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G.I. JoeAction Soldier
Manufacturer Hasbro
Era 1964–present
Category Action figure
Country United Statesmarker
Web address Official G.I. Joe Hasbro site

G.I. Joe is a line of military-themed articulated action figures produced by the toy company Hasbro. The initial product offering represented four of the branches of the U.S. Armed Forces with the Action Soldier (Army), Action Sailor (Navy), Action Pilot (Air Force) and Action Marine (Marines). The term G.I. stands for Government Issue and became a generic term for U.S. soldiers (predating the action figures), especially ground forces. The development of G.I. Joe led to the coining of the term "action figure."

The G.I. Joe trademark has been used by Hasbro to title two different toy lines. The original 12-inch line that began in 1964 centered around realistic action figures. In the United Kingdommarker, this line was licensed to Palitoy and known as Action Man. In 1982, the line was relaunched in a 3 3/4-inch scale complete with vehicles, playsets, and a complex background story involving an ongoing struggle between the G.I. Joe Team and the evil Cobra Command which seeks to take over the Free World while using terrorism. As the American line evolved into the Real American Hero series, Action Man also changed, by using the same molds and being renamed as Action Force.

America's Moveable Fighting Man (1964–1969)

In 1963, noting the commercial success of the Barbie doll for girls, Stan Weston, a toy creator and licensing agent, had merchandising rights to a 1963 American television show The Lieutenant. He presented the show for viewing to Don Levine, the creative director of toy manufacturer Hasbro, both thought the plot of the adventures of Lieutenant played by Gary Lockwood in the 1963 U.S Marine Corps seemed like a soap opera. Weston came up with the idea of a line of Barbie-sized dolls with a military theme that would be marketed to boys. Levine visited a New York store called The Soldier Shop that sold a variety of militaria including French porcelain dolls in accurate cloth Napoleonic uniforms that he combined with the possibility of an artist's mannequin. Both men saw the potential of the idea and approved development. The prototypes were originally named "Rocky the Marine", "Skip the Sailor", and "Ace the Pilot", before Don Levine, inspired by the popular 1945 film The Story of G.I. Joe, decided on the generic name "G.I. Joe."

Hasbro, who had never made a doll before, produced large quantities of the figure and accessories in record time.

The line was launched on February 2, 1964, with a World War II theme (although some of the clothes and other items were actually of Korean-war vintage). The G.I. Joe figures were approximately the same physical scale as Barbie dolls— tall in 1/6 scale, which would make the original figures 5 ft, 9 in tall in real life. There were originally four figures, one to represent each branch of the Armed Forces. Accessory packs (often called "blades" in the toy industry—the "razor" was the action figure and the "blades" were the accessory cards) containing additional gear and clothing were also released.

Unlike Action Man the GI Joe figure did not come with a rifle. Each of the four branches of service had four different scenarios that had its own equipment and uniforms. For example a soldier or Marine would have a rifle, web gear, field pack, helmet and other equipment sold separately or in large sets. In 1999 Hasbro had competition from a company named 21st Century Toys who produced an action figure with highly detailed accessories called The Ultimate Soldier.


  • In 1965, a black G.I. Joe figure was introduced in select markets.
  • In 1966, soldiers from other countries (France, Germany, Japan, Australia, USSR and the UK) joined the G.I. Joe line up. A Green Beret figure from Vietnam was also issued in the same year.
  • A Project Mercury-like space capsule and silver-suited astronaut figure was added to the series.
  • In 1967, Talking figures were introduced.
  • The first female G.I. Joe, the Action Nurse, was produced in 1967. It was a commercial failure, and another 12" female would not be released for 30 years.

Adventure Team (1970–1976)

By the late 1960s, in the wake of the Vietnam War, Hasbro sought to downplay the war theme that had initially defined "G.I. Joe". The line became known as "The Adventures of G.I. Joe". In 1970, Hasbro settled on the name "Adventure Team", and relaunched G.I. Joe under the new, non-military banner. The clothes had an "AT" logo on them.


  • To coincide with the new direction, "Life-Like" flocked hair and beard, an innovation developed in England by Palitoy for their licensed version of Joe, Action Man, is introduced in 1970. A retooled African American Adventurer was also introduced, which came in two versions as did the others in the series, bearded or shaven.
  • In 1974, named after the increasingly popular martial art, Hasbro introduced "Kung-Fu Grip" to the G.I. Joe line. This was another innovation that had been developed in the UK for Action Man. The hands were molded in a softer plastic that allowed the fingers to grip objects in a more lifelike fashion.
  • In 1976, G.I. Joe was given eagle eye vision; a movable eye mechanism to allow the toy to appear to be looking around when a lever in the back of the head was moved. This would be the last major innovation for the original line of 12-inch figures.

