Big Ben (FSS 3.0)
After Psyche-Out and Repeater arrived in the first FSS 3.0 shipment, the GIJCC took a while to release more characters I really wanted. I liked a lot of the other figures in that subscription series (otherwise I wouldn’t have bought in), but I was really looking forward to Big Ben and Crimson Guard Immortal, so of course, those two figures didn’t come until the last shipment. Big Ben was another figure I was familiar with thanks to KansasBrother and while I could have snagged him multiple times during the Joe Vs. Cobra era, it’s hard to beat his original look. The GIJCC really did a great job at recreating Big Ben. With as tired as the fandom was of Big Ben after the Joe Vs. Cobra era, I was a little surprised the GIJCC didn’t take some flak for including him, but it’s hard to argue with Big Ben making a modern appearance when the figure is this good.
Big Ben’s construction is a bit surprising. It’s not bad in the least, but I am surprised at how many figures the GIJCC needed to take parts from to create one of the first international members of the Joe team. The legs are a combination of Pursuit of Cobra Dusty and Pursuit of Cobra Shock Trooper. It’s a good combination, though I do kind of wish they’d just come from the same source because Dusty’s upper legs have a texture that’s not carried down onto the Shock Trooper’s lower legs. I realize I may be a little overly anal retentive on that front, but it does kind of bug me when a figure’s textures don’t match up. The torso comes from 25th Anniversary Dusty and it’s kind of surprising how well Dusty’s BDU shirt works for a slightly thicker coat. The arms appear to come from the Retaliation G.I. Joe Trooper and that’s a great call. They’re still pretty basic so they mesh well with Dusty’s torso, but they’re also a bit thicker than a regular shirt so they wind up looking more like coat sleeves than shirt sleeves. To help finish out Big Ben’s vintage look, the GIJCC also put 25th Anniversary Rock ‘N’ Roll’s machine gun bullet bandoliers over his chest, and unfortunately, that’s a bit of a misstep. Those bandoliers didn’t really fit well on Rock ‘N’ Roll and the fit on the slightly bulkier Dusty torso really leaves them looking kind of awkward. Honestly, this is something Hasbro should have fixed back when Rock ‘N’ Roll was first released, but I still have to fault the GIJCC for using such subpar pieces in the first place. While it was a bit awkward, using the 25th Anniversary Roadblock machine gun belt and banding it together worked well enough for Spearhead, and I think it would have been okay on Big Ben, too. Up top, Big Ben gets an incredible new head sculpt and I think this is the best piece the folks at Boss Fight have ever done for the GIJCC. There’s a lot of character in Big Ben’s face and he looks like he stepped off his old card art. He does look just a tad too young in my mind, but he doesn’t look nearly as young as 25th Anniversary General Hawk did, so I’m okay with it. I’d say Big Ben looks to be on the younger side of 35, and I’ve always thought he was someone who was in his mid to late 30s for some reason. I just always got a bit of an old warhorse vibe from him. FSS Big Ben doesn’t have a “fresh out of basic training” look, but I wouldn’t have minded a little more age in his face. The vintage Big Ben figure had a cool communications headset and Boss Fight brilliantly referenced this by giving him a Bluetooth. It’s not something that’s strictly military, which is fine for the Joes, and it’s a less-dated concept than Big Ben’s old, kind of bulky headset. Big Ben also keeps his classic cold weather hat and it looks great in its modern form. It’s very well detailed and it’s nicely proportional with his head. It’s amazing how well the GIJCC chose parts. While I wouldn’t quite classify the original Big Ben as an arctic figure, his look did tend to skew just a bit towards at least cold weather operations. None of the parts from this figure came from arctic figures, but it still looks insulated enough that Big Ben’s not going to be freezing off his bollocks in the field. That’s a great bit of design work by the GIJCC and I appreciate how well they pulled it off.
