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

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"He'll fight for freedom whenever there's trouble. G.I. Joe is there!"note 
"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 express 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, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard with a variety of skills and military specialties.

The series premiered with a Five-Episode Pilot in 1983. The writing and distribution of the series was handled by both Marvel Productions and Sunbow Entertainment. 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.

All character files beneath command level of both factions require entries.

He'll trope for freedom, wherever there's trouble:

  • Aborted Arc:
    • The later episodes of season 2 reveal that Cobra regrets creating Serpentor and are returning to Cobra Commander. But because the movie was released before season 2, 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. When they met again in a later episode, they still have feelings for each other, but there's never a definitive end to the subplot. In the DiC series, however, Zarana starts dating Destro for a while, and Mainframe isn't even part of the cast.
    • 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.
  • An Aesop: The two-parter "The Greatest Evil" was another episode with a Drugs Are Bad moral. It realistically demonstrates the consequences of drug addiction by having Falcon's addiction to spark drive a wedge between him and his half-brother Duke, a Cobra member's sister ending up in a coma, and the villain the Headman meeting his end from overdosing on his own drug.
  • The Aggressive Drug Dealer: The Headman from the two-part episode "The Greatest Evil" manipulates an entire town into buying his drugs.
  • Airborne Aircraft Carrier: Cobra employs a number of helicarriers throughout this continuity. Perhaps most iconically, one is blown up in the movie's dramatic intro.
  • 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 Hell's 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: Zig-zagged. It says "A Real American Hero" right in the title and the show's theme song. The Soviet Union's version of G.I. Joe, the Oktober Guard, allies with them on more than one occasion. As does a woman of Japanese descent, possibly of the JSDF, who assists Quick Kick and Bazooka while they were training her and several other people in CQC and EOD in "Cobra Quake".
  • And I'm the Queen of Sheba: In "Cobra C.L.A.W.s Are Coming to Town", Wild Bill tells Cobra Commander that he's the queen of England. In "El Dorado: The Lost City of Gold", Grunt replies to a ghost claiming to be the older cousin of Francisco Pizarro by snarking that he is Ulysses S. Grant.
  • And Knowing Is Half the Battle: The segments featuring members of G.I. Joe giving safety lessons to children are the Trope Namer, featuring lessons such as "don't play with electricity", "evacuate the premises before you call the firefighters in the event of a fire outbreak", and "frozen ponds and rivers may not be totally so".
  • 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.
  • Arab Oil Sheikh: In "Cobra Soundwaves," Sheikh Ali rules a desert country whose oil fields are being attacked by Cobra. The Joes arrive to help bolster his country's defense, and Ali is a Nice Guy who gets along with them fairly well and cares for the safety of his people (although he also has a reckless Fearless Fool moment in the climax).
  • 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.
    • In one of the PSAs, Billy faints and wakes up eleven seconds later when a wet cloth is applied to his forehead. He also falls backward; in real life a person who faints falls forward.
  • Artistic License – Military: How much this is in play varies to a considerable extent between the episodes, but generally speaking, GI Joe evidences considerably relaxed grooming and uniform standards, as well as a remarkably fluid chain of command, among other things. Likewise, both they and Cobra have women in combat roles and treat this as unproblematic, and there seems to be no problem with soldiers coupling up, whereas in real life this is still very controversial today (and was an absolute no-no in the 1980s, when the series was made). Much of this is arguably justified, since GI Joe is a small force of picked men for special tasks, and so not as much subject to the details of ordinary military discipline as the rank-and-file (just as with real special forces). And Cobra, of course, is a private military organization, so they can make their own rules however they like them.
  • Art Evolution: Some Sunbow episode artnote  was improved due to being made at the same time as the animated movie. 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.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The Armadillo mini-tank and the HAVOC. Both look cool, but their armaments would not work in real life.
  • 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.
  • 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 Goku.
  • 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 identified as "ruthless"note  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.
    • Madam Vale ends up losing her face at the end of the episode "Glamour Girls" and is left sobbing over her loss of facial features.
  • Bluff the Impostor: In "Cobra's Creatures", the Joes try to interfere with Dr. Lucifer's plan by having Scarlett impersonate Dr. Atilla, a scientist Lucifer has feelings for. Dr. Lucifer is suspicious that the Dr. Atilla before him isn't the real Dr. Atilla and weeds out Scarlett by asking if she remembers when he proposed to her, knowing for sure that she's not the real Dr. Atilla because he never proposed to her.
