|G.I. Joe: The Complete Series Collector's Set
1983 (2009) - Hasbro (Shout! Factory)
Released (via mail order) on DVD on July 13th, 2009
Program Rating: C+
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/C/B+
Counting down the minutes every afternoon until school was over was one of the highlights of elementary school for me, because after a quick run home it was time for the "Hasbro action" block on my local UHF station. Juice, cookies and a big pillow to lean against completed the necessary viewing ensemble, and G.I. Joe kicked off the action. As fans will know, in the show, G.I. Joe is the codename for a special missions force that specializes in counter-terrorism, with an emphasis on dealing with the minions of COBRA. Yet despite being confronted by a ruthless menagerie of villains, the G.I. Joe crew somehow manages to save the world time after time, without a single shot ever hitting a living being.
This Complete Series box includes all 95 episodes on 17 DVDs. Surprisingly enough, G.I. Joe fares a bit better on DVD (in the video department) than its companion Transformers release from Shout! Factory. The masters are very clean, without the print damage and tape wear the latter series suffers from. It might simply be a cleaner master, or merely the fact that the prints had been run far less for international syndication, but either way it looks great for what it is. The sound is a bit tinny, but you can't expect a lot in that department from stripped weekday afternoon cartoons. This is the least tinny and most coherent sounding I've ever heard the series, so that's a huge improvement for Joe fans right there.
Of course, the bonus material here is what everyone wants to know about. The Season One discs, which are really 3 TV movies and a handful of stand-alones, each contain part of an interview with Ron Friedman, who wrote the entire season and established the content and shape that the animated series would take. Disc Four of the set has the first installment of both the critical Knowing is Half the Battle PSAs and a bunch of 80s-era toy commercials. Also included is the presentation film from Toy Fair 1963 that originally introduced G.I. Joe, and a printable script. Disc Eight continues the trend with Everyday Heroes: The History of G.I. Joe - a featurette that details the history of the toy line and its impact on American society - plus more PSAs and commercials. Disc Twelve moves Season Two along with Men and Women of Action: Creating the G.I. Joe Animated Series and Voices of a Real American Hero. Addressing the production crew and the actors respectively, these featurettes spend about an hour covering the creative bases behind the show, and offering a bunch of fun and interesting behind-the-scenes stories. While the participants are mostly the same as appear in the Transformers set, this is all new material. Continuing on, Greenshirts: The G.I. Joe Legacy focuses on the fandom, Joe-Con and how many people the series touched, while Declassified spotlights the work of Larry Hama, who wrote almost all of the comics and created the individual character dossiers featured on every package. The last of the PSAs and commercials are here as well. Last but not least, the case includes a 1GB G.I. Joe dog tag flash drive carrying a couple of 8-page comics featuring Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes. All in all, it's a nice batch of material.
If I have any regrets, I wish they could have included some gag reel stuff - or even just paid the Robot Chicken crew to haul out their G.I. Joes and construct something fun on the fly. But such as life. Instead we get a 10 minute fan-film that's a fun-once kind of thing, though it's definitely better than the Transformers one.
As for the packaging... it rocks. The set comes packed in a hugely robust replica Army footlocker. The lid opens up to reveal a hidden G.I. Joe command console. This lifts up too to reveal the discs and all the other goodies packed underneath. The discs are contained in a pair of "flippy tray" CD-size holders (like the Star Trek: The Original Series "Tricorder" season boxes) - these hold all 17 discs, PLUS there's an empty space that will allow you to include a potential future Shout! Factory release (or the old Rhino one) of G.I. Joe: The Movie. That's a nice touch for fans. A word of warning: When you have the console lid up (which holds the discs), it doesn't go quite far enough back, so make sure you keep your thumb on it to hold it up. Finally, the case includes a square-bound, 56-page booklet, that opens with a letter from Seth Green and then gives you a disc breakdown and summary of each episode.
G.I. Joe, like its robot counterpart, was an almost inescapable part of any 1980s childhood experience. They were the best toys, and this was the best show, that any 5-12 year could find at the time... and it's all STILL better than a lot of junk out there today. Sure, these animated stories don't really stand up to the critical viewing of the adult brain, but taken in 5-6 episode blocks - and administered as needed - they are still pretty fun and wonderful, especially if you were a fan back in the day. If that does describe you, then this box set will definitely ensure that you always have a steady supply of Joe viewing on hand. So now you know... and knowing is, of course, half the battle.
Recommended for Greenshirts of all ranks!