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A Joe in the Sights: Scarlett

Scarlett has been there from the beginning, both as an “original 13” member of the Joes and in my collection. I’d have to look at my file cards, which I’ve kept stacked in the exact order in which I got the figures, but I’m pretty sure she was one of the first five figures I got. However, that fact is followed up with some bittersweet memories.

I started collecting Joes right at the beginning of the 1983 releases. As the line officially started in 1982, I was a little late to the party, but in a way this worked out fairly well for me. As anybody who is a Joe fan knows, the original figures from 1982 were released without the famed “bicep swivel” that allowed Joes to hold their weapons in a more realistic manner. In 1983 those same figures were released again, with that extra movement added in. Because of this, I only ended up with two figures without the bicep swivel: Flash and Scarlett.

I didn’t mind the lessened articulation, mainly because I was used to playing with Star Wars figures and their even more limited five points of articulation. I could make it work. However, what I couldn’t make work was Scarlett succumbing to the dreaded O-ring breakage. Ordinarily that wasn’t a complete tragedy; those O-rings could be replaced if you unscrewed the upper torso via the screw in the back.

Well, the problem with that is if you strip the screw, you have a hard time fixing the figure. And because I was young and an idiot, I managed to strip the screw. I stripped the crap out of it. So Scarlett was destined to be out of action from that point on. And there was no easy way to buy an extra by that time; the line had moved on, introducing more and more characters.

So I had Scarlett for a while, until she went on the permanently disabled list.

Being one of the original Joes and one of the very few women in the line, Scarlett remains one of the more popular Joes from a media standpoint. It doesn’t hurt that she’s probably one of the biggest badasses on the Joe team. There is a ton of testosterone in GI Joe, and she eats it for breakfast. I’m not sure if that’s the metaphor I should be shooting for, but the fact remains that Scarlett can probably outshoot and outfight anybody she comes across.

It wasn’t something I ever gave a half-second’s thought about as a kid, but I’ve noticed blowback over the years to Scarlett’s choice of attire. Where the other O13’s had on a more militaristic look, she has on something that resembles spandex and a leotard. However, any closer inspection of the original card art will show it’s way more protective than your average jazzercise outfit, and besides…do you really want to tell her what she can and can’t wear?

Scarlett was a major player throughout the original GI Joe comic. She frontlined plenty of stories, and didn’t lose her clout even after Lady jaye showed up, unlike the cartoon, where the Flint/Lady Jaye pairing moved them ahead of the cartoon matchup of Duke/Scarlett. But then the 85 Joes took over a lot of screen time which wasn’t too surprising. Scarlett had plenty to do in those initial mini-series that started off the whole cartoon thing. She even managed to get taken hostage by Destro. Apparently Scarlett getting taken hostage by Destro was unavoidable, since it happened in the comic also, leading to the whole “Silent Interlude.”

When you’re a lady in the GI Joe team your dating options are fairly small, which is why they often end up with other Joes. Cover Girl even ended up with Shipwreck depending on what you believe. Where the cartoon moved her towards Duke, the comics made no bones about her and Snake Eyes being an item, and being more of a comic guy, I am firmly in the Scarlett/Snake Eyes camp. It was getting shot in the head by the Baroness that led to Snake Eyes finally croaking out her name after years of silence. Of course he didn’t say much after that, so one word every ten years or so is about all he could muster. But nothing says “I love you” like massive traumatic headwounds in one person leading to a sudden healing of irreparably damaged vocal cords in another. I mean, I’m no doctor, but I’m pretty sure how that works.

Now that we’re in a world that is actually getting 6-inch GI Joes, Scarlett is, fittingly, one of the first to be getting a figure. I’ve gone on at length about my issues with her “updated” design, but here’s hoping that a vintage-accurate one isn’t totally out of the question. And one of these days I need to see about buying a replacement for my poor original Scarlett figure, who sits to this day in a limbless void, unable to scratch her own backside.

War is hell, man.