GI Joe hit the shelves in 1964 and was an immediate success with boys. In 1967, Hasbro enlisted GI Nurse, “America’s Movable Action Girl” in hopes of leveraging some of Joe’s success with girls. She did not sell well but has a place as a holy grail for Joe collectors to find, as she is so rare. GI Nurse had rooted hair like a Barbie but lacked the beauty appeal. Having her hair held down in package by clear plastic loop hid the value and glory of the hair. Her gear issue included a nice set of medical gear repurposed from the Medic Equipment Set including stethoscope, IV, splints, bandages, crutches and medical bag. The uniform was very traditional white nurse’s uniform but had the medic armband. Old time Hasbro employees have mentioned a display in the Hasbro Pawtucket offices, which had the 5-Star Jeep full of Joes and one nurse looking for some R & R. Unfortunately, it was gone before the years I roamed those halls.
A female version of Joe did not appear again until 1997 when Hasbro released a second 1/6th female in the GI Joe Classic Collection under the name GI Jane as a US Army Helicopter Pilot. At that time, a helicopter pilot was one of the only combat roles allowed for women in the military. This figure has a very detailed soft goods jumpsuit and vest. It also included a helmet with sliding visor and a few other small accessories. If memory serves, that helmet is actually smaller than the Joe helmet. Her combat boots were new as Joe’s were just too big for her. The body was an entirely new-tooled figure with all the same articulation as Joe. The articulation was great but the sculpting was not made with girls in mind who prefer beauty to articulation. There have been some nice articulated female bodies but this is clunky. However, if you ever happened to undress the early 1/6th scale Princess Leia (yes, I did it for work) to reveal her Russian weightlifter body, GI Jane looks pretty good! There was no rooted hair on Jane as they sculpted her hair in one of the approved military hairstyles for women: a tight braid on the back.
In 1998, they followed up with another GI Jane looking more like a GI Joe wearing woodland camouflage fatigues as the US 82nd Airborne. This Jane came armed with a helmet, beret and an assault rifle so she could really go into battle. After release there was some discussion, where such a position really existed for women but I do not have the authoritative connections to know who was right or wrong on that.
The next Jane shipped in 1999 had a new head, still with sculpted hair but this time short and less severe looking. GI Jane Vietnam Nurse had the look we were very familiar with watching television shows like “China Beach” and “M*A*S*H” (Yes, I know it was supposed to take place in Korea but even the director is quoted as saying he did everything he could to make it look like Vietnam). One interesting tidbit, the figure’s working name was “Angel of Mercy” but later changed to be more military specific. Her gear has much in common with the original GI Nurse including stethoscope, bandages, splits, IV bottle and a medic bag. Certainly the work those nurses did was no less heroic than many of the front line soldiers.
The year 2000 did not see the launch of another GI Jane although there was a concept model reviewed. With the first Classic Collection police officer selling well, Trouble at Prosperity Bank, a second peace officer would follow as Trouble at Coyote Crossing. Instead of big city officer, this was clearly a “Smokey” sheriff from out west (although the uniform was really the Ohio Sheriff’s uniform). Jane wore the same uniform and had all the gear including Smokey hat and a side arm. The proposal was to mix in GI Jane alongside the Caucasian and the African American Joes. She even fit the same blister. However, sales on the other GI Jane’s were not that hot so Jane active duty status was not renewed. The idea was ahead of its time and not come to fruition until the Adventure Team.
It is possible that releasing female figures was a result of the 1997 film “GI Jane” as I did see a prototype of the character but it did not continue into development. As many people know, Hasbro developed a very nice figure from “Saving Private Ryan” but they had to stop the figure when there was talk of an Academy Award nomination for the film and that a toy could taint that image. Only a very short run of the figures exists: mostly given to the cast and crew from the film. It is possible they would not gamble of another film for GI Joe due to that incident. Whatever the real factor, there are always multiple pros and cons for creating a licensed toy including release time, royalty rate, actor’s contract, kid appeal and just to name a few factors.
The last 1/6th scale female figure to ship was with GI Joe Adventure Team Secret of the Savage Swamp in 2003. She even had a new head sculpting. This time GI Jane made the team as an assortment option with Caucasian, African American, Hispanic and Asian. It is my favorite GI Jane. AT GI Jane had soft goods coat, shorts, socks and net. She used the sculpted boonie hat and had a stick noose for capturing the gator. Her boots and belt fit the new direction of detailed and proportional instead of the chunky style used on many Adventures of GI Joe figures.
The gator came from “Wow Wee”, a small company Hasbro bought which made a bunch of cool 1/6th scale (…ish) animals. That original gator has a motorized swishing tail, closing jaws and chomping sound effects. That would have been at least the cost of the whole figure so it had required simplification to use the skin and making a new child-activated movement.
That was the last Jane to ship however; besides the proposal for a 1/6th Scarlet (see the GI Joe Collector Club articles), there was a also full plan to make GI Jane its own product segment. Chew on this photo until the details are revealed along with the rest of the pictures in the next post.
What GI Jane would you have chosen to make?