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"G.I. Joe is the code name for America's daring, highly-trained special mission force. Its purpose: to defend human freedom against COBRA, a ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world."
G.I. Joenote As far back as World War II, "G.I. Joe" was slang for an American rank-and-file soldier. There was even a movie titled The Story of G.I. Joe that came out in 1945. is a franchise created by American toymaker Hasbro in 1964 to promote their line of military toys. Notably, the original toys were the very first to be called "action figures" (to appeal to boys who didn't want to play with "dolls"). In this first incarnation, G.I. Joe was the name of the main character, and the figures were based on each branch of the United States military. However, the Vietnam War caused the brand's popularity to decline, so in the late 1960s the franchise reinvented itself as the "Adventure Team," trading warfare for exploration in exotic locations. While the drastic change allowed G.I. Joe to survive Vietnam, the line was eventually ended in 1976.The second incarnation of the franchise began in 1982, four years after Hasbro's rival Kenner launched their popular Star Wars toyline. Unlike G.I. Joe, which had 12" action figures, Star Wars figures were 3 3/4" tall, allowing them to also sell playsets and vehicles at low prices and thus make even more money. Seeing the massive profit Kenner was making, Hasbro decided to relaunch G.I. Joe in the new scale and hired Marvel Comics to create a story, characters, and media tie-ins for the line. Marvel eventually came up with a premise that is still the core of the franchise today - G.I. Joe was no longer one person note Except in some continuities, where the team is named in honor of General Joe Colton, the man responsible for its creation, but the name of an elite American military unit engaged in a battle against the terrorist organization Cobra and its plans to Take Over the World. To promote the line (now dubbed G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero), Marvel launched two tie-ins:
An animated series from Sunbow Productions and Marvel Productions. Though the more remembered of the two continuities today, the cartoon is also infamous for its less realistic depiction of violence: both sides used lasers instead of bullets, there were no deaths, and whenever an aircraft was destroyed its pilot had to be shown parachuting out of it. Sunbow produced two seasons and a movie intended for theatrical release, but the failure of Transformers: The Movie caused it to instead be released direct-to-video. DIC Entertainment took over following the movie and produced two more seasons before ending the show in 1991.
G.I. Joe. An arcade game created by Konami based on both versions of G.I.Joe: A Real American Hero.
A comic book written by Larry Hama. Prior to the relaunch, Hama had an idea for a Marvel Universe comic called Fury Force, which would have seen the son of Nick Fury put together a team to fight Hydra, Marvel's resident terrorist group; his G.I. Joe series was based primarily on this unused pitch. Compared to the cartoon, the comic was the more mature of the two, since it allowed characters to be killed off and contained a functioning canon. The book proved to be very popular, and at one point it was Marvel's bestselling comic; the famous issue 21, which told a story without using any speech bubbles or sound effects, has been endlessly homaged and parodied.
In the original run's early issues, GI JOE was revealed to be the cover-name for Special Operations Group Delta, which was the real-world designation for the (at the time) classified Special Forces unit today known as Delta Force.
By 1994, A Real American Hero was officially dead at retail, but Hasbro has since launched several other incarnations of the franchise, though none have ever gained the longevity of the original. The versions of the brand released since the end of ARAH include:
GI Joe Devils Due. In 2001, Devil's Due Publishing (a spinoff of Image Comics) acquired the comic rights to G.I. Joe and launched a new series, set in the same continuity as the Marvel Comic. They published an ongoing title - once again called G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, but later relaunched as G.I. Joe: America's Elite - and several miniseries exploring the backstories of the characters. Devil's Due lost the comic rights to IDW Publishing in 2008, and their final issue was printed that July. All of these books have since been declared Canon Discontinuity and are now known as the "Disavowed" comics.
G.I. Joe Reloaded: In 2004, Devil's Due attempted to branch out with a more realisticAlternate Continuity. After two one-shots that established Cobra and the Joes, the series lasted for fourteen issues, with a massive retool halfway through.
GI Joe IDW. As mentioned above, IDW acquired the comic rights to the franchise in 2008 and began publishing their own comics in 2009. This time, instead of continuing the Marvel/Devil's Due storyline, IDW opted to start over from the beginning and create a brand new canon. They are currently publishing three ongoing titles in the new continuity (G.I. Joe, Snake Eyes, and Cobra) and a second, Larry Hama-penned revival of the original Marvel series set in the same continuity and picked up exactly where Vol 1 had left off.
G.I. Joe: Renegades, a 2010 animated series airing on The Hub, a network owned jointly by Hasbro and Discovery Communications. Taking inspiration from The A-Team, Renegades recasts the Joes as a group of soldiers falsely accused of terrorism, and the series follows their efforts to clear their names and expose the real enemy: the sinister Mega Corp. Cobra Industries. After one season, the show was put on hiatus; it is currently unknown if it will ever return.
G.I. Joe: Sigma 6, a 2005 Animesque animated series that coincided with the launch of an 8" scale toyline. Animated by the Japanese studio GONZO, the series continued the storyline of two direct-to-DVD movies Hasbro released to promote previous toylines Spy Troops and Valor vs. Venom. Like Extreme, Sigma 6 only ran for two seasons, and the toys went back to 3 3/4" scale in time for the 25th anniversary of ARAH.
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, a 2009 live-action movie directed by Stephen Sommers of the The Mummy Trilogy fame. After the wild success of the Michael BayTransformers films, Hasbro and Paramount decided to make the first live-action entry in the franchise. The movie made a number of changes to the established mythos, including making the Joes an international team rather than solely American. These changes ended up fracturing the fandom, and while the film made a profit at the box office its gross paled in comparison to the Transformers movies.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation, the 2013 sequel to Rise of Cobranote It was originally set for a June 2012 release, but was bumped up a year later due to the studio wanting to add 3D, as well as some reshoots of certain scenes.. Featuring a new director, Dwayne Johnson, Bruce Willis, and about half the original cast returning, the movie quickly turned heads by just how different it felt from the first film while still being clearly set in the same universe.
This eventually led into G.I. Joe Extreme, a 1995 series about a new Joe team being formed to fight the masked dictator Iron Klaw and his evil SKAR organization. Embracing the visual style of The Dark Age of Comic Books, the series ran for two seasons and ended in 1997.
