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Monday, December 3, 2018

G. I. JOE # 11 - May 1983 (The Commercial, Not the Comic)


Who's ready to revisit the most inventive dodging of FCC regulations of the 1980s?

The second wave of G. I. Joe figures has arrived -- Doc, Snow Job, and Gung Ho receive the bulk of the commercial’s attention (which teases Destro’s debut), while the published comic also brings in Wild Bill and Airborne.  New accessories you’ll have to bug your parents for include the Polar Battle Bear, the Falcon glider, and Wild Bill’s beloved Dragonfly copter.


Thanks to the debuts of Snow Job and the Polar Battle Bear, the story’s set at an Alaskan pipeline that’s been targeted by Cobra.  In the comic, Larry Hama took this as an opportunity to do even more research, crafting an intricately detailed story that hinges on precise knowledge of how the pumping process works.  The commercial isn’t bound by this, of course.  It’s a collection of cool action sequences.



It’s amusing that #11 is fairly significant in regards to Snake Eyes continuity.  This is the issue that establishes how adamant he is about keeping that mask on (turning his Uzi on Doc when he reaches for the mask, attempting to check out his injuries).  Snake Eyes isn’t even in the commercial!  Hasbro truly didn't know what they had at this time.  Instead, here's a nice shot of Grunt in his tan uniform.



The animation remains impressive, evolving even more into what will come to be known as the “Sunbow style.”  This would’ve been a particularly impressive episode, though.  On par with the debut miniseries, which is around six months from premiering.  


Not everything is strictly on-model yet -- that Cobra Trooper’s mask is blue instead of black, which is funny because the comics always went with red -- but clearly, this is becoming the standard G. I. Joe look.


I’m not certain of the exact date Destro went on sale, but it’s interesting to see him receive such a build-up.  Might even be a hint that at this early date, Hasbro was already looking for other “enemy leaders” to promote, over Cobra Commander.  In these early commercial appearances, Destro resembles Mike Vosburg’s distinctive work.  I’m assuming it’s Russ Heath who later does the official model for the cartoon, toning down Destro’s somewhat goofy features and giving him those creepy eyes.


The voice acting will stand out if you're a Joe fan. That's clearly not the sssserpentine Cobra Commander we remember from the show.  In fact, the Cobra Trooper speaking to him sounds more like the Commander than he does!  I have a strong suspicion that Chris Latta had already nabbed the role, though. The Commander here reminds me a bit of Latta's throaty voice for Gung-Ho (and based on clips I've seen of Latta performing stand-up live under his real name, and his appearances on Married With Children, it's not too far from his natural voice.)  I'm almost ready to bet Latta did both voices in the commercial. Voice director Wally Burr, who passed away this year, might've been the one to encourage the more sibilant lisp once recording began for the initial miniseries.


All in all, it’s a great commercial.  (Too bad we're likely never to see these in even Standard Def quality.) Sharp animation, plenty of action, and an actual cliffhanger ending!  There was nothing like this on television at the time.

11 comments:

  1. Apparently Larry Hama is an even better writer than I thought...

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  2. Holy crap, Chris Latta was on Married with Children? What episode was that?

    Also, "the most inventive dodging of FCC regulations of the 1980s" is the best way to describe these commercials I've ever heard.

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  3. I'm about 1000% certain that's Chris Latta doing both voices. Cobra Commander almost sounds like Sparkplug Witwicky (which is also pretty close to Latta's normal voice, though perhaps a bit "tougher"). I really think he did all the voices in these earlier commercials outside of narration, which was, as in the cartoon series, Jackson Beck (who also played General Flagg in the issue #1 ad).

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    1. I had no idea Jackson Beck was still working in the ’80s. He was the announcer on the Adventures of Superman radio show in the ’40s, among other voiceover and cartoon gigs (like Bluto in a series of Popeye shorts), then again on Filmation’s New Adventures of Superman in the ’60s, which in syndicated repeats a bit later were a beloved staple of my childhood.

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  4. "Too bad we're likely never to see these in even Standard Def quality."

    Oh ye of little faith: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azizNPBejVU

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    1. Phillip, that's amazing! Where'd that come from? Are there others?

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    2. It's from a tape in my possession put together for Amblin. There's quite a few other 83-85 commercials on there - they're all on the YoJoe YouTube page!

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    3. And if you were one of the lucky few who got a Joe Declassified dog tag at this year's JoeCon, these commercials are already in your possession!

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    4. This is amazing quality, Phillip. Thanks for posting these. (The only Amblin I'm aware of is Steven Spielberg's production company.)

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  5. I believe under his real name, Christopher Collins, he was one of the members of "No Ma'am." There was once a Youtube clip of his stand-up act, but I can't find it now. Someone has compiled some of his sitcom appearances, with no audio though: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETKdurN3KYE

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