Western Animation / G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/GiJoe_TV-Title1985.jpg
"He'll never give up, he's always there, fighting for freedom over land and air..."

"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."
Opening Narration for the Sunbow seasons.

The first (and most popular) Animated Show in the G.I. Joe franchise.

G.I. Joe was formed with the expressed purpose of stopping the terrorist group Cobra and the weapon distributors, mercenaries and scientists they hire. The Joes consists of military personnel from the army, navy, airforce, marines, and coast guard with a variety of skills and military specialities.

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero is the first G.I. Joe cartoon, part of the franchise of the same name. It premiered with a Five-Episode Pilot in 1983. The writing and distribution of the series was handled by both Marvel Productions and Sunbow Productions. Animation was done by Toei Animationnote  and occasionally AKOM (both uncredited, as was normal for Marvel/Sunbow shows of that time). The show ran for two whole seasons along with three other five episode mini-series until it was cancelled in 1986 after 95 episodes.

Following G.I. Joe: The Movie in 1987, DIC Entertainment took over from Sunbow. Animation was done by Sei Young. Starting with the Five-Episode Pilot in 1989, Operation Dragonfire, the DIC series ran for two seasons from 1990 through 1992, lasting 44 episodes.

Now has character page: requesting trope support, sir.


And troping is half the battle:

  • Aborted Arc:
    • The later episodes of season 2 reveal that Cobra regrets creating Serpentor and are returning to Cobra Commander. By the start of the movie, Serpentor is back in charge and everyone hates Cobra Commander.
    • During an early season 2 episode, Mainframe and Zarana start dating but are unable to be together since they are on opposite sides of the war. Whenever they meet in later episodes, they still have feelings for each other, but there's never a definitive end to the subplot. In the Dic series, Zarana starts dating Destro, but we never see why she gives up on mainframe.
    • After the season 1 episode of the same name, it was planned for the Gamesmaster to return at some point.
  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: Storm Shadow, when he gets Excalibur, which Footloose finds can cut through both stone and steel.
  • Abusive Parents: "Nightmare Assault" shows us Lowlight's nightmare involving the dark, rats, and his asswipe of a father(voice-over only).
  • Action Figure File Card: The packaging for the toys is the Ur-Example.
  • Adult Fear: The audience will soon be reasonably sure that no one important will die in the show, but the characters don't know that, and sometimes this is written quite realistically. Aren't you going to be a little bit worried if your girlfriend (or boyfriend) is captured by ruthless terrorists who make use of everything listed under the Nightmare Fuel page? The haunted relief you'll see from, say, Scarlett when Duke is rescued mostly unharmed shows that for the Joes, the stakes are really a lot higher than you might think; it's not all just one jolly adventure after another.
  • The Aggressive Drug Dealer: The Headman.
  • All American Face: If the taglinenote  didn't make it obvious, then the red-white-blue tailstripes on the iconic G.I. Joe logo should.
  • All Bikers Are Hells Angels: Most of the Dreadnoks are evil bikers.
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: G.I. Joe had a different opening theme in Japan.
  • America Saves the Day: It says "A real American hero" right in the title and the show's theme song.
  • And Knowing Is Half the Battle: The segments featuring members of G.I. Joe giving safety lessons to children are the Trope Namer
    • 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.
  • Animesque: The original series was animated by Toei. Some of the characters could easily pass for extras in shows like Fist of the North Star.
  • Anti-Hero: Lowlight, the team's Cold Sniper. There's an aura of quiet menace about him that in some ways makes him a lot scarier than the histrionic villains usually manage to be. His deadpan style also works. Here's an exchange with Lifeline (the team pacifist) after he's knocked out some Cobra mooks:
    Life-Line:Hey, Lowlight! Does it ever occur to you there might be an easier way of settling disputes?
    Lowlight: Yeah, Lifeline. It's called a gun.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Among the Cobra leaders, the Baroness, Destro and Cobra Commander are all old nobility. Possibly averted with Lady Jaye, who is not explicitly named a noblewoman, but has an upper-class British real name and inherits a large estate in one story.
  • Artistic License – Biology: The giant tube worms from the MASS Device miniseries are unquestionably eels, as real tube worms don't even have mouths, let alone eyes, fins and gill slits. And then there's everything Cobra-la had to throw against the GI Joes.
