This article is part of the Cobra After-Action Report series.
Why We Fight.In the world of cartoons and comic books it's a given that no matter how powerful and evil your foe may be, there is always some adversary even more diabolical. In the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks Doctor Doom - a villain who had tried to destroy or enslave the world on more than one occasion - shed a tear at the sheer horror of buildings exploding. Even in the real world there is always someone worse out there. Stalin was pretty bad, but his red legions were nothing compared to the Aryan evil of Adolf Hitler. I'm sure there was a triple Hitler lurking behind the real Hitler; some sort of man-eating rape beast bent on global genocide that we have yet to find and destroy. It's the same principal that always unites mankind in the face of an alien invasion in cheesy movies and books.
So what glue could bind the yang of GI Joe to Cobra's sinister yin? I will accept "drug dealers" and "pedophiles" as answers, but in the case of "The Gamemaster" it is an ultra-rich man-child the size of Goliath with a legion of robotic toys ready to do his bidding. The Gamemaster plucks two Joe members and two Cobra members from their day-to-day lives of doing good and evil respectively and places them in a hellish game of his devising. Meanwhile, Cobra and GI Joe accuse one another of the disappearances and conduct bumbling raids to discover the truth. When they realize that a third party has duped them, they join forces to find and rescue their missing members. But will they find them in time to save their lives? Yes, of course. This is GI Joe we're talking about.
Before we get down to a detailed after-action analysis, let's look at the forces that The Gamemaster has arrayed against Cobra and GI Joe.
Theater Commander: The Gamemaster
Theater Resources: Coco the Robotic Clown, a multi-billion-dollar robotic manufacturing facility located on a secluded island, a super computer capable of tapping into every video camera and possibly every piece of solid-state electronics, a landscape composed of various deserts and desert-toppings.
Corps Level Resources:
Various robotic agent provocateurs
One platoon of robotic toy soldiers
One squad of robotic pallbearers
One squadron of robotic biplanes
One fleet of robotic battleships
One battery of robot-manned SAMs
Various robotic servants
A giant anachronistic lawnmower
Known Opposing Forces:
Flint, Lady Jaye, Cobra Commander and the Baroness
Possibly all of GI Joe and Cobra
Primary Mission Objectives:
The sadistic amusement of the Gamemaster.
Alternate Mission Objectives:
Exotic voyeur catfight videos to sell on the Internet.
The exact combat-ready strengths of Cobra and GI Joe are never revealed, but one can piece together a picture of large air and armored forces accompanied by thousands of infantry. Both GI Joe and Cobra also have a focus on elite Special Forces units and asymmetric warfare capabilities. One could argue that the value of these forces are dubious at best, but one could say the same thing about an army composed entirely of windup toys. The Gamemaster would seem to be outmatched by even one of his foes. The success of his plan rests on his secrecy; a secrecy that you will soon see is undermined by Flint's comical willingness to die. Also, the Baroness spends the entire episode in a bikini.
198X, Day 1, 10:00 AMTeehee!An Autobot brings a glowing energy sword crashing down on the armored shield of a Decepticon. The purple robot turns the blow aside and lashes out with its morning star. Are we watching Transformers? Alas, no. The dueling robots are only a holographic videogame being controlled by a giggling fat man with a bow tie and a cackling robotic clown for an opponent. After slaying his foe, the Gamemaster judges his amazing robot combat game to be boring and informs the grinning clown, Coco, that he wants to play a new game "where real people fight for their lives." Coco does not really approve, but the Gamemaster is undeterred.
"First, we have to catch them," the Gamemaster explains. "Like butterflies! When they think they are safe!"
Terrible similes aside, the Gamemaster puts his plan into motion.
198X, Day 1, 4:00 PM
Flint returns home to his apartment in his sporty convertible. The Gamemaster explains that Flint "is returning home from a mission." Yeah, maybe Operation Golf. He seems to be dressed as if he has been golfing, but he's not carrying any clubs and he's still wearing his hut-hut special forces beret. Maybe he just goes to the course to hang out in the clubhouse and he wears his beret to get the people to buy him drinks.
