TV Review: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero – Season 1 (1985)

Also known as: Action Force (UK)
Release Date: September 16th, 1985 – December 13th, 1985
Directed by: John Gibbs, Terry Lennon
Written by: various
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Larry Hama
Music by: Johnny Douglas
Cast (voices): Michael Bell, Arthur Burghardt, Corey Burton, William Callaway, Brian Cummings, Dick Gautier, Ed Gilbert, Chris Latta, Morgan Lofting, Mary McDonald-Lewis, Bill Ratner, Bob Remus, B.J. Ward

Hasbro, Sunbow Productions, Marvel, Toei, Claster Television, 55 Episodes, 22 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

“As of now, your little project is deader than disco! Hmmm… Deader than disco… I like that… I would have made a great stand-up comedian.” – Cobra Commander

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero is the original G.I. Joe cartoon series that ran from 1983-1986. It actually became a full series in 1985, after two separate five-part miniseries in 1983 and 1984. It was created as a big marketing vehicle for Hasbro’s G.I. Joe toy line. It also paved the way for a similar series, The Transformers in 1984. Both of these Hasbro toy franchises followed the same marketing path and also had their shows created by Marvel-SunBow. Both also had ongoing comic book series produced by Marvel.

I already reviewed the three miniseries events that lead to this regular ongoing series. However, I wanted to review just season one here, as there were a lot of big changes between seasons one and two. I will follow up with a season two review in the near future.

G.I. Joe has had several television series come and go throughout the years but none are even as close to the greatness of the original. This series, along with Transformers, created a megafranchise that was only rivaled by Star Wars, at the time.

The series created a lot of heroes and villains that were all cool and still very memorable. Cobra was, and still is, the coolest villain organization in all of fiction. G.I. Joe were the coolest heroes. As a kid who always sided with the baddies, it was hard not to love the good guys too. This was an animated show with surprisingly good character development.

The characters, for a cartoon about toys, had really good backstories and unique personalities. The stories about Shipwreck were always phenomenal. The show could tap into horrific things but serve it in a way that was okay for kids to handle. It took a lot of risks, offered up a lot of serious lessons but did it in a way that was so cool, at that age, you didn’t realize you were being taught anything. It was a perfect package of badass, cool and educational.

The art was top notch for the mid ’80s. The tone of the show was always adventurous. It was like someone took the best of James Bond, the best of The Avengers, mixed it together and gave it a military twist. G.I. Joe are mortal men without any real powers but they are superheroes. Cobra is essentially a much cooler version of SPECTRE or Hydra.

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero is still the best version of G.I. Joe ever created in animation form. I’m still waiting for a movie or a series that gets it because nothing since has even come close.

Comic Review: G.I. Joe Vs. The Transformers, Vol. 3

After the first two G.I. Joe Vs. The Transformers crossover events put out by Devil’s Due, the third one had it’s work cut out for it, as the previous installments would be hard to top. Well, this one was enjoyable but it fell short.

Reason being, I wasn’t too keen on how they handled the debut of Cobra leader Serpentor, who served as more of a Decepticon leader here with Cobra as an afterthought.

In fact, other than the setup and twist at the ending, Cobra was fairly nonexistent and this just saw G.I. Joe working with the Autobots to stop Serpentor, the new Decepticon ruler on Cybertron, who was essentially the “son” of Megatron.

The tease at the end of the second story that saw Dr. Mindbender encounter Cobra-La and had the mention of Unicron is held off until the fourth chapter, after this one. Which made this a bit of a letdown, as I was really anticipating the Cobra-La and Unicron story line, which would unify the threats of both G.I. Joe and the Transformers motion pictures. I mean, who wouldn’t be excited for Golobulus and Unicron working towards a common goal of ultimate destruction?

A big positive of this story, however, was seeing Hot Rod become a leader, as Optimus Prime was in pretty bad condition for part of the story. Also, it gave us General Hawk on the G.I. Joe side and finally pulled the trigger on the infatuation between Snake-Eyes and Scarlett.

It’s not that this chapter had a bad story, it just didn’t have that epic feel of the other chapters in this massive four-part crossover event. But it is decent filler until the larger than life conclusion, which this was working towards.

