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Tuesday, January 23, 2024

G. I. Joe #80 - November 1988 (The Commercial, Not the Comic)

Nobody beats G. I. Joe

Over the land and deep down below

Cobra BUGGs got an eye out for Joe

Nobody beats G. I. Joe

A Real American Hero!


Gene Kendall here, returning with another sporadic review of classic G. I. Joe comic commercials. This one looks pretty amazing, giving audiences all of the fast-moving eye candy you want to see in these ads, but I will have to be a Grumpy Gus and gripe about the lazy jingle.


The early jingles in these ads were true works of art -- Zartan introduced with a pulsing disco theme! -- but in the later commercials, they consist of a few lyrics slapped on to the "Nobody beats G. I. Joe!" tagline, or they're not there at all. I'll admit my bias that I just don't like the "Joe Tough" and "Nobody beats G. I. Joe" campaigns and find the voiceover artist's voice to be…let's say abrasive. The early Joe campaigns were classy and fun, but by the late 1980s, we're in the early days of "extreme" marketing determined to grab kids' attention from all of that cable TV and Nintendo going around.


But as a piece of animation, this is one of the strongest efforts. Sometimes these ads try to cram a story into thirty seconds, other times it's an excuse for the good guy vehicles to relentlessly blow up the bad guy vehicles. That's what we're getting here, and it's fun to watch. There are at least three incredible explosions in only a few seconds, some nicely rendered vehicles (and given how convoluted Joe design was getting at this point, that's no small feat), and the backgrounds look fantastic.


Supposedly, Repeater, Storm Shadow, Spearhead, and Charbroil are the Joes we see during that tracking shot over the Rolling Thunder, but they are obviously not the stars of this ad. In fact, the only characters that receive clear shots are Cobra Commander (still voiced by Chris Latta) and a Techno-Viper. This is all about selling those vehicles: the BUGG, the Phantom X-19 Stealth Fighter, and of course, the Rolling Thunder. 

There's an interview with the toy designer that indicates he views the Rolling Thunder as the peak of G. I. Joe, and in terms of audaciousness and basic coolness, he might be right. I still have my childhood toy, and the two giant -- I mean giant -- missiles that house dozens of smaller missiles is one of my favorite toy gimmicks ever. The only ding against the Rolling Thunder is that those Brobdingnagian wheels are plastic instead of rubber, but I think Hasbro had mostly eliminated any rubber in its toys by 1988. Interestingly, three years before the Rolling Thunder's release, a prototype version can be seen in the Season One two-parter "Captives of Cobra."


Perhaps by 1988, enough years have passed since the original Sunbow cartoon to recycle some material that's always worked. That shot of the aircraft carrier is reminiscent of an image of the Flagg from one of the original opening credit sequences. And the collapsing Cobra "Mount Rushmore" at the end also evokes the Season Two opening credits. Both look great and I'm not complaining…I just wonder if the attitude was "we already know this looks cool and it's not as if some kid out there is going to call us out on it."


The issue of the comic promoted by the cartoon is another personal favorite. I imagine the no-plot commercials were much easier for Larry Hama to translate into a comic book, so he's free to enjoy himself and pull off a done-in-one issue that has the Joes and Cobra both attempting to lay claim to a new land mass emerging from the ocean. The Joes display their loyalty and courage, while the Cobra agents squabble over who takes the blame for failure. This is the issue that had the great Tom Palmer inking Ron Wagner, and it's one of the nicest-looking stories from the original run.


Next time…well, I thought this was the final comic commercial, as it's the last one listed on, but as someone on Twitter pointed out, there's one additional ad from 1989, archived by 3DJoes. So, I'll definitely cover that one, and then…who knows…


In the meantime, you can still check out my articles on CBR. I've covered some fun topics recently, like Chris Claremont's secret Psylocke retcon that's gone unnoticed for over twenty years, and Joshua Williamson's choice to make Cobra-La a critical part of the rebooted Energon Universe.

More importantly, I have two short story collections on sale soon, Dogteeth and Other Tales of the Paranormal: Ten stories of the paranormal from Gene Kendall, exploring both the light and the dark. A wood nymph becomes a crucial tool in global domination. A social media fad has the entire world feeling blue. An idyllic young couple faces a literal ghost from the past. Featuring the return of Bradley Burns, the Paranormal Desperado of Love is Dead(ly), and the debut of Dogteeth (don’t you ever call them vampires).


…and Ten Tiny Tales: Stories of Broken Elevators and Other Mundane Things: Gene Kendall returns with ten stories of everyday joys, anxieties, and all the gooey stuff in-between. A few tales of families and criminals and windbags and kids who need haircuts. Featuring material originally presented in the Saturday Evening Post.


Both are free on Kindle Unlimited, and any support on your part (Amazon reviews, certainly) is more than appreciated.


  1. Good to see the animation in the ads (much like Transformers) is still so much better than what we would get in the average episode.

    "you can still check out my articles on CBR"

    A once great site. Your articles are one of the few reasons to still visit.

    1. Yeah, Gene's articles and Brian's Legends Revealed and...that's about it.

    2. These commercials are a nice jolt of nostalgia. I had mostly moved past GI Joe toys and comics by this time, but commercials (and the occasional comic issue) would still grab my attention from time to time.

      Funny thing about CBR: what happened to it - and HOW it happened - was a bellwether of how so many other websites have deteriorated in the last decade. There's practically a playbook for how a site flounders when it gets swallowed up by a bigger company: the cutting of editorial staff, the total atrophy of the comment sections, more invasive/voluminous ads, the further reduction of overall staff, the increase in listicles for easy/quick content, the inevitable "pivot to video" attempt(s), the clickbait articles, and eventually the one or two writers who keep hanging on (and who keep us going back periodically.)

      It's all so familiar. CBR, The Mary Sue, The AV Club, basically all of the Gawkerverse, etc etc

  2. Still wild to see characters like the Techno Viper in Sunbow animation.

    I still have my childhood toy, and the two giant -- I mean giant -- missiles that house dozens of smaller missiles is one of my favorite toy gimmicks ever.

    The last great super-sized Joe vehicle I had was the following year's Thunderclap, which basically subbed in a giant cannon for the Rolling Thunder's missile with missiles. Both are pretty great.

    1. I remember the Thunderclap only from issue #92 of the comic (featured prominently on the cover, naturally), which I was still following closely. I think I bought the comic for around two years after I dropped the toys in favor of TMNT. The commercial only has a few seconds of animation, but a lot of Sgt. Slaughter!

  3. Here's the commercial for the Rolling Thunder. Some date this ad as late 1992, which seems odd. I don't think this is the same animation from the comic commercial, and there's a different jingle.

  4. Hey, Gene. I came across a CBR article of yours recently that complimented my interview with Bruce Timm and just wanted to say thanks for the kind words.


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