In 1989, Hasbro rebooted a few of the original 13 characters from the Joe line. Snake Eyes and Stalker were the big two. But, they were joined by a new take on the Rock and Roll character, too. Rock and Roll was both an upgrade over his original figure as well as an homage that kept a few basic premises that made the character unique back in 1982. It was a perfect blend of design that was matched with solid colors and an amazing contingent of accessories. In 1991, Hasbro also introduced a line of figures called the Super Sonic Fighters. These figures were repaints of existing molds that included a super expensive electronic backpack. One of the molds selected for this series was the 1989 Rock and Roll. This time around, he was given new accessories and darker, richer base colors. The figure was destined to join Falcon and Law (from the prior year) as amazing repaints of classic molds. Hasbro, though, added a fun little perk to Rock and Roll. They tripped him out in orange highlights. The bright color was a harbinger of things to come and was used to draw the eye of potential customers to this higher priced (and more profitable) Super Sonic Fighters figures.
In the comic book, Rock and Roll's 1989 look was introduced in a dark green ensemble. It's a repaint that Hasbro should have made. And, if you look beyond the orange of this 1991 repaint, you see that Hasbro was so very close to delivering on that artistic license from Marvel. The figure's shirt is a rich evergreen color that is rare in the vintage line. His pants are brown. Sans orange highlights, this combo would have been a great update for Rock and Roll that would not have treaded upon the 1989 version. Hasbro, though, did include bright orange highlights. And, while they might have somewhat ruined what could have been the perfect Rock and Roll, they also give the figure some personality. The orange allows this figure to stand out and be seen. Brightly colored Joe figures tend to photograph well. And, this Rock and Roll is no exception. The neon highlights help showcase the figure's quality and pull him out of a drab background.
I'm a fan of neon Joes. I love them because they are eye catching toys. Joe was never about "realistic military!". It is superhero fantasy set within a military framework. And, figures like Rock and Roll fit into that. This guy lugs around a massive machine gun that he can fire standing up as well as a mortar that's thicker than his waist. His original design had him with pistol grip double barreled gatling cannons that were fed from an ammo pack on his back. He was a superhero archetype right from the beginning. So, having him in colors that are bright and eye catching fits with that motif. When you are larger than life, realistic rules no longer apply. And, in this context, Joe makes a lot more sense.
My biggest issue with this figure is not the orange highlights. Instead, it's the amount of unpainted details on the figure. The 1989 Rock and Roll suffers from the same fate. This figure sculpt is covered in bullets, buckles, belts and pouches. None of which are painted. So, you lose much of the sculpt's amazing details as they obscured by being the same color as the figure's base pants, shirt or orange harness. The legs, especially, are under-detailed. Rock and Roll's legs are covered in bullets and straps that, if painted, would have raised this figure to another level. Instead, they are lost in the sea of brown and collectors miss out on the amazing sculpting that covers this entire mold.
By 1989, I was done with Joe. I bought no figures and even my youngest brother had mostly moved on. But, I was buying the comic. And, as I was bored each day in my first period Spanish class, I'd often write up adventures for Joe figures that I did not own. Rock and Roll was the one who most stood out. I thought his gear was awesome and his new look was perfect for a character from my childhood. When I started collecting as an adult, a mint 1989 Rock and Roll was among the first figures I tracked down. This orange figure, though, never entered my mind.
In 1999, I was about the only person scouring Ebay for lots of figures from the 1990's. Most collectors of that time believed the line ended in 1987 but would allow for Hit and Run and Shockwave. Even the vaunted 1989 army builders were not overly sought after. In one of these lots, I managed to pick up an entire set of mint and complete with filecard Super Sonic Fighters figures. I paid less than $2 per figure for that lot. It was a great time. I was enamored, though, with Falcon. And, Road Pig was terrible enough to draw my ire in and early profile. Rock and Roll, though, fell into the back of my 1991 drawer and never escaped. His weapon appeared with my 1991 Grunt as I thought it a better fit for that figure. But, Rock and Roll never appeared in any photos and was completely lost. In 2009 or so, I sold the figure in a lot of junk. But, for some reason, I kept his accessories and filecard.
Over the past few years, I've been slowly rebuilding the collection I sold. While I lament the rare stuff that's now too expensive to ever re-acquire, I've found that finding figures like this Rock and Roll can be a challenge, too. Mostly, that's because I'm cheap and refuse to pay for figures. But, also, I can take a while to find figures like Rock and Roll from sellers who have enough other items I want to be able to justify the shipping cost. (I never pay to ship just 1 figure.) But, as I track down each of the unchecked boxes in my database, I get to rediscover some gems like this Rock and Roll figure. It's doubtful I'd have such glowing things to say about him had I kept the original figure that had weird, pink residue on his head. But, in the hunt, I found value and this figure has captured my attention now, for several months.
Rock and Roll's accessories are his calling card. The figure includes the massive sonic backpack and a green cone that serves as a weapons stand. He includes a brown mortar and machine gun. The mortar is good if you have it set in the stand. But, it doesn't work on its own. The best weapon, though, is the machine gun. It's an excellent sculpt that's just the right size. The color is fun and unique to the line. For some reason, though, the brown plastic on the weapons is very soft. As such, the weapon handles scuff easily. I'm not aware of any other weapons in the vintage line that are as soft (except, maybe the 1985 Shipwreck's gear). So, it's likely a function of the plastic color. Rock and Roll does not include his shotgun from the 1989 figure, though. This weapon does appear on the card art. And, in India, the Funskool version of this figure does include an exclusive version of the shotgun. So, it was likely a last minute omission from this figure.
There are three versions of this Rock and Roll sculpt. The 1989 figure is the best. He has the best weapons and the best colors. This orange figure is great, too. But, if you can only buy one, get the 1989. In the mid 1990's, Hasbro sent the mold to Funskool where they released the figure in Sonic colors. This mold went out of production after a couple of years and is hard to find. The story then gets interesting. Funskool returned the mold to Hasbro in 1997. In 2001, Hasbro wanted to include a version of this Rock and Roll with the 2001 HQ. Hasbro had the mold, but then could not find it. So, they went with the 1994 Flint mold instead. But, then, Hasbro sent the mold BACK to Funskool. Funskool, not really sure why they got it back, decided they would release it again in 2003 or 2004. But, the Funskool line was cancelled before they could do that and this Rock and Roll is left with two figures that never came to be.
Dealers will sell complete Rock and Rolls for upwards of $40. But, you can buy carded versions for that price. Mint and complete with filecard figures will cost you about $20, with a few deals here and there. If you sacrifice the filecard, the price for mint and complete figures falls by half. For that price, everyone should have this figure. The gun is worth it alone. But, the dark green color with the bright orange is just a vibrant look that is great for photos and just looks fun. If the figure wasn't orange, but black, this figure would probably be more than double his current price. For a figure that's kind of scarce, though, the pricing on this guy is still affordable and makes him a very worthwhile pickup.