The Who2 Blog

G.I. Joe Doesn’t Exist, Really

We’ve added a profile of G.I. Joe, just in time for the movie being released this weekend.

Histories of the doll make it pretty clear that G.I. Joe’s creation in 1964 was a direct response to Barbie‘s popularity with girls. Hasbro freely admits they coined the term “action figure” because they were afraid boys wouldn’t play with “dolls.”

In researching that profile we realized that there is not, and never really has been, any one individual character or doll named G.I. Joe. From the start, Hasbro had different versions of the doll — soldier, sailor, pilot, marine, etc. — and at first the company gave them all nicknames. Soon enough they gave up on the nicknames and just released them all under the name of G.I. Joe. None was THE G.I. Joe… though in the early days there was one main cleancut doll who seems (to us) to have been the “real” Joe.

The dolls died out in the 1970s but came back in the 1980s, with a TV cartoon that cranked up a whole separate backstory in which “G.I. Joe” is the name of an umbrella organization of fist-fighting adventurers and soldiers. Their main enemies are the terrorist group COBRA, bad guys with capital letters in the tradition of James Bond‘s SPECTRE and SMERSH. That’s the G.I. Joe strain that gave us the movie coming out this weekend, with Channing Tatum in the alpha-Joe role of Duke and Dennis Quaid as good-guy General Hawk.

And still nobody named “G.I. Joe.”

See our G.I. Joe biography »

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