G.I. Joe Collectors’ Club Roundtable intel – O-ring, it was nice knowing you.

It is with heavy heart that I confirm what I’m sure everyone has heard elsewhere already…  according to Brian, Lanny, Dave, and Pete of the G.I. Joe Collectors’ Club, by and large the o-ring is dead.

So why talk about this now?  The roundtable was two days ago, right?

As anyone knows, I’m a fan of the G.I. Joe brand.  I’m not married or tied to any particular style (or even size), if the toy has the spirit and energy that I think G.I. Joe should have, I enjoy it.  But without a shadow of a doubt, the G.I. Joe that sparked this interest and stoked the flame of my fandom for so many years was the vintage Real American Hero line.  Many fans have moved on…many folks that are current Joe fans have totally embraced the new modern era styling and articulation, and that’s fine.  I’m actually happy about that.  But for a select group, the o-ring being gone is a very sad day.  It marks the end of an era and the official demise of what was the most influential action figure line in the history of boys toys.

In my own experience, the o-ring was really the foundation of all great boys toys.  Nothing really compared.  Three of my favorite toylines from “back in the day” were G.I. Joe, Visionaries, and COPS, and obviously they all shared the same construction and same design.  Sure, I dipped into the Transformers world, I bought some He-Man stuff, and Secret Wars made an appearance here and there.  But none of them moved the right way.

Now, it’s a new generation, and the movement of the o-ring can be simulated without an o-ring.  For some that’s a great thing.  After all, less rubber rot, and less chance of picking up your favorite figure only to have it disintegrate in your hands.  In every way that matters, modern  construction and articulation is better than what we had.  But, there is a certain nostalgic joy to an o-ring figure, and the idea that we may never see another one again (or very rarely at any rate) does make me sad.

So now it’s time to look forward.  This is a good springboard into the next generation.  The sculpting, design, and articulation of the modern era figures is suddenly surging through the roof, and they are looking better and better every time Hasbro touches them.  For crying out loud, look at this:

The difference is astounding.

So, no, I’m not upset about the o-ring because I think o-ring toys are superior.  In many ways they are not.  But they do represent a major part of my childhood and part of me still longs for a day when they might make a return.  But every time I look at bad ass Pursuit of Cobra toys I’m a little less bothered.

But just a little.

  • m6d

    The O-ring was great, but sadly, I moved on from it about two years ago. I do wish Hasbro would at least go back to a screw to make it easier to customize the figures. Cracking them open like a nut isn’t the best way to go about it, and I have yet to go this route with the new figures.

    I will be interested now to see what the Club offers from this point on. I do hope the Club adds to the upcoming Dr. Venom, with some figures we’ve been asking for such as a classic Kwinn, Billy, and Crystal Ball. Ok maybe not Crystal Ball…

  • Nas

    Cool commentary, sir. I also grew up with the O-ring, but it was the 25th style that brought me back to the table. Now (even this week) I’ve gone back and purchased some of the figures I missed from the VvV and Spy-Troops era. It’s strange, but the O-ring construction of those toys certainly made me nostalgic, but the hit-and-miss “floppiness” of some of the figs (My new out of the package Overkill can barely stand on his own) made me glad for the direction the line is currently taking, construction wise. I don’t know if we’ll ever see the “flamboyance” of the line in the days when Shipwreck could disguise himself as Cobra Commander or giant mutations threw play-dough at the Joes (technically, not an O-ringer) but “Say La Vee”. (In my best John Wayne)

    Or is that, “Cobra-La Vee”?

  • Ogre_h

    I too was nostalgic for the O-Ring. It was such a quantum leap over the Star Wars toys I played with at the time. I remember being so disappointed as a kid that Star Wars never adopted that construction. Forget about “swivel arm battle grip”.
    My two biggest gripes about the modern line is the afore-mentioned lack of screw (I’ve only had the guts to crack open one fig and it was messy), and that they’re coming out 30 years too late.

