Tag Archives: G.I. Joe

Monster Squad Art, Part 4!

10710926_10152738966882328_5146327273773526587_nFor part 4 of the Monster Squad art showcase I wanted to share something a little different today, a custom piece of action figure art!  I found this artist who called himself G.I. Joseph on the Hisstank.com forums.  He made this totally rad Rudy figure using 25th anniversary G.I. Joe figure parts…

RUDY0RUDY1RUDY5

He also provides the “recipe” on how to construct your own!

head – Fred/Crimson Guard
torso/belt – Breaker
arms – Cobra Officer
hands – Resolute Duke
jacket – Mutt/Indiana Jones
legs – Pit Commando
bow & arrows -POC Spirit
gun – Tunnel Rat

Next up is this fun conceptual guide on how to kill the monsters by Dave Perillo

Dave Perillo

Now for another Monster Squad trading card!

Monster Squad Wrapper

Since there was never any MS merchandise produced, specifically a Topps trading card set, I thought it would be fun to make a mini set of 80s-style digital trading cards for my favorite movie of all time. So come back each evening for Trick or Treats and collect them all!

Today’s card is #26, The Crenshaws stick together!

26 The Crenshaws F-B

15044260840_0dd488a2cc_o

Awkward Toy Family Photos…

Though I’ve been more or less away from the site for the last few months, I’ve still been mucking about with some geeky nostalgic stuff.  In particular I’ve been having some fun on Instagram taking a series of photos of my current toy collection.  Since I’ve broken down and started picking up some more vintage toys lately (ones that I used to own not mint on card or in box), as well as picking up some modern nostalgic figures here and there, I thought it would be cool to jumble these up and create some goofy Awkward Toy Family photos to document the collection.  That’s one of the things that I enjoy about Instagram is that it only takes a few minutes to grab a few toys from the shelf and snap a picture before heading out to work.  It’s never going to replace Branded, but when I’ve got a crap ton of real life things eradicating my time to write, it’s a great way to still feel engaged. So, with that in mind, here are some of the photos I’ve shot over the summer…

5c35ce88075811e3b8f122000a1f9345_7

This is one of the first I shot, and it was just totally on a whim.  I love the idea of Faker giving piggyback rides.  My good buddy HooveR had sent me this Captain Power figure and that small act of kindness is pretty much what helped me break through my aversion to procuring loose, used, old toys.  I had forgotten how cool the Captain figure was and had a blast pairing him up with my Masters of the Universe figures, so I just said “screw it” and started hitting up eBay.  So thanks Hoov! ;)

10467728_248502502009783_967646821_n

Speaking of the Captain, here’s a photo for a failed 80s band that could never reproduce the popularity of their first and only major label record.  Emmdubs, a swell dude I follow on the social media was kind enough to send me his old Miles Mayhem figure, and I had just recently picked up that sweet Tux Go Bot mint on card at a local antique shop for only $7.

929161_520996784696199_1677551544_n

I envisioned this photo as three hard working dudes getting together after a tough day of doing whatever jobs requires wearing these cumbersome masks.  Emmdubs has also sent me this Matt Tracker figure, and I went ahead and pulled the trigger on two of my favorite childhood action figures from the Star Wars and G.I. Joe lines (the AT-AT Driver and Wet Suit.)

10537993_268146130057311_70480804_n

Next up is my cadre of feathered heroes including Quicksilver from the Silverhawks (the only Silverhawks figure I owned as a kid), Jason from Battle of the Planets, and Gizmoduck from DuckTales.  I had this GD cereal premium as a teen and cherished it so much that I turned it into a lucky necklace and wore it to my high school graduation.  Some ridiculous teacher saw it and snatched it away from me and I never found her to get it back.  By the by, man is it ever hard to find a decent condition Silverhawks figure.  The chrome plating wears off so easily so 97% of the loose figures I’ve seen look terrible.  Took forever to find this one…

10593466_311572379017097_981667116_n

Here’s a weird toy robot family photo including my all time favorite Transformer Sideswipe, Cliffjumper, a cool Decoy of Smokescreen, and my favorite Go Bots toy, the Super Go Bot Psycho!

