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A Joe in the Sights: Steeler

He had That cool flip-down visor. He had an Uzi just like Snake-Eyes. And he had a tank.

The MOBAT was mechanized play value. It rolled on its own. It rolled over things. It was probably the very first toy tank that many kids of a certain age had ever owned. And if you were a kid of a certain age that had seen tanks in either television or movies, then you know that tanks were awesome.

To have your very own tank rolling across the living room carpet, squishing bad guys under the real working treads, you have achieved toy nirvana quite early in your formative years. Can it get any better than this? Does it need to get any better than this?

Steeler was the official, designated, accept-no-substitutes commander of the GI Joe MOBAT. It said so right on his file card: Tank Commander. As far as I’m concerned it doesn’t get any more official than that. Nobody else was worthy of climbing into his tank. Nobody else could handle that much rolling gun. Steeler was the pinnacle of man/machine harmony. And if by some bit of luck the forces of evil managed to separate him from his tank, he still had an Uzi. And he had his fists. But he very rarely needed anything but his giant, rolling, unstoppable tank.

So what if he shared a head with a few other Original 13 Joes. With his helmet on and that binocular visor down, you never knew it. And when you’ve got a setup that cool, why would you have him any other way other than with the helmet on and the visor down? Because he’s always behind the controls of his tank anyway. Tanking and kabooming and rolling over the bad guys.

It’s like, his thing, man.

Steeler’s thing was the same in the comics as well, taking the MOBAT into battle whenever possible. He was one of a small handful of Joes that debuted on the cover of issue #1, one of the more iconic images in GI Joe history. Issue # 5 goes in depth into the capabilities of the MOBAT, which was essentially a supertank compared to the regular tanks of the standard army forces. Because everything the Joes did, they did to 11.

On the cartoon, Steeler was central to a storyline where he, Grunt and Clutch traveled to an alternate universe where Cobra had won. You could tell it was a cartoon storyline because Steeler Clutch and Grunt were on an alternate world, and that was the kind of thing that happened every third Friday of the month in the Joe cartoonverse, along with Fatal Fluffies, Ghosts, Excalibur and Cobra La. Shit got nuts in the cartoon.

Steeler’s figure didn’t have the outrageous styling of some of the later figures in the line. He was an O13 member, which meant a lot of green, a lot of basicness. I’ve heard it referred to as “boring,” a sentiment I drop my chin to my chest and shake my head about. This dude, riding atop the MOBAT, doing his thing… there was nothing boring about it. Maybe you had to be there, letting a tank slowly roll over Destro’s metal head.

That’s gotta sting.

4 thoughts on “A Joe in the Sights: Steeler

  1. I feel like it’s super important to give alternate reality Steeler credit for being such a player of “James Bond in Goldfinger” quality, that he seduced the Baroness into being on the side of good.

  2. Steeler is among my top five favorite OG13 figures, along with Clutch, Flash, Rock ‘N Roll and Snake Eyes. That gold shirt he wore made him unique among the others and the visor still makes him stand out to this day. I got the MOBAT as it was being phased out around Christmas of 1984 and it was awesome. No collection is complete without Ralph and his Tank.

  3. I remember the MOBAT being found treadless and battery cover-less, half buried in the in the ground, in the backyard years later. I gave most of my Joe stuff to my little brother when I moved on to Transformers and he beat the living snot out of them. But in years prior, the MOBAT was a central part of my Joe collection, along with the Sky Striker, Dragonfly, and the HQ.

  4. I got the MOBAT so young that I have no memory of Steeler. Makes me wonder if my parents threw him away on accident or something with the packaging.

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