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Sgt. Slaughter

GI Joe Classified Series
by yo go re

Well now things are gonna get interesting!

Every soldier has stories about their Drill Sergeants from Basic Training, but few can compare to the claims of a 6'2", 240-pound giant known as Sgt. Slaughter. Now retired, Sgt. Slaughter began his military career as a Special Forces Team Sergeant, leading classified operations in the early '80s. At some point in his career Slaughter left the teams to become a Drill Sergeant at Fort Benning, where he pummeled young recruits into the ground, day and night. It's what earned him the nickname "Sgt Slaughter." It didn't matter to him who the recruits were, or where they were from, he treated them all alike, and turned them into real soldiers.

Okay, first of all, that bio doesn't technically refer to this toy - whether it's their character designs or their website, Hasbro is not interested in updating things. So that means since the Sarge wasn't part of the proposed lineup when it launched three years ago, he isn't even mentioned on the site at all. And so we've copied his bio not from one of the previous GI Joe releases, but a different source entirely.

GI Joe was the reason for Robert Remus' departure from the WWF in 1984: he was super excited about being a Joe, but Vince McMahaon had just signed a licensing deal with LJN, so that would have been a conflict. Vince told Bob the only way he'd be able to work with Hasbro would be if he quit - so he did! Vince, being a dick, tried to claim he owned the Sgt. Slaughter character; lawyers got involved, but Sarge came out on top, and action figure history was made.

The original Sgt. Slaughter toy was available via a 1985 mail-in promotion, and he wore basically his wrestling outfit: a green singlet top and black tights. By the end of 1986, he'd gotten his second figure as the driver of the Triple T tank, and that's what this toy is updating. His shirt is black, and he's wearing green camo pants. That was the model used in the cartoon, so it makes sense as a basis for this toy. There's even less of an effort to update this design than Spirit, which is really saying something. But honestly, what could you do? His belt is white now, that's a difference.

Like, maybe he could have some armor on his boots, or sturdier pants, but part of Sarge's appeal is that he's such a weird throwback - not as a toy, but as a character. He joined the GI Joe team wearing wrestling boots and tights, for cryin' out loud! A bit of silliness is part of the character's appeal. He's wearing his iconic campaign hat and mirrored glasses, making him look like a State Trooper, but Hasbro took advantage of the larger size of the Classified line to follow Mattel's lead and make those removable.

The upper body is reused from Roadblock, so we already know how he's going to move: 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. That means this figure moves better than any of his wrestling figures ever have! His stats list him as Leader 3, Hand-to-Hand Combat 3, Strength 4, and Classified 3, which mostly make sense, but why Classified rather than, say, Athetics?

It's interesting to compare how Hasbro's different brands all deal with the plasticless packaging mandate. The Transformers team has open windows where the figure can be seen, with the accessories held in flaps in the cardboard; the Marvel team just folds the figure into a cardboard frame inside the box, with the accessories wrapped in plain paper; judging by the Halloween Edition figures, the Star Wars team is wrapping the figures in thematically designed paper and putting the accessories in sealed paper bags; and now the GI Joe team is paper-tying the figure into a branded tray, and putting the accessories in a sealed bag made of thematic paper inside a cardboard foot locker. Dang, guys, calm down! Would the figures have increased to $24.99 if you weren't spending so much money on the throw-away parts of the product?

The footlocker thing feels like a slight throwback to Sigma 6, though not quite as cool. The ditty bag the accessories are in has Joe and Cobra logos all over it. In addition to his hat and glasses, he has a whistle to hang around his neck, a command baton to whip everyone into shape, and a Kalashnikov-alike rifle with a removable clip and flashlight. He also has a bunch of alternate hands, something the Classified line had wrongly moved away from: fists, grips, clawing, or pointing.

And then there's the thing that got nominated for Accessory of the Year. When Sgt. Slaughter partnered with Hasbro in the '80s, the first thing he did was act as a pitch man for the toys. In line with that, this toy comes with a toy for him to sell. There's a tiny, tiny Sgt. Slaughter figure on a little blister card! It's not as fancy a package as the World's Smallest Snake-Eyes, just a bit of plastic folded around a cardboard chit, but you can slide it open and reseal it when you're done. The little Sarge is closer to being a 6" scale (in 6" scale, so... 1:144?) than the 3¾" scale he'd have actually been selling back then, but it's fully painted and a really cool thing to include. This release may an exorbitant $33.99, but (considering they certainly had to pay licensing fees to the man himself) Hasbro certainly gave us a lot of stuff for the cost.

We were all excited last August when it was announced Sgt. Slaughter would be rejoining GI Joe, but the best thing about this figure is it's not an exclusive. Sure, you have to buy him online, and you have to pay more to get him, but compare that to the color-changing Zartan that nobody ever got a chance at. Even with some competition out there, this is a great representation.

-- 01/20/23

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