As the Joe line died in 1994, Hasbro tried a lot of different things. One such concept was the Sgt. Savage line of toys. Originally, Sgt. Savage was designed as an "entry" line to the G.I. Joe world. In retrospect, this seems silly. Sgt. Savage was based on a World War II timeline, was a slightly different scale than the ARAH Joe line and really wasn't a kid friendly theme. It was, instead, a more gritty line firmly rooted in military realism that hearkened back to adult's vision of what G.I. Joe was "supposed" to be. Even at the time, it seemed to me to be an attempt to pull the burgeoning 12" collecting community into the world of smaller Joes. Despite the generally decent ideas behind the Sgt. Savage line, it was an utter retail disaster. The toys did not sell and throughout 1995 and 1996, walls of them appeared at every discount retailer in the country. While collectors tend to lament G.I. Joe Extreme and the damage that concept did to the brand, Sgt. Savage might have been a worse retail scenario that decimated the Joe's brand appeal even more than Extreme.
The 1994 G.I. Joe line was short on vehicles. The main line had just 4: the Blockbuster, Manta Ray, Scorpion and Razor Blade. There were 2 Star Brigade mechs and a space capsule, though I really don't count that as an actual vehicle. So, one area where the Sgt. Savage line did do OK was in their vehicle assortment. While it only had three full vehicles released as companions to the figures, that was fairly substantial when you consider how small the line was overall. The line featured the Grizzly jeep (which would later be released under the standard G.I. Joe header in India by Funskool), the IRON Panther which was a bad guy vehicle salvaged from the unfinished 1995 G.I. Joe line and the P-40 Warhawk plane. In my desperate days of searching for the last dregs of G.I. Joe at retail, I twice succumbed to buy a Sgt. Savage vehicle. First, it was the IRON Panther. It was a staple of my Cobra army for a while. But, it's not a great toy and was, eventually, sold off. The second was the P-40 Warhawk. With it, I found a toy that was more fun than many planes from my youth. But, also found my full frustrations with the Sgt. Savage line as a whole.
It's pretty likely that I bought this P-40 at a KB Toyworks store in Lafayette Square mall in Indianapolis in the summer of 1996. It could have been 1995. But, 1996 is the more likely timeframe. Either way, at the time, there was a huge endcap of Sgt. Savage toys. The endcap was floor to near ceiling of figures. Stacked on either side of the endcap were boxes and boxes of vehicles, also stacked to nearly the ceiling. It was the only G.I. Joe product in the store. But, this massive overstock of Sgt. Savage toys was not unique to KB. Local Big Lots stores had the same endcaps full of figures with vehicle boxes stacked nearby. There was no greater tease than approaching the toy aisle in a discount store and seeing the glint of familiar G.I. Joe packaging colors only to get closer and realize that they were, entirely, Sgt. Savage toys. These walls sat for quite a while, slowly dwindling until Sgt. Savage finally just went away, taking the last tie to the vintage Joe line with it.
During the mid 1990's I would still have fun with my toys now and again. Usually, I'd blow off steam as various characters met horrible fates. Many of these involved pilots getting destroyed in aircraft. The fascination with this is two fold. First, Star Wars remained an indelible film memory. And, the notion of the Rebel pilots getting incinerated in space was simply captivating. The second reason, though, is more personal. In the late 1980's I learned that my grandfather had died on a bombing run over Anzio in World War II. He was a bombardier and his plane was shot down on a mission. I spent much time contemplating that. Imagine being trapped in a crashing warplane, knowing death was imminent, but unable to do anything to stop it. How would your last moments be spent? As I explored the thoughts and emotions that would go into events of this nature, toys like the Warhawk helped me visualize scenarios.
In my collection, items that arrive into it in near proximity become linked. It still happens to this day. When I got the Warhawk, some recent figure purchases were a few 1993 Star Brigade figures. Quickly, the 1993 Ozone found himself as the pilot of the Warhawk. If you spread his arms and legs just so, he would fit into the cockpit without flopping around. Here, he died a great many deaths. Most of them involved him leaning forward Star Wars style as his plane exploded from behind him. At times, he'd be shot down over water and would plummet to a resting place far below the surface, still trapped inside. Crews from the Shark 9000 would try to save him while a few Cobras might attempt to shatter the canopy...instantly pulping the pilot under the massive water pressure. In this regard, the Warhawk was kind of interesting. I had no real other planes available to me at the time. So, the Warhawk filled a role. And, it being the sole aircraft around, was more forgiven of its limitations than other toys would be.
