Famed Author & G.I. Joe Historian, John Michlig, Confirms That Hasbro’s Interest In Reviving the Original 12-Inch Version Has Always Been Low

They weren't perfect, but the "Masterpiece Edition" GIjOEs that came packaged with John Michlig and Don Levine's ground-breaking book, "GIjOE: The Story Behind the Legend," proved to be an exciting reintroduction to the GIjOE collecting hobby for thousands of fans. Unfortunately, Hasbro had little interest in the project and proved to be more of an opponent than an ally. (Photo: Vectis Auctions)

No, they weren’t perfect, but Don Levine’s “Masterpiece Edition” GIjOEs were the first Hasbro-licensed reproductions of the original 12-inch figures that fans had seen since the 12-inch line ceased production back in 1976. John Michlig’s ground-breaking book, “GIjOE: The Story Behind the Legend,” also proved to be a revealing and historic commemoration of the iconic toy. Unfortunately, Hasbro showed little interest in Michlig and Levine’s 2-part project and proved to be more of an apathetic observer than a supportive or encouraging mentor. (Photo: Vectis Auctions)

 hasbrologonewApathetic Company Forces Fans to Fend For Themselves

With all the silent stonewalling emanating from Hasbro in 2014 regarding GIjOE’s 50th and (so-called) “golden” anniversary, it should come as no surprise to fans to learn that the company’s stunning indifference to its 12-inch action figure is in actuality—nothing new. In fact, in a revealing post made just last week over on the new “50 Years of GIjOE” fan group (hosted on Facebook HERE), the renowned GIjOE author and historian, John Michlig, bluntly and forthrightly recalled the many “blank stares” he received and the surprisingly minimal interest Hasbro had in reviving what they derisively described as, an “ugly old body.” According to Michlig:

Author and GIjOE historian, John Michlig. (Photo: John Michlig)

Author, GIjOE historian and Masterpiece Edtion co-creator, John Michlig. (Photo: John Michlig)

It’s been interesting catching up with ‘Friends of GIjOE’ via groups like this on Facebook. Hasbro’s apparent attitude toward the 12-inch ‘original configuration’ GIjOE on its 50th birthday brings to mind the blank stares we received when proposing the return of the original GIjOE via the Masterpiece Edition back in the mid-90s. I naively thought it would be a no-brainer: After all, I was going in with Don Levine himself(!), who was willing to bring his reminisces to the book aspect of the project as well as his expertise to the re-creation of the tooling, etc. Instead, we heard, ‘Who wants that ugly old body?’ Hasbro really didn’t see the attraction. So, we ponied up SIX FIGURES for a license and re-tooled the original ‘ugly old body,’ and the rest is history. Of course, after we sold a whole bunch of Masterpiece Edition sets, Hasbro thought enough of the ‘old’ Joe that they introduced the Timeless Collection line.”

Don Levine interviewed on CBN (Photo: CBN)

Don Levine interviewed on CBN (Photo: CBN)

Hasbro’s (by now, almost predictable) lackadaisical attitude toward 12-inch GIjOEs has long acted as an anchor, dragging down attempts by fans like Michlig and other enthusiastic supporters. Over the years, renewed suggestions and repeated requests from collectors for Hasbro to return to its original “razors and blades” marketing concept continued to fall on deaf ears in the corporate boardroom. Fortunately, Michlig was able to recruit powerful allies, and went on to describe how he met and gained the full cooperation of creator Don Levine and many others, stating:

“The Intrepid event is where I first encountered ‘GIjOE fandom,’ and also the place where I first met Don Levine. I have a picture I took of him attending the press conference where they were announcing the new ‘Sgt Savage’ line, and he looks like a guy watching his son graduate from college. Right after I took the picture I walked up and said, ‘You had something to do with this, didn’t you?’ A LONG conversation followed.”
Former Hasbro Product Manager, Kirk Bozigian. (Photo: GIJCC)

1990s Hasbro Product Manager, Kirk Bozigian (Photo: GIJCC)

Fortunately for fans and collectors, that “long conversation” would turn into the highly prized “Masterpiece Edition” line of books and figures, which prompted renewed interest in 12-inch GIjOEs among grown men seeking to reconnect with “an old friend,” and young children who had never seen a toy quite like it before (no, we don’t count Barbie’s beau, Ken!). Michlig concluded his reminiscences by lauding another who had helped inspire the revival of 12-inch GIjOEs:

