He never gives up; he’ll stay till the fight’s won...
G.I. Joe: Reinstated and America’s Elite
Four years after the Joe team all but disappeared from toy shelves and television, a little known comic books publishing company called Devil’s Due purchased the rights to produce G.I. Joe comic books. The new series launched years after the old had left off, with Cobra returning to menace humanity and the Joe team reassembling to stop them. New members joined up with old favorites, and lightning was bottled for the second time. This was the G.I. Joe that fans had grown up with! Alongside the main title, Devil’s Due released a handful of miniseries including Master & Apprentice, Frontline and the Ultimate-ified Reloaded. In time, the book would wrap and relaunch as America’s Elite, paring down the Joe team for awhile before going out with a bang in the year long World War III event, next week’s Hidden Gem.
G.I. Joe vs. Cobra
With the success of the new comic, Hasbro jumped on the bandwagon, and in 2002 began releasing a new line of 3.75″ figures entitled G.I. Joe vs. Cobra. The figures were sold in two packs, playing up rivalries between a hero and villain. The initial waves featured a somewhat new style of sculpt and articulation, but as time went by, the line evolved to more closely resemble what it was always meant to be – an updating of the Real American Hero line. Each subsequent year saw a new theme – ’03 featured figures with disguises under the banner of Spy Troops, while ’04 brought us the Valor vs. Venom banner where mutated Cobras fought slightly teched-out Joes. Hell, we even got Lego-like Built to Rule sets where existing figures were retooled and packed with do-it-yourself vehicles. Yet, despite CGI-animated direct-to-DVD movies accompanying each wave, and the continued success of the comics, the toys began to lose popularity.
The end of Valor Vs. Venom brought about the rebirth of the single carded “Real American Hero” figures, stylistically an extension of the G.I. Joe vs. Cobra line, but thematically even more of a throw back to the 3.75″ roots. Four waves of these Direct to Consumer (DtC) figures and vehicles were produced, with some becoming available also as Toys R Us exclusives. As 2005 rolled around, however, the Joes underwent yet another change.
Sigma 6 saw the Joes and Cobras grow again, to eight inches, and simultaneously shrink to 2.5, allowing fans to choose between collecting/playing with heavily accessorized and poseable large scale figures or building massive (yet tiny) armies at a smaller scale. Or, I suppose, doing both or neither. The Sigma 6 line was highly stylized and for this, tended to catch quite a bit of flack, but the accessories packed in with each figure were fantastic, and many of the old favorites from years gone by managed to show their faces. The cartoon was… there. The new style of animation, the new character designs, the special abilities everyone had – it all sort of rang hollow with a not-quite-G.I. Joe feel.
And that is when shit got real.