For a nobody, Payload sure got a lot of action figures released in the original GI Joe: A Real American Hero toy line. There were five total Payload figures released in the vintage Joe collection, which means there were more Payloads than Flints, Scarletts, Destros, Gung Hos, or Storm Shadows. That’s wild!
In fact, the only characters in the original ARAH line who had more versions than Payload were Snake Eyes, Roadblock, Cobra Commander, Duke, Hawk, and Stalker. Compared to all of those big, household names. Payload doesn’t seem like all that much. But, someone at Hasbro must have loved Payload– or, more likely, someone at Hasbro just loved reusing a certain environmentally-minded firefighter toy over and over again.
Today, we’ll look at the last version of Payload released in the vintage GI Joe toy line. This is Star Brigade Payload from 1994.
The 1994 GI Joe Star Brigade Payload Thinkpiece No One Asked For
It won’t surprise you to know that I’ve had thoughts about Payload since at least 1990. Like, deep, serious thoughts that were only compounded when Star Brigade Payload was first released in 1993.
As a child, I loved anything space related. My Grandfather raised me on Star Trek, I checked out books on space shuttles and Skylab from the local library, and many of my favorite cartoons were space related. I liked Star Wars, as well, but that wasn’t something you could reliably find until 1995 or so.
I was delighted, then, when I received a GI Joe Crusader Space Shuttle for my birthday in 1990. My Mom later told me she finally found one on sale right before my birthday that year, which is why she got it, and why it was one of the largest toys I ever owned.
For quite a few years, Payload and Countdown were my only GI Joe astronauts, but the Crusader still got a ton of use from me. It doubled as a space-based headquarters for my Joes, and also as a place where brave commandos could drop (through the airlock port) down on unsuspecting Cobra forces from high altitudes. It went on exciting space exploration adventures, got shot down during missions, and was instrumental to many of my childhood GI Joe team’s many victories.
Payload, though, was never a real favorite figure. He stood out because of his cool sculpt and his space gear, but there was something about him that never clicked with me. I think it was the mustache– I never cared for Joes with mustaches as a kid.
So, Payload mostly piloted or helped crew the Crusader, but he never went on many missions. I could just never make him a main character the same way I could with Flint, Hawk, Tunnel Rat, Psyche-Out, Heavy Duty, or Storm Shadow.
By the time Star Brigade rolled out in 1993, I was more into space stuff than ever before. But time had taken its toll– many of the Crusader’s parts were lost or broken, and Payload had lost his helmet. I was excited at the chance to round up a whole new crew for my Crusader.
Despite my enthusiasm for anything space related, though, I only ended up with Ozone, Countdown, and Sci-Fi from the first year’s releases. They were a pretty good crew for the Crusader, but more of my time at home was being taken up by ninjas and neon soldiers.
When I went across the street to my friend’s house, though, it was a totally different story. I’ve talked about my friend Mark before, and how he had probably every GI Joe item (including mail-aways) released between 1992 and 1993, and a lot of stuff from the previous years, too. Naturally, he had every 1993 Star Brigade figure.
When I saw the green and black form of 1993 Payload, I was very confused. That wasn’t Payload. Payload had a mustache! That was just a repaint of my Eco Warriors Barbecue figure from the previous year. A figure that neither Mark nor myself really cared for, by the way.
Seeing Barbecue lazily repainted into an astronaut was maybe the first time I was disappointed in GI Joe. Sure, we still used the figure in space adventures, but he was always the first one to die or get captured. He was no Roadblock or Ozone, that was for sure. Seeing this new “Payload” really put my 1989 Payload into perspective– he had elaborate astronaut gear and a unique sculpt. This new guy was just a pretender. He wasn’t Payload at all.
Hasbro felt differently, of course. They released Astronaut Barbecue two more times in other color schemes– one in blue, black, and gold, and the other you’re seeing here today.
To Hasbro, the Barbecue mold made sense as an astronaut. And, as an adult, I agree with them. I love this figure now.
I love it enough that I even decided to track down both 1994 versions of the mold, neither of which is particularly cheap or easy to find.
So, we’re once again in that fun yet uncomfortable space between childhood nostalgia and adult analysis. It’s time to examine the 1994 GI Joe Star Brigade Payload figure.
1994 GI Joe Star Brigade Payload Review
Unlike the 1993 version, the 1994 GI Joe Star Brigade Payload (specifically this white version) isn’t a toy you see all the time. That’s not because it’s a highly in-demand and cherished collector’s piece– it’s because some of the 1994 GI Joe figures just weren’t made in huge numbers like their 1993 counterparts.
I bought this figure carded a couple years ago from a friend on Instagram, and finally opened it up a couple days ago for the purposes of this review. If I wasn’t planning on eventually doing a review, I never would have bought it.
