G.I. Joe was created by
Manhattan licensing agent Stan
Weston. He figured that military-based toys were a potential
lucrative untapped market and convinced Hasbro
creative director Donald
Levine of that. Hasbro bought the idea from Weston for
$100,000 and released them in 1964. The original action figures—a term coined
as a marketing gimmick to make them more appealing to young boys—were 12-inch
mannequin-like dolls with multiple points of articulation. Each
one represented one of the four branches of the American military and came with
a plethora of accessories to preemptively stave off the inevitable imitators.
The toys were a success; selling
well up until anti-war sentiment regarding the Vietnam
began to rise. In 1969, Hasbro decided to downplay the toys’ military roots and
changed the uniforms and accessories to be more in line with action-oriented
professions such as astronaut or deep-sea diver. The line was renamed “The
Adventures of G.I. Joe” and continued in that style until
it was ended and replaced by a new line called “Adventure
Team” in 1976. The Adventure Team line began to sow the
seeds of what the G.I. Joe line would
eventually become by having their hero figures working together to battle a
|One of the original figures in the ARH line.
found success with their line of 3.75”
Star Wars toys,
Hasbro began to consider reviving the G.I.
Joe line in that format. A chance encounter between Hasbro CEO Stephen
Hassenfeld and Marvel
Comics President Jim Galton
led to the revamped toy line most familiar to collectors today. Hassenfeld
wanted the toys to have a backstory to increase their appeal, and Galton
offered Marvel’s services as creative consultants. That consultation eventually
turned into a comic series to help promote the toys helmed by Marvel editor and
who was himself a veteran.
It was decided that G.I. Joe should be the team’s name, and
that they should be given enemies to fight; a concept Hasbro hadn’t considered.
Marvel writer Archie
Goodwin developed Cobra
and their leader, Cobra Commander, as the Joes’ recurring foes. Marvel also
convinced Hasbro to make female characters, which Hasbro decided to offer with
vehicles worrying that they wouldn’t sell well on their own. Hama developed the
biographies, skills and personalities for the characters, which he kept
straight on “file cards” that were eventually offered on the toy packages in an
|The first issue of the Marvel run.
The all-new G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, both the toys
comic, made its debut in 1982. Initially, the toys utilized
a limited number of unique parts but gradually began to introduce more and more
variations as the line went on. After the first wave, the American Hero toys began to feature greater articulation. The
vehicles and playsets also gradually increased in size and quality, eventually
resulting in the 7 ½-foot long USS
Flagg playset. Both the toys and the
comics proved to be a success; the comic astoundingly so as toy-based comics
were typically dismissed and had a relatively short shelf-life. A Real American Hero would run for 155
issues over 12 years, spawning several spin-offs and mini-series (IDW Publishing would revive the comic
in 2010 with its original numbering and Hama once again writing).
executive Bob Pruprish was able to use the comic to circumvent regulations
about toy commercials featuring more than 10 seconds of animation by promoting
the book instead. It was the first time a comic book had been advertised on
television, with Marvel Productions
handling the animation duties. Marvel would also go on to produce the two mini-series
series with Sunbow
Productions beginning in 1983, which was followed by a movie
in 1987 and a second
series in 1989 produced by DiC Entertainment.
A follow-up line, Sgt. Savage and his Screaming Eagles was released in
1994. The figures were enlarged to 4.5” and featured packaging artwork and mini-comics
Kubert. A pilot episode
for a cartoon was made by Sunbow and Graz Entertainment,
but the series never materialized and it was included on a VHS tape with the Commando Sgt.
Hasbro eventually acquired Kenner
and transferred production of the toys over to them. Kenner cancelled American Hero in 1994, which also led to
the end of the comic, and released a new line called G.I.
Joe Extreme in 1995. The toys became 5” which allowed
for greater detail than the 3.75” American
Hero line, but sacrificed articulation in favor of special gimmick moves. Extreme had all-new characters and new
foes in the form of SKAR (Soldiers of Khaos, Anarchy and Ruin) and was set in a
near-future world. It, too, received its own syndicated animated series by
Sunbow with Gunther-Wahl
Productions and Graz Entertainment, as well as a
comic published by Dark
Horse Comics. However, the Extreme line sold poorly and was cancelled after its first wave.
The comic followed soon after, and then the animated series. In the following
years, waves of classic and new American
Hero figures would be released under various line names.
|Sigma 6: Duke, Scarlett, Tunnel Rat, Long Range, Snake Eyes and Heavy Duty.
In 2005, Hasbro introduced a reboot
of the American Hero line called G.I.
Joe: Sigma 6.
was meant to provide Hasbro a means of streamlining the story and characters,
present younger versions of their classic characters, and to increase the size
of the figures to 8 inches with additional 2.5” figures that came with small
playsets. To bring them into the 21st Century, the Joes were given
new Sigma suits to protect them from laser blasts and enhance their abilities,
which explained the reason behind their new designation.
To promote the toys, Hasbro
partnered with 4Kids
Productions to produce a new animated series
developed by Miguel
Gaban. Sigma 6 served
as a follow-up to the two CGI direct-to-video movies Hasbro commissioned to
promote the revival of the American Hero line:
2003’s Spy Troops, which was written
by Hama, and 2004’s Valor vs. Venom, both produced by Reel FX Creative Studios.
The series picked up from the plot point of Cobra Commander (Marc Thompson)
having been captured and subsequently freed, leading to a direct attack on the
|Bedridden General Hawk.
