G.I. Joe Moments In Punk History

For years one of the most consistent G.I. Joe message board threads was the typical “G.I. Joe References In Movies/TV” thread. Usually it was every third or fourth post referring to either the episode of NCIS with people who had G.I. Joe filenames, or The Boy Who Could Fly.

This post is very similar, but about the unexpected G.I. Joe references I’ve found in my travels within the punk rock scene. On one hand it’s kind of an odd dichotomy, but on the other, especially with the Hardcore Punk of the early 1980s, we’re dealing with people who were often not much older than teenagers, so G.I. Joe probably resonated with them somewhat.

G.I. Joe # 12


The Plasmatics, New York City’s finest export, pre-Heart Attack’s first EP, are alluded to in this wonderful group of panels from issue #12.  They talk about Wendy O. Williams (her real name!) who in addition to being the toughest, straight edge vegetarian in history, and a really good singer, would destroy status symbol level material possessions, both to put on a cool rock ‘n roll show, but also to indicate that no matter how nice a television set is, it’s just an object. So for a band with that mindset to be featured in a 26 page toy commercial is amusing. Though they were probably chosen, as The Plasmatics had gotten plenty of media coverage to the point where they were a recognizable name, while retaining enough street cred that it wouldn’t be as hokey as name dropping Billy Idol or Bow Wow Wow, or Talking Heads.

Of course by 1983 the Plasmatics had jumped the shark, as Jean Beauvoir was far more important than one would think, and the signing to Capitol Records, didn’t do much to change the actual musical content, but the change of get-ups took a bunch away from the band. The Mad Max get up, while fitting their dystopian songscape, didn’t have the shock factor that would get people to stop and actually pay attention.

There’s one other issue with this panel. The “Punk Rocker” depicted here, is more in line with Los Angeles Hollywood Punks (That was pretty much dead by 1983), rather than the speed riddled, politically interested crazies that populated San Francisco punk circles, where this part of the issue takes place.

Rambozo The Clown- Dead Kennedys Bedtime For Democracy.


Speaking of San Francisco, it was home to Dead Kennedys, the biggest hardcore band of the 1980s (a fact that’s somewhat forgotten), who often took shots at many of the current events politically and culturally.

The G.I. Joe Action Stars cereal, originator of our pal Starduster, which originally came out in 1985, just in time to be referenced in this stirring critique of the bombardment of military imagery directed at young people.

Toxic Reasons: Target Home Video 1984


Target Video, a San Francisco based studio, that would film both live performances of punk bands, but would also do montage videos using stock footage, the news and commercials. The 1982 G.I. Joe commercial for the VAMP was used in a video for the Toxic Reasons song “Killer”, right around the verse that starts with “What About The Children”.

Final Conflict s/t 7″


Minneapolis had Hardcore bands that weren’t just Hüsker Dü. One such band was Final Conflict, there lone 7″ (Or at least the one re-issued on Havoc Records) happened to have a G.I. Joe reference, as they’d taken a panel from Issue #5 featuring General Flagg and other generals, and modified the dialogue ever so slightly.

Rod/Don’t Call Me Brian Split 7″

Pop-Punk Split1Pop-Punk Split2

Much like G.I. Joe, punk rock wound up changing in the 90s. Not for the better in my opinion! This split record used the fairly famous cover of issue # 76, the back of the sleeve had Wild Card and the Mean Dog (I think it’s from the Trucial Abysmia war). Musically I can’t remember what it sounds like, I think one side might sound like a wimpier version of Emily’s Sassy Lime, but split 7″ers from the mid 90s aren’t things I listen to with any regularity.

This split 7″ was actually fairly important for the actual formation of this blog. I found this at a record store, texted it to my friend and he laughed and implored me to buy it. It wasn’t really due to the music, but more the fact it was the dead centre of the G.I. Joe/Punk Rock Venn diagram. I knew there had to be more, and I was on a quest to find more references between the two, so after I found them I figured I’d write an article on that, and that’s actually where the true genesis of the Attica Gazette came from!


There’s also, Punk Rock Zartan. The 1993 Ninja Force Zartan is over the top, and a fairly decent portrayal of a 1977 cartoon punk. The thing is, this is a figure that is unfortunately one of the most realistic G.I. Joes, as there was a time that most punk shows would usually have a guy with an unnaturally coloured mohawk, a leather vest and a shitty attitude. You’d get some dude from Michigan or Oregon with a British accent asking you usually one of three questions “Wanna fight” “Can I have some money” or “Do you like Flux of Pink Indians?” The answer to all of those questions is no.

While a figure dressing like the punk bad guys from an episode of CHIPs or Quincy M.E., might seem surprisingly dated, especially in 1993. While the figure was likely a creation born out of a clueless stereotype, it wound up being fairly accurate portrayal of a horrible subsection of North American punks who despite their mediocre generic Hardcore sound, sure liked to dress up like GBH or Discharge.

There’s one more, that is less ARAH G.I. Joe intensive, but I feel compelled to mention.


In the late 1980s, you could trade 12″ G.I. Joes for Warzone and Youth Of Today records. The New York City Straight Edge label, Revelation Records, used to put in G.I. Joe wantlists, that they would trade Revelation releases for.  The 150th release on Revelation had a cover using 12″ Joes they got in trade. Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s there was a G.I. Joe comic guru from NYC that used the online handle “Straight Edge”, I’m guessing G.I. Joe was far more popular with the Youth Crew set, than one could possibly imagine.

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2 Responses to G.I. Joe Moments In Punk History

  1. A-Man says:

    That’s interesting. Also, I don’t know what most of that means. I spent much of my youth in crappy bible belt towns where were one of two hard core metal heads, and whatever anyone knew about punk rock came from that movie The Repo Man they probably saw on HBO. Oh, and that Dead Milkmen song that was a mocking of punk culture. The 70’s punker look lingered in American media for years, at least one issue of GI JOE (yearbook 3?) features one as part of one of those Hollywood multi-racial street gangs. Also, that Mean Dog/Wild Card image was from issue #89.

  2. Pingback: 5 Songs that Mention GI Joe and an Oddball Funskool Firefighter – The Dragon Fortress

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