Where I live, we had quite a long Indian summer, with temperatures still in the teens and twenties (celsius!) going well into late October. I had no complaints about this, as the longer it takes for old man winter to appear, the better, and it’s always nice to see the leaves get the chance to turn colour, rather than just freeze on the branches while they’re still green. It’s a stark change from some years where we’re getting big dumps of snow in late September, and it conveniently happened right as I started attempting to emphasize colour in the photographs I was taking.
Still, seasons give way to each other, and as we get the first major snowfall, I figured it would be time to look at the absolute best arctic figure in the line, the 1988 Blizzard.
Pretty much every time I discuss a 1988 figure, I talk about how it’s a top-3 year of the line, from a quality standpoint. Blizzard, is definitely in the upper-echelon of the year’s releases. I’m not sure if I’d rank him directly at the top, but he’s someone I’d safely place in the top 3. He’s a very solid figure without the major ’88 detraction, which is a lack of paint apps, as Blizzard has a multitude of colours, and they’re all reasonably placed, unlike some of the oddities that would happen with them in 1988, like the stripes on Lightfoot’s legs.
Blizzard is in a thick snowsuit, with a lot of good sculpting in order emphasize the thickness of it, and how the web gear, and padding is tightly strapped to it. While there’s some throwbacks to previous winter Joe designs, like the gloves being very similar to Iceberg’s, the overall appearance of the design seems to evoke the 1985 Snow Serpent more than anything else.
Blizzard’s colouring is quite strong. The white is the typical G.I. Joe arctic specialist base colour, so it had to stay, but the addition of charcoal grey, black and brown give the figure a lot of pop, while not being too colourful. Colour is one of those aspects of arctic figures that is required for it to be an appealing action figure, while in reality it wouldn’t work. Blizzard is a figure that’s really good, and probably would’ve worked in a less colourful outfit, but I’d rather see colour than realism.
The evolution of accessories within the G.I. Joe line is an interesting one. From ’82-85 there’s a steady progress, then in 1986 it’s for the most part even more basic than the 1982 figures, since it’d gone back to “Rifle and backpack” for a lot of them. 1987 started to really expand on the intricacies and inter connectivity of the accessories, which would continue on for the next few years, probably peaking in 1990, the year in which accessories overshadowed most of that year’s figures.
Including 2 skis, 2 snowshoes, a wrapped pistol, a wrapped uzi, a helmet, and a backpack with steering handles, shows just how far a leap the accessories had gone from Iceberg’s single machine gun. Blizzard’s backpack is a tremendous feat, as it’s a traditional backpack, that provides a place for either the snowshoes or skis when they’re not being worn by the figure, as well as the fact it has the ability to turn into a ridable sled for the figure. While the sled isn’t perfect, it’s still a more successful attempt at turning a backpack into a pseudo-vehicle than Muskrat’s boogie board.
I don’t really like Blizzard’s helmet, but that’s just because it’s bulkier and wider than the card art portrayed it as. 1988 tends to feel like a year with fewer removable helmets than average, so I feel kind of odd complaining about one of the few that are indeed removable, but it would’ve been better for everyone involved, if the Blizzard head was sculpted wearing a helmet based on the card art painting. Though it would also remove Blizzard’s most unique point, where he’s the only arctic figure with removable headgear of any form.
Blizzard is a fairly common figure to find used, in my obviously biased Canadian experience. Most of the time he doesn’t include much more than a backpack, which can colour one’s view of the figure. While, I don’t think his sled backpack is the most necessary of accessories, this is a figure that tends to feel a thousand times better once fully completed. Definitely an example of a sum being greater than it’s parts.
Arctic specialists, after Snowjob don’t really have much of a hook, from a character perspective. Most of them seem to hate the hot climates they were born in, and tend to be very mean. Arctic characters tend to get thrown into the “Singular commando” role with me, partially because it’s a desolate locale, and frankly I find multi-figure photo shoots in the snow to be far too much of a pain in the ass, for what they wind up being worth. Figures are fragile in the cold, and the snow tends to be less than cooperative.
Despite the relatively niche aspect of arctic figures, the ones released in the G.I. Joe line tend to veer into being some of the best figures released in the line. There’s a few duds, but that can be said about any environmentally specific figure. Still, arctic figures generally had a higher success rate than divers or desert figures, which might also have to do with the fact that arctic figures were released with far more frequency. Still, Blizzard is probably the best one released in the 12 years of vintage G.I. Joe, which is quite an accomplishment, considering the strength of some of the other arctic figures, like Snowjob and the 1985 Snow Serpent.
The Blizzard mold was supposed to appear in 1997, but was replaced with the 1993 Frostbite figure, I think in some ways this is just as much a loss as the 1985 Snake Eyes mold not seeing a reappearance in 1997. In 2005 or 2006, Blizzard would finally appear, as Short Fuze, in a strange, but fairly decent overall set. The colouring on that one takes some chances, but I still would’ve rather seen the ’88 mold in the potential 1997 colour scheme, especially since it would’ve found Blizzard matching with both Snowjob and Iceberg, two of the other really strong arctic figures.