  • 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 Mook's 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.
    • In "Haul Down the Heavens," a random Cobra Mook spots Snow Job fleeing in a helicopter to Bring Help Back. He races after the helicopter, grabs the landing gear as it takes off, and then manages to knock Snow Job out of the craft (although Snow Job drags the Mook down with him). When the two hit the ground, they spend several seconds wrestling, and the Cobra thug manages to stab Snow Job with a tranquilizer dart before being overpowered, causing Snow Job to pass out not far away.
  • 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.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece: The Sunbow series occasionally had Sherman tanks and S-51 Helicopters, like in season 1, episode 19.
  • 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 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).
  • Canon Welding: Supplementary material for the Japanese dub of the cartoon explicitly mentions that the Joe/Cobra conflict really begins in earnest after The Transformers awaken and begin their war. Laser weaponry is explicitly mentioned as being the result of the Transformers' presence, and it also explains some of the more high-tech elements like jetpacks both sides use. It's easy to imagine the Autobots agreeing to share some of their weapons technology with humanity so they can defend themselves against the Decepticons, and even in their own show it was mentioned the Autobots are basically allied with humanity, not explicitly the USA. (That said, this only applied to the Japanese dub, not the original.)
    • The presence of Hector Ramirez is used to explain that the cartoons made by Sunbow (i.e. G.I. Joe, The Transformers, Jem and Inhumanoids) are all part of the same shared universe. In fact, in Inhumanoids one of the Earth Corps members, Sabre Jet, is hinted to be Joe member Ace, given a new code name after he was wounded in battle against the titular Inhumanoids. The fact that Hector Ramirez's actual physical appearance differs between the various shows is glossed over (same thing with Ace/Sabre Jet).
    • The Transformers episode with Hector Ramirez also had a cameo of Daina from the Oktober Guard, the Russian equivalent to the Joe Team, piloting a plane.
    • Season 3 of The Transformers finally confirmed the Shared Universe by having a washed-up Cobra Commander, under the alias "Old Snake", assist a mobster in putting the minds of Autobots into synthetic bodies (based on the synthoid technology previously seen in several Joe episodes). He even lets out the Cobra battlecry at the end of the episode, only to collapse into a coughing fit.
    • Another connection from Transformers season 3 came via Marissa Faireborn, head of the Earth Defense Command. She looks like Lady Jaye a bit, but has Flint's last name. Further implication came via a fake hologram of her father, who looked like an aged Flint (and was even voiced by Bill Ratner). It was finally confirmed by one of the writers years later that she is indeed the daughter of Flint and Lady Jaye.
  • 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 seize 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.
  • 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.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: In "Last Hour to Doomsday", Leatherneck's response to Lifeline about them and a bunch of other divers running out of oxygen: "Pick some up at the supermarket."
  • Catchphrase and Battle Cry:
    • "Yo Joe!", or GO, GI Joe in the Japanese dub since Yo Joe is a creepy term in Japanese; they also dropped the "GO" part for the 1987 film. The spanish dub of the Weather Dominator 5-parter also used the latter version.
    • Fans often suggest Cobra Commander's Catchphrase is "RETREEEEEAT!"
    • For Cobra, "COOOBRAAAA!!!" in the original series and "COOOOBRA LALALALALALALALA!" in the animated movie.
    • Oktober Guard's battle cry is "Nu pogodi!" ("Well, just you wait!" in Russian), which (coincidentally or not) is also the title of the most popular Soviet cartoon series ever.
  • 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.
  • The Chain of Command:
    • The G.I.Joe chain of command is unusual in that Duke (a mere First Sergeant) explicitly outranks the likes of Flint (a Warrant Officer) and Ace (a Captain) thanks to his role as field commander. Justified in that the Joes are a combined service unit, with members from all branches of the military. There's still a bit of oddness in the chain of command, as Beach Head (who is fourth in command after General Hawk, Duke and Flint) is actually outranked by the likes of Shipwreck according to their ranks, but Shipwreck isn't in the chain at all. Likewise, Cutter is one of the highest ranking Joes, but is almost never involved with planning of operations unless explicitly requiring naval expertise.
    • Cobra's chain of command is far less clear. Fanon states that the Vipers are a step up from the Cobra troopers, and that the Crimson Guard outrank everybody not part of the high command, but within Cobra's top ranks even Cobra Commander sometimes has to cajole the others into following his plans. Serpentor, in comparison, is a much more autocratic leader thanks to his ability to physically beat obedience into the others.
