The licensing agent who put G.I. Joe in America’s toy chest
Stanley Weston 1933–2017
In the early 1960s, Stanley Weston came up with a simple idea for a toy: Barbie for boys. Needing a suitable subject for his version of the hit girl’s doll, he scoured an encyclopedia and settled on the men of the U.S. military. They wore a variety of uniforms, toted numerous weapons, and drove a range of vehicles, all of which could be sold separately—just like Barbie’s many accessories. His pitch won over toymaker Hasbro, which produced the 12-inchtall G.I. Joe doll that quickly became one of America’s best-selling toys. But Weston, a licensing agent who represented the TV drama Dr. Kildare and comedian Soupy Sales, didn’t get rich from the scar-faced Joe: He accepted a one-off $100,000 payment from Hasbro rather than royalties in perpetuity. “When he saw the line at the 1964 Toy Fair,” said his daughter, Cindy, “he knew he had made a mistake.”
Born and raised in New York City, Weston “displayed an early talent for business,” selling and renting out his comics to other kids, said The Washington Post. After starting his career in advertising, he set up his own licensing firm. He learned about the “moneymaking potential of a doll with variable garb” from Elliot Handler, co-founder of Barbie producer Mattel. “You’ve got to sell ’em the razor,” Handler told him. “Then you can sell them a lot of blades.”
After G.I. Joe, Weston “created Captain Action for the Ideal Toy Co.” and helped develop the 1980s cartoon series ThunderCats, said The New York Times. But he always regretted his fateful payment decision with G.I. Joe, and in 2015 “filed suit in a federal court to terminate Hasbro’s copyright to the toy.” The case was settled last year.