Initially, I was going to treat Memorial Day like a regular Monday because my review backlog is really piling up of late, but none of the usual suspects seemed like a good fit. And it didn’t seem right to just skip the day either. Luckily, I thought of the perfect Joe.
I know there’s a lot of bad press revolving around G.I. Joe right now because of the delay in the movie and ramifications it could have on the franchise as a whole. I haven’t really weighed in on it because I don’t generally worry about G.I. Joe like I do other lines. While Hasbro must tread carefully at times with the franchise (and it’s definitely gone through some low periods), I don’t worry about G.I. Joe because, at its core, it’s based on a very permanent archetype: the soldier.
Pardon me, as I’m about to get a little philosophical about toys here… Some archetypes rise and fall as time goes on. Toy Story coyly pokes at how outer space replaced the wild west in the hearts of children. And science-fiction has long since replaced that simple interest in the real outer space. MOTU Classics simmers along despite a seeming lack of mass interest in its swords and sorcery core. The super-hero archetype is somewhere in the middle depending on the specifics. Hasbro makes a lot of money on robots. And Hasbro makes a lot of money on soldiers (even if they’ve occasionally made them not-soldiers).
When Hasbro brought the Joes back to the soldier archetype in the early 80s, I wasn’t quite old enough to play along. So I missed out on the earliest basic Joes like Grunt, Clutch, Steeler – the years when G.I. Joe was predominantly a bunch of green-clad soldiers with a couple slightly fancier dressed comrades. By the time I was getting Joes for birthdays and Christmas, there were orange-clad firefighters, bright red medics, and half-naked martial artists. While I cherish those guys and still love a good zombie viper to this day, I think GI Joe is at its best when it sticks near its soldier core.
My grandfather was in the Air Force and my uncles served in the Army, the Air Force, the National Guard, and the Coast Guard, but by the time I was born, all of them had served and retired, so I wasn’t exposed to the family aspects of having relatives in the military directly. It doesn’t sound right to say that I come from a military family, but I really do. One way that I have to remember that is G.I. Joe. My grandfather and uncles all encouraged my interest in GI Joe. They all had their favorites, from Cutter to Mainframe, that reflected their service. I never really thought about it at the time, but it’s always been something cool to think about since I realized it was their experiences that influenced their likes and dislikes.
I got two of my all-time favorite Joes from my uncle that had served in the Army: Footloose & Bazooka. As far as I remember, I don’t think those two ever did much together in the cartoon or the comic, but if you were like me as a kid, then you might’ve closely associated toys that you received together with one another. Martian Manhunter & Red Tornado became inexplicably linked in my Super Powers play because they were received around the same time, for example. And so, Bazooka & Footloose became two peas in a pod when I’d play with them. And since I never had the original Joes like Grunt, Footloose became my basic, de facto infantry trooper (fun fact: Larry Hama at one point suggested that Footloose be an update of Grunt!).
Footloose and Bazooka went everywhere together until something happened that gave Footloose an even more memorable role in my childhood. When I was maybe seven years old, I was playing with Footloose and Bazooka at the living room coffee table, a usual spot for Joe & Cobra battles. When dinner time came, I left the Joes at the foot of the coffee table and ate at the dining room table with my parents. When I went back, Footloose was gone!
To this day, nearly twenty-five years later, I still can’t tell you what happened to Footloose. My parents didn’t sneak away from the table to steal him (but leave Bazooka), there were no pets who could’ve absconded with one of my most treasured figures, the pesky little brother was still too small to move about under his own power. Footloose just wasn’t where I left him. My parents looked all around for him. They moved the table. They moved the couch. They checked the nearby black holes (floor vents). They questioned my recollection of events thoroughly and concluded I simply must’ve been mistaken. I know I left him at the foot of that table, but I’ll never know what happened to him. Continue to Page 2…