Aaron Dembski-Bowden

Don't worry. None of this blood is mine.

Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, panic spreading far and wide.

It's a snake. I get it.

As logos go, this is elegance incarnate.

Let me explain something to you.

If aliens landed right now, and they were the kind of squiggly slime-beasts that were totally into wiping out mankind, there’s one organisation that I’d want to defend us. It wouldn’t be the US Army, or the ThunderCats, or even the Autobots led by a Powermaster Series Optimus Prime from eBay with all the fiddly gun bits still in the box.

The organisation that I’d want to defend us against space invaders – indeed, the only corporation I actively want to join even now – is Cobra.

Cobra gets a very bad rap, but that’s not always their fault. Their principal opponents are flag-sucking Stars and Stripes wankers with suntans and perfect smiles, and that’s the kind of thing that gets American TV networks spooging all over their safe, safe schedules full of safe, safe programs.

I’m willing to admit that Cobra has its flaws, but what company doesn’t? Yes, their leader’s catchphrase is “Cobra! Retreat!“, but in his defence, they’d all be arrested or killed if they stood around fighting a losing battle. So really, retreating is about the only smart thing you can do in those situations. At least he’s not shouting “Cobra! Surrender!” or “Cobra! Let them take us to Guantanamo Bay for our crimes!

But too often, this is the image people have of Cobra Commander:

I admit, this looks bad.

But that’s all he does? He kicked a dog once, and that’s it? That makes him a bad leader and a useless terrorist mastermind?


Besides, that dog was probably being a dick.

So what is it about Cobra that makes them so awesome? Why do I, a 29-year-old white male, want to join a ruthless terrorist organisation bent on taking over the world?

I’ll tell you why.

First, watch this:

Now, there are several things you can take from this, before we even get into the real shit.

Firstly, notice what’s happening at 0:41.

These are a killer's eyes. And these are a killer's balls.

Cobra Troopers are parachuting down, and that one guy is so badass you don’t simply zoom into his thousand-yard-stare, because he totally catches a thermal, rises up, and descends toward the camera again. And on this second time, you get a close up of his balls.

You might think all terrorists are assholes, but these are the guys that go headfirst into battle, decide that’s just not rad enough, and make it balls-first instead. My point is this: If you don’t think that’s hardcore, then you and I will never be friends.

Judging by all the flashing lights, fireworks and multicoloured balloons floating around the Statue of Liberty, Cobra are apparently committing a parachute assault against a Gay Pride March. I don’t know why this would be, but then, I’m not Cobra Commander. I assume he had his reasons for deploying his private army in such a way. What I find particularly haunting about this naked aggression against gays is that Cobra is, in all ways, an equal-opportunity employer. So maybe they just got their coordinates wrong this once.

But then, a lot of this opening sequence is actually bullshit, and goes against the fundamentally awesome principles of Cobra. Gay-bashing is just one of the things they’d never do.

Look what happens at 0:56.

As if Cobra Troopers didn’t look awesome enough, here’s a Crimson Guard – one of Cobra’s elite soldiers – parachuting down to be off the scale in maximum coolness. They didn’t always wear this armour, by the way. They also acted as deep-cover agents in civilian life, and it was mandatory for all Crimson Guards to have accounting or law degrees. I’m not even kidding. That’s how rad Cobra was: their elite guards also had day jobs as handsome lawyers.

Billy, from Ally McBeal - A captain in the Crimson Guard (Director's Cut only).

But here’s why this cartoon reeks of anti-Cobra propaganda. This guy lands and punches a camera, shattering its helpless glass eye.

That makes no sense. That’s not what Cobra was about. They loved publicity. One of the reasons Cobra was so awesome was that they advertised themselves on TV. They became a sovereign nation. They had their own embassy/office block in some US city that I forget the name of right now. They craved attention. The sky is full of 3,000 parachutes all with the Cobra symbol on them. Does this look like a sneak attack?

There’s no way a Crimson Guard – who, let’s recall, has a law degree – would just touch down and punch out Camera One. That’s not the Cobra I know and love.

