It was a real treat to be asked to review the second edition of Mark Bellomo’s amazing visual chronology: The Ultimate Guide to G.I. Joe 1982-1994. My own childhood Joe collection only goes up to around 1987’s series IV but it was a passionate and memorable 5 years! Straight-armed Rock ’N Roll started it all. Thereafter, I clearly recall having a paper route which garnered me about $10 a week. And each week I’d go to Child’s World in Wayne, N.J. and buy three G.I. Joe figures. Good times. But this blog isn’t about me, its about a book that brings back those cherished memories.
My first impression leafing through this book was: “Wow, this is thorough!” And then: “Wow, its actually well organized.” Bellomo’s insightful comments are obviously the result of a passion for the property and exhaustive research. Unlike other action figure collection tomes, Ultimate G.I. Joe does not resort to weird or goofy self-serving jokes and gimmicks. This is not to say the book is dry. I chuckled when I noticed that when Bellomo pictures vehicle and playset accessories he refers to them as the: “easily lost pieces.” The notes are valuable and interesting, incorporating things like comic and cartoon appearances. Many of which, he notes, were directly communicated to him by Larry Hama. Speaking of which, the book opens with a fascinating foreword by Mr. Hama, himself. Short but thoughtful, its something any action figure enthusiast should read.
G.I. Joe, more than any other toy line, is fun to watch evolve. A line like Masters of the Universe started out kooky and ended kooky. But G.I. Joe started out in 1982 with pretty straight forward military soldiers. Yes, they were specialists, but not too far removed from reality: Infantry Trooper, Machine Gunner, and Tank Commander. By 1994 we had Alien Bounty Hunters and Snow Ninjas. That and all the crazy stuff in between is here. In fact, with this book you are getting images and information about every domestic 3 3/4" Joe toy (accessory, action figure, playset, and vehicle) produced by Hasbro from ’82 to ’94 – the entire vintage run.
Here is an example of a basic figure entry.
Bellomo answered fan critiques of the first volume by partnering with a professional photographer to reshoot all of the vehicle and playset pictures. All of the imagery is consistent and well done.
I particularly enjoy the photos of “ephemera” that begin a number of the chapters. Seeing these product catalogs, mail away coupons, newsletters, etc. brings back lots of good memories! Its just one of the things that makes this book accessible to even casual fans. Many thanks to Mark Bellomo for his labor of love: The Ultimate Guide to G.I. Joe 1982-1994. Highly recommended by this Man of Action.