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Book Review: Collecting the Art of G.I. Joe Vol. 1 by Carson Mataxis

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If you’re one of those lucky kids whose moms didn’t sell off you G.I. Joe collection — It’s cool Mom, I forgive you — you might have a good chunk of your original team, some vehicles, and maybe even some file cards if you’re super lucky.  But you probably don’t still have your cardbacks or boxes.

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Our friends over at 3DJoes.com have done a fantastic job of archiving the greatness of the A Real American Hero line for some time now. In addition to collecting 3-dimensional turnarounds of the figures, their accessories, and even vehicles — as of this writing, I think Carson (the writer and curator) has got ALL of the original line figures archived.  But one of the things that specifically grabbed me were his efforts to document and restore the original box art.

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For those who may not remember, or came later into the line, G.I. Joe’s boxes and cards were almost exclusively done as painted art, as opposed to product pictures.  And this art has served as a basis for what we know and think of with these characters for decades.  Most of this art was contributed by illustrator Hector Garrido, while working under contract for Hasbro. It goes without saying that these types of painted illustrations were practically unheard of in the toy market at the time, and they really helped set the Joes apart from their competition on the shelf.

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So 3DJoes made it a mission to track down and restore these illustrations, digitally cleaning up wear and tear, price tags, etc., so that these striking images can be preserved without giant rows of display cases or something. And after all that effort, people obviously wanted some copies of their own, so 3Djoes cranked out some great posters and a fantastic big magazine-format book to put some of this art back into our hands.

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The results of this labor are available via his site store, as well as ebook versions on Amazon and iStore.  There are some handsome hardcovers that I would love to take home at some point, but there is also the magazine-style paperback with a great-looking foil cover that didn’t break the bank.  Everything is collected in beautiful full color and mostly full-page reproduction, and this first volume will run you through the entire catalog of the first two years of A Real American Hero, including a lot of the non-Hasbro licensed offerings, like the Thermos set below.

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As far as the actual “review” goes, other than just pimping, it is fantastic.  If you’ve ever found yourself captivated by the box art of the classic series, than you should own this.  Simple as that. With the focus of this volume on the 1982-83 products, that makes this an excellent look at the Original 13 in their marketing heyday, a period often overshadowed by the cartoon era.  I ordered mine about a week ago, had it show up about three days later, and I haven’t stopped flipping through it since. There’s just so much personality and action in these illustrations; it sets them apart from so much of what is usually done, even in lines of today.  It’s no wonder the Joe lines has kept up this tradition, and that the Transformers line has come to emulate it since Generations.

So find this over at the 3DJoes.com book page where you can preview the pages, order one here, or the electronic versions at Amazon or Apple. And it helps keep his site going, which is especially good, since he’s working on Volume 2 currently!