decided that the complete collection of characters and vehicles should
cost less than $100. Thanks to that strategy, each child would be able to
purchase the characters with pocket money, and await birthdays or big
holidays to nag parents for the more expensive vehicles . . .
Hasbro publicity agent Tom Griffin believed that the
success of the Star Wars action figures was largely a result of the
mythology conjured by the movie. He thus proposed creating a comic strip
that would feature the new characters in the G.I. Joe line before they
were available in stores.
To enhance the impact of the comic strip, Griffin also
envisioned a television cartoon series titled G.I. Joe - American Hero.
When Stephen Hassenfeld, the son of Merrill and Hasbro’s new CEO, were
pitched the sketches for the comic strip, cartoon and action figure
prototypes, he congratulated his team and gave them the green light.
A new success for a new generation
The line G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero was launched in 1982. The comic
strip, published by Marvel, owed its instant success to the quality of the
stories written by Larry Hama (issued continuously for four years), and
the TV cartoon series also worked very well. The products for G.I. Joe: A
Real American Hero were sold everywhere and kids collected all the new
vehicles that came out each month.
The artists at Hasbro came up with colorful characters
like the heroes Hawk and Duke who were members of G.I. Joe’s secret
governmental force as well as some delightful secondary characters. These
included the enchanting Scarlet, the crossbow expert, and Ripcord the
parachutist (who came equipped with a mini-parachute), and the Ninja Snake
Eyes, who wore a mask to hide his disfigured face. The bad guys all
belonged to a terrorist organization called Cobra whose leader, Cobra
Commander, kept hid his face beneath a chrome mask.
Among these characters figured Zartan, the master of
disguise, Destro, the arms peddler and his formidable companion, The
Baroness. Just when it seemed that G.I. Joe was gone for good, he became
the leader in toy sales after 1985. A nice rebound for Hasbro, they
augmented the line with the soldiers and futurist vehicles of Battle Force
2000 in 1987 and with the militant environmentalist Ecowarriors in 1991.
More than 500 million small action figures were sold by 1994! In 1996 the
new G.I. Joe Extreme line appeared, accompanied by comic books published
by Dark Horse.
It’s worth noting that all of the versions of the G.I.
Joe character currently coexist because collector’s edition reissues of
the G.I. Joes of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s now supplement the products
designed for today’s children. Well aware of the phenomenal impact of its
characters, Hasbro has dreamed for years of bringing them to the big
screen and now thanks to producer Lorenzo DiBonaventura and Paramount, G.I.
Joe will soon arrive at cinemas everywhere. The hero, whose story was
first imagined by Larry Hama back in 1983, is back again to delight both
G.I. Joe toy fans as well as action, espionage and sci-fi movie fans eager
to discover a rich new universe!
- Pascal Pinteau