The History of Spy Island
Back in the original Hasbro GI Joe days, even before the Adventure Team, there was a GI Joe set called Secret Mission to Spy Island which featured a black suit, black stocking cap, a grease gun, flare gun, binoculars, spotlight, wrist flashlight, inflatable raft, a pack of dynamite and a detonator, and a box-radio, and more. It was a very popular set and exploited the 1960s Cold War spy themes, movies like James Bond, TV shows like Danger Man (Secret Agent) and others.
The set was revived during the Adventure Team era to include almost exactly the same gear, but with a black Adventure Team stealth suit.
In the late 90s through the mid-2000s, Hasbro revived the GI Joe line in an excellent series of different era reproductions, and one was the Timeless Collection. It was during this time that they revived the Secret Mission to Spy Island theme with a set that, while it did not reproduce the original exactly, did reproduce several important pieces, and the general idea, and even threw in a Crocodile to add to the play value. It included a repro of the vintage hard-hands GI Joe, with camo outfit and all the gear needed to infiltrate Spy Island.
In 2010 at the Providence GI Joe Convention, the Convention Set was, in my opinion, the finest Convention set ever produced: Escape from Spy Island, and contained so much gear I can’t even imagine the creation process. Though much of the gear was recast from previous sets, including vintage items like the Underwater Explorer now done in black and red (wow!) the sensor from the Classic Collection Save the Tiger set cast in yellow, and a metallic robotic shark that was originally part of an unreleased Sigma Six set, this was an amazing set to own. Thankfully as of this writing, I still own it, (plus the add-on convention exclusive of the black version of the mechanical shark)
Note that in this set, the theme of red and black emerges quite emphatically. In the original set, due to its stealthy nature, of course, the overall theme was black, but with red binoculars and red dynamite, it already hinted at a black/red theme.
With the lamentable end of the GI Joe Collectors’ Club, the Spy Island story was officially dead…
Spy Island Revival
When Greg approached me to help create a set based on the Spy Island theme, I jumped at the chance.
This would be for the Kentuckiana GI Joe Toy Expo in July, 2023, and it would feature three GI Joe Spy Island sets.
One that I know about is Spy Island Invasion – Sabotage:
This one will feature a lovely box with art by Doug Fakkel who is a friend I haven’t seen in many years. He used to be in a GI Joe collecting group with me long ago until he left the area. (Doug has made some of the finest repro GI Joe boxes and new boxes to fit modern era GI Joe sets.)
So far I have only seen this image of the third set: Invasion of Spy Island; Underwater Infiltration from Wetsuitman Exclusives.
Spy Island – Aerial Assault
For this set, Greg envisioned an aerial attack on Spy Island to take down an imminent threat. He liked something I had done years before, which was part of an incomplete set I had planned, called Cyber Counter-Attack, and wanted to carry this forward to his Aerial Assault on Spy Island.
First, we needed a way to fly to Spy Island.
It was an obvious idea to use my original Heli-Jet Pack but in a black/red theme. We had created a few black stealth versions of this before, but this would have red accents as well to fit the theme.
Aerial Drone and Controller
You will also note that in the photo is a wrist control cuff that I sell through Cotswold in a variety of colors, and also include in other sets where appropriate. Usually it is used to control a drone or some other equipment, as it is kind of like an arm-worn control tablet. Above, it is shown without sticker for the screen. Here is what it looks like complete:
Also, I repurposed my most recent drone which was originally created for an arctic themed set we worked on a couple of years ago, called Super Joe Unlimited – Arctic Danger. The original was in white and blue colors to fit the arctic set.
This is a departure from my previous drone which I had used in multiple sets. This one would be easier to assemble (in theory) and not have moving parts, but still be a cool, high-tech drone.
Using the idea of the Dyson-like propulsion that the Heli-Jet uses, it has four bladeless props, an intake vent and a camera lens underneath. I printed those intake vents and camera domes in transparent red resin on an Anycubic Photon resin printer. If you hold one up to the light, you can see through it.
At this point we had transport, we had an Aerial Drone for recon. Now we needed a weapon system.
This spy would carry no heavy weaponry, just a pistol. His mission is to disable a Cyber-terrorist server farm (or whatever the user dreams up. In the comic book image below, a mine is used to take out a jet), so he needed something to take down a bunch of computers.
The idea I had years before was for an Adventure Team Cyber Counter-Attack set that would feature an EMP Cannon for aiming at electronics and emitting a burst of magnetic energy to fry the equipment, as well as EMP Grenade and Mine to plant around the facility which would deliver a centralized EMP burst powerful enough to take out electrical equipment in the vicinity. It also had some stuff we would not use, such as a satellite uplink, a control pad (we now use a wrist cuff) and cybernetic VR goggles.
This set would be all about using Electromagnetic Pulse weaponry and monitoring to shut down a Cyber-Terrorist threat, and included an EMP Grenade/Mine.
This is something I modeled and prototyped nearly a decade ago. It contained 3 magnets per grenade/mine. One in the base cup to let the mine attach to a metal surface, and two in the grenade portion. The grenade comes out of the cup and can be thrown, hence grenade. But mainly it was intended to sit in the magnetic cup as a mine that could be planted. Inside the grenade are two magnets. One is dual-purpose: It attracts to the base, but is also used to repel a very small magnet in the trigger plunger, which made it behave like a spring without using an actual spring.
For Spy Island, Greg recalled that mine prototype and wanted to use it, and I thought now was the perfect time to resurrect it and theme the assault as a counter-attack to a Cyber threat.
To detonate the 3 included mines, I created a Detonator, in the general idea of the original Spy Island detonator plunger. In this case I did use a spring. I also created a locking mechanism inside so you can only push the plunger when the handle is turned perpendicular to the box.
At the last minute, I added an arrow indicator to show the Spy that they needed to turn the handle first:
Getting the Gear to the Mission Site
How would the Spy transport the drone? And how would he get the EMP Weapons to the site? Hold them in his hands as he flew in? NO. His hands would be filled with two joysticks for the journey.
We had used a Drop Canister for mission gear in the past. However, the Drop Canister would have to be redesigned to be made larger to fit the drone, if we wanted to include it. I thought that unnecessary.
We would definitely want to fit the mines and detonator in a Drop Canister, which would be sent on ahead by parachute drop to the Spy Island mission site.
So I thought of a way to snap the Drone to the Heli-Jet. A simple clip that would attach to the back of the Heli-Jet with clip tabs for the Drone, so the Drone can be carried without issue by air.
Thanks to 3D printing, I was able to use the actual body model for the Heli-Jet as a base to create a clip that would snap to it perfectly, contour-for-contour. To make it reusable, I created a slot, rather than adding the drone clip directly to it. This way, I could repurpose it for any gear I wanted, that would attach a second piece to the slot on the Heli-Jet portion of the clip.
Two tabs fit into two opposing propeller holes on the drone, for a very secure connection. Simply thumb the tabs together very slightly, and pop! The drone comes off easily.
See how it works in the image at thet top of this article.
Completing the Super Set
Greg would supply the figure, the outfit, boots, equipment belt, a wonderful headset, a great pair of goggles, a shoulder holster and pistol, as well as the parachute for the Drop Canister.
Prior to the show, Greg released an image to be used with the set:
And with that, Kentuckiana GI Joe Toy Expo will see quite a spirited revival of the Spy Island lore that dates back to the early days of GI Joe, all thanks to a group of very dedicated fans who love GI Joe and love what we do.