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Putting Joe Back into the Hands of Kids: The Adventures of GI Joe 2010

Since 1996, Hasbro had been producing its Classic Collection line of 12” Joes with mostly collectors in mind.  Meanwhile, Mattel had been searching to find a way to remarket Big Jim as a modern action figure line.  In 1999, Mattel was finally ready to launch Max Steel to fill that void.  When Hasbro realized that a new male 12” line was being launched soon, they scrambled to release a kid-targeted Joe segment that would coincide with the release of Max Steel.

The result was “The Adventures of GI Joe 2010”.  The plan was to provide three figures at the Alpha price slot, aimed at kids and themed slightly futuristic.  Since all the other designers were jammed and they preferred to concentrate on the high priced, specifically historical figures, the project was handed to me.  I could not have been happier. Due to the incredibly fast schedule, there was no time for any newly tooled parts. To add new flair, I created futuristic camouflage and utilized many accessories from Action Man items that were sold only internationally. 

With 2010 being an entirely new segment without the benefit of television programming, each package would have a unique adventure scenario – similar to the Adventure Team booklets which many of us grew up with.  On the back of each blister panel was an image showing some of the action and a short mission brief.  It also had small images of the other figures that would be assorted in the same release.

Operation: Shadow Ops

This theme was a night mission to take out a biological weapons installation. The figure is wearing black pants and a shirt.  If you look very carefully through the blister, you can see a subtle night camouflage pattern of shiny black stripes on the matte black fabric.  Joe is also wearing a communications headset and has a high-tech glove/gauntlet with an antenna.  The weapon Joe carries is an assault rifle with scope and a projectile shooting module that clips onto the barrel.

Operation: Lion’s Den

This setassigned Joe a mission where he had to climb a tower and deactivate a bomb. His camouflage is of bold triangles in an urban camo color scheme and painted onto a molded flack vest.  The pants are printed with a matching pattern. The backpack, (which you may remember from Hall of Fame Major Bludd) has a pulley system with a hook to attach on a high object, then send Joe flying to the top by pulling one of the cords.  He is also equipped with an Uzi and a mask.

Operation: Alpine Assault

The mission sent Joe into cold weather action to destroy missiles.  He wears a white parka with camouflage in shades of blue.  The pants have the matching camo.  His boots snap into high-tech snowshoes.  The weapon shoots a grappling hook with rope.  Also included is a mask to protect him from extreme cold. One other unique part of this figure is his white painted hands to resemble gloves.

The retailer’s response to the figures was very positive, and they requested more. The team manager was unsure if it was possible to design two more fast still with no new tooling yet looking unique.  I told him, “This is what I live for,” and created two more quickly.

Operation: Silent Strike

The mission tasked Joe with protecting a jungle biosphere. He wears an elaborate body armor vest of molded plastic.  The pants are another unique triangular print.  The helmet has a fun visor that pulls down.  The knife is gigantic and oversized as it was originally made for the first Hall of Fame Snake Eyes.  The coolest part of this figure is the crossbow, which is not bulky and shoots really well. It includes three red-tinted arrows.

Operation: Mako Shark

We finally sent Joe underwater to infiltrate a harbor and rescue hostages.  His one-piece diving suit had blue and black camouflage printing with long sleeves and short pant legs. The dive vest and fins were molded in a blue tint. The hoses on the vest snap into the mask. To add more high-tech feel to the mask, it was printed graphics to simulate a “heads-up-display.” On his thigh is a knife sheath to hold his knife.  His primary weapon is a cool looking dart gun that unfortunately does not shoot.

As the figures were now hitting retail shelves… and not staying long, even more figures were requested.  For those next 2010 figures, there was more time to finesse the design of the figures. In each of the next five figures, Joe had a mission patch designed to reflect the specific mission. These were usually labels on clothing or pad printing added to their plastic vests.  The last 2010 figure had this insignia as a tattoo!  Dwight Stahl, was a new intern at the time and designed all the mission patches. Dwight is still at Hasbro designing product.

Operation: Midnight Recon

This is a night recon mission with a projectile probe that could be shot and stick to a wall to pretend to gather electronic intelligence. Joe also had an assault rifle with a night scope in case the action got too hot.  His uniform is a black jumpsuit without printing (which makes it very versatile for creating your own new Joes…). The camouflage was painted on his flack vest and his helmet.  The helmet has night vision goggles the flip up and down. To highlight the “night vision” nature of the lens, both the gun scope and night goggles have a metallic label that looks like the eerie night-vision green light.  The projectile shooter is molded like a listening dish and has a cable that connects from it into the helmet. From a design and play-pattern point of view, this is one of my favorite of the 2010s.