Film Review: G.I. Joe: The Pyramid of Darkness (1985)

Also known as: The Further Adventures of G.I. Joe
Release Date: September 16th, 1985 – September 20th, 1985 (first run syndication, 5 parts)
Directed by: John Gibbs, Terry Lennon
Written by: Ron Friedman
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Larry Hama
Music by: Johnny Douglas, Rob Walsh
Cast (voices): Michael Bell, Arthur Burghardt, Mary McDonald-Lewis, Bill Ratner, B.J. Ward, Frank Welker, Christopher Collins, Zack Hoffman, Kene Holiday, Neil Ross, Keone Young, Corey Burton, John Hostetter, Bill Morey, Lee Weaver, Pat Fraley, Hal Rayle, Will Ryan, Ketty Lester, François Chau, Morgan Lofting

Hasbro, Sunbow Productions, Marvel, Toei, 5 Episodes (first run syndication), 22 Minutes (per episode), 100 Minutes (movie cut)

Review:

“Let’s reconnoiter, Snake Eyes. Try not to attract attention… Sure. Who’d notice a wet sailor with a parrot and a silent masked man with a timber wolf.” – Shipwreck

Like the two five-part miniseries events before it, G.I. Joe: The Pyramid of Darkness was made to be combined into a feature length film for VHS release and for weekend replays. Also, this was the first five episodes of the regular G.I. Joe television show. This feels like the third part of a trilogy with the two miniseries releases before it but it is also the start of a much larger G.I. Joe television run. This would also be the last five-part miniseries until the start of season two, which would kickoff with Arise, Serpentor, Arise!

The Pyramid of Darkness really ups the ante. We have all the major Cobra officers from the previous two miniseries but we now get introduced to my favorite fictional twins of all-time Tomax and Xamot, the Crimson Guard commanders. They also run Extensive Enterprises as a corporate front for Cobra and they basically function as Cobra’s CFOs.

We also get the debut of several new members of G.I. Joe. Three of the coolest characters Alpine, Bazooka and Quick Kick have a pretty big spot in the story. In fact, I like their chemistry as a group and they are a good comedic addition to the show.

Like the other miniseries before this, Cobra has a superweapon. In this one, it is the Pyramid of Darkness. The way this one functions is a lot more interesting and cooler than the previous two superweapons. Basically, Cobra positions four giant black cubes around the Earth. They also send the Dreadnoks to space to overtake a G.I. Joe space station, which is needed to link the four cubes. Once all five points are secured and operational, the top half of the Earth is covered by an electric pyramid that works like an EMP, killing the electrical power of anything within its massive reach. This gives Cobra a huge advantage in world domination. The Joes have to then battle it out with Cobra in exotic and dangerous locations once again.

The Dreadnoks in space element is really cool, especially when their genetically engineered beasts, the Fatal Fluffies, grow to monstrous proportions. I actually wished that the Fluffies would have returned to the show and also had toys, back when I was a kid. With Duke on the space station, this makes the third time in three stories that he is a Cobra captive. Really, Duke? Get it together, bro! You’re the leader of G.I. Joe until General Hawk comes along in season two.

I also wanted to mention the character of Satin. She was a pop singer that worked the Cobra nightclub circuit. Really though, she was working her way into the organization because her father was framed by Cobra for crimes he didn’t commit, which ruined his life. Satin works as an ally to Shipwreck and Snake Eyes and was instrumental to the story, yet we never see her again after this.

The Pyramid of Darkness is my favorite story of the Marvel/Sunbow G.I. Joe universe. Actually, it’s my favorite Joe story, period. Well, not counting Larry Hama’s G.I. Joe comic books because that dude wrote some amazing shit.

Film Review: Darkest Hour (2017)

Release Date: September 1st, 2017 (Telluride)
Directed by: Joe Wright
Written by: Anthony McCarten
Music by: Dario Marianelli
Cast: Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, Stephen Dillane, Ronald Pickup, Ben Mendelsohn

Perfect World Pictures, Working Title Films, Focus Features, 125 Minutes

Review:

“You can not reason with a tiger when your head is in its mouth.” – Winston Churchill

Now that there are nine or so films nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, there is more competition and it opens the floor up to more films that may otherwise get snubbed. But on the flip side of that, sometimes there are pictures that work their way onto the ballot that shouldn’t be there. Actually, it’s pretty common now. Darkest Hour is one of those films.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it enough to leave with a positive opinion of the film but if a movie is nominated for Best Picture of the Year, it had better be pretty damn exceptional.

