If you cruise the toy aisles nowadays, you’ll find that the majority of contemporary action figures come with dice, some form of stat card relating to a game, and possibly a stand. But back in the ’80s and ’90s, all figures came with were weapons and a bio file on the back of the card to be cut out and collected in a shoebox. Nearly every figure line featured these little cut-outs, but none of them had as much richness to their biographical sketches as G.I. Joe. But did any kids really pay attention to the details on these cards?
If they did, they may have questioned why so many Joes and Cobras were miserable degenerates, chronic gamblers, womanizers, and failed poets. The army seemed to have sent recruiters to the darkest backwoods of the U.S. to rope in any roughneck with a dangerous job and a mountain of speeding tickets in their glove compartment. Every card attempted to sugarcoat the fact that the Joes were a gang of lowlifes by noting that they were all qualified experts in NATO and Warsaw Pact small arms.
Blame it on Larry Hama, the writer of the Marvel G.I. Joe comic, who was also happened to write the a good portion of the file cards for the figures (and often, their names). Hama managed to deliver concise little background sketches in a very short amount of words — sometimes with humorous and somewhat baffling results. Here are 20 of the most hilarious G.I. Joe bio cards — much thanks to YoJoe.com for the images!
20) Road Pig
Usually you hear about women getting jobs based solely on their looks rather than their skills. Cobra flipped the sexist script though when they enlisted Road Pig. His bio card is basically a bunch of jokes about how disgusting he is, from his B.O. to how off-putting he is to dogs. It’s like Cobra wanted to hire the Elephant Man, discovered he was unavailable, and settled for Road Pig. On the other hand, he has been arrested for “felony spitting,” which he almost certainly has to be the first person in America to commit. What could that possibly be? Like, spitting on the president or something?
19) Rock & Roll
Initially the card sets him up for being a trigger-happy one-man battering ram; frothing at the mouth until the final bullet flies. Turns out he’s just very hard of hearing. Rock & Roll played in a lot of garage bands in Malibu and the noise eventually injured his hearing. So the Joes enlisted him and gave him the big, noisy machines like gatling guns to handle. It’s like taking advantage of a handicapped person.
Darklon sounds like one of the baddest muthas in the ranks of Cobra. He’s related to Destro, he’s got a cast-iron castle in the Alps, and he has a private army at his disposal. For most super villains with similar nefarious resources, the creator rarely goes into where they got all the funds for the castles and whatnot. Luckily his card gives a glimpse into the source of Darklon’s riches: he runs a telephone solicitation company. That’s as evil as having a legion of roadside sign spinners advertising Cash For Gold.
Altitude was an obvious choice for the elites at Joe; possessing two of the most sought after traits in a soldier: photographic memory and a knack for doodling. Before enlisting, Altitude was an animator, but then syndicated cartoon program industry crumbled and he was forced into a life in the military. Subtle, Hama. Real subtle.
What an awful person! Gnawgahyde was driven out of Africa by his fellow poachers for being a card cheat. It’s a good thing too because he would have eradicated every endangered species on the continent of Africa. Then he stole furs and was recruited by Cobra’s Dreadnoks when they found him eating at an all-night donut and grape soda shoppe. Donuts and grape soda — the most evil combination of breakfast pastries and sodas. Why the hell is this details even in his file? And why does Cobra even need a poacher?
Holy hell this dude is terrifying. Even for an evil organization bent on world conquest like Cobra, Metal-Head seems like a bit much. He’s a walking liability and a lawsuit waiting to happen from some murdered Cobra thug’s family. His “blast suit” is covered in weapons that are all voice-activated, essentially making him a homicidal Inspector Gadget. But the weirdest part is his inability to stop thinking about shooting things, even at meal time. Did food somehow kill one of his loved ones? Because that’s the only reason someone should calculate wind deflection off of meat loaf steam. Well, that or Asperger’s Syndrome.
There’s really nothing funny about Ambush’s card. It’s a tragedy, really. When he was 10-years-old, he was playing hide-and-seek with some neighborhood kids. Three days later, young Ambush appeared from underneath his parents’ porch. For a child to hide from his family and friends for so long, he’s got to be terrified of something on a very deep and personal level. We’re talking possible molestation. Even after joining the Joes, Ambush would disappear, battling the demons from his dark past.
