GI Joe Series 2 Season 1 DVD Review
First off, thanks to the good folks at Shout Factory, purveyors of many a beloved 80’s animated property on DVD, for providing an early review copy. I’m relieved that the show ended up with them, as I have enjoyed their treatment of the Sunbow Joe and Transformers series, as well as their stellar Mystery Science Theater 3000 sets.
The DIC series is a chapter of GI Joe history that’s been derided by many fans over the years, and in some respects, it’s an easy target. Though the previous GI Joe series produced by Sunbow doesn’t exactly stand up as high art, much of that series provided for entertainment that was at times rollicking, and even diverse enough to provide a little knowing wink-and-a-nod humor.
The DIC series however does not rise to the same level, and though there are some attempted jibes at aspects of pop culture of the time, most of the time the jokes fall flat. While Sunbow tacked on 30 second morals to the end of the show: “Don’t play with power lines, kids!” DIC attempted, especially in the second season, to work morals and messages into some of the stories themselves. There’s nothing wrong with that, and in fact it’s a pretty common element of late 80’s/early 90’s animation. Presumably Hasbro was involved since the focus of the “morals” episodes tied in with then-current GI Joe sub-groups with a “message”–the Eco Warriors and Drug Elimination Force. Finally, where the Sunbow characterizations were one dimensional and shallow, many of the DIC Joes and Cobras are ciphers, simply spouting lines to get the story moving to the next plot point.
Yet despite all this, there’s something oddly fascinating to me about the series, much of which I’m sure has to do with curiosity. I never saw the show in its original run, and thus have no nostalgia for it. As an adult collector, I have a different perspective on it. I can view it simply for what it (and the Sunbow series) was–a marketing vehicle for toys. I’m fine with that–I can turn off my brain, and I’m good to go. From a historical perspective, in this set alone, we see the likes of Capt. Grid-Iron, Topside, Pathfinder, Night Vipers, Annihilators and many more ’89 and ’90 figures. Heck, even Sky Patrol gets featured in a couple of episodes. And as a bonus, you can also relish the unintentional humor that is rife throughout the series.
This first volume features a total of 24 episodes, including the 5 part Operation Dragonfire mini-series. The packaging utilizes key art based on Operation Dragonfire, with Slaughter’s Marauders, Scoop, Stalker and Rock n’ Roll featured prominently throughout the set. The case used is not the slim cases packed in a slipcover like the Shout Factory Sunbow sets, but rather a standard size case with four interior disc holders. Each disc’s episode contents are printed on the inside of the cover insert and show through the inside of the clear case. The disc menus feature the same character art from the cover, and the same character is also printed on the four discs themselves. Menus are widescreen format while the episodes themselves maintain their original 4:3 ratio.
Video quality is solid, and it doesn’t appear to have been remastered, although some of the episodes look markedly better than others in terms of clarity and color saturation. Basically the episodes look as good as one would expect from a twenty year old cartoon, and the quality is far beyond anything that’s been available on home video before (i.e bootlegs and YouTube). I would venture to guess that these episodes also look better than they would have during their original broadcasts. I certainly remember that my local independent stations in the 80’s and 90’s didn’t have the strongest signals of the time. Then again, maybe I didn’t have my rabbit ears adjusted correctly back in the day.
The audio is clear, and thankfully hasn’t been post-processed. I still cringe when I think of the old Rhino GI Joe DVDs and their “remastered” audio tracks. There are no booming bass explosions or re-edited gunfire/lasers here, just good old 2.0 stereo.
There are no extras on the set, which is a bit of a disappointment. I was particularly hoping for some of the 90’s live-action toy commercials, but I imagine that obtaining commercials and the like was beyond the scope and budget of the project. All in all, this is a very good presentation of the second generation of Joe animation. The video and audio quality are solid, and the packaging design is tasteful and effective; it even fits in well on a shelf alongside the Sunbow GI Joe sets.
Regardless of what you’ve heard about the DIC series, it’s worth owning simply for the historical and fun factors. So throw out those bootleg DVDs created from 5th generation VHS tapes, delete the bookmarks to those grainy Youtube videos and pony up the cash for this set. In fact, tell your friends also, and buy multiple copies to ensure that we get Season 2! It’s available January 10, 2012 from your favorite retailers, and you can also order direct from Shout Factory.