  • Art Evolution: The DiC series had a more vibrant and slightly more stylized art style than the Sunbow series. Many characters were also given somewhat drastic redesigns. Storm Shadow, Snake Eyes, and General Hawk are among the characters most notably different from how they appeared in the Sunbow series.
  • Badass Beard: A lot of members of G.I. Joe have beards. The most notable examples include Clutch, Shipwreck, Snow-Job, and Rock 'n' Roll.
  • Badass Longcoat: Destro, in those episodes where he uses his winter uniform, a red-trimmed black greatcoat of mixed Nazi-Soviet cut.
  • The Baroness: The Cobra member is the Trope Namer.
  • Battle Couple: Duke and Scarlett, sometimes. Also Flint and Lady Jaye. And on the evil side, Destro and the Baroness, on occasion.
  • 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.
    • Joe headquarters also seems to have one built in, but was never used, atleast not in the show.
  • Big Bad: Cobra Commander is the main antagonist due to being the leader of Cobra, even though he screws up constantly. Serpentor becomes this in the second season.
  • Bilingual Bonus: "Into Your Tent I Will Silently Creep" features a shot of a Chinese restaurant which has names taken from other Toei-produced anime shows written in kanji. Namely Gento, Tao Pai-Pai and Son Gokou.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Not every episode had a happy conclusion. "Computer Complications" was essentially a tie between G.I. Joe and Cobra (both sides lost a carrier); "Sink the Montana", despite concluding with the Joes foiling Cobra's plot, still had a somewhat depressing ending. And then there's "There's No Place Like Springfield"...
  • Black and White Morality: Cobra's purpose is to impose a worldwide fascist dictatorship, and they are explicitly identified as "evil" by the opening narration. By contrast, GI Joe defends the whole world against their oppression.
    • Black and Gray Morality: Subverted in a few stories, where Cobra has some legitimate complaint about the present-day political or economic system that they use to recruit people or push their agenda, such as crusading against anarchic inner cities or financial corruption. They are still evil, but America is also shown to be less than perfect.
    • Blue and Orange Morality: Cobra's plots were sometimes confusing and childish. note 
  • 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 "Transference 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.
  • Boss In Mooks Clothing:
    • The Cobra trooper in "Cobra Stops the World". He was still beaten, but put up more of a fight than the named Cobra characters often manage.
    • The BAT in "My Favorite Things". These are supposed to be slow, ponderous and stupid Mecha-Mooks, but this particular one shows both initiative and skill like the Joes themselves do.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Most characters underwent mind control to do Cobra's bidding at some point in the cartoon but special mention must go to Flint who suffered this at least three times in the series.
  • 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 and the Oktober Guards.
    • The minor character Sparks from the Sunbow series was made a convention-exclusive toy in 2007.
    • Night Creeper Leader was created for the first season of the DIC series before being exported to the toyline and comic three years later (albeit with a drastically different appearance).
  • Capital Offensive: Cobra does this twice during the course of the series.
    • The first occurred when they tricked the world into thinking that an Alien Invasion was coming, and that San Francisco and Vladivostok were going to be attacked. This diversion caused both the United States and Russia to move the bulk of their militaries towards those locations. Cobra then launched two raids against the White House in Washington, D.C. and the Kremlin in Moscow to sieze the valuable military secrets of both nations. The Joes and the Russian Oktober Guard have to work together to stop them.
    • The second was a full-scale invasion of Washington ordered by Serpentor at the end of his 5-part debut arc. However, the other Cobra characters point out to him that while he occupies Washington, the rest of America is still free and in the fight, and both the President and Vice President were away at the time of the attack. This realistically Lampshades how difficult attacking the U.S. mainland really is for conventional militaries. Serpentor should have listened to his subordinates as the Joes lead the retaking of the city in a Curb-Stomp Battle.
    Cobra Commander (to Serpentor): This is insane! You can't possibly hold Washington, much less conquer the entire United States. I know. I've TRIED!
  • Casanova Wannabe: Shipwreck occasionally gets this way in the cartoon.
  • Catch Phrase and Battle Cry:
  • 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.
  • Cat Up a Tree: Inverted in "Twenty Questions," when Wild Weasel's parachute is tangled up in a branch that a panther is growling at him from.
  • Chainsaw Good: Buzzer and his diamond tooth chainsaw.
  • Chef of Iron: Roadblock.
  • 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.
    • On the other hand, the cartoon counterpart of Daina of the Oktober Guard 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.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: A lot of characters just vanish in the DiC Entertainment continuation, most notably the Crimson Twins (Tomax and Xamot), Zartan, and most of the characters introduced in the movie.
