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Croc Master & Fiona

GI Joe Classified Series
by yo go re

Sooooo... he's in charge of all Cobra's ugly shoes?

If you needed another example of how GI Joe Classified is slipping down the slopes of quality, the website hasn't been updated since it launched. Why's that bad? Because Croc Master was not one of the characters included on the page at the start, so there's no info about him. And sure, we can interpret his stats from the packaging - Security 3, Melee Weapons 2, Strength 3, Animal Handling 4 - but for anything else, we're out of luck. So here's the filecard from the 2011 "Jungle Assault" Pursuit of Cobra figure:

Access to certain areas of Cobra Island is blocked by a maze-like system of interlocking canals, which are stocked with hungry crocodiles conditioned to be especially hostile and fast. The man responsible for these ultra-aggressive reptiles is Croc Master. This former alligator wrestler and burglar alarm salesman founded Guard-Gators, Inc. to commercialize the use of alligators for home security.

Classified has sadly stopped being anything at all creative, just laying the old toy on a photocoppier and pressing the "enlarge" setting up to 150%, so Croc Master is wearing his traditional Bane mask, a perfectly smooth, skin-tight black hood with red eyes and a silver rebreather mounted over his mouth and nose. A hose runs from that to a tiny tank that plugs in between his shoulders.

Fittingly, Croc Master gets the muscular arms from Gung-Ho, but that's it as far as reused pieces go. He wears smooth black pants (oh, possibly neoprene, like a wetsuit, since he'd spend so much time in water?) and a vest and boots made from thick crocodilian skin. There's a matching pad around his left forearm, while the bracer on his right arm is silver metal. He wears a fancy metal belt with a stylized crocodile eye in the place of the buckle. This is 100% how he's dressed for the last 35 years.

These arms feel a little slim in the forearm when there's no armor or anything covering them, so the bracers here make Croc Master look pretty buff. Since the arms are reused, he doesn't get any sculpted scars like the G3 figure did. That wasn't a feature any Croc Master had had before, but it made a lot of sense in an "environmental storytelling" way. His exposed skin is a nice tan shade, which may be because of his unrevealed and unknowable ethnic background or may just be because he's out in the sun all day.

Croc Master, in 1987, had a holster sculpted on his left thigh and a sheath sculpted on his right boot. This figure has those, but as separate pieces. Separate functional pieces. He's got a pistol and a knife that can be stored away, though it really feels like the knife should fit in the other direction - its blade goes to the back, not the front, or else it won't fit in the sheath properly. He's also got a whip, which I guess is what his Gear ranking for "Melee Weapsons" is about, and a bale hook - not a gaff, because that would help control his bulges be mounted at the end of a pole, rather than just being a hand tool. Figure he hooks that into crocs' mouths to held steer them around?

And then, of course, he comes with a crocodile. Like Snake-Eyes and Timber, Croc Master is sold in an oversized box with his pet - a true giant in this 6" scale. And breaking new ground, this reptile has a name!

The GI Joe brand has, for nearly four decades now, been subtly displaying the way the Joe team is better than Cobra, and that's that they respect the individual. Like, yes, Cobra has a lot more faceless masses of nobodies, but that's not what we're talking about here. Consider that every single Joe animal had a name, and not a single Cobra animal did. Eight Joes and eight Cobra had pets; of those Cobras, five were named individuals and three were troop types, but even the individuals just had "an" animal, not a specific, named animal. So Mutt would have Junkyard, but Raptor would just have a falcon. But according to the box, this beaut is named "Fiona."

Fiona is a big girl, measuring nearly 12" from snout to tail. It was a big deal when the G3 crocogator had an articulated jaw, but this one gets that and more: a balljointed head, chest, and tail; swivel/hinge shoulders and hips; and four swivel/hinge feet. The length of the tail is bendy, too. It's enough to have her prowling around or just laying in one spot and basking.

The sculpt is impressively detailed, perfectly capable of hanging with NECA's zoo-replica Planet of the Apes toys. The snout is long and narrow, with the teeth visible even when the mouth is closed, the nostrils tiped up on the end of the nose, and the eyes facing forward; the scales and osteoderms on the back and along the tail are rough and bumpy, providing protection and aiding in maneuverability in the water; underneath, the two chambers of the stomach can be picked out easily; and the legs come out to the sides of the body, rather than vertically like in a mammal.

We get a couple different shades of dark green paint on top of the croc's body, and light green for the underside. The beady little eyes are yellow, and the interior of the mouth is a desaturated pink, with the tongue being just slightly darker than the rest of the skin.

Timber may have a name, but the crocodiles has something the wolf didn't: accessories of its own! There's a big spiked collar connected to a chain leash, which is something all the previous Croc Master figures have also included, but there are also two baby crocodiles! Awww! Crocs really do take care of their young for a while after the eggs hatch, so this makes sense. Both the babies are unarticulated, but one is green and the other while - albino baby! They even get some paint apps to pick out their eyes and other features. So cute and fun!

Croc Master may not be a creative new design, but they did well on the sculpts of the new parts, and the croc he's mastering is awesome. Would coming up with something inventive have been better? Eh, maybe, but this isn't a case like the B.A.T., where there were a ton of better options. And after all, if crocodiles themselves haven't changed in 200 million years, why should their master need to get a new costume?

-- 08/19/22

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