To Beat Cobra, We Must Think Like Cobra

Sergeant Moore sprang nervously from the folding chair and stood at attention as General Flagg entered the briefing room.

“At ease, sergeant,” said the general, crisply returning his salute and crossing the room in one fluid motion. “Let’s not waste any time in getting up to speed. I hear your trip here to Fort Wadsworth was an eventful one! Something about not willingly boarding the transport…?”

“That is true, sir,” Sergeant Moore said, embarrassed. “There was a bit of a misunderstanding. I initially… voiced some suspicions that the helicopter crew were not really affiliated with the Armed Forces. In my defense, sir, for some reason the officer piloting the chopper had a waxed handlebar mustache and was dressed like some kind of Pony Express rider–”

“We’ll get to that in a moment,” Flagg said abruptly with an unmistakable glint in his eye. He opened the manila folder marked CLASSIFIED that he had carried in under his arm and began reading the document inside it. “The important thing is you’re here now, Sergeant… Harlan W. Moore. I’m going to cut to the chase, Moore: your record has caught the eye of the top brass, and we like what we see. You have been selected for America’s most elite top-secret special mission force, a team so secret only the president and my sainted mother Mrs. Flagg know about it. Welcome to G.I. Joe, son.”

Harlan felt a rush of excitement and relief simultaneously. The hidden elevator in the motor pool garage that had taken him ten stories underground was finally starting to make some sense. Maybe I’m not going to be killed or experimented on after all, he thought.

“It is my honor to serve, sir,” he said.

Flagg nodded. “So, let’s see what we have to work with… originally from Vermont… and a sportsman! Says here you were a member of the U.S. Olympic biathalon team. Damned impressive. That’s biking and running, isn’t it?”

“Actually, sir,” said Harlan, “it’s skiing and riflery.”

Flagg’s stern expression brightened remarkably; to Harlan, he would have seemed giddy if it weren’t for the stars on his uniform.

“Ha!” Flagg shouted. “Skiing! Perfect! That’s just the hook we needed.”

“Hook, sir?” said Harlan. “I don’t understand.”

Flagg seemed not to hear him. “Let’s see… we’ll need to get you… a parka! Yes! A big, fluffy parka and boots. White! All white. Skis, of course, and… ooh, snow goggles! Gigantic green-tinted snow goggles. Outstanding. I can see it now.”

“Sir?” Harlan said more insistently. “What is this about, again?”

Flagg stared through Harlan, like he was already visualizing him in the outfit.

“Your uniform. Son, you are going to be G.I. Joe’s snow guy. You see, every member of this team has one thing that sets him apart, and it is my belief that it is a tactical advantage to reduce each man to that single trait. Karate guy; Hawaiian shirt guy; guy who likes gum. You’ll see a lot of crazy things fighting terrorism– particularly Cobra– and the fight will take you a lot of places, but no matter where it takes you you’ll be wearing a brilliant white parka and goggles on every mission from this day forward, because you’re skiing snow guy.”

Harlan blinked hard and stared at the general for a long moment.

“Permission to speak freely, sir?”

“Granted,” said Flagg.

“Am I being hazed right now? Is this an initiation prank?”

“Do I look like a joker to you, son?”

“Sir,” said Harlan, “I cannot even imagine carrying out an operation on skis, much less in the getup you’re describing.”

“The hood won’t have to be up at all times, of course,” said Flagg absently. “Ooh! Fur-lined hood. And white gloves, all year round!…”

Harlan began sweating preemptively.

“But… but sir,” he said desperately, “I’m also trained in riflery! I’m an excellent marksman. Couldn’t I dress as a big game hunter or something instead?”

“Sorry, son. I already assigned the pith helmet and khaki parachute pants to Sergeant Safari; he used to be a zookeeper.”

Harlan rubbed his temples. “Don’t– don’t these outfits make secrecy impossible? A group of men dressed like this on a covert mission would stick out like a Volkswagen full of circus clowns.”

“On the contrary, son!” The general pounded his fist into his palm emphatically. “The outfits are central to the mission. Believe me, this will all make a lot more sense once you’ve been briefed on these Cobra sumbitches. With these people, it’s not just an Army; it’s a lifestyle. Like punk, or Mary Kay.  Their entire hierarchy over there are walking around with monocles and fishbowls and hood ornaments on their heads, calling each other damn snake names. As soon as I was handed this challenge by The Gipper, I knew: the only way to beat these bastards was to think like them.”

“So,” said Harlan, “the dress code is in place because we are trying to think like the enemy, and the enemy is completely crazy?”

Flagg sighed. “Sergeant, I’m aware of what people are saying about this team behind my back. I know a lot of officers here on the base are saying I structured the team this way because I’m mad the Village People’s manager replaced me as ‘Army Guy’ back in ’77, but that’s just a wild rumor. In fact, I have no ill will towards Mr. Morali; that other fella had the better voice. The truth is, the flamboyant uniforms of the Joes– I just call them ‘the Joes’– are vital for maintaining cover. This is urban warfare on our very streets, warfare we must protect the public from psychologically at all costs. It’s bad enough for this great nation to have enemies within, but if the American people knew some froot loop with a windshield on his face was running around trying to put snake poison on the currency or blow up the damn moon, the streets would be full of people flailing their arms and screaming like they were at a J. Geils Band concert. Our morale would never recover. So, yes, civilians will notice when a grown man comes running down the street firing a flame thrower in a Victorian nightcap and polka dot boxers, but no civilian in his right mind would think that man was an elite American operative, would they? At most, they assume that the firefight around them must be some kind of spectacle George Lucas is filming. We’re not just this nation’s premier fighting force; we are the rodeo clowns of freedom, drawing the bull of oppression away from all the little cowboys and cowgirls.”

