Gung Ho (1997)

Gather round all ye Joe fans and let Uncle Joe A Day tell you a story of the dark days of the mid to late 90’s. They were dark times indeed. With nary a small Joe on a shelf, wandering bands of collectors were forced to venture into the wilderness of flea markets, garage sales and swap meets to stifle their hunger for Joes. It was a lawless, wild time; when information was scarce and sketchy, and magazines with arbitrary price guides dominated the landscape. There was no EBay, and the tubes of the internet had yet to be completely connected. Collectors sometimes even exchanged information and made purchases via the Web 0.5 entity known as Usenet.

After two years of a dearth of new product, Toys R Us stepped into the gap and released an exclusive series based on some of the earliest Rel American Hero molds. Early prototype pictures were exciting, showcasing 1982 to 1985 molds with fresh and apparently well detailed paint schemes. But as happens within the toy industry, things changed between prototype and release. What we ended up with was lackluster at best. And that’s the place from which this Gung Ho hails. I assume they were going for a different look, while trying to pay homage to Gung Ho’s original colors while making him look more military accurate, but the paint buckets must have gotten mixed up somewhere along the line.

Sure most of the 1997 series were sub-par and some were downright terrible, but we sucked it up and took it like men (who buy toys). Did we complain? Of course, it’s in every collector’s DNA. But in our hearts we were grateful–grateful I tell ya! There was new stuff to buy again! So the next time you get peeved about the latest Joe offerings, take a look at Gung Ho here. Take a long hard look, and remember that it could always be worse.

“…arguably one of the ugliest Joe figures of all time.”
-Don from the Flag Points podcast

“I heartily agree with you, sir. You’re a gentleman and a scholar.”
-Joe A Day


  • Steven B. Williams

    Any idea what that light blue thing is? Is that supposed to be the fringe of his vest (as well as the straps of his backpack)?

  • Gung-Ho with the Slugger was the first set of the TRU exclusives I found back in 97.

  • That terrific color is in the watch too!

  • I picked up this figure and the Slugger off the shelves back in ’97 and I gotta say that it brought back fond memories. At least they got the mold right.

    Stars & Stripes Breaker/Rock N Roll are tied for Worst Figures Ever. They looked and felt like freaking knock-offs more than anything else Hasbro has ever released. Ugly with a Capital U!

  • I agree with you and Don about this being one of the ugliest Joe figures of all time. I never cared for this mold anyway, and the colors just killed it.

  • I’m not sure about “ugliest”, but he’s gotta be top of the “close-but-not-quite” list. If only the baby blue were gone, it’s a nice paint scheme. Lazy they didn’t paint the top of his left boot, too. Hasbro must’ve downsized their QA department in ’97.

  • He isn’t quite as ugly as I remember, but still one of the worst looking color schemes of all time…

  • Chiming in here a bit late to the party. I grew up in the mid-90s, and even as a kid I was disappointed with the Joe offerings of the time. I would look at the older catalogs and pine after the Joes that didn’t come with big ugly missile launchers (stepping back now I can appreciate them more).

    Imagine my distaste when I saw what happened in 1997. Re-releases of old Joe figures? YES! Oh…oh. No. That’s not right at all. There was one set that came out in ’97 that I still own and love, however: the blue/black Rage re-release with the blue/black Alley Viper. Love it.

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