GI Joe Extreme!
News Monopoly Montage: "And with the collapse of the former superpower..." "...Several powerful factions now vie for control." "The threat is real." "An evil organization calling itself SKAR..." "...known only as SKAR..." "Their goal..." "...nothing short of total world domination." "Led by this man..." "...known only as Iron Klaw..."
G.I. Joe Extreme is one of the many animated interpretations of the G.I. Joe franchise subsequent to its original and best known incarnation. Following the short-lived Sgt. Savage and his Screaming Eagles, Extreme was a drastic reinvention of the brand in both style and design, pitting a brand new G.I. Joe team against a new enemy, the Soldiers for Kaos, Anarchy, and Ruin (SKAR). The line, supported by both a 26-episode cartoon series (1995-1997) and a short-lived comic published by Dark Horse, embraced the style of The Dark Age of Comic Books, making heavy use of hard shadows and hyper-muscular characters.
Set in the far future of 2006, the terrorist organisation SKAR, led by the masked Iron Klaw, is emerging and threatening the Inter-Alliance. In response, a new G.I. Joe team is formed to counter the threat. However, they don't know that Iron Klaw disguises himself as Count Von Rani, the leader of a small European country that is part of the Inter-Alliance. Both the comics and the cartoons use the same basic setup but go in a different direction.
The Extreme toyline was a massive failure, leading Hasbro to quietly kill the show and comic, and let the G.I. Joe franchise rest for a few years before returning to the A Real American Hero brand. Despite its impopularity, Extreme has been occasionally referenced in future G.I. Joe and Transformers materials. Some of the codenames introduced in Extreme were reused in future lines (starting with Sigma 6) and Iron Klaw and Steel Raven were integrated into the A Real American Hero universe as Collector's Club figures, the former in 2013 and the later in 2016. Additionally, some of the franchises' crossovers with Transformers have made reference to some of the concepts from both this and Sgt. Savage, including certain characters now referenced in Revolutionaries, a part of the new Hasbro Comic Universe.
This show provides examples of:
- Action Girl: Mayday. The 2nd episode has her fending off an attack on the Joe's base by Inferno despite her having a broken leg.
- After the End: The original pitch for the Extreme brand (shown in the book Toy Wars) mention the setting is supposed to be post-apocalyptic, and the Expository Theme Tune mentions the collapse of an unnamed superpower. This isn't really apparent in the show itself, however.
- Alas, Poor Yorick: Parodied in one of the live-action opening. Rampage brags to Inferno his new generation of Skyrenes is "smarter than it used to". Inferno then effortlessly destroys the robots and lands to pick up the severed head of a Skyrene in this manner.Inferno: "Alas, poor Skyrene... Back to the drawing board, Rampage!"
- All Your Base Are Belong to Us: Uunusually, the show starts with SKAR already being fully aware of where GI Joe's "secret" island is and its security weak spot, attacking it in the second episode. It is later blown up for good in the first season's finale.
- And Knowing Is Half the Battle: The first season had "remakes" of the PSA of the old cartoon, complete with the famous phrase.
- Big Bad: Iron Klaw is the main villain due to being the leader of SKAR.
- Asshole Victim: The two executives in "Now, Hear This". If knowingly making shoddy products and turning to subliminal messaging to sell them didn't lose them the audience's sympathy, bullying Inferno as a child for being poor certainly did.
- But for Me, It Was Tuesday: In "Now Hear This", Inferno hunts down two rich executives who bullied him as a child. Of course they don't remember him.
- Captain Smooth and Sergeant Rough: Lt. Stone and Sgt. Savage.
- Characterization Marches On: Two instances, both from the pilot:
- Iron Klaw is goofier (throwing a temper tantrum after the failure of his plan) and more unstable than he is in any of the following episodes, acting essentially like a more violent Cobra Commander. Not coincidentally, the pilot was written by Buzz Dixon, who was the editor of the original G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero cartoon.
- Rampage is shown to have the hots for Mayday. This trait is mentioned on his unreleased toy's bios and also briefly show in the comic, but it never came up again in the series after the first episode.
- Composite Character: In a purely visual example, Iron Klaw's design on the show is a combination of his three figures: he has the costume of his first figure, the mask of the second and the cape of the third.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Inferno is an important character in the first season but he doesn't appear at all in the second.