“Besides,” he added, “the president really appreciates the showmanship.”

Harlan slowly took another step backward towards the door. “Special weapons infantry is in boxers, sir?”

“‘Fancy Pants.’ You’ll meet him tonight at the ice cream social. Hell of a soldier. That reminds me: it’s time to assign your code name. From now on, ‘Harlan Moore’ is a distant memory. Starting today, every member of your unit will know you only as… hmmm, let’s see… ah! Snow Job.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Snow Job! You know, like when you pull a fast one on somebody?”

I beg your pardon?

“A con artist-type thing. D’you ever tell a bunch of crazy lies? Start telling a bunch of crazy white lies. It will help to build your persona.”

Harlan’s jaw hung from his head. “What kind of name is Snow Job?”

“What the hell kind of name is Harlan?” Flagg bellowed.

“My grandfather’s name was Harlan,” Harlan said, trying not to sound wounded.

“And your name is Snow Job!” said Flagg. “Don’t worry; you’ll get used to it. Hardball wasn’t too keen about going into battle in a jersey and a cap until we showed him his baseball grenade launcher. You’ll love it in a week. Just take the morning to adjust a bit, and I’ll go requisition your battle sleigh. You’re dismissed until your Cobra briefing at 1400 hours; head on up to the barracks and Zap will show you to your bunk.”

“Zap?” Snow Job asked. “What, is he some kind of electricity man? Lightning bolts and wires all over his armor?”

“No,” said Flagg. “Actually, he has a bazooka. I was really off my game that day.”


“Oh, $#*^,” thought Jim Mroczkowski, “I didn’t just write fanfic, did I?” He winced, silently hoping that people would visit and Twitter before writing him off as one of Those People.



  1. This explains everything

  2. @Heroville: And knowning is half the battle!

    GI JOE!!!!

    This is the first and only fanfic of GI Joe I’ve ever read. Great job as always Jimski ‘What kind of name is Snowjob anyways?’

  3. "We’re not just this nation’s premier fighting force; we are the rodeo clowns of freedom,"

    Genius.  I had a GI coloring book when I was a kid.  In retrospect, that probably counts as my first comic.  My online ID was lady_jaye for several years.  Ahh, the memories.

    Also, there is no way in which this is not fanfiction, but it’s okay.  Aaron Sorkin is writing Obama/Bartlett fic in the New York Times.  All the cool kids are doing it. 

  4. "…some froot loop with a windshield on his face…"


  5. I just spent a good ten minutes Googling "Fancy Pants", hoping and praying it was an actual Joe.  Alas…

  6. You mocked and belittled my single most favorite thing as a child, Jim, and yet I love you for it.

  7. "To beat COBRA, we must think like COBRA."

    I think it’s the opposite actually.  COBRA is all about uniformity: all their soldiers dress and look the same, which is clearly a metaphor for Communism (or, in the 21st century, Jihadism).  G.I. Joe, on the other hand, takes the central American value of individualism to the extreme, making sure that no two people are alike.  Unless they’re ninjas, then they’re just color coded black, white and red.  The metaphoric conceit is that uniformity is bad, and we should all embrace our unique, individual, badly-dressed selves.  It’s all abot individualist vs. collectivist thought, a cultural battle that has been raging for hundreds of years, with no end in sight. 

    Interestingly, an above average number of Joes had red hair, like Harlan.  Also, I’ve spent too much time analying literature.

  8. Know I know…And knowing is half the battle…GI JOE!!! Great article and great Joe to pick on. As I got older I always thought Snow Job was a hilarious name. The crazy outfits and names is my favorite part of GI Joe personally. Glad to see the Chuckles (Hawaiian flower shirt guy) cuz he has always been my favorite Joe for some reason ever since I saw the GI Joe Movie were he is only in it for a few minutes. But him ridding on the top of a giant helicopter (just inches from 2 huge propellers) and firing a pistol at near by Trouble Bubbles made a lasting impression on me. I still have the toy from my youth even though he is missing a thumb and all his accessories. Ah, good memories.

  9. @Quinn – I would disagree.  The Cobra troops all dressed the same just as the GI Joe grunts all dressed the same.  The major players on both sides, however, all had identies of their own.

  10. @Conner – No Grunt had his own uniform.

  11. @Merlin – I’m going to assume you’re not being literal.

  12. @myrlyn314 Waka Waka Waka


    @Conor I caught that, nicely played.

  13. Jimski, do you realize that with that twitter post you essentially re-solicited this? You just plugged a reprint from the iFanboy backlist.  What, no new cover?  It’s not like Alex Ross is actually doing anything.  That said, I enjoyed it all over again, and it was still free.  Thanks!  I hope you get the comment bump you need to prevent savage self flaggelation or whatever it is you people do to keep motivated.

     Oh Christ, I made a Previews joke.  Time to lay off the comics.

  14. Can we seriously make this the movie?