GI Joe Was Designed To Be A More Badass Ken Doll

Task & Purpose photo illustration by Matt Battaglia

For those who grew up playing with G.I. Joes, one thing was immediately clear: Our action figures were a hell of a lot more badass than Barbie’s kerchief-wearing counterpart, Ken.

That’s no accident.

In 1964, the toy company Hasbro made waves at the New York Toy Fair when its president, Merrill Hassenfeld, announced the launch of a new toy for boys.

Related: What It’s Like To Be A Marine, According To An Action Figure »

Officially the first action figure made in America, G.I. Joe was a new breed of toy.

The original 1964 G.I. Joe lineup.Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

The 12-inch tall doll reported for duty on Feb. 9, 1964. Inspired by a wooden sculptor's mannequin, it could bend at every joint. G.I. Joe was muscular, broad shouldered, and sported a scar on his right cheek.

The reason? It made him look tougher than Ken.

According to Donald Levine, who is heralded as the father of G.I. Joe, the action figure’s legacy as a tougher, manlier version of Ken, and a better potential partner for Barbie (at least in the eyes of adolescent boys), endure for years after it first hit shelves.

In a 1996 Washington Post article, Levine said that “every place I go … guys say to me, ‘You don't know what my GI Joe did to my sister's Barbie doll.’”

The disparity between Ken and G.I. Joe even inspired this 1996 Nissan commercial.

Hasbro announced that the face of G.I. Joe was a composite of 20 Medal of Honor recipients; however, this is believed to have been a marketing ploy, according to Rick Beyer, in his book “The Greatest War Stories Never Told.” Many on the design team felt the sculptor, Phil Kraczkowski, who had done numerous busts of President John F. Kennedy, incorporated some of the president’s features into the doll.

When it was released, G.I. Joe took the country by storm, invading American homes and storming sandboxes with a platoon’s worth of Joes, as seen in this 1960s television advertisement.

Though the original 12-inch-tall G.I. Joe model was retired in 1978 following the Vietnam War, the toy returned to active service in the 1980s in the form of a smaller action figure, the one immediately recognizable to millennial adults today. This newer G.I. Joe spawned a cartoon television show during the 1980s, and the action figure has remained on shelves ever since.

Benjamin Franklin nailed it when he said, "Fatigue is the best pillow." True story, Benny. There's nothing like pushing your body so far past exhaustion that you'd willingly, even longingly, take a nap on a concrete slab.

Take $75 off a Casper Mattress and $150 off a Wave Mattress with code TASKANDPURPOSE

And no one knows that better than military service members and we have the pictures to prove it.

Read More Show Less
A Chinese tank rolls at the training ground "Tsugol", about 250 kilometers (156 miles ) south-east of the city of Chita during the military exercises Vostok 2018 in Eastern Siberia, Russia, Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018 (Associated Press/Sergei Grits)

China is developing a lot of new and advanced weaponry, but a recent state media report suggests the Chinese military may not be entirely sure what to do with these new combat systems.

Read More Show Less
(The 621st Contingency Response Wing/Flickr)

The commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard called the ongoing partial government shutdown "unacceptable" following reports that some Coast Guardsmen are relying on donations from food pantries while their regular paychecks remain on hold.

"We're five-plus weeks into the anxiety and stress of this government lapse and your non-pay," Adm. Karl Schultz said in a video message to service members. "You, as members of the armed forces, should not be expected to shoulder this burden."

Read More Show Less

The U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs will implement changes next month that will simplify the process for how veterans make appeals.

Read More Show Less

Editor's Note: This article by Richard Sisk originally appeared on, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

The bigger and faster electromagnetic weapons elevator on the new aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford is finally ready for use, an achievement the Navy called a "major milestone" for the program and other Ford-class carriers to be built in the future.

Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer said earlier this month that he had bet his job on getting all the Ford's elevators to work, telling President Donald Trump that the project would be done by this summer "or you can fire me."

Read More Show Less