- 06/07/24

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