One of the great follies of the middle stages G.I. Joe management was that they desperately tried to tie the legacy of the 12" figures to the 3 3/4" line. In the early to mid 1990's, the burgeoning 12" G.I. Joe collecting community was vibrant. And, for a while, Hasbro catered to them in terms of new products as they chased adult collecting dollars. One thing Hasbro never realized was how different 12" G.I. Joe collectors were from what 3 3/4" Joe collectors would become. Toy concepts like Sgt. Savage show how threading that needle was fraught with peril. 12" collectors didn't really flock to the brand as it was too much like the 3 3/4" figures. But, kids and the emerging 3 3/4" collectors ignored it because the throwback didn't really resonate. So, Hasbro missed the mark on both fronts and created an epic ocean of pegwarmers that damaged the brand for a couple of years. Really, it took until 2002 before retailers were ready to fully take on the brand again. But, even then, Hasbro's failure to understand a new generation of collectors bit them and the community was heavily alienated just three years later.
As a toy, the P40 is pretty nice. It has an interesting blend of old school and more modern play patterns that work for enthusiasts of both genres. You get some standard missiles that are on pegs under the plane's wings. But, you also get two that can launch from the guns on the bottom of the wings, too. The propeller and gun move when you push a button under the tail. The gun lights up, shoots missiles and makes noise. And, if I remember correctly, it makes a lot of noise. It also features sturdy landing gear that fold up and tuck nicely underneath the wings. The entire body, though, is massive. While it only fits one figure, it takes up a huge footprint. You can get an idea of the scale of the entire aircraft in the photos below where you see it towering over figures in ways many other vintage Joe planes did not.
The plane is an odd evergreen color. The early prototypes and catalog images show the toy in a deeper, more military olive green. While that color is more historically accurate, the released color makes this feel less like a then 50 year old design. The mold is detailed and the entire plane is bulky and well put together. I've not really cared about the Warhawk in 25 years. It's been moved dozens of times, often in less than stellar packing just because I take shortcuts on toys I have little interest in. Yet, the plane has survived to this day in better condition than my Shark 9000 or Blockbuster: two vehicles that I did care for through my nomadic existence.
The Warhawk included a pilot figure. I desperately wanted this figure or his accessories to be compatible with my classic Joes. But, he's not. The 4.5" construction is just too big to work with vintage Joes. The WW II era inspired machine gun included with him looks great. But, it's out of scale for vintage Joes and will snap thumbs without hesitation. The figures are differently articulated than vintage Joes. They move differently and have unique joints. Really, they are more akin to 2020 era action figures than even the JvC figures from 2002 to 2006 are. All the details that drove the quality in the vintage Joe line are present in the Sgt. Savage figure designs. But, the oddball new scale leaves them out of place with anything but themselves.
The Sgt. Savage line included many concepts that would have been found in the 1995 G.I. Joe line. The IRON Panther being one. But, many of the figures in the Savage line included gear planned for 1995 Joe figures. The Arctic Stormtrooper in particular included gear intended for the 1995 Frostbite figure. Along with that, though, the full window packaging that was used to showcase the figures and all their gear during the retail shelf presentation would have also been a hallmark of the 1995 Joe line. (You see the same style in the Street Fighter Movie and Mortal Kombat figures, too.) I can only imagine a world where the sea of discounted overstock Sgt. Savage toys were actually 1995 Battle Corps Rangers, Ninja Commandos and Star Brigade figures. I had the money to buy back then and enough space that it's likely I'd have had quite a collection of the line's final year. And, instead of a review about this P-40 Warhawk, it would be something about the Sea Wolf. But, we don't live in that timeline. And, instead, I have the disappointment of Sgt. Savage to fill memories of otherwise spectacular years of my life.
Dealers sell an appalling amount of boxed P-40's for around $130 or more. But, left to the market, boxed sets are about $60: a huge disparity. Finding a mint, loose sample is pretty hard as the toys are heavily concentrated in the "serious collector market" that left them boxed or the kids who had cheap parents and bought them on clearance camp who pretty much decimated the toy. Really, the P-40's value is pretty limited. It doesn't really fit with the aesthetic of G.I. Joe and it's not really compatible with them, either. I still feel I overpaid for it back in the '90's and I would have been much better off buying overpriced vintage Joes at the flea market. But, having something like this is another mnemonic device to bring back floods of memories from 25 years ago.