  • Cold Sniper: Lowlight.
  • 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 from Homestar Runner called Cheat Commandos (which cranked the toyetic elements Up to Eleven) 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
  • Continuity Nod: Although most episodes were usually self-contained, occasionally, they did reference events or things that happened earlier. Some examples:
    • In "Computer Complications" Zarana infiltrates the Joe base to help Cobra's plot and falls in love with Mainframe in the process, but obviously, them being on opposite sides means nothing can come of it. Late in "Grey Hairs and Growing Pains" it's revealed Zarana still has some lingering feelings for him, which the Joes are able to use to get her to help them stop Cobra's plan.
    • In "Memories of Mara" Shipwreck falls for the titular character, but they can't be together cause she can't live long outside of water. Cobra was apparently aware of this because when they trap him in a fake city in "There's No Place Like Springfield" his wife is a now restored Mara.
    • In "Glamour Girls" A red haired character named Satin is shown as a friend of Low-Light's sister, whether this is the same Satin from the Pyramid of Darkness 5-parter is unknown.
    • In "Ghost of a Chance" Hector Ramirez (a No Celebrities Were Harmed version of Geraldo Rivera) has several Cobra big wigs on his show and proceeds to call them out on several of their past schemes over the course of the series, including the one they pulled in "Twenty Questions", in which he first appeared.
    • In "Nightmare Assault", Iceberg goes out to a Drive-In Theater with Mahia, who first appeared in "Iceberg Goes South".
    • Used twice in "Joe's Night Out". The main plot has Cobra holding a nightclub full of patrons (and three Joes) hostage in orbit to get back Dr. Mullaney (the scientist who had been rescued in "There's No Place Like Springfield") and his research on a not-yet-perfected turbine that uses nitrogen from the air as fuel. After everyone is rescued the good doctor worries that Cobra may still be able to finish his work with the research data he took with him, but Mainframe reveals he slipped the computer virus from "Cobrathon" onto his disks. Cue Explosive Instrumentation...
  • Contrived Coincidence: The PSAs that ran at the end of some episodes makes one think: Why is it that a GI Joe always happened to be close by when a kid was about to do something dangerous, wrong, or just plain stupid?
  • 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.
  • Could Have Been Messy: Played incredibly straight. Since it's a military-action cartoon, and both sides can use quite heavy hardware, depending on the battle, there will often be major collateral damage: aircraft shot down, ships sunk, buildings levelled, etc. Yet, it's very rare that anyone (even Mook enemies) is actually shown to be killed onscreen.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Tomax and Xamot are Cobra members that run their own company called Extensive Enterprises.
  • Creator Provincialism: An unusually high number of the Joes are from the very small state Rhode Island, according to their file cards. Where Hasbro just happens to be headquartered at..
  • Crossover: The season three The Transformers episode "Only Human" featured an appearance by a man known as Old Snake, who is all but stated to be a much older version of the Cobra Commander.
  • 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.
    • Likewise, the Japanese dub of the Sunbow series (which only lasted 33 episodes) had most of the Joes' nationalities changed to make them an international team rather than having them be U.S.-centric.
  • Custom Uniform: Half of the Joes have these. Notably, Scarlett's clothes don't resemble any sort of military uniform known to man, presumably for the usual reasons. Similarly extreme male examples include Quick Kick, Bazooka, and Snake Eyes. Could have also been for plausible deniability if G.I. Joe isn't an official branch.
  • Dastardly Whiplash: Major Bludd in the "MASS Device" Five-Episode Pilot.
  • Decoy Protagonist: With the page image above, you would think Flint was the leader.
  • Deface of the Moon: "Lasers in the Night", which leads to one of the great quotes of the series:
    Destro: You spent millions on this — this cosmic graffiti?!
  • Defanged Horrors: A show that shows war against Nazis-lite within the limits 80s censors would pass. Never Say "Die" is averted throughout, and while death is rarely explicitly shown, it's taken perfectly seriously in-story. War crimes and abuse of prisoners are either hinted at, or done in a bloodless, fantastic manner.
    • Which sometimes inadvertently makes them more horrifying rather than less. Is physical torture always scarier than Mind Rape? Is it scarier to be shot cleanly than to be eaten alive by spiders?
  • 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 controls using his bare hands!
    Cobra Commander: "That man has the constitution of a vending machine!"
