30th Anniversary Lifeline

by KansasBrawler

Lifeline has always been a bit of an odd duck. My brother had him and we used him a lot since you can’t have a Joe team without a medic, but that pacifist angle is a bit difficult to deal with. I’ve always followed it more along the lines of the filecard…which actually doesn’t mention his pacifistic tendencies. In fact, the first filecard to mention it is the 2010 Joe Con Souvenir set version. I’m not sure if the comics (until recently) ever did much with Lifeline’s pacifism, but it’s been so long since I read the original Marvel run that if it did come up, it was apparently not that memorable. Medics are barred from carrying much in the way of firepower in the field though they still carry some weapons (which I know firsthand from talking to a military combat medic on Veterans’ Day while assisting with some events for area school kids), but Lifeline isn’t actually a medic. Save his Tiger Force iteration, Lifeline’s specialty has been consistently referred to as a “Rescue Trooper.” That’s a pretty big distinction and one that allows me to accept a Lifeline whose primary mission is to save lives and has pacifist tendencies, but at the same time, he’s willing to pick up a weapon if he needs to do so in order to rescue a wounded man. He views saving lives as the most important thing about his role in the military and if he has to fight to do that, he’ll do it. He may not like it, but he knows it comes with the territory. I’m guessing at least some of the “Lifeline’s a pacifist” comes from his, at times, ridiculously over-the-top portrayal in the Sunbow cartoon where at one point, while in command (as part of a nefarious Cobra scheme to create problems in the ranks), he ordered all weapons removed from the Tomahawks since “Rescue choppers shouldn’t have guns.” It worked out about as well as you’d think…Regardless of how you integrate him into your Joe stories, a team always needs a medical expert, and you’d be hard pressed to find someone better at that job that the ex-EMT the Joes brought in to give Doc a hand.

Lifeline is a pretty basic figure, but the team was allowed to use a lot of new pieces to make a great update to the old figure. His legs come from the Pursuit of Cobra Desert Snake Eyes, but they took advantage of the modular nature of their design and swapped out the pouch on his left leg for a functional holster (which the original Lifeline had) and the holster on his right leg for a pouch and some sort of medical tool. My guess is that it’s an otoscope (what doctors use to look in your eyes, ears, and nose), but that’s kind of a guess. It’s definitely not a weapon, but I’m not totally sure that’s what it’s actually supposed to be. My other thought is that it’s some sort of hypospray device, but that would render the injector tool that he carries in a holster on his chest. The Snake Eyes legs work very well for Lifeline and I especially like him having the kneepads. If anyone’s going to need kneepads in the field, it’s the guy that’s going to be spending a lot of time kneeling in the dirt while tending to wounded soldiers. His upper arms come courtesy of the Pursuit of Cobra Shock Trooper, but he does get new lower arms. I really like the Shock Trooper arms. They’re a great, basic arm and as an added bonus, they have pouches on the biceps. The original Lifeline had the same detail and I’m glad they kept that. The new lower arms have the tight cuff like Lifeline had back in the day and he also picks up the added wrist articulation that became more standard during the 30th Anniversary line. My only real complaint is that his hands are bare. I think it would have been a cool little change had he been given gloves instead of bare hands since he’d still want to maintain a degree of sterility even if he has to operate out in the field. His torso is all new and while it might have been based on 25th Dusty’s basic BDUs, the added pouches really help it stand out and look just like Lifeline did back in the day. I love that it’s got a functional holster on it and the trio of pouches look pretty sharp. While I’m one that tends to decry random pouches on figures, for a guy like Lifeline it makes a lot of sense. He’s never going to know what medical tools he might need in the field, so it’s best to load up before heading out into the field rather than have to improvise something when you get there. You need a lot of pockets for that and Lifeline definitely has a lot of pockets. Finally, we come to Lifeline’s new head sculpt. While he doesn’t look as happy as the original Lifeline did, I’m okay with him having a little more of a serious face. If Lifeline’s getting called in, it’s going to be pretty serious. His face does a great job of reflecting that fact. The green aviator sunglasses look quite sharp but the detail I love is his hair. To me, it looks like Lifeline’s got a bit of a case of helmet hair, and I think that’s a great detail to have added in there. Without his helmet on, Lifeline looks like he’s been wearing his helmet for a long time in the field, needing to keep his head protected while he’s helping troops in the field that are still under fire. While Dusty’s perfectly coifed hair looks nice, it wouldn’t look that good for long after having a helmet on it. I think the helmet hair also adds a little more of an air of seriousness to Lifeline. He doesn’t care that he’s got helmet hair. He’s done a hard job and frivolous things like making sure his hair looks perfect aren’t really on his mind when he gets off of the field.

