Today, we look at how “The Viper is Coming” from G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero taught a whole generation of kids about the concept of shaggy dog stories.
This is To Quote a Phrase, a spotlight on notable pop culture quotes.
October is a Month of To Quote a Phrase, both here and at Comics Should Be Good!
More so than most toy properties, both the excellent Larry Hama comic book series, and also the original animated series based on Hasbro’s G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero toyline, were just so OFFBEAT at times. I mean, don’t get me wrong, most of the major animated properties would have their offbeat stories, too, but G.I. Joe really seemed to make a point of having some weird, weird stories.
One of the most notable ones was built around a simple quote, “The Viper is coming.”
In 1985’s G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero Season 1 episode titled the same as the quote, “The Viper is Coming,” written by David Bennett Carren, the G.I. Joe squad had recently helped restore a firehouse. Barbecue, the Joe’s resident firefighter, gets a phone call that simply says, “The Viper is coming, five seventy five.” Naturally, the Joes all believe that this is a reference to their mortal enemies, Cobra.
They try to decipher “Five seventy five,” and decide that it is coordinates, and they uncover a Cobra base in the Antarctic.
Later, they get a call again from “The Viper,” who seemingly gives them another clue about he will start on “The West Corner.” This leads to the Joes intercepting a Cobra attack on West Point (points being corners…I guess).
Then they get another call mentioning the “Top Floor,” and they get into a fight with Cobra on the top floor of the world’s tallest building, Extensive Enterprises Tower, a Cobra front.
Cobra, of course, all believe that they have a mole in their midst, giving away their operations, but they can’t figure out WHO.
Finally, the “Viper” reveals that he will arrive at noon the next day.
The Joes put together a mini-army in front of the firehouse to see that it is…the window wiper, whose thick accent makes it sound like he is “The viper, here to vipe your vindows.” Five seventy five is how much he charges an hour. He’ll start in the west corner and the top floor.
This, of course, is a classic “shaggy dog” story, where there is a long elaborate story leading up to a point…but then the point is anticlimactic, as none of the events seemingly leading up to a climax actually WERE leading anywhere (here’s the archetypal “shaggy dog story” that the term is named after – A boy owned a dog that was uncommonly shaggy. Many people remarked upon its considerable shagginess. When the boy learned that there are contests for shaggy dogs, he entered his dog. The dog won first prize for shagginess in both the local and the regional competitions. The boy entered the dog in ever-larger contests, until finally he entered it in the world championship for shaggy dogs. When the judges had inspected all of the competing dogs, they remarked about the boy’s dog: “He’s not that shaggy.”).
It’s a fun storytelling approach, and not one that kids are always familiar with, but they were after watching “The Viper is Coming,” that’s for sure!
Hasbro puts all of the original episodes up on YouTube for free if you want to watch it…
Okay, folks, if you have suggestions for cool pop culture quotes, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org!