By Past Nastification
GI Joe was dead, at least in 1:18th scale, in 1996. Like many of us now in our mid 40’s, even if 1:18 GI Joe wasn’t dead then, it would have been dead to me anyway. I had outgrown it around 1988 and wouldn’t rediscover my love of GI Joe as adult collector/customizer until the Stars ‘n Stripes set (warts and all) a very long year later. So I was completely unaware of Galoob’s 1996 Jonny Quest toyline until many eBay purchases down the road.
The Jonny Quest toyline was in 1:18 scale, give or take. The adult figures aren’t quite as large as GI Joe’s ARAH figures, but they’re passable if you squint your eyes just a bit and use some imagination. The figures’ construction is comparable to the ARAH format, sans the o-ring/twisting waist and shoulder design.
The vehicles, though, is where the JQ toyline should really shine for GI Joe collectors. In fact, if you already own the 2001 GI Joe Night Landing Craft or the 2002 Cobra Mantis Sub, then you already own some Jonny Quest goodness. Galoob originally released the vehicles as the Quest Rave Ranger and Quest Porpoise, respectively. Hasbro bought Galoob and the rights to the molds, making good use of them. I assume that the vehicles were specific to the toyline, and that Hanna-Barbera did not have any copyright claim to them, giving Hasbro free reign to do whatever it wanted to with them.
If there’s another vehicle in the Quest inventory that Hasbro should have resurrected as official GI Joe product, it’s the Quest Rover. Just the thought of this vehicle presented as an upgraded Stinger makes my happy toes wiggle. Black plastic and a new rocket launcher to plug into the existing port is all it would have taken. Or even just rockets without a net between them. But that didn’t happen.
But the Quest Rover is still amazing for what it is, so let’s take a look at it.
The overall look of the vehicle is a mid-90’s sport utility vehicle with a wide stance. A little Isuzu Rodeo, a little Toyota RAV4, plus some Jeep and Land Rover DNA mixed in. Its dark and muted colors are already Joe friendly. The sculpt/detail work is astounding. Quality-wise, it’s easily on par with anything Hasbro produced from ’82-’85. Whoever designed this toy clearly was more than up for the task and the quality shows.
The Quest Rover’s features include a launching bumper, an opening hood, a net launcher missile system, a removable hardtop (from behind the B pillars to the C pillars of the roof), rubber tires, a folding trunk gate, and a hidden feature: the clutch claw. The clutch claw is a surprisingly brutal feature for a toyline not too far from Adventure People territory in terms of its “let’s have an adventure doing outside stuff” feel. A real-world clutch claw would probably outright kill people, or at least turn their shinbones into pudding. Come to think of it, the launching bumper would probably wouldn’t do a body good, either. The cargo area is also a workstation, which includes a satellite dish and computer/communications equipment. All this and a removable gas can on the back!
There is no sculpted engine, as the hood hides storage area for Race’s backpack and tools. A very minor gripe, as the early VAMP and Stinger hoods didn’t even open. (I think there was a retrofitted early 2000’s VAMP with an opening hood, but I could be entirely wrong).
The construction on this beast is superb. It exudes sturdiness. I’m not going to perform a drop test on this thing versus a Stinger, but my guess is that the Quest Rover would prove to be the more durable of the two. When I pick it up, my brain says, “It shouldn’t weigh this much!”
Again, the JQ figures aren’t exactly scale equal to ARAH figures. So the very slight downshift in size differences and style approaches should make the vehicles a tight fit with ARAH figures. Fortunately, the JQ vehicles appeared to have been made more realistically scaled to 1:18 figures than the ARAH Joes were. So the larger JQ vehicles work just fine with most 1:18 Joes, even modern era ones. The pictured 25A Stinger Driver doesn’t fit as well as other modern era figure due to its “diaper crotch”.
Speaking of figures, this vehicle included a driver, Race Bannon. This particular Race Bannon, “Expedition Race”, looks like the kind of guy who knows how to drive an SUV. Not on roadways, but off roadways. Deep in the woods or the desert. The stern expression, lantern jaw, rolled-up sleeves, and hiking boots say, “See that dead tree in the creek bed? Goin’ over it. Then I’m taking your wife out for steak.” Race comes with some tools and a clip-on retractable rope backpack. He probably needs the shovel to dig things, like shallow graves for his enemies.
Galoob sculpted new heads for each figure, even if it was a character with multiple figures. Jonny looks a bit different with each Jonny figure. Same with Race. It’s an interesting approach for Galoob to have used. All of the Race heads look a bit too narrow, but that might be because I’m automatically seeing them as ARAH heads, which they aren’t. Even with the differences in style/format/size, JQ figures blend in fairly well with ARAH ones. The Jonny Quest and Hadji figures, intentionally smaller than the Race or Dr. Quest figures, blend in the best.
Galoob’s JQ line is a largely undiscovered toyline full of hidden gems. The Quest Rover is one of the brightest.**
**I am aware that this sounds like how an NPR music critic would end a review of an album. My apologies.