A Real American Hero (Sunbow TV series)

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GI Joe Season1title

Season 1 opening title

Picking up where A Real American Hero and The Revenge of Cobra left off, the 1985 series follows the same premise: G.I. Joe is an elite counter-terrorist unit formed to combat the threat of the evil Cobra Organization. Plots generally centered on a Cobra plot or invention of the week, and the Joes' efforts to stop the plan. The 1986 season introduced a new leader for Cobra, Serpentor. Also brought to light was the leader of G.I. Joe, Hawk, who commanded the Joes in the Marvel Comics series, but had been conspicuously absent in the animated series prior to 1986.


GI Joe Season2title

Season 2 opening title

The first season of G.I. Joe consisted of 55 new episodes, plus reruns of the two earlier 5-part miniseries, for a total of 65 episodes. In the second season there were 30 additional shows, followed by a direct-to-video Movie (aired on TV in five parts). All together, there were 100 Sunbow cartoon episodes (5 + 5 + 55 + 30 + 5), along with five different opening sequences.

Writing and distribution for this series were handled as a joint effort by Marvel Productions and Sunbow Productions. Animation was produced overseas, primarily by Toei.

The series was animated on an enormously rushed schedule, due to the need to get episodes on the air in sync with the toys appearing on shelves. That, combined with the vast number of characters and the difficulties involved with the overseas animation process, resulted in a cartoon that is notoriously riddled with animation errors and other mistakes. The producers were often aware of these mistakes, but tight deadlines left them no time to correct them.

Mistakes or not, the show is fondly remembered by many fans for the high quality of its voice acting. Indeed, many characters, lacking any significant plot developments or screen time, were brought to life solely by their unique voices and inflection styles. Voice direction for the series was provided by Wally Burr, notorious for driving his performers to the limit.

In addition to the show's iconic theme song, G.I. Joe featured a great variety of background music, composed by Johnny Douglas and Robert J. Walsh. Douglas composed music for the first two G.I. Joe miniseries, which was recycled and used throughout the entire series. Walsh's compositions were the more generic sounding of the two, and were composed for use in both G.I. Joe and The Transformers.

Plot points

While the comic focused on military intrigue, the cartoons took a high-tech approach to the series. This was in part necessary because censors preferred laser weapons to bullets. Fully sixty percent of each seasons' episodes had a significant science-fiction angle (40 for season 1, 23 for season 2). Nearly a third of the remaining shows dealt with the paranormal, from ghosts and ESP to apemen and UFOs. For those who like their animation more down-to-earth, here are the most "realistic" episodes:

Countdown for Zartan The Spy Who Rooked Me The Most Dangerous Thing in the World
The Funhouse Lights! Camera! Cobra! Twenty Questions
The Million Dollar Medic An Eye for an Eye The Great Alaskan Land Rush
Cobra Stops the World My Brother's Keeper Ninja Holiday
Where the Reptiles Roam Cobra's Candidate The Viper is Coming
The Rotten Egg Hearts and Cannons Let's Play Soldier
Battle for the Train of Gold Raise the Flagg! Not a Ghost of a Chance
The Traitor I-II Red Rocket's Glare Cobrathon
The Wrong Stuff

Many of the shows were character-driven and fleshed out one or two individuals. This was more the case in the second season than the first, but season 1 had special episodes devoted to characters such as Ace, Barbecue, Dusty, Lady Jaye, Roadblock, Shipwreck, and Wild Bill. It was the strength of these and other personalities that drew many collectors into the G.I. Joe phenomenon. The skill of the creators is evident in that often there was no specific line or scene that stood out, but the character's whole demeanor and how everything about that Joe or Cobra fit together into an interesting package. Even some of the "lesser lights" managed to establish themselves in their few scenes.


In the first season, the Joe team had 44 figure-based members and 4 animal sidekicks, along with cartoon-exclusive characters. This number includes all the individuals released through 1985, with the exceptions of Colonel Hawk, Crankcase, and Keel-Haul. Those 48, plus Crankcase and the non-figure Sparks, are the "roughly fifty" active Joes mentioned in Worlds Without End I. Colonel Sharp and Admiral Ledger are also considered Joes by many viewers but are not officially part of the team. The second season saw the introduction of 15 more (counting Crankcase), with nine others appearing only in the movie.

As for Cobra, there were 15 individual Cobras in the first season, plus 10 figure-based troop types. (A.V.A.C.s appeared early, and Stinger Drivers did not appear at all.) The second season gave us six more individuals and four more kinds of soldiers, not counting cartoon exclusives or the Cobra-La team of the Movie.

For both Joes and Cobras, the creators evidently tried to spotlight the newer characters while still giving decent attention to the older ones, especially in the first season. Neglected, however, are most Joes from 1982, who received most of their screen time in the two miniseries that preceded the regular run of the show. In addition, about half the vehicle drivers got the short end of the stick when it came to speaking roles. But it is remarkable that even the less-featured characters had distinct personalities and gained the affection of fans through their occasional appearances.

