The 50 Greatest G.I. Joe Characters of All Time

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by Howie Decker @HowardTheDeck

The best of the best.

We recently recruited 12 of the most respected G.I. Joe bloggers, podcasters & collectors and tasked them with individually ranking the greatest G.I. Joe characters of all time. We also did Cobra if you’re more of a bad guy apologist:

READ ALSO: The 50 Greatest Cobra Characters of All Time

We were honored to have Arune Singh (Marvel’s Director of Communications) join us as our special guest panelist.

We collected each panelist’s individual list and established a composite ranking, using high-level addition and division skills. It’s the same formula we used for our other panelist-compiled lists (Greatest Playsets, Greatest Sitcoms, Greatest Tag Teams) to name a few.

With this list, there were some surprises (as you’ll see).

A few points of interest:

  • 79 different Joes were named by the 13 panelists
  • No Joe made every panelists’ top 25. The closest was Roadblock (12 of 13).
  • When the 13th and final list was submitted, there were still 2 Joes on it that none of the previous 12 had listed- this speaks volumes about the depth of strong characters G.I. Joe has developed over the years.

Join us now for a look at the 50 best ‘Real American Heroes’ of all time and check out the 50 Greatest Cobras of All Time here!

50. Cover Girl

Courtney Krieger hit the scene in 1983 as the driver of the G.I. Joe Wolverine. Before joining the Joe team, she was a professional model, frequently appearing on magazine covers. She’s also a “qualified expert with the LAW (Light Anti-Armor Weapon) rocket, Dragon AT (Anti-Tank) missile, M-16, and the M1911A1 Auto Pistol”- all of which she presumably needed to spurn Shipwreck’s daily advances.


49. Short-Fuze

Eric Friestadt “enjoys abstract mathematics and can plot artillery azimuths and triangulations in his head”. He also has a notoriously short temper, and wears glasses. Anyone else reminded of William “D-Fens” Foster? Of course Short-Fuze came first, introduced as the Joe mortar soldier in 1982.


48. Blowtorch 

In 1984 the Joes decided that missions that would be a lot easier if they just had a guy that could burn down everything in sight. Enter Timothy Hanrahan, the G.I. Joe flamethrower.


47. Airtight

As the G.I. Joe Team’s hostile environment specialist, we can only assume Airtight was originally brought in to handle the unstable Duke/Scarlett/Snake Eyes love triangle. Airtight is able to detect, identify, neutralize and contain toxic gas and poisons, which also makes him handy on burrito night. We got jokes, people!


46. Lt. Stone

Lt. Stone is proof that the panelists took me seriously when I said the list was open to Joes from all continuities. The best original character to come out of G.I. Joe: Sigma 6, Stone is a spy, and an elite member of a British intelligence agency. He has a bionic arm made of dimantium metal, and his eyepatch contains a special eyepiece that can scan and duplicate the clothing of anyone. He’s like a good guy James Bond-Zartan!


45. Barbecue

I’ll just say this: If Barbecue had any clue what the window cleaning schedule was for his apartment building, we would have been deprived of one of the oddest but greatest episodes of the Sunbow animated series. And Cobra might still have that harmless R&R base in the arctic (complete with Destro Dining Room)!


44. Grunt

Grunt has been interpreted in two different ways by Joe fans. His filecard indicates that he is an individual infantryman, named Robert Graves. His look, however, and his use in the Sunbow series supported the use of “Grunt” as a slang for infantry, meaning all of the nameless individual soldiers in green were called “grunts”. Being an original figure from 1982, my guess is not too many collectors have enough Grunt figures to army build, so in most collections he is Robert Graves. Wow- that was harder than it needed to be. I had an easier time explaining Inception to my wife.


43. Sgt. Slaughter

One of the most notable crossovers for children of the 80s, in 1985 then-WWF wrestler Sgt. Slaughter became the G.I. Joe Drill Instructor.  Although there were multiple action figure versions of Sarge produced from 85-89, Hasbro discontinued production of Sgt. Slaughter figures in 1990, undoubtedly due to the WWF turning Slaughter heel and changing his character into an Iraqi sympathizer.


42. Grand Slam

James Barney, AKA Grand Slam was an original 3 3/4″ Joe from the Class of 1982. He was the Joe team laser artillery soldier, making him the first pick at team Lazer Tag themed birthday parties. Grand Slam’s original action figure was packaged with “H.A.L.”, but good luck getting him to open the pod bay doors.


41. Shockwave

Debuting in 1988, Shockwave is the second coolest Hasbro character of the same name. A former member of the Detroit Police Department’s S.W.A.T. Team, his secondary specialty is choir, which came in super-handy at Christmas time when the Joes went ‘a carolin’. The figure was re-named Shockblast as part of the 25th Anniversary line.

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