10561027_304942949679329_725208076_n

Switching gears a bit, here’s a picture of some of my favorite childhood motorcycles (Sly and Piranha & Brad Turner and Condor from M.A.S.K. along with Afterburner from the Transformers.)

915511_1374320472840974_1993858304_n

Here’s another early one that I’ve posted before featuring a D&D Wardule, Tonto from the Gabriel Lone Ranger line and a demon from Blackstar.

10520134_535959019865349_186021687_n

For those of you who are longtime readers you’ll know that I love Robo Force and I REALLY love their sweet hugging action feature…

10608066_1524138174469883_499817049_n

Remember that time He-Man and Teela ended up in the spirit world and really needed some help getting the new tenants of Castle Greyskull to move out?  Beetlejuice was not the greatest option, but they had to try…

928647_745981542142485_1258126491_n

Some of my favorite super hungry and ornery aliens and ghosts!

c984265cb14811e3b1a50e4395231e59_8

Hands down, my favorite G.I. Joe figure had to be Dial Tone.  Such an under appreciated figure and character.  He’s posing with a sweet water color portrait by the kickass Christopher Tupa!

10508023_871605252868118_1037694061_n

I also ran across some of my Micro Machines star wars tiny mini figures, so I did a couple of shoots with them and their larger counterparts.  Admiral Ackbar can not repel cuteness of that magnitude!  As for the Gamorean Guard and Greedo, I think the guard got the better end of this trade by far…

10601888_701300246629879_1963858774_n

And speaking of Greedo, last but not least, Greedo playing Space Invaders (which was what I was fiddling with while recording a recent episode of the Nerd Lunch podcast with the Retroist as a guest…)

10499291_676255555800656_78611102_n

So check me out over on instagram.  I try and post regularly and do my best to keep it fun!

 

G.I. Joe, a Real French-Canadian Hero!

6883501769_16f5716f51_oI thought I’d take a crack at this week’s League topic (simply: Yo Joe!) since it’s both something I’m interested in (G.I. Joe obviously) and it just so happens that I have something new in my collection that fits in perfectly with the subject.  Not that long ago I was happy that I could provide a friend (the ultra rad Sarah Szefer) with a much-needed toy accessory that she’d been missing for awhile, and as an unexpected “thank you” she sent a small care package.  Since she lives up in Canada, specifically in Quebec, she thought it would be awesome to gift me some cool 80s era French-Canadian ephemera.  One of the bits that caught my eye was this awesome comic book advertisement from 1984-85…

French Canadian G.I. Joe Ad 1985

I’ve never personally seen an English version of this ad, so I’m not sure if it was strictly used in foreign markets or if I just missed it.  Either way this is a really neat ad that is way more in line with all those cool diorama set-ups you’d see in the old Sears Wishbooks.  I always loved the creativity in those since they tended to utilize natural materials mixed with art for the setting like the sand and rocks above.  I love the addition of the fake aquarium vegetation and the awesome impressionist forest fire depicted in the background painting.  Too cool.  I think I also love these types of play set-ups because I spent the majority of my G.I. Joe playtime as a kid setting up battles like this and then never actually acting them out.  It was all about setting the stage for me, and these sorts of advertisements (or the wishbook spreads) were sort of like toy porn in my eyes.

So thanks a million for sending me this Sarah, it totally made my week!  If you like what you saw here and would like to see more League posts about G.I. Joe, check out these other great sites…

Stacey, Geeky Vixen, is waxing nostalgic about old friends and discovering badass Ladies in G.I. Joe!

Michael, Retromash, takes a look at Joes from the UK perspective with Action Force!

Jathaniel shares some artistic Joe pictures from his instagram account!

Derek, Goodwill Hunting 4 Geeks, shares some awesome G.I. Joe kid’s picture books (Earl Norem Art!)

Erik Johnson talks about Joe Gibken from Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger!

Brian, Cool & Collected, talks about his Joe team, those 82-85 characters!

leaguelogo_medium

Awesome 80s Bedrooms: Flight of the Navigator Edition

I wish I could finagle a way to like, make a living writing articles obsessing over all the small details in the backgrounds of flicks ’cause I think I’ve found a calling.  I mean, there has to be a college degree program based around this, a Bachelors in the Fine Art of Identifying Pop Culture Junk in 80s Kid’s Movies.  The prestigious BFA:IPCJ80sKM.  Right?  No?  Whatever.  Anyway, for today’s Awesome Bedroom article on Flight of the Navigator I prepared by falling into a murky gulley after which I awoke in Miami circa 1978 (and later after another nap in the magic gulley, 1986.)  I ran straight to David Freeman’s house, barged past his questioning parents and proceeded to document his room (and then later, like 8 years later, I stowed away in the R.A.L.F. unit and made my way into NASA to check out David’s secondary bedroom too!)

flight navigator 2

Initially I’d skipped over this flick when considering bedrooms to document because I had a brain fart and completely forgot about some of the rad stuff in the 80s era NASA bedroom.  I figured his main bedroom from the late seventies wouldn’t have enough stuff worth looking at, but I was seriously mistaken.  Both bedrooms are pretty epic and deserve a second look.  So let’s start with David’s 1978 room…

1

1). Tasco Deluxe Microscope Set

Turquoise Tasco Deluxe high-quality microscope set

2). Uncle Milton’s Ant Farm

vintage-ant-farm

3). ERTL/AMT 1959 Corvette model

ertl amt 59 Corvette

4). Wooden Brontosaurus Puzzle

image_18698

5). Coleco Table Top Pac-Man Arcade Game

coleco-tabletop-pac-man-system

Checking around David’s room it’s pretty evident that he was way into both science and every sport known to man (with a slight emphasis on Football).  Science wise he has that sweet turquoise Tasco microscope set as well as a pretty nifty telescope.  Maybe it’s just me but I never knew any kids that had their own telescope let alone a microscope!  Granted you do tend to see telescopes in kid’s rooms in flicks.  As for the sporty side of his personality, David’s room is littered with all sorts of equipment.  Boxing gloves, tennis rackets, roller skates, footballs, and in a later screenshot some baseball gear too.  He also has a boomerang, but I’m not sure if that falls into the rudimentary weapons category.  Lastly, there’s a slinky on the sill right near the open window.

2

6). Mr. Potato Head (the box is here on the shelf, but the master of potato disguise is actually out on the dresser located directly across the room.)

7). A pack of 1985 Topps Football cards

1986 Topps Football

Probably my favorite find in this room is this pack of Topps football cards laying up against some sort of Miami Dolphin’s plaque. I know the set designers were just looking to stick some fun stuff in the room and I’m sure they thought no one would ever pay attention to the wrapper close enough to discern the date and thus the anachronistic error, but they were totally wrong.  Granted, I was only 8 when they filmed this movie so they had no way of knowing my dumb ass would be scrutinizing this room almost 30 years later, but still.

So, I tried to identify both of the other Miami Dolphins items on this shelf, the 1973 book/binder and the plush toy, but couldn’t nail either of them down.  Anyone out there familiar with these?

**Update** Patrick over at Nerd Out With Me identified the book as the 1973 Miami Dolphins Yearbook!  What a weird concept, but also sorta neat…

$T2eC16VHJHgFFmKcrKZ5BSMiFLEKHg~~60_57

3

8). 1978 Dukes of Hazzard General Lee toy

$(KGrHqJ,!ngFH5s2(sKWBSE7j2YI)g~~60_57

4

9). Jacques Cousteau poster.

I loved spotting this poster.  It’s a nice way that the set designers tied in the sense of adventure and discovery subtly into the background of the film.

Alright, so now we’re going to jump forward 8 years to 1986 and David’s “prison” room at the NASA complex.  Granted, he was more or less being held against his will, subjected to a bunch of annoying pokes, prods, tests and 24 hour surveillance, but at least they treated him like the winner of Bozo’s Grand Prize Game with a ton of free toys.  Fair tradeoff?  At twelve I might have said yes…

5

10). Ertl die-cast Space Shuttle with Booster Rockets

925774752_L

11). Felix the Cat plush

12). Cobra Water Moccasin from the G.I. Joe toy line

cobra_water_moccasin_afa_80_11666337

13). Space Turbo game by Tomy

1940_1254454414914_Tomy_Space_Turbo

14). Radio Shack Constellation Finder

$(KGrHqZ,!ooFG4,dVYhYBR0PJ45e)Q~~60_3

15). Bachmann/Taiyo Porsche 935 Radio Control Car

$(KGrHqV,!i0FB1m47oRcBQwtTEDggw~~60_57

16). Panasonic RQ-44A Portable Cassette Player/Recorder

70s Panasonic Mod Red RQ-44A Portable Cassette Player  Recorder

17). Transformers Decepticon Shrapnel (leader of the Insecticons)

Shrapnel

18). Franklin Glo-Brite Orange Mike Schmidt Baseball

wpe18

Wow, the mother-load!  So much fun stuff here.  Also, as far as identifying that Glo-Brite baseball, it was all thanks to Mike Schmidt’s sweet mustache.  Starring at the packaging I knew it had to be officially branded by one of baseball’s great mustached pitchers, so it was either Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley or Mike Schmidt.  P.S. I totally had a Rollie Fingers glove as a kid…

There are a few things I wasn’t able to identify, in particular there is a carded yellow helicopter toy on the bed between the baseball mitt and the Porsche car.  But there’s also a book on space shuttles on the nightstand that I couldn’t figure out as well as a larger shuttle toy (model) on the opposite nightstand (shuttle toys are sort of generic and without any recognizable packaging it’s hard to tell who manufactured it without having it right in front of me.)  Also, maybe it’s just me, but in the film David seems shocked that the scientists are trying to keep him locked up for more than a couple of days.  You’d think all these toys would have been his first tip-off, considering the quantity and the fact that there are baseballs and gloves and junk.  I mean, when was he going to find the time to go out and play catch with Howard Hessman if he was just staying the night?

6

19). LJN Rough Riders Tri-Ex K.I.T.T. from Knightrider

$(KGrHqJ,!jYE-dhyoBTiBPok2BVbYw~~60_12

20). LJN Rough Riders Tri-Ex Faceman’s Corvette from the A-Team

ljn ateam rough rider

Man, I love the card art on these Rough Riders batter powered cars.  They’re kind of fugly, but also endearingly cute at the same time.  Also note the second Shrapnel figure (or maybe the same toy just placed here as well.)

Anyway, as the camera very quickly panned across the room I noticed this gem out of the corner of my eye…

7

21). G.I. Joe Sleeping Bag

Joe-Sleeping-Bag

Last, but not least…

8

22). Radio Shack Electronic Space Voice (vocal changer.)

radio shack space voice

23). Blancmange “Lose Your Love” Music Video

Alright, the music video isn’t really a “thing” in the room per-se, but how could I not mention it?  That music video is sort of what my nightmares look like, complete with roasted turkeys and stretchy legs…

As far as the Space Voice goes, there were a ton of these electronic voice changers on the market branded for different toy lines in the 80s, but man, this Radio Shack model is rad.  I love the idea of walking around with a headset mic and a strap-on robot.  You’d never get the crap pummeled out of you for sporting this toy, never.

So, anything I missed?  Any ideas on the Miami Dolphin gear or that yellow helicopter I couldn’t identify?

Other Awesome Bedrooms I’ve covered…

Sara’s Room from Adventures in Babysitting

Eugene’s Room from The Monster Squad

Mikey’s room from the Goonies

Robbie’s room from Poltergeist

Ben’s room from The Explorers

Pee Wee’s room from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure

Elliot’s room from E.T.

Fred Savage’s room from The Princess Bride

Josh’s room from Big

With a handle like Smurfwreck you’d think blue would be my favorite color…

…but it’s not, it’s hot pink.  Now that, that random bit of trivia is out of the way, I wanted to take a second and tackle this week’s League assignment where we’re charged with taking photos highlighting the color blue.  Last time we had an assignment like this (with Red), I totally didn’t notice the photo assignment and wrote and essay about blood and how it worked into my first and only fight as a kid.  This time I paid better attention and collected some of my favorite blue stuff from around Branded HQ.

First up, one of my two favorite blue t-shirts, and the classiest one I own for sure…

Top Hat Sas

Next up, some chilly and wet stickers from my favorite vintage collection, Garbage Pail Kids…

GPK Blue

I was surprised at how many blue robots I had within reaching distance…

blue robots

Posing my Soundwave statue it occurred to me that there were a hell of a lot of blue villains in the 80s cartoons and toy lines I loved.  Like Fakor, Skeletor and Trap Jaw!

blue fakor

Not to mention the supreme blue badass that is Mumm-Ra!

blue mummy

And who can forget the rad blue fashion sense of Cobra!

blue terrorist fashion

But by far, my favorite blue thing is the totally amazing birthday gift I received this year, my very own furry blue My Pet Monster!

mpm 1 mpm2

Oh, and there’s my other favorite blue t-shirt, DeLorean represent.

If you like all the blue-i-ness you see here, why not check out some of the other League members to see what blue caught their camera eye…

Jaime, Shezcrafti, shares 21 (not) boring blue things about her

Dex, AEIOU and Sometimes Why, opens a vintage pack of Blue Star Wars Topps trading cards

Miss M, Diary of a Dorkette, gets blue with her Dorky Snaps

Derek, Goodwill Hunting 4 Geeks, shows off his very impressive blue toy collection

Laura, Boo Bobby, shows off her Boglins, Gonzos, Rad T-shirts, and Turtles, oh my

Todd, Neato Coolvile, has quite an impressive collection of vintage blue wonderful

Tommy, Top Hat Sasquatch, is feeling blue, so Batman made cookies!

Chris, Garage Sale of Awesome, shares their super rad blue M.A.S.K. bedsheets!

Thinking About Becoming a Professional Podcast Guest…

So, diving back into the online world after the last couple of months not only means more articles in the works at Branded, but I’ve also switched back on my microphone and honored to be asked to guest host (or take part on a panel) on a number of podcasts.

First up, I was part of an 11-blogger panel on the first episode of the Rediscover the 80s Podcast (and I’ve been remiss in getting the word out as this show went live at the end of May!)

POD1Image

The brainchild of Jason Gross, this is one mammoth show done in the style of VH1′s Do You Remember series where the panel discusses all sorts of 80s pop culture facets and we provide a running commentary.  From Ghostbusters to Turbo Teen there’s a lot of ground covered and pretty darn fascinating getting so many of us pop culture histories talking about these movies, cartoons, commercials and musical acts!  Gross is currently hip deep in putting together the 2nd and 3rd installments and I can’t wait to hear them!  So head on over and give it a listen, well worth your time if you’re a child of the 80s…

Next up (an a much more recent announcement ;) ), I was asked to come on to the Forgotten Filmcast to discuss one of my top ten favorite flicks from the 80s, Streets of Fire!  I chatted with host Todd all about Walter Hill, Michael Pare, Diane Lane, Rick Moranis, Willem DaFoe, the rad music (in particular the work of Face to Face as the real band behind Ellen Aim and the Attackers), and some spiritual film connections!

Forgotten Filmcast

Todd is a really knowledgeable and charismatic guy who knows his cult films!  I had a blast on the show and can’t wait to hear what he covers next.  Check out episode 8: Streets of Fire and tell him Branded sent ya!

Nerd Lunch

Last, but certainly not least, a new episode of the Nerd Lunch Podcast dropped today, episode 91, where I joined hosts CT, Pax, and 4th chair guest Howie Decker to discuss the 80s era G.I. Joe A Real American Hero toyline!

drmindbender01

We discuss what we had, what we coveted, what we lost, and what we’d like to acquire in our collecting over the past 30 years.  Head on over, give the episode a listen, and weigh in on whether or not Crystal Ball, Raptor, and Dr. Mindbender need to reunite for a soul singing trio called No Shirts Required!

Cobra Commander’s Future is So Bright, He’s Wearing Shades Under His Faceplate!

So, being a connoisseur of cool branding and design, I was recently tipped off to a set of retro toy-inspired shades from the pretty darn rad Look/See Sunglasses company.  They recently teamed up with Hasbro in honor of the new G.I. Joe Retaliation movie to release a very limited edition set of Joe and Cobra sunglasses…

Obviously the first detail that caught my eye and got me excited was the idea to package these glasses on the vintage style G.I. Joe cardbacks (complete with character file cards on the back and the 25th anniversary character paintings!)  I’m a complete sucker for 80s era vintage style packaging, specifically the G.I. Joe explosion artwork, so I was drooling over these even before I took a closer look at the actual sunglasses.  As you can see above, there are five different designs, Duke, Snake Eyes, Cobra Commander, Destro and Storm Shadow.  Each design is limited to only 100 pairs, so these are going to be super rare…

By far, my favorite pair in this series is the Cobra Commander-inspired shades with the his uniform colors represented, as well as the cobra logo on the inside of the frames.  Most importantly, and it’s tough to see it in these photos, but the lenses are mirrored, which is the perfect touch!

But the other pairs are all pretty darn awesome as well and feature a lot of small, yet integral details that would make any G.I. Joe fan swoon.  For instance, the Snake Eyes sunglasses have laser-etched horizontal lines in the frames to replicate his trademark visor…

…whereas the Storm Shadow pair features the design of his sword grip inlayed in the actual frames.  Also, both Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow shades feature the Arashikage symbol/tattoo design in the inside of the frame.

Though these are a little pricey at $110 per pair, they are super limited edition and some rather fetching designs.  Of course, with my intense love for the packaging, it would be tough removing these from the packaging and not just hanging them on the Branded HQ wall!  Head on over to Look/See and you can scope more detailed pictures of these, as well as the Destro and Duke pairs.  If you pick up a pair, tell ‘em Branded sent ya!

Cartoon Commentary! G.I. Joe Episode 5 A Stake in the Serpent’s Heart




Finally getting around to finishing off the Cartoon Commentary! series on the 1st G.I. Joe mini series (A Real American Hero).  This final episode, titled A Stake in the Serpent’s Heart, was first broadcast on September 16th, 1983, and it was the last taste kids would get of the cartoon series until the following year when the second mini debuted.  I’ve said this a number of times recently, but it bears repeating, these first five episodes go a long way in defining the series, and bowing only a week after the first syndicated episodes of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, it also helped to define the next decade of television animation.   1983 really was a banner year for action in cartoons as we also saw the release of Dungeons and Dragons on Saturday mornings, and between these three shows TV animation, at least when it came to action, was free for the first time in over a decade.

Granted, there were shows that flirted with action premises, Super Friends, Blackstar, the Lone Ranger, Thundarr, and Spiderman & His Amazing Friends just to name a few, but all of these shows were just not quite there in terms of bravery.  Even He-Man, for its revolutionary first run syndication, and breaking the ice in terms of injecting action back into cartoons, was still taking a very moral stance on depicting violence.  But G.I. Joe burst onto the scene like Duke amid a group of Cobra Troopers, punching and kicking everything in sight.


So, getting back to the episode at hand, the story picks up from the cliffhanger where Destro and Scarlett are plummeting in an escape pod towards certain doom.  Of course, in the "coming next time on G.I. Joe" segment at the end of the previous episode we clearly see Scarlett running down a Cobra compound hallway, letting all the air out of the opening sequence of this episode…





Where this sequence fails as a cliffhanger, it succeeds in bookending the mini series as Destro leads Scarlett off of the escape pod at Cobra headquarters.  Just like Duke, and with an impassioned fit of feminism from the writers, Scarlett proves herself to be quite the "Woman of Action" as she breaks free and takes on a platoon of Troopers.  It’s another example of that never-say-die attitude exhibited by the Joes, and a more subversive example of imbedding a sense of morality into the show.   In He-Man for instance, this morality would be worn on the show’s sleeve so to speak, and we’d more than likely be treated to an insightful yet, borderline obvious quote from a character.  Here this sense of always doing the right thing and never giving up is written into the action.  It’s still a bit over the top, but much more natural.





One thing that I love about the Sunbow cartoons is their weird villain relationships.  You tend to get a lot of characterization out of these villain characters while watching them bounce off each other.   Like the Starscream/Megatron relationship in Transformers, there’s a weird back and forth between Cobra Commander and Destro.  Whereas Starscream always talks big, he usually backs down to Megatron (except when Megs is at his weakest in the 1986 Movie, but that’s a story for another time.)  On the one hand, Destro seems independent, the head of his own arms dealing organization, yet on the other he’s always vying for and temporarily taking control of Cobra.   Unlike Starscream though, Destro is the more physically imposing in his tête-

Cartoon Commentary! G.I. Joe Episode 4 Duel in the Devil’s Cauldron




One of the things that I find endlessly fascinating about cartoons in the 80s is the tonal shift that a lot of the shows took.  Throughout the 70s child advocacy groups like A.C.T. (Action for Children’s Television) were having a huge impact on the production of Saturday Morning cartoons, in particular pressuring studios to self-censor content.  So most action and adventure was stripped from new shows, and generally humor ruled the day.  In the 80s though, with a new president in the White House who had an eye on freeing up TV regulations, some studios took the opportunity to bring back action and adventure, while at the same time doing their level best to also make the shows a little more educational.  Some studios were more heavy handed than others (Filmation for instance based most episodes around a moral quandary), while others were sort of sneaky about the "good for you" content.


For the most part Sunbow was a bit sneakier about it.  Sure there were the "Knowing is half the battle…" PSAs, bust as far as the content in the actual episodes, it seemed like pretty straight forward storytelling.  This is sort of the genius of the writers, at least in terms of knocking down the wall between educational and exciting & fun television.  Instead of knocking kids over the head with a moral, they injected little subtle ideas here and there that didn’t draw all that much attention.   That was one of the first things that caught my eye while re-watching episode four of the original G.I. Joe mini series, Duel in the Devil’s Cauldron (which was originally broadcast back on September 15th, 1983.)





In the cliffhanger from the episode before, the Joes have been mostly knocked out by a noxious gas emitting from a Cobra canister that Snake Eyes used to bring back some of the eradiated crystals for the M.A.S.S. Device.   The canister was also set to explode, but with some quick thinking on Covergirl’s part, she manages to get the bomb out of the hanger they’re all in.  What caught my eye was when she breaks a beaker of water and then uses a hanky to soak up the liquid.  This makes an impromptu gas mask that she uses to keep from passing out.  Granted it’s not a huge deal, but it’s a little fact like this that’ll sit in the back of a kids brain and one day might come in handy.  I mean education doesn’t always have to be about algebra and world history.   This sort of stuff was peppered all throughout the series, and in my opinion is the way to go when educating kids with television.


Anyway, getting back to some of the visual tropes of the show, one of the main differences between the action figures and the cartoon were the weapons.  While all the toys were outfitted with a menagerie of different kinds of weapons, from handguns and shotguns, to Uzis and rocket launchers, the cartoon was a little more toned down.   Instead of realistic weaponry, most of the characters (good and evil) carry laser rifles and guns.   On the one hand it works toward the branding of the heroes (red laser fire) and villains (blue laser fire), but it also puts the show in that fantastical near-future with advanced technology.





While I don’t mind the laser fire in place of bullets, I always thought the standard issue Joe rifles were a little boring.  They didn’t have a ton of character like other weapons design, and they were typically beige with silver trim which isn’t all that visually exciting.  I always wondered why they didn’t vary the designs a little more…





So this episode has the Joes globetrotting on down to South America for their crack at the third catalytic element, the meteor chips that can only be found in the Devil’s Cauldron.  Like Kevin Cross mentions in the second half of the Saturday Supercast, this has got to be the one location that got all the child viewers excited.  What kid doesn’t love lava?  I mean seriously, what kid didn’t play the "The carpet is now lava and we have to only walk on the furniture…" game when we were young?


