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Rock 'n Roll

GI Joe Classified Series
by yo go re

Yes, yes, yes!

Like his codename, Rock 'n Roll is a cool mix of sonic thunder and fast action, and he loves taking the fight to the enemy with the biggest and loudest weapons available. This fun-loving and loyal Joe will do anything for his teammates, except turn the volume down.

It feels like GI Joe is making up for lost time right now, with dozens of figures either hitting stores or going up for preorder nearly all at once. It's nuts! I know we had a huge drought back at the beginning of the plague-times, but a flood can be just as bad. But that's a problem for the future: the problem of the now is the over-reliance on direct updates of toys from 40 years ago, with no invention or innovation. But if we're going to point out how bad that is every time Hasbro does it, then we also need to make a big deal of the times they don't.

Rock 'N Roll is exactly what we've wanted from this line from the start: while he's updating the spirit of those old toys, he's not actually copying any of them. The closest would probably be the 1989 version, since most of the others were wearing solid green, but even that one's shirt was yellow, not cream. The important thing, the thing that sells this as a modern Rock 'n Roll and not some other random Joe whose name you can't remember, is the inclusion of two bandoliers crossed over his chest, easily his #1 trademark feature.

Okay, the bandoliers are half of what makes a Rock 'n Roll Rock 'n Roll: he's also gotta have a beard. Yes, he was doing the "tacticool" thing before tacticool was even a thing. This figure has appropriately misplaced his razor, and his hair is looking rather shaggy, too. The reason here is the same as it was in the 2000s' "war on terror": when your squad is highly competent and effective, you're given a little more leeway. Actually, it'd be kind of funny for there to be a story where the Joes mess up a few times in a row, and suddenly they're all forced to dress to code.

Rocky was sculpted by Fred Aczon, who gave the figure some pretty plain clothes, then added a holster on the right leg, a pouch on the left, a tactical belt with several ammo pouches and a canteen, a leather band around one wrist and a strap of extra bullets around the other. Something else that's new to this Rock 'n Roll that has nothing to do with the sculpt are his tattoos. He's not quite to sleeve territory yet, but he's got various ink up and down both arms: a heart with "mom" in it, some skulls, a pair of fish, crashing waves, a jawbone and nasal cavity on the back of his left hand, and all of it printed cleanly and clearly. Look at that, you can just make things up and still have the character look recognizable? Who knew! Quick, somebody go back in time and tell the design team for the last three years about this shocking new development!

Articulation remains high in both amount and quality - at least one thing from the start of the line has survived! Just like the rest of the team, Rock 'n Roll has swivel/hinge ankles, swivel shins, double-hinged knees, swivel thighs, hips that are a balljoint mounted on a hinge, balljointed waist, hinged chest, swivel/hinge wrists, double-hinged elbows, swivel biceps, swivel/hinge shoulders, pectoral hinges, hinged and balljointed neck, and a balljointead head. The packaging now minimizes the art in favor of a 3D render of the figure, which is... it's not "bad," really, but it's not as good as the artwork would be. We can't even get you a picture, because Hasbro hasn't credited whoever did it. Also, the CG render makes RnR look like he's wearing a solid green shirt, not two-tone; so I guess, like Disney making any non-hetero content in their movies something easily removable for overseas markets, the advantage of doing a render of the character instead of a painting of the character is that it's easier to change things to appease audiences that are stuck in the past? The stats show him as Vanguard 1, Heavy Weapons 2, Strength 2, and Artillery 1, which seems weirdly low across the board, doesn't it?

Rock 'n Roll includes a removable helmet with built-in ear protection and a little pocket of bullets on back, a walkie-talkie that fits into his belt, a pistol for his holster, and of course his heavy machine gun, with fold-down bipod legs and your choice of a loose string of bullets or an attachable ammo box (that can also be stored on his belt when not in use). Because he was a surfer in civilian life, he's scrawled "Hang Ten" on the front of his helmet; and because he played in rock bands, he's got an alternate left hand with the pinky and forefinger extended (his alternate right hand is just a fist). It's a ton of really fun stuff, made even moreso by the fact that it's not just eating the 80s' lunch.

Classified Rock 'n Roll feels like Hasbro reacting to Bobby Vala's Action Force nipping at their heels: Action Force had a character called "Trigger" who was a machine gunner with a big, bushy beard, and so a lot of collectors were already using him as a stand-in Rock 'n Roll; if Lenny Panzica and Cory Cantelupe had just let RnR be a plain update, there would have been less incentive for anyone to buy him, when we already had something better and more modern. This Rock 'n Roll, though, is outstanding. I barely care about the character (come on, even if he's your favorite Joe of all time, you've still got to admit he's basically just a crowd-filler), but the modern design and the smart new elements meant I grabbed this toy as soon as I saw it. This is what GI Joe Classified should be.

-- 10/13/23


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