“Frankly, had it not been for Kirk Bozigian ‘on the inside’ at Hasbro—he seemed to be the only guy there who had any enthusiasm whatsoever for the concept, and was a tireless advocate—I very much doubt that the Masterpiece Edition would have gotten past the drawing board. If you have it, grab your copy of GIjOE: The Complete Story of America’s Man of Action, and look at the photos on page 12. Creating GIjOE back in the early ’60s was basically MAD MEN with toys. It’s UNBELIEVABLE to me that they aren’t celebrating the accomplishment (and risk) if not the action figure itself!” —John Michlig

Bottom Line: GIjOE fans and collectors owe a great debt of gratitude to men like Michlig, Levine and Bozigian. When faced with corporate indifference and tremendous financial hurdles, these intrepid and creative souls committed themselves and forged ahead to accomplish great deeds, helping to advance the 1:6 scale GIjOE hobby as we know (and LOVE) it today. Think about that. Without their efforts, where would GIjOE collecting be today? In closing, the ever humble Bozigian took a moment to reply to Michlig’s praise and sums it all up nicely, by saying:

“John, thanks for the shout-out, but the genius was YOURS. You had the vision of writing the definitive history of 12-inch GIjOE and your secret weapon—a replica of the action figure that started it all!”

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22 thoughts on “Famed Author & G.I. Joe Historian, John Michlig, Confirms That Hasbro’s Interest In Reviving the Original 12-Inch Version Has Always Been Low

  1. Roy Jones says:

    You know I just want to say that while these men were great we are really leaving out the first people to bring back that tired old body to the forefront. Dick and Tina at Cotswold. They were the first ones to reproduce that tired old body so that collectors seeking out that version could afford them. Plain vintage nude any condition PH GI Joe’s were selling at 50-90.00 in the early 1990’s and it was Cotswold who saw that and risked going abroad having overseas factories remake them. Then they introduced their own line of custom clothing and accessories at a cheap price via factory. I guess in part because they saw all of the wonderful stuff that customizers such as Auggie Romero were doing and selling at conventions and shows. Then a company named 21st Century bought some of the Elite Brigade items copied it and decided to mass market it selling it cheaper in big box stores like Toys R Us and Kaybee. THEN The Intrepid happened. So If you want a real evolution of how all of this started you have to go back a bit. Thank people like Auggie Romero, The People At Cotswold, 21st century etc because they were there first. I have to say and believe that Hasbro would never attempted anything if they didn’t see what was already being sold by people and companies like this. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Michlig brought these facts up when trying to get Hasbro to get on board with this. I know I would have..

  2. Keith Mayo says:

    Then we should also give James DeSimone some credit. Wasn’t he responsible for the Intrepid Con where John met Don?

    • James DeSimone DEFINITELY deserves a lot of credit and thanks for helping keep the GIjOE dream afloat—for MANY years!

    • Roy Jones says:

      James did a lot of hard work and did a lot of nice stuff for this hobby and kept it alive. There would be no replica Fighter Jets or Race Cars if not for him.

  3. hkbideas says:

    GIjOE has always been a conundrum for Hasbro. It was its first mega-brand and the source of its meteoric rise to a top tier toy company rivaling Mattel, Ideal, and Marx toys in the 1960s and early 70s. Later in the early 1980s when it was re-energized as “A Real American Hero,” it resurrected a company referred to by many in the industry as “Has-Been.”

    Joe’s success in the early 1980s allowed Stephen Hassenfeld to build the prototype of today’s modern toy company. The revenue from GIjOE enabled Hasbro to purchase Milton Bradley games, a much larger company. It was the source of funds to develop Transformers and My Little Pony. It was always the single most profitable brand within the company. Yet, despite it all, Hasbro was embarrassed about marketing a “war toy.”

    The team of designers, engineers, and marketers were the most dedicated and passionate defenders of the brand. They injected a special kind of honor into every Joe toy they worked on. Honor was the special weapon molded into each and every figure and vehicle. That all changed in 1994 when the original Joe team was disbanded and re-assigned to other minor brands. The magic was lost and GIjOE was never the same. I know all this because I was there.

  4. Wayne Faucher says:

    So much has been made of Hasbro’s lack of interest in the 50th anniversary. It’s spawned anger and I daresay, fear in many fans.

