1985 Eels

Of all the environment-specific figures, the underwater troops might be my least favourite.

As a child, I could imagine my bedroom floor being anything – jungle, grasslands, desert, snow, water, the surface of the moon, but imagining swimmers under my carpet required significant suspension of disbelief. Regardless, I owned all the frogmen – Torpedo, Eels and Wet-Suit. And they were all important to me, mainly because so many of my vehicles and playsets – the Killer Whale, Water Moccasin, Sharc, Manta, Transportable Tactical Battle Platform, Night Landing and Devilfish – were water-based. Each was an important crew member on one (or more) of those vehicles, used for underwater reconnaissance, and sometimes snuck up on opposing troops as an assassin. They also fought each other a lot.

Eels’s arrival, shortly after Christmas 1985, signalled that Torpedo would need to return to the fold as a main cast member in my playtime, much as Snow Job had made a return once I’d acquired the Snow Cat, Frostbite and Snow Serpent.

Of the figures that came with flippers, the best was Eels. He had better molding and colours than Torpedo or Wet-Suit, and had great accessories and an actual weapon, something that couldn’t be said for Wet-Suit. He also seemed to be more of a threat than either of the Joes. And an army of Eels is the formidable opposition I always envision storming the USS Flagg one day, when I find the room to set it up.

When Eels arrived in my collection, he spent a lot of time pretending that his mismatch against Torpedo was more of an even fight. But the good guys always won in my household, so that meant Eels took a few dives. He also became the figure who most frequently rode the sideboards of the Water Moccasin with Crimson Guard on the other side, Copperhead at the helm and one of the leaders – hooded Cobra Commander, Baroness, Destro or Zartan – in the gunner’s seat. He was always the first Cobra up the ladder, boarding the TTBP, or sneaking onto the Killer Whale. But he didn’t spend a lot of time in the water with me. That had caused noticeable wear on Torpedo, Copperhead and Zartan – rusty screws, dried out O-ring and soap residue – and I had learned my lessons.

Where my childhood Eels never got to shine was in two of the roles he was designed for, as a crew member of the Moray and attacking the Flagg, since I didn’t own either. But using him as a crew member on the Water Moccasin and storming the TTBP were the next-best roles. Plus, he frequently piloted the Night Landing.

His prominence was prolonged by Wet-Suit’s arrival a year later. Again, Eels was being forced to pretend the new Joe frogman was a match for him. But I think my appreciation for Eels as a figure was one of the reasons I included Wet-Suit in my first batch of new Joes purchased when the 86s came out.

Riding the sideboards of the Water Moccasin with the Cobra Officer and Copperhead.
In dry dock with the Moray and Killer Whale.

Eels are among the most-attractive figures in the GI Joe line.

The dark tones of black and grey, along with the red chest, are striking together. I can’t think of many figures whose colours meshed with their mold so nicely. The grey transitioned to black and back along seams, and the red both prevented him from being too dark, and brought him more in-line with the core Cobra colours. He also has a silver Cobra emblem on his chest, a throwback to the Cobra Officers and Viper Pilots. The emblem is punctuated by the red chest section and his physique, but sometimes rubs off on played-with figures.

I don’t know anything about the appropriateness of his ribbed cuffs, but they look cool to me, and I love his boot knife and the utility belt. He has enough pouches to make Batman jealous. I also like the nub above his right ear piece – an antenna, presumably, to allow communication and coordination with Cobra Command and his fellow frogmen.

Eels portrays a great deal of menace, through his expressive eyes on the action figure and in Hector Garrido’s artwork. You don’t picture too many wise-ass remarks from the Joes when an Eel is approaching, just a nasty fight for the good guys.

His pack, flippers and harpoon are all improvements from Torpedo’s modest gear. The breathing hose and removable pack were nice additions, making “gearing him up” more exciting. The air hose is often missing from lose samples, or broken, and the harpoon is also prone to breakage with its narrow tip, but his accessories are top notch, overall.

Eels’s backpack and other accessories.
Canadian filecard.

Somehow, my childhood Eels survived the 80s and made his way into my adult collection, although his flippers and harpoon were long- lost.

I finally completed him again in 2015, 30 years after he first arrived. I’ve since added some Eel troops, enough to man the Moray or storm the Flagg, but not enough to do both.

And, eventually, I added a US carded Eels early in 2017. I think he looks amazing in a row of 1985 troops with the Crimson Guard, Snow Serpent and Tele-Viper.

Oh to be a kid again and find those four on the pegs in toy stores…!

US Mint on Card (MOC).
Cobra’s exceptional crop of 1985 troops.

4 replies on “1985 Eels”

The EEL is one of the sleekest designs in the Joe line. He’s good enough to overcome the stigma of being a diver. Wet-Suit, Torpedo, and others are all well sculpted figures, but they aren’t strong enough figures to work outside of a water or at least beach setting. The EEL looks cool as hell so he fits in anywhere.

We shouldn’t forget that Torpedo once wore his dive outfit, flippers and all, to stop a Cobra scheme at the Bureau of Printing and Engraving. That’s versatility!

I love the Eel. Such a perfect design and color scheme. As a kid, we had a sidewalk bisecting our front yard. I used it as a river that the Eels ruled. There were stairs on a small hill that were the waterfall. Eels might be swept away down the falls. Or, they would dominate and the Joes would be stuck in “caves” that were holes I dug in the side of the yard. (I actually found remnants of Joe figures there when I dug it up in the late ’90’s.)

I broke his hose, which was upsetting. But, the Eel held together pretty well for a figure that got so much use. In my Cobra world, Eels were the 2nd best fighters in Cobra behind the Snow Serpents. (Since Snow Serpents had to first be Eels.)

When I got the Mission to Brazil Wet Suit in late ’86, he was an army builder, too. They would fight Eels who would attack the base of my aircraft carrier (which was my bed with the HQ and TTBP on top) Some times the Eels would win. Sometimes they’d lose. But, often, the Eels would damage the ship before losing to the Joe divers.

I thought I’d love the Black Major Eels. But, honestly, the original is so good that the repaints haven’t really seemed all that great. I think I liked the Eel being so specialized and unique with just his one perfect version.

It’s actually pretty cool that kids could imagine the same flat surface as the surface of water and underwater simultaneously. Using the sidewalk as a river makes sense. My parents had a central staircase in our house and that was a waterfall at times too.

Cool that you found remnants during a dig. We did a reno to our basement a few years ago and I found Boba Fett’s blaster in the rubble. Not sure if it was one I had dropped recently, or one that had been lost by another kid 35 years ago.

I think we all have grail figures that are so special that we actually don’t like them being messed with. I had the opposite reaction with the Black Major Snow Serpents where I didn’t want a recolour but was pleasantly surprised by the results. But I’m pretty sure I would not be down if BM did 50 shades of Beach Head.

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