Every now and then, I like to look back at something I wrote in the early 2000's. I was a wide eyed collector in those days and was full of boundless optimism. Reading some of my older work makes me wonder what happened over the years. But, when you think about all that the Joe brand has gone through in that time, it's easy to see why I lost the youthful joy that accompanied even the most mundane acquisition. Many of those early profiles, though, just graze the surface of why a figure was important to me. In those days, certain figures still held over much of their significance from either the end of my childhood days in the '80's or my return to collecting as a college student in the '90's. Returning to a figure allows me a chance to dig a bit deeper as to why a particular figure was important enough to be included among my earliest writings. In most cases, though, that early enjoyment of the figure has been long eclipsed by newer and better figures that now call my collection home. Such is the fate of the 1987 Fast Draw.
Fast Draw is one of those figures who looks really cool. He's colorful, bulky, has tons and tons of amazing gear and was released during one of the last "premier" years of the vintage line. But, as a toy, he's limited. Once you get him out of the package, you realize that his missile rig is overly large, is difficult to use and tends to fall apart. In short, he's one of those figures who looks way better than he actually plays. And, as a mobile missile launcher, that was hit fate in my childhood collection. I'd bring out Fast Draw, he's fire his two missiles, usually miss since I didn't want key Cobra equipment destroyed that early in the adventure and then disappear. It wasn't much of a fate for a figure that, ostensibly, looked great.
In time, though, I found use for Fast Draw. At first, I had his two hand held missile launch triggers double as pistols. This was fun for a few hours. But, it didn't add much to the figure other than a self defense mechanism. It was as a gunner manning a battle station on the Havoc, SLAM or G.I. Joe Headquarters, though, that Fast Draw found his purpose. In this role, Fast Draw's heavy suit was not a hindrance. Instead, it was a vital piece of survival equipment. Gun stations like the SLAM produced lots of hot and noxious gases. Without a strong suit with built in recycling gear, any operator would asphyxiate in short order. Neither running the guns in short intervals nor the gunners dying quickly was a viable option. So, Fast Draw's sealed suit became the hallmark of Joe gunnery defense stations. He could survive the blasts for as long as the weapon had ammunition. And, since gun stations were primary targets of Cobra aircraft and long range weaponry, wearing heavy armor also protected him from nearby explosions.
With this role, Fast Draw became an army builder in my collection. I had at least two of them as my childhood play days ended in late 1987. They were then free to be blown to bits by a missile that perfectly targeted a SLAM. They might be overrun by Cobra troops and unable to run away fast enough due to the heavy armor. Sometimes, they'd overheat and perish from the physically demanding work of operating a SLAM. They had a terrible job. Doing it perfectly meant that people were safe. But, a single mistake often resulted in death. So, gunners had high stress rates which would, sometimes, play out on the battlefield when they'd simply snap and either went beserk on their own side or simply cracked and were unable to perform their duties. The cultural permeation of the aftermath of war on soldiers from Vietnam of the late 1980's seeped into my Joe world in several, sometimes subversive, ways.
My other Fast Draw memory was from his introduction in G.I. Joe #60. This issue appeared in late spring of 1987...right as I was still acquiring new figures from that year. Seeing a bunch of new Joes in action was a great way to get me excited about missing toys from my collection. And, the story in that issue was a welcome diversion from the Raptor lead issues of the prior couple of months. But, when I read the story in #60, it was the artwork that stood out to me. It was odd and seemed out of place among Joe comics. A few years later, I was astounded to see #60's placed in important places for sale at comic shops due to the artist of that issue, Todd McFarlane, finding great fame for his later work. My impression as a young teen was that the art was inferior to what I expected of G.I. Joe. So, that shows what I know, I guess. The other part of the issue was Fast Draw extending his hand to General Hawk, only to be rebuffed. Knowing that Fast Draw was a Joe, I thought it a dick move by Hawk. But, understanding what Hawk knew at the time, it was a understandable slight.
Fast Draw had his lone release in by Hasbro in the late '80's. After that, he went to Brazil where Estrela produced an exclusive version for their market. This figure, named Reaktor, uses the same basic colors as Fast Draw. However, the green is the darker shade of "Brazilian" green that is common on Estrela figures. His other colors are slightly different, too. Side by side, you'd notice a difference in the figures. But, they serve the same function since their colors are meant to mimic one another. The mold then disappeared. Of the 13 other standard carded figures that shared a Brazilian cardback with Reaktor, 8 later appeared in India. The other 5, Monkeywrench, Tele Viper, Leatherneck, Sci Fi and Mercer did not appear again. However, Fast Draw did show up again around 1993 when he was part of the Rapid Deployment Force mail away set. For some reason, he was released without his gear and with two Night Force figures (Shockwave and Repeater.) It's unknown if these figures were simply overstock from the 1980's Hasbro runs or if Hasbro got the mold back and ran a new set of figures. Either way, Fast Draw is a character who could have gotten at least one cool repaint. The mold is good and some new coloring might have really showcased his quality.
Fast Draw's card art has an interesting feature. It does not actually show the hose from his faceplate to his backpack. There is a hole on his mask for the hose. And, a corresponding mark on the pack. (Though, it does not appear to be a hole for the hose.) But, the hose is missing. It wasn't uncommon for early card art to feature items that were late removals from a figure's gear complement. But, it was rare for something included with the figure to not also show on the card art. There is also a variant cardback in that some Fast Draw's include printed instructions on the colored "wall" behind the bubble that show kids how to set up Fast Draw's gear. Others do not. Figures from 1987 exist in both variants. So, it's something for Fast Draw collectors to watch out for.
So, Fast Draws aren't really figures that have gotten caught up in the surge of collectibles pricing that has accompanied the pandemic. While dealers will get $35 for a mint and complete version, you can still get them for around $18. But, $10 of that is the stupid blue hose. Without that, the rest of the figure is, maybe $10. And, you can get high quality, but unaccessorized figures for $5 or less. So, if you want a figure that's good enough to man a gun statioin on your HQ, Defiant, Rolling Thunder or Slam, Fast Draws are still an option for you. This is nice since 1987 figures seem to be of a vintage that demands high prices. So, having an option available for a good price gives me hope that we'll come out of this pricing spike and see things return to something closer to normal. Until then, I'll enjoy Fast Draw for what he was to me.