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Let’s Have a Big Hand for GI Joe Part 2

GI Joe Saluting Hands in White Gloves

There is a fun story behind the GI Joe Millennium Salute.  If you have never played with this figure, there is a lever on its back that when you pull it down, it causes the arm to turn and elbow to flip up into a crisp salute.  On the cover is another wonderful painting by Larry Selman of a Marine making that same salute.  The person Larry used to help him paint that image was one of the first Marines to storm into Kuwait City for its liberation.    He was also very helpful to provide insight and accuracy for many figures.  We sought his input on the Alpha Joe wearing the Infra-red camouflage coat.  He told us that he saw many of those coats on the battlefield but never once saw a set of matching pants.  We debated whether to make him more accurate and make his pants in desert camo, but finally decided it would look like a mistake.  He was also the one who suggested adding that little “clunk” sound on the WWII (talking) MP at the end of the phrase “Open fire! Bang, bang, bang, clunk” to replicate the sound of the M1 Garand cartridge finishing. The development team took great pains to make sure this figure would be as perfect as possible. That marine happened to be one of the GI Joe team engineers.

GI Joe Classic Collection Solid hands with fingerless gloves

This hand construction was one of the improvements I championed.  It bothered me to paint hands to look like gloves.  It only worked on black gloves where all the detail became lost in the darkness.  I wanted the detail kept in. I am pretty sure that the GI Joe Spy Troops Mountain Recon with Dusty was the first to wear these gloves, but I could be wrong. They mostly appear on Real American Hero GI Joes. Check out the detailing.

GI Joe Classic Collection Protective Gloves

These hands were first released on the GI Joe MOPP Marine.  The designer was careful to add as much accuracy as he could afford into his projects.  This figure wears a replica of the special gear to protect soldiers from a chemical attack in the Iraqi War since chemical weapons had been shot at the Kurdish rebels.  These gloves were very hard to use in battle according to one of our engineers who trained in the gear.  As the uniforms were also charcoal lined, they were very heavy.  The sculptor did a great job of getting a glove shape and yet still shaping the hand to hold gear reasonably well.  Silver versions were later used on the GI Joe Navy crash crew.

GI Joe Customer Specials hands

As mentioned before, there were two GI Joe twelve-inch design teams.  The lead designer on the team in Pawtucket working on the special versions of GI Joe did not like the standard Classic Collection hands believing they were too big.  So, these smaller hands were added to many of the store specials like the Japanese officer at Toys R Us.

GI Joe White Gloved Hands

The most carefully sculpted hands made for a GI Joe were on the GI Joe Tomb of the Unknowns. This figure was designed with utmost accuracy. To get the details right, we enlisted the support of an MP who walked the line at the tomb – who also happened to be a local GI Joe Collector’s Club member. Together he and the designer created the exact shape for these hands to hold the but of the gun exactly as required for that duty.

GI Joe Classic Collection Jointed hands – Gung Ho Grip

I will be the first to admit that when I first saw the plan for these hands, I was very skeptical. My concern was that they would never be tight enough to hold anything.  I was wrong, and I admitted that to the engineers.  These hands work remarkably well.  I cannot remember which figures these first shipped with these hands first and there were many.  For those who have not looked at these closely, the thumb is molded as part of the hand, and then it has a separate trigger finger, then the last three fingers joined into one shape. There is a pin holding them all together to keep enough tension on the different parts to hold their position. Note the angle on the wrist was changed on the right hand so Joe could hold a rifle more accurately. That wrist pivots up and down instead of side to side.

GI Joe Classic Collection Jointed fingerless gloved hands

I was always a fan of new hands, so I am pretty sure this was one of my projects.  I took the new jointed hands and made a version that looked like Joe was wearing fingerless gloves.  Usually, I would add these onto Joes which used mostly existing tooling, so the expense of new tooled hands would not be noticed. This unique addition would also give collectors a good excuse to buy that particular figure.  I cannot remember which figure these appeared on first, but this Alpha SWAT figure was the earliest to use them.

GI Joe Astronaut Gloves

I am not a fan of the astronaut gloves made for Buzz Aldrin even if I used them on a few figures such as the Double

Duty Leopard Shield. I hated that you could see the hand on the backside, but by making them removable, you could take the uniform Jackets on and off easier.  The best astronaut gloves came on the GI Joe AT Secret of planet Xenome. In this case, the entire glove was molded and a gap left for the elastic cuff to slip into so the gloves lay over the sleeves.  My only complaint is they should have closed the fingers a touch more as that figure does not hold his gun very well, but they do look great.