The featured Joes included General
Hawk (Tony Salerno), the team’s leader and advisor still recovering from the
events of Valor vs. Venom; field
commander Duke (David Wills & Greg Abbey); second-in-command and counter
intelligence specialist Scarlett (Amy Birnbaum & Veronica Taylor); silent
ninja commando Snake Eyes (Jason Griffith in flashbacks); infiltration and demolitions
specialist Tunnel Rat (Michael Sinterniklaas & Sebastian Arcelus);
transportation specialist and sniper Long Range (Scottie Ray); artillery master
Heavy Duty (F.B. Owens); electronics and communications expert and hacker
Hi-Tech (Eric Stuart, who also served as voice director); and expert tracker
and shaman Spirit Iron-Knife (Darren Dunstan). Junior members of the team
included Jinx (Lisa Ortiz & Liza Jacqueline) and Kamkura (Sinterniklaas
& Thompson), who were training under Snake Eyes. Hawk’s son, Scott
Abernathy (Chris Adams & Pete Capella), was an honorary member of the team
along with his robot dog, Spud (Salerno). Duke and Scarlett appeared noticeably
younger than in the past, Heavy Duty lost a bit of his refinement and was more
focused on his muscles, and part of Snake Eyes’ true face ends up revealed when
his visor wound up damaged in a fight. Tunnel-Rat received the heaviest changes
in both his design and personality; given a penchant for being lazy and for
high-tech devices, and willing to eat anything—including live insects.
Along with Cobra Commander, Cobra
utilized the talents of Destro (Thompson), their metal-masked weapons maker and
inventor; Baroness (Bella Hudson & Kayzie Rogers), their intelligence
officer; Storm Shadow (Tom Wayland & Ted Lewis), a ninja captured and
brainwashed by Cobra into working for them; and Overkill (Madeleine Blaustein),
a robotic scientist who spent the series in a healing tank and robotic body
after Venom vs. Valor. Working with
Cobra was the biker gang known as the Dreadnoks, led by the shape-shifting
Zartan (Thompson) with chainsaw-wielding Buzzer (Wayne Grayson), firebug Torch
(David Brimmer & Ted Lewis), and original character Machete (Brimmer &
Stuart) who was loosely based on the character Ripper.
Cobra’s army was largely comprised of Cobra Troopers (various voices) and B.A.T. units.
B.A.T.s were Battle Android Troopers that could perform a variety of functions.
Like the Joes, changes were made to Cobra; particularly with Cobra Commander
being made more serious and threatening than previous incarnations even though
he still loved his grand schemes. Baroness and Destro were also given
cybernetic enhancements and both were more loyal to Cobra than they had been
previously portrayed. Overkill was upgraded from a lowly lab assistant,
Zartan’s disguises were the result of technology in his suit rather than skill and
genetic enhancements, and Storm Shadow was more comfortable working with
B.A.T.s where he always preferred well-trained humans.
Joe: Sigma 6 began on August 27, 2005 airing on FOX as part of the 4Kids TV
programming block. The animation for the show was done in anime style by
Japanese studio Gonzo
with computer-generated images utilized throughout; giving it a largely
different look than the other G.I. Joe shows.
Interestingly, though the show was animated in Japan, it has never been
broadcast there. The conflict between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow often took
the central focus of most of the episodes, along with the typical Joes vs.
|Model sheet for Snake Eyes' pet wolf.
series featured a wide array of regular 4Kids actors who had appeared in other
licensed or translated shows, but after the first eight episodes most of the
roles were recast for the remainder of the run. The show was written by Matt Charles,
and Wayland. Stars Dunstan and Rogers also doubled as directors for several
episodes, as did Thompson who also wrote one. The series’ music was composed by
Alvarez and Freddy
Sheinfeld, with Jake
Siegler and Russell Velazquez
doing the theme.
show ran for two seasons. In the second season Hawk was written out after the
first episode and replaced by his associate Lt. Stone (Dan Green), who brought
with him a new sea base, the Sea Titan, and his personal attack copter, the
Dragonhawk. With him came sabotage and demolitions expert Firefly (Sean
Schemmel), who ended up betraying the Joes and joining Cobra.
Despite producing three waves of
figures between 2005 and 2007, the Sigma
6 line proved to be polarizing to long-time Joe fans and was ultimately unsuccessful. The line was cancelled,
and with it, production on the show. In fact, the show didn’t even finish
airing its episodes in the United States before it ended. The remaining
episodes wouldn’t be seen in North America until they were aired on YTV in Canada well into
2007. Later airings of Sigma 6 episodes
saw the removal of the G.I. Joe name
by 4Kids to distinguish that the Joes featured in the show weren’t the same as
Joes in other media. The concept of Joes wearing enhanced suits was later revisited
for the 2009 G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra live-action film.
|Issue 4 of the comic: Scarlett vs. Baroness.
A 6-issue mini-series was
published by Devil’s Due
Entertainment. Unlike the show, each issue focused on
individual members battling a specific major Cobra member. Not only were they
made in standard comic format, but they also came in hardcover “library
bindings”. The first issue was reprinted for Free Comic Book Day
2006. The first five episodes of the series were combined into a single movie
called First Strike, released on DVD by
Hasbro in 2006. The episode “Race” came on a DVD called Ninja Showdown
that was included in the Ninja
Showdown 2-pack, and was later bundled with Wave 1
figures at Wal-Mart
and Toys R Us.
“Honor” was released on Ninja Showdown Part 2 that came as a
bonus with some versions of Hi-Tech,
Eyes Jungle Commando and Destro.
“Search” was released on Ambush: Episode 4 that came bundled
with the Wal-Mart exclusive Ninja
Paratrooper Snake Eyes. The first
issue of the comic was also included as an abbreviated
mini-comic. The entire series would eventually be made available to stream on Tubi.