"Cobra Commander"

File Name: Classified


Primary Military Specialty:
Secondary Military Specialty:
Ordnance (Experimental

Status: At Large

First Appearance:
G.I. JOE #1 (July 1982)

"My dear Dr. Burkhart -- you will soon see the distinct advantages of having no scruples whatsoever!"
— Cobra Commander

   The man who would become Cobra Commander was an average middle-class American before tragedy and bad luck turned him paranoid and obsessive, and made him one of the most dangerous men in the world.

    Little is known specifically about Cobra Commander's past, but early in life he was a used car salesman. He eventually became a small businessman, and was constantly struggling to be successful. As things became tougher and debt piled up, Cobra Commander's world was shattered by the death of his big brother, Dan. Dan had been a soldier in the Vietnam war. He kept signing on for new tours in Southeast Asia to be sure his brother wasn't drafted. When Dan finally returned home, he had changed. Years of war had deeply affected him, and to help others like him, he opened up a halfway house for his fellow soldiers who had come home from war to divorces, bankruptcies and unemployment. All his money went into the venture, but it began to fail, and when  the bank was ready to seize his assets, a stoned out vet accidentally burned down the building. The bank blamed him and sued him. A jury found Dan innocent, but a judge overturned the verdict, looking at Dan as a bitter veteran wanting a handout, and the bank took all of his assets. The verdict destroyed Dan, and he began drinking to deal with his pain. Anger, depression and alcholism warped his mind and gave him a death wish. He began driving fast, weaving in and out of traffic on the highway, as if daring death to take him. Death caught up with Dan, when in a drunken stupor, he caused a head-on collision with another car. Dan and the other car's occupants were killed instantly. In that other car was Snake-Eyes' parents and twin sister Terri, on their way to meet Snake-Eyes at the airport. He was returning home from Vietnam.

    Dan's death devastated Cobra Commander. He became obsessed with making someone pay for Dan's death. He turned to vigilantism, punishing criminals, but being sure to take any money they gains by illicit means. The Commander then sought out Snake-Eyes, who had been angry and despondent since his family's death and spent most of his time drinking and getting into fights. He eventually convinced Snake-Eyes to join him in a mission traveling the country meting out vigilante justice, but he never revealed his true identity or his connection to the car accident. As he seemed to become more interested in keeping criminals' money and using it to buy the loyalty of others, Snake-Eyes grew uncertain about what they were doing and worried about his new friend's growing instability. One night, the pair broke into the home of Judge Mitchell Tate, for reasons unknown to Snake-Eyes. The Commander then revealed that Tate had been the judge who ruined his brother's life, and that his brother had been driving the car that killed his family. He then handed Snake-Eyes a gun and told him to kill the judge. Snake-Eyes refused and turned the gun on the Commander only to learn it was unloaded. He told Snake-Eyes he was afraid he'd be too weak to pull the trigger, then simply killed the judge himself. Snake-Eyes ran off, hoping to never see his "friend" again.

    The future Commander decided if Snake-Eyes would not be part of the solution, he was part of the problem. As his business failed, he began dreaming of exacting revenge upon Snake-Eyes. He tracked Snake-Eyes down in Japan, where he was living with Storm Shadow's family and clan of ninjas. Cobra Commander took out loans and used up his family's savings to hire the mercenary known as Firefly to kill Snake-Eyes, due to the mercenary's infamy and knowledge of the ancient arts. Firefly infiltrated the ninja clan, but discovered that he was no match for Snake-Eyes. Instead of killing Snake-Eyes himself, Firefly referred Cobra Commander to Zartan, a freelance assassin working out of Daytona Beach, Florida. Cobra Commander found Zartan playing pool and hustling some local toughs. He gave Zartan a suitcase of money and hired him to kill Snake-Eyes. Zartan became apprentice to the ninja clan's swordsmith and infiltrated the clan with Firefly's help. Using an arrow stolen from Storm Shadow, Zartan shot Snake-Eyes with an arrow. Only, it wasn't Snake-Eyes he killed, it was Storm Shadow's uncle and the clan's leader, the Hard Master. With one arrow, the lives of Snake-Eyes, Storm Shadow and Cobra Commander changed forever. Storm Shadow was blamed for the murder and fled his family, dedicating his life to vengeance and Snake-Eyes lost his surrogate family.

