As a kid, I tended to avoid remakes of figures I already had if my original figure was still in good condition. I got my vintage Storm Shadow v2 probably in 1989 and never looked back. I think had my vintage Tiger Force Flint for probably just as long. Truthfully, the only figure I can recall purposefully updating was my Roadblock and that was only after my brother got his 1992 Battle Corps Roadblock (complete with recalled spinning blade launcher) and getting to see firsthand how cool he was. I don’t honestly recall ever seeing the second version of Mercer released in 1991 on the shelves, but I imagine if I had, since my original Mercer was still perfectly useable (if a little play worn because I liked using him so much), he would have been a pretty easy pass. However, when I started rediscovering the Joe brand when I was in high school, I was pretty impressed with the drastic redesign Mercer got in the 90s, and I’m glad I found him at Joe Con and added him to my collection.
The original Mercer figure was fairly simple. However, by the 90s, some of the aesthetic in the Joe brand had changed and Mercer got a much more complicated and very different look. Mercer gets all new molds like his original figure did and that helps make him look like his own man. The pants and boots are fairly basic, but he’s got a pair of holsters on his legs connected to his belt by a rather complicated system of straps. The crotch piece is equally basic, though the belt is quite a bit more complicated than your standard belt. Truthfully, the new legs and complicated holster belt remind me a bit of a Cobra Viper, even though they didn’t wear anything like that. That was one area I thought Hasbro made a little misstep with on the original Mercer figure. His filecard talks about how he left Cobra, but there wasn’t anything that looked that Cobra-y on him. I think these pants that remind me a little bit of the vintage Viper are a nice touch that reference his Cobra past without being too overt about it. Mercer’s new torso is quite impressive. He’s wearing a very heavy, somewhat ornate bulletproof vest with some straps on the front that hold everything together and a grenade hanging on his chest. While I love my original Mercer figure, this vest is so much more appropriate for Mercer. Had I not seeing G.I. Joe: The Movie before finding Mercer, I’m pretty sure I would have assumed his vest was a life jacket rather than a flak jacket because it was a tad underdetailed and bright orange. You’re not going to mistake this version of Mercer for a Navy man, and I appreciate that. Mercer’s arms are rather large, but they aren’t matching pieces. His left arm is bare with a large black glove (a nod to the original figure) while his right arm is covered by some sort of chainmail armor. I kind of like the idea of Mercer throwing some chainmail over his right arm. I can see him being pretty proficient with a knife and considering how many ninjas there were running around the brand at the time, some chainmail on the arm would afford him some protection from a ninja sword strike while he’s trying to eliminate a Cobra ninja. Topping off the figure, Mercer has a brand new head sculpt. If I’m being honest, as a kid, I’m sure that the head sculpt was part of what kept me away from Mercer. It’s a very well executed piece, but it really doesn’t look that much like Mercer. I’ve always kind of wondered if this was supposed to be some new character but at the last minute the trademark on the new name fell through, but Hasbro was too far along in the process to cancel him so they just slapped Mercer’s name on it. Rather than a clean shaven guy with a bit of a flat top, Mercer now has a full beard and a fairly simple hair style. Mercer looks a fair bit older than before, but considering four or five years passed between the first time we saw Mercer and when this figure was released, I actually kind of like that. Like the Sky Patrol figures, there’s a lot of character molded into this face and Mercer looks like he’s a guy who’s seen a lot both in service to his country and in whatever life he lived before joining Cobra before defecting to the Joes. Mercer may have changed up his look quite a bit since 1988, but it’s still a well-executed head sculpt and it fits very well with the 90s aesthetic that this figure has.
Where this version of Mercer definitely has an advantage over the original figure is in his color scheme. Mercer’s lower body is far darker this time around, with very dark blue pants and black boots. There’s a little extra color in the form of the reddish-orange used on his holsters and straps. The blue and reddish-orange reminds me a bit of the original Viper colors and I think that’s a smart call. It’s a nice color tie back to his Cobra past and something that I found to be sorely lacking in the first figure. Up top, Mercer’s flak vest is black with silver piping and red straps. The darker vest helps make Mercer look a bit more badass and I like seeing that. This is a heavy piece of body armor and I think it works well for Mercer’s character. After all, no one besides Mercer has ever left Cobra and lived to tell the tale, so there’s a reason for him to be worried about Cobra’s reprisals. Mercer’s gloves are both black and his armored arm is silver. Mercer’s head is molded out of plastic the color of his skin tone which helps keep the details on it crisp. His hair is a bit darker brown this time around, but it still works. While his color scheme is a little flashier this time around, I think it works just a little better and makes the figure just a bit more impressive than his original version.
However, not everything about this version of Mercer is great. Since he was a 1991 figure that means he’s got some pretty funky weapons and their colors are even funkier. Battle Corps was just a year from now, and you could already see some changes in the weapons that were definitely precursors to the oddly-colored accessories of the mid-90s. Before I even talk about the weapons themselves, I will mention their color. The guns and missile are molded out of a ridiculously bright orange. Seriously, it looks like Hasbro managed to distill orange Kool-Aid down to a solid form and injected it into plastic. It’s a crazy bright color and even as someone who loves brightly-colored Joes, I have trouble liking these pieces in this color. If you collected 12-inch Joes in the 90s, you’ll recognize one of Mercer’s weapons. A larger version of this hightech grenade launcher was available with a lot of 12-inch Joes and in accessory packs as a springloaded missile launcher. It’s not the world’s greatest piece, but as someone who had a lot of those in his childhood Joe collection, I think it’s interesting to see that a smaller version was also made based around this design. His other weapon is a crazy big rifle thing. I really don’t know how else to describe it. It honestly looks like a gigantic Super Soaker, and that’s a weird thing to see a Joe running around with. Mercer’s most interesting weapon is his springloaded missile launcher. Unlike some missile launchers, Mercer’s is also a backpack. There’s a small track that the missile launcher can be slid down, moving it from pointing straight up his back to down to his side for him to actually use it. The engineering behind it is pretty solid and it does add quite a bit of play value to the weapon. Thankfully, the backpack is molded out of dark blue plastic, so Mercer at least gets one weapon that’s not completely ridiculously colored. Mercer’s gear may be a little odd, but at least it’s mostly unique to him, which couldn’t be said for most of the later-line Joes.
While I may have passed on him back in the day, I’ve been kind of fascinated with the second version of Mercer for a while. Truthfully, I don’t remember seeing some of those 1991 figures when I was a kid, so I think it’s totally possible I never saw him at retail. Regardless, this figure was never on my radar growing up, and it really should have been. This is a great second version of Mercer and truthfully, I’m still kind of surprised that Mercer got a second figure. After all, there’s not much out of G.I. Joe: The Movie that lasted in the toy line. Cobra-La was kind of a dud and the Renegades and Rawhides never really showed up again outside of Mercer. While I still have fond memories of my original Mercer figure, I think this version has its own positives and my collection is better for him being in it.