1988 Cobra Battle Barge

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)

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5 Responses to 1988 Cobra Battle Barge

  1. generalliederkranz says:

    For me this is one of those things that I have fond memories of playing with as a child, but in retrospect seems silly and cheap. Really the predecessor of the 1989 “Battlefield Robots.” I’m also biased because Battle Barge parts seemed to turn up CONSTANTLY in flea market parts bins in the 1990s and 2000s, as if they were just filler. I guess that’s what happens with 36 per case. But your defense of it almost makes me like it again!

  2. Mike T. says:

    I was pretty done with Joe in 1988. Had it been an ’87 release, I’d have owned one and probably figured out how to make it work. But, this isn’t a great toy. Missing things like gun handles and screwing up the height wasn’t a mistake they’d have made even one year earlier.

    There was one guy at Hasbro during that time who, according to legend, was responsible for many of the oddball items that got released.

    This is one of very few vehicles that got a full on foreign repaint as the Slaughter’s Marauders barge in Brazil.

  3. A-Man says:

    You know, 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.

    The controls for the guns are those joysticks molded on the sides of the seats. The artwork doesn’t convey that for some reason.

    It was available with the Cobra Jet Pack in the later mail-away catalogs for just $4 (plus FLAG points). I never considered getting that. (Missed the exclusive white background labels) The Cobra Jet Pack was useful, but the Battle Barge was not so much. Funny those were the only Cobra items from that small assortment that were offered by mail.

    I know people call this one of the worst vehicles, but it just floats. No propulsion. I used mine as an unmanned anti-air station by my Cobra base. According to the instructions, for it to float, it requires 3 figures (for balance?). Because Hasbro’s budget didn’t allow for a bottom piece? That must also explain the lack of missiles. Every other item this year had missiles. But this was an incredibly lazy design, because they sculpted one unit, and then triplicated it, stuck ’em together and put a radar array in the center.

    From a story perspective, I couldn’t see anyone but BATS operating these. When you go that route, it might as well be an automated defense buoy. The idea has merit, the execution…not so much.

  4. mwnekoman says:

    You took some great shots with it, at least!

    Like you said, the design has serious flaws you’d never see in earlier vehicles from the line. Still, it does have some merit in the way that it has a fair amount of play value. There’s not too many other vehicles this size where you can put three figures on it. The machine guns also seem like a lot of fun, even if the design on them is pretty bad.

  5. Pingback: 1988 Destro | Attica Gazette

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