Tuesday, July 22, 2014

GI Joe: A Real American History - Part 4

GI Joe History - The Bush/Clinton Years.

President George H.W. Bush enters office in 1989 and only lasts for one term, leaving in 1993. That "Read My Lips" comment hurts him in any reality. President Clinton is elected and serves for two terms, from 1993 until 2001. The important element to remember from the toy line is that GI Joe ended in 1994 and ended with a large chunk of the line focused on Star Brigade.

During the Reagan years, GI Joe was a dominant force in the battle against Cobra. Sure, Cobra won a few rounds, but GI Joe dominated in the overall war, slowly but surely, crushing Cobra's forces. GI Joe had a huge budget involving personnel and hi-tech weapons systems.
Cobra gets effectively beaten throughout Bush's term, with a final, critical defeat during Clinton's first year. Cobra is basically over - finished. While there are still military issues that need addressing throughout the world, Cobra is defeated and President Clinton makes the decision to shut down the GI Joe team basically due to the end of the threat of Cobra and being a huge budget item. Or is there more to that?
Since the cartoons are basically over and the toy line is basically dead, now I get to just use my imagination and turn the world on edge, really digging into my weird alt-history.

In the early 90's, Cobra Commander and his top financial advisers see that failure is on the horizon. Cobra will fall. The most dramatic event that occurred that set the full might of the GI Joe team upon Cobra's ass was the use of the Cobra orbiting space station to use it's space based weapons to attack American soil. No, I don't have the details on this, I'm making it up almost as I go along. I remember considering this, but don't recall the details. 

GI Joe gears up for a final assault on the Cobra space station using the Defiant and Crusader combat shuttles. Yes, that would mean two shuttle complex systems. Meanwhile, Cobra bases are falling across the world. In the early 90's, Cobra Commander takes his most trusted officer, Overlord, and directs him to start pulling in resources and key personnel and consolidating assets within countries that would act as safe havens.

Destro and the Baroness are gone, back to Scotland. Major Bludd, Firefly, Scrap Iron, Zartan and the Drednoks have all abandoned Cobra Commander. Even Tomax and Xamot are withdrawing their financial support from the "legitimate" side of Cobra.

A final, epic battle occurs, both in the American desert and in orbit around the Earth. The shuttle complexes are attacked, with the Crusader complex being destroyed just after launch. Cobra forces are ultimately crushed in the American desert. The two shuttles take the fight to the Cobra station, with the station being overrun and destroyed; the remains tumbling into the Gulf of Mexico over the skies of the nearly abandoned Cobra Island.

And an escape pod tumbles to Earth, parachutes deploying nearly too late, and plunges into the Caribbean Sea, off the coast of Costa Rica. As the escape pod begins to sink, a man crawls out and starts swimming toward shore. <cut to an underwater scene> The escape pod sinks and a tattered blue mask drifts out of the opened hatch and drifts away in the currents.

Cobra is finished, GI Joe has been a great success in the 12 year war against Cobra and humanity goes along it's way, still fighting and killing each other over land, resources, or beliefs.

The next incarnations of GI Joe fall into this time period during the hiatus of the Real American Hero line. Sgt. Savage and GI Joe: Extreme are the two standouts of the line. What do I do about them? Well, Sgt. Savage works for me, but only in his 12" format.
He's right there in the middle, between Falcon and Dial Tone. I don't see Savage as a Captain America knock-off; he's just an extraordinary soldier who was a part of the GI Joe team.

GI Joe: Extreme? Nope, not going there. I'm dropping them from my alt-history. The only way that they would exist is as an actual toy line loosely based on the actual declassified GI Joe team. Extreme just sucks.

The next incarnation of GI Joe are the TRU commemorative series in the late 90's and early 00's and they just sucked in regards to quality. Again, maybe just a toy line based on the real GI Joe team.

The next incarnation of GI Joe are the GI Joe vs Cobra lines from 2002 to 2006. Cobra is back, but how? Where did they come from? Wasn't Cobra dead?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Stay tuned for GI Joe: A Real American History - Part 5.

The Death and Rebirth of Cobra.

Remember the Fallen

Despite political differences, despite being enemy combatants - sometimes you just have to remember that men fight and men die. War is a bloody, nasty business.
"C'mon, kid, let's just keep moving."

"Rest easy, your fight is over."

Marines dead on the shores of Guadalcanal during World War 2. 
A long way from home. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

GI Joe: A Real American History - Part 3

GI Joe History - The Reagan/Bush Years

As a refresher, President Reagan was in office during the years 1981 through 1989. At that time, there was a huge sense of national pride and military spending was enormous. The United States basically out-spent the USSR, eventually causing the collapse of the Soviet Union.

