G.I. Joe Season 1.1 G.I. Joe Season 1.1

I can remember it vividly: in 1983, after the first year of the new generation of G.I. Joe toys, Hasbro introduced the animated TV show. Instead of a traditional series, for the first three years G.I. Joe was aired as one-off episodic mini-series. For kids, it was an event bigger than Roots or Lonesome Dove — everyone's favourite sandbox toys in glorious 2D animation: Duke, Scarlett, Gung Ho, Destro, Cobra Commander and all those vehicles. In prep for the Stephen Somers version, these first three years of Joe are packaged on DVD as Season 1.1. Kids got everything they desired from the series: an extravagant assault of cartoon military violence told with Indiana Jones-like globetrotting and James Bond-worthy world domination plotting. The writers took influence from this serialized cliff-hanger school of storytelling, using episode titles like "Slaves of the Cobra Master" and "Duel in the Devil's Cauldron." The DVD preserves all the commercial bumpers, which leave kids waiting with bated breath when Snake Eyes gets engulfed in radioactive gas, or Duke's confrontation with a hypnotized beast is left as a cliff-hanger. With the eyes of an adult and former Joe fan though, the series is an elaborate advertisement shamelessly plugging its product for kids to add to their Christmas lists. There's very little for mature adults to latch onto. Themes and social commentary are non-existent and characters are base clichés discernible only by the actors' voices. Chief baddie Cobra Commander is nothing more than a bombastic, screaming idiot with a Nero-like compulsion for inane destructive behaviour, and the key good guys (Duke, Scarlett, Gung Ho, et al.) exist solely to be heroes. The animators have some fun drawing the female characters though, visualizing the Baroness with a schoolteacher/S&M fetish, squeezing her curvy, buxom figure into sexy black latex. Former fans looking for that nostalgic kick will find the series surprisingly violent. In the first two miniseries, Cobra Commander's penchant for gladiatorial torture of Joe prisoners is kind of disturbing, and rarely does a minute and a half go by without a massively creative action sequence. The cartoon half-heartedly attempts to absolve their irresponsibility for the violence by using lasers instead of bullets and parachuting injured pilots from shot-down airplane and helicopters. And of course, no one ever dies in the G.I. Joe world. The DVD package is colourful and attractive. Ron Friedman, the chief writer, is interviewed and takes himself and his work very seriously. The fourth disc contains some great nostalgic time warping, with some classic toy commercials, those awful "Knowing is Half the Battle" PSAs and a printable script PDF. Yo Joe! (Shout)