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Monday, March 30, 2020

G. I. JOE #30 - December 1984 (The Commercial, Not the Comic)

They can destroy and leave no traces
The evil is written all over their faces
A horrifying new foe of G.I. Joe
G.I. Joe, a real American hero
Fighting evil Cobra!

Now this one is confusing. Some online databases actually list this as an ad for issue #35, from May 1985. It's obvious in this archived version that it's issue #30 being advertised...not only from the cover, but because the events from the ad pretty much match what's in the comic.

Yet, another archived version of the ad is clearly for issue #35, as seen on the 3D Joes Youtube page. That's quite obviously the John Byrne cover for #35 (the one where he famously arranged the Dreadnoks to avoid drawing as much of their motorcycles as possible.)

It seems likely that Hasbro wanted another comic ad but didn't have one ready for the next scheduled issue. Since issue #35 is also Dreadnok-heavy, maybe they guessed no one would notice? Regardless, it's one of the better commercials.

The night effects look great, and there's plenty of mindless action that perfectly suits the Dreadnoks. Most of the character animation is also impressive, giving you the impression this could've appeared in one of the better-animated episodes of the show.

We also have the final appearance of Snake-Eyes in his original uniform at the end...a model that was already out of date, as this had to have aired after the second Joe miniseries. And the cheesy commercial jingles are back...complete with a raspy, soulful voice you'd have to assume never thought he'd be doing a covert toy commercial.

Issue #30 holds a personal significance, as it was one of the earliest issues I read in the Marvel digest reprints. The issue is the first to feature the Dreadnoks doing more than standing behind Zartan, and also marks the debut of their chocolate covered donuts and grape soda gimmick. (It's obvious in retrospect Hama was drawing from his Carl Barks influence. He's stated the Dreadnoks are his version of the Beagle Boys.)

Cobra Commander's son Billy also has a significant issue -- it's the first time he appears "on-model," having previously appearing as perhaps Asian or American Indian in his initial appearances. (Hama hadn't decided yet that the scrappy kid rebel from Springfield would be the Commander's son.) The Frank Springer art also has a Russ Heath vibe to it, which helped to ease me from the show to the comics as a kid. The Springer issues give you a sense you're watching a more intense, less silly version of the cartoon, which greatly appealed to my eight-year-old sensibilities.

Hopefully, I'll be able to continue this series in the future. In the meantime, you can check out my Kindle Worlds Joe series for free at Smashwords...and the audiobook of my novel Black Hat Blues (featuring incredible voice work from Brian L. Knutson) is now available at Audible. You might quality for a free Audible trial if you follow this link...


  1. I knew about the whole "Deadnoks as the Beagle Boys" thing, but I had no idea Byrne drew that cover such to avoid the motorcycles! That's pretty funny.

    I've always had a soft spot for the Dreadnoks - I think because, aside from Zartan (whom I found at a thrift shop, his color-changing long gone), the only figures I ever had were the late late additions (like Road Pig & Gnawgahyde), so I was always yearning for the earlier crew.

    1. I was lucky enough to have all of the Dreadnoks, up until you get to the Road Pig era...except Buzzer! I decided to fill the hole in my collection years back & realized the mold on his face is awful. Might be why I skipped it as a kid. But the 2004 version looked pretty cool, so today he stands with my '80s Dreadnoks on display.

  2. I want to know how, out of the three JOE covers John Byrne drew, it wound up that two of them spotlighted the Dreadnoks!

    This ad has some top-notch animation, even better than most of the other commercials up to this point. And I notice they’re still drawing Zartan with an obvious cowl rather than the cowl/hair hybrid from the show (which had debuted at this point, since like you said, the ‘84 miniseries had aired by now).

    Though along the same lines, this model for Snake-Eyes is outdated on the screen, but not yet for the toys. Snake-Eyes’ second costume was a 1985 figure, which got early exposure in the ‘84 mini — same as Flint, Lady Jaye, Shipwreck, and the Dreadnoks themselves.

    On a side note, I’ve always weirdly resented the ‘84 “Revenge of Cobra” miniseries a bit for introducing Flint and those others early. Duke had one mini to himself as the “man of action” team leader, then a year later Flint appeared and started hogging the limelight before his figure was even released! Duke should’ve gotten one more mini to shine before that happened.

    (I know Duke appeared in plenty of episodes in the first season, but it was pretty clear Flint was the writers’ favorite.)

    1. Duke had one mini to himself as the “man of action” team leader, then a year later Flint appeared and started hogging the limelight before his figure was even released!

      This always bugged me too! As a result, I've always kind of resented Flint for being NotDuke when he clearly, they should have just used Duke.

    2. Well, it could've been worse... there's a vintage interview with Steve Gerber, who was G.I. JOE's story editor in the first season, that I found transcribed online years ago -- I think it was originally published in some animation magazine circa 1985 or '86. In it, Gerber says that Hasbro didn't want any 1982-83 characters in the ongoing episodes, since those figures were already two or three years old by the time the season debuted in 1985!

      Gerber, fortunately, convinced Hasbro that kids would still have interest in those characters, and they should continue to appear. If not for him, Duke, Scarlett, etc., would have been completely absent from the first season and Flint would've been the team leader all the way.

      I've always been fascinated by this attitude on Hasbro's part. To them, the toys truly were just hunks of plastic, to be replaced in children's hearts and minds when the next one came along. It's the same thinking that got them to order the deaths of most of the 1984 characters in TRANSFORMERS: THE MOVIE. It just fascinates me that they didn't understand that the cartoons and comics books they commissioned to hock their wares had developed the toys into actual characters, and that kids were invested in those existing characters just as much as they were interested in the new toys.

