As it turns out, your first time reviewing a Cobra Commander figure is kind of intimidating. The character is such a large presence in the world of GI Joe, and the franchise as we know it literally could not exist without him. There are also a ton of Cobra Commander action figures, each of which has large swaths of fans and detractors. People are passionate about used car salesman/terrorist John Lennon.
And so am I. That’s why it’s taken me so long to review a Cobra Commander figure. I want to get it right.
Since this is Childhood Favorites Month, today we’re looking at the Cobra Commander from my childhood– the 1992 Talking Battle Commanders Cobra Commander. This figure was a huge part of my GI Joe world growing up, as it gave me a credible version of the terrorist leader I knew from the cartoons, commercials, and comic books.
You can point out many flaws in this figure and I will objectively agree with you. But the figure is also iconic. And, for people of a certain age, nothing represents Cobra Commander better than the TBC figure. Plus, the colors are nice.
Let’s hope I do this figure some justice.
A Cobra Commander for the Nineties
Other than the first few action figures I received as a kid, my exposure to the GI Joe brand largely came from rented VHS tapes of the Sunbow cartoon series. Cobra Commander’s scratchy, screechy voice left a big impression on me (RIP Chris Latta), as did his insane science fiction world domination schemes. I liked other cartoon villains, but he was obviously the best one.
In the cartoon series, CC usually wore his battle helmet, modeled after the original 1982/1983 action figure. I never saw that figure as a kid, but the cartoon sort of spruced up the look of the figure and gave the helmet more character and definition. No action figure available to me looked anything like that cartoon look.
Occasionally, though, Cobra Commander would wear a hood in the cartoon series. Another of his earliest action figures wore a hood, so the cartoon was trying to advertise both toys. I had no way of knowing that as a kid, as there were no GI Joe archive websites to browse in the early 90s.
When I received the Talking Battle Commanders Cobra Commander as a gift in 1992, though, it was instantly recognizable. This was Cobra Commander, wearing blue and outfitted with the hood he sometimes wore in the cartoon. It was my first CC figure and I was delighted that he was such a close representation of what I saw on the Sunbow series and in the few assorted comics I’d read.
The 1992 Cobra Commander was my first CC figure and he was a game changer. Instantly, my GI Joe adventures had more purpose. There was a Big Bad for the Joes to fight. Even with his odd weapons and a permanently attached giant backpack, I had the devious, scheming Cobra leader I’d always wanted.
A few months into owning the figure, I learned another important fact. During recess, a kid at school explained to me how you could unscrew the big talking backpack and then unscrew it from the figure. This news filled me with joy, as the awkward backpack was the only thing preventing me from getting full, unabashed satisfaction from the figure. That day I got home from school, asked my stepfather to help me find the correct screwdriver, and got to work. I removed the backpacks from Cobra Commander, Overkill, and Stalker. Neither my stepdad nor myself could get the backpack off of General Hawk, though. The screws would not budge. This is a fairly common thing for some TBC figures, but that’s a story for another day. Luckily, my Cobra Commander was easily freed from his sonic burden.
Once the backpack was detached, I actually used the embedded sounds a lot more. The tinny voice that oozed from the speakers was very close to Chris Latta’s exuberant screech, and I was particularly fond of “I’ll get you!” I did my own CC voice when I played with my toys, of course, but sometimes it was nice to have a little plastic backup.
Not too long after I got TBC CC, I received the mail-away Serpentor and Air Chariot. This made for some fun drama within the Cobra ranks. My friend Mark also bought the 1993 Cobra Commander, which seemed redundant to me since it was just the same figure I had in different colors. He liked that one more, though, of course. He also received the 90s mail-away version of the original hooded Cobra Commander, which was his all-time favorite. To me, that figure looked odd– it was skinny and had a bulbous head. I liked the 1992 version much more.
Now I see the value of that original Cobra Commander, but he is still skinny and bulbous.
My original 1992 CC was lost in the house fire. But, as long as he lasted, he was the perfect Cobra Commander for my childhood GI Joe adventures. I liked everything about the figure and it embodied the character in every way I wanted.