In the following table, characters are grouped by the year their first figures were released and the total number of lines they spoke in the cartoon series. The number of 22-minute episodes in which each character appeared is in parentheses:

Total # Lines,
All Seasons
1982 1983 1984 1985 1986


Cobra Commander (80)
Scarlett (54)

Destro (66)
Duke (60)
Gung-Ho (60)

Baroness (46)
Roadblock (58)
Zartan (45)

Alpine (38)
Dusty (30)
Flint (62)
Lady Jaye (65)
Shipwreck (50)
Tomax and Xamot (35)

Beach Head (27)
Dr. Mindbender (30)
Hawk (26)
Leatherneck (23)
Lifeline (27)
Serpentor (25)
Sgt. Slaughter (13)
Wet-Suit (23)


Breaker (38)
Cobra Troopers(69)

Ace (30)
Cover Girl (36)
Major Bludd (25)
Wild Bill (43)

Buzzer (49)
Mutt (31)
Spirit (26)
Torch (48)

Barbecue (22)
Bazooka (32)
Footloose (22)
Polly (24)
Quick Kick (26)

Dial-Tone (27)
Low-Light (25)
Mainframe (25)
Slip-Stream (16)
Strato-Viper (15)
Zarana (20)


Clutch (19)
Cobra Officers (38)

Doc (23)
Snow Job (20)
Torpedo (13)

Deep Six (17)
Recondo (23)
Ripper (46)
Storm Shadow (16)

Airtight (17)
Crimson Guard (40)

Cross-Country (16)
Iceberg (14)
Lift-Ticket (21)
Sci-Fi (17)


Grunt (14)
Rock 'n Roll (26)
Stalker (23)
Steeler (13)

Airborne (15)
Tripwire (10)

Cutter (19)
Firefly (13)
Rip Cord (21)
Scrap-Iron (12)
Thunder (17)
Wild Weasel (10)

Tele-Viper (21)

Monkeywrench (16)
Viper (24)


Flash (9)
Short-Fuze (13)
Zap (14)

Blowtorch (14)

Snow Serpent (12)

A.V.A.C. (6)
Motor Viper (15)
Thrasher (13)
Zandar (13)


Copperhead (3)

Eel (13)
Frostbite (5)
Heavy Metal (6)
Tollbooth (5)


Grand Slam (0)
Snake Eyes (44)

H.I.S.S. Driver (3)
Viper Pilot (1)

Crankcase (3)
Lamprey (1)

B.A.T. (21)

For complete detailed information on line counts, appearances and speaking roles, see List of Sunbow appearances.