The other thing I dig about this sequence is that it’s another great example of backlit animation with the lava.  It’s such a great technique that’s lost in modern cartoons because most, if not all of them, are now drawn digitally.  God bless the popularity of Tron for ushering in 10 years of backlit techniques into cartoons is all I have to say…


I also love the next sequence in the cartoon, if only for its blatant commercialism.  I love G.I. Joe, and I’ll defend its merits to the death, but sometimes the product placement/30 minute commercial aspect to the show was insane.  When Stalker signals the surrender of the Joe army to Cobra via a super secret transmission, the whole thing is a ruse to buy time for the team to get to the meteor.  The gag transmission is being filmed using miniatures on a soundstage that are obviously the Hasbro toys.   I have to agree with Gung Ho, they are pretty darn cute and I for one was never a fan of electric train sets….





Talking about product placement, like the Cobra Moccasin in the second episode, I thought it was pretty interesting to see an early version of the Cobra Rattler, the jets that could take off vertically because the wings would pivot at the hinges.  It wasn’t part of the toy line yet in 1983, and they don’t quite have that nicely finished vehicle design look to them (a bit rough around the edges), but they’re certainly there in concept.  Again, I wonder if this was a case of something being developed for the show that Hasbro thought might make a cool toy.  I wonder how often that happens?





Too bad no one at Hasbro ever got a bug up their butt to design one of the awesome floating battle stations that Cobra used throughout the series…





I’m sure the logistics of creating something that would approximate that would be insane.  Even the 5-6 foot long U.S.S. Flagg was way out of proportion to the Sky Striker toy, and there was no way a kid was going to be able to pick-up a Flagg sized airship.  Still though, it was a cool vehicle reminiscent of the one S.H.E.I.L.D. used in the Marvel comics…





One thing I didn’t really care for in this episode was the retrieval of the meteor.  The sequence with the Joes using the Dragonfly helicopters and the huge magnets was kind of fun, but the idea of playing catch with a net strung between two Sky Strikers was kind of silly…





That’s alright though, because directly after we get a really fun fight scene involving a bunch of Joe strapping on their trust jetpacks and flying over to the deck of the Cobra floating battle station.  Weirdly enough, even though I didn’t care for the previous meteor catch scene, I thought the gag with Timber jumping out of a Dragonfly after Snake Eyes was kind of fun.  Silly fun, granted, but fun none-the-less.





One aspect of the advanced technology available to the Joe team that I never understood is the portable laser prison cells.   I get how it would be both visually fun, and an easy thing to write into the show when it comes to taking a bunch of Cobra Troopers captive during the show, but it seems kind of insane.   How exactly would it work?  Heck, maybe it’s just a regular portable prison that’s seriously electrified.





The last hing that sort of stuck out to me was both how well this episode ended with a riveting cliffhanger, yet at the same time it was totally ruined by the "Coming Next on…" segment.  There’s a bit where Scarlett, tied up and taken prisoner by Destro, manages to finagle her crossbow to fire with her feet, taking out the control panel of the escape ship that Destro is piloting…





The whole idea of them plummeting to their sure death was a great way to end the 4th episode…





But just as we cut to the coming attractions, there’s a scene of Scarlett running down a hallway.   How anticlimactic is that?


Tomorrow I’ll be back with some more G.I. Joe fun, a little surprise that will hopefully break-up all these Cartoon Commentary! posts.   Again, if you’re curious about listening to the Saturday Supercast where I talk about the original G.I. Joe mini series with co-hosts Jerzy Drod (of MLaT comics, the Art & Story podcast, and Sugary Serials) and Kevin Cross (of the Big Illustration Party Time podcast, not to mention a heck of an illustrator), then head on over to the podcast page at Sugary Serials.  The show spans over episodes 19 and 20, for a total of almost 3 hours of G.I. Joe conversation.



Twitter
del.icio.us
Reddit
Slashdot
Digg
Google
StumbleUpon