25 Nights of Nineties Nostalgia: G.I. Joe Terror Drome

Today is Go Joe Saturday, and we start off by taking a look at the deadly Terror Drome. Released in 1986, the Terror Drome is the base of operations for the agents of Cobra, the near-perennial enemy of GI Joe. Actually, Cobra was somewhat late addition to the GI Joe cannon, being the dream child of then Marvel comics writer Larry Hama. When Hasbro came to Marvel for help with creating tie in material for their toy line, Hama tapped into an old idea he had been toying with. For a long while he had wanted to do a comic series, Fury Force, about the son of Nick Fury and the Agents of SHIELD fighting against Marvel’s vaguely-snake-themed-cult, Hydra. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to bring that to life. Hama suggested that GI Joe become a code name for a secret anti-terrorist unit rather than just the name of their army figures, so every character would in fact be a member of GI Joe and not just some general infantry soldier who happened to be named Joe. This lightened the heavy war themes of the previous Joe figures and allowed for a diverse cast of heroic characters. When Marvel eventually asked “Who are their bad guys?” The Hasbro execs didn’t have an answer, so prevent the Joes from marching around the base all day with their high powered laser rifles collecting dust, Hama revisited his Fury Force idea and came up with a well-organized, well-funded, world-conquering terrorist organization he dubbed, Cobra. The conspiracy theory is real, folks. Hail Cobra Commander! Hail Hydra!

You could spend a week reading the back of the box.
You could spend a week reading the back of the box.

The base carries over a lot of Cobra’s branding aesthetic with the dark blue and grays that serve a big part of the organization’s traditional uniform, as well as the subtle reds and the Cobra symbol in the dead center. The symbol itself splits open for a small jet, named the Firebat, to launch out like a rocket in a missile silo. A functional jet-rocket that fires right from the heat of your base lends a sense of massive destruction that is worked right into the gimmick of the toy. The base just looked outright mean with its large turrets primed for gunning-down invaders who would dare take on Cobra.

Adding to the play pattern, there were refueling stations for vehicles and work stations for figures, making it feel like a genuine organization hub. Things happened here, and with the ability to unfold nooks, crannies, and even a jail cell – you could feel the weight of Cobra just by playing with the base. This toy carried over many tropes from base toys of that time, like the aforementioned jail cell, but surpassing them in quality of execution and flare. As Larry Hama had envisioned, Cobra seemed like a world threat, and the Terror Drome helped to make that threat seem real to any kid who came across this toy. It truly lives up to the name Terror Drome, and we have Larry Hama to thank for it. Indeed it’s hard to imagine a world where GI Joe didn’t have a Cobra to fight.

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Al Baldino is half bear, half owl-bear, which makes him some sort of terrible fraction no one wants to think about. He's a co-host on the Line Cutters every Wednesday at 7pm EST.