So, here it is. Let’s enjoy it together.
Right off the bat, you’ll notice that the card includes individualized artwork for the character. That’s something the 1993 Star Brigade figures didn’t feature. Not all 1994 figures had unique character artwork, but you can see Hasbro kind of trying to do some course correction with the 94 Star Brigade series.
Honestly, it’s a nice card design and the artwork is on the “kinda nice” side of acceptable. The file card leaves something to be desired, and it oddly labels his pistol holster as “celestial map storage,” but overall it’s pretty good packaging. I don’t really remember seeing these on shelves as a kid, but I’m sure this card would have caught my eye.
Here’s the figure:
And from the back:
Before we get into the sculpt, details, and other fun stuff, you’ll notice that Payload has a little yellow emblem on his right arm. Neither of the other two Star Brigade Payloads featured this emblem, so it’s a nice little touch. I’m not entirely sure what it’s supposed to represent– maybe an F-4 Phantom fighter squadron patch? If you know, let me know in the comments. Regardless of my ignorance, it adds a nice little pop of color and a bit of interest to the figure.
1994 GI Joe Star Brigade Payload uses Barbecue version 3 (1992)’s figure mold in its entirety. That figure was a sort of high tech firefighter, and this figure is an astronaut. As a kid that bugged me, because I was used to that mold representing a fireman who was also an Eco Warrior. As an adult, though, I get it.
The figure is wearing a protective suit of some kind, capped off by sealed gloves and boots, a harness for firefighting gear or space ephemera, and a full helmet with a clear face shield. There’s a pistol holster on the figure’s left leg, but everything else is pretty much a practical detail for the suit. It works nicely as firefighting gear, a HAZMAT suit, or a spacesuit. I see where Hasbro was going with this.
Catalog shots and other marketing material from 92/93 show that Hasbro wanted to use the original Payload mold for Star Brigade. But, because it was either lost or too expensive (my money is on “too expensive”), they went with the Barbecue mold instead. Someone at Hasbro got pretty creative with this mold choice, and I respect it. My nine year old self would kick me in the shin for saying that, though, so let’s not tell him.
Here’s the figure compared to the other three uses of the mold:
Hasbro did something a bit different with every version– at least you can say that much about the figure. I really like the red, white, blue, silver, and black on this figure. It doesn’t look “busy,” but it has enough visual interest to stand out in photos or on a display. It looks nice!
Other than his missile launcher, the figure’s accessories came on a standard GI Joe weapons tree. This one came with Mace, Muskrat, the other versions of Payload, and probably someone else I’m forgetting.
Payload comes with DEF Shockwave’s SMG, Updraft’s fancy space pistol, Ambush’s rifle, 1991 Low Light’s knife, and a battle stand in grey plastic. His missile launcher was used with Battle Corps Duke and Star Brigade Roadblock in 1993 (as well as Star Brigade Payload), and possibly came with some other figures, too.
Other than the missile launcher, I mostly like these accessories. The missile launcher itself actually looks cool and high tech, and it seems pretty reasonable for a futuristic, sci-fi-based character. The problem is it’s cast in 90s gold plastic, which means I’m afraid to touch it. The missile makes a downright sickening click when you load the launcher. It still launches just fine, but I’m not eager to test its limits.
Ambush’s rifle is a fine accessory, but I’m not exactly keen to use it with an astronaut figure. But, it’s still cast in a useful color and isn’t a bad accessory to have. Knives can be useful in space, which Worf proved in Star Trek: First Contact, so I’m fine with its inclusion. I prefer to use Updraft’s weird laser handgun with this figure, though. It just has a pulpy sci-fi aura about it that perfectly fits an astronaut adventurer.
The SMG is fine, too. It’s one of my favorite weapons in the GI Joe line, so I’m never mad about having another one. You may have noticed, though, that there’s something “off” about the one my figure came with.
Take a look:
As you can see, the gun’s mounting rail is only partially there. The weapon is malformed, and came that way on the weapons tree. You can go back and look at the package photos or the weapons tree if you don’t believe me– I didn’t damage it when I removed it from the tree.
I’m not saying this is a “super rare variant” or anything like that, but it is interesting. I’ve never seen a GI Joe accessory come defective and partially molded right from a weapons tree. So please enjoy this minor curiosity and don’t say I never gave you anything.
Payload’s look, colors, and accessories are pretty nice, but he’s not without his faults. The paint on my copy is a bit sloppier than you expect with a vintage GI Joe figure. Also, unlike Barbecue, this figure has a hard time fully tuning his head to either side. And, this is just a personal preference thing, but I wish the figure’s gloves (or boots) were blue like they are on the card art– it would make the blue helmet look much more cohesive with the figure. As it stands, it looks kind of odd.
