Keel Haul (1985)
Keel Haul encompasses what I think is one of the great strengths of the Real American Hero era: the driver. It’s ironic to consider that while the vehicles were initially meant to be the focus of the line, the single carded figures became a more popular element. The driver concept was still given appropriate focus as the line continued, and the GI Joe line perfected the idea that the figure included with a vehicle should mesh with it perfectly.
Keel Haul’s sculpt is packed with great details, and the figure as a whole has great personality. This is definitely not a man who’s meant to be the stereotypical stuffy high ranking officer type. Keel Haul looks like he’d be just as at home skippering a tramp steamer. From the rank and insignia on the jacket, to the unique hat, he’s a figure that stands the test of time. This mold saw a repaint in almost ten years later as part of the Battle Corps series, and fit in with the later molds quite well.
The fact that the USS Flagg, one of the most impressive toys of all time, came with a figure at all is a testament to the attention and care that was given GI Joe in those golden days. The Hasbro team could have left out a figure, or simply included a deck hand made from a Shipwreck figure. But they went one step beyond and created one of the most memorable drivers to match an incredible vehicle.