Matt Originally posted on 12.29.02.
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Fans of the G.I. Joe cartoon were delighted when news broke of the impending feature-length film hitting theaters in 1987. The series enjoyed almost impossible success, in part because a lot of stuff blew up on the show, but also because the heroes and villains were relatable humans. This was more important than you think. The other hot cartoons during this period almost universally featured aliens, robots, monsters, trolls, or some other kind of creature no kid could ever really look up to. G.I. Joe, on the other hand - if some little boy liked Duke, he could relish his dreams of growing up to become a national hero just like him. Kids who liked Optimus Prime had to figure out a way to turn into a big red truck first. Kids who liked He-Man had to figure out a way to siphon massive amounts of energy from a castle tower to a huge sword. Kids who liked Papa Smurf had to paint themselves blue and throw caution to the wind with their adverbs. See what I'm getting at?
It's one of the quieter reasons for the Joes' popularity, but probably the most definitive. More importantly, it's for this reason that a lot of people absolutely loathed G.I. Joe: The Movie.
The movie went in a completely different direction than the usual cartoon episodes. Instead of it being a human battle - the heroic Joes (the army, navy, etc) versus the villainous Cobra (basically any foreign power we currently hated) - now we were thrown into a pretty ridiculous science fiction epic that the show's characters just happened to star in. The story centered on a race of quasi-aliens who lived in a secret land called Cobra-La. Changing the history of the show's lore entirely, our new origin tale showed Cobra Commander as some kind of mutant scientist being sent out into the world by his superiors to form Cobra and take over. Led by Golobulus, a bald cyborg with a 20' snake tail, the unforgiving patrons of Cobra-La grew tired of the Commander's failures and decided to take care of business themselves.
Without going into too much detail because I've already talked about this movie on the site before, the story unfolds into this massive world-threatening plot where the Joes must stop a fleet of alien spores sent into space by Golobulus from exploding and turning everyone on the planet into disfigured, monstrous beasts. Obviously, this was a far cry from the cartoon's days of good ol' regular bomb threats, espionage, and scientist kidnappings. The combination of changing the show's history and adding in so many non-human elements pissed off a lot of longtime fans.
Me? I wasn't pissed off at all. In fact, I loved the film. At the time, I was way too young to care about writers employing revisionist history or making my cartoon heroes engage in totally uncharacteristic adventures. And these days, I'm getting too old to really care one way or another about what a cartoon I loved as a kid really says. The movie remains an unblemished love for me, and a lot of the thanks for that goes to the creepy new villains we were introduced to.
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They were odd. They were kooky. They had all sorts of weird appendages and wore lots of lavender. They were Cobra-La! After seeing the movie, I became infatuated with getting the Cobra-La action figures. When first released, they were a Toys R'Us exclusive. I remember forcing my mother to take me there day after day to see if my soon-to-be-new acquisitions had finally arrived. After some time, they did, and I wasn't disappointed. Though made to the same scale as all the other G.I. Joe figures, there was certainly something unique about the Cobra-La toys. They were different. They weren't human. One of them looked like a gardner snake. Another had bat wings. I was falling in love.
The figures were sold in a three-pack - a rarity for the line. There were few kids who could resist this set, and with good reason. First of all, it didn't matter if you liked these particular characters. Even if you thought they were boring, you still got three of them. Three sucky figures beats one good figure every time. Plus, the timing couldn't have been better. Ridiculed at it was by critics and older fans, children who saw the movie thought it was just aces. A chance to collect the flick's top bad guys all at once wasn't to be missed. Besides, everyone already had a Cobra Commander figure. Same with Destro, and Duke, and Storm Shadow. And everyone else. In doubles. Sometimes triples. Kids were running out of new toys to beg for, so when this gorgeous three-pack finally hit the shelves, sales went through the roof.
Actually, the set was even better than that. If you asked a kid who saw the film which figure he wanted to get first, it was definitely going to be Nemesis Enforcer. He was sort of like the Boba Fett of the movie. Golobulus? Well, Golobulus was a shoe-in - he had a huge rubber tail. Nobody could resist that huge rubber tail. The third figure, the Cobra-La Royal Guard, had the same likable features as any standard Cobra Soldier figure, but with one added bonus: a head shaped like an anteater's. Today, we pay tribute to these three sometimes-forgotten entries into G.I. Joe's storied history. Let's start with the leader...
