Welcome, Poweteers, to a brand new original column where we explore the top (and bottom) 5 items we think are relevant to any of a variety of topics that span the imagination. Sit back, read, and respond!
My original intention for this inaugural article was to think up 5 of what I consider to be the top action figure playsets. The more I thought about the topic, though, the more GI Joe playsets came to mind. So many in fact, that I decided to dedicate the entirety of the list to those playsets.
Also, as a small disclaimer, all images from this post originate from YoJoe.com. Its probably the best archival GI Joe toy site on the net. I’ve placed links to each listed item’s entry below. Check them out for more info and pictures!
5. Headquarters Command Center – http://www.yojoe.com/vehicles/83/headquarters/
This Joe HQ playset may seem a little simple in comparison to some of the other entries in this list, but it has a few things going for it. Many of the various media interpretations used this design as a basis for their GI Joe HQ, most notably, the Sunbow cartoon that introduced so many of us to the franchise. I’m a fan/collector that really respects accuracy to it’s related media.
The Command Center not only allowed for play with action figures, but also some other vehicles from the line.
4. Transportable Tactical Battle Platform – http://www.yojoe.com/vehicles/85/battleplatform/
One of the great things about GI Joe is that everyone is a specialist at something. This means there are desert specialists, arctic specialists, jungle specialists and yes, even nautical specialists. Vehicles and playsets ran the gamut to support as many specialties as budgets would allow. Even though its not a common setting for a child to play in, aquatic vehicles were/are plentiful during the long life of the line. The Transportable Tactical Battle Platform is one of those playsets that served the nautical aspect of the play pattern. This isn’t just an oil rig, though. No, we’re not talking Deepwater Horizon here. We’re talking a water-based moving battle platform. It even has a loading ramp to allow small land-based vehicles to board and a helipad for small aerial vehicles to land. The TTBP even showed up in the Sunbow animation.
3. Mobile Command Center – http://www.yojoe.com/vehicles/87/mobilecommandcenter/
The Command Center was released in 1987, but would go on to be re-released in 2003 during a resurgence for the line. I have a little bias toward the Mobile Command Center. It was the only one in this list that I actually owned as a child. It was massive. In a way, it looked like a giant sandcrawler from Star Wars. It had three layers that could fold out like a big tool box. When folded out, staircases formed for figures to go up to the next level. The bottom layer could allow, much like the other sets mentioned, a smaller vehicle to be parked inside. The most popular example of this was always Sgt. Slaughter’s Triple T tank. The Triple T was another vehicle that I owned and was only too happy to live out the play pattern suggested in the boxart. My parents, too, were happy that I had something that could actually fit all of my GI Joe figures when they were not strewn about the floor during playtime.
2. Terrordrome – http://www.yojoe.com/vehicles/86/terrordrome/
He-Man had Castle Grayskull. Skeletor had Snake Mountain. The Autobots had the Ark. Batman had the Batcave. Superman had the Fortress of Solitude. I could keep going all day, but for me, the Terrordrome is as symbolic to Cobra as all of these bases are symbolic to their heroes and villains. In the same way the Joe Headquarters Command Center was the definitive headquarters for the Joes in many forms of fiction, the Terrordrome holds that distinction for Cobra. The name, itself, invokes a certain connotation that reminds me of Thunderdome from Mad Max, where it was said “Two men enter, one man leaves”. The Terrordrome ups the scales when it comes to play value. Not only did it allow interaction with other small vehicles in the line with fueling stations and the like, but it also included a small vehicle that used the center of the playset as a launch silo. Opening the panels around the perimeter of the base revealed gun stations, fuel stations, computer stations and jail cells. The pure aesthetic of the Terrordrome was always appealing to me. It was like the Pentagon of Cobra, a simply shaped building hiding so much cunning and guile inside.
1. Defiant – http://www.yojoe.com/vehicles/87/defiant/
I’m sure most readers were expecting the USS Flagg to be placed in this top slot. Honestly, the Flagg was so far ahead of its time, even now, that I don’t think it can be placed in the same league as most of these playsets. I have chosen the Defiant in its place. The Defiant, on its own, was a playset that many had only dreamed about, knowing of its existence simply through the catalogs that came with the other vehicles and playsets in the line. It was so large, it came with two figures, where most of the previous sets came with one. The giant shuttle launch facility was really three playsets in one. The crawler/gantry section of the set provided a means of ground transport and launching platform. The giant booster rocket doubled as a space station that allowed the mid-section to fold up and out as a docking port/airlock for the shuttle. Lastly, the shuttle had a large cockpit section and a storage bay with articulating robotic arm. When all section were together in the crawler-style formation, one could turn the crank to move pieces in an automated fashion into a shuttle launch position. This is exciting stuff to me as an adult, nevermind a child. And thats why the Defiant grabbed the top slot in my list.
What do you, the reader, think of this list? Do you agree? Do you think you would have ordered them differently or included different items in the list? Let me know your opinions, recommendations and anecdotes in the comments. I’d love to hear if anyone had any of these as a kid and their impressions.