The difference between Joes in the 1990s and 2000s

8 Ways the Early 2000s Era of GI Joe Is Underrated

There have been plen­ty of iter­a­tions of GI Joe action fig­ures through­out the years, with the newest being the 6” Clas­si­fied line.  While some ver­sions are high­ly regard­ed, such as the A Real Amer­i­can Hero line of the 1980s-90s, oth­ers are not looked on fond­ly by the Joe community.

One of those maligned iter­a­tions was the GI Joe vs. Cobra/SpyTroops/Valor vs. Ven­om era of the ear­ly 2000s.  Some of the crit­i­cism is jus­ti­fied — the pro­por­tions were often hor­ren­dous, paint appli­ca­tions were some­times soft, and many fig­ures looked down­right janky — but this line also had many pos­i­tive qual­i­ties that get over­looked today.  Here are 8 ways GI Joe of the ear­ly aughts kicked ass:

Note: All pic­tures belong to Justin Bell unless not­ed. Check out his site,, for excel­lent GI Joe-relat­ed news and reviews!

Bet­ter Artic­u­la­tion: The begin­ning of this era was a step back for a brand that prid­ed itself on artic­u­la­tion that went beyond the pale, but just like the orig­i­nal 3 ¾” line in the ‘80s, Has­bro found ways to inno­vate the designs to allow for more artic­u­la­tion than ever before.  Swiv­el wrists were intro­duced, as were artic­u­lat­ed ankles.  B.A.T.s were giv­en dif­fer­ent joints in the elbows that made them look more robot­ic than ever. 

2002 B.A.T.S. were pretty cool.
2002 B.A.T.s were pret­ty cool.

Towards the end of the line, riv­et­less, injec­tion-mold­ed shoul­ders were intro­duced, giv­ing a stream­lined look to the arms, and ball-joint­ed necks also made its intro­duc­tion, both of which car­ried over to the 25th anniver­sary line. 

Riv­et­less shoul­ders ftw

The Acces­sories: This era of GI Joe also made strides with acces­sories. Webgear, capes, ghillie suits, belts and oth­er wear­able acces­sories became more com­mon­place, allow­ing char­ac­ters to eas­i­ly change or mix-and-match looks.

Good luck find­ing these guys in the grass…

Fur­ther­more, fig­ures began com­ing with work­ing hol­sters, allow­ing them to car­ry their weapons on their body. That’s a pret­ty big step for­ward!  And there were instances of Has­bro putting a lot of thought into new weapons, such as Road­block’s mini­gun with detach­able han­dle and ammo box…

the B.A.T. back­pack that held all of his acces­sories (includ­ing an awe­some sword arm), Wide Scope’s riot shield and Slash’s cool dou­ble sword.

The sword splits into two swords, He-Man style!

While many acces­sories were reused and mold­ed in a sin­gle col­or (almost always black), there were also instances of paint apps being used for acces­sories, and I can’t think of a sin­gle instance where a gun was flu­o­res­cent orange…

The Reis­sues: The ear­ly 2000s was actu­al­ly a pret­ty good time to be a GI Joe col­lec­tor.  If you want­ed new stuff, you got new stuff, but if you want­ed reis­sues of old fig­ures, you got that too.  There were con­tin­u­a­tions of Tiger Force, Night Force and Python Patrol subsets…

Python Patrol!

…as well as new themes includ­ing desert patrols, urban strike forces, and, of course, nin­jas. There were also 3 packs of clas­sic fig­ures with new­ly sculpt­ed heads (with… vary­ing degrees of suc­cess…) and fan-favorite char­ac­ters made into fig­ures for the first time, like mem­bers of the Octo­ber Guard and Kwinn. 

Hor­ror Show of the Octo­ber Guard

Last­ly, there were fig­ures giv­en new life with repaints that blew the old ver­sions away.  Shock Vipers, Fast Blast Vipers, Alley Vipers, Shad­ow Vipers, and Sub Vipers were all repaint­ed fig­ures that helped peo­ple gain an appre­ci­a­tion for the molds that were degrad­ed with bad (usu­al­ly neon) col­or schemes. 

Who wore it bet­ter? Image from

The Col­ors: Now that I think about it, most of this era’s col­or choic­es were pret­ty spot-on…

Re-imag­in­ing of Old Char­ac­ters: This is where I think this era deserves the most cred­it.  Unlike the lat­er GI Joe lines, the ear­ly 2000s line was not afraid to go into very dif­fer­ent direc­tions with estab­lished char­ac­ters.  Some of these new takes didn’t work, but you’d be sur­prised by how many did!  We got a ver­sion of Tor­pe­do that blew the pre­vi­ous ver­sion out of the water (excuse the pun…). 

1000x bet­ter than the orig­i­nal Torpedo.

We got cool new looks for Blow­torch, Air­borne, Nunchuck, Heavy Duty, Destro

A Destro that doesn’t look like he raid­ed his mother’s clos­et? Yes, please!

