Thursday, April 24, 2014

1994 Ice Cream Soldier

You may ask, "What's in a name?" as a facetious question. Or, it could be serious. In the case of the figure named Ice Cream Soldier, the name is the most interesting part. Why would someone choose such a seemingly outlandish name? And, if you take a name that invites ridicule, why would you exacerbate the problem by choosing to wear bright orange and yellow? The simple answer is that is was 1994. And, in 1994, things like this were acceptable. But, there is another answer: one that digs into the lore of fictional military characters and pays an indirect homage to Joe's basic roots.

In the 1950's and 1960's, DC Comics published a magazine named Sgt. Rock. The basic premise was they were an elite military unit during World War II. (In the 1980's, Remco made a line of Sgt. Rock figures. They followed some of the premise, were cheaply made and fought against an enemy based on a snake theme. I guess what goes around comes around....) The unit had a cadre of characters: all assigned nicknames by their leader, Sgt. Rock. The notion of the nicknames was so that the men could perform tasks that their civilian lives could not reconcile. They were capable of doing things as their nickname that their real name would never approve of. This allowed for a disassociation of their actions and the persona. It was a complex idea at the time and cuts to the basic nature of how people cope with the horrors of war. It was also an idea that was, basically, stolen by Hasbro for G.I. Joe since all of the characters went by Code Names rather than their real identities. One of the characters in the Sgt. Rock comic was named Ice Cream Soldier. With the specialty of flamethrower, Ice Cream Soldier got his nickname for being cool-headed in combat. The writers of the story likely had no idea that 35 years later, the name would be given to another, modern flamethrower as a bit of an homage to the story that, likely, influenced the design of the entire Joe line.

Ice Cream Soldier, though, did not get his nickname for being cool in combat. Instead, it is a red herring designed to give the enemy a false sense of ineptitude. They assume someone named Ice Cream Soldier would be young, inexperienced and an easy defeat. The actuality is that Ice Cream Soldier is highly competent and the misdirection of his name gives him an advantage over Cobra. As filecards from the 1990's go, Ice Cream Soldier's isn't as terrible as his name might suggest and the general characterization of him works on various levels. There is enough on the filecard to actually create something for the character since he never appeared in the cartoons or comics. So, that does give him an advantage over other, new 1994 characters. Unfortunately, the faceless helmet takes away some of that identity and helps drop Ice Cream Soldier into the faceless masses.

You can't really examine Ice Cream Soldier without addressing the glaring color issue. Ice Cream Soldier is cast in a base of bright orange plastic and is highlighted with brighter yellow accents. He is the epitome of the neon goodness that was the Joe line in 1993 and 1994. But, as a mold, this is certainly not a bad figure. The figure's helmet is very compact and detailed. It has a definite Stormtrooper vibe. But, this was acceptable in 1994 as Star Wars had yet to return to the public conscience. The figure's body is very well done. The straps have small indentations for texture and the entire mold appears to be encased in the thick armor that someone who used a flamethrower would require. The legs are a bit odd with the rounded, yellow armor. But, they still fit the specialty and the entire figure looks like he belongs together. (The 2007 Lt. Clay Moore repaint really brought out what this mold could have been with different colors and more paint applications.)

Ice Cream Soldier's accessories are decent for the time. Like all figures from his era, he included a basic weapon tree. The upside, though, was that the weapons were cast in a very light grey color. The color is unique to Ice Cream Soldier and allows the weapons to stand out. The tree included a version of 1992 Mutt's pistol, 1986 Beach Head's rifle, 1988 Spearhead's machete and the 1992 Shockwave's rifle. All are very solid weapon designs and Ice Cream Soldier's accessories were used to outfit many other, older figures in my collection who had long lost their gear. The hallmark of the figure's specialty, though, was the return of Charbroil's flamethrower. This is a modern looking device that works well with Ice Cream Soldier. Unfortunately, the gear that is really essential to a flamethrower: the fuel pack and the hose connecting the rifle to the tank, were missing. Blowtorch's gear looks dated on Ice Cream Soldier, but a pack from the original, Night Force or Anti-Venom Charbroil is an excellent upgrade that brings the figure into more usefulness. The figure is finished off with the requisite missile launcher and missiles. But, the overall combination of gear is very solid in terms of design and color.