  • Discovering Your Own Dead Body: In the two-part episode "Worlds Without End", a few members of the team found themselves in an Alternate Dimension where the world was taken over by Cobra. Grunt and Steeler (who weren't with the group that discovered the alternate dimension) stumble upon the skeletons of three Joes. They're shocked to discover one of them is Clutch (who's also with the group) while the other two are themselves.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Taken advantage of by Cover Girl, among others. All three female Joes do this against three Dreadnoks in "Cold Slither", without even bothering to disguise their faces.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Quick Kick and his student Teiko from "Cobra Quake".
  • The Dragon: Destro is second-in-command to the Cobra Commander.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Sergeant Slaughter and Beach-Head.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The pilot mini-series is noticeably more violent than the show would famously turn out to be. Several Cobra Troopers are explicitly suggested to be killed on-screen. Also several characters had different designs (most notable with Cover Girl, who has long blond hair in these early episodes and looks significantly different from her action figure).
  • Elaborate Underground Base: Several of Cobra's bases.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Cthulhu Expy Destro and his clan have worshiped for thousands of years.
  • Emergency Cargo Dump: The comic book issue that introduces Bazooka, Crankcase, and the BATS sees one of the Cobra androids in a Stinger pursuing the A.W.E. Striker. The gun on the roof of the A.W.E. Striker has been unloaded, so Crankcase suggests getting rid of it to reduce weight. Bazooka takes off the gun and throws it at the BAT. The move decapitates the android. (However, Bazooka was only aiming for the radiator.)
  • Emotion Control: In "Second Hand Emotions" several Joes had a device implanted on their necks that allowed Cobra to control their emotions. Cobra's chosen interface for the system? A pipe organ.
  • Enemy Mine: The Gamesmaster in his one appearance ("The Gamesmaster"). He kidnapped Flint, Lady Jaye, the Baroness and Cobra Commander. When Destro realizes that a third party, not GI Joe, had kidnapped the Commander and the Baroness, he quickly calls Duke. Duke ends up begrudgingly agreeing.
    • Also, COBRA themselves, in the episode where they tried to start a war between the US and Russia, and the Joes and their Russian counterparts got wise.
  • 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 Counterpart:
    • The Baroness to Lady Jaye. Both are upper-class women, intelligence agents and high-ranking members of a semi-military organization, who have even successfully impersonated each other on occasion. While Lady Jaye is American and pro-democracy, The Baroness is vaguely European and vaguely fascist.
    • Storm Shadow to Snake Eyes, obviously.
  • Evil Poacher: Gnawgahyde
  • Expository Theme Tune: The theme song pretty much states that G.I. Joe is a military organization with the goal of thwarting the plans of the terrorist organization Cobra.
  • Expressive Accessory: Tele-Viper visors, which displays things like "You'll be sorry", but only in the second season.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Major Bludd
  • The Faceless:
    • Cobra Commander's face is never shown until GI Joe: The Movie— and then you wish it hadn't been.
    • Snake Eyes' face is never shown in the cartoon.
    • Madam Vale, at the end of the episode Glamour Girls.
  • Faceless Goons: In an unusual subversion, Cobra soldiers wear a mask that covers their lower faces but leaves their eyes clearly visible, thus doing much less to dehumanize them. Played straight with the Crimson Guards and most Vipers.
  • Fake Defector: Dusty in "The Traitor."
  • Family-Friendly Firearms: The laser guns in the cartoon.
  • Fictional Currency: Cobra Currency, which (unlike the dollar) is gold-backed, and thus a solid investment.
  • 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."
  • Four-Star Badass: Hawk.
  • Gatling Good: Naturally shows up here and there, but by far the most delightfully ridiculous example is Rock n' Roll Dual Wielding twin gatlings. How the recoil doesn't knock him over is anyone's guess.
  • General Failure: Cobra Commander and Serpentor, so, so hard. In the 1987 movie Cobra Commander finally gets called out for it by Serpentor and his lieutenants.
    Serpentor: Your ego-driven stupidity has converted victory to catastrophe for the last time!
    Baroness: And you botched our our desert campaign!
    Destro: We had won, but you countermanded my order!
    Baroness: Your meddling brought us defeat! Again, and again, and again!
    Dr. Mindbender: You're not just a fool, you're Cobra's curse!
  • Grand Finale: While the DiC Entertainment continuation has no clear finale, G.I. Joe: The Movie pretty much serves as the final conclusion of the original Sunbow series.
