G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (1985 TV series)

This article is about the Sunbow/Marvel TV series. For the DiC TV series, see G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (1989 TV series).
G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero first season title
Genre Military action-adventure
Created by Hasbro
Based on G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (Marvel Comics)
by Larry Hama
Developed by Ron Friedman
Voices of Michael Bell
Arthur Burghardt
Corey Burton
William Callaway
Brian Cummings
Dick Gautier
Ed Gilbert
Chris Latta
Morgan Lofting
Mary McDonald-Lewis
Bill Ratner
Bob Remus
B.J. Ward
Narrated by Jackson Beck
Composer(s) Johnny Douglas
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 4
No. of episodes 95 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Joe Bacal
David H. DePatie (1983 mini-series)
Margaret Loesch (1984 mini-series, Season 1 and 2)
Tom Griffin
Lee Gunther (Executive in Charge of Production)
Producer(s) Don Jurwich
Running time 30 min.
Production company(s) Hasbro
Sunbow Productions
Marvel Productions
Toei Animation[1][2]
Distributor Claster Television
Original network First-run syndication[3]
Original release September 12, 1983 (1983-09-12) – November 20, 1986 (1986-11-20)
Followed by G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (1989 TV series)
G.I. Joe Extreme
Related shows G.I. Joe: Sigma 6

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero is a half-hour American animated television series based on the toyline from Hasbro and the comic book series from Marvel Comics. The cartoon had its beginnings with two five-part mini-series in 1983 and 1984, then became a regular series that ran in syndication from 1985 to 1986. Ron Friedman created the G.I. Joe animated series for television.[4]


When Hasbro launched the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero toyline in 1982 alongside the Marvel Comics series, they commissioned Marvel Productions to produce a series of fully animated 30-second television commercials to promote the toys and comics, beginning with an ad for the first issue that aired throughout Spring 1982. The popularity of these commercials led to the production of a five-part G.I. Joe mini-series which aired in 1983 (later known as "The M.A.S.S. Device" when it re-aired during the series' syndication).[5] The plot centers on the titular M.A.S.S. Device, a powerful matter-transporter, and G.I. Joe and Cobra's race around the world to acquire the three catalytic elements which power the machine. A second five-part mini-series followed in 1984, "The Revenge of Cobra", with a similar plot that involved the Joes and Cobras traveling around the world to recover the scattered fragments of Cobra's new weather-controlling weapon, the Weather Dominator. Both mini-series were written by Ron Friedman.

G.I. Joe was promoted to an ongoing series in 1985, with an initial order for a first season of 55 more episodes (in order to make up the required 65 episodes for syndication). This season began with a third Friedman-penned five-part adventure, "The Pyramid of Darkness", which originally aired in prime time; the story sees most of the existing cast from the two previous mini-series held captive by Cobra, while a new assortment of characters (that is, the new 1985 range of toys) thwart Cobra's attempts to surround the Earth with the electricity-negating Pyramid of Darkness. Both the new and old characters then shared the spotlight throughout the course of the remaining fifty episodes of the series, which were primarily stand-alone single-episode adventures, with the occasional two-part story. The season was story edited by Steve Gerber.

A second season of 30 episodes followed in 1986, beginning with a fourth five-part story, "Arise, Serpentor, Arise!" in which Cobra scientist Doctor Mindbender, inspired by a dream, uses the DNA of history's most ruthless conquerors and rulers to genetically engineer Serpentor, who usurps Cobra Commander's place as leader of Cobra. This mini-series introduced the new 1986 range of toys into the story, who were at the center of most stories across the rest of the season; in particular, the mini-series debuted former WWF and then-current AWA professional wrestler Sgt. Slaughter as a member of G.I. Joe, played by himself. For this season, Buzz Dixon replaced Steve Gerber as story editor.[6]


Main article: G.I. Joe: The Movie

G.I. Joe: The Movie, a feature-length film version of the series, was intended to be released theatrically followed by The Transformers: The Movie. However, the movie encountered unexpected production delays which allowed the Transformers feature to be released first. Due to the poor box office performances of the Transformers and My Little Pony films, G.I. Joe was relegated to direct-to-video status. It was released on VHS on April 20, 1987 and was later split into a 5-part mini-series for television syndication.

The Movie follows up on the events of Season 2, revealing that Cobra Commander is actually an agent of a secret civilization known as Cobra-La led by a half-serpent humanoid named Golobulus. The same organization is also revealed to have had a hand in the creation of Serpentor, as the dream that inspired Dr. Mindbender to create him was actually a subconscious suggestion implanted into him by one of Golobulus' bugs. In addition to Cobra-La, two new sub-teams were introduced within the Joe Team, the Rawhides and the Renegades, both comprised of characters introduced during the toyline's 1987 lineup.[7]


Marvel Productions would continue to produce animated commercials for the toyline and comic books (which featured a new theme song with the lyrics "Nobody Beats G.I. Joe") after G.I. Joe: The Movie,[8] which was intended to set up Season 3.[7] However, the company never got around to produce a third season, as they ended up losing the license to competing animation company DiC during pre-production. Michael Charles Hill, who wrote several episodes of the show, had already proposed an outline for Season 3 that would've followed the events of The Movie. In this unmade third season, a criminal organization named "The Coil", composed of former Cobra elites led by Tomax and Xamot, would've served as the new enemy faction, while a mutated Cobra Commander would've tried to secretly rebuilt his organization after the destruction of Cobra-La, shifting allegiance between the Coil and the Joes in order to further his own ambitions.[9][10]

Subsequent series

DiC's G.I. Joe series premiered in 1989 with a five-part mini-series titled "Operation: Dragonfire". It was turned into a regular series, airing from 1990 to 1992, lasting two seasons for a total of 44 episodes. The DiC series followed the same continuity as the earlier Sunbow series, but did not use Mike Hill's Season 3 pitch that he wrote for Sunbow.

Sunbow would later return to the G.I. Joe franchise, co-producing the 1994 pilot Sgt. Savage and his Screaming Eagles and the G.I. Joe Extreme TV series, which aired from 1995 to 1996. The Screaming Eagles pilot featured appearances by characters from the A Real American Hero series (namely Hawk, Doc and Lady Jaye, as well as Cobra Commander himself) in supporting roles, but otherwise focused primarily on new heroes and villains.


G.I. Joe was a co-production between Marvel Productions and Sunbow Productions. Sunbow's staff would write the scripts based on the character and vehicle designs provided by Hasbro, while the artists at Marvel Productions would draw storyboards based on the scripts and record voiceovers.[6][7] The animation was outsourced to Toei in Japan, who worked on all 95 episodes, as well as the movie.[1][2]

The G.I. Joe comics and animated series share a few common plot elements that were not products of the toyline at the time such as the town of Springfield, the Oktober Guard and the character of The Baroness (who was only introduced into the toyline in 1984). However, they did not share the same continuity and as a result, they differed significantly in terms of how the characters were written and the direction the stories took (particularly regarding the nature of Cobra Commander's true identity).

In contrast to the comics (in which non-toyline characters such as G.I. Joe commanding officer General Flagg and Cobra scientist Dr. Venom, were killed off early during its run), the TV series had to adhere to children's programming regulations and as a result none of the characters were allowed to use actual firearms and nobody was ever killed on-screen. Instead, characters used laser guns to fight their battles (which were color-coded for each side, red for the Joes and blue for Cobra) and whenever a vehicle was destroyed, the pilot or driver was often shown exiting from it at the last minute. However, the show was still allowed to make references to off-screen casualties, as the term is used interchangeably for injuries and deaths. One notable exception to the lack of deaths was the "Worlds Without End" two-part episode, in which the characters of Steeler, Grunt and Clutch are transported into an alternate universe, where they find the skeleton remains of their counterparts from that world (the characters were written off from the series at the end of the same episode, as they decide to remain in the alternate universe and replace their deceased counterparts).

A public safety lesson was usually featured at the end of each episode, using 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 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 series was produced as a vehicle to sell the toys, most of the episodes would focus on the newest characters being sold in stores at the time, while older characters would fall by the wayside as they were being phased out from the toyline.[9] Most notably Hawk, who was part of the 1982 launch lineup and the original G.I. Joe leader in the Marvel comics, was absent during the entirety of Season 1 in favor of having Duke (a character introduced in 1983, the year when the first miniseries aired) serve as the leader instead. When Hawk was reintroduced to the toyline with a new action figure in 1986, the character was suddenly part of the team in Season 2 as Duke's superior and the head of G.I. Joe's chain of command with no explanation for his absence in the beginning.[lower-alpha 1]



Home media

VHS, Betamax and LaserDisc

Various episodes were released on home video by Family Home Entertainment in North America. A total of 12 numbered volumes were produced on VHS and Betamax from 1984 to 1986. Vol. 1 and 2 featured the first two mini-series, "The M.A.S.S. Device" and "The Revenge of Cobra" respectively, edited as feature-length movies,[5] while Vol. 3 through 11 featured a single episode each from the first season. These tapes were originally released in clamshell cases packaged in large boxes and were subsequently reissued with standard cardboard sleeves. Vol. 12 contains three episodes, each preceded by a live-action introduction hosted by Sgt. Slaughter, although certain versions of this volume only contains two episodes. All 12 volumes featured comic book-like packaging artwork. The "Arise Serpentor, Arise" mini-series was later released as an edited feature-length movie on VHS and LaserDisc in 1991, making it the sole G.I. Joe release in the latter media format.[12][13]

Rhino Home Video would later acquire the home video rights to the series and release a second series of VHS tapes under their "Kid Rhino" branding. Nine volumes were released for general retail between 1999 and 2000, each containing two episodes (including two-part episodes). A tenth volume was released in 2001 as part of Blockbuster Video's exclusive "Kidmongous" series, which contained four episodes.

