G.I. Joe key issues are fantastic long term growth books with great potential. G.I. Joe has been in comic strips and comic books since 1942. In 1937 Private Dave Breger of the US Army freelanced as an artist/cartoon writer for Collier’s, Parade, Esquire, and The New Yorker Magazines and drew army cartoons. The Saturday Evening Post hired Breger and started a strip called “Private Breger” starting August 30th, 1941. The US Army became aware of his talent and transferred him to Special Services Division in N.Y. In the spring of 1942 he was assigned to “Yank, The Army Weekly”. Yank wanted there own cartoon line and Breger came up with the title G.I. Joe from the military term “Government Issue” and the characters full name was Joe Trooper. His GI Joe Cartoon series began in the first issue of Yank The Army Weekly (June 17, 1942).
In 1963 Stan Weston, a Manhattan licensing agent made prototypes of his military figure line he had envisioned. He met with Donald Levine, a Hasbro Executive to pitch the idea. Levine told Weston he had a hit and would make a fortune. Weston had a choice of $50,000 plus a % royalty or a complete buyout of the concept for $100,000. He chose the $100,000 buyout. He later regretted the decision. Hasbro knew it had to come up with a term for the figure other then “Doll” so the “Action Figure” phrase was created that is still used today for boys toy lines. The 12″ GI Joe Action Soldier was released on February 2nd, 1964. The toy line was an instant success with young boys throughout the US and other countries. The toy line was so successful that DC Comics took notice and in 1964-65 released two issues of Showcase #53 and Showcase #54 titled G.I. Joe (which took place during WWII). Both extremely hard to find in high grade. In the wake of the Vietnam War and many protesting the US Military, Hasbro sought to downplay the war theme that GI Joe was created on and settled on the GI Joe Adventure Team from 1970-1976. The original 12″ GI Joe line ended in America in 1976.
In 1982 Stephen Hassenfeld (CEO of Hasbro) and his team came up with the idea to not only recreate the GI Joe Line as 3.75″ figures (after Star Wars success) but to come up with a complete background storyline for the characters. Hasbro met up with Marvel Comics with the idea of the first ever TV commercial for a comic book series. Marvel of course thought the idea was great. Marvel writer Larry Hama (who served in the US Army during Vietnam) was in charge of writing a story to go along with the characters that Ron Rudat had created. Hama wrote the series with seriousness and infused it with realism, humor, and drama. To keep the series up to date Hama read military technical manuals. 1982 G.I. Joe A Real American Hero #1 was a beautiful comic printed on baxter paper. The series lasted 155 issues from 1982-1994 and is considered the longest running comic book that ties in to a toy line. The introduction of Storm Shadow in G.I. Joe #21 is a key issue.
G.I. Joe was introduced into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2003 and is considered the most collected toy of all time. It also holds the record for the largest production toy the 7’6″ USS Flag Air Craft Carrier. Now with an extensive history and the new age of live action movies the continued success of this fantastic franchise is inevitable. With 8 decades of history in Toys, Comics, TV Series, and Movies there is no possible downside for the long term growth of these key books. Relevance is what brings comics value long term. Do people still care about it? Well as the most collected toy of all time I can not imagine it changing anytime soon. With the new movie coming out on March 27, 2020 there will be a new generation of collectors getting involved. The best is yet to come as Hasbro/Paramount cinematic universe could take this franchise to a whole new level.