Since its explosive introduction in 1982, G.I. Joe: ARAH has captured the imaginations of fans worldwide. Over the coming months, JoeSightings will bring you features covering 40 years of ARAH. So sit back, put on your party hat, and let's get this year-long celebration started!
G.I. Joe is a true American icon. Launched by Hassenfeld Brothers (Hasbro), Incorporated, in 1964 as a 12-inch "action figure," G.I. Joe enjoyed great success as an everyman soldier, sailor, airman, marine, and adventurer for more than a decade. "America's movable fighting man" battled foreign adversaries, wrestled with yetis, and practiced his Kung Fu Grip in thousands of backyards in the 1960s and 70s. Nothing lasts forever, however, and G.I. Joe eventually succumbed to rising costs, declining sales, and a reduction in size to 8 inches. By Christmas 1978, the old soldier simply faded away.
By 1979, the success of Star Wars and that film's licensed action figures and vehicles spurred interest to revive G.I. Joe in the popular new 3-3/4-inch format. Code named Blast Off, the secret project to reinvent G.I. Joe was led by a team of creative and enthusiastic artists, sculptors, engineers, marketers, and writers at Hasbro and Marvel Comics. This new G.I. Joe would no longer be a generic soldier, but an elite group of military specialists who battled an army of international terrorists.
G.I. Joe Is Back, Smaller Than Ever
Thirteen original Joes - Breaker, Clutch, Flash, Grand Slam, Grunt, Hawk, Rock 'n Roll Scarlett, Short-Fuze, Snake Eyes, Stalker, Steeler, and Zap - deployed in 1982 to battle the enemy army of Cobra Command, which consisted of the nameless and faceless Cobra trooper and Cobra Officer. Cobra Commander was an exclusive figure available only as a special mail-away offer or as a pack-in with the Missile Command Headquarters playset sold by Sears. Armed with advanced weapons and vehicles, including the FLAK, HAL, JUMP, MOBAT, RAM, and VAMP, the G.I. Joe Mobile Strike Force was ready to defend freedom on land and in the air. To better introduce kids to the world of G.I. Joe, each figure came with a file card dossier with details about the character's military specialties, training, and personality, and each vehicle came with blueprints that explained how it would would operate in the real world.
The Legend of G.I. Joe
Launching a new toy line to compete with Kenner's Star Wars was no easy task. Without a big-budget Hollywood movie to help tell the story, Hasbro turned to Marvel Comics to flesh out the characters and help build the world of G.I. Joe vs. Cobra. Writer Larry Hama and artist Herb Trimpe crafted an exciting debut issue that hit comic stands in spring 1982. Boosted by a 30-second animated commercial - the first for a comic book - G.I. Joe #1 was a smash hit and helped drive toy sales like nothing before.
For more information on G.I. Joe toys released in 1982, check out 3DJoes.com. For more on Marvel's G.I. Joe comic, visit JMM's G.I. Joe Comics Home Page. Cartoon and animated advertisement info can be found at JoeGuide.com. Details regarding Code Name: Blast Off can be found in the creator profiles at 3DJoes.com, as well as the book series Creating G.I. Joe by Dan Klingensmith.
1982 Toy Catalog
The previous year's success was followed by even more figures, vehicles, and accessories in 1983. Joining the original Joes were Ace, Airborne, Cover Girl, Doc, Gung-Ho, Snow Job, Torpedo, Tripwire, and Wild Bill. Grunt and Grand Slam were rereleased in new colors as vehicle operators. A new First Sergeant, Duke, was available in 1983 as a mail-away figure. Meanwhile, Cobra's ranks swelled with the introduction of Cobra H.I.S.S. Driver, Destro, Major Bludd, and Viper Pilot. Each new figure came with enhanced articulation called "Swivel-Arm Battle Grip," which allowed the toy's arms to rotate. G.I. Joe and Cobra could now hold their weapons better and be posed more realistically.
New vehicles and accessories for G.I. Joe's second year included the Amphibious Personnel Carrier, Cobra Viper Glider, Headquarters Command Center, Dragonfly XH-1, Cobra F.A.N.G., G.I. Joe Falcon Glider, Cobra H.I.S.S., Polar Battle Bear, Skystriker XP-14F, Wolverine, Battle Armor S.N.A.K.E., Twin Battle Gun Whirlwind, Flame Thrower (PAC/RAT), Machine Gun (PAC/RAT), Missile Launcher (PAC/RAT), and a reissued JUMP. A collector display case and weapons accessory pack were also released.
