Towards the end of the original run of the GI Joe line, Hasbro started to try some new things to keep it fresh. This was of course in response to a lot of pressure from other toy lines, changing times and to avoid general stagnation. GI Joe itself had already turned into the “Adventure Team”, a concept which saw Joe undergo more explorer missions than fighting wars. Add to that Mike Power, a pretty obvious Bionic Man homage and you can see that the GI Joe squad was pretty diverse and the seeds at least, were planted for the future Real American Hero concept.
However one of the strangest additions came in the form of a “superhero” joining the Adventure Team. Bulletman, “The Human Bullet” who apparently was not the old Fawcett Bulletman character made for arguably the strangest Joe member of his era. Heck, Bulletman is still one of the oddest birds in the Joe lineup and that includes counting characters like the Fridge.
Why is Bulletman so strange? Well just take a look at this 1976 short comic which introduces him to the team. He just blasts through a mountain, for no real apparent reason and that’s good enough to earn him a membership card. No doubt quite disappointing to other adventurers who had to work so hard to become a member of the daring, highly trained special mission force. Then again, if you pay close attention to the comic, Joe was already falling on hard times as the poor Eagle Eye GI Joe is reduced to RIDING on Mike Power’s leg for transportation. It was hard times indeed, we’re talking Justice League Detroit hard times.
Another thing that makes Bulletman so baffling is that the character is just so lame. Hasbro was clearly trying to inject some life into the Joe line and with Mego’s World’s Greatest Superheroes taking off, they no doubt wanted a piece of that action. Superman, Spider-Man, any of these characters would have been a big success, but Bulletman? Even if he wasn’t the Fawcett character, (despite essentially being a clone) the character is far too kitchy and is better left off in the 1940’s… When Fawcett’s Bulletman was mildly popular.
Rumor has it that Fawcett and/or DC (who were buying the Fawcett characters) may have tried to sue Hasbro over the character, but I couldn’t find anything official on that. Years later, the Tick would have it’s own Human Bullet character, who comes off a bit more as a buffoon. At least the Tick comics understood that the character was dated and bizarre.
One thing is for sure, though, Bulletman disappeared shortly after his debut and he’s one of the oddest moments in the GI Joe mythos. He has gained some fans in modern times, just because of his offbeat nature. Of course, the real highlght of this ad is the Secret Mission to Spy Island accessory pack mail away and the fact it was available for only $5!