G.I. Joe

Action Classic
Hasbro's popular 12 inch G.I. Joe was introduced in 1964 and was the molded plastic front man for the toy company's Action series, G.I. being a generic term for an American serviceman. The series incorporated the four sections of the US military -Action Pilot, Action Soldier, Action Sailor and Action Marine and upon its release, the movable man was a huge success.

Given the relatively macho climate of the early 60s, Hasbro were careful never to call G.I. Joe a 'doll', since boys playing with dolls was considered not very masculine. Instead Joe was referred to as an 'action figure' - a fine distinction but evidently a significant one, as the term has become the default name for dolls for boys.

A G.I. Joe for every branch of the armed forces.
It's certainly true that G.I. Joe was all man and probably would have kicked sand in  Ken's (Barbie's metro boyfriend) face at the beach. Joe had a firm, square jaw, a steely gaze and just to seal his rugged credentials, a scar on one cheek. As the 70's approached however, the effects of Vietnam war and the protesting flower-power generation began to have a negative effect on G.I. Joe's hardcore image. Hasbro changed tack, giving him flocked hair (sissy!) and reinventing him via the less warlike concept of "The Adventures of G.I Joe".

The early G.I.Joes were individualists, however, from the 70s other "Adventure" team players came on the scene - Mike Power, Atomic Man and super-hero Bullet man. In addition there was a Kung Fu Grip action figure introduced, which had soft malleable hands that could grip with greater dexterity. When G.I. Joe was given his moving eye mechanism in 1976, Mike, Bullet Man and Eagle-Eye Joe became a team, fighting the forces of evil in the form of The Intruders--Strongmen From Another World. The 'eagle-eyes' however, were to be Joe's last evolutionary development, as the original 12 " G.I. Joe toy was retired with his military pension in 1976 .

G.I. Joe Official Site

Action Man 
In England Hasbro had sold the G.I. Joe licensing rights to Palitoy Ltd., which held them from 1966 to 1984. There he was copied and marketed with a similar military theme, under the name Action Man but over the years the company expanded the line to include other action men, such as footballers and cricketers.

The English version also got the gripping rubber hands, eagle eyes and even a special version, "Talking Military Commander", where a string was pulled and commands were barked out. These dolls too,  were eventually discontinued, in 1984...but relaunched as a smaller scale version in the early 1990s.

Old soldiers never die, they just quietly fade away...

Action Man HQ