    Yes, it’s sad.

    But the only way Joe will meet his true demise is if WE lose interest. And I don’t see that happening. What I sense is a fan base seeking some kind of validation from Papa Hasbro that Joe is a great product and that we were right. We don’t need that. We know that. I’ll bet Hasbro knows that. The only problem for them is that GI JOE is not a windfall product anymore.

    WE love Joe. THEY want money. That’s the root of the frustration we fans feel. We just can’t accept that Joe’s parents don’t love him. But you see, they never did. Joe was a product and once a product stops spitting out dollars, you cease production. It’s simple.

    Joe became a big part of our lives. Not for a few years, but for our ENTIRE lives. That’s not really Hasbro’s fault. It would be great if Hasbro threw us a bone and acknowledged…What? Us? Do we need that? I don’t. Especially from someone who really doesn’t care, or who’s validation I really don’t put any value on.

    It’s ok not to care about GI Joe. Lots of people don’t. It stings a little bit that the current people at Hasbro don’t, but if we ever thought they did, we were mistaken. The point is, as long as WE do, there’s nothing to worry about.

    My 53rd birthday is in about a week. I have 6 different 12 inch figures on the way. Most are GI Joe product and (obviously) all 6 were produced as a result of Joe’s existence. Does that sound like Joe is in any danger?

    This is a great time to collect Joe. We’re missing maybe ONE item due to Hasbro’s lack of interest. You can’t force someone to join a party. You can only invite them, and if they don’t come, then enjoy yourself and realize it’s a better party because the people who are there, WANT to be…..No worries!

  5. Matthew Pak says:

    Maybe it’s time for “Aviva” to return. Aviva was Hasbro’s “low end” sister company that produced such toys as Space Academy and Snoopy toys. Mattel had a similar company called “Arco.” If Hasbro is too “ashamed” to be associated with 12 inch product maybe they could farm it out to someone who cares, let them take all the risks and enjoy the royalties.

    • VERY interesting idea, Matthew. Surely there’s a middle-size toy company out there wanting to grow bigger with well-made, strategically released “authentic GIjOE” products. Who says the national Joe club should be the only business doing that?

  6. Conner says:

    Yep, if it wasn’t for the Masterpiece Edition GIjOE I would not be a collector today. The thrill of seeing boxes and boxes of those figures on the shelf at my local Target nearly 20 yrs ago–wow, hard to believe it’s been that long–was a great feeling.

  7. Ken Davis says:

    Great article. It really puts the past 20 years into clear context and answers the question that’s lingered about Hasbro’s seeming indifference to the 12″ 1:6 scale Joes.

    Well, there was indifference, until someone came along and showed them that money could be made. Yeah, it’s the corporate thing: effort is only going to be invested when it’s seen that the effort will pay off. The sad thing is that Hasbro is locked into that strict-tunnel vision. There’s very little to NO innovation in how they market Joe. They look backwards–at the nostalgic crowd (for BOTH scales) and not forward toward those who have yet to discover Joe. Any strides forward are kind of half-assed (ala Sgt. Savage, GIjOE Extreme, Classic Collection Sigma Six, etc.) and the look forward ends up turning around to lack back as they go. The nostalgia ends up defining things over and over.

    In a way, we as collectors are part of the problem. It’s the “we know what we like” mindset. We stick with what we know, ergo: nostalgia. And so, the marketing and the growth of GIjOE remains symbiotic/parasitic,inbred. Nothing changes because everyone involved seems so reluctant to change. And changing something, IMPROVING something is so risky because golly, what if no-one likes it??

    We see this attitude all the time: the 40th anniversary sets, the Walmart Joes, now the “50th fizzle.” It starts out fine, with a grand idea, and then it gets all pussy-foot. The 40th stuff probably could have been a hit, and a bigger seller if it had been marketed in a slightly different way. Instead, someone in the chain wussed out and the bottom fell out on that line. The product was great, nothing wrong with it at all. The clamber for it was good. The stuff flew out of the stores at discount, but something in who it was seen at Hasbro or the retailers branded it a failure very, very early on.

