Tuesday, March 10, 2020

1989 Slaughter's Marauders Spirit

In all the time I have been reviewing G.I. Joe figures, I have only looked at two members of the Slaughter's Marauders subset that was released in 1989.  Part of this is that there were only 6 members of the team released in the U.S. and only two real international variants of the figures that exist.  (Both of which are very similar to the U.S. releases.)  Another part is that the figures are relatively obscure, break easily and are not significant upgrades over the figures' original designs.  The penultimate part is that Slaughter's Marauders has not really taken off in the collecting community like Tiger Force or even Sky Patrol have.  The final element is that while the paint jobs on the Slaughter's Marauders have merit, they quickly blend together and lack the complementary cohesion of a Tiger Force or Python Patrol.  All of this isn't to say that the figures are bad.  In fact, they have a lot of merit and can be extremely useful in many situations.  In cases like this Spirit, they are drastic departures from the figure's original paint job and give collectors a diverse way to use the character.

All of the Slaughter's Marauders figures were made by Estrela in Brazil.  Hasbro did this due to the molds being in Brazil.  But, also to test additional production capacity should they ever need it.  The result, though, is that the Slaughter's Marauders figures have extremely brittle plastic.  (They match with the quality of all the Estrela releases and are a great way for a modern collector to experience Brazilian quality prior to taking the plunge into Estrela exclusive figures.)  You see an extremely high frequency of broken thumbs and crotches on Slaughter's Marauders figures...even if the rest of the figure shows almost no wear.  Spirit is a notoriously brittle release, though.  His rifle's large handle and the thinness of his crotch piece make him even more susceptible to breakage.  Three decades removed from his release, this has manifested in a figure that has become tough to find and even tougher to accessorize and pose due to fears of his thumbs snapping from just giving him his rifle to hold.

The Slaughter's Marauders color scheme is very close to being the perfect forest team.  Their base colors of brown, black, dark green and light green are an excellent way for them to blend into forested environments.  Alas, there is an outlier, though, as the final color in their palette was a unique blue.  The color isn't Cobra blue, but is odd enough that it takes away from the figure's realism.  Fortunately, Spirit joins Footloose and Low Light as the figures with the least amount of the color and its appearance on the figure's accents help keep this Spirit fairly militaristic.  The blue gloves, boots and undershirt can be a bit off-putting.  But, the figure's general color tones are well done and rarely otherwise seen in the vintage line outside of the Marauders subset.

Spirit features all new paint masks from the original figure.  The multi-tonal shirt and pants give the figure some depth...even if the reality of the clothes is a bit odd.  The biggest change, though, is that Spirit is missing his eyebrows!  I'm not really sure how a paint mask like this could be overlooked.  But, it happened.  And, it gives this figure an eerie face that doesn't seem quite right.  (Sadly, this missing paint mask was also carried forward to the European Spirit figure.)  It's the main detraction on this figure and it takes what would, otherwise, be a top notch repaint and knocks it down a few pegs.

The other difference is Spirit's skin tone.  The Olhos de Fenix figure that was originally released in Brazil featured a more sunburnt skin tone.  (The same tone was seen on other figures, too.)  This Slaughter's Marauders figure has pasty white skin...a stark difference from the mold's prior use in Brazil.  But, it's also more in line with the skin tone that was used on the American release in 1984.  Making Spirit's skin so blanched is an odd choice for a character who wears clothing so tied to his heritage.  It's not likely that this was anything more than a function of the plastic mixture since all of the Marauders figures with exposed skin have matching flesh tones.

The Slaughter's Marauders Spirit has a few interesting packaging differences from the 1984 original.  First, the card art is reversed.  Instead of holding his rifle in his right hand like he is on the 1984 card, the 1989 release shows him holding it in his left hand.  The artwork is just a mirror image.  What's interesting, though, is that this reversed image is unique to the Slaughter's Marauders Spirit.  The Ohlos de Fenix figure, also released in Brazil, features the original orientation.  And, the subsequently released European Spirit also matches the positioning of the 1984 figure.  Barbecue, Footloose and Mutt also feature reversed card art.  While Low Light's orientation matches his original release.

In addition to this, Spirit's filecard was changed.  Gone are the references to how poor Spirit was when he grew up.  Instead, his Marauders card refers to the beauty of his homeland.  It's an odd omission and one that somewhat changes your view of the character's upbringing.  Also gone is the reference to Spirit being a Shaman.  He is now a tough warrior.  This change fits with the Hasbro narrative.  As the line progressed, every character needed to be the toughest, baddest or best trained good guy or the most evil, vile and terrible villain.  Characters were pushed to the extremes to make them appear larger than life and fit with the hero and villain narrative.  But, the filecard differences paint two different pictures of the same character.

