1985 GI Joe Mural Puzzle Set
Perhaps no item in the 30-year history of 3 3/4 G.I. Joe allows fans to address these questions better than the 1985 four-part mural puzzle series produced jointly by Hasbro and Milton Bradley. Each of the four puzzles, 12 1/8 x 16 inches and numbering 221 pieces, depicts a portion of sea, air and land skirmish between Joe and Cobra set in a tight ocean cove. Each scene is well-stocked with characters and vehicles from the first four years of the line — though a USS Flagg that could have anchored nicely on the horizon is a notable omission. In the bottom right, Cutter steers his WHALE into shore as a Moray curls out of the corner and sends a torpedo toward the Transportable Tactical Battle Platform one frame to the left. A Skystriker and Rattler dominate the upper two puzzles, flying head-on in images that hearken to issue No. 34 “Shake Down” of Marvel’s G.I. Joe comic series in April, 1985.
The TTBP is the focus of Battle 3 in the bottom left with a Dragonfly helicopter, pound for pound one of the best vehicles of the 3 3/4 line, taking off from its helipad. Barbecue, Roadblock, Shipwreck, Airtight and Mutt are manning the battle station as Cobra looms on the cliff above. Scrap-Iron and a Crimson Guardsman are each on one knee, their poses making them look like they are scoping out a piece of oceanfront property on the point across the cove instead of eyeing the Joes.
Meanwhile you can almost hear Firefly, who stands to their left with his perpetually furrowed brow, blurting, “Push the button already!”I acquired this foursome used via eBay, and I was borderline ecstatic when each turned out to be complete, even though that was how they were described in their listing. Four puzzles, four boxes, and 884 or 884 pieces intact 27 years since they were first sold? Kind of amazing, if you think about it.But what really sat in the back of my mind as I put each puzzle together was the bigger question: Would the foursome actually fit together in one massive melee, as the backs of their boxes so enthusiastically billed, merely by removing two of the straight edges on each? I had heard that they did, and I had heard that they didn’t. Battle 1 connected to 2, Battle 1 and 2 connected to 3, but wouldn’t you know it, Battle 4 had tabs where it needed slots and slots where it needed tabs. I consulted Google (no help) and the proprietor of my local vintage vault (who had two of the four in stock, albeit incomplete) for a solution, but the mural’s fit remained a mystery to me. It was Flag Points Dave who ultimately confirmed my suspicions — they look great individually and still would look cool in four frames on a wall, but they don’t exactly work as one big battle.