BILLY KESSLER/ARBOC v.1
The latest FSS shipment from the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club arrived a couple of weeks ago and it was a doozy. The two figures were Interrogator, who turned out much better than I was expecting, and the other was Billy Arboc.
Billy first appeared in G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (RAH) issue 10 published by Marvel Comics in 1983. He was part of a small group of rebels trying to overthrow Cobra, a terrorist group who hadn’t taken over his hometown of Springfield. It wasn’t a major role and he wasn’t even given a name in that issue. However, two years later, in issue 33, he returned posing as a member of Cobra Youth (think Hitler Youth) as part of a ploy to assassinate Cobra Commander. The plot was foiled by Destro and in the end it was revealed that Billy is actually the son of Cobra Commander. The Commander spares Billy’s life but their family ties don’t stop CC from torturing the poor kid over the betrayal. These events result in Storm Shadow, Cobra’s resident ninja, defecting from the team, rescuing Billy, and training him as his apprentice.
Things seemed to be looking up for young Billy. That is until Scrap Iron, a Cobra mercenary, blew him up in issue 43 along with the Soft Master and Candy Apple. I wasn’t a big fan of Billy at that point so I wasn’t heartbroken about his demise but I was sad to see Ripcord’s girlfriend Candy bite the dust.
In issue 55 we found out that Billy survived the explosion. He was in a coma and missing both an eye and a leg but he was alive. Billy awakens and, after a short bout of amnesia, carries on with his ninja training with the aid of an artificial leg and an eyepatch. This is when Billy started getting cool. He had become an effective member of the Arashikage ninja clan and he was participating in Joe missions. Unfortunately, that momentum came screeching to a halt when Cobra Commander buried him alive with a bunch of other traitors in issue 98. Once again, Billy is seemingly killed.
In issue 114 it was revealed that Billy and Zartan managed to dig their way to safety from the buried bunker but fan favorite characters like Dr. Mindbender and Croc Master weren’t so lucky. Billy appeared a couple more times after that before the series came to a rather abrupt end with issue 155.
Billy really came into his own when Devil’s Due picked up the rights to publish Joe comics and continued the story nearly 10 years later. It was during the Devil’s Due series that Billy adopted the look used for this figure. Billy had a good run at Devils Due but during their final storyline “World War III”, published just before they lost the license to IDW, Billy was killed by his father and left hanging from a pole as an example to others plotting against Cobra.
Once IDW took over they started their own brand-new Joe universe but they also decided to continue Marvel’s RAH storyline in a separate book, picking up after issue 155 and ignoring everything Devil’s Due had done. That meant WWIII never happened and thus Billy had a new lease on life. He was featured prominently for a while but then IDW killed him off in issue 172. This dude just can’t catch a break.
So as you can see, Billy has been an important part of Joe lore for over 30 years and yet there has never been an action figure of him until now. He may not be the most interesting character visually but I think it’s about damn he appeared in plastic form. Billy now joins the ranks of Dr. Venom and Kwinn; integral characters created by Larry Hama for the Marvel series that didn’t get made into an action figure until decades after their introduction.
I’ve waited a long time for this figure so my expectations were high and I’m happy to report that I’m quite pleased with the final product. Some fans may have preferred a Billy figure wearing his ninja outfit and others may have preferred him as a young kid but this is the Billy I wanted. I’m actually kind of surprised the Club went with the Devil’s Due look since those stories have been wiped from the RAH continuity but I’m glad they did. The body is made up of Snake Eyes and Flint parts which work fine. The arms seem a little long and the shirt is insanely tight but those aren’t major issues. I personally dislike the wide neck style of his t-shirt (I would never wear it) but it is comic accurate so I don’t mind it here. The colors are pretty basic leaving the figure at risk of being drab but the bright red Arashikage tattoo on his forearm saves the day.
The head is a newly sculpted piece. It perhaps reads a little feminine (both Vanessa and my pal Ryan thought this figure was female) but I don’t really see it. I’m really glad the Club splurged for a new head because Billy deserves better than a lousy repaint after all these years. The eyepatch seems a little small and low to cover up his missing eye but other than that I think it’s pretty great.
For accessories, Billy has a sword that can be sheathed rather flimsily in his bandolier, a machine gun, a grappling hook, and a display base. It’s not a ton of stuff but a sword and a gun is all he really needed weapon-wise anyway. I’m not a fan of the card art and I don’t know why they gave him the alias of Billy Arboc (an anagram of Cobra) but those don’t detract from the thrill of finally owning a Billy figure. I’m thankful the Club listened to fans and finally produced this long in demand figure. 9 out of 10.