Tuesday, May 15, 2018

1986 Cross Country

The 1986 vehicle drivers were, in general, not a great crop of figures.  This is partially due to the fact that the 1985 vehicle drivers were easily on par with the standard carded figures not only in terms of quality, but also accessories.  Hasbro took a step back with the drivers in 1986 and didn't offer a great assortment of designs.  And, by and large, the 1986 releases were also devoid of any accessories.  It's not a stretch to say, though, that Cross Country is the worst release of the bunch.  His head and nose are large.  His colors palette is not overly complementary.  He lacks paints applications on many of his details.  In general, the overall presentation of the figure is somewhat terrible.  And, oh yeah, he is an homage to soldiers of the Confederate army.

The 1985 vehicle drivers, for the most part, included individual accessories.  These guns, helmets and tools helped to make those figures extra special.  As such, I was expecting the 1986 crop of drivers to have the same level of gear.  The first figure I acquired that year, Thrasher, did include an accessory.  So, that lead me to assume that the rest of the '86 vehicle drivers would as well.  So, when I acquired Cross Country on May 25, 1986 (I remember the exact date because my dad and younger brother were going to the Indianapolis 500 that day.  The race was rained out, though.  My mother took me to Toys R Us after I had called to confirm they had a Havoc and had them set one aside for me.  I opened the Havoc and Cross Country in front of our picture window in the living room, watching the rain that would postpone the race fall.), I was shocked to learn that he didn't have a weapon.  So, this was an immediate strike against him.

The bigger issue with Cross Country, though, is that the design just isn't that good.  I remember being distinctly disappointed with the character as soon as I pried him from his bubble.  His color scheme is not all that interesting.  His chest is bright green.  It is offset by white sleeves, grey pants and a red shoulder pad.  While the mold seems to have a lot going on, it's not cohesive.  And, that's what does in the color scheme, too.  The design lacks a theme that ties it together and makes sense.  Cross Country has a lot of colors all combined into the character's uniform.  But, those colors are neither complementary nor sensical.

The latter half of 1986 and 1987 were my Joe heyday.  The stories from that time are the reason I'm a collector today.  And, while I enjoy figures from all era, it is the guys from this time who have the most powerful childhood memories associated with them.  Yet, Cross Country does not.  The Havoc is pretty much the de facto Joe vehicle for me since it was on the few nicely conditioned land vehicles I had from this era.  Pretty much all of my memories for Joe missions from this time revolve around a Havoc in some way.  But, Cross Country was not part of the story.  He drove the Havoc because I needed someone to operate it.  Dial Tone or the Mission to Brazil Dial Tone always manned the second seat in the cockpit as I needed a communications officer on every mission and the figure's pack actually fit on the figure when he was laying in the seat and the canopy was closed.  If the Havoc was compromised, though, Dial Tone would escape.  But, Cross Country usually perished in the crash.  It was annoying to have to find a weapon for the figure.  But, mostly, he just wasn't much fun to play with.  There were so many better 1986 figures that Cross Country simply faded away and was about the only figure from that time who didn't get a major characterization and ample use by me.

So, let's get into the controversial stuff.  Considering that Cross Country was designed with mid 1980's sensibilities in mind, his homage to the Confederacy must be taken in context of that era.  The General Lee had been a recent TV icon.  It was a different time for race relations in the United States.  And, it's not like the Joe line does't have an abundance of other racial and ethnic stereotypes on its roster.  But, even taking the period of his design into consideration, Cross Country is still overly problematic.  First, he is a member of the U.S. military who is paying direct homage to an army that killed over 350,000 soldiers of the U.S. military.  You would think that some military commanders might take issue with that.  Secondly, though, you look at the Joe team's diversity.  A character like Stalker, who was a gang leader in Detroit, could very easily take issue with Cross Country's choice of homage.  Roadblock, who was from the deep South, would have been born during the Civil Rights movement and would have been told stories of discrimination by all his closest relatives if he had not lived it himself.  Roadblock might have something to say to a guy wearing a flag that was used to oppress his family.

All of this would lead to divisiveness on the Joe team.  That's not something that I see Hawk tolerating.  Now, you can make the case that Joes are the best of the best and won't let personal differences get between them.  That's a valid viewpoint.  However, Joes were quartered in close proximity.  They lived in secret bases for long stretches of time.  As such, inter-personal issues would be something that the commanders would need to anticipate and quell before they boiled over.  This is where Cross Country becomes problematic to me.  His specialty is not so technical that there wouldn't be a large section of other soldiers with similar skills and expertise.  So, the baggage he would bring is not something I see the Joe brass wanting to deal with.  Cobra was enough of a problem that introducing personnel issues would just be foolish.  (And, you can make a good case that Cobra and the confederacy would be brothers in arms against the U.S.)  So, I really don't see a reason for someone like him to be a Joe team member.