  • Hand or Object Underwear: In "Grey Hairs and Growing Pains", Lady Jaye at one point regresses to the age of a little girl and eventually loses her pants, her lower half thankfully covered up by her shirt. After she is restored to her normal age alongside the other G.I. Joe members at the end of the episode, she is shown desperately pulling down her shirt to cover herself.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Storm Shadow at some point between the Sunbow and DIC series, as the latter inexplicably depicted him as one of the Joes.
  • Hero Secret Service: The Greenshirts.
  • Highly Conspicuous Uniform: The Cobra uniforms, in spades. And some of the Joes even more so.
  • Hot Scientist: Dr. Attila, the Mad Scientist Scarlett impersonated in one episode.
  • Human Sacrifice:
    • At winter solstice, by Destro's Satanic cult.
    • Later, Cobra Commander releases an Eldritch Abomination in what should have been a snipehunt from Serpentor, promising to sacrifice him to it in return for power.
  • I Have No Son: Lifeline's father says this in "Second Hand Emotions".
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: Scarlett falls victim to it in the miniseries:
    Destro: We'll break your spirit soon enough, my dear Scarlett. Seeing you a groveling slave will provide me with great pleasure. BWAHAHAHAHAH!
  • Icon of Rebellion: COBRA, naturally enough, has a red cobra's head with it's hood open.
  • Idiot Ball: Gung-Ho holds it briefly for the purposes of exposition in the episode "Let's Play Soldier"; while the target demographic for the show probably wouldn't know what "dust children" were, it's odd that Leatherneck would have to explain the concept to another veteran Marine.
    • A viewer could imagine that the former simply wasn't stationed there.
  • Improbable Weapon User: During the infamous breath mints/candy mints fight, Zandar comes out and clobbers another Dreadnok with an alligator. Also counts as a Crowning Moment of Funny.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: Sgt. Slaughter played his cartoon version—and his "Real American Hero" angle carried over into the WWF for a while.
    • Also interesting to note as he's credited by his birth name (Bob Remus) throughout the cartoon run, but credited as Sgt. Slaughter (as himself) in the movie opening credits.
  • Insert Grenade Here
  • Inter Continuity Crossover: Hector Ramirez ended up making cameos in The Transformers and Jem, and was a major character in several episodes of Inhumanoids.
  • In the Blood: Serpentor is a designer baby who grows up real fast with DNA from conquerors, murderers, and madmen.
  • Introdump
  • Invulnerable Knuckles: Sgt Slaughter for punching through a brick wall in the cartoon.
  • It's Personal: A few times Cobra members have aided the Joes:
    • 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.
  • Kansas City Shuffle: The traitor gambit scheme planned by Duke and Dusty. In "The Traitor" 2-parter, Dusty, in exchange for assistance with his mother's medical bills, gives information to Cobra regarding the newly-developed armor treatment. He is convicted of treason after an ambush leaves Duke in a coma, only to be kidnapped by Cobra. While Flint, Lady Jaye and Shipwreck are surrounded and captured by Cobra to be used as human guinea pigs for the mind-control gas, Dusty enters the laboratory and tampers with the mind-control gas to create an antidote for the armor treatment. Cobra Commander puts Dusty in charge of the executions:
    Cobra Commander: Say farewell to your free will, Joes; as of now, your minds belong to Cobra. Seal the arena.
    (Dusty pushes a button, closing the arena vents where the Joes are located)
    Cobra Commander: Close off the temple vents.
    (Dusty pushes another button, closing off the vents where the Cobra troops are)
    Cobra Commander: Open the arena vents. And now, Dusty, the gas.
    Flint, Lady Jaye, Shipwreck: Oh no.
    (Dusty secretly pushes buttons closing the arena vents where the Joes are and opening the temple vents to where the Cobra troops are located, venting the gas on the Cobra troops)
    Cobra Commander: You— you traitor! (The Commander wrestles with Dusty, and Dusty shoves the Commander into Tomax and Xamot; Dusty opens the arena hatch, allowing the Joes to escape)
    Cobra Commander: You were... a triple agent all along!
    Dusty: You guessed it, chrome dome!
    (The Joes climb the arena walls)
    Dusty: There's weapons in the ready room!
    Tomax, Xamot: It's not over. Not quite!
    Tomax, Xamot: Have a nice— death, Dusty!
    Lady Jaye (climbs up a hatch and attacks Cobra Commander): Hi-yah! Sorry to interrupt, but he's one of us!
