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

Monday, June 19, 2023

G. I. JOE #74 - August 1988 (The Commercial, Not the Comic)


Destro's back

On the attack

Out to conquer the world on his own

But nobody beats G. I. Joe

A Real American Hero

Not only is Destro back...but so is the character specific jingle! Those have been sorely missed. There is one quirk here I haven't noticed in the previous ads -- the cover image that swoops in at the end has a different color scheme when compared to the actual comic. The color gradient going from dark orange to yellow looks pretty nice, maybe even better than the printed comic's dark purple to blue. No idea why the two images don't match. Perhaps someone thought the purple clashed against the animation's exploding background?

This ad (the next-to-last in the Marvel run...of the animated commercials, that is) is another refugee from the era between the Sunbow and DiC animated series. It's also a relic of Joe's transition into the 1990s from its '80s glory days. We have Arthur Burghardt returning from the original series as Destro, and the voice of '80s Joe Jackson Beck, who did the voiceovers on the animated series and various commercials. They're joined by...that agro jingle guy who screams more than he sings. Simply not a harmonious blend to my ears, and it's unfortunate that the tough guy posturing is what wins out as Joe marketing goes into the 1990s.

It's possible this is Arthur Burghardt's last appearance as Destro -- online databases have both Scott McNeil and Maurice LaMarche as Destro's voice in the later DiC episodes. Unfortunately, there was never an ARAH reunion for Joe in an animated movie or video game, like the retro Transformers: Devastation title from a while back.

The presentation of this commercial is so divorced from the actual comic, it's pretty amusing. The premise is that Destro is so annoyed by both Cobra Commander and Serpentor, he's striking out on his own against G. I. Joe. This leads to an extended montage of his personal guard, new headquarters, and their new line of vehicles (a little more sci-fi than Cobra's fleet, and presumably all on sale in time for this issue's release).

In actuality, the issue being advertised is part of a multi-issue storyline depicting a Cobra civil war between Cobra Commander's imposter replacement and Serpentor. Destro observes from the side and joins forces with G. I. Joe when the advantage suits him. Along the way, Serpentor dies because Hama never really cared for the guy and Hasbro wasn't planning any new versions of him.

These issues ran during Marvel's initial attempt at scheduling their most popular titles twice a month during the summer. This also happened to be my first summer as a devoted comics fan and everything about this story arc was ridiculously important. I'd never seen a storyline of this scope in the cartoon, and all of the intrigue and political maneuvering amongst the cast melted my small child brain. All this, and the book was coming out twice as often as it used to! 

In retrospect, I could look back and grumble about the blatant cash grab that caused numerous coloring mistakes, and had the great Ron Wagner unable to meet the hectic schedule and some ill-advised fill-in artists popping in (like a sadly miscast Marshall Rogers, who reportedly had an insane tax bill to pay at the time and showed up at Marvel looking for some nice royalty-paying fill-in work.) We all have connections to those early comics, though, and I can't imagine anything shaking my affection for these issues. I even purchased the IDW trade for this run, hoping to replace my tattered original comics -- the back cover claim that these stories have been recolored is "dubious," I'd say.

The animation in this advertisement is darn impressive -- maybe the best the "golden" Destro will ever look. Everyone is pretty far off-model from the '80s cartoon, however. Was there any episode from the Sunbow era that looked like this?

The archived copy is taken from a master recording and preserved by 3D Joes; hopefully, more of these high-quality versions will surface one day. The proto-digital look is, I believe, a result of the editing being done on video instead of film. I don't think the colors were done digitally, but cutting on video might be responsible for the slightly "artificial" look. 

The character movements are remarkably fluid, with far more "flailing" than we ever saw in the Sunbow episodes. The best-looking Joe commercials and episodes from that era were animated in Japan by Toei, I believe, and I don't see any hints of anime here. I actually wonder if the Canadian studio responsible for the 1991 Batman: The Animated Series test footage cut this ad. It's a shame that, as far as I know, there's been no true documentation of the animators and studios who worked on these commercials (in addition to no official release from Hasbro, who reportedly didn't preserve the film.)

Shameless plug new novel series Efficient and Divine is on sale now (a mystery-horror-crime hybrid of small-town murder and mayhem, free on Kindle Unlimited) and I'd love for you guys to check it out. The first book is also available for Audible, with the great Brian Knutson narrating. And, as always, you can receive a free short story if you sign up for my mailing list.

As for next time...well, it's #80, the final animated commercial.


  1. Arthur Burghardt would return to voice Destro in the 1992 live action commercials!

    1. The live action commercials! Maybe worthy of a retrospective of their own.

  2. I don't know why, but there's something really cool about hearing Arthur Burghardt say "Iron Grenadiers."

    I agree; the character models are totally different from Sunbow at this point -- or I suppose I should say that Serpentor's model is off, since none of these other characters appeared (or appeared with these designs) in the cartoon series. But for sure, Serpentor never looked like this in season 2 or the movie. Which seems a little strange, because just as recently as the Battle Force 2000 ad, we saw Duke and Hawk drawn exactly as they looked in the show.

    In any case, it's a bit of a shame -- I think the Sunbow Destro face would look really cool in gold, with the 1988 figure's costume!

    1. It's hard to imagine this was animated by the same studio that did the previous ads or the Sunbow episodes. Of course, I'm not sure if we could've handled the intensity of Destro's arched eyebrows for a full 22 minutes.

    2. Will Meugniot has said on his facebook page that issue 68 was the final GI Joe commercial that Marvel Productions was involved in. I assume Sunbow was still involved in these post-68 commercials for the non-visual aspects of production (thus, why the same voice cast was used), but some other studio would have been doing the character models and storyboards. I'd love to someday find out who it was. (Maybe Sunbow hired an internal team or used freelancers?)

      (FWIW, possibly a coincidence, but Destro's design in this commercial reminds me of Bart Sears' work. He was doing work for Hasbro at the time for both GI Joe and COPS.)

  3. That live-action Joe commercial is wild! My first thought was "who ever thought this was good enough to be seen publicly?" but then I realized this was right around the rise of the Power Rangers, and it has a very similar vibe to that aesthetic.

    1. How JOE reacted to TMNT and later Power Rangers is crazy. They reached a point where joining forces with Street Fighter II seemed reasonable.

  4. I miss getting new content on this site.

    1. It's coming again soon, I promise! I miss it too!

  5. This was a major storyline but it was also the point at which Marvel UK bailed out on the series. They had launched a weekly title in 1987 (as "Action Force" - the toyline history is convoluted but by this stage it was effectively just a different name in an international market) but that only lasted 50 issues. They then put the reprints of the main series (plus a few Special Missions issues) in the back pages of Transformers, whose editors never really cared for it and felt it was imposed on them, and that ran for the next three years apart from two brief periods when they were displaced by Visionaries (another Hasbro property whose own UK comic had failed and got "merged" into Transformers; the second run tied in with the cartoon arriving on screens here a year after the toys and comics). Marvel UK also tried various other things with Action Force - there was a 15 issue monthly title (simultaneously distributed in the US as "G.I. Joe: European Missions"), there was a run of Special Missions reprints in the anthology title The Incredible Hulk Presents but that folded after 12 issues and there were regular hints that something else was going to be tried. The timing of the strip's dropping from Transformers in early 1991 suggests a contractual obligation had finally expired, pretty much after exactly four years of continuous publication (by this stage it was now under the title "G.I. Joe the Action Force", a transitionary stage to bring the toyline name into line).

    Hilariously Transformers dropped the strip with the reprint of issue #74, in the middle of the Civil War. Marvel UK subsequently reprinted #75 in a Holiday Special but never got round to following it up with a reprint of #76. In 1992 there were two further specials, each reprinting an issue of Secret Missions, that were probably thrown together by a new editor or assistant going through an inventory list rather than someone aware of where things had been left off.

    Marvel UK clearly had big hopes for G.I. Joe/Action Force but never really managed to pull it off. Part of the problem was the property was several years old by the time they go their hands on it, and they probably failed to convert much of the readership of Battle Action Force who had previously had the licence and done their own strips (with interesting ways to handle the twists in the toyline). They also weren't helped by the cartoon seemingly never being picked up by any TV channel here (although some episodes were released on video and the retitiling regularly causes flame wars in the YouTube comments). But they also didn't seem to find writers and editors with both strong enthusiasm for the property and the ability to produce stories the could combine meeting the demands of Hasbro UK (or possibly it was "Milton Bradley"; ISTR that name appeared in some of the legal information in the comics suggesting the brand was used here after the takeover of Palitoy) for product currently available on the shelves to be promoted with reprints of the ongoing US title that started further back. After the weekly things got even messier with the weekly reprints in Transformers generally following a clear narrative, but material in annuals, the monthly and Hulk Presents all often came later on, leading to oddities such as the aftermath of the Civil War being shown over a year before it started or Fred VII being shown struggling with his new job before he'd even created the vacancy.


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