Friday, November 03, 2006


The G.I. Joe Adventure Team saw its last mission in 1976, the year I turned 12 years old. In retrospect, it seems appropriate that the action figure who saw birth the same year as I would also see his demise the same year that I gave up on action figures and entered adolescence. I can make a romantic connection in hindsight, but at the time, I barely noticed.

The truth was, I had abandoned G.I. Joe a couple years earlier. Not only were there newer action figures on the market to catch my attention, but the G.I. Joe Adventure Team line was becoming increasingly low-end. The initial changes were okay, like the addition of Kung Fu Grip. These new, rubbery hands had fingers that were turned under so that Joe could actually hold onto his accessories. The only drawback was, after a few months of active play, the rubber fingers would break off. Hasbro also introduced the Muscle Body, which gave Joe a more buff physique. The truth was, although the body looked more muscular, it was made of lighter weight plastic and the bodies tended to wear at the shoulder joints. G.I. Joe was becoming a cheap toy.

The first major indignity came with the introduction of Mike Power, the Atomic Man. Clearly a rip off of The Six Million Dollar Man, Mike had a clear plastic arm and leg with quasi-mechanical bits embedded in the plastic. He also had a clear plastic eye and a hole in the top of his head so light would shine out of the eye. Creepy! Not only that, he didn’t have the “life-like” hair. He looked like Ken’s older brother, and his main costume featured shorts. Not cool!

The following year, Joe himself was subjected to humiliation by making him Eagle Eye G.I. Joe. First of all, no one really needed an action figure with moving eyes like a ventriloquist’s dummy. Second, in order for the effect to be visible, Hasbro had to widen the eye holes to an unnatural size, giving our intrepid hero a perpetually scared expression. If you moved the eyes rapidly from side to side, he looked like Don Knotts in The Ghost and Mr. Chicken.

During the Adventure Team’s final year of 1976, the increasingly desperate people at Hasbro unleashed the death blow of demoralization. No, I don’t mean the Intruders; alien cavemen appealed to my cheesy sci-fi sensibility. I’m speaking, of course, of Bulletman, the Human Bullet. Dressed in a red, one-piece bathing suit and a silver, bullet-shaped helmet, I couldn’t tell whether this guy was a super hero or a State Fair headliner. If you took off the helmet, things only got worse. He had lacquered down black hair, huge Groucho Marx eyebrows, black eye shadow and mascara. That’s such a jumble, I don’t even know where to begin. All I can say is, if Hasbro wanted to create a comic hero, they should’ve looked at Superman and not Dagwood Bumstead.

At the time, I looked at the ads for these new additions and laughed, but there was a hint of sadness inside. During my short lifetime up to that point, G.I. Joe had dominated the toy world as the premier action figure; the first and the best. Now, he had become a joke, and I felt bad. Still, I was too old for action figures, so I didn’t expend too much energy on mourning his demise. There was a new trend in action figures on the way, and I had no interest in it…well, maybe a little.

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