Well, I finally finished photographing the review I was talking about in my previous post. And wouldn’t you know it– it’s another GI Joe mail away from 1993. I have very few of those (but want basically all of them), so don’t expect it to be a big trend. I just felt like reviewing this figure.
Today we’re talking about the GI Joe Spirit mail away from 1993, who was part of the International Action Force four-pack figure offer. He was sold in a set with Big Bear, Big Ben, and Budo. Let’s hope Hawk doesn’t do roll call in alphabetical order every time he assembles the IAF. Oh, to be an S in a world of Bs.
Let’s take a look at the figure.
Prelude to 1993 GI Joe Spirit (Mail Away)
When I was a kid, I had a couple of the GI Joe Air Commandos. Skymate and Cloudburst, to be specific. These figures came with large gliders that flew like paper airplanes (or better, sometimes) and could attach a figure fairly securely. They were decked out in bold colors and wild, creative patterns. They were also much more durable than the Falcon and Viper Gliders from the 1980s. Still, they were not popular among my friends. No one I knew liked them at all. In fact, I was the only person I knew who had any of them. My friends responded to them with either disdain or disinterest.
Although I enjoyed the figures that came with the gliders (despite their accessories being lost in the lawn from glider missions gone wrong), I never hungered for more Air Commandos.
Spirit version 3 was released as an Air Commando in 1992. I was somewhat aware of that figure, but I didn’t need another glider and I doubt my mom or grandparents wanted to pay for another glider, seeing how I reacted to the two I already had. So that version of Spirit was pretty much off my radar.
Spirit as a character, however, was not off my radar. I really liked him in reruns of the Sunbow GI Joe cartoon, where he was a huge presence. Because the Sunbow writers couldn’t really figure out what to do with Snake Eyes, Spirit often fought Storm Shadow in hand-to-hand combat. What kid wouldn’t love a guy who could fight a ninja and sometimes come out ahead?
Spirit also played a small role in the GI Joe: The Atlantis Factor video game for NES, which my friend and I rented fairly often. In that game, Spirit appeared in his 1992 Air Commandos look and would heal your wounded Joes. Because I needed all the healing I could get in that game, it made me appreciate Spirit even more.
The original 1984 Spirit was long gone from shelves when I was a kid, and that figure represented his iconic look. The 1989 Slaughter’s Marauders version might have been hanging around in some stores when I first got into GI Joe, but I never saw him.
Since the old cartoon was my main source of GI Joe media as a kid, I closely associated Spirit with his Sunbow look. And, because I would rather get a couple new figures rather than another glider, the 92 version of Spirit was just not on my list. I honestly would have loved that figure if I’d gotten him instead of Cloudburst or Skymate, though.
Now we come to the 1993 GI Joe Spirit (Mail Away) figure. I remember seeing him and the rest of the International Action Force in pack-in catalogs, but my mom was only willing to bother with mail away figures on certain occasions. Plus, seeing as how between my friend and I we already had Big Bear and Big Ben, I never put much thought into ordering the set. I did think Spirit and Budo looked great, though.
About four years ago, I splurged and got the 1993 mail away Spirit, still sealed in its original baggie, from eBay. It was my first ARAH version of Spirit. Before then, I’d only owned the terrible 25th Anniversary version and the reasonably good (if somewhat hackneyed) Pursuit of Cobra version. Spirit wasn’t around much in either the New Sculpt or Repaint eras for some reason, so the character wasn’t readily available despite his popularity.
There’s a reason I chose the 1993 Spirit as my first vintage-style Spirit figure– mainly, I love the look and design. It’s a worthy version of a core GI Joe character, even if it is divorced from his iconic light blue fringed shirt and braided hair.
While I don’t have any childhood nostalgia attached to this figure, I thought I’d review it anyway. It might be even more fun as seen purely through 30-something eyes.
1993 GI Joe Spirit (Mail Away) Review
Spirit version 4 was released in 1993 as a mail-away exclusive offer, and is a repaint of Spirit version 3 from 1992. The figure was only available as part of the International Action Force mail order set, which also included Big Ben version 2, Big Bear version 2, and Budo version 2. Each figure was individually bagged with one accessory and a figure stand.
Oddly enough, they didn’t include individual file cards. Instead, the set only had one file card, which described the characters and their mission. The file card also mentions Budo being from Japan, which is hilarious because Budo is a dude named Kyle from Sacramento.
You can view the file card here.
I did take a photo of my bagged Spirit figure before I opened it, but it’s an old and crappy photo. Still, something is better than nothing, right?
1993 GI Joe Spirit is mostly decked out in red and tan with some white, black, and gold highlights. Though it’s not the most “practical” or “realistic” color scheme, it does look rather nice. It’s a striking figure that stands out, even among the creative color schemes Hasbro was using in 1993.
First things first– I like the head sculpt. It looks like Spirit to me. Sure, it’s been updated to reflect the sculpting advances the GI Joe line made in the 1990s, but it’s a cool interpretation of the character. The tied-back long hair and the patterned headband are both cool details.
The vest has an unorthodox design, but it still looks interesting. The red and white go great together, and they also nicely pick out the details without the whole chest piece looking too “busy.”
Spirit is absolutely covered in hand grenades, which seems odd at first. But I think hand grenades make sense for a dude who spends a lot of time strapped to a military-grade hang glider– hand grenades seem like a pretty effective way to rain down some pain on enemy fortifications, vehicles, and positions if you’re flying gracefully overhead on a fragile, lightweight glider.
The gloves and boots look cool in black. On Spirit v3, the boots were painted to look like buckskin and the file card portrayed them as ‘traditional Navajo boots.’ So that effect is a little bit lost here, but I think black was a good choice. The feathers strapped around Spirit’s arm are also a cool little detail that show Hasbro was paying some amount of attention to the characters they were sculpting.
The detail on Spirit’s pants is nice, and I do like that the back of his torso is painted, too. Having grenades strapped to the back of your leg seems like it might make sitting down a little bit awkward, and they also probably clank and clang about when Spirit walks, which may reduce his effectiveness as a silent tracker. Still, none of that is a big deal in any way– this is just a fun looking action figure, and that’s what really matters.
My biggest gripe with the sculpt and coloration is a minor one. I just don’t love the gold paint, especially for the belt. Gold paint on vintage GI Joe figures tends to fade and rub away very easily. And the gold belt just doesn’t look great. It’s fine for the grenades, but it doesn’t really work out elsewhere. I think the gold details would have been nicer in grey, silver, or black. Again, not a big deal. It still looks pretty nice, you just have to be a bit more careful with the figure.
I don’t own an original Spirit, but here’s how he looks next to the Slaughter’s Marauders version. I think you can still look at the 93 version and say “yep, this is Ol’ Charlie Iron-Knife.”
1993 GI Joe Spirit (Mail Away) came with one weapon and one black figure stand. His one true accessory, a knife, comes from Hit and Run, and is cast in a similar dark green color. There’s nothing remarkable about the figure stand.
On a surface level, it may seem stingy that Spirit only comes with a knife. But, if we’re being reasonable, Spirit got pretty lucky and at least came with a useful and appropriate accessory. A tracker who spends most of his time in the wilderness is going to need a knife. It’s a versatile tool and a good silent weapon. Plus, consider what his fellow IAF members came with– Big Bear got Dodger’s sci-fi RPG/laser thing, Big Ben got Tunnel Rat’s machine gun (not a bad choice at all), and Budo came with a sheathed sword. The sword looks good with Budo, but it’s not a real weapon. Spirit came out ahead for sure.
Spirit looks good with his knife and can hold it easily in either hand. That’s really all that matters. Many 90s mail away figures got totally bogus accessories that barely made sense for them, so even if Hasbro was being lazy by just giving Spirit a random knife, at least it was an accidental success.
You may want to equip Spirit with something a bit more potent than a knife, though. I’ve always struggled with what else to give this figure, but I have a few suggestions.
First off, the 1994 Viper came with a red version of 1992 Spirit’s pistol. The reds aren’t a perfect match, but it still looks good and is an appropriate match since this Spirit mold was originally coupled with this weapon. If you have the pistol in black from the 92 figure, that might work even better. It’s a cool looking gun that seems like it’s great for silent, long-distance shooting while still being lightweight and portable. I really wish that 94 Viper weapons tree had been used more than once, since it comes with some great pieces.