Objectively, there’s no way of arguing against the central fact, here. Dressing up like this:

…is the best thing any of us could hope to do in our lives. Which brings me to my next point. Why would I be a soldier in Cobra, but not join the army?

Simple. I couldn’t be trusted in the army.

The reason I could never be trusted in a military situation isn’t because I suck at taking orders (although I do), but because if I was going house-to-house in Fallujah, I wouldn’t be able to control myself. I’d kick in people’s doors and scream “COBRA!” at them while they cowered in fear. At the first sign of conflict, I’d shout “COBRA! RETREAT!” in Cobra Commander’s whiny voice. I just know I would. There’d be no stopping me. Maybe for the first few times, the other guys would laugh. But sooner or later – and probably sooner – they’d just shoot me in the back and say the bad guys did it.

My parents would be told that I’d died a hero’s death, which would be a lie. I’d have died an annoying twat’s death, and it would’ve been a fate I’d earned most richly.

Part of my affection for Cobra is simply that they weren’t G.I. JOE, because the Joes were unbelievably, insufferably uncool. I’d cringe every time they won, because they really didn’t deserve to triumph at all. The Joes were also confusingly American, which I found hard to relate to. They waved that flag every 5 minutes and talked like idiots, while their tagline was “A real American Hero”.

Cobra, on the other hand, were deliciously multinational. Destro was a morally-flexible arms dealing skinhead in a weird silver mask, and as if that wasn’t awesome enough, he was also Scottish. I thought that was a nice touch, though even at a tender age I wondered just what opportunities for gun-smuggling could arise between Carlisle and Aberdeen. Destro also got laid, which was something the Joes never seemed interested in. But Destro, that Scottish ironmonger, was a hit with the only lady worth anything: The Baroness.

After millions of years, evolution finally gets it right.

But the real reason I would willingly swear my life (and indeed, die) for Cobra is that I thought their plans were fucking brilliant. Vision like theirs deserved to be supported.

Each time the Joes foiled them, I’d regard it as some inevitable but disgusting shame, and eagerly await the next caper that would deserve to hand them the world on a plate, while knowing it would ultimately end in a necessary retreat.

Even in this opening sequence, there’s a great plan that deserves to go all the way, cockblocked at the last minute by some square-jawed asshole in an unbuttoned shirt. Here we have Destro giving a bomb to Cobra Commander, which the latter will use to blow up the Statue of Liberty.

Firstly, I admire the sheer ambition of that as a statement of terrorism. I feel like it’s something I could get involved with. Aim high. Live to win. All that good stuff.

Secondly, Cobra Commander jetpacks in to plant the bomb himself, and I think we can all get behind a leader who likes to get his hands dirty once in a while. Note also, at 1:36, Cobra Commander actually plants the bomb while under (pink…) enemy fire, after flying through a massive sky war. That’s not the action of a coward, so again, anyone who says Cobra Commander sucks needs to shut the hell up, and piss off while doing so.

And thirdly, the Statue of Liberty is French, so fuck it. Blow that shit up.

Cobra’s plans were always like this. At one point, Cobra’s very own ninja, Storm Shadow, comes to England and finds Excalibur, which he then promptly uses in an attempt to kill Americans. Did King Arthur intend this? I just don’t know, but it’s an intriguing notion.

Later, when Cobra runs out of money, they set up a heavy metal band – the mighty Cold Slither – in order to brainwash the population with subliminal messages in the music. Why didn’t that work? It should’ve done. The world would be an awesome place if it had.

Gene Simmons fucked Mick Hucknall, and their child is playing a wooden spade.

Here are some of the Slither’s fine lyrics:

“We’re Cold Slither, you’ll be joining us soon,

A band of vipers, playing our tune,

With an iron fist,

And a reptile hiss,

We shall rule.”

Real subtle, guys. Anyway, as with all of Cobra’s plans, something goes wrong. In this case, the members of Cold Slither are too batshit-crazy, and they go from shoving guitars up each others’ asses to simply chainsawing their instruments in half. I can’t be mad at them for that, though. I mean, we were all young once.

