Tuesday, May 30, 2017

1983 Wolverine

The first two years of Joe vehicles shared a common look and theme.  They were cast in military green and designed to interact with the figures.  Each figure and vehicle was sculpted in a way to ensure total compatibility so that any figure would work with any vehicle.  There is a uniformity to their design that disappeared as the line moved forward.  To this day, many of the most iconic Joe vehicles were released in these starting years.  Among the VAMP, HISS and Skystriker, though, is the Wolverine.  While not as famous as other vehicles, the Wolverine is still popular enough.  As a kid, though, I did not appreciate nor like this vehicle.  Now, that is no longer true.  The Wolverine has a place among the classic Joe releases and is well worth a look.

The Wolverine entered my collection at Christmas in 1983.  We got a lot of toys that holiday and pretty much wrapped up the Joe line for that year.  As the Wolverine, technically, belonged to my younger brother, though, it was lost in the sea of toys that we had received.  Within a few weeks, though, the novelty of my acquisitions was wearing down.  I looked to the Wolverine as something new to check out.  I tried integrating it with my Joes.  But, I found the toy limiting.  From a play value standpoint, it had to major issues that I really could not reconcile.  First, it could only hold one figure.  For me, figures were the reason why I played with the toys.  Give me three or four characters and I could entertain myself for hours, vehicle or no.  It was nice that the Wolverine could hold a driver.  But, it didn't even have foot pegs for another figure.  I tried setting figures all over the vehicle in a variety of ways.  But, as soon as the convoy rolled out, the extra figure would fall off.  I did not like vehicles that were so limiting and that was a mark against the Wolverine.

The second issue was the lack of guns.  As a kid, the missiles just weren't any fun.  For a 10 year old, guns had unlimited supplies of ammo.  This, to me, was not unreasonable.  However, it was an issue that the Wolverine could only shoot 12 missiles.  Once they were expended, there was no place to hold any more on the vehicle.  This seems silly in retrospect as there are any number of ways to plausibly reason that the Wolverine carried at least another set of projectiles.  But, I think the real issue is that I didn't find missile fun to play with.  I'd pull one out of the launcher and have it destroy a Cobra vehicle.  But, that took the Hiss Tank out of commission, which limited my fun.  Plus, as figures were the focal point of my adventure, it was impossible for a missile to take out an individual person who was constantly moving around.  So, the Wolverine quickly found itself played out.

There were, though, two upsides to the vehicle, too.  The first, of course, was the tow rope.  I found that extremely useful.  I'd use it to tow vehicles from other toy lines, or attach to a string I rigged on the APC.  In short, it found more uses than the Wolverine itself.  But, the brittle nature of the tow rope was quickly manifested and one of the ends was snapped off.  Once this happened, the tow rope was phased out.  The second part of the Wolverine that I liked was the engine cover.  To me, these were sleeping bags and supplies for the troops out in the wild.  For some reason, I wanted my figures to have long term survival gear.  The larger backpacks of 1983 made this a reality.  But, I had lots of figures who didn't have their own gear.  I'd take the engine cover off the Wolverine and store it in my APC so that there was more supplies for the entire Joe team.

The Wolverine's final death knell in my childhood collection, though, was when my brother broke the cap to the missile launcher.  This held the missiles in place.  Once it was broken, the entire launcher just sagged and pointed right at the vehicle's body.  There was more than one occasion where the Wolverine blew itself up due to this defect.  In later years, I kept the Wolverine around as a way for the Joes to defend their headquarters.  It served as anti aircraft defense.  This way, it could hold a broken down figure and be out of the way.  It never went into the fray as its ordinance was expended trying to stave off attacking Cobra aircraft.  In this capacity, my Wolverine died out and was tucked into the attic for a decade before I pulled out the parts and tried to salvage what pieces I could.

Now, though, I appreciate the Wolverine more for what it is.  Having mobile missile launchers would be a key strategic point for the Joes.  They could use them offensively to attack.  Or, defensively to defend a position or base.  A dozen missiles is a pretty good amount of firepower, too.  Beyond that, the vehicle is incredibly detailed, well colored and doesn't maintain too large of a footprint.  It fits well with the early year figures and is that perfect blend of design that makes you think the Wolverine actually did exist in this size.  The vehicle's driver, Cover Girl, is decent enough.  (I lost her in childhood, though.)  Now, she is as tied to the Wolverine as Clutch is to his VAMP: a perfect blend of machine and operator.