  • Solid Sawyer

    I love the new style, and would never have gotten back into GI Joe if they hadn’t switched over. I owned tons of Joes in the 80s and they seemed awesome at the time, but looked back at photos of them as an adult they just look bad. I consider them inferior in every way to the new ones. I totally get the whole nostalgia factor addressed in the article, but I personally don’t feel that. I think if they hadn’t remade all my favorite old figures in the new superior style then I’d be feeling some of that nostalgia. So at this point I’ve gone from totally uninterested in GI Joes, to realizing they had redesigned the construction from the ground up, to going nuts and purchasing around 54 modern era figs and around 20 Combat Heroes, all in the last 5 weeks! Somebody tie me down, I just bought another one this morning.

  • I love the old o-ring figures as toys, I played with them to death.

    As an adult collector I’m more interested in sculpt, design, paint application, accessories, etc. In that regard, the modern figures are objectively superior to the O-ring figures. The only POSSIBLE comparable aspect of o-ring figures is articulation, and I’m not sold that o-rings actually create better articulation, anyway. I understand the travails of the customizer who must risk cracking figures open, but I don’t think customizers are a large enough segment of the market for Hasbro to bring back what they clearly consider an obsolete design feature in the backscrew.

  • Hawkwinter

    I agree fully with Sawyer. The new style joes (25th and on) have ruined older style figures for me. The O-ring is irrelevant to me. The new figures can go in all the cool poses I want for set-up so I’m happy with that.

    Along those same lines though I also agree with Justin. The new poc stuff looks so amazingly detailed and dead on its starting to make the stuff we got in the last few years look kinda simple in comparison. Especially the first few waves of roc which were extra simple in sculpting. I do hope they continue this with renegades though a totline based on a cartoon probably means much simpler designs like the resolute figures. Which is cool too but looking at justins pics of the poc stuff I just never want the detail to go away again.

  • Solid Sawyer

    The ROC, and then more so the POC stuff, look very cool visually and in terms of detail and design. But the thing is I’m really not that into them. I’d rather have the characters I loved as a kid presented in a recognizable way like how I remember them. For example, Storm Shadow is probably my 2nd favorite character and I haven’t wanted to buy a sinle ROC-onward figure of him. But on that same note, they have basically already done most of them in the old-school look with the 25th/ME so this may be the only direction to go; giving new looks to classic characters.I guess what I’m saying is most of the ROC and POC don’t really appeal to me on a “I am a fan of that guy, I have to buy him” level, but some of them may/will just look cool enough in their own right to buy and nostalgia won’t really play into it any more. I feel these new ones don’t fit in with my 25th/ME figures tho, all the blacks and high tech armors and stuff. They’ve just lost the charm of the originals, and that’s what drew me back into collecting.

    Just to be clear, I was never referring to o-ring figures when talking about the classics, I meant the 25th-ME versions of classic characters. I think I rambled and lost my point, sorry. I tried to refine my post and this is the best I can come up with!

  • Nas

    Here’s a question for the masses: Does the radical redesigns make anyone else just wanna chalk up some of the new-figs as new characters in their universes? I know that Prince-of-Persia Storm Shadow seems to easily be a different character entirely, and his lack of a specific face lends itself well to that idea. On the other hand, the new guy (Skydive?) who used to be Ripcord has a reused masked head, which I somehow feel is a copout (though I’m stoked to get the figure.)

    Now, I’m not talking major customizations, here. I just mean, maybe Resolute Zartan is Zartan, while POC Zartan becomes a modern Crystal Ball. Stuff like that. Or, for instance in my universe, human-bodied Overkill is Overkill, while BAT Attack Overkill becomes his lieutenent, M.A.X.

    Or something. Anyone else?

    The relevance of this post to the subject is that the O-Ring days introduced more new characters than the recent offerings have, to the dismay of many folks. But the detail and redesigns of the new line are so radical, that they become different characters almost, with only slight similarities. Like, sharing a silver-coated head, for instance…

  • Ogre_h

    Well Nas, I do that a bit. Especially with all the flavors of Stormy and Duke, whichever version I like best becomes the “Character” and the other are minions of one flavor or other. Or I make parts of sub-teams led by the character, for example Original Firefly has a team of two comic pack Fireflys helping him. Or I get a new head from Tri-Gate or BrokenArrow. Or they become a new character. Like the new PoC Spirit is going to be “Billy” and the new Recondo is “Blaine”. (Yeah I’m real original :) ). I’ve learned to be flexible, because Hasbro is gonna keep making more and more.

