The year was 1993. Street Fighter was one of the biggest things on the planet, and venerable toy franchise GI Joe...wasn't. In an effort to boost Joe's sales, Hasbro figured creating action figures based on Street Fighter would be a really good idea!
Between 1993 and 1994, Capcom and Hasbro teamed up to release a couple of lines of GI Joe figures that were branded, and sculpted, to look like Street Fighter characters.
While this seems like a bizarre coupling today, you've got to remember, Street Fighter was everywhere in the early 90s. It had cartoons, a movie, rap songs, t-shirts, anime adaptations, comics, the works. So a series of action figures, even ones sitting uncomfortably within the universe of the Great American Hero, seemed totally normal. At the time.
Until, you know, you actually saw the things.
In some cases, Hasbro did their best to replicate the World Warriors' likenesses, even though the standard template for a GI Joe figure wasn't exactly compatible with Capcom's original character designs. Those figures were ugly, even slightly embarrassing in the case of characters like Bison, but at least they tried! E. Honda deserves particular mention because Hasbro went all-out and actually gave him a custom topless, giant torso.
Others, though, were a mess. Chun Li was dressed like a circus performer. Ken, for some reason, had put on a ninja outfit. Zangief unforgivably had a shirt on, and Blanka's design transplanted onto a GI Joe figure's body was the stuff of nightmares.
WHAT'S A DHALSIM?
Making things weirder was the fact that, as was required of all GI Joe lines, there were Street Fighter-branded vehicles made as well. Guile's Sonic Boom Tank at least made sense, given his military background, but Blanka's Beast Blaster made no sense, given the fact he can't even make it through the day without biting someone or electrocuting them, let alone pass a driving test.
The toys were so bad, in fact, that in 1994, when the Street Fighter movie came out - yes, the Raul Julia / Kylie Minogue one - the figures released were an improvement. Blanka was in proportion, Bison had a cape, Vega had claws, Zangief went topless once more and Chun Li was back in her traditional garb.
SO CORRECT 'EM!
The movie toys had their own vehicles too, like the, yes, Karate Chopper, but there was genuinely cool stuff to be had as well, like a giant Shadowloo headquarters, complete with a special edition M. Bison figure.
Being ugly, ill-advised, based on a bomb film and coming at the end of GI Joe's big run from the 1980s, both lines of the smaller Street Fighter figures were a disaster. Saving the franchise's bacon, though, was a smaller run of 12-inch figures/dolls called the Hall of Fame collection, which were perfectly matched to their video game character designs and, if you didn't care they were essentially dolls (hey, the original GI Joe was a doll!), you were set.
The upside of the main figures being shitty is that, if for some reason you want to get your hands on some (and hey, some of them were pretty good/faithful for the time), you can get them on places like eBay real cheap.