The Arms Race

Some things in G.I. Joe are almost either unnoticed, or so common that they’re treated as something not worth noting, but in doing that, that knowledge tends to be forgotten over the years, and then treated as a revelation, when someone makes note of it. One thing I’m not sure on how widespread the factoid is, is that in 1983 when Hasbro adopted Swivel-Arm Battle Grip, they did a few things that wound up saving them time, sculpting and money in the long run. They re-used a lot of upper arms, quite frequently.

Basically everybody knows that most of the 1982 Figures, and Snow Job have the same upper arms. Everyone also knows that Zartan, Zarana and Zandar also share the same upper arms (A side-effect of the colour change plastic). However there’s a hell of a lot more than that out there in the early Joe line.

If you look at the 82-83 Swivel Arm Scarlett, and then at the HISS Driver, you’ll notice they share the same upper arms. Those upper arms are also shared with Cover Girl and The Baroness.

Most people notice that the swivel arm Flash and Grand Slam figures, lost the sculpted pads on their upper arms, this was a cost-savings measure as those parts would’ve been used on three figures, tops. The upper arms used by Flash and Grand Slam also happen to be shared by most of the early line. This isn’t a complete list, and there’s a few that I probably mis-identified, but for the most part it’s as accurate as it’s gonna be;

COBRA Officer
COBRA Commander
Scrap Iron
Major Bludd
Steel Brigade
Rip Cord
Wild Bill
Wild Weasel
Crimson Guard

I was actually blown away at how many figures shared those plain upper arms, so I did a little more looking, and found that Mutt, Recondo, Tollbooth and Spirit all share upper arms as well. Surprisingly, Cutter doesn’t share these upper arms, despite having incredibly similar ones.

The final batch of shared arms I noticed were, Dr. Mindbender, Buzzer, Roadblock and Gung Ho. It makes sense they’re shared as all three are bare sleeved. 

It’s kind of amazing how much undocumented parts sharing there was, but it was a thing that helped maintain symmetry and allowed for resource dollars to be better spent elsewhere.

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8 Responses to The Arms Race

  1. generalliederkranz says:

    This is amazing, I had never noticed any of this. Somewhat unrelated, but I’ve noticed that upper arms are often the quickest to discolor and the toughest to fix with hydrogen peroxide. I wonder if they were made from a different type of plastic, maybe making it more desirable to re-use the molds.

    • I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a different type of plastic. There is some form of sealant used on both seams. I recall reading somewhere that Hasbro would farm out the elbow piece, which is why the late 80s figures have cracked elbows so frequently. I’m unsure on the validity of that statement though (It was a Yo Joe! Message Board post where some guy was talking about his next door neighbour in the 80s working for the company that did them)

  2. A-Man says:

    Swivel-arm Scarlett’s upper arms never looked right.

  3. I never noticed that either, but I did not how slim Gung-Ho’s and Roadblocks arm were. Doesn’t make sense, now we know why.

  4. Mike T. says:

    It’s really amazing at how much we take for granted based on 20 year old information that was designed to be a quick reference and never really updated.

    Sadly, so much information is hoarded in private FB groups now, we’ll likely never get a full reference site. The Joe line is just too vast and it’s too much hassle to put together something decent.

    • That’s very true! A reference archive would be excellent, but there’s way too much G.I. Joe stuff, there’s elite facebook groups, as well a few of those collector’s guides that means some people have some skin in the game.

      These kinds of goofy tidbits of information, are the type of thing that I’ve got a knack for remembering, so I figure at this point, I should probably write some of them down. This and the one on Snowjob’s rifle were well received.

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