Few cartoons represented the spirit of the 1980s more than G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero. A team of hard working American men and women, each with their own skills and unique personalities, fighting threats against freedom all over the world. It’s as if Ronald Reagan himself hand-picked the members of each team! All that was missing was a guest appearance by E.T., Knight Rider saving the day with a Rubick’s Cube, and a copy of Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
While the G.I. Joe cartoon was, essentially, a scheme to sell action figures, it stood out for some pretty creative writing. Most notable was “The Viper Is Coming,” which not only had a great twist ending, but also gave us a look at what COBRA does when they’re not, you know, trying to take over the world.
So, with that in mind, here’s some fun G.I. Joe trivia.
There were two different G.I. Joe series in the 80s.
The original G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero premiered on September 12, 1983 with a 5-part mini-series. It actually wasn’t until 1986 — following a second mini-series — that it actually got a full pick up. Throughout the run of the first series, Hasbro — the company that produced the G.I. Joe action figures — had been shouldering the production costs of the show. After all, it was essentially a half-hour commercial for the toy line. By 1986, however, Hasbro couldn’t handle the load on their own. So, in 1986, Sunbow/Marvel Productions stopped production.
It wasn’t until 1989 when DIC Entertainment (the animation studio behind Inspector Gadget) offered to restart production and shoulder the burden of the production costs. With a new company came an almost entirely new voice cast, and by the time the series ended for good in 1992, Chris Latta (Cobra Commander) was the only cast member left from the original series.
There was also G.I. Joe Extreme (in 1995, so of course it was extreme), G.I. Joe: Sigma Six in 2005 (where the Joes learn corporate synergy, apparently?) and G.I. Joe: Renegades in 2010 (which was basically “G.I. Joe meets The A-Team).
Sgt. Slaughter left WWE to be in G.I. Joe
Hulk Hogan wasn’t the only all-American patriotic pro wrestling superhero in the 1980’s. When Bob Remus began as the Sgt. Slaughter during the 80’s in the then-WWF, it was as an evil Marine drill instructor who took pleasure in inflicting pain on his opponents. As tensions between the United States and Iran grew in the real world in 1984, Sgt. Slaughter was switched to a patriotic good guy and began feuding with the Iron Sheik in arenas all over the country.
Sarge’s popularity got so large that he was approached by Hasbro to be a character in both the G.I. Joe toy line and cartoon series. Unfortunately, the WWF had a toy licensing deal at the time with Hasbro’s competitor, LJN. WWF chairman Vince McMahon informed Slaughter that he couldn’t work for both his company and Hasbro at the same time due to the conflict. In the end, Sarge picked G.I. Joe.
There was a Transformers/G.I. Joe crossover. Sort of.
One would think that, with both G.I. Joe and The Transformers being both Hasbro properties, that the two franchises would share some TV time together. While they certainly met on the comics page, as well as in numerous action figure battles across the country, there was never a TV crossover, despite the fact that it would have been awesome and made a trillion dollars.
There was, however, one episode of the Transformers animated series which could be considered a crossover. Entitled “Only Human“, the crime lord Victor Drath, after once again having his plans foiled by those blasted Autobots, contracts the services of one “Old Snake.” Snake used to run a “terrorist organization”, during which time they were able to create synthetic bodies — bodies Drath was able to use to trap the minds of certain Autobots in.
G.I. Joe was originally designed to be S.H.I.E.L.D.
Larry Hama has been a comic book writer for decades, having left his mark on titles such as Wolverine and The Punisher: War Zone. In the early ’80s, Hama pitched a concept of a new version of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to Marvel — called Fury Force, it was supposed to be a special missions force of soldiers with specialized skills fighting against a terrorist group with a serpent-inspired name led by a megalomaniac. Only in this case, it was going to be led by Nick Fury’s son in a battle against HYDRA.
Marvel passed on the concept, but did hire Hama to take on the comic for the G.I. Joe license they had just acquired — only after pretty much everyone else passed on it. Hama used the concepts he developed for ‘Fury Force’ in the G.I. Joe comic, which were then carried over to the animated series.
Duke was saved by Optimus Prime in the movie.
It’s not a secret that Duke was supposed to die in the animated G.I. Joe movie in 1987. The guy took a spear to the chest, for crying out loud. Everyone cried and even his brother, Falcon, looks to the heavens after the film’s climax. Instead, though, audiences were treated to an off-screen comment that Duke had miraculously awoken from his coma! Just as the Joes saved the day, too! Of course, even to kids, it seemed a little shoehorned in — so what happened?
G.I. Joe: The Movie was one of the many animated feature films planned by Hasbro in the mid-1980s, along with The Transformers: The Movie and My Little Pony: The Movie. The G.I. Joe film was to be released first, but delays in production pushed it back for release after the other two. After the Transformers film was finally released, word got back to Hasbro about how much the kids watching the movie hated the fact that (spoiler) Optimus Prime died early on. They didn’t want to make the same mistake with G.I. Joe, but the movie was already animated. Thus, the added dialogue.