Comics Alliance Critiques the Fashions of ‘G.I. Joe’
Everyone knows that G.I. Joe is America’s daring, highly trained Special Missions Force, and that their foes in the evil organization known as Cobra are dedicated to taking over the world, but there’s one aspect of their eternal conflict that never really gets its due: the fashion. From the leather-clad Baroness and Destro to the proto-hipster that is Shipwreck, the G.I. Joe characters are as much about style as they are about shooting at each other with lasers.
That’s why today, we’ve put together a gallery of the original packaging art to the G.I. Joe action figures — thanks to JoeBattleLines.com — and sent Chris Sims and resident fashionista Bethany Fong into the trenches to see who has the most style!
Chris: So Bethany, I know you were a Jem girl, but did you ever watch G.I. Joe or get any of the toys and comics when you were a kid?
Bethany: I would catch episodes of it every now and then, and I did own a couple of the toys (and a GI Joe sleeping bag!) but otherwise, the extent of my G.I.Joe knowledge is pretty much limited to those PSA parodies and the current G.I. Joe film franchise.
Chris: I think our fashion critique of Rise of Cobra would be pretty short, and probably limited to two words. But the ones we’re looking at have some truly timeless designs — Occasionally timelessly awful, but I think the point stands. So I thought we’d start at the top with the single greatest fashion icon of all time: DESTRO!
Chris: Not since Dr. Strange has a man rocked the high collar/amulet combo so effectively.
Bethany: Holy accessories, Batman! Does this guy have a disco collar, an amulet, two gauntlets (one with darts and another with grenades), and TWO garters? Not to mention, the collar, amulet, darts, grenades, and garters are matching impeccably!
Chris: And he has a pair of Batman’s boots. Do you think that might be why I like Destro and Batman so much, even though they’re completely different from each other? Because of the boots?
Bethany: Scalloped Batman-esque boots are usually a good indicator of what kind of character you’re about to get invested in. That’s how I decide whether or not I want to befriend people nowadays. Question: Is that a mask that he’s wearing or is that what his face looks like? And if it’s the latter, is he wearing a flesh-toned shirt under that suit?
Chris: That is a mask, crafted of the finest polished beryllium steel. It’s a family tradition, ever since one of his ancestors was imprisoned in an iron mask for dealing arms to both sides of a conflict – or at least, that was the definition in the comics. In the cartoon, it was because he was convicted of having a giant pink tentacle monster in his basement. And again, it matches his gauntlets, and even his gun! Destro’s talent for designing HISS Tanks and FANG helicopters is only exceeded by his knack for accessorizing.
Bethany: This image of his costume is way more appealing than that first photo that you showed me.
Chris: The one of the statue?
Chris: How so?
Bethany: It’s a picture where his muscles were sausaging out of his thin latex-like suit and his mask made him look like he was in Silver Face (a practice that is now deemed offensive by galactic heralds).
Chris: It’s worth noting that even though he’s technically an independent operator, the shape of the high collar helps to tie him into Cobra visually by echoing the shape of… well, a cobra. Or at least an Arbok. Sticking with the Cobra theme, here’s Destro’s lady friend and the second in command of the world’s most dangerous terrorist organization: Anastasia de Cobray, the Baroness!
Chris: This is at least 90% of the reason that I grew up attracted to brunettes in glasses whose default emotion is hate.
Bethany: Understandably so! First of all, I love the high mandarin collar on this depiction of Baroness, as well as the tactile armor-ribbing on her catsuit. It actually looks like a durable costume to fight in, especially after looking at what Destro has on.
Chris: That’s one of the things that I really like about the Baroness’s uniform. As form-fitting as it might be, it’s body armor that she has strapped and buckled. She’s really one of the few female characters that was obviously meant to look sexy (by kids’ cartoon standards, anyway) but also looks like she’s dressed to get shot at.
Bethany: Exactly, her costume is the perfect balance of sexy and tough. Also, I should note that I’ve seen Baroness depicted with different glasses frames in the past, but these cat-eyes really suit her beautifully.
Chris: I think you’re wrong about her glasses, B. They’re circles; I think you’re looking at her eyebrow as the top of the frame.
Bethany: UGH. I CHANGE MY MIND. In that case, her eyebrows are well-shaped and make up for those awful specs. Question: Did her glasses do anything cool?
Chris: They help her to see despite poor eyesight, proving the mastery of science over the frailties of the human body. That’s pretty cool.
