Starting in 1991, Hasbro began to move the standard Joe accessories in a different direction. Instead of leaving them the static pieces from 1982, they began to incorporate more action into the toys. At first, it was simple kid interaction where you could flick a missile. But, soon, it evolved into a series of spring loaded action features that allowed for kids to have their figures interact through propulsion. While I title this article spring loaded accessories, that's just because the spring loaded pieces dominate Hasbro's offerings. But, there are a few other gimmicks in the 1990's that are worthy of inclusion as they added interactive elements to G.I. Joe action figures without forcing the figures to be something incompatible with what came before.
So, you will not see Ninja Force on this list as those features were limited to the figures. You won't see Sky Patrol, either, as the parachutes only worked with proper preparation and was designed as a stand alone toy that was commandeered for Sky Patrol. This list covers 1991 through 1994 as those were the years when the action feature accessories were dominate. And, while older collectors tend to revile this gear, the reality is that there are some amazing toys in here that are both tons of fun to play with while also being in line with the look and feel of the Joe line from the decade prior.
10. 1994 Lifeline Grappling Hook
I'm a sucker for grappling hooks. As a kid, I loved them. But, I never got any that actually worked. So, things like Alpine's grappling gun were left to imagination. Which, was fine. But, there were times it would have been cool to have actual hooks that could shoot up and grip something. Enter the 1994 Lifeline. His grappling launcher is huge and his two pronged hook is, too. But, you can tie a rope to it and shoot it at rocks, walls or plants and it might actually stick: just like the real thing. That's enough for me to view it as an essential accessory.
09. 1991 Eco Warriors Squirt Guns
Among the first of the action feature weapons are the Eco Warriors squirt packs and guns. Instead of using a spring for their action, these packs can draw up and hold water that is then expelled from the nozzle of the gun when you press on the soft plastic container that is held in place by a harder plastic frame. For Eco Warriors, this made perfect sense. And, the water was used in conjunction with the figures as they would change colors when water of hot or cold temperature hit the special paint on the bodies. The self contained squirt gun was a solid design. The guns are pretty large, but not so much that they aren't usable. But, the weapons are very useful and a lot of fun to have around.
08. 1992 Duke Bronco Launcher
So, this toy is dumb, stupid, lame and incredibly fun for any kid in 1992. Who wouldn't want a missile launcher that a figure can ride?!? This piece is an integral part of the 1992 Duke's card artwork. And, it translates very well into the actual toy. The only downside is that the brown tripod is made of plastic that has turned to glass. I literally had one crumble to dust, yes, dust, in a box of other launcher parts. I didn't know what all the dirt was until I found one intact foot. The one in the photo below spidered all those while lines just from me gently trying to insert the peg into it. So, using it today isn't overly practical. But, man, this is just a stupid idea that made for an iconic piece for Duke.
07. 1992 Destro Disc Launcher
The 1992 Destro disc launcher is another one of those ideas that actually kind of works as a toy. It's similar to Scrap Iron's missile table. But, this one shoots discs. The fact that they actually shoot, though, helps sell the idea of the weapon. The disc launcher looks like something a comic book supervillain would use. And, Destro is as close to that trope as the G.I. Joe line tends to get. So, it's a perfect match of character and weapon.
06. 1992 Firefly Top Spinner
This spinner is also ridiculous. But, as a toy, it works well. You can set up a bunch of figures on a hard floor and let the ripcord fly. The top can then knock over the figures. Hours of fun!
05. 1991 Cobra Commander Drone
So, this thing is either a radio controlled surveillance drone or a buzz bomb depending on which part of the card you read. But, any way you look at it, this is a little drone with a spring loaded launcher. The drone is laminated plastic with cardboard pieces. It's a neat little idea that worked out. The launcher features a powerful spring. It is mounted on a bi-pod and is meant as a stationary weapon. The idea of a drone was rather innovative back in 1991. So, it's inclusion is akin to things like the JUMP showing up in 1982.
