Don’t forget my recent articles :
- Yo Joe! a Review of the GI Joe Animated Cartoon in the 80s
- How the Dark Knight Changed GI Joe 2 with the Rock
Now, for some of those hardcore enthusiasts out there, you will see that I have titled this as G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero. This writing is dedicated to that early 80’s toyline that was one of the earliest to be built on the 3 ¾” inch scale. Fine sculpture on chests, paints and faces – all held together with an itsy bitsy rubber band waist which helped with the swivel hip action and spinning the Joe’s counter clock wise to create a whirlwind of bunches as you smashed your figures together in battle scenes for that codename for American’s daring, highly trained special mission force. It’s purpose, to defend human freedom against Cobra-a ruthless, terrorist organization determined to rule the world.
Whew, glad that is out of the way. But seriously, I am mainly dedicating this piece for that toy line that ran from about 1982 and fizzled out around 1994 with such gimmicks as Shadow Ninjas, a Star Brigade and the Battle Corps. This toys of our youths (at least mine) are currently being re-molded as part of the 25th anniversary of that toyline. You can check ’em out around major retailers, I geeked out when I found some collector’s edition DVD packs in Florida. Yeah, I was so excited that they were sending the classic animated series back out to the fans for its appreciation. I grew up on the Joe cartoon for years. It would start off late at nights as a special movie premier, then during original syndication and then continuously recycled amongst the second animated series of G.I. Joe, done by the less popular amongst fans and known for it’s cheap production value, crappy sound effects and choppy on model animation: DIC Entertainment. Yeah you remember those cartoons at the end, which showed a camera pan out of a little boy’s bedroom and out to the stars that turned into big bold bright white letters for the logo of their Inspector Gadget lovin‘ DiC and then a little boy’s voice would sound like when he announces it as “Diiiick.” Was it just me or did anyone else like to scream the word “DICK!” at the tv screen?
The animated series was what truly intrigued me on entering the career and education as an animator. I noticed that the 80’s were years driven by the production of toy companies to fuel some of the major sources of entertainment for the kids back then. – which also had the connection between comic books and cartoons (i.e Transformers, He-man, and the Masters of the Universe, and The Real Ghostbusters, etc.) Some of the episodes were ordered by Hasbro producers such things along the lines, “Hey, we are introducing these new characters or vehicles. Make sure you do an episode that focuses on these products.” Some people and artists of this era in animation like to call them twenty-two minute toy commercials. Writer and executive producers of the Batman: The Animated Series, Paul Dini and Bruce Timm both came from this era. In fact, Bruce Timm was a character designer for the original Sunbow produced G.I. Joe series.
The animated series at it’s core was realistic looking animation, with great stories and imported AKOM animation from Japan. It was done by Sunbow productions, which first started off by making toy and comic book commercials for G.I. Joe. They built up enough of a portfolio of productions that they got to produce larger pieces of work. They teamed up their work with Marvel Productions and they created nine animated series for Hasbro: G.I. Joe, Transformers, Jem, Visionairies, Inhumanoids, Robotix, Bucky O’Hare, Charmkins, and My Little Pony. They also created two feature films, Transformers the Movie and My Little Pony which, maintain their status as cult hits to this day but flopped at the box office due to limited releasing and major competition at the box office. Did you know that Transformers the Movie premiered the summer of James Cameron’s Aliens? How could you compete with that? SO instead of creating a third theatrical loss, Sunbow released G.I. Joe the Movie as a direct to video release. Which, had the proposed ending to originally kill off their main character and hero, Duke. But was later changed in post-production by having the character of Doc just saying, “Duke is going to be okay! Yoooo Joe!” This would mark the end of the Sunbow and Hasbro connection, but not the end of Sunbow itself. They would later go on to do some other great hits in the 90’s such as Conan the Adventurer and Tick. And as far as Joe is concerned, DiC picked up where Gi Joe the Movie left off with their opening five part mini series: Operation Dragon fire. Well, really one of the few things was using some mystical powers to turn Cobra Commander, who was last de-evolved into a cobra from the spores of Cobra-La. “Once…I was a man…” Lol, oh you and Roadblock were such a Bromance together.
But Dragonfire just started up as a peak, and the series sloped down from there. They tried to follow the trend that the original Joe series used as they were also funded by Hasbro and made the series followed the crappy toy gimmicks of the early 90’s stigma. Such as Eco Warriors, repainting of old models, and even a drug busting squad. And when in doubt, you know you have jumped the shark once you involve space aspects. After all, it is the final frontier. But Joe was one of the earliest animated series that took advantage of their originally Monday through Friday syndication and broadcast mini-series (which were evenly divided chapters in a condensed story arc) for a whole week. I remember how exciting it was to finally catch Joe reruns on the USA Cartoon Express which showed reruns of both series of the Joe cartoon. Sometimes, you were lucky that they would show a five part Sunbow classic.
