The 02-06 era is a timeframe in ARAH, that never really got the reflections on what was actually released, the way most other aspects of ARAH have received. It was an eventful time for G.I. Joe, as it was a full blown re-start on the G.I. Joe line, which brought in all sorts of new fans, and a thing that gets neglected in the scheme of things, is that the re-start of Joe and a wave of new G.I. Joe websites happened fairly simultaneously. What this did, was provide new platforms for discussion. Yo Joe’s message board was barely anything but classified ads at that point, and the Google Groups were outdated in design. However there was now the Joe Customs and Devil’s Due message boards, which, since they were new, allowed people somewhat of an even playing ground in order to voice their opinions, you didn’t have to worry about being branded a “newbie” when the website is 6 weeks old.
Since G.I. Joe was new again, there was an enormous amount of excitement about it, and so you’d hear these fairly insane takes like how 2003 wave 3 Kamakura is a better figure than 1985 Snake Eyes. In some aspects it was like converts to a new religion, as there was a fundamentalism to it, that thankfully was short lived. Part of the reason we never really saw much in the way of retrospectives on this era, involves the turmoil that 2005-6 era G.I. Joe was going through. The line got cancelled at retail, and while people were aware of the 25th anniversary coming up, no one was sure what Hasbro’s plan for that was. Once it was announced there was a brand new construction with retro packaging, most of those who’d converted to the New Sculpt line, were then even faster converts to the Modern Era style.
With a complete change in how the line was going forward, and a fair amount of dogmatic opinions from the previous 4 years, since according to some if you didn’t like the new style, you weren’t a real fan, there was no time to reflect! So while, even the ARAHC started to get looked upon as having shoddy paint apps and being fairly bland, the New Sculpt era didn’t ever suffer that indignation, it actually suffered a much greater one, irrelevancy.
One area, even in the world of dividing lines between styles, that didn’t ever bode well for the new sculpt era, was the vehicles. Most of them were cheap, Tonka looking things with poorly implemented gimmicks, questionable designs and an overall miserable aesthetic. There was some real ass Humvee, released late in the line that did show Hasbro could do it occasionally, but for the most part it was poorly done, with the best looking vehicles often being the repaints of stuff from the 1980s.
As the DTC line became what Hasbro was doing, it did wind up creating a fairly well done vehicle, and perhaps the only thing from that era that still finds itself popping up, every once in a while. That vehicle being the HISS V.
HISS’ are fairly impossible to screw up. Of the 4 different body types based on the overall design, the only one that isn’t a hit is the 2002 HISS IV, one that I think really suffered not for it’s silly snake head gimmick, but rather it’s weak armaments. I don’t own one anymore, but do occasionally think about picking one up, though I doubt I ever will.
If you were to take the sleekness of the original 1983 HISS Tank, and cross breed it with the 1989 HISS II, the DTC HISS is best possible outcome. Where the HISS II failed, was it’s ornate detailing on the body, which while impressive sculpting, was quite the departure from the first HISS, and in many respects a downgrade. The original HISS was such an iconic vehicle, that the fact the HISS II, a fairly spectacular vehicle, featuring traits from the initial appearances in G.I. Joe media, found itself on the scrapheap, partially because it’s main deviation from the original, renders it incapable of fitting in with the original.
The DTC HISS is an amalgamation of the two vintage HISS designs. It’s got width and bulkiness reminiscent of the HISS II, but it’s sleekness is obviously from the 1983 HISS. In an era of poorly designed vehicles, this vehicle is real step up. Historically, this to me, is kind of what a HISS released in 1986 would’ve looked like. It’s still black, but now has weapons that consist almost entirely of “A BUNCH OF RED MISSILES”
The three body types after the original HISS, all featured a troop carrying capacity. Considering the fact that COBRA vehicles were fewer and farther between than G.I. Joe vehicles, it’s a decent trade-off, as it kills two birds with one stone. Where the HISS V tends to be different from the traditional HISS output, is it’s armaments. Rather than having the typical twin cannons, it’s got 4 separate missile launchers, each with two missiles, there’s also two chin mounted machine guns. This change in armament, combined with the troop carrying capacity, changes the role of this vehicle, in comparison to the typical HISS.
I feel this vehicle is much more of an IFV, emphasizing the troop carrying aspect. It helps that it’s got a much better troop compartment than most vehicles in the Joe line, as it’s obviously based off of the Warthog, rather than that of the HISS II or Parasite. I feel this version of the HISS would be used to ferry troops into battle, use it’s missiles to soften up the Joes, and then hang back, until either side retreats. I like this idea, because it doesn’t replace the traditional HISS, but at the same time it compliments it, both in use and design.
If I was forced to only have one HISS Tank in my collection, the likelihood of it being the DTC HISS is a lot higher than one would think. It’s got the looks of the original, but also has a lot more figure interaction points. While an ’83 can interact with four figures, this HISS can double that number. This is great for pictures of army building stupidity, an affliction I’ll probably always suffer from.
Of all of the New Sculpt era vehicles, the DTC HISS is far and away the best. It’s a HISS so it’s hard to screw up, but it was also something that was done with a collector’s eye in mind. The scaling and call backs to the vintage HISS tanks, are helpful, as despite this vehicle being designed for the New Sculpt figures (with it’s included driver being a red 2003 Night Creeper repaint), it still works incredibly well with the vintage style figures. Something that you can’t say about the Patriot Grizzlies or Treadfires of the 2000s.
The DTC releases are interesting to me, as not a lot of it looks like rebranded stuff from what would’ve been the 2005 line. A lot of the stuff released under the DTC banner seemed like collector’s oriented figures, done using the fewest new parts possible. For every weird ass figure like New Sculpt Scrap Iron, there’s a named COBRA who’s been turned into a Viper, like Scalpel and the Medi-Viper. This HISS is one I’m unsure on, as I could see the base design of it being used in the Robot Rebellion line, but the side panels, which are very ’83 HISSesque, don’t strike me as a likely retail release.
The collapse of the line at retail in 2004 is an interesting thing, because it resulted in some decent figures and vehicles existing, via the DTC experiment. Frankly, I kind of feel that this iteration of G.I. Joe died at the right time. The quality of everything had fallen off, and didn’t look like it was going to improve, looking at designs of figures like Overkill v6, whom looks like a Burger King toy. Hasbro was doing things with good intentions, but so poorly, that it’s better to be in a spot of not receiving something, rather than receiving something really bad. I don’t feel alone in that thought process, because it’s quite a rare sight to see anything from that era of G.I. Joe appear in photos, and definitely not an actual “new sculpt” related product. If you do, it’s usually as a novelty, or someone still trying to use things in something that is probably nothing more than justification for owning something, they should’ve gotten rid of, 15 years ago.