A shift in play patterns

For its first ten years, G.I. Joe was a generic soldier/adventurer with only the slightest hints of a team concept existing. In 1975, after a failed bid to purchase the toy rights to the Six Million Dollar Man, Hasbro issued a bionic warrior figure named "Mike Power, Atomic Man", which sold over one million units. Also added to the Adventure Team was a superhero, Bulletman. Comics included with figures at the time featured "Eagle Eye" Joe, Atomic Man, and Bullet Man operating together. The Adventure Team was finally an actual team.


End of an era

The original 12-inch G.I. Joe line ended in America in 1976. At this time, Hasbro released a line of inexpensive, rotationally-molded mannequins in the G.I. Joe style called "The Defenders."

Super Joe (1977–1978)

In 1977, Hasbro released the Super Joe Adventure Team, and took the battle between good and evil to the stars. The figures were scaled down to 8 1/2 inches, similar in size to Mego's Superheroes line of action figures. The line was a hybrid of superhero and space action figures with new features incorporated such as battery powered back-pack lights and motorized accessories. The hero Super Joe characters, Super Joe Commander (Caucasian/African American) and Super Joe (Caucasian/African American) had a "1-2 Punch" that could be activated by pressing panels on the figure's back. The majority of these figures used Kung-Fu grip style plastic in the joints and hands. With age, the material degrades, leaving even unopened figures missing limbs and hands.

Unlike the original G.I. Joes, Super Joe was developed from the start with a play-pattern of Good vs Evil. Super Joe Commander and the Adventure Team (Man of Action, and Adventurer) with their alien comrades "The Night Fighters", Luminos and The Shield, fight against the evil Gor, King of the Terrons, Terron: The Beast from Beyond and his ally Darkon, the half-man half-monster.

Super Joe was discontinued by the end of 1978. The same basic body molds were used later by a subsidiary of Hasbro to produce a line of action figures based on the TV series Space Academy.

International G.I. Joe licensees

United Kingdom

From 1966 through 1984, Palitoy Ltd. produced a British version of the 12-inch G.I. Joe line, under the Action Man name for the UK market. Initially, these were the exact same designs as the American figures, and at first the same military theme which included figures from World War II. The line later expanded the line to include all men of action, like football players and other sports figures. In the early 1980s, Palitoy responded to falling sales of Action Man by launching 'Action Force'—a new range of smaller military-themed figures in the style of the then-popular Star Wars line from Kenner. Later, when the U.S. Real American Hero line was released in the UK they were released under the 'Action Force' title, since the term 'G.I.' is not in common use in Britain. The figures had the same appearance and codenames as the American G.I. Joes, but their identities and histories were international rather than purely American or British. The range was later renamed G.I. Joe to bring it into line with international markets; however, the Action Man line retained its original name when it was revived in the early 1990s.


Group Action Joe was the French license for G.I. Joe. The Ceji company developed the line in 1976, using the life-like bodies developed by Hasbro that same year. Initial characters include an adventurer, a soldier, a cowboy, a black adventurer, a bearded adventurer and an Indian figure. A female figure, Jane, was quickly added. The line expanded in 1977 and other character were added with new features like Eagle Eyes.

Ceji updated several features and many new outfits were created. Some of them, like the French Republican Guard, are highly sought out by collectors. They also licensed other characters for the line, including Rahan (a French comic book caveman, 1978) and Zorro (licensed from Disney). For the French market, Ceji gave all members of the team a name to establish more individual identities. Production for the line ceased in 1981.

Other licensees

The GI Joe line was also licensed to Germanymarker under the Action Team name. In Spainmarker, Geyperman was the Hasbro licensee, although the products were more based on Palitoy's line, down to the logo design. In Japanmarker, Takara and Tsukuda licensed the figures under the names "GIJOE" and "Combat Man". In Italy, Polistil licensed the figures under the Action Team name (same as they were called in Germany). In Australia, the line was released as "GI Joe" by Kenbrite; Palitoy also licensed their "ActionMan" line to TolToys . In Brazilmarker, Estrela licensed the 12" figures under the name "Falcon" and the 3 3/4" figures under the name "Comandos em Ação". In Argentinamarker, the G.I. Joe figures were licensed by Veri-li enterprises under the name "Joe Super Temerario", and "Los Temerarios". The G.I Joe toy line was produced in Indiamarker under the Funskool brand.

