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Comic Book / G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (Marvel)

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A comic series launched by Marvel Comics in 1982 to promote the return of the G.I. Joe brand to toy shelves and to introduce the new individual characters developed for the new line. GI Joe was introduced as an elite counter-terrorist/special mission force that conducted covert operations around the world on behalf of the US Government. The primary enemy of the Joes was an evil organization called Cobra. Cobra was involved in various schemes and plots in an attempt to increase the organization's wealth and power by any means necessary.

The primary writer of the comic was Larry Hama, who wrote all but a handful of issues over a twelve year run (as well as many of the character bios for the action figures). 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. Despite a large amount of restrictions and interference from Hasbro, Hama was able to make the comic more mature than the cartoon, also using his experience as a Vietnam veteran to color the dialogue with Army slang. It allowed bloody fighting, multifaceted characterization, losses for the heroes, and characters who could be killed off, eventually growing into a functional canon that developed into a fleshed-out background for its universe.

The book proved to be very popular, in part because it was the first regular comic book to be regularly advertised on television, and at one point it was Marvel's bestselling comic. This worked well for Hasbro, because while toy commercials are strictly regulated such as how much animation of the action figures can be displayed, there is less regulation for an advertisement of a literary publication, allowing characters and other toys to be introduced with much more freedom of presentation. It was even given a spin-off comic in 1986, G.I. Joe: Special Missions, which focused less on Cobra and more on various dictators, terrorists, and more realistic enemies for the Joes to confront. This series lasted until 1989. A slide in popularity (and some would say quality) began and the regular series ended in 1994.

In 2001, Devil's Due Publishing released a continuation of the Marvel Comics series that had the premise of the Joes reforming to fight Cobra again after seven years of inactivity, which was initially published by Devil's Due Publishing's then-parent company Image Comics before Devil's Due seceded and published the comic independently. The series came to an end in 2008 in its second volume, titled America's Elite, with the "World War III" arc, which concluded with the Joes continuing to be active after finally vanquishing Cobra for good.

In 2010, IDW Publishing added G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (IDW) to its catalog of Joe comics, effectively restarting the original Larry Hama continuity and picking up where the Marvel series had left off while rendering the Devil's Due continuity non-canon. This continuation ended at issue 300 after IDW lost the license to publish G.I. Joe comics at the end of 2022.

Perhaps the most famous issue is issue #21, which told a story without using any speech bubbles or sound effects, and has been endlessly homaged and parodied.

Tropes Include:

  • Adaptational Sympathy: Cobra Commander, one of the most ruthless terrorists in fiction, is depicted with much more sympathy here than he is in the cartoon that ran around the same time. The cartoon Commander was an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain who audiences felt bad for due to him constantly losing thanks to his ridiculously short-sighted minions and his own personal faults, the comics Commander was a villain who became the way he did because the death of his brother (caused in part due to the trauma he suffered in Vietnam) drove him over the edge to seek revenge, drive his family away in the process, and subsequently blame his misfortunes on the country.
  • All-American Face: The whole team, with the exception of guest stars from other nations such as Big Ben (the United Kingdom) or Red Star (the Soviet Union).
  • All Bikers Are Hell's Angels: The Dreadnoks.
  • Alone Among Families: When Snake Eyes returns home from Viet Nam, he arrives at the airport, but his family is not there to greet him. Several other soldiers are met by their families, drawn colorfully and larger than life, while Snake Eyes seems to shrink.
  • America Saves the Day: But not always...
  • And Knowing Is Half the Battle: The comic wouldn't include An Aesop PSA, but characters would take the time to talk about the negative consequences of combat and war.
  • And Some Other Stuff: In G.I. Joe: Special Missions #13, Lightfoot explains 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. Hama was a firearms and explosive ordnance technician in the US Army, and knew what he was doing.
  • Animal Motifs: Cobra.