- Continuity Nod: One episode had an appearance from a scientist who used to work for the I.R.O.N. Army- that being the antagonist group from Sgt. Savage's one-off cartoon (see below).
- Darker and Edgier: A notable attempt at being darker than G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, since it is acknowledged in this series that war can result in lives being lost and many characters are revealed to have traumatic backstories.
- Early-Bird Cameo: The president of the US makes a short appearance in "Now Hear This" as one of the target of Inferno's brainwashing ray before his proper introduction in the two-part season finale.
- The End... Or Is It?: In the final episode of the first season, Lt. Stone has a battle with Iron Klaw and apparently kills him by throwing him into an explosion. After Lt. Stone wakes up, he's assured by Clancy that Iron Klaw is certainly gone for good as the cartoon ends with Iron Klaw's mask is superimposed over his face.
- Enemy Mine: A variation is used in "To Extend An Helping Klaw". Iron Klaw is mad that Rampage disobeyed his order to not attack the Inter-Alliance meeting (and almost blew his disguise as Count Von Rani doing so) so he tells the G.I. Joe team where his secret lab is located.
- Expository Theme Tune
- Expy: Most of the Joes are this one way or another, but it's especially noticeable with Lt. Stone, who is pretty much a more muscular Duke.
- To say nothing of Black Dragon, who's basically a more talkative and personable version of Snake Eyes. Albeit a much, much more talkative version.
- On the bad guy's side, Rampage broadly plays the same role as Destro (masked arm dealer who supplies the bad guys with Mecha-Mooks and has a strained relationship with the main villain), although his personality is very different.
- Freudian Excuse: Inferno was bullied by two rich kids when he was a child.
- Genius Bruiser: Despite his appearance, Wreckage is actually quite cultivated and intelligent.
- Grand Finale: The series concludes with the two-part episode "Metalhead Goes A.W.O.L."/"Betrayal", which had Metalhead pretend to betray the Joes in order to bring down SKAR from within and Iron Klaw finally captured for his crimes.
- Hong Kong Dub: Even though they're mouthing the same language, the lip synching of the live-action segments is really off. And it doesn't help that the voice actors' voices practically never sound like the voice the live-action actor would have, especially Lt. Stone, Freight and Wreckage.
- Human Popsicle: Sgt. Savage, and in one episode, a (fictitious) general of Genghis Khan.
- Large Ham: Rampage, though Iron Klaw isn't bad either.
- Ham-to-Ham Combat: The beginning of the episode "Extend a Helping Klaw" has them arguing.
- Limited Animation: Characters falling is often "animated" by dragging a static cell from top to bottom. A specific example is Quickstryke falling from the mountain at the end of "Point of Honor".
- The Man Behind the Man: The second season establish (most notably in "Rampage for President") that SKAR is actually backed by a much older organisation that has infiltrated all spheres of society. An interview with a Sunbow employee eventually confirmed the organisation in question was going to be Cobra.
- Mecha-Mooks: Rampage supplies SKAR with Zaps (burly androids with right-hand mounted chainguns) and Skyrenes (lanky Cyber Cyclops with mounted jets). Despite their imposing appearances and heavy armamement, both models were extremely slow and stupid.
- Merchandise-Driven: As with other cartoons in the franchise, this series had its own toyline.
- Mole in Charge: At least one season ended with Iron Klaw masquerading as the military official in charge of G.I. Joe itself.
- Mondegreen: When Metalhead introduces himself in the show's intro, it really sounds more like he's saying "Melvin". This is commonly joked about amongst the fandom.
- Musical Assassin: Metalhead has a gun that plays rock music as a weapon. It blows up the Mecha-Mooks with ease.
- Ninja: Black Dragon is a ninja.
- The Power of Rock: As noted above, Metalhead.
- Off-Model: Considering the complexity of the character designs and the track record of the studio behind it, hiccups were inevitable.
- One recurring goof is having Rampage drawn in his green monster form in scenes where he's supposed to be at ease.
- The details and proportions of the Zaps and Skyrenes vary from episode to episode, and sometimes shot to shot. What the Zap's head is supposed to look like is particularly inconsistent.
- Put on a Bus: Rampage is captured at the start of the second season and spends most of it is in jail. He is eventually freed in "Rampage for President" and sticks around for one more episode.
