Today I got something that I have wanted for 26 years: the G.I. Joe Killer Whale, a toy military landing craft from the early 1980's G.I. Joe line.
My parents were did not want their baby boy growing up thinking war was fun or something to aspire to, and they were adamant that there would be no G.I. Joe toys or any other military related play things in the house. Not that I grew up deprived- I had plenty of legos, he-men, some star wars guys, a few transformers and plenty of other, non realistically aggressive toys. (I am thankful He-Man made the cut). I had Castle Greyskull, which is arguably one of the top two or three toys of the 1980s. And my parents were great. In no way was I without toys or affection.
But still, I always wanted to get that cool hovercraft.
Why? Lets talk a little bit about G.I. Joe toys in the early 1980s. In terms of boy toys, they were, hands down, the best action figure toy line out there. Besides action figures, I think only legos really give them a run for their money. In a time when star wars figures only had joints at the shoulder and hip, G.I. Joy guys had knees and elbows. They came with backpacks, gear and weapons. Star Wars guys came with one weapon and zero gear, and zero other stuff. He-Men guys were pretty much all the same mold except for their head, although they had different colors and different kinds of armor. And He-Man guys did not have moving elbows or knees. (they did have spring loaded waists, which allowed them to deliver major smack downs, however. I remember my friends and I lining up Skeletor and all his minions behind him, pulling back He-Man's arm and knocking them down like dominoes. We could play with those guys for hours.)
But back to the point, G.I. guys seemed (at the time, anyway) to each be unique. They each had gear. They had, by far, the best and most interesting vehicles and bases. As cool as the action figure sized X-Wing was, (and it was hella cool) a G.I. Joe plane was a zillion times cooler. it would have missiles that you could detach and fire at a target, it had panels that could come off so you could see the engine and other parts of the machine under the armor (we always called it the "skin" growing up), it had stickers and all kinds of detail in the plastic molds, and often, you put them together from the parts that came in the box, so for some of the bigger vehicles, it was a lot like putting a model together.
There was so much quality there. You could imagine epic battles, and we built battle grounds in sand boxes and back yards and parks across the neighborhood with these toys. So much fun. So much joy and positive memories are associated with G.I. Joe toys in my childhood.
But how is that I didn't have any G.I. Joe stuff, right?
'Cuz I had plenty of buddies back then, and yup, they ALL had G.I. Joe toys. Someone would have a birthday party, and after cake and ice cream, we'd usually open up some of the toys and start the ones that required assembly together, and then start playing with them. I remember there was a G.I. Joe jet that looked like a Blackbird that at least 6 of my friends got for their birthdays. I think we could get that thing put together in 3 minutes flat by the time the last guy got his.
Additional time was required for sticker application.
So yeah, I never had any G.I. stuff, and I always thought the Killer Whale was the coolest of the bunch. Why?
1. It was big.
2. There was so much to do with it.
2a. It had turrets for men to stand in and shoot bad guys. And the turrets rotated.
2b. It had fans that moved.
2c. It had depth charges to release with a little switch.
2c i. When I was 5 I didn't even know what depth charges WERE but when my friends and I played with this toy, releasing the depth charges was the most fun thing ever.
2d. It had a place to put guys "inside"
2d i. for some reason, in the 1980's having toys big enough to put figures inside was the dividing line between the bigger and cooler toys and the smaller and less cool ones. Nearly all of the coolest vehicles had a cockpit that was inside the toy. There were some cool toys that had a driver or pilot sit out exposed to the elements (attack track, for the he-man toy line, is such a toy) but it seemed to me that having a toy big enough to have a figure inside also meant that there were plenty of other nifty things going on there.
2d ii. I don't even want to think about the psychological implications of that last paragraph, or the childhood psychosexual imagery going on there. So I'll skip it.
2e. IT FLOATED. It was a toy boat that actually floated in water. AND it had wheels. On pivots. So it worked at the local pond AND on your kitchen table. (Usually the mom of the house would not want the toy to go directly from the local pond to her table top, and some cleaning off was required. But still.) OUTSTANDING.
2f. The final major awesome feature of this toy: it had a spring loaded scout sled that would pop out when you pushed a button and send a guy out to scout out the area.
This thing was totally cool and required exactly zero (0) batteries. None. This thing is is WAY on the other side of the digital divide. Sounds? You make them "pa-chew! pa-chew! woooosh!" sounds yourself. You want it to move? You push it. And we never once felt anything was missing. When we played with these toys, we wanted for nothing.
And today, my nearly life long desire has be met. I found someone who was getting rid of their G.I. Joe toy collection on Craig's List a few days ago. I saw the Killer Whale in the picture, and I shot them an email and asked how much for just that item. The kind seller heard my story and *gave* it too me.
Gave it to me. Just like that. We met in the parking lot of a target store this morning and did the hand off.
There are plenty of good and kind people out there.
But there is a catch.
I didn't get all of it.
As you can imagine, an amazing, action packed toy like this has a lot of parts. In any case, I got the chassis of the toy. I figure I am missing the following parts:
1. the motorcycle.
2. two of the wheels on the bottom.
3. both cannons.
4. one cannon housing.
5. both turrets.
6. both machine guys for the turrets.
7. the depth charges.
8. the scout boat.
9. the 2 back fans, the 2 poles that connect to the gear assembly and pretty much everything else that connects to the back fans, such as the rudders, the things that connect the rudders to other things, and whatever else is suppose to be in the back of the boat.
And there may be even more parts missing besides that.
So here is my plan. Over the next few months, I am going to get the parts to make this thing whole. I will include pictures of the progress that gets made as I accumulate the accessories I need. I'll post my observations and the story of how this little mini adventure goes here on this blog. I hope it goes well. My goal is to spend as little as possible on this hobby and to savor the experience of putting this all together. A pleasure like this deserves to be drawn out. Sure, I could drop a few hundred on ebay and buy the toy mint in its box, but I think that it would almost be anti-climactic.
I have wanted this toy most of my life. Not only would my parents not get it for me because of the fact it was a war related toy, it was expensive and only around before I think I even had an allowance. I couldn't have saved up for it myself. A few times over the years I have walked into a few of those retro toy stores/comic book shops in hopes I might glimpse the toy there, and never saw it. I have looked at ebay, but I never felt I could justify spending big money on a toy like this when there were other, more practical things to buy. I looked at craigs list because prices there generally are much cheaper than ebay and you don't have to deal with shipping. But until a few days ago, I never actually took the step of emailing someone who was looking to get rid of the toy.
And after all that, dropping money to get the entire thing just seems crude. I have wanted this thing for almost as long as I have been alive. I think having something that I put together, the way we put these G.I. Joe toys together when someone got them for their birthday, in a way that has me get in touch with people I wouldn't otherwise meet, makes it that much more meaningful and enjoyable once the entire thing is complete. I have waited 312 months, give or take, to get this thing. I can wait a few more. I hope you enjoy the story. I'll post some pictures here of the toy in the next few days. Until my next post, have a good one.