Cobra celebrated its weirdness. Ninjas and freaks and bikers and terrorists, all hanging out and trying to take over the world by heavy metal, flamethrowers, chainsaws and accountancy. They’d manipulate the stock market. They’d invade countries. They’d invent bubblegum that turned kids into zombies. All of this was punishingly awesome. I’d be proud to have all of that on my resume’. I’d be honoured to kick in people’s doors and yell “COBRA!” at them, only to retreat if they seemed annoyed.

By contrast the Joes were impossible to relate to. Even their names were related to being an asshole boiling in his own bubbling machismo, or being a sports guy. Roadblock? Beach Head? Big Lob? Gung-Ho ran around in army gear with no shirt on. Falcon and General Hawk were named after birds of prey. Duke – fucking Duke – who the hell is called that in real life? Who’d choose that as their codename? Only the Overlord of Douchebaggery.

And I’m sorry, but “Yo, Joe!” is not a cool thing to yell in the middle of a battlefield. It’s not cool to yell it anywhere, but mid-warfare is surely the stupidest place.

The only good Joe was Snow Job.

"And that's why they call me..."

Snow Job is awesome for all the most obvious reasons. His name means to lie;  to get cocaine snorted off your cock by a hooker; and it sounds a bit like blowjob. Strangely, his wikipedia article has this to say about him:

“He helps the Joes secure weapons grade Plutonium that Cobra was trying to steal. He also tries a to run a minor scam against Rock’N’Roll via getting cash to set him up with Gung-Ho’s sister, a model (who was really nine). After Doc explains the trick, the officer himself says ‘This is why they call me ‘Snow-Job'”.”

I have no idea what that means, but it sounds pretty illegal. So maybe he should just join Cobra? He can leave the 9-year-old girl at the door, though. That’s not cool.

Lastly, even in situations of catastrophic terrorism, it’s not Cobra that causes danger to the public. If you watch that clip, at 0:33, the cobra skythingy arrives and eclipses the moon in what top scientists suspect is a metaphor.


And then Cobra’s guys jump out. All good, right?

That means this is above the Statue of Liberty. Like, directly above it. Whether it’s a Gay Pride march or not is irrelevant. You’ve got people running around everywhere.

I've never met a gay person who dresses this badly.

So how do the good guys solve this problem?

Duke (Ugh, that name…) jetpacks around, takes the bomb, and plants it on the bottom of the Cobra airship.

"Only 8 seconds left!" "Must... cause... harm to... innocent bystanders..."

So the hero has just set explosives on a massive warship thing that’s hovering over the Statue of Liberty and all the crowds.

That little girl will never see her parents again.

Good game, genius.

And that’s why Cobra is awesome.

On a final note, if Cobra Commander ever came to me and asked if I had any ideas, I’d say “Yes, yes I do.”

Step 1: Breed an army of these:

"Father! Why have you abandoned me by the shore?"

Step 2: Introduce them into every river in some out of the way place, like Burma or whatever.

Step 3: Cobra! Retreat!

June 9, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , ,


  1. Brilliant analysis. I’d renounce my American citizenship right now and sign up if it weren’t for that whole “Cobra-la-la-la-la-la-la” fiasco. Little known fact: Serpentor was runner-up for Overlord of Douchebaggery. He’d have won, but the scientists that created him had already absentee-ballotted a vote for Duke.

    Comment by Nathan | June 9, 2010 | Reply

  2. Oh. My. Fucking. God. XD That was frigging awesome.

    Comment by Forkmaster | June 9, 2010 | Reply

  3. Not to mention that in the crossover comics, Cobra teamed up with the Decepticons.
    Now how could that have failed?
    You’ve got a team of very stylish international terrorists allied with a robot with a giant laser bazooka on his arm. Oh, and Soundwave, the greatest Decepticon of all.

    Such an alliance couldn’t fail, just by rule of cool.

    Though of course, anything on a cartoon like this would be subject to poorer weapons accuracy training than the Stormtroopers in A New Hope, and as such I can’t see why they couldn’t have just trained one sniper with the resources and done GI Joe in that way..

    Nice article sir.

    Comment by Joe | June 9, 2010 | Reply

  4. Join Cobra? Why yes, yes I would. I’d be the homeless guy on the streets, camping out the buildings, like the White House.