    • Exploited in "The Most Dangerous Thing In The World" when a Cobra plot promotes three of the Joes to the rank of Colonel. Since they're completely unsuited to such high ranks, Joe morale and effectiveness plummets.
  • Chainsaw Good: Buzzer and his diamond tooth chainsaw.
  • Chef of Iron: Roadblock, and to a lesser extent, Gung-Ho and Barbecue.
  • Chummy Commies: The Oktober Guard are rivals at worst to the Joes but not their enemies. They're never portrayed as evil or villainous, and occasionally team up with the Joes to help each other out fighting the common enemy, Cobra.
  • 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. Even Extensive Enterprises, Cobra's main (legitimate) source of funding, is only mentioned once.
  • Clip Show: The DiC Entertainment series had two episodes consisting of clips from other episodes, "Basic Training" (presented as General Hawk giving lectures and battle strategies to new recruits) and "The Legend of Metalhead" (which had Metalhead narrate the events of episodes that featured him in a significant role).
  • 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.)
    • The Oktober Guard, uniquely, had green blasts. Any other forces (third parties, police, etc.) tended to vary on what color their gunfire was.
    • 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.
  • Commonality Connection: The DiC series episode "That's Entertainment" has General Hawk and Captain Krimov hit it off after discovering that they're both fans of Jackie Love.
  • 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 Cavalcade: In "Not a 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.
  • 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. Later 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 "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...
    • The nitrogen engine itself is a nod to "The Greenhouse Effect", although that episode was about fuel developed by a different chemist.
  • Contrived Coincidence:
    • In "The Viper Is Coming", the Joes receive frequent phone calls about the mysterious Viper meeting them, dropping hints of his arrival. Suspecting a Cobra agent, they manage to foil every Cobra plan and demolish a few secret bases. It turns out to be this trope, frustrating both sides, and the "Viper" is just an old man coming to "vipe the vindows".
    • 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 are Cobra members that run their own company called Extensive Enterprises.
  • 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.
  • 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. They also changed the Joe's catchphrase "Yo Joe!" to "Go, G.I. Joe!"
  • 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.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Cobra would have been far more successful by marketing a lot of their inventions. Think of how much money you could make (or charge, if you keep it to yourself) with the weather dominator, just doing "good" things like turning aside hurricanes or bringing rain to drought-plagued regions? How much would the world's billionaires fork over for a turn in the anti-aging steam room?
  • Dartboard of Hate: The Joes are shown throwing darts at a dartboard depicting the Cobra Commander in the episode "Flint's Vacation".
  • Dastardly Whiplash: Major Bludd in the "MASS Device" Five-Episode Pilot.
  • Dead-Hand Shot: After the Headman dies in "The Greatest Evil", we see a shot of his hand protruding from the ruins of his detonated lair to confirm that he is dead.
  • Decoy Convoy: one involved the Joes being asked to help transport a virus to a safe spot to destroy it, knowing very well that COBRA will try to capture it. After braving a whole lot of traps, ambushes and other risks, the team assigned to the convoy finds out that they were assigned to the decoy convoy and the virus was transported and disposed in a more covert fashion. They were not okay with the fact that they were not provided this information.
  • Decoy Protagonist: With the page image above, you would think Flint was the leader. Although in some episodes, Flint is in charge of the missions.
  • 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?
  • Demoted to Extra: Many Joes had reduced appearances and importance after their toys left the aisles. Among the hardest hit was Stalker, who went from being prominently featured in the intro of the first mini-series, to only being featured in an handful of episodes of the first regular season (most of them being non-speaking appearances in crowd shots), to not appearing at all in the second.
    • On occasion, even big names like Duke or Flint would be reduced to non-speaking appearances, instead being used to fill out crowds. A couple of notable examples include "The Most Dangerous Thing In The World" (where Duke is seen among the Joes trying to defend Joe HQ during the climax, leading to the logical question of why he isn't taking command from Shipwreck, Lifeline and Dialtone), and "Sink The Montana" (where he's part of the Joe assault force attempting to retake the Montana but isn't involved in planning the operation alongside General Hawk at all).
  • 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!"
  • Diegetic Soundtrack Usage: The Joes play a big band version of the opening theme at the end of Cold Slither.
  • Disco Sucks: The line "Deader than Disco" is used in the third part of the "Arise, Serpentor, Arise" five-parter.
