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Monday, August 30, 2021

G. I. JOE #54 - December 1986 (The Commercial, Not the Comic)


Cobra's got the right materials

Cobra's got the perfect home

Cobra Terror Drome (Cobra Terror Drome)

Cobra's got a threat more evil

than G.I. Joe has ever known

Cobra Terror Drome  (Cobra Terror Drome)

G.I. Joe - A Real American Hero

According to, there are actually two versions of this commercial. The animation is the same, but the jingle has alternate lyrics. The initial version apparently aired before Hasbro had settled on the base's name, so instead of "Cobra Terror Drome (Cobra Terror Drome)" it's "Cobra Launch Base (Cobra Launch Base)." And now I'm tempted to go back to the published G.I. Joe #54 and see if every "Terror Drome" has clearly been re-lettered. 

Actually, a quick look online reveals the issue's title is in fact "Launch Base," and that is the term used for the Terror Drome throughout the comic! And you've got to love the way Larry Hama titles his comics -- either references to the Bible or Shakespeare or the classics of Western literature...or him simply listing the name of the latest toy he has to work into the script.

The Terror Drome is one of those playsets I likely put on a Christmas wish list, but don't recall ever seeing in a store or in person. I like the design quite a lot (and even worked a Terror Drome into the Kindle Worlds Joe novels I wrote years ago) as it blends a sci-fi influence with the military themes but doesn't come across as truly outrageous. It seems fans have accepted the Terror Dromes as a legitimate Cobra base, even the segment that rejects most of the late 1980s material. I'd hate to think what a decent-condition Terror Drome sells for on the secondary market today.

This might be the least interesting of the comic commercials, as it turns out. I believe it's the first one to dedicate itself exclusively to a playset, which means the bulk of the ad consists of Cobra soldiers touring the base and showing off all its cool features. It picks up at the end, though, when Flint is shot down over the Terror Drome and taken captive.

The cover to this comic I personally view as iconic, probably because I have specific memories of this commercial and genuinely wanted this issue, though I wasn't into comics yet. I never came across it during my days picking up Joe back issues in K-Mart packs, however. (And to this day, I don't think I have a physical copy of #54.) It's a fantastic Mike Zeck image, doing what he did so well in those days -- placing a Joe in true jeopardy and perfectly rendering all of the weaponry and military regalia fans associate with Joe. The angle Flint's positioned in, however, does deny us one of those classic "true murderous rage" faces Zeck is famous for.

Another reason I might've responded to this ad is the simple presence of Flint, now in late 1986. He'd been brushed aside in favor of the new line of figures, so it's a little surprising to see him given a cover spotlight. Then again, Flint received such a push the previous year, perhaps Hasbro realized they couldn't totally abandon the character -- he managed to make a decent number of appearances in the 1986 animated episodes.

The producers didn't see fit, however, to bring in Flint's voice actor Bill Ratner for the spot. According to JoeGuide, we have Morgan Lofting (The Baroness), Corey Burton (Tomax), Michael Bell (Xamot), and Brian Cummings (Dr. Mindbender) resuming their roles from the show. Mindbender sounds a little off to my ears, but we're talking about a second's worth of dialogue on a low-quality VHS rip, to be fair.

So, not the best of the lot, but the animation is solid and it exists as a bit of a historical oddity. (Would we still have a TMNT "Technodrome" if this playset had remained "Cobra Launch Base"?)

Hey, I'm giving away a free, exclusive chapter of my '80s-themed vigilante novel Blind Cerulean to anyone who signs up for my mailing list! This chapter is not in the Amazon version -- it's only available to my mailing list subscribers. Check it out at the link!


  1. We didn't have a lot of money growing up, but my parents managed to do a weird thing: I had a handful of individual action figures and the occasional vehicle, but somehow around my birthday or Christmas they often found the money for a big-ticket item. So while I had maybe four He-Man characters, I also had Castle Greyskull. I also had a modest number (a dozen or so) GI Joe figures (they were cheaper than He-Man) and a couple of vehicles, but I also got the Terror Drome. The Firebat jet was really cool (it "launched" out of a mechanical elevator system in the middle) and the structure itself was so imposing that it dwarfed any other GI Joe toys, so the only thing I had that could mount a reasonable offensive against it was the Millenium Falcon.