Outside North America, episodes of G.I. Joe were also released on VHS in other countries by various local companies, with the Action Force version of the show receiving a total of 27 VHS releases in the United Kingdom.[12]


In 2003-2004, Rhino Entertainment began releasing G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero on DVD in Region 1. They released the original mini-series in 2003 followed by Season 1 in 2 volume sets in 2004. The first half of Season 2 was released in late 2004 but the remaining episodes were never released due to quality issues when the original DVDs were released (such as adding more sound effects when watched in 5.0 sound, since they did the same to the Transformers DVD sets, also done by Rhino). These DVD sets have since gone out of print as Rhino lost the distribution rights.[14]

In 2008, Hasbro reacquired the worldwide distribution rights to the Sunbow library which includes G.I. Joe.[15] During 2008 and 2009, Hasbro released five gift packs of cartoon-inspired action figures, each including a DVD.[16][17] The first four sets included the four miniseries, and the fifth an assortment of Sunbow series episodes.[18]

In March 2009, Shout! Factory acquired the rights to re-release G.I. Joe on DVD in Region 1 with Vivendi Entertainment. They have subsequently released Season 1 in 3 volume sets. On July 22, 2009, they released G.I. Joe - A Real American Hero: Complete Collector's Set, a 17-disc boxset featuring all 95 episodes and extensive bonus features including archival Hasbro toy commercials and a collectible 60-page book.[19] The second and final season was released on April 27, 2010.[20]

DVD Name Ep # Release Date
Season 1, Part 1 22 July 14, 2009
Season 1, Part 2 21 November 3, 2009
Season 1, Part 3 22 February 2, 2010
Season 2 30 April 27, 2010
Series 2, Season 1 24 January 10, 2012
Series 2, Season 2 20 July 10, 2012


In January 2009, IGN ranked G.I. Joe as number 19 in their Top 100 Animated Series.[3]

See also


  1. Buzz Dixon would later explain that an episode was planned to introduce Hawk's character for the Season 2 premiere, but was abandoned in favor of the "Arise, Serpentor Arise" five-parter instead.[9]


  1. 1 2 "List of foreign co-productions (1966-1984)". Toei Animation (in Japanese). Archived from the original on January 6, 2003.
  2. 1 2 "List of foreign co-productions (1985-1989)". Toei Animation (in Japanese). Archived from the original on January 6, 2003.
  3. 1 2 "Top 100 animated series". IGN. Retrieved 2010-10-19.
  4. "G.I. Joe-The Original Mini-Series". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2010-08-14.
  5. 1 2 "G.I. Joe on Television". G.I. Joe Yearbook. No. 1. Marvel. March 1985.
  6. 1 2 "The Television Joes". G.I. Joe Yearbook. No. 2. Marvel. March 1986.
  7. 1 2 3 "Joes on Television". G.I. Joe Yearbook. No. 3. Marvel. March 1987.
  8. G.I. Joe Field Manual Vol. 2. IDW Publishing. June 11, 2013. pp. 91–150. ISBN 1613775482.
  9. 1 2 3 Thornton, David (November 2000). "Interview with Buzz Dixon". JoeGuide.com.
  10. "Interview with story editor/ writer Buzz Dixon". The Ultimate G.I. Joe Cartoon Website. Archived from the original on 2016-04-04.
  11. "動画". MOUNT.F-11.
  12. 1 2 "Videos: VHS & DVD". JoeGuide.com.
  13. "VHS tapes". Yo Joe!.
  14. "Going Retro". The Home Media Magazine. Retrieved 2010-10-22.
  15. "Transformers DVD news: Hasbro reacquired rights to Sunbow Properties". TVShowsOnDVD.com. Retrieved 2012-06-11.
  16. David Lambert (2008-02-23). "G.I. Joe - New DVDs of Joe Cartoons Coming, But Only As Toy Pack-Ins". TV Shows On DVD.com.
  17. "New Info On All 5 G.I.Joe DVD Battle Sets Revealed". Toy news International. 2008-06-20.
  18. "G.I.Joe "Best Of 80's Episodes" DVD Entertainment Pack". Toy news International. 2008-09-12.
  19. "Shout! Factory Store". Shout! Factory Store. 1996-12-04. Retrieved 2012-06-11.
  20. "G.I. Joe DVD news: G.I. Joe - A Real American Hero: Season 2 Info & Art". TVShowsOnDVD.com. Retrieved 2012-06-11.

External links

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