Finally, an accountant and/or lawyer action figure. Now kids can play out their auditing or litigation power fantasies from the comfort of their living room carpet!
Funskool GI Joe Crimson Guard Immortal Thoughts and Musings
The Crimson Guard, as portrayed in action figure file cards and the old Marvel comics written by Larry Hama, are one of the most fascinating parts of GI Joe lore. By day, they’re your attorney, your pastor, your accountant, your state senator, or your local police officer– wholesome, white American authority figures. But when Cobra Commander calls. They step away from their manufactured lives and families, put on a red dress uniform, and do… something?
Throughout GI Joe media, you never see Crimson Guards involved in much traditional “combat action” while wearing the uniforms represented by their action figures. In 1987’s GI Joe: The Movie, we see them defending the Terrordrome from Pythona, but that’s about as close as we get. I’m sure I’m forgetting some obscure scene in a Marvel or IDW comic somewhere (and am definitely forgetting anything that happened in a Devil’s Due comic), but I implore you to let me hold onto my ignorance. I do not care.
So, while the Crimson Guard are one of the more frightening and realistic elements of GI Joe, their concept doesn’t really translate well into action figures. Ever since I’ve been reading GI Joe websites and forums, fans have been stating that the Crimson Guard’s uniforms are “ceremonial” and “not combat ready.”
I suppose I agree with that assessment, but how many kids really cared about that? I’m guessing that the average 10 year old in 1985 saw a cool looking toy that was labelled as a “Cobra Elite Trooper” and just used them as tougher versions of the regular Cobra soldiers. Like a miniboss the Joes had to fight before they got to Destro, Zartan, or the Baroness.
That’s certainly how I used my childhood Crimson Guard Commander. I didn’t give much consideration to infiltrating polite American society and other nefarious, real-world schemes. My CGC was just an especially cool and tough Cobra soldier.
The original CG’s file card states both “The Crimson Guard are the elite shock troops of the COBRA Legions” and “Crimson Guardsmen are too precious to be wasted on the conventional battle field,” which leads to a conundrum– if you’re taking the file card seriously, how do you use these guys, especially if you got hung up on their ‘dress uniform?’
Hasbro answered that question in 1991 with the Crimson Guard Immortal, a new CG decked out in heavy body armor. Even though the file card doesn’t say so, there’s no question that this elite trooper was meant for the “conventional battle field.”
For the persnickety kids who couldn’t bring themselves to play out suburban drama, courtroom intrigue, or traditional firefights with their Crimson Guardsmen, the CGI brought something new to the table. Sure, any given Crimson Guard Immortal might be a personal injury lawyer or Monsanto lobbyist, but they could also put on some crazy sci-fi armor, strap on their impractical high tech weaponry, and give GI Joe more trouble than even a gigantic stack of HOA violation letters could.
In 1991, the Crimson Guard Immortal was the most fearsome and intimidating looking trooper in the entire Cobra army. I could not imagine any kid not loving this action figure. Even older Joe fans who “hated the 90s” seemed to like the CGI, even if his weapons “were total garbage.”
In 1991, I would have loved this figure, too. Unfortunately, I never had the figure as a kid. And, in fact, I bought a Funskool Crimson Guard Immortal long before I ever acquired a Hasbro version. After 1993’s Crimson Guard Commander, the Funskool CGI was probably the next Crimson Guardsman I ever owned.
Let’s see how the Funskool GI Joe Crimson Guard Immortal holds up today, and how he holds up against his Hasbro counterpart.
Funskool GI Joe Crimson Guard Immortal Review
First, a song to set the mood:
The Crimson Guard is a huge part of GI Joe. When you think of Cobra, they’re one of the first entities you think of. In the original ARAH line, they are tied with Vipers for the most-represented Cobra troop type. There’s the 1985 original release, the decidedly non-crimson 1989 Python Crimson Guard, the 1991 Crimson Guard Immortal, and the 1993 Crimson Guard Commander. So there was a Crimson Guard (and Viper) available for kids during every “era” of the original GI Joe run.
The Crimson Guard Immortal is a much more direct update of the Crimson Guard than either the Python or Commander figures are. The base red color is much the same, the helmet shows similar influences, and the figure just seems like a natural evolution.
It’s no wonder, then, that Funskool used the Crimson Guard Immortal as their one action figure release to represent the CGs.
This carded copy of the figure was released in 2001. Here’s the card:
And card back:
The Funskool file card seems identical to the Hasbro release, which is somewhat unusual for a Funskool GI Joe figure. But even though I’d love to see some trademark Funskool charm inserted into the file card, just copying the whole thing as-is was perfectly fine.
I also tried to take a photo of the instructions printed on the card, but I did a shitty job of opening it. Oh well! They are exactly the same as the Hasbro instructions, which you can see here.
Here’s the figure:
The Funskool Crimson Guard Immortal is pretty similar to the Hasbro release. You’ll notice some differences right away, though. The first thing that stands out is the gold paint on the figure’s helmet, which the domestic release lacks. Next, you’ll notice the silver paint on his shin guards and the gold/silver paint on the knife sheathed on his leg. He also lacks the insignia the Hasbro figure has on his left arm, and is missing the silver paint on the shoulders, as well.
So, it’s a different look but it fits in flawlessly with the Hasbro CGI. Funskool didn’t get wacky with this one, but they did put their own little spin on it. Those are my favorite kinds of Funskool figures.
Here’s the Funskool Crimson Guard Immortal with a Hasbro 91 CGI and the 2003 CGI, released in 2003 as a driver for the Cobra CAT II vehicle:
These figures all work beautifully together and give you some variety in your Crimson Guard ranks. The CGI is one Funskool figure that integrates very nicely with a Hasbro collection, display, or photograph. Of course I don’t mind mixing them even if the match isn’t this good, but I think the Funskool CGI would please even the most uppity Joe fans (and believe me, there are plenty. Just check Battle Armor Dad’s Twitter replies).
