1987 Outback

1987Outback

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.

87Outback2

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.

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5 Responses to 1987 Outback

  1. paint-wipes says:

    great figure, one of my top ten for sure. happy we never got the white haired repaint hasbro planned at one point and instead got a soild generic figure with a head that looks like a dot-com era IT dork.

    i remember years ago seeing a photo of a british mercenary in angola in an issue of soldier of fortune that looked strikingly like outback and that’s been the persona i’ve always projected onto the character. that SOF issue was from 84 or 85, maybe someone at hasbro also was pursuing through the last row of the bottom tier of the magazine rack at the grocery store too.

  2. Mike T. says:

    Outback is a figure that everyone should hate. Stupid white t-shirt. Gear that’s a pain in the ass. But, we all love him. I suspect 1987 has a lot do do with that. But, the figure does work when he really shouldn’t.

    The greatest indictment of the homage figures is that they cost us an updated Outback. Though, I don’t think I’d have wanted a figure in that terrible olive drab of the era. But, us not getting an Outback in the 2000’s is as much an aberration as not getting an updated helmeted Cobra Commander.

    I actually need to get one of these guys. I sold mine in the great purge. (Kept the TF Outback instead.) I meant to pick one up, but never got around to it. Now, I’m not sure I want to pay the premium for a decent one.

  3. A-Man says:

    The 1987 disparities are possibly due to Hasbro’s Ron Rudat designing a few and someone else creating the others. Though, oddly enough, Rudat designed Big Boa (we should keep in mind why BB was made, to fight Rocky). That said, I don’t know who designed Outback because I’m too cheap to buy those books with the concept art.

    I hated Outback back in 1987, thought the SURVIVAL shirt was dumb as heck and he was a wanna Chuck Norris. But I liked Raptor and Crazylegs, so what did kid me know? My older brother got Outback, one his last vintage purchases. Much later, I got NF Outback with Crazylegs. My opinion on original Outback changed in later years. There did get to be too many redbeard (Arrrr!) on the team, though. Are we sure Outback isn’t just Snow Job?

    The problem with the web gear is that it can tear. Likewise his gun’s strap can break.

    Yes, we got Big Brawler and Funskool Brawler but no ARAH Outback in the 2000’s. Where did the head mold go? Why did Funskool get Ambush’s head but not his body? We’ll never know.

  4. generalliederkranz says:

    Wow, I feel like the world’s biggest idiot: I had somehow never realized that Outback’s webgear goes on like that! I always had it over one shoulder and it looked weird, but obviously this is the right way to do it.

    To me Outback is not a particularly good figure. That probably shows how much age matters, since he was off the shelves before my childhood. The webgear and flashlight are nifty accessories, although I preferred Tunnel Rat’s flashlights because I could actually get them into a figure’s hand without breaking it. But the Outback figure himself was always just another one from 1987 that I found secondhand, played with a little, and then spent some time completing for my collection. Mine has a slightly worn and discolored chest that could use an upgrade but it doesn’t bother me enough to spend any money on it. I have nothing against Outback but I’m just baffled that he’s now an expensive and desirable figure. Clearly it’s a generational thing. I liked most of the other 87s more (and the NF Outback–that red flashlight lens is a brilliant little detail).

  5. Rudy Yamada says:

    I always thought Outback’s draw was that he was sculpted to look like (and essentially be) Chuck Norris.

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