Children of the 80s, let's settle this once and for all. (UPDATED with the FINAL RESULTS)
April 18, 2010

Once Kenner’s Star Wars kicked open the door to action figure Nir(and, eventually, Nerd)vana in 1977, there were three non-licensed lines that defined and dominated Aisle 7C in the 1980s.  But, once and for all, after all the different permutations and relaunches, which is our favorite?

 Is it this…




or this?


Discuss below.  But, as you do, consider the opinion of someone who works in the industry…

Before he left Mattel in 2003 to pursue other things at Jakks Pacific, former Masters of the Universe brand manager Jeremy Padawer had this to say about our subject…

"…I just wanted to thank you all for your continued support and passion for the Masters of the Universe.  It is and forever remains the most important male action brand in the history of the play pattern.

Seriously…who else can compete?

G.I. Joe: ok, I’ll give you that.  GI Joe was a manifestation of a country that had just faced a major world war and was staring down the barrel of many wars to come…Korea, Vietnam.  What GI Joe wasn’t – it wasn’t a superhero.  It was more of a statement of the day that wouldn’t end.  GI Joe was obvious.

Transformers: Transformation + Robots as a play pattern…completely revolutionary and on-point with kids.  Remember, however, Transformers came after MOTU…

…Masters: Masters was it.  A billion dollar boy action figure brand…not based in reality, but completely from a new world, where bees, mosquitoes, humanoid creatures, beasts, underwater minions, skeletal warriors, and elephant heads (what tha??)  all lived side by side…all lived with one thing in common…a propensity for being pumped up and ready for conflict.  The original Masters series embodied all that is right in kids television and toys.  In turn, kids (you in 1984) embraced the brand."

Some of the particulars aside, I’m inclined to agree with Padawer’s overriding opinion.

But, he did work for them…


And so, after a little over a month, let’s see what we have.

This wasn’t a formal poll, but among those who expressed a favorite below…

49% pledged allegiance to G.I. Joe, 29% rolled out with Transformers, and the remaining 22% felt the Power of Grayskull.

So, I guess that makes Joe the big winner at AFI.  I must confess, I went into this post with a He-bias but, of late, I’ve really felt a resurgence of Trans-love.

But Hasbro doesn’t have all that much to do with it.

More on that soon.



Jason "JJJason" Chirevas
Jason Chirevas is a toy collector whether he likes it or not (and he often doesn't). This former Would've-Been Action Hero is as interested in the humanity, psychology, and psychosis of collecting as he is in the action figures themselves. Fun guy.
Read other articles by Jason "JJJason" Chirevas.





  • Sidewinder says:

    G.I. Joe. They took the small scale and ran with it. While Star Wars made a Falcon, Joe pushed the scale and made an aircraft carrier. No in-scale aircraft carrier in HeMan or even Transformers really.

    Joe’s scale and the figure’s possibility allowed logical vehicles to be made at various pricepoints. This is something that MOTU and TF had problems achieving.

  • Glenn Moss Glenn2000 says:

    I come at this from a different perspective. I was the dad buying this stuff for my son. Our home as stuffed full of all sorts of action figures, vehicles, accessories. Just as my dad did, I frequently ended up stepping on some damned action figure in my bare feet in the dark of night bringing a drink of water to a thirsty boy.

    In our house it was clearly G.I. Joe that ruled the roost. Nathan literally had a Xerox paper box full of just action figures and then there were enough vehicles to form a mechanized Division!

    Far behind the Hasbro soldiers was Transformers. He liked them and he had plenty, but they were usually cannon fodder for the Joes. It was interesting that the Transformers always were knaves of the COBRA leaders – even the good ones. You never know how a child’s mind works.

    There were a smattering of MOTU figures, but less than a dozen and all of those were gifts. Nathan never asked for one when we went shopping. It was, however, the first action figure I ever had at work. When the original Mossman came out one of my co-workers bought it for me as my last name is Moss. He sat next to my coffee cup for ages.

  • Thatman says:

    This is definitely the “Trinity”, and I love all three, but for me it is, and always will be, MOTU. It was my first toy line, and the only thing I’ve ever collected everything related to it that I can get my hands on.

    In terms of nostalgia (as well as the coolness of modern upgrades), playability, variety, design, companion cartoon, etc, etc, ad infinitum, I love everything about it.

  • Logan says:

    I loved all 3 but since I have to pick I have to say G.I. Joe to be the best. Yeah there were no superheroes but I had over a hundred Joe’s to the 15 He-man guys and 5 Transformers. It was was easier to convince my mom to buy me Joes over the other 2 because of the cheaper price point and the multiple varations of characters

  • George says:

    Just food for thought, I think all three properties would rock as Lego video games.

  • Jim Abell says:

    GI Joe. Continuous toy line from ’82 to ’94 which only “died” because retail wanted something “new” not because of lack of sales, something MOTU and Transformers can’t claim.

    • UncleMarsellus says:

      Sort of. Transformers have been in stores continuously around the world since ’84 (longer in Japan if you include the Diaclone/Micro line). Only in the US did the line die briefly in the early ’90s only to return with G2 in a couple of years which took it to Beast Wars in ’94 or ’95. It’s been running continually since with good to outstanding sales this decade as far as I know.

      I would think most fans would say that both lines started fading around the same time in ’87 or ’88. Don’t know the numbers to support that though. Transformers appears to be the stronger property from a sales and revenue perspective though; particularly over the last 15 years or so.

  • Newton says:

    “Fallen eldor says:
    March 2, 2010 at 3:07 amOnly One of the three had robots + army builders.

    MOTU is the best toy line of any decade because it had the most variety.”

    Uh what? GI Joe practically invented the army builder. Christ the FIRST WAVE had an army builder. And when it comes to diversity? No one tops Joe. From mutants, to football players, to mute ninjas and guys who like Crocodiles, GI Joe had it all. They even had robot army builders.

    I’m baffled that someone would say MOTU is the best because it had one army builder character.

  • NoisyDvL5 says:

    You know this is funny to me.

    I love MOTU Classics and I have a nice selection of 25th Joes back there behind me. I have very, precious few Transfomers these days.

    But still, if pressed, I’m going to have to say Transformers.

  • BillH says:

    Late to the party but:

    Transformers Generation 1 used to be the biggest thing for me, but now its getting pushed out to due to the Bay movies and Hasbro’s love for all things Bay. Hasbro offered us some amazing things in the past 10 years with Alternators and Masterpiece lines and then abandoned them due to various issues. So they may have already peaked with their G1 slate. Regardless, my nostalgia level has kind of petered out considerably.

    I’d say Masters of the Universe Classics has taken its place but its still not fully realized. I’ve became more a fan of new characters to the line, but seriously they need to expand past a super slow release schedule of one figure per month and add vehicles in there can be some interaction. End this post right before getting into full rant mode.

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