    That speaks of no faith; of indifference to the product. Of someone more concerned about saving maybe 10,000 bucks, instead of taking a chance with a more thought-out ad campaign that could bring in $100K more in unit sales.Those Target Dukes in ’91 sold like gangbusters because they were unique and unexpected. all they had going for them was a print ad in a Target flyer. Maybe the 40th Joes needed a TV spot, maybe a broader print campaign–something that would have reached just enough new eyes to push past that sales /interest threshold.

    Maybe that is the same ballsy approach that could work today. Right NOW. But it’s really hard to pull that off when the powers-that-be don’t give a damn.

  8. Mark Henderson says:

    I remember going to Target early on a Sunday morning, their first day of release, and holding the box for the first time. It was SO much better than the 30th Anniversary figure Hasbro had put out a few years earlier, and I felt like a kid at Christmas. There were a bunch of guys my age looking at them all at the same time!

  9. Joe Mathews says:

    My Kudos to everyone at Cotswold for keeping the fire burning. I was an Adventure Team-era kid, and I have been “collecting” since I was 5 in 1974. Even as a teenager, I would buy them at garage sales and swap meets. I just always loved them!

    I had no idea there was a bigger community, until a friend of mine, Greg Scherb, told me he was exhibiting on the USS Intrepid. I went and I was floored. Then the bug really hit. First, I found out I had thousands of dollars of GIjOEs, which was nice. But my love and appreciation for what that toy meant to me and thousands like me—that was really the best moment.

    James DeSimone and I got to be pals, and I learned all about the painted hairs that I didn’t have as a kid. It has been a great ride. I go to Joelanta, because I feel the 12″ spirit there, but the Collector Club’s event is pretty much just for 3 3/4″ collectors now 😦

  10. Keith Mayo says:

    I feel that Hasbro has become like the Federal Government which taxes gasoline. Without spending a dime in it’s creation they make money off of it. Hasbro’s licensing of GIjOE to other companies works the same way. They make money without actually doing anything. There’s no way Hasbro cannot see the dollars collectors are parting with for high priced action figures, so they know there’s money to be made. Maybe all Joeheads should form a investment group to buy up stock in Hasbro to the point of having controlling interest and demand that Darryl and Kirk be put back in charge. Sort of a “Wall Street/Other People’s Money” approach.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Great article Mark. I’m still going to keep the 50th group going, I’ve encountered a lot of nice people, with a ton of passion for Joe. We can’t give up, as I said on the group, I’ll settle for a belated birthday wish!

    Thanks, Rick

  12. Rainman says:

    The Masterpiece edition was a dream come true, but it was the 30th anniversary and Cotswold that got it started for me. But wasn’t it the original intent for the 30th to be replicas of the vintage Joe, but according to some stories, Hasbro was in a rush earlier in ’91 to get the 12-inch Duke out at Target, and so they just re-used a Rob doll body of their Maxie fashion doll line? It’s strange how the text on the 30th box says they created them from the original GIjOE molds!

    • Conner says:

      Wow, it actually says that on the box? Omg, I can remember when they pulled the ME figs off the shelf because of mold and I was on a frenzy for joes. I was buying the CCs and bought the “Battle of the Bulge” from TRU. When I got him out of the box and experienced those clicky legs I took it back. GIjOE doesn’t come with clicky legs.

  13. Allen Yuen says:

    Thank you Dick and Tina at Cotswold’s… not only do they keep the vintage military line alive they are now building Adventure sets to keep things fresh and expanding. Also big thanks to those small mom and pop customizers that kept the momentum going until the lauch of 21st Century Toys, that made some great WW2, Vietnam and modern uniforms dn weapon sets and some awesome vehicles. Also appreciation to Formative Toys that evolved from very cheap figures and outfits to better articulation figures and uniforms and unique vehicles as well! Even Mattel’s 12 inch Max Steel had a good figure, interesting outfits and vehicles. All very appreciated by all 1/6 scale collectors and enthusiasts everywhere!

  14. Ceramicland says:

    John did a great job with the Masterpiece edition and book….
    That really gave Joe a new life for those of us who still remembered our old pal. Maybe the 12″ GI Joe fans that are interested in continuing the line can commission more work like the GI Joe Collector Club Exclusives items….seems worth investigating how to recreate the stuff we want that Hasbro is not interested in. Also would be great to recreate the whole AT line as well….Any feedback on Timeless Collection? They seemed to be the same mold, but odd paint color choices 😉

    Thanks again John Michlig…and great article!

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