Aside from having probably the largest collection of figures in any past or present line, fans fondly recall their G.I. Joe days because of the fantastically crafted vehicles forged for the series. Now, these toys were often absolutely huge - the Joe Aircraft Carrier was large enough for four kids to eat off of, and there were plenty more who were aptly sized for contortionist children to fit half their bodies inside. While the giants of the line get the most attention because they're too damn big to ignore, there were a few smaller vehicles worth gushing over.
Cobra Flight Pods were simple little monsters, but the kind of toy no kid could pass up - I think the best vehicles were the ones kids envisioned themselves using in their perfect fantasy world. In the lore of G.I. Joe, there's a whole lotta jets and tanks. That's all well and good, but c'mon...you know kids would rather pilot around in oversized mechanical fishbowls. Here's how the 'Trubble Bubbles' were introduced on the commercial....
One of the downsides of riding around in all these experimental jets and planes? Every once in a while, you're gonna test out a dud. Flint and Bazooka were elected to give the new G.I. Joe Super Major Giant Top Secret Flying Fists of Rage Chopper a test run, and ignoring their concerns about doing this above a deserted field of ice, they soon realize that the vehicle isn't quite up to the usual standards. The first hint was when turning the radio on made the canopy fly open. The second was when the helicopter exploded in midair.
Now they're trapped in the middle of nowhere, with no way of contacting their compatriots. Bazooka's extra upset because he forgot to pack a coat. And as he learned while inquiring about a mysterious box of cough drops which has suddenly never existed, Flint just doesn't like to share. The two agree not to let their frustrations mount into ill-will and an all-out deadly snowball fight, but they're still stuck in Antarctica with no way of getting home.
Making matters worse - Cobra's forces just happened to set up camp here in the tundra. One of the Tele-Vipers uses his head-scanner to locate 'em. Tele-Vipers were interesting troops - unlike most of Cobra's soldiers, they didn't really follow a professional decorum. Their shirts have half-length sleeves, they don't wear gloves, and they can't see anything because words are always scrolling across their helmet's eyepiece. Also known as 'Radio Telecommunications Operators', their gear just seems like a cheap excuse for Cobra to dress up their in-house electricians.
As if keeping Cobra's gizmos and do-dads up to snuff isn't tough enough, the Tele-Vipers have to deal with error messages and warnings sporadically popping up over their eyes. I'm sure they'll come a time when these guys are forced into a hand-to-hand melee situation with enemy troops, and stupid Destro is gonna start hitting red alarm buttons back at Cobra Headquarters when the toaster stops working. Try outclassing Snake Eyes and Quick Kick while trying to read about Destro's breakfast problems at the same time. Plus, having words rendered in bright red LED lights an inch away from your retinas has gotta lead to some kind of intense headaches.
Cobra Commander orders them to seek out the lone Joe soldiers, and the Tele-Vipers just stand there staring at him like he's got two green giraffe heads. They're not supposed to fight! They just fix things and look cool! It's written in their contracts, that's all their supposed to do. Cobra Commander isn't feeling particularly charitable today, and there's no way he's going to miss a golden opportunity just because the only available troops he has are busy constantly reading things. As a compromise, he agrees to let them use the really cool Flight Pods. Nobody can resist the Flight Pods, they're the corvettes of the terrorist underground. Would you pass up a chance to drive your brother's Mercedes just because he wanted you to pick him up a sack of White Castle on the way home?
What amazes me most about the show was everyone's ability to fly/drive/sail any vehicle imaginable at the drop of a hat. Was there a universal remote installed into all these things that we don't know about? It's like, Duke's plane can explode and he can land directly into the pilot's seat of the Cobra BUGG, and within three seconds he'll have it doing wheelies. I can't even get the doors open on other people's cars. If you ever doubt the amount of training these good guys and bad guys endure, don't overlook how thorough it really is.
The Tele-Vipers use the Trubble Bubbles (say it three times fast) to wreak havoc, but of course, the other Joes arrive just in time. With a cool tank that can navigate through ice and snow, no less. These guys should really invest in bombs sometime. It'd be way more efficient than trying to craft 40,000 vehicles for each of the soldiers when time and time again they've been proven to have exceptionally terrible aim.