  • Art Shift: The comic had several different artists during its run, but the most jarring was the period where Frank Springer and Rod Whigham were alternating the art chores on a string of issues. This was a side-effect of the book going biweekly for a period, which also happened to coincide with the Cobra Civil War plotline. Noticeable on Issue 60 which was drawn by Todd McFarlane (years before he created Spawn). McFarlane actually drew Issue 61 but his art was rejected and replaced with art by Marshall Rogers. When McFarlane became famous in the '90s, his version of that issue got released as a special issue.
  • Author Tract: The final issue of the original Marvel run, "A Letter From Snake-Eyes" is a rather candid and somber reflection on what being a soldier actually entailed, drawing upon Hama's own experiences in Vietnam along with Snake-Eyes' backstory. The issue is quick to point out all the horrors of war and issues with the U.S. military, but ultimately concludes despite everything he had no regrets about serving. To avoid a Broken Aesop, the issue ends with the recipient of the letter not making a decision about enlisting either way, but rather promising to think it over more deeply.
  • Banana Republic: Sierra Gordo is a more literal example than most, with a rebellion aided by the North American Banana Monopoly and the mercenaries they hire.
  • Bandaged Face: The Baroness has her head completely swathed in bandages when she checks into a private Swiss clinic after her face was badly damaged in a tank explosion.
  • The Baroness: First appeared in the comic before Hasbro put her in the cartoon.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: While the death doesn't happen as they are quickly saved, Scarlett invokes this by having a gun with two bullets specifically for this when she and Snake-Eyes are surrounded by Colonel Sharif's men.
  • BFG: Roadblock and his vehicle mounted "Ma Deuce" are the most notable. At one point, two other Joes (Rock & Roll, himself a machine gun specialist and a bodybuilder, 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, who was a lot more competent than in the animated series.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Dr. Hundtkinder, the surgeon who fixes Snake-Eyes' face before selling him out. His name translates as "Dog-child". Or "son of a bitch".
  • Bittersweet Ending: On several occasions, 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. Also, Firefly's face, due both to him mastering a form of hypnosis which prevents people from recognizing him, and shaking his head whenever a photograph was taken.
  • Blind Weaponmaster: The Blind Master.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Unlike the cartoon, the comic subverted this on several occasions. Most notably when two Joes were brainwashed and programmed to go postal upon hearing a special signal. They were unable to fire on comrades and passed out from the stress.
  • 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 Guard (the Soviet Union's version of the Joe team).
  • Cat Fight: Lady Jaye and Zarana have a nasty, knock down, drag out one in an issue of the comic...while all the male Joes and Cobras watch in Stunned Silence.
  • Chainsaw Good: Buzzer and his diamond tooth chainsaw.
  • Chef of Iron: Roadblock. His dream is to attend the Escoffier School in France, one of (if not the) premiere gourmet cooking schools in the world. In the meantime, he's the Joe's heavy machine gun expert.
  • Cold Sniper: Low-Light, in a Special Missions issue, shows he isn't cold enough to pull the trigger on a man begging for his life.
  • Code Name: Joes were usually only referred to by their code names or slang terms (Duke, being a First Sergeant, was occasionally called "Top" or "the first shirt").
  • Comic-Book Fantasy Casting: On three separate occasions, early issues of the comic featured civilian characters based on Laurel and Hardy.
  • Confronting Your Imposter: In one issue of the 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 impostor.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The comic runs on this trope! It seems that every character is connected through The Vietnam War or other incidents. Here are just a few examples:
    • Storm Shadow, Stalker, and Snake Eyes were all on the same Long-Range Recon Patrol in Vietnam. And another member of that LRRP team thought dead turned out to be a Cobra Crimson Guardsman assigned to watch GI Joe Headquarters.
    • Snake Eyes is informed that he lost his whole family in a car wreck, by his future CO, Hawk, which leads to...
    • Zartan being hired to kill Snake Eyes because Cobra Commander's brother was the driver of the other car. Cobra Commander blamed his brother's death on the surviving family member.
    • The Baroness' brother was killed in Vietnam during a humanitarian mission gone bad. Snake Eyes then showed up and killed the killers, who had previously targeted him, Storm Shadow, and Stalker. Thinking that her brother was accidentally killed by the Americans, The Baroness blamed her brother's death on Snake Eyes.
