This is a review of the 1995 GI Joe Sgt. Savage Battle Bunker with Battle Command Sgt. Savage set. It’s properly billed as just ‘Battle Bunker,’ but I thought I’d mention the figure’s name at least once. I’m probably never typing that full thing again.
This toy was given to me a couple years ago by my friend Pat, who has been featured and mentioned on this website many times. Thanks, Pat!
I finally got around to opening it this week, as I thought reviewing something completely new and different might help to stave off some amount of burnout. I’d never handled any Sgt. Savage toy before this one, so it seemed like it would at least be interesting.
And what I found surprised me, at least a little bit. The “battle command” Sgt. Savage figure itself was pretty much what I expected, but the Battle Bunker itself is actually kind of exciting.
This is a toy you don’t see around very often. You sometimes see the Sgt. Savage Grizzly SS-1, P-40 Warhawk, and IRON Panther around in photos. But this little bunker remains obscure, even though (as I found out) it’s perfectly compatible with ARAH-era GI Joe figures.
If that doesn’t get you to click the ‘read more’ button below, then nothing will.
Childhood Non-Experiences with the 1995 GI Joe Sgt. Savage Battle Bunker
In 1995, I still liked GI Joe.
1994 had been a bit of a slow year for Joe and me, but we were still hanging out. I bought and received a handful of figures from both the main Battle Corps line and the 30th Anniversary Collection. As mentioned a couple posts ago, I was also pretty into Hasbro’s Mortal Kombat line.
I was still playing with GI Joe and Mortal Kombat, even after the Joe line ended in 1995. But, as it happened, Kenner’s Star Wars: Power of the Force (2) also came out in 95, which allowed me to own my first ever Star Wars figures. That was very exciting. And GI Joe didn’t release any new product in 1995, meaning that my interest was waning.
Well, there was new product– but not any new product that I cared about.
I remember seeing some commercials for the Sgt. Savage toy line during Saturday morning cartoons. I thought they looked pretty neat. When I first got the chance to check them out in a store, though, I was pretty disappointed. These figures were completely different from the two dozen or so GI Joe figures I owned already. They were taller and had weird proportions. They wouldn’t fit in with my existing collection.
It made more sense to focus on Star Wars, Star Trek, and other toy lines than it did to start an entirely new Joe collection that couldn’t coexist with the one I already had.
I’m not entirely sure what Hasbro was going for with Sgt. Savage. Perhaps with sales falling off in 1994, they knew they had to change things up. Maybe they wanted to see if slightly larger figures resonated more with kids. Perhaps it was just time for a new story, with a more “Weird War” kind of angle, instead of green (or neon) army men vs. blue (or purple) snake men.
The whole Sgt. Savage thing didn’t pan out, because Hasbro’s GI Joe Extreme was also released in 1995. If you bought GI Joe Extreme figures, they were at least compatible with your Toy Biz and Kenner superhero and sci-fi action figures. Sgt. Savage, as far as I can tell, wasn’t compatible with anything.
Sgt. Savage was bravely trying to be its own thing entirely, with bold figure designs, a full-on marketing blitz, a storyline unlike any other brand on the market, unique figure construction, and Joe Kubert’s street cred. It didn’t work out but, looking back on it from today, I respect the hell out of it.
The Sgt. Savage line had its problems (many of which I outlined above), but plenty of love, thought, and care went into the toy line. The figures looked fantastic and had cool accessories. The line had WW2 and science fiction elements in equal measure– something that was immensely popular when the first MCU Captain America movie was released many years later in 2011. Marvel still goes back to that well from time to time.
Sgt. Savage was ahead of its time in many ways. But the drastically different figure size and construction killed its momentum. If the toys had been in ARAH scale, they’d be loved by collectors. But sadly, they’re too tall to fit in with your 1985 Lipps Inc. Snake Eyes or your giant stash of gold head Steel Brigade figures.
Some of the vehicles and playsets can still be used with ARAH figures, though. And the 1995 GI Joe Sgt. Savage Battle Bunker is one of them. I loved small playsets and diorama pieces like this as a kid, and I absolutely would have used this toy with my GI Joe figures all the time if I had it back then.
I didn’t have it back then, but I have it now. And I have to say I absolutely loved playing around with it.
Onto the review!
1995 GI Joe Sgt. Savage Battle Bunker Review
The Sgt. Savage Battle Bunker was released in 1995 by Hasbro and came packaged with an “exclusive” figure, named Battle Command Sgt. Savage on the packaging. The bunker, though, was the main event.
