The Real American Hero, G.I. Joe first entered the lives of kids everywhere in 1982, who would have thought it would have become one of the biggest, most beloved toy franchises in history? Hasbro launched the burgeoning toy line alongside a Marvel comic book series that helped to flesh out the world and its inhabitants, helping children to form a connection with their action figures and encourage them to buy more of their favorite heroes and villains. To go along with the toys, Hasbro committed the ultimate one-two punch and commissioned Marvel to produce some 30-second animated commercials, which were so successful that they then spun off into full-blown cartoons, and the rest is history.
That original cartoon series is what most of us of a certain age remember and treasure fondly. The G.I. Joe series ran from 1985 to 1986 (with two mini-series that ran the two previous years) and lasted for 95 episodes over its two-season run. The success of the franchise led to an animated movie released Direct to Video due to the poor performance Transformers the Movie. To this day, however, people of all ages still love the G.I. Joe franchise, which is why CBR brings you the 15 Funniest G.I. Joe Memes!
15 AWESOME CHILDHOOD
If you grew up watching all of these shows, you were a child at a pretty awesome time. Sure, the ‘80s weren’t all that great, but the TV shows were out of this world. Not only did you have G.I. Joe, but Transformers, He-Man, Thundercats and the Turtles, not to mention The Real Ghostbusters.
What you may not have known when you were a kid was that most of these shows were just glorified commercials, designed purely to sell you the toys of the characters in the show. G.I. Joe, Transformers, and He-Man were specifically designed this way, and when those floodgates opened, pretty soon every cartoon vying for your attention was doing so purely to sell you something. It feels sort of cynical to think like that, but really when you and your friends had all the coolest toys, did you care?
14 PUPPY PUNTER
You know your bad guy is really bad when you see him kick a puppy. This awesomely ridiculous shot is from G.I. Joe #150, drawn by the incomparable Sal Buscema as one of a handful of full-page posters that ran in the back of the issue. They each showed the near-perfect pose for that particular character: Destro stood in front of an explosion, Baroness lounging on a tank, and Cobra Commander... kicking a puppy.
To “Kick the Dog” is actually a trope in fiction, used to describe any act that is shown purely to demonstrate just how evil someone is. In this case, it works and is a perfect example of Cobra Commander being the worst of the worst. If you only ever watched the cartoons, you may be used to a more muted Cobra leader, but in the comics, he was always a puppy punter.
13 HIDDEN COBRA
Wait, that can’t be Cobra Commander, he’s wearing a trenchcoat! While the ‘80s may have been a good time for cartoons, those cartoons were never short of being absolutely bonkers. They wanted to demonstrate that Cobra Commander could go undercover, but they couldn’t actually show his face, so instead, we’re stuck with this odd mash-up of a guy going incognito while still wearing a full chrome face shield.
This may have been the first time Cobra Commander donned a trench coat, but it wouldn’t be the last. In Transformers season 3, Cobra Commander made a guest appearance, and even though it was never officially declared to be the same guy, fans knew who it was. He wore a snazzier version of this trench coat, one with red stripes and a fancy cravat.
12 GRAPHIC CONTENT
We all know that Knowing is Half the Battle, thanks to the short PSAs at the end of most episodes, which always featured that famous line. If knowing is only half though, what’s the other half made of? If you believe this meme, it’s made up of red lasers and blue lasers. Probably introduced in the cartoon to cut down on the violence, the cast of G.I. Joe never shot bullets at each other, but rather red and blue lasers, which were obviously far safer.
Of course, the battles were arguably the best part of G.I. Joe, how else would Hasbro be able to show off the awesome new vehicles and accessories used by the Joes to combat the evil forces of Cobra? While the toys couldn’t actually shoot lasers, half the fun was mashing the toys together in epic schoolyard battles.
11 CARLY RAE SNAKE EYES
Would Snake Eyes listen to Carly Rae Jepson? Well, he doesn’t say much so we can’t ask, but we’re going to go with obviously yes. Under that black ninja hood is a soldier with emotion, and probably some earbuds to crank out the tunes while he fights. What better music is there, to battle against the evil Cobra than Carly Rae Jepson?
Before we anger a legion of Snake Eyes fans, we’re only joking, we know full well that he doesn’t have earbuds on under his hood. Any music playing would completely distract him from his silent attacks and sweet ninja moves. No, Snake Eyes waits until he gets home when he can run a bath and really indulge in the music of Canada’s greatest export.
10 FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH
If there’s one evil fascist leader that can prank Darth Vader, it’s Cobra Commander. To be fair, it feels as though these two, if they ever did meet, would probably be firm friends, so maybe this kind of prank isn’t as dangerous as it first seems. Just kidding, Vader has no friends, and Cobra Commander is definitely getting force-choked when this epic Lol is discovered.
When did Cobra Commander get such a sense of humor anyway? Maybe it’s the thrill of knowing he’s doing something he shouldn’t, but being in the presence of the Dark Lord of the Sith must bring out his naughty side. Perhaps what we should be asking is not why this prank is happening but what twisted dark convention would bring these two evil overlords into the same room?
9 THE ETERNAL CONFLICT
The Batman Slap is a fairly overused meme at this point, but the conflict between G.I. Joe and Transformers is one that perhaps warrants it the most. Why are these two franchises such enemies? They’re not really if you’re an adult, who knows you can love many different geek franchises equally, but in the schoolyard, this was a legitimate choice you had to make.