Joe Gets Wired

There is one other GI Joe hand mentioned by a reader from part 1 that I have never seen.  Evidently some of the figures from the LIFE series designed by the Pawtucket design team had hands with wires in each of the fingers.  I believe the GI Joe LIFE Naval Battle of Guadalcanal is that figure.  At least in the photo they look good, but they must have been very expensive to produce.  In order to mold wires in a soft plastic part, it requires either 2 small holes on the back where pins sit in the mold to hold the wire in the middle.  This was done on many old toy bendy figures and even the Mattel Major Matt Mason and Sea Devils figures.  The only other way I know of is to insert small plastic pins into the mold which melt into the plastic that shoots around them and that is very labor intensive.  Since I do not see any holes on these hands, they might have you used that method.

GI Joe Classic Collection Knit Gloves with Trigger Finger

There was one more hand design presented but dropped. This figure was part of a set of three GI Joes from the Battle of the Bulge where would each come with a sandbag. The sandbags were sculpted in such a way that they would assemble into a short sandbag wall, which could entice collectors to buy more. The gloves, as shown on this Battle of the Bulge Spotter Concept Model were designed to be solid molded but with ribbing to look like the knitted mittens with a trigger finger as used in WWII and Korea. This set would have been very cool, but it was presented when Joe sales were slumping, and management was pushing modern figures believing modern sold better to the collectors and kids.

I am sure someone is wondering about why I have not discussed the issue of any backward fingernails since, no matter what Hasbro claimed, it looked like a complete mistake that someone did not notice until it was too late. Then later made up a story to cover their rears. As a toy industry professional, I can tell you this happens more than you would think.

If you did not see any of the GI Joe hand variations, check out part 1 of this post.  If it is not there, and I forgot one, please post it in the comments!

What is your LEAST favorite 1/6th scale action figure hand?

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      • Ah, see? I like the vintage hands, because of how they can shoulder a rifle.

    • The best hands for holding a rifle were the Gung Ho grip on the super articulated figures. Yes, the HOF and standard Classic Collection hands were terrible at that.

      • I never had any of those… I would imagine bendy hands would work well for shouldering a rifle as well. Yep. Not too bad at all! (I’m curious how good the Joe bendy hands would be, but I never saw one of them either)

  1. One I didnt see was the gungho grip with the spring that keeps them closed tighter. There was one figure with the fingerless glove gungho grip hands and I think at least one figure with regular bare handed gungho grip hands with spring action.

  2. Jack, I never saw the hands you describe on a GI Joe. I remember in the 1970s that Ken and Barbie had an opposable thumb with springs to hold accessories. If you find one, please most more information on that.

  3. Cotswold does hand called action hands that are like the kung fu grip hands . I try to change any crappy hands for these cuz their cheap but work well but , I find that gi joes are the hardest hands to remove . do you have any tips for removal greg ? also your articles just get better n better .

    • I am glad you are enjoying the articles! Thank you for the feedback.

      Yes, I have removed hundreds of Joe hands and heads. Here is the method I prefer. 1) take a glass 1-cup measuring cup mostly full with water. 2) put it in the microwave about 1 to 2 minutes depending upon your machine (hot enough to form bubbles on the glass wall but not boil) 3) If it is his hands you want off, put his hands over his head and leave him dunking upside down in the water for about 1 minute. (At this point I usually ask him questions about his HQ location or field strength but Joe only gives me his rank and serial number). 4) gloves are helpful for the next step 5) for heads, they should be very squishy now and are easy to pop off but hot. make sure to dump out any excess water before putting it onto another body and get it reseated properly before it cools. Sometimes Joe’s head is squished in when you replace it but that will go away when it cools. If it still persists, dunk him again for a minute with squished head still on to let it equalize. 6) for hands, I carefully use a needle nose pliers and pull at the wrist pin or the PVC will rip out. The forearms are now soft enough to pull those pins out. 7) if you are putting on a new head, make sure the head fills up with water so all of it gets hot. If you are good at balancing, and bend Joe’s elbows, you can put his arms in and his head at the same time. Enjoy!

      • hey greg , thank you so much for responding . I will def try that . have you tried any of the Cotswold hands ? also , I just want to say how much I admire your knowledge and passion for gi joe . it gives me inspiration to keep collecting . lately I have been working on johnny west figures . but , I just bought a joe capsule and i’m working on an astronaught with weapons . i’ll send u some pics when i’m through .also I just finished a James west figure using a sam cobra body and a cap. Maddox head . I took a battle gear toys derringer and modified it with an arrow tip and rope line I think you’d appreciate so i’ll send u a pic lol . please keep writing cuz there are many of us who really appreciate it .

  4. Steven – definitely post pix of your rearranged figures and accessories. I was always changing out my Marx heads. Later when I had enough, I made a full unit of Cavalry – all with different heads! Thank you for the encouragement to keep writing.