    Dusty (removes his Cobra insignia): You bet, let's go!
    Joes: Yo, Joe!
    • Dusty leads the Joes to the chemical lab, where the mind-control gas is being stored:
    Flint: Would you mind telling me what we're doing, Dusty?
    Dusty (at the lab computer): All part of Duke's plan.
    Lady Jaye: Duke's what?
    Dusty: These chemicals can make mind-control gas, or they can make a formula that neutralizes our armor treatment. (Dusty throws a barrel drum at the chemical vats, shattering them) Everybody stand back!
    (The antidote dissolves the Cobra troops' uniforms and a H.I.S.S. tank)
    Cobra Commander: What's this?
    Dusty: Duke knew the armor treatment was unstable, it reacts with certain chemicals and corrodes whatever it's protecting.
  • Karma Houdini: Given that he later shows up in the third season The Transformers episode "Only Human", which is set many years in the future like the rest of that show's third season, it can be inferred that Cobra Commander ultimately isn't punished for his evil deeds, even if he didn't take over the world.
  • Kent Brockman News: Hector Ramirez, a takeoff on Geraldo Rivera who appears now and then- either to interview characters for plot purposes, or to provide exposition. At one point, he got turned into a 15-foot tall living zombie.
  • Kill Sat
  • 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 the labors of Heracles).
  • Lighter and Softer: Than Larry Hama's comic book, which despite some comedy elements, depicted more of the consequences of war. Besides, later animated series, comic books and live action films depict the Joes as trained and merciless killers - with some characters only heroes because of the side they're on - whereas except for some Early Installment Weirdness the term "kill count" is all but alien in the original series. Ironically, that didn't stop the show from being lambasted by moral guardians of the day; they didn't know that someday Scarlett would start aiming for the eyes.
  • Limited Sound Effects
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Both G.I. Joe and Cobra understandably have a lot of members.
  • MacGuffin: The "Macguffin Device" from "Once Upon A Joe." Neither the Joes nor Cobra know what the thing does, but they don't want the other side to have it.
  • Magical Native American: Spirit
  • Malevolent Masked Men: Destro's Lovecraftian cult, who wear cowls and animal masks. And himself, of course.
  • Market-Based Title: Rather more extensive than usual
    • 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.
  • Master Actor: Baroness, Lady Jaye, Zarana for the girls. Zartan and Major Bludd for the boys. Semi-played with for Snake Eyes during the Pyramid of Darkness arc.
  • Master of Disguise:
    • Zartan and the Baroness are both very good at impersonating people.
    • Lady Jaye and Scarlett are also pretty good at it. And Flint, sometimes.
    • Major Bludd, of all people, pulled off a very convincing disguise in one early story, complete with a good voice impression.
  • May Contain Evil: Cobra's schemes in the episodes "Cold Slither" and "Let's Play Soldier".
  • Mecha-Mooks: Goddamn B.A.T.s.
    • 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".
  • Merchandise-Driven: A rather interesting case given that the toyline was actually about two decades old when this show started.
  • Mind-Control Music: Cobra's plot in "Cold Slither" is to use the Dreadnoks as a metal band (with appropriate dress) to send subliminal messages to America's youth, and then subject them to direct brainwashing at a live concert.
    • Also the hypnotic conch shell in "Spell of the Siren".
  • Mind Rape: "There's No Place Like Springfield". God have mercy on Shipwreck.
  • 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.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Raven, a loyal Strato-Viper, served Cobra with daring and passion because she believed in their cause and knew her comrades would never let her down. Unfortunately, Doctor Mindbender had no use for such quaint notions of military honor or ésprit de corps, and unceremoniously turned on her as soon as it was the least bit practical in the short term. As a result, she quit Cobra altogether, and it was even hinted that she would apply for GI Joe service instead.
  • Mix-and-Match Man: Serpentor is cloned from the greatest leaders in history.
  • Mook–Face Turn: Mercer, from nameless rank and file Viper to G.I.Joe.
  • Musical Assassin: Metal-Head
  • Mysterious Informant: The Viper, who gave G.I. Joe Cobra's locations. But he turns out to be a window wiper, and the "coordinates" he revealed were actually either his prices or the time he'll arrive.
  • Never Say "Die": More or less completely averted throughout. That said, the show rarely depicts death, usually showing even Mook villains disabled by non-lethal means. But there are exceptions...
