As part of our theme for Military Appreciation Month, we cannot forget about our plastic soldiers. G.I. Joe was created in 1964 right here in Rhode Island by Don Levine during his tenure at Hasbro. It was not just a brand Hasbro had created at the time, but a revolutionary concept for the toy industry at large.
The “Action Figure,” was a never before heard term for a toy. Prior to G.I. Joe the idea of a boy changing the clothes on a doll was ludicrous. They wouldn’t do that, but an action figure, now that is something little boys would play with. G.I. Joe utilized the format of Mattel’s Barbie, but instead of Summer dresses and convertible dream cars, G.I. Joe had World War II inspired uniforms, vehicles, and every war accessory you can imagine. By 1966 G.I. Joe was even headed into space with the Space Capsule play set.
The original 12” G.I. Joe toy line ran from 1964 to 1976, including an array of different figures, vehicles, and accessories. By the end of the original run Joe had become more fiction-based including Adventure Team and Atomic Man sub-lines to compete with trending toys of the time like the Six Million Dollar Man.
Jumping to present day, we have now lived in a world with over 50 years of G.I. Joe awesomeness. In 1982 the brand underwent a complete overhaul to build the story of G.I. Joe, A Real American Hero. It followed the heroic Joes fighting the evil terrorist organization Cobra. This change in story also included a change in the toys becoming 3 3/4” tall compared to the original 12”. This was copying the success of Kenner’s Star Wars line in 1978.
Regardless of whether you’re an original 12” fan or cartoon nerd of the 1980’s, there is no denying how important of a toy line G.I. Joe is. After three live action films, comic books, and multiple television series, there is no denying G.I. Joe is here for the long haul.
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