Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Fred's Dead Baby, Fred's Dead

In 1986, Hasbro introduced one of the dumbest characters ever. Cloned from the DNA of history’s greatest rulers, conquerors and tacticians, Serpentor was created to be the ULTIMATE Cobra leader. Of course this meant nothing but bad news for the former leader, Cobra Commander who was relegated to comedy relief in the cartoons and well, exiled ex-leader in the comics.

But this post really isn’t about Serpentor cuz well..he sucks, but about the man he was meant to replace. I say “meant” because I guess I wasn’t the only one who thought Serpentor was a lousy idea, a little over year later, Cobra Commander was back with a brand new spanking action figure, and well, Serpentor was killed off with an arrow jammed into his skull.

It was Christmas of 1987 when I received the new Cobra Commander. It was a pleasant surprise because I wasn’t aware that there was a whole new wave of G.I.Joes out already and this new Cobra Commander was different. He no longer sported his iconic chrome face or hooded mask but instead had some new shiny silver battle armor that made him look more like a character from Star Wars…but I liked it….no loved it. My commander was back in a big way!

It’s quite an interesting story on how they incorporated this new Cobra Commander armor into the comics and it involves a man named Fred or Fred VII to be exact. Now Fred was a member of the elite division of Cobras called the Crimson Guard. These operatives who were fiercely loyal to Cobra Commander, where supposedly the best of the best in the Cobra ranks so much so they were not wasted on the battlefield but instead reserved for more subversive purposes. “Siegies” (C-G..get it? ) served more as Cobra sleeper agents who were inserted into various business and political arenas all over the world. Their cover was so intricate and deep that it went down to their personal lives where they posed as fine upstanding members in the community with their own pre-fabricated families. And if that wasn’t enough, Siegies also underwent physical alterations to look alike so that operatives can easily be switched out and replaced when needed.

So anyway, as I was saying earlier, upon Serpentor’s arrival, Cobra Commander was exiled (actually he was left for dead in a failed Cobra operation) and immediately went off to the nearest Crimson Guard operative to regroup. That just happened to be Fred VII who also turned out to be a master technician. He was the one who built the new battle armor suit and presented it to the Commander to help him retake his position as Cobra Leader. Unfortunately, the Commander would have none of that. It turned out that during his exile, he found out that his estranged son, Billy (whom he thought was dead) was actually alive, minus an eye a leg and his memory. He’s over ridden with guilt (since it was a Cobra operative who nearly killed Billy in the first place) and decides to give up being Cobra Commander and dedicate his life to taking care of his son (awwwwwww).

This obviously doesn’t sit well with Fred, who had given up his whole life to the Cobra cause and in a fit of anger shot Cobra Commander in the back, killing him (or so he thought) and buried him out in the wilderness. He then proceeded to don the armor that he made and posing as the ‘real’ Cobra Commander declared war on Serpentor for the ultimate leadership of Cobra. Long story short, he wins, Serpentor dies (yay!) and he continues on the charade of Cobra Commander until…surprise surprise the REAL Cobra Commander comes back….quite pissed off at being shot and buried and out for blood.

Turns out, Fred VII’s activities were actually being observed by another Siegie operative, Fred VIII, who then exhumed the Commander and revived him. Anyway upon his return to Cobra, his first act of business was to get all the Cobra operatives he perceived as traitors, including Fred VII, lock them up in an abandoned freighter and bury them under a volcano…..where they died a most gruesome death of suffocation, starvation and botulism.

So even if this Battle Armor version of Cobra Commander turned out to be an imposter, it still remains one of my favorite versions. And I was really happy that Hasbro made an updated version of this guy for the 25th Anniversary line…with an added surprise! See the original figure didn’t have a removable helmet. The new one has, which in itself is cool, but what’s even cooler is who’s head you actually get under the helmet…..not the original Cobra Commander, but as a homage to that cool comic storyline, Fred VII!