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The official art for 1986.

The year 1986 (MCMLXXXVI) is the fifth year of the A Real American Hero brand.


In accordance with the science-fiction plots in the cartoon, the G.I. Joe toyline took on a decidedly futuristic look in 1986. Figures sported more colorful designs, and the vehicles began looking less and less like military vehicles in use today. Fans reacted positively to the changes in leadership: Hawk was re-issued on card and thus introduced into the cartoon series, and Cobra had a new, more dangerous leader, Serpentor. The 1984 toys were being phased out, necessitating more replacements. Those so intended included: Beach Head for Stalker, Dial-Tone for Breaker, Iceberg for Snow Job, Leatherneck for Gung-Ho, Lifeline for Doc, a new Roadblock, Sci-Fi for Flash, Wet-Suit for Torpedo, and Vipers for Cobra Troopers. Each team got a new main tank and a new plane. In addition, the Joes were given a new helicopter, and Cobra finally had a headquarters generally available. The introduction of Dr. Mindbender relieved Cobra of the necessity of kidnapping scientists in plot after plot. Cobra troops began following the pattern set by 1985's Tele-Vipers and carried the word "Viper" in their code names. Finally, the first of G.I. Joe's special forces, the Special Mission: Brazil team, was released as a Toys "Я" Us exclusive.

Three changes were made to G.I. Joe packaging in 1986. First, the G.I. Joe logo was given a new 3D design. Second, character art was surrounded by a computer-graphic-style explosion rather than a more natural-looking one. Third, filecards were printed with a gray background, and code names were printed on top with boldface, with assignments relegated to the smaller print. The 1985 filecards (plus Storm Shadow and the Dreadnoks) were updated to reflect this change, though re-released mail-order figures retained the yellow backing and less prominent code name placement. Some figures packaged in 1986 came with body transfer decals, essentially temporary tattoos of G.I. Joe characters. The year ended with over 100 figures and over 90 pieces of equipment available.

The new cartoon season retained a few favorites from the first season but focused heavily on the new characters. Most of the new Joes got an episode pretty much to themselves, and the plots were designed to prepare the viewer for G.I. Joe: The Movie. Writers Buzz Dixon and Ron Friedman have recounted that the movie developed largely around Hasbro's insistence on a new leader for Cobra. When told that such a change would require that Cobra "build" a leader from scratch or else be found to answer to a higher, secretive authority, Hasbro encouraged both plot points. The writers chose to begin the second season with a 5-part miniseries focusing on the creation of Serpentor, with answers to be revealed in the following year's theatrical release. Intervening episodes would focus on the friction between Serpentor (supported by Destro and Dr. Mindbender) and the increasingly daring Cobra Commander. The introduction of Serpentor also caused ripples for the comic series, whose issue #50, "The Battle of Springfield," featured more Joes and Cobras than any other single Marvel issue. Joe's success allowed for spinoff titles this year, most importantly a series of Special Missions that would run for 28 bi-monthly issues.

The official 1986 art is perhaps the most commonly seen, since merchandising was at its peak this year. As a snake looks on from a tree, Mainframe, Low-Light, Sci-Fi, Dial-Tone, Wet-Suit, Lifeline, Beach Head, and Hawk charge toward advancing Cobras. Roadblock swings on a vine, Leatherneck is on a Recon Sled, and Crimson Guards, a B.A.T. and a Viper are visible in the distance. A child with walking stick and green backpack is inserted into the picture for the sake of the "Live the Adventure" motif.


Carded figures

G.I. Joe Team



Non-Carded figures

G.I. Joe Team




G.I. Joe Team




Mailaway offers

  • Attention! Special Offers!
This brochure was included with the "free" Sgt. Slaughters, which began arriving around January 1986. Slaughter is pictured addressing recruits. The box art for vehicles is pictured in the brochure, along with detailed descriptions somewhat more "enthusiastic" than those in the catalog. Each was available for a price, and that price was reduced if Flag Points were included (e.g., the H.I.S.S. was sold for $7.00 or for $4.00 and 4 Flag Points). The Joe and Cobra vehicles, respectively, could be purchased as sets for a further reduced price.
Equipment Available: Wolverine, Sky Hawk, Slugger; HISS, Water Moccasin.
  • Missions
Included with vehicles sold in early 1986.
Figures Available: 1984 Cobra Commander.
Equipment Available: JUMP, MMS, MANTA, Polar Battle Bear, Whirlwind, Wolverine, Parachute Pack; HISS.
  • Original Adventure Team
Little-publicized mail-in offer, possibly included with the U.S.S. Flagg and Terror Drome. The figures offered could be purchased individually or as a set. These figures - all swivel-arm versions - were from 1982 or 1983. This offer provided an opportunity for collectors to fill in gaps in their collections if they began collecting G.I. Joe after it had become popular.
Figures Available: 1982 Flash, 1982 Grunt, 1982 Rock 'n Roll, 1982 Short-Fuze, 1982 Stalker, 1982 Zap, 1983 Airborne, 1983 Doc; 1982 Cobra Officer, 1983 Maj. Bludd
Equipment Available: Collectors Display Case
  • G.I. Joe S.T.R.I.K.E.
Stands For: Strategies and Tactics to Repel, Immobilize, and Knock-out the Enemy. Included with 1986 vehicles. The brochure tells the story that Hawk grows suspicious of rumors that Cobra's leadership has been challenged. Wary of an ambush, Hawk alerts his elite corps, called the S.T.R.I.K.E. Force. In this offer, Flag Points were required to purchase the figures and vehicles.
Figures Available: 1984 Cobra Commander.
Equipment Available: APC, MANTA, PAC/RATs, Polar Battle Bear, Wolverine, Parachute Pack, Sky Hawk, Slugger; FANG, HISS, ASP, Stinger, Water Moccasin.
  • G.I. Joe Troops, You're Doomed to Defeat!
First mail-order brochure devoted to Cobra. Included with Cobra vehicles in 1986.
Figures Available: 1982 Cobra Officer, 1983 Maj. Bludd, 1984 Cobra Commander.
Equipment Available: FANG, HISS, ASP, Stinger, Water Moccasin.
  • Get a Free "Fridge"
Free (plus shipping) in exchange for five inserts included with figures in late 1986 and early 1987. Figures began arriving in January. A commercial was aired in early 1987 to advertise the figure.
  • Unknown Offer
Filecards for the 1982 vehicle drivers Clutch, Grand Slam, and Hawk have been spotted with a red, glossy backing, which characterizes figures received by mail from Hasbro Direct. There are also indications that Steeler and the 1982 Cobra Commander were available by mail some time in the mid-1980s. This suggests a mail-in offer otherwise unknown to collectors. Speculation is that this offer may have been issued to those who ordered the "Original Adventure Team" in 1986. If so, then the entire original team was available by mail in 1986 except for Breaker, Scarlett, and Snake Eyes.
Figures Available: 1982 Clutch, 1982 Grand Slam, 1982 Hawk, 1982 Steeler; 1982 Cobra Commander.
Equipment Available: None?


Issues 43 - 54 of the Marvel Comics series came out this year, as did the second Yearbook and the first two issues of Special Missions.

See detailed information here.


Animated commercials for issues 47, 49, 51 and 54 of Marvel's G.I. Joe comic were produced, with much of the footage recycled for toy commercials.

30 half-hour episodes debuted this year.

See detailed information here.

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