Wednesday, February 16, 2011

1/6 scale GI Joe heading back to retail (and my take on it).

Coverage at Action Figure Times and Toy News International.

February is the traditional month for the big US Toy Fair convention. Basically, toy manufacturers and retail buyers meet for a big market of what the toy folks hope to sell to the retailers. I'm a toy geek and one of my nearly life-long interests is the larger scale GI Joe. I like 1/6 scale dolls/action figures in general but as a child of the *COUGH* '70s *COUGH*, GI Joe was very much a part of my formative years. The smaller scale Real American Hero line was certainly neat and afforded the chance to sell vehicles and aircraft that were close to the scale of the figures but it wasn't MY era of GI Joe... the 1/6 scale (or 12 inch) Joe.

After being off the market since the mid- '70s, the large scale GI Joe relaunched in the 1990s, first as a series of large scale, limited articulation figures representing characters from the small-scale RAH series. In 1996, Hasbro did a serious overhaul of the line and released the initial Classic Collection Joes, a series of generic military figures somewhat reminiscent of the 1964-68 era of the original line. This series took off and arguably lead to a major renaissance and expansion of the 1/6 action figure hobby in to what it is today. I certainly bought my share and then some of those early "CC" Joes during the initial late '90s run. While there were a number of mechanical improvements and sub-types, the major change for the modern Joe line came in 2001 with the introduction of the Super Articulated body. Most of the Joes you'll see on this blog (when I get around to posting photos) will use this body type, unless they are vintage-style ('60s- '70s body). The "SA" is my preferred Joe body type, as you can probably guess.

When the 1/6 scale Joe line finally played out after about 2004-2005, I kind of stopped paying much attention to Toy Fair. Honestly, much of the stuff I buy nowadays is aimed at a collector/hobby market and not normally previewed at that event. I no longer buy many (really, ANY) boxed figures because the prices are rather high and because of the focus on licensed media properties.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that Hasbro is previewing a small line of 1/6 Joes at this year's Toy Fair. The 1/18 scale- 3 3/4 inch line is still the dominant product but they seem to be dipping their toes back in the water a bit. Hasbro has tried to resurrect the 1/6 scale line several times since 2005, including a few store exclusive vintage reproduction figures, but the results have been pretty mixed, at best. The "modern" style Joe released during this time really cut corners and normally used the older, less articulated body with "features" like torsos with molded-on t-shirts or body armor. Even the large movie tie-in figures were pretty light on features and very basic/ simplistic. I was tired of buying figures to use as head donors then digging through my collection or scouring eBay to find a Joe SA body to use as a transplant donor. Oddly, the last appearance of this body style was with a couple of minor characters from the Indiana Jones line they did back ~2008(?); the Cairo Swordsman and the German Officer.

With the Joes previewed at the 2011 Toy Fair, I'm cautiously optimistic that at least some of them will use the Super Articulated body. In fact, I consider this feature a major "make or break" selling point for me. With the SA body, I'll purchase figures and support the line; without it, there's probably little other reason to spend money on it.

What I'm asking for here is not that Hasbro spend time and money to re-tool the 1/6 GI Joe line into something new and never before seen. Simply use the best of what they already have. I don't expect GI Joes that are the equal of items by Soldier Story, Hot Toys or what have you; just do what they did in the early 2000s with the Super Articulated bodies and other items they developed late in the series and I'll be happy to return to "big box" retailers and buy what they offer.

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