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  • Writer's pictureRich Honiball

Today in Brand History: G.I. Joe

On February 9, 1964, the first G.I. Joe action figure was introduced to the world by Hasbro. (though the exact date is disputed...some say the 1st, others the 2nd, others the 6th and finally, the 9th of February). The original GI Joe action figure was 12 inches tall, making it larger than other action figures on the market at the time, such as Barbie and Ken. This made it more appealing to children and set it apart from other toys. on and change the toy industry forever. GI Joe was not just a toy, but also a comic book and eventually an animated television series. The first comic book series was created by Marvel Comics and was first published in 1965.

G.I. Joe was inspired by the popularity of the military during the Second World War. Created by the Hasbro toy company and originally marketed as an “Action Soldier”, the toy was designed to help children understand and appreciate the sacrifices made by military personnel. The name “G.I. Joe” was actually a slang term used by American soldiers during World War II to refer to any fellow soldier. Hasbro decided to pay homage to these soldiers by naming their new toy after this beloved nickname.

The figures became a popular toy for children, who could use them to act out their own adventures and battles. One of the unique things about the original G.I. Joe figure was its articulation. The figure had 21 moving parts, which was a vast improvement compared to the other action figures on the market. This allowed children to pose the figure in a variety of action positions and gave them a greater sense of playability.

G.I. Joe quickly became a popular toy, with over 40 million figures sold in its first year. The success of the Action Soldier figure led to the creation of other GI Joe figures, including the Action Sailor, Action Pilot, and Action Marine and figures from other special forces. Hasbro followed up with the introduction a line of accessories and vehicles for the figure, including a Jeep, a helicopter, and a backpack.

In the 1970s, Hasbro decided to modernize the G.I. Joe line to keep up with the times. The company introduced new uniforms and accessories that reflected the advancements in military technology. Additionally, Hasbro introduced new characters, including female soldiers and soldiers of different ethnicities, to make the toy line more inclusive. The G.I. Joe toy line was later expanded with the creation of “The Adventure Team”. This line of figures was designed to appeal to a older demographic and included features such as Kung-Fu grip and “life-like” hair. The Adventure Team line was also the first to introduce figures with accessories that allowed for more imaginative play, such as a diving suit and a snowmobile.

In the 1980s, Hasbro decided to take the G.I. Joe toy line in a different direction. The animated series, known as “G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero”, was created by Sunbow Productions and ran from 1983-1986. The animated series followed the adventures of the GI Joe team as they fought against the evil organization Cobra. The series became popular with children and helped to increase the popularity of the toy line. The company introduced the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero line, based on the popular comic book series. This line of toys was more action-oriented, reduced in size to 3.75 inches and the focus of the line changed from military figures to special forces figures, with a greater emphasis on the figures’ weapons and accessories. Additionally, Hasbro introduced new characters, such as Duke, Snake Eyes, and Storm Shadow, who would go on to become some of the most popular G.I. Joe figures of all time.

In the 1990s, the G.I. Joe toy line faced its first major setback. Hasbro introduced a new line of GI Joe figures, known as “G.I. Joe Extreme”, which focused on more modern military operations and technology. The line was not as successful as the previous lines, and was discontinued after a few years. In 1997, Hasbro reintroduced the G.I. Joe line with a new line of figures, called G.I. Joe: Classic Collection. These figures were designed to be more accurate representations of the original figures, with a greater emphasis on realism. In the 2000s, Hasbro introduced a new line of GI Joe figures, known as “G.I. Joe: Sigma 6”, which was more focused on special operations and technology. The line was not as popular as the previous lines, and was eventually discontinued.

GI Joe has had a significant impact on popular culture, inspiring movies, video games, and even merchandise. In 2009, a live-action movie based on the GI Joe franchise was released, titled “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra”. The movie was a box office success and led to the release of a sequel, “G.I. Joe: Retaliation”, in 2013. There have also been several video games based on the GI Joe franchise, including “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” and “G.I. Joe: Retaliation”.


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