A Real American Hero (1982–1994)

1982 saw the highly successful relaunch of the G.I. Joe product line in a smaller, 3 3/4-inch scale, of the same type employed by the wildly popular Star Wars figures. The 1982 relaunch pioneered several tactics in toy marketing, combining traditional advertising with an animated television mini-series and an ongoing comic book. The decision to use a smaller 3 3/4-inch scale for the figures also made it possible for Hasbro to produce a variety of matching vehicles and play sets that further expanded the appeal and commercial potential of the line.

G.I. Joe's increasing popularity supported an array of spin-off merchandising that included posters, t-shirts, video games, board games, and kite. In 1985, both Toy & Lamp and Hobby World magazines ranked G.I. Joe as the top-selling American toy.

The 3 3/4 inch line was canceled at the end of 1994. This was also the 30th Anniversary of G.I. Joe and accordingly, Hasbro released a series of 12-inch and 3 3/4 inch figures based on the Original Action Team figures from 1964. A select assortment of figures from the "Real American Hero" line were released as Toys "R" Us exclusives to celebrate the 15th anniversary. A second assortment followed in 1998.


G.I. Joe also appeared as a promotional comic book, produced by Marvel Comics. The comic series released its final issue, #155, in December 1994, to coincide with the end of the original RAH toy line.


The basic premise of the 1985 series was "good vs. evil". The show's opening theme song included the narration: "G.I. Joe is the code name for America's daring, highly trained special mission force. Its purpose: to defend human freedom against Cobra, a ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world", explaining the show's premise.

The show featured physical fighting and high-tech weapons as a way to compensate for toned-down violence and lack of bullets in what was seen to be a children's program. The show also featured public service announcements placed at the end of each show. These PSAs ended with the phrase: "Now you know, and knowing is half the battle." The series ran for a total of 95 episodes, from 1985 to 1986.

In 1987, the series was followed with G.I. Joe: The Movie. The film was not well received by fans.

The film had been released direct-to-video in 1987 because of the perceived failure of 'Transformers:The Movie' animated movie at the box office. The movie was also re-edited due to the original script having one of the main characters, 1st Sgt. Duke Hauser, dying at Serpentor's hands; instead, he falls into a coma and eventually recovers at movie's end (in part due to reaction from Optimus Prime's death in the 'Transformers' film). Also, the main villain Cobra Commander met his own sort of demise when he was turned into a living snake by mutant spores created by a new enemy, Cobra-la.

The animated series was cancelled after the movie was released, but was to make a significant return in 1989 with the animation company, DIC, taking over where Claster/Marvel left off. That year, DIC released a 5 part mini-series entitled "Operation:Dragonfire" in which the Joes faced off once again against Cobra as they tried to take control of an energy source known only as 'dragonfire.' In this mini-series, Cobra Commander was also returned to a semi-human state by the energy itself while Serpentor, the Cobra emperor, was turned into an iguana by the dragonfire. The animated series proved to be a bit of a success as DIC made 2 more seasons (1990-91); however, the series itself ended after 1991.

Although a direct-to video animated movie was made for the Sgt. Savage line, packaged with an exclusive Sgt. Savage figure in 1994, the toy line was ended that year. The real American hero series began again about 1995, when Claster Productions once again came up with a new animated series, this time based more on the G.I. Joe extreme toy line. Although the series itself was of great quality, the toy line was not, and the series was cancelled after 2 seasons as well (1995-96).

Once again, G.I. Joe had no series on air until its resurgence in 2002 with a couple new toy lines:

1. Spy Troops: the Movie (2003)-in response to the resurgence of the real American hero toy line, Hasbro released its first computer animated feature to coincide with the release of its 'Spy Troops' header line.

2. Valor vs. Venom (2004)-in response to sales from 'Spy Troops', Hasbro commissioned a second feature using computer graphics yet again to coincide with the line of the same name.

By 2005, Hasbro had entered into an exclusive agreement with Paramount Pictures to have them distribute any future features based on the 'Real American Heroes' line, but by the time a third movie was to be created, this time called, 'Attack of the Bats', Hasbro's sales on the 'Real American Heroes' line had once again slumped, and the project was scrapped altogether.

In 2006/07 the Joes were featured in their own animated series tied into Hasbro's new 8-inch line called 'Sigma 6', which lasted only 2 seasons. 'Sigma 6' did take over where 'Valor vs. Venom' left off to an extent, as the series begins with General Hawk still recovering from his experience from being transformed by Dr. Mindbender's venom experiments, and Duke leading the team.

