Who would have imagined that a Hasbro toy line with a military motif would eventually help G.I. Joe grow into such a cultural phenomenon? A popular comic book series with 155 issues, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Larry Hama, was the first to introduce a whole new generation of comic book fans.
The renowned Ron Friedman then created a miniseries that had a lasting impact on the toy business and gave rise to one of America’s most patriotic Saturday morning cartoons.
We will be looking at the 1983 animated series in today’s movie, which produced 95 episodes of action-packed animation fun. Prepare yourself for this one now!
What The Cartoon Television Series Is All About?
You need to be aware of a few things before we delve into the specifics of the well-known animated television series. When Hasbro re-launched the toy line in the summer of 1982, shrinking the original 12-inch action figures to 3.75 inches, the Federal Communications Commission had already heavily muted cartoons.
The explanation was rather straightforward: The FCC simply did not want any businesses to advertise their products to youngsters. Surprisingly, though, comic books and their characters could be the inspiration for cartoons. It makes sense that the election of President Ronald Reagan was a big blessing and that the FCC finally gave the toy companies permission to air their 30-second advertising. Full recognition goes to these advertisements, which paved the way for the G.I. Joe cartoon series.
Co-produced by Sunbow Productions and Marvel Productions, the cartoon television series ran in syndication beginning with their first animated mini-series, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, which for most fans is The M.A.S.S. Device. The plot of this mini-series was kept pretty simple; the events revolved around the device, one that happened to be a high-powered matter-transporter. Now throw in the G.I. Joes and the Cobras, both teams travelling all around the world to lay their hands on the three catalytic components required to charge up the device.
This was followed by G.I. Joe: The Revenge of Cobra, another five-part mini-series by Friedman having on display a similar plotline like the previous mini-series. This also had the G.I. Joes and the Cobras traversing through the world to retrieve the dispersed pieces of Cobra’s latest weather-controlling weapon, otherwise known as the Weather Dominator.
Next, the cartoon was developed into a regular series in the year 1985 initially beginning with Friedman’s third five-part story – The Pyramid of Darkness. The storyline exhibited majority of the previous cast from the existing mini-series confined by Cobra and also introduced a new range of characters (please note that we are hinting at the new 1985 collection of toys) to foil Cobra Commander’s plans of depriving the whole world of electricity.
The remaining 50 episodes of the first season developed by Steve Gerber were mostly separate single episodes with the occasional two-parters thrown in between. This was followed by a second season boasting 30 more episodes out of which the first five episodes were Friedman’s fourth five-part adventure – Arise, Serpentor, Arise! As per the storyline, the nefarious Doctor Mindbender gets inspired by a recurring strange dream and ends up making use of the DNA of history’s greatest and most ruthless conquerors in order to genetically create the new Cobra emperor.
The second season also pointed towards the new 1986 collection of toys and was developed by Buzz Dixon. The cartoon series wound up with Don Jurwich’s 1987 direct-to-video animated flick, G.I. Joe: The Movie, one that aired in syndication as a feature-length movie as well as a five-part mini-series.
Now that we are clear with the basics, let’s talk about G.I. Joe. Mind you, the name does not refer to a particular individual; in fact, it points towards the cream of the crop commandos who goes without saying are exceedingly well trained. Their goal is quite simple, they believe in democracy and they wish to protect the system from the wicked Cobra organization, who for obvious reasons is obsessed about world domination.
The plotline of the cartoon series is uncomplicated – with one team attacking, the other team has to shield themselves and that’s how it works between the Joes and the Cobras. Mind you, the villains will literally go to every extent to achieve the target of their Cobra Commander and it’s always up to the G.I. Joe team to thwart his plans. Categorically, it is the fighting sequence which is the highpoint of every episode on display; add to that the combat locations and a horde of high-tech weapons they possess.
Who Are The Main Characters Of The Show?
Ed Gilbert happens to be the voice artist of the character, who first made an appearance in the season 2 premiere episode, Arise, Serpentor, Arise! Part 1, where he is specifically put in place to take command of the G. I. Joe team. A part of his job requires him to have Sgt. Slaughter re-train the whole team post a rather embarrassing encounter with the Cobra forces. While the animated series has no elucidation as to how Hawk actually became the commander of the team, it was in the episode titled, ‘Not a Ghost of a Chance’ where it is actually disclosed that Hawk was the original field commander of the team.
Well if there happens to be a Joe version of Captain America, we are stressing on good looks, blue eyes, a leader by intuition and someone who believes that a commander should be with his troops and not behind the battle lines – say hello to Duke. Voiced by Michael Bell, the First Sergeant of the G.I. Joe Team makes his debut cartoon appearance in the episode titled, The Cobra Strikes and is generally the one to scream, “Yo Joe!” while leading his squad into battle. There’s no doubt in the fact that he is a daunting combatant but despite of that, he is often the one to get repeatedly captured.
