Arise, Serpentor, Arise! (1991 VHS Tape)

Home video, like GI Joe, was a big deal in the 1980s. Video rental stores were everywhere. From the beginnings with local mom and pop stores, to the emergence of rental giants like Blockbuster, the video stores of old were filled with the newest releases, along with forgotten and repackaged catalog titles. The early home video offerings were rife with incorrect and outright deceptive promotion. In a bid to gain the attention of the many eyeballs scanning shelves, some video companies employed advertising tactics that would have made old time carnival hucksters envious. Old public domain and newer cheeseball made-for-video films were given covers that often belied their cheapjack origins. Things did settle down into the 1990s, though there were still plenty of exaggerated video covers along with “they just didn’t care” releases. To wit; the cover of this particular GI Joe video.

The compilation of the Arise, Serpentor, Arise! mini series, hit shelves in 1991, while the Real American Hero toys were still a commanding presence on store shelves. I snapped it up when I first saw it after coming back to Joe collecting in 1992. At the time, I was also buying up all the sci-fi, horror and animation videos I could find, including the huge clamshell style Sunbow episodes released in the mid 80s. Though the gargantuan tape cases didn’t fit on video shelves, they could double as personal shelters in a pinch. It was a glorious time to be a videophile.

Arise’s cover painting is a rather cartoonish partial interpretation of the 1986 Live the Adventure catalog cover. Low-Light is decked out in an odd color variant, more suited to the desert scene pictured than his usual night operations. Roadblock is swinging into the action as before, yet this time without the benefit of trees or anything with which to anchor himself. Maybe he’s coming in from the Tomahawk. The famous heavy machine gunner and gourmet chef is also looking quite… Caucasian. Ouch, talk about not doing your research. I also have to wonder exactly what Low-Light is doing in this shot. He appears to be motioning to Hawk like he’s not quite ready to go into battle. Maybe it’s because the artist forgot to give him a weapon. I’m beginning to think they just didn’t care.

A final odd touch is the tape’s rear image, which features the Desert Fox, a vehicle which was released in 1988. The older vehicle’s presence here certainly wasn’t a cheap ploy to sell a current toy, since the vehicle would have been gone from store shelves. Yep, they just didn’t care.

Here’s the 1986 catalog cover used for reference to create the VHS box. Can you spot the differences? Let me know in the comments. It’s fun!


  • Wow…there are so many ridiculously awesome things about that video cover. I kind of thought Low Light was laughing particularly hard at something funny Hawk said. I wasn’t totally sure if that was Caucasian Roadblock swinging in or some really bizarre take on Gung-Ho. Plus, does anyone else want to see figures of Low Light and Beachhead in their “alternate” uniforms. Desert Low Light and Midnight Purple Beachhead on FSS 4.0 for the win! Oh Family Home Entertainment, I have fond memories of all the cartoons you put out on VHS back in the day…

  • !! A.W.E.S.O.M.E. !!

  • Dreadnok: Spirit

    They taped this in SLP (EP mode)? That always disappointed me when I’d get a VHS tape and find out it wasn’t recorded in SP. Anyone who remembers having to adjust the tracking on a video tape knows what a pain in the ass it was when things were recorded in EP or LP.

    As for Low-Light, it looks to me like everyone’s motioning him into battle and he’s trying to explain that he’d be more suitable for combat if he could just take a crap first.

  • I still have the 1988 Goldenbook release of “Laser in the night” which for some reason had the Snowcat on its front and rear cover.

    AND because its a Serpentor related article that means i get to go an anti-Serpentor rant.
    This five part adventure is flawed as there is only enough plot for two episode but it is dragged out to five. Mindbenders scheme to replace cobra commander due to the fact that he is “Inept” is flawed as Cobra commander had four victories [by default] and Serpentor had none. Serpentor is such a buffoon! His first order is to attack the nation of his enemies but he does no research into its armed forces strength nor knowing any of the key players [not even knowing who its leader was at the time] nor does he take any supplies with him which causes him to lose 99% of his airforce. When Cobra is forced to retreat [due to this bone headed move], he blames Cobra commander for it when Cobra commander saves him.

