G.I. Joe Magazine, Spring 1988!


By Shawn Robare

I’ve talked in the past about the function of pop culture as a sort of Rosetta Stone for deciphering the past.  How a picture of an Otter Pop can help unlock very specific memories of times and places, and eventually, when you string enough of these together you start to get a grasp on what it was like to live in another lifetime.  The key to this exercise is finding the objects that can transport you back, those pop culture touchstones, not just the obvious ones, but the subtle bits and pieces.  For me, the best source of these elusive treasures is advertising.  That’s one of the reasons I love it when guys like Esteban over at the Vintage space Toaster Palace spend umpteen hours going blind while scanning microfiche for ad circulars and sale notices from newspapers from all over the country, compiling all sorts of toy robot goodness.  On the outside it might seem crazy, but it’s important, even if it sounds like Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters sculpting mashed potatoes important.  It helps to weave a tapestry that acts as a portal into the past.


For me, my goldmine is old magazines.  Some reap better material than others, but all of them usually have something that shines, usually in the form of an ad, but sometimes there’s some gold in the articles as well.  Unfortunately, depending on where you live in a particular state or in the country, finding magazines from years past can be quite the hassle.  I mean, they are periodicals, and more or less designed to be disposable, so you tend to have to rely on hoarders and pack rats.  On top of that, you have to wait for them to want to part with these treasures, and even then for these people to be motivated enough to drag them to flea markets, used bookstores and to eBay.  I’ll be honest, this isn’t a very reliable group to begin with, so the chances of finding anything outside of the odd People or Life magazine is pretty rare.  In particular the kid-themed zines like Stickers, Muppet, Hot Dog, Electric Company, Dynamite, or the various movie and TV show specials.  Even rarer are the cartoon property magazines like Thundercats, Masters of the Universe, and G.I. Joe, at least in my experience.   I’ve found a handful of these, and for a fun little diversion from the Joe mini series discussion this week, yet still sort of on topic, I thought I’d break out my copy of G.I. Joe magazine from Spring 1988…





The magazine ran for at least 9 issues and the bulk of them were published quarterly in 1987 and 1988.  I have no idea how I found out about it (though it was most likely from an advert that was package with one of the vehicles), but I had a subscription during the 1987 season.   I picked this copy up at a second hand book store a few years ago.  These weren’t very big, usually only running about 30 odd pages, but back in the summer of ’87 I was completely enamored with ‘em, reading, and re-reading the articles and news.   I also clipped the covers and put them on my wall, right next to my Ralph Macchio and Lost Boys posters.


As for this issue, well it reminds me how out of touch I was getting in 1988 with the G.I. Joe franchise.  I’d pretty much stopped buying new figures at this point (probably having moved on to Micro Machines, baseball cards, and comic books), and I’m more or less unfamiliar with this crop of figures.  The last figure I remember buying at this time was the hooded Storm Shadow (who had just left Cobra to join G.I. Joe.)  I only remember Road Pig because of his striking resemblance to Sven-Ole Thorsen, that actor from the 80s that always seemed to end up as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s nemesis in movies.   Looking back on some of the file cards, I think Hasbro was really running out of steam on these characters, I mean Spearhead (the one in the driver’s seat) was a first class insurance salesman for crying out loud!





Basically these were variations on boys life magazines, with a few articles on sports, a bit of movie and television news, the odd interview and a G.I. Joe short story…





Looking back, it’s kind of weird how the magazine was set up, treating the G.I. Joe characters as if they existed (and guest edited an issue or two), but I suppose for kids this isn’t all that odd.   I don’t think I ever wrote into the magazine, but I’d be willing to bet it wasn’t for lack of trying to pen a magnum opus of a letter.  I seem to remember trying my hand at drawing a picture of a Sky Striker in a dogfight with a Cobra Rattler, but never finishing it…





I think it’s interesting that a handful of these drawings are based on the card art for the figures (in particular Falcon, and Cobra Commander in Battle Armor below.)  Though these end up looking like the more technically proficient pieces, I’m more interested in the drawings that came totally from the kid’s minds (like the friendly Nemesis Enforcer waving or Blowtorch striking a pose.)





I feel a little bad for any kids who begged their parents to pick up a subscription from the ad in this issue as there would only be three more produced at this point.   I bet those kids lamented not receiving that final unproduced issue in the Spring of 1989.  On the other hand, maybe sporting a pair of those badass G.I. Joe themed sunglasses made the pain float away.  Who knows…





Here’s an example of the type of news a boy can really use…





That’s right, look out for Crocodile Dundee II coming soon to a theater near you.   Now that I think about it, Paul Hogan’s career ended about the same time that this magazine finally died out in the winter of 1988…


Anyway, as I mentioned above, what really gets me excited about these back issues are the ads.  There were only a few really cool ones in this issue, but they’re gems.  First up is this Sunkist Fruit Snacks ad featuring the cast of the Archie comics…





Back in the 80s, the Sunkist Fruit snacks were some of my favorites, but then again, that was back when it was just them and Fruit Corners producing the original Fruit Rollups.  Now most fruit snacks are under the Betty Crocker branding, and they all sort of taste super artificial.  It’s just not the same.


Next up is another death knell, except in this case it was ringing in the end of the G1 Transformers line of toys with the release of the Pretenders figures…





Honestly, just based on this ad I would have been floored to pick some of these up at the time.   I just remember being really disappointed with them though, as they were sucky in "human mode" and not all that great as Transformers.   It reminds me though, that Nala over at Plastic Crack recently found one of these beauties mint in box while he was cleaning up his parent’s basement…


Rounding out the advertising goodness is an application for the Ernest P. Worrell Fan Club!  I don’t know about you guys, but I can freely admit to loving Jim Varney.   I grew up on the Ernest local fox affiliate commercials in Florida, and always thought he was a local sensation.  By the time Ernest Goes to Camp and the Saturday Morning show Hey Vern, It’s Ernest came along I was hooked.  Granted, the Ernest movies overstayed their welcome after the surreal Ernest Goes to Jail, but I’ll always have a special little place in my heart for the Jim Varney and his zany antics…





In this issue we also get an interview with ALF, which is odd on a couple levels. On the one hand, the magazine is sort of written from the point of view of the Joe team, so imaginary characters like Storm Shadow are writing and editing articles.  On the other, these fictional characters are interviewing ALF, not Paul Fusco (the producer, writer, and voice behind the puppet), but the character himself…











Each issue also featured a G.I. Joe short story, like Space Shuttle Spin-Out here, which typically had some pretty awful illustrations.  I think even as a kid these paintings bugged me…











It’s was probably the juxtaposition with the awesome cover art, and the really badass art on the pull out posters (see this issue’s below) that got me hating the interior art.





Finishing out the magazine are a few pages of puzzles…








…and an ad for a sister publication, Thundercats Magazine.  Though I’m sure it’s more of the same, I’ve never gotten a chance to take a gander inside one of these, so I’m kind of curious.   I wonder why there wasn’t a Transformers magazine?





Anyway, tomorrow I’ll be back with the final installment of the G.I. Joe original mini series Cartoon Commentary! column…


In the meantime here are some other articles I’ve written about magazines over the years…


Stickers Magazine Issue #7

Stickers & Stuff Magazine Issue #14

Muppet Magazine
…as well as my archive of TV Guide Fall Preview Issues

  • Paxton Holley

    Awesome! I loved mags like this growing up. I recently came across the first three issues of the Back to the Future fan club magazine. I was going to do an article about them in the next few weeks, also. Great article. Oh, and I miss the TV Guide articles. Those are some of my favorites.