Welcome back to the Festival, sorry for the delay. If you keep your hands and feet inside the car at all times, we’ll be on our way. And today’s mighty malfeasant is Cobra Commander, the Nazi-helmeted, nondescript steel faced leader of Cobra, and perpetual enemy of G.I. Joe. Now I’m no Joe fan, kung fu grip notwithstanding—maybe it’s because I’ve never been a fan of heroes, maybe it’s because when you turn a wrestler and William “The Refrigerator” Perry into a wartime action hero, you kinda hamper my respect. I only liked Snake Eyes—who doesn’t like a ninja, right? Aside from “…and knowing is half the battle,” there’s not a whole lot I recall from G.I. Joe.
But Cobra, man, these cats were cold. Nice suits, beautiful weapons, underground lairs, sexy planes. And next to Cheetara from the Thundercats, the Baronness was the hottest female in cartoons with her dark glasses and bad girl persona (hey, Roger Rabbit wasn’t out yet and Lara Croft didn’t exist—don’t judge me). But give these guys an objective…failure was imminent.
You remember how it went, don’t you? The jets would come screaming down, launching a blizzard of missiles and lasers; cool ass tanks would rumble across the landscape; masked soldiers march with ominous footsteps, wielding high-tech rifles. And then, cutting through the madness, would be the battle cry: Coooooo-BRRAAAAAA!!!
And then them fuckers would fail.
Every morning, before school, I’d hear that cat scream what set he was from and light it up across the battlefield, invading a base, snatching technology, whatever. And every morning I’d watch Cobra get thwarted by a crew-cut dude and chick in a Daisy Duke belly shirt. Every morning.
I even remember one episode where they were, literally, curling (like the Winter Olympic event) to capture a piece of critical technology. Even had a ninja on board. With a wolf. And they still failed.
Truth is, Cobra Commander ran the most high-tech, best-armed, well-trained, ineffective global terrorist organization ever. How could anything that well-prepared be so poor at actually achieving their goals? I mean these guys even managed to get a man whose face was entirely composed of metal on their team AND clone the supreme military commander using DNA from people like Hannibal and Napoleon.
I blame it on leadership. So did Cobra.
So why would a guy who was so ineffective when in power that his followers deposed him make it into the pantheon of fantastic villains? Cobra Commander is the Wile E Coyote of terrorist organization leaders. He has tremendous resources, charisma, a great tactical mind and a good eye for talent. He simply cannot execute. But what he can do is build an organization powerful enough that our Special Forces need a Special Force just to contain his actions. He’s not after a fast-ass bird; he’s trying to the take over the world. And he’s slightly more successful than Pinky and the Brain. He doesn’t stop, even when overthrown (he eventually got his spot back), but the stakes of his endeavors are a little more pertinent than anything we’ve seen in Saturday morning cartoon-land. Planes would explode, tanks would burst into flames, lives would be ended. Cobra Commander was about business.
And finally, the man could rock that hood or his shiny helmet and still make you pause.
Next up, the original psycho himself, Norman Bates!