Welcome back to part 4 of our 5 part series looking at the insanity that ruled Hasbro and the GI Joe line in the early 90’s. The insanity that would eventually lead to the lines doom.
In 1993 they crossed the line from crazy to “yeah this completely changes the focus of the whole concept of GI Joe and will in retrospect be really stupid” as they released 90 (90!?!?) figures in what could only be described as the ultimate throw crap at the wall and see what sticks maneuver.
There was too much crazy and too much crap in 1993 to possibly capture it all in just 6 figures…but you know me. I’ll do my best!
In 1982 Hasbro released GI Joe on an unsuspecting public. Two years later in 1984 a brave soul at Hasbro decided that the Cobra’s and Joe’s were not enough so they gave us the Dreadnoks. We would have to wait three more years for the first official “sub line“ to appear with the craptastic (and crazy front runners) Battle Force 2000!!! a team so horrible they probably deserve their own article someday. I assume that Battle Force 2000 was actually successful because they proceeded with another sub line in 1988 but not just any sub line, it was the awesome Tiger Force. What was really awesome about Tiger Force? It was an entire line of repainted figures and vehicles, aka pure profit. And so the sub line was upon us. Tiger Force gave way to Night Force, Python Patrol, Slaughter’s Marauders, Sky Patrol, Sonic Fighters, Eco-Warriors, Super Sonic Fighters, Talking Battle Commanders, Air Commandos, DEF and Ninja Force prior to 1993.
To quote Bill Cosby, “I told you that story so I could tell you this one.”
After years of the scorched earth sub-line policy Hasbro took the bold step of making the base 1993 line a sub line. Of course in true Hasbro fashion they went completely overboard and gave us 36 (THIRTY FREAKING SIX!?!?!) figures as part of the “Battle Corps”! As near as I can tell Battle Corps roughly translates to “Massive Quantities of Weapons” judging from the sheer number of accessories most of these figures came with. Exhibit 1, check out our first crazy entry for 1993, the absurd admiral of alliteration, Colonel Courage above who comes with 6 count them 6 different weapons and that’s just what was included in the picture. He also came with the standard golden, spring loaded cannon.
I don’t know about you, but when I look at Sergeant Silly I see two arms not 6. I’m not sure how Private Preposterous is packing two rifles, two pistols, and two massive machetes the size of his legs when his figure is already molded with two holstered pistols, a third knife and a hand-grenade. By my count that’s 11 different weapons. Lieutenant Ludicrous indeed!
And then there is this quote from his file card. “I’ll never surrender when wearing a tie ’cause I can’t be beat when I’m neat!” Ummm holy crap that’s crazy.
But there is more then just an illogical amount of weaponry and a bizarre sense of neat at play here. I hate to bring race into the equation but…well…I’ll let the picture do the talking…
Has anyone ever pointed out that that Colonel Courage is actually black Duke?
Lets look at the evidence…green helmet, tan shirt, green pants, brown boots…they are wearing the exact same uniform, its not just me right?
Colonel Courage or Colonel Crazy? (or Corporal Campy?…General Goofy?… First Sergeant Foolish?…Warrant Officer Wacky?…Major Moron?…ummmm I’m obviously out of awesome alliterations)
I need to explain something before I reveal the next entrants into the crazy list for 1993. You see even though the 1993 base line was a sub line as mentioned above that didn’t mean that Hasbro could resist giving us sub sub lines. As I’ll be pointing out with our remaining 1993 crazy list, the 93 sub lines were a special breed of crazy. Case in point, the Mega Marines. The premise itself was pretty crazy. Take one GI Joe figure, add 1 plastic armor mold and 1 jar of play doh and you have a MEGA MARINE with bio-armor! But thats not the crazy part…I give you…
The Mega Monsters…ummm…errr….I don’t even know what to say here…you looked at those pictures right? These are so crazy I don’t even know what the freak to say about them… I mean its almost like they took figures from a completely different toy line, and decided to try to pass freaky monsters off as part of the GI Joe line. And the GI Joe line was so bat crap insane by 1993 that we hardly even blinked an eye!!!
AND THEY FEATURE “MONSTER SMELL” aka STINKY PLASTIC!!! AND THAT WAS A FEATURE!!! IT SAYS SO RIGHT ON THE CARD!!!
Okay I need to get off of this one before I lose it…
But it gets worse with our next entry…
By the time 1993 rolled around we knew a couple of things about the GI Joe line. 1. The designers were high and 2. Kids wanted freaking ninjas to be part of the military.
Enter 1992’s Ninja Force. Over the years they rolled out 3 versions of Storm Shadow…and 5 versions of Snake Eyes…and after using each in Ninja Force they utilized every random sounding ninja name they could think of (you remember, Dojo, Nunchuk, Slice, Dice, Banzai, T’Jbang and T’gin-Zu?). Then they decided they needed to start pulling back previous characters with remote martial arts ties like Bushido, Scarlett and Zartan…
Yeah Zartan. You see Zartan had a minor martial arts background in the comic book line at this point so I suppose it sorta made sense but I don’t think his previous figure or the cartoon had any mention of this background so his inclusion in Ninja Force was a bit of a surprise (I suppose Firefly and Quick Kick were unavailable…). What was really a surprise?