In celebration of the franchise's 50th anniversary in 2014, G.I. Joe was licensed for Kindle Worlds (allowing the publication and sale of fan fiction).
Becomes a Reluctant Warrior when Lifeline is chosen to fight in "GI Joe Special Missions" #4 using his aikido against his Oktober Guard opponent, Horrorshow. He uses Cobra's "black boxes" to buy back the lives of the Oktober Guard when it's implied they'd be killed if he didn't.
"The Million Dollar Medic" has Lifeline know some techniques to stall Cobra before Joe reinforcements can save him and Bree Van Mark.
Clueless Aesop: What do these morals have to do with military factions firing lasers at each other?
Androcles' Lion: The origin of Snake-Eyes' wolf Timber in the cartoon; Snake-Eyes stopped to free the wolf from a bear trap, while lethally irradiated.
A similar origin is given for Timber in the IDW Origins comic, where Snake-Eyes frees Timber from barbed wire whilst infiltrating an airbase, setting off an alarm in the process.
And again in Renegades, where the caught in a trap trope is played again, with Timber immediately sensing kinship with Snake Eyes and helps him throughout the episode afterwards.
And Some Other Stuff: In an issue of G.I. Joe: Special Missions, Lightfoot explains how how he is MacGyvering a fuel-air explosive out of supplies found in an enemy bunker. However, the panels have censor boxes placed over them so the reader cannot see what he is actually doing.
Argentina Is Naziland: In Special Missions #2, an elderly Nazi is hiding out in a special jungle fortress.
Also prevalent in the comic during its end days, when everyone at Marvel seemed to try and emulate Rob Liefeld's style.
On the toy side of things, the shift from the older "Real American Hero" molds to newer, more detailed sculpts in the line's resurrection in 2002 counts, as well as the switchover to the "25th Anniversary"-style molds.
Base on Wheels: During the heyday of the toyline there were a whole series of massive vehicle playsets; the Defiant shuttle launch complex, Rolling Thunder, Mobile Command Centre...
Because I'm Jonesy: In one issue of the Marvel Comics series, Zartan infiltrates the Pit, and moves about shifting his appearance from one Joe to another as he goes. However, he shifts into looking like Gung Ho just as the real Gung Ho enters the room; alerting the Joes to the fact that one of them is an imposter.
BFG: Since some Joes are heavy weapons specialists, this trope is pretty much mandatory. Still, the most noteworthy example is Roadblock, who uses a belt fed 50cal M2 Browning as his portable, standard firearm. At one point in the comics, two average sized Joes (Rock & Roll, himself a machine gun specialist, and somebody who escapes recollection for the moment) unload the machinegun from a car that is already buckling from it's weight. They state that the two of them can barely lift it off the ground and ask how Roadblock can possibly wield it in battle. Roadblock takes it in one hand and calmly responds "good diet and high pain tolerance".
Big Bad: Cobra Commander, even though he screws up constantly in the animated series.
Bittersweet Ending: Not every episode had a happy conclusion. "Computer Complications" was essentially a tie between G.I.Joe and Cobra; "Sink the Montana", despite concluding with the Joes foiling Cobra's plot, still had a somewhat depressing ending.
Same goes for the comic, which especially under Marvel had the Joes frequently running up against the complexity of international politics and conflicting interests within the U.S. government.
The Blank: Cobra Commander's mask is either a featureless reflective plate or a blue hood with eyeholes cut out.
Body Horror: "Glamour Girls" had Low-Light stop the "Transferance Machine" from stealing the youth and beauty of his younger sister, Una by destroying the linkage to her. The backwash, though, caused the machine to leave Madam Vale, the intended recipient of the stolen beauty, without a face. The reactions of Lady Jaye (horror) and Low-Light (hiding Una from the sight) show how bad it was—and only that we hear Madame Vail bemoaning her loss prevents it from being And I Must Scream.
Boobs of Steel: The Baroness is usually depicted as the most dangerous female member (or often the only one) of Cobra. She also has a big rack. And on the GI Joe side, you've got Lady Jaye, who was easily more of a survivalist than say... Scarlett and had the biggest breasts (hard to miss when you consider that she kept the top two buttons of her olive drab uniform shirt unbuttoned all the time.)
Brainwashed and Crazy - Most characters underwent this trope at some point in the cartoon but special mention must go to Flint who suffered this at least three times in the series. The Marvel series ended with at least three major characters in this state as well.
Camera Abuse: A Cobra paratrooper smashes the lens of a news camera in the opening sequence of The Movie.
Canon Discontinuity: As a result of IDW Publishing renewing the storyline of the original Marvel Comics series from where the final issue left off, the Devil's Due run is now considered an alternate universe known as the "Disavowed" continuity.
Canon Immigrant: Certain characters were originally created for the comics and cartoons before they were introduced to the toyline such as the Baroness, General Flagg, the Oktober Guard, and Kamakura.
Action Force, The UK adaption changed the battle cry to "Full Force!"
In Japan and Latin America, the battle cry was instead changed to simply G.I. Joe!
Cast as a Mask: Whenever Zartan had to put on a disguise, he was then voiced by who previously played the person he was disguised as until he was revealed. Michael Bell played him and the French Scientist he impersonated in "Countdown for Zartan," while Neil Ross played both Shipwreck and Zartan-as-Shipwreck for "Once Upon A Joe".
The same goes for Baroness, who sometimes would even disguise herself as a male. In "Twenty Questions" she's revealed to have been in disguise as a cameraman for most of the episode... a cameraman who until The Reveal previously had a male voice actor.
The Chick: Somewhat averted, with the girls being competent on both sides, but the code names of the Joe girls fit this: Lady Jaye, Scarlett, and Cover Girl.
Daina of the Oktober Guard averted this in the comics by wearing a BDU and being a badass sniper. Her cartoon counterpart on the other hand wore a pink outfit with a white fur hat, an ensemble that was clearly not fit for combat.
If that combat was in colder climates (closer to depictions of Russia or Czechoslovakia pre-1993), then the pink outfit would fit better.