- Reality Ensues: Done humorously in the opener of the second season. After learning of Iron Klaw's "death", Rampage is ready to make his run to takeover SKAR, but he's soon shocked to find he only has three Zaps left in his inventory. He goes to his office and a sweating accountant explains to him that SKAR didn't order any more batchs, and with no cashflow, they can't build more robots.
- Retool: Production of the 2nd season was moved from Sunbow Entertainment to Gunther-Wahl Productions and many changes were done to the show: the live-action cold openings were replaced by Previously On recaps, continuity between episodes was stronger, the musical insert sequences were removed, the Mecha-Mooks were dropped, Balistics was renamed "Eagle Eye" (the result of a new law banning firearm-themed names on children shows) and slightly redesigned and the existing SKAR henchmen were sidelined (Inferno didn't appear at all, Wreckage was only in one episode, and Rampage was Put on a Bus for most of the season).
- Qurac: The vague country of Kalistan, though not a lot of it is shown.
- The Smurfette Principle: Mayday is the only major female character in the first season. The second season adds Steel Raven, who is The Dragon to Iron Klaw.
- The Starscream: Rampage has his sight set to SKAR's leadership (to the point he even mutters "Things won't be satisfactory until the day where I'm in control of SKAR" within Iron Klaw's hearing) and undermine Iron Klaw's authority by stockpiling weapons, running his own operations and disobeying orders to not attack Inter-Alliance targets. Iron Klaw is fairly quick to catch on to Rampage's treachery and only keep him around due to him being useful as a weapon supplier. When Rampage finally makes an over attempt to take control of SKAR, Iron Klaw lets him rot in prison when his attempt to attack Fort Knox fails and is deeply opposed to the notion of freeing him when representatives of SKAR's backers propose to do so.
- Status Quo Is God: The first season is mostly a series of one-off episodes where GI Joe foils SKAR's scheme of the week, but it soon introduces a subplot about the Joes suspecting there is a mole within the Inter-Alliance. This comes to a head in the season finale, where GI Joe's island base is destroyed and Iron Klaw's cover as Count Von Rani is exposed for good. The second season feature stronger episode to episode continuity and introduced another season-wide subplot with Sgt. Savage's distrust of Metalhead.
- Swiss Bank Account: In one episode, Iron Klaw mentions he'll transfer the payment for a deal to Rampage's Swiss bank account.
- Title Theme Tune: The title sequence is basically the News Monopoly montage quoted above and GI JOE EXTREME!
- 10-Minute Retirement: Freight goes through this in "Winner Take All", where he quits the Joes because he failed to prevent Metalhead from getting hurt.
- Tragic Monster: Wreckage, who's a downed soldier turned into an hulking cyborg by Iron Klaw, and tricked into thinking that the Inter-Alliance is responsible for what happened to him.
- Transplant: Sgt. Savage, the protagonist of the very short-lived Sgt. Savage and his Screaming Eagles was carried over as a member of the Joes. He serves as the most solid link Extreme has to the rest of the franchise, as the one-off Sgt. Savage episode firmly established it as a continuation of A Real American Hero. (Additionally, Savage's original enemy, the I.R.O.N. Army, is referred to in one episode via an ex-scientist of theirs.)
- Totally Radical: As the theme song put it, this show is EXTREEEEEEEME. Perhaps the character who best embodies Extreme's extreme-ness is Metalhead, a computer hacker who speaks in surfer dude lingo and owns a gun that shoots rock music.
- This show is so extreme, that "Extreme" called itself out in the roll call in the show's intro.
- World of Muscle Men: As part of the show's 90's comic books aesthetic, every recurring male character except Clancy is ripped to hell. Even Inferno, a bald manchild with an high-pitched, screechy voice, sports a visible 6-pack.
The comic book provides examples of:
- Cut Short: The last issue introduced a new plotline, but the comic was cancelled just after.
- Enemy Mine: S.K.A.R. and the G.I. Joe team band together to destroy an activist group that wants to incriminate both.
- Mauve Shirt: Two members of the Joe team not seen anywhere else are killed in the first issue.
The toyline provides examples of
- Rated M for Manly: Due to the muscular and "extreme" character designs typical of the era, which go far beyond what earlier versions of the franchise would usually present.
- Toyless Toyline Character: Mayday, Quick Stryke, Rampage and Wreckage had action figures planned for them, but the toyline was canceled before they could be produced.