    Cobra Commander: As of now, your little project is deader than disco!
  • Discovering Your Own Dead Body: In the two-part episode "Worlds Without End", a few members of the team found themselves in an Alternate Universe 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.
  • Disguised in Drag: The DiC series episode "United We Stand" has Ambush and Pathfinder sneak out of the hospital by disguising themselves as female nurses.
  • 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 Taeko from "Cobra Quake".
  • The Dragon: Destro is second-in-command to the Cobra Commander.
  • Dress Hits Floor: Happens in "The Gamesmaster" when the Gamesmaster is spying on Lady Jaye getting undressed in a department store changing room.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Sergeant Slaughter and Beach-Head.
  • Drugs Are Bad: "The Greatest Evil" is all about the dangers of drug addiction and the life-threatening consequences of overdosing on drugs.
  • 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). Oh, and the lasers were white streaks.
  • Educational Short: The infamous "Knowledge is Power" segments at the end of episodes, where a moral would be taught to some kids by a member of the team, ending with them saying "And Knowing Is Half the Battle".
  • Elaborate Underground Base: Several of Cobra's bases.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Cthulhu Expy Destro and his clan have worshiped for thousands of years.
  • 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.
    • When Destro sees Cobra Commander has a Synthoid of himself created, he decides to aid the Joes in stopping this plot as a warning to the Commander not to cross him.
    • Destro again allies with the Joes when Cobra Commander attempts to use one of the horrific monsters Destro keeps contained in an attempt to destroy Serpentor.
    • Cobra uses a hypnotic camera to capture women for an evil fashion magnate. Lady Jay and Cover Girl are also captured and when the other Joes try to rescue them, they get caught as well. However, while messing around, the Drednoks use the camera on Zarana. After beating his idiot helpers down, Zartan is outraged when Mindbender says they're going to allow Zarana to be used by the magnate to steal her beauty. Zartan thus frees the Joes to help rescue his sister (although Low Light does punch Zartan in the face and notes it's only Zarana causing Zartan to do this).
    • The DiC series two-part episode "The Greatest Evil" had the Joes and Cobra reluctantly work together to take out the Headman, an alliance that was born from Duke and a Cobra member both learning that the Headman's drugs had harmed someone near and dear to them.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: In "The Greatest Evil", a member of Cobra sets his sights on the drug dealer known as the Headman because his sister ended up in a coma from overdosing on the Headman's drugs.
  • 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."
  • "Everybody Laughs" Ending: "Money to Burn" has this.
    • "Flint's Vacation" does as well.
  • 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.
    • Zartan sort of is a gender-flipped one to Scarlett, what with both being intermediate-level commanders in their teams and masters of disguise hailing from redhead badass families with a militarily unusual preference for archery over riflemanship. In one episode, they even showed some mutual respect for each other.
  • 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 wears an eyepatch.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Failed a Spot Check:
    • "The Pit of Vipers" has a truly egregious one. The Pentagon buys "Watchdog", a special defense program from Dr. Hamler, who's said to have been checked out and "his credentials are impeccable". At the end of the episode (after Watchdog is exposed as part of a Cobra plot), Flint lampshades the Pentagon should have checked a little closer to discover the real Dr. Hamler died in 1978.
    • Lady Jaye while breaking into a hideout during the episode "Spell of the Siren"; she was only four or so yards away from a dozen enemies.
  • Fake Defector:
    • Dusty pretends to betray the Joes in the two-part episode "The Traitor."
    • The DiC Entertainment continuation had this happen in the episode "Shadow of a Doubt", where Storm Shadow (who left Cobra to join G.I. Joe some time between the events of the Sunbow series and the DiC series) appeared to return to Cobra but was actually pretending to do so to help the other Joes take down Cobra's secret base.
  • Family-Friendly Firearms: The laser guns in the cartoon.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: The Headman from "The Greatest Evil", who ends up dying of a drug overdose.
  • 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".
  • Fountain of Youth: "Grey Hairs and Growing Pains", wherein Mainframe, Dial-Tone and Lady Jaye get turned into kids by Cobra.
  • Four-Star Badass: Hawk, though a scene of him using a rocket belt in Paris showed he's a one star in "Arise, Serpentor, Arise".
  • From Special to Series: There were two mini-series made before the show proper premiered.
  • 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!
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Being a kids show, the closest the characters ever came to swearing was "freakface" and "chicken sweat", and that was from two of the good guys.