Code Name: The characters will only rarely refer to each other by their real names, and the IDW series goes so far as to have Hawk tell one potential recruit that if she joins, her Code Name will be her name. Invoked hardest with Snake-Eyes, as Larry Hama has never revealed whether or not the character was ever given a name. (The most that has been revealed is that his first name might start with N and his last name with J.)
Somewhat subverted by Duke in the original cartoon; he often introduces himself by his rank and last name (First Sgt. Duke Hauser). Of course his code name IS his IRL nickname (his real first name is Conrad).
Another two-part episode in the original series has Cobra finding out several of the Joe's secret identities (Scarlett, Barbeque, Shipwreck, and Duke, among others). In an interesting continuity nod (unusual for 80s cartoons known for hitting the Reset Button), episodes afterwards had Cobra using this knowledge (IE against Shipwreck in "There's No Place Like Springfield" and Cobra Commander would often address Duke as Sergeant Hauser).
Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: Gunfire from the Joes' weapons was red, and gunfire from Cobra's weapons was blue. (Although in the first miniseries, both sides' shots were simple white streaks.)
A parody of this show on Homestar Runner called "Cheat Commandos" even called the villains Blue Laser.
Composite Character: General Flagg and his assistant General Austin from the comics were merged into one character for the Five-Episode Pilot of the animated series who bore Flagg's name and Austin's appearance.
Conservation of Ninjutsu: When the only ninjas were Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow, the series was a hit. When more were added, the series got canceled.
Due to a strip by Dan Abnett that merged GI Joe and Action Force, Scarlett was apparently fighting Cobra in America and Britain simultaneously.
The first season of G.I. Joe: Sigma 6 established the series as a sequel to the CGI G.I. Joe specials (Spy Troops and Valor vs. Venom) produced by Reel FX. The biggest evidence of this is the fact that General Hawk is still in the hospital recovering from the "Venomization" process he suffered during the events of Valor vs. Venom. However, a later Compilation Movie of the first five episodes (called "First Strike") added a scene that established that the Joe team from Sigma 6 were not the same Joes from the CGI specials, but new members who inherited the codenames of their predecessors 20 years after the original members retired. Somehow, most of the Cobras also got identical successors as well and they managed to get a new Storm Shadow who just happens to be the rival of the new Snake-Eyes.
Cool Boat: The ridiculously gigantic USS Flagg built into a seven-and-a-half-foot long, three foot tall aircraft carrier, making it the largest playset in the line (though not the most expensive) and one of the biggest toy playsets ever released. Many futile notes to Santa were written requesting it.
Cool Plane: Both the Joes and Cobras have some pretty impressive aircraft in their respective fleets.
Cultural Translation: In the UK, the good guys were called Action Force, and the theme tune called them International Heroes instead of Real American Heroes. Over time this slowly changed to "GI Joe, The Action Force" (it was as awkward as it sounds) before eventually just using the GI Joe name.
This dates back from the 60's, when Palitoy licensed the original G.I. Joe figure as Action Man. Two decades later, Action Force was launched as an independent extension of the Action Man line. This changed with Hasbro's acquisition of the Palitoy assets, after which the Joes were introduced with European birthplaces.
Dangerously Genre Savvy: In G.I. Joe: Resolute, Cobra Commander has clearly been watching all his old episodes and taking notes (he even lampshades this on several occasions). Fortunately, he still manages to be incredibly entertaining since, despite being significantly more murderous, he's still completely bonkers.
His escape plans were a lot more thought-out in the cartoon, though. Probably because he had a lot of practice.
A notable aspect of the above, plus the live-action Rise of Cobra and more recent comic books is the fact the "YO JOE!" kid-friendly action team of the original comics and animated series have been replaced by a group of soldiers that actually shoot straight and kill people (see, for example, how Scarlett dispatches various Vipers in Rise of Cobra by shooting them in the head with her crossbow, and another one is impaled on a forklift). Although the prevalence of heavy weapons, and giving Scarlett weapons such as a crossbow from the beginning constitutes a "no-duh" that the Joes would be expected to leave a body count on most missions, the use of A-Team Firing and other family-friendly storytelling elements in the original tended to gloss over or outright ignore this fact. Which is one reason by Resolute in particular was controversial when it showed scenes of the Joes shooting Vipers dead in full view.
Back in the 80s, the original comics, especially after issue 12 or so, must have seemed this way to people coming to them from the cartoons (though the comics actually came first).
Dead Man Switch: A terrorist wears an explosive vest linked to a dead man switch in the first 'Special Missions' story.
In the comic (issue 19 if memory serves), Dr. Venom, a Cobra-affiliated Mad Scientist from before Dr. Mindbender was invented, is killed by a makeshift one.
Demoted to Extra: Like Long Runner franchises with Loads and Loads of Characters this was bound to happen and in certain cases it did, some more than others of course. For example after the original animated series for the Dreadnoks unless your name is Zartan feel lucky if you get ANY screentime at all.
This was fallout from the Merchandise-Driven nature of the franchise: Hasbro wanted the newest figures and vehicles showcased, and the writers had to fight to keep a few of the older faces around for some consistency.
In particular, Snake Eyes, one of the most iconic Joes, suffered this in the original cartoon. After appearing prominently in each of the three five-part pilots, he was then shifted into the background for the remainder of the series. One apparent reason was because of him being The Voiceless, so the producers thought that his lack of dialogue would make it harder for kids to root for him.
This was actually justified however- at the time, they were trying to actively market the toy against similar, competing toys that began to come out after G.I. Joe began.
Determinator: Sgt Slaughter, as seen in the Arise Serpentor, Arise miniseries wherein after being subjected to medical experiments that should have left the Sgt unconscious for weeks, he woke up after just a few minutes and proceeded to break into the door controlsusing his bare hands!
Cobra Commander: "That man has the constitution of a vending machine!"
Deus ex Machina: In G.I. Joe: Resolute, Duke manages to figure out everything there is to figure out about Cobra's direct-energy weapon and reprogram it to fire on the Cobra base...in under twenty seconds, with plenty of spare time to get out of the Cobra base himself.
