Welcome back guys. After two weeks of Star Wars talk, I’m going to switch things up and dive into what would become the second of the three main toy collecting pillars of my childhood.
In 1982 I was a full blown Star Wars junkie, but things had slowed a bit. Jedi was still a year away, and Empire was 2 years in the rearview. Then, one day I saw this commercial:
It’s amazing that it was this shitty zero budget commercial with the terrible voiceover that grabbed my attention, but grab me it did. What WAS this? Who were these guys? They weren’t from a movie or a TV show (not yet anyway), but I knew immediately I had to have them.
It wouldn’t take long for me to discover that, while there was no movie or cartoon featuring these new badass commandos, there was a comic book launched in coordination with the toy line.
I’m pretty sure for me the toys came first, and then I found the comics shortly thereafter. Marvel used to have these 3 packs of comics. They had one for X-men, they had one for Transformers (issue 1-3 of a 4 issue mini-series, wtf you guys?), and they had one for G.I. Joe comics. I remember bringing that 3 pack home from Grandpa Pidgeon’s (Think Target if Target had a serious meth habit. They were awesome). It had issues 3,4, and 5. After that I was hooked on Larry Hama’s enduring masterpiece and it informed the backyard adventures I had with this toys for years. It was also the perfect gateway comic for me. Sure I had a few Batman comics before that and of course Star Wars comics, but these were different. They felt more grown up and serious. Later, G.I. Joe #1 would be my first wall book purchase. I dug them that much.
But I digress.
My mom was kinda reluctant to let me start a new collection of plastic junk, she was no doubt afraid how deep I would take my parents with these toys based on my obsession with Star Wars. And she wasn’t wrong to feel that way.
She finally gave in and one day I was given the green light at the Venture on Page Avenue. That store was Target’s trashier cousin. That store was probably the place I got most of my figures. Trips to Toy Chest were a relatively rare treat. Venture runs were a weekly affair.
Straight from Fitz’s Toy Chest I present my very first “small joe”
Rock ‘n Roll
Acquisition Year: 1982
Acquired via: Purchase, Venture
Years In Possession: 36
I’m not sure what drew me to Rock ‘N Roll but that’s who I picked. Maybe it was the dope ass double ammo belts, or maybe it was because he had the biggest gun, I honestly don’t remember. What I do remember is how fantastic the card art on these figures was.
That’s one thing I should mention about these old figures is the packaging itself was as impressive as the toys themselves. I would study the pictures of the other available toys on the back, and for the Joes and Transformers, carefully clip out the character profile cards. You just don’t see that anymore and it’s a shame.
Like all of the first series of Joes they released, this Rock ‘N Roll is a “straight arm” figure. If you don’t know what that means, it means the arms do not have rotational articulation at the elbows. The 3 3/4″ Joes had very impressive articulation for the early 80s (in fact they remain far superior to modern figures in my opinion). Where Kenner Star Wars fugures only had arms that moved at the shoulder and legs that moved at the waist, Joes had bendable elbows, knees, waist, ball jointed shoulders, etc.
They were infinitely more posable that Kenner figures, but the first series still fell short in one area. This was rectified a year or two after the first figures came out with the introduction of “swivel arm battle grip” which allowed the arm to pivot at the elbow, giving the Joes more realistic grip on their guns.
Later, all of the original series would be reissued with the swivel arm battle grip. So as you can imagine, these first straight arm version 1.0 figures are much more valuable and sought after than the reissues from just a short time later.
Becauss I’m an OCD nerd that craves an unhealthy amount of information about the things he likes, my favorite part of the figures were the file cards on the back of the package. Almost all were written by the Joe comic writer Larry Hama. They started out as character bios that he would write for his own use while writing those books, but Hasbro saw what he was doing and thought they would be a great added feature for the toys.
My most vivid memory of this figure comes from a weekend when some out of town relatives came to visit. I didn’t know these people but they came by to say hi to my mom. It was just a woman and her two kids, the dad couldn’t make the trip from California. At one point the youngest kid, maybe 3 or 4 years old came running out of my bedroom yelling “Daddy! Daddy!” Everyone freaked thinking he got scared or hurt, but then we saw he was holding Rock ‘N Roll. Turns out his dad was a career soldier, that’s why he couldn’t leave the base to come to St. Louis. This poor kid thought my action figure looked like his dad and he was sad he couldn’t be with him back home!
I’m not sure what his dad looked like or if he walked around the house with and M60 and full battle fatigues, but it took some prying to dislodge Rock ‘N Roll from his hands when it was time for them to leave.
Well, that does it for this edition of Fitz’s Toy Chest. Come back next time where I will put the spotlight on the very LAST of the 80s Kenner Star Wars figures that I ever bought!