When I started recollecting ARAH-style figures in earnest, I found the 1993 version before I acquired the TBC version again. Eventually, though, I found a nice 1992 CC that was missing his backpack and some of his accessories. That’s the one you’ll be seeing here today.
1992 GI Joe Cobra Commander (Talking Battle Commanders) Review
Before I start talking about the figure itself, I want to give a shout out to the Talking Battle Commanders packaging. It’s beautiful. I love the striking combination of highlighter yellow, blue, and black. CC also looks absolutely maniacal on the card art and it is a wonder to behold. Some people talk shit about 90s GI Joe packaging (and it’s warranted in some cases, like the 93 Star Brigade cards), but I think Hasbro did an amazing job overall with GI Joe packaging as they transitioned away from the traditional 80s look.
I don’t own the packaging, though, so we’re now forced to look at the figure itself.
1992 Cobra Commander from the Talking Battle Commanders sub-line was an all new mold for the year. The figure is cast in a nice, vibrant deep blue with yellow, black, red, and flesh tone paint. The figure mostly uses the three primary colors, which makes for a positively electric look. It doesn’t come off as cheap or overly bright– instead it nicely straddles the line between “real world” and “cartoon” like few other figures do.
You want a big, bold look for a character like Cobra Commander and this figure accomplishes that perfectly.
I’m also a big fan of the yellow accents. The collar, braided ropes, buttons, and cuffs really stand out against the blue. If you look at the Hall of Fame figure (which mirrors this one closely), you can maybe assume that this yellow was supposed to represent a more golden color, which is also what you see on the original hooded Cobra Commander. I’m glad Hasbro went with yellow, though, both because it stands out more and because yellow paint resists abuse better than gold paint does. This figure will not look dingy and faded after only a couple months of handling.
Some people don’t love the head sculpt on this figure and think the hood doesn’t “drape” properly. And okay fine yeah you’re right, his head does kind of look like a Pac-Man ghost. But I encourage you to step outside of your biases and realize that actually makes the figure even better.
I’m glad Hasbro went with this “shorter” hood look because it allows for more articulation and, as we’d see later when they made a new head for this body, this hood style looks much better on an action figure. Realism be damned.
Once you remove the figure’s backpack, his back is flat and kind of unsightly. The livelry isn’t sculpted on the rear of the figure either, which is a shame. I’m not sure why Hasbro screwed the backpacks onto these figures, as both the Sonic Fighters and Super Sonic Fighters did just fine with separate backpacks. Maybe Hasbro thought the voice clips were so fundamentally tied to the characters that the figures always needed the sounds close at hand. Whatever their reasoning was, they were wrong. Luckily, it’s not too tough to remove the backpacks. I did it when I was 8 years old.
Now, let’s look at some accessories! … which I only have some of, unfortunately. For the life of me, I could not find one of the figure’s missiles. It should have been in the same box as the rest of his accessories, but it was not. I have never used it for anything other than this figure, so I’m pretty perplexed about where it went. I’m also bummed out about it.
Anyway, 1992 Talking Battle Commanders Cobra Commander comes with a black laser rifle, a black rocket launcher, two black rockets, and a figure stand. You’ll only see one rocket in my photo, so here’s a screenshot from YoJoe:
And here’s a screenshot of the backpack, just for good measure. It has some decent sculpting, but it’s easily the worst part of the figure and is destined to live its entire life in a drawer or tupperware container.
The laser rifle is pretty nice. I mostly use it with Star Brigade figures, and it works very well in that regard. If Cobra Commander is going out in the field, this also makes sense for him. If he’s going to use a rifle or infantry type weapon, a laser rifle is a good choice. It’s intimidating to the enemy, matches his flashy style, and is probably easy to use. I imagine this weapon as sort of a rapid-fire weapon, sort of like a laser machine gun. The gun also looks a lot like Sci-Fi v2’s weapon, so to me it absolutely has to be a laser rifle.
The rocket launcher is also very cool, especially when you have both rockets. I love the little “backstop” behind the rockets, which would prevent CC from being destroyed by rocket exhaust. The brace that clips over his forearm is also a nice touch, as it would probably make any sort of recoil more manageable.