    Or Mount Rushmore.

    Or the Twin Towers.

    Too soon? Fuck no!

    Comment by Lord of Insanity | June 9, 2010 | Reply

  5. If I ever find out that Cobra Commander ISN’T the head of the FCC….I’ll be bitterly disappointed.

    Comment by Xhalax | June 9, 2010 | Reply

  6. ‘Duke – fucking Duke – who the hell is called that in real life? Who’d choose that as their codename? Only the Overlord of Douchebaggery.’

    This just made me day.

    And is even more epically funny after the film. Although at least the ninjas were still cool in that.

    Comment by RayeRaye | June 9, 2010 | Reply

  7. Wocha,

    Now it is clear you are but a mere strippling and as such were born too late for true awesomeness. As every British boy of ‘a certain age’, that age being about thirty something, knows Cobra Commander started life as Baron Ironblood leader of the one true organization of domination, the Red Shadows. Now these guys had to face off against Z Force, SAS Force, Q Force and Space Force collectively known as Action Force. Ironblood was backed up by an ex Royal Marine going by the name Black Major and his ranks were filled with killer death robots, deep sea creatures and lowlifes from every corner of the world. True he gave it all up when Action Force went international and started getting douchy names and wearing what they liked but this was the start, the proving grounds that led to Cobra greatness.

    Red Shadows are awesome but unfortunately the Baroness and Storm Shadow make my argument null and void.

    Oh and for all you Americans out there, that used car salesman bit is bogus. Do some research and the glorious truth will be revealed, Cobra Commander is Baron Ironblood.

    All hail the Red Shadows! (And to a lesser extent A D-B for a great read).

    Stay lucky,

    Comment by Soaps | June 9, 2010 | Reply

    • Baron Ironblood always kept his helmet on, so you never got to see his face in the comics. However, if you bought the action figure, you could take the helmet off, to reveal he was the spitting image of Derren Brown! And that’s a fact!

      Comment by Fordy | June 9, 2010 | Reply

    • Action Force was *always* “international” though. Space Force’s security trooper, for example, was a Swede named Lars Elsund (and code-named “Hawkwind”) and SAS Force had a French-Canadian kayaker code-named “Beaver”.

      Now, over here in Canada, we got little maple leaf stickers to go on our vehicles in place of the usual stars-and-stripes, as a concession to national identity, I suppose, while everything else remained unchanged (at least until very late in the line, when they started giving the Joes Canadian birthplaces on their bilingual filecards).

      Comment by Jester | May 15, 2011 | Reply

  8. This is why I follow your blog.

    No other blog even comes close.

    Best post to date.

    Comment by Hax Omega | June 9, 2010 | Reply

  9. Awesome. I never really kept up with GI Joe, except for one episode I had on a compilation video where Cobra is running a secret terrorist satellite hijacking station out of – wait for it! – a dude ranch. Oh yeah, and the charming old couple who owned the place were in on it, and their hot “daughter” was Baroness in a mask.

    (Always wondered how she didn’t boil to death in the disguise with her normal combat gear underneath…)

    Oh yes – Joe! I’ve noticed a flaw in the Decepticons teaming up with Cobra, which I hope the animators at least tried to address: Cobra Commander and Starscream are voiced by the same person, in the same way.

    And they’re the same character, obv. Ho hum.

    Comment by Laurie | June 9, 2010 | Reply

  10. I catch your blog every day on the off chance that you have sprouted some sort of awesomeness (which invariably it is). Today was off the scale however, fantastic read. Please more retro cartoon chatter if you please. Can imagine you doing a superb deconstruction of Knightmare (remember that?!) or even Jayce and The Wheeled Warriors (youtube it if you hav nae seen).

    Oh, I actually decided to get Cadian Blood and Soul Hunter to read. Just finishing Cadian Blood….it was brill. Rolling on to Soul Hunter now.

    Keep up the good work man, people really appreciate it:)

    Comment by spike | June 9, 2010 | Reply

  11. This post is epic win…

    Comment by Noserenda | June 9, 2010 | Reply

  12. I wear my Crimson Guard t-shirt with pride.

    Also, check this out: http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/076041c13b/the-ballad-of-g-i-joe

    Comment by James Swallow | June 9, 2010 | Reply

    • Best blog post in history followed by the best internet video ever, this post just keeps on giving.

