The year 1990 (MCMXC) is the ninth year of the A Real American Hero brand.
When 1990 arrived, it brought a selection of toys quite different from those of the previous two years. Gone were the countless repaints, and while the Iron Grenadiers would receive two more figures and a vehicle, none of the other special mission teams would be expanded this year. Nearly all the figures and vehicles in the 1990 assortment were original. The only exception was the Sky Patrol, a force of six figures with four repainted vehicles. The Sky Patrol figures themselves had bodies repainted from vehicle drivers, but with new heads and accessories. Overall, the originality present in this ninth year of the line was commendable and impressive. Accessories were again large and plentiful this year, and figures included plastic Command Rings with emblems of Joe and Cobra battalions. This was also the year the number of vehicles available passed 200.
Changes were beginning to take place behind the scenes which would alter the direction of G.I. Joe. First of all, in response to fans of the original 12" G.I. Joes, there was a concerted effort to revive a line of figures in that original size. The first fruits of this effort would be the "Hall of Fame" series that began in 1991. Secondly, the creators decided to target a younger age group. The reasons for this move have been hotly debated among fans. Perhaps the motive was to drive the older kids to the upcoming "Hall of Fame" toys. It could have been a move to confront the massive popularity of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which had taken toy stores by storm the previous Christmas. It might also have been related to declining Transformers sales, since that toyline had historically brought a slightly younger set of consumers. Appeals to the new target group would be obvious in the following years, through brighter colors, impossibly large weapons that really shot, more martial arts, a more positive and less "military" message, and a greater focus on favorite figures. Also considered was a smaller spacecraft for the Joe Team (which had only the two large shuttles). The Phi Star Space Cruiser was scrapped in the early stages of production.
In September 1990, DIC Entertainment premiered a new G.I. Joe cartoon series, with all-new voices, animation styles, music, and plot devices. The break with the old was clear from the fact that even "familiar faces" such as Lady Jaye and Zarana were given new uniforms when appearing on the cartoon. The younger target group was obvious in the 19 episodes, with less subtle humor, simpler animation, and less complex plots. The villains (and sometimes the heroes) were all played for laughs to an extent not even Cobra Commander had ever been subject to, and some episodes had a heavy-handed "pro-social" quality reminiscent of Cobra's own programming in the old-series episode, "The Wrong Stuff." Some concepts, such as a Joe vs. Cobra football game, an amorous gorilla, and a plot centering around General Hawk's favorite cookies, were in the eyes of more traditional fans simply indefensible. One good point about the series was that it gave viewers a look at the next year's figure assortment rather than lagging nine months behind as the Sunbow series had. Probably the best episode of this season was "The Mind Mangler," which focused on Sky Patrol and developed the characters rather well. Meanwhile, the comic picked up speed with the return of the original Cobra Commander, and sustained suspense over the fate of Scarlett, who ended the previous year in a coma.
This was the last year G.I. Joe's advertising would include Sunbow's animation; this presumably had something to do with the decision to have DIC produce the new cartoon series. Most commercials were hosted by a live-action Sgt. Slaughter and/or a cartoon Overlord. All-new music was present, with the catch-phrase, "Get G.I. Joe Tough!," forming the basis for the new series theme song. The USA cable network also created its own "Get Tough" theme song for its reruns of the old Sunbow cartoons. Toward the end of the year, toys included "Combat Pay" that could be used to buy G.I. Joe merchandise and was tied into the cartoon show through a contest. Combat Pay Vouchers were good through June 30, 1991. The catalog art for 1990 was simply the G.I. Joe logo against a blue-black background.
G.I. Joe Team
G.I. Joe Team
G.I. Joe Team
- Stop Cobra in Their Tracks!
- Cobra is conducting espionage in the Persian Gulf, and Jinx has been dispatched to foil Cobra's plans. The only time the Firebat and its pilot were available apart from the Terror Drome.
- Figures Available: 1987 Jinx; 1985 Lamprey, 1986 AVAC (with Firebat).
- Equipment Available: Firebat (with AVAC).
- The Incredible Shrinking Joes
- Included with vehicles in 1990. Destro has concocted a formula to shrink an entire city and has also shrunk G.I. Joe team members. Ace breaks into the lab to discover that the Cobras themselves have shrunk. The offer focused on the Micro Figures, available only as a set, and also offered some figures and vehicles.
- Figures Available: 1983 Ace, 1985 Keel-Haul, 1987 Starduster (with PPP), 1987 Steel Brigade.
- Equipment Available: APC, Pocket Patrol Pack, FANG, Ferret.
- The G.I. Joe Bugle
- Included with vehicles in late 1990 and early 1991. Uses art reminiscent of the WW2 era. Figures and vehicles are introduced with headlined stories as in a newsletter. The FLAK is listed as the FLAC in this brochure.
- Figures Available: 1985 Bazooka, 1985 Keel-Haul; 1986 Serpentor (with Air Chariot)
- Equipment Available: FLAK, HAL, APC, Bomb Disposal, Devilfish; Stinger, Air Chariot (with Serpentor)
Issues 96 - 107 of the Marvel Comics series came out this year.
Many toy commercials continued to include animation produced by Sunbow, while DIC produced the animated series.
19 half-hour episodes of DIC Entertainment's regular series debuted this year.