1987 is one strange year. The G.I. Joe team is pretty evenly split into two camps, the first one which is a bunch of fairly military based, and realistically coloured soldiers. The second is a far more stylized group of figures that all tend to have a lot of red colouring. That isn’t to say one group of figures is better than the other, it’s just that 1987 is a year with a real dichotomy in the design. Most years would generally have some more cohesion, where the figures would all somewhat fall into a certain theory. 1985 for example is a year where the figures were all done in a way that showcases them as individuals.
One of 1987’s better looking, and more militaristically inclined figures is Outback. A very stern-faced man with a wild beard, a white t-shirt and camouflage fatigues. While he’s not in anyway a realistic portrayal of an actual soldier, he’s perfectly reasonable for G.I. Joe, and fits the motif so well, it wouldn’t have been considered an “out there” a design for even 1983. So the distinct appearance, and classic design, has made Outback one of the most popular 1987 characters. He lucked out and was also used fairly well in the Marvel Comic, the storyline where he escapes capture while Quick Kick, Stalker and Snow Job wind up in the Gulag was both famous, and a great thing for Outback, as it put him on the same level as long time favourites. If a much later character is interacting with established characters, in an organic manner, it’s going to give them far more credibility than others who don’t receive that kind of attention.
As a figure, Outback is pretty great. He’s not perfect, and that’s not entirely a figure issue, but rather a combination of the fact he’s got one design flaw, and the innovation Hasbro attempted to overcome the design issue.
Outback’s big stylistic point, is the bright white SURVIVAL t-shirt. It gives him a bit of oomph, establishes his base character, and still falls within the realm of military realism. 1987 was good for still being able to make an army figure, without it coming off like a Cartoon, which was one of the failings of 1986. What had been either an overlooked issue, or something Hasbro couldn’t figure out a proper response to, was the idea of a “floating backpack”.
Floating backpacks are one of those issues that for the most part if there was enough web gear or strapping across a figures chest that nobody would notice the fact that Duke’s backpack really isn’t held on in any way. The biggest offender of the floating backpack is the 1985 Bazooka figure, which surprisingly shares more design points with Outback than I think the average fan would care to admit. So with Outback, the designers obviously set out a way to keep the overall stark bare t-shirt design, without having his giant backpack hang on magically. So the solution was some rubberized web gear, that matched the backpack, made Outback a unique entry into G.I. Joe and defeated the menace of the floating backpack.
The web gear is cool looking, and when you can FINALLY get it on Outback, it really makes him look good, what winds up being an issue, that I find hurts the figure, is the fact that it impedes the range of motion in the shoulders. It’s a shame because it makes Outback harder to pose than I would like, but I’ll also concede that aesthetically the straps and backpack are a much more important aspect to the overall Outback appearance than functionality.
Outback’s a figure that’s a bugger to find complete, his flashlight is easily lost, his web gear and gun are both pieces than can be easily damaged, and his giant backpack is kind of useless without the web gear. My opinion on the figure is his flashlight is very important for his overall appearance, so of course it’s a highly expensive piece. His gun looks nice, and is one of the few strapped guns that is decent enough without the strap, but it’s also from 1987, the era when guns were starting to get a little too hefty for the scale.
The colouring of Outback’s t-shirt is one of those things that I’m of two minds on. On one hand the bright white is both ridiculous and prone to aging poorly (though there are fewer yellowed Outbacks than any other easily yellowed figure, I guess). But on the other hand it does provide the figure some visually interesting, and does allow him to photograph well. I think the biggest issue I have, is Hasbro used two of their typical tricks used to add colour, of a bright article of clothing or red hair. Either way, Outback has a far more visually outstanding look than a lot of his contemporaries.