I think this can parallel to both the actual sales of the toy line as well as the implied growth of a "real" GI Joe team. The sense of national pride in the US military, as well as an incredible marketing strategy by Hasbro. As a by-product, in my alt-history, Cobra is growing as well. Since the late 70's, Cobra has been slowly gaining strength in the shadows of society. This can also be implied by the GI Joe club's recent Convention exclusive 12" sets. There have been enemy figures in blue uniforms with emblems that could be implied as pre-Cobra insignia.

As an observer prior to his election, Reagan would have witnessed the events of the failed hostage rescue mission. As soon as he was elected, President Reagan invited the now retired Joseph Colton with a plan - to form an elite team of soldiers that can combat the forces of evil in the world. This time, things would be different. There would be more than adequate funding to support the time and the command structure would be limited and compartmentalized, with limited access to the eyes of politicians. Only a select set of commanders would be in charge of the new anti-terrorist team, code named GI Joe.

Colton is promoted to General and given authority over the team, but prefers to operate more from behind the scenes, rather than directly with the troops. He leaves that with his new hand-selected team leaders, primarily one young dynamic Colonel Clayton Abernathy. Once Abernathy is eventually promoted to General, Colton again heads back to retirement. General's Flagg, Hollingsworth, Austin, and Admirals Ledger and Colby also serve as the top command structure of the GI Joe team, as well as all of the ancillary elements needed to keep the team properly functioning. This includes additional military personnel acting not just as base support, but also as additional combat troops,, such as the Green-shirt program. Many front-line GI Joe "agents" were recruited from the ranks of the Green-shirts.

The basic line-up of characters simply can not run the team without support crews. Somebody has to arm the Skystrikers and maintain the Maulers. Clutch and the rest of the drivers can't take care of all of the motorized vehicles. It just doesn't make sense.

According to our actual history, there were few significant public uses of the military during the Reagan years, but there was plenty of action during the those same years in the alt-history of GI Joe. Cobra was very engaged and many of their exploits, both in cartoons and comics, could be considered "actual" events. Since this is my blog and my idea of historical integration, I'm going to be tempted to just cut out some of the nonsense, primarily from the cartoons.

Let's look at some key elements from the cartoon mini-series and the regular cartoon series. The MASS Device? Sure, why not? But maybe not quite to the full amount of silliness of the series. Yes, to an actual matter transmitter created by Cobra, but it was an unstable, impractical, and expensive device that was destroyed by the Joe Team.

How about the Weather Dominator from the "Revenge of Cobra" mini-series? Again, why not? That's the fun of GI Joe as well as an element of my alt-history of GI Joe - the hi-tech, edge of the future technology. But, again, the technology was unstable and proved to be unsustainable as a practical weapon system.

How about those "Pyramids of Darkness"? Nope, I'm not going there. I'm just writing off that series. No Fatal Fluffies, please. BUT... a key element of the Pyramids of Darkness proved to be true in regards to Cobra. Cobra does indeed create a manned, armed space station which will prove to be key factor in the future of Cobra in this alt-history.

Next up would be "Arise, Serpentor, Arise!" Yes, please! I think this is a great tie-in to the comics as well. I do like Serpentor, especially how Hama portrayed him and his eventual demise. More on Serpentor later, but he does/did/will exist in my alt-history.

I'm not going to dig through all of the episodes of the Sunbow GI Joe series, but I liked a lot of the different elements of the series. The key element that is most important to me is that everyone could fly Skystrikers (no, that's just silly). I'm talking about Extensive Enterprises (EE). Did Hama use Extensive Enterprises? I don't think so, but maybe? I like EE because of what they represent - a "legitimate" business that financially supports Cobra. Even with the comic companies such as Arbco and Broca Brothers, there is an implication that Cobra has a certain level of connection with society, which will eventually be Cobra's greatest area of success. 

What else from the comics? Synthoids? Monsters? Cold Slither? Cobra-thon? Ugh... Maybe the Synthoids, because that could serve as the foundation for the cloned body for Serpentor. I don't know about the rest of the stuff. I would have to dig into an episode guide to see which or how they could be included into my world. Reader help? Hey, offer me a suggestion in the comments!