    I hate to sound like i’m defending a petty tyrant but speaking from a millitary point of view, sunbow Serpentor was as strategically gifted as a lump of sawdust

  • Those old VHS tape modes… I’d forgotten all about how visual/audio media used to work.

    I remember recording stuff off TV in EP mode so the tape would last longer. But I always hated it if I bought something that wasn’t in SP, which meant the best picture quality back in those days.

    Low Light does look constipated or otherwise suffering from a bad case of heartburn. Gotta love all those wacky ways of cutting down on packaging costs.

  • When we were kids, I’m sure our parents were awed (and a bit envious) of the array of entertainment options we had with color TV’s and the ability to buy or rent most anything to watch whenever we saw fit. But, our kids will look at things like VCR’s, tapes and their ilk and think we lived in the stone ages.

  • Hey Skymate, it’s the Sgt. Slaughter DNA that turned Serpentor into a bonehead.

  • @YT
    Possibly. If i recal correctly, that is from the same part in which Cobra commander threatens to decapitate Dr. Mindbender for “Terminal stupidity”
    Oh and i forgot to mention in my rant, Cobra-la punishing Cobra commander for “failure” is flawed as Serpentor was far more inept.

    Oh and on the subject of technology. Check out “Kids react to Walkmans”. Its so hilarious, watching the spoilt children of today look at a relic from the past.

  • Absurd pose of Roadblock/Gung-Ho!!!

  • I kinda want desert Low Light and O13-painted Sci Fi now.

  • Bless you, Skymate, you’re a man after my own heart. Each of the Sunbow mini-series leading up to the first season had Cobra Commander’s plan almost succeed, and the reason it didn’t is always, ALWAYS, because somebody betrayed him at a crucial moment (Destro, Zartan, Tomax/Xamot). In Arise, Serpentor, Arise, despite everyone kissing his butt the whole time, Cobra Commander tells Serpentor his plan will fail, and, hey. Serpentor’s plan fails, for exactly the reason Cobra Commander said!

    Also, as corny as CC’s plans could be sometimes, it was Serpentor who had a telethon for evil. And when Serpentor takes control of the PENTAGON’s computers, what does he do with this unprecedented military power? Promote Shipwreck to Colonel; a plan which should have been obviously a hoax just from the fact that Shipwreck is in the frickin’ Navy! (There’s no rank of Colonel in the Navy!)

    And yet, all the people who blamed Cobra Commander for every failure (that they all contributed to, min you) kept rallying around this cosplaying idiot like he actually had a good idea rather than just ranting “This I command!” all the time.

  • Back up a second. They merely hijacked the Joe communications line to the Pentagon, not the actual Pentagon computers. Beach-Head even mentions that Shipwreck isn’t in the army. If you want to fault that episode for something its that, IIRC, Duke and Flint are shown as silent background characters while all this is going on.

    Serpentor didn’t have Slaughter’s DNA, when Cobra Commander freed the Sarge, he smashed the tube containing it. Serpentor’s genetic make-up then was flawed by the cartoon’s logic, because he lacked Sun Tsu’s DNA and the intended replacement, Sgt Slaughter’s DNA (yeah, that’s stupid, but that’s part of the plot). Destro points that out immediately.If Serpentor was too competent, he’d win. Then the show is over. Or his underlings would bungle everything, and then you’d think he’d replace them, which might have been just desserts for the traitors.

  • Recently rewatching the mini-series, it did have some problems — I hate to see how it relies so much on the new Joes — but Cobra Commander and his sarcastic reactions to Serpentor are great. I especially like when he’s rooting for Sgt. Slaughter in their fight. Oh, and the Commander’s reason for keeping him around is an interesting sort of mature idea. He suggests he can be useful as a scapegoat.

    And I often wonder, will we ever learn the tale of that mysterious boy in the 1986 promo art?

  • Oh, and what good would the DNA of Vlad the Impaler do for Serpentor?

  • Vlad Dracula, often regarded as a national hero of Romania, was a ruthless politician and fearless, daring general (his particular specialty being fast, hit-and-run raids) with a run of victories against vastly superior forces, which makes him about as reasonable a DNA donor for Serpentor as anyone else

  • @Captainswift
    Sorry for the delay. I was out of town at a steam punk festival.

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