It continued the trend of the 30th Anniversary Collection, which released “realistic” military figures along with substantial accessories such as bunkers, rafts, and parachutes. I’m not sure if Sgt. Savage was supposed to attract adult fans of the old school 12” Joes (and their 30th Anniversary descendents), a new crop of teenagers, or a new crop of kids. But it was doing something different than the ARAH line that ended in 1994.
The packaging alone tells you that this line wanted to set itself apart.
Some of the GI Joe hallmarks are there, such as the GI Joe logo and action feature callouts. But the dynamic Joe Kubert artwork and comic panel-style layout on the card back really sets it apart from what came before it. The artwork is gorgeous and makes this packaging something special. I still threw it in the recycling bin, but I definitely enjoyed looking at it.
Here are the contents of the packaging:
You get an action figure, a bunker with machine gun and mortar, a bag of parts, and a tiny comic book.
The tiny comic book is really cool. The story and dialog are pretty forgettable, but Joe Kubert’s artwork is fantastic. This is the guy who did Sgt. Rock for DC, after all, so it’s thrilling to see him tackle a GI Joe related comic. I really can’t overstate how good the artwork is and how much it adds to the overall presentation of these toys.
Before we get to the good stuff (the bunker itself), let’s take a look at the Ol’ Sarge.
The figure uses the same body mold as most of the other Sgt. Savage figures in the line and the head was used with several other figures, as well. The difference lies mostly in the coloration. YoJoe doesn’t have all of their facts right, but you can at least check out every version of the character in their archives.
Overall, the paint and sculpting work on the figure is nice. I particularly like the camo pants and the bandage on his forehead. There are a few missing paint details (such as the dogtags), but that’s true of many GI Joe figures from across the decades. The head sculpt is particularly nice.
The proportions and articulation are weird, though. Something just looks off about the torso and arms to me. It’s not terrible, but it leaves me with an uneasy feeling.
Sgt. Savage figures don’t feature o-ring construction. They move like regular ARAH Joe figures for the most part, but their leg articulation is restricted by the type of ball joint the hips use. Additionally, the figure is pigeon-toed by default. You can kind of rotate the legs at the hip joints to correct it, but they’ll eventually always resume that ‘pointing inward’ position.
Battle Command Sgt. Savage didn’t come with any accessories of his own.
This is the only Sgt. Savage figure in my collection, so I can’t compare it to any other figures from that line, but I can compare it to other figures. And the scale is weird, dudes. YoJoe says these are 4” figures, but they’re really not. They’re more like 4.25.”
Here’s the Sarge with a very early ARAH figure and a figure that was slated for a 1995 release:
Here’s the Sarge with Modern Era RZA, who stands at 4” tall:
And here’s the Sarge with a Playmates Star Trek figure and a Kenner DC figure:
He just really doesn’t go with anything. I actually wanted to wait to write this review until I could acquire a couple of Visionaries figures, as I thought maybe he would scale with those. Plus, I like the concept of some Weird War Tales-style Army dudes fighting some Knights of the Magical Light. That’s a comic book I would read.
But, as it stands, Battle Command Sgt. Savage doesn’t scale with any other figure in my collection.
Luckily, his bunker is a lot more useful than he is.
The 1995 GI Joe Sgt. Savage Battle Bunker comes unassembled in the package and looks like this:
The instructions say you should install the sandbags, but they’re already attached when you open the toy. Before you put it together, the machine gun and spring-loaded mortar are already good to go. I don’t think they’re removable.
When you open the bag of parts, you get three strands of barbed wire, three beams/columns, three stoppers, an ammo belt, two missiles, and some netting.
The instructions on the back of the packaging are not good, but the bunker is easy enough to put together. You plug in the three red beams (sculpted to look like wood), place the netting over them, and peg the stoppers into the beams and over the netting. This allows you to position the netting in several different configurations, which is cool.
You then plug the rubbery barbed wire into the front of the bunker. It looks good, but it’s kind of tough to figure out exactly where to plug everything in. In the end, I just kind of guessed, as there were no reference photos, either. I could maybe tidy it up by wrapping the barbed wire on the left side around one of the beams, but it looks decent as-is.
When you’re done putting it together, you have a very cool looking battle emplacement. It’s maybe not quite as good as the 1986 Outpost Defender, but it looks realistic and is a perfect fit for most any ARAH-based GI Joe collection.