Bethany: Couldn’t Cobra hook her up with a pair of frames that were a little less Harry Potter and a little more… chic and EVIL?
Chris: I don’t mind them too much, but I definitely prefer her with a different style that helps accentuate her natural haughty smirk. In fact, I like this design a lot, although that belt buckle could not a more blatant representation of vagina dentata if it was an artistic collaboration between Georgia O’Keefe and H.R. Giger.
Bethany: Well, maybe that belt buckle was used to ward off that tentacle monster that Destro cohabited with?
Chris: That’s actually a pretty good explanation. Well-played, Bethany. Why don’t we switch things up a little bit and see what the Joes are wearing this season? Most of the major Joes – Duke, Flint, Hawk, those guys – tend to wear very slightly modified military gear. But not Scarlett:
Bethany: The tan leotard, boots and gauntlets kind of remind me of Squirrel Girl for some reason, but worn over a chainmail-esque unitard. Is that a patch of Spider-Man’s suit on her right shoulder?
Chris: Scarlett looks like she’s getting ready for a particularly combative short floor program at a gymnastics tournament set in the world of the Hunger Games.
Bethany: Gosh, it’s a real shame that she’s not a member of Cobra with that beautiful coif. These colors aren’t doing her any favors, but I do like some of the design elements of her costume, like the various utility pockets on her boots, unitard and on her gloves.
Chris: As much as I love the packaging art on the Joe figures, that pose isn’t exactly the best way to show her off either. She looks like you just walked in on her coming out of the shower or something. It’s that combination of surprise and confusion on her face. “What?! No! I wasn’t going to leave the house in this or anything!”
Bethany: Understandably. Whenever anybody catches me in unflattering shades of tan and khaki, I get so stunned that I forget how to use my crossbow. So mortifying!
Chris: Sticking with the theme of martial artists (Scarlett’s father ran a dojo in Atlanta, and she’s an accomplished ninja herself), let’s check out G.I. Joe’s silent weapons specialist, Quick Kick:
Chris: Hell. Yes. As much as I talked about liking how the Baroness was wearing armor, this is a dude who goes into battle and doesn’t even wear shoes OR a shirt. Just pants, a headband and a bandolier of shuriken, and if it wasn’t for the Comics Code, I’m pretty sure the pants would’ve been gone too.
Bethany: I like that he’s a no frills (and no shirt) kind of guy.
Chris: I like that he’s into kicking. And that he does it quickly.
Bethany: So he has nunchuks, shuriken, AND a katana? AND HIS QUICK KICKING FEET?
Chris: Yes. And even though he is a Silent Weapons specialist, he is clearly yelling in this picture.
Bethany: Or at least BREATHING REALLY LOUDLY.
Chris: If it’s not obvious to our readers by now, you’re a bit more fashionable than I am, and one of the reasons that I wanted to bring up Quick Kick was that, like many people, I have a hard time determining when it’s okay to tear my shirt off and start swinging around nunchuks. Obviously, battle against snake-themed terrorists is a definite Yes, but are there any situations where that should be avoided?
Bethany: Any instance where you may be worried about portraying a very racist stereotype, but otherwise, you should be fine.
Chris: Glad we got that cleared up. Let’s move on to Bazooka:
Chris: Remember how I said most of the main Joes just wore military gear? Well, Bazooka here apparently thought it was a good idea to stand next to those guys in the brightest football jersey he could find.
Bethany: Outfit-wise, I actually really like that shirt and those boots But I like how he’s basically wearing a t-shirt, cargo pants, and a HELMET. With a backpack of BAZOOKAS.
Chris: Well, it’s definitely an acceptable outfit for listening to Ted Nugent or discussing moustache grooming with the fellas down at the lumber yard, I’m just not sure it’s all that great for battle. He is, however, prepared if he gets a little sweaty, thanks to those wristbands.
Bethany: You know, because of the bright colored shirt and the wristbands, I can’t help but think of Scott Pilgrim with thick moustache and a bazooka backpack.
Chris: Are you saying you want to read my fan-fiction where you find out Scott Pilgrim’s dad is Bazooka from G.I. Joe? Because you’ll never guess who his mom is. HINT: Her name rhymes with “Stormer from the Misfits.”
Chris: Seriously though, Bazooka encapsulates a lot of what I like about G.I. Joe, in that he looks like someone just gave John Oates a bunch of explosives and sent him off to fight terrorists. Who wouldn’t want to watch that cartoon?