    • Several years into the comic's run, It was revealed that Firefly was also hired to kill Snake Eyes but decided that Snake Eyes was too dangerous. Firefly recommended Zartan instead.
  • 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 Old Lady: Doctor Burkhardt whose rescue is the main objective of the very first mission in the comics. Much later, the Joes go to her for help when most of the team is detained by the government and they need to go underground to work on clearing their name. She turns out to be a motorcycling enthusiast and very adept at working the press in her favour. When she ends up in the middle of a firefight between the Joes and another government group, she stands up and angrily demands for this foolishness to stop!
  • Cool Plane: Both the Joes and Cobras have some pretty impressive aircraft in their respective fleets.
    • The early planes were largely based on some real-life Cool Planes. The Joes' Skystriker was based on the F-14 Tomcat, while the Conquest X-30 was based on the Grumman X-29; on Cobra's side, the Rattler was basically a tri-engined, VTOL-capable A-10 Thunderbolt II, and the Night Raven was loosely based on the SR-71 Blackbird. Later planes got a lot more fanciful with their designs.
  • Costume Evolution: An Enforced Trope as costumes changed to keep current with then-current Hasbro toys.
  • Covert Group with Mundane Front: The chaplains' assistants motor pool at Fort Wadsworth not only concealed the original Pit, but provided the cover operation for the Joes themselves, since a number of them were vehicular specialists. Still, the chaplains' assistants were always put off by those "ruffians" from the motor pool, and whenever the Joes had to wear their dress uniforms, people were usually confused by how a bunch of drivers had more decorations than a lot of generals.
  • 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: Quite a few with The Transformers (Marvel), including G.I. Joe and the Transformers where the team attacking Bumblebee caused his transformation into Goldbug in the Marvel contiunity, and an arc to help set up Transformers: Generation 2, where Cobra rebuilds Megatron into his G2 form. These crossovers were ignored by Larry Hama leading to continuity issues due to his comic depicting several characters in different places than G.I. Joe and the Transformers and the comic making no mention of San Francisco being devastated and the G.I. Joes fighting the Decepticons as well as them sending a message to Cybertron about Megatron being back and COBRA trying to escape with Cybertronian technology, being thwarted when Hot Spot blows himself up much to Hawk's horror.
  • 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 actually 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: Joes who reglarly wore standard military uniforms were few and far between.
  • Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon:
    • The 17th issue of the G.I. Joe: Special Missions spinoff has Stalker threaten to pull out Saxon's tonsils through his nostrils if he ever tries to enlist the Joes to take responsibility for his screw-ups again.
    • In the 83rd issue of the main series, Zartan threatens to pull out Dr. Mindbender's tongue through his left nostril if Mindbender ever raises his voice at him again.
  • Determinator: Cutter found out there were no Coast Guard personnel in G.I. Joe and pestered his congressman until they transferred him just to shut him up.
  • Dirty Communists: Subverted and played straight. The Oktober Guard and other Soviet troops were given a lot more depth than most fiction of them time. It was, however, made clear that they were still a threat to the mission. It should also be said that the Borovia arc featured an Eastern Bloc gulag and guards as sadistic as any ever portrayed in fiction.
  • Distract and Disarm: Played for Laughs when Snake Eyes' old master, pretending to be a simple chef, deals with an attempted robbery by a young teenager. First he points out that the safety is on in the boy's gun, and when the boy takes it off, he grabs the gun's slide, pops out the bullet from the chamber, drops the clip off, and then offers to buy the empty gun from him for $100, dropping it in a crate full of empty pistols!
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Sergeant Slaughter and Beach-Head. Probably Snake-Eyes as well, since he was said to be the Joes' hand-to-hand combat instructor.
  • Drunk Driver:
    • Snake-Eyes' family was killed by one on their way to pick him up from the airport after he returned from Vietnam. The drunk driver's brother later became Cobra Commander and the driver's death started his decent into villainy.