Big Ben’s vintage color scheme really wasn’t that complicated. He used two shades of green, had a little white on his hat and had some camouflage paint on his face. The GIJCC did the exact same thing here, but it works. I know there were some people disappointed that the GIJCC didn’t tap the later pure arctic look, but I’m not one of them. The vintage look lends itself to more than just arctic operations. Remember, Great Britain can be a pretty cold and gloomy country, even when it’s not winter. I can see Big Ben needing a decent coat and hat pretty much all year round. Why be limited to a winter-only look when the vintage look fits the character so well? Big Ben’s pants are a lighter olive drab green while his jacket and kneepads are a dark green. Unfortunately, the light olive drab is also used on the ammunition bandoliers. I always thought the bandoliers were just worn over the coat so the fabric should really blend in with the coat. The GIJCC had the same problem when they used these on one of the 2009 souvenir figures. I don’t know why these always have be molded out of lighter green plastic when it doesn’t fit with the rest of the figure. The bullets themselves are painted quite well, I just wish the belts didn’t stick out so much. The paint work on his belt is solid and the black for the belt, gloves and boots looks sharp against the green. The paint work on Big Ben’s head is great and the camouflage on his face is well applied. The silver Bluetooth actually works better than the black headset the original figure had because it doesn’t get mistaken for camouflage. The paint on his hat is crisply applied and there’s not fuzz on the line between the white and black. What really makes Big Ben’s paint work great, though, is the pair of new tampos he picked up. His right arm has the British flag so it’s clear at a glance what country Big Ben hails from. On his left arm, he picks up the SAF logo. Back in the day, Big Ben was a member of the SAS, but now, he’s now officially part of the Special Action Force. This is even referenced on his filecard, where the quote about Big Ben comes from the SAF’s leader, Eagle. I really love that the GIJCC decided to bring in the SAF because it’s a nice tie to the Joes from across the pond. My only wish is that they’d gone all in on it. The other international Joes the GIJCC released have all had a gray/silver figure stand. Yes, Big Ben wasn’t an international variant, but it would have been cool if all the SAF and other international Joes had the same colored figure stand.
I think part of what I liked about KansasBrother’s Big Ben figure was his great gear. While the GIJCC couldn’t recreate all his weapons, the choices they made are close enough that you can definitely tell they were inspired by his vintage gear and that’s good enough for me. Big Ben’s primary weapon is the same large machine gun we got with 25th Anniversary Tunnel Rat. It’s not exactly the same, but I remember Big Ben having a pretty large machine gun with a scope so this is a perfect stand in. Big Ben can hold it well and it looks at home in his hands. Big Ben also gets his satchel from Tunnel Rat. The original Big Ben came with a somewhat clunky, functional satchel that could carry his grenades. This modern satchel may not carry his grenades anymore, but it’s still a nice touch. Big Ben gets a pair of grenades and while they’re nice pieces, he really can’t hold them that well, much like back in the day. Thankfully, though, Big Ben gets Pursuit of Cobra Low Light’s large functional backpack, so they won’t be sitting loose on my shelf, waiting to fall and never be found again. Inside the backpack, there’s also room to put Big Ben’s machete. I forgot about this piece when I was taking pictures of it and didn’t get a shot of it. It’s the same model that came with Pursuit of Cobra Jungle Assault Duke, so it’s not like we haven’t seen it quite a few times before. I’m not quite sure why Big Ben has a machete, but it’s a decent piece so I’m okay with it showing up here. Big Ben’s final accessory is a bit of an odd duck. He comes with the same high tech grenade launcher that the Retaliation G.I. Joe Trooper came with. I don’t mind the idea of Big Ben coming with a grenade launcher, but it just doesn’t fit with the rest of his real world-based weaponry. It’s kind of like if the 25th Anniversary Snow Job rifle showed up here. Yes, it’s a good piece, but it doesn’t fit with the rest of the realistic-looking weapons and so it winds up looking out of place. All in all, Big Ben has a lot of great gear, much like back in the day, and with the Low Light backpack he can even carry it all, which just adds to my enjoyment of the figure’s gear.
Having to wait for Big Ben for so long really raised my expectations of him. Thankfully, he’s such a great figure that he managed to meet and exceed my rather high hopes for him. The parts the GIJCC chose for him come together quite well and the head Boss Fight Studios designed for him is a little work of art. They thankfully kept the classic color scheme instead of choosing one of the many others that they could have chosen. The accessories nicely round out the set and he can carry everything on him at once, which is always nice. The choice of the Rock ‘N’ Roll bandoliers was a bit of a misstep, but it really is the only option. I know everyone likes that the GIJCC new periscope for Sneak Peek, and I do too, but I kind of wish the GIJCC had thought to have designed better bandoliers for Big Ben. Considering how much reuse potential they have, I don’t think it would’ve broken FSS 3.0’s budget to tool those up as well. Big Ben is a great modern representation of an awesome early 90s Joe and I’m glad to finally have him in my collection.