Looking Back: G.I. Joe “RAH” Wave 1
September 28, 2013

We all have vivid childhood toy memories. One stands out for me. I was out shopping with my mom and we stopped at a store called Bradlees on Rt. 23 in Wayne, NJ. Bradlees was a discount department store. In North Jersey, where I grew up, Bradlees and Jamesway were the predecessors to Target and Walmart. Both are now, predictably, out of business. Anyway, as a kid there was only one place in these stores that was worth a damn and that was the toy isles. You walk in, hightail it back taking whatever shortcuts you needed to, and spent the duration of your parents shopping trip checking out the glorious toys.



Well, on one auspicious day in 1982, my nine year old self turned the corner to the Bradlees toy section action figure isle and froze like a deer in the headlights. Hanging on the pegs was the brand new first series of a line of action figures that would run uninterrupted for the next twelve years: G.I. Joe, A Real American Hero. Now, I wasn’t the kid who got a toy every time we went shopping. I got toys pretty much on two dates, March 3rd and December 25th. But somehow my mom must’ve seen my enraptured face and taken pity, for that day I went home with Rock ‘n Roll. Funny how we went about making those choices. I guess I liked how he had ammo wrapped around his chest or something. Please, if you recall your very first RAH G.I. Joe,  let us know who it was in the comments!

This first wave of RAH Joes are cool for the fact that they’re just, well, army men (and lady) soldiers. Olive green fatigues. Specialties like: Infantry Trooper, Ranger, and Bazooka Soldier. It wouldn’t be long before the Joe team needed to recruit some pretty unique skill sets!

I’m a collector of vintage 3 3/4″ scale figures. Most vintage lines had fairly limited runs. Maybe a dozen figures at most. G.I. Joe? Endless. But these figures were such a huge part of my childhood that I couldn’t leave them out of my collection. Since wave 1 is so burned into my nostalgic brain I decided to piece together all the figures from that series. Some, like my original Rock ‘n Roll, I still had. Well, recently I completed my little collection. Now, granted, most are swivel-arm which means they are not technically series one. So please overlook that bit of inconsistency as you read on!

I’m sure much has been written and photographically catalogued about this iconic wave of figures. All I’d like to do in this blog is introduce the “good guy” characters and then exhibit what pieces each figured shared. Let’s start with the cast:



Oh, yeah, this guy too:



OK, nowadays its pretty uncommon to get 16 figures in a debut wave. (Not part of this blog are Cobra, Cobra Officer, and Cobra Commander.) But in 1982, if you collected all the single carded figures and vehicles with a pack-in figure and mailed away for Cobra Commander, that’s what you got. No doubt, in an effort to save some moolah, Hasbro created this small army by mixing and matching a few common pieces. Below is my effort to identify which pieces were reused in creating wave one. Let’s start with the heads…

The aloof four.


The “cool” crowd. (To be cool you had to have: a beard and rolled up sleeves.)


The Brooklyn accent three.


And now, torsos:


Good example here of how using the same piece can be camoflauged (no pun intended) so that you don’t really notice.


Obviously, Flash and Grand Slam called each other before leaving the house.


OK, now the guns!






Pretty much a G.I. Joe A Chorus Line going on here…


So, what parts does that leave in the line that are unique? Well, for starters, Scarlett – head to toe. Also, Rock ‘n Roll and Clutch’s torsos. Steeler’s torso and arms. Stalker’s head. Snake Eye’s head and upper legs. Again, if I’ve neglected something or made the extremely uncommon error, please let me know!




Perhaps for a future blog I will write about the one other vivid staring-at-a-brand-new-line-on-the-pegs memory I have.
Location:Rockaway Mall K-B Toys
Toy Line: Masters of the Universe.
Whew, that one is seared in my mind, too.

Now ya know…

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.





  • matchow says:

    My Burned-In-The Brain retail find as a kid was Super Powers Wave 2. I could have died as I clutched Doctor Fate AND Martian Manhunter on the way home. Ahh, my dad was my hero that day.