  • Grand Finale: While the DiC Entertainment continuation has no clear finale, G.I. Joe: The Movie can be seen as a Finale Movie of the original Sunbow series due to the scope of the Joes' battle with Cobra-La and Cobra Commander being put out of commission for the time being.
  • Grand Theft Prototype: One episode of the DiC series has Cobra steal a prototype Joe vehicle called the Battle Axe note  during its testing phase. They succeed, but the vehicle is recovered by three Joes working undercover. Afterwards, Cobra tries again with the Battle Axe's replacement. They discover all too late this one is a trap set up after the Joe team finds the listening device they planted.
  • 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 Return: Storm Shadow apparently reformed at some point between the Sunbow and DIC series, as the latter inexplicably depicted him as one of the Joes and had an episode where the plot revolved around him appearing to return to Cobra.
  • Heroic RRoD: In "Raise the Flagg!", once the title event takes place, the characters who spent extended time down below begin to suffer from the bends and have to spend time in decompression chambers.
  • Hero Secret Service: The Greenshirts.
  • Hidden Depths: Who would have thought Sgt. Slaughter knew so much about Ancient Greece history and mythologies?
  • Highly-Conspicuous Uniform: The Cobra uniforms, in spades. And some of the Joes even more so.
  • Hollywood Tactics: All sides rush forward and shoot wildly, without any regard for formations, tactics, strategies and ammunition conservation. And they keep yelling their battle cries even if it means giving away their positions to the enemy.
  • 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.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Cobra troops are terrible at aiming and shooting, even at close range. The Joes are much better unless the plot says otherwise. Even then, it's far more common for people to destroy vehicles (whose passengers invariably have time to bail out safely) than other people — unless "So-and-so is wounded" is a plot point.
  • Improbable Weapon User: During the infamous breath mints/candy mints fight, Zandar comes out and clobbers another Dreadnok with an alligator.
  • In the Blood: Serpentor is a designer baby who grows up real fast with DNA from conquerors, murderers, and madmen.
  • 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.
  • Inscrutable Aliens: One of the last episodes has an alien vessel appear; who they were was never explained, possibly meant for the unmade third season.
  • Insert Grenade Here: Many of COBRA's tanks are blown up by Joes popping a grenade into them.
  • Intercontinuity Crossover:
  • Invulnerable Knuckles: Sgt. Slaughter for punching through a brick wall in the cartoon.
  • Just Plane Wrong: In one episode, Flint took out Cobra Commander's tank by using his air fighter's wing to slice it up. Only the tank was damaged and the plane was still functioning without a scratch.
  • Kansas City Shuffle: 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 and later 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. When Cobra Commander puts Dusty in charge of the executions, he puts his plan into action, freeing them all. Once Cobra is foiled, Duke later reveals that he and the reinstated Dusty invoked this trope in secret to exploit their faulty armor treatment and hinder Cobra, but the plan initially fell through when Duke was rendered unconscious from the ambush.
  • 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.
  • Karmic Death: The Headman from "The Greatest Evil", who ends up dying from a lethal overdose of the same drug he had been selling to Falcon and a Cobra member's sister named Cindi.
  • 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. (He got better.)
  • Kill Sat
  • Large Ham:
    • The Cobra Commander quite often chews the scenery and seldom keeps his voice down.
    • The Headman from "The Greatest Evil" is also quite hammy.
  • Latex Perfection: Zartan and the Baroness were fond of doing this for their disguises.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Scarlett and Shipwreck do this at different points in "Pit of Vipers".
  • 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: Hearing that explosion straight out of Rocky and Bullwinkle or the Warner Bros. and Hanna-Barbera jet sound effects numerous times can get a bit tiresome.
  • Living Prop: In large battle scenes, the GI Joe army is padded out in the background with essentially cut-and-paste clones of the most generic GI Joe: Grunt. They never talk with the main characters in scenes. They were known as "Greenshirts" behind the scenes (the designation later carried over into other continuities).
  • Longer-Than-Life Sentence:
    • The episode "Cobra's Creatures" ended with Dr. Lucifer incarcerated. While visiting his cell, the Joes joke that he should look them up in the next 200 years, implying that his sentence will last that long.
    • The DiC continuation features the trope in the two-part episode "D-Day at Alcatraz", which begins with Cobra Commander, Destro, Metalhead and several Cobra soldiers being sent to Alcatraz and has the warden mention that they'll all be serving 362-year sentences. The two-parter ends with Cobra Commander, Destro and Metalhead escaping as usual, with the generic Cobra soldiers being the only ones left serving their sentences.