Lifeline is also a bit of an outlier in terms of color scheme, but the Hasbro paint team did a great job of replicating his original look while still maintaining an air of realism. In the Joe line, red is traditionally associated with Cobra. Plus, red is a rather bright color. Considering how much grief the 90s figures take for their brightness, it seems a little odd that Lifeline got a pass on that front. I think had an all red figure that was bright as Lifeline been released in the later years of the line, that color scheme would have been regarded as one of the worst offenders of the crazy color schemes Joes got by the end. Actually, if you look to 1992 Barbecue, you see an all red figure (Crimson Guards don’t count because the two later additions were a dark red rather than a bright red) and that’s a pretty unpopular figure. Tangent/tirade aside on the craziness that sometimes creeps into discussions of later-year Joe figures, red is a hard color to work with. Another toy blog I read often comments that red figures often look the most like toys as opposed to plastic representations of things that are supposed to be red because it’s a little harder to hide the plastic-y sheen if you’re using a lot of red plastic. Hasbro really didn’t have that problem, though. The red looks sharp and natural, well, as natural as an all red set of BDUs can. I understand the desire for a rescue trooper to be visible, but I’ll admit, Lifeline rocking the red always struck me as kind of a “shoot me” color. There’s a reason military medics wear camouflage and not bright colors. While it makes sense from a Geneva Convention standpoint since targeting medics is not allowed, again, it only applies when someone is actually a medic, rather than a “rescue trooper.” Besides, are you really going to trust a terrorist organization like Cobra to abide by the rules of the Geneva Convention? The white trim helps break up the red and the “RESCUE” tampo on his leg is quite crisp and looks nice over the wrinkled fabric. Red is a rather difficult color to paint over, especially when you’re using white, but the white looks opaque but doesn’t look gloppy, so kudos to the paint team for doing such a good job with two colors that are a bit of a pain to work with.

Of course, you can’t have a good rescue trooper without some good rescue gear and here, Lifeline really steps it up over his predecessor, plus, he picks up a really sweet rifle in the process. Starting off with the things he’s wearing, he gets a very nicely recreated version of his original helmet. While I don’t quite understand wearing tinted goggles over sunglasses, the goggles are still there and I’ve always liked the squarish look of his helmet. I’m not sure if soldiers have ever worn anything like that, but I like its unique look. Filling his chest holster, he’s not actually carrying a gun, but rather a syringe. This is a great touch. The first thing he’d probably want to do when reaching a wounded soldier is give him a shot of morphine, so having easy access to that saves him precious seconds in the field. The initial pictures didn’t really give me a lot of clues about that not being a gun, so it was a neat little surprise to see. Lifeline does have a pistol for the holster on his left leg and while it’s a pretty generic pistol, it fits the holster well, which is always a plus. Finally, his boot knife fills the sheath on his right leg and again, it fits well and that’s paramount when you’re working with accessories that are supposed to go into holsters. Moving on to the rest of his gear, Lifeline picks up a great rifle. It looks like it’s a pretty heavy duty variant of the M-16 with an expanded clip, some additional sights and a suppressor on it. I’ve sung the praises of this gun already since Lady Jaye came with it, but it’s just such a great piece that I feel I have to mention how much I love it again. Though some collectors have problems with an armed Lifeline, I don’t. Lifeline’s original card art had him carrying a pistol, so it’s not completely out of character for him to have a weapon. Plus, when you add in the Compound Z aspect of some of the 30th Anniversary story-telling, I have even less of a problem with it. I can just about see the scene play out of Lifeline fighting with himself over whether or not he can morally kill a zombie, only to have the decision taken from him when the soldier he’s trying to save turns into a zombie and tries to kill him. While he may not have liked doing it, he still understood that he needs to survive to help people survive the Cobra-caused zombie outbreak and he can’t afford not to fight back with whatever firepower he can. More importantly, though, you can’t have a medic (or rescue trooper) without some rescue gear, and here Lifeline has that in spades. Lifeline’s case was always really cool back in the day since there weren’t a lot of Joes with cases like that which you could also actually open. However, it originally just had a solid block of plastic inside with some detailing carved in to look like a case of medical equipment. This time around, Lifeline gets a lot of removable medical supplies that can be stored in his case, plus the interior gets some paint so it helps the molded details pop out a little better. Starting off small, Lifeline has a pair of defibrillator paddles. These are extremely tiny and unfortunately don’t stay in their spots well inside the case, so be careful you don’t lose them when you open the case. I like the idea of Lifeline’s case having a built-in, portable defibrillator. While they’re not as successful at bringing people back to life as medical dramas would have you believe, it’s important to have them along as a last resort. To help injured patients rehydrate (or possibly to give them more painkillers), Lifeline has an IV bag that you can attach a hose to. The hose can clip around a figure’s wrist so it looks like they’re actually hooked up to an IV. This is a really cool detail and the IV bag can also attach to the backboard Lifeline comes with. Doc had an old-school stretcher, but Lifeline gets a more modern backboard and it looks really great. Again, it looks like it stepped off of the screen of any of the dozens of medical dramas on TV and I’m glad that Lifeline can not only fix up Joes in the field, but now has the equipment to get them out of harm’s way should it come to that. I only wish there was a really good way to hook it up to the Tomahawk’s winch. I don’t think the strap is rigid enough for it to be hooked up that way but you’d definitely want two points of contact on the handles if you’re going to airlift someone off the field. It’s not a deal breaker, but with some of the impressive, and possibly accidental, synergy we’ve seen with some vehicles and figures of late, I wish that there was a good way to hook the backboard up to the Tomahawk. Finally, his last piece of medical equipment is the only other piece the original figure had, an oxygen tank and a breathing mask. It works really well and I think it looks a bit more medical in clear plastic than the original one did in black.

