G.I. JOE: Season 1.1
July 17, 2009
The early 1980s was a good time for cartoons. Not only were several shows from the 1970s still in syndication but a whole new wave of cartoons emerged, including The Transformers and G.I. JOE. Supported by an impressive line of actions figures and an engaging Marvel comic book series, JOE became a huge hit among kids who hadn’t grown up with the original toy line. This time the action figures were considerably smaller but there were more of them and they had really cool vehicles.
Previous DVD releases of the show lacked in quality and quickly went out-of-print, fetching a considerable price on eBay. Now, the folks at Shout! Factory is giving G.I. JOE the special edition treatment with a DVD set that includes the first three mini-series and a portion of the first season. The show debuted in September 1983 with the episode, “The Cobra Strikes,” the first of a five-part mini-series known as The M.A.S.S. Device. The opening credits tell you everything that you need to know about the show. G.I. JOE is a special missions force that does battle with Cobra, an elusive and very dangerous terrorist organization.
Its leader, Cobra Commander, and his right-hand man, Destro, have created the M.A.S.S. Device, capable of harnessing incredible amounts of energy, including transporting a large group of soldiers and vehicles. They steal a top secret government satellite that will let them direct the energy of the Device anywhere in the world. However, they need three precious elements to keep it running and so the race is on to recover them in various countries around the world with JOE creating their own M.A.S.S. Device.
After the success of the first mini-series, a second one debuted in 1984, again with a five episode arc entitled The Revenge of Cobra. While maintaining many of the popular characters from the first mini-series, several new ones and vehicles were introduced including their corresponding toys. This time around, Cobra steals the laser core (along with JOE members Duke and Snake-Eyes) to use with a device Destro invented called the Weather Dominator, which allows them to manipulate the weather and wreak havoc on any given location.
The third and final mini-series came out in 1985 and was called The Pyramid of Darkness. Cobra is at it again when they sneak a cargo pod onto the JOE’s space shuttle (what kind of security checks do they have?). Cobra takes control of the JOE’s space station and uses it to destroy the JOE’s home base and create a pyramid-shaped net over the Earth that robs many countries of their electrical energy source.
G.I. JOE really is a time capsule of the times: the wasteful, materialistic ‘80s under Ronald Reagan. This is illustrated in every episode which features all kinds of destruction with many jets, tanks and other expensive vehicles being blown up en mass in any given battle. Cobra obviously acquired their money through terror campaigns and other nefarious means but what kind of budget did the JOEs have? Also, being a kid’s cartoon, no one is allowed to die which makes the many gun battles hopelessly unrealistic as no one is even wounded! But it’s all good, clean fun and when you’re kid, these things didn’t really register or matter. What worked were the distinctive personalities of the various characters. Everyone had their favourites, which one was the coolest, and so on.
Shout! Factory has done a great job restoring these episodes and they look as good as they did when they first aired. For anyone who grew up with this cartoon, watching these episodes will be a wonderful trip down memory lane to revisit their childhood.
The first disc features “Looking Back with Writer Ron Friedman, Part One.” He talks about creating a central conflict that would bring G.I. JOE and Cobra in opposition with each other with the fate of the world hanging in the balance while also conveying it visually. Friedman talks about how a stint in architecture school influenced the look of the toys and the show.
The second disc includes “Looking Back with Writer Ron Friedman, Part Two” where he talks about how he got the gig writing for G.I. JOE. The powers that be were looking for someone who hadn’t written for animation before. Initially, he wasn’t interested because cartoon writers were looked down upon in the industry. Friedman talks about the importance of voice actors and how they give the characters a distinctive voice.
The third disc features “Looking Back with Writer Ron Friedman, Part Three.” In it, he reflects on the legacy of G.I. JOE.
The last disc contains the rest of the extras. “’Knowing is Half the Battle’ PSAs” features seven of the classic public service announcements that were created to counterbalance all of the violence in the show with various characters appearing in these cheesy segments that were placed at the end of every episode. They were intended to teach kids what to do if, for example, they got lost or if their house is on fire. Every segment ended with a JOE member saying those immortal lines, “and knowing is half the battle.”
“Archival Hasbro Toy Commercials” features three classic toy ads that takes one back if you ever saw them when they first aired.
“1963 G.I. JOE Toy Fair Presentation” is a vintage featurette for the original JOE action figure that is pretty cool and comes across as half commercial, half patriotic hype.
Finally, there is a printable script for the “Jungle Trap” script.