Dirty Harriet: In the G.I. Joe: Cobra miniseries, Jinx went undercover at a strip club in order to make contact with Chuckles.
Warren Ellis, writer of G.I. Joe: Resolute, states that he was completely unfamiliar with the G.I. Joe franchise when he wrote the script. That might be, but it definitely at least appears as though he's played Command & Conquer. Cobra Commander acts a bit like Kane and even ends up taking a Ion Beam to the face, leading to Never Found the Body. Kane was a little calmer, though.
Drill Sergeant Nasty: Sergeant Slaughter and Beach-Head. In the Reloaded continuity, before he joins the Joes, Beach-Head is teaching pretty much every single special ops division in the US armed forces.
Embarrassing Cover Up: In the IDW comic, Kwinn and Lighthorse are smuggling Snake-Eyes across a border in a coffin inside a hearse. Lighthorse looks nervous and the border guards ask him what is wrong. Lighthorse responds with the phrase that Kwinn taught him the local language. This translates as "I'm a little girl. I'm afraid of ghosts". The border guards laugh and let them through. Lighthorse, who has no idea what he has just said, wonders what they found so funny.
Enemy Civil War: Destro's Iron Grenadiers vs Cobra Commander's side of Cobra vs Serpentor's side of Cobra (which the Joes reluctantly supported for political reasons). Although, the Grenadiers never fired a shot at either sidenote though a D.E.M.O.N. did fire on the Thunder Machine, after the Dreadnoks' vehicle had crashed against the tank; it was a pragmatic move to get the vehicles dislodged as quickly as possible, and the Thunder Machine had been evacuated first, and still ran afterward; once they established their position on Cobra Island, they literally kicked back and drank tea while the two Cobra factions slugged it out, until it was over, and Destro simply retrieved the Baroness and left.
Cobra vs. the Coil in the Devil's Due books.
A new Cobra Civil War in the IDW relaunch.
Also instigated by the Joes and non-evil alternate Baroness in the cartoon's Alternate Universe storyline.
Enemy Mine: GI Joe and their Soviet counterparts the Oktober Guard were often forced to team up against Cobra.
The Joes and Serpentor's forces during the Cobra Civil War in the original comics, against Cobra Commander's forces.
Zartan broke Low-Light, Dialtone, Flint, and some other Joes out of a Cobra holding cell in Glamour Girls in order to save his sister Zarana from Madame Vale's face transfer device, because Dr. Mindbender was being uncooperative.
In a special anti-drug two-parter from the 90s DiC series, the Joes & Cobra form an awkward alliance to stop the drug-dealing villain Headman. While the Joes want to stop the Headman from selling drugs, Cobra Commander is simply after the drug kingpin's vast amounts of money.
Enigmatic Minion: Scarface, a lowly Cobra trooper who proves utterly instrumental in the group's operations, and Kwinn.
Even Evil Has Standards: In the original MASS Device pilot miniseries, Snake Eyes is thought to be fatally irradiated. Major Bludd keeps the Cobra troopers from firing on him for this, and has a brief twinge of sympathy as he said he wouldn't wish what happened to Snake Eyes on his worst enemy, adding "Poor blighter."
Evil Chancellor: In the Devil's Due comics, White House Chief of Staff Garrett Freedlowe - actually Cobra Commander in disguise - tries to have the President replace G.I. Joe with a unit secretly made up of Cobra agents.
Exact Words: In Special Missions #2 the Joes go dig up a former Nazi scientist holed up in Argentina with Neo-Nazi guards. Turns out, Mossad operatives are there right at the same time to capture him for a war crimes trial. The old guy says he'll help the Joes if they promise to keep Mossad away from him, which they agree to. Near the end of the story it is revealed that he had turned traitor to Germany during the war for his personal gain, which understandably pisses off his guards. As the Joes leave, the man is pleading for them to protect him as they promised. The Joes respond that the deal was to protect him from Mossad, not from his own men.
Expansion Pack Past: The Marvel comics series revealed one by one that Snake-Eyes' pre-Joe days held significant connections to Storm Shadow, Baroness, Destro, Cobra Commander, Zartan and Firefly. In other words, almost every major villain in the series had Snake-Eyes looming somewhere in their backstory.
Expy: Red Star and Big Bear from the toyline were based on Colonel Brekhov and Horror Show from the comics respectively, who were already killed off by the time Hasbro felt comfortable enough to make action figures of the Joes' Russian counterparts, the Oktober Guard. Red Star later appeared in the comics and his resemblance to Col. Brekhov was referenced as well. The actual Oktober Guard members later got actual figures of their own.
Possibly, Cobra as a whole and the 1982 revival of G.I. Joe, to Marvel's Hydra and D.C.'s Kobra. The Former of the two appeared in 1965(but were first mentioned in 1954). The latter of the two in 1976 premiered Kobra #1 ,which had international Terrorist Jeffery Burr lead an organization named Kobra, bent on ushering in a new world order. Both organizations would repeatedly came in conflict with the few organizations made out of the best the world had to offer... any of this sound familiar?
In the G.I. Joe: Motion Picture it's revealed that there's a mystic and religious parts to the organization much like DC's Kobra, which in many ways is a Cult who who worship Burr as Crystal Lizard Jesus.
The Faceless: Cobra Commander's face is never shown until GI Joe: The Movie— and then you wish it hadn't been.
He was actually shown unmasked in the comics a few times and was definitely human, unlike his appearance in the movie.
Snake Eyes' face is also rarely shown, and never in the cartoon, but is a standard handsome if scarred face in the comics. At least it is once he gets it fixed by a top plastic surgeon. In the issue before the operation we finally get to see him, and find he had good reason to wear those rubber masks.
Sigma Six shows him to be a blue-eyed blond (as he was in the Marvel comics), but the lower portion of his face was never revealed.
Madam Vale, at the end of the episode Glamor Girls.
Faceless Goons: It seems like all Cobra uniforms include face-obscuring helmets or masks.
Fate Worse Than Death: Cobra Commander is left an unresponsive vegetable on Earth when Hawk absorbs the power of the Matrix of Leadership. The body of Serpentor Prime that the Commander was mentally controlling then short-circuited as a result, leaving the robot's body a wreck, and the Commander's mind separated from his human body, in the end of volume 3 of GI Joe vs. the Transformers.
Five-Episode Pilot: The original Sunbow series had four: "The MASS Device" and "The Revenge of Cobra," which aired before the start of the series proper, and "Pyramid of Darkness" and "Arise, Serpentor, Arise," which were used as premieres for the show's two seasons. The DIC series premiered with one called "Operation Dragonfire." Sigma 6 also had one of these.
Five-Token Band: The later series that paired down the team would do this. Tunnel Rat, who was never a big character in the original line, keeps regualarly getting work in the new Joe shows, cause, well, he's the only Asian they have (besides Jinx, but they already have a girl and a ninja).
Friendly Sniper: To a degree, and depending on which incarnation of the franchise, Scarlett. That crossbow isn't just for show.
Future Helicopter: The G.I. Joe Skyhawk is basically a one-person helicopter cockpit with rotating turbines and landing skids strapped to it. The Cobra Flight Pod serves a comparable role, supplanting the earlier, more traditional (if compact) F.A.N.G. helicopter. Later aircraft include the Joes' Skystorm (an X-wing chopper/jet fighter) and Iron Grenadiers A.G.P. (a flight pod similar in principle to the earlier Skyhawk, using rotating turbines for VTOL and flight), while some vehicles classified as "hovercraft" (such as the H.A.V.O.C.'s recon sled or Battleforce 2000's Vindicator) use open ducted-fan turbines to generate lift.
Gatling Good: Naturally shows up here and there, but by far the most delightfully ridiculous example is Rock n' Roll Dual Wieldingtwin gatlings◊. How the recoil doesn't knock him over is anyone's guess.
Gender Flip: Devil's Due made Doc female in GI Joe Reloaded.
Resolute did the same thing to Dial-Tone, which is maintained in the IDW reboot.
Hawaiian-Shirted Tourist: Chuckles is usually wearing one (a shirt that is, not a tourist). He is also the Joes' best undercover operative. A frequently mentioned point is that most people would never imagine an undercover operative to stick out like a sore thumb as he does.
Hazmat Suit: The Eco-Warriors line of toys (the one where the Joes got uniforms that changed color when wet) had Cobra troops wearing bulky, leaky, cut-rate hazmat gear to protect themselves from their toxic waste based weaponry.
"How Did You Know?" "I Didn't.": In the Marvel comic, Sgt. Slaughter is confronted by two Gung-Hos. He punches one in the face who turns out to be the shapeshifter Zartan. When asked how he knew which one to punch, Slaughter replies, "Lucky guess."
Duke manages to do something similar in the new continuation: Zartan shifts into Snake-Eyes and enters the combat zone right next to Duke, who promptly knocks him out. When asked, Duke simply says that he didn't have to know. The real Snake-Eyes would never have been caught flat-footed like that.
Humongous Mecha: In Devil's Due Publishing's "GI Joe vs. the Transformers":
Cobra, besides the initially-controlled Transformers (referred to as "Battle Android Troopers" by Cobra Commander), also develop powered SNAKE Mecha. Storm Shadow uses this to take on Brawn and Gears (Brawn admits, "That may not have been a REAL Autobot or Decepticreep, but he sure HITS like one"), and in battle beheads Trailbreaker after the Autobot wonders "How can they think this is a good idea?" (Storm Shadow's response? "Don't be hasty. Right human in suit... makes a difference.") Even after Gears, Ratchet and possibly Bluestreak dog pile his SNAKE and rip off the head and chest units, Storm Shadow tries to use the rest to face off against Bumblebee. Baroness uses her SNAKE to stomp Rumble flat before he could harm Destro or Zartan.
To counter this, The Autobots let GI Joe access their technology at the end of Volume 1. In return for helping them get back to Cybertron, the Autobots help GI create mecha of their own to counter the SNAK Es. To prevent Cybertron tech from going into the wrong hands, though, Optimus asks the Joes to willingly rid of the mecha around the start of Volume 3. We do have where the mecha-piloting Joes help out the Autobots before the Serpent Organic Robot aka "Serpent O.R." overrides the Joes in the mecha. In particular, Scarlett and Arcee have some "mecha girl to Autobot girl" bonding.
I Surrender, Suckers: At the end of "Arise, Serpentor, Arise!", Serpentor (having taken control of Washington DC) demands the surrender of the president and several prominent politicians. The president kneels before him...only for him and the rest of the delegation to reveal themselves as disguised Joes, and begin shooting at Cobra.
Icon of Rebellion: COBRA, naturally enough, has a red cobra's head with it's hood open.
Invulnerable Knuckles: Nearly all the Joes qualify, but Hawk deserves special mention for slugging it out with Destro in the comic, and Sgt Slaughter for punching through a brick wall in the cartoon.
Ironic Echo: Roadblock's first face to face meeting with fellow machine gunner Rock and Roll involved him introducing himself as the later's replacement. Years later, Roadblock meets Heavy Duty (a new character and machine gunner) and asks him if he is going to replace him.
The Baroness helped the Commander's attempt to replace Cobra troops with the "Phantom Brigade".
"Worlds Without End" showed an alternate-universe Baroness as one of La Résistance.
Zartan aided the Joes when Zarana was nearly turned into one of Madame Vale's potential targets.
Destro didn't appreciate the Commander trying to make a Synthoid of him, and helped the Joes stop his conspiracy.
Xamot needed the Joes to rescue Tomax when the Baroness gained the power in "Spell of the Siren" to control the males of both GI Joe AND Cobra.
"The Greatest Evil" had one Cobra fighter have his sister addicted to the Headman's drugs around the same time Falcon become an addict as well—and both he and Duke find an Enemy Mine situation.
It Will Never Catch On: Larry Hama said he only became writer of the comic because Jim Shooter was turned down by Marvel's other writers, who felt a toy comic was beneath them and would damage their careers. Hama was apparently not too keen on it initially, either - saying he only accepted the job because he had no other writing offers. Well, as noted above, the comic lasted twelve years.