This sunavabitch is fueled by pure “Meanness.” Meaning, he must be a real peach to work with. He’s a Winter Operations Specialist who hates the cold to the “Max.” As the card continues to explain, he volunteers for cold weather assignments because he enjoys being mean. But what we see when we read between the lines is a sad, lonely man who has heaps of self-hatred he needs to work through.
The Joes honestly signed up any slob that stumbled into their recruitment office. Topside’s resume here includes how he can “down a plate of greasy scrambled eggs and hot wieners” while sailing through the angry seas. His previous military experience seems to be exclusively that he was a hog farmer in Indiana, albeit the best hog farmer in Indiana, which was apparently enough for G.I. Joe to give him a gun and put him in its navy. Or maybe they just wanted to hire him before Cobra did, because there’s no way they weren’t scouting out a dude who called himself “Hog Master.”
Going through the years of bio cards, it seems that G.I. Joe would put a gun in the hand of anyone with a minutiae of talent. Any talent. Take Bullhorn for example. Blessed with the gift of gab, Bullhorn is described on his card as a good listener with choirboy looks who is compassionate and calm. How is any of that a benefit during the hell of combat? Sure he has some pistol-shooting trophies, but this is the last guy most would want at their side in when Cobra is closing in.
Guided by vengeance, anti-aircraft gunner Backblast signed up for Joes so he could shoot airplanes out of the sky. His childhood home was located next to an airport so the planes would keep him up at night. I suppose Joe should be congratulated for putting sociopaths to good use, but all I can think about is if Backblast happened to live next to a doggy day care or a preschool instead.
Footloose was an academic champ when all of a sudden he dropped out and became “quite weird” for three years. I can only assume this means three straight visits to Burning Man. Then a cosmic messenger told him to join the Army. The narrative thread of Footloose’s life makes perfect sense.
Floridian swamp vehicle operator Copperhead joined Cobra to pay off his bookie. That seems reasonable. But the best part of his card is the quote from Gung-Ho at the bottom, which is filled with sexual subtext. “Raise cain til the cock crows”? “Mouth full o’ much obliged”? – the part about having a “heart fulla gimme and a mouth full o’ much obliged.” The chances of this being an actual military assessment instead of the recriminations of a bitter ex-lover seem slim.
“He greases his hair with motor oil, rarely shaves, and chews on the same toothpick for months. Clutch still calls women ‘chicks.'” Clutch actually sounds pretty awesome.
6) Major Bludd
International fugitive Sebastian Bludd may not be such a bad guy. As the clipping from the “Attica Gazette” displays, he’s really a poet at heart. Like all legendary laureates, Bludd’s poetry is a commentary on the reality he sees everyday as a member of Cobra (i.e., mowing people down with an uzi).
Imagine being stuffed in the trenches for days, Cobra has you surrounded, your ammo is drastically low, and then a bombastic disc jockey from Boston comes over your radio. He assures you that reinforcements are on their way and that the Yankees suck. That would boost the morale of even the most pessimistic Joe, for sure.
Dogfight’s military application must have been something. Under “Reason for Joining the Military” he wrote about how he won all the stuffed bears at every county fair and carnival in Alabama, so his next obvious step was a career in the armed forces as a “Mudfighter Pilot.” Let’s be real though, those carnie games are hard as hell. Dogfight should have cashed in all his teddy bears and entered the military with a Sergeant Major rank.
A gifted organist ostracized from the classical music community because of his sausage fingers, Crazylegs followed the path of many washed-up classical musicians and joined the military. According to his card, he hums Bach tunes to amp himself up for a jump. It’s safe to bet he gets pushed out of planes by Joes more than he jumps.
Barbeque has no sense of duty, he just gets off on riding on the back of a fire engine and, “the frosting on the cake,” breaking windows with his axe. He probably listens to his favorite Boston DJ, Deejay, while doing so. More importantly, Barbecue is a “basic party animal” who can “wrap his lips completely around
the bottom of a quart of Coke.” Is this more disturbing if Barbecue wanted this skill to be mentioned in his military dossier, or if Joe command thought it was important enough to note?
1) Hit & Run
Whoooa, hold up. According to his file card, his parents were killed by a drunk driver when he was three… so the Joes yank him from the orphanage and nickname him “Hit & Run.” That’s unashamedly insensitive on so many levels. That’s like naming a Joe “Alcoholic Stepdad” or “Colon Cancer.”