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.