I know we’ve been watching TMNT for the past few weeks, but I’ve been on a major GI Joe nostalgia kick of late with all the awesome new toys they’ve been releasing so I couldn’t help but want to revisit the series that sucked me in as a kid. And if I’m going to do that, I may as well blog about it, right? Right.
GI Joe as a brand has obviously been around since what feels like the dawn of time, but it’s the 1980s G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero toyline, comic book, cartoon and all the subsequent licensing and marketing that went along with it that made it a real phenomenon. There have been plenty of DVDs produced over the years, but modern technology is a wonderful thing and we now have access to the full original series streaming whether that’s on YouTube – where many complete episodes have been uploaded by Hasbro – or on Tubi – a free streaming app that has the full 85 episode run available.
Eighty-five episodes is good, but you know what’s better? More episodes. Although, the actual syndicated series did clock in at 85, it was actually preceded by two separate five-episode mini-series which became necessary after a series of commercials produced by Marvel Productions to promote the toyline became super popular with kids of all ages craving to know more about this new world they were seeing.
Honestly, if I were seeing these commercials for the first time, I’d be soiling my pants for anything I could possibly get of GI Joe. Give me whatever you’ve got.
Which brings us to today. This week we’ll be watching the initial mini-series which is the “true” beginning to the classic series we all hold near and dear. I hope you’re as excited as I am since it’s been a very long time since I’ve gone back and watched these.
Ep. 1: “The M.A.S.S. Device, Part 1: The Cobra Strikes”
Original Air Date: September 12, 1983
Man, this intro just fucking grabs you. Just in the theme song, you know everything you need to know. GI Joe is the good guys and Cobra is the bad guys and they’re fighting for freedom wherever there’s trouble.
Right off the bat, the Joes are showing off their new SkyStriker fighter jets. Also, off the bat, I know what vehicle I’ll be asking my mom to grab at the toy store on her way home from work. The joy is short-lived, however, as the the sirens go off and the Joes are attacked from above by Cobra who’s trying to destroy all these hot, new SkyStrikers. Duke immediately recognizes this because he’s a man of action and tells his team to get these birds in the air before they lose them all. It’s amazing how simple it is to strap in, start a fighter jet and then be airborne so they can start fighting back and chase off the baddies.
I’m not even kidding. I’m on PC and it takes about 22 minutes to just boot up my laptop, but GI Joe was able to get planes in the air and on the attack in mere seconds. How did technology go backwards since 1983?
We’re now brought to the Cobra Temple where we get our first view of the two most iconic characters from this show (my opinion only, they’re my faves): Cobra Commander and Destro. Destro’s just returned with crates of three exotic elements which will be used to power the M.A.S.S. Device which…well, I dunno what it does, but they’re going to take over the fucking world with it.
The Joes are getting a new mission from General Flagg: he wants them to attempt to break into the base housing an experimental satellite to test the security before its scheduled launch tomorrow. Obviously, they breach the walls and get gifted a showing of the unit. One of the uniformed officers providing the tour plants a Cobra tracking device on the satellite which links to a similar one Destro has connected to the M.A.S.S. device that will now allow Cobra to seize power of the satellite so it can be used to transfer matter from point to point. After a brief hiccup, Destro sends in a full team of Cobra Troopers right into the satellite shilo to launch an attack. Once ready to return the strike team to Cobra Temple, he brings not just his full squadron, but also the satellite and a surprise stowaway: Duke!
Duke tries fighting capture as best as he can, but is eventually overpowered by a gaggle of Cobra Troopers; the last of which knock him unconscious with a vicious karate chop to the back of the neck which is as real a finishing move as I could ever expect to see here. Cobra Commander instructs his minions to bring Duke to the slave bin and “prepare him for sport” which I can only assume means the Ironman Triathlon: the only REAL sport of the power of will!
Cobra launches the satellite into space and with their new ability to run the power of the M.A.S.S. device through the satellite, they’re now able to teleport anything they desire to have in their clutches. Like…the Eiffel Tower, for instance. Because having a giant fucking tower just poking out of the top of the Cobra Temple isn’t a fucking dead giveaway of your secret hideout.
GI Joe, for their part track down Dr. Vandermeer who’s like the leading scientist when it comes to teleportation rays since…well, someone has to be. When they arrive on his farm in New England, however, they’re ambushed by a whole team of Cobras. The Joes are able to chase them off – to where is anybody’s guess since I don’t believe New England is in retreating distance of the Cobra Temple – but they run off through the farm as the Joes locate Dr. Vandermeer who tells them Cobra got in his brain for the secrets of the M.A.S.S. device and the only thing that can stop it is, in fact, another M.A.S.S. device.
But of course.
Speaking of Cobra Temple, the prisoner Duke is outfitted with a mind-control tiara and brought to Cobra’s “Arena of Sport” which is much more impressive than the Barclays Center. Doesn’t appear as if there was a lot of interest in this sport, though, because it looks as if only Cobra Commander and Destro bought tickets. Duke is having his motor functions controlled by Destro who, for all technical wizardry, is operating this with a fucking Atari 2600 joystick which is either absurd or amazing depending on your viewpoint.
Cobra Commander calls to have his Champion released into the goddamn Arena of Sport and in lumbers a massive barbarian cloaked in a He-Man style chest harness, trunks and boots accessorized with his own mind control tiara and he sets forth for Duke as we come to the end of part one.
I’m actually really impressed by how much I enjoyed this! I don’t know what kind of long-term plans for a series they had coming into this, but the comic books provided a good basis for the characters who comes off as instantly well-established and even though I’m clowning on some of the sillier stuff, I can still sit back here and enjoy it for what it is.
I don’t want to get carried away with gushing over this because I remember doing the same for TMNT when I started that and how quickly it became a chore to rewatch. That being said, a good episode is a good episode and, if you have the nostalgia for this, I’d be hard pressed to think you’d be disappointed with a new viewing of your old show.
One thing that surprised me was how similar the characters’ appearances and mannerisms come off just as I remembered which makes me think that not a lot was changed or altered as they went into the actual series. Small things like Baroness’ garb and Cobra Commander’s added inflection on pronouncing his Ss like a snake would for added emphasissssss, but an overwhelming majority of elements feel incredibly familiar.
Main Man Standings:
I know I said I don’t want to get too crazy, but good is good. If I’m going to shit on things when I don’t like them, I most certainly have to show appreciation where appreciation is due.
I’m making this debut episode a QUADRUPLE MAIN MAN! Four stars outta five for a fun, action-packed 22 minutes that has me excited to hit play on part two. Game recognize game.
Comments & Concerns: