1982/83 Flash

When Hasbro brought back GI Joe in 1982, their marketing machine was ready to roll. It included an aggressive TV advertising campaign featuring animation to promote the Marvel comic book. The toy packages had beautiful, action-oriented paintings by Hector Garrido, and the perfect, Reagan-era catchphrase, “A Real American Hero”. The toys followed the trail blazed by one of the biggest money makers of all-time, Star Wars, and featured the same scale figures with better articulation and better accessories. The cross-marketing of toy, comic and, later, cartoon, and the level of promotions driven by flag points, catalog inserts and mailaway figures was an unmatched success.

Straight-arm Flash and straight-arm Grunt.

One misstep from the early days was not having a character to lead the franchise. It necessitated the introduction of Duke, and would evolve to Snake Eyes, eventually, with his V2 action figure in 1985, but in that first year, Hasbro was jockeying two figures as the potential face of the franchise: Flash and Grunt.

Grunt was straight out of the school of hard knocks, sporting the ugly face that Hasbro also used for Grand Slam and Zap. Most of the Joe figures used some combination of shared legs, crotches, chests, arms and heads, but Grunt was the standard green colour with no unique body parts, so became the prototypical GI Joe figure. And his accessory compliment was one of the most complete and useful, with a helmet, a general-purpose, military backpack, and a slightly-undersized, M-16 machine gun. He was the meat-and-potatoes Joe who appeared on The Legend of GI Joe, the 1982 product catalog.

Flash was straight out of the pretty boy modeling school, with the handsome face also used for Short-Fuze, Hawk and Steeler. Technically, none of his parts were completely unique, either, since he shared his chest, arms and legs with Grand Slam, but I always considered Flash the original owner of those parts, and Grand Slam as an afterthought. He had a solid four-accessory compliment – including helmet, visor, laser rifle and power pack – and a look that felt unique and exciting. His red pads made him standout. And he played a prominent role in The Legend of GI Joe, as the Joe promoting the all-important membership kit.

The Legend of GI Joe / La Legende de GI Joe. From left: front cover from the French Canadian version; back cover from the English Canadian version.

Although Grunt was positioned front and centre on GI Joe #1, Flash was also prominently featured on that cover, standing to the side on the Mobat. And when that cover was recreated in the toyline, on the Collector Display Case, Grunt was pushed aside and Flash was instead at the front.

Flash’s card art was also outstanding, being one of the few figures with his back turned to us, engaging children in a way that beckoned us to follow his lead.

The Official Collector Display Case was an homage to GI Joe #1.

Playing with that first series of GI Joe figures was an exercise in projecting our own personalities onto the figures, along with our expectations of how heroes should act. There was a pseudo-group personality that might have come from being young and still in the process of developing my imagination, or in the clues given by the overlapping body parts and similar colours. The figures themselves were mostly defined by their weapons and specialties, not the backstories told on their filecards, which I didn’t keep as an ongoing reference, initially. So my early figures (Grunt, Breaker and Short Fuze) sounded alike and acted similarly. And Grunt, in my hands, at my house, sounded a lot like Flash, in my hands, at my friend’s house.

It wasn’t until the 1983 series arrived – when I was six – that the figures really started to differentiate themselves to me. And the cartoon played a major part in that, too, around that time, as I was too young to follow the subtle differences in personalities in the comic book. But once I saw all the Joes on-screen, interacting, the figures started to have their own voices. Sure, Wild Bill said, “Yee haw,” a lot, but it was in-character.

Swivel-arm Flash’s Canadian filecard. Anyone else have CCR in their head?

I didn’t own Flash when he first came out, as my parents and I were still forking over most of our toy money to Kenner for Star Wars figures. But Flash was a common figure to find in my friends’ collections, so I had spent plenty of time playing with him.

By the second and third series, I was getting the majority of carded figures that were being released, even if I’d already missed out on the laser trooper.

Premium Offer Booklet #2 (Cdn) from 1986.

