Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The AirBorne Identity

When the first wave of G.I.Joe A Real American Hero figures first came out in 1982, there really weren't too many uniform variations from character to character.  Aside from a few exceptions, almost the entire team was decked out in varying shades of green. The next wave of Joes that came out in 1983 was a little bit more creative & unique, with more branches of the military being represented as well as more specific environments & designations filled out.  We got ourselves a navy SEAL, an arctic trooper, a mine detector (EOD), a medic and even a marine that inexplicably looked like he stepped out of the Village People.

As was the norm for most boys my age when presented with a line-up of all new characters, I immediately sought out who my favorite would be of the new bunch, this was usually determined by who looked the coolest.  And that honor fell upon the new Helicopter Assault Trooper, code-named Airborne.  His card art just really stood out from all the others.  I mean they all looked cool but Airborne dangling from a rope descending unto the fire fight below just beat out all the others.  Plus, the bare chested, tattooed marine with the thick handlebar mustache kinda scared me back then.

Anyway, Airborne didn't feature much in the cartoons or comics and was pretty much lost in the shadow of his more popular wave mates.  While Doc, Snow Job, Torpedo, Tripwire and of course, Gung-Ho became household Joe characters, Airborne was somehow left behind.  But that didn't change anything for me, from the day I laid my eyes on him and after countless of Joes introduced after him, he has remained my favorite Joe.

Let me read your mind....
In the cartoon, he was more often than not a background character, he was even drawn differently from his action figure, but he did thankfully feature prominently in ONE episode.  And it was one hell of an episode (ok actually most Joe fans peg it as one of the worst….but I liked it, for obvious reasons).  Basically, Airborne turned out to be more than your average Joe.  He turned out to possess some sort of extrasensory perception or ESP and shared some sort of psychic bond with his younger brother who was kidnapped by Cobra cuz he was a telekinetic (whew!).  Aside from the fact that the episode featured my favorite Joe, it wasn't that ground breaking, but it did manage to make the Airborne character more unique.  Plus he was voiced by Peter Cullen who was also the voice of Optimus Prime!  How cool was that?

Anyway, when the 25th anniversary G.I.Joe toy line started gaining steam in 2007-08, I waffled back & forth on whether to start collecting this toy line (at this point I was just a hard core Transformers collector and that was it).  I was tempted so many times to start but I would always successfully fight off the temptation, I would just admire the toy line from “afar”.  Until one day, during a lull in Transformer product releases I entertained the thought “you know, they would NEVER make an updated 25th Anniversary Airborne, but if they did, I would HAVE to get it…..but yeah they’d never make one”.  After which I promptly Googled “25th Anniversary Airborne” for fun, and as if Hasbro was reading my mind, there he was in all his updated 25th Anniversary glory…AIRBORNE!!!!!  And that was the end of my resolve.  I immediately found an Airborne in one of my local toy shops a picked him up and the rest….is history.

Ask any hard core G.I.Joe collector to list down the best figures from the 25th line and Airborne will most likely come up in most lists.  All biases aside, he really was one of the best figures produced for the line.  He wasn't swimming in accessories like later figures but he had just the right amount of stuff and detailed really well to finally make HIM the well-deserved standout from his toy wave.

In 2009, a more “mature” cartoon mini-series called G.I.JoeResolute was released.  It was called mature because the writers promised realistic battles (no lasers) and actual character deaths (no parachutes).  A few months before its release, some character designs surfaced online and I was quite surprised to see that Airborne was actually included in this iteration of G.I.Joe.  Of course, the promise of Joes dying and an obscure character like Airborne being included in the series made me fear for the worst.  Luckily, Airborne ended up surviving the series doing what he does best, playing the part of a non-speaking background character.

Spot the Airborne!
The fact that he was included and NOT killed off got me excited enough to do my very own Airborne custom based on his Resolute design.  In my opinion, it had enough subtle differences from the original to merit a custom.

Home made Airborne
So what does the future hold for my favorite Joe?  Although I’m pretty sure he won’t be coming out in the new movie due in 2013, he does have a new figure scheduled to be released as part of the movie line.  And as if being a Joe with ESP isn't enough, apparently now he’s also a “tactical ninja” cuz the powers that be for the movie have decided that G.I.Joe is now a highly specialized NINJA force (ughhhhh). Oh well…at least we’re getting a NEW Airborne, and he does look pretty cool….not bad for my favorite obscure Joe.

Tactical Ninja????