Although I like Updraft’s pistol, I feel like Payload really shines once you give him some other accessories. As Mike T. mentioned in his 1993 Payload profile, all of the Star Brigade Payloads look really nice with Psyche-Out v1’s backpack. You can see that I’ve stolen that idea in some of these photos. An astronaut really does need some sort of backpack, as far as I’m concerned.
Mike also mentioned that this mold can work as a HAZMAT trooper, a specialist soldier, or even a diver. I can definitely see that with the other uses of the mold. It obviously works as a firefighter, too. But, because of the white protective suit and blue accents, I can only see this version of Payload as an astronaut, a space pilot, or maybe a fighter pilot.
I find he looks best with Lanard Star Force accessories, and accessories from some other Lanard figures. I especially love the combo of the Psyche-Out backpack with one of Lanard’s laser rifle/RPG pieces. I used that weapon for most of these photos.
Also, I just can’t see this figure as the character Payload. Payload has a mustache and a much fancier spacesuit. This figure, though, works great as a generic space trooper, astronaut, or pilot. He’d be amazing on your Crusader or Defiant crew. He’s a perfect fit for the 1993 Starfighter, as well. As good as Sci-Fi v3 is, I have a hard time seeing him as a pilot. Plus, it’s kind of dumb to pilot a space fighter without a fully protective suit, no matter what George Lucas tells you.
The 1994 GI Joe Star Brigade Payload is a cool and useful figure. The accessories are decent and the grey plastic should fit most collectors’ tastes. The white, blue, and red coloration also means he fits in well with most other GI Joe Star Brigade and astronaut figures. He’s certainly not a good update to the Payload character, but he’s a great addition to GI Joe’s space forces.
Overall: This is a nice looking figure with a color scheme that’s perfect for an astronaut. His accessories are pretty good, and would look good with many other figures, as well. He’s not a “super rare” figure, but it’s nearly impossible to find him cheap. With that in mind, this figure is only Mildly Recommended. Unless you’re in love with the look or are a completist, you’re much better off with the 1993 version of Payload.
- Payload at YoJoe
- Payload at 3DJoes
- The Many Versions of Payload from SEO Toy Review
Closing Thoughts on 1994 GI Joe Star Brigade Payload
This was pretty much a “back to basics” review. I had a lot of fun taking these photos and using various Lanard pieces with my Star Brigade figures. I hope you had fun reading it, too.
What do you think of this figure? Is he a good update to Payload, or does he work better as an army builder? Also, can we start a change.org petition to make the 1994 Star Brigade figures affordable again? Let me know in the comments!
10 thoughts on “1994 GI Joe Star Brigade Payload Review”
Great review! Like you, I had a Crusader as a kid, and also some space LEgos, and those defined space toys for me before Star Brigade came along. I only bought one of the 93 SB at retail (Roadblock), even though they hung around for a while, partly becuase there was too much other stuff to buy but mostly becuase I was disappointed by the lack of “realistic” space accessories like the 89 Payload’s MMU backpack. To me that makes or breaks astronaut figures (the Lego astronauts all had little airtanks or MMUs!) I did get the 94 SB Sci-Fi and Space Shot because they had big “realistic” backpacks. Now I like all of SB and I think they look good prowling the halls of space stations. But I still can’t bring myself to mesh them with the 87-89 space figures. They just seem like different genres to me, each with their different virtues.
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Thanks so much for reading the review and leaving a comment!
I was huge into Space Lego as a kid, too. As well as Aquazone. I used them together.
I was pretty disappointed in Star Brigade accessories as a kid, too. I wanted cool laser guns and jetpacks, but instead I got yellow submachine guns and gold missile launchers. Some of the 94 accessories did redeem them, though, and I would have loved them if I’d owned them back then. I think Gears was the only 94 Star Brigade figure I had as a kid.
I think some of the SB guys fit in with the OG Payload and Countdown better than others. Obviously the Countdown repaints work pretty well, and I think the Roadblock/Hawk mold can work pretty nicely, too. I wish I still had a Payload to do some shots of him, Countdown, and the Action Astronaut. I think they’d look really cool together.
Thanks for the shout outs! I love what you did with the Payload figures. I do love the Psyche Out pack. But, those Corps! weapons really up the ante. They look great with the Payloads. I probably have one or two in an old baggie somewhere. So, now I’m going to spend some time in between meetings tomorrow looking for them!
The first time I ever encountered this mold was with the 1993 black and green Payload. So, I thought that this figure was made specifically to be an astronaut. And, I thought the Updraft pistol was unique to him. So, my perception of this mold is as an astronaut first as the tie to BBQ came much later, after the Payload figure was well established in my adult collection.