Near the end of 1986 or early in 1987, I leveraged a mailaway promotion to finally acquire Flash. Now, I wish I would have bought all the figures, of course, but back then I had to choose one(!) pair of figures to order. It was a tough decision to buy Flash and Rock ‘n Roll over Stalker and Zap, and I agonized for some time over that.

In the end, it was just nice to get some of the early figures with their thumbs intact and all their accessories, since my original Joes were all broken and had lost most of their original gear.

The arrival of Flash and Rock ‘n Roll, around the same time I received Clutch and the Vamp in a trade, as well as reading reruns of early GI Joe comic issues through Tales of GI Joe, created a temporary revival in my interest in early Joes at 10 years old. By then, I was capable of appreciating the nostalgia those toys inspired, and those acquisitions may have led to my adult collecting, nostalgia being such a strong motivator to me now, and to have experienced and recognized it at such a young age was powerful.

Side profile. Sporting XMLR-1A laser rifle.
Power pack.

As I said earlier, Flash had a nice accessory compliment. He also seemed to be a unique figure – like Snake Eyes, Scarlett, Stalker and Rock ‘n Roll – whereas some of the other carded Joes could pass as members of a hive collective.

Unique figure, quality accessories and engaging card art?

He is easily one of the best figures in that original series.

From an original 9-back, Canadian card (1982).

Flash is the least realistic figure of the original nine, however, with his laser rifle and power pack, in a line that was an updated version of “little green army men”. He wasn’t alone in that regard, though, as Grand Slam, the Jump Jet Pack and Heavy Artillery Laser were also more science fiction than realistic military.

I’m not sure Hasbro knew exactly what angles they would be taking, particularly since they were initially competing against Star Wars, a sci-fi behemoth. The second series had less hints of sci-fi – just the SNAKE armour and Pac Rats – but within a few years they would be including aspects of so many different toy lines, far beyond military, and Flash was one of the early seeds from which those roots grew.

He made it all possible.

Mr. Sad.

As an adult, Flash is one of the few early figures whose card art I haven’t yet been able to acquire. So, luckily, there’s 3d Joes!

I had an opportunity to buy him, AFA MOC, from Billy Galaxy in Portland some time ago and passed, as the figure was well-above my price range. Given the direction prices have gone over the past few years, I’m not sure I’ll ever get that close to him again.

I’ll be watching for his full card in the meantime, and ideally it will be the Canadian version, when I find it. But I’m not holding my breath.

It’ll just be nice to follow that handsome face into battle again.

6 replies on “1982/83 Flash”

I’m of the opinion that Flash is the best of the original 13 Joes in terms of his actual toy. He has more paint apps, more gear and a more intricate appearance than any other figure. He holds up pretty well among the later figures, too.

I don’t recall a straight arm Flash in our childhood collection. Though, I’m sure he just died out more quickly. A nice swivel arm version showed up around 1986. I think the twins across the street gave it to us. It was probably a mail in version as it was brand new and they were too young to have kept something that nice for several years.

I gave him Snow Job’s rifle and used him as an army builder. The Silver Pads Grand Slam was the army building pilot for the Skyhawk with the color denoting their specialties. I had his pads be armor that absorbed water to gain strength. The downside was that if the trooper fell into the ocean, the armor will fill with water and drag him to a watery doom.

I’m glad that Red Laser was able to use the Flash parts for the Bombadier figures. But, I lament that we didn’t get a good Action Force or Auriken green Flash with swivel arms. There was definitely untapped potential…especially since he made those weird blue and orange figures that used a bunch of Flash chests.

Hard to argue with that take on Flash’s relative position vs. the other 12. They all have something going for them, but none has as much going on.

It’s awesome that you gave the figures weaknesses. And it’s great that you remember so much specifics! I wish I would have started documenting earlier so I could have more detailed memories to draw from.

Oh what could have been. It’s sad that Red Laser is no more! He could have done Flash versions to death like TBM and the various troops. Add in a swappable head to convert him to a generic Joe… That would have been amazing.

