Friday, December 07, 2007

A CC Joe Spotter's Guide

(Click on photos for full-sized versions)

(Minor revisions made 12/12/07. Typos corrected, sections on hands and "Kung-fu Gimp" edited.)
Though it only ceased mass-market production a few years ago, it seems more mysterious to many people than the original GI Joe body-style first produced in back in 1964. As I was cleaning up a box of CC Joes caught in our recent storm damage (see previous post for details) I saw an opportunity to sort out some of the many variations of the CC Joe body and document them in one place.

Though many people seem to treat CC Joes as being interchangeable except for the different head-sculpts and hair colors, there were actually a huge variety of body versions, some quite distinctive and unusual. The basic CC design had many variant parts, hands, feet, torsos, different arms, and many had unusual coloring and marking variations. Given all the heads, parts, and ethnic variations, I'd guess (and it is just a guess) that Hasbro probably made somewhere between 100-200 distinctly different CC figures over the life of the line, and literally thousands of configurations were possible (and many are available to the kitbasher as well.

This is by no means a definitive guide, and I don't claim to be an expert. I'd welcome input, corrections, and additional information that can be used to expand and improve this post.

Let's start with some basic body types.

The figure at right is a "CC Blockhead," defined by his flat-top head-sculpt. I think this is one of the very early CC figures. He seems to have a somewhat distinctive neckpost, but otherwise his body parts set the pattern for Joes that continue through the life of the line.

The CC Joe was intended as a modern replacement for the vintage style (AKA, "Timeless Collection" or "TC Body.") GI Joe. The original Joe body style continued to be produced (and is still produced today, in GI Joe Collector's Club exclusives, and store exclusives like the recent GI Joe Adventure Team reproductions sold through Wal-Mart and other outlets) and is preferred by old-school collectors. But the CC body was aimed at younger collectors and kids, who wanted more realism, posability, and durability than the vintage body provided. The CC body was also likely much cheaper to produce with less hand labor, a body designed for modern mass production.

He's got the original gripping hands. I think these are known to collectors as "lobster claws" (correct me if I'm wrong here, guys). Unlike the original GI Joe hard-hands, this Joe could hold his weapons and gear. In some respects, these were more like the Adventure Team Kung-Fu grip hands, but they were larger (too large, some would say), more realistically sculpted, and the fingers were molded together. The design of the hands and arms still had some shortcomings. Joe could hold his rifle, but not in a shooting pose. He also lacked a trigger finger. Later hand variations would address these problems.

Another big improvement over the original Joe is the hip design. Original Joes can't sit properly because of their ball-and-socket hips. The new design featured a hip piece with wide openings, and a hip joint consisting of two friction swivel-joints mounted in a ball. Joe could sit or kneel in a way vintage figures could not. But the hip-joint had its own shortcoming, possibly a fatal one where kids were concerned. See discussion of the "Kung-Fu Gimp" below.

The figure in the middle is a later model. While the original arms continue to be used in many later figures, new "muscle arms" were added to the line. These have more realistic sculpting, and gave the basic Joe a buff new look. This figure features "Gung-Ho Grip" hands. More on these later.

The figure in the left shows just how tricky CC identification can be. This one doesn't look that unusual. But the unusual gloved hands (these hands weren't used on many other figures, and may even be unique to this one) and the anchor tattoo mark this as being part of the Modern Navy Deep Sea Diver set, one of the last high-end mass-market CC Joes. The torso features interior ballast weights that help the figure to dive using the special gear in the set. It just goes to show you that, when it comes to CC Joes, details sometimes count.

I wasn't sure if I should include this picture, but the arms and legs on this figure are definitely CC, so I'm including it, even though the torso is unique. This is another late entry in the CC line, the talker body, used for Talking Duke, as seen here, and a modern military figure whose name escapes me at the moment. You can see the talk button in the stomach. The head is a soft rubber skin (damaged in this example) over a hard plastic skull with moving jaw, molded teeth and tongue, and fingers that move the upper facial features slightly. Pushing the button opens the mouth, moves the face, and causes the interior electronics to utter a single word. You can "puppet" Duke through a wide variety of phrases by pushing the button over and over.

Because of the talking gimmick, the talker body loses waist and neck movement. The hands on Duke are also unusual, and don't swivel like most GI Joe hand. They only rotate on the ends of the arms. The upper part of what seems to be the glove's cuff is actually a separate plastic band (not removable) that rotates freely above the glove. I don't have one of the military variants, so I don't know if those have the same kind of hands, or more conventional CC hands.