The Funskool CGI isn’t perfect, though. As much as I love Funskool figures, they sometimes trend towards sloppy paint applications. Here are my two Funskool Crimson Guard Immortals, and you can see that they each have a bit of slop, but the one on the right is particularly notable:
The gold paint on the helmet seems particularly prone to being applied in a haphazard manner. This isn’t a dealbreaker for me, but it’s something you’ll want to be aware of if you’re buying one. I love both of my gold-helmeted children.
Next, we come to the accessories, which is where Funskool really branched off from Hasbro colors:
The Funskool Crimson Guard Immortal comes with one grey combination machine gun and missile launcher, one grey double missile launcher, a black ammo belt, six yellow missiles, and an orange backpack that holds three missiles. It’s quite a lot of stuff!
Here are some comparisons with the Hasbro figure’s gear. The domestic CGI’s weapons, missiles, and backpack were all molded in black plastic.
Personally, I think the Funskool CGI’s gear is pretty fun. The grey looks fine for the weapons and I quite like the yellow missiles. The orange backpack is kinda iffy, as it doesn’t match anything else on the figure, but it doesn’t really hurt anything, either. You can often find loose Funskool CGI accessories on eBay, so I’ve bought quite a few of those yellow missiles to augment my incomplete Hasbro versions. The yellow just looks nice with the figure’s red and silver color scheme.
The gear, though, is where a lot of people have a problem with the Crimson Guard Immortal. Even back when this was considered “one of the few good 90s figures,” most collectors didn’t really like his accessories. They are impractical, I suppose. His machine gun would run out of ammo in about 10 seconds, and he’d probably be constantly burned by missile exhaust.
I do think they look quite cool with the toy, though. Here’s the figure All Geared Up:
My one real problem with the gear is the ammo belt. The Funskool ammo belt is made of a much stiffer material than the Hasbro ammo belt so, when you attach it to the leg and the gun, the figure’s leg and arm are both completely restricted by it. On a shelf, that’s probably fine. But if you want to pose and play with the figure, it’s going to be a problem.
My one other problem isn’t with the figure itself, but with the marketing copy on the packaging. Saying the figure’s “weapon really shoots” is pretty misleading. You can kind of flick or press the missiles from the rear of the launcher, and they’ll plop out and hit the ground. If you compare these weapons to the spring loaded launchers on other 1991 based figures like the BAT, Sci-Fi, Red Star, Heavy Duty, and Mercer, they really don’t shoot at all.
This isn’t really a problem, though. Older figures like Backblast and Rampart just came with missile accessories you loaded into their weapons and moved yourself. The play value was there and the accessories looked much better– having these weak “flick fire” missiles is a weak half measure. But, if you want to view these as successors to figures like Rampart and Backblast, they’re great. They just don’t “really shoot.”
I think the Crimson Guard Immortal has one of the coolest designs in the ARAh GI Joe line. The helmet and body armor are menacing, the colors are good, and he looks like he could easily take some real punishment before going down.
The gear holds him back in some ways (even though I still like it), but he can be equipped with other weapons, which brings me to another point– because the handles on his weapons are so thin, this figure’s grip is tight. When using the figure with his own gear, I’d be more afraid of breaking a weapon handle than breaking a thumb. But, if I’m using him with other gear, thumb breakage is a concern. I recommend using older 80s accessories if you can. The original Crimson Guard’s rifle works nicely, as do the old AK-47s from the various Battle Gear accessory packs.
I see the Crimson Guard Immortal just like his tagline describes him– an elite Cobra trooper. These are the CGs who like storming fortresses and kicking in heads more than they like writing evil legislation. They also make good bodyguards for Cobra Commander, as the file card suggests, but I think they’d be by his side in the field instead of in the throne room.
I really like the coloration on the Funskool Crimson Guard Immortal and think it’s just as good as, if not better than, its Hasbro counterpart. The silver and gold on the knife look really good, in particular.
Because the 81 Hasbro CGI is so expensive, especially complete, these Funskool figures make a good substitute. It can also function as a squad leader for your Hasbro Immortals. Or, since the Funskool version is still probably cheaper, they can be troops to back your Hasbro squad leader. As you can see in my photos, I use the 2003 version as the squad leader and have both two Funskools and two Hasbros as his troops. They look really nice together.
This is probably my second favorite Crimson Guard figure. The Crimson Guard Commander will always be #1 to me, this one comes close. The original CG is a classic, the Python Patrol version is a fun novelty, and the 00s Hasbro figures with removable helmets are good for what they are, but I think the Immortal edges them out. Plus, Crimson Guard Immortal– just say it out loud. Isn’t it the coolest name ever?
Overall: This is a fantastic GI Joe figure. The Funskool Crimson Guard Immortal is every bit as good as the Hasbro version (with some quirks) and is still probably cheaper to obtain, even with rising Funskool prices. The figure is different enough from the original to be unique, but still fits in perfectly with your Hasbro Crimson Guard. And, most importantly, he just looks cool. Highly Recommended.
- Funskool Crimson Guard Immortal at Forgotten Figures
- Funskool Crimson Guard Immortal Around the Web at Forgotten Figures
- Funskool Crimson Guard Immortal at YoJoe
Funskool GI Joe Crimson Guard Immortal Closing Thoughts
Thanks for reading! It’s always a delight to do another Funskool review, especially when I get to open a carded figure and RUIN IT FOREVER.
If you had Crimson Guard figures as a kid, how did you use them? How do you see the Crimson Guard now? And how does the Crimson Guard Immortal fit in? Let me know in the comments!