The brilliance of the G.I. Joe line—and it is without question a nonstop potpourri of genius from nearly every angle—can sometimes be found in the sheer simplicity of some of the concepts.
For instance, Mutt and Junkyard are, at their core, simple. Take one man, give him one dog, and you’ve got a team. It’s not a concept unique to G.I. Joe. You’ll find similar dynamics all over the place. Shaggy and Scooby. Bowser and Blitz. Turner and Hooch. Han and Chewie. Man and dog go together like upright humanoids and smelly quadropeds.
Mutt and Junkyard don’t deviate from this formula in any drastic measure. Instead, there are the smaller, clever little details to differentiate this example from other, similar types. First of all is the juxtapositioning of their names. Instead of the man being called Junkyard, the dog is Junkyard. The man is Mutt. It’s so simple—so simple that it probably doesn’t deserve all this deep analysis I’m giving it—but it’s perfect for the Joe line, and says everything you need to know about Mutt’s personality. He’s not placing himself above his dog. He’s not putting the animal in a subservient position. They’re equals.
Another part of this concept that works so well is the fact that it’s the man and not the dog that’s wearing the muzzle. When you think of muzzles, you think of something put on an animal so he won’t bite your throat out, chew on it and then poop it onto the carpet. But the fact that the man is wearing the muzzle immediately gives you the idea bout him. Who’s really the member of this team that needs the leash?
Giving the muzzle to the man gives Mutt an overall Mad Max dystopian vibe that made Mutt and Junkyard more than just a simple Dog Handler.
Mutt wasn’t a flashy Joe. He was an ’83 addition, right when they were starting to add a lot more colors than olive green, but there was still restraint in the color selection. But again, it’s the overall presence and the details that sent him over the edge and made him a must-have. First of all, it’s that face. Mutt is a pissed off dude. The Joes could range from neutral to intense in expression, but Mutt looked rabid. This guy is pissed off. There’s no wondering why he would need a muzzle. Mutt is simmering rage and a mustache, which is also what Tom Selleck’s Tinder profile says.
Mutt had a decent amount of appearances in the comic, and he was usually as angry as his toy made him look. That muzzle, man. That muzzle just made him look insane. Sure, junkyard is probably a trained attack dog that will go for your nuts, but Mutt’s the guy you wouldn’t want to run into in a dark alley. Needless to say, I left his muzzle on at all times.
Mutt showed up in the earliest Joe cartoons before he was supplanted by some of the later Joes, but I can’t remember him wearing his muzzle. I guess cartoon Mutt was a kindler, friendlier Mutt and the powers that be didn’t want kids to think he was rabid. Still had the mustache, though.
It was as a toy that Mutt was a star. He was a solid dependable Joe that found a place in whatever squad I was building at the time. Being able to sic a dog on the Cobras was a bonus, even though Junkyard was an immobile chunk of plastic in the shape of a dog. It didn’t matter much; Mutt sent him after Cobra throats quite often, and he’d always bring it back and lay it at his feet. He worked hard for his kibbles.
Mutt’s overall air of aggression worked very well for my specific brand of toy-play, which was kill everything and then kill them twice because I couldn’t army-build, so the bad guys often had to get back up just to die again. That sounds like the worst Bond movie title ever, but there it is. Bonus point that Mutt came with a nightstick, so when Junkyard was savagely chewing some poor Cobra trooper’s throat out, Mutt could pound one of the other helpless trooper’s head into a warm goo, finally allowing himself to vent the savage, unending rage he felt at all times but kept locked away behind a muzzle so his fellow teammates would let him sleep in the same barracks as them.
It got dark, kids.