Cobra Commander (1991)

Comic book heroes can be fickle fashionistas. Even the tried and true bigwigs like Superman and Spider-Man have had their fair share of wardrobe changes over the years. Some second string heroes like Marvel’s Wasp and Wonder Man seemed to change their outfits as often as most of us change our socks, many times only appearing in a single issue. Well, True Believers, even the GI Joe comics succumbed to the allure of redesigns, although short lived in this case. Behold the Cobra Commander uniform that couldn’t even manage 15 minutes of fame.

The Commander had a few specific use outfits over the years, like the Battle Armor and Star Brigade versions, but this one just sort of popped up, both in the toy line and comic with no fanfare and no elaborate file card explanation. In fact, the launching glider accessory got more file card background than his change of attire. The first appearance of the suit in the comic pictured the Commander seated on an ornate cobra throne, so maybe it was meant to be a new ceremonial uniform. But alas, as quickly as it showed up, this getup was gone. The comic version looked fairly similar to the figure, with the exception of the helmet. The helmet in the comic was quite odd-looking, as the snake motif on the helmet wasn’t clearly portrayed, and the top portion of the visor was colored gold. The gold coloring on the visor makes it look like the helmet has slipped down over his eyes and nose. The end result is just weird and distracting.

As for the figure, it too was gone and forgotten. While the helmet design is regal, the rest of the sculpt is disappointing. He seems to be so bulked-out that he can’t lower his arms to a neutral position. He also has the thighs of a speed skater. The figure does hold a couple of points of interest. The red visor has an actual face beneath it. The face is sculpted, but unpainted in some versions. There’s also a variation with painted eyes and eyebrows. So after all this time, what does Cobra Commander look like under the helmet? Like a regular guy. He doesn’t even have one dramatically raised eyebrow like his Star Brigade version. Finally, his unique submachine gun is a great new weapon, even though it’s gold.

This is the ultimate “blink and you’ll miss him” Cobra Commander, and one that I don’t find much use for in my collection, aside from maybe a ceremonial function. I much prefer the same year’s Talking Battle Commander mold and the 1993 and 2000 repaints, all solid updates of the “rag face” version of the Commander.


  • You’ve covered it all very nicely so I’ll just add that seeing the Talking Battle Commander released not long after was a huge relief. Likewise, the comic. Thanks for including that panel to show how bad of an idea this guy was. It’s the one figure from 1991 I’ve never bothered to look for. Just wrong for the character on a great many levels.

  • Nice write-up! This was one of my first Joes (quickly followed by the talking CC) and i even had the comic you mentioned. Would LOVE to know the backstory behind this. And yep, first thing I did was break that mask off my figure. Wasn’t held by much glue and could still be reattached

  • Well, the gun got a couple of reuses, so that’s good. It was recolored black and packaged with the 1994/95 Sonya Blade figures, both the regular version (in green) and the Movie Edition figure (in black).

  • I think the comic book version’s helmet looks like a giant gold acorn. All the Joes needed to defeat Cobra was a giant squirrel!

  • Underneath the mask, I think Cobra Commander looks like Fred (the Crimson Guard archetype from the comics). think about it for a minute, the man is vain enough to have his elite troopers “made in his own image” like a wannabe deity. Also, it makes sense from a strategic standpoint so he could move about without arousing too much suspicion and throwing off any would-be detectives/intelligence types.

    What do you think, sirs?

  • The comic book version of this costume also showed up on one of the G.I. Joe trading cards released by Impel in the early 90s, albeit with all the gold areas coloured metallic dark blue, oddly.

  • Jonah Hardenbrook

    I’m sure I’m alone here, but this is one of my favorite versions of the character. It may be because it was my first, but this is still my “go to” Commander figure. I love the mold and the colors, and I loved the fact that it was so radically different than what had come before, and after for that matter.

  • I liked him for a long, long time, but one day (and I cannot recall exactly when) I changed my mind about him. The red facemask wasn’t appealing at all, and the face under it went the opposite direction of how I did CC (who was a mystery man and always will be). Just sort of happened.

  • It came and went fast at retail, like mid 1991 and then wasn’t rereleased in 1992 (most of the 1991 figures weren’t).

    I agree he’s too bulked out. Otherwise I’d like this release just for being so different.

    That glider thing was terrible.

    This figure was planned to be released in Brazil but cancelled, under the name Tyrano or something. Wonder what character he would’ve been (besides a tyrant, obviously), given Estrela’s deviations from American “canon”.

  • I always wanted him as a kid but as a collector I can see why some people don´t like him. This version doesn´t make any sense to me. I really like the head sculpt along with the red facemask. I have both versions but prefer the one without eyebrows. When I bought my first one I broke off the faceplate to finally see what CC looks like and I have to say that when it comes to (almost) revealing his face nothing compares to the Star Brigades version. The 1993 black version is my favorite. Put the 1991 head on the 1993 body and you´ve got a winner for the nineties as far as I´m concerned.

  • Which issue of Marvel’s G.I.Joe comic book is that panel from???

    I’ve collected various issues from #98 to #138, but with large gaps between them.

    I only saw Cobra Commander in this 1991 version 4 uniform / outfit in G.I. Joe #120 when The Baroness gives CC a swift kick in the stomach when she’s being exchanged back to Destro.

    Regarding the red faceplate…

    I wish Hasbro had released that previewed / prototype 1997 Cobra 4-pack with 1982 /1983 version 1 Cobra Commander in dark blue and red faceplate.

    (but I know Hasbro lost that original V1 CC mold at the time)

    THAT red faceplate would’ve kicked ass!

    Sort of like the 1990s Sonic Fighters Viper or 1989 Python Patrol Viper.

    I can’t help but think that the 1991 Cobra Interrogator action figure would’ve made a better helmeted CC.

    Or the 1993 Crimson Guard Commander released in more classic colors as a new helmeted CC for the 90’s.

    I do like the hooded 1991 Talking Battle Commanders CC in light blue, along with its 1993 Battle Corps reissue in black / silver.

    I dunno…

    I kinda like this 1991 Cobra Commander with red faceplate.

    Very serpent-y.

    Impressive file card blurb, too.

  • Re-watching those cheesy live-action GI Joe commercials from the early 90’s on YouTube was enough to sell me on this version. I tracked one down on eBay in nice condition.

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