What’s the least likely three words you’d ever think to see strung together on a GI Joe package? How about Russian Bear Wrestler? This is Zangief, from the Street Fighter II sub-series, a set of figures that were based in the popular video game and branded with the GI Joe logo. Crazy? Of course. It was the 90s, and the operative phrase round the Hasbro offices may very well have been, “Throw everything at the wall and see what sticks.”
The Street Fighter Joes mostly used re-purposed parts from old figures, some more effectively than others. Zangief here gets some laughably bad leg choices from the version 2 BAT. What is going on with his bare legs? He’s got robot flesh! In all honesty, though the feel of the figure is crazy, wild and wooly (literally), that’s just how I like it. The figure almost reaches the dizzying heights of nutty knock-offs like Enemy Leader. Delightful.
The Street Fighter figures also couldn’t escape the Hasbro tendencies of the day, including an overabundance of bright weapons (many pointless to the characters) and a spring loaded missile launcher. I can’t imagine why Mr. Zangief would have use for his equipment in a world martial arts tournament, but hey, if everyone is bringing guns and knives to a brawl, better to follow suit. You wouldn’t want to be the only fighter with an armaments gap.
If you’d like a more sedate version of this guy, check out his 1994 movie version. I personally miss the robot legs, but it is a nice looking figure.
So in the midst of the crazyness of the concept of Street Fighter crossing over into GI Joe, what’s my favorite element of the Street Fighter II figures? The inclusion of blood type on the file cards.