This article is part of the Cobra After-Action Report series.
Oh, Cobra Commander, what won't you do?When protest marches, insurrection, and force of arms failed to overthrow the Weimar Republic in Germany the Nazi party turned to the democratic process itself. In 1933, Adolph Hitler became the chancellor, quickly reshaping the government into the most terrifying totalitarian regime the world has ever known. For the first and certainly not the last time "the system" was used to defeat "the system". In this installment of Cobra After-Action Reports we learn that Cobra Commander has taken a page from "Mein Kampf" and attempts to subvert democracy itself. Will Cobra succeed? Will Cobra Commander actually be elected as ruler of the world?
You should consider both of those to be rhetorical questions. Cobra Commander couldn't successfully unwrap a popsicle and in the case of "Cobra's Candidate" he's not trying to take over the world, he's trying to propel a Cobra-sympathizing candidate to the lofty position of mayor. I applaud Cobra Commander's modest goals considering his grandiose schemes tend to end in a dramatic defeat and a screeching panicky escape using some sort of jet pack or hang glider. In this case he seems to have set his sights much lower, but as usual his plan is muddled and executed by a bumbling pack of incompetent buffoons only rivaled by their GI Joe opposition.
Cobra Commander has joined forced with Generic City mayoral candidate Robert Harper. The bloated windbag Harper has been enjoying success running on a bold "tough on crime" platform, but he is receiving some stiff competition from rival Whittier Greenway. Cobra Commander instructs Zartan and his bumbling Dreadnoks to recruit local gang members to tear down Harper posters, intimidate citizens to vote for Greenway, and hurl fruits and vegetables at Harper every time he tries to give a speech. This clever ruse gains sympathy for Harper and he is soon comfortably leading Greenway in the polls.
We'll get into this plan and its chief failings more in a minute; first let's take a look at the forces of Cobra committed to assisting the Harper '8X campaign.
Theater Commander: Cobra Commander
Theater Resources: Corrupt politician Robert Harper, Zartan and the illustrious Dreadnoks, demolitions expert Firefly, and wise ninja Stormshadow.
Corps Level Resources:
3+ Cute Cobra four wheelers
1+ Squad of Crimson Guard Elite Infantry
1 Cobra patrol boat that probably has some awesome snake name
Known Opposing Forces:
The Generic City police. Who the hell would expect GI Joe to arrive and chase down heckling kids in a mayoral election?
Primary Mission Objectives
Get a Cobra-friendly mayor elected in Generic City.
Alternate Mission Objectives
I don't really know. Maybe get the zoning restrictions lifted on that giant Cobra-headed castle they wanted to build downtown.
Lacking clearly defined objectives beyond getting some generic easily-manipulated politico into the mayor's office is really one of Cobra's crippling weaknesses here. Also paramount among their problems is an over reliance on the extremely unreliable Dreadnoks. Zartan has somehow earned "cool points" for being a punk, but in truth he is the worst kind of military commander - arrogant and incompetent. The fact that all of the Dreadnoks talk like a cross between Crocodile Dundee and one of the chimney sweeps from "Mary Poppins" and wield cutting edge military hardware like chainsaws and blow torches doesn't exactly inspire confidence in the Dreadnoks as military force.
198X, Day 1, 2:00 PMRebels on a rampage in the City."Elect me your mayor and I, Robert Harper, will bring law and order back to our great city."
So states the voiceover that plays as we see a poster of a well dressed politico taped to a telephone pole. A teen in a bouffant hairdo with a greaser jacket tears the poster down and, at the sound of sirens in the distance, leaps over a fence shouting "try and catch me, mister law and order!" This sets the tone for the amusingly harmless crime wave sweeping the town in opposition to law and order candidate Robert Harper. A pair of teens warn a frightened and slightly confused fat man in a necktie to vote for Harper's opponent Whittier Greenway, then reappear, along with the poster-ripping madman, at a rally where Harper is speaking. They buzz around loudly on their motorcycles, terrorizing the citizenry with their dreadful lack of manners. When Harper begins to speak they jeer and hurl a variety of vegetables (mostly eggplants for some reason) at him. One of them eventually scores a money shot across Harper's face with a tomato.
