Login or Register

Sign in with Facebook
For any young boy coming of age in the late 1980s there was one primary source for both patriotic fervor and unmitigated violence, and that was G.I. Joe. Yes, there was nothing quite like the Joes to inspire a love for one's nation, instill a strong moral compass, or sometimes just provoke an ineffective but passionate child fistfight over who gets be Snake Eyes this round. Before the cartoon, there was only one G.I. Joe.

That was his name. His first name was G.I., his last name was Joe, and his middle name was Fuck You for Asking, Commie. He was just one guy, and he was out there to swim the vast greatness of that puddle in your backyard, traverse the lonely tundra of your picnic table, climb the mammoth peaks of your dog, and shoot the god damn bad guy who, due to a slight oversight by Hasbro, did not have a toy yet, and was thus relegated to whatever you had in front of you at the time. Sometimes he was a Ken doll. More often he was just your sister.

But being only one guy, you only had to buy one toy. They got your popsicle-sticky five dollar allowance, and that was that. Then the '80s rolled around, and greed was good again, so they started putting out a new G.I. Joe character for every single task. Some jobs were awesome, like Blowtorch, the flamethrower operator, whose 9 to 5 was the non-stop burning of motherfuckers. And some, well, some were just there to punch a clock. Like...

Lifeline

When somebody says they want to "play doctor" with their G.I. Joes, you assume they're talking about block sanding the vest off of a Scarlet figure (because, though they're only eight years old and don't fully understand sex yet, they do understand that it's best done with redheads.) But then they pull out Lifeline, G.I. Joe's Field Medic, and you realize they're not white belt perverts; they just tragically missed the 'action' part of "action figures."

"I'm not joining this fight!"

Not only is Lifeline the healer character, meaning that he cleans up after battles instead of winning them, but he's also a pacifist. Nobody in the G.I. Joe world is going to respect a stance on non-violent resistance, not even the original artists: Check his very own package art, and you'll see Lifeline depicted as holding a pistol. That's the designers themselves saying "fuck your precious 'beliefs' Lifeline, you're packing some god damn heat -- no kid is shelling out five bucks for a figure that comes with a box of medical supplies and 'a sense of inner peace."

Airtight

Airtight was the G.I. Joe's hostile environment cleanup expert, and he was a particularly disappointing gift to receive as a child: On first impression, all you see is a guy in a bitchin' helmet holding some gigantic gun. It's only when you rip open his box all excited, then flip it over to read his card that you slowly come to realize he does not spew toxic acid on his enemies (that's probably a substantially more awesome Cobra figure); Airtight is just the guy you call to cordon off the area afterward to make sure nobody steps in it.

"Don't forget to wash your hands! Lather, rinse, repeat, DIE!"

But wait, what about that giant-ass rifle? Really take a good look at the barrel up there. That's right: Motherfucker put a trigger guard on a vacuum cleaner.

Continue Reading Below

Tollbooth

Tollbooth was the driver for the Joe's Bridge Layer vehicle, which had just enough moving parts to seem awesome for a week, but then spent the next eight years in your little brother's closet when you realized its primary battlefield role was "support." Tollbooth himself came equipped with a hammer and a hat, because nothing ignites a young boy's imagination like workplace safety.

"This is a hardhat only zone! OSHA will have my ass...if I don't blow yours away first!"

He made appearances in such famous episodes as "Captives of Cobra," whose title implied that when he did encounter the enemy, they easily captured him. Presumably because they didn't want to pay the two bucks fifty to use the turnpike.

Shipwreck

Shipwreck seems impossible to dismiss, if only because he was a main character that the cartoon used extensively. Whether they were rapelling into an active volcano or fighting B.A.T.s on the moon, G.I. Joe always had a seat set aside for the loud and proud sailor and his terrifying battle parrot.

"BOOM! YUMMY!"

But look at the other Joes: Each one has a very specific specialty. There are characters that only drive one vehicle, only use one weapon, or only do one thing well - hell, Muskrat basically just climbed trees like a boss - to the point that you start to suspect G.I. Joe is a squadron of battle-ready autistic savants. But not Shipwreck. Shipwreck didn't drive anything, he didn't specialize in anything, and he didn't do anything well. He was literally just a sailor, and when you get right down to it, that's not exactly a thrilling job; Shipwreck had the uncanny ability to know what a 'jib' was, and specialized in "knots" and "not being ashamed of his sexuality."

