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A Joe in the Sights: Gung-Ho

Gung-Ho debuted in the 1983 wave of G.I. Joes, and right away established himself as the Joe that cared the least about what you think.

The Joes of 1982 all wore strictly militaristic uniforms, so obviously anything that diverged from that was going to stand out. But nobody stood out like Gung-Ho. Later years would see a lot of variety in the clothing of the G.I. Joe members (that’s an understatement), but absolutely nobody would ever come along that had the gigantic balls to wear an open powder blue vest. But that’s because nobody was quite like Gung-Ho.

Gung-Ho was a favorite of the second wave of G.I. Joes because he ticked a lot of boxes with me. First, he was the resident “strong guy” of the wave, and second, his weapon of choice was a grenade launcher. I loved the idea of this crazy cajun nutjob that brought a grenade launcher to a gunfight. Everybody else is plinking away at the enemy, and then there’s this “bloop” sound, and the bad guys all get exploderated. While no source material ever had him shout his name after blowing up the enemies, I kind of like to think that he did.

Bloop. Boom! “Gung-Ho!!

Bloop. Boom! “Gung-Ho!!

While somewhere up in my head I know that each Joe was designed in a very ordinary toy-making process, I still like to think of that brief moment in time when each member of G.I. Joe stood in front of a full length mirror and decided what they were going to be wearing once they got their Joe membership card.

Gung-Ho was probably thinking that he didn’t want to cover up that giant tattoo on his chest. You don’t spend hours in the chair and then hide it from the world, you know? So he knew he was going to be going with a vest. “Just a vest” is a bold enough choice. That means no armor, no bulletproofing, no protection from the elements.

So once Gung-Ho settled on “just a vest,” the next obvious step is him with a large pile of vests of various colors, trying each one one. It’s ok, go ahead and imagine it happening during a musical montage. And even though it’s cliché, I don’t think any other song is quite as appropriate as “I’m too sexy” by Right Said Fred.

You’re welcome.

So Gung-Ho is going through variations of that same outfit with all of those dull, boring colors. He tries on the brown vest. No flair! No Style! He tries on a green one. Dull! The next one is gray. Boring!

Vest after vest gets tossed into the corner, and finally he comes across a powder blue one. He slides it on, and takes a peek at himself in the mirror. And Gung-Ho likes what he sees. He likes it a lot.

“Gung-Ho!!” he shouts.

The powder blue vest has completed the image. Now, he is born. Now, he is a G.I. Joe.

If the clothing wasn’t enough, Gung-Ho’s mustache probably deserved its own code name. Gung-Ho’s head was about 85 percent mustache. The ratio of ‘stache to man was woefully uneven. Gung-Ho was basically a life support system for that ‘stache.

That unholy combo of mustache, tattoo and vest was just screaming for someone to come up with some kind of insult, but then you got a look at this giant dude and you thought better of it. It’s like he was inviting trouble. A crazy giant wearing this walks into a bar and the bartender is already rolling his eyes and ducking.

Gung-Ho was another character I kept pulling out for random adventures, long after his debut. I’m a person drawn to unique colorations, and Gung-Ho’s sartorial choices made him stand out among the rest of the toys. It’s like he was looking at me from the pile. “Go on. Pick me. I can blow the bad guys up real good.” I know I liked teaming him up with Roadblock a lot for two-man missions to wreak havoc against the Cobra Forces. Between Roadblock’s gigantic .50 caliber machine gun and Gung-Ho’s grenade launcher, they could take down a HISS tank or a platoon of bad guys with no sweat. So many people died at the other end of that thing. So much devastation. So much blood.

Gung-Ho had a handful of decent comic appearances where he was as unbalanced as you’d expect. Strangely enough, his comic appearances sometimes depicted him as wearing a vest/pants combo that ws slightly greener than his toy colors. Maybe it was the colorist’s mistake, or maybe they thought nobody would actually take him seriously in the blue. Ha! Like that was a problem.

He showed up a lot in the earlier cartoon episodes, and his vest was never so blue as it was there. It almost jumped off the screen. There were some occasional differences in character between characters from comic to cartoon, but Gung-Ho was the same everywhere. He kind of transcended the medium. Whether it was the toy, the comic or the cartoon, Gung-Ho was Gung-Ho. He was large. He was nuts. He was cajun. He was cajun before Gambit was cajun. He was the OG cajun.

Bloop. Boom! “Gung-Ho!!”

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