The doll for boys that really put the action into "action figure"
When Hasbro introduced G.I. Joe action figures in 1964, the company was
gambling on the possibility that boys would play with dolls as long as
they weren't called dolls.
Fortunately, the gamble paid off.
Unlike the tiny, green plastic "army men" boys had long
played with, and unlike cast-metal soldiers their fathers and grandfathers
had marched across bedspreads and tabletops, G.I. Joe was big and
accessorizable, the rugged, gun-toting adventurer Barbie's Ken only
dreamed of being.
The 12-inch plastic figures with 21 movable parts, clothed in highly
realistic uniforms and carrying miniature but otherwise lethal-looking
weapons, were a big hit with their largely male owners. The original Joe
was soon joined by representatives of the U.S. army, navy, marines, and
air force, then by increasingly specialized Joes. Hasbro issues new models
every year, retiring earlier ones.
There have been painted-hair Joes and fuzzy-haired Joes, bearded Joes
and bionic Joes, Joes of foreign extraction, Joes with Kung Fu grips, and
Joes that talk ("Enemy planes — hit the dirt!") when you pull
A Green Beret Joe, a Blue Angel Joe, a space shuttle Joe, a George
Washington Joe, a General Omar Bradley Joe, a Secret Service Joe, Desert
Storm Joes, a female helicopter pilot Joe named Jane, and even a Bob Hope
Joe have all had their moment in the sun.
For a man on the move, Joe doesn't exactly travel light. He has
footlockers and cartridge belts, grenade launchers and bayonets,
all-terrain vehicles and helicopters, as well as camouflage clothing for
every possible circumstance.
Joe has come in several sizes over the years, as have his accessories,
but the 12-inch model remains the most popular.
Toys have a tendency to get played with, of course, making early,
unused Joes still in their boxes, guns and ammo intact, highly valuable.
The seemingly endless variety of new Joes and accessories and their
relatively short period of availability gives collectors much to hanker
after, and armchair warriors a safe outlet for righteous urges.