Dial-Tone (GI Joe Collectors’ Club)
The Collectors’ Club’s first foray into modern-style construction came in the form of Dial-Tone, arguably one of the most popular characters that somehow managed to avoid getting updated during the 25th Anniversary line. (Sorry, I don’t count the Crimson Strike Team set since there really wasn’t much done in terms of having to create characters whole cloth—they either used the same parts Hasbro did or swapped out some legs.) I was one of those people that really wanted Dial-Tone. When I think of playing with my brother when we’d break out our Joes, I remember Dial-Tone. I don’t know for sure if he was my brother’s absolute favorite figure, but I know that just about any time we played, Dial-Tone was one of the stars of his half of the squad. However, the new Dial-Tone wound up really showcasing the GIJCC’s limitations but also the limitations of the construction style at that time. Now, don’t get me wrong, Hasbro and the Club have improved greatly and the line is pretty well executed right now (well, except maybe Iceberg), but Dial-Tone has some problems…and if I’m complaining about them, they’re pretty egregious since I’m often very forgiving of the limitations caused by a relatively limited parts library. Parenthetically, being made in 2011, the parts library had really expanded a lot by then, so I think there’s also less of an excuse for choosing bad parts.
Dial-Tone had a pretty distinctive look back in the day. He wore a khaki shirt with a green vest and bandolier over it and dark pants with black boots and kneepads. However, the choices the GIJCC made to replicate this look are really pretty bad. For starters, he uses Buzzer’s torso. While it does have the open collar like Dial-Tone’s shirt did back in the day, the rest of the look doesn’t really do a good job at looking like his original look. The Buzzer torso also has an odd, floating shoulderpad over his left shoulder. I didn’t really like how Buzzer had a floating shoulder pad to begin with, but at least it made sense for a guy who runs into battle with a chainsaw to have a bit of protection like that. For Dial-Tone, it’s completely nonsensical and unnecessary. Additionally, I understand that the use of the Buzzer mold meant you had access to his belt, which is a decent imitation of Dial-Tone’s bandolier, but it’s on the wrong side of his body. While it would have been a bit bulky, the Airborne vest would have made a much more convincing sweater and bandolier combo than Buzzer’s torso. I imagine they didn’t use this because the rest of the figure uses Airborne parts. However, I would happily trade the Airborne arms for something else so we could get that vest on him. I hate the Airborne arms. I’m sure they were selected because the band around the wrist that could be painted silver to look like Dial-Tone’s high-tech wrist guards, but, in my opinion, those arms are badly flawed. The left wrist is permanently cocked downward so anything held in that hand looks really awkward. I had to put Dial-Tone’s rifle in his right hand just so it wouldn’t look awkward and I don’t like being limited by which hand I can put an accessory in due to awkwardness in parts choice. I’m not sure what arms I would use in place of them, though the Low Light arms do have the requisite pouches and tech-y detail that Dial-Tone’s need. Plus, I like it even less because Dial-Tone’s holster is on his right side as well. Though I don’t always have Dial-Tone’s pistol in his hand, I’d like to be able to have him carry on the side with his holster just for a realism standpoint. The fastest way to draw a sidearm is to grab it with the hand on the holster side and Dial-Tone can’t do that if he’s got his rifle in his hand. His legs are also not really my favorite set. His legs first saw use with Airborne as well. I do love the kneepads, but the lower legs (which were also shared with Gung-Ho) just seem really undetailed. Gung-Ho’s boots are missing their laces. Every other Joe in the first 25th Anniversary line had detailed laces on their boots except Gung-Ho. That lack of detail is pretty surprising considering how much attention to those little details the line has given since its relaunch. Heck, even the 1983 Gung-Ho had detailing on his boots. Finally, we come back to Dial-Tone’s head…his only new body part. I liked it at first, however, I’ve started to grow less and less impressed with since 2011. It’s just lacking some character. Dial-Tone’s original figure had that great cocked eyebrow that added a ton of character to the sculpt. Here, Dial-Tone just looks kind of passive. He’s got a little bit of a thousand-yard stare going in my mind. I’m glad they created a new piece instead of just throwing a mustache on a Flint head or (God forbid) a Falcon head and calling it good, but they really didn’t bring their a-game here and I think it really hurts the figure. Honestly, I think I’d be able to overlook some of their other missteps had they really knocked it out of the park with his head sculpt like they did the next year with Footloose. However, they didn’t and Dial-Tone (who I have lots of fond memories of from growing up) just feels pretty weak and bland.