Season 1: 1985-1986


#TitleWriterOriginal airdateProduction code
1 The Further Adventures of G.I. Joe Ron Friedman September 16, 1985 #600-37
Cobra hijacks a G.I. Joe-held satellite and uses it to destroy Joe Headquarters! 
2 Rendezvous in the City of the Dead Ron Friedman September 17, 1985 #600-38
Shipwreck and Snake Eyes travel underneath Enterprise City with the secret of the control cubes while G.I. Joe plans to stop Destro. 
3 Three Cubes to Darkness Ron Friedman September 18, 1985 #600-39
The Joe Team struggles to stop Cobra from installing the remaining control cubes. 
4 Chaos in the Sea of Lost Souls Ron Friedman September 19, 1985 #600-40
Cobra activates the Pyramid of Darkness! 
5 Knotting Cobra's Coils Ron Friedman September 20, 1985 #600-41
The G.I. Joe team pulls out all the stops to end the threat of Cobra's Pyramid of Darkness! 
6 Countdown for Zartan Christy Marx September 23, 1985 #600-02
Zartan sets a bomb to detonate a Cobra target, but may himself become its prey! 
7 Red Rocket's Glare Ted Pedersen September 24, 1985 #600-12
Cobra uses a fast food franchise to discreetly hide rockets across the United States! 
8 Satellite Down Steve Gerber September 25, 1985 #600-13
A downed spy satellite has both the Joe Team & Cobra scrambling for its wreckage. 
9 Cobra Stops the World Steve Gerber September 26, 1985 #600-05
Cobra attacks the world's oil reserves. 
10 Jungle Trap Paul Dini September 27, 1985 #600-06
In India, Cobra kidnaps a famous scientist in an effort to build the Vulcan Machine- a device that can use the Earth's lava to terrorize cities worldwide! 
11 Cobra's Creatures Kimmer Ringwald September 30, 1985 #600-01
Cobra gains control of the world's animal population to use against the nations of Earth! 
12 The Funhouse Steve Mitchell and Barbara Petty October 1, 1985 #600-23
Cobra uses kidnapped scientists as bait to lure G.I. Joe into a deadly Cobra-themed funhouse! 
13 Twenty Questions Buzz Dixon October 2, 1985 #600-19
Shipwreck's attempts to prove Cobra's existence to a nosy journalist may prove fatal. 
14 The Greenhouse Effect Gordon Kent October 3, 1985 #600-21
When an experimental rocket fuel merges with a farmer's plant food, Cobra reaps the rewards! 
15 Haul Down the Heavens Buzz Dixon October 4, 1985 #600-07
Cobra constructs a device that will melt the polar ice caps! 
16 The Synthoid Conspiracy (Part I) Christy Marx October 7, 1985 #600-16
Cobra replaces the Pentagon's top brass with artificial humans- synthoids! 
17 The Synthoid Conspiracy (Part II) Christy Marx October 8, 1985 #600-17
The disbanded Joe Team goes on the offensive to stop Cobra and their synthoids! 
18 The Phantom Brigade Sharman Di Vono October 9, 1985 #600-15
In the Carpathian Mountains, Cobra uses gypsy magic to enlist the aid of three ghosts- the Phantom Brigade! 
19 Lights! Camera! Cobra! Buzz Dixon October 10, 1985 #600-10
The Joes are hired as technical advisors for a Hollywood film, which unwittingly puts them in Cobra's sights! 
20 Cobra's Candidate Gordon Kent October 11, 1985 #600-11
Cobra employs urban gang members to help sway an election. 
21 Money to Burn Roger Slifer October 14, 1985 #600-14
Cobra's new device can remotely destroy paper currency, and they use it to destabilize the US economy! 
22 Operation Mind Menace Martin Pasko October 15, 1985 #600-09
Cobra kidnaps people with psionic abilities to use a living weapons -including Airborne's kid brother!! 
23 Battle for the Train of Gold David Carren October 16, 1985 #600-08
Cobra robs Fort Knox!! 
24 Cobra Sound Waves Ted Pedersen October 17, 1985 #600-04
Cobra has developed a new sonic weapon, and uses it to threaten an oil-rich nation! 
25 Where the Reptiles Roam Gerry and Carla Conway October 18, 1985 #600-24
Cobra purchases a dude ranch through one of its dummy corporations, intending to control a nearby solar power station. G.I. Joe travels to the ranch to flush out the Cobras. 
26 The Gamesmaster Flint Dille October 21, 1985 #600-20
An eccentric child-man kidnaps Cobra Commander, Flint, Lady Jaye, and the Baroness and places them in a world of giant, deadly toys. Joe and Cobra must unite to mount a rescue. 
27 Lasers in the Night October 22, 1985 #600-25
Quick Kick romances a civilian as they try to stop Cobra from using a large laser cannon. 
28 The Germ Roger Slifer October 23, 1985 #600-26
The Joes use all their resources to destroy a gargantuan germ that's ravaging the countryside. 
29 The Viper is Coming David Carren October 24, 1985 #600-22
Barbecue begins receiving phonecalls from a possible Cobra agent identifying himself as "The Viper". 
30 Spell of the Siren Gerry and Carla Conway October 25, 1985 #600-18
After gaining possession of a mythical relic, the Baroness usurps power over Cobra and men around the world. 
31 Cobra Quake Ted Pedersen October 28, 1985 #600-31
Cobra decides to test a new earthquake-causing weapon to disrupt a Japan peace conference. It is up to Quick Kick, Bazooka, and their trainees to stop Cobra. 
32 Captives of Cobra (Part I) Christy Marx October 29, 1985 #600-27
Cobra kidnaps relatives of the Joe team and uses mind-control technology to turn the Joes' families against them. Their goal is to steal highly unstable explosive crystals. 
33 Captives of Cobra (Part II) Christy Marx October 30, 1985 #600-36
As Joes and their family members are endangered by the highly explosive crystals, Scarlett and others try to disable the mind-control center. 
34 Bazooka Saw a Sea Serpent Mary Skrenes October 31, 1985 #600-29
Is the disappearance of ships and yachts the work of a sea monster...or something more sinister? 
35 Excalibur Dan DiStefano November 1, 1985 #600-32
While G.I. Joe tries to protect their radar station and nearby villages from rising waters, Storm Shadow acquires the legendary Excalibur sword. 
36 Worlds Without End (Part I) Martin Pasko November 4, 1985 #600-27
An experimental weapon lands eight Joes in an alternate world! 
37 Worlds Without End (Part II) Martin Pasko November 5, 1985 #600-34
Trapped in a world ruled by Cobra, can the Joes make it home? 
38 Eau De Cobra Flint Dille November 6, 1985 #600-35
Cobra develops a perfume that makes men the wearer's slave. 
39 Cobra C.L.A.W.s Are Coming to Town Gerry and Carla Conway (story by Roy and Dann Thomas) November 7, 1985 #600-33
Cobra captures the G.I. Joe base and uses the Joes' vehicle in an attempt to take over a nearby town. 
40 An Eye for an Eye Steve Mitchell and Barbara Petty November 8, 1985 #600-42
A civilian seeks to avenge his family that got caught in the middle of a Joes/Cobra battle. 
41 The Gods Below Gordon Kent November 11, 1985 #600-47
Cobra Commander attempts to use G.I. Joes to find the treasures inside a recently discovered Egyptian tomb. The group encounters the ancient gods of Egypt and is tested to prove their worthiness. 
42 Primordial Plot Donald F. Glut November 12, 1985 #600-43
Cobra kidnaps a scientist who has discovered how to clone dinosaurs. They bring them to life on a hidden island, and the Joes might escape the reptiles to rescue the scientist. 
43 Flint's Vacation Beth Borstein November 13, 1985 #600-44
Flint goes to visit his brother, but suspects that something is going on. 
44 Hearts and Cannons Alfred A. Pegal, Larry Houston November 14, 1985 #600-45
Cobra forces a scientist to create a new tank weapon, and Footloose and Dusty are dispatched to rescue the researcher. An Arabian bandit finds the Joes and assists them in infiltrating the Cobra base. 
45 Memories of Mara Sharmon Di Vono November 15, 1985 #600-48
Shipwreck rescues a blue-skinned woman named Mara, whom Cobra has genetically modified with the intent of producing an amphibian. As the Joes seek to retrieve a captured submarine, Shipwreck's relationship with Mara is limited by the fact that she can only breathe in water. 
46 The Traitor (Part I) Buzz Dixon November 25, 1985 #600-30
Cobra tempts a money-strapped Dusty to become an inside informant. 
47 The Traitor (Part II) Buzz Dixon November 26, 1985 #600-46
G.I. Joe struggles to combat Cobra, now aided by former G.I. Joe member Dusty. 
48 Pit of Vipers Flint Dille, James M. Ward November 27, 1985 #600-51
G.I. Joe is placed under the command of a new computer, Watchdog, which directs Joes to Cobra targets. The computer is under Cobra's control, being used to spread Joe forces thin and leave headquarters vulnerable to attack. 
49 The Wrong Stuff Stanley Ralph Ross (story by Flint Dille) November 28, 1985 #600-49
Cobra takes the fight into space. 
50 The Invaders Dennis O'Neil November 29, 1985 #600-52
A flying saucer terrorizes the world, and only the combined teams of G.I. Joe and Red Oktober can stop it. 
51 Cold Slither Michael Charles Hill December 2, 1985 #600-55
Cobra uses subliminal messages in a rock song to enslave listeners. 
52 The Great Alaskan Land Rush David Carren December 3, 1985 #600-56
G.I. Joe and Red Oktober seek the true Great Seal of Alaska. 
53 Skeletons in the Closet Flint Dille December 11, 1985 #600-57
Lady Jaye learns that she has inherited land in Scotland. When she visits her ancestral home, she finds Destro there performing an ancient ceremony. They have both been drawn there by the Baroness, who has learned the two are related. 
54 There's No Place Like Springfield (Part I) Steve Gerber December 12, 1985 #600-58
After rescuing a scientist from Cobra, Shipwreck wakes up years later in the town of Springfield. 
55 There's No Place Like Springfield (Part II) Steve Gerber December 13, 1985 #600-59
Shipwreck discover the truth about Springfield and his ideal life there. 

