Talking about comic books, TV shows, movies, sports, and the numerous other pastimes that make us Gentlemen of Leisure.

Monday, January 4, 2021

G. I. JOE #47 - May 1986 (The Commercial, Not the Comic)

 You're on a high speed mission in enemy water

There's no turning back

You aboard the G.I.Joe Devilfish


When you run into a Cobra attack

Cobra attack!

Cobra's got a new Hydro-sled

Cobra's an evil foe

And Cobra's new Hydro-sled

Is going to get G.I. Joe

G.I. Joe -- a real American hero!

Apparently, some odd shenanigans regarding the long-running fansite have also impacted their Youtube least I think the YoJoe! Youtube channel I was linking to was connected to the site. Regardless, those high-quality versions of the old comic commercials I was posting are gone now, nuked with the rest of that channel. (The original poster stopped by here to reveal his higher quality versions had been discovered at Amblin Entertainment's archives...I'd still like to know how Steven Spielberg ended up with them, and if we'll ever see them again). That, coupled with my irritation with Blogger's new layout (I had to Google the HTML necessary to insert a page break! It used to be a button!), means fewer of these Joe commercial posts than I would've liked. 

But, it's a 2021 miracle, because I'm back with a new entry. We're relying now on a VHS copy, archived by the fantastic 3D Joes channel.

The ad for G. I. Joe #47 is one of the best yet, as it turns out. Some truly gorgeous colors, taking advantage of the water setting to create unique lighting effects on the vehicles and secret underwater Cobra base. The animation is also top notch, as we've come to expect in most of these commercials. Fast, fluid movement, flashy explosions, and consistent character designs worthy of the great Russ Heath. The show never quite looked this good, though we were teased with its potential with the movie and some scenes in the big five-part storylines.

We're still in a classic era for the comic, and franchise overall. Mike Zeck remains the comic's cover artist, his work slapped on to the final frame of the animation (working as a smoother transition this time.) Larry Hama has indicated recently that he drew the layouts for these covers early in the development of the commercials, presumably so that the scenes leading up to the concluding image could match the cover slipped into the ad's final moments. Previously, Hasbro had an issue with Roadblock firing away at unseen opponents on a cover, requesting less "violent" images in the future. Perhaps that edict had yet to go into place, because Zeck's cover work this time is arguably just as intense.

The stars of the ad are Wet Suit, Beach Head, and General Hawk, three of the leading figures of the 1986 line. The show's still months away from debuting the 1986 cast, so once again, it's a little odd to see characters appearing so early. Hawk, of course, goes back to the earliest Real American Hero days, but he's been redesigned and promoted for the 1986 line. The character had already fallen out of favor with Hasbro and essentially been replaced by Duke by the time the 1983 miniseries aired, but Hama never dropped Hawk out of the comic. 

Whether or not this inspired Hasbro to revive him a few years later as "the leader" is unknown. He is, however, visually quite different now. The comics will embrace his new uniform and that stylish jacket, but refuse to go along with his new dark hair (presumably Hasbro's call to distinguish him Duke). The Hawk of the comics stubbornly sticks to his blond flat-top for years. (Though I do believe someone relented and gave him dark hair towards the end of Joe's Marvel run.)

Hawk's companions on that Devilfish, however, never received much love in the comics. Internal memos from Hama (reproduced in Mark Bellomo's Ultimate Guide to G.I. Joe 1982-1994) indicate he was already exhausted by all of the new characters by 1985, and suggesting Hasbro use these new designs on existing figures. For example, instead of a new guy named Footloose, give this design to Grunt and explain he's undergone new training.

If Hama didn't have time for Bazooka, Quick Kick, and Alpine, it's not a surprise Beach Head, Wetsuit, Leatherneck, and all the rest also found themselves lacking screentime. Many of the 1986 characters debut in this story arc -- along with that straggler from 1985, Shipwreck -- but they're not contributing much. What fans will always remember this arc for is Snake Eyes fighting off a shark attack, Storm Shadow rejoining his sword brother, and Baroness apparently killing him in retaliation. Not to mention some memorable scenes with Ripcord, the Crimson Guard, Major Bludd, and Zartan. Basically, cool stuff involving the previous years' toys.