In 1995 and 1996, I was buying every Joe I could find at retail. The sightings were hit and miss and there were many figures I never found. With Ice Cream Soldier, my first exposure to him was on the cardbacks of other 1994 figures. At the time, I was unaware of the Sgt. Rock reference and couldn't believe how G.I. Joe would have introduced such a lame code name into the line. Adding in the orange and yellow coloring certainly didn't help my perception of the figure. However, when I finally found an Ice Cream Soldier at retail, I still bought him. First, at the time, it was rare to find a new figure in the wild. So, when I found Ice Cream Soldier, I had to get him. Secondly, the figure's accessories are actually decent. Cast is a light grey, Ice Cream Soldier introduced a new color of weapons to my collection, but was also my first exposure to his flamethrower, pistol and rifle. Finally, the colors of the figure weren't that bad. I had always forgiven a bit of unrealistic colors for Joe figures, especially in the 1990's. But, frankly, Ice Cream Soldier's colors are no worse than those that appeared on Blowtorch and he is considered an iconic figure.

Now that I had an Ice Cream Soldier in my collection, his role was difficult to define. Flamethrowers, in general, weren't all that interesting to me. Wantonly destroying large areas by fire ran counter to my notion that the overthrow of a base or operation was heavily driven by the desire of the attacking party to actually own or control that installation. So, burning it up to take out the enemy was counterproductive. So, Ice Cream Soldier actually became his opposite. Instead of starting fires, he put them out as one of a crew of Joe firefighters. He would douse burning Tomahawks as they landed and even rescue trapped crew. His suit and colors were conducive to this role and he found a small role here. In time, though, that aspect got boring. So, Ice Cream Soldier became a pilot. His full body armor and helmet looked the part. And, the bright coloring wasn't really an issue for someone in the cockpit of an aircraft. Eventually, though, other figures were better pilots and Ice Cream Soldier fell into his final role as side gunner on the Shark 9000. His colors somewhat fit with that vehicle and I needed a gunner to man the station without taking away from the other, better figures I had in my collection. This was the last role the Ice Cream Soldier filled and he has pretty much been packed away for the better part of a decade and a half.

Ice Cream Soldier's mold was used for this lone figure in 1994. In 2002, though, Hasbro resurrected the mold and re-classified it as a Cobra named the Shock Viper. The first Shock Viper in 2002 was colored purple and red and was a great updated Cobra trooper. At the convention, Hasbro showcased a grey and black Shock Viper that would be released in later 2002. However, before this went to production, Hasbro changed the figure to a burnt orange and copper versions. The mold disappeared from there until 2007 when Master Collector created the Lt. Clay Moore figure using the mold with a new head. It would have been great to see the grey and black Shock Viper, or another version that more closely match Lt. Clay Moore. But, this mold got a lot of life. And, once it was appropriated to Cobra, there was little reason to ever bring back the Ice Cream Soldier character.

Ice Cream Soldier is a figure that few collectors care about. Being from the line's final year and in atrocious colors dooms the figure to a lifetime of obscurity. Mint and complete figures tend to sell in the $5 - $8 range with carded figures available for under $20. That's in line with most of the other, lesser 1994 figures and not enough to warrant skipping this figure in your collection. Ice Cream Soldier is definitely a product of his time. But, the figure can team with other Joe flamethrowers without too much difficulty. With a display of the rest of the 1994 figures, this figure does look at home. But, taken out of those contexts, the figure loses ownership value rather quickly. Had I not acquired this figure in my pre-Internet days, it's unlikely he would be anything more than a figure in a bag to me. But, since I acquired him at a time when all figures were interesting to me, Ice Cream Soldier retains a bit of nostalgic interest. That's not much, but it's enough for me to keep him around.

1994 Ice Cream Soldier, Flamethrower, 2004 Anti Venom Charbroil, 1987 Cobra-La Royal Guard

1994 Ice Cream Soldier, Flamethrower, 2004 Anti Venom Charbroil, 1987 Cobra-La Royal Guard

Ice Cream Soldier Around the Web:

Ice Cream Soldier at
Ice Cream Soldier at

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