  • 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. Their Big Bad was Baron Ironblood, who led the Red Shadows; when Hasbro took over and began introducing more GI Joe concepts into the line, this meant Baron Ironblood rebranded himself as Cobra Commander. (The Red Shadows later became Canon Immigrants in later continuities, though their exact role tends to vary.)
  • 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 "The Greenhouse Effect" and "Cold Slither".
  • 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".
  • Men of Sherwood: There aren't enough named characters to realistically take on Cobra. So the aforementioned "Greenshirt" soldiers occasionally help in gunfights or guard prisoners but always come out little the worse for wear. (A more pressing reason for their existence was to save on animation costs.)
  • 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.
  • Mythology Gag: Two instances of this appeared in the Sunbow cartoon; one with Airtight, and another with Tripwire.
  • Natural Disaster Cascade: The Weather Dominator's different components can control water vapor and electromagnetism, in addition to the Lazer Core. Notably, Cobra attempts to use the Weather Dominator to manipulate the planet's weather, but when the Dominator explodes, its different weather-creating parts are scattered.
  • Never Learned to Read: The DiC series episode "A is for Android" has a boy named Adam who's had trouble learning to read. In the end, he manages to recognize the word "fire" in time to assist General Hawk in destroying an android duplicate of Hawk that Cobra was using in an attempt to infiltrate G.I. Joe.
  • 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 Drugs" hysteria.
  • Non-Lethal Warfare: There aren't really any casualties to speak of in this cartoon for the most part.
  • Not Now, We're Too Busy Crying Over You: In the DiC series episode "That's Entertainment", General Hawk continues mourning the apparent deaths of Jackie Love and Fiona while initially oblivious that they are right near him.
  • "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".
  • Now What?: 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.
  • 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, though at least one episode depicted him switching between the two (in heavy shadow), so it's more a personal (read: animator's) choice. Very roughly, he wears his helmet in the field, and his hood while in a base.
    • 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 (at least in the Sunbow/Marvel series).
  • Onion Tears: In the DiC series episode "Cobra Land", Cobra Commander fakes some tears by eating an onion while pretending to be remorseful of his past crimes and wishing to redeem himself.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Storm Shadow towards Spirit, as shown by the former at one point in "Countdown For Zartan".
  • Only Sane Man: Cobra Commander, of all people, tends to be the only sane person on occasions. Incredibly, when Serpentor is being created, he is actually the one person who recognizes how bad this can turn out. Sure, it's mostly because he doesn't want to lose control (and his own incompetence got him dethroned to begin with) but he also makes a terrific point when Mindbender declares his plan to use Sgt. Slaughter's DNA in place of Sun Tzu's.
    Cobra Commander: What a brilliant idea, Mindebnder! Using the DNA of our greatest enemy to create our new emperor will give us just what we need...a built-in traitor!
    • He's also proven dead right warning Serpentor that a full-scale invasion of Washington D.C. is one thing but holding onto the city against the full weight of the U.S. military and G.I. Joe is going to blow up in his face.
  • 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
  • Plagued by Nightmares: Low-light is plagued with nightmares every night due to a abusive childhood at the hands of his father. When Dr. Mindbender invents a device that gives the other Joes nightmares, Low-Light is able to shrug them off because they are much tamer than his usual ones.
    Low-Light: You gotta be tougher than that! I'm not a wimp anymore! I'm a G.I. Joe! And nothing stops a G.I. Joe! NOTHING!
  • Praetorian Guard: the Crimson Guard in the series, and the Royal Guard in the movie.
  • 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".
  • Promotion to Opening Titles: Inverted with Destro. The original version of the opening song (as heard in the two mini series) Listed him alongside Cobra as G.I. Joe's enemies,note  while the one used for the actual series had his name removed.note 
  • 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 favor 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.
  • The Remnant:
    • "The Great Alaskan Land Rush" features a Hidden Elf Village of Alaskan cossacks, descended from the crew of a ship that got lost when Russia owned Alaska and later decided to remain separate from the outside world. They initially take the Joes prisoner in the name of the long-dead Tsar Alexander II, but ultimately work with them to thwart Cobra.
