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

Monday, March 13, 2023

G. I. JOE #72 - June 1988 (The Commercial, Not the Comic)


Nobody beats G. I. Joe

Nobody beats G. I. Joe

Fighting hard against the Cobra foe

Nobody beats G. I. Joe

A Real American Hero!

Once again, we're cheated out of a vehicle-specific jingle. And honestly, "Nobody beats G. I. Joe" was never a personal favorite. I have no other gripes about this one, though.

It's a shame there isn't a higher quality version of this's entirely possible one is out there, buried amongst countless YouTube '80s commercial compilations, but it doesn't seem as if anyone's discovered it. Describing the sequence as "action-packed" feels silly, as these commercials are all about fast-paced action featuring the latest toys and vehicles, but this one really works. The darker colors make it moodier than most of the ads, that Star Viper comes across as truly lethal in just those opening three seconds, and those vehicles are as shiny and cool as the "classic" vehicles from the original Sunbow cartoon.

Apparently, to this day, it's unknown which animation studio was producing the ads during this era. "This era," as in, the daily Sunbow series has ended and DiC has yet to pick up the rights. It's a shame that the version of DiC that takes over the show is the degraded, later version of the studio. DiC began life as a collaboration between a French producer and TMS, the legendary Japanese studio that brought us the best Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series episodes. 

By the late 1980s, DiC began to contract the animation to cheaper studios in Korea...sadly, one of their first "cheap" shows was in fact the relaunched G. I. Joe. Rewatching DiC's Captain N: The Game Master on YouTube during the pandemic, and was surprised at the animation quality. I'm not sure if a single episode looks bad -- in fact, most of the second season tends to look better than the first. (I'm talking the full-length episodes, not the half-episodes later paired with Super Mario on NBC Saturday mornings. Those are truly heinous.) DiC was wrapping up Captain N: The Game Master around the time it launched G. I. Joe, and it's amazing to look at the difference in quality.

 Anyway, some fans believe Sunbow was still producing the animation for these ads (presumably with Toei as the overseas studio, as they animated the best G. I. Joe episodes). Others maintain that this is in fact DiC...the DiC that wasn't known for "Do it Cheap," but was actually producing some of the nicest-looking cartoons for Western audiences at the time. It's a shame that so much of this history remains undocumented. And given that Hasbro sees far more value in Transformers as a property than Joe, I'm not expecting any massive historical preservation projects any time soon (aside from what 3D Joes comes up with, of course.)

The number of characters and vehicles in this one is pretty nuts. This might be the only halfway decent animation the "urban camo" version of Storm Shadow received, and he's only viewed from the back for maybe two seconds while getting his butt kicked. And even a casual fan will note Chris Latta returning, this time as the voice of the Star Viper.

1988 is considered by many to be past the line's glory days, but I believe if a quality show was still airing in syndication at this time, the era would be remembered more fondly. I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with any of the characters and vehicles in this ad, to be honest. And as a kid who wanted something to fill the hole left by the show's cancellation, discovering these new Cobra and Joe forces was pretty exciting. 

Anyone introduced to the title in this era was treated to incredible art by Ron Wagner (another artist with vague Russ Heath qualities that helped to link the comic to the animation  models), clean inks from Randy Emberlin that predates his long association with Mark Bagley on Amazing Spider-Man, and Larry Hama, still quite engaged in building this mythos and entertaining his audience with stories that could be shockingly poignant but also knowingly ridiculous. The ad doesn't depict the Star Viper's attire as he steals the McGuffin disc, an AC/DC t-shirt and a rubber Richard Nixon mask. 

There's also a silent, sneaky sequence of him infiltrating the Joes' base (and walking in on Flint and Lady Jaye making out) that's a testament to both Hama and Wagner's skills as visual storytellers.

#72 is another issue I picked up in my early days of collecting, perhaps spurred on by this ad and the promise of something cool and new. I remained a mark (is that the proper pro wrestling lingo?) for Sgt. Slaughter, and was curious about those new guys riding along with him in that new vehicle. Tunnel Rat's there, but where the heck were the other Rawhides? And why isn't there a new episode of the show where I can see all of this stuff?

So, in closing, shameless self-promotion that would be criminal to ignore. By the time this goes live, I should have two short stories featured by the legendary Saturday Evening Post, and hopefully you'll check them out at this link. I'm also still contributing to CBR in case you'd like to check out my articles.

The even bigger news is the release of my new novel -- novels, plural. They're both available for preorder now on Amazon. The name of the series is Efficient and Divine (and if any '90s aficionado catches the reference, you deserve a Texas-sized No-Prize.) These are two connected mystery/thriller novels starring a young documentarian who may or may not be possessed by demons. April and May will see the release of two full-length novels, Why only a month apart? Well, why not. You can also download free preview ARCs of the first book over at Prolific Works, or Book Sirens. Any support, certainly reviews once the books are released, would be appreciated.


  1. It's so wild to see figures of this vintage like the "good" Storm Shadow in animation.

    I think you make a really good point about the reaction to the later Joe line. After the classic '84-'86 releases but before the full-on day-glo massive spring-loaded accessories figures are a good chunk of figures that are pretty solid but still seemingly held in pretty low regard generally, and I wouldn't be surprised if the lack of quality animated appearances to support them is as much a factor as the ages of fans relative to when they engaged with those '84-'86 "golden years" figures.

  2. That gap without a cartoon definitely hit these characters hard. Hama also didn't seem to discover any favorites during this era, except for Muskrat, who ended up making a decent number of appearances in the late '80s. But even Muskrat was largely forgotten after 1990, as I recall.

  3. I didn't realize there was a mystery as to who produce the ads during this period! Marvel's animation studio still existed at this time (their ROBOCOP cartoon released in 1988 and "Pryde of the X-Men" in '89), plus Sunbow and Griffin-Bacal were still around as well. I always assumed Griffin-Bacal remained Hasbro's ad agency, and through Sunbow/Marvel, continued to produce the ads as before.

    For what's it worth, considering they could've been written under a misconception, the G.I. JOE FIELD MANUAL books, which collect all the animation model sheets, have these characters from the late eighties in chapters titled "The Sunbow Commercials".

    Regardless, "Fighting hard against the Cobra foe" can't hold a candle to "Against Cobra the enemy!" (Which, in my own humble opinion, is itself far inferior to the first mini-series' "Against Cobra and Destro.")

    1. I do seem to remember models from the comic commercials in those Field Manual books. I'd forgotten they were specifically labeled as Sunbow. (There is a shift in the style, I think, but it still seemed much closer to Sunbow than DiC to me.)

      There is some mystery as to what happened between Marvel and Sunbow in the mid-1980s. Flint Dille indicates the relationship fell apart in his book, but says he isn't sure of the details. Jim Shooter, to this day, is rather dismissive of Sunbow in interviews.

    2. You're right; the character models from 1987 up to where the DIC models begin are much more detailed than the ones from 1983-86. In many cases, they're rendered like full-on comic book illustrations, with lots of black, feathered inking, etc. They really don't look like they were designed for animation, but perhaps as model sheets for licensing art or something. And that's the only stretch of artwork in those books that looks that way.

  4. If only the animation in the TV show was as good as what we got in these commercials.


Comment. Please. Love it? Hate it? Are mildly indifferent to it? Let us know!