As everyone (hopefully) expected, we’re wrapping up our S.T.R.I.P.E. Week with a look at the big guy. STRIPE & ‘comic accuracy’ don’t belong anywhere near each other in a sentence, but Mattel and the Four Horsemen pulled off a feat, a fantastically inaccurate figure that’s fantastic at the same time.
Before we jump in here with S.T.R.I.P.E., I wanted to give a shout out to all of our readers! We know you guys love the theme weeks because you turn out in droves for them, but we weren’t sure about this go-round because we’re getting to S.T.R.I.P.E. & his wavemates so late in the game. These reviews would’ve been late in December and here we are in late February. Yet you guys were still on board, and we saw the same spike in traffic and comments despite the extremely late reviews. You guys humble us and push us to do more with your patronage. A couple years back when it took a month or more to get what is now a day’s traffic around here, we never thought it would blossom into us talking toys to this many folks on a daily basis. So you’re all due a hearty thank you from the whole gang here at IAT!
Even though S.T.R.I.P.E. wasn’t created until 1999, the man inside the suit (Pat Dugan) is a fair bit older than that, having first appeared in 1941’s Action Comics #40 as Stripesy. Stripesy is a rarity in comics because he somehow ended up being the adult sidekick to a teenager, the Star-Spangled Kid. The wealthy teen and the garage mechanic would initially operate independently as heroes, but when one dude’s got a star theme and the other has a stripe them – well a team-up is just natural, right? (The pair actually had met prior while stopping a riot and then followed parallel paths until they met up again as superheroes, if I recall). I’m not sure how Stripesy ended up the sidekick other than the fact that SSK was filthy rich. Life’s just not fair, y’know?
My first introduction to Stripesy came in the form of a JLA/JSA team-up, courtesy of those oft-mentinted Blue Ribbon Digests. The two teams had to track the time-lost members of the Seven Soldiers of Victory (a team that Mattel has yet to give us a proper figure for…). Hourman, Batman, and Starman travelled to Ancient Egypt to locate Stripesy and return him to the present. He didn’t appear a lot af that until Geoff Johns brought him back to the forefront in 1999’s Stars & S.T.R.I.P.E.. Now, things get a little iffy here – Pat Dugan was a mechanic, in his early 20s at least, in 1941. So, in 1999 when he remarries and ends up with Courtney Whitmore (Stargirl) as his step-daughter, this guy’s gotta be pushing 80! He doesn’t look it in the comics and I don’t recall if Johns ever broached the subject of his age, though it wouldn’t take much. One sentence of blah-blah-blah and his youth is explained away. Heck, his being time-lost could cut decades out right there, but it’s not relly important I suppose.
What does matter is that Courtney found SSK’s old costume among Pat’s things and assumed the mantle to annoy her stepdad, but Pat didn’t miss a beat. Since he was a bit old (ahem) to be galavanting about as Stripesy, Pat built a suit of armor (robotic suit) to accompany Courtney while she was out on patrol. Thus, S.T.R.I.P.E. was born. You really have to admire a 1940s car mechanic that’s still in the game and can build cutting edge robots 50 years later. To my knowledge, the acronym didn’t stand for anything in particular. It was just simply a call back to his old moniker with a robotic flare. Readers suggested “Special Tactics Robotic Integrated Power Enhancer” and it stuck, clunky as it sounds.
So here’s the funny thing about the suit of armor Pat built, it looks nothing like the figure. The comics have featured two primary versions of the armor (a third exists if you count the JLU animated series). The first version (above, bottom right) was a clunky design with a kind of Big Guy and Rusty vibe. The later version (above, bottom left) is a little used, but pretty much direct rip-off of a megadeuce design from Big O.
You can see some elements of each in the final design, but either the Four Horsemen created their own vision for S.T.R.I.P.E. or DC supplied them with some wonky control at that we’ve never seen. Now, earlier this week, I stirred the pot a bit by pointing out that I didn’t care about Atom’s height being accurate because it was a great enough figure. If there’s anyone out there who loves S.T.RI.P.E. in the comics and insists on accuracy, don’t read the next sentence. This design is better than either of the versions used in the comics. Seriously, if S.T.R.I.P.E. shows up in the DCnU, the folks at DC need to just use this design. He’s never looked better.
Now, STRIPE (I’m tired of typing all those periods) does share parts with the C&C Stel, so one might think that’s what dictated some of the figure’s design and that could be partially true, but while Mattel intended to part share between Stel and STRIPE (which resulted in us getting a ridiculously oversized Stel), STRIPE ended up reusing a fewer bits of Stel than I’d expected: the legs, lower torso, shoulders, and upper arms. These pieces are all fine to be reused here. They’re nicely detailed and really add to the sculpt. Being cast in white plastic helps bring out the details even more so than when we saw them on Stel.
While Stel’s pieces being a great level of detail to STRIPE’s usually smooth look, the newly tooled pieces blend in nicely. I love the big, clunky feet in particular, but the armored forearms/hands, the new torso, and the new head all look sharp on the final figure. I especially love the head sculpt – yes, it’s not like any of the comic versions, but it does have a great look to it. Some softer plastic pieces are also new here, one to cover the crotch and the make the figure a little less lean through the middle and the large “football pads” that cover his shoulders and upper chest. They both finish off the look and don’t block the articulation, so win-win there. Continue to Page 2…