Welcome back guys to another installment of Fitz’s Toy Chest. This time out we’re headed back to 1982 where a few pieces of plastic and an o-ring combined to make the ultimate soldier.
When Hasbro launched the G.I. Joe 3 3/4 line in 1982, they did so with 13 figures. If you look at those first 13 figures you can tell that one of their mandates must have been to try and make the team as diverse as possible which is something they continued to do throughout the Joes’ run in the 80s.
Sure the majority of the original team was still comprised of the usual array of white dudes, but Larry Hama made sure to include 3 minority characters right off the bat: badass female commando, a Hispanic heavy explosives soldier, and the subject of this week’s Toy Chest, a former gang warlord from Detroit turned green beret…Stalker.
Acquisition Year: 1982
Acquired via: Gift
Years In Possession: 38
The G.I. Joe comic and the file cards all written by Larry Hama were my first introduction into the world of the military. It was the first place I heard the term “Grunt”, the first place I saw the word “Commando”, or heard about a “Geneva Convention”. It was also where I was introduced to the concept of a Green Beret.
How I came into possession of this figure was that it was a surprise gift from my grandma. We were at her house one day and she said she had a present for me and she produced 2 G.I. Joe figures from a plastic shopping bag. She said pick the one you want, the other would go to my cousin the next time he came over. The two figures were Breaker and Stalker. I chose Stalker. Why? He was the most interesting looking to me. He didn’t look like the other Joes. Not only was he a different ethnicity than all the other characters, his paint scheme was strikingly unique as well.
Most of the original Joes all used the same couple of body molds and only differed in the paint schemes (obviously Scarlett being the exception). By this time I already had Rock N Roll and Clutch, both bearded white dudes like Breaker, but Stalker was something else entirely. From the camo paint scheme on his fatigues to the green beret on his head. I can remember thinking “What is up with that weird hat?”.
Also, his gun was pretty cool looking too.
Breaker’s military specialty was “Communications Officer”, BO-RING. Stalker’s was listed as “Ranger”. What the hell is a Ranger? I didn’t know but it sounded cool as hell.
It was not long after I started reading the Joe books, maybe a year or 2, that I discovered the Black Eagles series of novels by John Lansing and learned a whole lot more about Vietnam (it was still a few years before Platoon would hit theaters and probably a decade before I would actually watch it). What drew me to those books initially was a image like this:
Notice the green beret? I was immediately drawn to this cover by that beret. I knew what that was, that was what Stalker wore and I was instantly intrigued. Who knows, one of these Black Eagles book may show up as a Nerd Blitz Book Club entry….
Later in the Joe series, they delved more into Stalker’s service in Vietnam where it actually served with Hawk and Snake Eyes (before he was disfigured martial arts master). Those panels were the first images I remember seeing of a line of green fatigued soldiers in boonie hats wading through waist high grass, something of a cliche in Vietnam movies but at the time was brand new to me.
As for Stalker the action figure, unfortunately you can see that he suffered the same fate as an incredibly high number of those original 13 Joes, the infamous broken thumbs!
I recently read in Mark Belamo’s fantastic G.I. Joe reference book that the incredibly brittle thumbs on these figures was due to the composition of the plastic they used. It was found to be too brittle and the next assortment of figures would be the first with a reformulated plastic that was slightly more pliable to solve the broken thumb problem. Sadly, almost all of my originally Joe’s are missing at least 1 thumb. I was normally very careful with my toys even as a kid, but even I could not avoid this problem, much to my dismay.
Join me next week when I pull another gem from my bag of tricks! I promise that soon we’re going to diversify and change things up from the normal Star Wars/G.I. Joe/Transformers-fest that this feature has been up until now. What could that mean? What other vintage toy lines could I possibly have in the Toy Chest? You’ll find out soon enough!
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