The Glory of G.I. Joes: A Retrospective


These are a bit newer, but still cool.

We’ve been over how much I love Ninja Turtles at least twice. You may also remember a long while back I had a thing or two to say about the G.I. Joe toys based on the movie. But it’s taken me this long to realize that what I really need to do is talk about the real G.I. Joes and why they rival Ninja Turtles for Greatest Action Figure status. Ready? Oorah!

The Second Greatest Action figures of all Time

I have to come clean about this here: I didn’t own a ton of G.I. Joes when I was a kid. I had a few, such as a Lifeline I got from a mail-in cereal thing, and a high-ranking sort of guy whose name I can’t for the life of me remember or find on the internet. You want to know what figure from my G.I. Joe plotlines I used the most? A Lone Ranger action figure I swiped from my grandma. Yup, for some reason, I had the Lone Ranger fighting G.I. Joes on a regular basis. I had turned every G.I Joe into a villain (except for Lifeline, who was the Lone Ranger’s incompetent sidekick) despite the fact that they were branded as Real American Heroes. And they were still awesome.

I had this, minus the horse and guns. Yup, somehow made him lamer yet cooler.

I had a total of two official G. I. Joe figures for much of my childhood, plus two full-size dolls. I also had a few off-brand G. I. Joes that you wouldn’t be able to tell apart from the real thing, and that got me by just fine. Also, of course, I had a friend with dozens of the real thing, so any time we got together it was an hour of deciding who gets to play with which figure in which vehicle at which base with what weapons, giving us maybe a few minutes of playtime, tops. And once again, they were still awesome.

Tons of Variety, Only One Childhood

That’s one thing that appealed to me most about the Joes: The amount of variety in play. There were tons of vehicles and weapons to mix around and give to whomever you felt. While none of the Joes could really grip anything worth a darn, it was still cool to hand a sniper rifle to the medic and place him in a tank. All of my G.I. Joe-related stuff came from garage sales and things my grandma found in her day-to-day of finding awesome things for me to play with. Pretty sure that was her day job. At one point she gave me a G. I. Joe tank she found at a garage sale that somehow transformed into a fortress. It was broken and the pieces were just in a bag all willy-nilly, but that didn’t stop me from reassembling it and finding some use. Than again, what kid can’t figure out how to convert something into a tank? Honestly?

Heck, I made Lifeline seem cool. Behold the wonder of a child's imagination.

So what was my favorite thing about G. I. Joes? They have the perfect level of articulation. Seriously, those things are built with kids at heart. The midsection was the best part of this articulation since it gave such smooth move-ability as it used a rubber band to hold the torso and the legs together. The downside was that it used a rubber band to hold the torso and the legs together. One of my proudest moments came when I repaired a broken Chuck Norris-looking G. I. Joe with a standard rubber band I found. He went from being a standard evil character that couldn’t move to the strongest, most dangerous character in my plots.

I can’t really pinpoint what it is about G. I. Joes that everyone loves so much as my experience is limited to what I grew up with. Still, I want to know what other people did as kids, or even now. What was your favorite aspect about G. I Joes? Did you have a whole army or just a lone soldier? Or did you absolutely hate the Joes? Even if you don’t currently own a Joe, you could get one for under $10. When you have a memory to retell, leave a comment and let me know.

Also, I’m proud that I went a whole G. I. Joe article without using the phrase “Go Joe!” Oh wait…dang it.


About Author

Chris was the former Head Writer/Editor of Toy-TMA. He did a great job overseeing the site and getting new content published regularly. Always more than willing to respond to a comment or two, but pitiless with trolls! He has since moved on from TMA, and we wish him the best.


  1. ”Have anyone checked out,and seen how much the 1986 COBRA NIGHT RAVEN S3P BLACK V.I.P. JET TRANSPORT PLANE is are going for?- somewhere between $80.00 and $170.00,loose…. up to , between $300.00. and $600.00 , complete with box.”

  2. To tell the truth ,i really did not go HOG WILD and buy every g.i.joe and cobra action figure and vehicle available on the market from 1982 to 1994 and beyond. The ONLY item that caught my attention during 1986 was:The 1986 Cobra Night Raven S3P. Everyone that i talked to, about the cobra night raven, agreed with me and said , “that it looks as sleek and sinister looking as the “1982 FIREFOX” and it puts the current 2009 “Rise of Cobra” night raven to shame. I completely agree with them,. as fans of the 1986 vintage cobra night raven s3p.

  3. It really is tough to hate the Joes. Well, maybe the newer models, but the classics will always be fantastic.

    By the way, you’ve got a good article there about the history of action figures. Glad to know I don’t need to write a similar article since you’ve got the bases pretty much covered. 🙂

  4. I definitely agree there. I get annoyed with toy companies reselling our childhood memories at a higher price but not really knowing why the toys were great to begin with. The official G.I. Joes have become just another “Oorah” batch of figures, but the nice thing is, the original designs are being sold by off-brand companies for significantly less. You can probably get a three-pack of The Corps for under $10 with a bunch of accessories included.

    I like your parallels with Barbies. I never quite thought of it that way, but you are very right. G.I. Joes did allow for a nice choice of job or characteristic to them. I’d say the same was somewhat true for Ninja Turtles as well in so much as there were tons of completely original jobs for the Turtles to be in, such as athletes, army personal, astronauts, or rock stars. Now they’re just “Ninja Squad” or “Jungle Team” or “Future Corps” or whatever. How have we let good toys slip so far away from us?

  5. I have to say that GI Joes have really gone down the tubes over the past 10 years. I grew up with the “rebirth” of GI Joe in the 80s and they were some of the best action figures every produced. The ’84-’86 lines were probably the best. Once GI Joe got into the 90s Hasbro seemed to give up on originality and kids’ needs for new things because they just rehashed older toys with new paint jobs and lame add-ons.

    Everything about those 4-inch figures was awesome. Style, paint, articulation, accessories. Not to mention the Joe vehicles were killer too. That era of figures was just a complete package. I always wanted more…more Joes!

    I also think that era of GI Joe did for us boys what Barbie did for girls – you could pick the character job you enjoyed. If you wanted to be a medic, you had Lifeline. Wanted to be a firefighter? Barbecue. How about a ninja? Storm shadow. Computer geek? Dial-tone. Wanted to be a girl? Scarlett. It was just all generic Army guys…they each had a strength and personality. Of course, the cartoon helped fuel all that.

    Today’s GI Joe’s are just clunkly. Like many action figure lines, the characters appear all steroided up with little to know articulation. It’s more about their size it seems.

    What really gets me in a pickle is the “classics” Hasbro is releasing that are throw-back Joes. They market them at us 30-somethings that remember the 80s Joes. They claim these are the original Joes but they are not. They’re not the same molds at all. They’re just cheap knock-offs that use similar coloring/paint. Not to mention it’s $10 for one figure. Please.

    I have fond memories of my GI Joes. But these days I’ll stick with collecting Hot Wheels. They’ve barely changed in 40 years and still cost only a dollar.

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