"Oh yeah," I can imagine him saying, "remember that big amoeba creature that attacked the city a few weeks ago? I was in charge of the unit that filled tank cannons up with apples and then shot them at it to kill the thing."
"Doesn't the government have some sort of poison gas that you could have sprayed on it with an airplane?" I'm sure one of the clubhouse patrons would ask him.
Then Flint would get angry and start yelling about "civilians questioning his methods" right before he is ejected from the clubhouse. No more free Heinekens, Flint. Your membership has been revoked.
Flint gives the doorman a wave in the way-groovy lobby of his apartment and hops into an elevator. As it ascends to Casa de Flint something goes wrong. The elevator stops abruptly and when Flint presses the emergency button like a big sissy the button falls off the panel. Then the numbers start going up way too fast and Flint freaks out. Cut to the roof as a helicopter lifts the elevator through the ceiling with a crash and flies Flint off to the Gamemaster's evil island.
198X, Day 1, 4:45 PMShe must tape those things down when she's in her uniform."This is Lady Jaye," the Gamemaster explains as he watches her shop through a security camera, "clothes are like candy to her."
Lady Jaye chooses the outfit she intends to eat and heads to a changing room. As she begins to unbutton her blouse the view slowly lowers to her feet and her blouse and skirt fall to the floor. A sexy ruse considering the view returns to Lady Jaye's upper body and she's wearing a slip that wouldn't look out of place on a beach in the 1920s. Our fleeting glimpse of the javelin-hurling ladyboy's unmentionables is almost immediately obstructed by the four sides of a wooden crate that rise up from the floor and out of the wall with a mechanical whir. Lady Jaye cries out for help as she is enclosed in a crate labeled "couch."
Two robots in deliveryman uniforms enter to wheel her away with wind-up keys turning in their backs. Surely their emotionless faces, obvious joints and big turning keys won't give them away as they wheel a crate that is yelling "let me out!" through the department store. You see, that was sarcasm, but in the world of GI Joe sarcasm becomes double sarcasm.
198X, Day 1, 5:10 PM
This sequence is sure to rock the preconceptions of those of you who thought "fan service" was something unique to anime. The world's biggest hot tub can barely contain the overflowing bikini of the Baroness as she lounges beneath a glowing heat lamp. She stares down at the water like it's going to get knifed as the Gamemaster describes her in a voice over.
"This is the Baroness: a brilliant and resourceful Cobra agent."
No offense to the Baroness, but "brilliant" and "resourceful" are both pretty relative terms when you've got "Cobra" in the same sentence. The heat lamp deactivates and shuts the Baroness inside the hot tub. A grinning nurse robot ambles out and pushes the hot tub away.
198X, Day 1, 5:30 PMOh well, maybe this one will have better schemes.Cobra Commander watches a procession of his troops from a raised and heavily Cobra-embellished platform. "This is Cobra Commander," the Gamemaster explains, "He craves power, but when he feels most powerful he is most vulnerable." A trapdoor opens beneath Cobra Commander's feet and he falls through the platform. A dummy version of Cobra Commander rises up from inside the platform to take his place.
Destro joins this motionless doppelganger on the platform and gripes about Cobra Commander's need to see his troops on parade. When Cobra Commander fails to rebut the complaints in his usual screeching voice Destro prods the duplicate for a response. He pushes harder and Cobra Commander's head launches from his shoulders like a Jack-in-the-box. That might be worth a few laughs if you're a fantastically wealthy childlike villain like the Gamemaster, but if he had just replaced Cobra Commander with a regular dummy it might have taken Destro weeks to see through the ruse.
