Through the years Barbie has been the inspiration for a lot of young girls. But, believe it or not she was also the inspiration for G.I. Joe! Toy creator Stan Weston saw the big success that Barbie was enjoying and decided that a similar toy for young boys might have just as much success.
Hasbro agreed and the first prototypes were made in 1963. They were named Ace, a pilot, Rocky, a marine and Skip the sailor. The now famous name, G.I. Joe came when Hasbro director, Don Levine got the idea for the name from the 1945 movie, The Story of G.I. Joe.
The first G.I. Joe’s hit store shelves in February of 1964 and were designed with a World War II theme. There were only four figures in the initial production, one for each branch of the military. The figures were 12″ tall and there were several accessory packs to go along with them.
In 1966, Hasbro released soldiers from various countries including Germany and France and by 1967, some of the figures were even talking! The Action Nurse came out in 1967 and was such a huge failure that Hasbro wouldn’t release another female G.I. Joe for 30 years.
As the Vietnam War broke out, Hasbro steered away from the theme of war and introduced the first G.I. Joe’s that were civilians! The 1969 line was known as The Adventures of G.I. Joe and soon just became the Adventure Team. Around this same time, the figure also began appearing with life like hair and a beard that was flocked instead of molded.
By 1974, Kung-Fu-Grip was introduced to the line as martial arts became more popular. This was the first figure that had softer hands that could actually hold objects, giving the figure more life like capabilities.
The last major feature added to the original figures was eagle eye vision, incorporated into the line in 1976. A small lever at the back of the figures head allowed the eyes to move as if looking around.
G.I. Joe received super hero status in 1976 when Atomic Man was added to the line up. Later, Bulletman joined him and they worked together as a team even having their own comic included with each figure. Later that same year, the Adventure Team took on enemies from outer space when The Intruders: Strong Men from Another World hit store shelves.
In 1976, the original 12″ line also met it’s retirement in America and was replaced with The Defenders. The following year, Hasbro started manufacturing the popular 8 1/2″ size known as the Super Joe Adventure Team.
They came with newer accessories such as battery operated back packs with lights and other accessories that were motorized and even the 1-2 punch. But, as 1978 came to an end, so did the Super Joe line. Most of the line had the soft plastic hands that enabled them to grip objects, but the plastic degraded over time and left many figures without limbs.
While various figures were still produced in other countries, it wasn’t until 1982 that G.I. Joe re-entered the American market as G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero. The small 3 3/4″ size opened the way for Hasbro to also introduce matching play sets and numerous vehicles to the line.
In 1985, G.I. Joe won the honor of being proclaimed as the best selling American toy in several magazines. The 3 3/4″ American Hero figures were canceled late in 1994 and replaced with both 12″ and 3 3/4″ figures based on the original Joe’s for their 30th Anniversary.
Over the years G.I. Joe has appeared on television, comic books, video games and promotional items as well. The company has released several collections and even reproduction figures geared towards collectors. Joe has had numerous vehicles and other accessories.
Joe has also been many famous people such as George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt and even Audie Murphy and Bob Hope! No matter what Joe has been he was, is and always will remain one of the most popular action figures ever made!
Written by Connie Corder, Copyright 2008 TLCollectables.com