    • In another issue, both Billy and Candy hitched a ride in the same car, where the driver had a Thermos of "special" coffee (which Candy discovered was mostly brandy). He then crashes into a train crossing while trying to avoid a collision with the Soft Master (who was running from Cobra in a stolen Springfield police car). While the train is still crossing, Scrap-Iron (who'd been pursuing the Soft Master with Firefly) climbs up a pole, shoots the Soft Master with one of his rockets, and after asking Firefly about the crashed car, blows it up for good measure. Later, it's revealed that Candy and the drunk driver burned to death while Billy survived but lost an eye and a leg.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: Several of Cobra's bases; G.I. Joe's "Pit", of which there have been at least three separate ones.
  • End-of-Series Awareness:
    • The 28th issue of the G.I. Joe: Special Missions spinoff ends with Duke telling the reader that they've had a good run and that the reader must go and read the main G.I. Joe comic if they still want more adventures.
    • The 155th issue of the main series has G.I. Joe being ordered to disband and features Snake Eyes reflecting on the hardships he and his comrades have endured before deciding that he doesn't regret being part of the fight at all. The cover also happens to depict Duke and Stalker folding up the American flag, referencing a ritual commonly done to honor fallen soldiers by using it to represent the "death" of the comic series.
  • 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 the return of stolen technology). Although, the Grenadiers never fired a shot at either sidenote ; 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.
  • Enemy Mine:
    • On several occasions, the Joes teamed up with their Soviet counterparts, The Oktober Guard, to fight against Cobra. The Joes also had relatively friendly dealings with Destro after he later split from Cobra.
    • The Joes were also sided with Serpentor's side during the Cobra Civil War, as his side offered to return a recently-stolen black box in return for the Joes' aid.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Cobra Commander started to lose it after his brother was killed in a car wreck. later on, it was revealed that he had a son named Billy. Zartan worked with his brother and sister, and The Baroness became a terrorist after her beloved older brother was (she thought) unjustly killed by an American soldier. When Billy was eventually killed in the IDW series, Cobra Commander was shown to be utterly devastated.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Major Bludd and Billy.
  • The Faceless: Cobra Commander's face is rarely shown, and even when it is, he's wearing huge mirrored sunglasses, a possibly fake mustache, and for some reason, a beret. He definitely has brown hair, though, and also seems to have a ponytail (unless it's a wig). Snake Eyes' face is rarely shown in the 'present', but flashbacks reveal him to be a standard 'handsome blonde guy'. 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.
  • Faceless Goons: It seems like all Cobra uniforms include face-obscuring helmets or masks.
  • Fake Crossover: Duke showed up in Amazing Spider-Man #268 (1985). He is unnamed, but puts in an appearance as head of a military unit assigned to carry out the wreckage of the Heroes for Hire building (which the Beyonder had turned into gold).
  • Fanservice Pack: An injured Baroness received reconstructive plastic surgery and then some around the time she got her own toy.
  • Foreshadowing: Issue 138 is set primarily at a castle that can change its shape at will. If that doesn’t give you the obvious image, then it certainly does to Megatron.
  • Four-Star Badass: Hawk, who started as a Colonel Badass, with a short stint as a Desk Jockey in between. His bio even lampshaded this by saying that "When Hawk takes you into a hairy situation, he's usually in front of you yelling "Follow me!"
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Cobra Commander was a used-car salesman who felt that big business/government crushed his dreams and formed Cobra to gain power outside the system.
  • Gas Mask Mooks: Destro's Iron Grenadiers. Also, the Toxo-Vipers.
  • 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.
  • Gambit Pileup: Who's doing what and who's betraying whom during the Destro Saga gets so complex that you need to go back over it at least twice, especially towards the end when Scar-Face starts betraying and counter-betraying everyone.
  • General Failure: Subverted with Cobra Commander. Unlike his cartoon counterpart, the comic version of Cobra Commander was quite competent and cunning. Most of his victories didn't involve beating the Joes on the battlefield, but tricking or distracting them until he could accomplish his ultimate goal. The creation of Cobra Island was the best example of this. There were several times that the Joes would turn this around on him—most notably when the Joes saved the original Pit by convincing Cobra Commander that a facade was their main headquarters (as opposed to the underground complex). It should also be noted that Word of God stated Cobra Commander's greatest strength was not in superior tactics or grand strategies, but in inspiring the disenfranchised to join his cause.