Season 2: 1986-1987

One distinguishing characteristic of toy-based cartoon series are that each season, the creators must adapt the show to suit the year's new releases. For some cartoons, the differences might be fairly minor: introduce a couple new villains in one episode, or give the main character a new look. But in 1986, both G.I. Joe and the Transformers went through drastic changes. Each series received new leaders for both sides, necessitating a whole new command structure. For G.I. Joe, the new season also meant a build-up to the upcoming Movie.

Whereas The Transformers: The Movie had killed off many of the older Autobots and Decepticons , all the Joes and Cobras were still alive. But many of 1986's toys were essentially replacements of figures and vehicles no longer in the stores, and so the older stuff was fated to recede into the background. In addition, Sunbow was having to direct much of its attention to the Movie, so the Joe series episodes sank a bit in objective quality. Plots weren't as tight, dialogue wasn't as snappy, and the animation suffered the most. Nevertheless, the second season introduced some of Joe's most memorable characters, and it managed to put the spotlight on all the new Joes and equipment by the season's end.

It is with regard to character appearances that the two seasons of G.I. Joe stand in highest contrast. While the second-season premiere and a few other episodes featured cameos of older Joes, much of the series focused almost exclusively on the newer characters. Even major figures such as Bazooka, the Baroness, and the Crimson Twins took a back seat to Hawk, Serpentor, and their new recruits. Some viewers think less of the second season because of its almost exclusive focus on the new team members, but the writers' decision actually helped provide balance to the series when taken as a whole. The older figures had the opportunity to appear in 90 to 100 episodes, but those introduced in 1986 had only 35 episodes maximum, counting the movie. In all fairness, the '86-ers dominated the later episodes no more than the pre-1985 characters dominated early first-season episodes.

Vehicle changes were noticeable too, since the new 1986 equipment served the same function as the established vehicles. SkyStrikers, Dragonflies, and Rattlers gave way to Conquests, Tomahawks, and Night Ravens. Dreadnok Swampfires replaced the seldom-used Chameleons. Maulers and H.I.S.S. tanks remained alongside the H.A.V.O.C.s and Stuns, but the old M.O.B.A.T.s and Wolverines were almost nowhere to be seen. Firebats were also frequent, but they had been introduced in the first season in a grey color.


#TitleWriterOriginal airdateProduction code
1 Arise, Serpentor, Arise! (Part 1) Ron Friedman (teleplay), Buzz Dixon (story)
After one failure too many, a plot is hatched to replace Cobra Commander! 
2 Arise, Serpentor, Arise! (Part 2) Ron Friedman (teleplay), Buzz Dixon (story)
The Joe team scrambles to discover why Cobra is raiding tombs across the globe. 
3 Arise, Serpentor, Arise! (Part 3) Ron Friedman (teleplay), Buzz Dixon (story)
The Joes discover Cobra's DNA extracting technology and Sgt. Slaughter is captured! 
4 Arise, Serpentor, Arise! (Part 4) Ron Friedman (teleplay), Buzz Dixon (story)
The G.I. Joe team rallies to stop Cobra and save Sgt. Slaughter- but are they too late? 
5 Arise, Serpentor, Arise! (Part 5) Ron Friedman (teleplay), Buzz Dixon (story)
Cobra, led by Sepentor, invades Washington, DC! Can the Joes stop them? 
6 Last Hour to Doomsday Tom Dagenais
Cobra creates a device that creates tidal waves and threatens to destroy the east coast! 
7 Computer Complications David Schwartz
Zarana infiltrates G.I. Joe in an effort by Cobra to obtain a space probe containing anti-matter. 
8 Sink the Montana! David Carren
An old friend of General Hawk's steals a US Navy battleship and gives it to Cobra! 
9 Let's Play Soldier Sharman Divono
The Joes go to Thailand to stop Cobra from acquiring tree sap with hypnotic properties. 
10 Once Upon a Joe Buzz Dixon
After inadvertently destroying an orphanage while searching for the aptly-named McGuffin Device, Shipwreck tells the orphans a tall tale. 
11 The Million Dollar Medic Gerry and Carla Conway
Lifeline has caught the attention of a lovely socialite, who might be a Cobra agent. 
12 Cobrathon Rebecca Parr, Martin Pasko
Lifeline and Sci-Fi are scheduled to be executed as part of Cobra's Telethon! 
13 The Rotten Egg Steve Mitchell and Barbara Petty
It's up to Leatherneck to defend Parris Island from Cobra! 
14 Glamour Girls Beth Borstein
Low Light's sister is captured in a plot to steal the youth & beauty of the world's top models. 
15 Iceberg Goes South Mary Skrenes
Cobra is creating an army of mutants. Iceberg turns into a whale. 
16 The Spy Who Rooked Me Susan K. Williams
The Joes must team up with a British super-spy to obtain a paralysis-inducing gas. 
17 Grey Hairs and Growing Pains Flint Dille, David Marconi
Zarana encounters Mainframe again during a Cobra plot to reduce the Joes to children. 
18 My Brother's Keeper Buzz Dixon
19 My Favorite Things Doug Booth
20 Raise the Flagg! David Carren
21 Ninja Holiday Michael Charles Hill
22 G.I. Joe and the Golden Fleece Flint Dille, Richard Merwin
23 The Most Dangerous Thing in the World Buzz Dixon
24 Nightmare Assault Marv Wolfman
25 Second Hand Emotions Gerry and Carla Conway
26 Joe's Night Out David Schwartz
27 Not a Ghost of a Chance Sharman Divono
28 Sins of Our Fathers Buzz Dixon, Steve Gerber
29 In the Presence of Mine Enemies Chris Weber, Karen Willson
30 Into Your Tent I Will Silently Creep Buzz Dixon, Michael Charles Hill

