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Monday, June 13, 2022

G. I. JOE: SPECIAL MISSIONS #28 - November 1988 (The Commercial, Not the Comic)


"The final issue— and it's a space-race blockbuster! The new Joe Space Shuttle is put to a high orbit combat test by the ultimate Cobra weapon— the Cobra Condor!"

That quote above is the 1989 solicitation for the final issue of G.I. Joe: Special Missions. And it's something I wasn't expecting to find at all. While it's fairly surprising that the animated commercials for Marvel's G. I. Joe series ran so deep into the 1980s, it's truly shocking to discover its spinoff title Special Missions also had ads! Well, "shocking"...and yet, to this day, I could almost swear I saw an ad for issue #4, featuring Lifeline tangled up in a parachute overlooking sinister enemies below.

Since there is no archive available for Special Missions online, I was content to believe I'd been confused all of these years. I also have some hazy memory (or have convinced myself I have this memory) of seeing the cover to #55 of the main series (the "Unmaskings" issue) on television, and there's no record of a commercial existing for this one.

But to discover in this collection of kids' TV commercials from August 1989 a fully animated advertisement for the final issue of Special Missions...seriously, I was in this to maybe see the California Raisins riding on a surfboard with Super Mario or something. I wasn't expecting to come across a portion of G. I. Joe lore that appears to have escaped any archiving online. (I say this as someone who maybe isn't the best at Google -- as a commenter on my early CBR articles was fast to inform me. Seems I wasn't living up to CBR blog standards because I couldn't find the specifics of why some pros were quite angry with the magazine at an early Wizard con.)

I've contacted 3D Joes, which has done a great job archiving everything Joe from this era, but haven't heard anything back as of this writing. The official listing on the site only has the ads for the main series, as does the old JoeGuide site. JoeGuide has #80 as the last commercial, but 3D Joes years later located an ad for #88, the July 1989 issue. (And a later commercial, not animated, from the '90s that I can't believe even exists but isn't germane to the topic, as glorious as the ad clearly is.

Regardless, I've searched and can't find any info on this ad, or any other TV commercials that might exist for the Special Missions. This is an ad for the final issue, oddly, baring a cover date of Mid-November 1989, placing it around four months after what's previously been listed as the final animated commercial. For those curious, 1989 was the year Marvel dropped the Joe titles into a pit in the desert and proceeded to machine-gun the lot of them. 

I believe the digest reprints, the Tales reprint series, the European Missions repackaging of the UK comics, and Special Missions were all canned in 1989, leaving only the original title alive. Joe still had enough of a fanbase to survive another five years, but Marvel clearly wasn't interested in devoting so much of its line to a Hasbro property by this date.

Why promote a comic that's on its final issue? Well, something-something, stealth toy ad, something-something, FCC regulations. You know the deal.

We still have the classic voiceover and tagline at the end...and maybe that's Chris Latta screaming "attack!" in the opening, but it's hard to tell. The "Nobody beats G. I. Joe!" slogan is going strong in '89, featuring the voiceover actor who's always screaming at you. It's odd to hear both Joe voiceover artists in the same commercial -- the kind, grandfatherly voice from the early years, paired with the agro, veins-bulging screamer. I'm not sure how much longer he stays with the ads; in an effort to compete with Ninja Turtles, Joe becomes much sillier in this era, which doesn't fit so well with this voice.

The animation in this commercial is curious. There doesn't seem to be any Sunbow/Toei influence here...and it doesn't resemble the upcoming DiC series at all. The toy commercials by this point are cutting back on actual animation, doing the disappointing trick of taking live-action toy footage and then rotoscoping "Sharpie" animation over it. The #28 ad is highly detailed animation that's even more "realistic" than the Toei series, and it moves really well! The color pallet seems a little dull when compared to the Toei episodes, with the elaborate shading and cool laser effects, however. It's hard to imagine anything this detailed in a daily twenty-two minute series, and that's always the major appeal of these ads -- it's like a clip from a truly amazing episode of the show that's been lost.

Interesting to see Rock 'N Roll, in his 1989 re-release uniform, featured prominently as he doesn't seem to appear in the actual comic at all. And is that a grizzled Scoop in the opening frames -- the Joe tasked with filming their missions, who appeared in maybe one Special Missions as I recall, played as a goofy nuisance for the team? 

Actually, the action of the commercial seems to be Scoop calling for a fearsome response to the Cobra attack...and then pointing his camera to film Rock 'N Roll doing the actual work.

The characters appearing in the comic are Hawk, Lift Ticket, Scarlett, Ghost Rider (never named in the series, as Hama tried to explain to Hasbro that Marvel already had claims to that name), Ace, and Dogfight. Are any of these Joes in this commercial? 

#28 is one of the many Special Missions dogfight issues; a convenient way to showcase the latest vehicles and give real-life aviation enthusiast Herb Trimpe something fun to draw. Those issues were always highlights of the run, the type of comic you'd likely only get from these specific creators, and it's fitting Hama/Trimpe went out with this one. A nice bit of synchronicity with Hasbro's needs to promote the new vehicles.

So, yes, this is a curiosity and something I never expected to find. Who knows what else is lurking within the archives of YouTube?


  1. Well dang, how’d I miss this??

  2. Yeah, I can't tell who says "Attack!" but Scoop sounds maybe like Jack Angel? And I'm fairly sure that "Forget the Condor, we've got a bigger fish to fry!" is Neil Ross. But the surprising thing to me is that unless I'm mistaken, they actually got Will Ryan, the original voice of Rock n' Roll, to perform his single line in this ad! That's dedication, especially when you consider how few lines the character had in the entire series. He probably spoke in what, like three or four episodes? And they were all early, so Ryan likely hadn't recorded any lines as Rock n' Roll since 1985.

    (Of course it's possible they had one of the other actors in the ad try to imitate Ryan, but this really, really sounds like him, especially the cadence when he says "Crusader.")

    "...the kind, grandfatherly voice from the early years..."

    For the record, that's Jackson Beck, a notable voiceover guy from the Golden Age of radio (he was the announcer for the ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN serial), who also voiced Bluto in the original POPEYE cartoons. And of course, in addition to narrating these ads, he was also the narrator of the JOE TV series, though they only used him for the voiceover during the main titles and recaps during multi-part episodes.

    Anyway -- I've never seen this one either! I wonder if it's possible there are other ads lost to time as well...? Maybe your ghostly recollections have something to them!

    It's weird, because I, on the other hand, have zero memory of ever seeing a single JOE comic book ad on television. But that could be simply because I wasn't all that interested in G.I. JOE during the 80s, and so wasn't paying attention when they came on. As I've mentioned (probably to the point of annoyance by now), I didn't really get into JOE until middle school, when my brother started buying the toys, which resulted in me picking up the comic book and watching repeats of the series on the USA Cartoon Express (remember that?). As a kid, I was all about He-Man, Transformers, and ThunderCats, but I passed on Joe -- it was probably not fantastical enough for me!

    I note that chronologically, you've skipped a few ads -- issue 68, 72, 74, 80, and 88... Can we assume you just jumped on this ad since you found it, and will be going back to look at those remaining five?

    (By the way, 3D Joes has added this ad to their commercials page with a link to this post!)

  3. Yes, I went ahead with this one after discovering it. I'll get to the others later, I'm sure. - G. Kendall (as I don't know if Blogger will let me log in to comment...)

  4. Agreed with 1989 being when Marvel stopped caring as much about GI Joe. The horrific art of issue #88 of the main title has already stuck with me, even thro you can go back and see that #87 had the same bad artist.


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