STEEL BRIGADE COMMANDER v.2 (2014)
I’m almost through my marathon of reviews for the 2014 G. I. Joe Con exclusive box set. I only have 3 of the 15 figures left to go after this. So far I’ve covered the entire Cobra side (Toxo-Viper (x3), Toxo-Zombie (x3), Lab-Rat (x2), Repulsor, and Dawg) and a couple of the Joe’s Eco-Warriors (Flint and Clean Sweep). I have one Eco-Joe left to review, Ozone. It makes sense that all those figures would be lumped together. They were all based on the 1991/1992 environmentally themed Eco-Warriors sub-set. But in order to round out the 15-figure line-up the collector’s club needed to pad the set with some additional characters. When the selection of characters was announced there was some head scratching going on in the Joe community because the additional figures seemed to come completely out of left field. I admit that I too thought it was a pretty random group of Joes to lump together at first.
But once I got the set in hand, and read the accompanying comic book, it all fell into place for me. The theme of the set this year isn’t “Eco-Warriors”, it’s “Zombie Initiative”. Cobra has unleashed their toxic Compound Z out into the world and it’s turning people into zombies. Sending the guys with gas masks and hazmat suits into the fray makes sense. But it also makes sense to send in the Joe team’s survival expert, Outback and a master of silent weapons, like T’Jbang. We all know zombies are attracted to loud noises so heavy artillery may not be the best way to go in this situation. The only figure whose presence is still kind of hard to explain is the Steel Brigade Commander.
The concept of the Steel Brigade Trooper was first introduced in 1987. It was a promotion advertised on the packaging of Joe toys that year where if you collected enough Flag Points (found on the boxes and card backs) you could mail-away for this exclusive figure. The mail away figure concept dates back to the earliest days of the Real American Hero figures with hooded Cobra Commander being the first in 1984.
The idea behind the Steel Brigade is that YOU were the Steel Brigade. When you ordered the figure you provided your name and birthdate and you chose whether you wanted to be martial arts expert or whatever and then Hasbro would send you a figure with a personalized filecard and a selection of weapons to match the specialty you had chosen. The Steel Brigade trooper was covered from head to toe so he could’ve been anybody under that helmet. I didn’t actually order the figure from Hasbro so I never got the personalized file card but I did end up with a Steel Brigade trooper from a flea market or something.
I really liked the original Steel Brigade trooper. I was always a fan of Joes with masks and helmets that covered their faces; I thought they looked cooler. I never imaged my Brigade trooper to be me. I saw him as a unique character whom I named Blackout (a name that Hasbro has since stolen from me).
In 1992 Hasbro apparently offered a repainted version of the original Steel Brigade trooper as another mail away exclusive. I had quit buying Joes by then and wasn’t aware of the 2nd Steel Brigade trooper until I got back into buying Joes in the early 2000s. I thought the repaint looked cheap and ugly. Where the original wore tan pants, a powder blue sweater and an olive vest with a gray helmet, the repainted version wore harsh primary blue and green with a gold helmet.
Hasbro released their first modern take on the Steel Brigade in 2011. The concept of YOU being the Steel Brigade was gone. Now they were just the faceless support team of the Joes. Some people don’t like the idea of nameless troops being members of the Joes. We’ve seen various versions of “green shirts” (the equivalent to Cobra’s blue shirts) over the years and I understand why some people don’t like them. We’ve always been told that G.I. Joe was an elite fighting force. If you were the best of the best you got selected to join and were given a code name. The idea of a bunch of nameless cannon fodder troops running around calling themselves Joes goes directly against that.
However, as good as the Joes are they would be extremely outnumbered without getting some kind of support. Cobra has dozens of various Viper squadrons to battle against. I’m all for the idea of good soldiers being upgraded to green shirts, then to Steel Brigade troopers, and then to official code named G.I. Joes.
I thought the 2011 Steel Brigade figure was awesome. The sculpt looked great, the proportions were better than on the melon-headed original, and he came loaded with a ton of weapons. Coolest of all was his helmet was removable to reveal a Beachhead-style masked face beneath.
This new convention set figure uses the same upper half as its 2011 predecessor with a pair of legs borrowed from another figure and he’s been repainted in the ugly 1992 colors. This was not a figure I was clamoring for. One of the main reasons the 1987 and 2011 Steel Brigade figures were so great was because of their subdued realistic color palette. I can totally imagine those figures patrolling the deserts of Iraq or Afganistan. This crazy gold helmeted version doesn’t make sense in any environment that I can think of.
The fact that they made this an individual character, the Steel Brigade Commander, instead of just another trooper makes me like him more. It helps to justify his strangely colored costume. One guy might have a bad sense of fashion as opposed to an entire squad. The plus side of his color choices is that they link him into the rest of the Joes in the convention set quite well. There’s an abundance of blues, greens, and yellows amongst the 6 Joes which helps make them feel like a cohesive unit.
This is one of my least favorite figures in the set but he’s by no means bad. I loved this Steel Brigade mold the first time I saw it and even though this paint job isn’t my cup-of-tea, it’s still a nice base figure. He comes with a nice array of accessories as well (4 guns, a backpack, a knife, and a rocket launcher). Now that I have this Steel Brigade Commander I kind of want to build a small squad of Steel Brigade troopers for him to boss around. 6 out of 10.