Another common CC variation, added in the later years of the line, is the molded shirt. Molded shirts were almost universally criticized by adult collectors as being unrealistic looking and toy-like (as though GI Joe wasn't a toy!), but they were definitely kid-friendly, saved money on manufacturing, and some of the started to grow on me (I think many of them look great layered under an open jacket or long-sleeve shirt).

Here are the three major shirt types (there is also a "vest" torso and matching sleeve arms, which get their own photo below).

On the left is the most common molded shirt, the molded tee. Though not easily visible here, the shirt has a subtle molded-in fabric weave. The arms appear to be a variation of the muscle-arms. The molding of the shirt is such that it's easily hidden under most uniforms, and as I said, looks good layered under an open shirt or jacket. Many of the tee-shirt figures such as this one had graphics or patches painted on the shirt front, back, and sometimes sleeves. A few figures used just the tee-shirt torso with regular arms (there's an example pictured below in the color-variations section).

The headless center figure features the sweater body and arms. The molded in weave is much more pronounced in this version (some kitbashers have painted these in metallic colors to pass as chain-mail). The sweater sculpt doesn't hide under cloth uniforms as well as the tee, and the arms lose some range of elbow movement. (The particular body pictured is from a Sinbad animated movie figure, a couple of which were inexplicably grafted onto the GI Joe Adventure Team line.)

The figure on the right is an "Agent Faces" from the Valor vs. Venom line, and has the "wifebeater" shirt torso. This is an excellent variation for the layering effect I mentioned above. Great for "tough-guy" kitbashes.

This shot shows some of the many types of color variations seen in the line. The Venom figure on the left doesn't have a "shirt" torso or arms. He's got a regular torso, arms, and neckpost molded in red. Likewise his hands don't used a special glove mold. They're just "lobster claw" hands molded in black.

The center figure is a what Hasbro calls an "ethnic" figure. Specifically, this is a Hispanic Joe, identifiable by its slightly darker skin-tone. Hasbro also made African American, Asian, and Native American figures through the course of the line, all with distinctive skin-tones.

The guy on the right shows how Hasbro really mixed parts, and colors on various figures, especially later in the CC line's history. He uses the tee-shirt torso, regular arms, a variation of the lobster-claw hands with molded half-gloves painted to match the shirt, and a color molded pelvis to provide underwear.

These next two guys have what I call "wetsuit bodies." No special parts. These are basically base-line CC Joes with bodies molded completely in color.

This is the final evolution of the "molded shirt." I call it the vest torso, and it was created with a new "sleeve" upper arm mold, with which it was often used. The vest torso was bulky and over-sculpted, with a Peter Pan collar. which the tee-shirt sleeve had been tight and form fitting, this one was sculpted into a wide cuff. These was no hiding this monster under a uniform shirt, and it remains my least favorite common variation on the CC type.

Here you see the variety of ways in which Hasbro employed the mold. On the left, the sleeves and torso get an elaborate paint scheme to represent a body-armor combat vest over a contrasting uniform shirt with rolled-up sleeves.

The center figure has the sleeves and vest painted in matching colors, apparently to represent something like a safari jacket.

Finally, the headless right on the right uses the vest torso with regular arms for a much different look.

Here are just a few of the many, many variations of hands used on CC figures. There are other types, and many color and paint variations. Almost all early figures have flesh-toned lobster-claw hands, but many other hand types would follow.

The most important variation is the "Gung-ho Grip" hands mentioned above. These are smaller and more realistic than lobster-claws, and have hinged fingers that allow them to pose and hold small objects. They also have a separate trigger finger, and a special up-down (rather than left-right) swivel on one wrist that lets the figure hold a sighted rifle for the first time in GI Joe history. Despite their many advantages, the fingers were loosely jointed and so couldn't support the figure's weight, and in fact, often had trouble holding rifles and other heavy accessories.

Late in the line, a single command0 figure was released with "rope-climbing" hands. These had jointed fingers much like the GHG hands, but they were spring loaded. I've never seen these but most people who have them spoke well of these and wished they had been available on more figures. The spring-loaded GHG might have been the near-perfect GI Joe hand, and a lost opportunity for Hasbro and collectors everywhere.

Let's identify the hands pictured. On the left is a variant of the lobster-claw hands with molded-in half-gloves.

Next is the "Duke" gloved hand.

Next is a lobster-claw molded in black

Center is a Gung-ho Grip hand with molded in half-gloves.

Next is the Modern Navy Diver Glove.

Next is a basic lobster-claw in flesh-tones.

The final hand is a rarely seen version used on some high-end collector figures. I think these are known as "flipper hands." They're small, have unusually long wrists, and don't hold most accessories as well as the lobster-claw hands. I think the intent is that sleeves with more tightly fitted (and therefore more realistic) sleeves will fit over them.