It’s probably because they’re both major toy franchises, and parents weren’t made of money, so you had either one or the other. Considering the fact that these two worlds crossed over multiple times over the years, Hasbro was determined to get you to invest in both of these toy lines. The thing is, there was nothing better than pitting your Joes against your friends' Transformers, and having to argue how a human soldier could defeat a warrior of Cybertron.
8 THE QUIET STORM
Snake Eyes fast became the most popular and successful G.I. Joe character of the entire franchise, and was one of the original 16 figures released in 1982. His popularity must have come as a massive surprise to the creators, as his design was nothing but a cost-saving exercise.
When Hasbro designers were struggling to come up with the 16th character for their initial line, while still trying to save money. Their solution was to release a figure with no paint and a super simple design. It feels like a wild gamble, but it paid off and the cheap design cheat that is the original Snake Eyes became a sensation. It didn’t hurt that original G.I. Joe comics writer Larry Hama turned the character into a deadly ninja warrior that won over a whole new legion of fans.
If you were a fan of the comics, the cartoon version of Cobra Commander seemed a lot dumber compared to his evil counterpart on the page. In reality, Cobra Commander was never going to be able to defeat G.I. Joe, no matter what format you experienced their adventures, so maybe this meme is an accurate representation of how well he’d do on Who Wants to be a Millionaire.
To Cobra Commander, half the battle must feel like red lasers too, seeing as that’s all that they could shoot in the cartoon. What’s great about this meme though is the fact that he’s clearly gone fifty-fifty and eliminated two of the possibilities, and despite that helping hand, he’s still going to get the answer wrong. How is he the leader of Cobra?
While at first, this is a funny look at the pitfalls of wearing a shiny chrome face mask all day every day -- even when relaxing with your buddies to play cards -- this meme actually asks a good question that all bad guys must ask themselves at one point or another: "Why do I always lose?"
It’s a fine line creators have to tread when crafting an effective bad guy, because on the one hand you can’t make them too competent, otherwise, it won’t be believable when the good guys win. On the other hand, if you make them too dumb and ineffectual, it ruins any suspense and takes the thrill out of every fight. As it turns out, being a good bad guy is tougher than it looks.
5 CHANGE OF CAREER
Most people can accept that fact that the G.I. Joe movies -- The Rise of Cobra from 2009 and Retaliation from 2013 -- are pretty bad. Not even really in a “so bad they’re good” way, they are just poor quality movies. It’s a great shame too, because while kids in the ‘80s used to argue over whether G.I. Joe or Transformers was better, kids today can agree that all of the movies suck.
It made perfect sense to cast Channing Tatum and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, seeing as those guys are practically real life G.I. Joes anyway. It’s surprising that neither of them has been in superhero movies (yet), and it’s equally surprising that the producers didn’t use the comedic talents of these two stars to add a little touch of humor to the action, which might have made the movies stand out from the crowd.
4 SCARLETT FEVER
Counter Intelligence specialist and martial artist Shana M. O’Hara, aka Scarlett, was one of the foundational members of the G.I. Joe toy line from 1982 and fast became a favorite among fans. As the only female action figure in the line, she was a completely original mold, making her stand out from the rest of the figures.
In the comic books, Scarlett was one of the original members of the squad and formed a close relationship with Snake Eyes when she bested him in combat, only to learn that he let her win. It was because of his affection for her that Snake Eyes rescued her from a burning helicopter, only for it to explode in his face, scarring him for life and irreparably damaging his vocal chords in the process.
3 KNOWLEDGE AND POWER
The PSAs at the end of every episode of G.I. Joe were designed as a way to educate kids on all manner of subjects, from campfire safety to talking to strangers (as in, don’t). Everyone remembers some of the more famous ones, and most people have seen the surreal and hilarious send-ups that made the rounds on the internet about 10 years ago.
What’s funny is that they come at the end of a 30-minute cartoon that’s basically one long battle scene that could have been seen by some as glorifying war. So, if knowledge truly is half the battle, then in the world of G.I. Joe, the other half is certainly insane amounts of laser-related violence. Out of those two halves, which do you think was more popular with kids?
2 SNEAKY STINKER
Snake Eyes is no joke. Over the years, as his popularity has skyrocketed, his skills as a trained ninja warrior has only increased, making him the deadliest member of G.I. Joe by a long way. At this point, he’s basically the Wolverine of G.I. Joe, popular enough to show up just about everywhere.
Not only is he a hit in the comics books and the cartoons, but his popularity has continued on through video games and into the movies, where he was portrayed by Ray Park. He’s also one of the more common cosplay choices from the franchise too, following closely behind Cobra Commander and The Baroness. Not too bad for a character that was created from a blank action figure without any paint or facial features. Kids imaginations (not to mention Larry Hama’s) can be wonderful things.
1 "SMALL PARTS ARE DELICIOUS"
Would Deadpool make a good G.I. Joe? While it’s true that he’s a skilled fighter, choosing his two trusty katanas or really big guns. Plus, his costume wouldn’t look entirely out of place among the Joes -- over the years there have been hundreds of characters, there’s no way his design is the craziest. He’s also got that insane healing factor that would definitely come in handy against Cobra.
There is one problem with Deadpool though, and it’s the same problem that has cost him a regular place on the X-Men many times over the years. No, it’s not his smart mouth, although that is a problem (making him perhaps polar opposites to Snake Eyes). Unlike every other G.I. Joe, Deadpool has pretty much zero morals, willing to screw over anyone if the price is right, making it impossible to believe he’d be a good fit for the team.