GI Joe Big Coloring Book (1989 Golden)

If there’s one constant from my childhood that I’m heartened to still see, it’s the coloring book. In an age where kiddos have ready access to all sorts of screen-based entertainment, it’s nice to know that there’s still tactile, old fashioned fun to be had. I must have had dozens of coloring books pass through my little hands in the 70s and 80s. Their content varied from the educational (an immensely thick world history book), to the topical (a weirdly cartoonish Jimmy Carter book) to the ubiquitous toy tie-ins. I had my share of the more popular coloring book subjects, like Star Wars, and of course GI Joe, but somehow a bit of the more esoteric fare found a home with me. Crystar and Power Lords were a couple that I remember very well, thanks to their general oddness and the obscurity of the toys. I don’t recall seeing much of either on toy shelves at the time, but the presence of their coloring books made those associated properties seem more popular to me than they really were. Such was the power of a print media tie-in back in the day.

GI Joe obviously was one of the 80s toy juggernauts, and coloring books were a part of the wealth of ancillary material that has been released through the decades. My most vivid GI Joe coloring book memory comes from one that was based on Marvel Comics issue number two. I must have pored over that book dozens of times. By the time of this particular book’s release however, I was out of GI Joe collecting. Dated 1989, the book mostly stars 1988 figures and vehicles. The storyline follows a GI Joe scientist who’s developed a new super propulsion unit for the Crusader shuttle. With it, the Joes plan to set up a base on the moon. Destro, Darklon and the Iron Grenadiers attack, kidnap the scientist, and it’s up to Muskrat, Shockwave, Hit & Run and Skidmark in his Desert Fox to stop them.

Interestingly, Rock ‘N Roll appears to be in charge. I suppose this shouldn’t be a surprise, given the GI Joe team’s propensity for ignoring rank within the usual military command structure. Oh yeah, the Sunbow green shirts make an appearance, but pretty much get their green butts handed to them. Anyway, by the end of the book, the main Joes have staged a rescue, Destro and Darklon are defeated and the Joes are one step closer to establishing their moon base.

Some of the character designs vary from the toys and card art. Hit & Run wears a different sort of helmet, something akin to what Blocker of Battle Force 2000 wore. Skidmark looks nothing like himself, sporting an odd helmet and very plain uniform. Darklon looks alternately correct and incorrect, and by the end, Destro has changed into his version one uniform rather than the Iron Grenadiers getup.

The art style is generally solid, with the figures being rendered in much better detail than the vehicles. The Rolling Thunder, in its limited role, looks more like a sketch than finished art. In the end though, there are a few nice pages that I think could make for interesting new Joe art, if an enterprising colorist took up the job.

Anyone else have coloring book scans to share? They’re an element of the marketing of GI Joe that doesn’t seem to get much coverage. I’ve seen a few posted here and there on the internet, but it would be nice to see an archive of them online.

Check out the gallery below to read the whole story of this book. Crayons not included.


  • Very cool. I think I ran across this exact same coloring book while I was cleaning the basement out a month ago…nice addition to the diverse roster of Joe products you’ve covered on this site.

  • Now this is stuff I like to see! Nice tie-in to my field report of last week! I’d like to procure a few of these, but they’re not cheap. Thanks for the scans. If you want to see some darn right STRANGE Joe artwork, c’mon down to the and register. On the OG lounge page, I’m showcasing this artwork with “caption this” headings.

  • I think thats the colouring book i used to have! I remeber seeing that rolling thunder page and asking my Mother if such a toy existed [because Mothers know everything] and she said
    “It would be too big to sell”
    I remember i was pretty much like Pat Lee with my colouring books. I completely ignored backgrounds and enviroments.

    A few months ago i was able to replace a transformers colouring book i used to have. My little Brother ruined the original by putting fart noises next to all the characters

    And on a completely different subject: A Jimmy Carter colouring book? Did all the presidents have colouring books?
    I know its not really my place to make comments about politicians in different countries as the way i view them are different to the way they are viewed in their own countries but you wouldnt need that many colours to do Harding [especially if he were drawn in his “club” robes]

  • Having paid a little more attention to the cover, I wonder if the model sheets for Skidmark and Recoil got mixed up somewhere during the process of sending art to Golden. On the cover it’s clearly Recoil and while the inside images of Skidmark aren’t a dead ringer for Recoil, I’d say they look more like him than they do Skidmark.

  • The Rise of Cobra coloring book is notable mostly for its ill-advised paint-by-numbers page:

  • @Monte spot on about the paint by numbers

    I picked up an R.O.C colouring book froma 99 cent store as i thought it would be a funny little novelty. I noticed on one page they seem to be trying to copy the twihards by having a “Team Duke” page and a “Team Destro” page
    Had the people who created the book taken into acount the general age group of the guys who would have been buying the merchandise, they should have made a “Team Scarlet” and “Team Baroness” page

  • So awesome that you took the time to image every page!

  • Yeah, I need professional help.

  • This is a great idea for a blog post. Thanks for scanning the book! I only found this one myself a few months ago through a seller on eBay who has access to the old Golden archives. Every once in a while, a G.I. Joe item will turn up. There’s another coloring book out there from the same era with the Arctic Blast on the cover. It’s cool to see Skidmark/Recoil get some love and funny how Destro’s M.A.R.S. budget apparently forces him back into his old duds halfway through the mission while cousin Darklon keeps switching looks! Also, having Rock ‘N Roll lead makes sense given that he’s a founding member and the oldest active Joe in the story. Maybe somebody at Hasbro pointed this out or the writer already knew about it.

    I first got into coloring books starting in the late 70’s when we arrived home one night and my grandpa was standing in the front door, hurrying me to get inside. He was ecstatic and said to me: “Come quick! There’s a BIG Superman waiting for you in there!” But being more into action figures, I though he meant the 12” inch Mego Supes or something. It turned out to be one of those huge tabloid-sized coloring books, this one featuring Superman. I heard my mom whisper something like “he’s disappointed because he thought grandpa meant a large action figure.” So I feigned interest and got out my crayons. That kinda started it there for me although I was always more interested in the stories than the stuff I was supposed to color.

  • @Monte:

    “The color code offers three colors: black, green and red… and of 118 sections to color, thirteen are labeled 2 (for green) and four are labeled 3 (for red).

    If my hasty calculations are correct, then… 86% of the Rise of Cobra color-by-number code is black.”

    LMAO there! I think the guy who wrote that code was sending out a definitive message about the movie. Kinda redundant to make a coloring book out of it with just three code numbers…

    Tanker Python_Puckman’s responding composition is hilarious. Great work there by all!

  • The nameless GI JOE Infantrymen that manycomic book die-hards hate existed outside of the cartoons! Neat.

  • Rob, hell of a job scanning every page! If you want me to add these to the 3DJoes archive, I’d be happy to. Just send me an email.

  • If anyone is interested in the original art used for this coloring book let me know. I have the watercolor cover by Del Barras and all the pages for the coloring book including the pre-press mock up. I took a picture of the cover/watercolor painitng by Del and I also scanned a couple of the pages and posted them on the Mego Museum page. Also had the entire contents at Mego Meet this year. My pic of the cover does not do the cover justice.

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