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Nightmare Fuel / G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero

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G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero has incredible amounts of Nightmare Fuel for a series that's retrospectively known for softness and light. One doesn't even need to invoke Fridge Horror, though that adds considerably to the picture.

  • Any story with the synthoids in it. There's Body Horror when they melt, but the mere fact that they are used to impersonate Joes and their family members is much worse. Imagine being beaten and nearly killed by the wonderful man you love? Or your school-age daughter?
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  • Cobra has access to mind control technology, and use it liberally. In other words, they practice industrialized Mind Rape. In one episode, they nearly forced the family members of seven Joes to kill them.
  • And in another episode, they forced a captured pacifist scientist to build a weapon of mass destruction for them. He resisted fiercely until the treatment was complete; afterward, he worked equally diligently to complete it. When Cobra Commander congratulated him on his work, he said nothing, but stared emptily into the camera with silent tears running down his cheeks.
  • In the aptly-titled "Nightmare Assault", Cobra used remote Mind Control to give the Joes debilitating nightmares and hallucinations. Imagine a Psycho Psychologist who can sit a continent away, read your subconscious mind and slowly drive you mad with your own worst fears... The base descended into borderline outright insanity through sleep deprivation and mental fatigue.
    • Lowlight's own nightmare about the junkyard rats is much scarier than anything the villain devises, the moreso in that it enacts an actual childhood trauma. Mainframe's dream that he's turning into an android is nasty too, albeit very brief. Then there's Hawk's nightmare where all his friends' vehicles blow up and they don't parachute out. Hawk parachutes out... then finds that he's falling into the mouth of a cobra the size of a building.
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  • And besides high-tech mind control, there's still plenty of old-fashioned Cold-Blooded Torture. Torture with electric shocks? Threatening the lives of loved ones? Gaslighting? Torturing an arachnophobic girl with spiders? All depicted onscreen. Possibly not quite as horrible as some of the more fantastic things, but given more weight by the fact that these things can actually happen in real life.
  • Cobra also perform experiments on humans. Some are turned into Super Soldiers and some... are turned into other things.
  • There's the fate of the workers in the Cobra labor camp in one episode. They are supervised by robots and AI, who run them like machinery. Any slowing of pace is punished with cattle prods, and workers may rest only at irregular intervals when the computer commands it. Nothing is said about eating. The implication is that this is a death camp, where workers are simply used up and replaced. When the Joes arrive, the inmates are rather traumatized, obviously.
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  • And let's not forget the reeducation facility at Springfield, which is basically the Village on steroids.
  • It isn't brought up very often, but Destro is a worshipper of the Great Old Ones, who leads an ancient evil cult that meets at his castle at every winter solstice to offer up human sacrifices to monsters sleeping deep beneath its dungeons. No, really, this isn't made up. We even get to see it when the chanting cultists slowly lower a victim into the pit wherein the beasts dwell...
    • It gets worse; in one of the last episodes, "Sins of Our Fathers", Cobra Commander turns one of them loose, offering human sacrifices to its glory and promising it worship if it will only help him by destroying Serpentor. The gigantic creature agrees and goes storming onto Cobra Island, nearly completing its side of the bargain before a horrified Destro pulls an Enemy Mine with the Joes to force it back into slumber.
  • In "Glamour Girls", the Joes have to stop an older woman who's using a machine to steal the faces of pretty girls to restore her lost youth. As if that wasn't creepy enough, after the Joes destroy the machine, the old woman covers her face with her hands and starts wailing "My face! My face!" We never find out exactly what happens to her face, and the final shot is a bird's eye view of the Joes consoling the model for almost getting her face stolen while the woman is kneeling in alone, sobbing, and covering her face—or whatever's left of it. And Lifeline isn't sure he'll be able to help the old woman, because "there's not a lot to work with"...
  • There's also the scene in the Faked Rip Van Winkle episode "There's No Place Like Springfield", where Shipwreck's friends and family turn out to be Synthoids trying to pump him for information, and his neighbors start to melt in front of his eyes.
  • "Bazooka Saw a Sea Serpent" was another one. A giant robotic sea monster with flat-yellow glowing eyes that eats ships and turns their mass into more girth, so it keeps getting larger. The appearance was scary enough, but then you see that the humans "eaten" by the monster get turned into slaves that are worked so hard that they collapse in a dead sleep in the brief moments that ever-vigilant shock-prod tentacles let them have a "coffee break". And then an attempt to stop the thing fails and it turns from a Cobra-controlled monster into an uncontrolled monster, some laser-eyed Godzilla serpent that wants to eat EVERYTHING, just a blind malicious hunger in the shape of a giant robotic snake.
  • An unintentional version is at the end of "Once Upon a Joe" with the orphan character Jenny looking almost dead when Shipwreck is ending his story.
  • The Bio-Annihilator from "In The Presence Of Mine Enemies"; a Mindbender experiment Gone Horribly Wrong, it's almost something out of an H. P. Lovecraft story. An enormous mass of squamous scaly flesh, dominated by a single huge reptilian maw full of More Teeth than the Osmond Family. It has multiple writhing tentacles, some of which end in smaller heads, and secretes Hollywood Acid from its skin. Thanks to the episode's use of B.A.Ts instead of human mooks, we get to watch it not only burn through walls in pursuit of Slipstream and Raven as it chases them around, but gruesomely devour the B.A.Ts in a guilt-free Mook Horror Show. It's so horrific that Slipstream decides it's better to blow up the island, potentially killing himself, than to risk it getting free.
  • Part of the original 1983 miniseries, aptly titled "The Worms of Death", involves G.I.Joe and Cobra being attacked by horrible giant underwater worms that scream and wail as they try to eat the humans on both sides, forcing an Enemy Mine so they can escape. Watch it here.
  • The two-part episode "Worlds Without End", in which some of the Joes are transported to an alternate dimension where Cobra has conquered the world. The characters end up stumbling over the skeletal remains of the Joes of that world, including their own counterparts.
    • Upon arriving on the alternate Earth, Steeler is bitten by a strange pink bug that makes him seriously ill. His resulting delirium, especially once the he and the other Joes learn what happened to their counterparts, is hard to watch ("We're all dead and we've gone to the devil!").
  • The episode "The Funhouse," while exploring a cobra base, two of the Joes are surrounded by pink balloons with with Cobra Commander's face... Dusty pops one of the balloons before Airtight could stop him. The balloon is filled with a powerful hallucinogen that makes Dusty think his friend is Cobra Commander... whose mask and gloves fall off to reveal a nest of snakes underneath. Dusty screams in terror and attacks his friend, but mercifully Dusty is given a quick KO punch.
  • The infamous slow, horrific, physical and degradation of Cobra Commander into a giant, mindless serpent in The Movie, which doubles as the [Trope Name] for Was Once a Man. Even the Joes feel pity for Cobra Commander as they watch his slow descent into mindless beasthood.
  • Then there's the fact that this show was in a Shared Universe with The Transformers and Inhumanoidsnote . So their Earth was having to deal with the onslaught of a massive terrorist organization already (who later revealed themselves as the front for an ancient civilization), then along come the giant robots from outer space and the horrific creatures from beneath the Earth.... all of whom want to conquer the planet and destroy or enslave us in the process. It's a miracle their Earth managed to survive to the 21st century.


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