GI Joe is of course one of the most iconic toys in history. He has some competition, but not much when you consider just how many toys there are in the world.
But what is the story of GI Joe? And how did his origins as America’s Fighting Man morph into his history as the Adventure Team? And how did he then become the Real American Hero?
It started out in 1964 with the introduction of a very risky toy. At that time the general wisdom was “boy will not play with dolls”. So Hasbro did something very clever. It coined the term “Action Figure” and the first Action Figure was born with GI Joe.
It being just 20 years after World War II, America had military accomplishments to be proud of, and many kids grew up knowing their fathers had been in the war. Honoring them by playing soldier with GI Joe was something many kids thought was cool. With the glut of Hollywood movies about the war, war comics being popular, there was a lot supporting the sale of GI Joe.
With the Viet Nam war, however, everything changed. It was a war that became so hated that the soldiers who came back were often shunned when they returned, if they returned. War was no longer popular.
Hasbro switched gears and created the Adventure Team, a globetrotting group of heroes who hunted white tigers, or searched for the Yeti, or dealt with dangers in the depths of the ocean.
By 1976 GI Joe, at least in his 12″ form, was no more. An attempt was made to bring back Mego-scaled (8″) SuperJoes, but that didn’t take off either.
In 1980 Hasbro brought Joe back to immense popularity with a new 3 3/4″ line of figures that were doing rather well in the Star Wars line, and so GI Joe, the Real American Hero was born with some very cool equipment, lots of figures, this time with real names and identities kids didn’t have to infuse into their toys themselves, with real villains and a comic book series that sold the toys perfectly.
But the connection between the original 12″ GI Joes, at least back-story-wise, was tenuous at best.
So the writers of the comic book “rectonned” (retcon: (n) a portamteau of “retroactive continuity” – deliberately changing previously established facts in a work of serial fiction) Joe Colton into the story to link the current line to the original, and not many people complained about it.
In 1989 in issue #86, “Not Fade Away”, of GI Joe: A Real American Hero, (reproduction cover seen above) featured a battle against Cobra inside the Chrysler Building in New York. Inside, the GI Joe team meet the head of security for the building, and a female psychologist. His is not revealed until the end, when one of the GI Joe crew says he looks familiar, and was good enough that he should join the GI Joe team. The psychologist, named Jane, laughed, telling the newcomers that they were talking to the original GI Joe, Joe Colton.
Joe Colton would later be solidified in the lore by being in the second GI Joe movie, as played by Bruce Willis.
To honor GI Joe in all of his most successful incarnations, the GI Joe Collectors Club has previewed images of its Convention Exclusive 12″ figure set for the upcoming 50th Anniversary Convention in Dallas, Texas.
The set will come with a 12″ Green Beret figure to commemorate the original 1964-1970 military GI Joe, a 12″ Adventure Team GI Joe to commemorate the Adventure Team era, from 1970-1976, and as a special treat, a 3 3/4″ Joe Colton figure to commemorate the Real American Hero figures that have been so enormously popular.
Joe Colton is designed to look like the character revealed in the comic book.
And in honor of that 50th Anniversary, and now very real connection between the original GI Joes and the subsequent lines, I have created a custom 12″ Joe Colton myself.
Here is my custom Joe Colton. I used a reproduction Land Adventurer, dressed in a Donald Trump suit, with shirt and tie from an Unknown Soldier figure. He’s wearing Neo’s twin shoulder holsters, though you can’t really see those in the picture, and is carrying one of his two .45 pistols.