There are many things that my good friend Rich and I debate over: which movie is better, Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope or Star Wars Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back. (Empire of course, original trilogy, please.) Who is cooler, Gandalf the Gray or Gandalf the White? (Gandalf the Gray of course.) Who is a better chess player, him or me? (Me, I beat him once in three moves. Actually, he is a better player than me, but this is my blog so there, Rich.) But one of the most interesting to me, I think, is which G. I. Joe Cobra Commander toy is cooler, the 1982 mail order silver domed face Cobra Commander (Rich’s choice) or the 1984 mail in offer Hooded Cobra Commander (my choice.)
Of course, the Hooded Cobra Commander wins. I mean, just look at him, that hood makes him so mysterious and evil. You can just imagine him sitting at his throne, staring down at his troops, while a captured Joe gets tortured. The Silver Domed one looks like a bad reject from a low budget sci-fi movie, and I can just see Duke fixing his hair in the reflection of Cobra’s dome then knocking him out with one punch.
The Hooded Cobra Commander is not practical in battle though. One gust of wind and Cobra’s hood flies off, or all you have to do is just turn it around on his head so his eyes don’t line up with the eye slits and then hit him and the war is over. But I just don’t think that the domed Cobra is menacing enough to lead his troops into battle. So, while the Hooded Cobra Commander is my choice of which is cooler, the 1987 Cobra Commander with Battle Armor is my choice for the perfect Cobra to fight.
Why did I choose this particular figure out of ALL the Cobra Commander’s that have been made through out the years? Simple. It’s all because of a guy named Willy.
When I was a kid I lived and breathed G. I . Joe. I loved the cartoon and loved the toys. I had epic wars with them in my room, and I was the easiest person to shop for for birthdays and Christmas because all I wanted was more Joe figures. How much did I love it? Well, when I was in the fifth grade I had to have a hernia operation. After being given the anesthesia, they wheeled me towards the operating room. As I began to drift off to slumber land I remember saying in a groggy voice as we approached the room “Yo, Joe,” much like the Joe’s did in battle. The nurse asked me what I said and I replied nothing before I went to sleep.
Most of the boys in my class played with G.I. Joes and Willy was no exception. I remember him inviting me over once to play when he got the G.I. Joe aircraft carrier. Wow, what a toy, it was huge to my young eyes and so cool looking.
I first met Will when we were in Kindergarten. I can still see in my mind’s eye the day we first met, him standing with his mother and me with mine, waiting on the playground for school to begin. We became good friends from that day, and even though we drifted apart later in life, we always would try to stay in touch, calling each other every so often or getting together.
I remember my 12th birthday. It was May, 1987, and my sister and I (we’re twins remember?) had the class over for a party. We were in a game of manhunt and Willy and I were at the corner hiding. He was very excited to give me my birthday present, so excited in fact, that he just couldn’t wait and wanted to make sure I didn’t have it. So he told me he got me the Battle Armored Cobra Commander.
During our high school years we went to different schools. Unfortunately for Will, he got involved with the wrong crowd and tried drugs. It would be a battle he would fight for many years trying to stop. When he was finally turning his life around, beating his addiction and finding a course in his life he wanted to take (he enjoyed working at the deli counter at the local food store and I think he would have made the decision to go to culinary school) Willy suddenly died at the young age of 22.
I’ll never forget finding out. I’ll never forget telling my parents when they came home, me crying and my dad grabbing me in shock. I’ll never forget being at his funeral, crying uncontrollably as they wheeled his coffin down the aisle at the end. And I’ll never forget the first friend I ever made and the times we shared as kids playing.
Will was the first person close to me that I knew who died. No matter what age one is, it is never easy losing someone you care for, and losing someone when you are only 22 is no exception. It poses so many questions about life and mortality, and when you’re young, you just don’t have the answers. Even when you get older you ask why. I guess it is just a part of life that we all have to inevitably have to face and are never prepared for.
When I was in my 20’s I sold all my G.I. Joe figures at a convention. I kept only one and he is in a drawer in my dresser to this day. That figure is my Battle Armored Cobra Commander Willy gave me when I was 12.
I don’t have his gun, backpack, breathing hose or even the file card from the back of the packaging. No, all I have is this lone figure and the wonderful memories of a good friend who left us way too early in life.
So, you see, while I prefer the Hooded Cobra Commander for his menacing abilities, the Battle Armored Cobra Commander will always be my favorite Cobra figure.