G.I. Joe : When Animals Attack
I was hanging out, kinda bored, in Barnes and Noble the other day and I came upon a book cataloging all of the G.I. Joe toys from their return to glory in 1982 until present. I had no other choice: I had to read this masterful tome. And so I sat and began leafing through it reliving many of my childhood memories back when I had a boxful of Joes and a neighbor with a basement set up for battles. Life was good.
But suddenly it occurred to me that many of the Joes had an unusual feature in common. No, not ‘Swivel-Arm Battle Grip’, but rather their packed accessory of an animal. I had no idea that twenty different figures came equipped with a pet! Seemed excessive, especially since, toward the latter incarnations, they really began to stretch the necessity and realism. A Manta Ray? Really? Can you even train those things? Well, either way, it turns out that they were all pretty cool and why wouldn’t a kid be happy with getting a whole completely different toy packaged right in with their Joe?
So, as I said, there were 20 (not counting Eel from 1985 who had a mechanical, rocket-launching shark) which also includes 4 that were made in Brazil in the mid-90′s, each with a specialized, and exceptionally goofy, animal sidekick. So hang out, relive a little of your childhood, and laugh at the escalation of silliness that was the G.I. Joe Pet Shop. Oh, and just for the record, these are listed in no particular order other than alphabetically.
Croc Master and his Alligator
I suppose having a ravenous trained lizard at your disposal would be kind of cool. I can’t think of one instance where ending a scuffle with, “Oh yeah, ya big meanie, lemme just go home and get my trained alligator… and then you’ll be sorry!” wouldn’t serve to either immediately scare your opposition away, or make them point and laugh until you actually did show up with your trained alligator. Either way seems win/eventually win. That being said, this dude’s name is plainly ‘Croc Master’, so why didn’t they just change the file card to reflect the fact that the animal was, sadly and clearly, an alligator? It’s not that they look that much different, especially when you’re talking semantics (alligators have much stubbier snouts… yes I am a dork) in a fictionalized world of completely made up ‘military’ forces. Conversely I guess ‘Gator Master’ or ‘Gator Lord’ just sounds silly.
Deep Six with either his Dolphin or Orca
Apparently, G.I. Joe was so desperate for new recruits that they literally staked out Sea World and hired the one guy who could both perform with sea mammals and handle a laser harpoon. Oddly, there was only one guy qualified. Joe wanted him with the specific caveat that he be able to bring along a baby killer whale and baby dolphin, apparently assuming each would grow into frikkin laser beam, because there is no other feasible reason for wanting either animal, which would typically be scared to death of anything the Joes did. My actual guess is that both animals were actually considered adults and possibly stunted, like dwarfs. Or, better yet, the packaging was just too cramped to allow for a full-sized animal. Oh, and -as you can plainly read- Deep Six was never intended to come with an orca. His package was shipped incorrectly and ones with said whale can fetch up to a grand in the toy market.
Desert Scorpion with Ridiculously Mutated Scorpion
Rising directly out of something dreamed up by Ray Harryhausen comes Desert Scorpion and his mind-bogglingly enormous scorpion! Was there a time in COBRA lore when a select few went back to the Paleozoic Era and decided to bring back to the present, of all things, a gigantic killer scorpion? That expedition was obviously sanctioned directly by Cobra Commander himself because who else in their right mind would seriously suggest that dragging a huge, predatory arthropod back to the future was at all a good idea. It was also probably he who made this particular soldier attempt to train it. Likely they went through a pile of guys before, eventually, they brought the beast under some kind of control. I swear, when it comes to mis-sized animals matched with vaguely human-proportioned figures, Hasbro were masters.
Dusty and his Coyote, Sandstorm
As far as realism goes, this one is at least on a level that makes a modicum of sense. Dusty is a Desert Trooper which vaguely insinuates that he parachutes into a desert environment and secures a location. Seems pretty normal. And then there’s Sandstorm, Dusty’s trusty coyote, who, presumably, just kinda waits around for his buddy (master?) to drop out of the sky and goes and finds him. I say this because there is only one parachute and, as far as I know, paratrooper canines have never existed even in the convoluted and often bizarre world of G.I. Joe. Luckily for Dusty, his coyote has nothing better to do (ie: hunting) than hang around and wait for his human to show up.
Gnawgahyde and Wild Pig
When it comes to pets that are borderline insane and rated near number one on the personal injury list, wild boars have got you covered. Sure, people have pig farms, some have potbellied pigs, but no one in their right mind would attempt to tame and keep a hog that typically has half a dozen razor sharp tusks jutting out of its face. That’s like making friends with an elephant and two rhinos… at the same time! Obviously the point was to create the fact that Gnawgahyde here was a bad ass and could easily wrassle a knife-faced wild swine with his bare hands and then throw it at you… like a bad ass! But the best part is the ambiguity of the description on the card: Includes rifle, boar, bow and arrow… (etc.) It literally just glazes over the fact that it’s a wild animal. Oh, it’s a boar… whatever. Yeah, whatever, Hasbro!
