Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Cartoon Historian Lesson 7: G.I. Joe

Welcome My Students. Today's lesson is all about The Real American Hero. That's right I'm talking about,none other than G.I. Joe.

Now,before I begin this lesson,I want to let you all know that I'm only gonna talk about the Original Show. I don't feel like going into great detail about the other series or the Movies.

Besides,you don't really need to learn a great deal about them anyway. Ok? Good! On We Go!

G.I. Joe is a half-hour American animated television series based on the successful toyline from Hasbro and the comic book series from Marvel Comics. The cartoon had its beginnings with two five-part mini-series.After that,it became a regular series that ran in syndication from 1985 to 1987.

Ron Friedman created the G.I. Joe animated series for television, and wrote all four mini-series. The fourth mini-series was intended to be a feature film, but was released as a television mini-series instead because of production difficulties.

The first G.I. Joe cartoon was produced by Marvel Productions and Sunbow Productions to follow the success of the toyline by Hasbro. G.I. Joe premiered as a five-part mini-series on September 12, 1983. Once that mini-series was successful,a second mini-series was made. It aired on September 10, 1984. This mini-series was titled: G.I. Joe: The Revenge of Cobra,

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero,was five-part pilot mini-series was alternately aired under the title "The MASS Device" during the series' syndication. Cobra develops an experimental teleportation unit, known as the MASS device, which has the ability to transport matter to any global location, using a satellite to relay the teleportation beam.

G.I. Joe must stop Cobra by creating a MASS system of their own, but first they'll need to gather the three rare elements that power the device, which consist of radioactive crystals, heavy water found in the depths of the ocean, and fragments from a giant meteorite. The elements are located in three different environments; thus, the story is structured in a way that showcases the Joes and their different specialties.

G.I. Joe: The Revenge of Cobra was the 2nd Mini-series. In this Mini-Series,Cobra has returned in force, armed with a new weapon created by Destro — the Weather Dominator, which is able to manipulate storm systems. In the beginning of the miniseries, Cobra steals the power core for a new laser cannon the Joes were transporting to their headquarters, and adds it to the Weather Dominator, giving it unlimited power. Damaged in a preliminary battle, the device breaks into its three component pieces which scatter across the world.

The G.I. Joe team must recover the pieces before Cobra can reclaim them to rebuild their weather weapon. Noticeably similar in structure to the first mini-series, The Revenge of Cobra has the Joes and Cobra sent to dangerously exotic locations that allow team members to showcase their unique abilities. It also has familiar plot echoes, such as Duke being captured and forced to fight in the Arena of Sport, this time along with Snake Eyes, Destro being the lone Cobra operative to escape the climax, and the same closing dialogue.

G.I. Joe: The Pyramid of Darkness was The third miniseries installment of the G.I. Joe. It originally debuted in its complete form during prime time and was later adapted to the more familiar five-part daily miniseries format for rebroadcast. The story centers on Cobra's attempts to build and maintain a new weapon (of the title) that will neutralize all electrical power in the Earth's Northern hemisphere. Four giant "control" cubes are to be placed at key locations around the globe. Once the Joes orbiting space station is seized, the cubes are activated and the pyramid is complete. The Joe force must battle Cobra to destroy the pyramid and find the terrorist organization's secret headquarters.

G.I. Joe: Arise, Serpentor, Arise! was the fourth miniseries. It dealt with Cobra's attempts to genetically engineer a new leader, Serpentor. In light of Cobra Commander's persistent failings to lead Cobra to world domination, Dr. Mindbender, influenced by a vivid dream, sends Cobra's forces to locations around the world to gather DNA from history's most famous and ruthless leaders. DNA samples are collected from the graves of such historical figures as Genghis Khan, Vlad the Impaler (aka Dracula) and Sun Tzu (the one sample Cobra fails to obtain) Alexander the great and Ivan the Terrible, among several others. Mindbender even goes so far as to collect a sample from the captured Sgt. Slaughter (G.I. Joe).

The final phase of the process is partially disrupted by Slaughter himself, freed by Cobra Commander, who has naturally been resistant to the project from the start. The Joes fight Cobra around the globe in an attempt to stop them from collecting the DNA samples, however, Mindbender completes the process, creating the ingenious but impatient Serpentor who is installed as the ultimate leader of Cobra.

Following the first two mini-series, the regular series began airing on September 16,1985, debuting with a third five-part story, The Pyramid of Darkness.

