With the seventh Rocky film being released today – also known as Creed – and because pretty much every other aspect of Rocky has been covered somewhere on the Internet this week, why not write about this weird thing?
In the ‘80s, G.I. Joe was represented on television by a goofy and, today, often mocked animated television series. The toy line also had a pretty wonderful Marvel Comics adaptation, written by Larry Hama, that took (at least compared to the cartoon series) a more realistic approach to the material.
As G.I. Joe became more popular, it started, kind of inexplicably, adding celebrities to its roster. Most notable was probably wrestling star Sgt. Slaughter, who, to be fair, kind of fit in because at least there was a built-in military motif. It got a little weirder when Chicago Bears defensive lineman William “Refrigerator” Perry became a member of the G.I. Joe cast. This would kind of be like if in that new Captain America: Civil War trailer, we learned that J.J. Watt had joined the Avengers.
In 1986, Marvel Comics released G.I. Joe: Order of Battle, which was basically a miniseries that listed off every Joe and member of Cobra, along with a biography. These were quite popular at the time: Marvel had already released The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe and DC had issued Who’s Who in the DC Universe. These were basically printed Wikipedia entries.
I’ll never forget reading through the second issue of G.I. Joe: Order of Battle and stumbling upon the entry for a brand new G.I. Joe character named Rocky Balboa, who was the Joes’ new boxing instructor.
What a weird thing? I like imagining each and every member of the G.I. Joe team having to box Rocky Balboa. “Get in there, Flint. I’m sure you’ll do just fine.”
It’s weird to think back to this, because without the Internet to google, “Wait, Rocky is a G.I. Joe? What is happening? Please someone explain this to me” (this is how I google things), it was just me asking my dad, “Rocky is a G.I. Joe now?” to which he replied, “Looks that way.” Well then, case closed.
Then I read the third issue of G.I. Joe: Order of Battle, which included one of the most hilarious retractions of all-time.
“Rocky IS NOT and HAS NEVER BEEN a member of G.I. Joe.” Well, that settles that. It was at this moment I realized I would never own a Rocky Balboa G.I. Joe action figure. Again, with no way to really investigate what happened, this just remained a huge mystery. Why was Rocky Balboa clearly a member of G.I. Joe, then wasn’t? What happened? Was this a Cobra trick?
The answer isn’t that exciting: Apparently the licensing deal to make Rocky Balboa a member of G.I. Joe fell through at the last minute and the Marvel comic had jumped the gun. Though, Rocky Balboa’s new Cobra arch-enemy, Big Boa, did survive and that’s why there’s an action figure of a villain wearing boxing gloves.
(Honestly, Rocky V would have been much better had Rocky fought Big Boa with the entire world at stake.)
Anyway, that’s it: The Internet has now officially exhausted every possible Rocky rankings and story humanly possible this week. Go see Creed, it’s good.
Mike Ryan lives in New York City and has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and New York magazine. He is senior entertainment writer at Uproxx. You can contact him directly on Twitter.