As a kid, I used the launcher as CC’s primary weapon– without the rockets. I usually imagined it as some sort of high-tech, experimental sonic weapon (the backstop and missile tabs kind of looked like a radar dish to me), but it could also be a microwave weapon or a mind-control ray, depending on circumstances.
These days, I usually give this CC a silver Rise of Cobra pistol that looks similar to his original venom blaster/hair dryer. It just looks natural with this toy, as it’s a bit bulkier than the ARAH version of the gun.
The 1992 Cobra Commander mold was used plenty more times by Hasbro. It was repainted in 1993 with a new back piece to eliminate the “flat” look of the original. That figure looks very nice in black and silver, but I don’t think it quite competes with this one, even with the improved back. It was used again in 2000 in a similar, but nice, color scheme.
It also saw a convention exclusive release, but then it got three more uses in the Comic Pack and Repaint Era. The Repaint Era and 2000 figures all use the original’s flat back, which is perplexing and frustrating.
Hasbro resculpted the hood for the three Repaint Era releases and it just does not look nearly as good, even though it drapes more naturally I guess. It’s also small and looks weird. If Hasbro was going to use this very good body sculpt a bunch more times, and if they were sculpting new heads, why didn’t they do one with a battle helmet to recreate CC’s most enduring look? I’ll never understand the decisions they made throughout the 00s.
I really don’t have to tell you how Cobra Commander fits into a GI Joe collection. He’s quite possibly the most necessary character in the entire franchise. I see Cobra Commander mostly as the old Marvel Comics portrayed him– a dangerous man with an impressive private military that radicalizes and recruits disenfranchised people from around the world. Cobra has no real cause other than wealth and power, but Cobra Commander will pay lip service to whatever cause gets angry men riled up, whether that’s income inequality, opposing Western imperialism, or returning the world to the “good old days.” Really, Cobra Commander just wants to reshape the world in his own image, which is fickle and changes all the time.
I also see some of the Sunbow cartoon’s CC portrayal of the character. I just can’t separate Cobra Commander from the Larger Than Life presence he had in the old cartoon. I see him as a dangerous, competent person that isn’t trying to dominate the weather or control people through three chord hair metal. But I find it impossible to separate the character from his personality in the cartoon.
I think this figure works as both a “throne room” Cobra Commander and a “battlefield” Cobra Commander. He looks regal and imposing, but he’s also wearing fairly practical clothing that wouldn’t impede him if he needed to jump out of a vehicle, find cover, or run away. The bulkier nature of this figure means that he just has a more martial presence than many other Cobra Commander toys. He can screech orders, kick ass, or do both. This figure is a treat for the imagination.
There are objectively better Cobra Commander figures, but this one is my favorite. It lacks the pop culture saturation of the original and the intricate sculpting of the 87 battle armor version, but it completely holds its own. For people my age, this is the iconic Cobra Commander action figure. It may not be the greatest in a pure technical sense, but it has the presence and personality to overcome any of its flaws.
For me, this will always be Cobra Commander. Every other CC action figure is secondary.
Overall: This figure has some flaws, mainly the flat back. You may not love the hood sculpt or the colors either, but I love both of those aspects. This is a bright, fun action figure that just commands attention and works perfectly as Cobra Commander. Other than the backpack, the accessories are great. The rocket launcher is a unique weapon that a maniac like CC absolutely would carry into a battlefield, and the laser rifle also has a flashiness about it that suits the character nicely. You might like other Cobra Commander figures more, but you need this one in your collection, too. He’s Highly Recommended.
By Eric S. from Michigan, Age 12
Closing Thoughts on 1992 GI Joe Cobra Commander (Talking Battle Commanders)
Thanks for joining me! I hope you enjoyed my first ever Cobra Commander review and got some enjoyment out of it.
Also, thanks for your patience. It’s been a busy week and I still have some comments to reply to. I’m getting to those right after I hit “publish” on this piece. Thanks so much for all of your support, great insights, and good conversations. I love talking to all of you and I appreciate each interaction I have with you.
I’m still bummed about losing that rocket, and I’ll probably be looking to replace it tomorrow. Hello eBay, goodbye $45. GI Joe prices are nuts.
When was the last time a toy accessory just disappeared on you? What do you think of this Cobra Commander? Which Cobra Commander is your favorite? Let me know in the comments!