    • Danny Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann says:

      I wasn’t well enough versed in the DC Comics universe to know all the characters, but I gravitated towards Dr. Fate, too. One of the few Super Powers figures I had as a kid. Somehow still have it! Thanks for the memory!

  • Nitewing73 says:

    I enjoyed this Dan. I remember for me it was a store called Gemco. My brother and I saw the joes and our folks got us a couple of the joes. My bro got clutch and the vamp and I picked Flash. There was something about the padded uniform and the laser rifle that caught my eye. Still one of my personal favorites of all time.

    • Danny Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann says:

      Flash is definitely cool. Always thought it looked like he was wearing a catcher’s pads. He also had a cool clear visor. Thanks for recounting that story!

  • Brian Miller says:

    Vamp with Clutch was the first GI Joe I purchased with saved-up allowance money… at a dollar a week it took quite a while!

    • Danny Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann says:

      You’ve always been a car guy, lol! Yeah, Clutch and the VAMP are very high on the list of “cool” characters/toys. Interesting about saving up the money. I recall having a paper route at the time. I made about ten bucks a week. I’d walk into a store called Child’s World and buy three G.I. Joes.

  • FANTASTIC blog, Dan! I love both the nostalgia and the technical aspects. The parts reuse always fascinates me.

    Keep ’em coming! Just… please don’t get me hooked on GI Joe figures as well! =)

    • Danny Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann says:

      Thanks, Matt! For some reason I never thought there was much reuse on these. But, in fact, there was. Hasbro did a good job making them all pretty unique despite the limited “palette”. Maybe the file cards that fleshed out their specialties and personalities did something to help make each unique!

      And, yeah, don’t get sucked down this wormhole, too!

  • Tom McCaa says:

    Loved this trip in the way back machine! Had older brothers who grew up on the GI Joe “dolls” but well before my time. I had asked my older sister to get me my first GI Joe figure, Rock N Roll, for Christmas that year, then proceeded to beg her to let me open it before Christmas (she did). Great figure (huge machine gun is what did it for me). The stop in the ailes figure for me was (the following year) Return of the Jedi Luke Skywalker, at the Target store that had just openned in my neighborhood. Just an all in all great action figure!

    • Danny Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann says:

      Ha, good stuff, Tom. Yeah, Rock ‘n Roll was just dang cool. I’m sure I hemmed and hawed about which one figure to get that day. Somehow the big machine gun won! (Jedi Luke IS a great figure!)

  • StephenJ says:

    My first was Breaker. He looked most like the classic fuzzy-headed 12″ GI Joes that my brothers had, and he had a wicked headset. Then I bought Flash, Snake Eyes, Scarlett, Stalker, and then Grunt, I think.

    • Danny Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann says:

      Breaker and his headset are definitely cool! That’s one I had to re-aquire. Somehow, though, I still have my original Breaker’s file card!

  • Ricky says:

    Scarlett was my first and still my favorite Joe. I was too young for G.I. Joe but I wanted what my older brother had. I was a little rough on Scarlett and broke a few, at the time my parents didn’t know you could fix the rubber band. I was so bummed when they could no longer find her in stores. My aunt even wrote to Hasbro to ask about getting another Scarlett and was told “the mold had been destroyed.” I was devastated, I thought I’d never have Scarlett again.

    • Danny Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann says:

      Ha! Thanks for the story, Ricky. Man, I’d love to see that letter from Hasbro! Scarlett really held her own in that big group of fellas. Cool figure and cool design. The one in this blog is my original straight arm. I think I’m gonna try and grab a Scarlett with swivel arm soon. I’m guessing you’ve got a Scarlett again?