Unlike a lot of the vehicles that either appeared once or not at all, the Flight Pods were used quite a bit on the show. If you've got the movie on DVD, check out the opening sequence where Cobra tries to take over the Statue of Liberty. There's Flight Pods everywhere, it's a parade. But while not every toy ended up on the show, you can bet that every last damn vehicle used on the cartoon ended up as a toy. Here's the Pod as kids knew it...
The best thing about 'em? These things would absolutely explode if you threw them against the wall. I know this is reaching for a selling point, but the climax of joy kids got from their toys was the method of which they destroyed them. If there was one thing more fun than putting together your brand new vehicle, it was completely dismantling it in the most unique way possible. It's like when you get a balloon - you enjoy it for a minute of two, especially if it's shaped like an octopus, and then all you can think about is finding the nearest toothpick or thumbtack. I've always been a fan of the most direct approach of toy destruction - simply hurling it against the wall as fast as I could. A lot of my toys would get dented, some would even break in two - but nothing could prepare me for the sheer thrill of watching the Cobra Flight Pod detonate into fifty-five thousand tiny pieces upon impact.
You could play with it too, but that got boring after a few minutes. Throwing it against the wall worked even better if you covered one of the figures with ketchup and put him inside the Pod beforehand. Then you'd have your first action figure with serious injury, and the playtime opportunities expanded big time.
To kids, one of the crushing blows of being a G.I. Joe fan was the price of some of the toys - none of the figures were expensive, but Christ, they didn't cut corners with their wheels. Even during the holiday season or near your birthday, when the chances were at their highest, it was tough to persuade your present-givers to shell out enough money to afford one of the larger vehicles. Flight Pods were a comparative steal. You didn't feel cheated because the toy came with so many tiny parts. We always equated lots of parts to mean high quality, even if it really just meant we'd just get in trouble for cursing trying to put the thing together.
To the untrained amateur, it'd appear as though Bazooka was fighting for his life, trying to avoid the barrage of laser fire coming his way from the airborne Cobra Pods. Actually, he's just feeling jealous because the pods look a lot cooler than his motorcycle. And Bazooka was sure buying a motorcycle would make him appear badass. He's double pissed since he forgot to add wartime damage to his insurance plan. And that he forgot to pack a coat. And that Flint still hasn't given him a cough drop. Bazooka's had better days.
Don't worry, the Joes make it out safe and sound. They have the kid who was playing Cobra fly the Pod directly into a tree. I'm only mentioning this because they used the cheapest fake snow ever; it falls off the tree in one giant continuous clump. If they wanted to illustrate salvation for the heroes, they should've just followed what we were talking about earlier by throwing the thing against a wall. Why make kids guess at which vehicles are gonna break the best? I'd say it's a major coup.
Speaking of coups - if I bought a Flight Pod, one of the biggest delights for me would be the belief that I'd have no trouble putting it together. Many G.I. Joe toys required the aid of a parent, group of mechanics, and a witch doctor for luck if you wanted the toy finished within a day. The picture above is just one of the thousand steps necessary in getting your Trubble Bubble prepared. Making matters worse was the fact that many instructional manuals were printed with two or three different languages. So not only would a kid have to buy Bob Vila books to get his toy working, he'd also have to learn French.
I wish they made these in real life. I'd love to pull up to a Wendy's drive-thru in one of these babies. It'd be a lot easier to just float backwards than to drive all the way around when they invariably screw up the order. But until technology advances, we'll have to settle with simply watching the utopia unfold on G.I. Joe. Don't give up hope. At the rate things are going, maybe we'll all have a chance to fly around in a Flight Pod before we die. And even if we don't, at least the thought gives you something happy to wish for when your cars run out of oil or when a bird shits on the windshield five seconds before your date comes outside. Keep the faith.
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Links: He-Man's new cartoon is out, and before I start writing my review of it, here's something to tide you over. If there's anything you need to be, it'd tided. A UGO-exclusive tribute to Modulok!