Sgt. Rock Figures Short Arms Rant

By Past Nastification

Sgt. Rock figures are frustrating.  They could have been amazing, but for the flawed arms.  I’ve hit on this in reviews before, but the short arm problem merits its own rant.  This was to be a review of the medic figure (quick review:  I like it), but those arms have an undeniable gravity I have to address.

Look at the medic here and his stubby arms.  Most Sgt. Rock figures shared the same bodies/arms.  The few alternate arm styles were equally squat.

The T-Rex arms create a mental block that prevents collectors from giving more attention to the Sgt. Rock line as a whole.

One day I’ll customize one of these Remco figures by replacing or lengthening the arms, just to see how they might have looked with proper proportions.  But until then, every time I look at them I’ll sigh in disgust and wonder about what could have been.

How did they make it all the way through Remco’s development process without a single person catching the shortness of the arms?  There’s an easy artist’s rule-of-thumb to remember how long arms have to be:  long enough to use toilet paper.  It’s crass, but technically accurate.  I can still remember hearing it as a college art student 25 years ago.  If I heard the guideline as a first year art student, then undoubtedly whatever professional sculptor created these figures must have heard it somewhere along the way, too.  Why didn’t he/she pay attention?

It wouldn’t be possible to sculpt something this otherwise good without noticing the glaring flaw.  Maybe there was a technical reason, like the lower quality plastic wasn’t strong enough because the arms would have had to be thinner.  Maybe it was a production issue, like Remco didn’t have time to correct what they already had.  Maybe they thought it looked better with the included weapons and tools.

I’m not even talking about up the strange positioning of the figure’s left hand.  Remco probably believed it was a good compromise to balance out the lack of articulation.  That’s an entirely different issue, so I’ll begrudgingly respect the choice.  It’s also one that people focus on so much that they don’t quite register that the arm length is really the design villain.

Focus on the medic while blocking the arms from view.  What you now see is amazing.  Soak in that detail and appreciate it.

The Sgt. Rock figures don’t have the articulation of the ’82 Joes.  But they do have better sculpting.  There, I said it. The uniforms have folds and creases.  The heads don’t have the generic mannequin blankness that the ’82 Joes had.  The Sgt. Rock figures’ heads look like real people.  Squinty-but-level eyes, just a touch of age lines and suppleness in the skin, and fully sculpted ears.  Early Joes had strange saucer-shaped (frequently un-level) eyes, very basic overall shaping, and no ears (just ear… lumps).  This isn’t to say that I don’t love the early Joe figures, obviously I do, but sometimes the underdogs do better work that goes unnoticed.

Sadly, the Remco underdogs didn’t correct a massive error and it cost them from getting noticed and embraced.  It isn’t just the difference in the amount of articulation points that kept Sgt. Rock figures from getting blended into early 80’s GI Joe collections.  It’s also those wretched arms.  They distorted the silhouettes of the Remco figures so badly that they looked out of place next to Joes.  Even so, they still had their place as “regular soldiers” or as “not-Cobra bad guys”.  The arms prevented further integration at playtime.

But until the day I physically correct a Sgt. Rock figure, check out a Photoshop of how much better proper arm proportions would have improved the line.  Now you can’t un-see how bad the arms truly were.  Sorry.

One comment

  • Did you know the Medic originally had a cheap paper/tape red cross arm band? It did not survive on mine.

    The other thing was that Sgt. Rock figures were often crap quality. They could break simply from moving their limbs. One figure I had literally came unglued. That was better than shoulders breaking after moving arms.

    Make me wonder why I had some many, but then early Joes thumbs were broken so easily, but I kept going back to them.

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