On a nearby roadway Scarlet, Lady Jaye, Spirit, Snake Eyes, and some vaguely ethnic and anonymous GI Joe are riding motorcycles. They receive a radio message from the rarely-heard Colonel Sharp instructing them to scramble to the political rally at the president's behest. Apparently the police in Generic City were unable to handle three teenagers hurling produce at a mayoral candidate and the president authorized a military deployment. I'll let you decide whether that's a grim statement about the suppression of first amendment rights in the United States or just a really bad excuse for the GI Joes to become involved in inane local politics.A brief motorcycle chase with interesting results.The Joes arrive at the political rally just as the terrible teens use chain bolas to collapse the speaking platform. The teens flee but the Joes give chase, following them into an alley and then up a fire escape to the rooftop of a building. When the teens reach the rooftop they signal to a much higher building where three of the Dreadnoks are watching from the backs of four wheelers. The Dreadnoks lament the fact that the teens failed and then drive their four wheelers off the building, amazingly dropping fifteen stories to the building the Joes and the teens are on with no appreciable damage or injury. Ignoring the likelihood that such a jump would have resulted in death or critical injury, I have to wonder how and why the Dreadnoks were on top of a 20 story building sitting on all terrain vehicles. Did a helicopter air-land them there so that they could do donuts on the central airconditioning units? Did they carry the ATVs upstairs in crates and then reassemble them so that they could jump wildly around the dunes of pigeon excrement there? As usual, there are no real answers to be found.
Scarlet and Lady Jaye clamber onto the roof just as the Dreadnoks complete their death-defying leap. The Cobra thugs attempt to ram the fairer Joes but the ladies dodge out of the way. Snake Eyes, who is just reaching the top of the fire escape, is not so fortunate and is knocked back down on top of his companions. One of the Dreadnoks pauses to blast the upper moorings of the fire escape with his rifle. For several seconds the fire escape teeters precariously under the weight of the Joes and then Spirit's pet bald eagle decides to land on top of the fire escape. This is just too much weight and the whole thing goes crashing down, all of the Joes falling ten or more stories (including the eagle?!?) to become tangled in a deadly mess of twisted metal. The Dreadnoks instruct the teens to go check for prisoners while they finish off Lady Jaye and Scarlet.Eagle blooper!The Dreadnoks back Lady Jaye and Scarlet against the roof's safety barrier and prepare to ram them, but the ladies act more quickly and vault over the side, swinging through a top floor window. They smash through the glass and into the apartment of a wet fat man in a towel just leaving the shower. He stares in awe, thinking he just won the uniform fetish lottery, but the Joes make a quick exit to check on their friends. Alas, the other Joes have been taken into custody, so the estrogen duo heads back to the political rally to scout around.
Meanwhile, back in the subterranean lair of the Dreadnoks, the teens and the Dreadnoks lead the Joes down a seemingly abandoned subway tunnel and into captivity. I think it's worth noting that the Cobra's not only captured stereotypical Native American Joe Spirit, they also capture his bald eagle and his wolf. Why would you take an eagle and a wolf prisoner? Are you going to interrogate them on eating rabbits or regurgitating mice into the mouths of their young? They aren't just worthless for information; I think when you let magical animals into your prison you are asking for a prison break to happen.Ninja skills in action! Go Snake Eyes!One of the Dreadnoks chastises the teens in his quaint way for failing to lose the Joes when fleeing the rally and thereby forcing he and his comrades to reveal themselves. Pilar, the sassy female leader of the gang, is enraged by this and ineffectively attacks the Dreadnoks. They restrain her and explain that if she wants to get paid she'd better…catch those Joes who are getting away!! The teens run after the fleeing Joes and in a shameful display of his honed ninja skills Snake Eyes is easily tackled by Pilar. When she and Snake Eyes look up they see that the abandoned subway tunnel turns out to not be all that abandoned. A subway is rushing directly at them, and only Snake Eyes' quick thinking and acrobatic skills save them. The Dreadnoks arrive just in time to recapture Snake Eyes and use him to leverage the remaining Joes into surrendering.
One interesting thing to note is that just beyond where Snake Eyes and Pilar fought the subway tracks were almost completely obstructed by rocks. I assume after rushing safely past Snake Eyes and the female gang leader the train slammed into half a ton of rock, careened off the rail and into the wall, and crumpled like an accordion. An accordion full of the dead and screaming injured that catches on fire.
198X, Day 1, 4:00 PMCobra Commander has been taking his hugeination pills again.A fully recovered Robert Harper is escorted to his meeting at Extensive Enterprises by Scarlet and Lady Jaye. By this point in the series even the Joes are keen to the fact that Extensive Enterprises is nothing but a front for Crimson Twins Tomax and Xamot. The ladies don't mention the fact that they know this, but when they see Harper off at the door to the building they immediately switch into full fledged stealthy, wall-climbing, grappling hooking, snooper mode. Harper takes the elevator up to meet with Tomax and Xamot while Scarlet and Lady Jaye begin scaling the exterior of the Extensive Enterprises building.
