This Spirit is very different from his American releases. While both the '84 Spirit and the Slaughter's Marauders version are nicely colored and decent figures, this European version brings out a different element of the Spirit character. The dark black and blood red combine to communicate a more powerful characterization. This is not an exploitation figure, it is, instead, a look that shows a darker, deeper side to Spirit and, for me, gives the character even greater depth. I liken this design to a change in Spirit's demeanor. Gone is the naive tracker. When he dons this outfit, Spirit is capable of accomplishing more dangerous tasks. This is a uniform where Spirit means business. Usually, he is a lone infiltrate into a Cobra installation who must act completely without support. Other times, he is sent after a particular target: often with that target's total annihilation the only acceptable outcome.
One of the themes that I like to explore in my collection is the exploitation of the Joes by their superiors. I basically have the Joe team viewed as an organization that is called in to every situation that has gone hopelessly awry. The Joes are then sent in against almost impossible odds and expected to succeed. In most cases they do. However, one of the ideas that permeates my Joe ranks is the notion that their duty will never be done until each person is dead. The Joes feel that their skills are such that the military honchos will never let them retire. Instead, they will be sent on mission after mission, even long after their physical abilities have diminished. The eventual outcome of this is that, at some point, each team member's abilities will fail them at a critical time and they will end up dead. I have had this happen to a few different characters over the course of time and this has lead to the revelation among the existing team members that the same fate will, eventually, befall them. It is a dark secret among the Joes that, in some ways, makes them tighter as a unit. However, that type of pressure also weighs heavily upon a mind. At some point, I hope to explore this more fully with the character of Footloose after he, Flint and Duke infiltrate Dr. Mindbender's lab. I like the idea of fallible Joes moreso than what we see in mainstream Joe cannon. This notion of eventual death during duty provides the type of element that makes every Joe character a little more human and less detached from what they do.
Alas, in my collection, though, this version of Spirit is used more as a display model than a "use" figure. My '93 Spirit gets most of the action. The reason for that, though, has less to do with the fact that I like the '93 more than it does with the fact that I'm a bit worried about damaging my Euro Spirit. You can see in the photos below that Spirit is always holding his gun a certain way. This is because I'm afraid that the large handled weapon that is intended for the figure will break his thumb should I force it into place. This concern has lead me to use the Euro Spirit less than I would like as I don't want to break him. I have less problems with the '93 (though that, in its own right, is a tougher figure to find) and use it more often as I feel that replacing him would be easier than finding another Euro Spirit. This isn't to say the figure is brittle. Mine just feels like the gun would cause damage. Rather than risk it, I just don't use this mold very often.
I've always felt it odd that Europe got an exclusive Spirit figure. His is a mold that really is unique to the United States. Painting him in this manner seems somewhat out of place for a European release. Spirit's, and Mutt's, release timing is also somewhat peculiar. They were released in the early '90's, at a time when all other European releases were the new construction ball joint heads. Adding these two figures to the assortment was a odd combination and does not fit with the release schedules that were the norm in every other country. (Well, except for India, though that didn't really take hold until the late '90's and early '00's.) Why these two figures were chosen for an exclusive release will probably remain a mystery.
As this figure is a European release, he is of the same quality as American release figures. As such, you don't have to worry about brittle crotches and thumbs nor sloppy paint applications when you track one down. He includes 4 accessories, though only his loin cloth is unique to this version. His pack and gun are the same as the easily acquired Slaughter's Marauders Spirit and his eagle is the same as the original figure's. (Though just about all Freedoms out there are missing the claw. That's just one brittle feature of the animal mold.) This allows a collector to acquire a hopefully cheaper, non-complete version of this figure without the worry of tracking down too many exclusive accessories.
Like a few other figures, Spirit's mold has had an interesting journey. After his initial release in the U.S. in 1984-1985, he was sent to Brazil. There, Spirit was among the earlier Brazilian figures released. In 1989, the Spirit mold was again released in the U.S., this time under the Slaughter's Marauders banner. This figure, though, was not produced by Hasbro. Hasbro outsourced the production of these figures to Estrela in Brazil. As such, Estrela used molds they had on hand to produce that batch of figures. (All of the Slaughter's Marauders figures were released in Brazil in colors similar to their original American release.) At some point in the next few years, though, the Spirit and Mutt molds migrated out of Estrela's hands and into Europe. Here, the European division of Hasbro produced two exclusive figure repaints of those characters. These were released some time in the early '90's around the same time that the European exclusive Tiger Force figures were released. (An interesting note is that Blizzard also appears to have gone from Brazil to Europe around the same time.) What is not clear is whether the actual molds used by Euro Hasbro and Estrela were one and the same or if these early figures actually had two molds produced for them and they were then strewn around the world after Hasbro was through with their American releases. At any rate, the trail of these molds left quite a legacy and proves an interesting study on different countries' uses of specific figure molds.
A few years ago, when I was in the market for this figure, you could get mint and mostly complete Spirits for around $20. As I haven't looked for one of these guys in a while, I'm not sure if the current pricing is still similar or not. I do know, though, that there are a lot of these Euro Spirits around and many of them are in good condition. As such, if you want one, it usually does not take too much time to track one down. I've found this to be my favorite coloring of this mold. Unfortunately, his scarcer nature still precludes me from using this figure all that often. As a display piece, I can not recommend this figure enough. As a play piece, though...well...I leave that to your discretion. I've found that this figure is a welcome part of a collection, regardless of his purpose. The solid colors and classic mold make for a truly unique foreign figure who belongs in any American collection.
Spirit is still a great character. It appears, though, he has been replaced in new Joe cannon by Dart. Would you like to see Spirit return? Let me know.