  • Gentle Giant: Unless in a combat situation or you've managed to really piss him off, Roadblock is one of the nicest guys on the team.
  • Giant Space Flea from Nowhere: Almost literally, at the end of issue 138. Comes complete with Wham Line
    Megatron: Bah! [Destro’s transforming castle] is nothing but another non-sentient construct! Not one of us! Not a [[Franchise/{{Transformers Decepticon!]]
  • 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 eventually defects from Cobra to side with the Joes.
    • Heel–Face Door-Slam: Cobra Commander appears to consider changing his ways before he is shot and buried by Fred VII. Much later, Cobra Commander turns up alive and dismisses his earlier promise of going straight as a temporary delusion.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: This happened on numerous occasions. The Trucial Abysmia arc featured several Joes dying in heroic ways. Other characters would also die this way, most notably in the Special Missions comic. Since the Joes were cleared out of the Pit for a formal review following the Springfield debacle, the only ones inside the Pit when Cobra invaded were Hawk, Generals Ryan and Hollingsworth, and Admiral Dyson. Ryan in particular had been in favor of shutting down the program, but he (along with Dyson) end up sacrificing themselves to save Hawk and Hollingsworth, getting the Joes reinstated in the process.
  • Highly-Conspicuous Uniform: The Cobra uniforms, in spades.
  • Icon of Rebellion: COBRA, naturally enough, has a red cobra's head with its hood open.
  • Inexplicably Identical Individuals: The "Fred" series of Crimson Guards... who are only series 1 out of around 5 or so.
  • Killed Off for Real: When a character died, nine times out of ten they stayed dead. A story arc that coincided with the Gulf War in the early 90's had the Joes engaging in a massive campaign against Cobra in the Iraq and Kuwait Expies of Benzheen and Trucial Abysmia. One issue had four Joes killed by a psychotic Cobra S.A.W. Viper, and later that Viper's armored column kills off all but three of the remaining Joes on the team, not limited to Red Shirts and unpopular Joes. This was seen mostly as housecleaning to get rid of a bloated roster of characters who got little to no book time, or were full-on fact unpopular. Some characters did make reappearances after death, such as Cobra Commander, who'd been ousted and impersonated; Firefly, who was revealed as a ninja; Dr. Mindbender, who was cloned with cyborg implants; and Zartan, who's a shapeshifter. Sometimes this was due to them being Killed Offscreen, or out of extreme annoyance to the writer under pressure due to Executive Meddling. For example, Larry Hama was pressured to kill off Cobra Commander around the time of the 1987 animated movie's release due to Cobra Commander's apparent death in the movie, despite a new Cobra Commander figure being released that year. Hama came up with a story line that had one of his Crimson Guardsmen named Fred VII kill the Commander and take his place leading to an eventual civil war (Fred's incompetence rivaled the real Cobra Commander in the cartoons—shocking since he was a Crimson Guard, the best and brightestnote ). Cobra Commander stayed "dead" for many years having been revived off screen and rebuilding his fortune the same way he did last time—through pyramid and get rich quick schemes, among other means. Upon his reveal as being very much alive in issue 98, he returned to Cobra Island and disposed of his traitorous underlings and became an even bigger madman. Even then, three of those killed off after his return survived being entombed.
  • Lightbulb Joke: Used in the 130th issue.
    Eel 1: Hey, I heard a good one— How many Night-Vipers does it take to change a light bulb?
    Eel 2: I give up. How many—
    Dojo: None, you dummy! Night-Vipers can see in the dark!
  • Long Runner: At 155 issues, the original G.I. Joe is easily the longest-lasting toy tie-in comic. For comparison, for the runners-up, the original Transformers comic only made it to #80 and ROM: Spaceknight made it to #75. That's without counting the Special Missions series, Yearbooks, Orders of Battle... oh, and Larry Hama wrote almost every word of it. When the title restarted at IDW, it ran for 145 issues, totalling at a whopping 300.