How about the Master of Disguise joining the stealthy Ninja Force line and…changing his look to a bright red mohawk (a “Shuriken-shaved mohawk according to his neon pink filecard), red facepaint and neon green pants…. so let me get this straight…he joins Ninja Force and changes his look to that of a biker from Joel Shumaker’s Batman movies…does this make sense to anyone? Worst…character….makeover…EVER!!!
Being re-branded as a Ninja…that’s crazy.
The resulting character being now compared to a neon biker from Batman Forever…that’s insane.
So if we have learned anything by now its that Hasbro liked the following features in their sublines: re-used molds/characters, neon colors and gimmicky features. The majority of “Star Brigade” hit all three and all are equal parts crazy (see Duke, Rock N Roll, Heavy Duty & Destro) as they were reimagined with “Robotic Battle Armor” that somehow was necessary for space combat.
Robo-Joe here was the king of the crazy Space Brigade though because in character, he invented the Robotic Battle Armor before being attacked by Destro and fatally wounded. Then in Darth Vader fashion GI Joe scientists pulled a mindbender and rebuilt him…I suppose because they had the technology…
Although now that I think of it, as half man/half robot I suppose he didn’t actually die and therefore he wasn’t “fatally” wounded so his whole origin story is garbage, but I guess thats a formality. I do however wonder which twisted Joe scientist decided to paint his new cyborg body, the body he would be stuck with forever and not climbing in and out of like the rest of the team, neon orange with neon orange speckles on black highlights…poor sap never had a chance…
I know what you are thinking and yes, THAT is General Hawk.
General Hawk fits right in with Robo Joe and the Star Brigade on the crazy scale but I’m giving him his own spot on the list because A – he looks totally awfull, B- Its Hawk, the leader of the Joe team in a freaking robot suit and C – he used the suit to pilot the oh so creatively named “GI Joe Armor Bot” pictured below.
I’m going to have to do a whole seperate series of articles on the awesomeness and awfulness that is the GI Joe vehicles but I’m highlighting Armor Bot here because hes a robot whose feet were connected, essentially meaning that he couldn’t move making him completely worthless. Sounds pretty freaking crazy to me.
In 1987 Hasbro started placing ads in the backs of random comic books that promised that “Now, you can be the next Joe!”. Like any impressionable 10 year old who was obsessed with GI Joe I knew I could be the best Joe of all and so I used to spend hours reviewing the application, carefully selecting my choices. I don’t remember what my code name was but being a fan of Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow I’m sure it was something like Thunder Eyes but I do remember the rest of my choices, allow me to indulge my inner 10 year old for a minute:
- I characterized myself as “A loner, You value getting the job done over all else.”
- I was at my best “In the head of action. You have a supremely high energy level.”
- Team members considered me to be “A maverick, No one can keep up with you for long.”
- Service branch was the Army.
- Primary Military Specialty was “Martial Arts”
- Secondary Specialty was “Counter-Espionage”
- I was an expert with the XM-76 Grenade launcher and all NATO & Warsaw pact small arms (but I never knew what that was, just sounded cool)
- My martial arts expertise was Jujitsu and Zen Sword
- And lastly my school training was Special Forces, Ranger School and Airborne School.
Yes I was going to be the worlds greatest Joe…for just 7.50 and two flag points. Unfortunately for me, in 1987 7.50 could nearly get me three GI Joe figures if I found them on sale (I still have some old cards with 1.99 and 2.99 sale stickers on them. How does anyone pay $8 or $9 for GI Joes today?) so I never bought my Steel Brigade figure. Its probably for the best, he looked like a tool anyway…
Flash forward to 1993. Hasbro decided that it was time to give the demented, twisted little kids an opportunity to join up with the enemy with the less successful “Create A Cobra” offer. The result, was one of the more hideous looking figures in Cobra history. What little kid wanted to be a neon pink viper knock off?
You know whats so crazy about this figure? The fact that Hasbro thought they could sell him that’s what!
So we’ve seen the craziest that 1993 has to offer with representations from Battle Corps, Mega Marines, Ninja Force, Star Brigade and a ridiculous mail in figure. But the most ridiculous thing about 1993?
Three words…or two words and a roman numeral…
Street Fighter II
For those who don’t remember, Street Fighter II ruled the arcades in 1991 and by 1993 sales of Street Fighter II exceeded $1.5 billion and the SNES port (which if I remember correctly was the reason my older brother bought a SNES) is the best selling Capcom game of all time. So with such a hot property it was only natural that there would be toys and Hasbro bought the toy rights.
So they did the only logical thing they could do…and rushed the Street Fighter II toys to market by mostly reusing molds from the GI Joe line…and for crazy reasons that I can only dream of understanding, they branded the figures as part of the GI Joe line.
For the most part the figures featured reused bodies/arms/legs with unique heads and the results were as terrible as you can imagine. What was odd was that a handful of the figures were completely unique…Dhalsim, Sagat (Sagat freaking needed his own mold? Really?) and…
The whole line was completely insane but E Honda was also financially insane because they decided to invest in unique molds for his entire body that wouldn’t be able to be reused on anything else and because like the rest of the Street Fighter figures, the master of the 1,000 slaps and sumo wrestling came equipped with a variety of knives and swords…
Yeah…that’s all pretty frickin crazy…
Well its come to this next up we finally wrap up the crazy GI Joe saga with the 94 line that was so crazy, it killed off the line for good…or was it secretly really good but too late to save it after the damage done in 93? Keep an eye on Droppin to find out…