From 1982 onward, Joe returned as a new concept and size. 3.5 inch figures that were cheaper to produce and with a new special elite team versus the Cobra terrorist organization.
I started buying the toys around 1986 with the Cobra Soldier (called “Cobra” at the time) being my first one. Over the years I had a lot of figures and vehicles. The line was a cool mixture of real world army vehicles and equipment alongside futuristic technology.
I drifted in and out of the toyline until about 1994. I loved the evolution of the classic characters with new figures and ideas (not all of them were successes but overall it was cool to see updates).
The ongoing Joe vs Cobra line died in 1994 and was replaced with the “Sgt. Savage” line for 1995 then the “G.I.JOE Extreme” concept after that. Despite the change in story focus, the demand for the standard Joe/Cobra figures remained strong enough for Hasbro to keep doing new figures and exclusive packs for years to come.
In 2007, G.I.JOE celebrated 25 years of the Joe/Cobra concept with all-new characters based off the classic 80s figures in retro-style packaging. More toys continued over the coming years, keeping the concept strong.
And then, 2016 happened.
The last couple of years of G.I.JOE figures were either Toys R Us exclusives or Joe Collector Club exclusive releases. In 2016, the last batch of TRU toys didn’t seem to sell too well (and didn’t even come to Canada at all).
Our Real American Hero was dead. At least as far as new action figures went anyway.
Finally, after years of waiting, G.I.JOE has returned!
2020 sees the release of an all-new 6" scale Joe line (called G.I.JOE Classified). This summer the first wave hits stores and I, for one, couldn’t be happier.
Later this year, a new retro 3.5 line is apparently coming to Wal-Mart as an exclusive series. Also, a new G.I.JOE movie (Snake Eyes) is on the way as well. Once again, all is well in the world.
Of course the fans are never happy! Several have complained about the look of the new figures. They don’t adhere slavishly to the classic look and therefore are unworthy. Even I admit some of them could be better (while others are just about perfect).
My ideal toy line would likely carry on the 3.5" scale while adhering mostly to the classic look of the characters. Or at least the spirit of those looks. Snake Eyes needs to have a visor; Cobra Commander needs a mirrored mask or hood, etc. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
I’d also try not to get too nuts with the futuristic vehicles. Stuff like the HAVOC or STUN were neat but the Cobra BUGG was dumb looking. Also, Cobra-La might have been too much as well.
Storywise, I’ve always envisioned the Joe team being a small unit that works covertly. I always thought stories like the cartoon were stupid in the sense that there seems to be hundreds of Joes and everyone knows who they are and where their enormous base is. The only reason there’s hundreds of Joes and a ridiculous number of Cobra troop types is because Hasbro had to keep making up new figures year after year. But in-story I’d limit the team size (or break them up into smaller units we focus on at the very least).
I’d also try not to get too carried away with stuff like the ninjas. They were cool at first but they were seriously overdoing it when we had “Ninja Force” and twenty characters running around. Also, when we were at the point where everyone was a ninja (Firefly comes to mind. And attempts to make the Baroness some sort of proto-ninja. Enough already!)
I’d also avoid getting too gimmicky with stuff like the DEA sub-line, Eco-warriors, Sky Patrol, Python Patrol, etc. I found that stuff too much as a kid and I suspect I’m not the only one.
All in all, I’m glad to see G.I.JOE back where it belongs in the toy aisle. I hope it’s latest run is a long and successful one.