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Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe
More Than Meets The Eye Transfomers and GI Joe the Real American Hero Face Off
By Chad Derdowksi
October 20, 2009
Hasbro scored a double victory at the box office this summer with the release of two films based on two of their biggest toy properties: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Neither film was a hit with many critics, but both performed admirably and ensured that sequels are on the way. With victories over the box office, the toy shelves and against Father Time himself (both of these toy lines have been alive and kicking for over two decades), it’s time to settle the score and answer the question on everyone’s minds: Who would win in a fight?
The Transformers made their debut on September 17, 1984 and enjoyed four seasons and an animated film before the plug was pulled. Their story spanned generations, introduced tons of characters and even saw the death of their leader, Optimus Prime (who was eventually brought back to life).
But four seasons (and one season of “greatest hits” episodes) couldn’t dim the spark. The Transformers were back with Beast Wars in 1996, an all-CGI series that saw them turned into animals. Three seasons of Beast Wars led into a season’s worth of Beast Machines. In 2002, fans were treated to Transformers: Armada. And Armada begat Energon and Energon begat Cybertron… it all gets a little confusing and they’re certainly not all in the same continuity. Then in 2007, we saw the most recent animated incarnation of the Robots in Disguise: Transformers Animated, which lasted three seasons.
G.I. Joe made their entrance into the animated world with a five-part miniseries that aired in September of 1983. One year later we got another series and finally in 1985, fans got a proper animated series which ran for two seasons. There was even an animated feature film, but after the lack of success of the Transformers film, it ended up being shown on television as another 5-parter rather than in theaters.
Hasbro cut costs and did another two seasons with different animators, but like those later Transformers series’, most folks just tend to forget about it if they were even aware of it at all. Both Sgt. Savage and his Screaming Eagles and G.I. Joe Extreme attempted to reboot the franchise in the ‘90s with new villains and heroes but neither was a success. The early 2000s saw the release of a couple of direct-to-DVD computer-generated movies and 2005 gave us the debut of G.I. Joe: Sigma 6, another reboot, this time with an anime-influenced style. And in 2009, fans enjoyed the phenomenally awesome G.I. Joe: Resolute. Written by Warren Ellis, this modern take on the classic story originally debuted as 5-minute webisodes before being broadcast on Adult Swim.
With several variations, movies and multiple continuities, it’s a tough call, but it boils down to this: We’ve watched both series recently and neither one is exactly award-winning material. However, we’re able to sit through a number of episodes of Transformers while we can barely stomach even 22 minutes of G.I. Joe. The Transformers movie featured a robot that transformed into a planet and ate other planets. The G.I. Joe movie had worm people who lived in the Himalayas. It doesn’t take a genius to know that Transformers wins the first round, and knowing is half the battle.
The concept is so simple but so brilliant: robots that turn into vehicles. What kid wouldn’t go completely bananas for that? Transformers started out as two separate Japanese toy lines, Microman and Diaclones, which were imported and refurbished in the states as The Transformers. They were (obviously) a huge hit and many new variations were introduced over the years including Headmasters, Beast Machines and the like. The Transformers continue to spawn new incarnations today, including crossovers with Star Wars, Marvel Comics and even Disney characters.
G.I. Joe figures date back to 1964 and have gone through almost as many incarnations as the Transformers, including Action Man, Super Joe and the Real American Hero incarnation that most fans are familiar with. Though not every version of the toy shares this hallmark, one of the most well known features of the Joe toys are their many points of articulation. You can pose them just like real soldiers, a fact that has made them a cherished toy icon for many years. As with the Transformers (toy line and animated series), there have been several different continuities and reboots as well as a return to the classics: both Transformers and G.I. Joe have recently seen figures based on their classic ‘80s incarnations hit the toy stands in recent years.
Cars that turn into robots are cool. A robot that turns into a Walther P-38 is cool. But nothing beats Kung-Fu Grip! Round two goes to G.I. Joe.
The Transformers had a comic book? Yeah, it turns out that Marvel published 80 issues between 1984 and 1991. However beloved the Transformers comics may have been, they have always been overshadowed by the vastly superior G.I. Joe comics, which were also published by Marvel and ran 155 issues. The ‘80s G.I. Joe comics stand as one of the finest toy tie-ins ever produced as well as one of the most underrated comics of the era, thanks to Larry Hama, who penned the majority of the series.
Both Transformers and G.I. Joe remain in print and continue to see new adventures, as IDW acquired the license to both series’ several years ago.
Yo Joe! The Real American Hero walks away with the victory in this round.
The first Transformers flick received generally favorable reviews while the second one was one of the worst reviewed films of all time. Nevertheless, both films were big budget spectacles that were allegedly enjoyed by lots of people and made oodles of money. G.I. Joe: the Rise of Cobra was released to poor reviews and big box office receipts. While it wasn’t the hit that either of the Transformers films were, it made enough scratch to ensure that we’ll see the continuing adventures of Joe and Cobra on the big screen in at least one sequel.
Both film franchises are renowned for their simplistic plots that pandered to the lowest common denominator, their overabundance of poor acting and stereotypical portrayal of minorities. They are reviled by fans who can’t make peace with the changes made to both continuity and the appearance of the characters but are adored by filmgoers who just want to shut their brains off for two hours and watch stuff blow up.
Whether or not the films were any good is up to fans and critics to decide. It’s clear that somebody liked them, because they made a whole lot of money and introduced the characters to a whole new generation of fans. But no matter how you slice it, Transformers are the clear cut winners of round four. When it comes to box office muscle, they flexed their techno-organic biceps and crushed G.I. Joe like a paper cup.
The Big Fight
We’ve discussed toys, comics and cartoons. We’ve mulled over box office receipts and quality. Now it’s time to get down to brass tacks: the fight. Who would win if G.I. Joe faced off against The Transformers? For the sake of this imaginary matchup, we’ll pit the entire Joe line against the entire Transformers line, meaning that Autobot and Decepticon will find common ground and the Joe team will have the military genius of both Sgt. Slaughter and Serpentor!
G.I. Joe represents the best the military has to offer. Their technology far exceeds anything that the current military is using… even the stuff that won’t be declassified for another 20 years. And the stuff Cobra is using is even more advanced than that. They’ve cloned a man using the DNA of dead conquerors!
The Transformers are a highly evolved form of sentient machinery with thousands of years of combat experience and the ability to disguise themselves as a variety of everyday objects. Unlike the Joes and Cobras, who use humans to pilot machines of destruction, the Transformers are living machines of destruction.
So how does the battle play out? Well, it goes a little something like this: The Transformers turn into robots and step on the Joes and Cobras, squashing them like ants. End of story. This isn’t a Godzilla movie where the military finds a way to defeat a big, lumbering animal; the Transformers are every bit as intelligent as the Joes and Cobras, probably even more so. Yeah, military tactics and know-how are great and firepower would take out a few of them, but ultimately it just boils down to giant robots stepping on humans and squishing them between their big steel toes. Yo Joe? No, Joe. Transformers win hands down.
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