G.I. Joe on Television
Following the success of the animated comic and toy advertisements, Sunbow and Marvel collaborated to bring G.I. Joe to television in a five-part mini-series titled G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero. Debuting on September 12, 1983, the mini-series followed the adventures of the G.I. Joe team as they attempt to stop Cobra from taking over the world using a teleportation unit called the MASS Device. The episodes featured many of the characters and vehicles available in 1982-1983 and introduced audiences to Duke, who would eventually become one of the most popular characters in the Real American Hero toy line.
The Adventure Continues
Demand for the Marvel comic continued to build in 1983 thanks to several new animated commercials. Throughout the year, writer Larry Hama introduced new characters, such as Doc, Gung-Ho, and Destro, and continued establishing and expanding the gritty world of G.I. Joe and Cobra. Readers of the comic were shocked by the death of the Joe team's first commanding officer, Brigadier General Lawrence Flagg, at the hands of Major Bludd in G.I. Joe #19 (cover dated January 1984, but published in late 1983). Unlike the cartoon, which had to meet FCC criteria, the comic was able to depict the realities and consequences of combat, including injury and death. General Flagg would be the first of many high-profile casualties in the war with Cobra.
8-Bit G.I. Joe
1983 also saw the first G.I. Joe home video game with the release of G.I. Joe: Cobra Strike for the Atari Video Computer System and Sears Video Arcade. Produced by Parker Brothers, the game allowed 1-3 players to battle as G.I. Joe or Cobra on home televisions. Players who made it to the 16th level even had a chance to win a black Cobra cap from Parker Brothers.
For more information on G.I. Joe toys released in 1983, check out 3DJoes.com. For more on Marvel's G.I. Joe comic, visit JMM's G.I. Joe Comics Home Page. Cartoon and animated advertisement info can be found at JoeGuide.com. More on G.I. Joe: Cobra Strike, including rare prototype box art, is available at AtariMania.com.
1983 Cartoon Intro
Duke, G.I. Joe's First Sergeant, was finally released at retail and led the wave of replacement Joes in 1984. Also released were Blowtorch, Clutch, Cutter, Deep Six, Mutt & Junkyard, Recondo, Rip Cord, Roadblock, Spirit & Freedom, and Thunder. Cobra added new specialists as well, including Baroness, Cobra Stinger Driver, Copperhead, Firefly, Scrap-Iron, Storm Shadow, Wild Weasel, and Zartan. Toy exclusives included a VAMP & HAL set released at Sears, and a hooded Cobra Commander figure available as a mail-away premium.
The vehicle lineup for 1984 included the Bivouac, Cobra A.S.P., Cobra C.L.A.W., Cobra Rattler, Cobra Stinger, Killer W.H.A.L.E., Machine Gun Defense Unit, Missile Defense Unit, Mortar Defense Unit, Mountain Howitzer, S.H.A.R.C., Sky Hawk, Slugger, Swamp Skier Chameleon, VAMP Mark II, Watch Tower, and Water Moccasin. Kids could also purchase a second weapons accessory pack this year, as well as send away for the G.I. Joe M.A.N.T.A.
Cobra Seeks Revenge
Hot on the heels of the first G.I. Joe mini-series in 1983, Sunbow and Marvel produced a second five-part animated adventure in 1984. Titled The Revenge of Cobra, the story premiered on September 10th and followed the battle between G.I. Joe and Cobra over control of Destro's Weather Dominator. The series introduced kids to several new characters, including Storm Shadow, Roadblock, and the chameleon-like Zartan and his Dreadnoks: Ripper, Buzzer, and Torch. Flint, Lady Jaye, Shipwreck, and an updated Snake-Eyes, who would not be available as figures until 1985, also made their debut in this mini-series.
Snake Eyes: The Origin
Over in the Marvel comic book, the enigmatic Snake Eyes became a bit less mysterious as pieces of his past were revealed over the course of the year. In G.I. Joe #21, the infamous silent issue, writer Larry Hama introduced Storm Shadow and revealed a startling connection between the Cobra ninja and Snake Eyes (matching tattoos!). A few months later, in issues 26 and 27, Hama explored the connections further and revealed that Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow had previously served together during the Vietnam War and had later trained with Storm Shadow's family/ninja clan in Japan. This backstory would continue to evolve over the course of the comic series and would lay the groundwork for future stories across G.I. Joe media.
For more information on G.I. Joe toys released in 1984, check out 3DJoes.com. For more on Marvel's G.I. Joe comic, visit JMM's G.I. Joe Comics Home Page. Cartoon and animated advertisement info can be found at JoeGuide.com.
