G.I. Joe (franchise)
|The name or term "G.I. Joe" refers to more than one character or idea. For a list of other meanings, see G.I. Joe (disambiguation).|
G.I. Joe is one of Hasbro's oldest and most enduring franchises, themed around American military-themed action figures of various stripes. With an enduring legacy on television, in toys and in comics, G.I. Joe characters and stories have appeared since 2009 in comics by IDW Publishing.
The Moveable Fighting Man
In 1964, the Hassenfeld Brothers corporation introduced a brand-new innovation into the toy market – a doll targeted at boys, for which they coined the term "action figure". Named G.I. Joe — "America's moveable fighting man" — the military-themed toy launched with "Action Soldier", "Action Sailor", "Action Pilot" and "Action Marine" figures, with wide ranges of accessories available in a "razors and blades" sales model. An immediate hit, the market was quickly filled with imitator action figures, but Joe continued to be the most popular; the toy's body design would soon be licensed by Palitoy for their Action Man figure, and many years later would be used by the Japanese toy company Takara for their Combat Joe toyline (which spawned Microman, source of the Micronauts toys, and Diaclone and Micro Change, source of the Transformers toys).
As the Vietnam War progressed and the mood of America turned against war, G.I. Joe underwent a rebranding from 1969 onwards. No longer a soldier, he was now an "adventurer" accompanied by land, sea, air and space-themed allies, undergoing daring missions in exotic locales. This "Adventure Team" line would soon be revamped to include figure improvements created for Palitoy's Action Man line like flocked hair and a "kung-fu grip", as well as movable "eagle eyes". Eventually, though, sales faltered, and despite the introduction of the "Super Adventure Team"'s Bulletman and Atomic Man toys and a revamped, 8½ inch "Super Joe" line inspired by Mego's superheroes, Joe's popularity died down and he quietly left the shelves.
The Real American Heroes
In 1982, onto the toystore shelves burst a brand-new toyline: a set of 3¾-inch action figures depicting an elite counter-terrorism team codenamed G.I. Joe, who fought against the ruthless terrorist organisation Cobra. Based on a concept created by Marvel Comics — particularly editor Jim Shooter and ex-military writer Larry Hama — the line and its cast of colorful characters pioneered new strategies in toy marketing, with the traditional toy advertising being accompanied by a Marvel comic series and an animated TV show by Sunbow Productions (a strategy that would be repeated only two years later for The Transformers). The fantastical military adventurers were massively successful; in an era where a toy was considered successful if it stayed on shelves for a year or two, the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero line managed to last over a decade until 1994, and Larry Hama's comic lasted just as long, drawing critical acclaim for its realistic, character-based storytelling. The show, which perhaps aged less gracefully, still spawned a spin-off movie and forms the heart of G.I. Joe in popular culture today.
Attempts at revival
Though the Real American Hero toyline and comic were cancelled in 1994, a number of attempted revivals were made during the 1990's, the Sgt. Savage and his Screaming Eagles and G.I. Joe Extreme lines among them; none came close to the success of ARAH, and each was cancelled after only a year or two. Though the 12-inch Classic Collection toys would remain on shelves, the G.I. Joe brand went quiet until the 2000's.
In 2002, inspired by the revived G.I. Joe comics from Devil's Due Publishing, G.I. Joe vs. Cobra was released: a new toyline themed around the characters from A Real American Hero, and supported by two direct-to-video CGI movies. It was followed by a more fully-fledged revival in the form of G.I. Joe: Sigma 6, an "anime-style" reboot of the series with an 8"-scale toyline; a short-lived and commercially unsuccessful series, it was followed by the dark and gritty, adult-oriented G.I. Joe: Resolute webseries.
The late 2000's would see the launch of a Real American Hero anniversary toyline, and more notably, a live-action movie reboot: G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, and its later sequel G.I. Joe: Retaliation. The latest television revival of the franchise was the G.I. Joe: Renegades series, which, once again, was unfortunately a failure and cancelled after one season. (Having its toyline mixed in with the 30th Anniversary ARAH toys couldn't have helped.)
G.I. Joe in print
Though G.I. Joe's major revivals since the end of the A Real American Hero line have had middling results at best, the franchise has done better in print, starting with Devil's Due Publishing's "G.I. Joe Reinstated" series in 2001. A continuation of the Marvel comic series, "Reinstated" (and its sequel, America's Elite) was successful enough to prompt the creation of the G.I. Joe vs. Cobra toyline, and lasted until 2008, when Devil's Due lost the G.I. Joe license. In addition to their main series and its spinoffs, Devil's Due also produced multiple Transformers crossover miniseries set in their own universe (Dreamwave Productions also produced their own crossover miniseries), a fourteen-issue, alternate universe "realistic" series named G.I. Joe: Reloaded, and a comic adaptation of the Sigma 6 franchise.
In 2008, the G.I. Joe comic license was acquired by IDW Publishing, who had published several successful Transformers miniseries since 2005. In a similar vein to Devil's Due's Reloaded series, IDW's G.I. Joe continuity was a reboot with a more "realistic" tone, primarily driven by Chuck Dixon, Mike Costa and Larry Hama through three simultaneous ongoing series. IDW's continuity would subsequently continue through three relaunched "seasons", with ongoings written by Dixon and Costa with the addition of series by Fred Van Lente and Karen Traviss; Larry Hama, meanwhile, moved to writing a relaunched A Real American Hero in 2010, that continued the original Marvel ARAH comics while not taking into account the "disavowed" Devil's Due continuation. IDW also released comic series set in the universes of The Rise of Cobra and Renegades.
Unfortunately, following the cancellation of the 2014 relaunch of G.I. Joe by Karen Traviss, IDW's Joe continuity fell into disuse, though IDW's ARAH continuation and the crossover series Street Fighter X G.I. Joe and the acclaimed Transformers vs. G.I. Joe were still continued. However, in 2016, the Revolution event was announced, along with the news that IDW's existing G.I. Joe and Transformers universese were being combined into a single "Hasbro Universe". With it came the announcement of G.I. Joe vol. 5 — written by Aubrey Sitterson, writer of Street Fighter X G.I. Joe — and Revolutionaries, starring G.I. Joe member Mayday.
IDW G.I. Joe series
- G.I. Joe
- G.I. Joe: Origins
- G.I. Joe: Cobra
- G.I. Joe: Cobra II
- G.I. Joe: Hearts & Minds
- G.I. Joe: Infestation
- See also: Hasbro Universe reading order#G.I. Joe
- Interestingly enough, most of the franchises involved in Revolution are descended, in some way, from G.I. Joe. The exceptions are Rom, who was sold as part of the Action Man line in the UK, and M.A.S.K., which was partially integrated into the G.I. Joe toyline via Specialist Trakker in 2008. It's all connected!
- G.I. Joe at Wikipedia
- G.I. Joe (franchise) at the TFWiki