  • Nitro Express: In "Captives of Cobra", the Joes are trying to secretly transport highly volatile crystals which will explode if jostled too hard. Naturally, since Cobra discovers their route, Duke, Tripwire and Gung-Ho have to divert over an unpaved mountain pass while the rest of the team covers their escape.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Jackie Love from the DiC Entertainment continuation episode "That's Entertainment", who is a dead ringer for Bob Hope.
  • Nobody Can Die: The only character to undoubtedly die in the main series (as opposed to its Early Installment Weirdness pilot) 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.
  • Non-Lethal Warfare: Blue and red lasers! Yay!
  • Not Quite Dead
  • "Not Wearing Pants" Dream: Implied in "Nightmare Assault" when Lady Jaye informs General Hawk that she had a nightmare where she had to sing the national anthem for the Super Bowl. When asked how this is so bad, Lady Jaye blushes and replies with "Let's just say I wasn't exactly in dress uniform".
  • Off Model: Joe and Cobra vehicles were often inconsistent in size and even shape over the two Sunbow seasons.
    • Cobra Commander switches between his hooded and helmeted appearances between episodes.
    • One infamous layering error from "Primordial Plot" results in a T-Rex and Triceratops phasing through a wall.
  • One-Man Army: Several, but Scarlett probably takes the prize. She certainly has the highest bodycount.
  • One-Way Visor: Cobra Commander's face is often hidden by a blank metallic helmet that he's somehow able to see through perfectly.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Storm Shadow vs. Spirit and Storm Shadow vs. Quick Kick.
  • Opening Narration: Quoted above; it played during an instrumental break in the Expository Theme Tune.
  • Organic Technology: Everything in the Cobra-La hideout in The Movie
  • Pie in the Face: Macguffin Device-created Super-Deformed versions of Leatherneck and Shipwreck splat Dr. Mindbender with a cream pie in "Once Upon A Joe." After the second pie, Mindbender snarls, "I hate that sailor..."
  • Pin-Pulling Teeth
  • Pirate Parrot: Shipwreck's parrot
  • Praetorian Guard: the Crimson Guard
  • 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 planning 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".
  • Psychopathic Manchild: The titular villain of the episode "The Gamesmaster". Not only does he capture Flint, Lady Jaye, the Baroness, and Cobra Commander in order to kill them all as part of some twisted game, but he also has toy soldier minions, tends to taunt his captives childishly, and he throws temper tantrums when he doesn't get his way.
  • 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).
  • Ragin' Cajun: Gung-Ho
  • Rated M for Manly: Pretty much unavoidable if the show's premise is about soldiers duking it out with a terrorist organization.
  • Reality Ensues: In the last episode of "Arise, Serpentor, Arise!", the Cobra Emperor orders his troops to take over Washington D.C. Easily done, but as Destro points out, holding U.S. territory once its armed forces get going is another thing entirely.
  • Rouge Angles of Satin: One episode ended with the Crimson Twins tearing up their "elbction" ballets.
  • Rule of Three: In each of the original three Five-Episode Pilots ("The MASS Device", "Revenge of Cobra", and "Pyramid of Darkness") Duke gets taken hostage in the first episode. In the original he escapes by the second episode, but he remains held captive for the majority of the other two.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Averted in the MASS Device pilot miniseries, when Snake-Eyes gets fatally irradiated... and then implausibly cured by the Bedouin Rescue Service.
  • Samus Is a Girl: Part of Scarlett's Establishing Character Moment in the first cartoon miniseries.
  • Scary Shiny Glasses / Sinister Shades: Lowlight. On the Cobra side, the Tele-Vipers, sometimes, when they are taken seriously.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: In the episode where a street gang works for Cobra, one of them runs off to save her little brother from a burning building. One of the Dreadnoks tries to stop her, reminding her of her job. But she doesn't care anymore and runs, with Scarlet (who she's been antagonistic towards) helping her. The other gang members (who laughed at her little brother for trying to join in) decide to leave as well.
  • Semper Fi: Gung-Ho and Leatherneck
  • Sergeant Rock: Duke
  • Shared Universe: With most of the other Marvel/Sunbow/Hasbro cartoons that followed it. The Transformers had Daina of the Oktober Guard cameoing in a season 2 episode, while season 3 had an aged Cobra Commander (now known as "Old Snake") appearing, and Marissa Faireborn, head of the Earth Defense Command, was implied to be the daughter of Flint and Lady Jaye (the Quintessons briefly making her hallucinate an aged version of Flint who she addresses as her father). Inhumanoids, meanwhile, implied that Ace of the Joe Team and Sabre Jet of the Earth Corps were the same person (both were named Brad J. Armbruster- even if they didn't exactly appear the same). And all three shows, plus Jem, were linked via the multiple appearances of Hector Ramirez.