The Wolverine mold had a very good life.  After the U.S. release, the entire vehicle was recolored in black and released as the SAS Wolverine.  (It included the highly sought after Hunter figure.)  After that, Hasbro released the toy in the various international markets they served including Europe and Japan.  (The European Wolverine is a darker green than the American toy.)  The mold then made it's way to Brazil.  Estrela released a Wolverine for a while.  It's similar to the American version, but the green is a different shade.  In 1989, the Wolverine base was used for the Lynx tank.  After that, the mold disappeared.  If you like the same vehicle in different shades of green, there's a lot for you.  The black Action Force version is nice, too.  So, Wolverine fans can keep themselves busy with the various versions that were released.

As the Wolverine is an early Joe vehicle and has a reputation for a few hard to find pieces, you will see a lot of high priced dealer offerings in the $70 to $80 range.  These are overpriced, though.  Lots of Wolverines were produced and many of them survived.  Plus, the vehicle isn't one that collectors tend to army build or hoard.  So, you have ample supply.  With a little patience, you can get a mint and complete Wolverine for around $45.  That's a lot for what the vehicle is.  But, if you want to sacrifice the tow rope, the price drops into the $20 range.  Frankly, I find both prices too high for this vehicle.  But, my opinion of it is heavily colored by my childhood disappointment with the toy.  So, collector mileage may vary.  For me, the Wolverine remains part of my desire to have a complete collection of figures and vehicles from my core childhood years.  Beyond that, I don't find much use for it.  But, lots of collectors do enjoy the vehicle.  So, taken with fresh eyes, the Wolverine can still be fun to have around.

1983 Wolverine, Cover Girl, 1984 Clutch, Desert, VAMP, Scarlett, Stalker, G.I. Joe HQ, Steel Brigade, Mail Away, Red Laser Army, Viper, Thunder, 1994 Lifeline

1983 Wolverine, Cover Girl, 1984 Clutch, Desert, VAMP, Scarlett, Stalker, G.I. Joe HQ

1983 Wolverine, Cover Girl, Rock and Roll, Tripwire

1983 Wolverine, 1987 Starduster, JUMP, Jet Pack, Mail Away, 1985, Dusty, Backstop, Plastirama, Argentina


  1. I have two Wolverines also. I don't know how I ended up with two. It's a decent enough vehicle, but obviously, none of the early Hasbro design team had much experience with armor vehicles. I was an armor crewman on an M1A1 Abrams tank with B. Co. 1/8 First Cavalry division during the early 90's.No tanker worth his salt would ever get into an armored vehicle that has NO protection for the driver! I mean with the HISS the glass canopy is understandable-in early Marvel comics Cobra was quite fanatical and willing to die for the cause-not the case with the poor Wolverine.

  2. It was available as a mail-in for years, too. (without Cover-Girl, of course).

    Single operator tank without proper crew protection...as realistic as it was in terms of coloring, the Wolverine was sort of a precursor to future GI JOE vehicles (though at least the Wolverine's missiles were in a launchers, not merely stuck to the side). Just a deeper seat with a flip open hatch would've gone a long way.

    Good points about usage. It leans towards artillery and artillery is great in the real world but for the rapid deployment force that is GI JOE it's always gonna be underused. Also, he nature of the unbalanced line meant plenty of GI JOE firepower with limited targets. All Cobra had in 1983 were Fangs and HISS tanks, and kids would more want to have the Dragonfly and MOBAT take on them. By the time the toy line evened out, the Wolverine was old news.

  3. Because of my older brother's collection I had access to a number of late eighties and nineties vehicles that came out a bit before my time. I didn't like the sillier nineties vehicles so much, which is why the Lynx really stood out to me. Whenever I played with Joes I went for that vehicle and I'm still very fond of it. It looked realistic, and was small enough that I felt it's one man crew didn't harm it much.

    With that said though, the early GI Joe armory sure had plenty of artillery didn't it? In 82 alone three of the first seven vehicles fall somewhat in that category with the HAL, FLAK and MMS.