The other obvious choice is the original Spirit’s arrow rifle, either in its regular, accessory pack, or Slaughter’s Marauders colors. They all match well. I don’t really like this accessory, though. I’m not an Indigenous American, so I don’t have much room to talk about stereotypes here. But coupling the Native team member who wears somewhat traditional garb with an arrow-shooting gun when everyone else gets a regular weapon seems a bit on-the-nose to me. I think Spirit deserved better. The only way this gun makes sense to me is if you think of the arrows as tranquilizer darts– a tranq gun would make sense for a guy who tracks and subdues targets. If I think of it that way, I almost like it. But there are still better alternatives.
The idea to equip Spirit with DEF Shockwave‘s submachine gun comes from Mike T. The weapon looks good with the figure, as it’s a pretty standard military firearm and it’s also compact and lightweight enough to work with a guy who’s quiet and light on his feet. Really, though, Spirit’s primary military specialty is infantry, so he can easily match up with any standard US Army gun you want to give him. I didn’t photograph him with it, but I also think the Corps! hunting rifle might also be a neat choice.
Now let’s address the overall look and function of the 1993 GI Joe mail away Spirit figure. No, these aren’t practical military colors and red isn’t very stealthy, especially if it’s covered in white grenades and stitching. You could probably mix the figure’s head, arms, waist, and legs with the 92 version’s torso for something more “standard military,” but that would be a waste of two expensive figures and probably wouldn’t look as good as this version.
This figure has an appropriate ‘American Southwest’ look to it, and it also just looks cool. Spirit is his own man and has never been keen on dressing in standard military garb. I also think this look is great because it’s more “adventurer” than “army guy,” which is also very much in the ‘spirit’ of GI Joe. I can see him teaming up with Shipwreck or Recondo for all sorts of globe-trotting adventures, which is a very fun idea.
He’d also look great on a ‘silent weapons team’ with Jinx and Quick Kick. He’s a bit more subdued than many of his 1993 compatriots, but he fits in pretty well with most of them. Because of his khaki pants and black boots, he also looks great with many figures from the late 80s and early 90s, as well. And, in a pinch, he works pretty well in a desert environment.
As for the character, I just see this as an updated version of Spirit. He’s the best tracker on the GI Joe team, a capable combatant in traditional military settings, a canny hand-to-hand fighter, and a deeply empathetic person with social services training who can help his comrades when they’re in a mental or emotional health crisis.
I kind of think it would be fun to team this version of Spirit up with Tracker. They are both trackers, after all, and I think the adventures of a tough-guy Navy SEAL with the fashion sense of a 1991 Foot Locker and a wise, subdued infantryman with nothing to prove is a cool idea. They’d be a great odd couple.
Spirit is an essential GI Joe character. This isn’t his iconic look (which is what usually gets revisited), but it works a bit better for my concept of GI Joe than the original toy does. Plus, I’ll probably never find a version of the 84 figure that hasn’t been discolored beyond recognition.
I like this color scheme a bit more than I like the 1992 Air Commandos version. That one looks decent, but it’s also probably a bit too much on the “busy” side for me to fully love. So, ultimately, this is the version of Spirit I chose to represent the character in my collection.
He’s not a traditional armyman or silent tracker, but I wouldn’t want him to be. This is a big, bold version of Spirit who can hold his own with the other big name characters from the 1990s.
Overall: I love this version of Spirit, and it’s my favorite of all of his figures from the vintage toy line. The colors aren’t “practical,” but they’re also not garish or cluttered. It’s a great sculpt with a great color scheme. This doesn’t represent Spirit’s iconic 1980s look, but I don’t think it needs to. The knife accessory is nice, but you have plenty of other weapons to give him if you feel like he needs something more. The only thing to really watch out for is the gold paint. The figure is a bit expensive, but so is the 1992 version– and this one is better. 1993 Spirit is Highly Recommended.
Closing Thoughts on 1993 GI Joe Spirit (Mail Away)
Thank you for joining me. It was fun to do another straight-forward GI Joe review. I think another Transformer is on deck for next time.
What’s your favorite version of Spirit? How do you see the character? What do you think of his arrow rifle? Let me know in the comments!