Lifeline is another fan-favorite figure and I’m glad Hasbro updated him as well as they did. I realize there are some controversies about a pacifist carrying a weapon, but it took a long time for his pacifism to enter into Joe canon, at least in the filecards. I accept it because it’s an interesting angle, but the idea that a pacifist will never pick up a weapon borders on the ridiculous Sunbow take on Lifeline. I’ve always been more of the opinion that Lifeline will fight when there’s no other option so, like a good medic, he’s prepared for anything. He’s not a frontline assault trooper by any means, but if it’s the choice between him and his patient or a Cobra soldier, Lifeline still understands the need to fight back. They really knocked his design out of the park and it’s like they took the original Lifeline out from the past and increased the detail to bring him in line with the modern figures. I like when Hasbro modernizes classic figures, but Lifeline goes to show you that a nostalgic recreation of a classic figure can be just as good. I appreciate it when Hasbro reinvents the wheel (like they did with Slaughter’s Renegades or Gnawgahyde), but sometimes, a character’s original design just works so well, they don’t need to change anything about it. I think that’s the case with Lifeline. His first look was iconic so they stuck with that and did a great job bringing it in line with the modern Joes while still retaining that original look.


  • I always hated how Sunbow presented Lifeline. From a warriors perspective and a rational one, IMO, “A true pacifist is a person who can maim or kill in the blink of an eye, but at the point of impending destruction of his enemy he chooses not to.” If you don’t know how to do something then it isn’t an option… But if you do know how to but choose not to then it is a moral decision.

  • In Special Missions #4 Lifeline is shown to be a black belt in Aikido, because it is a strictly defensive martial art. I think this comic is what cemented, if not established his stance as a chosen non-combatant and pacifist. I actually became a fan of Lifeline specifically due to this issue and recommend anyone giving it a fresh read.

  • For any of you that do not believe that having a pacifist in a combat unit is unrealistic, 3 of them have been recipients of the Medal of Honor. I would also recommend reading a bit on what these guys did, feats which are just incredible.




