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A Joe in the Sights: Zap

The Original 13 Joes all had a very specific “thing”, setting up the paradigm that would continue through the life of the line.

Instead of having them be generic soldiers akin to green army men, the Joe line started off giving each member their own personal weaponry, story and, for want of a better word, “vibe.” This play pattern was baked into the plastic. You could feel it pulsing off of the pegs of the toy store. You knew who these guys were just by the look of them.

Before Bazooka, before all the guys that would show up later in the line with missile strapped to every appendage, there was Zap.

Zap was the first guy in the line to carry a bazooka. When you’re a kid, the bazooka is the greatest thing the world has ever seen. It is a metal death-tube capable of launching high explosive kaboomagrams towards anything it is pointed towards, and that is…that is just fantastic.

My first two figures from the GI Joe line were Destro and Flash. Along with them, my parents bought the hard plastic carrying case. The front of that case features some of the most familiar art associated with the Joe brand, and the back featured the available figures posed in some dirt.

I can still feel the palpable sense of excitement connected to these images. A brand new toyline does that to you when you’re a kid. Somehow, it manages to dig grooves into your memories, the same way a record is carved into vinyl.

With two figures in hand, it was time to figure out who I wanted next in the line, because even as a kid it didn’t take long to know when I was all in on a line. The guy with the bazooka was first on the list, followed by the guy with the huge machine gun.

Rock ‘N Roll I would get, but Zap was one of those figures that eluded me. By the time I got into Joes—1983—the first figures were being re-released with swivel arm battle grips, and the newer Joes like Gung Ho and Snow Job were making their way into stores. Zap must have been popular with the other kids also, because he never materialized in my toy aisles.  

As one of the O13, Zap shared a number of parts with other Joes, even sharing the same head with Grunt and Grand Slam. Oh the humanity, not even getting your own face. This is what makes good soldiers go AWOL.

In the comic, Zap made a decent amount of appearances in the earliest issues.

In the cartoon, Zap showed up in the MASS Device mini-series. Being a cartoon mainly for kids, Zap at no point turned any Cobra Troopers into bazooka toothpaste. I think we’re all a little poorer for that.