Onward, Plastic Soldiers.

Snake-Eyes gets mad biz…
Go no further: Snake-Eyes (Ray Park), from G.I. Joe (Summer 2009)

I wasn’t really a fan of the early ’80s cartoon series, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, on which an upcoming, live-action movie, above, will be based, but I loved the Hasbro action figures to death.

Lemme take that back: What I loved wasn’t the toys, per se, but the card art and copy. I would have happily collected the cards and given away the toys. If someone, today, sent me pristine copies of the cards from the early ’80’s, without the toys, I would rejoice.


You see, each member of G.I. Joe came blister-packed on a piece of cardboard that showed the figures getting it on “in real life” and, on the back, gave biographical information.

What bugged me out back then, though, first of all, was the hardcore, “YO, JOE!!” attitude radiating from each package. To call these guys “Gung ho!” is to really redefine the term. They always looked like they were itching for a fight, revenge, C.O.B.R.A.—JOE’s global nemesis—or all three, in a way bordering on the possessed. At rest, inside the packaging, the toy characters typically looked almost serene. But “on the box,” man, teeth gritted, muscles flexed…get in the way, and sum’n was dyin’ that day.

Totally hotAnother element that tripped me out was the almost endless line of specialists in JOE. Hawk, the leader of JOE, had to be the ultimate delegater. When you looked at him, he was just a regular kinda commando guy in a brown shirt. But surrounding him were nitpickers of almost every, and often bizarre, variety, and always only one of each. “Shipwreck,” above, was THE sailor, complete with a large Macaw on his shoulder and a blunderbuss. “Blowtorch,” right, lived for flamethrowing. “Low-Light” was JOE’s night-vision specialist.

Not only was JOE so unimaginative as to give team members backslapping nom de guerres that directly over-corresponded with their professions—I guess I’d have been “Laptop,” “Newsprint,” or “Keyboard,” maybe—but members always wore the same clothes. Certainly, fresh gear that doesn’t change or wear out are a staple of cartoons, from Steamboat Willie to The Simpsons. But when your wears are a red-and-yellow full-body suit, an oxygen tank and helmet, a flame gun, and a fuel backpack, hangin’ out with you can get tired real quick.

Two things to keep in mind when considering G.I. Joe:

1) People take their JOE really seriously. For example, when Paramount announced this past fall that, in the upcoming movie, JOE would no longer be an American entourage of “Government Issue” JOEs, but, instead, a “Global Integrated Joint Operating Entity”—”an international, coed task force charged with defeating bad guys”—men, presumably otherwise occupied with jobs, bellowed:

“I find it outrageous that they’d want to drop everything American” from the character, said conservative blogger Warner Todd Huston, who wrote about the rumors this week on Newsbusters.org and his own blog. “That’s nuts.”

Retired Army Col. David W. Hunt, a FOX News military and terrorism analyst, called the scheme to make a whole new Joe “a shame.”

“G.I. Joe is a U.S. guy,” Hunt said. “What are we going to call it — Global Joe? International Joe? It’s kind of stupid. It’s ridiculous that they’re doing that.”


“G.I. Joe is not an international hero. That’s crap,” said Col. Hunt. “They don’t have to water it down. That doesn’t make sense.”


For blogger Huston, who played with G.I. Joe as a boy, transforming the entire character into an amorphous task force in the movie feels like a hit to his childhood memories.

“I certainly understand that it’s for international audiences, but these things are American icons,” he said. “Why even pretend it’s G.I. Joe then? I am a little bit upset about the whole thing.”

Huston believes it’s the latest example of Hollywood’s hostility toward all things American, and he said he probably won’t go to see the film if the existing plans are executed.

“It’s the last spit in the face of our military,” Huston said. “The doll was G.I. Joe, the government-issued guy who was a hero and American. It was celebrating this one heroic soldier. They want to take even that away.”

The last spit in the face of our military: Denying traumatized soldiers psychiatric help for decades on end, tossing legless Iraq War veterans on the streets to beg…and changing the storyline for a movie about toys.

“Pork chop sandwiches!”2) People don’t take their JOE really seriously, at all. Eric Fensler’s poppingly absurdist re-edits of G.I. Joe‘s minute-long “PSAs”—end-of-episode riffs by JOE characters on, say, fire safety, or first aid, designed to satisfy FCC guidelines re: violent children’s entertainment (“And knowing is half the battle!” Remember?)—have, at this point, long been internet classics, but haven’t even begun to lose their ability to disorient or convulse. In a perfect world, they’d get their own post here on MEDIA ASSASSIN and be studied in film schools. But this is not a perfect world. That’s why we need G.I. JOE to take out the trash!


1 comment so far ↓

#1 RakuMon on 04.08.08 at 11:58 am

The copy on all the filecards (as well as each and every one of Marvel’s awesome Joe comics) was written by comic legend Larry Hama.

Leave a Comment