The Steel Brigade concept is kind of interesting, as the original idea behind it makes a lot of sense as a marketing ploy, but it’s something that the fanbase has eschewed and gone with a different idea, that of generic good guy, which was able to make some traction with the actual G.I. Joe line. Either way, the figure itself is popular, popular figures and army builders are a ripe market for the Factory Customs, and when there’s an obscure variant people are willing to spend ridiculous sums of money on, there’s the trifecta! Such is the case with the Black Major version of the Gold Head Steel Brigade.
The Gold Steel Brigade, a rare mail-in from the 90s, has kind of taken on a new life, as the leader of the Steel Brigade, it makes sense based on the different appearance, how gold seems more in command than silver, and well rarity plays a role too, especially since the original colouring of the Steel Brigade has been a common figure at times. The Black Major did a smart thing with doing a custom version of the figure. He made sure to change the colouring up, while still keeping the overall appearance the same, so his version is far brighter and more vibrant. The bright green torso, is a far more 90s look for the figure, and I like it because it’s a unique colour, on a figure that’s known for it’s very unique appearance to begin with.
Like all Black Major releases of the Steel Brigade, it had a torso variant, so it could be either Steel Brigade version A (With the Airborne Torso) or the more common Duke torso. They also included two rifles, Airborne’s CAR-15, and Recoil’s gun. They’re both good to see, but unfortunately the handles on both are quite wide for the hands. The Airborne rifle looks good if held by the stock and bayonet, though! Crimson Guard rifles tend to fit in the hands, though.
G.I. Joe is funny, as it’s a line that’s almost too faceless, yet all anyone wants to do, is add more faceless generic characters to it! However the Steel Brigade does add a different layer to the line, as generic good guys they can be used in a few more interesting scenarios. The difference between an Iron Grenadier and a COBRA Soldier really isn’t all that much in terms of the role they can play. A Steel Brigade could be used as a Joe in training, the hapless soldiers sent to deal with the Enemy, before determining if it’s actually a job for G.I. Joe, or just generic support for the Joes.
The Steel Brigade’s role to me, is they’re a separate entity from the Joes, they’re strictly army and while they’re competent, they don’t have the panache of the Joe team, that puts them at a distinct disadvantage against asymmetrical warfare, it also makes them a favourite of those pulling the strings, the Jugglers, as it’s easier to trumpet their success and sweep away their failures. If the Joes have a colossal failure, a congressional inquiry is opened, if the Steel Brigade has a colossal failure, nobody cares.
The Steel Brigade Commander, is to me, a character that had the technical ability to be a Joe, but didn’t have the team-first attitude that would’ve allowed him to make the team. He’s arrogant and a glory hound, and that psychological analysis got him thrown on the discard pile for the Joes, but combined with his abilities made him the perfect candidate for the Steel Brigade Commander role. He’s viewed as someone who’ll be able to do the job, and will do it so that he’ll look good in the press. The Jugglers know that his eventual KIA status, will make for great pageantry and ratings, and will also allow them to press for more funding.
I’m sure there were some people that weren’t happy this figure was created, but personally, I don’t think this figure has done anything to really destroy the aftermarket value of the original, however I never had any desire to own an original, so I never check. I assume that a release like this is a good enough pastiche for those who were never going to drop a couple hundred bucks on a Steel Brigade figure.