Golobulus: Ruler of Cobra-La, Golobulus didn't look like any of the normal citizens. No, genetics dealt this guy a straight flush. How could he not be the leader? Did anyone else in Cobra-La have an immense reptilian tail, or cyborg eye attachments? If that thing came at you, wouldn't you fall in line? Only complicating matters is the fact that Burgess Meredith - The Penguin from the old Batman show - supplied the voice for this guy. Even if he wasn't half sea-monster, he'd still command attention with the Penguin's voice coming out of his mouth.
Characterwise, it's not particularly difficult to dislike Golobulus. Aside from inflicting pain of most of everyone's favorite hero characters, Golobulus verbally rapes pretty much every one of the cool villains. We spent years getting to know and love these guys, and all of the sudden, here's this big bald snake making them all look stupid. Cobra Commander was a hated villain, but nobody really wanted to see him dead. We just liked watching him get his ass kicked every now and then. Golobulus? No, Golobulus we definitely wanted dead. He had no respect. And he looked like a giant anaconda that was almost finished swallowing the principal from Back To The Future.
It's the Worm King who's solely responsible for the downfall of Cobra Commander. Upset with his previous success rate, Golobulus orders his troops to shove the Commander's head into some kind of alien spore. The spore ultimately makes our favorite anti-hero transform into a real life snake. Golobulus cemented his villain status with this one - the audience was used to the bad guys just throwing grenades and stuff to prove their allegiance to evil. Now we had people smushing Cobra Commander's head into a pile of alien salad and turning him into a python. The stakes were raised.
In toy form, Golobulus was unlike any other figure in the G.I. Joe line. He had the standard plastic torso, but with a huge rubber tail put in the place of legs. While this made it impossible to fit Golobby into any of the vehicle toys, he sure was fun to play with. Especially if you needed a prop to make offensive dick-sucking gestures to your teachers. The baldest figure in the entire collection is also the tallest, and the figure came equipped with a small plastic red rifle that looked vaguely like viscera.
(information taken directly from Golobulus' packaged filecard bio)
Golobulus descended from the serpent kings of pre-history. Did all the serpent kings look like Kojak and say things like 'that was a trifle melodramatic?' If so, any research into finding out more about these elusive kings would probably prove pretty damn disappointing when the results got back. Some things are better left to the imagination.
The buildings and structures in Cobra-La are made entirely of advanced crustaceans. The card goes on to mention that even the clothes in Cobra-La are alive. I'd love to come in the bedroom one night and find the ceiling playing checkers with my pants. Cobra-La sounds so much like Disneyworld.
The chestplate and armor Golobulus wears is actually a group of mutated lobsters genetically engineered to perform a specific task. You know, I don't care what tasks those lobsters are performing, or how important they might be. I simply could not function if I had lobsters all over my chest. Golobulus has some serious balls.
Golobulus lovers, the millions worldwide, feel free to peruse and enjoy this immense image gallery of the Worm from Hell. Three whole images!!
Cobra-La Royal Guard: You can consider these guys the Stormtroopers of the evil G.I. Joe alien crime syndicate. They start off looking impressive enough, but as the movie goes on, every character including the Chinese dwarf chick with a blindfold on manages to beat them up. Compared to the usual Cobra troops, the Royal Guards are far taller, faster, and can jump around fifteen feet in the air. If that's not enough for you, they also carry huge green machetes that, if Golobulus' filecard is to be believed, are likely alive.
The Royal Guards usually made their attack by jumping out of piles of snow or out from behind strange plants. Some would argue that they're going for the element of surprise, but how could that be? The Guards constantly make 'LALALALALALALALA' sounds even when they're not waiting to ambush someone. They're way too noisy to surprise anybody, and I don't remember any of the Joes being deaf.
