G.I. Joe

Doll / Cartoon Character

Born: 1964
Birthplace: Pawtucket, Rhode Island
Best known as:

Famous fist-fighting action figure for boys

The action figure G.I. Joe was created by the Hasbro toy company in 1964, in part as a response to the popularity of Barbie dolls with American girls. Joe was a World War II-style fighting man, nearly 12 inches tall, and his movable joints -- right down to the wrists -- made him a fast hit with young boys. The original G.I. Joe dolls came in several service varieties (a soldier, a sailor, etc.) and emphasized military gear and the soldier's life. But over time Joe became a more general adventurer, explorer, and gadget-happy master of derring-do, with new features like the "Kung-Fu Grip" (added in 1974). The line died out in the 1970s, but G.I. Joe returned in 1982 in a shorter 3.75-inch version. A TV cartoon called G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero was launched in 1985; by then there was no single character named G.I. Joe, but rather a group of heroes joined under that name, fighting the evil terrorist organization called COBRA. The show ended in 1987 but was followed by a host of G.I. Joe comics, books, and cartoons that overshadowed the dolls. The first live-action G.I. Joe movie -- G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra -- was released in 2009, with actor Channing Tatum in the alpha-Joe role of Duke.

Extra credit:

Hasbro coined the term "action figure" to avoid asking boys to play with a "doll"... The term "G.I." is said to be an abbreviation of "galvanized iron," a material used by the Army in the World War I era; some insist the initials stand for "government issue" or "general infantry." By World War II, "GI's" had become a term for enlisted soldiers, with G.I. Joe being a nickname for any individual soldier.... The Hasbro official site says that "The brand name G.I. Joe was inspired by the Academy Award-nominated film 'The Story of G.I. Joe' (1945)"... A comic strip by the same name was a hit in Yank magazine during WWII... Hasbro, Inc., based in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, also created the toy Mr. Potato Head in 1952.

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