Saturday, May 24, 2014

Don Levine... In Memoriam

It is with great sadness and regret that I write to acknowledge the passing of Don Levine. Levine is the former Hasbro executive who shepherded the development of the original 1/6 scale GI Joe in 1963. While the actual work was obviously a team effort, Levine is often credited with being the "father" of GI Joe. The term "action figure" is also attributed to Levine and his team since, in 1963, conventional wisdom was that boys would never play with dolls.

It took an enormous amount of guts and foresight, as well as a large portion of Hasbro's available capital, to bring GI Joe to market. While GI Joe made Hasbro the multi-billion dollar, multi-national corporation it is today, there was a very real risk that it could've destroyed a carefully run, well respected and successful mid-level toy company had it been a failure.

I owe my life-long fascination with all things doll/action figure to GI Joe and by extension, Don Levine and his team as well as then-Hasbro president Merrill Hassenfeld. Don's passing is made even more sad because 2014 is the 50th anniversary of GI Joe, yet "the company that Joe built" has done little to nothing to acknowledge this.

Regardless, I hope that this small tribute will serve as my heartfelt "thank you" to Don Levine. God speed sir and rest in peace!


  1. An excellent tribute and an interesting history lesson!

  2. Thanks Heather!

    Although this didn't occur to me at the time, my wife pointed out that the photo would also be a good tribute for Memorial Day.

  3. I've just started to get into vintage Action Man and G.I. Joe -toys (only have one 1960's Action Man replica and one un-identified Action Man from the 90's so far, but I'm keeping my eyes open at the toy fairs and such I visit) so this was a touching read. Wow, really, I didn't even know that this year was an anniversary. It would be great if they'd bring GI Joe and Action Man back...

    I really like the photo too~ :)

    1. Thank you Spica! I fretted over the photo a bit because I wanted it to be kind of somber and soft focused but felt that it was just blurry and washed out instead. I'm glad you like it and it has grown on me with repeated viewings.

      I'm very disappointed that Hasbro is just coasting by the 50th anniversary of GI Joe but I can understand since the 40th was done up in style and apparently turned into a money pit. Other licensees have done anniversary editions of Action Man and Geyper Man (Spain) but they've been produced by smaller companies with a focus on the hobby/collector market and are often sold at higher prices. There's probably a small book waiting to be written about that whole saga but it'll have to wait for another day.

      I would love to see nice quality Joe/Action Man figures back on the mainstream retail market but the attempts during the last decade have been pretty uninspired (at least here in the US). Not surprisingly, the market was indifferent to these uninspired attempts which apparently led Hasbro and the big box retailers to conclude that there's no desire for these toys. That's a subject I want to get in to at some point here on the blog because I don't entirely agree with that conclusion.

    2. You're welcome! Please do write about the subjects you described when you have the time and inspiration for them. I for one would be interested to read about your opinions and get more information about these toys.
      I've seen some really cool Action Man and G.I.Joe-photos on Flickr and they've gotten me very interested in these guys!