By Past Nastification
Junkyard and Freedom are the First Animals of ARAH GI Joe. Introduced in 1984, they were Hasbro’s first non-human figures in the line. As animal companions/accessories to Mutt and Spirit, respectively, they added world-building value to the Joe universe. Junkyard represented Mutt utilizing a trained working canine, whereas Freedom represented Spirit violating federal laws by keeping an endangered-species eagle as a pet.
Of the 1984 GI Joe figures, Mutt/Junkyard and Spirit/Freedom tend to be at the top of everyone’s lists. That’s because they’re awesome.
As a kid, and even now, I tended to view most animal figures as their own unique characters more than just packed-in accessories. Maybe I didn’t hold this view so much with Serpentor’s snake or Croc Master’s undersized alligator (it looks more like an alligator than a crocodile), but definitely with the dogs/wolves/bird figures. Let’s set aside Spirit/Freedom for another review. In fact, let’s also pass on Mutt and focus solely on Junkyard. For this review Mutt would be in the way.
Has Hasbro ever said what breed Junkyard is? The general opinion from collectors tends to be Rottweiler, but to my eyes Junkyard’s lean-yet-muscular build has always looked like a Dobermin Pinscher/black Lab mix. Whatever the sculptor intended Junkyard to be might be open to debate. It’s also worth nothing that Junkyard clearly isn’t a German Shepherd, the breed most often- almost automatically- associated with dog handlers, probably more so in the past than today. Don’t worry, GS enthusiasts, Order would arrive in ’87 to fill that particular void.
I’ve talked before about my general preference for static-sculpted animal figures vs. articulated ones. The work that went into Junkyard is brilliant. I wonder if Hasbro brought in an outside sculptor to create this amazing little statue. Junkyard’s pose is “ready to go!” It looks as if he’s tracked down a bad guy and is ready to pounce, just waiting for Mutt’s command. The legs are slightly crouched. What really creates a great visual is the how the paws are not symmetrically positioned on the ground. Junkyard is in the canine equivalent of a human fighting stance.
The head is equally flawless. Junkyard has a growl, but it’s a working growl, not an over-the-top “I gots the rabies!” growl. Junkyard also appears to have his hackles up, although the short hair sculpt would have made it harder for the sculptor to show, but he/she nailed it.
At a time when Hasbro wasn’t even painting the white of the eyes for its human figures, it’s no surprise that Junkyard’s eyes were left unpainted. The eyes, nose, and teeth all could have been enhanced with some paint. But this was 1984 and action figure animals paint applications just weren’t there yet.
Junkyard had a brown underbelly and was made from very rigid plastic. The brown was feathered at the edges, adding even more nuanced detail. When the figure returned later in the ARAH run, it became solid black and was made with a more pliable plastic. The ’84 Junkyard is the mold at its best, as the brown looks more realistic and the slick finish of the harder plastic creates crisper highlights.
Among Mutt’s accessories was a leash, which I suppose could be seen as Junkyard’s accessory more than Mutt’s. Even the leash is a little masterpiece. Hasbro could have simply punched out a rubber strip with a collar at one end and a wrist loop at the other, but it didn’t. The leash has texture on it as well as a riveted clamp near the wrist loop. The extra effort doesn’t go unnoticed.
Junkyard is perfect.