1985 GI Joe Product Catalog – Part 1

Since we’re beginning the fourth year of the blog, I thought it appropriate to cover the fourth year catalog of the Real American Hero era. Some fans consider 1985 the high water mark of the time, with an articulation improvement in the form of the ball joined neck, and a major expansion not only of the Joe team, but of the forces of Cobra as well.

The new team members are front and center on the catalog’s cover, in a pose reflective of the Sunbow animated series. It’s an epic “Yo Joe!” for the ages. I only have to wonder how long it took the Army Corps of Engineers to hew a  GI Joe logo from the mountainside in the background. An interesting element of the group shot is the late-to-the-party presence of Barbecue. The poor guy looks like an overly concerned uncle at a family reunion, trying to rush in to say something to the cameraman. Maybe he just felt like being different, although I’d expect that more from a weirdo like Airtight.

The first page of the catalog focuses on the figures. Unfortunately, the shot is even smaller than in the 1984 version. It’s a real wide angle shot, and features previous figures as well as new offerings. The happy, generic blue sky desert of 1984 is replaced by a quite ominous setting that looks like something out of a sci-fi landscape. Does the Joe team notice the huge cracks on the ground they’re standing on? Yikes. Finally, the third battle gear set gets a little feature to the side. Interestingly, our looks like the weapons are photographed on a hand made display that recalls the salesman samples of old.

Stay tuned tomorrow for the next few pages of the catalog, featuring the first vehicles of the year.


  • I love those old photos that photographed figures on some constructed landscape (I believe TF did that around the same time period too).

    And for the cartoon, having watched episodes again intermittantly while I was eating lunch, dinner, etc over the months, I would say the 1985-86 season was significantly better than the 1986-87 season. The reverse seems true of the Transformers cartoon. The 85-86 season is so much more fun and seems to showcase a much greater away of characters. And I never realized how inactive Serpentor was.

  • I still remember getting my first 85 catalog and filling my shorts when I saw the FLAGG. I have that bad boy in my basement, bought off a buddy who won it in the Invade Cobra Island mail away contest.

  • This was the year when the sheer number of figures alone overwhelmed any chance for individual characterization. Seeing the original members and some of the 1983 figures removed from the card backs and catalog proved to be a huge disappointment for me.

    I was also turning 13 in 1985 and the feeling I got at the time was that G.I. Joe had turned into a huge cash cow for Hasbro, much like Star Wars had done for Kenner by the time G.I. Joe returned to the shelves three years earlier. There were days when I bought stuff just to go with the flow and get something new even if I didn’t really think much of it. I remember getting the Air Defense Battle Station just for this mini-catalog alone so I could check out all the new stuff being offered for 1985.

    On the other hand, a lot of iconic Joes and Cobras debuted this year, including Flint, Lady Jaye, Shipwreck, Dusty, the first three Dreadnoks and some important Cobra army builders. The vehicle category continued to shine. We got the Best Playset Ever this year. If only the accessory packs had begun featuring their replacement gear in the actual colors, it would’ve been all gravy.

  • How times have changed. The brand was such a phenomonon. Now Hasbro cant even get a few odds and ends in the shops. And collectors are paying top dollar for troopers online because most shops refuse to carry the stuff.

    But i’ll have to disagree with the first season of the cartoon. I much prefer the second season though it suffers from trying to be too adult for what it was [a syndicated toy commercial]. I’m also guessing that some viewers disliked the second season as so many of the earlier characters were replaced with new toys [i mean characters]. The one thing that really bugs me about season 2 is Serpentors [which i’ll rant about at a later date]

    Whats also interesting is that other toy lines which are now malighned or forgotten [like Gobots, Crystar and Roboforce] all tried simmilar marketing campaighns and had simmilar sucess.

