Sunday, December 16, 2018

Some "Big Love" To End The Year

In 1987, the first full length G.I.Joe animated movie was released….to video. Just like the animated Transformers movie that came out a year earlier, one of the main objectives that this movie had was to introduce new characters based on the toy released that year. Cobra’s back story was expanded upon with the introduction of the Cobra-La secret empire. And the Joes’ ranks were bolstered by the addition of some new recruits collectively known as the Rawhides.

The Rawhides consisted of six Joes, five of whom were part of the 1987 toyline. We got the green beret Falcon, military police Law & his canine companion Order, covert ops agent Chuckles, intelligence/ninja Jinx, and finally Explosive Ordnance Disposal specialist Tunnel Rat. The sixth member was the grenadier named Big Lob who didn’t get an action figure and seemed to be created solely for the movie.

Big Lob’s omission from the toyline was quite least to me, because he was easily one of the more memorable new characters from the movie. Big Lob literally stood taller than most of his fellow Rawhides, especially Tunnel Rat with whom he was often paired with. He also spoke like a sports commentator, likening battlefield situations to a basketball game, calling out all his moves and referring to himself in the third person. And to complete the whole gimmick, instead of using a grenade launcher, he literally lobbed his grenades towards their intended targets as if he was shooting basketballs.

Considering that his name was probably brought up the most in the movie, for some reason I couldn’t figure out exactly what his code name was. Since I wasn’t really into basketball at the time I didn’t really know what a “lob” was. So I kept thinking that his name was “Big Love”, which I thought was a rather stupid name….

Unfortunately, once the movie was done, Big Lob was pretty much forgotten along with the rest of the Rawhides. The third season of the cartoon series which the movie was supposed to set up, never happened as the company that produced it, Sunbow lost the Joe license to another animation studio, DiC. And when DiC’s new series premiered, their focus had shifted to the next batch of new Joe toys released.

One thing worth mentioning though is that while a Big Lob figure was not part of the 1987 toy lineup, there actually was another sports based Joe that was. The Joe named Hardball was introduced along with the rest of the Rawhides that year. Instead of basketball though, Hardball’s sport was baseball. Now maybe it’s just pure coincidence, but the whole sports+soldier gimmick wasn’t the only similarity these two Joes shared. First, they were both African American and secondly, they shared the same specialty, which was that of a grenadier. The only difference being Hardball actually used a multi-shot grenade launcher. And finally, as if to drive their connection home, according to Joepedia, one of the working names Hasbro had before settling on Hardball was….Lob-Shot.

While it was never actually confirmed, given all these similarities between the two Joes, I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch to conclude that they were actually meant to be the same character. It’s quite possible that the producers of the movie thought the whole baseball theme might not be as catchy so they switched it up and came up with Big Lob...who knows? But one thing is for certain for me, I would have much rather gotten a Big Lob action figure over Hardball back in 1987.

For years Big Lob had been a gaping hole in many fans’ collections, especially since we got the rest of the Rawhides in both the vintage and modern toy lines. In order to complete my modern lineup I resorted to making my own custom of Big Lob. Looking back, this was a rather memorable project for me as it was the first custom I did that involved actual sculpting to give him his unique afro hairstyle. For a first time sculpt I thought I did a decent job. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for his jersey number which required a rather skilled and steady hand to paint….something I didn’t have. Well I did my best and the end result was in my book good enough.

And to complete the circle, a few months later I would add a custom Hardball to my collection as well. This I think turned out a little better.

Anyway in 2010, a full 13 years after the rest of his team was released, the official G.I.Joe Collector’s Club finally produced the first ever Big Lob toy. Unfortunately for me, the figure released was done in the vintage style. Being a modern collector, I really had no need for it. It was nice though to finally see him get an action figure, if anything at least he finally got an official file card to give us a better idea of who he was.

To explain his “absence” in any other G.I.Joe media post 1987 movie, Big Lob is listed simply as a reservist, which allowed him the flexibility to only report for missions needing his specialized expertise. And since the Joes didn’t regularly participate in any basketball shootouts with Cobra, he was rarely called into action....I kid.

But seriously, another thing firmly established with his filecard was that Big Lob was officially his own Joe. While he *may* have been created as a way to make Hardball’s character more interesting for the movie, but moving forward they would now be two unique members of the Joe team. Big Lob’s civilian name was Bradley J. Sanders as a nod to his voice actor in the movie, Brad Sanders.

“BIG LOB's outstanding physical prowess made him an athletic standout since elementary school. During high school, his strength, conditioning, speed and all-around toughness helped him excel in six different sports. With college scholarships lined up upon graduation, he chose to enlist in the Army Reserves to serve his country but still stay close to his hometown and family. Rumors of his outstanding sports prowess and record of precise distance grenade throws were quickly recognized by the G.I. JOE team. He joined under their "Rawhides" program, which allowed him the flexibility to only report for missions needing his specialized expertise. He is well liked by his teammates except for his annoying habit of talking about himself in the third person and using sports metaphors on every subject.

The concept of throwing grenades goes back to the "Greek Fire" used by the Byzantines, and early gunpowder bombs devised by the Chinese in the Tang Dynasty. Thirteen centuries later, more advanced and specialized versions are still an integral part of a modern soldier's ordnance. BIG LOB is exceptionally skilled at manually throwing hand grenades at specified targets and using his multi-shot grenade launcher for longer distances. He carries a full arsenal of high explosive, flechette, incendiary, chemical compounds and even smoke grenades to accomplish any mission objective.”

It would take another 7 years for me to finally get the Big Lob figure I wanted. Once again it was the Collectors Club to the rescue with a modern action figure of Big Lob.

Interestingly enough, this modern version of Big Lob looked significantly ripped compared to his original lanky animation model. That’s because the club reused existing parts from a previous figure of Roadblock from the 2013 live action movie G.I.Joe: Retaliation. In the movie, Roadblock was played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, which would explain Big Lob’s new bulging physique.

Anyway, with my modern version of Big Lob in hand, I finally have a complete official Rawhides lineup for my shelf.