Brainwaves: The Rise of G.I. Joe
If you asked Hasbro executives what their favorite movie was back in 1983, they would have likely told you Return of the Jedi.
In 1982, Hasbro had relaunched their popular G.I. Joe series of toys but the figures were not the 12″ dolls from the 60’s, they shrunk them down to 3 3/4″ action figures making them comparable to the extremely popular Star Wars figures of the time, but the Joe’s featured more points of articulation than their Star Wars counterparts.
As a kid growing up in the late 70’s/early 80’s, my toy world was dominated by Star Wars. I played with those figures day after day for years. But then Return of the Jedi hit theaters and it all changed… Darth Vader = Dead. Boba Fett = Dead. Jabba the Hutt = Dead. The Emperor = Dead.
It has been said nothing is more powerful than a child’s imagination… well my imagining of a rogue Lobot and Bib Fortuna’s twin brother running a rag tag group of bad guys to continue to make life miserable for Han Solo, Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker just wasn’t cutting it. Without a worthy foe, what’s the point of heroes?
And that’s where G.I. Joe stepped in and filled a huge void. Cobra Commander and Destro were alive and well and determined to rule the world. And there was a whole army of good guys ready, willing and able to stop them… Duke, Gung Ho, Scarlet and Stalker to name a few.
I have to believe that the Hasbro executives knew that with the final film in the Star Wars trilogy approaching, they needed to get their toys out in the marketplace before hand, so when the Star Wars bubble burst they were there to pick up the pieces and they were. I hope whoever came up with that plan was rewarded handsomely.
But Hasbro wasn’t done… they made another smart move when they incorporated ninjas into their toy line.
Ninjas were hot in the 1980’s thanks in large part to Cannon Films. And Hasbro had two of the most bad ass ninjas of them all in their G.I. Joe Universe… first there was the mysterious man in black. Normally such a character would be a bad guy, but Snake Eyes was actually a member of the G.I. Joe team. He didn’t talk, you never saw his face and he kicked ass. He was easily one of the most popular Joes of them all. Then they added Storm Shadow, a ninja dressed entirely in white, and he was working for Cobra.
While G.I. Joe did not have the benefit of a major motion picture to help sell their toys like Star Wars did, they did have a Marvel comic series. And it was in those comics that we really got to learn more of the backstory of Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow. Up to that point I had never anticipated reading a comic book more than the issue where Snake Eyes’ past would be revealed.
Eventually G.I. Joe would get a cartoon series, but I always felt the series missed the boat not capitalizing on the Snake Eyes vs. Storm Shadow story more. Instead they gave us Storm Shadow vs. Spirit, the Native American G.I. Joe?!?!
By the late 80’s the G.I. Joe toys had run their course. They got a little more ridiculous each year, with stranger characters and G.I. Joes in space, etc. But you can’t deny the military like strategy that had to go in to making that line of G.I. Joe figures one of the most iconic and enduring franchises in history.
There have been two major G.I. Joe motion pictures in recent years and it was just a few weeks ago that Cobra Commander received the key to the city of Springfield, Illinois. Yo Joe!
- Hall of Famers: Cobra Commander hasn’t been the only one being honored in recent weeks. Earlier this month at The Arnold Classic in Columbus, Michael Jai White and Don “The Dragon” Wilson were inducted into the International Sports Hall of Fame… And speaking of Arnold and Halls of Fame, Arnold Schwarzenegger will be inducted into the celebrity wing of the WWE Hall of Fame next Saturday, March 28th as part of WrestleMania Weekend. Congratulations to all three gentlemen.
- WrestleMania Week: And since I’ve already mentioned next weekend’s WrestleMania extravaganza, I will remind everyone that next week is WrestleMania Week here on Bulletproof Action. If you’ve been reading my Essentials series the past few weeks you know that professional wrestlers and action movies are no strangers to one another. Next week we will spotlight many pro wrestler turned action stars including Hulk Hogan, Trish Stratus, Roddy Piper, Steve Austin, Rob Van Dam and of course, The Rock!
- Wrap Up: It was great receiving some feedback over the last week or so about some of our posts including the review I did of Crackerjack back in January and our recent Checklist featuring Hunter. You can expect more Thomas Ian Griffith and Hunter down the road on Bulletproof Action. And please keep the feedback coming, either through comments on the site or you can hit us up on Twitter or Facebook…. Thanks for reading!