      Comment by Soaps | June 9, 2010 | Reply

    • That clip’s got a better cast than Rise of Cobra.

      “This summer… Henry Rollins IS Duke!”

      Comment by G | June 10, 2010 | Reply

  13. This was the best damn thing you’ve written in a while on top of every other great thing you’ve written. Good job, man.

    Personally I’d join the Decepticons or run the Legion of Doom but you make Cobra sound like the champions!

    Comment by John the Great | June 9, 2010 | Reply

  14. A Big long post on COBRA… are you sir, by any chance, procrastinating?

    Comment by Tom | June 9, 2010 | Reply

  15. “And thirdly, the Statue of Liberty is French, so fuck it. Blow that shit up.” – quote of the day

    G.I. Joe was before my time, but on a similar note I always wanted to join Team Rocket from the Poke’mon series. Laugh, go ahead and get it out of the way. But seriously, when I got offered a job with Team Rocket on your way across the bridge in Cerulean City I wanted to take them up on the offer. Sure Team Rocket was a pretty lousy criminal syndicate, but all that means is that it would be easy to rise to the top and take control for myself. Alas you have no option to join and end up becoming the arch nemesis of the whole organization. Sigh.

    Comment by Nick Sharps | June 9, 2010 | Reply

  16. fucking top job ADB, i am around the same age as you and loved my cobra toys growing up. i dont think i ever bought a single GI JOE or GI JOE car, cobra looked awesome, had the most awesome shit and just reeked of general awesomeness. my best toy was the cobra ‘manta’ helicopter, that fucking thing was the ultimate kids toy and my popularity went up at school accordingly (from a 1 to a 1.5/10). it was bigger than my torso, had a million fucking guns and bombs and the best bit… didnt have a single american flag on it. ahh the good old days, unfortunatly my toys met the same ultimate end. just before i discovered my penis and lost my imagination i decided that my GI JOES look better covered in petrol and on fire. i may have been watching to many action movies at the time but fuck, arnie in ‘the running man’ several times will do that to a kid. so in conclusion i agree. cobra are the shit, cobra commander is an underrated baddie who unfortunatly was stuck down with asthma at an early are affecting his ‘evil voice’. in fact, wtf is with evil characters and asthma think cobra commander, megatron, darth vader etc etc. all those motherfuckers had some form of breathing difficulty? maybe you could look into that next. fck me ive waffled on. cheers,


    Comment by Brother Subtle | June 10, 2010 | Reply

  17. So fucking brilliant that I just got told off by my boss because I was laughing so hard (and obviously not actually doing work).


    Comment by Tim the Corsair | June 10, 2010 | Reply

  18. Only Soundwave beats Cobra in its awesomeness. And you probably just made my Cobra obsessed friend die of laughter. I tip my hat off to you good sir, that I do.

    Comment by DarkMechanicum | June 10, 2010 | Reply

  19. I entirely agree with Nick Sharps.
    Team Rocket had all the basis to become a really good terrorist organisation, but poor management skills let them down on every level. 2 years, 3 tops, and Team Rocket would rule the world under a good leader.

    Also, one of the funniest blog posts i’ve ever seen. Thanks ADB. 🙂

    Comment by TheLieutenant | June 10, 2010 | Reply

    • I always felt like Poke’mon was a brutal game anyway, capturing semi-sentient living creatures and confining them to a tiny sphereical prison, releasing them only to fight against others. It’s like hyper extreme dog fighting on crack.

      Comment by Nick Sharps | June 10, 2010 | Reply

      • Yeah…you almost expected one of the battles to go:

        “Pikachu! I choose you!”
        “Hmm, well, thats an electric pokemon, so it’ll be difficult for any water pokemon. I choose semi-starved Bulldog Pitfighter!”


        Dead Pikachu.