    • Joe lasted so long that toward the end of it's run, Transformers was actually re-launched (Generation 2), and this comic was used to try and get it going.
  • MacGyvering: In G.I. Joe Special Missions #13, having lost the explosives necessary for the mission, Demolitions Expert Lightfoot jury-rigs a fuel-air explosive out of some foodstuffs he finds in an abandoned bunker and the detonators he still had. The method he describes would actually work but the comic obscures the art so the reader cannot see what he is actually doing.
  • Magical Native American: Spirit
  • Market-Based Title: Rather more extensive than usual:
    • At a basic level, the 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
  • Master of Disguise: Zartan, Zandar and Zarana for Cobra, Lady Jaye for the Joes. Zartan had limited shapeshifting abilities and Zandar had some sort of camoflauging power, while Zarana preferred to use makeup, prosthetics and costumes. Lady Jaye used similar tactics to Zarana, with a touch of Method Acting thrown in for good measure.
  • 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: Since the book spun off from a toyline, this is obvious. The book was popular enough that a second title, Special Missions, was created that specifically wasn't toyline-driven, allowing Hama to pick his own characters and vehicles. (This doesn't mean that Hama didn't use some of the cooler toys, like the Cobra Z-25 Condor, in those stories.)
  • Mess on a Plate: One issue shows Joe candidates going through Training from Hell. This includes their meals, which are described by Chef of Iron Roadblock as "mystery meat on a shingle". One of the candidates muses "How do they get it so gray?".
  • Mix-and-Match Man: Serpentor.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Discussed by Destro as he literally pets the dog. Mind you, that actually backfires on Destro—that dog is Junkyard, Mutt's dog, and he leads the Joes right to Zartan's cabin shortly thereafter.
  • No Ending: The original run ended with the war against Cobra still unresolved and the Joe team being disbanded to be folded into the regular Army to advise on how to combat them.
  • Noodle Incident: There was apparently a reason Red Star of the Oktober Guard was nearly identical in appearance to their previous leader, Colonel Brekhov, but Red Star dismisses it as "a long story."
  • One-Way Visor: Cobra Commander.
  • Overzealous Underling: In #109, the Crimson Twins botch an order from Cobra Commander and order several captive Joes executed. An overzealous SAW Viper steps forward and immediately shoots; actually killing several of the prisoners. As this was not what Cobra Commander intended, this causes problems for everyone involved.
  • Pirate Parrot: Shipwreck's parrot Polly.
  • Plot-Based Photograph Obfuscation : A variation occurred with the Faceless Master, a member of the the Arashikage ninja clan whose face was always blurred in photographs. He accomplished this by quickly shaking his head just as the shutter clicked, to prevent a clear recording of his features. He's later revealed to have been Firefly.
  • Pocket Rocket Launcher: Destro has miniature rocket launchers on his gauntlets. He uses them to great effect in his first appearance, destroying the Polar Battle Bear, as well as many subsequent appearances.
  • Poorly-Disguised Pilot: One Story Arc of the comic was written purely to launch Transformers: Generation 2.
  • Praetorian Guard: The Crimson Guard.
  • President Evil: One storyline has Cobra's private island lair, the incredibly obvious "Cobra Island", declared a sovereign nation, and thus outside Joe jurisdiction.
  • Private Military Contractor: Destro's main job, as head of M.A.R.S. Industries. Cobra itself, particularly under Serpentor, attempted to market itself as such to smaller nations, selling Cobra vehicles and Terror Dromes to various armies.
  • Professor Guinea Pig: One of Cobra's operatives used to be a dentist. He later decided to experiment with a new mind altering system to alleviate pain in his patients...on himself. The experiment caused a complete morality shift and he ended up joining Cobra to pursue mind control experiments. He now goes by Dr. Mindbender.
  • 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.
    • Alpine's real name is Albert Pine. Yep, his code name is the same as his file name.
    • Ripcord has a girlfriend named Candy for a few issues. We later meet her father, one of Cobra's Crimson Guardsmen. His last name: Appel. Yes, Candy Appel.
    • Scarlet has a punny Code Name. It's implied "Scarlet" comes from her red hair, but her last name is O'Hara.