  1. Yeah, it's interesting to watch as the series goes along and see which characters Hama gloms onto and which he gives token apperances before discarding. I seem to recall some of the 1987 characters caught his fancy; guys like Tunnel Rat and Chuckles showed up a decent amount as the series moved along. But mostly he would simply give the new characters their moment to shine, while retaining narrative focus on his "core" cast of Hawk, Stalker, Scarlett, Snake-Eyes, etc.

    Hawk's hair randomly turned brown mid-storyline somewhere in the 120s, while the Joes were trapped in Borovia (his hair also became wavy like the '86 figure during this story). It stayed brown for a while after that, but I believe he got the blond crew-cut back shortly before the series ended. It always struck me odd that they would change it so late in the game after years of blond hair on the 1986 character design -- but if you can buy Hawk being a bit vain (which I personally can't, but what're you gonna do?), I suppose a No-Prize solution could be that he ran out of hair bleach while stranded in Borovia, then returned to coloring his hair after he got back to the Pit.

    P.S.: I hate the new Blogger setup too. For years, I've relied on the remedial HTML I learned in college for my site, but even that is challenged by the new interface.

    1. Another wonderful element of the new Blogger -- I'm G. Kendall, but I think this reply won't show up with my screen name or enable me to receive email notifications of any responses.

      Anyway, I remember Hama telling letter writers that coloring mistakes don't count for No-Prizes. I wonder if there was a new editor or colorist who only knew of Hawk from the cartoon years earlier and "fixed" Hawk's blond hair.

      I also remember several of the 1987-1988 Joes receiving decent spotlights in the Special Missions spinoff. Muskrat seemed to be one of Hama's favorites, at least for a little while.

    2. Okay, I showed up as me, but there's no option for email notifications.

  2. The show's still months away from debuting the 1986 cast, so once again, it's a little odd to see characters appearing so early

    It's weird; for whatever reason, I've always associated these ads with the early, pre-animated series years of the franchise, so it's a little jarring to see "Arise, Serpentor, Arise"-era characters featured in one of these commercials, even as I know, intellectually, the years of publication of the comics being advertised and the fact they're contemporaries of that era of the animated series as well.

    (And yes, the new Blogger interface is garbage. *My* big beef is that you can no longer upload multiple pictures at once and then add them to a post one at a time; now they have to be uploaded and added individually, which is slow AF and increases the amount of time I have to spend on each post - and if the picture gets put in the wrong spot, moving it around is super buggy. If I had the time/mental energy to do it, I'd totally migrate to a different platform at this point).

  3. For all of the obviousness of the comic and cartoons being thinly veiled toy commercials, I don't think any of the commercials we've looked at here have had lyrics that are so baldly desperate to get kids to buy not just GI Joe toys, but very specific toys. The repetition of the toys' names, the awkward phrasing that makes sure those names are mentioned at the end of the tune's lines... man, that is some cynical shit.

    Regardless, I come here not to bury a commercial but to praise the comic its attached to. GI Joe issues #45-50 are a roller coaster of insane action in service of even more insane concepts that would make the "Fast and Furious" franchise look like "My Dinner With Andre." Beneath all the family melodrama, the weird sci-fi/fantasy Serpentor stuff, and the wild Zartan/Ripcord switcheroo, Hama managed to keep the focus on one of the great universal truths of humanity: ninjas are really fucking cool, and watching ninjas do cool ninja shit is all any eleven-year-old boy can ask for (and it brings out the eleven-year-old boy that lives in every adult's heart.)

    There's a good argument to be made that Hama's best pure writing and characterization was in the teens-early-20s issues, with Baroness drama and Kwinn and "Silent Interlude" etc etc. And boy that stuff was great, but Hama was working with a limited number of characters, and it felt like the editorial/commercial mandates were focused more on vehicles and accessories as opposed to action figures, so he was free to write about whoever he liked as long as they hopped in a Rattler once an issue.

    But by issue 40-something, Hasbro was producing a dozen or more action figures a year, plus vehicles, and instead of being told to fold "guy with a flamethrower" into the story, Hama was now getting "supernatural chameleon shapeshifter" and "literal reincarnation of Julius Caesar." In retrospect, a ninja's deadly thirst for vengeance might've been the most grounded part of the books in this era.

  4. Hey, send me a message. I can get you those commercials.

    1. Through Facebook, I guess.


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