The 5 Coolest Vintage GI Joe Costumes
Every year around this time, stores of all types set up their Halloween displays, and one standby within them are costumes. It’s an amazing thing to think about, actually. As time has passed, and the old five and dime stores gave way to retail chains, the seasonal Halloween section has somehow survived. I find this quite refreshing in a world that’s devoid of a lot of the once common shopping experiences that brought me joy as a kid. Things like toy departments located next to tire centers and catalog pickup areas with Christmas toy displays are all gone. If there’s one time of year you can still count on for running into something interesting and even a little crazy, it’s this fall season we’re in. My favorite part of the Halloween sections are the odd discoveries that pop up among the usual supply of spooky merchandise. When else can you walk into a store for sundries and find a severed limb prop just one shelf away from a cute plush costumed Snoopy?
The costume business must be a huge money maker in terms of licensing. While witches and other generic outfits seem to be perennially popular, character costumes have been huge sellers for decades. If something is big in the zeitgeist, you can count on seeing a costume or mask based on it come Halloween. In fact, if our civilization falls, future archaeologists can probably put together a good picture of our pop culture history just by locating a good number of Ben Cooper, Don Post or Collegeville catalogs.
Over the decades, especially in the 1970s and 1980s, GI Joe has been among the monsters, super heroes and TV stars in the Halloween costume aisle. I miss the old vacuform mask and plastic suit sets the most, so here’s a list of what I think are the five coolest from the era. You can almost smell the vinyl…
The Shield – How’s this for obscure? The short-lived Super Joe line spawned some ancillary product courtesy of Collegeville’s prolific costume offerings. I’ve always thought the Shield’s mask was just a little ways off design-wise from the creepy gun-puking head from the film Zardoz. Maybe that’s just me.
Atomic Man – Mike Power was quite the hit in his day, riding the coattails of the Six Million Dollar Man. As cool as Mike Powers is, he’s no Lee Majors. You just can’t beat a red track suit.
GI Joe (Karate) – We can’t leave out the Adventure Team from our costume-o-rama. The series was well represented through the 70s with several different iterations of Joe. The karate is my fave probably because it attempts to recreate an outfit, along with picturing the character on the front.
GI Joe – Now this one is Grunt, obviously. Ben Cooper produced this set early on in the 80s relaunch era. I can’t blame them for putting him on a costume in the early 80s and just calling it GI Joe. After all, Grunt was the “face” of Real American Hero GI Joe for a little while in the early 80s days. I think this version also came with a poncho in place of the usual jumpsuit. Poncho is such a fun word to say. Try it–poncho. See what I mean?
Destro – This one isn’t quite the same format as the others, and lies more along the lines of role play, but look at this thing! There’s a mask, shoulder strap with walkie-talkie, gauntlets, and yes–the medallion. So what if they left off the rockets and grenades from the gauntlets, it’s got the freaking medallion! If that isn’t the absolute height of boss 80s pop culture costuming, I don’t know what is. Incredible.