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Western Animation: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero
"He'll never give up, he's always there, fighting for freedom over land and air..."

""G. I. Joe is America's top secret mobile strike force team. The mission: to defend freedom. The threat: Cobra, an evil organization bent on world conquest. The battle cry: Yo Joe!"
Opening Narration for the DiC 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 the G.I. Joe: The Movie in 1987, DIC Entertainment took over production, writing duties. Animation was done by Sei Young. Starting with the Five-Episode Pilot, Operation Dragonfire, the DIC series ran for two seasons until it was cancelled in 1992 after 44 episodes.

Now I know:

  • 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: The Dreadnoks
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: G.I. Joe had a different opening theme in Japan.
  • America Saves the Day
  • And Knowing Is Half the Battle: 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.
  • Animeqsue: The original series was animated by Toei. Some of the characters could easily pass for extras in shows like Fist of The North Star.
  • 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.
  • Art Evolution: When DIC took over.
  • Bad Ass (overloaded with 'em)
  • Badass Beard: Numerous examples.
  • The Baroness: The Trope Namer
  • 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.
  • Big Bad: Cobra Commander, even though he screws up constantly.
  • 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"...
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Camera Abuse: A Cobra paratrooper smashes the lens of a news camera in the opening sequence of The Movie.
  • 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.
  • Casanova Wannabe: Shipwreck occasionally gets this way in the cartoon.
  • Catch Phrase and Battle Cry: "Yo 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 on Homestar Runner called "Cheat Commandos" even called the villains Blue Laser.
  • 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.
  • 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 "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.
  • 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.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Tomax and Xamot.
  • 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..
  • 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.
  • Custom Uniform
  • 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?!
  • Department of Redundancy Department: From
  • 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!"
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Quick Kick and his student Teiko from "Cobra Quake".
  • The Dragon: Destro
  • 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 Snake Eyes, due to being based on the first figure, while the rest of the Sunbow episodes shows him as his second figure, and the DIC episodes as the fourth figure).
  • Elaborate Underground Base: Several of Cobra's bases.
  • Enemy Mine: The Gamesmaster in his one appearance ("The Gamesmaster"). He'd 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 Poacher: Gnawgahyde
  • Expository Theme Tune
  • 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: It seems like all Cobra uniforms include face-obscuring helmets or masks.
  • Fake Defector: Dusty in "the Traitor."
  • Family-Friendly Firearms: The laser guns in the cartoon.
  • 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.
  • 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!
    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!
  • 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.
  • Heel-Face Turn: Storm Shadow at some point between the Sunbow and DIC series.
  • Hero Secret Service: The Greenshirts.
  • Highly Conspicuous Uniform: The Cobra uniforms, in spades.
  • Icon of Rebellion: COBRA, naturally enough, has a red cobra's head with it's hood open.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • Karma Houdini: Given that he later shows up in an episode of The Transformers that's set many years in the future, it can be inferred that Cobra Commander is ultimately this, even if he didn't take over the world.
  • 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 Hercules' labors).
  • 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.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters
  • MacGuffin: The "Macguffin Device" from "Once Upon A Joe."
  • Magical Native American: Spirit
  • 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: Zarana.
  • Master of Disguise: Zartan and the Baroness.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Mix-and-Match Man: Serpentor
  • Mook-Face Turn: Mercer, from nameless rank and file Viper to G.I.Joe.
  • Musical Assassin: Metal-Head
  • 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
  • One-Way Visor: Cobra Commander
  • 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".
  • 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
  • Red-Headed Hero: Scarlett, and many others
  • The Renaissance Age of Animation
  • 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.
  • Semper Fi: Gung-Ho and Leatherneck
  • Sergeant Rock: Duke
  • Snow Means Cold: In "The Revenge of Cobra", Destro uses the Weather Dominator to create an instant snowstorm in the desert.
  • 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
  • Tank Goodness
  • 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".
  • Truth in Television: No, really, knowing is half the battle. Knowledge and intel are vital for any successful military operation.
  • Tunnel King: Tunnel Rat
  • 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: Dr. Mindbender, who also counts as Fetish Retardant.
    • And Gung-Ho,
  • Wheel of Pain: Cobra keeps these around for no readily apparent reason.

"And knowing is half the battle."
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