DESTRO v.7 (2002)
Some people would describe me as a big kid, though I don’t think that’s accurate. I would just like to think that I’m young at heart. But, heart aside, sometimes I feel very, very old. When I stop and think about things like The Matrix hitting theatres 15 years ago or Kurt Cobain being dead for 20 years I realize that time really does fly by. This figure is another stark reminder of what a relic I’ve become. The reason I write about the toys from the 1980s is because I’m nostalgic about my childhood. The reason I still listen to the Smashing Pumpkins and Bush is because I’m nostalgic about my teenage years. Those things seem fine. It’s the fact that I’m now so old that I can be nostalgic about earlier adulthood that’s troubling.
By the early 2000s the toy lines I had been collecting as a teen like Gundam, Spawn, and the Marvel stuff produced by Toy Biz had all peaked and tapered off. Star Wars was still going strong but after the disappointing prequels I was burnt out on Battle Droids. The future of my toy collecting was looking bleak. But then, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, two of my favorite childhood toy lines were resurrected: Masters of the Universe and G.I. Joe. I’m sure some people were getting their toy news from the internet by 2002 but mine was still coming from a good old-fashioned magazine. I’ve talked before about how excited I was when it was revealed in the February 2002 issue of Toy Fare that Hasbro would be revisiting G.I. Joe; and not just with repaints, as they had been doing the past few years, but with brand new figures.
That initial wave had 10 figures and they were released in Joe vs Cobra 2-packs. All of the Cobra Troopers, like the Neo-Viper and the Moray, were entirely new characters but the rest of wave one featured newly sculpted versions of classic characters like Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow (this period later became known as the new-sculpt era). One of the 2-packs featured the Joe team’s resident Cajun marine, Gung-Ho, and Cobra’s arms-dealer, Destro. It was probably my least favorite of the 2-packs but I was still pretty excited about tracking it down.
It was my first time owning either a Gung-Ho or a Destro. Doug owned both versions 1 and 2 of each character when we were kids. Those 2002 versions didn’t come anywhere close to filling the shoes of the originals but it was still cool to be getting newly sculpted Joe figures.
Destro’s version 1 look from 1983 is iconic. He had an exposed chest, a popped red collar, a large jewelled medallion, rocket launchers on his wrist, and a vac-metal head. The vac metal process gave his silver head a reflective coating that made it appear to be made of real metal. This 2002 figure had none of that. The exposed chest had been covered thus there was no medallion to be seen. He still had a “metal” head but without the vac-metal sheen. The logic of Destro having a metal mask that could emote was always tough to wrap your head around but this figure took it further than any that had come before. In place of the stoic visage of the original this figure has a nasty snarl on his face with exposed teeth and an evil glare complete with pupils. There are plenty of sculpted details on the mask as well which make it appear much more technologically advanced than his mask of old. The thing that bothers me most about this goofy mask is the exposed skin at the base of the skull and on the ears. Apparently he can eat with this thing on but he can’t hear so well.
The body design is riddled with issues as well. He has arms like a gorilla that hang practically down to his knees. His legs are short too which accentuates the monkey arms. The new sculpt era was plagued by proportion issues like this. The costume design is decent though. it’s much more militaristic this time around. The blue accents on the black costume look decent but I’d have preferred red so it was truer to the original figure. Hasbro did just that when they repainted this figure as Destro version 8 later that year.
Another thing I must mention, and the reason why most Joe fans loathe these 2002 figures, is the change in construction from the classic O-ring to the ghetto dollar store T-crotch. Since 1982 Joe had been revolutionizing action figure articulation with innovations like ball jointed necks and swivel-arm battle grip. The rubber washer, or “O-ring”, that held them together was critical to a Joe figure’s range of movement. Hasbro did away with the O-ring after 20 years and constructed the 2002 figures with a Star Wars-style T-shaped crotch that greatly reduced the posability. I wasn’t a fan of the switch myself but it didn’t have me frothing at the mouth like some fans. The problem with the O-rings is that they deteriorate over time. Most of my vintage figures are in pieces because their washers rotted away. At least the T-crotch figures will stay in one piece for a good long time. By the end of the year Hasbro had switched back to the O-ring. Though they did eventually perfect O-ring-less fully posable body construction with the launch of the modern era in 2007.
From an objective reviewer standpoint this is an awful figure. The lack of Destro iconography, the rehashed accessories (Firefly’s gun and phone), the limited articulation, the proportion issues, and the bad design elements all add up to a real turd of a figure. And yet, I can’t help but view it through my rose-colored nostalgia-tinted glasses. This figure came along at a time when I really needed it to in order to maintain my interst in toy collecting and it was my first ever Destro. A much better Destro figure came out a couple of months later so it’s not like I was saddled with this as my default Destro for long. Once I had a better one, I took to viewing this as a figure of Destro’s son Alexander from the Devil’s Due comics. That rationalization made this clunker more tolerable. I know I shouldn’t but I kind of like this god awful action figure. 4 out of 10.