Book Review: The Ultimate Guide to G.I. Joe 1982-1994
January 9, 2011

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.


Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann
Action figure anthropologist, Professor Cantina Dan Neumann has been a scholastic contributor to the online community studying the complex world of parumplasticus populus {little plastic people} since the turn of this millenium. His primary focus is the visual cataloging of species exhibits through photo-journalism.
Read other articles by Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann.





  • Hi-Fi Guy says:

    I had all the GI Joe’s for the first few years and would mail away for the special figures and vehicles. I even had GI Joe name tags with my name on ’em!

  • demoncat says:

    i had a lot of the gijoes. up to when hasbro decided to pull the plug on the line. though never did care for the mail away figures like fridge will have to check out the book mostly for the memories of the line.

  • Lt. Clutch says:

    I have to admit that I was one of those critics that didn’t care for the first volume. I just couldn’t get past the horrible photography. Every item pictured looked the same color and there were some really bad overhead shots. I ended up selling the book not long after I bought it to another Joe collector.

    But these sample pages make a world of difference! This is how it should have been done the first time around. Mark has vastly improved his work and I’m sure to pick up and enjoy this new edition. Thanks for the review, Dan.

  • Shellhead says:

    I have this book and I highly recommend it to Joe fans. I think I read through the entire thing in 2 days. That’s how interesting it was to me (and I’m not that huge of a Joe collector!).

    Now, if he’d just do the same for Transformers and both of my favorite lines will be covered!

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