      (Much as I enjoy TRANSFORMERS: THE MOVIE today, I was traumatized by it as a child -- not just for the death of Optimus Prime, but for the grisly and graphic demises of several characters I loved from the TV show -- and who, unlike Prime, never got to come back.)

      Though I have occasionally wondered if I was an unusual kid in that regard. I did have friends who were totally into whatever new toys came along, and had little interest in the ones left behind. And while I did love the new toys, I probably would've been just as happy if the TRANSFORMERS series had simply focused on the original 1984 cast for a full 65 episodes (same for G.I. JOE).

      That's one thing I've always appreciated about the MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE and THUNDERCATS cartoons: they both had relatively small core casts, and the new toys would show up in an episode or three to strut their stuff, but that was it. The shows felt more consistent for that reason.

      (It's unrelated, but I also really like both those series from a purely narrative perspective because He-Man wasn't fighting Skeletor in every single episode and the ThunderCats weren't up against Mumm-Ra and/or the Mutants every day either. Both shows had plenty of what you might call "world-building" episodes, introducing antagonists unique to the screen. It made their worlds feel bigger and more expansive than those of the Joes and Transformers, where every single bad thing that ever happened was due to Cobra or the Decepticons.)

    3. Though I have occasionally wondered if I was an unusual kid in that regard. I did have friends who were totally into whatever new toys came along, and had little interest in the ones left behind.

      Nah, I was the same way. I wouldn't say I was traumatized by all the deaths in the opening of TRANSFORMERS: THE MOVIE, and I came out of the movie loving Rodimus Prime, but that was mostly just because I felt a sense of ownership over him, having gotten to experience his transformation and ascension to leadership, whereas Optimus and all the G1 character were, to my limited perspective, always there, long before I came along.

      But I still liked the earlier characters, and YEARNED for their (long-since sold out & replaced by the new toys I was also buying) figures. I very much lamented never having an original Optimus, or Starscream, or Megatron, or, especially Soundwave (whose failure to show up under my tree one Christmas essentially killed the traditional Santa myth for me, as I realized my parents were beholden to market forces outside their control in a pre-eBay/collector-driven world), all those characters I was watching do stuff on the cartoon every day (even well after the release of the movie when pre-movie-set episodes would still air, or could be watched via rented VHS tapes). Even Hasbro's later "updated" versions of classic characters, like Powermaster Optimus Prime (which seems like either an acknowledgement of their part of the marketability of existing characters or a way to create new figures without paying for additional IP development, you decide!) just didn't scratch the itch I had for the "real" versions of those classic character's toys.

      (GI Joe was much the same way: the first Snake-Eyes figure I had was the third one - with the dart gun and big nunchuks - and I loved it, but damn did I yearn for the second one - with the visor and Timber - that appeared in the cartoons. I loved my gold head Iron Grenadier Destro, but also, was actively irritated that I couldn't find the original silver-headed version anywhere, etc.).

    4. I remember how impossible it was to locate those early Transformer toys. And even though I wasn't following the line as closely in the late '80s, I was still excited by those "Pretender Classics," which featured lame simplified versions of Jazz, Starscream, and I think Bumblebee. Not giving kids the option to buy the original versions seems crazy today.

      And my first Snake Eyes was the 1989 (?) version, the one I think you're referencing. Also one of the last G. I. Joe toys I purchased as a kid. Maybe *the* last!

    5. I latched onto those Pretenders toys as well, for the same reason.

      (And that '89 Snake-Eyes is the one I was referencing!)

    6. I did have the original Bumblebee, but I never owned Grimlock or Jazz -- so I was in for the Classic Pretenders as well. The toys were kinda crummy, but when the characters appeared in the Marvel comics of the time, they were drawn based on the original 1984 character models, and their Pretender shells were ditched pretty quickly, too.

      I had kind of a spotty Transformers collection, for whatever reason. I know I got into the toys in '84, but I still only had a few of the originals. It seems like it was in '85 that I really started getting them in earnest, because I remember owning a lot more of those -- which kind of makes it even odder in retrospect that I love the '84 characters so much since I had fewer of their toys.

      I had even fewer G.I. Joes, though. I had a weird history with that series. I was not interested in it. I don't know why, but it just didn't appeal to me. I had a few figures, given as gifts, and I can name them all on one hand: Duke, Short-Fuze, Breaker, Cobra Officer. Plus Zartan with the Chameleon and Clutch with the VAMP. That was it. I never asked for G.I. Joes, I never watched the show.

      Then, when I was in middle school, my little brother was given a couple Joes by a friend for his birthday. These were the 1991-era figures, when neon was just coming into vogue. I actually got into Joe at that point, through my brother. Started reading the comic, starting watching the cartoon reruns (both Sunbow and DIC) whenever I could find them. So I was a late bloomer with Joes. My first Snake-Eyes (though technically it was my brother's) was the '91 version with the big red goggles and black/blue/gray color scheme!

  3. This is the only comic commercial I remember. I have a VHS recording (from a TRANSFORMERS airing on my CBS station) which I believe was made around Spring 1985. That recording comes after another recording of a CBS broadcast of BUGS BUNNY'S 3RD MOVIE: 1001 RABBIT TALES that aired in February 1985, so the "35" advertisement had to have happened after that.
    Back then, didn't the Drednoks get a lot of covers and issues of them vandalizing Joe property?


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