    After the birth of Cobra Commander's son, Billy, his wife found out about her husband's obsession and learned that he had hired Zartan. When she confronted him, Cobra Commander left his wife, taking Billy with him. He drove off into America, blaming all his miseries on big business and big government, who were dedicated to keeping down the "little guy." The government had killed his brother and destroyed his business. He became paranoid to the extreme and decided that if the system was against him, he would create his own system. Traveling the country, he lived in various towns, moving from one motel to another, finding people just like him who blamed their lives' failures on everyone but themselves. He got them involved in pyramid schemes, selling cleaning products and magazines. And he dragged Billy with him wherever he went. Using the profits from his shady businesses, he gained followers who agreed with everything he said. Soon, he wasn't just their boss, he was their leader. Finally he was a success, and he was in control. His power only served to feed his ego, making him believe he was as great as his followers thought he was. Cobra Commander finally found a town that seemed to be made for him: Springfield. Springfield had been a nice little town, but its businesses were failing and its people were becoming disillusioned. The townpeople listened to Cobra Commander's lies and he soon became the most powerful man in town. Soon, he corrupted the entire town and became their savior. In that small town somewhere in America, a secret organization was founded, its goal to wrap around the entire world like a giant Cobra. It gained power and influence through extortion and terror. And at the center of it all was Cobra Commander, his growing ego turned him into a megalomaniac who now believed his own lies. All sense of morality had disappeared from the man. When his son Billy disappeared into Springfield's anti-Cobra underground, frightened by what his father had done, Cobra Commander cared little. As Billy got older his father's actions deeply disturbed him. His denial was complete and all memories of his past were blocked out; too painful to remember.

    By 1982, Cobra was an international organization. Cobra agents spread through the Third World, using terrorism to subvert foreign governments. One of the G.I. Joe team's earliest missions was to free an American ambassador from Cobra agents working in the middle east. The little South American nation of Sierra Gordo was another of Cobra's earliest victims. Unstable governments became Cobra's playground. While G.I. Joe had once been an anti-terrorist organization, it almost exclusively fought Cobra as time went on. The two groups became bitter enemies. The Joes fought Cobra Commander's schemes to assassinate foreign ambassadors and subvert the government of the United States. Cobra used the confusion of the Cold War to its advantage, fighting not only America's G.I. Joe team, but also the Soviets' October Guard. For a time, Cobra Commander remained in control. Though extremely dangerous, he remained calm and confident, his power unquestioned. But as Cobra's size grew, more people were needed to control the organization. When he brought the Scottish arms dealer, Destro into Cobra, he underestimated the man. He soon found Destro to be more intelligent and competent than he had realized. And when he discovered his most trusted lieutenant, the Baroness, had a past relationship with Destro, Cobra Commander's paranoia resurfaced. He hired Major Sebastian Bludd to kill Destro. The plan ultimately failed, but Cobra became embroiled in a constant power struggle, and Cobra Commander's calm exterior gave way to the insanity just beneath the surface.

    As the battle against G.I. Joe continued, Cobra Commander hired Storm Shadow as his personal bodyguard. The ninja entered the organization seeking revenge, knowing that his uncle's murderer had ties to Cobra. Cobra Commander was well aware of Storm Shadow's identity, but never let on that he knew the truth. Storm Shadow pledged his loyalty to him, even rescuing him from the Joes when they captured the commander. The power struggle in Cobra's ranks continued. The Baroness wanted to take control of Cobra from the commander, but Destro would not be a part of such a plan. Though he disliked Cobra Commander, he had pledged his loyalty to him and would not betray him. With Major Bludd's help, the Baroness recruited a boy in the anti-Cobra underground to assassinate Cobra Commander. The boy turned out to be Billy. He was stopped by Destro and captured. Billy's memories resurfaced, and Cobra Commander refused to show the boy mercy. Though he was interrogated, Billy never turned in his co-conspirators. Storm Shadow was moved by the boy's sense of honor and disgusted by the unknown conspirators. He decided to free Billy and escaped with him to New York. There, Billy became a ninjitsu apprentice, learning the ancient art from Storm Shadow. Eventually, Billy left Storm Shadow and went off the confront his father. When he returned to Springfield, Billy was involved in a fight between Cobra agents and the Soft Master. A missle destroyed the car Billy was traveling in, leaving him in a coma and taking his eye and his leg.