In 2008, Hasbro gave permission for a limited animated series to be released called 'G.I. Joe: Resolute', which was released as mini webisodes, with the full series later broadcast on Cartoon Network's adult swim. This series took on a new look for the Joes as this series was more realisitic, in terms of showing actual people being shot as well being killed on camera, which was a feature never shown before. Sales were once again on the rise as the 'Real American Heroes' was re-released, this time in new sculpts of old figures, completely based on their original appearances during the 1980s. This series was given mixed reviews in part to its more realistic and violent take on the Joes vs. Cobra.


Stephen Sommers has directed a big budget Hollywood action movie based on G.I. Joe. The first film, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, in what is intended to be a franchise, stars Channing Tatum in the role of Duke, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the role of Cobra Commander. Tatum describes the film as being a cross between X-Men, Transformers and Mission Impossible, "It's a huge $170 million movie. It's just a big kid sort of driven film."

Video games

There were several video game adaptations of G.I. Joe, including Cobra Strike by Parker Brothers for the Atari 2600 and Intellivision (1983), G.I. Joe by Epyx for the Apple II and the Commodore 64 (1985), G.I. Joe by Taxan for the Nintendo Entertainment System (1991), Action Force by Virgin Games for the Commodore 64 (1987), G.I. Joe by Konami for arcades (1992) and G.I. Joe: The Atlantis Factor by Capcom for the Nintendo Entertainment System (1992).Now there is a new game for Wii, Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and Nintendo DS to coincide with the new G.I. Joe film, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.

Short-lived lines

As a follow-up to the Real American Hero toyline, Sgt. Savage and his Screaming Eagles figures debuted in 1995. It was canceled after only two waves of figures were released, due to low sales. In 1996, G.I. Joe Extreme figures were introduced by Kenner Toys (who had merged with Hasbro in late 1994, taking over their boys toys production). Along with the release of toys, G.I. Joe Extreme featured a comic book, published by Dark Horse Comics, and a Gunther-Wahl-produced cartoon series which ran for two seasons.

Return of the 12-inch G.I. Joe (1991–2005)

Hasbro began releasing new 12-inch G.I. Joe figures in 1991. The first figure, Duke, was marketed exclusively to Target retail stores.

Hall of Fame (1992–1994)

Based on the Real American Hero toyline, the Hall of Fame series featured Mission Gear Outfits, vehicles, and featured popular characters like Snake-Eyes, Stalker, Gung-Ho, Cobra Commander, Destro, and Storm Shadow among others.

This was followed by an anniversary series based on the 1960s line—and was followed by the Hall of Fame Limited Editions, also based on 60s releases.

Masterpiece (1996–1997)

In 1997, the original G.I. Joe figure returned via the G.I. Joe Masterpiece Edition, a unique book-and-figure product.

Classic Collection (1995–2004)

G.I. Janes were introduced in a series called the Classic Collection, the first 12-inch female dolls in the G.I. Joe line-up since 1967; this doll was a helicopter pilot. The Classic Collection hearkened back to the original all military theme of G.I. Joe with fairly realistic uniforms and gear. Soldiers from Australia, Britain, and other nations, as well as United States forces were featured. The line also presented an all-new articulated G.I. Joe figure that formed the basis of many offerings until the 12" line was discontinued in the new millennium.

In 2000, a Navajo Code Talker was introduced, one of only two 12-inch G.I. Joe talking figures (until this time) since the 1970s.

In 2001, G.I. Joe honored the events of the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbormarker by releasing a line of Pearl Harbor figures. In 2003 Hasbro announced the release of the 40th Anniversary G.I. Joe line. This line featured reproductions of the earliest G.I. Joe figures and accessories originally made in 1964.

In November 2006 a reproduction Land Adventurer G.I. Joe figure was released as an exclusive to Hot Topic stores. The figure was a reproduction of the Land Adventurer with the Kung Fu Grip and came in the "Coffin" style box. A reproduction Talking Adventure Team Commander was also released in a limited run of 1,970 issues.

Timeless Collection (1998–2003)

During the late 1990s Hasbro built on the renewed interest in authentic reproductions of G.I. Joe established by the Masterpiece Edition reproduction book/figure set; they bought the rights to the ME figure and released a range of store exclusive reproduction figure sets, with the character of the sixties G.I. Joe boxed sets.