  • Luthor says:

    My oldest memory is of going to a now defunct Canadian chain store called Woolco on $1.44 Day with my Grandmother. My Mom had said I could have a treat(meaning candy) and I somehow manipulated my Grandma into buying me Destro. It was kind of a double no no, as my Mom was a bit of a hippie and didn’t want me to play to war toys. I remember being scolded when I got home but I was allowed to keep Destro. I’m not sure what changed but Joes were a pretty regular thing in my childhood from that moment on.

    • Danny Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann says:

      Destro is a good one! Love how that sneaky arms dealer was the foot in the door for you and your childhood Joes! Man, $1.44 Day sounds awesome.

  • Scott says:

    My first ARAH purchase was in 1982… my Grandmother and I were at the local Sears, and the figures were there… all of them in all their glory! She bought me Stalker and Snake Eyes that day. I was hooked, and have been ever since.

    Great article!

    • Danny Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann says:

      Thank you, Scott! The card art was so so good. I think that’s a big part of the jaw-drop when we all saw these hanging on the pegs for the first time. Wow, Stalker and Snake Eyes. That was a good day!

  • Billy Gassman says:

    I remember rolling pennies with my mom to buy star wars figures at a k mart. I also remember getting scarlet and losing her crossbow in the car right after opening her. The good old days of $1.99 figures.

    • Danny Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann says:

      Oh, crud. That would’ve been a bummer. Her crossbow was so cool and unique. I recall getting a paper route maybe a year later. I made about 10 bucks a week. Every week my mom (who just called to remind me of this) would take me to Child’s World and I would buy three G.I. Joes.

  • whakojacko says:

    I guess it must have been the 1982 holiday season, I remember being in the shopping cart seat at Hill’s dept. store in the toy aisle looking at the Masters of the Universe figures with my parents. My brother was around the corner picking out a G.I. Joe figure to give me for Christmas. My dad pushed the cart just far enough around the corner so I couldn’t see which one he was buying me. I just remember my dad walking a few steps away so I started rocking the cart back and forth until I moved it to the end of the aisle so I could see what my brother was getting. Of course I had to yell out that he was getting me Stalker which made him notice I was now almost right next him. So he got mad and my dad came and got me. So to keep my gift a secret he put him back and I ended up getting the Cobra Trooper on Christmas. Although I ended up getting a Cobra Commander from my cousin a few months later I didn’t start buying my own Joes for about another 4 years. My first 2 were Flint and V2 Snake-Eyes followed a few days later by Lady Jaye all from another defunct dept. store called Nichol’s.

    • Danny Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann says:

      LOL, funny story Jacko. Serves you right for peeking! That V2 Snake Eyes was kind’uv a game changer. Full on ninja with a wolf! Are you kidding me?! That was so rad.

  • Enterlaw says:

    My first Joe’s were Rock N’ Roll and Snakes Eyes in addition to the RAM

  • ed case says:

    My 1st Joe was Breaker, based entirely on the fact that I thought he looked the most like G.I. Joe (I was so confused that there was no JOE character). But my standout G.I. Joe memory comes a bit later, when, as a kid obsessed with the Joe comic, I longed for Storm Shadow and Baroness figures, as they were such prominent characters in the comic but had not been produced. There was no internet back then, so I had no way of knowing which new figures were even in the pipes. So, one day at Toys R Us, birthday money in hand, I scout the figure aisle, disappointed that the only Joes were characters I already owned. Walking out of that aisle disappointed, I’m stopped by my mom, who points at a sealed box on a pallet and says,”Look! There’s some G.I. Joes!” She proceeds to slice open the tape with her keys, and the first two figures she pulls out are Storm Shadow & Baroness. I nearly had a heart attack on the spot. I don’t know that I ever had or ever have loved my mom as much as I did in that moment. Probably my #1 favorite toy collecting memory.
    …Thanks again, Mom.

    • Danny Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann says:

      Oh my goodness, what a great story! Your mom is a superhero. And Baroness and Storm Shadow? Truly epic.

