LIFELINE v.4 (1994)
I have many favorite G.I. Joe characters so saying that Lifeline is one of my favorites doesn’t hold much weight but I’m gonna say it anyway. Lifeline was one of my favorite G.I. Joes as a kid. Nothing against Doc, the original Joe medic, who was also a great figure. Doc had an old school kind of vibe about him which was cool, like he could’ve been a medic in Nam or something. Lifeline on the other hand seemed much more modern, with a dash of the fantastical. I can’t imagine any real-life medics wearing an outfit like Lifeline’s original red and white get-up but it didn’t seem too far-fetched to my young mind. For those of you not familiar with the original Lifeline figure from 1986 he’s the gentleman with the green sunglasses that can be seen in the banner at the top of the page (What is it with Joe medics and green sunglasses?).
Lifeline was described as a pacifist. I remember in one episode of the cartoon Lifeline fell off of a raft going down some river in the amazon. The other Joes were trying to rescue him by reaching out with a rifle for Lifeline to grab onto but he was so firm in his pacifist beliefs that he refused to touch the gun even to save himself. He got to safety somehow but I can’t recall how. It was an unrealistic but interesting trait.
A second version of Lifeline was released in Tiger Force colors in 1988 and a third, which nearly identical to version 1, was available exclusively in Rice Krispies in 1991. To this day I don’t own either of those figures though I’d like to get the Tiger Force one eventually. This fourth version was released in 1994, the final year of the Real American hero toy line. I feel that one of the main things that killed the Joe line in the early 90s was the wackiness of the figures in those last few years. Color changing ninjas with karate chop action and spring loaded hot pink water cannons was just too much. The brand had gotten too far removed from its military roots. This figure however, which I never owned until very recently, is an understated, grounded-in-reality type of figure that I would’ve appreciated as a kid. I didn’t pay much attention to the Joe figures coming out those last few years. I saw characters I loved being re-released over and over again, in progressively worse costumes, and I just completely lost interest. The 1993 Zartan that I recently reviewed is a good example of a good character gone wrong.
That Zartan came to me in a haul of vintage Joes that I recently bought online. Of the 20 or so 90s era Joes I got, Lifeline version 4 is one of the figures I like the most. I have a lot of childhood nostalgia tied to the character’s original design but this is a pretty decent update. He retains the red and white medical color scheme of the original only this time it’s broken up with some black and gray thus looks a little more realistic. A lot of later versions of old characters bothered me because the character appearance completely changed. Guys like Mercer and Lowlight grew beards and sometimes their hair color even changed. Though this figures hair is brown and the original Lifeline’s was black it doesn’t bother me so much since they both had helmets on and their hair can barely be seen. Wrong hair color aside the head sculpt is pretty good and I like that his microphone is glued in place as the removable ones were easy to lose. The overall design is nothing spectacular, and I can imagine this figure being a peg warmer amongst the brighter and crazier figures of the day, but the plainness is what I like about it.
Lifeline version 4 didn’t completely dodge the day-glow 90s bullet. His weapons are all molded in a ridiculous yellow plastic which kills any realism this figure had going for it. I bought my figure used so I don’t have all his gear but I’m fine with that. If I were to display this figure I would grab him some decent black weapons from my extensive armory. Or maybe just a flashlight and a walkie talkie since he doesn’t like to hold guns anyway. 7 out of 10.