Shipwreck (1985)

What can I say about Shipwreck? He’s probably one of the more divisive characters in the GI Joe fan world. Some his can’t stand his portrayal in the Sunbow cartoon, citing his nature as comic relief in many an episode. I’ve never had a problem with the guy, especially once I became an adult. I didn’t find him all that grating back then, and now I have even more respect for what they tried to do with him, considering the voice and attitude owed a lot to classic Jack Nicholson. Being voiced by the great Neil Ross didn’t hurt, either.

I picked up several of the 1985 figures at the same time in a local mall’s Sears store. This was a time when department stores were, for me, the most accessible place to procure toys. Sure, we had a Children’s Palace, but a trip there required special coercing of my parental units.  It was much more likely that Mom and Dad would be going to Sears or Wards for some sort of household need, and I could usually make my way to the toy section without any begging or special convincing. On one particular trip to Sears, my folks were extra generous, and let me get three figures. I snagged Barbecue, Airtight, and Shipwreck. All three would quickly be among my favorite Joes, though Shipwreck, as the most prominent cartoon character of the three, got the most use.

Regardless of opinions about his portrayal in the Sunbow cartoon, the figure stands as one of the greats of the era. It’s a simple figure, really, but it had so much personality. The look of the uniform was unique, and echoed GI Joe’s past as both an Action Sailor and a Sea Adventurer. The drapery of the clothes, and the detail of things like buttons, pockets and straps were all rendered wonderfully. Shipwreck’s accessories were unlike those of any other figure, and captured the spirit of the character as the quintessential sailor.  Strategic details like his rank insignia and forearm tattoo just added extra icing on the cake. And how cool is Polly? I truly appreciate the fact that the GI Joe design team of the time wasn’t afraid to try off the wall things like parrot sidekicks.


  • What a classic, I never could even find him back in the day.

  • I have an uncle who was in the Navy. That’s who I always pretended Shipwreck really was!

  • When i was a kid i used to find Shipwreck annoying but when i redisovered the cartoons at the age of 18, I realiesd he was pretty funny [well thats what i think anyway]

    As a kid at the age of ten in ’96, the only shipwreck i could find in that miserable dust bowl i lived in was a surplus battle corps Shipwreck which the shops still had. I only had him for a day until i leant him to my little brother and he went AWOL.

    Two years ago, i went to a collectors fair and managed to snag a huge bag of vintage Joes. Many old favorites were in there as well as many others i had always wanted; including Shipwreck

    Shipwreck is also my mothers favorite [followed closly by Crocmaster] as my Mother is a parrothead and thinks that automatically means all sailors love Jimmy Buffet

  • Shipwreck was part of my second great big flea market haul, and I consider him the crown jewel of the loose and complete figures I got there–he was in perfect shape, all his accessories were present, no rusty screws or loose joints whatsoever, and best of all: he only cost $1.

  • I didn’t view Shipwreck as comedy relief in the cartoon, especially given his cool introduction in the second mini-series. He just annoyed the heck out of me for some reason due to his attitude later on. Once I’d realized that Neil Ross had been doing a Nicholson impression, I understood why I disliked him so much. Unlike most of the world, I have never liked Nicholson nor understood his tremendous appeal among young teens during the 80’s.

    That said, I do love the figure for all the reasons you cited. Whatever Village People comparisons were being made at the time flew over my head as a kid. I found Shipwreck at a Toys “R” Us early on in ’85 along with Footloose and Bazooka. Everything about him was unique, from his tattoo, insignia, and belt buckle, to his accessories, and of course, Polly. Unlike Shipwreck, I did love Polly in the Sunbow cartoon and hated the way he was always treating the poor bird. I’ve always been a sucker for Joe figures with pet sidekicks, especially the early ones back when the concept was still fresh and innovative.

  • You should have come to the UK then and relieved us of our surplus !

  • Hmm, that should have replied to anonymous above!

    But yes, here in the UK we had a too many Shipwrecks problem. He shelf warmed in 87, the year the 85 set was released here. big time. it didn’t help that he was a sailor with no gI Joe boat that year – we didn;t get the Flagg, and the Whale only was (re)released tjhe following year. Bu contrast Cobra had the Water Mocasin and Hydrofoil on the shelves. So slightly goofy figure with no ride overpacked when we could not find Snake Eyes or Stormshadow for love nor money.

    Come 88 and certain figures from the previous year get dropped in the new assortments. Bye bye Alpine and Barbeque and Bazooka and Footloose. But somehow Shipwreck gets to stay and warm the shelves for another year?????????

    so yes a certain bias against this version.

    Having said that I love the RoC version of the character

  • 3 figures in one shot! Awesome. Love Shipwreck too.

