G.I. Joe: Ready for Action!
The real G.I. Joe craze hit me in the summer of 1965 with the "Deep Sea Diver" set that a neighbor kid had. To this day I can't remember exactly what the allure was, but right down to the diving bell helmet, the whole deep sea diving outfit was awesome. It didn't take long before G.I. Joe started becoming my favorite thing.
First off, G.I. Joe was absolute boy culture. The way I saw it was, Joe wasn't really a doll. Even though we all knew he was a doll for guys, it wasn't like the whole doll thing at all. With G.I. Joe it was a matter of putting on accessories like ammo belts, field packs, flame throwers, and helmets to make him ready for action. He wasn't a doll being dressed up; he was a soldier being readied for action.
But as hard as I could, I could not argue the truth. Secretly I knew that all of this added up to one word: doll. No more could I laugh at girls and their Barbies. There was absolutely no distinction between Barbie's mix n' match outfits and Joe's camo fatigues or scuba suit. Dolls were dolls. The best way to think about Joe was like one of my models, and the rest is history.
I loved every single issue of G.I. Joe and dad always contributed money to me for each and every one. The accessory sets were more fun to me than the actual G.I. Joe figures. There was just too much cool stuff to imagine, such as the machine gun, sleeping bags, tents, cartridge belts, swim fins, flame throwers, and so much more. The small sets were 98 cents and the larger sets were $1.98. The supplies for these figures seemed endless, and I looked forward to picking up more and more of them as I went along. Hasbro really had it together in those days.
The smaller accessory packs were usually something like a machine gun and ammo box, or frogman mask, tanks and fins. The small packs were just as enticing, as the larger ones, except the larger sets had one big thing like a tent, or sleeping bag, accompanied by a few smaller things such as mess kits, canteens, or rifles. Sleeping bags, tents, ponchos, machine guns, cartridge belts, phones, ammo boxes, and grenades were just a fraction of the magnificent realm of G.I. Joe.
The individual action figures themselves were likewise amazing because I knew that each would have his own tremendous line of accessories to buy. The action soldier was great in his olive drab fatigues; the action marine was probably my favorite with all the camo. The action sailor would account for everything involving water, and diving below the surface, while the action pilot had really cool accessories like his jump suit, life jacket, and raft.
The G.I. Joe Deep Sea Diver
The Deep Sea Diver was the most fascinating of G.I. Joe sets that I can remember. The sea sled was a close second, but the deep sea diver was extremely cool. It was the summer of 1965 when I first became acquainted with this set. As I recall, the diving suit itself was murder to try and put on as it was rubber inside and out; it was like you needed an extra action figure just for the diver so you could leave the suit on forever. I loved how it came with a mouthpiece depth guage, and you could blow into the hose and make bubbles as he was underwater. This was definitely a bathtub toy, and I spent the longest times playing with it.
A neighbor kid had the deep sea diver and I remember wanting one so badly. I finally got it for Christmas of 1965, and I eventually bought another action figure to leave in the diving suit permanently.
One of my favorite things - weather permitting - was great to set up backyard battle scenes. Sometimes it would be a simple bivouac area with the tent, machine gun, sleeping bag, mess kit over a fake fire (I used dandelions for the fire), netting and whatever else I could think of. Setting up battle scenes were the most fun I ever had with these figures. G.I. Joe gear was my favorite part of the toy and everything was unique and utterly fascinating to me. I used to dig out machine gun nests in the backyard and stack the sandbags around them for the tripod machine gun. I loved creating my own G.I. Joe battle scenes.
The "Bivouac" set that came with the green sleeping bag, mess kit, ammo belt, and rifle was my first set. After that came the poncho, field phone, tent, etc. I just started picking up stuff little by little. I had so many of these accessory packs camo, and non-camo. Still, my favorites were always the water related gear like the Deep Sea Diverand the Sea Sled.
"My Buddy" Action Figure
A competitor Toy called The "My Buddy" action figure was a fun too, but the accessories weren't nearly as great as G.I. Joe accessories. I liked it, but after buying a few of the accessories I decided to just stick with G.I. Joe. I don't have too many memories of this figure as to how it compared with Joe, I just know it was cheaper. The accessories were just cheap plastic-almost flexible, and had very little detail and coloring.
The G.I. Joe Sea Sled
was my second favorite Joe accessory. However, the thing wouldn't work! I had to return it twice to the store. The second time, they were "out of stock" and would have to re-order, so I just kept it. My thinking was, that the third one would probably be bad too. Also, it was too big to use in the tub. The commercials made this thing look fantastic, especially with all the underwater shots and all, so I figured I could at least play with it in a backyard pool or something.
The G.I. Joe Space Capsule
My last "Big Set" adventure was with the "Space Capsule" in 1966. I don't have too many memories of this one except that it was pretty darned cool. The problem with the "big G.I. Joe" sets or toys was the fact that they were usually too big. As for the space capsule, it became extremely difficult to imagine being inone of these floating around in outer space. G.I. Joe was a solider; it was easy to mock battle scenes, beach heads, or assault hills. Floating around in outer space was different; as a kid, There just didn't seem to be anything to do out there except float!