As much as folks hate the idea, GI Joe needs a complete overhaul to work in day and age. Folks have to realize that GI Joe ARAH was a product of the 80’s tied heavily to Reagan era. The way people see war and terrorism are totally different especially post 9/11, even James Cameron who intended to make a True Lies 2 has noted how terrorism is not funny, because it’s something America really didn’t know till Oklahoma and 9/11 happened, and the world has had it’s eyes opened. Folks like to say “don’t make it political”, but really these are topics that you can’t touch anymore without going that direction sadly. Back in the day calling Cobra terrorists was just a name for bad guys that no one gave a second thought too.
As for how to change GI Joe, they need to focus on characters primarily. Make characters people can be fans of, enjoy, and want to emulate and cosplay as even. While many folks have favorite Joe characters, really many barely had any development in the cartoons or comics, getting only a couple lines at most and no real back stories. The characters of the new GI Joe need to be personal and you need people to like them.
I would love a serious hardcore GI Joe show with the characters we grew up with in a mature setting, something like the TV Show ‘Strikeback’ but with a bit more high tech comic book feel to it. Now of course that’s just wishful thinking of an adult fan, but Hasbro is a toy company, and they need to reach children to sell toys. This is why to me a good idea that didn’t pan out was actually GI Joe Renegades. You had a small cast, with characters getting actual character development and time to shine. You had an all new take on GI Joe while keeping some of the mythos alive still. It was new and different while also being family friendly. The show I feel though was doomed to fail being early show on the failure of a network The Hub, and it was tied to the troubled launch of the Retaliation movie, so Hasbro gave Renegades next to no marketing push unlike Transformers Prime which had movie tie in going on and lots of marketing. Unless you watched The Hub, you didn’t know Renegades existed cause they never advertised it outside to the public, all Hub ads were focused on Transformers and MLP