Thursday, October 30, 2008

NO WEBLOG FOR OLD ROBOTS part 4: Please Save Me, Yo!

Although I consider myself the Indiana Jones of toy robots archaeology and I romanticize my hobby with terms like Roboplasticology, the truth is that all I'm doing is looking through trash as I go pop culture dumpster diving in the library microfilm archives of America. And although my search focuses on the roboplastical, I do on occasion come across ads for toys I remember that played a much smaller role in my robot obsessed 80s childhood (and a much larger one in the childhoods of kids not afflicted with roboplasti-tardation). So join me all this week as we take a non-robot oriented look at a couple other toylines that also made an impression on my Scraplets riddled brain.

Circus World 30 November 1983


Kmart 11/24/83
To this day I have never quite understood the appeal of the GI Joe line of fighting metrosexual village people dolls and their tanks and jeeps and helicopters. To many Americans, not liking GI Joe ranks up there with "not supporting the troops". Also, "being a nazi drug dealer". I remember looking out the car window as a kid whenever my dad drove us by Fort Bliss in my hometown of El Paso, Texas. He'd always get excited at the miles and miles of tanks and jeeps and helicopters and I swear if Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA" music would have come over the radio at that moment my dad would have exploded from being corny. So when kids would bring GI Joe catalogs to school and tell me to look at them and I saw the toys of tanks and jeeps and helicopters I couldn't believe somebody made a toyline out of driving by Fort Bliss. I'd think, GI Joe? Really? I imagine somewhere there's a guy who grew up with his dad driving by used car lots to go to the pawn shop to buy guns and cassette players and he's thinking, Transformers? Really?

JC Penny 16 October 1983 (Alaska)
Sears 11 December 1983 (Alaska)


Kresges 11/28/83
Watching the opening intro to GI Joe is like getting blasted in the face with a rapid fire machine gun that shoots the word "GI Joe" at you instead of bullets but just as loud. It's sixty seconds of the most visually explosive and mindbendingly loud opening in cartoon history, jackhammering the name of the show repeatedly into your brain 10 times in one minute while bombs go off and aircraft explode and tanks and running and laser beams. After "GI Joe", the word that comes in second is "fight" or "fighting" which they say four times, establishing the idea that there was fighting. About halfway through a narrator starts a monologue repeating everything the song just said, explaining the existence of GI Joe, why they were fighting and who the bad guys were while a montage plays with scenes of hand to hand combat, stuff blowing up and more laser beams. I would have preferred a little more subtlety. How about a minute long sequence of maybe Scarlett and Lady J humming the theme song and giggling, wearing towels in the GI Joe shower while eating a banana. And then after 57 seconds the Baroness could walk in with a bunch more bananas and whisper to the camera, "GI Joe" with her finger on her bottom lip. God I hope that's the plot of the new movie.

Montgomery Ward 11/28/84


Although the concept of tanks and jeeps and helicopters didn't resonate with me I did watch the first two five part cartoons and I gave it a chance. But I kept meta-critiquing it. I could never get over that in the intro they keep referring to GI Joe as a "he", so you would think that based on the opening sequence there'd be one guy named GI Joe and he'd be doing a lot of fighting. But that's not what GI Joe was about. GI Joe was about a team of metrosexuals and all they did was drive around in their tanks and jeeps and helicopters for four episodes trying to figure out where the fight was and then in the fifth episode they get there and the fighting commenced. And they had names that didn't make sense like Storm Shadow, who's a ninja wearing white but if you think about it, shadows are gray or black. I guess I just wasn't the target audience who could overlook getting jerked around like that. But talking transforming robot Volkswagens? Sign me up, dude!

Sears 06 November 1985 (Alaska)
Sears 08 November 1985 (Texas)
Cobra COLA was higher in Alaska


K-Mart 11/26/86
I didn't totally hate GI Joe, I just didn't like it enough to be all into getting the figures. Heck, GI Joe has appeared here at PSMR multiple times before, from ads for the Defiant Shuttle Complex to terrorist pajamas and as a kid even I could not escape the urge to own a Snake Eyes or three (although I could resist the urge to open them). I just do not understand the popularity that consistently kept GI Joe toys so heavily advertised for most all of the eighties while the Transformers only had maybe two good years of being featured in newspaper ads. On a larger scale, how could plastic army men outlast legendary 80s action figure lines and even colossal video game fads like Atari and Nintendo? How has a GI Joe toyline existed every year since 1982? How could GI Joe have been the best selling toy in America in 1984 (according to against Transformers and He-Man? How does GI Joe do it? I'll tell you how. It is my suspicion that the US Government subsidizes the production of GI Joe comics and toys as a propaganda tactic. They do this publicly in other countries and I think the 1982 GI Joe action figure line was the secret prototype. I also believe Robotech is the reason I see so many Air Force guys with bad haircuts.

Lionel Playworld 18 November 1987
Target 18 October 1987


The tiny bit of ads I've got here are not even the tip of the GI Joe iceberg. I have seen enough GI Joe ads on library microfilm to outnumber all the robot ads I've ever collected for the Vintage Space Toaster Palace combined. Throughout the last 25 years some GI Joe items might have been discounted or gone clearance like the above Lionel Playworld ad shows (check out the USS Flag for 60 bucks) but the line always continued like an unstoppable armada of tanks and jeeps and helicopters. There is no end to it, even to this day. Although I have never understood its appeal and believe it to be covert military propaganda, GI Joe toys are some of the most fantastic looking unappealing military propaganda I have ever seen. I am thankful for it because nothing brings back those memories of my dad driving me by Fort Bliss like walking down the GI Joe aisle at Toys R Us.

Motive Parts & Supply 23 November 1988

You can see more GI Joe ads at YoJoe.Com and on Flickr.


Heavyarms said...

Best. EKM. Post. EVER!

I almost got in a fist fight on the school bus once with this punk that said an F-16's top speed was faster than an F-4's.

I guess GI Joe was right up my alley.

Evil King Macrocranios said...

No way is this better than R2-D2 is Birth Control. You're just pro-joe.

deadbeat Senna said...

Did you hit up the gi joe stop motion animation festival while you were in Denver? It happened that weekend.

Weasel said...

I watched GI Joe, but never really got into it. I save my love for the robots. (Okay, that didn't sound creepy at all.... oh noooo.)


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Evil King Macrocranios was voted king by the evil peoples of the Kingdom of Macrocrania. They listen to Iron Maiden all day and try to take pictures of ghosts with their webcams.