This is getting expensive.
  -- Scarlett (after a shot from a Cobra agent disentigrates a corner of thousand dollar bills stacked near her head)
Home Articles G.I.Joe Yearbook #1 (March 1985)

G.I.Joe on Television

If you’re reading this, you’re probably already familiar with at least one aspect of G.I.Joe. Maybe you know those colorful characters as the most successful action figures of all time, featuring a cast of dozens, a fleet of vehicles, and an arsenal of weapons that leave most toymakers’ products in the dust! Or perhaps you know G.I.Joe as the hero of the comic book containing more non-stop thrills, chills and spills per panel than any other magazine in comicdom!

But did you know that the G.I.Joe heroes are now also bona-fide television stars, who, starting in the fall of 1985, will be featured in his own nationally-broadcasted daily TV show?!

Of course, no one becomes a big star overnight, and the Joes are no exception. It took two years of appearances, first in brief 30-second commercials, and later, in half-hour segments of mini-series, to establish the Joes star potential, and to garner G.I.Joe a daily show.

The Joes’ rise to stardom began in 1982, when they made their initial TV appearance in the first television commercial ever to promote a comic book. That spot was produced by Marvel Productions, the west coast studio owned by Cadence Publishing, which also owns Marvel Comics, publisher of the G.I.Joe comic book. The 30-second animated commercial recounted in mini-drama form the story told in the debut issue of the G.I.Joe comic book.

That tale concerned Cobra, a mysterious terrorist organization which kidnaps a pacifist scientist and holds her hostage in an impregnable island fortress. The G.I.Joe team, a counter-terrorist squad, storms the fortress and after a furious firefight effects an amazing rescue!

Marvel Comics had crammed that issue with G.I.Joe’s trademark: mile-a-minute, all-out, no-holds-barred action. This made an already tough job even tougher for the team at Marvel Productions, whose job it was to draw and color each one of the thousands of frames making up the commercial. Not only did the Marvel team have to reduce a 28-page comic to thirty seconds of comprehensible images with a sales message, but voices music and sound effects all had to be created and added.

Marvel’s crew of top-notch animators, the best since Disney’s, toiled round-the-clock for weeks on end, racing to meet the airdate deadline which Hasbro, G.I.Joe’s maker, had scheduled to coincide with release of both G.I.Joe #1 and the all-new G.I.Joe team toy line. It was close, very close, but in the nick of time, the commercial was ready to air!

And air it did, one Saturday morning in the Spring of 1982, as, across the nation, Hasbro’s new G.I.Joe team toy line and Marvel Comics’ G.I.Joe team comic book went on sale!

Reaction came swiftly. By nightfall, devoted parents had stripped toy store shelves bare of the new Joe line, and store managers from Boston to San Jose were on the phone to Hasbro, placing reorders. As noon on Sunday, in a drugstore in Battle Creek, Michigan, two brothers snatched up the last remaining copy of G.I.Joe #1, as out-of-stock newsstands and comic shops besieged distributors for more copies.

By mid-week, the New York offices of Marvel Comics lay buried under an avalanche of mail triggered by the commercial, asking: Where was the toy line available? How did one subscribe to the comic book? Would there be more commercials? The verdict was crystal clear - Hasbro’s marketing onslaught had succeeded - G.I.Joe was a hit from coast to coast!

In the months following the phenomenal success of the first commercial, Hasbro scrambled to turn out more characters, more vehicles, more weapons, and Marvel Comics tapped its considerable pool of talent to come up with better plots, wilder stunts, faster chases, and bigger fights, in gloriously futile attempt to sate the public’s ravenous appetite for G.I.Joe.

Demand for both the comic and the toy line continued its steep climb as the commercials were broadcast, reaching a fevered pitch when the miniseries was aired. Response to the miniseries was so overwhelmingly positive that Hasbro edited the series into a home video and released it for syndication. The public couldn’t see enough of the Joes!

Time passed. Every two or three months a new commercial aired, encapsulating the current issue of G.I.Joe into 30 seconds of blazing action. Hasbro previewed a second five-part mini-series to a studio audience, evoking the same wildly enthusiastic response that the first miniseries had elicited.

(That mini-series will have aired by the time you read this, but it may be edited into a home video, as the first mini-series was, so don’t despair if you did miss it!)

Joe, it seemed, could do no wrong. It was then that the Joes were given the green light to star in their own daily series, and work on that show began. Joe had made it, following in the footsteps of such media titans as Johnny Carson, Walter Cronkite and Captain Kangaroo.

In the short span of two years G.I.Joe had come a long way, from virtual television anonymity to screen fame far beyond the most acrobatic imagination. G.I.Joe fandom multiplied a thousandfold.

The Joes had become more than toys, more than comic book characters, more than television stars. They had become part of the American experience.

In the fall of 1985, the Joes will star in their own daily show. Who could have foreseen it? Who would have believed it?

What does the future hold for G.I.Joe???

Only time will tell. The best way to stay tuned is to check out the toy line, pick up the comic, [and] watch the show!!!

Jan 25: G.I.Joe Examined on Podcasts
Jan 25: Buzz Dixon Interview
Jan 25: Paulsen Annie Nomination & Dini on Batman Comic
Jan 12: Sgt. Slaughter Signing in Atlanta
Jan 11: G.I.Joe to Return on G4
Dec 30: Paramount Movie Reviewer Plugs
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