G.I. Joe was one of the most successful brands in the ‘80s but has been around since 1964. It is known to be the most successful action figure line even today despite the competition.
What made G.I. Joe work with Reagan-era kids is its patriotic appeal and heroism. To those who grew up in the ‘80s and got into the brand, G.I. Joe is more than just toys, a comic book title, or a TV show. It helped mold their ideals and shaped them to be the people they are today. Whatever industry or line of business they’re in now — pharmacy, mortgage refinancing, trading, or even the armed forces — these people held on to the ideals taught by the Real American Heroes.
However, despite the fans’ deep emotional attachment to the brand, they have grown a love-hate relationship with Hasbro, the company responsible for the creation of G.I. Joe. To industry insiders, it is no secret that Joe fans are one of the hardest-to-please fan bases out there. Despite Hasbro’s efforts in sparking renewed interest in the brand in the ‘90s, 2000s, and 2010s, it has been met with, at best, a lukewarm response from Joe fans.
Where Did It All Go Wrong?
G.I. Joe is one of Hasbro’s trickiest brands to handle, compared to Transformers, My Little Pony, and Nerf, among others. Since the concept for the line is very much related to the military and war, it has been questioned by a lot of groups and organizations.
In the ‘80s, critics have already been accusing Hasbro of sugar-coating and glamorizing war and its effects with their war-on-terror premise. These critics claim that it is brainwashing children that war is okay and it’s the most American thing to do.
G.I. Joe’s main enemy is the terrorist group, Cobra. If you ask kids in the 80s, Cobra is nothing like the Viet Cong or the Soviet Union. Even if you look at it today, Cobra is nothing like Al-Qaeda or ISIS. Similarly, although G.I. Joe is supposedly military in nature, it has very little in common with the USAF.
That being said, in today’s climate, G.I. Joe taking off and skyrocketing is a far-fetched reality. Fans have held on to the ideals of what G.I. Joe is all about and anything that deviates from it, they hate and bash. While Hasbro finds nothing wrong with retaining old and loyal fans, business-wise, they know that they need to tap a new market if the brand is to survive for another generation.
For this reason, Hasbro has reinvented G.I. Joe into what they hope will appeal to this generation of kids who are into Fortnite, seeing that Fortnite as a brand is very successful. Prior to this, the toy company has already made several reboots to the line — modern era sculpts, new cartoon series, a couple of live-action movies, and toy lines based on it. Early in 2019, Hasbro has already hinted at reinventing G.I. Joe into a 6-inch line which left fans of the 3.75” scale in an outrage.
Accusations of Hasbro destroying the brand they love filled the toy communities in social media. They refuse to accept anything but the 1:18-scale o-ring figures of the ‘80s, not even the modern era molds that started with the 25th-anniversary figures. To these fans, it’s o-rings or bust.
When Hasbro finally released the first concept images of the new 6-inch G.I. Joe Classified Series line, despite the vast improvements, most fans hated it. Some who are more open to change accepted it and are even willing to support the brand just to keep G.I. Joe alive.
Hasbro Pulse, the company’s fan-centered website, had a couple of recent toy reveals involving G.I. Joe. One was held late June which dropped the second wave of Classified Series figures. The other one was in mid-July where they revealed their retro line for the brand, similar to what they did with Star Wars and Transformers.
Only this time, instead of the ‘80s o-ring molds (which 98% of was destroyed or thrown away due to deterioration), the figures were molded after the early 2010s releases, which once again left fans spewing hatred for the toymakers.
Despite all of Hasbro’s efforts in reinventing the brand to appeal to a wider audience, Joe fans will never be pleased no matter what the company does. Hasbro is left in a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation with Joe fans. The emotional and sentimental attachment is just too strong for its fanbase that they refuse to roll with the times and accept that G.I. Joe, just like them, has to grow and change to remain relevant to today’s youth.
As far as G.I. Joe’s future success is concerned, we’ll just have to wait and see if the Real American Heroes can regain their long-lost glory and live out new adventures with a whole new generation of fans.