On the top floor Tomax and Xamot congratulate Harper on his excellent performance in the polls. Harper thanks the street gangs for the repeated attacks on his campaign for his soaring poll numbers. Then the Cobratron screens activates and Cobra Commander at last reveals his devious plan and his reason for becoming involved in the election. "With you on our side, Mr. Harper, we can attain our goals by simply making them laws." I hate to rain on Cobra Commander's parade, but within the limited scope of powers that a city mayor has I don't think many of "Cobra's goals" can be attained by turning them into city ordinances. Commercial zoning? Maybe. Declaring Cobra Commander the unchallenged ruler of the world? Probably not.
Luckily for us all, surveillance babes Scarlet and Lady Jaye listen in on the conversation and get the scoop on Cobra's devious plan. Tomax and Xamot notice the interlopers and attack them on the precarious ledges of the Extensive Enteriprises building. Scarlet manages to send one of them plummeting to the ground 50 stories below and the other, suffering from sympathetic pain, tumbles to his doom as well. They land in a pair of dumpsters 4-500 feet below; their terminal velocity falls cushioned by the hard iron dumpsters and the jagged broken glass inside. Lady Jaye and Scarlet descend and slam the lids of the dumpsters closed. They could have taken them prisoner, or at least checked to see if they were dead, but no, these ladies are in a hurry and have to dispense with niceties so that they can strut around and throw out one liners about crippling or fatal falling injuries.
In the underground hideout where Snake Eyes and the other Joes are being held the teens have taken over watching their cell while Stormshadow meets with the Dreadnoks. It's interesting to note that the GI Joes stand at the door of their cell completely motionless in a line like they are posing for a family photo. What's more Spirit's wolf is mysteriously visible as well, even though it would have to be almost five feet tall to be seen at all. Stormshadow, meanwhile, informs the Dreadnoks that Cobra demolitions expert Firefly has set up a "fireworks display" for the final Harper campaign rally. The Dreadnoks promise to show up but then leave Stormshadow and his entourage of Crimson Guard to watch the prisoners while they had out to party. Ninjas are busy people, so Stormshadow delegates the job of watching the prisoners to the Crimson Guard. Great thinking!
198X, Day 1, 8:00 PMOne of the greatest moments in this episode.Scarlet and Lady Jaye decide that they need to find the leader of one of the youth gangs and try to talk some sense into him. They begin their search by canvassing the seedier neighborhoods of the city, where teens run rampant doing back spins on parked cars and waving their arms spastically for no apparent reason. In what can probably be best described as "the most hilariously absurd sequence in animation history" we have a snapshot of the already ridiculous 1980s youth culture, filtered through the lazy and out-of-touch creators of GI Joe, who then sent it off to Korea to animate. It's a scene that has never and could never exist in reality, not even in the movie reality of cultural artifacts like "Breakin'" and the often referenced "Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo".
After their information requests are rebuffed by a man in a red belly shirt doing the robot Scarlet and Lady Jaye are approached by a ten year old boy who claims to know one of the gang leaders. He offers to take the Joes to Pilar for 20 dollars and even stands up to the dubiously legal threats of violence Lady Jaye uses to coerce him. Before he will take them he insists that they hand over his weapons. After some reluctance they agree, after all, what harm could come from handing a quiver of exploding javelins to a ten year old boy who spends his nights hanging out in the dangerous break dancing district of town?The actual greatest moment in this episode.The boy takes them to a candy store run by his (and Pilar's) mother. After talking to her in the back room, Pilar and her brother emerge and Pilar threatens the Joes with Scarlet's crossbow. Lady Jaye explains that Cobra is just using the gangs to get Harper elected, but Pilar refuses to believe her. Their conversation is interrupted when four teens in red jackets emerge from the back room looking like they're going to sing "Greased Lightning" until the Joes beat a hasty retreat. Instead they attack Lady Jaye and Scarlet, throwing them through the front window of the shop and wrestling them to the ground on the sidewalk. Just when rape seems imminent Pilar orders her thugs away so she can finish the job with the crossbow.
Just then Wild Bill executes an impossible maneuver with his helicopter, one in which is rotor would clearly be buried three feet into the surrounding buildings, and frightens away Pilar and her gang. They thoughtfully leave the crossbow and javelins behind in the street. Lady Jaye and Scarlet mount up in the chopper where a mysterious mustachioed Mexican sits with Wild Bill. The Mexican is later revealed to be karate expert Quick Kick by animators with more attention to detail.
