Updated: Mar 22, 2021
We know how America’s Movable Fighting Man was a huge success when he was first deployed in 1964. However, his effectiveness on the toy shelf started to decline a few years later; mostly due to the unpopularity of the Vietnam War. In an effort to keep GI Joe on duty, Hasbro released a less military version of GI Joe, “The Adventures of GI Joe” which would later become “The Adventure Team” in 1970. In 1969, Navy salvage “Deep Sea Diver” became “The Eight Ropes of Danger” by including a rubber octopus. The “Underwater Demolition” wet suit became the “Shark’s Surprise” by adding a scuba sled and a shark. Much of the “Australian Jungle Fighter” was repurposed by adding a raft and an alligator to become the “The Mouth of Doom.” Turning animals into villains provided an upturn in sales. It was only logical to issue GI Joe a few dog sidekicks and reuse the winter gear from the “Ski Patrol” so it could become…
The Adventures of GI Joe Polar Explorer – The Fight for Survival
This deluxe sized set came with a GI Joe, a dog sled, polar equipment and three dogs. I really appreciated that Hasbro painted the dogs differently so they would look more unique instead of just three of the same accessory. The designers made the dogs posed to look like they were pulling the sled which really added to their realism. The painting of just the tops to make them look more like huskies was a nice touch. The paint on the muzzle was nice also. It appears they were all hand painted (instead of using paint masks) as there are variations in the paint and faded edges of paint is usually a sign of an airbrush. The same dog was used (with no paint) in the Sears special “Super Adventure” which included parts from “Secret of the Mummy’s Tomb” and “Capture the Pygmy Gorilla.”
GI Joe Timeless Collection Rescue of the Lost Squadron
After GI Joe came back on duty in his Hall of Fame form with less articulation, Hasbro sold the Timeless Collection using a newly tooled copy of the vintage body. One of the big sets they sold for the Timeless Collection was the “Rescue of the Lost Squadron.” It was designed by the Pawtucket Joe designers and used a copy of the vintage sled and similar dogs. It is a great looking set in a giant window box. I remember the designer telling me that he did not want to make a straight copy of the original, so he when he found the true story the lost squadron, he thought it was a good fit. These dogs have been sculpted to look even more like they are pulling the heavy sled through the snow. There are three dogs again and they each have a different color paint scheme. These look like they were painted using spray masks and possibly some airbrush touches. I will confess that the set looked so good in the package that I never opened it to understand the full details of production.
GI Joe Fight for Survival Polar Bear Attack
Years later, the GI Joe Collector’s Club released a reimagined set under the vintage name “Fight for Survival.” For this set, they made new tooling that matched the vintage dogs. These dogs were also painted to match the vintage set closely. It was definitely a fight for survival as it came with a polar bear version of the brown Kodiak from the AT set “Kodiak Attack.” It was a good thing they did as the “Kodiak Attack” set was fully developed but never released. If I remember correctly, the club also sold separate packs of dogs and harnesses so you could attach more dogs to make it look for realistic.
GI Joe K9 Unit Tracking and Training
This was the one new dog I had the privilege to make. As part of the research, I was able to meet with a real K9 team in Fairfield, Ohio. It was arranged during a ride-along with another officer who is a Joe collector. We met at a U-store type facility where the unit would routinely walk the rows of garages. They cannot enter one without a court order, but if they walk a dog, trained to sniff drugs, down the aisles and it stops at a door to signal he found something, they then have probable cause and can then get a court order to open it. I was very careful to get every detail I could afford in the set. I had seen the training sleeves used with the dogs at the MP unit at Wright Patterson Air Force base on trip with the Boy Scouts. The one we included is as close as I could get for the scale and still keep it in soft goods. I really wanted a feature in the dog and the sleeve gave me the excuse to add the spring loaded jaw. The K9 unit dogs are trained to bite onto an attacker or someone who runs and just hold them. The sculpting team did a great job of making the jaw opening fit well. Painting it dark in that area also hid most visual discrepancies required for production engineering.
One fun note; as I always made a rough concept model first to present the idea, to make this model I used the Marx “Johnny West Flick German Shepherd” toy for the model. Later the sculpting team made a cast of the toy to use as the starting point to sculpt the Joe dog.
Hasbro Action Man Stealth Mission
The Classic Collection Adventures of GI Joe, 2010, Real American Hero and AT used quite a bit of Action Man tooled parts. It made me feel good that a few of my pieces were used for Action Man. This hard-to-find set is one of those. It is an Action Man version of a Mission Impossible type break-in, which included a figure in a climbing harness hanging from the ceiling to blow open a vault while avoiding two patrol dogs. They used the K9 tracking dogs in black with red eyes. With the spring loaded jaws, I am sure they were more of a threat.
GI JOE Bomb Disposal Battle Gear
Another dog was created for a Battle Gear set by the Pawtucket team. It was intended to augment and ship with the Bomb Disposal figure but it arrived on shelf at a different time. They created it to include the other tools often used for Explosive Ordinance teams like the heavy blanket, scanner, another bomb, a shotgun and a new dog. This is a German shepherd sculpted with its nose on the ground sniffing. It is very well done sculpted and painted.
GI Joe Search & Rescue Team
If you look at the original concept model, the original plan was to use the same dog as from the Bomb Disposal to create a less military and more civil service version of Joe. This figure came later in the timeline of the Classic Collection where the sales were softening. So the plan was to see if moving GI Joe into more Civil Service and Adventure would fix the slump (Hey! It worked before.) The color of the dog changed also. Many people do not realize that different duties use different breeds of dogs depending upon the work needed. German Shepherds are preferred for police and military police work as they can be very aggressive to achieve their tasks. Their size is also a bonus for that function. Other breeds have more acute senses of smell. In this case, we chose one of the other breeds to be more accurate and make him look less military. This version is painted white but has appropriate detail painting also.
GI Joe Mutt w-Junkyard Concept model
In the category of “I can’t believe they never did…” Why was there not a twelve inch version of a classic Real American Hero figure set “Mutt w-Junkyard?” The only disadvantage is required a different dog as the revised look was more of a pit bull rather than the original German shepherd look. We made a concept model with the two clearly as an MP team so it really straddled the Military/RAH line. Honestly, I cannot remember why this one was dropped, but is would have been great.
If you wanted an instant Mutt w-Junkyard, may I suggest the Hasbro” Action Man Crimebuster & Raid.” It sure looks like the famous duo. In this set, the dog has an electronic growling feature. The button is cleverly hidden as a detail in the collar. We looked at adding this into Joe but it was just a touch cartoony looking for most of us.
To be sure to catch part two of this article, Just scroll down to the bottom of this page to where it says “SIGN UP FOR NOTIFICATION”. You can add your name and email address, then click “SUBSCRIBE”. However, you also need to reply to an email confirming you really want to be a subscriber. Sometimes they get stuck in spam filters.
There are more dogs to Joe discuss, more Action Man dogs, and another dog that made it to concept model but did not ship.
Did you name any of your 1/6th scale dogs?