Grunt (1983)

I first got into GI Joes when the toys had shrunk down to become the Real American Hero of the 1980’s. I didn’t have much knowledge of or exposure to the Joes that had come before. A neighbor had a few Adventure Team figures and the AT HQ, but I had no idea what they were at the time (being a five year old). Later, as a collector of the small GI Joes with individual names and specialties, I hadn’t really considered the question commonly asked since the new team’s inception: which one is GI Joe? Of course, the comic and toyline would later identify the original GI Joe, but it still is a good question to ponder from the perspective of the beginning of the 80’s line.

If you look at early packaging and the design of the first series of figures, you could make a good case that Grunt is the closest of the era to being that prototypical GI Joe. First, his card art was featured on a lot of the advertising of the day, including the cover of the first catalog that was included with the line’s first vehicles.

Second, his name and specialty. He’s an infantryman, the Army’s everyman. I remember when I got Grunt, I asked my dad what it meant, and he told me that was what they called your basic soldier. Grunt is also outfitted in the most basic fatigues when compared to his teammates. The other figures either feature different uniform or detail colors, including a couple with silver and gold (by the way, when did GI Joe start adding flashy colors? Hmm…) While some other Joes were equipped with clear visors, lasers or jet packs, Grunt carried an M-16 and a backpack.Grunt is a bit of a throwback to the days of the 60’s GI Joes in that respect, when Joe represented a basic fighting man, whether a soldier, airman, marine or sailor.

The mold may seem quaint when compared to the figures released in the ensuing years, but I still find it (and the other original thirteen figures) to be a great example of the simplistic yet infinitely playable qualities that made the small Joe figures revolutionary. Yes, there are arm rivets, visible screws and joints and a lack of sculpted detail (folds, etc.) on the uniform, but those elements are all part of the toy experience, and they didn’t make much difference to a kid playing with it 30 years ago. Though the line’s design drew from construction seen first on 3 & 3/4 inch Mego figures, Hasbro took that primitive style and expanded upon it. The 1983 improvements of the swivel-arm battle grip and smaller waist piece made a huge difference in taking the smaller GI Joe to the next level as a successful and high quality toy line.


  • Yeah, just think–for one straight year, Grunt was the face of the whole GI Joe line, until Duke came along. My first Grunt, believe it or not, was the 2003 Spy Troops figure that came with the Battle Blitz, when that vehicle (and the 2002 Assault Quad) were peg-warming Rite-Aids in my area. I do hope to get an original at some point.

    Funny, you could pretty much switch this version’s feet with either Clutch or Short-Fuze, since they share the same shade of color in both plastic and paint.

  • I remember opening the package when I got Grunt in ’82. I used him as the soldier that was the front line of every battle….and which one is GI Joe? My first Joe from 82′ was Breaker. I saw the beard and immediately thought he was GI Joe. Remembering the bearded flock haired Adventure team Joes and Super Joe threw me off!

  • Such a cool figure. Simple, yet effective.

    I was thinking the other day about how several Joes from the first year had blonde, brown, and black beards. Could this be a tribute of sorts to the Adventure Team years or a subtle way of passing the torch from the 12” inch Joes to their 3 3/4 inch brethren? I wouldn’t rule it out. In addition, if you look at those bright green pouches on Grunt’s arms, you could also argue that the whole neon love thing began right there. 😉

    ’83 Grunt is one of my favorites from the initial thirteen Joes and very much the face of the line for all the reasons mentioned here. In fact, one of the last Joes I bought at retail during the vintage era was his ’91 counterpart, mostly because it brought everything full circle. The swivel-armed, o-ringed design which made Hasbro such a powerhouse in the toy industry remains timeless to this day and the original Grunt helped lay the foundation for all that followed.

  • [quote]Such a cool figure. Simple, yet effective.[/quote]


    A figure design that allowed excellent poseability in a small pocket size package with a few accessories at a great price. That formula will always succeed.

  • Grunts ultra simplicity is what keeps that figure endearing to me. An infantry soldier (albeit a SpecOps one) doesn’t need a lot of flash and dazzle. Swivel arm makes him a lot more useful, though. My ’82 lost his thumb trying to one-hand that M-16 straight.

  • One of my absolute favorites in my collection. The original 13 have alot of custom potential. (just finished a Version 1 “Artic Snake-Eyes”). I also am a big fan of Tan Grunt, too.

  • Awesome article on Grunt man! Loved it. I couldn’t agree more. I just completed my original 13 a few days ago. As a kid I seen grunt around and wanted to know what Joe was “GI JOE” as well. It’s an awesome question before the comics answered it.

    With my O-13 complete I always fall back to Grunt for dio’s and playability. Priceless figure. I can also add all that you wrote about Hawk. To me G and H are just my faves, and I’m a huge snake eyes fan.

    My snake eyes had a broken right hand and I have no ammo pack or gun. CAN ANYONE HELP?


    Thanks for another awesome review. Love getting them each day in my email. You work on this is great, keep it up!

  • This guy is great! I’ll have to see if i can pick him up one day

  • my first joe! thanks to that grab bag in 82 at the Maplecrest Methodist Church Christmas party. Yep!

  • I never did get the original Grunt, though somewhere along the line I got a hold of a Tan Grunt. Would love to get one someday.

    What I can’t help but notice when looking at this is how easy it is to paint that original head badly. Maybe it’s the photo but even here, it looks like he only has eyelashes on one eye.

    Still better than the Stars and Stripes set where the head looks more like Sloth from Goonies.

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