Appearance notes

  • Most of the characters got their first lines in one of the five-part miniseries, but there are some exceptions:
    • "Cobra Sound Waves" introduced Wild Weasel and gave Grunt his first line.
    • Deep Six debuted in "Cobra Stops the World."
    • We first hear Copperhead in "Jungle Trap." (He can be glimpsed in the opening sequence of The Revenge of Cobra using frame-by-frame.)
    • Thunder's first lines come in his biggest single episode, "Battle for the Train of Gold."
    • The Tele-Vipers first spoke in "Lights! Camera! Cobra!"
    • "The Phantom Brigade" gave us A.V.A.C.s half a year early, and also gave the Eels something to say.
    • For a carded figure, Barbecue went an awful long time without saying anything. He finally got his chance in "The Greenhouse Effect."
    • "Eau de Cobra" gives us Frostbite's only lines.
    • Heavy Metal's only speaking role came in "Pit of Vipers."
  • Fifteen figures who had previously appeared on the cartoon were totally absent from the second season: Flash, Grunt, Short-Fuze, Clutch, Grand Slam, Steeler, Zap, Airborne, Tripwire, Frostbite, Tollbooth, H.I.S.S. Driver, Viper Pilot, Copperhead, and Lamprey. Nine of these returned in the Movie.
  • Thirteen other figures who had previously spoken on the cartoon were silent in the second season: Breaker, Rock 'n Roll, Stalker, Ace, Blowtorch, Rip Cord, Spirit, Airtight, Barbecue, Bazooka, Footloose, Quick Kick, and Major Bludd. All of these appeared in the Movie, but only Bazooka and Quick Kick spoke.
  • Other prominent characters who dropped to the background in Season 2: Alpine got only 6 lines, Mutt 4, Storm Shadow 2 and some fighting noises, Wild Bill 7, and Cover Girl 5. In addition, Doc, Recondo, and Dusty each only spoke in one episode of "Arise, Serpentor, Arise!" and were silent until the end of the season.
  • Two older characters actually got a boost in the second season. Ripper and Zartan had around a third of their lines in season-2 episodes. Deep Six, Roadblock, and Torch had about the same proportion of lines in each season; the rest declined.
  • Interesting disappearances in the second season: Duke went fifteen episodes in a row without speaking, Polly dropped out completely after "Glamour Girls", and Tomax and Xamot did not appear during the nineteen episodes between "The Million Dollar Medic" and the movie.
  • The Movie managed to include 84 of the 95 figure-based characters from previous episodes. The 11 not included were Grand Slam, Torpedo, Deep Six, Polly, Frostbite, H.I.S.S. Driver, Viper Pilot, Copperhead, Wild Weasel, Eel, and Lamprey.

More than just an appearance

There are limits to how far a character can develop if he's just sitting at a conference table or making a few quips during a battle. The real "meaty" roles are spread around pretty well, reflecting a deliberate effort on the part of the writers to give as many Joes as possible their 22 minutes of fame. There were eighteen "stars" who had ten or more major roles, with about the same number of individuals left with only minor speaking parts. (Here, major roles are defined as 10 or more lines in a single episode.)

  • Never got a chance to shine (no major roles): the neglected speakers, from most total lines to least, are Ripper, Doc, Monkeywrench, Cutter, Stalker, Thrasher, Zandar, Tripwire, Blowtorch, Firefly, Short-Fuze, Scrap-Iron, Zap, Tollbooth, Copperhead, Heavy Metal, and Frostbite. But nearly all of these at least play pivotal roles in one episode or another.
  • Some Joes are most remembered for their one major role. One-shot characters include Clutch, Flash, Airborne, Thunder, Buzzer, and Wild Weasel, as well as the cartoon-exclusive Sparks.
  • Quite a few often-seen Joes didn't have as many major roles as you might think they did. There are only two apiece for Breaker, Steeler, Rock 'n Roll, Grunt, Snow Job, Torpedo, Deep Six, Rip Cord, Airtight, Slip-Stream, Low-Light, Cross-Country, Sci-Fi, Major Bludd, and Storm Shadow.
  • On the other side of things, Cobra Commander had 57 big episodes. Flint (37) edged out Lady Jaye (36), and the other stars were Duke (31 major roles), Destro (29), Scarlett (23), Shipwreck (23), Zartan (17), Baroness (16), and Dr. Mindbender (16). The other Joes with ten or more major roles were Gung-Ho, Hawk, Tomax and Xamot, Roadblock, Alpine, Beach Head, and Serpentor.
  • "Cobra Stops the World" is the episode to watch for Joes' biggest moments. Six characters speak more lines in this episode than in any other: Deep Six, Torpedo, Ace, Major Bludd, Col. Sharp, and Sparks. You also see more of the H.I.S.S. Drivers here than anywhere else.
  • Everyone who spoke in the first miniseries had a bigger role later on.
  • The only characters whose biggest role was in the Movie were those introduced in the Movie.