The Slaughter's Marauders Spirit includes all of the gear from the original Spirit, but in different colors.  The rifle and pack are now black.  However, as they are made in Brazil, they are not the same as the black accessories that accompanied the European Exclusive Spirit figure.  So, be aware of that.  The loincloth is now black with brown paint to better match the updated paint masks.  And, Freedom again makes an appearance.  Once again, though, the Freedom is different from the more common 1984 Freedom due to his manufacture in Brazil. The rifle and backpack are a pair that really require each other due to the ammunition in the pack matching that which appears in Spirit's rifle.  But, the full complement of gear is necessary for Spirit and makes the figure feel far more useful than just a loose figure with no weapons would.

When I took my Spirit out of his bag, though, I found yet another example of the inferior Brazilian plastic.  Back in 2001, I wrote about how the soft plastic used for Escorpiao Voador's helmet was "melting" inside the still carded figure's package.  To this day, it has an oily residue on it.  I've found the same residue on my Slaughter's Marauders Junkyard.  And, I have now found it on Spirit's loincloth.  These figures have been stored in moderate temperatures and away from sunlight for many years.  But, the plastic is still degrading.  I now have to keep the loincloth separate from the figure to prevent it from damaging any other parts.  This is just the beginning.  Spirit's loincloth is over 30 years old, now.  And, these toys were never intended for such long use.  But, if you haven't checked your Marauders figures in a while, it's probably a good idea to look over the softer accessories and see if this degradation is happening to you, too.

Spirit traveled around the world.  Aside from the U.S. release, he was also released in Brazil and Mexico.  Both of these figures are similar in coloring to the 1984 Hasbro version.  Estrela produced the Slaughter's Marauders figures in Brazil for Hasbro.  But, Spirit was not among the Brazilian releases of the Marauders figures.  (Sgt. Slaughter, BBQ and Low Light were the only three released on Brazilian cards.)  Spirit did appear on the cardbacks of late run Plastirama packaging in Argentina.  But, he was never actually released there.  In the early 1990's, Spirit, Mutt and Low Light were all given back to Hasbro and were put into production in the European market.  Low Light kept the Slaughter's Marauders theme, though has exclusive to Europe coloring.  Mutt and Spirit, though, were given radical redesigns.  The Euro Spirit is black and red, but uses the same paint masks as the Slaughter's Marauders version...right down to the missing eyebrows.  It's very likely that Hasbro had access to Spirit in the 2000's but either never looked for him, or didn't care enough to produce a new version.  It's unfortunate as the mold could have been given at least one more really nice repaint.  But, Spirit collectors have three major paint variants and two additional country of origin variants to sate their Spirit appetite.

Mint and complete Slaughter's Marauders Spirit figures run about $40 these days.  Dealers will charge up to $60 and even get it from time to time.  (Especially if the figure has the filecard.)  In the case with this Spirit, the value is in an unbroken figure as the brittle plastic makes intact thumbs and crotches a tough find.  You can get most of the accessories (aside from Freedom) relatively cheaply.  The Slaughter's Marauders figures, in general, have taken off in price in the past few years as the frequency of broken figures and general lower production runs of the figures have become more evident.  The coloring of this figure works for a more militaristic version of Spirit.  But, the look isn't as iconic as the 1984 original.  As a Spirit fan, though, I find a great deal of value in both versions.  They serve different purposes and are different enough to warrant owning both.  And, with all versions of Spirit now being fairly expensive, the only reason to choose one over the another is personal preference.  I find value in having different looks for classic characters.  And, the Slaughter's Marauders paint job on Spirit is a nice way to have a solid look for the character that is less often seen than his more famous original design.

1989 Slaughter's Marauders Spirit Iron Knife, Funskool, Flint, India, Brazil, Estrela, Sgt. Slaughter, Cobra Officer, Viper, 2004, 2006


1989 Slaughter's Marauders Spirit Iron Knife, Funskool, Flint, India, Brazil, Estrela, Sgt. Slaughter

4 comments:

  1. My Spirit's thumb broke right after receiving it on my 7th birthday in 1990!

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  2. It's a shame about the quality of the plastic on these. I'd like the whole team remade with better plastic, soft hands (which for some reason factory customizers don't do). It'll never happen.

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  3. Slaughter Marauders = Broken Thumb Brigade

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  4. I never knew Slaughters Marauders were Estrela. Thanks for the info!

    I'm usually a sucker for recolors and subthemes like Tiger Force and Night Force. But I'm not a fan of the color blocking on these guys. If the same greens and brown were in a camo pattern, and they left the blue as is, these guys would look amazing.

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