G.I. Joe (1996 Masterpiece Edition)

I thought in honor of Father’s Day, I’d cover a figure that’s not only the father of all subsequent GI Joe figures, but also the father of all toys that could be considered “action figures”.

I don’t pretend to know 1/100th of what’s known of the history of the original GI Joe, but that doesn’t keep me from appreciating its significance to not only Joe collecting, but also to the larger modern hobby of toy collecting.

Though GI Joe’s recent past seems to be fraught with apprehension about the brand’s future, I can’t help but look at this figure and remember a couple of things. First, Hasbro created GI Joe from whole cloth, and in the process, invented both the action figure and an entirely new play pattern for boys toys. Even if the movie tanks next year, I don’t think it will cause Hasbro to abandon its seminal property.

Which leads to the second thing I remember when looking at the original Joe: the many times he’s been tweaked and reinvented. He’s gone from an everyman GI, to a globe-trotting member of an adventuring team, to an alien-battling super soldier, to an anti-terrorist strike force, and back again to a modern nameless soldier. He’s shrunken and grown again. His articulation has increased and decreased. His clothes have alternated between sewn fabric and molded plastic, and sometimes even a combination of the two. At various times since the glory days of the Real American Hero line, Joe’s been Savaged, he’s been Extremed and even Sigma Sixed. Yet through it all, he’s never been eighty-sixed.

As long as the Joes I have don’t turn to plastic pulp within the next two years, I’ll be breaking them all out for my own son to play with. Okay, maybe I’ll keep a choice few out of his hands till he’s older. And since he’ll be only four years old, I’m sure he’ll love the bright colored ones as much as I do. As long as Hasbro cares about its invention, and as long as kids want to play with toy soliders, GI Joe will be fine.


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