1990 Pathfinder

The 1990 G.I. Joe line is one of those ones that for the most part, fans have a fairly decent opinion of. I understand where they’re coming from, as the figures released in 1990 are all quite well done, with excellent sculpting and a unique but well chosen pallet of colours on the figures. As a year, 1990 is an interesting landmark on where the G.I. Joe line had been, and where it was heading.

If you look at the G.I. Joe line in three year sections, you start to notice patterns emerging. 1982-1984 was an era that featured a lot of simple, and very military oriented figures. 85-87 brings a lot more stylization, as well as a brighter selection of colours. The 1988 through 1990 era is much more restrained on the colouring side of things, however the accessory compliments included with figures have become far more important, and 1990, was perhaps the apex of figures including highly intricate accessory compliments, and it’s left us with a year that has accessories that were often far more memorable than the figures that they were included with. Pathfinder is the guy with a weed whacker, Capt. Grid Iron has football grenades and Salvo had a bunch of mines and missiles and a briefcase everyone wants for a Crimson Twins in business suit custom.

The character choices during this era are also fairly interesting. 1988 was a new character heavy year, but that had been the case for the entirety of the line at this point. 1989 was different, as Deep Six, Stalker, Rock ‘N Roll and Snake Eyes all have made triumphant returns, and make up nearly half of the 1989 Joe carded line up. This level of returning characters was unprecedented and shows that perhaps G.I. Joe was in dire need of familiar faces. 1990 on the other hand is the first year of completely new characters since 1983, and the last ever year for Hasbro to attempt an entirely brand new carded character line up. It’s one of those things where, just because they’re new, doesn’t mean they’re good, as there’s no personality, unless it’s Capt. Grid Iron, and his personality isn’t very good.

As a figure, Pathfinder is pretty well done, he’s got a good sculpt, and very strong colouring, that allows him to stand out as a unique entity, without being too tied to the era he was released in. The sculpt features some nice detailing, without being all that busy. Pathfinder’s plain, but the design works for the figure, the vest is a nice way to give the torso some life without making the figure awfully busy. The baggy pants are a different look, but they’re well done and the camouflage pattern on them is quite unique, but very well done. Pathfinder shows just how quickly Hasbro could improve on the execution of an idea, his boonie hat is very similar in colour and design to Muskrat’s, but it looks a lot better. You can see design cues from earlier figures, like Muskrat and Recondo in the Pathfinder sculpt, but he’s still his own design.

The black base colour is a little bit of a change of pace for a jungle specialist, but it works quite well, and allows some interesting uses of colour for the highlights. The orange isn’t the same shade as what had been seen in the prior years, but it’s reminiscent. The pale green is unique, without being too insipid, and the dark green is a shade that works well to tie Pathfinder into the ’88 and ’89 figures.

Pathfinder’s plain sculpt is partially due to the fact, he’s one of the figures that is really connected to his accessories. On his waist piece, there’s two knobs. These knobs allow two machine guns to peg in. It’s a logical next step from the steady-cam gun that adorned Repeater, as well as taking some cues from the 1989 Rock ‘N Roll’s gattling guns. These machine guns connect to the backpack through two ammo belts, connecting the figure and the accessories in quite an impressive manner. I like the Machine gun set up, but I’m also glad it’s something that didn’t get too many uses, as the law of diminishing returns would’ve been apparent very quickly.

It’s a nice way to do accessories, as the machine guns are still ones that can be positioned, but they don’t require Pathfinder to have his hands full. It allows his weed whacker to be used without sacrificing any of his firepower. It makes Pathfinder a little difficult to use with vehicles, but that’s not his specialty (Well, at least not for another decade).

As an overall year, 1990 is a strange one, because it’s full of re-hashed specialties, but it’s at the same time not following the Gung-Ho to Leatherneck pipeline, of 1986, the previous year to feature so many re-hashed specialties. Rather a lot of these figures are unique enough to not just be a second run of “Gung Ho and Torpedo are off the shelves, get some guys that look close”. Freefall and Pathfinder are also far enough removed from the Rip Cords and Recondos they’re replacing.

Still, there’s no real personalities or anything to these figures and characters. While, the 1990 figures were all pretty unique looking, but also seem somewhat devoid of personality. There’s a lot of dour and plain looking faces in that line up. Gone are the sly grins, from the likes of Flint or Hawk. Just a lot of straight forward, blank faces. Pathfinder is one of those figures, who’s so devoid of character, that he winds up being more recognizable as the head of ever Dickie Sapperstein custom made between 1998-2005.

1990 is one of the better years in terms of quality action figures, the sculpting is good, the colours aren’t offensive, every character has good and traditional style accessories that are unique to them, but still, it’s such a milquetoast year. Looking at the carded line up of 1990, you can see why the choice by Hasbro was made to go towards large numbers of returning characters (as seen in 1991), and a change in the ways of accessories. 1990 was a year of small and intricate accessories, and therefore expensive to produce and easily lost, afterwards the intricacies decreased and the size increased. It would’ve been something if the 1990 characters were at least given an opportunity, but the DiC cartoon was cheaply produced, and the comic book had long since passed the point of even bothering to introduce new characters, in ways that weren’t “Oh in this issue we’re going to introduce 8 new characters, because the new year’s worth of figures is now available”.

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5 Responses to 1990 Pathfinder

  1. Mike T. says:

    I still only see the head as Dickie to it’s common usage on all those early customs. Really, the only reason anyone bought any figures made after 1987 was to use for customs like that.

    When I first started collecting and all these figures were new to me, I thought 1990 was an amazing year. And, it is. But, I don’t use the figures as often as I would have thought…likely due to the lack of characterization you mention.

  2. bradley barnes says:

    your right these figures totally lack characterization. I remember when they first came out I spent way too much time making stories up for the 90 figures cus I really wanted them to fit in.

  3. A-Man says:

    Lack of characterization? On the cartoon he was the guy with the glasses who was vaguely southern accented.
    I got Pathfinder around when I was moving and as such he missed my prime playing years. The figure deserved a few more repaints, the “night force” version was shrug worthyingly bland.
    What I like about 1990 is it’s self containment. It could be the first year for a new toyline instead of its ninth. Just merge the IG stuff with Cobra, take “Destro’s” off of the Dominator and replace the Cobra Commander reference on Night Creeper’s file card. And maybe ignore Sonic Fighters (Or not).
    But fans have it in their heads that GI JOE is “this set of established characters”, which is one reason why GI JOE as a creative concept is dead and buried.

  4. Pingback: 1990 Metal Head | Attica Gazette

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