Tracker (Code Name: Spirit)
In the days of the Sunbow cartoon, I couldn’t quite fathom why Spirit was set up as an antagonist for Storm Shadow, when Snake Eyes was also about. Maybe it was merely the philosophical bent that both characters were given in the animated series, that the writers determined the two were a good match. Then again, maybe it was due to the fact that a Snake Eyes/Storm Shadow matchup would necessitate swordplay, something from which the series shied away. Regardless, I was impressed as a kid with Spirit and Stormy’s first meeting, particularly Freedom’s role in their battle. The eagle’s catching of a shurike mid-flight was the subject of amazed discussion on the bus ride to school the next day.
Spirit’s accessories for me show why GI Joe quickly overtook Star Wars toys as my go to playthings in the early 80s. His matching rifle and backpack, complete with an arsenal of extra darts, and his removable loincloth ratcheted up the detail and play value in the line. Add in an eagle companion that snaps onto the figure’s wrist and you had a toy that could excite most any nine year old.
I try to remember, as much as I can, when I purchased or received my childhood toys. I recall having a hard time finding Spirit initially, and I even remember my dad calling around to the toy stores for me, trying to locate him. We finally found him one day while at Children’s Palace, and I was so jazzed to get him, I think I opened the package as soon as we got back to the car. I never lost old Charlie’s accessories, but poor Freedom’s claws eventually broke, and his gold bracelets rubbed off over time. Not a big deal to me, considering he got loads of play over the years.
I don’t know if it was intentional, or just my brain seeing a connection, but I get both an Adventure Team and a Big Jim vibe when I look at Spirit nowadays, and I can imagine him in either of those 70s series. He’s one of the 1984 Joes that just exploded the concept into amazing new directions. His look isn’t really military in the least, but I think that was a strength of 80s GI Joe. Its designers and marketers weren’t content to leave Joe too solidly anchored to his past as a pure soldier.