  • His personality in the cartoon semed to fit with his look. He was a sailor in a classic/cartoonish sailor outfit + he had a parrot. Add in his accessory made it seem like he swung that mini-anchor around as a ball & chain or a bolo. The comic relief (a common element in cartoons. Look at Orko in He-Man, various villainous sidekicks, from Dregs in Conan to Mantenna in She-Ra) was understandable given it was a cartoon aimed at what included a young audience. I never put it together he was a Jack Nicholson knockoff til I read it here and pictured his voice (probably because I don’t think I saw one of his movies til Batman).

    As for where to get GI Joes, interesting. Where I grew up, there was a Toys R Us, but it wasn’t on the beaten track, likewise with the mall Sears and Children’s Palace (which became the place where legions of Crystal Balls & Dee-Jays gathered in the great shelfwarmer symposium). There was, however, grocery stores that carried GI Joe & Transformers (Jewel), a modest selection, but they got all the carded figures, likewise Walgreens, and some pre-monolithic big box stores (Venture) had a toy selection from all the big name toy franchises comparable to Toys R Us, just not at the same volume. For me, Venture was the most accessible place to get GI Joes. I never heard of Wal-Mart then (none too close to me). A Target or two arrived a few years earlier IIRC.

  • @Little Boa
    The small toyworld in the town i used to live in had a Crystal ball which sat on the shelf [heavily discounted] until 1998. Hows that for shelfwarming?

  • @ Skymate
    Well, Australia did seem to be where merchandise ended up after it ended in North America or was no longer wanted. Past the first few years, GI Joe figures were only available for 2 years (towards the end, 1 year). There was only 1 figure I saw past its 2 year window- Crystal Ball and that was in the 3rd year and it was only once, at Childrens Palace in large numbers (I suspect that chain bought unsold merchandise from other retailers because they never had any of the more sought after or rarer figures and had the more common ones in larger quantities than I ever saw in other stores). Sometimes Australia ends up getting something really rare, like those Neo Geo AES games with only like 1-2 dozen copies which came out at the time after Neo Geo supplies were pulled off shelves in NA & EU but before the internet (and online ordering) really took off (i.e. why their AES games have a huge spike in rarity around 1996 or so while the late ’90s on aren’t nearly as rare). And when demand for a product collapses, it can sit there for ages. That happened to GI Joe in the US in 1993. Some 1993 figures remained on shelves til 1995-96 when it was shipped en masse to discount stores, where it was around for a year or so before disappearing.

    I have read of the Transformers G1 Dinobots (85) being available in some small mom & pop store I think in Florida in the early-mid ’90s, so blips like that do turn up, but 11 years after the original release (or 10 if it was a 1988 reissue) is an amazingly long time for a product to be sitting on shelves. Generally, AFAIK, the most significant shelfwarmers in the US as a nationwide occurrence and not a one-off blip are a few Transformers: Beast Wars figures. There’s a few, but Injector (seriously, look up this figure. It’s amazingly revolting in appearance), which came out in 1998, was reported on Toys R Us shelves across the US as late as 2003~05, years after the Beast Wars line ended. As a kid, I would have loved some early GI Joe figures ending up turning up years later. Imagine how cool it would’ve been to find Scrap-Iron in 1988 or Snow Job in 1989.

  • @LittleBoa
    I dont need to look up Injector because i own him.
    I heard that Tranquito was an epic shelf warmer. I heard reports that he was still on the shelves in 2007, on display next to the first movie stuff.
    My guess with that guy shelf warming was due to the fact i never saw one down here. I’m guessing they were all shipped to Toys R us’s in the U.S.

    On a simmilar note with Beast wars, we never received the 2nd wave stuff so characters like Tigertron, Airraizor, Blackarachnia, Manterror [praying mantis] and Scourge [a water buffelo] were never available which resulted in a gulf [that the right word?] of kids and collectors both wanteing those figures but having to make do with the others instead. Following that, the shops got in vast quantities of Rhinox and Inferno [the fire ant not fire truck] to fill the void which resulted in those two shelf warming badly.
    We also received all sorts of odd stuff in other toy lines. I dont know much about other componies but my old town was still getting in G1 TF’s in the 90’s and we also got several of those D.E.F guys who were released as Battle corps guys in the U.S

  • Dreadnok: Spirit

    One of my all-time favorites. Just a total classic.

  • This figure got use pretty much from 85 thru 93 or so. He may not have remained quite as intregal a part of the storylines in the latter years,but was always present for them. A great figure and one that saw multiple uses due to his attires ability to lend him to almost anyenvironment. …arctic missions aside. The scuba gear Shipwreck that came out years later, just added to the missions for him. As for his prtrayal in Sunbow, i can see where his detractors come from to a degree. But i always found him to be a cross between Nicholson (vocally of course) and Han Solo. Plus Theres No Place Like Springfield wasoneif my absolute favorite stories inthat canon.

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