Janitor Impersonation Infiltration: Scarlett attempts it in the No Dialogue Episode "Hush Job" in G.I. Joe Yearbook #3. In an attempt to rescue Snake-Eyes, he sneaks into Cobra HQ disguised as cleaning woman, with Snake-Eyes' wolf Timber hidden inside a cannister vacuum cleaning. However, the Cobra sensors pick up the huge amount of weaponry she is carrying and she is exposed.
Jumping on a Grenade: In issue 28 of the Marvel Comics series, Tripwire attempts to save the lives of other Joes by throwing himself on top of a makeshift bomb. Roadblock safely disposes of the bomb and lectures Tripwire on unneeded heroism.
Similarly, Flint does this (or tries to) when faced with a nerve agent in the episode "The Spy Who Rooked Me."
Kill 'em All: Arguably subverted in G.I. Joe: Resolute, which promised a high body count and by all means delivered on that promise...with Cobra. While a pretty good amount of known named Cobra characters were killed (some more gruesome than others) the G.I Joe team was for the most part pretty much intact. The only named G.I Joe character whom was killed is Bazooka, whose died offscreen and his corpse is perfectly clean and intact (while some of the Cobra fatalities can't quite say the same thing).
Averted in the Devil's Due series, where General Rey, a later clone of Serpentor, ends up being one of the good guys, even leading the G.I. Joe team for a brief time.
And in the original Marvel comic, the use of famous historical bad guys' DNA for the cloning is blatantly spelled out by Mindbender as symbolic. Of course, he mentioned he would condition the clone to think like the subjects anyway.
Legend Fades to Myth: In one episode, the Joes end up in ancient Greece, and their actions contribute to various Greek legends (e.g., Sgt. Slaughter performs one of Hercules' labors).
Long Runners: The A Real American Hero franchise has been around for 27 years, while the toyline as a whole has existed for 45.
Lovable Sex Maniac: In the original series Shipwreck does get to occasionally have some fun with this as he got slapped by Scarlet when he tried to hit on her.
Macguffin: The "Macguffin Device" from "Once Upon A Joe."
Made of Indestructium: Thrasher's Thunder Machine. Cobbled together from various vehicle parts (including the front bumper of a Trans Am), reactive armor plating, and a stolen jet engine from a mothballed A-4 Skyhawk, the vehicle survived a point-blank blast from a state-of-the-art D.E.M.O.N. tank, which merely flipped it over. Thrasher then used grenades to flip it back over, and it still ran, although the grenades had damaged the engine.
At a basic level, the cartoon's tagline ("A Real American Hero") was changed to "The International Hero" outside America.
In the UK, the original 12" figures were renamed Action Man, and eventually gained their own, separate canon.
Later, the 3 3/4" figures were sold in the UK and elsewhere as Action Force. This incarnation reimagined Action Force as a European anti-terrorist organisation based in Europe, which sometimes cooperated with GI Joe.
The changes later happened in reverse, when the Action Force comic changed from a weekly to monthly publication schedule, and was renamed Action Force Monthly. This was then sold in America as GI Joe: The European Missions.
Finally, in the late 80s, a short strip that appeared in a couple of Marvel UK comics had GI Joe and Aciton Force merge into a single entity to more efficiently fight Cobra. Henceforth, it was known in the UK as GI Joe the Action Force. This made Scarlett's situation incredibly confusing (see Continuity Snarl above)
The odd mention of B.A.A.T.s isn't a case of Spell My Name with an "S", but a case of two similar sets of Fun with Acronyms; B.A.T stands for "Battle Android Trooper", while B.A.A.T stands for "Battle Armored Android Trooper".
Mind Screw: Done to Cobra in "Once Upon A Joe" when Shipwreck activates the "Macguffin Device": it causes the imagination of the holder to become reality—and constructs from Shipwreck's story to come alive and attack the Cobra forces.
The third volume of "GI Joe vs. the Transformers" adds one other element: Decepticon technology with Megatron's programming, causing the "Serpent Organic Robot," as "Serpent O.R." is known, to claim himself to be "The Son of Megatron" to the remnants of the Decepticon forces. When he gets the Autobot Matrix of Leadership, he's turned into an enlarged Cybertronian version of himself, Serpentor Prime.
In the comics, he had been a used car salesman until his brother died in an automobile accident. He went insane as a result, blamed the government and turned towards pyramid scemes for money and to recruit others to his cause, eventually founding Cobra. His unmasked face was shown several times in the comics, the most famous and clearest shot being from issue 61. Both this and Billy's memories show him to be a white male with brown hair, favoring a mustache and wearing glasses.
In the cartoon, he was a scientist from Cobra-La sent by his leaders into the world to form Cobra as a means to take over to allow Cobra-La to rule the world. He was originally blue-skinned until turned into a large green snake.
The live-action movie shows us that he was Rex Lewis, a private in the US Army, possibly in the Iraq War who was almost killed in a bombing raid carried out by the Air Force. He survived with serious injuries and was taught science by Dr. Mindbender, eventually working for MARS Industries and planning his eventual takeover and founding of Cobra. Oh, and The Baroness is his sister.
Then the toys themselves had to complicate matters. A few older toys had partially-unmasked faces under the hood showing him to be a middle-aged white guy with black hair, his mouth covered by a bandanna.
Mystery Meat: One issue of Marvel Comics series had a group of Joe recruits being put through deliberately harsh training to see who cracked. Lunch was "mystery meat on a shingle". One disgusted recruit asks "How do they get it so grey?".
Nebulous Evil Organization: Cobra is one of the classic examples. In most versions its actually a conglomerate of various evil factions, notably the arms manufacturer MARS, under the control of Cobra Commander.
Ninjas: Snake-Eyes, Storm Shadow, and, by late in the original line, pretty much everyone. The toyline even featured a squad called "Ninja Force". As this was the early nineties, most of them were neon.
Nobody Can Die: While the comics averted this, the animated series mostly played this straight.
The closest the series ever came to killing off a bunch of Joes was in the "Worlds Without End" two-parter, where Steeler, Clutch, and Grunt decided to remain in an Alternate Universe where Cobra conquered the United States in order to help the Baroness of that world (who was a secretly a Joe sympathizer) rebuilt the Joes. While none of the aforementioned Joes did get killed, we get to see the skeletonized remains of their alternate universe counterparts, foreshadowing their departure from the show.