  • In the UK the 85 new figure line up, minus Torch but plus Destro, Cobra Soldier and Storm Shadow from previous years, was used to launch (or relaunch) the line as Action Force. Easily the most successful and longest lasting incarnation of the Joe line in the UK

  • @Philip Ayres – I remember that well. It was sooo frustrating to have only two out of the big three Dreadnoks for so many years…

  • I wonder who/why decided to cut Torch from the lineup? Makes no sense to just include two. They even wear the same color pants.

  • The same person who cut Lowlight the following year, Chuckles, Sneak Peak and Crystal Ball the year after and numerous other figures and vehicles!

    I’ve held for a long while that the initial UK line up was a mess. There’s a distinct lack of senior Cobra Command and reliable opposition for certain figures. I’d have made it 30 figures like in following years and included some more Cobras (Cobra Commander, Barroness, Scrap Iron, Firefly) as well as Torch…. And thrown in Blowtorch (to oppose Torch) Torpedo (to fight the Eel) Snow Job (to fight Snow Serpent) and Mutt & Spirit. OK many of them had been available in the previous 1985 line up ( see http://www.bloodforthebaron.com/toys/003/index.html ) some of which were still on the shelves (I bought an orange carded (UK85) Scarlet the day I bought my Joe Graphics Alpine.

  • I wonder if the some of the molds having gone to Brazil was the reason for their absence in European line-ups. Torch was released in South American, but IIRC, Buzzer and Ripper were not. Crystal Ball was also released in Brazil.

    Back to the caralog. They never made a vintage Cobra Officer with red Cobra symbol like in the catalog show. Sure in modern times there’s some, but those aren’t the same thing.

  • An interesting element of the group shot is the late-to-the-party presence of Barbecue. The poor guy looks like an overly concerned uncle at a family reunion, trying to rush in to say something to the cameraman. Maybe he just felt like being different, although I’d expect that more from a weirdo like Airtight.

    Given Barbecue’s file-card characterisation as a wild party animal who gets a kick out of smashing in doors with an axe, he’s probably assumed that pose to better emphasise his screaming “WHOOOO!” or “YEAH!!” or something to that effect. 😉

  • @ Skymate
    Season 2 mainly focused on a few characters over many. Season 1 felt like almost every character had their moment in the sun. Serpentor + Dr. Mindbender really dragged down Cobra. Cobra’s elite (Cobra Commander, Destro, Baroness, the twins) were more personable and better characters for the plots. Ironically, I feel the focus on a few characters improved Transformers (it was mainly Rodimus Prime, Ultra Magnus, Springer, Kup, Arcee, and periodically Wreck-Gar vs. Galvatron, Cyclonus, Scourge with others backing them up) but GI Joe seemed to have more personable individual characters, so to see so many pushed to the margins came off as bad. Also, Season 1 focused on many 1984 characters as well, giving them some prominent screentime, some even from earlier (Gung Ho, Cover Girl, etc). The plots were also more fun. Some seem to fit into modern times (Cobra trying to create a new currency?). I felt watching them this year they hold up better. Season 2 stories tend to be more serious, conventional, but also a bit bland. There are a few throwbacks (Cobrathon feels very much like a Season 1 episode in style).

  • I’ll add, the amount of new content 1985-86 Season produced in terms of cartoons was phenomenal:
    55 episodes of GI Joe
    49 eisodes of Transformers
    65 episodes of Thundercats
    65 episodes of She-Ra
    Add in M.A.S.K., Jem as well.

  • @Little Boa
    This might be a little off topic but the last time i watched “12 hours to doomsday”, i got the feeling that it was written for season 1 but was held back so some reason and altered slightly to fit into season 2.

  • That episode was indeed written for season 1 and altered as you thought. A few episodes had to be altered to include Serpentor, who according cartoon editor Buzz Dixon was a relatively late addition to the 86 line-up. That’s why Serpentor has little more than cameos in some episodes, often in random throne rooms or on a video screen. In “Last Hour To Doomsday”, they didn’t mention Serpentor at all. It feels like it takes place before “Arise, Serpentor, Arise”, though in that mini-series the Joes act like they’ve never seen BATS before.

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