Chemical Warfare isn’t really something that is really an expected situation to be explored in a children’s toy line, but G.I. Joe was one of those things that it was such a big thing going on, that they could do pretty much anything, because the risk of alienating anyone was negated by just how much they were selling, which is fine, because we were then blessed by Airtight, a very strong figure, if nothing else.
1985 was the year where the stars aligned perfectly for G.I. Joe, the line had grown enough from the first couple years, where bigger personalities were allowed to blossom, there was finally a daily television cartoon, and enough memorable imagery to make everything stand out as larger than life. Solely because of the release year, Airtight is viewed for the high quality figure he is, rather than the fact he’s yellow. Had Airtight been released in 1984 or 1986, he’d be lambasted for the fact he’s a primary colour. While, not every 1985 figure is a peak example of the line’s quality, Airtight is one of those solid figures that helps promote the mindset that 1985 was the best year.
Individually there’s some pretty bad figures in 1985, but their compatriots make them seem better. Airtight is unheralded in this regard, because he’s in the upper echelon of 1985 figures, without being regarded so highly, because he was a great character. He was a great figure, first and foremost, which allowed figures like Alpine or Bazooka or even Snake Eyes to get more of a pass than they would’ve in another year.
Airtight’s sculpt is really strong, he’s wearing a hazmat suit, that’s fairly plainly sculpted, but has enough seams and such to show that it’s not cloth, but likely rubber. Where the detailing is really well done, is in the breathing apparatus, and the way the gloves are clamped on to the suit. It’s still fairly plain, but it gets the figure’s purpose across. I’ve always felt that Airtight’s waist and legs are probably the best sculpted pair of pants with cargo pockets in the history of the G.I. Joe line, and it’s a bit of a shame they weren’t used more often, as the quality of the sculpt is excellent, and in different colours, they’d be shown off better.
Airtight’s head is somewhat of a love it or hate it thing. A lot of people don’t like the fact he’s got a sculpted on helmet, especially when he was shown not wearing it in various G.I. Joe media. I personally like it, because it’s one of the few helmets to be well scaled for a G.I. Joe head to be inside, and that wouldn’t be the case if it were to be removable, also the vast majority of removable helmet figures, are often times utterly useless without the helmet. Airtight’s often missing the helmet hose, so if he had a missing helmet, that’s probably going to be a $40 dollar accessory. No thanks!
The biggest gripe among fans about Airtight, is his colouring. To me, I’ve always been fine with it, but that’s mainly because yellow is my favourite colour. I also seemingly decided since he was wearing a rubber suit, it had to be the same colour as rubber dishwashing gloves. It’s odd, but it worked for me. I know Blowtorch came first, but Airtight was the pioneering yellow and green figure, that would be seen multiple times throughout the line after he was released, such as Lightfoot or Scoop or even the Eco Warrior Clean Sweep.
Airtight’s accessories are no screaming hell, but they work with the figure. The backpack looks cool, and is highly detailed, but I don’t know what it’s supposed to do or be. The “sniffer” looks neat, but much like backpack, has always confused me to what it’s supposed to do. I remember as a kid just using it as a thing that shot out gas clouds. It didn’t work very well, but would give Airtight a little bit of playtime, where he’d be the Joe’s hopefully ultimate weapon, but he’d often be more harm than help, because of changing wind conditions (I was highly amused by the Jerry Jeff Walker song “pissin’ in the wind” as a child, and that somehow wound up influencing G.I. Joe play patterns.)
Airtight being a battlefield dud, is a thing I can trace back to reading his filecard. I remember reading it and thinking that Airtight seemed incredibly annoying, and that I didn’t like him. The line about him being a weird kid with a lot of plastic dinosaurs reminded me of some kid I went to school with, who despite hanging in the same social circles, I found to be really irritating. Funnily enough, he might be the only person I went to elementary school with, that I’ve had a conversation with as a legal adult. We’re not friends by any stretch, but it was kind of neat to talk to someone and both go “I couldn’t stand you when we were 6”, and actually be able to get along, decades later. Anyways, that kid had seemingly nothing to play with except for plastic dinosaurs. I didn’t like him, so I didn’t like Airtight.
As a character, Airtight was kind of passed over in the 1990s when he probably could’ve been repurposed for the Eco Warriors. His 1985 figure fits in well enough with them, but he probably could’ve been brought back to the line then, even if it was just in place of Barbecue or Deep Six. It’s a moot point. Airtight was also passed over in the repaint era, which was strange, as Funskool had the mold, and it probably would’ve been one of the ones that Hasbro recalled (though they might not have, Hasbro was pretty dopey in those days). He could’ve fit in one of those Valor Vs. Venom Toys R Us sets, and he’s got a high quality mold, that didn’t require a ton of paint apps to look good, because in the 2000s there were plenty of times Hasbro didn’t put in the required paint apps, so Airtight almost would’ve been a lock for “Top repaint era figure” that usually goes to like a 1991 Snake Eyes repaint or the Urban Scrap Iron if people are trying to be arbitrary.
The repaint era in a way highlights just what a lack of understanding the G.I. Joe team at Hasbro really had in regards to G.I. Joe as a brand. There was consistent examples of characters being passed over, in a situation when they would’ve worked better than what was actually released. I know the fan base cried for “New Characters”, but the problem was, Hasbro wasn’t capable of creating a decent new character. I can’t really think of any that caught on, with the fanbase as a whole. There was a bunch of pollyanna discussion about some of them in the 03-04 era, but I don’t think any of that was really reflective of the community at large. Hell, when Red Laser’s Army made some of those characters as O-Ring figures, designed to appeal to people who were online in 2003, the only people gave a damn about was Shadow Tracker, from the Pursuit Of COBRA
In the end, Airtight’s a great figure, even if he’s just a tertiary specialty character, that doesn’t provide a hell of a lot. He’s still well sculpted, and excellently done. Not every Joe figure has to be an all time great, that you want on every mission. Airtight does his job, provides a little life to a display of G.I. Joe figures, without being ostentatious like Sci Fi. Airtight wound up being eye-catching enough to make him a common figure. He’s like the 1985 equivalent of a Sneak Peek or Crazylegs, in that he’s oftentimes seen in random Joe lots, especially ones that cover a fairly expansive window of releases. It’s not uncommon for Airtight to be the sole 1985 figure in a lot that is mainly 87-90 figures. That’s actually a testament to the quality of the figure, in a way, because he’s one A LOT of people had.