The last time I looked at Dial Tone, I mentioned that I’d never even seen the Special Mission Brazil version in person. For some reason, mentioning that made me go and search out the figure. Since it’s Dial Tone, it’s likely the second least popular figure in the set, so he was obtainable and at a decent price. The nice thing about this exclusive was all of the figures’ gear is the same as the standard 1986 version.
I won’t lie and state that I’m a huge Dial Tone fan, in fact he’s a figure and character I’m not particularly fond of. I’m not sure what it is about the figure that I don’t like, as the design is pretty solid, the colours are more often than not good, but for whatever reason it falls flat.
This version, which is a pretty decent example as to why “rare” and “good” aren’t synonymous. From the waist up, he’s actually quite solid, and might even be the best coloured Dial Tone, it’s a very nice combination of black, brown and green. However, once the waist and legs are added to the equation, it really drags the figure down. Now he’s wearing a sweet pair of red Levi’s and has matched it with a salmon belt. They’re very eye-catching colours, but they’re also something that really clash with the upper body. Plus the salmon and red belt+pants combo is the type of colour co-ordination you see on dude’s who don’t wear socks. This figure is also the beginning of the “Sub-Team and Hair Colour Changes”, as most other Dial Tone figures have brown hair, but this one has black hair. I also read someone once posit the idea that Leatherneck and Dial Tone’s colours were mixed up. Boy, would that have been an ugly Leatherneck figure!
Though, despite the less than stellar colouring, there is a place in the line for figures like this Dial Tone. Having some eye-catching colours does a lot for the overall presentation, and while a lot of figures would have a small highlight or two that would provide some life, but occasionally there needs to be something more than a flash of bright red or green. This Dial Tone is one where Hasbro managed to get the ratio of non-traditional to traditional colouring correct. This figure features some colours that definitely don’t fit in with the G.I. Joe template, but the figure is also clad in a lot of classic Joe colours, so he isn’t ridiculous looking. One of the greatest issues with the 90s neon figures, is the seemingly “bright for bright’s sake” approach that was taken to the colouring, some of that was just due to competition in the toy market, and some of it was just the changes that G.I. Joe had undergone. In the mid 80s, the G.I. Joe design team at Hasbro was probably at it’s peak, so there was the talent that knew how to make some of this work better, within the context of G.I. Joe.
1986 was a year where Hasbro really upped the vibrancy of the figures. Even figures clad in dark colours are fairly eye-catching, it’s an interesting thing, because it’s an easily overlooked design trait. I’ve only ever had three of the Special Mission Brazil figures, so I’m not entirely sure about Claymore or Wet-Suit, but the three I have seen in person, always seemed more in line with the first few years of the line, from a colour pallet perspective. They’re less vibrant, even with the strange choices of some colours. It’s kind of neat, because I’d say this version of Dial Tone looks better standing next to figures from other years, than the v1 Dial Tone, because the colours the SMB one uses, are more in-tune with the non-86 years.
Special Mission: Brazil, was the first sub team, so it still had some kinks to work out. There’s a bit of co-ordination between the figures, but it’s not well done. Mainframe matches up with Leatherneck AND Dial Tone, but what that means, is you’ve got two figures wearing red pants. Then you have Wet-Suit who doesn’t match anyone, and Claymore, who’s got an iffy build, but his colours, while unique, do match up with Dial Tone. They’re all fairly nice figures, but they don’t set the world on fire, so if it weren’t for the exclusive nature of them, they wouldn’t be all that desirable.
When you look at this version of Dial Tone, you can see where a lot of ideas for later Sub Team figures came from. So there’s something to be said about figures where the formula for what they wanted to do, is attempted, but not quite perfected.