Hasbro’s G.I. Joe team may have a deep knowledge of the lore of their line, but at this year’s Comic-Con, we were able to stump them. Which came first, we asked: Cobra the Enemy, or Sgt. Slaughter’s Cobra Clutch wrestling hold? Assistant brand manager Emily Bader promised she’d ask the Sarge himself and get back with the real answer. More on that later.
In the meantime, we had questions about the HasLab Dragonfly helicopter, recently crowdfunded and probably headed to loyal fans sometime next Christmas-ish. Why omit the classic trigger button that made the rotor go? The reason had nothing to do with increased realism, it turns out.
“It would be a lawnmower!” exclaimed designer Lenny Panzica. Bader affirmed that a trigger is “no longer QA compliant, given the size of the helicopter, so we wanted to make sure of safety first, everybody needs to keep all their fingers. The blade is manually triggered for spinning.”
As to why the Dragonfly became the choice for the crowdfund, Bader said, “It just felt like the right time for a cool air vehicle.” “The Dragonfly classic silhouette is something you just can’t mess with,” offered design manager John Warden. “When you think about a HasLab, you have to lean into what’s going to be appealing to the largest and widest amount of people.” They considered more sci-fi versions of the helicopter, but in the end, says Panzica, “the angularity of it was one of those things we really had to keep.”
O.G. vs G.I.?
The debate over classic G.I. Joe designs versus new looks has raged among fans ever since the G.I. Joe Classified line launched a few years ago. Initial figures sported new looks, but subsequent additions stayed much closer to their ’80s designs. “It’s consumer research, really,” says Panzica, who insists that as long as the line runs, “we’re gonna do multiple versions of every character in different costumes depending on the mission.” Initially, in the design team’s headcanon, “the first mission was they didn’t know what the new threat was, so their gear and their loadout was different.” Pointedly, new figure reveals like Tripwire and Clutch come with alternate accessories for both their classic looks and a more modern military style.
We’ve seen Tiger Force as an exclusive style/storyline for Target. In the ’80s line, it was an excuse to rerelease older figures and vehicles with new paint jobs, sometimes arbitrarily. Can the new team explain why these military guys all seem to change their hair as soon as they join the Tiger Force mission? Indeed. “At its core, G.I. Joe is a fashion brand,” says Bader. “There are so many iterations of different characters in their different outfits, and so to me it makes absolute sense that accessories, hair color, weaponry, load-outs would change when you change your outfits, because, you know, you want everything to match nicely.”
“They do it to match their gear! They dye it,” says Panzica.
Sixty years ago, the original G.I. Joe was designed. Fifty-nine years ago, he hit store shelves. Might the Classified line have anything in mind for that commemoration? While revealing specific upcoming secrets is strictly…well…Classified, model manager Tony Colella did let slip that, “Hasbro loves anniversaries…It’s a good suggestion on what we’re looking at.”
Transforming the Line
The entire team were taken by surprise at the ending of Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, which revealed the seeds of a possible G.I. Joe crossover, but the Classified line has one upcoming figure that suggests the same shared universe — Cobra’s Mole Rat, a miner for Dark Energon who has been mutated by it, and now glows in the dark, as crystals burst from its head. “We wanted to get a grotesque sculpt in,” says Panzica. “We are toy nerds too. We wanted to see how we could push the line, what kind of sculpts can we do.”
Given that, how do they feel about the neon colored Lunartix aliens that came in the mid-’90s Star Brigade line? More positive than fans at the time, perhaps. “I love monsters, I love creatures — one of my favorite movies is The Guyver,” says Panzica. “I love the way that stuff looks, and I would love to see it realized in sculpture. How could we take that, in this day and age, and make it feel Classified, and push it. How do we feel about ’em? We love them.”
Warden adds: “There’s something about that era where it did push the limits a bit in terms of color and accessories, but if you take a modern approach to some of those characters, you could have things like mech-suits that are absolutely topical in the present, while still paying homage to a character from the past.”
For now, the actual Transformers crossover figures will remain in the 3-3/4 line, which will also feature the only 3-3/4 Joes for now as the line is on pause. A Dreadnok Thunder Machine that transforms into Soundwave includes an all-new Zartan and Zarana. As for anything movie-related, Bader simply replies (albeit unprompted), “We cannot comment on anything upcoming, but who knows what the future may hold?”
The next day, Superhero Hype caught up with Bader again. Had she, in fact, gotten to ask Sgt. Slaughter the deep-cut question?
“He said he didn’t remember!” she responded.
Check out more images from their panel and SDCC booth below.
Mutt and Junkyard
PulseCon exclusive 3-pack.
HISS with HISS strike team.
Vintage 2-Up paint masters.