    Cobra Commander again forgot all about his son. In his most brilliant scheme yet, he tricked the Joe team into aggravating a faultline in the Gulf of Mexico. The resulting earthquakes caused a huge piece of land to be thrust up through the ocean's surface. Cobra's forces held the newly formed island against the Joes until Cobra lawyers in Washington had the island declared a sovereign nation. Cobra Island soon had all the benefits of an independent nation with its own airspace and three miles of free ocean, thanks to international law. Despite international regulations, a G.I. Joe Skystriker jet was sent to spy on Cobra Island from the air. On board the jet was Ripcord. The pilot, Ace, was surprised when Ripcord ejected from the plane to find his missing girlfriend Candy, who was thought to be on the island. In reality Candy was killed in the same car wreck that nearly killed Billy. As Ripcord fought Zartan on the island, Storm Shadow and Snake-Eyes learned that Zartan was the Soft Master's killer. The two ninjas landed on the island, ready to avenge their teacher's death. In the chaos that ensued, Ripcord was badly hurt by Zartan and Zartan took Ripcord's place. A small team of Joes arrived on the island and "rescued" Zartan, who was posing as Ripcord. Meanwhile, Ripcord took Zartan's place in Springfield. Storm Shadow found Cobra Commander and asked him if he had ordered Zartan to kill the Soft Master. The commander blatantly lied to his former bodyguard: "He did it...to prove he could!" Storm Shadow was later shot and seemingly killed by the Baroness as he and Snake-Eyes tried to fight their way off the island.

    As things settled down somewhat, Cobra Commander gave Dr. Mindbender the sanction to start an incredible project. Mindbender postulated that he could create the ultimate soldier by using the remnants of the DNA of history's greatest soldiers. Eventually, Cobra tracked down the remains of several famous warriors including Julius Caesar, Napoleon, Attila the Hun and Hannibal. Amazingly, Mindbender's plan worked. In Springfield he combined the DNA of the long-dead warriors with a cloned body. He also used the body of Storm Shadow, who was revived by the process. The result was Serpentor, the amalgam of history's greatest military leaders. Just as the project was completed, Springfield was invaded by nearly the entire Joe team. The Joes discovered the town's location, thanks to Ripcord who was still posing as Zartan. Back on Cobra Island, Cobra Commander ordered an evacuation of Springfield, led by Destro. Serpentor was sent to lead the troops against the Joes and allow the people of Springfield to escape. What Cobra Commander hadn't realized was the greatest soldiers of history were also great military leaders and conquerors. The Cobra troops now adored Serpentor and Cobra Commander was afraid his position would be usurped by Serpentor. The commander even attempted to have Serpentor assassinated.

    After the evacuation of Springfield, G.I. Joe headquarters, aka the Pit was closed down and the Joes were under investigation. Serpentor and Cobra Commander combined their efforts to infiltrate and destroy the Pit. Trying to regain his soldiers' respect, the commander led the invasion personally with Destro at his side. The only people left to defend the Pit were Hawk and three high-ranking military officers. When Cobra Commander saw that Hawk was in the Pit he vowed to kill his nemesis himself. But Generals Hawk and Hollingsworth escaped the Pit and detonated it. The Pit was destroyed and collapsed in on itself, leaving Cobra Commander and Destro trapped inside. Cobra and G.I. Joe alike assumed they had died in the explosion. In reality, the two men were trapped in the lowest levels of the Pit. Using a Joe earth-boring machine to escape, they made their way to a closed down shopping mall. They disguised themselves and stole a car, trying to return to Springfield. On the way, a state trooper pulled the car over. When he saw the commander's name on his driver's license, the trooper told the commander that his son, Billy was in a coma, still recovering from his injuries after he escaped Springfield. Destro left the commander alone with his son. Cobra Commander vowed to be a better father to Billy. Meanwhile, Serpentor had taken control of Cobra and continued the commander's Terror-Drome project. Cobra became arms dealers, selling modular launch bases known as Terror-Dromes to anyone who could pay them. The first buyers were the revolutionaries of Sierra Gordo. Along with the bases came Cobra "advisors." Cobra took an active role in the revolution, giving them a foothold in the small nation.