Hydro-Viper with (sigh) Manta Ray
I struggle to even put into words just how inconceivably ridiculous this is. It’s one thing to assume that you can, potentially, train a dog-sized scorpion to do your nefarious bidding, and I can almost buy miniature-sized killer whales and dolphins, but I absolutely draw the line at manta rays. This is basically like attempting to train a manhole cover with a rudimentary brain. Not bloody likely. Manta’s are more or less stupid sharks that soar through the sea like living pool skimmers, slurping up tiny invertebrates and cruising the deep blue in all their dumb-assed glory. Good for them. The very idea that you might, maybe, possibly be able to train them -even if it is for evil purposes- is about as conceivable as teaching a Frisbee to get your mail.
Law & Order (Not Jerry Orbach, but a Dog)
Nothing too unusual here, just a dude and his dog. The only really odd thing is that this is one of the many cases where the guy his a cutesy name that coincides with his pet. In this case, we’re talking about a man, fruitilly nick-named ‘Law’, and his tongue-stumbling titled dog, ‘Order’. This is like naming yourself ‘Mashed Potatoes’ and your doggy ‘Gravy’ because you happen to be a chef with a pet. Just completely unnecessary. Apparently the dog is a German Shepherd, which is cool since his picture depicts him as some kind of snarling, growling attack beast, and his owner as a pissed off Military Policeman. I’m not sure how this actually comes into play in the G.I. Joe universe, since there seems to be no need for any kind of law since there are NO prisoners taken. Ever.
Mutt & Junkyard. Guess which one is Mutt?
This animal/man coupling is the very first Hasbro offered for its G.I. Joe line. It’s the group that started all of the moronic duos that feature either a common saying broken down into names (see: Law and Order) or two names that one would think ought to be given to the opposing thing, but, ever so adorably, they’re not. For instance these two hilarious Frat House chumps right here. One would automatically assume that Mutt would be the dog. Ah, but no! Herein lies the humor! You see, Mutt is actually the soldier and Junkyard is the Pit Bull! Oh the writers and creators of of this guy must have just laughed themselves to sleep! Until everyone pointed and called them idiots, then they wept. In solitude.
Raptor. The COBRA Fetishist. And his Falcon.
For some reason COBRA decided it really needed a Falconry Training Class to, presumably, train falcons. Seems reasonable, since none of its other hair-brained schemes, plots, ploys, and ideas ever amounted to much of anything. So who did they hire? Well a creepy dude dressed head to foot in a Falcon outfit, of course! What else? They dropped an add in the local paper asking for anyone with previous bird training experience to please drop a resume off at the nearest COBRA recruiting office. Ended with the caveat that he or she be dressed in the most garish, ridiculous get-up they could get a hold of. The closer to a Spider-Man villain the look, the better. Sadly the falcon does not have a clever nick-name, so we get to do it for them! I think we shall call him… ‘Falcon‘.
Serpentor and his Solid Gold (yet still alive) Cobra.
Serpentor is the only character on this list who comes with his own vehicle, the Air Chariot, because he was, in all actuality, a big whining pansy who couldn’t do anything on his own and everyone thought for sure had some kind of delusions of grandeur. Mostly he just sucked and mucked up everything he touched. But he did have a golden pet cobra, and that definitely garnered him some coolness points amount the elite in the COBRA organization. That’s like one of the leaders, say Duke, on the G.I. Joe side having a pet clown named ‘Joe’. He’d be all the rage at parties and treat the drunken and belligerent audience to feats of juggling and whimsical magic. Serpentor’s Cobra, on the other hand, was more akin to Jabba the Hutt’s Rancor: he was only there to bite the shit out of you. Did I mention he was gold? Not like golden colored, solid freakin’ gold. Not sure what kind of amalgamation of Auric and Midas Serpentor had going on there, but wow… that’s pointless.
Shipwreck and Polly. He’s a Parrot. Polly I mean.
Once again, Hasbro comes in and shatters it’s own tried and true naming rules by issuing this dynamic duo: Shipwreck and Polly. Sticking with the preconceived notions of naming things normally, it turns out that Shipwreck is actually the soldier, or in this case ‘Sailor’, and Polly is his trusted shoulder-mounted Parrot. Shipwreck is as prototypical a sailor character as you’re likely to find: brash, stalwart, bulging, and clad stately in flair-bottom trousers. Cuz he’s a sailor, see, and if you don’t look like a slightly more realistic version of Popeye, well, you might find yourself shut up tight in Davy Jones locker. Polly loves his cracker.