What about GI Joe: The Movie? You know, Cobra-La? Well, maybe elements. Not the dumb-ass Falcon characterization for sure. What about Cobra-La? Sure, why not? The Broadcast Energy Transmitter could have worked and even a lost civilization up in the Himalayan mountains or wherever they were supposed to be could have work - but not as the true origin of Cobra - hell no! The "Cobra-La" mission would have been buried deep, deep within the secret mission files of the GI Joe team.

Wait! What about "Operation Dragonfire" and the DIC series? Sorry, I'm doing a retcon of even my history. They didn't happen!

As far as the Hama comics, I'm more than happy to include many of those events into my "canon." The Battle of Springfield, the creation of Cobra Island, the Cobra Civil War, and the fictional nations of Trucial Abysma, Sierra Gordo, Benzheen, Frusenland would all work for me. The fictional nation of Borovia could have easily stood in for the actual military events in Bosnia and Kosovo.  

Except maybe the latter years - the comic was almost turning into SNAKE-EYES! with the GI Joe team. Snake-Eyes was the GI Joe version of Wolverine or the Punisher - he was everywhere. Too much Snake-Eyes!! I wonder if some editor at Marvel came to Hama and asked if they could work out a Snake-Eyes/Wolverine team-up? I wouldn't be surprised.

As my mind travels through this fictional world of mine, I see a very active GI Joe team during much of the 80's rolling right on into the elder Bush presidency. President George H.W. Bush served only one term, which would have been a pivotal point in the history of both GI Joe and Cobra.

Time to wrap up this chapter. Next time, I'll discuss the Bush term and move through Clinton's presidency. Plus, the fall of Cobra!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

GI Joe: A Real American History - Part 2

I know I'm going to piss off some people with my posts. I apparently pissed off a few on a GI Joe Facebook group where I linked to Part 1. Someone made a snarky comment about how prosperous everyone has been under Democratic Presidents and how everyone has suffered under Republican Presidents. Just a few comments was enough to alert the moderators and my post was deleted. No harm done; I probably shouldn't have posted the link there due to politics being involved.

The initial stupid comment involved the actual buying of the toys in regards to either a Republican or Democratic President, which was totally ridiculous because the 80's were huge in terms of sales for GI Joe product. But that's not really the point of where I'm going with this series. I'll address the toy sales of the 80's, but not yet. Besides, the main focus is primarily a question of "What If?"

What if GI Joe and Cobra were real and how would they have interacted with how our history progressed?
Let's get Part 2 rolling along with a look back at the original 12" GI Joe and the Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter Administrations. That would seem to be a lot to deal with, but based on the history of the toys - not so much.

In one of the later issues of the Marvel GI Joe comic series, Larry Hama crafted a story in which a young Lt. Joesph Colton was pulled out of Vietnam and delivered to the office of President Kennedy. The President tasked Colton to create a small team that would undertake special missions and report directly to the President. Unfortunately, this meeting occurred early in November of 1963. Based on the military aspect of the toy line ending in 1969, it would be easy to assume that Colton retired from the military in that year.

That would mean that the GI Joe team of the 60's served under the prime direction of President Lyndon Johnson. Now I don't know much about Johnson, but I'm guessing the President had Colton working some pretty dirty missions. 

Colton retired from the military in 1969 and got together with some other former GI Joe team members and formed the Adventure team, a somewhat covert team that undertook a few "spy" missions, but primarily were a group of explorers and researchers, finding lost treasures or discovering unique animal species. 

Perhaps funding ran out, or maybe the former GI Joe team just needed to retire. GI Joe and the Adventure Team ended in 1976. How does that work out with Presidents? No real impact, Nixon came along, got impeached, Ford served for less than a term, and then we have President Carter.

One important event from the 60's related to the anti-war protests - the seeds of Cobra are being sown. 

The biggest military issue in relation to GI Joe would come in 1980 during the Iranian Hostage Crisis. An attempted rescue mission failed and soldier's lives were lost and no hostages were rescued. This is important because it had been initially implied that that was the mission in which Snake Eyes had his face and vocal cords permanently ruined. It was later described as another unrelated rescue mission, but it still would have been sometime in the early 80's, prior to the creation of the new GI Joe team. 

Another important issue to consider is that Snake Eyes' history includes serving in Vietnam. That would make him between 60 and 70 years old. Same guy in Rise of Cobra and Retaliation? I doubt it. I'll address that issue much later in this history series.

We come to a close at the end of the Carter Administration with a failed military mission that had potential, but not the proper tools and authority. 

Get ready for President Ronald Reagan!

But what about the Super Joe Adventure Team toy line from 1977-1978? Do I really have to talk about them? Can't I just ignore them? How about this -  the Super Joe line was an actual toy product of my alt history loosely based on the declassified, somewhat fictionalized missions of the real Adventure Team. Does that work?

