6 Classic G.I. Joe Character Redesigns You Might Have Missed

by Howie Decker @HowardTheDeck on July 16, 2012

in G.I. Joe

Let me start by providing an alternate title to this post for many of our readers:


“6 G.I. Joe Character Designs You Are Surely Aware Of But Casual Fans May Not Be”

Since the launch of this site,  we’ve been lucky to form connections with many other sites, forums, and online communities. The G.I. Joe community welcomed us with open arms, and we’ve done cross-promotional things with GeneralsJoes, The Terrordrome, Flag Points, and Joe A Day.

Since we get a lot of referral traffic from those sites, and knowing our audience, I provided the alternate post title. Hard core G.I. Joe fans will undoubtedly be aware of these looks. Casual fans likely know of urban camo Firefly, but perhaps not the 1990s re-design.


Image credit: halfbattle.com

Zartan Version 2

The final issues of the original G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero Marvel comic run were a great microcosm of the 1990s. The fashion was clearly trying to leave the 80s behind, but having trouble completely shaking it. In August 1993, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero  issue #139 debuted, and while the main plot involved Megatron teaming up with Cobra, we also got our first glimpse of the new Zartan.

Redesigned to look like a member of Rancid, Zartan came back to the ARAH scene sans his trademark hood and sporting a bright orange mohawk. The black facepaint was replaced with orange, and the gloves were off (at least one of them). The high-buttoning leather vest conveyed a biker gang look, while the hair and makeup shouted punk band.

Since it was the early 90s, of course we had highlighter green pants.

I am NOT wearing that. Give it to Zandar.

An action figure reflecting this design was produced in 1993 as part of the Ninja Force set. It was discontinued in 1994.


Did we have to go through Sci-Fi’s closet for my redesign?

Firefly Version 2

In 1992, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero was in the midst of a “ninja or nothing” mindset. Soon the Marvel comic would be repackaged as “G.I. Joe featuring Snake Eyes” and the landscape of the book was dominated by ninja characters and storylines.

In an attempt to re-energize a few older characters, Larry Hama brought them back as ninjas. In some cases, they had always possessed ninja bloodlines or backstories, and in other cases they had gone away for a while to train in the ninja arts.

In 1992, Firefly was one of those characters. The classic saboteur came back to the forefront, except this time he had ditched his gray urban camo for a… less subtle look. Anchored by bright green and black, his new design was suposedly more ninja-y and in the comics he revealed the fact that he’d been away honing his ninja skills so he could come back and take over Cobra and be relevant again.

Hit me up on the celly

Little did Firefly know, to be relevant in early 90s G.I. Joe, all ya had to do was be a ninja. Just ask T’Jbang & Dojo.

Image credit: YOJOE.com

Cobra Commander Version 7

Whether your Cobra Commander is a disgruntled used car salesman or a snake-man placed on earth long ago to take over the planet, one thing is consistent – his face remains a mystery.

As a kid, I knew that Snake Eyes wore a mask to hide a hideous facial disfigurement, that Destro wore a mask to carry on a family heritage, and Storm Shadow and Firefly just wanted to conceal their identities. Cobra Commander’s reason for wearing a mask was up to our imaginations. Was he disfigured? Was he just a normal guy maintaining anonymity? Regardless, we never got a look at anything more than his eyes peering through either the holes of a hood or a battle armor helmet.

That all changed with Version 7 of his character. As part of 1994’s Star Brigade subset, we got “astronaut Cobra Commander”. To me the most notable aspect of this redesign was the fact that we got to see the entire top of CC’s face and head from the nose up. His blue and purple moon-bandit look wasn’t bad overall, but I’m not sure I was prepared to see CC with a crew cut.

seriously, cover it up CC


Scarlett Version 2 (Ninja Force Scarlett)

Yet another early 90s ninja-based redesign, this one had something different: pretty hair! The 1993 version of Scarlett was not only re-packaged as a ninja, but had a ponytail of real life-like hair.

This version of Scarlett in the ARAH comics was tasked with infiltrating Cobra, and Snake Eyes even had to “kill” her to keep up appearances! Obviously, Snakes made sure to miss her vital organs so that his full sword entry into her torso would be nothing that a few stitches and a couple Nuprin couldn’t cure.

Custom Ninja Force Scarlett found on figurerealm.com


Dusty Version 4

Image credit: YOJOE.com

Good ol’ Dusty Rudat. Dusty was one of those characters that truly looked like his code name.