If you peek around the back, you can see the bunker’s play features. The ammo belt plugs into the machine gun and the missiles can be loaded into the mortar. There’s a black foot peg on a track behind the machine gun, where you can attach a figure. If the figure is gripping the gun’s handles, you can slide the lever at the bottom, which will (in theory) cause the figure and the machine gun to move in an arc, mowing down approaching enemies. When the lever hits stage right, the missile in the mortar will automatically launch. Again, in theory.
It all works pretty well, but triggering the mortar automatically is a bad idea. They should have just put the launcher’s trigger in an easier-to-reach spot so kids (and childish adults) could launch the missile independently. I don’t think anyone appreciates an unexpected missile launch.
My favorite discovery when messing around with the Battle Bunker was finding that the foot peg fits ARAH Joes perfectly. Any vintage or repaint era figure you have is perfectly compatible with this little playset.
In fact, the 1995 GI Joe Sgt. Savage Battle Bunker is scaled much better for ARAH figures than it is for Sgt. Savage figures. I almost wonder if this was intended for the 1995 ARAH line, which featured some more “realistic” military themed figures and vehicles (including repaints of the WHALE and TTBP), instead of the Sgt. Savage line.
Here’s the Sarge with the Battle Bunker:
When he’s manning the machine gun, his eyes are blocked by the netting. It’s not a great look.
You can bend his knees and get him to crouch a bit, but then he has an even harder time actually gripping the handles on the machine gun. It doesn’t work super well.
For comparison, here’s the Battle Bunker with an ARAH-style figure.
Even standing perfectly straight, she looks much better operating the machine gun.
If you bend her knees a bit, she looks even more natural inside the bunker. My posing here isn’t the best, but you get the idea.
This is a cool little set, but I think it could be better. I know spring-loaded launchers were all the rage in the 90s and early 00s, but I think this set would be nicer without the mortar. It would allow you to more easily place another figure inside the bunker itself. You can still pose figures on the ground behind the bunker with little trouble, and they still look like they’re firing from inside, but I’d rather have more usable space than the mortar.
The colors also make this toy a bit more environment specific. I can only really see it working in forest or jungle-like environments. With a little imagination (or paint), though, you can easily overcome that. This toy was also released with a version of General Blitz, where it was cast in brown and black plastic, if that’s more your thing. That version didn’t include the support beams and netting, though. Which is kind of a bummer, as the netting looks really good.
This is a very well done toy. It looks great and its various parts make it visually interesting. The machine gun and mortar are both well detailed and convincing, the beams and sandbags make it look substantial, the barbed wire adds flair, and the overall sculpting is superb.
If you want something new and different to use in photos, displays, and dioramas, then you should give this toy a chance. It’s an obscure item, but it’s a great utilitarian piece for any GI Joe collection. It’s especially good for those of you who like to focus on “military realism.” As soon as I publish this review, I’m going to fill it up with Mega Marines and attack it with rubber dinosaurs.
See? It works for both of us.
Overall: This is a great little mini-playset that came at a time when GI Joe wasn’t really running at full steam. It’s reminiscent of those fun mid-80s sets like the Outpost Defender and the Bivouac. This is a well-made, well-detailed toy that works perfectly with ARAH-style GI Joe figures. If you like what you see in these photos, you won’t be disappointed. Recommended.
1995 GI Joe Sgt. Savage Battle Bunker: Closing Thoughts
I did my best to show this toy from every angle possible, just so you can make an educated buying decision. I’ve hardly ever seen this toy in any photos or reviews, so I wanted to do my best to document it. I was surprised and delighted when it was perfectly compatible with my 95 Movie Edition Sonya Blade (the first figure I tried), so I thought some of you might be stoked about it, too.
Thanks again to Pat for giving me this toy! I’m not sure if the $11.99 sticker reflects the price he paid or what the toy originally sold for. It seems like you’d be getting a lot for your money with this toy, even at its original retail price.
Anyway, what do you think of Sgt. Savage? Have you found any hidden gems in the line? Have you found any great ARAH compatible pieces in other toy lines, as well? Let me know in the comments!
14 thoughts on “1995 GI Joe Sgt. Savage Battle Bunker Review”
This was a fun review. I almost thought you had made your own bunker at first. I think I’d be interested in this if I ever found one. Loving the pics here!
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Thanks for the comment, Cody! I appreciate the kind words on the photos, too. I was just kind of trying to show the different scenarios you could put the bunker in.
It’s really cool to see some detailed pics of this very unloved toyline. Heck, I don’t even love it! But I do love toy history. I think what’s causing you to go into the uncanny valley with Sgt. Savage are that (1) his shoulders are too low and (2) his hips are too narrow, giving him that slightly off look that I associate with O-ring The Corps figures, but to a greater extent. It’s funny to me how nearly every new style of O-ring figure attempted after 1995 just didn’t really work compared to the originals…or maybe that’s just me.
