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Spirit

GI Joe Classified Series
by yo go re

We've got Spirit, yes we do! We've got Spirit; how 'bout you?

So, just as with Croc Master, Spirit was not one of the characters featured on the Classified website when it launched, and Hasbro has not updated it since then. "Then" being June of 2020. Two-plus years ago, for future readers who don't want to scroll down to the bottom of the page to see when this review was originally posted. Since his only filecard that doesn't lean really heavily on the "he's a mystic indian with mystic indian powers" stuff is the 1989 Slaughter's Marauders version, and that one randomly changes his birthplace from Taos, NM, to the Grand Canyon (500 miles away), we're just going to boil down all his bullet points into a new, orginal one:

Charlie Iron-Knife grew up poor - so poor, he didn't even know there was any other way to be. To help provide for his family, he leared to track and trap animals, and served as a trail guide for tourists. After joining the Army, he earned his doctorate in psychology, meaning he can follow the past movements of enemy troops in the wilderness, use his understanding of human nature to predict what they're likely to do next, and build the equipment he needs to stop them.

It's sometimes been said that Native Americans have served in the US military in proportionally higher numbers than any other ethnicity, but the military doesn't actually keep detailed enough records to prove that true - as recently as Vietnam, "American Indian" was not a category recruiters used, just lumping them in with whatever other ethnic group they felt like that day. There are 236 Joes, and there are, what, five who are from Native populations? Spirit, Airborne, Torpedo, Red Dog, and a Generation 2 guy named Dart. (Kwinn is cool, but he's not a member of the team.) That's 2.11%, close enough to the 2.09% of the US population who are Native. Way to represent, Hasbro! And also, way to improve the design.

At a glance, Spirit looks identical to the classic figure - this isn't even the squint test, it's the "looking straight at it" test: a short-sleeved blue shirt and khakis, no obvious changes. But he's no longer wearing buckskin boots, and he's not wearing a loincloth over his pants, so we're already doing better. He still wears his hair braided, when a tsiyeel/chongo would be more appropriate for him, but the current design team is afraid to stray too far away from what used to be.

Spirit is wearing a strap over one shoulder and across his chest with a pair of grenades molded as part of it, and that Classified transponder thing all the Joes have shared right up on top of his shoulder (though it's such a similar color that it nearly blends in with the strap. There's a knife sheath on the vertical strap that has some fringe along the edge, which (along with the silver belt buckle giving off some definite "American southwest" vibes) is one of the few "indian-y" elements they've allowed the toy to retain; it's not overbearing like the '80s toy was. His shirt has the same emblems on the sleeves that it used to, though they're now on the sides rather than the front. He does have a new, thick pad on his left forearm that no Spirit has worn before, and there's a reason for that.

Spirit was, famously, one of the Joes who had a pet: an eagle, because racism was cool in the '80s if it was positive racism. Give the mystical indian an eagle companion? Of course! He's so noble! There have been ten 4" scale Spirit figures made, and four of those included Freedom the eagle - definitely enough to link the pair of them in fans' minds and make the bird's inclusion here the correct choice.

For the first time, Freedom gets their own articulation: a swivel/hinge head, balljointed shoulders, swivel hips, and swivel feet. It's not much, but it's more than zero! Pegs in the bird's claws can fit into holes on that bracer Spirit wears, meaning Freedom is not perching by sinking their claws into some tender, tender forearm meat. The beak looks more like a seagull's than an eagle's, though - do you think somebody misheard the instructions?

Spirit's other accessories include a pistol and knife that can go in the holster and sheath on his legs, and a more special knife that can go on his chest. The leg-knife is just black; the chest-knife has a bird skull for a pommel, and the blade is painted silver. Why, it's almost as if it's some kind of... iron knife? Imagine that! His backpack is two tan pouches beneath two square containers, which is similar to the vintage style. He also carries a sniper rifle, which today is just a rifle and not a rifle that for some reason fires arrows. Yeah, he used to carry a gun that fired arrows. Come on!

There's a perch at the top of the backpack where Freedom can land when Spirit's hands are busy. Freedom gets some extra pieces of their own, too: an alternate pair of wings! The normal set are folded and relaxed, while these are spread wide. They plug into the body via large balljoints, making two more points of articulation. Fun! And inventive.

Spirit's stats are Recon 4, Light Weapons 3, Stealth 3, and Animal Handling 4, which all seem right on target. The art on the box is by Jeffrey Veregge. G1 Spirit was a little over-the-top with the 1980s stereotypes, but this modern version tones all that down without losing the spark of what made Spirit Spirit. This update is better than expected, and better than it seems at first blush.

-- 09/16/22


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