Gen. Patch (1982)
As a kid, I had ample opportunities to peruse the toy aisle of our local K-Mart. Mom and Dad were quite the landscapers, so a trip to the lawn and garden section was a regular occurence. Naturally, I would wander over to the toy aisle to check out what was available. Alongside the 80’s heavy hitters like GI Joe, Star Wars, Transformers and He-Man were an equal number of me-too lines. Sometimes I would go home with a new Joe or He-Man figure (I picked up my Zartan at this very K-Mart during a garden department excursion) and other times I would pick up a Remco American Defense or even a Lost World of the Warlord figure (both pretty cool toy lines, by the way).
Gen. Patch, although a blatant attempt by another company to catch some of GI Joe’s lightning in their own bottle, at least has elements of an attempt at a concept or story hook. An amalgamation of Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos and Sgt. Rock, the line treads some weird pastiche of eras that seem to encompass both the (then) modern world and World War II. The packaging is quite nice considering its budget origins, and the comic-styled images have a Jack Kirby feel.
Produced by Galoob near the beginning of the Real American Hero line, the figure mold should look familiar to anyone who owned the 3 & 3/4 inch A-Team figures. Hannibal, BA, Face and Murdock all used body molds from the Gen. Patch series. Make no mistake, the figure is downright fugly, from head to toe. The head, which can best be described as a chewed wad of gum with an eyepatch, isn’t up to snuff with even the most poorly sculpted Joes.
There are a couple of interesting bits about the figure. The uniform and boots have a similar sort of futuristic styling seen in the first year of small Joes. I guess at the time everyone thought future military footwear would involve elaborate geometric cuffs and laces.
The molds used for this line were not only reused for the A-Team, but also for another toyline, National Defense. That series continued the butt-ugly tradition established by Gen. Patch, introducing some of the most stomach-churningly unattractive mugs in toy history.
While Hasbro was using its packaging to note figure improvements like “swivel arm battle grip” and “snap-on, stay-on” accessories, the Gen. Patch cards touted “Weapons With the Smell of Battle.” My figure’s weapon must have long since lost its smell, which leads me to wonder, what exactly was the smell of battle? Was it a sulphurous smell of gunpowder? Maybe of smoke or oil? Perhaps it was just a generalized stench, meant to convey the fear and confusion of the battlefield. Okay, that last one’s a little too deep for a toy, but I remain curious about this odd choice of gimmick. What do you think the smell of battle could be?