Are you ready for some badass new G.I. Joe figures?
Last month, the Hasbro team made its return to Comic-Con International: San Diego (SDCC) with a look at new toys and collectibles from several of its top brands. With SDCC sidelined for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the G.I. Joe Classified Series never got to have a proper push in San Diego following its launch in 2020. That is, until now.
This year, G.I. Joe Product Design Director Lenny Panzica and Associate Brand Manager Emily Bader made up for lost time with an in-person panel that dropped the curtain on a host of new products, including some name-only pipeline reveals, upcoming figures in production, and new characters that are in “super early development.”
The Pop Insider recently caught up with Panzica and Bader for another roundtable discussion for updates on what’s new in the world of G.I. Joe, including word that Big Ben and the Range Vipers will join the Classified Series down the line.
The SDCC Reveals:
Recapping SDCC, Lowlight is coming to the Classified Series alongside a new vehicle: a Cobra Trouble Bubble with Tele Viper. The Walmart exclusive Retro Cardback Classified Series will see Snake Eyes and a Crimson Guard member join the fold in the months ahead. Rock ‘N Roll, Torpedo, Copperhead, and Shipwreck (with Polly, of course) are in early development.
One piece of news that scored immediate social buzz is that Serpentor is finally joining the Classified Series as a Hasbro Pulse Con exclusive. The figure will come in a deluxe box that matches the size of the SDCC-exclusive Dr. Mindbender figure that was issued this summer.
Additionally, for anyone that still doubts whether or not G.I. Joe is geared toward kids or collectors, the answer remains: G.I. Joe is for everyone. Amulet Books, an imprint of Abrams, just released G.I. Joe Classified Book One, the first in a series aimed at middle school readers and shown at SDCC.
The Future of Vehicles:
With a couple of motorcycles already in the Classified fleet and the pending release of Serpentor’s Air Chariot and a Trouble Bubble on the horizon, could the Hasbro team have finally found the sweet spot in terms of size and price for Classified Series vehicles that are more reasonable in scale than the giant H.I.S.S. Tank?
“We want to get into different scales of vehicles,” Panzica says. “We’re getting into the 2024 line and studying what we can do at different price points and what we can do with what we have, and how we can serve the collector.”
Bader offers a reminder that the HasLab G.I. Joe Classified Series Cobra H.I.S.S. Tank is like the Rolls-Royce of vehicles and not indicative of the norm.
“HasLab is the dream iteration — what we can absolutely do,” she says. “All the bells and whistles. It’s gorgeous right out of the box without a ton of decals that have to be applied. Not all of the vehicles we are going to do are that high-end, so don’t expect a $300 price tag down the line.”
One big factor that the team is considering is scale within the line.
“The 3.74-inch G.I. Joe A.W.E. Striker and Cobra H.I.S.S. Tank are the same sizes, which is kinda weird,” Bader says. According to Panzica, “adding realism to the 6-inch scale” is of paramount importance, and the scale of different vehicles will be a part of that going forward.
The Business of ‘Joe
It’s no secret that product availability has been a major issue of the past two years, and it’s not just toys — it’s everything. We’ve seen the tide change from too little to too much product and it’s popped up en masse in select locations while others are a veritable ‘Joe desert. Bader says that the “horrendous supply chain issues” that have impacted the G.I. Joe line are starting to normalize, but that the small team is still learning every day.
“We made three times more Dr. Mindbender figures for SDCC than we did the Color Changing Zartan last year,” she says. Spoiler alert: The good doctor still sold out.
Troop builders are also very important to the brand and Hasbro continues to produce more quantity for potential troop builders as they’ve noted that collectors range from those who buy one or a handful to those who buy “somewhere between 10 and 30” of each figure.
While Hasbro did issue a recent clarification on how collector-focused products might be affected by the company’s plastic-free packaging initiatives, questions still remain, particularly regarding plastic bubbles.
Previously, it was said that carded, retro G.I. Joe products with plastic bubbles were winding down, but the recent announcement states that plastic bubbles will remain for select lines as they’re already made using sustainable materials. For G.I. Joe, this means that plastic bubbles could return in 2024.
Additionally, Bader noted that “specialty toy retailers are getting very specific on the size and packaging dimensions of what they want to carry” and that “retailers are pushing back about box size.”
With a recent uptick in toys that have a genuine “holiday” flair, I threw a curveball to the team and asked if a G.I. Joe Holiday Collection would be off the table. After all, Hasbro is already doing Halloween Star Wars figures this season after years of doing festive versions of characters from a galaxy far, far away. And back in 1996, they did a “Home For the Holidays Soldier” G.I. Joe that was a throwback to the original ‘Joes of the 1960s.
“Personally, nothing is off the table — I would love to do G.I. Joe in Halloween costumes or holiday sweaters,” Bader says. “Profit Director Destro needs a picture of himself with flaming money on his sweater!”
As for Panzica, he might be up for the challenge as new costumes for the members of G.I. Joe and Cobra are a tradition that often unfolds in unique “mission” series efforts.
“This is why I love G.I. Joe — the missions,” he says. It’s fashion design. It’s toy design. It’s badassery.”
We couldn’t agree more!