GI Joe Masks (France)
At yesterday’s Assembly Required, I was talking to Steve, one of the Code Name Iowa organizers, about how the blog has been branching out into covering GI Joe merchandising, when he excused himself for a second and returned with a large figure case. Inside was the strangest collection of 80s GI Joe merchandise I’ve seen: four costume masks. “Do an article on these,” he said. Once I got a look at them, I knew they would be gold. They are just too strange to pass up. It’s too bad I hadn’t seen these a week before, as they would have been perfect for Halloween week. Either way, they’re a crazy and fun subject to cover.
I find the old vacu-formed Halloween masks of the 60s-80s fascinating. They hark back to a simpler time of licensed merchandise, when character portrayals weren’t scrutinized by marketing departments as they likely are now. Often, product was pushed out without much thought for accuracy. Costumes of decades past are also a great window into the pop culture hits (and misses) of the past. GI Joe has had its share of costumes since the 1960s, and apparently this bit of merchandise also made its way overseas. As often happens with collectibles, the rest of the world received its own exclusive product. Produced in 1987, the masks were made by a company called Cesar. Strangely alluring and more than a little creepy, I give you the French GI Joe masks.
First up is Flint, and he’s pretty much instantly recognizable. With his trademark beret, Flint looks ready for battle. Well, he looks somewhat surprised. The sculpting on these masks is quite stylized. The exaggerated facial features remind me of the Gerry Anderson Supermarionation puppets of the 1960s. There’s also more detail than I’ve seen on many domestic masks from companies like Ben Cooper and Collegeville. The plastic seems to be comparatively thick, and this might be the reason for the increase in detail.
Next is Destro, and his masked visage really benefits from the characters’ stylized portrayal. I’m really surprised that the guy didn’t get a Halloween mask made in the US, outside of a role play set. The paint on this mask is particularly well done, with some nicely blended blue shading around the eyes. For some reason, I see B-movie actor Tor Johnson when I look at this mask. It’s most likely the bald head and wide grimace that spur the memory.
While Flint and Destro were stylized and cartoonish, Lady Jaye is straight-up frightening. We’re talking high octane nightmare fuel direct from the uncanny valley. Wow. Don’t look at this thing too close to bedtime, people. As weird as it is, I have to give them credit for the detailed hat emblem. Lady Jaye may look like a harpy, but she’s true to the figure in the insignia department.
Finally, there’s my favorite, Footloose. Well, it looks like Footloose. He’s got the hat foliage and a mustache, so it must be him. Wait, he’s also got a sort of blank stare, so yeah, it’s him. The attached tag identifies him as Speedy, which is funny on several levels. After all, this is the one guy on the team that you’d think might earn such a nickname for a reason other than being fleet of foot. Like Destro, his mouth is stretched into an exaggerated frown, accentuated by bright pink lips. Again, this mask ranks high in creepy quotient.
Thanks to Steve for sharing these masks with me for a few minutes. If I had a chance, would I pick up one or more of these? Most certainly, especially Destro. A mask like that begs to be hanging on the wall of an 80s Joe collection display. I don’t know where Lady Jaye belongs, other than hidden far away from human eyes, where it can’t haunt our dreams.