I always loved Dusty. I’m not sure if it was the depth and vulnerability that his character was given in “The Traitor” episodes of the Sunbow cartoon, or the little cloth neck cover that hung from his figure’s helmet.

Either way, this version of Dusty was one that I was never aware of until recently hunting through some figure archives on YOJOE.com. I’m not sure I could ever warm up to a Dusty without his desert camo and helmet cape.

Rudat, Tadur.. depends where you look


Shipwreck Version 4

Image credit: YOJOE.com

As Village People-y as Hector Delgado looked, we Joe fans were always proud of him. I’ve always been a sucker for a class clown, but I warmed up to Shipwreck even more when I saw him live through the nightmare that was The Synthoid Conspiracy.

By 2002, Hasbro had gone through a couple of attempted Shipwreck redesigns, and the 4th version isn’t far off from V2 or V3. I had seen the ribbed turtleneck Shipwreck, but somehow I missed these Navy S.E.A.L. inspired designs.

Hector is looking a little more like Torpedo or Wet Suit here, which is fine, and clearly functional, but I still prefer my classic V1 Shipwreck.

Brian Morin April 25, 2012 at 12:59 am

Always good to see a post about Joes. Just a few comments.

That Zartan was just terrible. I remember his first appearance in the comic in that form required that he revert to his old style just so Destro could recognize him.

As far as that CC is concerned, you have to point out his upturned eyebrow, a la The Rock

I can’t believe it took them 11 years to do a 2nd version of Scarlett. And Ninja Scarlett was the best they could do?

Howie Decker April 25, 2012 at 4:31 pm

Yes! He kept having to change back to show people who he was. Hama must have been like “Ugh, what a waste of panels. Keep redesigning characters guys, seriously.”

Classick Material April 25, 2012 at 9:39 am

One word…. Ugh!!!

Howie Decker April 25, 2012 at 4:30 pm

Heh – I actually don’t mind them, just pointing out that I was unaware of the updates until I recently got back into Joe big time. They each have their spot in the rich GIJOE lore..

More0_0Than April 25, 2012 at 9:56 am

It’s the curse of the sub-teams, seems like anytime they decide to shoehorn someone into a group it ends up a mess, the more organic updates seem to work better

Howie Decker April 25, 2012 at 4:29 pm

Agreed. I actually have no issue with any of these figures, I just missed them until recently getting back into Joe and really looking at the 90s stuff.

SharePointJoe April 25, 2012 at 10:10 am

Battle Corps Beach Head still has my vote for awfulness.

Looks like a bug!

Howie Decker April 25, 2012 at 4:29 pm


Lamar the Revenger April 25, 2012 at 10:51 am

You should’ve had the vinge Ninja Force Scarlett next to the custom so people could see the original’s massive birthing hips.. Great article!!

Howie Decker April 25, 2012 at 4:28 pm

oof yeah that’d be quite a side by side

Will April 25, 2012 at 11:08 am

The fact that you showed a custom of Ninja Scarlett reduces the impact of what an atrocity that figure was. I’d buy that custom. The original, however, had a ninja kick action so she didn’t have the typical Joe body from the waist down. She was “hippy” and boxy and needed to sign up at her local Curves.

Howie Decker April 25, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Yeah, luckily I couldn’t find a great pic of that figure to steal. I was going to scan in a page from my issue of one of the comics she was in but that would have required way more effort than I’m typically willing to invest.

Engineernerd April 25, 2012 at 7:49 pm

Isnt that Stinky Diver from the Action League Now! thing?

Howie Decker April 26, 2012 at 10:59 am

hah yes I believe it very well could be!

zedhatch June 27, 2012 at 7:47 pm

SOOOO much wasted plastic.

Scarlett was nothing short of horrid, the custom fig actually looks good, but her real fig still gives me nightmares.

Zartan was at least comedic.

But firefly-OUCH!

I think Road Pig (with the Orange hair) should be in there too LOL.

Firefly Cobra September 13, 2012 at 4:34 pm

Don’t be pissed just cause I look good in lime green. Take a real man to pull off that look.

Howie Decker September 14, 2012 at 10:09 am

I do actually dig that look. Notice I didn’t say “GIJoe Redesigns that shouldnt have happened” or GIJoe Redesigns that sucked”. Nope. I actually like some of these. Zartan and Scarlett, however, sucked.

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