By Past Nastification
In a forum conversation I read years ago, someone threw out the idea that maybe “Night Force” and “Tiger Force” worked better for GI Joe not as actual sub-teams, but simply as environment-specific uniforms that all Joe team members would be issued to wear when appropriate. I can’t remember which website or forum member had the idea, so I can’t give proper credit. It’s a concept that I found myself agreeing with more and more. After all, the “captured repainted vehicles” shtick of Tiger Force didn’t survive with the NS era, but the uniforms did.
Why wouldn’t Steeler have a NF or TF uniform for when they better fit the mission? I picked out Steeler because, as best I can remember, the character has never been in either sub-team. But some characters would almost be logical exclusions from getting TF or NF uniforms. Hardtop is one of them.
When the GI Joe Collectors’ Club released Hardtop in a Tiger Force Uniform with its 2004 Dreadnok Rampage set, the character seemed shoehorned into wearing a Tiger Force uniform. The backstory of that set tried to acknowledge that. But even with some filecard wordsmithing, we still got a figure of the Defiant’s gantry crawler operator in an orange-with-black-stripes uniform.
This is a figure that I can’t put into a “like” or “dislike” category.
I like that it was another chance (although an expensive one) for collectors to have a second ARAH style Hardtop. Kudos to the club for going after a rare mold to use. The body has Firefly legs, but they work well enough that I don’t really miss the original ones. Hardtop is also in such a specialized position on the team that the original powder blue uniform looked just fine. Orange works just as well. Hardtop has some thematic overlap with Tollbooth. But unlike Tollbooth, earthy military tones were never needed to make Hardtop look right (ignoring Tollbooth’s bright orange helmet, of course).
One thing I’ve always liked about this body is that Hardtop has a belly. Not a full on slopfest “hang over the belt” belly, but the start of one. Hardtop didn’t have the super-lean frame that most Joe figures did (and that’s taking into account that ARAH figures weren’t all proportioned like superheroes when the mold was released first back in 1987). Hardtop had a few extra pounds. The crawler’s cab looked like it would have been perfect for eating a package of Pinwheel cookies and drinking Tab while slowly moving. Good for Hardtop. He found his place in the universe.
I dislike the stripes. They’re unrealistically painted as if they’re avoiding the webgear, rather than lying underneath it. That’s bad design. Removing them would have taken away Hardtop’s Tiger Force status, but that might have been the better choice.
Maybe this is a bad figure and I’m just not seeing it. Maybe it’s better than I’m giving it credit for. Or, maybe it’s just a figure that lands in that wide grey area and it depends on what you get out of it.