The later years of G.I. Joe: a Real American Hero was absolutely riddled with sub-teams. It’s partly what made me lose interest in the brand. Not only were the new figures painted in more and more garish colors but the creation of all of these sub-teams meant a lot of character repetition. One of the great things about the Joe brand that allowed it to grow and attract new fans was the constant influx of new characters. Unlike Batman , Spider-Man and the Ninja Turtles who had a finite number of heroes, the Joe team could go on endlessly creating new specialties and the creators could make a character as valuable to the franchise as they wanted. Some figures seemed doomed to be background characters while other were propelled into the spotlight by the cartoon and comic book. As characters like Flint and Beachhead were introduced into the line they became must have characters. Hasbro seemed to have run out of ideas as the 90s rolled in though. Sub-teams like the DEF (drug elimination force) or Star Brigade were filled with rehashed characters like Duke and Roadblock. In the old days when a figure was re-released like Hawk, Snake-Eyes or Roadblock it was because the new figure was an improvement over the old one. In the 90s that was not the case. Why would I want to buy this new crappy Duke in a clunky purple spacesuit when I already have a much better Duke figure that was made 10 years earlier.
In my mind these sub-teams with their rehashed characters and loss of focus of the brand contributed to the downfall of the line but I am not opposed to sub-teams entirely. Re-painting characters to create a cohesive looking unit as was done with Joe’s Tiger Force or Cobra’s Python Patrol can be cool if done sparingly. And sub-teams consisting of all new characters were welcome if they brought something cool to the table. The Dreadnoks and Iron Grenadiers being probably the two best. One sub-team which I enjoyed but which gets little love from Joe fans overall was Battle Force 2000. Battle Force was introduced in 1987 and was supposed to be Joe’s futuristic fighting force. They dressed in science fiction looking gear and drove fanciful futuristic vehicles. Their vehicles could combine to form some sort of far-flung futuristic battle station. I guess this is what the Hasbro design team assumed warfare would look like in the distant year 2000. There were originally 6 member of battle force 2000 which Doug and I split down the middle. I owned the Buck Roger looking rejects Maverick, Knock-Down and Avalanche while Doug had the more realistically garbed Block, Dodger and Blaster. I bought the 7th member DeeJay when he was released two years later.
Though Doug and I liked these figures you wouldn’t know it by the way we treated them in battle. For some reason we portrayed the whole lot of them as a bunch of skilled and efficient bumbling retards. They had a childlike disposition, never seeming aware of the dangers around them. They had a habit of kidnapping Cobras and bringing them back to their headquarters which was separate from the PIT, the main Joe base. Once captured the prisoners were then treated as friends by the clueless members of Battle Force 2000. Why did we go this route? I have no idea. We were kids and not everything we came up with was gold. In may have been in part because the character’s personas were never established in either the cartoon or comic book so they were a clean slate for our over active imaginations.
Each member of Battle Force 2000 has only ever had 1 figure released of them. Hasbro has never bothered to revisit the concept in either the new sculpt or modern sculpt eras. Perhaps because calling a futuristic fighting force Battle Force 2000 in the year 2012 would be kind of dumb. They haven’t appeared in any of the modern comics produced by various publishers either. In the original Marvel series where death was a rare thing, the entire team (with the exception of Dodger for some reason) was killed as soon as Hasbro gave their blessing. Writer Larry Hama clearly had no love for the concept. My favourite figure of the group was their leader, Maverick. I actually don’t recall if he was officially the team leader, that may have just been in my head. His design is very sci-fi with a jumpsuit and silver shoulder pads but not so farfetched that he looks out of place with the rest of the Joe team. His helmet is one of the best removable Joe helmets ever designed. It’s cool looking and covers his face entirely except for the eye holes which line up just right. When on, the helmet doesn’t look oversized or clunky which can be tough to pull off. The face sculpt has a lot of character, he looks more like a hard-nosed test pilot who’s been through hell as opposed the giggling man-child persona I saddled him with. I actually think this is a great figure and I would love to see all the members of Battle Force 2000 revisited in a modern day 7 pack akin to the Dreadnok and Renegades packs released last year. Fingers crossed. 7 out of 10.