For those of us who can still remember entire days lost to setting up, commentating on, and living out battles of such profound imagination and carnage that it didn't matter that the brave soldiers fighting weren't real, here's the ultimate guide to the history of the name given to the face of the U.S. military's everyman: GI Joe. This beautifully presented history tracks Joe's origins in the comics of Joe Yank, "Battle cry," and "Battle," through incarnations as individuals in varying battle gear, each with his (and eventually her) own history. The first pitch was made on April 11th, 1963, to creator Don Levine and was based on a concept for a (gasp!) "male Barbie-type doll" (quickly renamed "action figures"). The book details GI Joe maker Hasbro's debate over and inclusion of a black GI Joe in the mid-60s (15 years before there was a black Barbie), which was sold only in northern states for the first few years, and the adolescent fantasies of adult designers that sparked some of the most creative sets and characters. Lots of pictures, posters, and drawings.
Appearing in 1964 at the height of the Barbie era and routed, 13 years later, by platoons of Star Wars figurines, GI Joe was a toy both of and in spite of its times. Despite industrial wisdom that "a boy will never play with a doll," the "action figure" (as Hasbro insisted it be called) was a massive success right out of the gate. Later, when Vietnam soured combat-toys sales (and this reviewer and his little chums were putting Joe on trial for war crimes), the company cannily repositioned its plastic molded hero as an "adventurer." While Michlig's text divulges more about Hasbro inter-office politics than you really need to know, this beautifully designed coffee-table tome is as much a fetish object as the original 1965 Deep Sea Diver Joe.
This book contains more than 200 rare archival photographs and illustrations. It tells the inside story of GI Joe, from his tough scar to his revolutionary kung-fu grip. In addition to a preface by Don Levine, the maverick toyman who defied industry skeptics to create a popular doll for boys, there are interviews with the men and women who developed the original figure and guided him though four decades of service.