Recently, we've seen a real surge in TV shows on DVD, and judging from the responses in the DVDTalk.com forums, they are very popular. And, in the world of pop culture, there has been a surge in interest concerning the 80s. (VH-1 appears to be tailoring all of their programming to this.) So, it's not surprising to see early 80s' TV shows coming to DVD. And few have received as much excitement as the "G.I. Joe - Original Mini-Series" set.
In 1983, with the success of the newly-released G.I. Joe action-figure line and the Marvel comic book, a G.I. Joe animated TV show was created. It was kicked-off with 5-episode mini-series entitled "G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero". The series introduced many of the now familiar Joe characters, such as Duke, Scarlet, and Snake Eyes, as well as the Cobra villians Cobra Commander and Destro. In the show, Cobra has created a new weapon called the MASS device, which can transport matter from one location to another. Using this technology, Cobra Commander begins to terrorize the world, teleporting important objects to his lair. To combat this, the Joe team attempts to build their own MASS device, and a race is on to retrieve the rare fuel which powers this machine.
The success of this mini-series spawned a sequel which aired a year later. "The Revenge of Cobra" features a plotline very similar to the first series. Cobra has developed a new device called the Weather Dominator, which they use to terrorize the world. When the machine malfunctions, the world's weather pattern go haywire. The G.I. Joe team must find the components of the Weather Dominator and save the planet. While the story may be similar, this series does introduce new characters, both from the Joes and Cobra.
Let's get one thing out of the way. If you've never seen "G.I. Joe" before, you may be a bit shocked by the animation. The cartoons that I loved when I was 12 look very dated now. (The same shock occurred with "The Transformers" sets.) While it's clear that the animators took the time to detail items whenever they could, much of the show lacks detail, and the digital transfer of the DVD has revealed many imperfection and flaws in the art. But, the really cool lighting effects, which were very state of the art at the time, still look very good.
Despite the now lackluster animation, it's the stories that make "G.I. Joe" so enjoyable. As we learn in the interviews included in this set, the people behind the show didn't want writers who had traditionally worked in animation. So, they sought out comic book scribes such as Larry Hama and Marv Wolfman. These writers brought a great deal to the story, giving the characters life, and adding a nice sci-fi quality to the stories. Granted, both "A Real American Hero" and "The Revenge of Cobra" featured very similar stories, they both work quite well, offering an epic adventure that is allowed to grow over the span of five episodes.
Rhino has released two versions of this title. A regular two-disc edition was released earlier this year. Now, Rhino has come up with a limited edition which contains the same DVDs, but comes boxed with an exclusive Snake Eyes action figure. The figue is housed in the box, while a battle scene rages behind him.
Rhino has split the two mini-series into a two-disc set. The show is presented in its original full-frame aspect ratio. The image shows very good colors, especially with the lighting effects, but the transfer has revealed many minor defects from the source material, such as black marks and scratches. There is also some grain, blurriness and artifacting. And while these defects are very noticeable, they do add some nostalgic character to the show and take some of the focus off of the archaic animation.
The DVDs on this set contain two audio tracks. First, we have a newly created digital 5.1 track. This track offers clear dialogue and some impressive surround sound, most notably during the battle scenes. However, this track sounds hollow and is very clearly a remix. The other track is 2.0 stereo. This track is much quieter than the 5.1 track, but has a more "realistic" quality to it. The hardcore fans who have loved the series since its inception will most likely choose this track.
This DVD set only contains two extra features. Each disc contains a 22-minute interview with one of the men responsible for the "G.I. Joe" program. Marv Wolfman and Ron Friedman were both writers on the show. In these interviews, these each discuss how they became involved in the program, their experiences writing for an animated series, and their thoughts on the program.
Fans of the "G.I. Joe" series should love this set. Although, some may feel that Rhino remained too faithful to the show for leaving in the commerical break "bumpers". The transfer shows the age of the source material, but it's great to have these two mini-series in one set. Now, get out those old toys and act out your adventure along with the show.