  • chuckdawg1999

    As someone who has discovered in recent years many of my old joes disabled due to rotten O-rings I was going to pronounce a harty GOOD RIDDENCE. Then I read your article and 25+ years came back all at once. Those were the days of our lives.

  • SomeGuy

    >maybe Resolute Zartan is Zartan

    Why would you want that Marlon Brando lookalike to be your definitive Zartan?

  • Shock Viper

    What I really like about the O-ring era was the character of each toy. Their file cards was very in-dept and each toy is a character in its own, no matter how foolish they are. Back then we didn’t get 4-5 Duke, Snake-eyes, Storm Shadow, Cobra Commander or Destro in one year. And the story from the comic books and the release of the toys are in sync, that is why the comic book and the toy compliment each other. These are the things I really missed back then, specially the kick-ass commercials (which I love to watch more than the cartoon it self).

  • scott

    I like the comparison picture of the Dukes, I’m glad I do not have that 25th Duke as I would rather have the Duke to the right! I have a ton more interest in the newest figures and vehicles I’ve seen in the (yours and others) pictures from the 2010 convention. Things look good and tight.

    I’m still like 90% o-ring in my collection, I think I’m still going to keep my primary focus on it. I don’t think the o-ring itself has any advantage over anything in the modern figure arena. I think the overall sculpting of a figure is where any advantage would be, actual mechanics and construction should be as hidden as possible, imo.

    I’m not too sad that there won’t be any new o-ringers. With exceptions, I think the quality of the o-rings, and the Joes in general, at mass retail kinda went way down since the GvC era anyway.

    Now, vehicles are where it was at for me back in the day. I had no thought about an o-ring when I was hunting for Joes. I wanted transportation, and my disappointments in a figure came when they wouldn’t fit in a vehicle. Anyway, there’s something that I think should be a criteria on GIJoe figure judgment (which many modern figures do better in ways). Action involves vehicles, and with the new VAMP, HISS, and ‘Cutter I’ve seen pictured, I’m thinking I might jump on these new items if I see them in the store.

  • I won’t miss the O-ring figures at all. In fact, I’m glad they’re being put out to pasture, as that means more opportunities for figures I’ll actually want to add to my collection. None of the stuff from the convention this year had any appeal for me, and hopefully that will change next year.

  • Nas

    “Why would you want that Marlon Brando lookalike to be your definitive Zartan?”

    Dreadnok named Desire?

    It’s a good question, though. Why does anyone choose a definitive? For me, I like a Zartan that’s less biker and more stealthy-merc. I’ve always felt that Zartan was too good for the ‘noks, but that he used them like a cover for his real prowess. Resolute Zartan says that for me.

    And why wouldn’t a master of disguise look like one of the best actors of his generation?

  • Silent Master

    Well, I still have and enjoy the old “O-ring” figures to a certain degree, but I do agree that the newer 25th & up sculpting is much better overall, especially with the removable web-gear now, where it used to just be molded onto the figure. One of the best examples of this would be the Defense of Cobra Island pack with that awesome Alley Viper having so much gear. He has everything from a removable helmet, to removable knives that the original didn’t offer except to look at it painted on the figure. I love both versions, but in a comparison, the 25th version wins hands down over the original.

    My biggest gripe, still to this day, about the difference between the “O’s” and the 25th’s, is that damn Torso joint and the lack of screws to be able to more easily customize them. (I know hasbro took out the screw in order to save a buck, and bond them together more permanently, but that is a pain to work around, especially if you don’t really want to risk ruining them for a custom operation.) I can definitely tell a difference in overall poseability between the O-ring and the crappy Torso joints, especially when it comes to getting the figures to fit properly in or on a lot of the vehicles. Say what you will, but there is a definite issue there. Also, if Hasbro would go back with the back screw assembly, there is really no reason that they couldn’t do both torso and waist (O-ring) joints, which would offer even more superior poseability. I can think of at least two different ways this would be functional on the figures, right off the top of my head, and if we must now pay $8 per figure in pack, we should at least be given that extra effort.

