Don Levine, John Michlig, ...

GI Joe: The Complete Story of America's Favorite Man of Action

Appearing in 1964 at the height of the Barbie era and routed, 13 years later, by platoons of Star Wars figurines, GI Joe was a toy both of and in spite of its times. Despite industry wisdom that “a boy will never play with a doll,” the “action figure” (as Hasbro insisted it be called) was a massive success right out of the gate. Later, when Vietnam soured combat-toy sales (and this reviewer and his little chums were putting Joe on trial for war crimes), the company cannily repositioned its plastic-molded hero as an “adventurer.” While Michlig’s text divulges more about Hasbro interoffice politics than you really need to know, this beautifully designed coffee-table tome is as much a fetish object as the original 1965 Deep Sea Diver Joe.