Bethany: What I find so funny is that while Cobra looks so much more coordinated from what I can tell, the Joes seem to vary greatly in attire.
Chris: They basically ditched the concept of a uniform about halfway through the cover to GI Joe #1. Case in point, everyone’s favorite sailor, Shipwreck:
Chris: Shipwreck’s costume — and this is a costume, not a uniform — is amazing. It’s… I mean, it is every insane stereotype about sailors they could think of, down to the fact that he has a parrot and carries a flint-lock shotgun like an actual 17th century pirate.
Bethany: I love how Shipwreck looks bewildered and pretty much ready to kill you with all of his weapons simultaneously, while his parrot looks so cozy, comfortably nesting on his shoulder
Chris: The anchor tattoo, the goofy hat and the pants that are flared at the ankle and super-tight at the thighs at the same time make him look like a hipster, even though I don’t think that’s technically possible.
Bethany: Don’t forget that beard, brah!
Chris: Also the fact that the rope on his right wrist doesn’t actually connect to anything, making me think it might be a friendship bracelet from Cover Girl that’s way too big, but he’s wearing it anyway because she’s his sweetheart.
Chris: But yeah, that dude is definitely getting ready to shoulder his way through the crowd to get a Record Store Day exclusive vinyl pressing. And you know what, maybe they should stick with that the next time Joe gets a relaunch. Stick with the original design, just give him the codename “Hipster.” He could talk about how he liked G.I. Joe HQ better when it was underground.
Bethany: I’d like to go thrifting with him.
Chris: Be advised that the parrot will insult all your fashion choices. Like all hipsters, he has that one douchebag friend, except his is a talking bird.
Bethany: Ugh, worst accessory EVER.
Chris: Getting back to Cobra, let’s take a look at one of their specialized troops, the Televiper:
Chris: I know so many people who would pay good money for a camera with a zoom lens and a rifle stock.
Bethany: Chris, I’ve officially deduced that G.I. Joe is the reason why you have so many hipster friends. Exhibit A: Check out those purple kicks!
Chris: Greg Schueller of the “What’s On Joe Mind” podcast suggested that a young Kanye West saw the Televiper and resolved to make those colors cool when he grew up.
Bethany: Question: What’s all that jazz surrounding his head? Is it a helmet? A hood? A headset?
Chris: The Televiper’s specialty is communication and broadcasting – I wasn’t kidding about that being a camera with a rifle stock – so that’s meant to be some high-tech communications gear. Kind of the 1982 Bluetooth, even though in practice it looks more like something you’d wear for some severe orthodontia problems.
Bethany: This guy is the physical embodiment of my Communications degree.
Chris: You can’t see it in the painting from the action figure card, but one of the most awesome things about the Televiper was that things he said would scroll across his visor. He is just straight up the evil version of Daft Punk.
Chris: Moving up the hierarchy of Cobra, we have the Crimson Twins, Tomax and Xamot:
Chris: Let’s get this out of the way first: Codpieces.
Bethany: Are they attached to the suits or their belts?
Chris: I don’t… I just don’t know. I think they’re part of the suits.
Bethany: Codpieces aside, their outfits are comprised of an interesting mix of elements. Sashes, asymmetrical armor, unitards, thigh-high cobra boots, chain belts, and Luke Skywalker hairdos.
Chris: Here’s something that may surprise you, and by “may,” I mean “definitely will not: Tomax and Xamot used to be in the circus.
Bethany: Dare I ask what their act was?
Chris: I believe they were tumblers. The kind that do acrobatics, not the kind that post online about how Sherlock and Watson are totally doing it. Aside from the giant fanged codpiece — oh what the hell, largely because of the giant fanged codpiece, I really like their designs. It really sells the idea that they’re mirror images of each other, making them creepier than having them be identical would be. Plus, who doesn’t love a single pauldron?
Bethany: Haha yeah. They fit within the cobra color scheme while creating their own distinct look together. Plus, I really love those thigh-high Cobra boots!
Chris: On a scale of 9 to 10, how likely are you to be wearing Cobra boots at Comic-Con this year?
Bethany: Only if my twin, Ynahteb, wears her matching pair of Cobra boots.
Chris: Since we’re on the subject of Cobra henchmen that come in matched sets, we’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about the Dreadnoks. Here’s Torch and Ripper:
Chris: There are actually three main Dreadnoks, but I left Buzzer out because he doesn’t bring much to the table other than a super-long blonde ponytail, something that I don’t think we really need to address.