Character designs

Whether for copyright issues, creative license, or practicality, all the characters on the show look at least slightly different from the figures they represent. Some of these changes are very subtle, such as the presence or absence of gloves. But nearly half the characters have significant changes, a few so drastic that Joe fans new to the show might have difficulty recognizing who's who. The following are selected examples of major design changes:

  • Most Joes carried the same rifle (similar to Snow Job's), and all masked Joes except Snake-Eyes showed their faces at least once.
  • Cobra Commander - vertical white stripe on center top of helmet; crease down center of face mask; light blue shirt collar underneath medium blue jacket, and belt across stomach is often white; black gloves often extend nearly to the elbow; no red stripe on pant legs
  • Steeler - heavily simplified; blond hair with dark green pants and shorter gold visor; no gloves, and no straps or holster on chest
  • Ace - black hair; no helmet base, and no helmet except when flying; helmet was white with black airmask and blue goggles; no red trim on uniform; black vest and normal-sized black boots
  • Wild Bill - light tan hat; black sunglasses; blue shirt with orange closed vest; no gloves; pants were also blue, with brown belt and no leg holsters
  • Zartan - vest blue, glowing red when Zartan was angry; grey detailing on boots for contrast; gloves extend halfway up the arm
  • Ripper - yellow leopard-print vest with grenade and knife matching the figure's; gold medallion around neck; glasses almost always silver instead of red; beard less full
  • Flint - dark green shirt with reddish brown straps; camo on pants consisted of wavy stripes of dark green and reddish brown
  • Lady Jaye - no hat; dark green gloves and pants, with brown boots; knife strapped to chest on left side, attaching to diagonal chest strap; backpack was a dark green cylindrical quiver filled with wooden javelins
  • Snake-Eyes, v.2 - colors reversed: uniform dark grey for detail, with jet black straps, belt, and visor slits
  • Tomax and Xamot's uniforms were switched.
  • Tollbooth - dark green vest and sleeves; light green gloves, hardhat, and high-collared shirt; wore a white hardhat and red vest in the Movie
  • Sgt. Slaughter - brown hat, black shirt, green and light brown camo pants, white belt, and brown boots
  • Slip-Stream - white portions of figure's uniform were light brown
  • Chuckles - white shirt with thin-petaled yellow and pink flowers; dark blue pants

Also worth mentioning are Spirit's red skin, different pants for Bazooka, Mainframe, and Zandar, Snow Serpent's white facemask, the B.A.T.s' red visors, and the blue-tinted transparent goggles for Joes such as Snow Job and Tripwire.

Three characters each have two different designs, only one of which resembles the figure.

  • Airborne - In his speaking roles, brown hair, a dark grey helmet and long-sleeved light blue collared shirt with dark gray diagonal chest strap; shirt had centered vertical orange stripe, with orange on shoulders, wristbands, codpiece, and kneepads; plain black belt with round, silver buckle; light blue pants with grey boots
  • Cover Girl - In A Real American Hero, had long, blond hair and a green jacket and pants
  • Torpedo - Wore jeans and a T-shirt when on land. His regular uniform was also distinct: a skin-tight blue-black wet suit without the grey trim of the figure; face usually exposed, with white-rimmed, blue-tinted goggles on forehead, and a white vertical stripe on top of hood. When underwater, had light grey airmask with tube connecting to backpack; no gloves.

G.I. Joe Toteboard

  • Disguises of Zartan: 24, including Cobra Commander, Duke, and Shipwreck
  • Disguises of the Baroness: 15, including Lady Jaye
  • Disguises of Zarana: 11
  • Disguises of Lady Jaye: 9, including the Baroness
  • Times Duke is captured by Cobra: 9, including all three opening miniseries
  • Times Cobra uses gladiatorial arenas to dispose of captives: 5
  • Times Cobra preempts TV broadcasts to deliver a message: 12
  • Episodes in which Cobra Commander unreasonably blames Destro for his own failures: 10
  • Times someone says, "Let's get outta here," or "We've gotta get outta here": 59, 9 times by Flint
  • Times Serpentor says "This I command": 33
  • Times we hear the "Yo Joe" battle cry within an episode: 382
  • Episodes with no "Yo Joe" battle cry: 8


Even though he was an "American hero," G.I. Joe fought Cobra all over the world. Cobra apparently moved their central headquarters frequently, and set up smaller temples for specific missions. Over the course of the series, the Joes and Cobras traveled to all the major oceans and every continent except Australia.

Asian missions

We know from the movie that Cobra ultimately originates from Cobra-La's ice dome in the Himalayas in Central Asia. These mountains were also the site of Cobra's broadcast station in "The Wrong Stuff." The Joes traveled to India in "Jungle Trap" and "Operation Mind Menace," and to the Indian Ocean in "Pit of Vipers." It's unknown where Genghis Khan's tomb is ("ASA"), or whether the mountain K-12 exists ("Operation Mind Menace"), but they would be around this region as well. (Duke says K-12 is in the Himalayas.)

Since Vietnam wasn't all that distant a memory in the 1980s, the cartoon writers usually steered clear of Southeast Asia. However, there was a Cobra air attack over Thailand in "Cobra Quake", and a mind-control operation there in "Let's Play Soldier." The events of "Ninja Holiday" took place in the nearby Philippines.

The Tienshan Mountains of western China are the resting place of Sun-Tzu ("ASA"). This is also the likely location of the fictional City of the Dead, location of one corner of the Pyramid of Darkness. (The actual terra cotta warriors that inspired the city are in central China, east of Xian.) The episode "Cobra Quake" features Hokkaido, Japan and several locations around Tokyo, including Mount Fuji, the Toshogu Shrine, and the Great Buddha in Kamakura.

Middle Eastern missions

Only four episodes deal with the Middle East. Locales near the Cobra temple in "A Real American Hero" make it appear that its location was in this region, near a mountain/jungle area. Cobra attacked the oil fields of Sheik Ali, possibly in the UAE, in "Cobra Sound Waves." Dusty and Footloose met King Jabal in "Hearts and Cannons," and aliens "abducted" Tomax and Xamot from the Middle Eastern desert in "The Invaders."


