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The year 1996 (MCMXCVI) would have been the 15th year of the A Real American Hero brand.
Toward the end of 1995, Sgt. Savage was retired and Hasbro-Kenner made another try with 5" figures. The new line was called G.I. Joe Extreme (led by Lt. Stone), and the enemy was called S.K.A.R. (led by Iron Klaw). Figures were heavily muscled and had huge torsos. About 20 figures and 13 vehicles and playsets were produced. These forces had no connection to G.I. Joe and Cobra. The line had a two-season cartoon series and two comic miniseries, but nevertheless saw little success as a toyline. One of the comic series, intended to be "ongoing," was cancelled after four issues. The "Extreme" toys quickly made their way to clearance shelves, where some could still be found as late as 2003. The line was even rejected, perhaps most strongly, by G.I. Joe's most die-hard fans, who compared G.I. Joe Extreme line to the notorious Star Wars Holiday Special (which was so bad that creator George Lucas for a time denied its existence).
The continuing Hall of Fame series saw greater success with its new direction. The 12" figures were given a very realistic look and were made to resemble real-life soldiers from previous wars. The classic Joe collectors were delighted to find G.I. Joe replicas of George Washington and Dwight D. Eisenhower. Small-figure fans, many of whom were in college and had little money, either experimented with the Hall of Fame line or had to content themselves with the new Star Wars figures and vehicles, which were prohibitively expensive due to the high cost of Lucasfilm licensing. As far as anyone knew, the 3 3/4" line was no more.
Eight issues of G.I. Joe comics were produced by Dark Horse this year.