While Destro is having an embolism over the unexpected elongation of Cobra Commander's neck, a bunch of poorly-disguised robots wheel out a huge red bomb containing the real Cobra Commander. Ah, if only Cobra weren't an organization built on the idea of doing everything to extremes, that giant bomb might have attracted some attention. If any Cobra troopers noticed it they probably just assumed that when it blew up it would turn people into dinosaurs, stop time or maybe turn all of the world's gold into biscuits.
The accusations of guilt immediately fly among Cobra and GI Joe. The Joes believe that Cobra is responsible. When Zartan hears about Cobra Commander's disappearance he literally points the finger at Destro. Destro is hearing none of that, probably because Cobra is his biggest (and possibly only) customer, so he redirects the blame to GI Joe.
198X, Day 2, 8:00 AMI think I have seen a fetish porno that started this way.Pink trees dot the pastoral hills of a secluded island. There is a solitary house, built from a lazy approximation of children's blocks. Inside there is a nursery. Four oversized cribs are filled with stuffed animals. Bears, elephants and plush lions are the silent companions of each crib's occupants. Cobra Commander curls in the arms of a teddy bear. A cuckoo bird emerges from a huge clock and hoots loudly. Flint stirs and the Baroness covers her ears amid the mechanical cacophony.
As the occupants of the cribs wake they are greeted by the abrasive laughter of the Gamemaster. He informs them of their predicament through a speaker mounted on the wall.
"Good morning players! I am the Gamesmasters[sic], welcome to my game! As there are no rules, it will be an easy game to learn. Hidden somewhere ont his island is a one-man helicopter. The winner is the one who finds it and flies away."
"What happens to the losers?" Flint asks.
"They die," laughs the Gamemaster.
To underscore his point a squad of life-sized toy soldiers enters the nursery and take aim at the four unwilling participants. Flint and the rest dive beneath a volley of gunfire and then escape through a window. Cobra Commander manages to stumble and falls several hundred feet. He lands at the feet of Flint, Lady Jaye and the Baroness. They all have a hearty laugh. Being laughed at by a guy in a golfing outfit and a military beret has to hurt your pride.
198X, Day 2, 11:00 AMIt's okay Flint, she was asking for it.Ace is flying his F-14 Tomcat over snowy peaks. A Cobra surface-to-air missile battery spots him and opens fire with predictable results. "Third Sky Striker this month, Duke is not gonna be pleased." Way to go Ace. I'm fairly certain you get shot down every single time you appear on the show and I think your codename is sarcastic and I don't mean the usual GI Joe double-sarcasm. After parachuting to safety, Ace is rounded up by suspiciously competent Cobra troops and dragged off to be interrogated by Destro.
Meanwhile, back on Danger Island, Flint and Lady Jaye stroll through the peaceful setting practically holding hands. They realize that nearly all of the plants are made from candy and immediately begin chowing down on candy apples and bon-bon trees. By the way, Flint is sporting a wicked overbite during this sequence. Suddenly, Cobra Commander and the Baroness attack with giant candy canes! They knock Lady Jaye into a lake and then charge ineptly at Flint. He dodges out of the way of Baroness and uses some sort of vague karate move to throw Cobra Commander into the lake. Baroness returns with her own quasi-kung-fu, but Flint is highly skilled in the goofball fisticuffs and manages to get her in a good rapelock.
Flint is about to start licking the Baroness's ear when she delivers a head butt that knocks him crazy-faced. Flint responds and they end up thrashing around on the ground like the Zodiac killer plus date at the charity golf outing. Lady Jaye and Cobra Commander thrash around in the lake (it is butterscotch) and call for help even though they both landed like six inches from shore. No matter how much Flint loves pinning the Baroness to the ground he realizes he can't just leave Lady Jaye to drown. He and the Baroness reach an agreement: he'll rescue Cobra Commander and the Baroness will rescue Lady Jaye. Unfortunately, the rescues succeed and there is no butterscotch wrestling.
