Tuesday, April 12, 2016

1988 Sgt. Slaughter

Sgt. Slaughter is the personality looming over the late 1980's Joe line.  He was not only the spokesman for the brand, but also a ubiquitous presence in the toy line.  He had two figures from the same mold in 1986 and another repaint of that mold in 1989.  The original look for Slaughter was then exported to Brazil, Argentina and India: making the Sarge one of the few characters to appear in under four separate manufacturers.  In 1988, though, Hasbro granted Slaughter another mold.  This time, Hasbro really took out the stops.  The kept the larger than life size of the figure.  But, they added a more combat ready appearance.  The most notable upgrade to the character, though, was his now removable hat.  Rather than put a sculpt of this quality into the standard, single carded line, though, Hasbro continued in the vein of the 1986 original and released Sgt. Slaughter only as a vehicle driver for the outstanding Warthog vehicle.

Sgt. Slaughter's first two figures featured a mold that was based on his wresting look.  The first figure was designed as a drill sergeant.  The second figure had more of a combat look.  But, the mold was still relatively basic.  This version of Slaughter, though, is in full fledged combat gear.  While he still features the bare arms as a throwback to his wrestling roots, the chest is now encased in a full combat vest.  He has a bandoleer of bullets around his neck along with a machete on his right side.  The pants are a bit more real and the Sarge features a stylish Marine Corp belt buckle.  The figure's head is still classic Sgt. Slaughter, complete with the silver sunglasses.  The defining feature is the removable hat.  It fits onto his head relatively well, but will not stay affixed through any standard play that a kid in 1988 would have subjected the figure to.

As my personal G.I. Joe buying decreased in 1988, my peripheral interest still remained.  I was still buying the Joe comic and my youngest brother got a few more toys.  It was through the catalogs from his acquisitions that I came to see the Warthog.  It immediately appealed to me for a few reasons.  It held troops.  Which, at the time, was a rare feature.  It acted and looked like a tank, which hadn't really been seen in 1985.  It had mounted guns for the crew, as well as hatch covers that could open and close.  All this lead me to think that I should buy one.  But, by the time the summer rolled around and I would have had the money to do so, two things happened.  One, there was a drought that summer.  As such, my lawn mowing business dried up and I didn't have nearly the spending money to which I was accustomed.  Second, I had been bitten by the baseball card bug and nearly every penny I did have went into this life sucking hobby.  So, the Warthog was not to be.

In 1989, I was babysitting the kid next door.  He did have a Warthog.  But, it had been trashed.  It looked somewhat cool.  But, by missing so many parts, it lost something and wasn't the vehicle I had hoped it would be.  I put the Warthog out of mind for years.  When I returned to Joe collecting, I bought a large volume of figure lots from 1988.  I never, though, got this Sgt. Slaughter or the Warthog in my acquisitions.  In 2000 or 2001, I put the Warthog on my wishlist and planned to finally acquire one.  Before I was able to do so, though, Hasbro repainted it as the top notch Toys R Us exclusive Night Rhino in early 2002.  Once I had this, my quest for a Warthog went unfulfilled.

This Sgt. Slaughter also remained elusive.  In my zeal to complete my figure from from 1988, I did manage to pick up a non mint version of Slaughter.  He had been owned by a smoker, though, and the figure was not only visually damaged: it smelled, too.  I kept him tucked away.  In the mid 2000's, though, I was on a completist kick.  At the time bubbled Sgt. Slaughters were available for just a couple of dollars.  While I didn't really want one, I had seen prior examples of cheap bubbled figures that would suddenly disappear and double or triple in price.  (Though, to be fair, tripling of $4 is still only $12, so it's not like it would have gotten stupidly expensive.)  So, I struck and bought a bubbled Slaughter figure.  I opened him up and watched his T-Bar break within seconds of trying to put his hat on.  I repaired that figure.  In that process, I realized that this was a really solid version of Sgt. Slaughter.

