It seems like forever now since I sold off the majority of the MOC collection, but I decided it was time to remember 1986. The Joe logo changed, and I was not a fan. The 3D block letting just didn’t work for me the same way as the classic flat white letters. And that digital explosion pattern on the cardbacks just looked weird. But all was not lost. The Joe class of 1986 had some solid points as well. We saw the return of Hawk as the ultimate leader of the team, despite his new, inexplicably brown hair. I was always glad the Joe comics of the time didn’t bend to the toy and cartoon-themed pressure and still drew him as a blonde.
It was hard to not get a Transformers the Movie vibe from the new line-up of characters, i.e. there were a lot of replacements for original classic Joes because they needed to get rid of original characters to sell toys of the new guys. It was a business after all. We got Beachhead, Sci-Fi, Dialtone, Wetsuit, Iceberg, Lifeline, Slipstream, Lift-Ticket, and Leatherneck… pretty much direct replacements for Stalker, Flash, Breaker, Torpedo, Snow Job, Doc, Ace, Wild Bill, and Gung-Ho respectively, plus new versions of Hawk and Roadblock.
Even Cobra was not immune to the replacement syndrome. The evil terrorist organization got Serpentor, Dr Mindbender, and the Cobra Viper troop, effectively pushing Cobra Commander, Destro, and all those poor blue-shirts to the side. Yep, ’86 was the year that hasbro said, “Out with the old, and in with the new… which are exactly the same as the old but with new names and costumes – please give us more money!”
It was a frustrating time to be a Joe fan (or a Transformers one for that matter), as on one hand, they were adding all kinds of new characters and vehicles to make your bedroom floor battles even more epic. On the other hand, they were telling you that the characters you’d spent money on (and had become emotionally invested in) were gone in favor of these new, exciting, and extremely similar direct replacements.
Ultimately, I feel about the class of ’86 Joes much the same was as I do about Coy and Vance Duke or New Coke. They were nice additions to the team, but I never developed the same affinity for them as the originals they were so awkwardly replacing. It made me wonder… if they can push all these classic characters to the side, who’s next?! Maybe I was just growing up. Maybe my 11yo self was becoming jaded, but even though some of the new figures were cool, I didn’t like where this was heading.
On the bright side, we got several new Dreadnoks to add to Zartan’s ranks, and the crown jewel of the ’86 figure line, the cobra Battle Android Trooper (B.A.T.). To this day, people love that lenticular robot chest detail. And the card art is nice to look at, even with the new logo.
‘Til all are one, collecting is half the battle!