Let me tell you about a love affair that’s been going on since 1985. It involves a 3.75 inch plastic ninja commando. It began when I first saw the Revenge of Cobra mini-series. I already had an ’82 Snake-Eyes and it was one of my favorite GI Joe figures. But when I saw his new design in that mini-series, along with all the new characters that were revealed throughout the five episodes, I was totally hooked, and I had to have it.
However, I didn’t find my 1985 Snake-Eyes at a store. I don’t have a colorful story about racing to the GI Joe aisle and hurriedly hunting through the pegs to find the elusive commando. No, I obtained mine via a rather generous trade with a grade school friend. I traded a Star Wars Turret and Probot set for him. That’s right, one figure for a playset. As a kid, my friends and I did a lot of trading, and it was rare that my friends would trade Star Wars for Joes. My friend just didn’t want to give up snake-Eyes easily, and I wanted the figure badly. It was the most epic trade of my childhood.
So ’85 Snakes joined my Joe forces and held an honored place throughout the rest of my childhood collecting. When I became of an age when toys just weren’t so cool anymore, I sold off my Joe collection to a friend’s younger brother. I probably spent the money on a Guns ‘n Roses tape now that I think of it. Actually, it’s a bit of a lie to say I sold all of my Joes. I kept two. One was ’87 Battle Armor Cobra Commander, and the other was ’85 Snake-Eyes. Cobra Commander I kept just because he looked cool, but something about the Snake-Eyes figure meant more to me than all of the other Joes did, even the ones that had been with me longer. Eventually, I even got rid of the Cobra Commander, but kept Snake-Eyes.
What is it about this figure that strikes a chord with me? I think it represents the elements that began with the 1984 series and came to a head in 1985 to make the Real American Hero era the blockbuster toyline of its time. In a single figure, it represented the evolution of the 80’s GI Joe. A toy line that began as a group of similar looking green soliders became a group of colorful and varied characters, and a simple black outfitted commando became a ninja commando. With a sword. And a wolf. Need I say more?