I'm including this picture simply because I didn't spot a nude figure with these unusual gloved hands. I call them "hard gloves." They're bulky, with index fingers sculpted in an extended position. Unlike most Joe hands, they hard, and the fingers don't flex much, if at all. They have long cuffs (mostly hidden here by the sleeves) and heavily sculpted folds and wrinkles in the fabric. These are used in various colors on various fire and military figures as hazmat or flame-resistant gloves.

This Snake-Eyes figure is pictured for one unusual feature. It uses the modern version of the Kung Fu Grip hands. Like the vintage KFG, the modern version has individually molded, flexible, fingers. The fingers are also sharply hooked to allow the figure to easily hang from objects or slide down a rope. Mostly these were used on modern Adventure Team figures (most of which used the updated Super-Articulated, or "SA" GI Joe body, which isn't covered in this post). But unnoticed by almost anyone, a heavily advertised Snake-eyes vs. Storm Shadow two-pack was offered in huge numbers late in the CC line. Both figures had CC bodies, and both had the modern KFG hands molded in black rather than flesh tones. Adventure Team kitbashers, take note. Zillions of these figures were made, and they're common on the secondary market.

CC Joes had two major types of feet. The original style, shown in the middle, seems to be modeled on the vintage style-GI Joe foot. It's larger and has the backwards pointing heel (probably designed to keep the original hard-plastic boots in place).

Many later figures have the "baby foot" design shown at left. These have a smaller, narrower foot, and no heel to speak off. They're necessary for some smaller footwear, more compatible with rubber boots, and are probably make it easier for kids to remove and replace footwear.

The "green baby foot" feet at right may not be a variation at all. My suspicion is that they may have started out flesh toned, but some defect in the plastic mix caused them to turn green when exposed to UV light (probably sunlight). I've seen such "greening" on other body parts when exposed to the sun.

These final two figures do illustrate a couple of other variations in the CC line. Note the chest-tattoo on the figure at left. Many figures had tatoos on the chest or arms. The figure at right has camouflage stripes on the arms (and on the face, but mainly we're talking bodies in this post) and unusual hands. These are standard lobster-claws, but rather than molding them all in black or all in flesh, they seem to have been molded in black and then had the upper parts painted flesh-town to create "shorty-gloves." These look kind of strange to me, so I don't really know what they were thinking.

But the major intent of this picture is to illustrate the most outstanding flaw in the CC body design. I call it the "Kung-fu Gimp."

My observation comes from having purchased or examined many hundreds of used CC Joes in thrift stores, garage sales, etc. A fair number of them, probably well over half, arrive there with their legs and sometimes lower-torsos, reversed as you see here above.

To understand why, you have to look at the design. It's easily possible to reverse the hip ball accidentally. Once that happens, it isn't obvious (without removing the pants for examination of the joint) how to correct the problem. It's far easier to twist the knee, foot, or even waist 180-degrees in an attempt to compensate. Then consider that most modern kids didn't dress and redress their Joes as we baby-boomers did. Most of them played with their Joes just as they came from the package. The kids never saw the leg joints, and so had little hope of understanding how the joints properly worked. (In fact, I just noticed that in the very first picture in this post, the Navy Diver figure on the left is sporting Kung-Fu Gimp as well. It's subtle, and easy to miss even on nude figures unless you're looking for it, or unless you try to pose the figure.)

Combine this with the fact that Hasbro almost always packaged Joes with an odd sideways twist to one leg. Removing the Joe from the package, the child (or sometimes the adult) would attempt to straighten the leg, and it wouldn't work properly. Usually one hip joint would end up flipped. Sometimes the entire torso would end up twisted around and the feet reversed. But the end result was that for the Joe's entire play-life, his legs would be twisted from their proper position. In particular, one leg usually ended up with "gimped" hip and knee joints. For those kids, Joe never posed or moved as he should, and that must have been frustrating. Since, despite us adults, the majority of Joes needed to sell to children in order to make GI Joe a mass-market success, this has to have hurt the line.

Okay, it's a tragic flaw in a great and under-appreciated action figure body. While it lacked the nostalgia value of the Timeless (and later 40th Anniversary) bodies, or the elegant posability of the later Super Articulated body, the CC body was the literal backbone of the modern GI Joe line. They were produced in countless variations by the millions. They were rugged, attractive, more flexible than the vintage-style Joes, and cheap to make.

Though few if any CC Joes are being made any more, they still exist in countless numbers, and likely will continue to exist far in the the future. Consider that if your child reaches middle-age and in a fit of nostalgia decides to track down the 12" GI Joe he knew as a kid, it will probably be a CC Joe that he or she is looking for...

1 comment:

T. Brooks said...

Wonderful! What an excellent article!