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G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA

From Action Figure To Action Heroes
G.I. JOE: The mere mention of the name immediately conjures up images of heroism, patriotism and the kind of tough rigor required to get the job done. That's the G.I. JOE millions of kids have known since he was first introduced by Hasbro in 1964. "Everybody has immediate recognition when you say that name,” says Lorenzo di Bonaventura, one of the producers of "G.I. JOE: The Rise of Cobra.” 

When G.I. JOE arrived on the scene, says Hasbro's president and C.E.O. Brian Goldner, who serves as a producer on the film, "the term ‘action figure' was actually a new one. Boys would never be found playing with fashion dolls, but the idea of an action hero or action figure came along and really stuck. For a little boy, it was the personification of a hero who could empower him to feel like he was part of the action.”

The popularity of G.I. JOE persisted through the Vietnam War era and beyond, introducing new gadgets, but it was in 1983 that G.I. JOE went through its biggest change. That year, he went from being a 12” figure to the, by then, more common 3 ¾” figure kids had already started collecting in other series. G.I. JOE also went from a "he” to a "they” – a team of super-elite soldiers from around the world, each with his/her own specialty and state-of-the-art gear to help them do their jobs.  In "G.I. JOE: The Rise of Cobra,” there's RIPCORD, an expert marksman and weapons specialist; SNAKE EYES, a ninja warrior armed with Katana swords and a Glock pistol, skilled in martial arts, reconnaissance and infiltration; SCARLETT, tough and bright, also a martial arts master and skilled with a gas-propelled Crossbow Pistol; BREAKER, a specialist in deciphering covert electronics and technology; HEAVY DUTY, the team's weapons specialist; GENERAL HAWK, who is the team's commander; COURTNEY "COVER GIRL” KREIGER, a runway model-turned-spy and GENERAL HAWK'S assistant; and, of course, DUKE, a combat veteran with courage to spare: he's the G.I. JOEs' leader and soldier personified.

"Each one has a particular skill they're really good at, and the team counts on that skill,” says di Bonaventura. 

While a hugely-popular animated TV series debuted in 1985, it was a long-running series of comic books that truly helped retool G.I. JOE and give it its engaging mythology. The combination of new action figures, comic books and a TV show, helped propel G.I. JOE farther than it had ever been. "They ignited the collective minds of the fans of that era,” says Goldner. "In fact, the G.I. JOE of the 1980s was more successful, globally, than the original.”

For the comic book, Hasbro made the obvious choice in partnering with Marvel Comics. A young staff editor named Larry Hama was assigned the task of creating a comic book series for G.I. JOE from the ground up. At the time, says Hama, all that existed were designs for the figures, but no story. "We went to a meeting and they said, ‘Well, we have these ten figures,' and that's what they had,” he recalls. "They had drawings of what the figures were supposed to look like. There was a guy with a rifle and it said, ‘Infantry,' and there was a girl with a crossbow, and it said, ‘Intelligence.' We said, ‘Well, where's the rest of it?' and they said, ‘Well, this is what we have.'”

The story also was going to be clearly one-sided. "We asked them, ‘Well, what are they going to do, just march? There has to be some sort of conflict.' So we decided for the comic book, we'll have these guys called COBRA who will be the bad guys. We told them, ‘We'll take it from here.'”

Though Hama considered himself "a duck man” (as opposed to a superhero guy) at the company, he begrudgingly took on the assignment, figuring the series would last no longer than a few years at best. "Common knowledge at the time was that a toy book never lasted more than three years.” Educating himself with materials collected from milit

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