198X, Day 2, 11:00 PM
Duke, Gung Ho and some other nameless Joe compare the squareness of their jaws and then snorkel around a swamp. They then climb into a buggy that they then drive right back into the swamp. They arrive at a secret Cobra hideout where Zartan is working with an evil scientist on some sort of serum. The Joes drop in through the ceiling and take Zartan and his swamp technicians hostage.
198X, Day ????, DaytimeSUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY!The timeline becomes confusing at this point. It seems to be only moments after the butterscotch lake rescue, but it was nighttime in the bayou for Duke and his raiding party. We'll just have to assume that the writers for this episode got a bit creative with their storytelling. Just a bit.
Flint and Cobra Commander are debating their exit strategy. Flint suggests taking the fight to the Gamemaster, but Cobra Commander is being an all-around prick about things. He insists he'll claim the helicopter and fly for help. Even the Baroness remains unconvinced by this logic.
Suddenly (and awesomely) Truck-a-fucking-saurus bursts on the scene. He's 500 tons of car-crushing, fire-breathing, truck-stomping mega machine and our captives can't hope to fight him. Following some inept buffoonery, Cobra Commander falls at the mercy of Truckasaurus. He's about to die, but Flint leaps to his rescue. Flint saves Cobra Commander, but Truckasaurus scoops Flint up in its jaws with a lot of rocks and dirt, chews him up and then spits him several stories back down onto the ground. Lady Jaye screams in terror as robotic pallbearers arrive. They throw Flint's lifeless remains into a coffin and cart him away.
The Baroness offers her condolences to Lady Jaye and suggests revenge as the best course of action. I would like to suggest a plan involving the use of a strap-on dildo, but I think the suggestion box is closed on this episode.
198X, Day ????, Daytime
Destro questions Ace on the location of Cobra Commander and the Baroness. Ace doesn't know, but he tells Destro to release Lady Jaye and Flint. Destro is confused. A televiper with a pronounced Brooklyn accent enters bearing news of a distress signal from Swamp Base 2. He tells Destro that the Joes are demanding the release of Flint and Lady Jaye or they are going to off Zartan. Destro unravels the mystery and sends a giant TV screen version of a phone call to Swamp Base 2. After some negotiation and some inconsistent animation, Destro convinces Duke and the Joes that a third party is responsible for the disappearances. He suggests a temporary cooperation agreement and the Joes reluctantly accept.
198X, Day ????, DaytimeHe's a crazy-eyes killer.The pallbearer robots carry the casket containing Flint's mangled remains to an open grave. Unsurprisingly, Flint bursts from the casket and tackles the robots into the grave. "Rust in peace!" he quips with an insane look on his face.
I have some issues with Flint's clever scheme to fool the Gamemaster into thinking he is dead. First off, Flint allowed himself to be chewed up by a giant fire-breathing truck-crushing robot. The odds that he would escape without serious injury would be nearly zero. Then the robot spit him 100 feet onto the ground. Again, something that is almost impossible to escape without injury. Even worse than all that, when Truckasaurus took a bite out of Flint it obviously compacted him into a space about three inches wide. It was a suicide mission and yet there he is, leaping from a casket without a mark on his body. His clothes aren't even dirty. His stupid hat isn't even rakishly pulled to one side.
"It's a cartoon!" I'm sure you're saying.
Fine, it's a cartoon, but you can't use cartoon logic to escape danger in a cartoon that takes itself semi-seriously. If you're going to do that you might as well have Flint pull a hole out of his pocket or paint a tunnel onto the side of a mountain and then run through the tunnel only to have Truckasaurus smash itself to pieces when it tries to follow.When you were sitting there I didn't notice you were five times the size of a normal human, but now that you stand up I am astonished.While Flint goes looking for the Gamemaster, Baroness, Cobra Commander and a "totally over it" Lady Jaye happen upon the one-man helicopter. A fight erupts over the helicopter. The Baroness tackles Cobra Commander and Cobra Commander grabs Lady Jaye's feet as she tries to run past him. A catfight then erupts between the Baroness and Lady Jaye, much to the Gamemaster's delight back in the control room. He watches with glee, no doubt planning to start a pay site featuring videos of the two dangerous women duking it out. Then he deploys a giant old-timey lawnmower to chop up his captives. They flee in terror as it shreds through the helicopter. The Gamemaster is so enthralled by the commotion that he fails to notice Flint creeping up behind him.