Stalker is my favorite Joe character, so it’s hard for any of the other original 13 to beat him in my eyes. Flash does come pretty close, though.

For most of the other 82-83 figures, I’m mostly happy with repaints. 97 Stalker, Grunt, and Zap. ToyFare Scarlett. Comic pack Snake Eyes (the one without the silly redone head). But I’ve always really wanted an original Flash just because he looks so cool. I found a nice 82 version at JoeFest in 2019, but I’d really like a swivel arm version at some point, too.

That straight arm Flash joins the ranks of my only other 82-83 guys– Breaker, Rock n Roll, and Clutch. There were never great updates to Breaker or Clutch, and Rock n Roll is a character I own every (o-ring era) version of. I can only dream of what a proper 97 Flash might have looked like if Hasbro hadn’t mucked up the Stars and Stripes set so badly.

Great post, thanks for letting me ramble!

Ha. You’re always welcome to drop by for a little rambling. No judgement here!

I agree that Stalker is the best character from the original 13, and the camo, vs. the solid greens of most other figures, makes him both more unique and a better fit for being on the frontline. My favourite is Breaker, however, mostly because he was my first figure, but it would have been nice if he had some way to defend himself, even a moulded-on sidearm I could pretend he was shooting with. It’s so hard to divorce ourselves from the play features and the importance of a solid, complete accessory set. Stalker has the nicest rifle but not having a backpack or any other accessories hurts him. So I do think that Flash’s accessories and look make him the best of that first bunch, even though others are more important to me.

I actually had a 1997 Stalker for years and purged him at one point, before I was ready to expand beyond 82-88. I’m not really sad about what I sold off when I was a teenager, because I didn’t know any better. But some of the figures I got rid of in recent years are open wounds now that my collection is more expansive, simply because I would appreciate them now if I still owned them. It was nice that they gave him the backpack, and the more detailed camo and additional paint apps were a bonus. If only the rest of the figures from that set were better…!

Absolutely, a repainted Flash would have been a great addition, depending on the colour choices.

Flash is probably the best figure from the 82 line-up, though Stalker and Rock ‘N Roll are both high quality enough figures to make the argument a little more compelling.

It’s funny, how Flash was a pretty predominant promotional character. He shows up on a lot of box art, even in 1985 when the figure was no longer for sale. He’s on the bomb disposal box, and in the Dragonfly on the FLAGG box art.

I really like Flash, as he’s got the best of both worlds for a G.I. Joe figure. I wish his mold had been re-used a few more times, but I’m also kind of glad the character didn’t get some reimagining later in the series, just because I’m really fond of the v1 design.

I struggle with putting those first 13 in any kind of order. Stalker is the best character. Breaker is my personal favourite. Rock ‘n Roll might be the best overall figure. And I liked the more mysterious, sometimes beatable version of Snake Eyes WAY better than the iconic, V2 Snake Eyes. But Flash is the best toy in that first set.

I sometimes think about the “perfect figures” discussion we considered having before. Rock ‘n Roll is a perfect figure. Flash isn’t perfect, but he is a better toy, and that distinction is hard to reconcile.

I wonder with the Bomb Disposal Unit whether Hasbro thought, if the bomb goes off, Flash is expendable because we’re no longer trying to market him.

Kidding, of course.

More likely, they had the toy and artwork in the bag early in 1984, but didn’t bother to update the artwork when the toy was actually released, in the following series. There are others that are like that. I got the bridgelayer so much earlier than any other 1985 toy. Grunt was on the box then, and Rock ‘n Roll made an appearance on the TTBP box a short time later… I also wonder if Hasbro’s brand managers weren’t as diligent about that type of thing as they would later become.

Kirk chewing them out: Only the current figures on the boxes, damnit!

About Flash’s lack of new versions in the original line, it’s interesting that Sci-Fi wasn’t Flash V2. Again, putting my marketer’s hat on, likely new versions didn’t sell as well as new characters, and Flash wasn’t on the same level as Snake Eyes, Luke/Han/Leia in Star Wars, or He-Man/Skeletor in MOTU.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *