Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Another look at the 50th Anniversary of GI Joe

Perhaps the greatest action figure line in the history of toys turned 50 years old today. GI Joe turned 50 this year. The ancestor of the action figure reached the ripe age of 50 years old. That's pretty significant to me because I recently turned 50; actually I'll be 52 this year. Damn, where did the time go?

Just some opening clarification - this is all pretty much my interpretation and opinion - it ain't worth much. I'm not one to dig deep and find out facts and all that sort of stuff. I interpret what I read and form my own opinion. And in my humble, simple opinion, GI Joe saved Hasbro's corporate butt at least twice. Once with the original introduction of GI Joe as a 12" Man of Action and again in 1982 with the rebirth of GI Joe as a 3 3/4" Real American Hero. 

The original GI Joe put Hasbro on the toy manufacturer's map, turning them into a powerhouse throughout much of the 60's on into the early 70's. The Real American Hero line gave Hasbro the financial ability to expand into areas like My Little Pony and that odd little line of transforming robots.

One would think that Hasbro would be grateful to their extraordinary in-house brand and really roll out something amazing for the 50th Anniversary of the brand. Just to clarify - to me, it's the BRAND first, not 12" painted head vs. the 3 3/4' figures. Deal with it. 

GI Joe is more than a scale, it's an ideal, a virtue, a representation of all that is good in the American soldier, whether as a nameless 12" soldier or a set of characters fighting for freedom against a ruthless terrorist organization. Hell, all that is good with the United States of America.

And maybe that's not so much in vogue anymore. While we honor our soldiers around the world and the services that they provide for us - with exception to the crappy VA nightmare, there seems to be a bit of malaise toward the military, especially when it comes to toys. Please remember, I don't claim to be an expert on this sort of thing, this is all just my opinion. But it's mine and you are welcome to share and discuss with me - with a little civility at least.

I discussed Hasbro's offerings for the 50th Anniversary previously on this silly little dog-and-pony show and just wanted to elaborate a little further on the meager offerings from Hasbro.

There ain't much out there, boys and girls. Toys R Us and Big Bad Toy Store seem to be the only retail options available for the grandfather of the boys' action figure aisle - and that sucks. Not for TRU or BBTS, but just in general.

Don't get me wrong. Hasbro has done some amazing things with the brand at previous anniversaries. The 30th Anniversary was instrumental in bringing about the rebirth of the 12" Action Figure. Granted, those 30th figures were pretty brutal in terms of the original articulation of the original Joe, but those figures started something huge. Of course, we can't forget the exclusive Target Duke figure either.

The 40th Anniversary of the brand was an amazing work of art for the original 12" collector. Reproductions of much of the original line just flooded the stores - possibly to its detriment. Those beautiful, expensive sets sometimes just lingered and sat there, only to be gobbled up once the clearance markdowns arrived. From then on, Hasbro pushed pretty hard to reintroduce the 12" figure as a viable toy line, both with nostalgic repros and brand new modern military offerings. Personally, I loved the modern 12" Joes - they rocked. Yeah, that's my other GI Joe blog, and yeah, it pretty much sucks right now. One day...

The 25th Anniversary of the Real American Hero line was more of a specific anniversary related to a specific era in the life of the brand and that worked out pretty well. GI Joe was back, in a new body construction format, still at around 3 3/4" to 4" tall which led to several years of some pretty awesome figures rolling through two fairly decent GI Joe big screen adventures.

And now we have 2014 rolling around and GI Joe has turned 50. And what does Hasbro do? Hand out some toy designs from a couple years ago and slap a fancy 50th logo on it. 


I went through all of the offerings from Hasbro back here, so I really only wanted to look at specifically what I want from this series.

And this is it. One set of figures. That's all. Nothing else.
This set, "The Eagle's Edge," is of the most interest to me. 

There ain't much else that I'm interested in right now. Sure, the HEAT Viper looks pretty cool, but I really don't want another weak-ass Blowtorch figure. The Lady Jaye figure looked pretty cool until examples from China started showing up online. Holy crap, what a paint job. Snow Job and Arctic BAT? Who cares? The two variations of "Danger at the Docks"? Yeah, a nice Flint and some cool weapons and gear, but so what? I've got enough weaponry for all of my figures to wage WW3 and WW4. The rest of the stuff? I'm just not impressed.
This set really did it for me though. Everything that I have seen just looks amazing. The Hawk figure? Complete retread, but still a damn good figure, great custom fodder. The two biggest stars of the weak-ass 50th line are Destro and Leatherneck from this set. Destro seems to be a completely new sculpt figure and he just rocks. I'm looking forward to this figure. I haven't been satisfied with a Destro figure since the 25th Anniversary gold-helmet version. There's been some good ones, but just not quite there.

And then there's Leatherneck. I was never really a huge fan of the original. I thought he was decent enough and I liked the original, but he was never really a Top 10 character for me. But this figure is awesome! Sure, he's a reuse of the Retaliation Roadblock body with a new head, but so what? He looks amazing! And the Joe team needs another big dude!

Yeah, there are some kinda' new figures, but does it really say "50th Anniversary?" Not really. With all my bitching and moaning, one would think that GI Joe is near death. Maybe at Hasbro, GI Joe is on life support, but the online fan-base keeps GI Joe alive.

There are numerous Facebook pages and countless webpages dedicated to GI Joe. Should I list my favorites? I think this post has gone on long enough! If you really want to see some great GI Joe websites, check out My Fave Blog List on the right side of this silly blog. 

I do want to highlight one particular blog - Oreobuilder's Blog. I don't know the guys behind it; all I know is that they are connected to the amazing JoeCustoms website. The work that these guys are doing is just amazing. I'm sure that there are equally skilled customizers out there -  I know there are, but I just want to talk about these guys because of what they have done shows that there is still life in the brand.

My first exposure to Oreobuilder came through their 50th Anniversary Project. I've discussed this is the past and it is amazing. If you haven't seen this project, go there very soon. (finish reading my post first!) The current project, GI Joe: Resurgence is just some damn fine work. Both of these projects illustrate what could have been done for the 50th and what could still be done in order to keep GI Joe alive. I certainly can't speak for Hasbro, but it just seems like GI Joe has been abandoned. And that's a damn shame.

Yeah, GI Joe 3 has been green-lit for 2016, but the state of the toy market in general doesn't bring me hope. Maybe... We'll see what the future holds.

As for me, I'm grateful to the GI Joe Collectors Club, Hasbro's meager offerings, the online fan community, and a sense of personal contentment over my own State of the Hobby.

After rereading this post, this is some serious rambling. Hopefully it still comes across as Reasonably Intelligent.

So what are your thoughts about the current state of affairs of GI Joe?

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