Originally, Hasbro wanted Duke to be killed in The Movie from the mortal wound from Serpentor's snake-spear. However, the scheduling between this movie and Transformers (where Optimus Prime suffered the same fatenote The other franchise in Hasbro's 1986-87 movie blitz, My Little Pony, didn't, obviously, lend itself to bloodshed of that type.) ended up being released first. When Hasbro saw the intense backlash from kids and parents over Prime's death, Hasbro went into an immediate about face and demanded that Duke not die. Since the film had already been completed, the best that the production staff could do was to call in the voice cast to make an emergency voiceover, recasting the celebration over having defeated Cobra's plot into a celebration that Duke had pulled out of his coma.
The only character to undoubtedly die in the cartoon was the drug lord Headman, who overdosed on the drugs he was selling at the end of the "Greatest Evil" two-parter written to cash-in on the "War on Drug" hysteria.
No Celebrities Were Harmed: Cobra combat trainer Big Boa was originally part of a plan for a Rocky tie-in; This fell through, but much later in the comics his history was revealed to be eerily similar to Rocky's, except, like, evil.
The DIC version had Jackie Love, who was a take on Bob Hope.
G.I. Joe vs. The Transformers: Black Horizon based Joe Colton on Chuck Norris.
Official Couple: While the subject does have a tendency to be subjected to the Depending on the Writer trope, Destro / Baroness is one of the more consistent as in the original series where Destro wasn't exactly subtle, especially for a kids' cartoon, on how he was so wanting to nail the Baroness (lucky for him it was pretty mutual). However there is the potential triangle between Duke, Scarlett and Snake Eyes where which side Scarlett is going with depends on which story we are talking about here (and who's writing it).
Don't forget Flint and Lady Jaye. Effectively official in the comics and at least hinted in the cartoons. Assuming the expanded canon also holds, Marissa Fairborne, a major character in Transformers season 3, is their daughter.
The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Storm Shadow vs. Snake Eyes. In the cartoon, inexplicably, it was Storm Shadow vs. Spirit, whose street brawling managed to hold its own against a ninja master. Presumably there'd be less opportunity for witty fight banter with Snakes.
Only in the Revenge of Cobra mini-series. Most other times in the TV show, Storm Shadow's foil is more often Quick Kick.
Paintball Episode: The IDW comic has the training exercise variation. A group of Joes armed only with paintball weapons have to attempt to infiltrate the Pit. A pair of Cobra commandos kill most of the group (who mistake them for their opponents), leaving three essentially unarmed Joes (Cover Girl, Downtown and Tripwire) to take on the Cobra soldiers.
Powered Armor: Both sides have used these at one point or another: Cobra has SNAKE armor and Cobra Commander's battle suit, while the Joes have the Mega-Marines and Armor-Tech suits, and a scene in the new movie shows the Joes using "accelerator suits."
Preacher's Kid: Lifeline was a type 1 (angelic); his dad was a minister.
Predatory Business: In the 80's show, the Red Rocket franchise pops up all over in one episode, even planing to buy out Roadblock's family restaurant (the owners won't sell, of course). Then it turns out that Cobra is involved, and the rockets adorning the buildings are carrying their latest WMDs, the warhead shaped Photon Disintegrators. The Joes stop the plot, and Roadblock's family restaurant becomes "The Joes' Place".
President Evil: One storyline has Cobra's private island lair, the incredibly obvious "Cobra Island", declared a sovereign nation, and thus outside Joe jurisdiction.
Punny Name: Cutter's real name is Skip A. Stone. You might think he's a navy man, but actually he's from the coast guard.
Put on a Bus: Clutch, Grunt and Steeler ended up staying behind in a parallel universe run by Cobra (in the cartoon). The three were part of the much plainer 1982 lineup, and thus were being written out in favour of the "cooler" new characters. At least they got a send-off in a two-parter episode and not just ignored (poor Zap).
Quicksand Sucks: Once or twice in the old Sunbow cartoons. The old Marvel books had it in issues 26, 27 and 143 where Scarlet is the victim and needs rescuing by Rock N' Roll.
Scary Black Man: Handily averted by comics version Roadblock. A fellow who despite his formidable size and ability to dismantle cars with his bare hands, is one of the more diplomatic Joes. His trademark gun on the other hand...
Shoot Your Mate: In IDW's G.I. Joe: COBRA series, Chuckles is asked to kill his lover Jinx, while undercover. He actually does it. The series goes out of the way to paint G.I. Joe as almost as vicious as Cobra, at times.
In the recent "Pursuit of Cobra" toyline, at least four figures have been references to the Predator franchise. Spirit Iron Knife is Billy (and the strongest reference), Recondo is Blaine, one of the Dukes is Dutch, and Shadow Tracker is the Predator.
In the two part episode "There's No Place Like Springfield" Shipwreck wakes up with amnesia six years in the future but he's haunted by nightmares of Cobra torturing him for information. His home's address? Number 6, Village Drive.
Sitting Duck: What the Joes do to the airforce of Trucial Abyssmia in G.I. Joe Special Missions #3.
The Smurfette Principle: While there have always been a lot more male characters than female in the G.I Joe series the original series did make an effort in trying to avert this as Lady Jaye and Scarlett (and to a lesser extent Cover Girl) for the G.I Joe team did appear often and had good screentime. (While not as successful as G.I Joe, Cobra did make some effort in averting this with Zarana and Baroness.) However the other G.I Joe cartoons that came afterward pretty much played this straight though as unless your names are Scarlett or Baroness you will either be Demoted to Extra or be on the receiving end of Chuck Cunningham Syndrome. (With G.I. Joe: Resolute being the only arguable—and I repeat, arguable—exception.)
In the comics this was better avoided. Both sides had their token female from the start, Scarlett for the Joes and Baroness for Cobra and neither one was The Chick. Cover Girl was introduced to the Joes in issue #16, Lady Jaye in issue #32 and Jinx in issue #59. Conversely, Cobra got their second female, Zarana in issue #51. Both the Joes and Cobra have had few other female characters introduced later, but with only very minor appearances.
