Tunnel Rat was a mean, aggressive figure that oozed low-key attitude.
Most of the Joes told their own little stories just by the uniform they wore, the weapons they carried and the name they hung on their heads. While their stories were always fleshed out in cartoons, comics and the ever-present file cards, it was the figure itself that told you exactly what you needed to know. It was the figure that made you want to add it to your collection.
Tunnel Rat was an ‘87 Joe, a time of Joes in Hawaiian shirts and Cobras with boxing gloves. It was a transitional time, a time of new blood and new designs. It was every bit as iconic as the years that came before. Every Joe that debuted that year carries with them something special.
Tunnel Rat’s special was…tunnels.
Just imagine that name. Imagine that guy that willfully brands himself with that name as he crawls through the filthiest, dirtiest, most repugnant thing—some dark stretch of nothing akin to the colon of the world—just to get the drop on an enemy. Imagine this guy whose world is lit by a dim cone shining from a untrustworthy flashlight, a man belly crawling through the unknown, surrounded on all sides by all the lower animals and insects. Imagine that guy. He’s got a gun, a knife, and attitude, and he’s coming for you. What kind of a man does that?
What kind of man does it twice? And then again, and again, making it his mission in life to do the thing that nobody else would want to do.
Tunnel Rat was evocative. Tunnel Rat was dirty, and hard, and in his own way as scary a guy as Low-Light.
It would be years later when I’d find out that Tunnel Rat had been sculpted to resemble Larry Hama, joining other figures that were sculpted to have a resemblance to key figures in the Joe lines life. It would practically be a crime for Mr. Hama to not be immortalized in such a way.
Tunnel Rat’s cartoon time was brief, appearing notably as a rookie in G.I. Joe: The Movie, where his tunnel skills came in handy in a few key instances. He drove Beach head bananas. All the rookies got their moment (even Big Lob), but Falcon was given the most story, so Tunnel Rat didn’t have much time to shine.
In the comics Tunnel Rat did what he does best, which is tunnel stuff. While never having any major standout stories, he takes part in a handful of issues, but with so many Joes by this point there was little room for him to really spread his wings.
It was down the toy to really give Tunnel rat his due. It was easy to create makeshift tunnels with a blanket and have him crawling out to get the drop on Cobra. Tunnel rat had a big rifle and was perfect in situations where I needed a vicious dude to do some serious sudden surprise damage.