The Power of Packaging: Psyche-Out
Yesterday’s post got me thinking again about 1987, and what a unique year it was for GI Joe figures. Some say that the Cobra strangeness represents a slide, but I find the year most intriguing in terms of the breadth of specialties and new designs covered. Psyche-Out was no doubt an odd figure to see back then, due to the subject matter as well as the toy itself. I didn’t waste much time in getting the figure, and I’m sure the package art helped sway my decision. It’s another that I think in some ways outshines the toy inside.
1987 was my favorite series.
I like 1987 for its blend of eccentricity and conventional designs but undersung roles. 1987 seems to be definable as being full of support role figures- battlefield mechanics (Techno Vipers), drill sergeant (Big Boa), security for the Joes (Law) & Cobra (Croc Master), advance recon (Sneak Peek) & undercover operative (Chuckles) (and fitting with those two being far ahead, without any other support, a survivalist (Outback), and someone who operates in small tunnels and passages (Tunnel Rat)), psy-ops (Psyche Out). On the eccentric side are a falconer (Raptor), hypnotist (Crystal Ball) & female ninja (Jinx), plus the heavily armored walking missile battery, Fast Draw (kind of a more armored precursor to Metal-Head), though Raptor, Croc Master & Serpentor form the Cobra trinity of animal-attired villains. Falcon, Crazylegs, Cobra Commander are about the only conventional role figures. And Gung-Ho isn’t exactly dressed for battle. Add in Battle Force 2000, who are defined as testing prototype vehicles in various vehicle classes (and some are noted as proficient at driving all vehicles of their class specialty, making them a second expert driver to whoever their specialty driver is) and Dodger was mentioned as the motor pool/repair bay supervisor IIRC. It’s a year at the fringes, quite literally in a geographic sense and in the metaphoric sense.
Psyche-Out, like Battle Force 2000, has elements of 1950s sci-fi inspiring his design. All those antennae and dishes, plus the neon green brings to mind Sci-Fi from 1986, who was designed like a futuristic laser tag trooper. And on the subject of package art selling figures. Sneak Peek is the reverse. The package art is very unflattering whereas the figure looked at by itself doesn’t look bad at all, just a bit plain (actually looking more suited to, say, 1983, where more color entered the line but having a very plain mold, similar to 1982 figures).
Ahhh… KayBee and their everpresent markup.
1987 left such a bad taste in my mouth, that I walked away (missing 1988’s final flare of far superior figure & vehicle offerings from top to bottom). I came back in 1989 for a few swan-song Joe updates and a couple visor-clad Cobras before leaving again until nostalgia reeled me back in in 1997.
1987 is certainly a year in which a lot of “odd” stuff seemed to happen. Maybe some of the guys at Hasbro were up all night, watching “Space mutiny” or “Plan 9” and thought sci-fi [see what i did there] was the way to go. Clearly the science fiction theme of ’87 was poorly received and ’88 was more millitary themed.
Psych-out is really common in my area. Its as though everyone who was a child in the 80’s thought they must need to own him. OR they were all bought by short sighted Grandparents; either way i have nothing against him.
Psyche-Out is a scary character, all that stuff with low frequency waves and behavior modification is based on suppressed Tesla technology….
As a kid, ’87 was exciting because new Joes are always better than old Joes. But, after that newness wore off, I found there were few ’87’s who became long term players in my collection and it was the ’85’s and ’86’s who, in general, had more staying power. Of course, the ’87’s who made the cut (Falcon, Tunnel Rat, Outback and Law (no Cobras in the group!)) were among my most used figures and even outshone most the earlier releases.
But, ’87 was also my last year collecting Joes as a kid. Part of that was my age. But, another part was that by the end of the summer, I had all the items I wanted except for the Mamba. So, there wasn’t anything keeping me attached to the line as I found many of the vehicles to be relatively boring. (There was no way my parents were going to buy me a Defiant, though.)
My understanding is that a lot of the weirdness of the line for both ’87 and ’88 (look at the vehicles) can be attributed to one person who worked on the line during that time who had a different perspective on the toys. His influence can be seen over multiple years and he, likely, had as much of an impact on what Joe ultimately was as the guys who put together the ’82 lineup.
I think 1987 was generally worse-received by older fans, those who had been with GI Joe since 82 or 83. Among those who arrived around 1985, for whom the more traditional military roots were not a memory and instead the quasi-real, more fantastic-themed line was the norm, 1987 was eccentric, but not a bridge too far. As a kid, given Serpentor, I did not see Raptor or Croc Master any differently from him. In hindsight, they’d seem like natural ideas (bird-themed Serpentor, gator-themed Serpentor) after the success of Serpentor. I’ve said before, there seemed to be 3 blocks of Joe fans: early ones (got in with 82/83, left with 87), middle ones (arrived around 85/86, left in early 90s), late ones (kids of the 90s who somehow gravitated towars GI Joe over TMNT). Much of the time of exit is based on age and the toyline changing the style, which appealed more to younger kids but was offputting to the older kids.
The impression I got is they had a see-saw pattern- 1986 tried to go more conventional than 1985 and had many replacement roles to earlier figures (e.g. Leatherneck for Gung-Ho, Wet-Suit for Torpedo, Viper for Cobra Trooper, etc) and with many of those figures still available in 1987, they went more oddball. The sci-fi element was creeping up. 1986 had Serpentor and the beginnings of multi-vehicle vehicles (HAVOC, Night Raven), which would really be prevalent over 1987-89. And then 1988 went back more conventional as 1987 filled the wild role, we got more conventional Vipers (Astro, Hydro, Toxo), then 1989 had wilder designs (mainly Alley & Frag. Night was conventional) and we got more colorful figures or ones with more stylsitic flair (Gnawgahyde).
1987 was a *strange* year for GI Joe & TF. Headmasters were very strange, Targetmasters were mildly strange, there were many Decepticons with beast modes. Among TF fans, 1987 is regarded as an eccentric year. I’m not sure who designed the figures though. 1986 on was mostly new, no carryovers from the Diaclone line and the Hasbro-Takara partnership was 2 years old by then. IIRC, the TF branding, packaging style, and cartoon story came from Hasbro and was brought back to Japan in 1985. It’s hard to tell because it wasn’t until 1988 Takara decided to take the line a different direction from Hasbro, leading to the 2 countries having very few shared figures.
I grew up in a small town in which shops didnt receive much “new” stock as they were primary liquidation and clearout fronts for old toys. The Toyworld had Joes until 1998 and G1 Transformers until 1996. I didnt care if my Joes were oddballs like D.E.F Muskrat or “proper” millitary ones.
I’m one of the few 90’s kids who prefered Joes and Transformers to TMNT and just about everything else. G.i.joe was always popular in my town. Some kids even loved the star brigade stuff but by that point, nothing could compete with power rangers.
And yes; on the Transformers front, 1987 was a pretty strange year; Robots with detaching heads and guns that talk to them. It just got even odder afterwards [pretenders, actionmasters and micromasters]. I dont know why Hasbro didnt just go back to basics instead of relying on gimmicks so much. For many years[until TFWIKI.NET appeared]; it was accepted in the fanbase that Optimus Primes’s death was the downfall of the Transformers line. Though he returned by the end of season 3, the cartoon was in its death throse as the contract had expired and Hasbro didnt want to pay for another full season when they could just keep the other seasons in circulation.
That is a nice cardback! And the art of GIJoe certainly upsold the toys with intensity and action.
Good year for G. I. Joe, especially with the cartoon movie, at the time-G.I.Joe:The Movie (1987).”