Flint sass-mouths the Gamemaster. The Gamemaster stands up, revealing the fact that he is roughly ten feet tall. Flint manages to dodge the Gamemaster's initial onslaught and the huge baby ends up smashing his weight down on top of Coco. The Gamemaster sobs and flails petulantly over the loss of his robotic sidekick. Flint manages to stop the lawnmower, and get a transmission out to the Joe base telling them to trace his location, before he is recaptured.
198X, Day ????, DaytimeWhat a surprise ending!The Joes succeed in their star-69 of Candyland and they keep their promise to Destro. The sky above the islands is filled with dozens of GI Joe and Cobra aircraft. The Gamemaster sends out his whimsical biplanes and blue and yellow battleships to greet the attackers. Batteries of water-powered SAMs are prepared by a cadre of robots working hand-pumps.
Standard tactics here would be to use over-the-horizon missiles to bring down the enemy aircraft, heavy anti-ship missiles to take out the battleships and special purpose weapons like HARM missiles to bring down the SAM batteries. Instead, Joes and Cobra alike charge in guns blazing. Their planes explode in the sky by the tens and one can only imagine that the sky above the island is nearly blotted out by the thick canopy of parachutes. Even the obsolete biplanes and water-powered SAM rockets take their toll. Cobra and Joe transport aircraft begin dropping airborne infantry over the island and the assault begins in earnest. Scarlet and Zartan lead the attack, engaging in a close-range but one-sided firefight with the army of toy soldiers. Zartan and Scarlet even have time to flirt with one another after some adept grenade throwing.
Furious at the destruction of his army, the Gamemaster is about to club Flint with his meaty hands when the joint Joe and Cobra forces burst into his control room. The Gamemaster laughs and taunts the invaders as he flees. His odd menagerie of henchmen charge the enemy and are gunned down in one of the most violent scenes in GI Joe history. Destro demands to know where Cobra Commander and the Baroness are and Flint shows him the screen, pointing out that Cobra Commander is stuck in a marshmallow swamp. Detro gets a good laugh out of this. Gung Ho and some Cobra troopers attempt to run down the Gamemaster, but he is too inhumanly gigantic to be caught and he escapes in some sort of slingshot-launched flying saucer.
198X, Day ????, Evening
The victorious GI Joe and Cobra forces reflect on a hard-fought battle that should have been an easy and overwhelming victory considering the pathetic forces arrayed against them. Both sides seem inappropriately impressed with the performance and Cobra Commander ponders what sort of power he might have if Cobra joined forces with GI Joe. It should be noted that no background was illustrated for this scene so another background was dropped in. Duke hovers in midair and Flint is lazily omitted from the wide shots. Cobra Commander and Flint almost immediately have a falling out and any hope for future cooperation is lost barring the intervention of drug dealers or pedophiles.
Today's Cobra After-Action Report demonstrates that even when Cobra and GI Joe work past their differences they are still completely incompetent. Real despots and terrorists make me wish for a real Cobra Commander and, similarly, make me live in simmering fear that our special forces might be more like GI Joe than their hyper-competent image would have you believe.
Do you have what it takes to make it on the ballot?
Tomorrow's tech headlines you never want to see, before you have to see them.
Denzel is here to set the movie scales back to zero. That's what an equalizer does, right?
The Something Awful front page news tackles anything both off and on the Internet. Mostly "on" though, as we're all incredible nerds.