  • Slave Liberation: Subverted. When imprisoned by Cobra in the miniseries, Scarlett starts a rebellion among their slaves, but the base's riot troops are able to deal with it, making it no more than a temporary disruption.
  • Snow Means Cold: In "The Revenge of Cobra", Destro uses the Weather Dominator to create an instant snowstorm in the desert.
  • Supernatural Martial Arts: Going by their moves, many people apparently have it, even characters who aren't otherwise themed around martial arts. Storm Shadow is the king, though. In one episode, he used karate to mission-kill a tank.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Vehicular equivalent of this trope. Some vehicles on both sides were based on real ones at the time, like G.I. Joe's M.O.B.A.T., based on the MBT-70, a prototype which never saw action in real-life. Their Skystriker was also clearly the, now retired F-14 Tomcat, with a different paintjob. Cobra's Rattler was less of one, only having a passing resemblance to the A-10 Thunderbolt/Warthog.
  • Swiss Bank Account: Firefly mentions having a Swiss account in "Eau de Cobra".
  • Theme Tune Cameo: The Joes play a big band version of the opening theme at the end of Cold Slither.
  • The Speechless: Snake-Eyes, when we are given a reason for his silence
  • Supreme Chef: Roadblock is a skilled cook.
  • Tank Goodness: The heroes are a military organization. It wouldn't make much sense if tanks weren't used.
  • Technology Marches On: Some of the equipment from the show is much more probable now.
  • Teleporters and Transporters: The MASS Device.
  • Title Theme Tune: Amped up for The Movie.
  • Took a Level in Badass: At the beginning of the DIC run, 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!
  • Trashcan Bonfire: One appears in a bad part of town in the episode "Cold Slither".
  • Tunnel King: Tunnel Rat
  • Uncleanliness Is Next to Ungodliness: Gnawgahyde from the Dreadnoks. He believes in living off the land, and regards the falseness of civilization as a sign of weakness. Therefore, he refuses to use deodorants or cosmetics of any kind, and will not eat processed food, or wear synthetic fibers. Gnawgahyde was chased out of Africa by his fellow poachers for cheating at cards, smelling bad, and being generally obnoxious.
  • Villain Song: The episode "Cold Slither" has the eponymous band formed by Cobra lip-synch to a rather catchy song that fits Cobra and their agenda for world domination.
    We're Cold Slither! You'll be joining us soon! A band of vipers playing our tune! With an iron fist and a reptile hiss, we shall rule!
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Wet Suit and Leatherneck, playing up to their Inter Service Rivalry (Wet Suit is a Navy SEAL; Leatherneck is a die-hard Marine).
  • The Voiceless: Snake-Eyes, when we are not given a reason for his silence.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene:
  • We Can Rule Together: After a temporary alliance of GI Joe and Cobra against a third-party mutual enemy, Cobra Commander suggests that they could wield great power working together on a more permanent basis. Predictably, he only gets mocked for it.
  • WeChooseToStay: Clutch, Grunt and Steeler decide to stay behind in the alternate universe to start their own G.I. Joe organization and combat the alternate version of Cobra at the end of "Worlds Without End, Part 2".
  • Went to the Great X in the Sky: Near the end of the episode "That's Entertainment", General Hawk makes the incorrect assumption that Jackie Love has been killed and states that he's now performing on the movie set in the sky.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?:
    • The Baroness speaks with an accent that isn't just obviously fake, but doesn't seem to correspond to any real language. It's basically a blend of American stereotypes of Russian- and German-speaking villains.
    • Destro's accent is (presumably) supposed to be Scottish, but sounds nothing like it.
    • Most of the named Cobra villains have some more or less weird accent, though none as bad as the above. Storm Shadow talks, well, like you would expect of an 80s Hollywood ninja, and the Dreadnoks speak some kind of exaggerated Australian.
  • Wheel of Pain: Cobra keeps these around for no readily apparent reason.
  • Wiki Rule: Accessed here: [1]

"And knowing is half the battle."

Alternative Title(s): GI Joe

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/WesternAnimation/GIJoeARealAmericanHero