If Duke is addressed as the man of action, Flint here is a strategist as well as a meticulous planner. Voiced by Bill Ratner, he first appeared in the second G.I. Joe mini-series titled, The Revenge of Cobra, Part 1: In the Cobra’s Pit. Here, he is portrayed as the second in command, substituting for Duke as the team leader after the former gets captured by Cobra. It goes without saying that his character keeps reappearing throughout the whole series and it is his romantic angle with Lady Jaye which happens to be the common thread that the comic book had with the cartoon series.
Now here is a character who is very vocal about things; mind you, he is inevitably going to be blunt about his opinions and he honestly doesn’t care even if it’s General Hawk, Duke or Flint that he has to face for that matter. Voiced by William Callaway, he is seen serving as fourth in the G.I. Joe leadership and is also at times seen sharing his command with Sgt. Slaughter. The cartoon series has him short-tempered, very stringent when it comes to the rules, more like married to the job to be honest and then there’s his intense disapproval especially towards romantic relationships.
Often addressed as the toughest of all the Joes, Sgt. Slaughter’s trademark look is incomplete without his mirrored sunglasses and his signature drill instructor’s campaign hat. Voiced by Bob Remus, the character who is based on the professional wrestler himself, first made an appearance in the second season of the series titled, Arise, Serpentor, Arise!, Part 1. Sgt. Slaughter is exceptionally strong and you can throw him in the toughest of situations only to see him effortlessly take care of himself. Portrayed as a Special Drill Instructor, he is often seen conducting his own boot camp which is known as ‘The Slaughterhouse’ and when the man gives you orders, you abide by it.
Say hello to the archnemesis of the G.I. Joes and the ultimate leader of the ruthless terrorist organization, Cobra, one that is obsessed about world domination. Boasting a face that is always covered, this mysterious masked man voiced by Chris Latta has a penchant for rustling up the most devious schemes all aiming towards ruling the world and declaring triumph over the Joes.
For instance, there was a time when he joined hands with Doctor Mindbender and went to the literal extent of creating a new leader, one that would take his place. The fact that he is an evil genius shows when he reprogrammed a whole unit of B.A.T.s just so as to take care of Serpentor as well as Sgt. Slaughter and all it took him was just a handful of minutes. The character is also famous for shouting ‘RETREAT’ the minute something goes awry and is more than often seen putting the blame for his blunders on others.
Let’s get one thing straight about this guy here, he is moody. He is ready to work as Cobra Commander’s right hand man as well as go against the whole organization and in both these cases, it usually depends on what suits him the most. It is fair to say that his relationship with the Cobra Commander is quite derisive; we are particularly stressing on the times when Destro has gone to the extent of beating him.
It is a different thing that the Cobra Commander has always disregarded his attempts because to be honest here, Destro being the weapons manufacturer and supplier happens to be the only one to know how to make the doomsday devices function given that he is the creator. Remember us mentioning about the Weather Dominator earlier in the video?
Well, this weather-controlling weapon here happens to be his creation. Voiced by Arthur Burghardt, the character’s origin was disclosed in the episode titled, Skeletons in the Closet, which also shed light on the fact that he was distantly related to Lady Jaye.
Portrayed as Cobra’s Intelligence officer as well as infiltration specialist, the Baroness first appeared in the mini-series episode titled, The M.A.S.S. Device, Part 1, The Cobra Strikes. Voiced by Morgan Lofting, the character happens to be a ‘mistress of disguise’. Well, what else are you supposed to call someone whose impersonation skills have made her masquerade as tourists, doctors, high ranking officers and even as a cameraman in a film crew? Her romantic angle with Destro is pretty much out in the open and for a girlfriend, she is quite clingy and vengeful. After all, who in her sane mind would end up causing the destruction of her boyfriend’s ancestral castle as payback?
Tomax and Xamot
Also known as The Crimson Twins, the brothers are first introduced in the mini-series, The Pyramid of Darkness. As the heads of Extensive Enterprises, which happens to be one of the biggest financial backers of Cobra, the duo also serves as the organization’s Crimson Guard commanders.
The fact that these thrill seekers here have a deep psychological connection with each other also makes them vulnerable, something that the Joes are seen taking full advantage of. In simple words, you hit Tomax and Xamot ends up feeling the pain too. Also, when the twins are separated, they can track down each other. While Tomax is voiced by Corey Burton, Xamot who has a nasty scar on his face is played by Michael Bell.
Meet the main antagonist of the second season, a creation of Doctor Mindbender. For those who are not aware and we highly doubt if there happens to be any, Serpentor was conceived as the ideal warrior, someone who was extricated from the DNA of the world’s greatest military minds. Voiced by Dick Gautier, it is still hard to disregard the overweening madcap leader’s most famous dialogue, ‘This I command’ till this very day.
While there’s no denying that his character is a physical powerhouse and is more than ready to lead from the front lines, the fact that he is exceedingly impulsive as well as foolish, shows when he leads Cobra into a full scale attack on Washington DC. How on earth is seizing control of one city adequate enough to have the whole country give into submission? Well, we will leave that to Serpentor!
How Good Was The Toy Line?
It all began with American inventor and licensing agent, Stan Weston initiating a discussion with Hasbro, regarding a 12-inch military toy concept for boys back in the early 1960s. He was turned down only to be approached by the head of research and development of the toy company, Don Levine, who eventually bought the rights to his invention.
It’s fair to say that G.I Joe had the green signal waved but of course, the toy was in need of a name, a suitable selling campaign and most importantly, an action figure. Hasbro generated many figures, each different from the other and it goes without saying that the toy line was a hit. However, following the Vietnam War and the 1973 oil crisis, the toy line suffered a massive blow eventually going into retirement in the year 1978.
It was Bob Prupis, the senior vice president of international marketing, who believed in the series and knew where Joe truly belonged – back on the shelves of the stores. To begin with, he sized down Joe to 3.75 inches and gave them ten points of articulation. But for the new version to succeed, they were in definite need of something more to lure the kids in and not just additional joints. The easiest way to do that would be through commercials, more like 30-second cartoons of the re-imagined Joes and their exciting storylines.
But with the Federal Communications Commission and their amount of regulations in a toy commercial, it dawned upon Hasbro that G.I. Joe had to have its own comic book storyline. With Larry Hama taking over the comic book series, 30-second animated commercials were also created to make way for the comic book. But with Joe having new cartoons, it was essential for him to have an enemy.
A meeting was set between Archie Goodwin, the Marvel editor and Hasbro resulting in the birth of Cobra. The upgraded series was finally introduced in 1983 with each figure re-releasing with a new feature. Hasbro didn’t limit itself to just the figures, they released vehicles along with playsets. Soon, the limitations of the 30-second commercials turned into the franchise having its own cartoon as well and we all know how that went.
The popularity of the Joe toy line reached an all new height in 1986 only to meet a sudden, unanticipated competition in the form of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The sales started going down but it was in 1989 that the toy line faced another massive blow when the chairman and chief executive officer of Hasbro, Stephen D. Hassenfeld met an untimely demise. The toy line was suspended for good in the year 1994.
Interesting Facts About The Cartoon
Larry Hama had initially been working on a series that he addressed as Fury Force, one that had Nick Fury Jr. as the leader of a highly classified, seven-member paramilitary strike force. The series has him leading his unit to fight the terrorist organization, Hydra. Sadly, his series was not picked up by Marvel but with Hasbro approaching Marvel to work on a comic series with their revived G.I. Joe storyline, it was Hama’s ‘Fury Force’ which was revised. Hydra was reworked eventually becoming Cobra and the rest is history.
Also, would you believe us if we told you that the majority number of vehicles that the G.I. Joe and Cobra had on display were actually based on real military machinery?
The Future Of G.I. Joe?
It should not come as a surprise to you at all when we tell you that Paramount Pictures categorically has big plans when it comes to expanding the G.I. Joe franchise. Paramount officially disclosed in May 2020 that they were in the middle of developing a Snake Eyes follow-up flick. Please note that the untitled movie will not be a sequel; instead, it actually takes a plunge deeper into the G.I. Joe world. Good news is Henry Golding returns as Snake Eyes. Screenwriters Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse are reported to do the screenplay and the release date of the movie still happens to be a mystery.
Next, Paramount is also reported to be busy with another untitled G.I. Joe film, one whose details have not been disclosed but what is a confirmed thing is that it’s Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec, who are the screenwriters of the new movie. For everything else, fans of the franchise have to wait.
Last but not the least, the franchise is also said to be heading towards the small screen. Apparently, Hasbro and Paramount TV have collaborated with Amazon Prime Video in order to come up with a new live-action standalone G.I. Joe series revolving around the character Lady Jaye, and no points for guessing that the part will be essayed by Adrianne Palicki. The series is created by Erik Oleson, who will also be acting as the showrunner and the show is said to be connected to the larger G.I. Joe universe. Stay tuned with us for all the upcoming information!