The toy history of characters in “G.I. Joe: Retaliation”

Toys can be an important merchandising tie-in for summer’s blockbuster Hollywood movies, and this summer’s G.I. Joe: Retaliation is no different. As it is based on characters which appear in Hasbro’s G.I. Joe toy line, which made its debut in its current format in 1982, toys are a focal point of the merchandising for this film.

The movie features 11 main characters — seven heroes on the G.I. Joe team and four members of their adversaries in the evil terrorist organization known as Cobra. Each of those 11 characters are represented in action figure form in the merchandising for this summer’s film. However, given that the history of G.I. Joe now dates back more than 30 years, those interested in pursuing toys of these characters might also be interested in digging into the deep and often varied stories of these characters as they have appeared in toy form throughout the decades.

Some of the characters in Retaliation have been mainstays of the G.I. Joe universe for the entire life of the property, and collecting each of their appearance in toy form will require chasing down more than five dozen different toys. Others have been rather infrequently immortalized in plastic, with as few as three different toys made of the character.

In total, pursuing every toy made of the 11 primary characters in G.I. Joe: Retaliation would lead to a collection of more than 320 action figures. Here’s a breakdown of the number of times each of the film’s 11 primary characters have shown up as toys in the last three-plus decades.

Cobra Commander
Cobra Commander is supreme leader of the terrorist organization which contains the villains in Retaliation. Hidden behind a helmet for the majority of the film, Cobra Commander is played by Luke Bracey. The Commander was one of three villains released in the very first series of G.I. Joe figures in 1982. Since then, he has appeared in action figure form 51 different times, including three times in the line of toys to support the film. However, none of the three film-line toys represents how the character appeared on screen.

Duke is the field commander of the G.I. Joe team, played (briefly) in the film by Channing Tatum. Duke first appeared in the second series of G.I. Joe figures in 1983, and has since appeared as 48 different action figures. He has one figure in the toy line to support Retaliation, but it does not represent how he appeared on screen.


Firefly is Cobra’s saboteur and demolitions specialist, and the character was played by
Ray Stevenson in Retaliation. Firefly has been represented as an action figure 26 times since the character first appeared in the third series of G.I. Joe figures in 1984, including three times in the line of toys to support the film.

Flint is a warrant officer on the G.I. Joe team, played in the film by DJ Cotrona. The character first appeared in the fourth series of G.I. Joe toys in 1985, and since then he has appeared as an action figure 20 times. He has two toys in the series supporting the Retaliation film.

General Joseph Colton
Joe Colton is the original G.I. Joe, the man from whom the team of heroes takes its name. However, he did not appear in toy form until the 13th series of G.I. Joe figures in 1994. The character is played by Bruce Willis in the film, and in total he has been represented in toy form only three times. He has one figure in the toy series supporting the film.

Jinx is a ninja affiliated with the G.I. Joe team, and the character first appeared in 1987. Played in the film by Elodie Young, the character has appeared in toy form six times under three different names — Jinx, Agent Jinx and Kim Arashikage.

Lady Jaye
Lady Jaye first appeared as a character in 1985 and is one of only a handful of female members of the G.I. Joe team. The character has been represented in toy form nine times, and was played in the film by Adrianne Palicki.

Roadblock appeared for the first time in 1983 as part of the third series of G.I. Joe toys. The main character in the Retaliation film, Roadblock was played by Duane “The Rock” Johnson. There have been 23 different versions of the Roadblock character over the years, with three in the toy line supporting the film as of this writing.

Snake Eyes
Snake Eyes is one of the 12 original G.I. Joe figures released in 1982, and has appeared in more incarnations than any other character in this property. The ninja commando, who cannot speak, was played in the film by Ray Park. Since making his first appearance, there have been 66 different Snake Eyes action figures released — including a total of six in the toy line supporting the Retaliation film.

Storm Shadow
Storm Shadow is Cobra’s ninja assassin; the character made his debut in the third series of G.I. Joe toys in 1984. Played in the film by Byun-hun Lee, Storm Shadow has appeared in toy form a total of 47 times, including three times in the toy line supporting the film.

Zartan is a master of disguise and was played by Jonathan Pryce in the film. Zartan first appeared in the third series of G.I. Joe figures in 1984, and has appeared as an action figure a total of 21 times. He has one figure in the toy line supporting the Retaliation film, but the figure does not represent how the character appeared on screen.

Interested in learning more about the hundreds of characters and thousands of action figures that make up the G.I. Joe toy line? Visit, the most complete fan-maintained encyclopedia of G.I. Joe collectables on the Internet and start your own collection today.

Today’s updates for Flipboard and Springpad

Exploring new things

Significant updates were released today for a pair of iPad apps that I have a varying degree of familiarity with – Flipboard and Springpad.

Flipboard I used for a bit when it first came out, and I liked it but preferred a more traditional text-based view of my RSS feeds that I could sort by subject. Flipboard is beautiful, and it works really well, I think, for following things like Twitter and Facebook, but it breaks down and was far less effective for things like Google Reader (which I still haven’t identified an alternative for, with Google’s announcement that it’s being unmercifully killed). So it was a fun social media browsing toy for awhile, but I never did much with it.

Springpad was introduced to me as an Evernote alternative, but it never stuck. I think part of it was that I just have too much information already in Evernote and there wasn’t a “holy crap I have to have that” feature in Springpad to get me to switch. The new version that launched today has some features I don’t recall from the first time I checked it out – mostly in the templates it offers for specific post types like checklists and contact management – so it might be worth revisiting this. I still think I’d be hard-pressed to switch away from Evernote though.

The updates to both Flipboard and Springpad today added the functionality to add what both are calling “magazines” of (UPDATE: actually, only Flipboard is calling this a “magazine”; Springpad is calling them “Embeddable Notebooks.” Thanks to Springpad VP Brian Carr for pointing this out to me!)  user-created content, but both approach the idea from different directions. As we search for ways to launch a digital version of our magazine that work with our office, any time a service like this mentions “magazine” my interest is immediately piqued. Ultimately, while the new functionality in both apps is significant, neither really match my definition of a magazine (although Springpad is closer than Flipboard).

Flipboard’s implementation essentially creates a completely custom RSS feed. I created a magazine called “College Hockey” where I dropped a couple of stories from College Hockey News, and I could easily add any other information off the web that I found and wanted to add. Flipboard users could find and subscribe to this magazine and then get anything I added to the feed pushed to their board. I could add self-generated content to Flipboard’s magazines by creating a blog post somewhere and then manually adding that page to the feed. There currently isn’t an automated way to have my magazine auto-detect new content and add it to the feed, though; every post must be added manually. For what basically amounts to a custom RSS feed, that’s somewhat of a drag. Flipboard’s implementation is, for all intents and purposes, its version of Storify – and Storify is already pretty good and has traction.

Springpad’s implementation  is essentially a shared notebook on the service. Evernote’s had shared notebooks for awhile. Like Flipboard you can add pretty much any sort of content you wish to a notebook – sharing a link or whatever content you want to put in a Springpad note – and there are templates for adding specific content like movies, music, recipes, products, checklists, events, to-do lists, contacts, etc. So you can create content and bundle it up and share it as a “magazine,” but it seems like somewhat of an odd implementation as it forces you into one of two options for storage – either using the magazine to gather content that is stored in Springpad (which is a free service without a paid upgrade option like Evernote, meaning your content is at the mercy of the survival of the parent company) or linked from elsewhere online, making it the same implementation as Flipboard’s magazines.

As I said earlier, neither of these things really fits my idea of a “magazine,” although Springpad probably comes the closest.