Storm Shad­ow, Rip­per, Torch


…and Gung Ho

I know which one I like better…

…that could be argued are bet­ter than the orig­i­nals — or any oth­er ver­sion, for that mat­ter.  It took Has­bro over 20 tries to improve on this ver­sion of Snake Eyes

One of the 10 best Snake Eyes. That may not sound like much, but…

…and this ver­sion of Ship­wreck has been adopt­ed as the pre­ferred look for the character. 

Image from, con­tributed by Nick Zurowski

The Has­bro design­ers weren’t afraid of chang­ing up the for­mu­la and updat­ing looks for char­ac­ters that were already ~20 years old, and they deserve cred­it for hav­ing the courage to do it in the face of a fan­base reluc­tant to change.

Cre­at­ing New Char­ac­ters: This is the oth­er area where Has­bro deserves major cred­it.  Instead of going to the same char­ac­ters again and again and again (in the case of Snake Eyes, 68 times and count­ing…), Has­bro did a pret­ty impres­sive job of mix­ing in brand new char­ac­ters with more estab­lished ones.  This era intro­duced us to Kamaku­ra, Dart, Cross Hair

Cross Hair

Bar­rel Roll, Depth Charge, Wide Scope, Hard Dri­ve, Switch Gears, Agent Faces, and many oth­er new Joes.  They also gave us a new female char­ac­ter for the first time in ~15 years with Bomb­strike, who was, with­out a doubt, the best sculpt­ed female fig­ure cre­at­ed up to that point.  They also filled out the ranks of Cobra, intro­duc­ing us to both new troop­ers and Cobra com­mand.  We got Neo-Vipers, Pit Vipers, Sand Vipers, Swamp Rats, Snow Wolves, Cobra Coils

Cobra Coils

Razor Troop­ers, and (my per­son­al favorite) Heavy Water to army build.  What is more impres­sive is that they filled out Cobra com­mand with char­ac­ters that filled obvi­ous holes, such as sniper (Black Out), medic (Scalpel)…


and, uh, squeez­er (Coil Crush­er). And, for my mon­ey, Ven­omous Max­imus is cool­er than Ser­pen­tor ever was…

Praise Ven­omous Max­imus! This I command!

New Vehi­cles: Look­ing back, the amount of vehi­cles released dur­ing this era was sur­pris­ing.  At a glance, they released just as many vehi­cles as the A Real Amer­i­can Hero line did dur­ing their hey­day in the ‘80s.  There was a good mix of small­er vehi­cles, such as motor­cy­cles and glid­ers, and larg­er vehi­cles like air­planes, tanks and boats (includ­ing a few repaints of the awe­some 1985 Hydro­foil).  Not every vehi­cle was impres­sive (some looked… kind of chub­by and too kid-friend­ly (which is real­ly under­stand­able since toys are osten­si­bly for kids…))…

Aw! Just look at that chub­by lit­tle plane!

…but there were a num­ber of vehi­cles that tru­ly were impres­sive.  If you want real­ism, they released a line of humvees that were just as real­is­tic as any Joe vehi­cles from the ear­ly ‘80s…

Humvees come in desert, black and jun­gle camo…

…an updat­ed bat­tery-pow­ered tank in the Patri­ot Griz­zly Tank, and a real­ly cool motor-pow­ered swift­boat, the Piran­ha Attack Boat.  If you want futur­is­tic, there was the arc­tic-themed Ice Sabre

Ice Sabre

…the Sting Raider sub, and real­ly bad-ass mechs, some­thing I had always want­ed with my Joes.

GI Joe meets Exo-Squad…

Then there were the big boys, the R.O.C.C. and the R.H.I.N.O. And, final­ly, there was the Night Adder, a snake-themed Cobra plane and an updat­ed H.I.S.S. tank, that looks ridicu­lous in all the right ways. 

A fight­er plane that looks like a snake. It doesn’t get any more Cobra than that…

Again, I am shocked at how many good vehi­cles there are from this era.

GI Joe Was Back: I don’t know about you, but I was pret­ty ecsta­t­ic when GI Joe came back in the ear­ly 2000s.  It was gone from store shelves and pub­lic con­scious­ness for ~7 years, and it is a nice feel­ing when some­thing that meant so much when I was a kid can still reach peo­ple today.  I played with these fig­ures with my nephews, and had a great time.  It brought the prop­er­ty back into the pub­lic eye, with every­thing from McDonald’s Hap­py Meals to direct-to-video movies (the less said about those the bet­ter…).  It was a suc­cess in spite of no pop­u­lar car­toons or com­mer­cials that GI Joe in its hey­day enjoyed, and I’m sure its suc­cess was a major fac­tor in future releas­es, such as Sig­ma Six (com­plete with car­toon), the 25th Anniver­sary reboot, and the 6” line com­ing out now.  In short, any­time GI Joe comes back and proves itself is a rea­son to cel­e­brate.  Yo Joe.