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GI Joe
by yo go re

It's hard to remember what my first action figure was - it's much easier to narrow it down by lines. I know the originals of Ram-Man and Trapjaw were in there, and I know I returned a broken MotU Land Shark to Zayre's and exchanged it for Zartan and his Chameleon Swamp Skier, but I don't think that was my first GI Joe: that distinction belongs to another 1984 release, Blowtorch.

A qualified expert with all known military flame-throwers, pyrotechnics, and heat-projection devices, Blowtorch is also extremely proficient in defending against them. He is currently studying for advanced degrees in both structural and chemical engineering because he feels that he can't ever know too much about the weapons he uses and has used against him, and about the structures he might be called upon to attack or protect. Aside from his rather annoying habit of pushing the "test" button on every smoke detector he comes across, Blowtorch is fairly realistic and practical. Unlike a pyromaniac, he would much rather see a flame extinguished than ignited. Why would somebody who thinks like that want to work with flame weapons? Because he wants the fire to be under control, and he thinks he's the best one to do it.

Blowtorch holds an important place in the ranks of the GI Joe team - in his red and yellow suit, he was the first soldier who didn't look like... well, like a real soldier. After two years of guys in green jumpsuits, Blowtorch tested the boundaries of the Joe team's lax dress code, opening the floodgates for joiners like Bazooka and Quick Kick. Still, it would be 18 years before Mr. Timothy Hanrahan would receive a second figure, and it was nearly unrecognizable. Bleh. Tan and gold? Sure, it looks okay, but it's not Blowtorch! Thankfully for the little 6-year-old who dwells within the recesses of my mind, Hasbro released a classic-style repaint the next year, though it wasn't exactly an easy piece to acquire.

The 2003 version of the figure is wearing a yellow full-body suit beneath red pads, just like the original. The design isn't an exact copy - in fact, there are a lot of major differences - but the colors realy help sell it. The sculpt is very nice, too, with sculpted straps seeming to hold the pads in place, and cloth wrinkling as it should. Heck, some of the straps have even been sculpted with buckles and holes, like a real belt.

Blowtorch's helmet is removable, though it's a bit different than the original. Back in the '80s, his helmet and mask were two separate pieces: the helmet went on first, then the mask strapped around it. Today the entire thing is one piece, which means 50% less chance that you'll lose or break part of it. The paint apps on the helmet are much more involved, too, with red over the ears and silver for the lenses - it sure beats solid yellow! The hose plugs into the respirator on his chest.

Blowtorch, sadly, does not have any accessories - not even his namesake flamethrower! The 2002 version had them, so why not the one released the next year? Well, it goes back to what we mentioned before about this figure being tough to find. He wasn't available by himself, or even in one of the two-packs Hasbro loved so much back then. No, this repaint was only released with the $30 Built to Rule Raging Typhoon set.

Built to Rule, you'll recall, was Hasbro's ill-advised attempt to create knock-off Lego versions of their properties. The Raging Typhoon wasn't a bad set, per se - it was a giant hovercraft that could also turn into four smaller vehicles - but it just didn't suit Blowtorch. Why is the fire guy on a hovercraft? Shouldn't it have come with Cutter or Shipwreck or something? Because he's part of the BTR line, Blowtorch has Lego studs on his arms and legs. Rather than just being slapped on the original mold, however, they're actually sculpted and molded as is they're something he strapped on. That's a plus. Still, wish he had some accessories. And his hands should be yellow, not pink: the fire guy is going to have enough sense to wear gloves.

Even without accessories, this Blowtorch is still the best one available - at least until he makes it into the 25th Anniversary line. Not even the ridiculous faux-Lego nubs on his limbs can drag this figure down. For the people who fondly remember this ketchup and mustard monstrosity from back in the day, a tan and gold version just won't cut it: it's red and yellow or nothing.


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