I’ve taken a look at the top five vehicle drivers for G.I. Joe, and while some of the choices may have been slightly controversial, it was a fairly simple matter. However, trying to come up with a list of the top five Cobra vehicle drivers presents a handful of very different issues.
G.I. Joe is simple in that each vehicle driver is a distinct personality. The Joes are an elite squad, so “Clutch” isn’t a designation, but a name. However, Cobra is full of army-builder types, and their primary rolling weaponry is often headed by the nameless and faceless legions that make up their terrorist organization. Motor Viper isn’t a single person’s name. The criteria I set up when I did the Joe list was which figure did I have just as much fun playing with without their signature vehicle as I did with vehicle. But Motor Viper’s entire essence is built around driving the STUN, like the HISS driver felt more at home in the HISS. Yes, if the HISS was taken out the driver was fully able to jump out and engage the enemy on his own, but there was such a connection there that playtime demanded the vehicles, and if I needed faceless legions, I used the Cobra Troopers or Vipers
However, luckily, there were Cobras that — using the strict terms I’m using in that if they came with a vehicle they are a “vehicle driver” — were not part of the nameless collective, but had unique personalities all their own. And that’s what this list will be comprised of. Which made the job a lot easier than narrowing down all those Joes.
So, again in no order, the top five Cobra vehicle drivers:
Copperhead piloted the Water Moccasin, which easily fulfills all the snake-related names necessary for a single package. With a rather generic look, Copperhead could easily have been an army builder like another on this list, but instead was made a unique character. I loved his bright blues and greens, and even without his boat he was a dangerous character to me. That helmet was aggressive and mean, and when I was very young there was a lake near the house that I was warned not to go into because of Copperheads. That stuck with me. Copperhead was not someone to eff with. He will absolutely bite your leg, even with a face mask on.
Wild Weasel is the other on the list, like Copperhead, who could easily have been just a generic goon but was a unique character. For a guy used to flying at mach speed, he always seemed like he would be an ice-cold dude on the ground, unflappable, never panicky, never less than controlled and contained. He was the Cobra that was just as deadly without his plane as he was with it. And if you’ve ever read about Weasels, you’d know that they’re like nature’s compact psychotic executioners. You could see Copperhead’s eyes, and he was humanized by that. But not Wild Weasel. No way. That guy was a bag of crazy.
I know a collective gasp just rang out, but, yes, I’m treating him as a vehicle driver. I zipped him around on the living room floor/marshlands on his swamp skier often enough that he definitely qualifies as a vehicle driver to me. But he’s also Zartan. He changed color in the sunlight and thought keeping every scrap of clothing exactly the same but putting on a mask meant nobody would know who the hell he was, which worked 9/10ths of the time because that’s how awesome he was. Bam. Mask on. “Where’d Zartan go?” right before he shot you.
I got the “paranoid schizophrenic” file card with mine, which was later neutered out of the file cards. I think that officially makes my Zartan was just a little crazier than later ones. And this was the ’80s, kids; everyone wanted their toys to be a little bit more nuts. Having it on an official document that you could cut out and save just made everything that much cooler. Is your Zartan Paranoid Schozophrenic? Well, mine is. Boom.
How cool are the Dreadnoks? That was a rhetorical question, because everyone knows they were extremely cool. While Thrasher and his Thunder Machine together are a match made in obnoxious heaven, if I wanted the Joe to go up against the Dreadnoks but didn’t feel like pulling out vehicles, then Thrasher was right there in the mix. His weapon of choice was a lacrosse stick. It could have been anything, but… lacrosse stick. That is a man dedicated to being just outside of whatever it is that compels people to be normal. Not even the Fridge’s “football on a chain” could beat a dude who just decided to pick up a lacrosse stick and make it his. Even Casey Jones respects that. I have to think that, even without the Thunder Machine, if the Joes saw some crazy Mad Max villain-looking freak running into a hail of gunfire waving a lacrosse stick, they’d have to think, “This is not a guy to meet in a dark alley at night.”
Plus, look at his face. That guy is a smarmy douche.
Zanzibar was a Dreadnok pirate with a topknot, and he came with a hammer and a spear. He also had a gun, but the hammer was what sold it. Is there ever a time when a pirate holding a hammer hasn’t made you wet yourself with fear? A guy like that doesn’t need that swanky Air Skiff, which was basically a throne with missiles. He just needs a hammer. Top knots are a thing that seem to come and go in the fashion world because Jerry Seinfeld was actually ahead of the curve with his puffy shirt. I think if you have a top knot, you basically have to go out to sea. It should be mandatory. There needs to be more plank-walking. Zanzibar wore it well, and was always with the rest of the Dreadnoks when there were doughnuts that needed eating, grape sodas that needed drinking, and Joes that needed killing. Zanzibar lobotomized a ton of Joes with his hammer. And he also cracked a lot of nuts.
*pictures courtesy of Yojoe.com