Back in subway prison, the Crimson Guard are doing an excellent job of keeping the Joes locked down by standing in a line three feet in front of the cell with their backs turned. The mysterious and vaguely ethnic Joe mouths off to the Crimson Guard and, once again showing stellar judgment, a single Guardsman turns around, walks up to the bars, and stick his gun inside the cell. Spirit's wolf bites the gun and then Spirit wrestles with the guard for a number of seconds while the other guards stand motionless three feet away. The gun fires directly upwards and hits a grate on the ceiling. This, in turn, triggers a massive and totally unexplained explosion that is visible from the helicopter above. In seconds the Joes leap through the ruptured grate to rescue their imprisoned compatriots, easily overwhelming the Crimson Guard and sending them packing with the classic Joe battle cry "let them go."
One Guardsman remains behind for interrogation, knocked out by Spirit's Indian neck-burn. Snake Eyes beats him up with ferocity unbecoming a member of the Free World and forces the poor idiot to reveal that the Harper rally being held on the docks in less than an hour is going to be attacked. The Joes hurry to avert a catastrophe.
198X, Day 1, 9:00 PMScarlet brushed an errant strand of hair from her face and met Pilar's lusty gaze...Let me go ahead and warn you now that this ending is anticlimactic. Even compared to the usual GI Joe conclusions where the Joes rush into a Cobra compound and the Cobra troops rush out in the opposite direction.
At the Harper rally, Harper is giving his usual stump speech about laying down the law. Hecklers are drowning out his supporters and fruit is flying every which way but loose. When Pilar notices that her little brother is heckling too she sends him off, fearing for his safety and his involvement in gang affairs. Little Tito runs off to one of several abandoned warehouses to cry and we see a sinister Cobra bomb planted only a few feet away. Honestly, Harper is lucky to have anyone show up to a political rally being held next to a series of dilapidated warehouses. What could be more uplifting and exciting than urban decay? Hey, I know, let's hold our next rally inside a mausoleum!
Out on a sinister red Cobra yacht Zartan and Firefly exchange words over the workings of the bombs. There are several, one in each of the abandoned warehouses, and at the push of a button they will be blown up. I have always liked Firefly and I have always felt Zartan to be vastly overrated, so when Firefly calls Zartan "swamp breath" I roared with laughter. Okay, not really, but I did chuckle at Zartan's angry glowing chest that makes light saber sounds. If only we could all have mood chests that played Star Wars sounds I think the world would be a lot friendlier.
Just as the Joes arrive the explosions begin ripping through the abandoned warehouses (even though the wide shot shows them clearly happening in front of the buildings) and screams can be heard coming from inside one of the burning buildings. When Pilar tries to rush to save Tito the Dreadnoks prevent her claiming that she has been paid to heckle the politician. Superb thinking fellas! I'm sure she'll put her heart and soul into yelling at Harper while she listens to her brother's dying screams. Luckily, the Joes have arrived to confront the Dreadnoks. Pilar runs off to save her brother and the Dreadnoks attempt to draft the gang to help them only to fail when the gang members realize just how utterly moronic the Dreadnoks are.HAW HAW!Fiery Scarlet proves that she is a woman of action and plunges into the burning building after Pilar. Once inside the two women embrace, alone at last, their lips and bodies pressing against one another. The crackling timbers of the burning building light their…whoah, sorry, thought I was writing GI Joe erotic fan fiction for a second there. To the cheers of the cowardly Joes waiting outside Scarlet, Pilar, and Tito emerge coughing from the burning warehouse. Heroic firefighters arrive and deploy the big pumpers, proving once again that the REAL American Heroes are the ones who had a building fall on them.
Harper, distraught over the sudden change of events, flees down the nearby pier and leaps onto the retreating Cobra pleasure cruise. He thanks Zartan and Firefly for waiting for him, but the odd couple chastises him and then unleashes a flurry of punches that send him over the edge. Harper is fished out of the water by the Joes.
198X, Day 3, 5:00 PM
The election results are televised and amazingly Harper lost by the comical margin of over 2,000,000 to 2. Someone wonders aloud (it might have been me or even my spirit animal) who the two votes for Harper could have been. It turns out it was Tomax and Xamot, who lament about supporting losers and then tear up their "ELBCTION BALOTS" and let them flutter to the floor of their office.
To reiterate, Cobra's plan was modest but pointless, and Cobra entrusted their most difficult assignments to the moronic Dreadnoks. Even the usually reliable Stormshadow inexplicably left incompetent Crimson Guardsmen to watch over a larger number of imprisoned Joes. Cobra's follies aside, the real idiots in this caper were the Joes. They exhibited a total lack of situational awareness, frequently took unnecessary risks, and repeatedly violated the Geneva Convention by threatening noncombatant children with murder and torturing uniformed POWs. The Joes only succeeded because of the usual gross incompetence of Cobra forces arrayed against them combined with a dash of implausible good luck.
We might find we have more in common than we think if we just stop fighting long enough to combine our bodies into a singular organism.
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