04. 1992 Eel Robo Shark
Full disclosure: I don't much care for the robo-shark. In general, I think robots are dumb. And these things are a pain in the ass for anyone who, like me, tends to army build 1992 or Funskool Eels. The sharks are huge, sharp and just a pain to store away. With that Andy Rooney moment past me, though, what kid in 1992 would not have loved a robot shark with a moving tail that shoots a missile out of its mouth?!? This is the exact type of over the top ridiculousness that Cobra would have created in their descent into super-villainy.
And, to top it off, the toy is amazing. It's full of detail. The tail moves and the mouth opens. And, it can then shoot a spring loaded missile out of the creature's mouth. To top it all off, the shark is also a backpack that affixes to the Eel to be used underwater! Really, this has a case to be number 1. But, what's a list without some controversy? And, personally, I find the Flak Viper's missile backpack to be much more useful than the robo-shark. But, I'm an adult who was in college when this came out. If I'd have gotten it when I was 9, there's a good chance this is my favorite toy ever created. So, if you're going to refute me in the placement of this piece, come with some good anecdotes of how it fit into your play and was a major part of your childhood. :)
03. 1992 Cutter Grappling Hook
I'm kind of cheating as there are two grappling hooks on this list. But, as I said for Lifeline, I'm a sucker for grappling hooks. As a kid, I used them not just as tools used to scale mountains, walls or buildings. They were also Batarang type weapons that could be used to apprehend and tie up villains. I'd use them between vehicles to either tether boats or even just capture an enemy vehicle that was about to outrun the good guys. For me, the grappling hook was my irrational childhood dream toy because I got one when I was about 9 and it locked in the idea of a hook on a rope that could be used as a tool in most any situation.
I rank Cutter's hook higher for a couple of reasons. It came first. So, it has that going for it. But, more importantly, Cutter's hook has four prongs. This made it much more likely to actually catch onto something. I have memories of being a kid and tossing Alpine's grappling hooks into a pile of rocks. When the figure went to use it, the hook wouldn't catch anything and it would slip out, sending Alpine to his doom. I had weird rules where if a rope didn't catch, then the Joes couldn't use it. (I actually had a little, metal four pronged hook that was attached to a long length of white string. I used this since it worked more often than the Hasbro toys.) Cutter's hook is comically large. But, that's what makes it fun. If the hook hit anyone, it would kill them. But, honestly, that's a plus in my book.
In doing this article, I noticed that the tripod for Cutter's launcher looks the same as that included with the 1992 Duke. The white plastic isn't nearly as brittle as the brown, though.
02. 1994 Star Brigade Cobra Commander Suction Cup Walker
The 1994 Star Brigade Cobra Commander includes this oddball harness that's attached to a suction cup walker. It actually works, though. And, that alone makes it the 2nd best action accessory in the line. It's a marvel of engineering and also a fun toy. It's like those old wall walkers you got for birthday prizes except that it's high quality and a lot of fun. Everyone should have one of these.
01. 1992 DEF Mutt Net Launcher
You really can't go wrong with this contraption. It is a massive net launcher. The launcher is fairly large. But, it stands by itself and looks like something that would launch nets. The best part is that the included net is massive. It's large enough to cover an entire figure with plenty left over. The four corners of the net are anchored. The top two are attached to the firing missiles and the bottom two corners have weighted balls to hold down the net. The net is perfect as a stand alone toy and the launcher just adds more play value. The only downside is that the weight of the four anchors limits how far the launcher can shoot the net. But, of all the action play features that Hasbro released, this is the best.
This list is my own. And, while all of these have their merits, I'm sure you have opinions of ones I overlooked, deliberately omitted or just plain ignored. So, please let me know your favorites. These were not the toys of my childhood. So, my appreciation of them is based on what I think I would have liked as a kid and, more importantly, what I really like now. So, seeing how kids of the day actually felt about them and which were their favorites is definitely something I'd like to hear about.