Much like me during high school pep rallies, I never had Spirit.
For all the memories I have attached to toys I did get, it sometimes seems like the strongest memories are attached to those I didn’t. That’s human nature, I suppose. Spirit carries one of those memories with him.
Spirit was an ’84 Joe, standing proudly beside characters like Duke, Roadblock and Mutt. There were eleven carded figures in 1984, of which I only managed to acquire seven. Like everyone, with each new wave of Joes I’d prioritize them in my mind from “gottahave” to “getwhenthegottahaveisn’tthere.” Of the ’84 releases, Storm Shadow, Firefly and Roadblock were the immediate gottahaves, and everybody else rested a little below them.
For the longest time, I never saw a Spirit. But that was okay, because I was content to pick up the gottahaves from the list. But eventually I started to wonder why I never seemed to see Spirit anywhere. The absence of Spirit started to mess with my mind, and I started to want him even more than I would have if he were hanging on every peg from here to Albuquerque. I started actively looking for Spirit. It didn’t hurt that he was getting some decent facetime in the GI Joe comic around this time.
But he was elusive. Like…a spirit.
Fate and irony would collude against me the one day I saw him. One day, in all the times I was in a toy aisle throughout that year.
In a Revco, of all places.
This particular Revco seemed to be making an effort to keep a very strange supply of toys on hand. At one point it had a decent selection of Secret Wars figures, and another it had a couple pegs full of GI Joes. It seemed to rotate the toyline it would focus on every so often, and if you didn’t pick it up when you saw it, you couldn’t be guaranteed that you would see it again.
I saw Spirit at that Revco one day. A lone Spirit, the first time I had ever spotten him.
Now, since I was a somewhat spoiled child, why was I not able to wheedle and cajole my mom into buying Spirit for me? Well, that’s where fate and irony would step in. See, we stopped at Revco to pick up something that mom had forgotten to pick up at our last stop, a department store called Maxway. Maxway was never in the league of a store like Best or Hills, but it had a pretty decent supply of toys for a while. Well, I had just gotten a toy at Maxway.
So while mom picked up…cotton swabs or whatever it was she was buying, I took a look at the toy aisle, knowing I wouldn’t be able to get anything because I had a brand new somethingsomething from Maxway. I can’t remember what I had gotten, only that I had gotten something. Maybe a Transformer? I don’t know.
All I do know is that there he was: Spirit, sitting on the peg, staring at me.
It was the only time I would ever see him on a peg. Much, much later, I told mom about it and she said I should have told her, she would have bought it. But I knew money was tight back then and every dollar counted. I wasn’t about to ask for another toy after already getting one at the previous store.
So there he sat. By the time we went to that store again, a week or more, he was gone. Like I knew he would be.
I have no idea why he was so rare in my area, but that was the only shot I had at him.
As I said, Spirit featured prominently in the comics of the time, at least for a while. There weren’t quite so many Joes, so the newer ones had a decent chance to breathe. You could tell Larry Hama occasionally got overwhelmed trying to balance all the new Joes that would come out each year with all the previous members.
Spirit would pop up in the cartoon frequently around that time, most notably when they seemed to be trying to build a rivalry between Spirit and Storm Shadow, culminating in a brief bout of kung fu fighting. They never seemed to lean into the Snake Eyes/Storm Shadow thing like in the comics.
Spirit is, in some way, my favorite Joe that I never got. I wonder if I would feel like that if I had actually put him through his paces. Maybe it’s the lack of Spirit that has endeared him to me? Who knows. Regardless, I will always remember that Revco peg. It will haunt me.
Like a spirit.