Darkest Hour boasts some incredible acting but to be brutally honest, even great acting can’t save a disjointed and oddly paced film. While I was pulled into Gary Oldman’s Churchill, as he dominated nearly every scene, the film just shifted around like loose marbles in a shoe box. I felt like a cat watching a laser pointer.

While the film has also been nominated for Best Cinematography, I didn’t like it at all. The picture was dark and smudgy. Maybe the projector was on the fritz in my theater but the trailers before the movie all looked normal. This was a film shot with boring colors in dark places with high contrast lighting. While that can be presented well, I felt like I was watching a big television event from a major network in the ’90s and not a major motion picture on the big screen in 2018. The presentation made it feel like a mid-’90s BBC docudrama.

The strength of the film is the performances by the actors, especially Oldman and Ben Mendelsohn, as the King. The two women, Kristin Scott Thomas and Lily James, also did fine work but were limited in their roles, as Churchill was always the film’s primary focal point. Another strength was the presentation of Churchill, as Oldman’s transformation looked seamless and perfect.

The film only covers the few weeks between Churchill’s rise to the role of Prime Minister to the moment where he decides whether he is going to go to war with the Nazis or negotiate a treaty. We all know how this ends but it’s how he came to his decision that is the gist of the film’s story. While parts of the film drag and should have been whittled down, the last twenty minutes or so were really solid.

Darkest Hour was a good movie but it lacked in a lot of areas that a Picture of the Year nominee shouldn’t. But the Academy is incredibly political and that could very well be the reason why this is getting major accolades.

Comic Review: G.I. Joe Vs. The Transformers, Vol. 2

I thought that the first G.I. Joe Vs. The Transformers story would be hard to top but this one did it.

The story picks up sometime after the events of the first story. Here, we see Cobra Commander reveal to Destro that he still has control of Starscream and that he has learned about an alien computer on Cybertron that controls a network of wormholes for instant travel around that planet. With that device, Cobra could easily take over Earth. Cobra then finds themselves on Cybertron and a big fight breaks out between Cobra and G.I. Joe, which damages the alien computer, sending Transformers back to Earth at different points throughout time. G.I. Joe, Cobra and some of the Transformers then have to work together to save Earth, which will be ravaged by the power of the damaged computer for centuries. Members of G.I. Joe and Cobra break off into different groups and go to different points in time to rescue the displaced Transformers in an effort to set things right.

The thing I really like about this specific tale in the G.I. Joe Vs. The Transformers crossovers, is the entertainment value of the multiple squads of G.I. Joe and Cobra members. I also love the time travel part, as we get to see the past and a potential future where a crippled and slightly mad Duke leads a resistance force of reformed Dreadnoks against Shockwave’s Decepticon forces. I also like that Shockwave is the big villain of this story, as I always felt that he was too cool to be as underutilized as he was in the original cartoon.

But then there is the big badass ending! I don’t mean to spoil anything, so ignore the rest of this paragraph if you don’t want spoilers but Dusty shows up from prehistoric times with the Dinobots and they literally tear shit up! It’s absolutely friggin’ glorious!

The thing I also love about this series is the art. Devil’s Due Publishing always put out really dynamic comic books with great colors and fantastic illustrations. It’s unfortunate that they had money problems and weren’t paying some of their creative staff properly, which lead to some departures, such as Hack/Slash moving to Image Comics. I always liked how they handled the G.I. Joe and The Transformers franchises but they’ve also been in good hands since going to IDW Publishing and being rebooted.

G.I. Joe Vs. The Transformers, Vol. 2 is a great example of Devil’s Due at their creative best, though. A solid story, amazing art and characters that are adored by every boy that grew up in the mid ’80s.

