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Monday, April 29, 2019

G. I. JOE # 16 - October 1983 (The Commercial, Not the Comic)


Major Bludd is a dangerous foe
Trained by Destro,
the enemy of G.I. Joe
G.I. Joe a real American hero
Fighting Cobra and Destro



The shortest space yet between commercials, Hasbro's already cranked out an ad just two months following #14's TV spot. This time, the animators have taken the action away from a generic backdrop and moved it to Washington, DC. They're even very specific on when this action has to take place. "We need a night attack!" declares Destro.


The new line consists of the Fang, the Wolverine, Cover Girl (included as the Wolverine's driver; Jim Shooter says it was his idea for female characters to be included with the vehicles), Tripwire, and Major Bludd. The Major is the focus of the ad, receiving his own jingle. Most of the shots of the Joes are of the 1982 line; Cover Girl remains inside the Wolverine, and doesn't receive her close-up, ironically.


The commercials are still deeply invested in Destro. He's the one Cobra Commander turns to for the best plans. And, as the jingle points out, this new Major Bludd nasty is a trainee of Destro. (Hama apparently didn't view jingles as canon. Actually, I don't recall any incarnations of the characters that plays up a connection between Destro and Bludd.)


I've got to assume this was another spot animated by Toei. The explosion effects are fantastic, and you've got to love the metallic sheen they place on the vehicles. Most of the cast look great this time, especially the Joes. Even if the models still aren't finalized (that Vosburg-looking Destro is still pretty odd), this feels like one of the better-animated Sunbow episodes.

The closing bit reveals Destro actually wants this Cobra Officer to be captured. ("That's part of my plan!" speaks the voice that I'm still half-convinced is Chris Latta.) I don't know if the ad agency was paying attention to the comics or not, but that reads as a classic Larry Hama bit. His plots are all about subterfuge; the easy victory turning out to be a feint by your opponent, the piece of intel you're excited to discover that's actually a plant leading you into a deathtrap...


Hama takes this piece and has Scarface, his favorite uniformed Cobra flunkie, captured by the Joes, only to discover he's infected with a hideous virus. Hama also does what he can in issue #16 with the DC setting, as Cobra's developed a scheme involving poisoning the money supply at the U.S. Treasury. In Hama fashion, they're covering for this plot by faking a direct attack on the Capital. One way to work in another of the landmarks used in the commercial.


So far in the run, #16 does read as the most flagrant "commercial issue." It's still enjoyable, but the plot does require Hama to drop most of his ongoing storylines, and to rush through an elaborate Cobra scheme he'd ordinarily allow to develop at a more natural pace. Really, Cobra committing an act as blatant as poisoning the money supply isn't normally his style, anyway. More of a cartoon plot.


There is a significant continuity moment in the issue. This is the battle that has Baroness' face horribly burned in battle, requiring plastic surgery to repair it. She's yet to appear in the commercials, as I recall. (Her not having an action figure yet, I'm sure, had nothing to do with the call. Although it's odd she appeared in the first mini before the release of her toy, and in a different outfit.) There's a story that Hama felt as if Hasbro's "official" model (either for the cartoon or toy) didn't resemble the comic book design, so an arc was devoted to her plastic surgery.

And, ultimately...she ends up looking essentially the same. Still, this creates a decent amount of drama in the comic. Her plastic surgeon even reappears years later, a testament to Hama's ability to pull from past continuity, creating an almost Dickensian tapestry within the lore.

Hey, my continuation of the Sunbow series is still available for free over at Smashwords. And, as a part of my promotion for my new book Black Hat Blues, I'll be writing reviews of Chris Claremont's brief return to the X-Men in 2000. We're only a few days away from the launch, over at Not Blog X.

3 comments:

  1. Major Bludd is a dangerous foe
    Trained by Destro,
    the enemy of G.I. Joe


    I do love how direct and no nonsense these jingles are. "Here's a new guy and he's a bad guy and cue the theme song!"

    Cover Girl remains inside the Wolverine, and doesn't receive her close-up, ironically.

    Ha! Also, she's blond, which I believe the cartoon did to help differentiate her from Scarlet (when you've only got two women running around, it makes sense to distinguish them visually in an obvious way). Which then begs the question of why the toy wasn't just made a blond in the first place.

    And, ultimately...she ends up looking essentially the same.

    I was thinking that just before you wrote it. Like, I'm glad that Hama was worried about continuity on that level, but I'm not sure the art (in either the animation or the comics) was capable of the kind of subtlety required to differentiate one brunette with glasses from another brunette with glasses. I mean, the internet has done plenty with the fact that, take away their costumes, there's very little to distinguish Captain America from Hank Pym from Hawkeye, so it's funny that Hama was so concerned with something probably nobody noticed (or anyone who did chalked up to differences in artistic mediums).

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  2. A blonde Cover Girl makes sense; it seems Hasbro instantly changed their mind since her toy doesn't resemble the miniseries/commercial model. One of my first "hmmm...that's odd" moments as a kid was watching that mini after the debut of 1985 series and recognizing her original design.

    The first time I saw the bit about Captain America and Hawkeye looking the same, the editor used John Byrne art, I believe in some Marvel humor book. Byrne later cited it as evidence of the editor exercising her grudge against him.

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  3. Speaking of connections between Destro and Major Bludd -- there's an issue of the comic, somewhere in the sixties, I think, where Destro returns to his castle after being presumed dead for a while to find that Bludd is impersonating him. After he beats the stuffing out of the Major, Destro wonders if Serpentor was behind the masquerade. To my knowledge, this plot point was never followed up! I figure Hama lost it in the shuffle (he had a lot going on in the series around that time), but it would've been nice to see something come of it.

    That was also, as I recall, Bludd's first appearance in the comic since somewhere around the thirties or maybe forties, and his final appearance for a few years as well. He next returned in the early hundreds.

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