On February 2, 1964, Hasbro launched a military hero "action figure" unlike the world had ever seen. Marketed to inspire patriotism a midst the global chaos of World War II, G.I. Joe has since earned the title of the greatest brand in the history of boys' action toys. This groundbreaking government hero would also alter the dynamics of boy toys forever.
For his first ten years in the marketplace, G.I. Joe served as a generic soldier and one-man army with no nuances of a fighting team emerging at that time. However, by 1975 G.I. Joe and his Adventure Team of "Eagle Eye" Joe, Atomic Man, and Bullet Man were assembled as super soldiers combating the forces of evil together.
Over the years, Hasbro used the G.I. Joe trademark as a title of two different lines of boys toys. The original line launched in 1964 were 12-inch action figures developed in the likeness of real-life soldiers of war. These toys were also popularized in the United Kingdom in 1966 by British Toy Company Palitoy under the name Action Man.
By the time 1982 rolled around, the G.I. Joe product was ramped up again in a 3 3/4-inch scale. However, this new and improved series not only boasted brand new vehicles and realistic war scenes, but it also had increased marketability with the older children through the development of a intricate story line between the G.I. Joe Team and his new arch enemy: The Cobra Organization; also known as Cobra Command. G.I. Joe and Cobra combined to give the G.I. Joe story line a much more serious and "militant" edge. From there the G.I. Joe franchise exploded into a variety of marketing streams including comic books, cartoons and movies. Among the most popular household names on the G.I. Joe team included Hawk, Duke, Snake-Eyes, Scarlett and Stalker.
The G.I. Joe series toys themselves were about 9.5 centimeters tall and were manufactured to be approximately 1:18th to scale. The toys were originally produced from the years 1982 and 1994 throughout which time their design and form-factor remained basically the same. The most memorable design changes after the first issue series would undoubtedly be the addition of the famed "swivel-arm" for real-life movement in 1983 and the ball joints which replaced the former swivel necks. Both modifications of the military man made for much more life-like movement and much more realistic battle positioning.
With the exception of just a few years between the now-retro G.I. Joe storming the market in 1964 and the coronation of the new "Real American Hero" in 1982, Hasbro has worked painfully and strategically to keep G.I. Joe toys and action figures on store shelves. However, because boys become men and have more new boys, wise toy manufactures understand all too well the need to refine and define new toys for new generations.
Perhaps that's why the G.I. Joe toy has gone through so many changes over the years. As such, most would agree that there has never been that's continuously adapted to the marketplace and in so doing lasted as long as G.I. Joe.