I came across this intriguing photo on a forum (it apparently originated at the Fwoosh, but since they recently some problems with their forums I’ve been unable locate the original post – so if this is your image, please feel free to contact me for credit/cease and desist/etc.)
Marvel Legends figures have had sci-fi-looking guns for years and no one has made much of a fuss, but many G.I. Joe fans were disappointed to see the same guns in the 6″ G.I. Joe Classified line.
One reason for this is that the 1980s Joe line was heavy on the real-life weapons, which were often listed by name right on the packaging. And the original G.I Joe of the 1960s was essentially just a U.S. soldier. On the other hand, the 1980s Joe cartoon is famous for its use of “laser guns” that never actually hurt anyone.
In any event, times have changed, and Hasbro is changing with them. Many fans have noted Hasbro’s careful use of the word “blaster” instead of “guns” in their marketing, with staff even correcting themselves during the Hasbro Pulse live presentations on Facebook. So far, only the Hasbro Pulse-exclusive Snake Eyes has included an actual real-life weapon (an Uzi submachine gun, his signature firearm from the 1980s toys and comics).
But it turns out there’s more than meets the eye (sorry, wrong brand) to the weapons these G.I. Joe Classified figures have. Many of them are apparently based directly on some of Hasbro’s NERF guns.
Now that is some corporate synergy!
And it turns out at least one Marvel Legend figure had already come with a couple of NERF guns – the Liefeld-style Cable:
In terms of the actual designs themselves, I think they look fine. But that’s not really the issue here.
The issue–for some collectors at least, particularly diehard Joe fans–is Hasbro’s move away from real-life weapons to laser guns and plasma railguns, plus the slightly Orwellian switch to “blasters” (a term that in my mind has always been associated with Star Wars).
My personal feelings on guns are a bit complicated. I find guns interesting and I often peruse the Internet Movie Firearm Database to see which specific guns are used in a given film. I love the names, reading about the history, and especially reading about which real-life weapons were used to make science fiction guns (such as the Mauser that became Han Solo’s DL-44).
But I don’t own a gun, don’t plan to own a gun, I favor strict gun control and I find the cult-like worship of guns in some quarters and the sheer number of guns in the country, to say nothing of the culture of mass shootings, to be one of the biggest societal problems in America. I don’t think this is as strange as it may initially seem; Japanese fans of anime, manga and videogames love guns, but basically no one there has one.
So here are my thoughts on what Hasbro is doing with G.I. Joe.
First off, as mentioned above, there’s already a long history of G.I. Joe (particularly the “Real American Hero” incarnation GIJC is based on) using sci-fi weaponry. Moreover, an Uzi submachine gun, while culturally iconic, is woefully out-of-date as an actual weapon, as are most of the real-life weapons used by the Joes back in the 1980s. Many modern guns, particularly the state-of-the-art ones, don’t look all that different from many of Hasbro’s NERF designs. Sure, Roadblock’s big gun is obviously some sort of railgun, but railguns are something the U.S. military has actually looked into.
It so happens I saw both the original The Fast and the Furious and last year’s Hobbes and Shaw in the theater. In the original, the characters were car enthusiasts who stole DVD players. In Hobbes and Shaw, Idris Elba was a cyborg with a transforming motorcycle. I feel like the current state of the Fast and the Furious franchise is a good model for what the modern G.I. Joe could be, but we’ll see where they go with it in Snake Eyes.
And then there’s the Winter Soldier’s modified FN Mk 13 that fires magnetic exploding discs.
So here’s what I think: I think the sci-fi/NERF guns are fine for retail, but for the sake of nostalgic fans, Hasbro should continue to try to find ways to create Web-exclusive versions that contain the classic weapons.
I also think Hasbro should just call them guns, because the blasters thing seems silly. People understand that G.I. Joe is a military/paramilitary organization and that guns are part of that.