        Comment by TheLieutenant | June 13, 2010 | Reply

  20. What about Shipwreck? I mean he could sail a boat through desert sands and he had a talking bird. And I don’t think he liked Duke much.
    I always wanted to be a Crimson Guard though because they had the coolest guns and got all the chicks.

    Comment by Lord Tharand | June 10, 2010 | Reply

  21. Didn’t we talk about this on the way to the airport?

    Also, as terrorism goes, nothing Cobra really did looks so bad now. Pyramid of darkness? Messing around with brains and cloning? It’s fairly tame compared to what you see on the news.

    And if I ever won the lottery I’d buy a “private military company” and set the mission statement: ‘Action Force results with Cobra cool.’

    Then I’d scour the world for the most flamboyant maniacs I could. I mean, if Wolf from Gladiators (armed with a flamethrower,) Dog the Bounty Hunter (armed with a stun gun in each hand) and the Undertaker (armed with a shovel) can’t find Bin Laden, who can? They’ve even got the code names already.

    And if they fail, then I’d put them to task chasing down ASBOs in my own version of The Running Man.

    I haven’t thought about this at all.

    Also, speaking of Cobra, he’s been complaining that no one visits him in Iceland. I’ll message you about it.

    Comment by G | June 10, 2010 | Reply

  22. Oh fuck me this was an awesome post. Just brilliant.

    Action Force was waaay cooler than GI Joe. Baron Ironblood and the Red Shadows – that takes me back. Somehow Q Force managed to be cool, even though they had the most garish wetsuits and vehicles ever (they give harlequins a run for their money).

    Such a shame that the GI Joe movie was so awful. First they murder Transformers and then Action Force. Doh! And they even cocked up the Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes story.

    Comment by Ilmarinen | June 10, 2010 | Reply

  23. This was one of the most entertaining blog posts I have ever read.
    I must of watched every one of those cartoons growing up.
    Infact the Movie Intro is the only time I think they ever actually kill,when Snake Eyes rips the guy out the rocket pod,no way are you base jumping from that high.
    It used to drive me nuts that they would eject each and every time.
    But I must say you make a strong case for joining Cobra.

    Comment by BigWill | June 11, 2010 | Reply

  24. The GI Joes might have been wankers. but did you ever see that awesome aircraft carrier toy they had in their range ? Don’t think it was ever released outside of the USA, I still seethe with envy when i see images of it now.

    And Rd Shadows were far cooler than Cobra guardsmen as well, especially “Red Laser” who came with the towable laser cannon, first multi jointed action I ever owned, and for that reason alone he was clearly the hardest of all my figures for several years, until I got Snake Eyes.

    Comment by Reds8n | June 11, 2010 | Reply

  25. https://aarondembskibowden.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/gi-joe-cobra-commander.jpg?w=410&h=532

    Robbing your living room lamp from its shade so you can dress up as a human squid is ace. But I’d rather be the logistical facilitator who got put up all those exit building indicator plaques in the background. Imagine the anecdotes.


    Comment by Sam Vanroy | June 11, 2010 | Reply

  26. This is cleary win.

    Comment by Lord Slaanesh | June 12, 2010 | Reply

  27. You wasted so many words…all you had to do was show us Baroness, and all the guys in the world are on-board. Although by the time she gets to us all, she’ll be old. Yuck.

    Comment by TheSGC | June 21, 2010 | Reply

  28. SHUT THE FUCK UP AND FINISH First Heretic.

    Comment by DUKE | June 24, 2010 | Reply

  29. “… even at a tender age I wondered just what opportunities for gun-smuggling could arise between Carlisle and Aberdeen.”

    Are you fucking kidding me? Go out here in Glasgow on a Friday night. IF YOU DARE. Seriously.

    Comment by GL | September 23, 2010 | Reply

  30. You, sir, in addition to being the best Warhammer 40k author, also now have WON the Internet! This article is epic, plan and simple. Oh yea and you left out the best part of Cobra, two badass twin brothers that finish….. each others sentences ( this is what my brother would have said if he were here. ).

    Comment by Will Halverson | September 29, 2013 | Reply

  31. AHAHAHA Fookin brilliant, your description of Snow Job was particularly mental.

    Comment by Bigg | December 29, 2014 | Reply

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