G.I. Joe has a long and popular history as an action figure, but the most famous incarnation is from the 1980s. Launched by a comic book series and a popular television cartoon, the Joes were a group of warfare specialists who worked together to combat a worldwide terrorist organization, Cobra.
The Joes were generally the best in the world at one skill, job or trait, resulting in an odd cross between Mission: Impossible and The Smurfs. They had a sailor (Shipwreck, which seems like an odd name for a boating expert), a desert warfare specialist (Dusty), a HALO jumper (Ripcord), a mortar expert (Short-Fuze), and a tank commander (Steeler). It might seem odd to have only one person on the team who knew how to operate ships which would normally have multi-hundred person crews, or only one person to operate a tank that normally takes a three to five-person team, but these were the Joes. They were experts. If you had a mission wherein you were going to need to travel by ship to a desert shoreline, then traipse across the desert to a waiting tank, only to have one member of your team drop in from the sky while someone shot mortars to distract the enemy… well, the Joes were ready for that job. (Never mind the “G.I.” standing for General Infantry.)
Kids throughout the country were fans of the show, and some parents watched it with their children. One such father/son pair were faithful viewers who would often discuss the show… and on one occasion, the 9-year-old came up with an idea for a new character.
“Dad, it would be great if there was a G.I. Joe who could read minds,” the child suggested. His father thought about it and asked what the character’s name would be. “Crystal Ball,” the kid responded.
On a bit of a lark, the father wrote up a character history and description and submitted it to Hasbro. Despite the dangers of irking the fan base by introducing another character with mystical powers (Snake Eyes also had some, but hey, he was a ninja, and ninjas are special. Especially all of those U.S. Special Forces ninjas) Hasbro decided to use the character which had been created by the father/son team… because the father was Stephen King.
Not officially credited with writing the character’s origin, King’s influence was suspected for more than a decade before eventually being confirmed. Hasbro had tipped their hat as much as they could without running afoul of literary rights, though. They’d named another character, the advanced recon Joe Sneak Peek, after the son, Owen King.
Question of the night: What was a piece of entertainment you loved to share with your child, or with your parent when you were a child?