Bethany: Okay, so I’m not crazy about the Dreadnoks. They kind of remind me of villains on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Chris: Is it Ripper’s haircut? Because in the interest of full disclosure, that is exactly what I have right now, minus the beard.
Bethany: Chris, did you arrange this G.I. Joe fashion critique just so you could see if I approve of your styling choices?
Chris: Of course not. It was also to get you to wear Cobra boots to Comic-Con. Getting back to the subject at hand, I have an honest question for anyone who’s older than me: Was there an actual time in this country when wearing a super-short tank top that only covered your pecs was the sign of a dude being super-badass? Because the Dreadnoks do it, ’80s action movie bad guys do it, and I’m pretty sure there are some street toughs in Double Dragon that do it too, and… I’m not convinced, folks. I am not convinced at all.
Bethany: Despite a healthy serving of leather, chains, and camouflage, it’s really hard to look tough in a cropped top. Also, is Torch wearing a headband AND wraparound sunglasses?
Chris: He is. In the industry, we call that going “Full Road House.” As weird as the shirts might be — especially with my doubts that there’s enough material there to make hot-gluing a combat knife to them even remotely workable — I do think these two look pretty tough. I mean, Torch is operating a flamethrower with the bushy mutton chops of a Civl War general. The fact that he can get through a battle without setting his own face on fire is a testament to his skill.
Bethany: I suppose, but they still don’t look quite as uniformed as the other Cobra members that we’ve looked at. Perhaps if the Dreadnocks gain more superiority in Cobra, they’ll get style upgrades too?
Chris: Well, they are an Australian biker gang living in the Florida everglades led by a master of disguise with MPD and skin that changes color in cold water. They don’t exactly blend in.
Bethany: Wait, so they’re a biker gang within Cobra who are lead by an alligator man? WHOA NEVERMIND.
Chris: As much as I sympathize with wanting to live up to the title of World’s Greatest Detective, Zartan’s not actually an alligator man, although Cobra does keep one of those on the payroll in the form of Croc-Master.
Bethany: Ahh, okay, so I wasn’t too far off…
Chris: But we’ll have to get to Zartan and his death metal facepaint in another column, and maybe we’ll revisit the Dreadnoks from their time as Cold Slither, too. For now, it’s time for our final entry. Are you ready?
Chris: Sgt. Slaughter is a real human being. And a real American hero.
Bethany: Not gonna lie, I would break my no-pants rule for those G.I. Joe britches.
Chris: I will never understand why he never actually wore them to wrestle in real life. But aside from that, this is basically just what the real Sgt. Slaughter wore to work every day, which kind of makes it stick out in the context of the other suits.
Bethany: Wait, so did he wear this in combat as well? Or something else?
Chris: …Bethany are you somehow unaware that Sgt. Slaughter was a real life pro wrestler in the WWF who was then made into a character on G.I. Joe?
Bethany: … WOW I DEFINITELY BELIEVED THAT THIS WAS A PURE COINCIDENCE.
Chris: He even did the voice on the cartoon! And in G.I. Joe: The Movie! And Cobra Commander said that he had the constitution of a vending machine!
Chris: Of course, I can see why you were thrown off. The G.I. Joe Sgt. Slaughter had significantly more hair than his real-life counterpart, and also never defected to Iraq in order to get a match against Hulk Hogan. He was 100% dedicated to taking on the forces of Cobra with his bare hands.
Bethany: Ha, yes. So basically Sgt. Slaughter got to cosplay himself on a day to day basis? Color me jealous.
Chris: Well, now you know. And knowing is half the battle. So, what’s your final verdict on this round of G.I. Joe fashion statements?
Bethany: Cobra definitely wins this round, with an entourage that not only exhibits a variety in style, but a general team look to them. There were a few notable fashion highlights within the Joes (most of which were displayed on Shipwreck), but they could take a few styling hints from Cobra.
Chris: For me, it’s all about Destro. In fashion, and in virtually every other aspect of life. The only reason I don’t wear a leather jumpsuit unzipped to my navel and a giant ruby medallion every day is that I have a tiny shred of consideration for other people.
Bethany: By the way, did you ever get rid of that tentacle monster in your basement?
Chris: We came to an understanding. Incidentally, you might want to wear that belt buckle I gave you for Christmas if you ever come over. No reason.