    A short time later, Cobra Commander brought Billy to an undercover Crimson Guardsman known as Fred VII. Fred was a mechanical genius and designed prototypes of new Cobra weapons. The commander asked Fred to make a prosthetic leg for Billy to replace his old one. After doing this, Fred showed Cobra Commander a newly designed suit of battle armor that the commander tested out. With the help of Raptor and the new Cobra Pogo attack vehicle, the commander intended to return to Cobra and destroy G.I. Joe forever. Billy, however, wanted no part of it and again walked out on his father. The commander was determined to be a father to Billy and vowed to give up Cobra. For that one moment, Cobra Commander's whole life could have changed and he could've begin to make amends for all he had done. But that was not to be. Fred was furious. He had given his whole life to Cobra. He wouldn't let the commander just walk away. Fred pulled out his pistol and shouting "You owe me!", he fired a bullet into Cobra Commander's back. Standing over his leader's lifeless body, he picked up the helmet to Cobra Commander's battle armor, noting, "Funny thing about this helmet...Could be anybody inside..." He and Raptor buried the commander's body and Fred left for Cobra Island. There, Fred claimed to be the true Cobra Commander. When he removed his helmet and the Baroness found out his true identity, Fred thought the scam had failed, and he wouldn't live for much longer. Instead, the Baroness became Fred's "silent partner," finally getting her chance to rule Cobra, albeit from behind the scenes.

    The story of Cobra Commander doesn't end there. When Fred VII buried the commander's body, he didn't know he was being watched by another Crimson Guardsman, Fred VIII. The soldier dug up the commander's body, only to find that he was only near death, and could still be saved. Cobra Commander was revived and contacted his loyal Crimson Guard. With their help, he began a new company just like he had when he first created Cobra. Soon, the new company was a success, and for the next couple of years, Cobra knew nothing of the true Cobra Commander's fate. The commander kept his supposed burial site under surveillance. Eventually, Raptor told Dr. Mindbender the truth about Cobra Commander. Mindbender was ready to use the commander's genetic material to create a new leader, but he discovered the grave empty. It was then that Cobra Commander revealed himself to be alive. Followed by a dozen Crimson Guardsmen, he returned to Cobra Island to reclaim his organization and to punish his enemies. On Cobra Island he found several people arguing in the land-locked freighter on the island since it's creation. Inside were Zartan, Firefly, Fred VII and several others including Billy. They had come to the island to reveal Fred's true identity. Cobra Commander threw Mindbender and Raptor in with the rest of the "traitors." Calling his original decision to go straight "irrational," he disowned Billy as his son. He planned to seal the freighter and kill all those inside. Billy shouted to his father, "You kill more than just a ship full of people if you kill us! You kill your own humanity!" The commander just laughed. "That was killed long ago," he said, "when my own son tried to kill me!" Using explosives, he then buried the freighter under the rubble of the island's volcano.

    After that, Cobra Commander retook Cobra and started a new plan. He took over the town of Millville by brainwashing the town's population, turning it into another Springfield filled with virtual slaves, building Cobra vehicles and weapons. Soon afterward, Cobra entered into a pact with the Emir of Benzheen, an oil-rich country in the Middle East. He backed Benzheen in a war which led to the deaths of many members of the G.I. Joe team. After the Battle of Benzheen, Cobra Commander planned an assault on Destro's castle in Scotland. Though Destro had gone into semi-retirement, Cobra Commander wanted to "put that uppity foreigner in his place." Just before the attack, he learned that Billy and Zartan had escaped the freighter. They both ended up rescuing Destro during the attack, and later assisting the Joes and Destro in saving the Baroness. While many of his schemes failed, the commander committed Cobra to many operations. Over the next few years, Cobra attacked Destro's new castle in Trans-Carpathia, fought the Joes in Millville and even assaulted the Joes' headquarters in Utah. Cobra Commander returned to the former-Soviet nation of Borovia in 1994. There, he supported the new president, Metz and personally executed two Borovian freedom fighters, Magda and the White Clown, both of whom had been involved with the Joe team. Using the brain-wave scanner, the commander brain-washed Destro, the Baroness, Zartan, Storm Shadow and even Billy. They had all broken their ties with Cobra long ago, but by controlling their minds Cobra Commander had re-formed Cobra's "high command." After the Joes rescue attempts failed, they were forced to return to the United States. Shortly afterward, the military disbanded the G.I. Joe team. This would have been wonderful news to Cobra Commander, but soon after Cobra forces in Europe fell to a unified attack by regular military forces. In the wake of this conflict, most of Cobra's high command disappeared, and Cobra Commander himself became an international fugitive.

Artwork: Hasbro's Cobra Commander artwork from 1982 courtesy of Gonzo's Unofficial G.I. Joe Website; G.I. JOE Yearbook #1 (back cover) by Michael Golden; G.I. JOE #24 (cover) by Mike Zeck and John Beatty; G.I. JOE #59 (interior) by Ron Wagner and Bob McLeod; Cobra Commander's 1991 filecard courtesy of YoJoe.com.