Written by: John Missal
Most G.I.Joe collectors are familiar with the construction changes involving the switch from straight arms to swivel arms for series 2 figures, and from the twist heads to the swivel/ball-in-socket head joints for series 4. There are several minor, often over looked, construstion changes that took place during the production run of the G.I.Joe figure line.
Not only were the arms and waists changed on series 1 figures for their series 2 release, but the molds for the chest, back and thighs where also changed. While it is not visible by looking at a complete figure, if you were to take an 82 figure and its 82/83 counterpart release, the parts are not a perfect match for rebuilding.
Next change was involving the interior joint piece of the shoulder. For series 1-3 the interior arm part was a cylinder shape. For series 4 this was changed, and all current production figures (some series 3 as well as mail order figures) were changed to the newer designed cone shaped interior part. This alleviated the problem of the cylindrical arm part from rubbing against the rubber band and causeing it to have two extra points of failure, one for each arm.
After the interior arm piece changed, the heads changed to the swivel joint. With the intoduction of the newer head style, the arms were not a problem in their new design, but when older molds were used in later release figures, a new problem surfaced. As the first twist headed figures were being released again in new formats (Tiger Force, Python Patrol, etc) their heads gained the ability to turn 360 degrees. This was due to the fact that the tab on the back of the necks on the interior of the body was designed to bump into the cylindrical parts of the arms keeping them from rotating too far. With the cone shape, this tab would by pass the arms and keep spinning. The solution to this was to add two larger tabs, one to each side of the neck stem, thus keeping the head from rotating by hitting the interior of the chest cavity. For examples of this, you can compare Storm Shadow with the Ninja Viper and Duke with Tiger Force Duke (you must take them apart to see this). This also changed the molding on the bodies somewhat by causing the hole for the neck stem to be enlarged. These neck stem changes are present on most rereleased 82-84 figures after 1988. The exception to this is the rerelease of figures in 1997 and 1998, when little or no retooling was done. The 97 Storm Shadow and Duke are made by using the retooled Ninja Viper mold and Tiger Force Duke, but others like the Stars and Stripes set, Baroness and Torpedo, which has figures that havn't been made since their initial run in 1982-84, the necks and arms cylinders are still intact as they originally were. (Note, the Chinese release of Duke, uses the Tiger Force mold so is therefore a redo of TF Duke, and not of Duke v1)
One of the least known construction changes is also related to the loss of articulation on Ninja Force figures. With the intoduction of Ninja Force, 6 figures were made with interior spring loaded actions. Dice and T'Jbang were made to rotate at the waist with their spring action. Slice, Nunchuck, Storm Shadow and Dojo were all made with arm movements. This kept their waists as normal. With the springs in the bodies, Hasbro designed the figures so that they weren't held together with screws, but were molded together. The kept figures from having their rubber bands replaced if they broke. My perception of this was that once Hasbro realized that they had no way to fix the figure, like most others could be, they went with a "fixed" torso on their Ninja figures. Subsequent releases of these same figures later in the same year showed up with notches in the waist and two blocks that kept the waist from rotating. My personal collection has Slice with each waist, and Nunchuck with each wasit, and Dojo with the rotating waist and carded with the fixed waist and Storm Shadow with the fixed waist. I can only assume that both versions exist for Storm Shadow, but I know that I never saw one in the store until after they started with the fixed waist, so if he was a late year release, then he won't have the normal waist variation. Later uses of these molds for Ninja Force year 2, Shadow Ninjas, Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat figures show the same redesigns for the figures waists. All figures designed after the first wave, like Night Creeper v2, Sagat and Dhalsim have the blocked waist. Sagat's waist, when used on the first Johnny Cage figure, still has the notched waist even though Road Pig's body was used, giving him normal motion.
Other Sites with detailed information about G.I.Joe Figure construction:
Matt Heyman's G.I.Joe Anatomy&Custom Page