The Black History of G.I. Joe, pt. 3 (the first four)


Roadblock, as nature intended him to be. Sorry, Dwayne…

Whenever there’s trouble, he’ll stay til the fight’s won… G.I. Joe will dare!

In Part One of our Black History Month feature, we ran off a list of black GI Joe (and Cobra) figures and characters after 1989.

Then came Part Two, where we profiled five earlier African-American Joes, including Iceberg and The Fridge (is it chilly in here?)…

And now, the Cold Slither Podcast Crew is proud to present you with Part Three, as we break down the first four black GI Joes ever made. Once again, a HUGE shout-out to our good buddy JD of General Geekery Cast for helping us round out this roster.

4. Roadblock

“Mess with me and have no doubt, I’ll turn your EYEBALLS inside out!”

In Sunbow’s animated series, Roadblock is the most prominent African-American character. Frequently speaking in rhymes and displaying a love for cooking, Roadblock was a constant source of levity for the Joes. But no mistake, he is also one bad-ass mofo.

From Biloxi, Mississippi, Marvin Hinton is as strong a leader as he is physically. A slight contrast to his beginnings is the Marvel Comics version of Roadblock, where he has a meaner streak and speaks without the catchy rhymes. His solution to any problem is “flush ’em out with a burst of fifty ‘cal.”

The original Roadblock action figure was a perfect representation of the character. He went through a uniform update in 1986 and continued to have a prominent role in the comics and the cartoon, especially in “G.I. Joe: The Movie” where he tries to lead the Joes to pursue Cobra after they attempted to steal the Broadcast Energy Transmitter.

Roadblock was then temporarily blinded and had to rely on a gradually mutating Cobra Commander to aid his escape from Cobra-La. Roadblock has appeared in nearly every version of G.I. Joe over the years and will be played on the big screen by wrestling great and actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

The Roadblock says know your role and shut your mouth, jabroni!

Not exactly the same complexion as Marvin Hinton, but to quote Cyclops from the X-Men movie: “What would you prefer, yellow spandex?”

 

3. Doc (1983, 2007)

Carl Greer is the first of G.I. Joe’s medic team. The most important member of the force, Doc kept the troops healthy and fixed the occasional laser weapon wound (someone had to get hit in that show!) A graduate of Harvard Medical School, Doc is a spiritual man and a pacifist, refusing to bring harm to his fellow man and citing the Geneva Convention guidelines for medics in battle.

Doc’s character was consistent in both the Sunbow cartoon and the Marvel Comics series, with a few differences. One I always noticed was Doc played an integral part in The M.A.S.S. Device mini-series, working closely with Dr. Vandermeer to rebuild a G.I. Joe version to combat Cobra’s stolen device. I found it interesting how much Doc was able to contribute to building a teleportation device, but it just proved he’s more than just stethoscopes and topical cream.

Unfortunately, Doc was killed in action in the Marvel Comics series along with six other Joes.

Rest In Peace, Carl Greer

Another Joe does end up taking the name of Doc, Carl’s niece Carla Greer (coincidentally named after him?).

Carla “Doc” Greer continues the legacy of healing G.I. Joe left by her uncle.

Carla “Doc” Greer’s action figure was created using the body of the 1985 Hasbro Lady Jaye figure, but with a new sculpted head and accessories. This figure was introduced in 2007 as part of an exclusive “Tanks for the Memores” box set during the annual G.I. Joe Convention.

 

2. Stalker (1982)

Stalker first appeared in Marvel Comics’ G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #1 back in 1982. He served in the Vietnam War, on the same tour with Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow. As the other two men went on to train in the ninja arts, Stalker remained in the military, eventually sharing responsibility with General Hawk for selection of the original G.I. Joe team. Stalker was a mainstay in the Marvel series until 1994, then reappearing in Devil’s Due Publishing’s Reinstatement comic series in 2002.

In the Sunbow animated series, Stalker first appeared in Part 1 of “The M.A.S.S. Device” series and appeared in many episodes of the first season. He didn’t appear again until G.I. Joe: Resolute, then on one episode of G.I. Joe: Renegades during a flashback. Stalker is also one of the featured characters in 1985’s G.I. Joe: ARAH computer game.

The Stalker action figure sports a full camouflage suit and Stalker’s trademark green beret.

 

Before we get to #1, an honorable mention to General Hollingsworth, who only appeared in the Marvel Comics series but did so multiple times.

No action figure was officially created for Gen. Hollingsworth, but there was at least one custom created figure posted online.

image via JoeCustoms.com

and finally… the first black G.I. Joes….

1. Black Action Soldier (1965), Adventurer (Adventure Team, 1970)

The first black G.I. Joe in 1964

The first ever black G.I. Joe figure was rolled out in the mid-60’s. Basically, it was the traditional action soldier with a darker skin tone, but retaining the same facial and physical features of the original.

G.I. Joe Adventure Team

The Vietnam War brought about a change in perception with parents around war. Hasbro was compelled to shift from the traditional ’60s G.I. Joe action figure to a team that was more suited for adventures in various locations, like the jungles, oceans, deserts and mountains.

Thus in 1970 The Adventure Team was born. The first roll-out of this team had a commander, adventurers for land, sea and air and outer space, and finally… Adventurer.

Adventurer had the finest of Joe threads.

The Adventure team series is beloved among toy collectors because this was when the famous G.I. Joe features like “eagle eyes, life-like hair and beard and the kung-fu grip” were first introduced. Adventurer was no exception.

Two of only a few action figures (sorry, ladies, these were NOT dolls, despite what you think!) of that era with a dark complexion, Action Soldier and Adventurer have the honor of being the first ever black G.I. Joes.

<<>>

Thanks again to JD for helping us bring this post together. You can listen to he and Brian talk G.I. Joe, toys, customs and other cool geek stuff over at the General Geekery Cast…. and tell ’em Cold Slither sent ya!

Yo Joe!

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9 Comments Add yours

  1. Honorable mentions that we couldn’t fit in the post:

    Special commemorative G.I. Joe’s were created in the likenesses of the following real life black heroes.

    Colin Powell – first African American to serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, firsts African-American U.S. Secretary of State, former National Security Advisor, former Commander of U.S. Army Forces Command, retired four-star general in the U.S. Army.

    John R. Fox – Posthumously received the Medal of Honor in 1997 for willingly sacrificing his life during World War II.

    The Tuskegee Airmen (1997 G.I. Joe Classic collection)
    G.I. Joe Action Figure Tuskigie Airman Pilot 0005

  2. Ian says:

    Thanks for this post. I am very late to read it, but it was helpful for a debate I was in on Black GI Joe’s. There are a few more, but this was a great start.

  3. Rob Clay/RAC says:

    There was also a black version of the Talking Adventure Team Commander, who used a bearded version of the Adventurer’s head sculpt.

    1. Cool! Thanks for the heads up, Rob!

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