Rocky Balboa Was Almost A Member Of G.I. Joe
All those cartoons in the ’80s that had toy tie-ins were in fact simply commercials for the associated toys—we hope you knew that already. Take G.I. Joe. G.I. Joe began as a toy line, inspired by some vaguely related earlier comics. Its first action figures debuted in the ’60s (in fact, Hasbro invented the term “action figure” for its 1964 G.I. Joe toys, since they figured boys would go for them if they were called “dolls”). Twenty years passed between the first toys and when they got a TV series.
The TV series began as literal TV commercials (30-second spots, which aired during ad breaks), before turning into a show that merely functioned as a commercial. Everything in the franchise was designed around selling toys, rather than making sense. That included the 1986 decision to make Rocky Balboa a member of G.I. Joe.
Rocky’s backstory would be that he was the crew’s boxing instructor, said Hasbro. He would also fight with them, and the compony made a place for him in a pair of 1987 comic books. Rocky’s nemesis would be a foe named Big Boa, who was created specifically to fight Rocky but who ended up sticking around in the franchise on his own. Rocky, unlike Big Boa, never did make it as far as getting his own action figure. But the company did release promo art in anticipation of him doing so, showing him with his signature weapon: a stick with boxing gloves on each end.
The character Rocky, of course, started out as an unremarkable fighter who worked as an enforcer for a loan shark, making him a poor fit as a counterterrorism action hero. By 1987, however, Rocky was a much more famous character ... and had also canonically retired due to brain damage, making him an even worse fit. Also, we have to pick on that weapon of his. The whole point of boxing gloves is to reduce injury, for both the wearer and their target. A boxing glove is the opposite of a weapon.
In the end, the deal never went through. Not because Hasbro decided it was a bad idea but because Sylvester Stallone lent his likeness out to a different toy company—to make a Rambo action figure.
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