Tuesday, September 10, 2019

2004 Comic Pack Double Clutch

2004 was very much a Joe tranistion year for me.  The year started off with a bang as both the Venom Vs. Valor series of figures showed up almost immediately while both the Night Force and Cobra Infantry sets saturated Toys R Us stores around the country starting in January.  As the year wore on, though, Hasbro kept announcing more and more products.  And, many of those simply didn't resonate with me.  Those that didn't, featured some commonalities: they were all JvC sculpt figures.  The ARAH style figures that were released that year continued to hold my attention...even if I wasn't enamored with the entire slate of them.  In the spring, the first images of the new Joe comic packs were shown.  On one hand, these were exciting and amazing as they offered something collectors had longed for.  On the other hand, the packs had some problems that were apparent from the get go.  In the first wave, there were some figures that intrigued me.  But, the new version of Clutch from Comic Pack 3 was the most interesting.  The figure was big and bulky and brought us a Clutch that was more compatible with figures from the late 1980's and early 1990's.  The figure was a valiant attempt at something different.  And, like all of Hasbro's attempts to break out of a narrow definition of what a vintage style Joe should be, collectors largely punished Hasbro's efforts.

I refer to this figure as Clutch throughout the profile.  The reality, though, is that this character is named Double Clutch due to the copyright issues.  It's meant to be the same character as Clutch, though.  So, I stick with the standard name that I grew up with rather than attempt to justify the mouthful that is the Double Clutch name.  Hasbro losing copyrights was annoying.  But, I can understand it...especially when you consider how much the Kenner acquisition tried to purge G.I. Joe from the Hasbro annals.  In 1995, it was unlikely that Joe would ever return to retail.  But, the success of the Star Wars line proved that adult collectors could be enough of a force to drive retail fortunes and help bolster a toy line while it found its way into kids' consciences, too.

This leads to the figure itself.  The first wave of Comic Packs introduced the comic book green and yellow scheme to G.I. Joe figures.  In and of itself, the scheme isn't awful.  The green is deep and rich and different than most anything else found in the line.  But, like most things Joe in the 2000's, Hasbro overdid it.  The color became too common and casual consumers couldn't differentiate figures on the shelves and the sameness ultimately squashed the line's chances of retail success.  But, when Clutch debuted, there were just two figures (he and his packmate Hawk) that featured the new base color.  So, for Clutch, it works.

The Clutch figure is made from surprising parts.  Aside from the new head (which was available in a smaller size, too, from Asian sellers), the figure then used the rest of the parts from 1993 figures.  Collectors were told that the 1993 figures that appeared in Brazil were lost, never to be made again.  Then, this Clutch showed up using the 1993 Mace body.  Mace was among the "lost" Brazilian figures.  Turns out, the molds weren't lost.  Hasbro just didn't want to look for them.  So, collectors were left with some cool uses like this Clutch, but missed on tons of other excellent repaints of 1993 figures as Hasbro couldn't be bothered to look at their mold inventory.  In addition to the Mace parts, he also featured the arms from the 1993 Duke.  A 1993 Duke repaint was planned for 1995.  Yet, Hasbro never released the full 1993 Duke during the 2000's.  Another opportunity lost for collectors. 

Clutch's gear is awful.  But, it's awful in that it's not unique.  Clutch didn't include a helmet.  This is a double feature of Hasbro not having to sculpt one for the head.  (Saved expense.) And, it's also a way for Hasbro to show off their vintage style sculpting.  (It's known that Hasbro designers of the time HATED working on vintage Joes since the old designs didn't pad their resumes.)  The newly designed heads in 2001 were just terrible.  But, these 2004 offerings were much improved and far more detailed than the balding, pasty white guys that define the 2001 fiasco.  Clutch also includes 3 weapons.  Since the vintage figure lacked a weapon, these are just bonus.  He did include a black version of Snow Job's classic XMLR rifle.  For cartoon fans, getting this weapon with a character like Clutch was a nice Easter Egg.  He also includes a terrible JvC era weapon that has a scope and grenade launcher, but no stock.  The lack of stock means that the soft hands of the 2004 figures don't hold the weapon well and that renders it useless, even if the appearance has some merit.  The final weapon is a 1990 Big Ben rifle.  By 2004, collectors had all of this weapon they would ever want.  So, it was just overkill in the pack.  But, more guns are better than less.  Though, it would have been nice if Clutch had included the newly sculpted M-16 that debuted with General Hawk in this pack.