Gone were the caricaturist aspects of his character. Were this figure not based on a real person, no one would have questioned the mold or it's solid design.  This Sarge looks like a full fledged combat sergeant.  He was outfitted in combat gear.  He only lacked a weapon to complete his ensemble.  Pairing him with an Accessory Pack M-60 from the 1983 Rock and Roll figure was a great way to complete his look since the gun matches not only the bullets across his chest, but also the overall size of the figure.  This Slaughter isn't as much a marketing gimmick as he is a full blown member of the Joe team.  He fits perfectly with other figures of his era and looks at home among displays from the time.  While the figure still had aspects that made it different, the overall look could have been any new character released that year.  The figure is heavy on brown and tan.  The green belt (that matches his hat) and the silver bullets (which match his sunglasses) break up the monotony quite well.  Like most of the '88 figures, though, there are lots of details left on this figure that were not painted.  (The machete and pouches are the most glaring.)  I think the figure's head is a bit large.  But, within the context of the larger figure, it still works.

There are two characters in the vintage line who were designed to stand taller than other figures.  The first was the 1983 Destro.  He is slightly larger than his contemporaries and it allows him to lord over the other Cobras of his era.  Sgt. Slaughter was the second.  The original figure incorporated this and the tradition was continued with the 1988 figure.  The result is that Slaughter is larger than other figures.  It fits the "larger than life" motif and is likely an intentional choice. It makes his parts harder to use in customs.  But, not overly so.  Mostly, it's just something you notice when you hold the figure in your hand.  His height can lead to him not fitting in pre-1988 vehicles.  It does, though, make this figure more distinctive that he might otherwise be.

This mold was just used the one time for the Warthog in 1988 and 1989.  After that, it disappeared.  This is both odd and not odd.  It's odd as most of the 1988 and 1989 vehicle drivers featured two fates: they were sold to Olmec for Bronze Bombers or they went to India where they were used by Funskool.  It's possible that this Slaughter did end up in India and Funskool chose not to use it since they had already released the Sgt. Smasher figure.  But, as Funskool's production of new figures wrapped up in the early 2000's, they were less worried about things like this.  But, maybe Slaughter's likeness would have been an issue for them at that time.  And, this is the reason that the lack of appearance of this mold is not surprising.  Hasbro probably had a royalty agreement with Slaughter for any figure they produced of him.  Now, this certainly would not have precluded the parts of the mold other than the head from appearing on another figure.  But, I can see Hasbro just choosing to avoid any issues rather than investigating for 8 seconds to figure out what they could or could not do.  The result is that this is the only appearance of this mold.  Which is a shame as it had a lot of potential that could have been realized through a more modern repaint.

1988 Sgt. Slaughter figures are not hard to find.  For some reason, large quantities of bubbled 1988 vehicle drivers made their way into the secondary market.  Slaughter was one of these.  Tons and tons of MIB Sgt. Slaughter figures were liquidated, often for only a few dollars, throughout the mid 2000's.  (It should be noted that these figures were likely not stored in the best conditions and if you open them, the plastic is brittle and prone to breakage.)  Now, you can get the bubbled figures for around $15.  Loose, mint and complete with filecard figures tend to sell for $8 or so.  And, if you just want a complete figure, they can be had as low as $4 or $5.  I would go as far as to say that this is easily the best Sgt. Slaughter figure available in the Joe line.  For a cheap price, he's well worth acquiring.  If you can pick up a Warthog at the same time, all the better.

1988 Sgt. Slaughter, 2008 AWE Striker, 1985 Footloose

1988 Sgt. Slaughter, 2008 AWE Striker, 1985 Footloose

1988 Sgt. Slaughter, Lightfoot, Super Trooper, Mail Away, 1983 G.I. Joe HQ


  1. This was my first Sarge figure--I got him in college, in the bubble you described, for exactly the price you mentioned, from an antique store.

  2. Actually, Triple T Slaughter and Main-In Slaughter had different legs. Triple T had more military pants and boots, while mail-in had the wrasslin' tights/boots.