After this initial release, Cross Country went missing for nearly 20 years.  In 2002, though, it showed up in India where Funskool released the character using this vintage head, waist, upper arms and chest.  It is a terrible figure: chock full of terrible colors and poor quality.  But, for this reason, it is also awesome.  The Funskool version features a thick, painted on mustache to add to overall bizareness of the release.  It also, though, included a full tree of vac metallized weapons.  It is the only figure in the world other than Super Trooper to feature the silvery, metallic finish.  They are awesome and most of the reason why a once hated foreign release has gotten very difficult to find and expensive in recent years.

Dealers will sell mint with filecard Cross Country figures for around $10 or so.  And, the figure will move at that price.  But, left to the open market, this is about a $5 figure.  Without the filecard, you can get them as cheap as $3.  The reality is that Cross Country is not a good figure.  The mold is odd, the colors are bad and the head is atrocious.  So, the pricing befits the figure's quality.  Since the Havoc is a quirky vehicle that was released during the cartoon years, though, it's a staple of most collections.  So, to drive it, most collectors have a Cross Country figure.  That leads to the low demand since most everyone who wants the figure has had ample opportunity to get one.  And, since the figure isn't that cool and his parts aren't very useful, you are left with an example of failed design.

1986 Cross Country, Havov, 1985 Mauler, 1987 Dodger, Battle Force 2000, Leatherneck

1986 Cross Country, HAVOC, 1985 Bomb Disposal, Beach Head, Funskool

1986 Cross Country, Havoc Driver, Clutch, 1984, 1983 APC, Thunder, Bazooka


  1. Good thing they remade the character in 1993 and downplayed the neo-confederate stuff! Oh, they made it worse? Oops!

    My brother had the HAVOC and I did not. And for two reasons, I didn't like the vehicle and thought Cross Country was a bad figure. I've warmed up on the HAVOC (it does mark the beginning of the glass-canopied battle cruiser era of 1986-1990), old Cross Country is still bad figure. His head is huge and dumb looking. What's up with the wrist guards? The leggings? Red patch on his pants?

    His look seems to be inspired by the RAT PATROL character who wore a red kepi. That show was controversial, not for his hat but the American character wearing the Aussie hat! (And Americans taking too much credit for beating the Germans in North Africa).

    Actually, Cross Country's character on the toon wasn't that bad all things considered. At least he got some characterization.

    Surprisingly Hama didn't kill him off in the comic when he had the chance, killing off better characters instead.

  2. The one thing that I'll give the Cross Country design credit for, his he's wearing an incredibly similar get-up to 1986 Roadblock (which a friend of mine named "Mr Fuji Roadblock" because his facial sculpt would make a 1940s war bonds poster blush)

    So for that reason, during my childhood there was a period of time where Roadblock and Cross Country had to be paired together, in zany adventures inspired by that movie with Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor.

  3. I always sort of figured the confederate references were just an attempt to give him a goofy, region based/stereotyped appearance as a "southern rebel" type character. Likely, they were just thinking about referencing the popular General Lee and that was the extent of the thought involved. Then again, he is on a team with Mercer and Falcon, so maybe there was a pattern of less than respectable recruits for the team!

    With that said, yeah he's a pretty terrible figure. I think the sculpt on his chest looks pretty good, but everything else is a random mishmash of parts. And that head is probably the worst ARAH head sculpt too.

  4. Personally, I think the 80s version of southern Confederate Flag wavers mostly exemplified southern pride, not racist or even political viewpoints (again, mostly). As such, I think his v2 figure is really cool!

  5. Since 1865 there have been soldiers in the US army have been confederate soldiers and descendants of confederate veterans. A quick google search will show images of soldiers throughout the twentieth century displaying the confederate battle flag on their helmets, attaching the flag to their tanks or jeeps, and even raising it on a pole at their camps. By comparison, Cross Country's badly detailed belt buckle and kepi are nothing. I'm not arguing against the goofy appearance and proportions of the figure though.

  6. I love this figure! I love everything about it! I think it's so different and at the same time, so iconic. I love Western Playmobil and I guess this figure echos that other toy. Oh, and the HAVOC... I renember wheb I saw it the first time in GIJoe The Movie... I fell in love then. And as Cross Country is the driver, I guess some of the love I feel for him comes from that