    As for the O-ring and people having issues with their old figures getting floppy or the rings breaking, that is such a simple fix, anyone can do it. All you need is a screw driver and a quick trip to the hardware store to get either 9 or 10 style rings and your figures are as good as new, maybe better. (Personally, I go with the 9 because it is just a touch smaller than the 10, and offers tighter hold, but still offers normal poseability and movement.)

    The torso joint, by itself, isn’t that great (especially when it comes to vehicles and certain poses that O-rings can make happen but 25th’s can’t pull off), but if Hasbro would bother to upgrade them further and integrate BOTH waist and torso joints, then these Joes would be far superior when posing them.

    @ Nas: Yeah, I agree with you, there are several of these new guys that just scream all-new versions of recognizable characters (but not the ones they are named to be) or just outright new characters. That new PoC Zartan, for example, is extremely reminiscent of the old Raptor character. Everything about it screams “Raptor”, from the bird on perch to the drab brown colors and hood design. The additional “disguise” he comes with could simply be his “out of costume” look, or whatever. Add the crazy “Archangel wings” from the Jungle Viper “camo”, some paint apps added to them and, ta dah! Raptor v2 is born! With or without the wings though, that just immediately was recognizable as Raptor, moreso than Zartan (and I don’t want ANY actor’s face slapped on my Joe figures, which is just another reason the RoC line sucked for me), and thankfully the movie face will be gone from him anyway. That “Samurai” SS would make for a better Budo or Bushido remake, or some altogether new character, maybe named Kamikaze or something, (Not to mention the fact that Ninja cannot be Samurai, as each follows its own code of honor and are basically mortal enemies. Therefore SS wouldn’t be wearing “samurai” armor, he’d simply be wearing armor elements AS a ninja, not a samurai). Jungle Duke could have been any number of jungle Joes, such as Muskrat, Footloose, or whoever, rather than yet another freaking Duke. The Desert Scorpion was a nice touch, especially considering I’ve mentioned building a custom of him specifically in the last few weeks, but I’d have used the City Strike SE head sculpt for him rather than the Night Creeper head, and I’d have used the NC head for the update to the Snow Serpent II v3 figure. The list goes on, but yeah, I’m with you on that.

    Personally, I’d much rather have had several NEW characters (which we did get a few it seems), but also new versions of older guys who never had many variations but had fans anyway, rather than endless Dukes, CC’s, SS/SE’s, etc., but I digress…

    It will be sad to see the end of the O-ring on one hand, sure, but at the same time, I think the quality overall of the 25th+ figures have and will more than make up for that, as long as Hasbro lays off some of their goofy crap ideas, that they are prone to come up with at times. It’s still a shame that we can’t have both, for the people who prefer them respectively, but also for people like me who enjoy both styles, as well as the guys who do a lot of customization with both types.

  • Indrid Kold

    I think the 25th stuff is junk that not gonna hold up any better than the o-ring figures current “fans” diss. I was also proved right when I thought the line would last about 2 years before Hasbro changed to something else, which they did, with ROC. Now they are saying Pursuit of Cobra will last actually less than a year probably. Then all you Modern fans can buy the same handful of characters in new cartoon style. No new take on GI JOE will have the breadth of vintage o-ring style. It’s a shame very little will add to that legacy, but the current crop of fans don’t care, most of them will be out of the hobby within 2 or 3 years, their collections glutting ebay…their once-so-“awesome” 4″ figures now nearly worthless.

  • Considering Hasbro actually announced at the convention in 2007 that the movie line would replace the 25th/Modern line in 2009, that wasn’t exactly a Nostradamus-like prediction. Believe it or not, some of us couldn’t care less if the figures end up being, “worthless,” because we don’t view the hobby as an investment. If there’s a glut of these toys on eBay in three years, that will just make adding to my collection of, “junk,” that much easier.