In the summer of 1984, I bought my first G.I. Joe comics. One of the central characters of these early stories was Deep Six. He was surly, but had a decent look that made me want to get the Sharc and his figure. When my younger brother got one, though, I was shocked to find the hunk of useless plastic that was the Deep Six figure. Encased in the bulky deep sea suit, Deep Six was not compatible with any of my other figures. With that, Deep Six and his Sharc were dismissed from my collection and were the bane of my toy room for many years. When I returned to Joe in the '90's, though, I discovered that Hasbro had taken another pass at the Deep Six character. While he was still in a deep sea diving uniform, the 1989 Deep Six brought standard Joe construction to the character and finally made a worthwhile design.
In 1998, I went to a local comic chain in Mesa, AZ. I stopped in from time to time to look for vintage Star Wars figures. This time, though, they had a display case full of G.I. Joe figures from the late '80's. Most were severely overpriced, even for 1998. But, for $3, there was a Deep Six figure that I simply could not pass by. I snatched him up and was very pleased to have this new figure in my collection. Within a year, I was buying lots of Joe figures on a routine basis. In due course, more Deep Six figures entered my collection. It was then that I realized that the cool black faceplate on the figure's helmet was an aftermarket addition by the figure's owner. That somewhat colored the figure for me. I acquired a bunch of the mail away figures in 2000 and those figures took the Deep Six role. In all the pictures I took in my pool from that timeframe of my life, you only see the 1993 Deep Six and not the '89.
Once I no longer had a pool, the need for Deep Six diminished. While I had once army built the figure, I found that I didn't really have any use for him. So, Deep Six went into the drawer and didn't come out. Like many specialized figures, if I didn't have need of his purpose, it was likely that he could get buried for a very long time. But, when the time arises, the figure is still there and available for whatever purpose I have conjured up. For Deep Six, it was his appearance in this profile. Long term, though, he'll go back into the drawer. It's not that he's a bad figure. In fact, he's actually quite good. But, deep sea divers are tough to use and Deep Six looks best when fully accessorized within the context of his specialty.
Of course, this figure is flawed. Few collectors would consider a figure with bright orange highlights to be among the classics of the line. It is, though, far and away the best release of the Deep Six character. But, were you to rank Joe characters in terms of their overall importance and popularity, Deep Six would likely be the lowest rated character through at least 1987. But, if you look at this figure, you see the quality still shine through. The designers approached Deep Six with the same level of care brought to Rock and Roll, Backblast or Recoil. In the depths of the ocean, bright orange and blue make more sense. The mold is full of small details that enhance Deep Six's specialty and make him more realistic. He has a classic, old timey diver feel that is an obvious homage to the Jules Verne imagery. In short, this is a figure that is likely worthy of more appreciation, but will always remain one of the unheralded gems from the line's middle years.
Deep Six's accessories are extremely well done. While his orange helmet is an opaque mass, it fits onto his body quite well and doesn't make the figure appear too bulky. His pack is huge, but in line for what someone who was hundreds of feet below the surface of the water would need in order to get down to depth, carry out his mission and safely resurface without getting decompression sickness. The diving bell/buoy is interesting. It really doesn't add anything to the figure. But, it is rather long and would be useful were you to take the figure out into the pool. The figure's gun is nothing short of odd. But, then again, taking a weapon down to such depths is an inherent danger in and of itself. It's likely anything that could withstand the depths to which Deep Six dives would have to be substantial and specially designed just like his dive suit. As such, I can forgive the bizareness of the weapon. Within Deep Six's context, it works well enough. It's distinctive, decent colored and easy to find. So, I can accept a weird design.
This Deep Six mold saw three releases. After this high quality release in 1989 and 1990, the figure was picked up by Hasbro Direct in 1993. A bright yellow Deep Six was offered only via mail away offer. The brightness of the figure is a deterrent for many collectors. But, it works in a deep sea environment. The figure was not popular, though, and would be rather rare except for the fact that most of the Hasbro Direct overstock made it's way to the collecting community in the '90's. Bagged mail away Deep Six figures were available for around $3 for many years. It is the unique filecard that is the true rarity of this figure. At some point in the late 1990's or early 2000's, the Deep Six mold was sent to India. There, Funskool released for many years. The Funskool Deep Six is colored after this 1989 figure, though in slightly different shades of blue. The original accessories are present and the figure is a great complement to this 1989 version. The mold has not reappeared since then. Funskool did produce more Deep Six figures around 2009, so it's likely that the mold is still there.
While this version of Deep Six is an excellent figure, he is generally forgotten by collectors. As such, he remains very cheap. Carded versions can be easily acquired for $20 - $25. Loose, mint and complete with filecard figures sell in the $5 to $6 range. That's a paltry sum for a figure made in the '80's who is a recognizable character and is so well done. But, it's also a lot to pay for a figure that has very limited uses and doesn't really work on many of the aquatic vehicles. At the price point, though, there is no reason why any collector should go without a Deep Six figure. He's worth getting for something different and the intricate design does display nicely. Specialties like Deep Six's were what made the vintage Joe line so much fun. You had a figure for every locale and environment of which you could imagine. Sadly, though, the more obscure that environment was, the less popular the figure is. But, the diversity of the Joe line has always been it's hallmark. And, the designers didn't skimp on specialty figures like Deep Six. Hopefully, collectors can appreciate that.