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Magnificent Bastard / G.I. Joe

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"I keep everything in my head. All of this. Everyone here. I keep track of all of you. Not just where you are, but where you're going and what you're going to do. All of you have your roles. I'm the director."

"You still see us as villains in a Saturday morning cartoon. I understand that Tomax and Xamot had you engaged in all manner of mayhem. They found ways to create as much carnage as possible while maintaining a legitimate business. That's their temperament. You'll find it's NOT mine. The key to success is to consider every possible road toward it, and let nothing—not morality, law, or personal preference—influence your choice of the best one. You'll be surprised by how often that road is not a violent one."
Cobra Commander, G.I. Joe (IDW)

Since its inception, the various versions of the Joes have faced numerous debonair masterminds.

Comic Books (by publication date)
  • G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (Marvel):
    • Wilder Vaughn is the leader of the Red Shadows, a covert terrorist group seeking the destruction of both G.I. Joe and Cobra itself. Becoming disgusted with the modern governments and military after witnessing a group of American soldiers massacre a village in Asia, Vaughn goes into hiding and carries out a variety of assassinations against the Joes and Cobra, culminating in seemingly killing Cobra Commander and seizing his assets. Utilizing his variety of followers who have infiltrated world governments, Vaughn gains full access to the Umbra systems that he himself developed and that are installed in many of the servers and communications systems around the world. Vaughn plans to wipe out every government, political and religious power in the world, and replace them all with the Red Shadows, who will rule with peace and prosperity in mind, not their own power, and Vaughn very nearly completes his plan, only being taken down due to his own soldiers' failings.
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    • Tracker Kwinn is an Inuit mercenary defined by his moral code and his impressive skillset. In his introductory comic, Kwinn outsmarts a group of G.I. Joes numerous times, leading them into a trap and stealing their weapons then later, when the Joes retrieve them, revealing that he took all the firing pins out just in case they were able to get them back. Kwinn works with the likes of Russian war criminals and the terrorist organization Cobra, but nonetheless retains a code of honor, refusing to kill anyone who doesn't cross him and swearing loyalty to his current employers until their contract is up—often using the loophole of finishing his contract with them, then working with the Joes to take them down due to his personal distaste at his employers' attitudes. When betrayed by Dr. Venom, Kwinn allies with Snake Eyes to carve a path of destruction through Cobra for revenge, culminating in Kwinn realizing the futility for vengeance and giving Venom mercy, and when Venom shoots Kwinn dead for showing such mercy, Kwinn reveals he anticipated this, and uses his last act to drop a grenade and take Venom down with him.
  • G.I. Joe (IDW):
    • The brilliant, affably charming first Cobra Commander introduced in the story is the current leader of Cobra, elected the most times in a row out of any Commander due to his efficiency and charisma. Taking time out of his schedule to personally recruit potentials to Cobra, the Commander is a generous boss, always willing to hear out and promote his subordinates for ingenuity, and yet never hesitating to silence or dispose of any Cobra members he finds distasteful or a hindrance to the organization. The Commander outsmarts the G.I. Joes at every turn, blowing up one of his most treasured bases and even abandoning the long-sought MASS device to one-up the Joes, and in his grandest outing seems to convince the former Joe Chuckles to his side, nonetheless keeping the dangerous man always under surveillance, and the Commander is only beaten when Chuckles betrays him after months of loyal servitude.
    • Krake, later to become the second Cobra Commander, contrasts the first Commander's suave charm with a more aggressive and brutal—but nonetheless charismatic—method of ruling Cobra. Starting out as a mere war orphan, Krake's skills as a mercenary rose him to such infamy that Cobra itself sought out his employ, and its current Commander applauded Krake for his ingenuity and ruthlessness when the new recruit single-handedly captured control of several Triads in Cobra's name. When named a candidate as next Cobra Commander, Krake murders one of his fellow candidates and replaces him with Zartan to add to his accomplishments during the Cobra Civil War, resulting in his election as Commander. Once Cobra Commander, Krake immediately executes the entire Cobra Council to ensure his permanent reign, eliminates any unnecessary aspects of Cobra, and frames G.I. Joe as criminals, getting their leader discharged and their funding slashed to hinder their interference in Cobra affairs, all while encouraging autonomy in his troops and expressing praise to those who show initiative. In his grandest accomplishment, Krake invades the drug-trafficking dictatorship of Nanzhao, forces the country's populace to evacuate, and nukes it into an irradiated wasteland, simultaneously throwing the world into confusion, painting Cobra as heroes for taking down a dictatorship, recruiting hundreds of the refugees to Cobra's ranks, and driving up the demand and price for Cobra's own drug ring with Nanzhaon competition out of the picture.
    • Brigadier General Clayton "Hawk" Abernathy is the patriotic-yet-ruthless leader and founder of G.I. Joe, seeking out and choosing those he deems useful to the Joes. Putting them through harsh and rigorous training while making them swear off their old lives, Hawk leads the Joes to countless victories against crime and Cobra, always willing to listen to their suggestions and changes to the game plans should it benefit their missions. A hardened badass capable of taking on an entire Cobra squadron with nothing but a rifle and a few grenades, Hawk never allows his group to devolve into truly horrible actions like torture of captured enemies, and often does his best to protect his men from any unnecessary death or scrutiny. Even after Cobra outdoes the Joes due to Cobra's superior numbers, Hawk sternly faces down his superiors and takes the blame for the Joes' recent failures, allowing the group to carry on without him while he enjoys life in retirement, even befriending a wild wolf in the process.
    • G.I. Joe: Cobra, by Christos Gage and Mike Costa: Phillip Provost, known to all as "Chuckles," is a ruthless, manipulative G.I. Joe member who sheds his identity to become a mercenary that reports back notable information to the Joes. Convincing an assortment of criminals, killers and terrorists of his status as a gun-for-hire, Chuckles commits any sort of atrocity to cement his supposed villainous nature to potential targets, all while deeply regretful of his actions but nonetheless efficient in carrying them out. Though at one point outsmarted by the Paoli twins, Chuckles returns with a vengeance and pulls off a manipulation of the grandest sort, tricking Cobra Commander himself into trusting Chuckles and using this loyalty to maneuver his way into the Cobra High Command. Chuckles ultimately has the most successful run of anyone who goes up against Cobra, as he murders the Commander, kills one of the Paolis and blows up an entire Cobra island base, wiping out thousands of Cobra troops while sacrificing himself.

