As a long time passionate fan of DC Comics’ Legion Of Super Heroes, I had some fun last year drawing The Legionnaire of The Day where every day I drew a full body shot in color of a member of the Legion. I tried to follow the chronological order in which each character was introduced and I went as far as 1989 when the notorious “Five Years Later…” arc debuted and “my” Legion ended. I am planning on posting those Legionnaires here too so stay tuned if you want to see those!
When I ran out of Legionnaires, I turned to another beloved team with a large diverse membership… GI Joe… particularly the GI Joe of “The Real American Hero” era which was the era with which I grew up and am the most familiar. Rather than following any sort of chronological order, the method by which I chose which characters to draw fell along two criteria. First, I gave priority to my favorite characters which have always been those original thirteen members at the debut of the action figure line and secondly, I chose to draw certain characters in the order that I got their action figure.
I started with Clutch here because he is my all-time favorite Joe. Clutch’s real name… and I’m going by memory here… is Lance J. Steinberg and he was from my home state of New Jersey. to be precise, he was from Asbury Park, NJ. To my eternal shame, it wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned that legendary GI Joe creator Larry Hama based Clutch on that other famous Asbury Park native, Bruce Springsteen.
The New Jersey connection only served to cement my love for Clutch. I’d first experienced the character within the pages of the historic GI Joe: A Real American Hero #1 by Marvel Comics. A lot of later Joe fans are often very dismissive of that original team of the first thirteen Joes. This was when Hasbro was economizing by using only one or two standard bodies for most of the figures in the line. As a result, many of the “O-13” look very similar to each other. As a kid, I was perfectly fine with this. After all, the Joes were a military outfit and a little uniformity is to be expected. Still to a lot of people, this freshmen wave of figures look boring. I, however, loved them and Clutch most of all. Incidentally, speaking of those Early Joe bodies, Clutch for whatever reason got a unique body mold all his own. This is significant because it was extremely rare in that original line-up. Aside from Clutch, the only other unique body types are the “padded” male bodies shared by Flash and Grand Slam and the female body used by the lone female Joe at the time, Scarlett.
The Clutch figure was one of the highlights of that early line. As I said, he didn’t make use of that same body shared by most of the team. Clutch had some sort of vest or jacket and an unremovable gun molded right into its holster on his chest. We couldn’t put the gun in his hand but it still looked great.
Clutch was also one of three figures in that initial wave to not come single-carded. Clutch was only available packed with the VAMP, a novelty pioneered by Hasbro giving them a slight edge over Kenner who never gave us figures with their vehicles… at least not when I was a kid. Maybe they’ve changed that. Clutch and the VAMP became a favorite toy and I still have my original figure and vehicle to this day!
Even in those early days of the relaunch GI Joe franchise, Clutch emerged as an often used character among that original team of thirteen. First off, he was the driver of the VAMP… my favorite Joe vehicle which further upped Clutch’s stock in my eyes. As the driver of the Joes’ main mode of transportation, Clutch landed lots of screen time.
Clutch also had one of the more colorful personalities of the team. Unconventional and sloppy, he was funny and irreverent without being obnoxious or annoyingly insubordinate. He was funny and cool in a very subtle, underdog sort of way. He was the team’s primary driver but he was a creative thinker who saved the team more than once in those early issues through guile and his own brand of pragmatism. I must not have been alone in my fondness for Clutch. Out of all of those early Joes, Clutch was the first to get an entire full issue solo story.
I didn’t get very far in my Joes Of The Day series. I only finished Clutch shown here, Flash who will be up soon, and still in the works is the Joes’ communications guy, Breaker, another personal favorite! Look for more Joes coming soon! Keep checking back here!
Now you know, Everybody… and knowing is half the battle!