GRAND SLAM v.8 (2014)
The final package from the G. I. Joe Collector’s Club Figure Subscription Service (FSS) 2.0 arrived in the mail the other day. For the past 2 years the Club has offered its members the opportunity to subscribe to a service where 2 exclusive figures are shipped to you every month for 6 months for a total of 12 figures. In the 6th and final shipment a mystery 13th figure is included. Last year’s mystery figure was Blackout which I thought was a great choice. Blackout is an obscure character from the new sculpt era of the mid-2000s but he’s a character with an interesting backstory and a figure that wasn’t likely to be produced by Hasbro. Some fans weren’t thrilled with the choice but I think those were mostly fans who hadn’t been collecting the new sculpt era figures and were not familiar with Blackout. Had he just been included in the regular FSS I’m sure nobody would have minded but there was a lot of speculation and anticipation about the mystery figure and he may have been the victim of overly high expectations. Overall, I’d say he was fairly well-received.
Based on the reaction to Blackout’s reveal I suspected most fans had more reasonable expectations for this year’s 13th figure. Personally I was a fan of Blackout. Even if the execution wasn’t perfect I was still a fan of the character choice so my expectations for this year’s figure were still quite high. I was really hoping we’d see Cobra Commander’s son Billy, Blackout’s sister Bombshell, or the long-awaited Pythona from the animated movie. That last one, perhaps, was my expectations getting away from me. I’ve wanted a Pythona since 1987.
The mystery figure’s identity was revealed to me prior to mine arriving in the mail. As a Canadian resident I usually receive my mail-outs a couple of weeks after American members and it’s near impossible to avoid the news once it hits the internet. When the first shipments began arriving the complaints quickly followed. G.I. Joe messages boards boiled over with nerd rage. People seemed really pissed off about Grand Slam being the 13th mystery figure. I’ll admit that I too was disappointed. But upset? Not at all.
When the first wave of G.I. Joe figures came out in 1982 there were 13 Joes, who to this day are affectionately referred to as the “original 13”. The figures were simple back then. Most of the characters wore plain green uniforms, multiple pieces were re-used amongst them, including as many as four of them sharing the same face, and the articulation was more rigid. Of the 13 originals, three stood out as truly unique: Stalker the African-American who wore full camouflage, Snake-Eyes the commando who dressed all in black, and Scarlett the crossbow toting lady-Joe. The other 10: Steeler, Zap, Short-Fuze, Hawk, Breaker, Rock n Roll, Flash, Clutch, Grunt, and Grand Slam, all looked pretty similar. But I didn’t see this as a bad thing. The original 13 felt more like a cohesive unit then any Joes that came afterward.
With the advent of the modern Joe line in 2007 I was excited about getting the original 13 in their classic outfits. Unfortunately Hasbro didn’t make it easy to obtain them all. Some were released on single cards but others were only available with vehicles or in multi-packs. The last two I needed to complete my set were Grunt and Grand Slam. I eventually got a Grand Slam that was released as part of the Rise of Cobra movie line. The body was right but the pads were painted metallic blue instead of the classic red and his head sculpt made him seem a little too young to be one of the originals. The figure wasn’t perfect but he was satisfactory; especially considering the sub-par releases of other original 13er’s like Rock N Roll and Short-Fuze. I actually didn’t get a Grunt until the Club included him in the first FSS. With the inclusion of FSS Grunt my original 13 was complete.
This is why I was disappointed about this new Grand Slam figure and why other collectors were down right mad; we simply didn’t need him. Besides we just got this exact figure repainted as Bombardier a mere month ago. And yet, I do prefer this figure to the blue-padded kid who had been posing as Grand Slam in my collection. Sure this figure looks almost identical to Flash, with his green outfit and red pads, but that’s the point; the original Grand Slam looked almost identical to the original Flash. Grand Slam’s green uniform is a few shades darker and his belt, gloves, and boots are black instead of brown to help differentiate him from Flash. Plus he has his own set of weapons, a rifle, binoculars, and a portable missile launcher which he clearly stole from Scrap Iron. I think that the jet pack we’ve seen a few times before would’ve been more appropriate since Grand Slam was the first Joe to ever come with one back in ’83. Jet pack aside, I do wish that the Club had at least given him his own face. Overall I think this is a pretty darn good Grand Slam figure. Would I recommend you pay upwards of thirty bucks for him online? No, probably not, seeing as there are blue and silver padded versions available for far less, but I by no means see him as the black sheep of the subscription service. 7 out of 10.