His figure was the least impressive of the set. Like 90% of the other G.I. Joe toys, the Royal Guard had all these bulbous plastic 'pouches' painted onto his uniform. I never quite understood why these figures needed so many of those danged pouches. How much can a person actually carry? Besides - the guy already comes with the big plastic sword, what else does he need? He also came with a gun, because I'm pretty sure that's the equivalent of having a dick in the world of these manly action figures. If you didn't have a gun, you might as well be a woman. Finally, he came with an antennae accessory. Not sure if it's really a bio-engineered lobster antennae or just a regular antennae.
Royal Guards are encased, from head to foot, in organic insectoid armor. Yes, the Royal Guard costumes are made entirely of bugs. Cobra-La is fucking scary, no doubt about it.
Royal Guards are tactically unimaginative and useless without supervision. I know, I know - this makes the guys sound like they'd be easily defeated by the Joes. Well, personally, I don't think it'd take all that much effort for someone to look in their general direction and yell "mutilate the Joes!" I think the person who wrote the filecards was just trying to balance things out with a made-up negative trait. Wanker.
The card then goes on to tell a short story about how twenty Royal Guards once thwarted 500 noblemen who attacked Golobulus' palace. Twenty Royal Guards were able to handle 500 guys, but they couldn't take on freakin' Sgt. Slaughter?! By this logic, and I refuse to believe it, Sgt. Slaughter is able to take on 500 angry noblemen. I'm not really sure what a 'nobleman' is, but unless they're like a foot tall or something, I think they took a few creative liberties while detailing the Guards' history.
Sorry folks, I don't have any additional images of the Cobra-La Royal Guard to offer. To compensate, here's a small gallery containing pictures of Malcolm-Jamal Warner's critically acclaimed autobiography, Theo and Me.
Nemesis Enforcer: The brawn of Cobra-La lies not within it's many bug-infested guards, but rather this man - Nemesis Enforcer. Here was a guy who really knew how to make a lasting impression. On the merits of being a gazillion feet tall and having wings, he's truly something. When you factor in that he's able to throw his adversaries over mountains without making so much as a grunt, he's doubly impressive. Nemesis Enforcer is Golobulus' right hand man, a creature who's able to make even the most difficult interrogations move a lot faster.
He went on to become one of the most popular characters in Joe lore. Nemesis Enforcer appealed to kids simply as a silent ass-kicking machine. While he certainly goes against the grain of the typical Cobra fare, we finally had a villain who wasn't portrayed as an evil version of Goofy. Here we had someone who didn't constantly mess up, somebody who wasn't afraid to show his dark side. This is evidenced in one movie scene where a Joe soldier is marveling at Nemesis Enforcer's size. Instead of standing there all self-congratulatory while agreeing that he is pretty muscular, Nemesis Enforcer responds by throwing the aforementioned soldier over his head and into a truck. Once I saw that, I knew he was something special.
The foreboding appearance and demeanor didn't translate quite as well with Nemesis Enforcer's action figure, which really doesn't look that much stronger than Destro or Lady Jaye. I guess you could argue that he was powerful enough to get away with wearing bright purple. Since he's so good at punching people, the Enforcer doesn't come with any plastic rifles or guns or rifleguns or armband cannons. He does come with two different types of backpack wings, though. The first are the more standard gray 'bat' wings, the kind we remember seeing him flying around with in the film. The secondary wings are a bunch of green tentacles that almost look like a miniature sex toy if you squint your eyes just right.
Golobulus created Nemesis Enforcer using a pile of dead things. When I was in kindergarten, I made a picture frame out of raw macaroni pieces. Take that, Golobulus.
Where Nemesis Enforcer's soul usually would be, there is only emptiness. Big deal, I say the same thing about my sister. She doesn't think that the episode of The Golden Girls where Sophia dresses up like Sonny Bono is funny.
The card then tries to spook kids by telling them that strange noises, cans rattling, and floors creaking are all the work of Nemesis Enforcer. Cobra-La: home of the world's most sadistic biochemical terrorists. And the bogeyman.
And that's the Cobra-La trio. There was also a reptilian woman with crazy eyes named Pythona, but they never made an action figure for her. Too bad those zany and totally effective online petitions weren't around back in those days - maybe we could've gotten Hasbro to put one out. Still, even if it's not the full Cobra-La team, these three characters remain some of my favorites from the entire series. What can I say? I like 'em grotesque.