I never saw the 1994 versions, though, and didn’t know they existed for a couple of years. Once I found out about them, though, I tracked them down quickly. (They were cheap in the late ’90’s, maybe a couple of bucks for a MOC figure, but they were still kind of hard to find.) This red, white and blue figure better fits with the color motifs of the other 1993 figures. But, it is a visually striking design. And, he looks great with the other 1994 Star Brigade figures.
To me, this figure mold is a more modern update of the look first introduced by Ace. As a kid, Ace was an army builder who wore a suit that protected him in multiple environments. He could be a pilot, diver, or regular commando whose suit also provided additional armor. The 1993 Payload assumed this role upon his arrival in my collection. I see this 1994 version as a variation on that specialty where the white uniform denotes a search/rescue/retrieval team that helps rescue fallen Joes from hostile situations.
Fun fact, the 1994 Payload originally had silver weapons. Hasbro, though, changed them to the grey versions right before production. There are pre-production carded silver weapon figures that exist. Not much of a difference. But, something odd.
We’ve never gotten the real story as to why the black and blue Payload figure exists. YoJoe mistakenly published that he was available in 1993. But, that was not true and the black and blue figure only exists on 1994 cards. It’s possible that the blue versions were factory mistakes from 1993 and Hasbro used them up on early 1994 cards (they did the same with overstock 1992 Roadblocks in 1993). The Mexican Lunartix were factory screw up colors that were dumped to Mexico. Maybe black and blue Payload was the same. But, for some reason, the story on this figure has never come out.
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Thanks for stopping by and posting such great info! I really appreciate it. I always love learning more about these things. I never would have thought of the blue and black version as a “mistake,” but it would actually make sense as to why they released three of them.
I thought a little bit about the original Ace when I was writing this review– if you use this Payload as a pilot, their equipment isn’t dissimilar. I think this figure would look pretty decent as a Skystriker co-pilot or in a Conquest. I also love your idea of using this figure a rescue specialist. The colors work really well for that.
Let me know if you have any luck on those Lanard accessories!
Actually, more likely Payload V1 was in Brazil, as the Crusader shuttle was one of very few vehicles to include a figure in Comandos em Ação. According to Hasbro’s Kirk Bozigian, Star Brigade was rushed out to stop in house rival Kenner from relaunching Star Wars. That in mind, there’s no individual character artwork for 1993’s assortment and photos for the cardbacks. So odds are they painted up an older Payload for those, not realizing they wouldn’t be able to actually use said tooling for retail.
Anyway, while 1993 Star Brigade figures were everywhere, neither wave of the 1994 Star Brigaders were too common from what I recall. And there being two 1994 Payload variants is another obstacle for collectors. (There’s also a Roadblock with or without silver details!)
Isn’t the arm patch the same as Eco-Warriors Barbecue?
The mold is decent, not laden down with silly details like wrists grenades or having giant shoulders. Is it the ideal Payload? Not really. It really is generic enough to be an army builder, and the 1993 ones are common. Many years ago someone used them as Cobra lab techs in a dio story.
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Dang, I had no idea Estrela did the Crusader. It’s awesome that some Brazilian folks had the chance to own it. It’s a great toy. This is good info on why they didn’t use the existing Payload mold, but I am still going to disparage Hasbro despite the fact that they did nothing wrong. Pretty reasonable of me, right?
I’ve still never found the Roadblock with the silver grenades. Granted, I don’t care all that much, but it would be kinda neat to have.
I zoomed in on my comparison photo, and you may be right on the patch. It’s a little bit hard to tell because of paint wear and paint consistency. Though I guess it would make sense for them to use an existing tampograph instead of designing something new.
They do make good lab techs and HAZMAT guys. I tend to see the green and black Payload as more of an Eco Warriors army builder than an astronaut.
So many colour schemes. I was only able to find the green one back in the day
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Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment! I think the green one was the most widely available (and the only one I ever saw as a kid), so that makes sense.
The Lanard parts really enhance the overall look of the figure, and since I have some of those, I’ll definitely steal that idea at some point! You have some really great photos on this post too. I tend to find that it’s really satisfying to photograph Star-Brigade stuff, partly because I can use my imagination a lot with it.
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Thanks for the kind words! And I’m glad you like the Lanard stuff with Payload– I thought it was a nice fit, too.
I have a ton of fun photographing Star Brigade figures for similar reasons. It really gets the mind going and you’re not beholden to any traditional military stuff at all. Divers kind of do the same thing for me, but you are bound to just a bit more realism with them. Maybe I need to find some sea monster toys?