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A Joe in the Sights: Stalker

Stalker is one of the venerated “original 13” Joes, and he stood out for two main reasons. One of which was that he wore a camouflage pattern that deviated from the bare-bones, more militaristic color scheme of the rest of the Joes that weren’t Snake Eyes. He also had a spiffy beret. Can any of the rest of the original 13 say they had a spiffy beret? No. No they can’t.

The next difference was the most obvious: he was the lone black man among a sea of G.I. Joe honkies. This was pretty noteworthy, as at the time there wasn’t that much representation in 3¾-inch action figures outside of Lando and that one Bespin Security Guard, both of whom were the only black people in Star Wars until Mace Windu came along.

I didn’t think much about it at the time until one day I took Stalker to school. It was a very rare occurrence for me to take a toy to school. I think we were doing those standardized testing things and I needed something to fiddle with when I finished. Good grief, those things were boring and agonizing. “Bring a #2 pencil to class and make sure to completely fill in all the circles so the computer will be able to read it correctly.” Shoot me.

Anyway, a friend who didn’t collect G.I. Joe saw the figure and almost flipped the crap out that there was a Joe that “looked like him”– his words. This should probably be the part of the story where I magnanimously gave my friend my Stalker figure, but I am absolutely not that guy, I kept my damn figure, get your own!

I am a tight-fisted man when it comes to my toys. Can you tell I was an only child?

Anyway, Stalker stood out among the other Joes of the time, and that made him about 5 percent cooler. Maybe even 10. He was released in a straight-arm version in 1982, and then released with the swivel-arm battle grip in 1983. Mine had the swivel-arm, so he was a later purchase. Joes weren’t sold widespread in my area in 1982, so most of what I managed to acquire ended up being of the swivel-arm variety except for Flash and Scarlett. Obviously, I’m glad, since the swivel-arm is vastly superior and a true toynological innovation for floortime wartime.

While Stalker’s cartoon time was limited, he managed a decent amount of comic time in those early days. Along with Hawk, he was integral in choosing who would be chosen to be in G.I. Joe, and he was directly responsible for Snake Eyes being brought in, having served with him during the Vietnam War, along with Tommy Arashikage (Storm Shadow).

As with most Joes, it was the file card that cemented my vision of who these people were. Stalker’s file card referred to him as a former urban warlord, and goes on to say he “Functions well under high stress situations. Intelligent. Perceptive. Moves like some sort of jungle cat-silent-fast … strong.”

That “silent, fast and strong” angle stuck with me and informed how I saw him. More often than not I had him teamed up with Snake Eyes when I was staging my little mini-wars — which I think predated the comic’s revelation of their history together. I guess little me was on the same wavelength as Larry Hama back then. Sure.

In a very apt version of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Stalker would keep that camo uniform for the majority of the ’80s, only getting an upgrade in 1989, in which he was switched from “Ranger” to “Tundra Ranger” and given a kayak. If you’re thinking that sounds odd, you’re not alone. I don’t think of “Stalker” and “kayak” in the same breath, but I guess that were trying new things.

This was right at the tail end of my Joe purchasing days, which ended in 1991. I can’t remember if I saw the new version of Stalker in a store or not, but I never got it, because there was just no way his original needed replacing. Stalker’s design came out perfect on the first try, and nothing else can compete.

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