Sgt. Slaughter (1985)
I thought the mail-in Sgt. Slaughter was a pretty nice looking figure as a kid. I actually didn’t even have him until years later, but my best friend had sent away for him. I remember being impressed with the size of the figure, as the Sarge towers over pretty much every other GI Joe figure of the time.
The paint job was another aspect of the toy that made it stand out from the other Joes. From the USA tampo on the shirt to the stripes on the legs, Slaughter appeared to be something special, and worthy of extra attention. It’s a flashier look than later versions of the character, and makes him seem like he’s more like a mascot or PR figure than a Drill Instructor. Why is this? Most collectors know the story of Hasbro’s failed attempt to secure the rights to bring Rocky Balboa into GI Joe. I imagine the thinking was that if a famous fictional boxer couldn’t be in the toyline, why not a professional wrestler?
The extra attention to detail, and the unique features serve to make this figure one of the best mail-ins produced in the 80s GI Joe assortments. Even if you find the concept of Sgt. Slaughter, or his portrayal in the Sunbow cartoon to be the shark jumping moment of the Real American Hero era, the toy itself stands out not only in its design, but overall quality. I’m one to poke fun at the Sarge myself, but there’s no denying that this is a really nicely done figure.
The Sarge’s appearance in the aforementioned cartoon didn’t reflect this figure, but rather the repaint that was later included with the Triple T tank. This outfit bears more resemblance to something his wrestling persona might have worn. In fact, LJN, the makers of the rubbery WWF wrestling action figures in the 1980s, produced a Sgt. Slaughter that looked incredibly similar to this GI Joe toy. How was that possible? The lawsuits would probably fly faster than you can say “camel clutch” if a rival toy company tried something like that today.