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The year 2002 (MMII) was the 20th anniversary of the A Real American Hero brand.
The beginning of America's war on terrorism, prompted by the attacks on the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon, has brought real life very close to the G.I. Joe universe. The similarities and renewed patriotism gave a boost to the popularity of the Joe phenomenon. Considering how the Gulf War influenced the names, colors, and profiles for several toys in the 1992 line, many fans expected similar influences in the years to come. On the contrary, references to terrorism have all but disappeared from Cobra's filecards. Regardless, prospects of a war with Iraq caused G.I. Joe sales to jump 63% during the last months of 2002.
An improved figure design was introduced in 2002, originally designed to replace the O-ring with a sturdier design with minimal sacrifice of articulation. These new figures would be part of a new "G.I. Joe vs. Cobra" line, with opposing figures sold in 2-packs. The change in design was likely to be a hit among younger buyers, but collectors soundly rejected the innovation. Dissatisfaction and criticism from long-time fans were nothing new, but what the design provoked was actually closer to outrage. Internet fansites led a "Save the O-ring" campaign that was highly successful. Although the first series of new figures had been produced, later waves would integrate the O-ring into the new design.
During the transition in construction, Hasbro also released repaints of G1 figures to satisfy more traditional collectors. Hasbro decided not to cancel Series 5 of the Real American Hero Collection figures, which had been delayed. Instead, these would be made available in May through special collectors' outlets (such as online stores). One of these 2-packs, Frostbite and Deep Freeze (a repainted Sub-Zero), was announced but cancelled and was apparently never produced. Another series of old-style figures saw a wider release in June, though some stores chose only to carry the newer designs.
The revised mold updates began with Series 2 in August, and later series in September and November would also occasionally include new articulation, such as swivel wrists. The few vehicles were released gradually throughout the year. Most of the new figures were established characters, and there was a lot of repainting; several characters were represented by three or four figures simultaneously in 2002. The vehicles were balanced between old and new designs. Hasbro returned to equipping its Joe products with sound effects - this time applying the technology to smaller handheld weapons. Tabs on the weapons could be fitted into slots on vehicles to sound a noise. This "Sound Attack" feature was even more unpopular than the new T-crotch figure design.
One important improvement was the return of original character art to the filecards, although figure packages still had only a generic front. Most vehicle boxes had a new showcase design that allowed the toy itself to be seen. The comicbook by Image and Devil's Due was highly successful, and the Cartoon Network aired selected reruns of the old Sunbow cartoons during the summer and again in late fall. Hasbro geared its official Joe website more to collectors' liking, and toys once again included a catalog (though a modest one) of the current products. Also beginning this year was an annual tradition of offering exclusive figures and vehicles at annual conventions. For 2002, the prized set was the Crimson Strike Team, which reintroduced the Crimson Guard to the Joe line after a 9-year absence. The convention was held June 28 to 30.
A Real American Hero Collection
G.I. Joe vs. Cobra
No animation was produced this year.