1984 Duke Card Art
Toy sales hit their peak in 1985 and G.I. Joe was declared the best selling toy in America. G.I. Joe figures released this year included Airtight, Alpine, Barbecue, Bazooka, Crankcase, Dusty, Flint, Footloose, Frostbite, Heavy Metal, Keel-Haul, Lady Jaye, Quick Kick, Shipwreck & Polly, Snake-Eyes & Timber, and Tollbooth. Sgt. Slaughter, a figure based on the real-life wrestler, was also available as a mail-away premium. Cobra's reinforcements included Crimson Guard, Eel, Lamprey, Snow Serpent, Tele-Viper, Tomax & Xamot, and Dreadnok bikers Ripper, Buzzer, and Torch.
Nearly two dozen new vehicles, accessories, and playsets hit toy shelves in 1985, including the Cobra Bunker Battle Station, Cobra Ferret, Cobra Flight Pod, Cobra Hydrofoil, Cobra Night Landing, Cobra Rifle Range Unit, and a recolored Battle Armor S.N.A.K.E. G.I. Joe's new equipment included Accessory Pack #3, Air Defense Battle Station, Ammo Dump, Armadillo Mini Tank, A.W.E. Striker, Bomb Disposal, Bridge Layer, Check Point Battle Station, Forward Observer Unit, Mauler M.B.T., Silver Mirage Motorcycle, Snow Cat, Transportable Tactical Battle Platform, and Weapon Transport. The U.S.S. Flagg Aircraft Carrier, the largest item ever produced for the line, was also released. Exclusive toys this year included the mail-away HALO Parachute Pack and Sears-only Motorized Crimson Attack Tank and Cobra's Sentry and Missile System.
And Knowing is Half the Battle
A third animated adventure, The Pyramid of Darkness, debuted on September 16, 1985. The five-part mini-series, which showcased Cobra's mad scheme to conquer the world by depriving it of electrical energy, was quickly followed by an ongoing animated television series. Fifty episodes were produced that year, including "Excalibur," "Red Rocket's Glare," and "Countdown for Zartan." New to the series were public safety announcements that preceded each episode's closing credits. Endorsed by the National Child Safety Council, these announcements featured prominent G.I. Joe characters educating children on potential dangers, such as prescription medicines, strange animals, and playing with fire, as well as social issues, such as accepting others who are different, playing like a team, and resolving conflicts.
Sons and Anarchy
The G.I. Joe comic book was still going strong and was Marvel's most subscribed title in 1985. Writer Larry Hama continued expanding the mythos and introduced a tragic storyline that saw Major Bludd and Baroness attempt to assassinate Cobra Commander using a child who turned out to be Cobra Commander's own son. Hama and artist Rod Whigham crafted perhaps one of the best stories of the entire series with issue #34, "Shakedown." This issue followed Ace and Lady Jaye conducting a test flight in the Skystriker and encountering Wild Weasel and Baroness in the Rattler. After an intense aerial battle that left both jets badly damaged and out of ammunition, Ace and Wild Weasel fly past one another and render respectful salutes, much to the chagrin of their co-pilots. The following issue saw the Dreadnoks steal Zartan's holographic motorcycle and go on a rampage that left three Joes injured. The year ended with Cobra creating its Cobra Island headquarters and several subplots, including the Soft Master's quest to find his brother's killer, heading toward a dark conclusion.
More 8-Bit G.I. Joe
1985 saw G.I. Joe return in 8-bit form in the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero video game for the Commodore 64 and Apple II home computers. Produced by game developer Epyx, the game allowed 1-2 players to battle as either G.I. Joe or Cobra in trouble spots around the world. The game featured two modes - a one-on-one personal combat mission and a vehicle-based adventure. In the one-on-one missions, players could select from 8 Cobras (Destro, Baroness, Zartan, Firely, Cobra Commander, Storm Shadow, Major Bludd, and Scrap Iron) and 12 Joes (Duke, Scarlett, Recondo, Torpedo, Snake Eyes, Roadblock, Spirit, Zap, Gung-Ho, Snow Job, Blowtorch, and Stalker) and battle through two rounds of personal combat. In vehicle missions, players could choose to play as Ace and the Skystriker, Steeler and the MOBAT, Wild Bill and the Dragonfly, or Clutch and the VAMP Mark II and battle Cobra H.I.S.S. tanks, radar, and missile launchers. The Commodore 64 and Apple II versions were similar in design and play, but featured different graphics based each computer's capabilities.
For more information on G.I. Joe toys released in 1985, check out 3DJoes.com. For more on Marvel's G.I. Joe comic, visit JMM's G.I. Joe Comics Home Page. Cartoon and animated advertisement info can be found at JoeGuide.com. More on G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Epyx is available at C64Wiki.
1985 USS Flagg Box
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