The upcoming third entry in the G.I. Joe film series seems to be gaining some momentum. A new director, D.J. Caruso, is attached, and word has it that the series will essentially become an action vehicle now centering exclusively on Dwayne Johnson’s "Roadblock" character, who was passed the main hero torch in 2013’s G.I. Joe: Retaliation.
While the apparent elimination of the collective ensemble spotlight might seem to imply that the series will now simply consist of scenes depicting The Rock laying the smackdown on computer-generated evil, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the team dynamic, or classic concepts from G.I. Joe’s 1980’s "A Real American Hero" brand ,won’t be present. In fact, the recent report that old favorites, Tomax and Xamot, the "Crimson Twins" might be showing up as the baddies this time around would prove that the franchise that taught us that "knowing is half the battle" isn’t quite going to fade just yet.
With that established, we decided to pick 5 classic storylines from the "A Real American Hero" cartoon and comic books that could/should show up in the continuing G.I. Joe film franchise.
5. Kwinn's Honor Struggle
Before the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero animated series debuted in 1983, the pages of the Marvel Comics title was the only place to get your Joe fix. Filled with deceptively complex, nuanced storytelling by Larry Hama, one of the most popular characters early on in the run was an ass-kicking Inuit assassin and mercenary named Kwinn. (Inspired by the famous Bob Dylan/Manfred Mann song, "The Mighty Quinn.") Besides being fearsome-looking and regularly sporting a huge .30 caliber machine gun, he was a complex killer who, despite taking contracts with some of the underworld’s seediest, including the evil Cobra, also lived by a strict honor code, which often put his profession at odds with his conscience. This would gain him the respect of Joe mainstay, Snake Eyes, during their various entanglements.
While Hasbro never released a Kwinn action figure during the toy line’s '80s heyday, they finally got around to it some 31 years after his introduction in the 2013 Retaliation toy line. Having Kwinn show up in the new movie, battling, then gaining the respect of the Joe team would be an excellent angle.
4. Billy Kessler's Daddy Issues
Most folks who are casually acquainted with the G.I. Joe storyline are probably not aware that the sinister Cobra Commander is actually a secret baby-daddy. Well, it’s true -- at least in the canon of the comic books. Typical to Cobra Commander’s grandiose megalomaniacal inclinations, the relationship is a demented one. Billy's certainly gone through the ringer from being a nearly executed captive of Cobra, finding out his pernicious paternity, brainwashing, working through hardcore ninja and military training, to being blown up in a botched Cobra attempt to recapture him, which cost him an eye and a leg.
While his dad, Cobra Commander, seems to still sort of care for him -- even using Cobra’s future-tech resources to outfit him a with a cybernetic leg -- their relationship is mostly an antagonistic one, where Billy bounced back and forth between his sense of family in helping in his father’s fiendish schemes and his own conscience. This storyline would be a great way to expand on the Cobra Commander character, who kind of took a backseat in terms of depth in Retaliation.
3. The Zarana & Mainframe Romance
Romance in the G.I. Joe "glorified commercial for boys’ toys" world is typically few and far between for characters NOT Duke & Scarlet or Flint & Lady Jaye. However, the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero cartoon series threw fans a bit of a curveball in the season 2 episode, "Computer Complications," when the seemingly generic nascent computer hacker character, Mainframe managed to fall in love with the enemy on the covert battlefield. (And no, not with Destro.)
Acting as an undercover operative, Zarana, the sister of A-list enemy Zartan, falls hard for the Joe tech man and the feeling was mutual. In an almost tragic twist, the revelation of Zarana’s true identity seemed to be a turning point for both of them, leaving the villainous femme fatale and member of the pillaging Cobra biker gang, The Dreadnoks, wondering, at least for a brief time, if she was on the right path. While they never quite got hitched and pumped out little Dreadnok/Joe babies, the angle was revisited a few times during later episodes. Should G.I. Joe 3 adapt this storyline, at least as a side, it certainly would add some much-needed depth to what will likely be another popcorn, CGI fest.
2. The Cobra-La Takeover
Probably the most egregiously campy example of retroactive continuity ever exercised, the 1987 feature length animated re-launch pilot, G.I. Joe: The Movie would canonize the Cobra-La. We previously thought of the evil Cobra simply as a terrorist group, formed in the underworld by a collective of mercenaries and industrialists. Well, it seems that it was actually derived from an ancient species of serpent people (of which Cobra Commander was a member), who apparently once ruled the planet and now have designs to repeat that state.
Lead by the psychotic half-man, half-serpent, Golobulus, they brought a whole new science fiction/monster movie depth to the Joe canon that some fans thought was okay, but a lot ended up hating. Thankfully, their tenure did not exceed G.I. Joe: The Movie. Notoriety aside, it was also an aspect of the Joe canon that certainly set hand-prints in the annals of campy history. Plus, they could also provide the G.I. Joe movie franchise with an imaginative new set of enemies with name recognition, which could actually be intriguing at this point.
1. Serpentor Arises
Really, could there be anyone else? Much like the aforementioned Cobra-La would do later on, the introduction in 1986 of Serpentor, the Cobra Emperor, was generally seen as the moment that the G.I. Joe storyline jumped the shark. Existing in both the cartoon and comic book continuities, Serpentor is a hybrid clone created from the DNA of the world’s most powerful notorious leaders like Napoleon, Julius Caesar, Attila the Hun and Hannibal. The idea was to create a leader who possess all the best attributes of those people in order to depose the leadership of Cobra Commander, who was increasingly leading Cobra to consistent losses against the Joes. Besides being one of the Joe team's greatest enemies, he also constantly faced internal danger with the threat of betrayal from a deposed, disingenuously humbled Cobra Commander.
Despite his divisiveness among the fans, Serpentor is undoubtedly iconic. Plus, in G.I. Joe: The Movie, he would have had the distinction of killing main hero, Duke. However, last-minute changes would let Duke survive his wounds. (Which is more than we can say for Channing Tatum's Duke in Retaliation.) With Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson set to be the centerpiece of the G.I. Joe films from this point on, the addition of Serpentor provides a great opportunity to cast another hulking hoss to tangle with him -- maybe even another alumnus of the WWE?
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