If not, please feel free to give me some ideas in the comments!

GI Joe: A Real American History - Part 1

A few years ago, I got into reading one of Harry Turtledove's alternate history series of books. Turtledove is a prolific writer and seems to focus on an alt history genre of science fiction. The particular series that I read involved reptilian aliens invading Earth mid World War 2 and the resulting chaos, conquest, combat, and eventual cooperation that ensued.

I bring this up primarily in regards to the alt history that can be involved within the world of GI Joe. As the Real American Hero line shut down in 1994, I remember comparing the history of the toy line to the actual history of the prior 12 years.

I'm pretty sure that many of the kids who played with GI Joe were unconcerned by such matters. Since I was older, 19 when I started collecting and married with a young son in 1994, politics was more on my mind.

I always thought that it was interesting that the biggest years of growth within the toy line occurred during the Reagan presidency and the line ended during the Clinton presidency. Hmm.

Let me clear up a few things before I continue. I am Conservative and don't much like most of the politics of most liberal Democrats. I'm not intending to bash the Dems, but I probably will anyway. I'll probably bash on some Republicans as well.

Since 2014 is the 50th Anniversary of GI Joe, I wanted to consider and compare the 50 year history of the toys and actual 50 years of history.

I think that the first step in this discussion is to lay out a basic history of the past 50 years, primarily focusing on who was president and the major conflicts or other events along the way. Please remember, I'm just writing this for the hell of it; I'm not purporting to be an expert or authority on anything. I would like to spur a creative discussion on the topic though. I'd rather avoid insults and nastiness, but this is on the internet, so...

Let's look at the Presidents of the past 50 years.
John Kennedy - 1961-1963
Lyndon Johnson - 1963-1969
Richard Nixon - 1969-1974
Gerald Ford - 1974-1977
Jimmy Carter - 1977-1981
Ronald Reagan - 1981-1989
George HW Bush - 1989-1993
Bill Clinton - 1993-2001
George W Bush - 2001-2009
Barack Obama - 2009-Current

Now for some of the major US conflicts or events during the past 50 years.
Vietnam - 1953-1975
Iranian hostage rescue attempt - 1981 - 1979
Grenada - 1983
Panama - 1989-1990
Persian Gulf (Kuwait) - 1990-1991
Restore Hope (Somalia) - 1992-1994
Bosnian War - 1993-1995
Uphold Democracy (Haiti) - 1994-1995
Kosovo - 1998-1999
September 11, 2001
Afghanistan - 2001-Present
Iraq - 2003-2011
Libya - 2011

Too much war. The nature of man. That sort of thing.

Let's look at the 50 year history of the GI Joe toy line.
Military 12" - 1964-1969
Adventure Team - 1970-1976
Super Joe - 1977-1978
A Real American Hero - 1982-1994
Sgt. Savage - 1994
GI Joe Extreme - 1995
GI Joe vs Cobra - 2002-2006
Sigma 6 - 2005-2007
25th ARAH Anniversary - 2007-2009
Resolute - 2009
Rise of Cobra - 2009
Renegades - 2010-2011
Pursuit of Cobra/30th - 2010-2012
Retaliation - 2013-2014

Now let me dig a little deeper into the events, teams, and other key moments of the ARAH toy line.
USS Flagg - 1985
Terror Drome - 1986
Defiant Complex - 1987
Battleforce 2000 - 1987
Cobra-La - 1987
Tiger Force - 1988
Night Force - 1988-1989
Iron Grenadiers - 1988
Slaughter's Marauders - 1989
Python Patrol - 1989
Sky Patrol - 1990
Eco-Warriors - 1991-1992
DEF - 1992
Ninja Force - 1992-1993
Mega Marines - 1993
Star Brigade - 1993-1994

One more list and I can start combining, comparing, twisting, and squeezing everything together. Let’s look at the screen portrayal of GI Joe, primarily the ARAH characters.
The MASS Device - 1983
Revenge of Cobra (Weather Dominator) - 1984
Pyramids if Darkness - 1985
Arise, Serpentor, Arise - 1986
Sunbow series - 1985-1987
GI Joe: the Movie - 1987
Operation Dragonfire - 1989
DIC series - 1989-1991
Extreme - who gives a crap
Sigma 6 - 2005
Resolute - 2009
Rise of Cobra - 2009
Renegades - 2010-2011
Retaliation - 2013

That's it for the research portion of this series of posts. Next time, I'll start digging into how I can mix most everything together.