Snake Eyes (He’s a Commando) and Timber (He’s a Wolf)
The original Snake Eyes was one of the most polarizing G.I. Joe characters ever to hit the toy scene. Molded completely in black plastic because, as it turns out, it was simply cheaper at the time to do it that way, he became so immediately popular that Brian Hama (character bio designer) had to come up with a more dynamic and diverse dossier for him just so fans would have something more to go on. He was never intended to be deaf and mute, but that eventual addition really set the stage for future story lines for Snake Eyes. So what does all of this have to do with a military secret soldier and his pet timber wolf packaged together, fighting for freedom, justice, and knowledge being half the battle? Not a damn thing. It’s also not especially funny. Sorry they can’t all be winners.
Spearhead and Max
The ASPCA doesn’t live in this dojo. How else could you explain the assumed legality and total insanity in keeping, handling, and presumably training a bobcat? Not only that, but why would you even need one? There are plenty of vicious attack dogs just ripe for the picking, and yet this Spearhead fellow needs to go all Vick-like on a wild, feral bobcat? I just fail to see the logic in this dude’s choice, not to mention the military action of the G.I. Joe unit itself basically ignoring it. That would be like me going to my first day on the job with a sewer rat. Hi, fellow co-workers, welcome to indescribable agony and bubonic plague! Yes, I can obviously see the benefits of bobcat ownership, such as always being the coolest dude among your friends with a damn bobcat! Who does Spearhead think he is, Ozymandias?
The Ever-So Stereotypical Spirit and his Eagle, Freedom
Hasbro Boardroom, August, 1983:
Boss: Ok, people. We’ve just molded and designed our very first soldier/animal combination with the impossibly named ‘Mutt and ‘Junkyard’. Dan, thanks for that little gem. But now we find ourselves woefully low on chick characters and Injuns. Anyone got any brilliant ideas? Dan, you keep your hands down this time.
Steve: Well, why don’t we save time and materials and just make a female… um, I believe the proper term is ‘Native American’? (you fat-assed luddite).
Boss: What was that last part? Never mind. Steve you’re a Goddamn genius! We’ll make a dame and a redman in one! Get the boys in design on it right away! Oh, and call my secretary it’s time for her daily brow-beating and sexual harassing.
Sadly, just in time for the Christmas season of 1984, half the staff was fired when Spirit was released right along with his trained eagle, Freedom.
Undertow and his (oh Lord) Barracuda
Destro was the one member of COBRA that, in the cartoon, always seemed to be one heartbeat away from obliterating the entire team and just pegging the snot out of The Baroness right on the table. He had the deep, rich voice of a baritone member of a Doo-Wop group and the swagger of a seventies rocker. Not to mention a giant metal head mask that still allowed for freedom of mouth movement. Anyway, he was a sick dude who relished in forming separate teams that could perform specific tasks. For instance, his very own Frogman squad. How cool is that? But even beyond that, Destro made sure that each had some kind of accompanying beast, cuz, why not? And what is more bat-shit crazy than pairing a soldier with a barracuda he has zero chance in training swimming around next to him? Nothing anywhere ever.
Voltar and his, wait for it… Vulture
Destro, for a short period during his latter term as a commander in COBRA, took a full-on nose dive into the pool of eccentricity. Some say he went completely bonkers, but Cobra Commander always gave him at lease the benefit of the doubt, because nothing says commendation than the word of a straight-up lunatic. Anyway, it seemed Destro was fresh out of soldiers to act as his General, since most of them had gotten mauled to death by the barracudas they were forced to be teamed with. So, Destro did what any smart, high-ranking officer in the COBRA unit would do, and found the closest guy to him who looked like he just stepped out of a futuristic play about Moby Dick and immediately slapped him with the daffy moniker of Voltar and told him he was going to employ a giant vulture. And that was the last anyone ever saw of the former Ned from Accounts Receivable.
The Four Remaining Characters are All From the Brazillian Version of G.I. Joe, and Since Each Came With His Own Completely Arbitrary and Random Animal, They More Than Belong on This List. All of the Following Happened:
Kangor with Kangaroo
Urzor with a Bear
Leontor with a Lion
Tigor with His Tiger
Often when other countries acquire their own licenses for American-property action figures, the end result is typically a sick amalgam of completely bizarre body parts matched with Superhero capes and mis-translated titles like Captain Face Proud, or some such nonsense. However, when Brazil stepped in and decided to do a few of their own G.I. Joes, oddly, they turned out more or less exactly the same as their US counterparts. Which also happened to have the exact same human-to-animal-size-ratio issues we here suffered with. Kangor was given a boxing Kangaroo which was pretty much the size of a large joey. Okay, not so bad. Yeah but hold on. Urzor, Leontor, and Tigor were basically paired with animals that obviously belong in a Little People Zoo set. They were so unbelievably disproportionate that it would have made more sense to call them ‘Nighty-Night Sleeping Companions’ since they were roughly the size of stuffed animals. Well, Brazil, at least you didn’t try to out do us.