    • Two of Cobra's ninjas had the code names Slice and Dice.
    • The country of Benzheen neighbors Trucial Abysmia, and it is also a significant oil producer. "Benzine" is a synonym for gasoline which is rarely used in English, but similar words for it are more common in several other languages.
  • Ragin' Cajun: Gung Ho and Muskrat.
  • Rated M for Manly
  • Read the Freaking Manual: In Special Missions #3, Slipstream attempts to pilot a Russian transport plane he has never flown before. He does attempt to read the manual, only to find it is Russian and Farsi, neither of which he can read. Fortunately the illustrations were clear.
  • Real Name as an Alias: At one point, Cobra Commander and Destro are forced to travel without their masks or costumes. When they are pulled over by the highway patrol, Destro curses that he doesn't have any fake ID on him. However, Cobra Commander, who is driving, reveals that he has his driver's license in his original given name, which he has not used for years. As such, there is no reason for the police to link the name to the terrorist Cobra Commander. He is correct, but the license winds up attracting attention for another reason.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Cobra Commander after beating Serpentor.
  • Redundant Rescue:
    • In the silent issue where Snake-Eyes fights his way through Destro's castle to rescue Scarlett, she's already gotten free and acquired transportation out by the time he gets to her.
    • A much more dramatic instance occurs in issue #61: A small team of Joes is sent to rescue an imprisoned American journalist from the east-European country of Borovia, only to find him gone because another branch of the U.S. government had already negotiated for his release and the information had not filtered through to the armed forces. In the end, almost the entire team gets captured and sent to the gulag on a mission that was completely unnecessary in the first place.
  • Regional Redecoration: Cobra tricks the Joe team into setting off a large explosion and triggering a fault line. The result: a chunk of land rises in the Gulf of Mexico, becoming an island and Cobra claims it as Cobra Island almost as soon as it stops rising.
  • Right-Wing Militia Fanatic: Commander Marcus Wingfield of the Montana-based "Strike First" paramilitary force is an exceptionally well-armed version (even possessing two nuclear warheads) thanks to Cobra, who seem to recognize his potential as a useful idiot. By day, Wingfield trains his men ruthlessly with live-fire combat drills in preparation for the day when civilization collapses and they have to step in to seize control; by night, he plans to start World War III himself by covertly bombing Vladivostok and letting the USA and USSR destroy each other. In case of failure, he even has a suicide contingency set up: detonating the second warhead hidden under the camp, hopefully provoking an confused America to start the war instead by bombing Russia in retaliation.
  • Scary Black Man: Even on a team with a lot of muscular types (Rock N' Roll & Gung Ho foremost), Roadblock is one of the biggest guys on the roster. But even though he's usually a pretty calm guy, when he goes off, watch out. His bio even said that his temper "is a long time coming, and once lit, a long time going."
  • Sergeant Rock: Duke, who despite there being other soldiers of higher rank (Duke was a First Sergeant, while for instance Flint was a Warrant Officer & Falcon a First Lieutenant), was pretty much completely in charge of field operations unless Hawk was there to personally oversee things.
  • Semper Fi: Gung Ho and Leatherneck.
  • Shown Their Work: Larry Hama was an EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) technician in the United States Army during Vietnam. As such, he gave ARAH a lot more "weight" than other military comics, since he was intimately familiar with military terminology and behavior.
  • Significant Anagram: Front organizations for Cobra include the Arbco (or company and the town of Broca Beach.
  • Sky Heist: In Special Missions #1, the Joes trick their Russian counterparts the Oktober Guard into taking a would-be defector out to sea. They then use a Skyhook system to snatch him off the deck of the Russian ship with a low-flying plane.
  • Snake Versus Mongoose: A statue of a cobra fighting a mongoose is on Destro's desk. Despite having a villain group literally named Cobra, this was the only time in the whole franchise that this trope was ever referenced.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: The Headman made his comic debut in this continuity a short while after he first appeared in the DiC Entertainment continuation of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero in the two-part episode "The Greatest Evil". While his animated counterpart met his end from overdosing on his own drug spark, the Headman's final appearance in this comic had him captured alive. While he would eventually be killed off in the comic continuation by Devil's Due, the Devil's Due continuity has since been supplanted by IDW Publishing's own continuation of the Marvel Comics continuity, so he is presumably still alive, albeit incarcerated.