Continue Reading Below

Tripwire

Tripwire was G.I. Joe's designated mine detector. Not 'explosives expert' or even 'bomb disposal unit' - he just and only detected landmines. He came with no weapons, devices, or novelty items. All he had was a metal detector, a few landmines to detect and, according to his package art up there, a seriously out of proportion sense of self worth. But wait, back up to that middle part - he brought his own landmine to detect, just in case there weren't any in the battle?! And there never were! Because you couldn't buy a 'pack of landmines' -- the only ones in existence came with Tripwire. He brought his landmines to the fight, detected them, and then went home to watch the DIY channel for the rest of the afternoon.

"Everybody hold up! O..okay, no it was nothing. You can go. TO HELL!"

I'm sure mine-sweeping is a very important part of real war, but this is G.I. Joe: The bad guy is half snake, and they're pursuing him in a helicopter shaped like an eagle that fires other, smaller bird-shaped helicopters. Realism is not at the forefront here, and cautious mine-sweeping is probably the last task a ten year old would be interested in. And if they were -- if you had a friend whose hand shot up to call Tripwire every round -- you should call his family to give them your condolences. Because I promise you that he killed himself in college. His family will tell you it was a chemical imbalance, but looking back, you can see it: He just never learned what joy was.

Law

Law came with a German Shepherd named Order, and at first glance, nothing seemed more awesome. The only Assigned Reading book a grade school boy actually read was Call of the Wild, because, to a fourth grader, nothing says 'badass' like being best friends with a wolf or other similarly threatening canine. But Law was another trapdoor disappointment just waiting to swing open: You read his bio card on the back of the box, and you find out that Law was the G.I. Joe's MP.

That stands for Military Police.

"Move along, nothing to see here. Except my fist!

Law was the guy who broke up late night barfights on Joe base and responded to domestic violence calls. If you had a friend who knew how to play with Law, then you had a friend whose dad was in the military and whose mom walked into doors a lot.

Continue Reading Below

Dial Tone

Dial Tone was the Communications officer, which means that sweet robot backpack he came with - the one you always stuck on other figures and pretended was a jetpack -- was actually supposed to be a radio. Dial Tone was Tripwire all over again: Yes, it's a job that needs doing on the real battlefield, but when you've taken enough liberties with the premise of modern warfare that you have an entire Ninja unit, you can probably just glaze over the day to day duties of the CB Radio operator.

"Come in? Come in? I'm not receiving you...BECAUSE YOU'RE DEAD!"

Just look at him: He looks like he's sorry that he's wasting your time. The only thing Dial Tone did well was keep Shipwreck company, judging by his stylin' little moustache, and the fact that he appeared in such episodes as (these are all real): Glamour Girls, Joes' Night Out, Let's Play Soldier, My Brother's Keeper, Iceberg Goes South, and Into Your Tent...

Please note that the suggestive ellipsis, the one that practically reeks of lube and secrets, is part of the actual episode title.

Mainframe

Mainframe was G.I. Joe's computer specialist. Some Joes piloted the Hawkopters, some Joes fired the Ice Laser Cannons, some Joes were counter-Samurai experts, and some Joes were just fluent in Python and C++. Hey, even Snake Eyes gets a driver conflict now and again, and that, baby, is Mainframe's time to shine. He came equipped with a computer.

No, that was literally all.

And he appeared in such episodes as, surprise, "Computer Complications."

"We're gonna Power Cycle those bastards!"

His battle cry was "did you try unplugging it, waiting a minute, and then plugging it back in?" and he's most notable for being the only G.I. Joe who deemed it necessary to wear a helmet for IT support.


You can buy Robert's book, Everything is Going to Kill Everybody: The Terrifyingly Real Ways the World Wants You Dead, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook or you can go right ahead and pick first. Yeah? You pick Hawk? Awesome. I pick Optimus Fucking Prime. That's right: I brought an Autobot to a Joe fight. That's how I roll, bitches.

To turn on reply notifications, click here

363 Comments

Load Comments