    • In "Raise the Flagg", a Cobra cook has spent months trapped in the eponymous sunken ship, managing to recycle air and grow food with the help of several robotic soldiers. He believes that he is the last survivor of Cobra and is determined to keep the organization alive. This goes out the window when he learns that 1) Cobra still exists at the same strength as before and 2) they never sent any rescue parties to see if there was anyone left alive on the Flagg (only diving down to the wreck for an unrelated salvage job). His dedication to preserving and following Cobra rapidly vanishes.
  • Robot Me: Cobra attempts to infiltrate G.I. Joe with an android replica of General Hawk in the DiC series episode "A is for Android".
  • 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, Leatherneck, and Mainframe.
  • 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). Meanwhile, Inhumanoids, 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 or sound the same). And all three shows, plus Jem, were linked via the multiple appearances of Hector Ramirez. Also, the Action Figure File Card for C.O.P.S. member Checkpoint hints that he's a descendant of Beach-Head. G.I. Joe also shared many of the same music tracks with The Transformers in later episodes.
  • Shirtless Scene:
    • Snow Job is stripped naked by the natives in "Haul Down the Heavens".
    • Shipwreck gets one in "Once Upon A Joe".
    • Iceberg gets one when Dr. Mindbender turned him into an orca as part of his experiments.
  • Shout-Out: In "Lights, Camera, Cobra", Shipwreck got captured by Cobra and poised over a boiling liquid. Shipwreck asks, "Do you expect me to talk?", to which Cobra Commander replies "No, we expect you to fry".
  • 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.
  • Something We Forgot: The Action Figure File Card for Sneak Peek, the team's recon specialist, provides an example.
    Sneak Peek is a legend in the Ranger recon battallions. They tell of one mission where his control unit got overrun. In the ensuing confusion, Sneak Peek was never recalled. He stayed put, observing enemy activity, taking notes and sketching maps for two weeks until somebody remembered he was out there and sent him the signal to return!
  • 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.
  • Stock Sound Effects: In-universe example: both the Joes and Cobra tended to use the same alarm sounds. Meta example: some weaponry and explosion sounds were similar to those of sci-fi shows and movies.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: In "Raise the Flagg", a small group of Joes and Cobras, while trapped hundreds of feet below the ocean's surface, come up with a plan that allows them to get to the surface... but because they ascended very quickly, once they're up there, they collapse from the bends, spending the epilogue in a decompression chamber.
  • 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".
  • The Speechless: Snake-Eyes, when we are given a reason for his silence.
  • Supreme Chef: Roadblock is a skilled cook.
  • Take That!: The DiC series episode "Cobra Land" has Jose Riviera (an Expy of Hector Ramirez) at one point being called away by a report of some "whining turtles stuck on their backs in the sewers".
  • Tank Goodness: The heroes are a military organization. It wouldn't make much sense if tanks weren't used.
  • Teleporters and Transporters: The MASS Device.
  • Those Two Guys: The Joes have several: Alpine and Bazooka, Dialtone and Mainframe, Dusty and Footloose, Leatherneck and Wet Suit, even Tunnelrat and Big Lob were this in the movie. Cobra, however, only had the Crimson Twins.
  • 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
  • Two-Faced: The DiC Entertainment continuation featured a Cobra member named Cesspool, who has one half of his face horribly scarred from falling into a vat of toxic waste.
  • 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.
  • Urine Trouble: In the episode "Chunnel", the Queen of England's dog pees on Major Bludd.
  • 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!
    • The movie adds an opening verse about COBRA to the show's usual heroic theme song. The lyrics aren't explicitly from the villains' POV, but the backup singers do use COBRA's Catchphrase and the lead vocal's tone is threatening.
  • Villains Out Shopping: When the Master of Games kidnaps several heroes and villains, he abducts the Baroness while she's relaxing in a tanning salon.
  • 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, Quick-Kick, and Gung-Ho almost never wear shirts.
  • Weather-Control Machine: The Weather Dominator utilized by Cobra.
  • 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.
  • We Choose to Stay: 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.
  • Wicked Toymaker: In "The Gamesmaster", the eponymous Gamesmaster uses giant toy soldiers to stalk the Joes and COBRA, and toy planes to blast their aircraft out of the skies.

"Now you know, and knowing is half the battle."


Video Example(s):


Arise, Serpentor, Arise

Using the genetics of the greatest conquerors and tyrants throughout history, Dr. Mindbender creates the supreme emperor of COBRA: Serpentor.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / MixAndMatchMan

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