  • Shellhead says:

    My first was Airborne. He just looked so cool with with helmet, gun, and backpack with entrenching tool!
    We were on vacation and we stopped at a local drug store in the 1000 Islands region of Upstate New York. WIthin a few days I also obtained Snowjob and Torpedo. My first bad guy was Storm Shadow. For the first couple months, Torpedo served as my good guy ninja vs. Storm Shadow. I don’t know if it was because Snake-eyes was hard to find or if my love of Aquatic themed toys elevated Torpedo to A-lister status. I remember being fascinated to learn that Seal stood for Sea, Air, and Land which made Torpedo the coolest soldier ever! LOL
    Eventually, I got a Snake-Eyes and Torpedo got relegated to the background once again.
    My first vehicles were the Vamp and Fang with I both got for my birthday.
    So I got into it a little later than most Joe fans, but I swiftly made up for it, and all of my guys had the swivel arm battle grip from the get go!

    • Danny Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann says:

      Haha, great improvisation! Although, I’m thinking Torpedo’s ninja roundhouse was somewhat hampered by those flippers!

  • BrianB says:

    My first Joe was Snake Eyes (pre-swivel arm action) and the R.A.M. Motorcycle bought by my mother also at a Gemco store back in ’82. Quickly after that I also got Flash. Between those two and my neighborhood friends also buying Joe’s we collected an army of Snake Eyes and other Joe’s.

    My best memory though was my birthday present in ’84 – a $150.00 cash to spend at Toys ‘R’ Us. I hot footed it right to the G.I.Joe isle with a cart in hand and grabbed everything I could. Then a month later (Christmas) I got the Rattler and SkyStriker and even more Joe’s. First thing I did was test Zartan’s color changing feature and left him outside for a day – he was the darkest shade of blue I’ve ever seen (I was having so much fun I forgot about him).

    I was pretty spoiled back then, I’m not sure I’ve ever told my parents how much i enjoyed being their kid. Great article Dan, thanks for reviving the memories!

    • Danny Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann says:

      Oh, wow! I’d be stoked to go on a $150 toy shopping spree in 2013! Back in ’84 that was like a million dollars! Loving the stories of awesome parents.

  • Shadowcat99 says:

    Ha! Bradlees and Jamesway on 23 in Wayne were my local toy haunting places too…along with Marco’s Emporium, Child World, Ben Franklin, and Toys R Us. I got my first Joe (Vamp/Clutch) at Ben Franklin. I chose him first because I idolized my sister’s boyfriend and he looked like him in my opinion. Scarlet followed shortly after, and I got her at Pathmark in Kinnelon.

    However, the toy line that stopped me in my tracks like GI Joe did for you, was MOTU. It also happened to be in Bradlee’s on 23. I was in the toy aisle and came across Stratos. It was the most awesome toy I had ever laid eyes on in my life. I was just awe struck. He was the only MOTU toy I could find in the store, so my mom bought him for me and he became like my security blanket. Wherever I went, Stratos went. And even though I would become a HUGE MOTU fan, Stratos always holds that special place in my heart because I can vividly recall the day I first found him and how much fun I had with that figure.

    • Danny Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann says:

      Marco’s Emporium is (was?) awesome. Is it still around? Up until I moved to Phoenix 10 years ago I would hit that place on the regular. Terrific independent toy shop. And, yeah, like I mentioned in the article, the other mouth-agape, eyes-bulging toy memory I have from that era is Masters of the Universe. Oddly, my first figure from that line was Merman.

      • Shadowcat99 says:

        Yeah, believe it or not, Marco’s is still around. I was just there last weekend, lol. Love that shop. Whenever I can’t find something in the normal stores, I an almost always find it at Marco’s.

  • David Salchow says:

    Does anybody remember the ‘specialty’ of the “Grand Slam” character? Funny that the only black character was called “Stalker.” Not very PC!