Animated Works

  • G.I. Joe: Resolute: Snake Eyes is a perpetually silent, badass ninja who served as the G.I. Joe team's trump card in many situations. Called out to a final battle by his Arch-Enemy Storm Shadow, Snake Eyes locates Storm Shadow's whereabouts on an island and, realizing that Cobra troops are scattered around the area, systematically and brutally takes them down one by one. Sneaking up practically invisible on some, leaving others hanging to scare their fellow troops, and using the corpses of even more as booby traps, Snake Eyes effortlessly picks off the skilled troops around the island on his path to Storm Shadow. During his fight with Storm Shadow, Snake Eyes almost always has the upper hand, notably blocking a sword strike from his enemy with his bare hand and shrugging off the massive pain, before tricking Storm Shadow into lowering his guard so as to cripple him. Snake Eyes then kills the defenseless Storm Shadow with a skillset that Storm Shadow has long coveted, but nonetheless gives his long-time enemy a proper burial afterwards.
  • G.I. Joe: Renegades: Cobra Commander, aka Adam DeCobray, is the calculating leader of Cobra, a terrorist organization masking itself as a completely legitimate and beloved business. Fooling the world over with his public guide of DeCobray, the Commander uses his ruthless true nature to keep his subordinates in line, weeding out any and all potential leaks or dangers to Cobra's criminal activities and sniffing them out. Outwitting his entire command staff anytime they try to betray him, the Commander frames the G.I. Joes when they nearly expose Cobra, sending them on the run for the whole series. The Commander stares an assassin down without flinching, gives the Joes the hardest fight in the series when he personally duels them, and nearly takes over the world countless times over through sheer strategic brilliance and leadership.

The Rise of Cobra & Retaliation

  • Cobra Commander, once known as Rex Lewis, was a soldier in the US military who was left to die, and takes the opportunity to go into hiding and perfect the nanite technology. Going undercover as "the Doctor", the Commander fools James McCullen into being his pawn, using the man's resources to secretly build his own organization called Cobra that the Commander uses to overthrow McCullen. Able to instantly silence any of his captured soldiers and even quickly using his sister Ana as a hostage to enable his escape from the G.I. Joes, the Commander installs Zartan as the President of the United States and uses him to eliminate the G.I. Joes and wipe out every country's nuclear weapons, at which point the Commander unveils his powerful Kill Sat Zeus, with which he hopes to gain ultimate power over the world, and very nearly succeeds. Cobra Commander escapes at the end of the films with many of his resources intact, and showcases a tremendous amount of manipulation and scheming in his quest to bring the entire planet under a Cobra banner.

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