Return of the 3.75" G.I.Joes (2000–present)

Real American Hero Collection (2000–2002)

In 2000, Hasbro re-released a selection of 3 3/4" G.I. Joe figures and vehicles. This line lasted until 2002. The figures were sold in packs of two and consisted of repainted versions of figures from the Real American Hero line. Some of these repainted figures were assigned new identities: for example, the Baroness figure was repainted and sold as a new character called Chameleon, described on the packaging as "the illegitimate half sister of Baroness".

G.I. Joe vs Cobra (2002–2005)

Beginning in 2002, newly designed collections of 3 3/4" G.I. Joe figures and vehicles were released. Each collection centered around a storyline or theme, such as "Spy Troops" and "Valor vs. Venom".

Direct-to-DVD features were animated for both the G.I. Joe: Spy Troops and G.I. Joe: Valor vs. Venom collections, as well as a new trading card game based on the G.I. Joe vs. Cobra storyline. Both the 12" and 3 3/4" lines were put on hiatus prior to the release of the Sigma 6 line in 2005.

Direct to Consumer (DTC) (2005–2006)

The 3 3/4" line was reintroduced after a very brief hiatus via Hasbro's direct-to-consumer website and various online retailers. As a result of the line's success, some figures also became available at certain retailers, such as Toys "R" Us.

25th Anniversary (2007–2009)

2007 marked the 25th anniversary of the "Real American Hero" line. To commemorate the event, Hasbro released a "25th Anniversary" collection of newly sculpted 100mm figures (as opposed to the 3¾" scale of the RAH line) based on classic and new designs of many of the line's best known and most popular characters. The 25th Anniversary figures replaced the classic O-ring construction with a swivel chest feature and increased points of articulation beyond the standard shoulder, elbow and knees to swivel wrists, ankles and double-hinged knees. The 25th anniversary figures also include "Specialist Trakker", otherwise known as Matt Trakker the leader of M.A.S.K. [31599]

Originally planned to consist of only two sets of five figures each (one G.I. Joe and one Cobra), the 25th Anniversary collection was well received by retailers and collectors and has since been expanded by Hasbro into a full-fledged toyline to run through 2009. The most recent releases in this line do not include the "25th Anniversary" branding but in all other respects constitute a continuation of the 25th Anniversary collection. Other waves set to be released in 2009 include the Resolute figures, which were introduced in wave 13 and had an animated feature premiere in April 2009.

The "25th Anniversary" line was later cancelled, in favor of releasing figures for the upcoming live action movie. The last two waves, totaling 14 figures, were instead released as two 7-figure exclusive packs. Entitled "Defense and Attack of Cobra Island," each set contained figures from one opposing side.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)

In July 2009, a series of figures based on the G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra movie have been released in the United States.

G.I. Joe: The Pursuit of Cobra (2010)

Starting in 2010, the G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra line will transition into the Pursuit of Cobra line, which will include figures and vehicles not shown in the movie, most of which are retooled vehicles and figures that may or may not have been scheduled for release for the 25th anniversary line due to its cancellation.

Sigma 6 (2005–2007)

2005 saw the introduction of a new line called G.I. Joe: Sigma 6, consisting initially of an 8" scale selection of action figures distinguished by their extensive articulation and accessories. Sigma 6 combined entirely new characters with already familiar characters from the 3 3/4" "Real American Hero" line. Its release was accompanied by a television series produced by the Japanese animation studio GONZO and a comic book mini-series published by Devil's Due.(see above for info under animated section).

Hasbro also expanded the Sigma 6 line to include a 2 1/2" scale selection of vehicles, play sets, and figurines with limited articulation.

2007 saw the rebranding of the 8" line. The Sigma Six branding was dropped in the spring of 2007. Subsequent 8" figures were branded simply as "G.I. Joe" action figures and divided into differently packaged sub-groups such as Combat Squad, Commandos, and Adventure Team. The entire 8" product line was canceled by the end of 2007, although Hasbro considers the 8" figures a success and may revisit the scale in the future.

Real people honored with G.I. Joe figures

The G.I. Joe brand has made promotional action figures based on real-life persons, both military and civilian, that the company deems Real American Heroes.

See also


  1. Santelmo, V: The Official 20th Anniversary Salute to GI Joe, page 21. Krause Publications, 1994.
  2. Michlig, John. "GI Joe's First Battle". Collecting Toys Vol 3 No 2, Apr 1995, pp 44–49.
  3. Santelmo 1994, p. 20.
  4. Santelmo 1994, p. 21.
  5. Santelmo 1994, p. 19.
  6. All 28 original G.I. Joe cartoon PSAs.
  7. .
  9. Behind the Scenes

External links

Official sites


12" figures:

3.75" figures:

8" figures:

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