We already had ninja and a Kung Fu guy, why not add in a Samurai?
Budo arrived in 1988. He had a sword. It was red. Budo had a red sword. Why am I talking like a second grader’s book report? Because I’m attempting to get across the sheer, lizard-brained appeal of Budo.
As I have said so very often in these articles, there was no internet that gave you your first look at toys months and months in advance, so the first exposure you had back then to the newest wave of figures was often when they showed up in the aisle. And that cardback package…hoo-boy, imagine the best SDCC of your life, now magnify that with the pants-shattering excitement that you could buy that figure you’re looking at RIGHT NOW, IN THIS VERY AISLE.
OPERATORS ARE STANDING BY, YOU SON OF A BITCH.
But really, they were right there. And so in 1988 you look at the back of that brand new figure’s card and you see Budo. You see a dude with a sword and a pointy helmet and you just love toys so damn much because sweet fancy Grover Cleveland the real world can be as dull as an old nickel that’s been lying in a puddle all year. Every damn toy was a tiny little plastic key that opened the door to an entire mansion of adventure. You see Budo and you immediately have to have him.
As if you couldn’t tell by the slobber that is on the screen, I had Budo, and I’m pretty sure he was the very first 1988 figure that I got. It took some digging, if my memory is correct, but that fresh supply of Joes offered up a nice and shiny Budo.
1988 was the year that I began my one-year vacation from toy buying. I don’t remember exactly why I decided to try and “grow up.” I barely had any “toy friends” at the time, but even those few that did collect toys had stopped by that point. Often saying with a sneer “I don’t collect toys anymore.”
Oh, I thought to myself. It must be time. If everybody else my age is no longer buying toys, then I guess it must be time to give up the hobby. Time to grow up. Time to comb my pubes and shave the hair on my upper lip. Or vice versa.
I had said “fuck that” to that idea by 1990. Because maturity comes not from stopping what brings you pleasure, but from embracing it.
Anyway, Budo’s file card art was an explosive orgasm of sharp things running towards you, promising you untold levels of pain for the bad guys. The last time we got a character with a sword was way back in 1987, which was…like…the previous year, with Jinx. Which in kid years was too damn long ago.
There was no cartoon for Budo in 1988. And his initial comic appearances were very slight. Larry Hama. He had the requisite first appearance issue where Budo and a few other Joes/trainees run through an extremely brutal PT session before being indoctrinated into the Joes with a firefight.
But that was fine. Budo had a red sword. It was red from all the blood.
In truth, A samurai type was a brand new deal at the time. I was used to ninja and karate/kung fu guys, but I wasn’t too familiar with the pointy hat. And yes, I know it’s not a hat. But still, there was something very unique about this guy. Even with all the military stuff and non-regulation clothing and the ninjas in pajamas and the kung fu guy who wasn’t wearing a shirt, Budo managed to stand out. He felt like an outlier, but in a good way. It made him useful. This was a guy who didn’t fit into standard missions. Even Snake Eyes looked like he belonged. Budo looked like he accidentally fell out of history and ended up carving up Cobra troops.
I liked it. I liked it a lot.
I still do.