There is so much more to G.I. Joe than a cartoon designed to shill action figures for Hasbro. G.I. Joe was, and still is, one of the edgiest cartoons made for children, featuring a rich and immersive character culture, adult themes such as terrorism, and a “too smart for their own good” series of plot-lines. While G.I. Joe was made for children of my generation, it still holds up today next to only a few other cartoons that can be enjoyed as much (or more so) as an adult than as a child.
G.I. Joe certainly had its fair share of generic throwaway episodes, but when it was smart, it was brilliant. The storyline that left the greatest impact on me is also the one that is singlehandedly responsible for my love of history. Way back in 1986, G.I. Joe ran a 5-part mega event in which Cobra, the coolest terrorist group of all time, combed the tombs of the greatest leaders in history, stole their DNA, and then cloned a perfect emperor. For an impressionable youth like myself, this was everything.
Serpentor was amazing. A man made of better men who had a bitchin’ air chariot and wore snake armor. Serpentor gave zero fucks. He didn’t ask, he commanded. He threw snakes at people and would backhand his followers with the precision of a pimp and the ruthlessness of Chris Brown.
Over the years, President Abraham Lincoln has been used as a pop culture icon, with movies and television shows liberally removing him from his Civil War era and injecting him into present-day scenarios. South Park, Robot Chicken, and most memorably Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure have all used the iconic image of the 16th U.S. President — whose birthday today marks a national holiday — to yield humorous results.
In the third season episode of Star Trek: TOS, The Savage Curtain, a 19th-century President Lincoln is thrust into the 23rd century not for laughs, but to represent a person of good nature and character in history in this “good vs. evil” and the struggle for peace-themed episode.
Captain James T. Kirk and the crew of Starship Enterprise are getting readings of possible carbon-based life forms on a seemingly uninhabitable planet they’re orbiting. The planet’s molten lava-like conditions and poisonous atmosphere make it impossible for a landing crew to beam down to the surface and investigate the readings. Just as Kirk gives the order for the ship to warp out and continue on to the next assignment, Spock picks up a signal that the ship is being scanned by a probe. On the ship’s view screen, a familiar outline appears floating in space, which eventually becomes a person resembling Abraham Lincoln, complete with necktie and stovepipe hat, sitting in an armchair reminiscent of the one in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
While the crew is skeptical of the Lincoln figure’s identity, armchair Lincoln clearly believes he is the former U.S. President. “I am Abraham Lincoln,” he proclaims.