At long last, after languishing in limbo for years now, there has been an acknowledgment of the future and fate of the G.I. Joe franchise and it leaves the door wide open to a lot of potential good... or bad.
Where G.I. Joe Stands Currently
G.I. Joe has existed across primarily four platforms- toys, comics, cartoon, and movie. The toys are pretty simple to cover right now because Toys 'R Us is the exclusive retailer and distributor for the tiny trickle of G.I. Joe action figures being released. Each year that drip of figures seems to get smaller and smaller. In fact, I have been to two different Toys 'R Us stores roughly 200 miles apart in the last month and neither had any G.I. Joe action figures on the shelf.
IDW comics presently have the G.I. Joe comic book license and have had it for several years now. Initially, the G.I. Joe comics were great and highly critically acclaimed. The G.I. Joe / Cobra series (and later the second series) are among some of the best G.I. Joe storytelling ever. But over the years, IDW has completely lost any semblance of direction with the G.I. Joe comic. It has stopped and relaunched numerous times over the last few years and recently relaunched again as part of a joint universe of characters which also includes the Transformers, ROM, M.A.S.K., Action Man, and the Micronauts. As a lifelong G.I. Joe fan I have found the IDW comics of the last three years largely unreadable.
G.I. Joe as a cartoon franchise has been dead since G.I. Joe: Renegades in 2010. Renegades ran for 26 episodes before being cancelled and there was a line of action figures based on the series. Prior to that there was the stand-alone G.I. Joe - Resolute in 2009.
The last time we saw G.I. Joe in the theaters was in 2013 for G.I. Joe: Retaliation featuring Dewayne "The Rock" Johnson in the lead role as Roadblock. The movie did moderately well but fans of G.I. Joe seemed divided on the film. I personally liked the movie but realize that it had some tropes that some G.I. Joe fans might find annoying. G.I. Joe: Retaliation was, of course, the sequel to the much maligned G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra movie from 2009.
What's Happening Now?
Hasbro has been talking for a couple of years about launching a cinematic universe for their properties similar to the way Marvel Comics and DC Comics have done. This would take the individual properties they own and develop both stand-alone and joint movies. On the surface, this sounds like a child of the 1980's dream come true since they own not only G.I. Joe but also the cult favorite ROM the Spaceknight, Micronauts, M.A.S.K., Action Man, and the thriving Transformers property.
This concept was recently tested in the page of the comic books with IDW's Revolution series (and follow up- Revolutionaries). Unfortunately, it was a train wreck. As a 30 year plus fan of some of these properties I found the event unreadable, confusing, and at times out right terrible. The hodge-podge of barely recognizable characters strained even a long time fans senses leaving little hope this could work in a cinematic setting.
The latest (and first in a long time) comment about the G.I. Joe franchise as a movie concept came today in the Los Angeles Times where an article written by David Ng called “Looking beyond ‘Transformers,’ Hasbro wants to create its own Marvel-sized movie universe” took a look at the entire joint universe concept.
Simon Waters of Hasbro Studios said the company wants to take “a more millennial approach.” Oh boy... I'm not sure how I feel about that. Actually, I'm not even sure what that means but it sounds a lot like G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra and what the G.I. Joe comics have been like in IDW recently. Maybe I'm wrong.
“The world has changed, and I think you’re going to see G.I. Joe changing with it. There’s going to be a much more contemporary approach to the whole franchise, and that will allow us to develop different characters.” Even as a long time G.I. Joe fan, I do totally agree it's time for an update with new characters. Stalker, Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow, and even Cobra Commander do work best when linked to their Vietnam War heritage. It's an important part of their story and experience. They would also be 60 year old men now. I personally have no problem with those characters being "that era" of G.I. Joe with a new era introduced. I would love to see new G.I. Joe characters with modern war experiences, yet still pay homage to the old guard.
The article goes on to quote - “We hope to create a head snap. It’s a different kind of ‘Joe’ — one that still resonates with ‘Joe’ fans but brings in an uninitiated audience and expands the audience internationally and domestically.” I'm not sure I want a head snap experience with a new set of Joes. Again, I'm not even sure what that means but it doesn't sound good. It sounds, well, jarring. I would like to see "updated", "modernized", and "fresh" but I'm not sure "head snapping" is what I care to see.
What actually happens, for good or bad, remains to be seen. I am hopeful for a coat of fresh paint on the G.I. Joe mythos. I would love to see new and different G.I. Joe action figures (3.75" of course) on the shelf without having to see six new versions of Duke and Snake Eyes. I would like to read a new G.I. Joe comic book series that is actually good, even if the characters are all new. I don't really want a "millennial" version of Scarlett or Gung-Ho or Rock & Roll. I would just as soon we seen those characters as the trainers, Generals, and moral support of a new exciting group of characters.
As long as they avoid the mess that was Revolution I will hold out some hope but G.I. Joe needs a fresh start. New action figure concepts and ideas and new product on the toy shelves, a new detached and original comic book series (one self contained series please) and a new update of the military special missions force on the big screen - that is what I am hoping for in G.I. Joe. That it will no longer be G.I. Joe - When It Was Cool but G.I. Joe - It IS Cool.
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