    • Danny Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann says:

      Grand Slam Filecard Information

      File Name: Barney, James J.
      SN: RA379541044
      Grade: E-5
      Birthplace: Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin
      Primary Specialty: Artillery
      Secondary Specialty: Electronics Engineer

      Grand Slam received initial training in conventional artillery and served with a 155mm battery. Graduated: Special Weapons School (Top of Class). Specialized Education: Artillery School; Advanced Tech School, Qualified Expert: M-16; M-1911A1; “HAL” Heavy Artillery Laser.

      “He’s soft-spoken and calm—just a bit shy. Intelligent. Loves to read escapist fantasy (science fiction and comic books).”

  • Wes Walker says:

    1982, I was 11 years old with enough money in my pocket to buy one Joe. My choice was Flash and without a doubt it was because of his gear, namely the visor! Like you said, its funny what kids are drawn to.

    • Danny Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann says:

      Ha, I think Flash rushed to G.I. Joe headquarters straight from a softball game. Where he played catcher.

  • Cesar Zamora Cesar Zamora says:

    You need to do something like this on a weekly basis. Well done!

    • Danny Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann says:

      Thank you, Cesar! Man, oh man, if I could only write about toys all day long… [sneaking out to by more lottery tickets].

  • George says:

    Great blog post! I remember the day I first saw them. I wanted Snake Eyes or Stalker, but they were out, so grabbed a Short Fuze. Loved the mortar. Still a favorite for nostalgic reasons. Snake Eyes and Stalker were next, soon followed by the VAMP. The MOBAT was a birthday present in the near future. Good times!

    • Danny Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann says:

      Ah, I’m glad Short-Fuze is getting some love. That is one of the figures I did NOT have as a kid. Obviously, I’ve made up for that deprivation.

  • Danny, this was a fantastic read. We normally only give Front Page props to our own work, but you did such a wonderful job that I thought it was necessary to share your work with our members.

    We link directly back to your article, so all views are yours!

    SPOTLIGHT: Looking Back: G.I. Joe “ARAH” Wave 1

  • […] to Action Figure Insider, where Danny “CantinaDan” Neumann created the article. Click [HERE] to Enjoy! Thanks […]

  • Alex Reyes says:

    Thanks Danny i really enjoy reading your post!

    My first joe was Scoop. I remember “unpacking” from my father dirty sock, he bought around 15 joes in Chile but to avoid taxes (really expensive in Peru) he put all the joe´s in his dirty clothes, thanks dad! FYI and that was the last time.
    Clearly remember when i discovery Scoop reviewing all the detail of his vest, be impressive about the helmet, camera, microphone and the hose, what a great day!
    I have my original Scoop too, it´s broke but i have it. And thanks to that figure i´m a joe collector, looking forward to read more about these great action figures.

    thanks again for sharing and bring it back those amazing memories!

    • Danny Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann says:

      Hahaha, great story, Alex! How awesome is your dad?! I had to look up Scoop. I had stopped collecting Joes a little before ’89 when he came out. Cool character!

      • whakojacko says:

        I just bought Scoop the other day. Really neat figure. I just started picking up some of the later series Joes (1989-94). Scoop was kinda the star of the DIC GI Joe’s first mini-series (which is available on DVD and features the return of Chris Latta/Collins as Cobra Commander). Now I gotta get that version of Stalker and Scoop’s friend the Alley Viper!

  • Chris says:

    Reading this blog made me think that I might have had Flash briefly as a first figure, but really my main memory is of my Cobra Soldier. That was my long-term favorite and still one of the best of the line IMO. I was always about Cobra after that and don’t think I bought any non-Cobra guys for the rest of my childhood.

    I have to admit something very bad though. It was upstairs at a Woolworths I believe where they had the Joes and I put a sticker that was a dollar cheaper on it so I could afford it. My morals were not totally engrained at that point I guess. I think my grandma knew too (and did not approve).

  • unclemarsellus says:

    Can’t wait for your next installment, Dan!

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