Many of the Pacific island locations in the Joe series are fictional. This includes Snake Island from "Lasers in the Night," Cobra Island in the second season, the location of Temple Alpha in "There's No Place Like Springfield," Tanu Island from "A Real American Hero," the Island of No Return in "The Revenge of Cobra," and the islands visited in "Memories of Mara." (The comicbook's Cobra Island was in the Gulf of Mexico.) The Sea of Lost Souls was a concept created for "The Pyramid of Darkness," but "ARAH"'s heavy-water trench was probably the Mariana Trench not far from Guam.

Pine Tree Cove and Mondo Tango, both from "Bazooka Saw a Sea Serpent," were most likely in the Atlantic Ocean, since the serpent went on to attack New York City. Dialogue in "Raise the Flagg!" indicates that it was in the Atlantic that the Joes' aircraft carrier sank during "Computer Complications."

There are evidently several Terror Dromes, and the central one on Cobra Island is probably in the Atlantic Ocean somewhere, but we cannot be more specific than that.

Antarctic missions

Antarctica shows up in two episodes. The Joes stumbled upon a Cobra R & R base in Queen Maud Land in "The Viper is Coming." Snow Job and Frostbite chased Firefly near an Antarctic research base in "Eau De Cobra."

African missions

Cobra had several operations going in Africa over the course of the series. We first visit the continent in "Satellite Down," where Storm Shadow forms an uneasy truce with the Joes to escape a tribe of ape-men. Cobra established a base in Madagascar in "Eau De Cobra," and one of Dr. Mindbender's labs was on the African coast in "In the Presence of Mine Enemies." Egyptian tombs are the subject of two episodes, "The Gods Below" and "ASA" Part 2. The Joes also shut down a Cobra outpost in North Africa in "Sins of Our Fathers."

European missions

England was apparently a favorite location for the writers, being featured in at least six episodes. Breaker mistakenly beamed the Eiffel Tower to London at the end of "A Real American Hero." We saw the Dreadnoks at work in London in "Lights! Camera! Cobra!," and Firefly hitting a museum there in "Eau De Cobra." The episode "Excalibur" drew on the legend of King Arthur, and Destro's family manor in Scotland was featured in two shows: "Skeletons in the Closet" and "Sins of Our Fathers."

Elsewhere in Western Europe, we saw Paris in "A Real American Hero" and "Arise, Serpentor, Arise!," and Serpentor interrupted the Joes' maneuvers in the Netherlands in "My Favorite Things." There were also various missions in and around the Mediterranean in "Spell of the Siren," "Arise, Serpentor, Arise!" and "G.I. Joe and the Golden Fleece."

Dracula was of apparent interest to the creators of the show. He is first mentioned in "The Phantom Brigade," which is set in Romania's Carpathian Mountains. Two of Dracula's castles appear in "Arise, Serpentor, Arise!" and "My Favorite Things," both in connection with Serpentor.

The Soviet Union, first seen in "A Real American Hero," was not as big a player as one might expect during the Reagan era. Three times, Russia and its Red Oktober Guard fought Cobra alongside the Joes: in "The Invaders," "The Great Alaskan Land Rush," and "Arise, Serpentor, Arise!"

Central and South American missions

South America and its Amazon jungle provided many story ideas for the show. In each of the first three miniseries, the continent hosted battles at an exotic (though fictional) location: the Ring of Fire, the Palace of Doom, and the Devil's Playground. Cobra operated a diamond mine in "Cobra Stops the World," and Destro had a jungle lab in "Red Rocket's Glare." We also see South American Cobra bases in "The Funhouse" and "Last Hour to Doomsday."

Also south of the U.S. is Montezuma's tomb in the Yucatán, one source of DNA for Serpentor. And the Joes met Owen Van Mark and his daughter in the Bahamas in "The Million Dollar Medic."

Domestic missions

Most of the Joes' activities took place fairly close to home. In New England, a battle was fought at Dr. Laszlo Vandermeer's farm in "A Real American Hero." Boston was the home of Barbecue's family in "Captives of Cobra," and of the USS Constitution in "Sink the Montana!" Nearby upstate New York was the site of "The Germ"'s events. Cobra attacked West Point (also in New York) in "The Viper is Coming." New York City saw attempted Cobra attacks in "A Real American Hero," "Bazooka Saw a Sea Serpent," and the opening of the movie. We see the Philadelphia Naval Yards in "Sink the Montana!," and Pittsburg is the site of a Joe armor range in "Second Hand Emotions." Washington, DC suffered attacks in "The Revenge of Cobra," "Battle for the Train of Gold," "The Invaders," and "Arise Serpentor Arise," and was also featured in "Operation Mind Menace," "Money to Burn," "The Synthoid Conspiracy" and "The Wrong Stuff."

Farther south, the Montana was sunk near Norfolk, Virginia. In "The Rotten Egg," Leatherneck had some adventures at Parris Island, SC, and a nearby Cobra academy. Scarlett's family lived in Atlanta in "Captives of Cobra". Zartan's lair was in the Florida Everglades, not far from Blackwater Prison, and is seen in "The Revenge of Cobra," "Cold Slither," "Arise Serpentor Arise," and "Once Upon a Joe." We also see these swamps in "The Gamesmaster" and "Pit of Vipers." The Cobra oil rig whose explosion sent Duke into a coma in "The Traitor" was in the Gulf of Mexico.

Not many Joe adventures took place in the Midwest. At least one Enterprise Tower was located in Chicago, which was attacked in "The Greenhouse Effect." Thunder's home territory was Kentucky; we see his family in Louisville in "Captives of Cobra," and he helped prevent Cobra's theft of gold from Fort Knox.