While I have a lot of problems with Dial-Tone’s overall mold construction, I can’t complain nearly as much about his paint job. The light tan chosen for Dial-Tone’s khaki shirt looks very nice and the green vest sets off against it very well. The silver detailing around his belts and on his shirt are cleanly applied, though I am slightly surprised the buttons aren’t painted. However, if it’s supposed to be a flak vest or something like that, it would make sense for there not to be buttons on it, but that does go back to my initial criticism that the Buzzer parts just don’t work well for Dial-Tone’s look. The black and green go well on his legs, though the tan paint on his holster is a little sloppy. The red tampo on his left arm is very cleanly applied and I really like that detail. While I can’t find a specific inspiration, it looks to be a variation on the cavalry symbol. I kind of like Dial-Tone having a cavalry symbol on his sleeve (even though his specialties are Radio Telecommunications and Infantry) since, as the radio man, it’s his job to call in the cavalry. My only real complaint comes from his skin tone…now, before you go write a bunch of angry comments, just read the next couple of sentences. Dial-Tone still looks like a Caucasian but the Club did try and emulate the more olive-skinned look that some people with Italian heritage have and I think that was a great call. My issue with is the fact that his mustache blends into his face because of it. For the longest time, I thought Dial-Tone’s mustache was just too small and that was what was throwing off the look of the head sculpt for me. However, when I looked at YoJoe before criticizing him for having a mustache that was too small, I was surprised to learn he had a pretty small mustache back in the day. Where the difference came was that it stood out a lot more against his very light complexion. To be truthful, a couple times when I’ve walked by Dial-Tone on the shelf, my first thought was “Where did that weird Flint come from?” because under certain light and just at a quick glance, the mustache does not show up. I wish they would have made the mustache a little bit larger or darker to help offset the fact that it doesn’t stand out from his face as much when coupled with a darker, yet still clearly Caucasian skin tone. In fact, if you look at the Con Set version of Dial-Tone, who had a lighter skin tone, the mustache looks far better and consequently his head looks a lot more like Dial-Tone than this version does. The mustache has always helped define Dial-Tone for me, and I really have trouble picking it out on this version and that’s a big problem for me.
The one area where everything on Dial-Tone turned out perfectly was his accessories. While we’d already seen the Dial-Tone rifle with Mainframe, his unique communications backpack hadn’t been made yet. The Club did an amazing job of updating all the tech-y details on the back and the pivoting, hands-free mic arm. The backpack was probably Dial-Tone’s most important accessory and it looks really excellent here. To fill his holster, Dial-Tone also gets a generic pistol. I also really like the dark gunmetal gray color they used for his gear. I realize that there were some circles of Joe fans that wished it was the same light gray from back in the day, but I really don’t mind. Gunmetal gray looks great on anything in my opinion, and I really like it here too.
Dial-Tone epitomizes the “so close and yet so far” nature of the 25th Anniversary updates. As Hasbro got better with parts allocation, they started producing far better figures, but the first few waves of the 25th Anniversary line were pretty rough looking back on them. It honestly surprised me that Dial-Tone was a 2011 figure because he felt more like a 2009 one because of the cobbled-together nature of his design. The GIJCC tried, but ultimately fell short of a successful figure because the choices on his body were so universally weak. Better arms would have given him the ability to hold his weapons and look normal while doing it, the use Airborne’s vest would have come a lot closer to the mark of his original look than the Buzzer torso and really any pair of lower legs would have looked better than the smooth Gung-Ho legs. From a distance, he looks like Dial-Tone (if you can notice his mustache), but the closer you get, the worse he fares. That’s sad since he was such a fan-demanded character. The Club has a track record of doing good things with popular characters that just didn’t quite make the cut for the main line, but Dial-Tone was a pretty good first indication that the Club is letting their membership figures slide a little in favor of other more lucrative projects. The GIJCC has turned it around on their membership figures the last couple of years, but during the run up to the first two Figure Subscription Services, I personally felt that they were just phoning in the membership figure because it wasn’t as big a moneymaker as the FSS was turning out to be. What’s even more maddening is that the Dial-Tone from the Con Set used the same head and arms, but different body and legs and really did a better job of looking like Dial-Tone than the first version did. I think if the Club would have just used the “Mission Brazil II” version (which didn’t need to look different from Dial-Tone to begin with since the original was also just a repaint), I would find Dial-Tone to be a lot more successful of a figure.