In 2009 Paramount Pictures teamed up with Hasbro to make a live-action G.I. Joe film. It was loosely tied into the Michael Bay live-action Transformers film series. I personally enjoyed the film. I went into is expecting a science fiction action movie based on a cartoon, based on a toy, based on a generic Vietnam War soldier. Yeah, it was a complicated mess. I was never a big G.I. Joe collector. I was, however, very into the Transformers, Hasbro’s other popular action figure line.
This is just going to be me looking back on all of my memories of the G.I. Joe franchise.
As far as I can tell my earliest memories are sometime around 1987. I vaguely remember having a couple of random Joe action figures, to this day I couldn’t tell you any more about them, honestly even if I saw them in a catalog or on a collectors shelf I don’t think I could pick them out. What I do remember is the cartoon. Mostly because, at least where I lived, it aired immediately following the Transformers cartoon. I was such a huge Transformers nut that I didn’t want the show to end. I would keep watching G.I.Joe because it was close enough it almost had that Transformers feel to it. It had a good vs. evil plot, diabolical robots, a futuristic science fiction technology, and most importantly, many of the same voice actors. Even as a kid before IMDb or Wikipedia, I know that Starscream and Cobra Commander were voiced by the same guy. In a lot of ways the two shows were connected.
I continued watching G.I. Joe even after Transformers went off the air. My earliest memories, I think, were around 1987, I would have been 5 years old. I am not talking life memories, just these two shows. I do very distinctly remember watching Transformers episodes with a giant Optimus Prime robot and a little boy, I later learned this would have been the 1987-88 season, around the time the show was cancelled. I used to tune in to he same channel I thought Transformers had come on, never finding it but always looking. I kept watching the Joes in vain hoping that some day the Autobots would return to their war against the Decepticons. I remember watching the 3rd and 4th seasons of the cartoon with Cobra Commander becoming a real snake, then turning back into a man, and them introducing Serpentor, then the show got too weird for me, I didn’t recognize enough of the characters to stay interested, plus this was around the time I discovered the TMNT cartoon. This distracted me from the lack of Transformers, and was a satisfying alternative to G.I Joe: A Real American Hero, to the point I was able to finally stop tuning in. This was also around the time the Disney Afternoon cartoon block became popular so my interests had shifted. At this time I no longer had any connection to the Joes or Cobra. I would continue to pick up random action figures at flea markets, thrift stores and yard sales, always frantically looking for Transformers, or even Go-Bots figures, but I would pick up a Joe or a Cobra from time to time, if I came across them.
I wouldn’t come into full contact with G.I. Joe again until 1993. This was the time when Transformers Generation 2 launched on TV and just like before, Real American Hero was on immediately following. This time I watched the 5-part G.I. Joe: The Movie episodes, bought, or was gifted can’t really remember, one of those multiple puzzle murals featuring depictions of G.I Joe characters. It was one where if you had all 4 puzzles you could take off the edge piece and connect them into a large mural. I never complete the puzzle, let alone the set, but I did work on it day and night for a good couple of weeks or so. It was around this time I came across an original Sgt. Slaughter action figure for sale at a Good Will for like fifty cents or something, it was dirt cheap. I snatched it up, he was one of my favorite characters from the show, and wrestling too, which I was still sorta of into around this time.
Something else happened in 1993. I was introduced to the Mortal Kombat arcade game. I was immediately hooked and began playing that game obsessively for the next 2 decades. Yes I still re-play the original arcade games to this day. Mostly I switch back and forth between MAME and the collection on PS3, plus I also own Midways Arcade Treasures. Anyways, getting off topic. I also got into collecting comic books, trading cards and TMNT figures at this time. Plus I was just starting to get back into Transformers collecting full force with all of the G2 stuff coming out. In the summer of 1994 I started reading Wizard Magazine, and inside there were all of this kitbashed toys where someone would take one action figure and turn it into something else. I was super obsessed with Mortal Kombat. MKII was all the rage and Kung Lao was my favorite character. If you can’t guess where this is going let me assure you toy collectors, yes I kitbashed an original Sgt. Slaughter action figure to look like a Kung Lao action figure. Or at least, I tried. I ended up destroying the toy in the process. The ironic thing is, just months afterwards I was in K-Mart and there on the shelf was an actual MKII Kunk Lao toy, not surprisingly as they were made by Hasbro, they used the same style of figures as G.I.Joe toys, so needless to say I destroyed an 80’s classic trying to turn it into a $3 toy that was available for sale at K-Mart the whole damn time!
I skipped G.I. Joe Extreme or whatever it was called. I had grabbed a few Transformers comics along the way during my comic book collecting days, including some of those Transformers and G.I. Joe cross over comics. By 1997 I was pretty much done buying toys altogether. I lost interest in Transformers once Beast Wars came on the scene, TMNT had fallen into the toilet by this time, and I was never that into G.I. Joe to start off with so I was done with it for the next few years. It wouldn’t be until 2001 with the launch of the Robots in Disguise toy line before I would slowly start to get back into collecting Transformers. I was also discovering retro game collecting at this time, mostly NES, SNES, and SEGA, so my money was spread pretty thin. I 2003 my sister married a guy who told me about his G.I. Joe collecting day when he was a kid and I started to learn more about the toys from him, not much but more than I had ever known. This wasn’t enough to spark any interest in me or desire to collect but it was enough to read up on the newly popular internet about the history of the franchise and how it intersected with Transformers and Star Wars. Since I was already a huge fan of Star Wars also, this knowledge started to pique my curiosity so I began learning more about the history of the toy line.
I didn’t have any further connections or experience with the toys until sometime in 2004 or 2005. I remember buying one of my nephews one of the Joe figures for Christmas. He was kind of excited for it for a while, then, he wasn’t. I did end up picking up a copy of both Transformers: The Movie and G.I. Joe: The Movie, the original cartoons. This was around 2007 I think. This sparked some nostalgia within me and pretty soon I learned about the upcoming film. Since the Transformers movie just released that same year, and I actually enjoyed it quite a bit, in fact I bought an HD-DVD player and a copy of the movie to watch it in HD on my new HDTV in 2008. This was right around the time they announced they were discontinuing the format so I was able to get the player and movie very cheap. Actually free, because a guy bought it for me as payment, or thank you, for fixing his computer.
Then in the summer of 2009 I dragged a few of my unwilling friends to go see this new movie and, I loved it. I shouldn’t have, didn’t have very strong ties to the series, I didn’t have much nostalgia for it, but I thought it was a fun movie. By this time I had also picked up a Blu Ray player so I was able to get the film on Blu Ray when it released. A few years later I watched the mess of a sequel, which I still can’t stand and refuse to re-watch.
Since this time the most I have connected with the series is reading the entire Transformers cross over comics, buying a couple random action figures for nephews over the years, and watching some Angry Video Game Nerd videos where he reviewed the old games based on the cartoon.
My most current tie was about three weeks ago when I picked up a sealed 25th anniversary figure of Storm Shadow, sealed, at a yard sale, for $5. Based on preliminary research on ebay/Amazon/craigslist, this would appear to be a fairly good deal. I am not going to sell the toy, but also I am not going to start a collection either. I just thought it was an interesting piece to add to my collection.
And there you have it, my 30+ year history with the Hasbro/Marvel/Sunbow/Paramount franchise known as G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.