There were four great mini-series produced by Sunbow, (including G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero; The Revenge of Cobra; The Pyramid of Darkness; Arise! Serpentor Arise! And the later re-edited GI Joe the Movie – all of which were written by the series creator Ron Friedman (he also wrote Transformers the Movie… ooooh geek out!) The animated series sprung off after the Pyramid of Darkness, and would soon adapt episodes with public safety announcements that always ended with the phrase,
Beat up Boy: “And now we know!”
Random Joe of the week as a spokesperson: “And knowing is half the battle.”
I remember the second season more so than the earlier ones, even though I was roughly five or six, I knew that I could buy the action figures in the episodes that I was watching. The earlier episodes no longer had some figures available, such as Short Fuze, but they would consistently re-model the more popular characters in various designs and assign them to special units like Slaughters Marauaders, Sonic Fighters or hell, I’ll just throw it out there because they were just so ridiculous to begin with: Battle Force 2000. But more importantly with the second season, was starting off with the creation of Serpentor – a supreme Cobra leader created from the DNA of the world’s finest dictators and conquerors, which turned Cobra Commander more into the comedy relief and scape goat when things went wrong (and sometimes tried to seize the day more like his voice actor’s (Chris Latta) other role as Starscream on the Transformers – where he would take advantage of a rotten situation in a chance for a rise to power.) And the final awesome part about the second season is when we are confronted with this new combined Cobra threat, who do you call in to help save the day and defend American freedom? Sgt. Slaughter. Sgt. Slaughter? Yes, the real life chubby wrestler who was at the time huge in AWA wrestling, would eventually appear in a few episodes, including the movie and then go on to introduce some G.I. Joe episodes in live action opening interviews which were more like traditional wrestling shoots where he screams at the camera with the whistle in his mouth and would occasionally wrap a rubber snake tight around his fists to show his true distaste for Cobra, a ruthless terrorist organization determined to whoops – I’m off my train of thought again.
Also, if you are right around the right age, maybe you were exposed and perhaps now even collect the original Marvel run of GI Joe comics, which were primarily done by Larry Hama and they also featured the Serpentor story line in those second season days. I’m not going to get into the comics too much, as I myself have gone through the process of collecting any cheap Joe comics while I was on the search to complete my set of original Marvel line of Transfomers comics. But I have yet to have the time to read them and I am waiting for the complete series available in a trade paperback form. But right now, Hasbro owns the comics so who knows what will happen. What I can tell you are some of the differences between the animated series and comics, primarily the violence (Serpentor died by getting an arrow through his eye) but they did share things like the October Guard and the secretive but peaceful looking Cobra town of Springfield. The comic started off as commercials (can you imagine watching a commercial for a comic book nowadays?!) and ran for 155 issues. I grew up primarily on the animated series for my schema on Joe material, so later on, I couldn’t believe that Stalker was so important and Shipwreck wasn’t. I believe decisions were made like this as the episodes are based on the cast of voice actors. If you feature the character of lets say Megatron on the Transformers, and he is voiced by Frank Welker. Frank Welker also did the voices of other characters such as Soundwave, Rumble, Ravage and a slew of others. So I think some animated shows were based on the multitude of the voice actor.
Well folks, that is about all that I can dish out as far as Joe nerdiness goes. I am going to see the midnight showing of the film and I am having a few mixed feelings. The original trailer makes it look ridiculous with the idea of giving them Delta suits. BUT many of us fans also scoffed at the redesigns of costumes for the original X-men film and I’m sure there was a few dissentions amongst Trekkies when they saw the new costumes for Kirk’s crew starting with the Wrath of Khan. But rumor has it that some critics are giving fairly good reviews on this action explosion, the newer trailers make the movie almost seem more bad ass and not a ninety-minute toy commercial and I’m just trying to get myself back into that mind set of a six year old when I was really into my Joes and giving funerals to my fallen soldiers after I saw the kid in the Boy Who Could Fly do it. I am excited and I’m refreshing myself on Joe knowledge by writing this and watching my bootlegs of the animated series from my youth. I do recommend as many of you to voice your concerns on the film, as we have the power to persuade and buy as many 25th anniversary Joe figures you can find to continue the traditions on a younger generation. And finally, I think the only thing we have to worry about in the movie is the fact that they won’t be showing a blue and lazer battle light show nor a legendary Cobra Commander costume. We miss you dome face.