Wild Weasel (1984)
If the Joes got their top pilot in 1983 with Ace, Cobra followed suit the next year with Wild Weasel. The two even had a very memorable dogfight in the pages of the Marvel comic. However, that’s not my first memory of him. I first recall seeing him in Marvel issue 25 during the swamp battle with Zartan. Seeing a pilot in an unlikely situation like a swamp was very odd, and makes me wonder if it was a Hasbro mandated appearance. Why not someone more fitting, like Copperhead instead? Regardless, Wild Weasel looks a bit different than the figure in this first appearance, with a partially open faced helmet and a mostly blue flight suit.
I picked up the figure along with the Rattler as part of my Christmas 1984 haul. It was a huge year for Joe gifts, and the first holiday in many years that wasn’t 100% Star Wars gifts. The Rattler was an amazing vehicle, and Wild Weasel was a perfect pilot. He was menacing, with his entirely crimson flight suit and distinctive helmet. I still find this figure to be one of the best pilot molds of the era, even considering that it came early in the line.
Small details like the maps on the front of the thighs are the sort of thing that separates the 80’s Joe line from its contemporaries. Amazing touches like this serve to enhance the toys by adding something extra that your mind can grab onto while playing. Those little quarter inch squares didn’t need to be painted, but by doing so, the designers helped bring us as kids even farther into the story and the connection between figure and vehicle. Like I’ve said before, the drivers weren’t usually just any old figure thrown in to the package; a lot of thought and care was given to their look and purpose. Drivers were the coolest extra you could ask for in a toy. Think about this: when you bought an X-Wing or TIE Fighter, there was no pilot in the box. Remember most toy commercials? “Figure Sold Separately”. Not so with Joe.