A while back, a comment mentioned that Hasbro took the world building aspect of G.I. Joe seriously. I hadn’t quite realized just to what extent that was really the case. Then I started to think about the amount of toys Hasbro released that were taking the G.I. Joe mythologies very seriously. If the idea of COBRA Island hadn’t been such an integral part of the mid 1980s, I highly doubt that a toy like the COBRA Battle Barge would’ve ever been designed.
Looking at it as just a toy, the Battle Barge is a really lazy toy, with no real redeeming qualities, and a decent enough premise, but even then, that’s kind of stretching it. The Barge is a little floating radar station, with three gun stations. It’s an incredibly lazy design, because they sculpted one unit, and then triplicated it, stuck ’em together and put a radar array in the middle.
However if one looks at it, in the context of G.I. Joe, the Battle Barge makes perfect sense. COBRA Island is not located all that far from the US, so there would likely be plenty of attempts at invasions, or commando raids on the Island, regardless of it’s actual sovereignty, so having armed radar stations that could also possibly act like an anti-submarine buoy, would make sense as some form of mainly symbolic visual deterrent. Honestly, after thinking about the Battle Barge from this perspective made me like it a lot more.
While, from an in-universe, and world building perspective, the Battle Barge is pretty impressive. As an actual toy, it sucks. It’s hollow, it’s as though Hasbro sculpted one gunner’s seat, and then triplicated it, and stuck the radar array in the centre. The guns are quite weak, as though they’re swivelling and can pivot, they don’t have a handle for the figure in the seat to hold on to. It’s something that could be a lot better than it actually was.
For example, if the gun mounts were a quarter inch shorter, the operator would be able to ACTUALLY use them. I think part of the reason this bothers me, is because it’s one of the earliest cracks in G.I. Joe’s foundation. Sure the Silver Mirage was a fragile hunk of junk, but the overall design wasn’t flawed like this.
Overall, a bad G.I. Joe toy, is still above average, especially a mid 80s toy, as G.I. Joe was just that good of a toyline. The fact that from an in-universe context the Battle Barge makes sense, is something that probably makes me like it more than I used to. Still, it’s not something I’d recommend.
According to the 1988 Hasbro Catalog, the Battle Barge was shipped at THIRTY SIX per case (with the other 12 units being COBRA Jet Packs). That’s insane, and really shows how different the toy landscape of the 1980s was. So that means there’s A LOT of COBRA Battle Barges out there. (Big thanks to friend of the blog, The Amazing A-Man for that tidbit of information)