Grand Slam and HAL (1983)
The story of the relaunch of GI Joe goes that it was intended originally as a vehicle line. I think that’s apparent in the first series of vehicles, especially when looking at the limited amount of tooling used to create the first series of individual carded figures and drivers. That’s not to say Hasbro didn’t do a great job with what they had. There’s enough variation among the original thirteen GI Joes to keep things interesting, with head swaps juxtaposed with changes in paint details. Grand Slam may share a body mold with Flash, but a little creative painting, a different head (and a little imagination on the part of an 80’s kiddo) created a new Joe.
Grand Slam gets the distinction of being included with two different vehicles, which is pretty impressive considering he’s not a superstar on the level of some of the other original team members. Even the other version his own figure, the “silver pads” Grand Slam, gets more of the limelight among collectors than this one. Done up in a darker green, and wearing the same padded armor as Flash, he looks every bit capable of manning the Heavy Artillery Laser or HAL.
The HAL is one of the beautifully simplistic early accessories. Not as flashy as later vehicles, it was nevertheless one of my early faves. It doesn’t do much beyond swivel and elevate, but it doesn’t have to. The thing just looks like it means business. Cobra didn’t have any early hardware to match its firepower, though the Missile Command HQ is deadlier from long range.
Grand Slam got a little focus in the Marvel GI Joe comic, most famously capturing Major Bludd by climbing onto a moving bus and smashing through the windshield before knocking out the Major and sending him to the hospital. He’s always seemed to me like an all around tough guy, which plays impressively against type since his file card paints him as an introvert into escapist fantasy.
The design and box art both capture the imagination. I know I was captivated when I first spotted one at Montgomery Wards while looking for Star Wars figures. It was an impressively large piece of hardware for the time, and is still imposing as a battlefield accessory. The ability to tow it behind the MOBAT or VAMP is a useful bonus. For a grab and go accessory to to battle against Cobra, you still can’t go wrong.