  • Yeah, Dak, thanks for the info. I’ve not read Special Missions, but it’s nice to know where that all came from. I’d heard those statements before in relationship to Lifeline (especially Aikido), but when I was searching through the filecard archive at YoJoe I was shocked that the pacifism was never mentioned in the filecards until very recently. I’ve touched on the topic of pacifists/conscientious objectors in the military in grad school but due to the nature of the project, I never had the time to delve deeply into it. I don’t think that Lifeline being a pacifist in a combat unit is unrealistic (but I also think one can be a pacifist while still carrying a weapon in the field, though those are some very interesting real-world examples of committed pacifists serving heroically in the military), but I’ve always found it interesting how quickly the idea that Lifeline should never have a weapon caught on when the original figure, in fact, had a weapon.

  • Dak the Knomadd

    @KansasBrawler I fully agree that Sunbow had taken the idea into the realm of posterior haberdashery. I also agree that a pacifist could still carry a weapon, but there are a few examples of those that have not. The point is just that, Sunbow aside, the idea is not completely removed from reality. Of the examples I listed previously Cpl. Doss is the only one that it is explicitly stated that he refused to carry any weapon at all. To your point, however, I agree that Lifeline had a firearm on his person then, and still should today as a defensive measure if nothing else.

    One thing I enjoyed about the Special Missions issues was that they were, for the most part, self contained stories. Issue #4 was a fairly decent read and I recommend going it a go, along with all the rest of them.

    @Neapolitan Joe Siete i benvenuti (it that is incorrect blame Google translator) =’)

  • Sunbow did take his pacifism too far. But his refusal to carry a weapon in the cartoon is something to do with the Geneva convention. Also in Arise Serpentor part one, the helicopter Liftticket was fitting a rocket battery to was supposed to be a rescue chopper but was drawn as a tomahawk.

    The Family Lifeline had in the cartoon is also vastly different from the one mentioned in one of his biogrophies. In the cartoon his Father was a priest who hated the army and was ashamed of his son but in the comic, Lifeline came from an abusive family and became a medic to stop others from being harmed. [well thats what my issue of Battlefiles says anyway]

    Medics have always struck me as very brave individuals. Lifeline is by far the bravest Joe if he is willing to run onto the field [unarmed] to save a comrade

  • Dak the Knomadd

    @Skymate I think I can say with a high degree of certainty that this would not be an isolated example of Sunbow completely altering a character’s background. Regarding the comic history for Lifeline, that’s it in a nutshell, so to speak.

    I would completely agree with you about the field medic being the individuals with arguable the highest levels of bravery out there. The stress alone can be mortifying having to patch someone up and be concerned for their welfare as much, if not more than their own in a combat situation. The idea that Lifeline would refuse to even carry a weapon in such a situation says that is a guy that has a raging ton of fortitude.

    Within the echelon of Joes, Lifeline in far from a favorite of mine. That said, the albeit fictional character, particularly in the comics, is one that I have a deep and long standing respect for.

  • To your point, however, I agree that Lifeline had a firearm on his person then, and still should today as a defensive measure if nothing else.

    Didn’t the original figure have two guns, technically? The silver automatic and another, holstered pistol sculpted on his leg (later removed via part-swap for the mail-in version)?

  • @Jester
    I have both the inital Lifeline and the mail away [plus the Tiger force version] so i can tell you that he did come with a pistol plus another firearm molded to his leg. Kellogs removed the items as they didnt want their breakfast cerial assosiated with violance [Or something like that]

  • Dak the Knomadd

    @Jester & @Skymate Looking at the holstered item on the left leg of the original figure with its round back end it looks almost like it could be similar to a syringe-type device or even a flare gun and looks less like a firearm in my opinion. This makes me wonder if that was a weapon or not in the holster after all. I honestly don’t know since I haven’t owned the original in a very long time and am only going from YoJoe, 3DJoes, and my own admittedly shoddy memory.

    He did have that silver handgun in the card art and the package, though, so there is that.

  • Rice Krispies Lifeline’s gun holster was removed is that the reason for the controversy?

  • I was going to mention the Special Missions issue, too, because even if the filecard didn’t specify it, Larry Hama did use that aspect of the character. That’s one of my favorites. Just like the cartoon, Lifeline sticks to his principles and doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him.

    The most interesting thing about that issue for me is that Leatherneck considers Lifeline a coward throughout it, and when the issue finally ends… there’s no sign that he’s changed his mind. That always stuck with me, that they don’t come to respect each other or become friends like something you’d probably see in the cartoon. Hama makes Leatherneck a jerk and keeps him that way, even in later appearances.

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