Friday, August 17, 2012

Know Your Joe

When Hasbro started the Real American Hero line of G.I.Joe, they faced the daunting task of trying to win over kids like me who were hardcore Star Wars collectors.  Back then, when it came to 3¾ action figures, Star Wars, was king.  But right out of the gate, Hasbro pretty much struck gold by implementing 3 things into their toy line that would set G.I.Joe apart from all the rest, including Star Wars. 

The first and second were the most obvious, added articulation and accessories.  These in themselves were enough to win any kid over, but they decided to go the knockout punch with FILE CARDS. 

Unlike Star Wars, G.I.Joe didn’t have a movie to introduce us to the numerous characters, so Hasbro made the extra effort to make short but DETAILED write ups on each character they produced.  These file cards had pretty much everything you needed to know about each character, their real names, place of birth, their military & educational background, their primary & secondary weapons of choice and finally just some interesting bits about their personalities. 

To put it bluntly, I LOVED THESE CARDS! And I actually collected them more than the figures themselves! Whenever a friend of mine would get a new Joe I would ask for their filecard until I had at least three or four times as many filecards as I had actual figures.  I even MADE filecards of the Joes I couldn’t get my hands on (usually the vehicle drivers) just to be complete. 

home made cut & paste!
So what would I do with them? Well…read them of course! But aside from that, my friends and I formulated a game similar to Trump Cards (remember those?).  Most file cards (the Joes at least) had similar details.  Each soldier had a “SN number (serial number?)” composed of a first, middle and last number, as well as a military grade or rank (E-4 to E-7, sergeant, first lieutenant , general etc) and we would use these details to battle.  So we’d split the deck of cards amongst ourselves and take turns calling out a specific detail from the card we had in play, like “first number”, and the person with the highest “first number” would get everyone else’s card in play.  And we’d keep on doing this till one guy had all the cards…so yeah…basically Trump Cards.

I was the designated “keeper of the cards”, a responsibility I took to heart.  In fact one time the whole deck was confiscated (for no reason…I swear we were playing during a break time) by a teacher in school, I promptly told my parents about it when I got home and the next day the teacher gave them back to me, no questions asked.  And up to this day, these file cards are one of the ONLY things left from my childhood toy collections, I just never had the heart to throw or give them away.

Anyway, to end I’d just like to share a few interesting facts about these file cards I learned over time.

All hail Hama!
From the first year the 3 ¾ Joe line was released in 1982 till the line died down sometime in the 90’s, pretty much all the file cards (and we’re talking hundreds of characters) were written by one guy, Larry Hama, who also wrote the original Marvel comic run of G.I.Joe which lasted over a hundred issues as well.  He’s considered the “Godfather of the modern era of G.I.Joe”.

Many of the Joes were named by Hama after family, friends & comrades who died during the Vietnam War, and others after historical figures, like the Japanese-American “silent weapons” expert Quick Kick, was named "MacArthur S. Ito" after U.S. World War II Gen. Douglas MacArthur and Japanese Lt.-Gen. Takeo Ito (thanks Wikipedia ha ha).

In recognition for his contributions, popular G.I.Joe member Tunnel Rat is actually modelled after Larry Hama’s likeness.

In choosing the birthplace’s of each Joe, Hama made sure they came from as many parts of the US as possible.  To keep track and to make sure no place was over or under used, he had a US map displayed in his workplace plotting out where each Joe was from.  At one point Hasbro realized that Hama was using names of real people for his file cards and they wanted IN on the action, so for a time, Joes started being named after Hasbro employees and they ALL came from Rhode Island! (Where Hasbro’s global headquarters is located)

For the Cobra troopers, since the file card wasn’t actually about an individual but about the class of trooper, the birthplace was designated as “various countries”.  As a kid, I actually thought that “Various Countries” was an actual country….called Various ha ha...

I'd like to visit Various Countries one day....