Before I get into the pictures of Part 4, I want to share a little story. Recognizing that nostalgia is a powerful drug, I would argue that 1985 was the high-water mark of GI Joe. Not that I didn’t love additions to the lore that came before or followed in subsequent years, but 1985 was probably my favorite. I was ten years old, the first cartoon miniseries had kids all lathered up for more, and it was a fantastic time to be a Joe fan. One of my favorite childhood memories was sometime in the summer of ’85.
My sister and I were staying with my grandparents for a few days, and my grandmother liked to shop. Needless to say, we went to the mall… it was the 80’s, of course we went to the mall. She handed my sister and me each a $20 and told us to meet back in an hour. “Be sure to save enough for a movie ticket!” she called behind us. In retrospect, two things stand out about that. First, you can’t possibly do that kind of thing these days, setting a 10-year-old kid loose in a mall. Either they’d be abducted by the boogie man, or you’d be arrested for neglect. But it was A-OK in 1985! Second, and most importantly, $20 was a ton of money during the Reagan administration, especially to a kid.
So as any red-blooded american boy would do, I set upon a path that only had two destinations, K&K Toys and Kay-Bee Toys. You know, back when malls had actual toy stores. There were a lot of great toy franchises in 1985. A shortage of choices would not be my problem as that $20 burned a hole in my pocket. Upon hitting the action figure isle in the Kay-Bee, I set eyes upon a display of Joes that were completely foreign to me. At the time, there was no internet. There was no reporting from Toy Fair. No SDCC reveals. On a random day in a store, you just got a huge surprise that was equal parts confusion, euphoria, and unbridled avarice. I must have these. Oh yes, they will be mine!
So that day, I found presumably what was the entire 1985 line of Joes, new characters that I knew nothing about besides what was on the file card on the back. I had $20, and it was only a matter of how many and which ones. Joes at the time were usually $2.99 at Toys-R-Us, Children’s Palace, Big-K, and K-Mart, but this was the mall, where the rents were higher and so were the prices. Mall Joes were a staggering $3.49. Decisions, decisions.
After spending a good solid half-hour, studying the postage stamp-sized photos on the cardbacks and checking each and every peg, I selected Flint, Snake-Eyes v2 (with a wolf, egads!), a Crimson Guard trooper, and a set of the crimson twins, Tomax and Xamot. With tax, it ate up the vast majority of my $20. Sure, I might catch some flak for not saving enough for the movie, but I didn’t care. I’d sit outside the theater with my beautiful new acquisitions and wait. It was a price I was willing to pay.
Looking back, I think I chose wisely. Flint is still one of my favorite Joe character of all-time. I always liked him better than Duke, whom I never warmed up to. I always thought Hawk should have been in charge but was conspicuously absent from the first few years of the cartoon. Flint supplanting Duke in prominence made me happy. Picking up Snake Eyes was a no-brainer as the only character I recognized, and clearly the darling of the franchise (and because “wolf”, duh). And I was a kid who really liked to have a formidable enemy for my heroes to conquer, and the cobra forces always seemed to get under-represented (this was long before I could afford anything resembling army-building). So a CG and the Twins made for worthy adversaries.
That’s my story. I bought a lot of toys as a kid, and I could tell many stories about many different specific purchases, but that’s without a doubt one of my favorites. It was the perfect storm of surprise find, opportunity, and having available funds to actually do more than browse and wish.
Oh, and my grandmother spotted me enough to get into the movies. Jackpot 😉
And of course, a typical 1985 cardback. So many memories!
‘Til all are one, collecting is half the battle!