  • The Speechless:
    • Snake-Eyes, when we are given a reason for his silence. While he was always a bit taciturn by nature, when a helicopter he and Scarlett were on was going down, she was restrained by a piece of equipment. Snake-Eyes stayed inside to save her, and a fuel line blew up in his face; he inhaled some burning gasoline and scorched his vocal cords beyond the point of recovery.
    • After the Baroness had shot Scarlett, he did manage to eke out her name by her bedside. It was the only Snake-Eyes speech bubble in the entire series that wasn't Visible Silence.
  • Spy Ship: In Special Missions #1, the Joes stage a mission off a fake trawler.
  • 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.
  • Supreme Chef: Roadblock.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Occasionally in the early stories, there was some concession to reality. For instance, when Cobra tries capturing the GI Joe MOBAT Tank on the streets of New York City with armed troops dressed as marching band members, a squad leader reports they are proceeding with caution. Cobra Commander roars in response that they only have a few minutes before the NYPD and the military fully realizes what is happening and responds so they have to speed things up.
  • Take Me Out at the Ball Game: In G.I. Joe: Special Missions #24, the Joes have to protect the President from an attack from Cobra at a baseball game.
  • Take That!: Between Major Bludd and the Dreadnoks, Australians don't come off too well in GI Joe. That's because Hama served with a bunch of rather rude Australians during Vietnam.
  • Taking Over the Town: Cobra does this to Millville in issue #100.
  • Tank Goodness
  • Themed Tattoos: In issue #21, as Snake-Eyes is being rescued by Scarlett, a tear in his sleeve and the loose wrap around Storm Shadow's arm show that they both have a red I Ching-themed tattoo. This is eventually revealed to be the symbol of the Arashikage ninja clan, who they both trained with years prior, before its leader was assassinated by Zartan in a failed attempt to kill Snake-Eyes.
  • Tunnel King: Tunnel Rat. He was an EOD tech (like Hama) and the toy was designed to resemble him.
  • Unreveal Angle: Issue #55 was advertised as finally showing the real faces of Snake Eyes, Cobra Commander, and Destro, three major characters who had never been seen without their masks. The cover of the comic book and the title of the story ("Unmaskings") further tease the supposed reveal. And sure enough, during the story all three characters take off their masks and show their true faces... but only to other characters. "Camera angles" and shadows are used so that the reader never gets a proper look at the faces, though both Snake Eyes and Destro would eventually fully reveal what they looked like to multiple people.
  • Vague Age: Just about all the characters get this after #155, which was in 1994; to #155 and a half, which was in 2010... meaning they go from the AOL-era to smartphones-era overnight without aging.
  • Varying Competency Alibi: * An issue has the Joe team sneak into an enemy base to rescue a kidnapped scientist. They get discovered and have to fight their way out. After they escape, one of the surviving guards correctly determines their nationality from their competency:
    Guard 1: The Americans got away.
    Guard 2: How do you know they're Americans?
    Guard 1: Because if they were British SAS, we would be dead and if they were Israeli Mossad, we still wouldn't know they were here. No one else comes as close.
  • War Is Hell
  • Wham Episode: Issue #19 ends with the deaths of General Flagg, Kwinn and Doctor Venom with little dramatic buildup. While not toy line characters, their prominent roles in the series made the deaths unexpected. This was the first indication of how this is a series where Anyone Can Die.
  • Wrench Wench: Cover Girl is a former high fashion model turned missile-tank driver, who insists on doing all of the upkeep and maintenance on her vehicle.
  • Writing Around Trademarks: A Running Gag is that nobody can remember the name of the X-19's pilot. That's because his name is Ghostrider, and Marvel had a slightly more visible character with the same name. Whether it's because Marvel requested it or as an in-joke, Hama continued this in the IDW series.

Alternative Title(s): GI Joe A Real American Hero