Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Yo, Joe!

 I'm not sure if I've mentioned it on Cardboard History, but GI Joe played a huge part in my life. My brother introduced me to GI Joe the day after Thanksgiving in 1990, and it became one of my favorite things pretty much instantly. A LOT of my memories of that time revolve around Joes more than anything else- even cars. Even when the toyline ended in 1994, I stayed with GI Joe, through the revival in 1997, then the second revival in 2001 played a role in my life when I was going through a rough time. 

In 1991, Impel released a 200 card set for GI Joe that was based largely on the comics, which was the first comic series I ever had read to me (when I 6 years old) in consecutive order. My brother got the set for me when it was new, and I believe it was the third set I ever had completed, after 1990 Classic Monster Trucks and 1991 Marvel Universe. It may have come before Marvel Universe and be the second set I completed. At this late date there is no way to know. 

I've always loved the set (for the most part) but it had had very little of it scanned properly since I started my scanning project in 2009.  (only 48 of the 200 cards). I could not let that stand anymore, so for the past few days I've been working on scanning it. And now I have pretty much completed it, other than 5 of the "Honor Roll" subset which features characters killed off in the comics and three cards for the Corba-La characters from the 1987 movie. 

The set features an overall design concept that runs through the majority of the cards, with several subsets throughout. Here's a quick tour through each of them. 

Eco-Warriors starts off the set, and yes it's as preachy as you expect it to be. This is card #1. My copy is in poor shape and I have a better condition replacement, but I have not been able to bring myself to swap out the better examples, since these are my originals. My copy is yellowed from being stored in pages, as well as damaged from the ring of the binder and a bunch of small indentations on the front that I have no idea what caused. 
Rand & File comes next, for both GI Joe...
and Cobra, both featuring a cool camo pattern. 
Next comes the Original Team, which features the characters introduced in 1982 when GI Joe started. 

Official Battle Gear with the yellow border is 22 cards, which is the longest color based subset in the set. Most of them represent characters or uniforms introduced in the late 80s or 1990. 

Next comes a subset that has a modified image of each issue of the Special Missions comic, as well as a synopsis of each issue on the back. I find it odd where it was placed in the checklist, because not only does it come before the regular comics, it breaks up the character cards, since...

1991 Recruits comes next, with the Joes in blue and Cobra in red. 

Sonic Fighters in light green and Super Sonic Fighters in bright red are the two smallest character groupings, falling at six cards each. 
Then comes the cards for each issue of the flagship GI Joe Comic. Not every comic got a card which is surprising. 


the Honor Roll, which is based on characters that were killed off in the comics, (or were supposedly dead until they decided they were just THOUGHT to be dead because they realized they lost access to the majority of the Cobra hierarchy.  I really dislike this part of the set. I dislike the fact that they killed all of these characters off just to appease the letter writers who said it was not realistic that all the Joes always survived, or in the case of BattleForce 2000, simply because Larry Hama thought they were stupid. 
I feel when they killed all those characters is when the whole tone of the book changed, and it never really recovered or was as enjoyable after that point, even when they continued the story years later. 
Unfortunately at 25 cards this is the largest subset, and the only one to have horizontal backs.

They were particularly brutal about it too...
Although it's been a while since I've reread it, if I remember correctly the entire BattleForce 2000 was introduced and all killed off in three panels of one comic. 

Even though this was marketed as Series 1, there was never a series 2 unfortunately, and surprisingly, there were no inserts at all, even though 1991 and Impel by all rights should have had a slate of holograms. 

While researching this post (I had to check and see if there were truly no inserts or I just didn't have them) I discovered that there was a set issued in 2023 by Super7 featuring classic artwork. Even though I stopped collecting the action figures nearly 20 years ago, and I let the comic drift off about 3 years ago, I would still collect the cards if I knew where to find them. I also found out there was a sticker set about the 1987 movie made in 1989, which I had never seen before. Stickers are hard to find except very expensive on COMC but I will be keeping my eyes open for them too. 

I guess I should show a standard back too. 

Joes had green fields while Cobra had gray.

This is an example of the back of the comic cards, this one for my favorite issue of Special Missions, which takes place almost entirely in the Hudson Valley, where I live. 

The standard comic has purple backs. 


  1. Believe it or not, I have partially finished draft about GI Joe cards going right now -- for a slightly different set though. Despite Joe's being my favorite toy line as a kid, I never bought more than a pack or two from this release. Why, I do not know.

  2. Part of my childhood involved watching the GI Joe cartoon and playing with the action figures. I wish I would have collected these cards. I did end up picking up the Storm Shadow and Snake-Eyes singles for my collection though.

  3. It's pretty cool that an issue of Special Missions took place in the Hudson Valley! I didn't know that. (And knowing is half the battle.)

  4. I was big into GI Joe as a kid in the mid 80s, with many toys, but was over them by the time I started collecting cards, so never messed with these. I still have all the bio cards I cut out from the backs of the toy packaging, so in a way that was my very first card collection.