Action figures are as popular now as they were a few decades ago. Different toy lines such as Marvel Legends, Fortnite, and Transformers were all cut from the same cloth. The technology used to manufacture them may have changed but the essence pretty much has stayed the same.
Action figures came about as a counterpart to Barbie during the mid-1960s aimed specifically at a young boys market. Toy company Hasbro decided to straight-up compete with Mattel’s success with Barbie so they came up with the concept of making action figures for little boys with the creation of the 12-inch military and adventure line called G.I. Joe.
The Rise and Fall of the Real American Hero
In 1982, Hasbro decided to rescale their 12-inch Joe line into something smaller which made it ideal for mass production. With a height of 3 and ¾ inches, the repackaged G.I. Joe A Real American Hero toyline became an instant success in the 80s all the way until the mid-90s.
G.I. Joe, along with other popular 80s toy lines, occupied shelves, racks, pegs, and slatwalls, which had slatwall suppliers and shelving manufacturers marching all the way to the bank.
The brand was all over the place in the 1980s, with comic books, animated series, an animated movie, and different types of merchandise. It even gained global recognition with several countries producing their own G.I. Joe lines such as the UK’s Action Force, India’s Funskool, and Brazil’s Estrela line.
However, despite its popularity, its target market grew up and lost interest in the toyline. G.I. Joe has peaked in ‘89 and started to wane when the ‘90s came, eventually losing its appeal and market traction in 1994. Since then, Hasbro has rebooted and relaunched the line under several brandings like Valor vs Venom, Extreme, and Sigma 6.
Eventually, it was reintroduced in the market in 2007, just in time for its 25th anniversary. Following the 25th anniversary releases, it regained some of its lost popularity especially with its more modern look and far better articulation packaged in its classic 1980s cardbacks. The nostalgia hit the 30 to 40-something-year-olds at the time and gave the toy line a new lease in life.
It was also followed by a couple of Paramount live-action movies (which bombed at the box office), a few other waves of action figures, vehicles, and playsets until Hasbro decided to pull the plug on the brand.
Too Tough to Stay Down
The G.I. Joe toy collectors community experienced a drought between 2015 until last year when Paramount officially announced that they will be rebooting the franchise with a highly- anticipated solo origin movie about its most popular character, Snake Eyes.
Following this movie plans, Hasbro has decided to once again, reboot the brand and spark some interest in it.
A mobile game soon emerged, G.I. Joe: War on Cobra, and the announcement all Joe collectors have been waiting for: their return to retail.
In February 2020, at Toy Fair New York, Hasbro finally revealed the first wave of its brand new G.I. Joe line, Classified Series. Somehow, the news about the Classified Series garnered mixed reactions from the toy collecting community, with mostly a negative impression on the hardcore fans. The reason being is that their beloved 1:18-scale toys from the 80s are now in the 1:12 scale, or 6-inchers, and are primarily aimed for a cross-generational market.
Now Hasbro is quite aware that the loyal Joe fans prefer the 1:18 scale. So after revealing the first wave of figures from the Classified Series, they announced that there will be a Retro Line in store for their loyal fans, similar to that of Star Wars and Transformers Retro Lines.
At the time of writing, Hasbro has already opened pre-orders for the second wave of the Classified Series with unconfirmed word spreading around about who the characters are for the third wave. They have also dedicated a separate website for the G.I. Joe line and have amplified its marketing and promotion on social. This just goes to show how serious they are at this reboot.
With all the much-needed attention and long-overdue love, the most successful boys’ toys are getting right now, people are asking if the kids of today — Generation Z — will be as accommodating of the brand as the Gen X-ers who grew up with it. Fans will no doubt rally behind it, especially those who are open to the changes that are taking place.
Some old dogs will refuse to be taught some new tricks and that is okay. The determining factor now will be the people outside of that toy collecting community. How well will they receive G.I. Joe when they are not familiar at all with the brand?
At this point, one can only hope that a movie in the works and a mobile app game are enough to at least spark some interest in it. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see how things will fare for the Real American Hero.