While the first cases of the comic packs that reached retail were only packs #1 and #2 and were missing pack #3.  This caused some initial panic that the three figures might end up short packed or hard to find.  And, collectors paid $20 for a set for a short time.  But, rather quickly, pack #3 saturated retail and was a common sight.  Though, the set did sell through before the remaining 2004 overstock hit clearance in early 2005 and lead to the short run of the Oktober Guard 3 packs.  However, in 2005, large amounts of overstock of packs 1 through 3 started showing up at discount stores.  You could easily get spare comic packs for $5 all over the country.  Naturally, this lead to massive disinterest in the figure.  And, as many collectors bought up extras to use Stalker and General Hawk as fodder, it left a surplus of Clutchs on the market.

This manifests today.  While many comic pack figures have drastically appreciated in value, Clutch has not.  You can easily get a mint and complete version for $10 from dealers.  And, about 1/2 that on the open market.  You don't see the carded sets with the frequency of a few years ago.  And, those will sell for $40 from dealers.  Again, though, you can find them at half that price if you are patient and wait out the market.  At $5, this figure is a must have.  While the 2007 Convention Clutch is better, it's also a lot more expensive.  This Comic Pack figure is a cheap stop gap that gives you a Clutch that better fits with 1990's era vehicles and figures without breaking the bank.

2004 Comic Pack Double Clutch, 2005 Winter Operations Snow Job, Whiteout

2004 Comic Pack Double Clutch, 2005 Winter Operations Snow Job, Whiteout, 2003 BAT, Anti Venom Stretcher, Lifeline

2004 Comic Pack Double Clutch, 2005 Winter Operations Snow Job, Whiteout, 2003 BAT, Anti Venom Stretcher, Lifeline, Barricade, Monster Blaster APC, 1993, Mega Marines


  1. I really liked that Hasbro was attempting at this point to get out some of the original Joes in their more comic based looks. Of course, they also went and released some of the 013 in alternate uniforms (Grunt in the red fatigues, Flash in the Space Suit) meaning you really couldn't build a standard 013 from this set. And yeah, everyone got Big Ben's machine gun, didn't they? There were definitely some weapons Hasbro seemed to love and that was one of them!

    1. I never understood that comic book Grunt, without at least a Wingfield figure, what is Grunt going to infiltrate? It would almost be a good civilian figure except he's got that big ammo belt.

  2. the definition of a “decent” figure, this was among some of my last retail purchases and years later i don’t really see a use for this figure or it’s packmates. the convention clutch is better in every way. the comic pack green and yellow motiff never worked for me. however the nam-era M-16s were some of the better guns from the 2000’s, another good example of hasbro occasionally getting it right.

    i don’t think hasbro had favorite weapons, they were just insanely lazy when it came to accessories 90 percent of the time and when it came to anything that was a vintage mold forget it.

  3. Given how Clutch also used an uzi in the comic, I'm surprised that they didn't give him the 1991 Low-Light uzi (which would've been better than the Spy Troops Torpedo gun they gave him). Ironic, considering the convention version (which also used this headsculpt) did come with it.

  4. That weird stockless M-16 thingy! Such a weird gun for them to include. How do you fire a grenade launcher without a stock?

    I've still never acquired this figure as the proportions and colors were too much of a turn-off for me. But he does indeed look decent, so maybe I'll keep a look out for him since Joes are so hard to come by right now. These days I get bored and just want new stuff.

  5. In defense of the 2001 heads, they were made to fit the ARAH bodies and out of hard plastic. The comic pack heads were done in new sculpt style and if they could fit inside the vintage torso, then it was good enough. Never mind it they didn't function well.

    It wasn't merely the green/yellow comic scheme that soured the comic pack line it was the fact that many had defected to new sculpt entirely and the ORIGINAL 13 were overrated. Duke and Roadblock are more recognizable than most of the 1982 bunch but didn't appear until wave 4, along with Destro and Storm Shadow. How did they make that many comic packs but no Gung-Ho? Imagine the club's ball jointed "Gaucho" Gung-Ho v1 head used. Also, really they should've made new sculpt comic packs sooner, even though I preferred ARAH.

  6. The comic pack figures were good, even if some had tiny heads.

    The supersaturated green used is too "forest ranger" and it makes the shoulder holster/belt/boots look more yellow than they really are. To be fair, it is a good match for the green used in Marvel's GI Joe #1, but something gets lost in translation back to action figure form. Using a shade of green even half a step closer to olive drab would've really improved the overall appearance.

    That is a great headsculpt, though.

  7. If only Mace's chest wasn't so big. It's odd how some comic pack figures had alabaster skin and others had that waxy tan they used on the Toy R Us 6-packs.