Sgt. Savage has always been confusing to me from a conceptual standpoint. I somehow knew about Sgt. Rock, and I got them confused, thinking Hasbro was making new figures of some old comic book character. But the new scale threw me off, and the WWII theme was uninteresting to child me (I also preferred Mega Marines and rubber dinosaurs).
I really like the comic book stuff on the back, all the flavor text, and the included minicomic. That’s the kind of fun material I really miss from modern toy design.
As far as failed 90s Joe revivals go, this one feels like the one I’d be most likely to revisit nowadays over Extreme or some of the less interesting parts of the 1997 line.
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Thanks for stopping by, Drac!
I think you’re exactly right about the proportions, but HOW DARE YOU speak ill of The Corps! They are perfect.
I think I was a bit confused by Sgt. Savage at the time, too, since it came so hot on the heels of ARAH. I guess they at least tried to tie Sgt. Savage into GI Joe Extreme, which was maybe a smarter move. If you can call anything from that era smart.
I love the comics and all the marketing material, too! No one is really doing that right now except MOTUO, which is absolutely killing it. I’m kind of excited to see the QR code bios and tech specs on the new Transformers, too.
Yeah Sgt Savage was a weird little anomaly. I had two figures, which I liked, but I’m not gonna act like they were anywhere near as good as Joes. I just couldn’t pass up the sculpts! Also they were in the clearance bin at KB Toys and Mom said “eh, sure.” In fact, they may have been my last childhood Joe purchases. I don’t usually count them and say Ice Cream Soldier, but hey, these were Joes too! I had a red Blitz and a white cyborg soldier, and honestly, they worked pretty well as giant cyborg freaks!
As for the bunker, man, I know I would have loved that! I had my eye on the set with the video tape and the cryo chamber for Savage too, but I never got it. They had some neat props in this line!
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Thanks for the comment, Eric!
I didn’t know you had any Sgt. Savage toys as a kid, but it makes Complete Sense to me that you’d use them as crazy cyborg abominations. That is right in your wheelhouse. The arctic stormtrooper and the other generic baddie from the line both have very cool designs. They look like they are enemies from an early PS2 game.
I forgot about that cryo chamber! I want to get it now.
I loved seeing this again! I held it in my hands once at KB and passed on it, very likely to get Cyberjets instead. I probably don’t regret that decision, but I’m still sad I never saw it again. In fact, I’d bet that was the only time I saw that second wave of Savage toys. I remember part of why I hesitated was that I wasn’t really interested in getting another Sarge, and aside from scale, that’s mostly what put me off from the toys.
I already had the Sgt. Savage that came with the VHS tape, which I watched the hell out of probably much more than I played with the figure. I wasn’t interested in getting another of the same character and Dynamite and D-Day didn’t interest me that much, so no matter how cool I thought that bunker was I just didn’t want to go in for another figure of the same dude who I already wasn’t playing with. I did have an IRON Stormtrooper though – who I used heavily! Something about being a cyborg ubermench in a trench-coat helped hide and explain away his size difference and proportion issues, so I had no trouble using him as a super tall tough henchmen with my regular ARAH Joes. Also, any figure with a soft jacket was highly valued by me, so he was a legend right beside Dojo Shang Tsung and movie Dhalsim.
I have a lot of love for Sgt. Savage conceptually now, and I’d like to see them redid as proper O-ring figures. Difficulty of holding era appropriate rifles aside, I think the Action Soldier/etc. figures proved how good they could’ve looked. If these O-ring homage figure kickstarters pick up steam, wonder if there’s enough interest for wink-wink-nudge-nudge homages to appear in a “Retro style WWII” figure line.
Anyway, that bunker is pretty sick. I never knew about it’s action feature and I think the possibility it was meant for Battle Corps Rangers or whatever is pretty compelling. It’s a shame it wasn’t sold with say, a woodland camo redeco of Battle Corps Duke instead.
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Thanks for the comment!
I always enjoy your stories of finding toys as a kid since they’re different from mine. I don’t remember ever seeing Sgt. Savage or all that much Transformers stuff at KB, but maybe that’s because it was dying around 95 or I was always just looking for X-Men there.
