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Revisiting the 1980s G.I. Joe Cartoon
For viewers young and old, the U.S. special-forces team still delivers the goods.

A still from G.I. Joe

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Some other greats:

“The Synthoid Conspiracy” (season 1, episodes 26–27): In this two-episode stretch, Cobra clones top military-brass supporters of team Joe and passes them off as draconian budget-cutters who aim to kill the team’s funding. Kind of like if Sam Nunn or Joe Lieberman clones spouted Ted Kennedy rhetoric. (This would seem more farfetched if the Pentagon weren’t facing a $55 billion sequester this January.)

“The Germ” (season 1, episode 38): Internal bureaucratic squabbles at Cobra lead to a firefight and then to a bio-weapons disaster, upon which the rest of the Michael Crichton-ish episode pivots.

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“The Viper Is Coming” (season 1, episode 39): Marvelous dramatic tension. Someone named the Viper is tipping off the Joes to Cobra operations. But who is the Viper?

“Worlds without End” (season 1, episodes 46–47): The Joes are transported to an alternate universe where Cobra controls the world. Most of the G.I. Joe team has been killed, but a few survivors have formed a resistance with a secret ally — the Baroness, a top Cobra lieutenant. The closing moment of this story is a personal all-time favorite. Some of the Joes elect to stay in the alternate universe to help the resistance, and those who return to the present are greeted by Joe team leader Duke: “But where are the others? Steeler, Grunt, Clutch?”

Lady Jaye, staring wistfully at the permanently sealed portal, responds: “They’re someplace where brave men are needed — badly.” The Joes stand lost in thought as the closing theme song builds. As a child, I didn’t know why that moment gave me chills, but now I do: That was real heroism by the volunteers, and it was right for the other Joes to honor their sacrifice.

“There’s No Place Like Springfield” (season 1, episodes 64–65): One of the Joes, Shipwreck, is injured during a mission. He comes to six years later, suffering amnesia. He no longer remembers that the Joe team was victorious over Cobra and that the team has retired. Shipwreck now lives with his wife and two young children in Springfield, Ill. Or does he?

Little touches of realism are another great feature of the cartoon. Serpentor, upon taking command of Cobra in the “Arise, Serpentor, Arise!” story sequence (season 2, episodes 1–5), decides to launch a typically unrealistic frontal assault on Washington, D.C. Tomax and Xamot, the leaders of Cobra’s corporate-front operation, appeal to him: “With all due respect, O mighty Serpentor, we beg you to reconsider. Invasion is easy . . . but holding U.S. territory . . . is all but impossible!”

The Joes justify their enemies’ cautious attitude, winning a pitched battle across D.C. locales including the Lincoln Memorial, the U.S. Capitol, K Street, and the Potomac River. After Serpentor and other Cobra bigwigs have fled, Sgt. Slaughter delivers the closing line: “We’ll have to keep on our toes . . . the price of liberty is always eternal vigilance!”

A good lesson for our kids. I urge readers to give consideration to the show as entertainment they can enjoy alongside children. Sadly, my brother passed away a few years ago, but I like to think he’s hanging around while I introduce my own kids to the show, and to those same concepts of duty, honor, and sacrifice.

— Loren A. Smith Jr. is a research analyst for Capital Alpha Partners, LLC.



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