Like a lot of cartoon shows at the time,a public safety announcement was featured at the end of each episode. These PSA's starred The G.I. Joe characters in brief scenarios to impart safety tips to children. These lessons gave birth to the catchphrase: "And knowing is half the battle."

In each episode's opening title sequence famed voice actor Jackson Beck states that, "G.I. Joe is the code name for America's daring, highly-trained, Special Mission force. Its purpose: To defend human freedom against Cobra, a ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world."

Because the cartoons were produced as a vehicle to sell the toys, each episode typically focused on a particular G.I. Joe character. This wasn't a bad thing,as almost everyone is given a moment in the spotlight.

The animated series was not directly tied to the comic book produced by Marvel Comics, although several concepts, such as the Oktober Guard, Springfield, and Serpentor were all featured in the comic book and the animated series.

Season 2 featured former WWF/WWE Superstar,made cartoon hero,Sgt. Slaughter.

Yup,It's true. If you were a fan of WWE in back in those days,you'd be very familiar with this guy. So it looks like Hulk Hogan wasn't the Only Wrestler with a cartoon show.

Anyway,The Sarge appeared in the five-part season-opener Arise, Serpentor, Arise! The general consensus amongst fans of the G.I. Joe series is that the program reached its peak in its second season with the introductions of Sgt. Slaughter and Serpentor.

Slaughter was a popular member of the cast and even gained his own action figure. However after a 1990-91 WWF/WWE storyline in which Slaughter "turned traitor" during the first Gulf War, Slaughter was disassociated from the franchise.

Sunbow's G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero series ended on November 20, 1986 after 95 episodes. For various reasons, Sunbow Productions did not continue production for a third season. Despite G.I. Joe's success, no other studio offered to produce a new season until 1989 when DiC took over.

In 1989, DIC Entertainment produced a second G.I. Joe series, starting with a 5-part mini-series titled Operation: Dragonfire. A regular series was broadcast in 1990, also lasting for two seasons. 44 episodes in all.

The next few years, various cartoon tie-ins to the G.I. Joe franchise were released but they had no bearing on the A Real American Hero mythology.In 1996,Gunther-Wahl Productions was contracted and created a new series titled G.I. Joe Extreme. This series featured new characters and villains. As with the 1985 and 1990 series, this series was distributed by Claster. It didn't last as long as the others,though.

G.I. Joe: The Movie was released direct-to-video on April 20, 1987. G.I. Joe: The Movie was intended as a theatrical release to be closely followed by Transformers: The Movie. However, the G.I. Joe film encountered unexpected production delays which allowed the Transformers feature to be released first.

Due to the poor box office performances of the Transformers film and the My Little Pony film, G.I. Joe: The Movie was relegated to direct-to-video status before later being split into a 5-part mini-series for television syndication.

Here's a little tidbit for ya. During production of the Movie,Duke(i think it was him) was intended to Die. However,the Producers and Directors remembered the minor uproar over the death of Optimus Prime in the Transformers movie. So they decided to alter his death scene.

In 1994, G.I. Joe had a direct-to-video release. This one starred Sgt. Savage and the Screaming Eagles.

In 2003, Reel FX Creative Studio produced a cartoon based on A Real American Hero. Although it was only a direct-to-video CGI movie, G.I. Joe: Spy Troops. A second movie, G.I. Joe: Valor vs. Venom,was created in 2004.

Any planned follow-ups,however,have been shelved to make way for Hasbro's G.I. Joe: Sigma 6,in 2005. An Anime series was produced to go with the Toyline. The show didn't do too well.

Although Sigma 6 is superficially connected to A Real American Hero, its continuity is self-contained and Hasbro is not expected to return to A Real American Hero.

Well,there you have it,the origin of the G.I. Joe cartoon. To this very day,G.I.Joe remains one of America's most famous franchises. Spanning almost 3 decades and counting.

Well that's gonna do it for now. I hope ya'll found my Lesson interesting and entertaining. Class Dismissed. Yo,Joe!!

Rock On and Stay Cold,


Money $ign said...

*Salutes* A real American hero... GI JOOOOOEEE

Great lesson Stefan. Great to know that if there's something weird in the neighborhood or something else is wrong, we don't have to rely on 911!

However, I was always with KOOOBRA!

KingsSideCastle said...

O_O Nice synopsis of G.I. Joe's history SFD. Great post!!

Stefan said...

Thanks guys. Next Up,Captain N: The Game Master. Followed by another Cartoon Quickie.