    Toys aside, these issues were some of my favorites at the time, even if they don't hold up quite as well as the much better Hama stuff from the #30s/#40s. Spoiler alert: I don't know if the commercial's producers cared about the actual comic, but Flint's voice actor may not appear because that's not really Flint. They dropped Snake-Eyes in there in disguise to intentionally get captured... for some reason. At any rate, it culminated in a pretty good sequel to "Silent Interlude" where Scarlett and Storm Shadow bust their pal out of the Cobra building in NYC a few issues later.

  2. That's right, Bob -- I remember reading about the Flint/Snake Eyes fakeout in YEARBOOK #3, which recapped the previous year's stories (all new to me) and had a new main story, the first spiritual sequel to "Silent Interlude," which remains one of my favorite issues. I do wonder if I would've gotten so into comics as a kid without this specific commercial, oddly enough...

  3. I had to look at the value of a used Terrordrome. I found one incomplete for $500. A complete Firebat alone was $300. Yikes

  4. I got the Terrordome as a kid when a friend of mine lost my Boba Fett figure and somehow came to the conclusion that giving me his Terrordome was the best way to make up for it. As a child, I was too selfish to realize how lopsided that was and accepted it.

    I was also really poor growing up but managed to secure a nice collection of G.I. Joe figures and vehicles. At least until M.A.S.K came around and I decided those were cooler. I wish they'd bring those things back.

    1. Those MASK designs were super neat, sort of GI Joe vehicles with some Transformers vibe thrown in.

      It's been 35 years, but I remember one of the big problems was that they were very cheaply constructed. Flimsier plastic and less durable parts overall compared to GI Joe and Transformers toys.

  5. I was always happy when JOE covers spotlighted characters/figures who had been phased out of the line. It showed, or at least I believed it showed, that the series was more than just an "advertisement". There's actually a decent number of covers like this in 1987/88. Lots of covers with older characters, like Flint, Lady Jaye, Stalker, Snow-Job, Destro -- many or all of whom had been off shelves after 1985 or '86 at the latest.

    I think I've mentioned before that I was a late bloomer with G.I. JOE -- I started reading the comic when I was in middle school and my brother got into the toys. But I knew a decent amount of Joe lore from my childhood. And I was shocked when I started reading, circa the 120s, to find characters like Flint, Lady Jaye, the Baroness, and so forth still appearing. It had been years since they were last available as action figures!

    Contrast this with TRANSFORMERS, which always, almost without fail, only showed brand-new toys on every cover, and at least until the final twenty or so issues, consistently focused was solely on the new stuff, with older characters relegated to background cameos most of the time, TRANSFORMERS really did feel like a monthly toy commercial, while JOE felt more like a "real" comic, for lack of a better term, because of this.

    1. Forgot to mention -- I recently learned that like this issue, the ad for issue 25 also has two versions! The one you reviewed here, as cut and pasted from your original post, goes:

      Evil master of disguise
      Changes color before your eyes
      Zartan has an evil plan just for G.I. Joe
      G.I. Joe, a real American hero
      Fighting fiendish new foes

      The alternate version goes:
      Evil master of disguises
      There's no end to his surprises
      Zartan has an evil plan just for G.I. Joe
      G.I. Joe, a real American hero
      Fighting a fiendish new foe

      Check out the two versions here and here:

      Interesting that one highlights the figure's gimmick, while the other does not -- and the character in the comic does not change colors, so maybe the second version was created so as not to falsely advertise the story?

    2. Matt, that's interesting. It also sounds as if both the singer and Zartan have different voices in the ads.

  6. The Terror Dome was one of the few big scale Joe playsets I had; I got it for Christmas one year and it was great. I think I claimed an old coffee table from the basement or something to be it's permanent pedestal. Unlike a lot of the toys from my childhood that I no longer have, I have no memory of what happened to it. I know I (stupidly) sold a bunch of Joes and Transformers off at a garage sale in an attempt to make money to buy more new (ultimately crappier) toys, but I can't imagine I would have parted with the Terror Dome that way.

    Anyways, I dig that the commercial seems to showcasing the Terror Dome as it was originally intended, a sort of mass-produced, pre-packaged "build it yourself" base for terrorist cells around the world, vs. the central, singular, base of Cobra Command as it was used in the cartoon (though as central bases go, it was still pretty cool).

    And it continues to blow my mind to see these commercials from relatively late in the comic/toy lines' run.


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