When I was six years old, there was no-one cooler then G.I. Joe. And, no, I'm not talking about those growth-stunted, three-and-three-quarter-sized midgets. I'm talking twelve whole inches of bearded, Eagle-Eyed, fuzzy-headed, fully-articulated love.
Wow, that sounded bad.
Anyhoo, these bad-ass dolls...er, figures were part of the G.I. Joe Adventure Team. From the early-to- mid Seventies, the American toy company Hasbro produced a veritable army of foot-tall figures and a slew of matching outfits, vehicles, weapons and gear.
Since the Vietnam War had soured parents on toys with a blatantly military bent, the original G.I. Joe from the 1960's got a more "adventurous" makeover. Instead of exchanging suppressive fire with World War II-era villains like the Germans and prospective enemies like the Russkies, this new Joe was much more keen on exploring deserts, mountains, rain forests and underwater environments. Instead of recreating flashback scenes from The Deer Hunter, the Adventure Team tried to stem the tide of ecological disaster whilst risking being eaten to death by the very same ecology that they were attempting to save.
This era of Joe featured a rubbery and oxymoronic "Kung-Fu Grip" which allowed him to tote rifles, knives, canteens, pistols, flare guns, binoculars, shovels, compasses, pick-axes, machetes, map-cases, cameras, spear-guns, pretzels and A&W mini root beer mug handles. Unfortunately, by the time you swapped these props out a hundred times a day for seven months, Joe's fingers would start falling off like a chronic case of leprosy.
Also pretty cool (in theory) was Joe's highly-vaunted "realistic hair". A pretty elaborate flocking technique was used to give the Joes a fuzzy crew cut and beard. Unfortunately Hasbro didn't tell kids that the glue used to keep these wigs on would eventually dissolve, usually after Joe had clocked his four-hundred and twenty-eighth straight hour submerged in the family bathtub. Regardless of their flaws, the Adventure Team Joes were definitely my number one choice of toy in the B.S.W. (Before Star Wars) Era.
In case you can't tell, that "medallion" around his neck is actually the Adventure Team logo:
Although it was just a cheap piece of plastic which probably turned your chest into the Green Lantern insignia, as a card-carrying AT member you were expected to wear your medallion at all times. In retrospect this was kinda handy since you could just flash it to other kids in the schoolyard to see which ones were part of the Adventure Team Illuminati.
The cool thing about Joe was all the sweet, sweet swag you could deck him out in, including this bitchin' ride:
The jeep was actually part of the "Sandstorm Survival Adventure" which also included everything you see here (that last part is best read in cheesy announcer voice, BTW):
Oh, so you like the Transformers, huh? Well, did Optimus Prime ever come with a mother-f#@kin' crocodile, yo?
What's that? Why would there be a crocodile, a raft and a rain poncho in a "Sandstorm Survival Adventure" kit? Well, it's because...um...I...uh...hey! why don't you go away and play with your stupid radioactive adolescent black belt newts!
Admittedly, I'd like to call bullshit on Hasbro for that whole "male pattern baldness when exposed to water" crap. How the hell were kids expected to dress Joe up in the following outfit and not marinate him in bathwater for three to six hours a night?
This reminds me of a quick / funny / sad story. On August 16, 1977 me any my friend David ("His name is my name too!") we playing with our G.I. Joe's in nearly-filled-to-capacity bathtub just like every other night. All of a sudden my mom, visibly upset, came into the bathroom and said "Hey, listen, I got some bad news to tell you."
Struck by her sombre tone we temporarily suspended our intense hunt for the good (but clearly not great) white shark. We both turned around to face her, our rolled-up-yet-still-somehow-drenched sleeves and saturated Adventure Team members (?) dripping all over the bathroom floor.
"What? What is it?" I ventured, worried by impending response.
My mom took a deep breath, wrung her hands together and said:
"Elvis Presley just died."
Me and David exchanged a brief glance, shrugged, turned around and then plunged our respective Joes back into the briny deep. Nothing could stop the hunt for that poor, sad, anemic, clearly immature shark, and certainly not an obituary for the King of Rock n' Roll. Stunned by our sacrilege, my mom heaved an exasperated sigh, turned away and then brought the bathroom door to with more mustard then usual. To calm her frazzled nerves she sparked up a smoke and telephoned David's mom in an effort to find solace in someone other then her weird, obsessive spawn.
Because of the false advertising propagated by all that pimp "Danger of the Depths" gear, my first Joe eventually went bald and then started to fall apart so eventually I had to dump him. Co-incidentally this is the exact same reason why most marriages end.
Anyway, I soon recruited a new Joe for the ongoing mission. This was Moving-Eyes Land Commander G.I. Joe.
This dude was pretty pimp 'cuz he had a lever on the back of his head that you could move left or right to make his eyes shift back and forth. This could be used to indicate that Joe was always wary of incoming danger. Or that he was just about to shoplift something.
One summer we went to the Bill Lynch Fair in Sydney. This was back when going to the fair was a big deal so the fairgrounds took up three-quarters of the mall parking lot. Anyway I was walking through the place with my Dad and we came across a massive Bingo tent. One of the Bingo prizes was this incredible-looking thing:
The Training Center's sheer awesomitute is nicely illustrated in this vintage television spot:
Somehow my Dad managed to go down to the fair, play a stack of Bingo cards, win the thing, bring it home and assemble it, all in six hours. Who's got two thumbs and the greatest Dad in the history of the word "Dad"? This cowboy.
Clearly threatened by this paper tiger, Hasbro cranked out a couple of "super-heroic" figures to compete directly with Monsieur Austin. Namely the handi-capable "Atomic Man" Mike Power:
And the incredibly lame "Bulletman: The Human Glans":
Even as a six year old kid I could see that these guys were nothing but pale imitations of other characters. If I wanted to go bionic I had Steve Austin and if I wanted to have a superhero brawl, I could just use my Megos. Even though I recognized these two clowns for the charlatans that they really were, even I had to admit that Joe needed better adversaries then a pygmy crocodile and a guppy-sized shark. Ergo, I put this dynamic villain on my wish list:
Yeah, so, in case you didn't catch that "the Intruder is the enemy of G.I. Joe". What can I say, it was an appalling lapse of judgement on behalf of my six year old self.
Although I did have a pretty awesome G.I. Joe collection, there were three other vehicles that I really wanted but never got. First up was the Capture Copter:
Then there was the "Big Trapper":
And finally, to reinforce that these toys were all about The Life Aquatic with G.I. Jou, here's the Sea Wolf submarine. C'mon, it's a freakin' submarine, people!
EPIC VIDEO MCA + AD ROCK + MIKE D + G.I. JOE = WIN!