Averted by necessity (almost hilariously so) in one episode of the TV series where the Baroness got ahold of a magic conch horn that incapacitated all men who heard it. Suddenly, both Joe and Cobra had a 1:1 male/female ratio.
Snow Means Cold: In "The Revenge of Cobra", Destro uses the Weather Dominator to create an instant snowstorm in the desert.
The Speechless: Snake-Eyes, when we are given a reason for his silence
Stealth Hi/Bye: Storm Shadow makes a habit of this in IDW's continuation of the Real American Hero comic.
Super Reflexes: One issue of Marvel's Joe comic featured the Star Viper, a Cobra pilot who could connect himself to a computer to gain augmented speed and reflexes.
Super Soldier: Cobra's Neo-Vipers in The Rise of Cobra have been chemically augmented so that they no longer feel pain or fear.
Supreme Chef: Roadblock in all versions, as he is also a gourmet who knows good food when he sees it and probably can cook it even better. He even develops the "Marvin Hinton Grill" and when overeager Drednoks try to destroy the studio, Roadblock fights them on stage, which increases his popularity (and grill sales).
Tank Goodness: While GI Joe does have some pretty sick tanks, Bazooka's bio card averts this. Bazooka used to be a tank driver before he came to the realization that an illiterate farmer with a $200 rocket launcher his mom bought him over the internet could take out a tank by himself.
Only in the original animated series. But while they were forbidden to kill anyone off, head writer Chuck Dixon tried to show people getting wounded often enough to get across the fact that war is dangerous, kids.
Mostly averted in the comics, which had many of the main character often suffering from gunshot wounds and some were actually killed. In fact, the times in the comic that this seems to occur - such as when the future Storm Shadow rescues Snake-Eyes during Stalker's flashback to 'Nam (issue 26) - are so rare and unusual that they're major, heavily commented-on events, in this case establishing Storm Shadow's almost superhuman speed and anticipation.
Made a shocking return in G.I. Joe: Resolute where Duke and Scarlett stand smack in the middle of a crossfire against twenty Cobras and don't get hit once. This was likely in reference to the original series.
And the speech he gives to his troops in episode four is downright awesome.
And then he takes five levels in Complete Boob in the climax.
At the beginning of "G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero", which picks up where the movie left off, Cobra Commander is still a snake, but is restored to human(oid) form by the Baroness and Gnawgahyde. He wrests control of Cobra back from Serpentor, gets revenge by turning Serpentor into an iguana, and then when he goes after the Joes they actually have a hard time defeating him!
Toyless Toyline Character: The comics had quite a few such as Kwinn the Eskimo, Bongo the Bear, Dr. Venom (Dr. Mindbender's predecessor), General Flagg (the original, not his son), Mangler, Scarface, and Cool Breeze just to name some. The animated series mostly averted this with two exceptions: Sparks, a communication officer who appeared only in the second mini-series and two later episodes, and Big Lob, a basketball player from G.I. Joe: The Movie. Most of them later got made into figures as part of comic-based sets or as fan club exclusives.
Pythona from The Movie never got made into a figure, even though Golobulus and Nemesis Enforcer were released as part of a Cobra-La Team pack along with a Cobra-La Royal Guard.
Training from Hell: The file cards like to go into the details of how tough the Joe and (especially) the Cobra training and recruiting regimens are. Since Larry Hama was in the Army, he based it at least in part on his own experiences.
Trashcan Bonfire: One appears in a bad part of town in the episode "Cold Slither".
Ultimate Universe: Devil's Due attempted an "Ultimate G.I. Joe" with the short-lived but very inventiveG.I. Joe Reloaded.
Undercover Model: One issue of G.I. Joe Special Missions had Scarlett, Lady Jaye, Cover Girl and Jinx undercover as dancers on a parade float.
Underside Ride: In G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #181, Darklon escapes from his cell in the Pit. He then gets out of the Pit by clinging to the underside of the Hammer when it is sent out to search for him.
The Voiceless: Snake-Eyes, when we are not given a reason for his silence.
The original Marvel comic run covered it in issue 27 in that during a mission to the Middle East, an attack in a helicopter badly scarred Snake Eyes while he tried to rescue his love Scarlett. In a later issue, the mission is gone over in more detail with Doc even stating that Snake Eyes could lose his voice permanently if not treated ASAP, but Snake Eyes in a Crowning Moment of Awesome writes out in the desert sand that the team must continue the mission. Theres a reason this guy is popular.
Resolute has it as a result of getting shot through the throat with the same bullet that killed his master
Devil's Due's crossover with the Transformers had him losing it (and getting his face badly burned to boot) after getting a tank shot out from under him by Starscream. (Before that, Snake Eyes got in one "Snort!" before Hawk tells him "I'm the only one who didn't bet you couldn't keep your mouth shut this entire trip, so don't make a liar out of me!" Snake gives him an A-OK sign.)
The 2009 movie on the other hand has it that Snake Eyes keeps a vow of silence...and the reason is to mourn the Hard Master's death. Yeah.
Wham Episode: IDW's G.I. Joe: Cobra #12 in which Chuckles shoots Cobra Commander dead and then blows the body, the base and himself up with a nuke.
What If?: "GI Joe. Vs. the Transformers," where in Volume 1 Cobra had found the Ark and almost all the Transformers (the ones to escape were Bumblebee and Wheeljack). As a result of making them giant Battle Android Troopers, Cobra showed they were a lot more dangerous than previously thought.
Wheel of Pain: Cobra keeps these around for no readily apparent reason.
Whip It Good: In The Movie prequel comic, the Baroness demonstrates a previously undemonstrated facility with the bullwhip. Let's face it though... when you are The Baroness and have thatoutfit, you can't really say it's surprising.
Worthy Opponent: Snake Eyes to Storm Shadow, and in one comic, Ace to Wild Weasel (when their dogfight was a draw due to them being out of ammo, both men saluted the other, did a crossover fly-by...and went home, their female gunners wondering what just happened).
Wrench Wench: Cover Girl. According to her bio, this was actually a conscious decision on her part, having grown tired of her previous career as a fashion model.