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A Joe in the Sights: Leatherneck

Never call him Leather-wreck.

The Joes and their respective uniforms can be broken up into two categories: No frills, and frills. By frills I mean guys like Gung Ho, who wore teal camouflage with unwavering dedication. No frills meant most of the Original 13 Joes and guys like Leatherneck.

Leatherneck was as low frills as they come. Debuting in 1986, Leatherneck was a Marine that Marined as hard or harder as Gung Ho, who was previously the Mariniest Marine that the Joe team ever allowed into their ranks. Leatherneck didn’t go in for special colors or fancy uniforms. He was strictly regular camouflage all the way.  One uniform, one backpack, one rifle, aim at Cobra and watch the fireworks.

Even though I loved the Joes that wore their aesthetic individuality proudly, my unadulterated love of the Original 13 “Green Army Man” feel meant that a character like Leatherneck was a no-brainer. He oozed simple, powerful aggression. He wasn’t flashy or splashy. He just existed as a singular military dynamo. Loaded with his M-16 with M-203 attachment, he mowed down Cobra troops and blooped Cobra vehicles with casual ease.

Leatherneck was one of the Joes whose face featured a real-world likeness: Ron Rudat, brilliant main designer of pretty much every Joe up until 1986.

Leatherneck didn’t have much of a showcase in the comics of the time. As an ‘86 Joe, his earliest appearances synched up with Serpentor’s in both the comic and the cartoon. Leatherneck was part of the assault on Springfield in the comic, against forces led by the newly created Serpentor and his military brilliance. And even then, his appearance was very sparse. Larry Hama was juggling tons of characters at this point, and his yearly job to introduce as many of them into the comics as possible meant that sometimes there’s not enough room in the spotlight for everyone.

The circumstances were more or less similar in the cartoon, but the spotlight was broader. Debuting in the five-part Arise Serpentor Arise storyline, Leatherneck was given far more attention. He was also given a friendly (or maybe not so friendly, who can tell) rivalry with Wetsuit, playing up the Navy vs Marine angle to near unprofessional levels.

Regardless of how much (or how little) focus he enjoyed, in every version throughout every form of media, Leatherneck was a battle-hardened asskicker who had little patience for anything outside of shooting at the enemy. Like many Joes, Leatherneck had been at this since the Vietnam War (a major reason I like my GI Joe universe permanently frozen in the 80s). His file card presented him as essentially unpleasant and unlikeable, but he did his job.

That’s what he did as a toy as well.

He did his job.

2 thoughts on “A Joe in the Sights: Leatherneck

  1. I too was a fan of the more traditional combat garb for the Joes. The only Gung Ho I had was the dress blues version so he played a commanding role while Leatherneck went into the field. Leatherneck came out when I was first getting into GI Joe so I have a soft spot for that timeframe. Pretty much any 1985-87 Joe is good for me.

  2. I usually liked the Joe’s who skewed “close-to-realistic-with-a-twist.” The pilots, Duke, Steel Brigade, etc. Characters that looked like the fit in with the military but were not “accurate” However, Leatherneck was one that I loved because he was, to my young, untrained eyes, just a straight up real-world soldier. A tough-as-nails Marine who didn’t have time for laser guns or neon outfits. He became a mainstay of my story lines from the minute I got him. I thought the cartoon gave his character enough meat to be interesting as well. Great character.

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