I need to see if the cartoon from that tape is somewhere on YouTube, since people keep talking it up so much. I always thought D-Day was the coolest of the good guys, but there wasn’t much competition. 3 characters on the good guy side and 1 character and 2 troopers on the bad guy side. That isn’t much variety. Looks like you an Eric did the same thing with the IRON henchmen. A pretty inspired idea, to be honest.
That movie Dhalsim is still one of my holy grails, if only for his accessories.
I’d absolutely love it if someone did something with Sgt. Savage in proper o-ring style– even just an obvious homage. I doubt we’ll ever be that lucky, though.
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The cartoon had a lot of potential! It’s definitely kinda eye rollingly macho, but no more than some of it’s contemporaries by 1995. It takes itself more seriously than DiC but still has fun; and the shading is easier on the eyes than Extreme was. Some….odd choices for skin tones, though; that probably looked a little better with CRT glow. (also cursed “player 2” Lady Jaye)
The biggest strike against it is probably how samey the Screaming Eagles are, on the one hand I kind of like them looking like some greenshirt extras to start with, but they really needed some more individual personality to come through when they geared up by the end of it.
I’m really curious how long it could’ve lasted on air with it’s real bullets and robo-nazi-walt-disney M.Bison, if a full a cartoon was ever even in the cards. It’s depiction of World War 2 weapons and vehicles is uhhh, pretty fast and loose but I can’t imagine it would’ve gotten by without turning the head of network censors.
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Robot/frozen Walt Disneys sure made some big villain appearances in 90s cartoons!
I really enjoyed watching that pilot, though. Thank you for the link.
I love how Sgt. Savage as a premise was just basically “Captain America meets Sgt. Rock”.
“Enhanced super soldier from WW2 revived in modern times” is just basically Cap, which made me gravitate towards the Sarge a bit more.
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A lot of unused 1995 Joe pieces made it into the Savage line. The Iron Panther being the most famous. But, with the compatibility of this with ARAH figures makes me wonder if this was also recycled from the Battle Corps Rangers.
Savage made no sense. But, 3 3/4″ was dying at retail. So, them trying another style was probably an attempt to hedge their bets. But, Savage sure did fail at retail. There were mountains and mountains of the vehicles and figures at Big Lots, KB Toy Works and other closeout stores all over the country. I suspect Hasbro was hoping to attract the burgeoning 12″ collector crowd. But, they missed the mark.
I bought a couple of vehicles, hoping they’d be ARAH compatible. But, even at closeout, they were pricey. And, I didn’t like buying vehicles that didn’t include an ARAH figure. I passed on all the carded figures as the gear with the P-40 Pilot wasn’t compatible with ARAH figures and I assumed that none of the weapons with the other figures were, either. And, again, even at Big Lots, the figures were far more expensive than they should have been.
As a concept, though, Sgt. Savage could have been really cool. And, if they had been vintage Joe compatible, they’d be loved today. But, the odd size and construction doomed them forever. I really wonder if the Hasbro team kind of knew they were going to get ousted for the Kenner group and dumped all their pet projects into production before they got let go. But, in the context of the ’90’s, the concept doesn’t really mesh with where the toy market was in the mid 1990’s.
The bunker isn’t bad for a small, cheap toy. It’s way better than the little battle stations they tried in the 2000’s. The machine gun is decently done for the time. And, while not the Outpost Defender, it’s one of the better options for kids who came of age later in the line’s history. And, Savage stuff is about the only Joe items that haven’t gone bananas in recent years. While you don’t see lots of carded figures for a buck or two like you used to, you can get a lot of them for still carded around $5 each. So, it’s a line you can still afford to collect. And, there’s some cool stuff that can be given to ARAH figures, too.
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Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment, Mike!
I think this almost has to be recycled from the intended 95 ARAH line, just judging from the size and overall easy compatibility. I could be wrong, though.
I guess I never realized these toys were expensive even at closeout. I never even considered buying one at the time.
I like your theory that this could have been someone’s passion project. That just makes sense. And I also think the concept itself is really good and pretty compelling– it just wasn’t the right time for it. The artwork and marketing materials show that Hasbro was pretty serious about making it work, but maybe they just didn’t have the backing or the budget.
I think this bunker is pretty dang nice and useful. Like you said, it’s no Outpost Defender but it’s good for what it is. I might actually look on eBay for the Sarge with VHS tape and cryo chamber now that I know prices are reasonable.
You mentioned reading weird WW2 tales, like soldiers fighting magical knights and such in your review. There is one but it’s a little more religious and it has religious themes such as the spear of destiny and the legionary that pierced Jesus. The comic is called Light Brigade if I recall correctly, I think that’s what you might be looking for