Operation: Sand Sting

This figure came with a huge sniper rifle and a scope that was in mounted in the package so you could see right through it!  It was also printed with red distance grid lines to help Joe in targeting.  The figure is wearing a sleeveless jumpsuit printing with desert colored camouflage. His torso is covered with body armor and also has a mask to keep out the sun and sand. The rifle snaps apart into three pieces, not including removable clip and bipod.  Although it does not come with a projectile module – note that there is a flange for one on top if you want to add one from another set. This was one of the first figures to use the new, bulked-up muscle arms. 

Operation: Intruder Defense

For the next launch, Joe went back into space with (we hope the Adventure Team fans appreciated the intentional reuse of the old name…).  This figure has an elaborate jumpsuit with elastic cuffs, ribbed collar and printed camouflage in blue, black and gray. His helmet is a black version of the helmet used for the Hall of Fame Star Brigade gear pack as well as the Apollo 13 figure.  The visor was molded in a techy looking green tint with more “heads-up-display” graphics on it.  There is also a label reading “G.I Joe Space Corps 06” on it.  The vest snaps onto the figure’s front for added battle armor.  His weapon is the Gatling gun from Hall of Fame Rock n’ Roll which looked odd for that figure, but here looks very astro and high-tech.  There is a projectile shooting module attached to the gun with a missile in the same green-tinted green as the gun barrel.  The hands are molded in black, so when the black space gloves are on him; you don’t see the skin tone showing through.  This is my favorite figure of the 2010 set.  I was very proud of the detailing I was able to achieve and still balance the cost.

Operation: Climbing Claw

The set took Joe into a jungle stakeout mission. The claw could hold Joe in the trees and is totally unique to this set.  This figure was the only one of the segment to have the camouflage painted on him.  There are green and black triangles on his face, chest, and arms.  He is wearing long pants in matching camo.  Joe is also outfitted with a molded gear vest, headset, and a HUGE serrated Action Man machete. There is an elastic sheath sewn to his vest and wrapping around his leg to hold the machete.  His weapon packs the most firepower or any 2010 figure.  By turning the knob on the back, Joe can launch five missiles in quick succession. In clever reuse of tooling, that shooter was originally made for a small Batman figure, and we tooled a new grip so Joe could hold it.

Operation: Swamp Attack

This was the last of the 2010 figures to ship. It is arguably the strangest 2010 figure but has the best shooting weapon.  The air tank on Joe’s back is actually a plunger, which can shoot the foam missile across the room. If you look carefully on the tank, you can see where Joe has marked four boats to show how many he has destroyed. This is a fun subtlety based on the markings of ships sank as listed on WWII submarines. This weapon was originally produced for the often-forgotten GI Joe Extreme line.  Joe wears long blue camouflage pants to match the painting on the mask and rebreather.  Also included are fins, grenades, Uzi and a machete.

If you are one of the collectors who are always looking for unique figures – 2010 has several that may have been overlooked.  For variations in skin tone, 2010 has two interesting options.  The Caucasian version of Operation: Sand Sting” has a suntan! This coloration was only used one other time on the Navajo Code Talker. The subtle coloring seems very appropriate, as the mission for this figure was to perform surveillance and sharpshooting in the desert.  The figure also has a specially molded right hand used only on this and the USMC Grenade Thrower.

For the first five 2010 figures, the lighter skin tone for African Americans was used.  Besides these, it appeared on a few early Alpha figures and more prominently on the General Colin Powel figure.

The second five 2010 African American figures had a unique painting.  The intent was to make the hair a little more modern in keeping with the slightly futuristic theme and to add some interest in the often-overlooked AA versions.  There were two different head paintings.  One had long pointed sideburns and a triangular “soul patch.”  The other head had two horizontal cuts into the sides of the hair and its “soul patch” was square.  As the 2010 figure released mostly in groups of two new figures, one of the AA figures would have the sideburns, and the other figure had the side cuts.

Ironically, while both Max Steel and the later US launch of Action Man, both had commercials and television shows, GI Joe was still outselling them both (Oh, the power of JOE….).  12” Joes for kids was now a viable product line.  But, as all toy lines go – it would be time to refresh it. It would be time to make Joe twice as good. GI Joe Double Duty was coming….

How many GI Joe 2010 figures are in your collection?

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