The official art for 1988.

The year 1988 (MCMLXXXVIII) is the seventh year of the A Real American Hero brand.


The year 1988 saw the largest release of G.I. Joe toys prior to 1993. Forty-five figures and 42 vehicles were released. There was a mix of traditional and futuristic looks, with many new figures, but also many recognizable faces. Special forces multiplied this year: Battle Force 2000 started the year off with its own vehicles. Destro split off from Cobra and formed his own army, the Iron Grenadiers. In late summer, Toys "Я" Us carried its own exclusive mission team, Night Force, consisting of repainted figures from the previous year, as well as several vehicles repainted black with orange highlights. Toward the end of the year, the Tiger Force was released, featuring nine repainted Joes and one original one, with several "Tiger" vehicles and a distinctive paint scheme. Some inequities were balanced out in 1988; Cobra got a space vehicle and an astronaut, and the Joes got a new plane to fight the Mamba. The action pack trend continued, as well as the practice of releasing a heavy-duty mail-order exclusive figure (this time not an actual celebrity). Many figures packaged in 1988 and early 1989 came with small tubes of camouflage paint.

There may have been some last-minute changes with the figures' accessories. Quite a few of them are different, or a different color, than those pictured in 1988's catalog. There was also a change in the figures and equipment that would constitute Tiger Force. Wild Bill was originally to pilot the Tiger Fly, a repainted Skystriker was planned and eventually replaced by the Rattler, and there was also to be a Tiger Force Rip Cord and Sabretooth, a repaint of Firefly. (Such a repaint, named Wreckage, was released in 2003.) In addition, Tripwire, Duke, and Flint were absent from the prototype photos.

Without the cartoon, the comic dictated the path of the toys. Consequently, the new Storm Shadow was now a Joe. (He had long since switched sides in Marvel's comic series), and Serpentor was nowhere to be found. (He was killed in this year's issue #76.) The Iron Grenadiers and a Cobra civil war dominated the comic story. Commercials continued the "Nobody Beats G.I. Joe" tagline and music, and the sketchpad animation continued, though some spectacular cartoon animation appeared in the ads. Commercials this year began drastically de-emphasizing the children who were playing with the toys, perhaps for reasons of musical continuity (or else to save money). The official 1988 art, seen on the catalog cover and elsewhere, was again impressive: the Rolling Thunder (that year's giant vehicle) fending off an attack by a Bugg and an Imp. Also featured are the Stellar Stiletto, Phantom X-19, Skystorm, and Mean Dog. Characters visible include Outback, Hardball, Muskrat, Repeater, and Spearhead. By the year's end, there were nearly 200 different G.I. Joe figures in existence, with about 160 vehicles and accessories.


Carded figures

G.I. Joe Team



Iron Grenadiers

Non-Carded figures

G.I. Joe Team


Iron Grenadiers


G.I. Joe Team


Iron Grenadiers


Mailaway offers

  • Operation: Single-Handed
A mini-comic Included with 1988's figures, in which several Joes are amazed at a new Joe's combat abilities. This "Super Trooper" was available free with four proofs of purchase and $1.00 for shipping. Interestingly, the (poorly drawn) comic features red-masked Cobra Troopers, rather than more recent enemies. Chuckles, Falcon, Fast-Draw, and Psyche-Out are among Super Trooper's admirers. Hawk is pictured with blond hair.
  • Special Assignment: North Atlantic
Mailed to households on Hasbro Direct's mailing list. Cobra has taken over a small North Atlantic island in order to disrupt shipping. Introduced a new special mission drivers set and the six battlefield accessories from 1984 and 1985, also sold as a set.
Figures Available: Figures Available: Steeler, Ace, 1985 Bazooka, Keel-Haul, 1986/I Sgt. Slaughter, The Fridge, Steel Brigade; 1984 Cobra Commander, Tomax, Xamot, Lamprey, Motor Viper, Serpentor (with Air Chariot), Strato-Viper.
Equipment Available: Polar Battle Bear, Machine Gun Defense Unit, Missile Defense Unit, Mortar Defense Unit, Ammo Dump, Forward Observer, Devilfish, LCV Recon Sled; FANG, HISS, Ferret, Rifle Range, Air Chariot (with Serpentor).
  • Is This the End of Sergeant Slaughter?
Included with vehicles in 1988. Cobra Commander and Major Bludd have captured Sgt. Slaughter, and several Joe vehicle drivers are pinned down in Northern China. The HISS and Stinger Drivers are mislabeled in the brochure. In addition to the regular figures and vehicles, the offer also featured an 8" Sgt. Slaughter wrestling figure.
Figures Available: Thunder, 1985 Bazooka, Crankcase, 1985 Frostbite, 1986/I Sgt. Slaughter, The Fridge; Cobra Officer, Maj. Bludd, HISS Driver, Copperhead, Stinger Driver, 1984 Cobra Commander.
Equipment Available: Parachute Pack, AWE Striker, Snow Cat, Devilfish, LCV Recon Sled; Ferret.
  • Capture the Excitement!
Included with vehicles in 1988; possibly mailed to those on Hasbro Direct's mailing list. Cobra is corrupting heavy metal music with subliminal messages, turning law-abiding citizens into criminals. Sgt. Slaughter is heading up "Operation: Headbanger" to stop Cobra. The HISS and Singer Drivers are again mislabeled, and the 8" Slaughter wrestling figure is visible on the cover but not available through this offer.
Figures Available: Thunder, 1985 Bazooka, Crankcase, 1985 Frostbite, 1986/I Sgt. Slaughter, The Fridge, Starduster; HISS Driver, Copperhead, Stinger Driver.
Equipment Available: APC, Pocket Patrol Pack, Parachute Pack, Air Defense, Check Point, Devilfish, LCV Recon Sled; Cobra Bunker.
  • Now, You Can Be the Next Joe!
Flyer mailed from Hasbro Direct; also a full-page advertisement in comics and magazines. Advertises the Steel Brigade figure; most of the flyer is taken up by the order form. Such offers appeared continuously until 1993.


Issues 67 - 81 of the Marvel Comics series came out this year, as did the fourth and final Yearbook and issues 9 - 16 of Special Missions.

See detailed information here.


Animated commercials for issues 72, 74 and 80 of Marvel's G.I. Joe comic were produced, with much of the footage recycled for toy commercials, but there was no animated series this year.