Events in the west include Cobra's purchase of a dude ranch in Texas in "Where the Reptiles Roam," and their attack on Texas City in "The Traitor." Spirit's family was near Taos, New Mexico, according to "Captives of Cobra." This southern area of the Rocky Mountains is also a likely location for the Pit of Chaos, the Cobra-occupied town where Shipwreck was discovered, and the Cobra Temple in "The Revenge of Cobra." Watchdog's Mesa in "Pit of Vipers" may also have been in this part of the country. Also in the Rockies was a Cobra base in "Money to Burn," the opening battle in "An Eye for an Eye," and the Rocky Mountain Chemical Weapons Arsenal from "Twenty Questions" and "The Spy Who Rooked Me."

"The Spy Who Rooked Me" opened in Las Vegas, which was also Dusty's hometown, though perhaps not where his mother was living in "The Traitor." The "Cobrathon" took place in Las Vegas or Reno, and its broadcast station was in a nearby pueblo. The crystal incident in "Captives of Cobra" probably took place in the Mojave Desert. California was the home of Roadblock's aunt and uncle in "Red Rocket's Glare," and of Quick Kick's and Shipwreck's families in "Captives of Cobra." A Cobra base hidden in a redwood forest appeared in "Worlds Without End." Aliens threatened San Francisco in "The Invaders," and an island northwest of there was the site of a Cobra hideout in "An Eye for an Eye." Finally, the Joes saw Hollywood in "Lights! Camera! Cobra!" and "Grey Hairs and Growing Pains," and Madam Versailles' estate in the latter episode was probably in one of Los Angeles' wealthier neighborhoods.

The Joes made several trips to Alaska. The Sea of Ice near the Arctic Circle in "A Real American Hero" was evidently there (or perhaps in Canada). The Alaksa pipeline was attacked in "Spell of the Siren" and "The Invaders." Cobra's manipulation of the Aurora Borealis took place here in "Haul Down the Heavens," as did the events of "The Great Alaskan Land Rush." We also saw the Bering Sea and its Aleutian Islands in "Not a Ghost of a Chance."

Other arctic adventures may have taken place in Canada or Greenland, such as the Roof of the World in "The Revenge of Cobra," the Mountain of Glass from "The Pyramid of Darkness," the Cobra base in "The Gamesmaster, and the Arctic Environmental Research Base and the tropodome in "Iceberg Goes South."

Several US locations are fictional or unspecified, such as Keystone City in Cobra C.L.A.W.s Are Coming to Town," Enterprise City in "The Pyramid of Darkness," the cities featured in "Cobra's Candidate" and "The Greenhouse Effect," and the Worldwide Defense Center in "Countdown for Zartan."

Where is G.I. Joe Headquarters?

All we can say for certain is that the HQ is somewhere in the United States. The landscape surrounding the base in various episodes suggest desert, low mountains, and woods. There are also indications that the base is near the coast. However, the episodes provide us with two sets of conflicting information as to which coast is nearby.

"Words Without End" gives strong hints headquarters is in California. Early scenes feature the Golden Gate Bridge and redwoods. From there the Joes travel on foot and by motorcycle to HQ. Lady Jaye's team flies over Mt. Rushmore (in South Dakota) on its way to Washington, D.C. Subsequent episodes seem to support a coastal setting. In "Flint's Vacation," we are told that Pleasant Cove is "on the coast" within a couple hours from headquarters by car. The terrain seems closer to California's than to anywhere on the East Coast. And in "The Most Dangerous Thing in the World," headquarters is very close to a seaside resort with palm trees.

However, in that episode, the map at headquarters shows the ocean on the right, so that we would expect headquarters to be on the East Coast (perhaps Georgia or Florida). In "Sink the Montana!," the Joes move quickly back and forth between headquarters and events in Philadelphia and Boston. And in "Into Your Tent I Will Silently Creep," Cross-Country leaves HQ on foot to a Cobra base where a river sweeps him out to sea. He flags down a Polish cargo ship, which is much more likely to have business in the Atlantic than in the Pacific. The most specific indication of where Joe base is comes in "Grey Hairs and Growing Pains," when Beach Head states that Hollywood is "three thousand miles from headquarters." Unfortunately, even New England isn't quite that far from LA, so he must be exaggerating. But if headquarters were in California it is difficult to know what to make of Beach Head's statement.

One other odd piece of evidence is that in "The Million Dollar Medic," Lifeline and Bree leave HQ heading northwest to a ski lodge in the Rockies. Only with great difficulty can one get to the Rockies flying northwest from California, and departure from somewhere like Florida would leave open too many possibilities for Bree's father to surmise that they were headed toward the Rockies. It seems the writer might have thought headquarters was somewhere in the Midwest. But of course, this contradicts the preponderance of information that suggests that HQ is near the ocean.

Your original inclination may be to place Joe Headquarters in northern California, dismissing the second-season evidence. However, the "Worlds Without End" two-parter is the only episode that indicates a western location, and even that evidence is only suggestive. The second-season evidence is more specific, however this is not a settled issue by any means. One alternative solution is to propose a phantom headquarters on the East Coast whose existence is unknown to Cobra, with any Cobra attacks or infiltrations taking place at the western base.



  • Wally Burr - Voice Director
  • Don Jurwich - Voice Director

DVD Releases

Kid Rhino (US)

  • G.I. Joe Season 1 Part 1
  • G.I. Joe Season 2 Part 2
  • G.I. Joe Season 2 Part 1

Shout! Factory

In 2009, Shout Factory got the license to release new DVDs, and began over from the start.

  • G.I. Joe A Real American Hero Season 1.1
Contains all episodes between "The Cobra Strikes" and "The Funhouse" on four discs. Special features include the three-part "Looking Back with writer Ron Friedman," several Knowing Is Half the Battle PSAs, Hasbro's 1963 Toy Fair presentation and Real American Hero toy commercials.[1]


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