How GI Joe Became America's Most Beloved War Action Figures

Many remember the pre-2000s era with nostalgia and fondness, longing for a time when technology wasn’t as advanced and there were plenty of different things that occupied one’s time instead. For kids, it was definitely all about the toys. GI Joe was a notable one.

Originating in the 1960s, Hasbro’s GI Joe action figure are military-themed, clad in army green, stealth gear and a variety of mini-weapons. Kids raved about these toys back then, and they still makes quite an impact today.

Keep reading if you’re wondering how GI Joe became such a smash hit in North America.

Followed The Success Of Dolls

Although GI Joe was branded as the first action figure that was ever produced in America, they weren’t exactly the first toy of their kind. Hasbro made GI Joe in 1964, which was just five years after the era of Mattel’s Barbie, which was a resounding success.

The success of Barbie got Hasbro thinking that there may be a market for a toy specifically catered to boys. Although gendering of dolls, toys and other products are more or less left in the past now, at the time GI Joe was specifically curated for young boys who were looking for a toy to play with. 

Amplified By Real Life Circumstances

The “GI” in GI Joe stands for “government-issued”, which was accurate; the figures mimicked the look of soldiers and secret agents. They were semi-inspired by the US armed forces, as their service in World War II was still fresh in plenty of people’s memories.

GI Joe was heavily advertised to young kids as ‘men of action’ or ‘war action figures’, which garnered quite the success. However, as the US geared up for the Vietnam War, new variations of the action figure came out to feed into the narrative of being a saviour rather than a fighter.

Manufactured For Collectors

The GI Joe action figures were constantly manufactured as there was steady demand. However, the real catalyst for the GI Joe that kept the toy afloat until the 2000s was the collectors. So many have fond memories of the franchise, and the design and quality of the action figures themselves was quite impressive. 

Catapulted By The Media

As the demand for certain toys slowly decreased, management started racking their brains about how they could market the iconic GI Joe brand for the new generation. They released a comic book and movies, sparking a desire for the action figure and further increasing sales. 

With GI Joe movies being produced to this day, the action figure has solidified its appeal as a timeless and beloved action figure. 


In summary, GI Joe has had a long history. Its reputation has been sustained and even rose further due to all the efforts made by the action figures’ manufacturer. However, even perhaps without it, GI Joe would still have that nostalgic charm. 

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