Film Review: G.I. Joe: The Revenge of Cobra (1984)

Release Date: September 10th, 1984 – September 14th, 1984 (first run syndication, 5 parts)
Directed by: Dan Thompson
Written by: Ron Friedman
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Larry Hama
Music by: Johnny Douglas
Cast (voices): Michael Bell, Gregg Berger, Arthur Burghardt, Mary McDonald-Lewis, Bill Ratner, B.J. Ward, Frank Welker, Christopher Collins, Zack Hoffman, Kene Holiday, Neil Ross, Will Ryan, Buster Jones, Keone Young

Hasbro, Sunbow Productions, Marvel, Toei, 5 Episodes (first run syndication), 21 Minutes (per episode), 98 Minutes (movie cut)

Review:

“Remember, Cobra’s a snake, and “snake” is “sneak” spelled sideways.” – Flint

After the huge success that was the miniseries G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, Hasbro commissioned Sunbow to follow it up with this miniseries, which also was released in feature film length for home video and weekend replays.

The Revenge of Cobra is everything that was great about A Real American Hero but with even more cool stuff added into it. This massive G.I. Joe story has a special place in my heart because it was the debut of the Dreadnoks, my favorite branch within the Cobra organization. It also introduced Cobra members Storm Shadow, Firefly, Scrap-Iron and some others. On the G.I. Joe side we got some other awesome debuts: Flint, Mutt & Junkyard, Shipwreck, Lady Jaye, Roadblock, Spirit, Cutter and more. I also realized that G.I. Joe leader Duke spent most of his time in these first two film length stories as a prisoner of Cobra. I guess I never realized he spent more time as a P.O.W. than a hero in the earliest stories.

In this massive tale, Cobra once again has a super weapon. This time the weapon is the Weather Dominator. At one point, it gets split into three parts, which all end up in different locations around the world. This is sort of a rehash of the first G.I. Joe story, as the Joes and Cobra race against one another for three MacGuffins located in dangerous exotic locations. But that’s not a bad thing, as these situations made for the best G.I. Joe stories.

The highlight of this story is the big battle at the derelict carnival that the Dreadnoks call home. The Dreadnoks are holding the last MacGuffin ransom, waiting to see who bids highest for it between G.I. Joe and Cobra. We get a three-way battle at the carnival that is pretty friggin’ glorious. This then segues into the big finale that sees G.I. Joe raid Cobra’s desert fortress.

While the first miniseries was a great kickoff to what would be a long running series, The Revenge of Cobra is where the show finds its stride and style.

Comic Review: G.I. Joe Vs. The Transformers, Vol. 1

G.I. Joe and The Transformers have always existed in the same universe since the 1980s. Even if they only had a hint at a crossover when Cobra Commander appeared as a character named Snake in a very late episode of The Transformers cartoon, young boys in the ’80s knew that they occupied a similar space. The Transformers just exist a little bit further into the future, so they never really crossed over with the G.I. Joe and Cobra characters when those groups were at their peak.

The story here is interesting and Devil’s Due did a good job bringing these properties together in a practical and creative way. While it isn’t as fabulous as the old school Larry Hama G.I. Joe stories, it was well crafted and had the same sort of spirit.

In this chapter of this massive crossover that spanned four large stories, we meet the Transformers as they are unearthed by Cobra Commander and his Cobra minions. They crash landed on Earth at some point in the past. Cobra then uses the Transformers, Autobots and Decepticons, along with their alien technology to give them an advantage in their quest for world domination. G.I. Joe is formed after the initial Cobra attack and we also get to meet Autobots Wheeljack and Bumblebee, who have been lying in wait for the perfect moment to make their presence known. The Joes and the two Autobot heroes work together to free the other Autobots in an effort to protect Earth from Cobra and the Decepticons. Everything comes to a big awesome finale on Cobra Island in the Caribbean.

One real highlight for me was seeing two of my favorite childhood toys merged as one, as Cobra had Optimus Prime in the vehicle form of a H.I.S.S. tank.

This story is full of wonderful art, an engaging story that reinvents the mythos quite a bit while not necessarily betraying anything, great battles and just a whole lot of nostalgic fun. This is the comic book version of the crossover battles I would have on my bedroom floor as a kid in the ’80s.

Luckily, there are three sequels to this series.