Keel Haul (1985)

I wasn’t fortunate enough to have a USS Flagg as a kid, so I have no nostalgic memories for Keel Haul, unless you count looking at the Flagg in the 1985 catalog for hours upon hours.

Keel Haul encompasses what I think is one of the great strengths of the Real American Hero era: the driver. It’s ironic to consider that while the vehicles were initially meant to be the focus of the line, the single carded figures became a more popular element. The driver concept was still given appropriate focus as the line continued, and the GI Joe line perfected the idea that the figure included with a vehicle should mesh with it perfectly.

Keel Haul’s sculpt is packed with great details, and the figure as a whole has great personality. This is definitely not a man who’s meant to be the stereotypical stuffy high ranking officer type. Keel Haul looks like he’d be just as at home skippering a tramp steamer. From the rank and insignia on the jacket, to the unique hat, he’s a figure that stands the test of time. This mold saw a repaint in almost ten years later as part of the Battle Corps series, and fit in with the later molds quite well.

The fact that the USS Flagg, one of the most impressive toys of all time, came with a figure at all is a testament to the attention and care that was given GI Joe in those golden days. The Hasbro team could have left out a figure, or simply included a deck hand made from a Shipwreck figure. But they went one step beyond and created one of the most memorable drivers to match an incredible vehicle.


  • I only managed to get the original and mail-in versions of Keel-Haul last year. It was a long wait, but well worth the effort. It might take longer with guys like Hardtop, whom I used to have for a brief time (sans mic) thanks to another collector friend, but was later sold due to financial necessity.

    Keel-Haul shines thanks to a terrific head sculpt and detailed body mold.I also like the Battle Corps version and managed to obtain it carded last year as well. You could say that it was a banner year for Keel-Haul in regards to my collection.

  • Dreadnok: Spirit

    Both this figure and the Battle Corps version are favorites of mine, and it’s cool to see the Joe’s highest ranking officer (at least at the time the figure was released) dresses in a more relaxed, ready-for-shore-leave manner.

  • @Clutch–What’s the difference between the original and mail-away versions? I only ever saw the mail-away in my brother’s collection and didn’t know there were difference.

    Keel Haul was a great figure at the time. I always thought he was pretty cool and my brother liked him so much he actually bought the Battle Corps version to replace the original (whose o-ring died at some point in the intervening years…a flood in our basement and the resulting use of disinfectant on our Joe collection since it was sewage backup was a bit hard on both our Joe collections). It was really unusual for either of us to buy new versions of the same character, but Keel Haul looked so good that he wanted to have him back in the field again.

  • A well-traveled figure/mold. Once sailing the seas in the mightiest aircraft carrier in the fleet, the biggest piece of plastic to sale the aisles of toy stores/depts, Admiral Keel-Haul was relegated to manning prize booths in Chuck E. Cheeses far from the salty breezes of Great Neptune’s Seas for incidents unknown, but suspected to involve something akin to running the Flagg aground, perhaps leaking the ship’s oil on flocks of penguins after a raucous night of revelry. The smell of processed artificial cheese eventually drove him mad. The drunken brawls were the only thing that reminded him of his time at sea or various rough & tumble shore leaves. He eventually had enough and worked his way back into the Joes’ ranks, this time not back in black but back in blue. He lucked out getting a blue jacket (which would make him always welcome in Columbus) in the great potluck of clothing Joes & Cobras had to pick from by then (Leatherneck got the giraffe pants, Night Creeper Leader leftover pants from Tiger Force, Outback a Village People outfit, Bazooka fishing attire). While landbound still, he keeps the fellow Joes in line by telling them tales of terror from his Chuck E. Cheese days, a form of torture Cobra had thankfully not yet realized existed (save for the Springfield Car Wash), a warning to remain ever-vigilant against their greatest enemy- the enemy within. Even if the sea be (seabee?) heaven to him, a terrestrial purgatory was a more than acceptable alternative to the hell known as Chuck E. Cheese and he was able to find redemption by cardback in the same aisles he once sailed down.

    Keel-Haul was a great figure. Hasbro put so much detail into drivers so few kids even among those who were into Joes would have (like Steam Roller, AVAC, Payload & Hardtop… except for Armadillo and his lime peel helmet). I was more into the Defiant than the USS Flagg (loved all things space in the ’80s) but I thought Keel-Haul looked cool and wished to have him (though for 1985, he was down my want list below Alpine & Snow Serpent, who managed to be almost as scarce as Snake Eyes & Storm Shadow). It was good they made the mold more available later on in the classic line still (though to most kids in 1993, I’m sure they were unaware of his prior histoy).

  • This is one figure I hope to get at some point, and I do like the Battle Corps version, which I did acquire last year. I think it’s funny that Keel-Haul’s was the oldest mold used in the 90’s era of the original line. (For mainline releases, that is; I know that the 1992 Ninja-Viper takes the cake, but he’s a mail-away.)

  • I wonder why he was never used in the cartoon?

    I remeber hearing tales of “the gigantic gi joe boat” when i was a kid but i never beleived them as they came from the same kid who claimed to have a Unicron,Rock lords playset and twelve foot tall death star toy.

    The only Keel Haul i ever had was the battle corps one and that is a sad story.
    I had a pretty rough day at high school, i got in trouble for things i didnt and on the way home had a bottle rocket thrown at me. When i arrived home i discovered that my Little brother and Sister had hocked all my Joes, half my G1 Transformers and my Voltron [the plastic one] so they could buy a single deck of Pokemon cards.

    Since then i have managed to replace most of my lost Joes but Keel Haul still eludes me

  • Keel-Haule is one of my fave Joes! The highest in rank too and my avatar on the sites!

  • A great figure – shame he didn’t get more love in the comics.

  • KansasBrawler: Some of the ’89 mail-in versions which came bagged with a red file card are missing the patch on his right arm along with his handgun. In addition, the stars on his shirt collar are unpainted. Such is the case with the one I got, except for the stars which are painted on mine.

    By contrast, the original ’85 version included with the Flagg has the patch, gun, and painted stars.

  • @Little Boa: That’s a great story you told there, almost poetic even! Nice way to tie the Chuck E. Cheese offer to the Battle Corps era. You really should title it “Redemption By Cardback.”

    Incidentally, Alpine and Snow Serpent were mighty rare finds for me as well, just like ’85 Snake-Eyes and the previous year’s Storm Shadow. Most of the ’85 figures turned out to be quite popular at retail.

    @Skymate: Sorry to hear about that horrible day, mate. What your siblings did really took the cake and then some…

    Battle Corps Keel-Haul is still easy to find on eBay at a reasonable price, so keep looking out for him!

  • @Clutch. Since then i’ve managed to replace 98% of what was lost. I probably would have been more leniant on my Brother and Sister had they bought something of value with the money instead of a peices of cardboard from an obnoxious fad. I attempted to sell that garbage a few years ago only to discover there was no market for it.

    When i replaced the plastic Voltron [the one the pilots could actually sit in] i rubbed it in my Brothers face as he had the one from ’97 which was always falling apart

  • @Skaymate: This isn’t from a source, but I feel like Keel Haul was left out of the cartoon for much the same reason Hawk was before Season 2. They wanted Duke to be in charge. Characters like Doc and Ace and Wild Bill, who technically outrank Duke, have functions on the team which have nothing to do with command, so their rank can be ignored. Characters like Generals Flagg and Austen, and Admiral Ledger are above the team, not part of it. But Keel Haul would be an actual member of G.I. Joe whose only function is command, and thus would make Duke not-the-leader. So he was left out.

    That’s my theory, anyway.

  • @Captainswift
    Thanks for the input. Recently i thought that maybe Admiral Ledger could have been a protoype [or something like that] for Keel haul.

    I also unserstand that in combat situations the most experianced takes command. Thats why Duke was always the leader. It probably would have made no sense in a millitary cartoon for a Doctor to give orders to combat troops

  • I love the scene during the first chapter of “Arise, Serpentor, Arise!” where Flint reminds Beach Head of the official Joe team pecking order: “First comes Hawk, then Duke, then me, and finally, you.”

    In my eyes, though, Flint was always the main man. Bill Ratner forever!

  • @Clutch hell yeah

  • @ Clutch
    Agreed. Of the 1984 figures seeing their second run, most were hard to find. The only one that seemed to accumulate was Blowtorch. All the other ones disappeared by late 1985. Storm Shadow… I never saw him at stores despite the fact he should’ve been shipping through Dec 1986/Jan 1987 or so. As for the 1985s, I remember the rarest being Snake Eyes (unseen), then Snow Serpent & Alpine (only 2 or so sightings each), followed by Eel. The most common figure was Bazooka, followed by Tele-Viper, then I think Crimson Guard and Airtight being a bit more common than the average. I kind of think Quick Kick was towards the scarce side. I can’t recall how common Lady Jaye was. I loved her cartoon character but the card art scared me off (that seemed to happen to Sneak Peek. The figure looks a lot better than the card art).

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