Was ‘G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero’ Originally a Knockoff of S.H.I.E.L.D.?

by Howie Decker @HowardTheDeck on October 23, 2013

in G.I. Joe

Some knockoffs ultimately become better than the original thing they were ‘knocked off’ of. I think a lot of it depends on how obvious of a knockoff it is (it seems the more successful ones end up being referred to as “tributes”). While some knockoffs are more obvious than others, I came across an article recently that claims G.I. Joe was nothing but a knockoff of Marvel’s S.H.I.E.L.D., which, as a lifelong G.I. Joe and comic book fan, I had never put together.

Now, the article calls G.I. Joe one of the 5 “Greatest Knockoffs in Comics“, so there is no intended slight to G.I Joe’s popularity and longevity, but it still struck me as an odd classification. Here’s author Chris Sims’ basis for the comparison:

Soldiers with super-technological weapons waging a kinda-secret battle against an organization that, for some reason, is always capitalized, and is involved in increasingly ridiculous plots of world domination.

Before you get your Snow Job undies in a bunch (you guys wear those too, right?), apparently there is a historical basis for labeling G.I. Joe as a knockoff:

When Larry Hama created Hawk, Scarlett and Snake-Eyes, his original intent was to provide Marvel with the next generation of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. called the Fury Force. Instead of Hawk, the team would’ve been led by Nick Fury’s kid, and rather than COBRA’s attempts to steal Alaska, employ mind-control perfume or take over the fast food industry with nuclear missiles, their opponents were slated to be the slightly scarier neo-Nazis of a resurrected HYDRA.

I guess this all makes some sense, but wasn’t the fast food scheme exclusive to the Red Rocket’s Glare episode of the Sunbow G.I. Joe cartoon series? Not that that point alone is enough to sustain a counter-argument. Also, does this mean we would have seen the U.S.S. Flagg (or it’s G.I. S.H.I.E.L.D. equivalent) take to the sky, Helicarrier style?

You’re playing with it wrong, kids. You have to pick it up. It flies!

There are a lot of people out there who know their Marvel and G.I. Joe history better than I do- was the 80s era G.I. Joe originally intended as a knockoff of S.H.I.E.L.D.?

READ ALSO: The 50 Greatest G.I. Joe Characters of All Time

Top image via YOJOE.com


Justin October 23, 2013 at 9:53 am

Yup, this is definitely true! Larry Hama himself has confirmed that G.I. Joe was born from his early ideas of “Fury Force” a team that was developed as a SHIELD sort of team… I believe the original concept even had Nick Fury’s son leading the team.

Here’s a great thread on JoeCustoms.com which features a project to make “Fury Force” in custom form, but also includes a lot of great original reference art for Fury Force in its original incarnation:


Howard Decker October 23, 2013 at 10:18 am

I knew I could count on someone stepping up! Thanks for the links Justin! I never knew this. Glad it turned out the way it did!

Justin October 23, 2013 at 9:56 am

Here’s Marvel Editor Jim Shooter’s take on it, too:


Specifically this paragraph:


Editor Larry Hama had been working on a reactivation of Nick Fury. He had a lot of ideas. Fury as the head of a top secret, elite strike force, a headquarters in sub-basements below the Chaplain’s quarters. I think. Anyway, he had a lot of stuff going. At some point, he’d told me what he was working on. But I don’t think it was ready to go yet, and we hadn’t yet committed to it—that is, I hadn’t circulated a new project memo and scheduled the thing. “

2 Warps to Neptune October 23, 2013 at 1:34 pm

I always figured Hasbro ripped off Mego’s Eagle Force line. The Mego Museum site says Eagle Force debuted in 1982, same year as G.I. Joe got the reboot:


But Mego was developing their line in 1980, before Hasbro, and all the original EF figures are copyright 1981, so they may have debuted before G.I. Joe after all. I thought for sure I’d seen EF commercials in ’81, and I swear the kids were playing with EF before G.I. Joe.

If you look at the carded EF and G.I. Joe figures, the similarities are obvious. I’m currently collecting images to post, but you can see some at the link below. There were also different comics on the back of each EF figure, which was cool.


G.I. Joe was ultimately a much better line than EF, obviously.

Kevin Hellions October 27, 2013 at 10:55 pm

Good article but do we really need to give Sims more attention? He has his own place. I say more from the USF originals!

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