GUNG HO AND SPIRIT ARE IN the desert tracking villains. They look out into the emptiness. "There's nothing out there, Spirit, says Gung Ho. Spirit answers: "Only the wind, Gung Ho ... and the ghosts of the buffalo."
Spirit and Gung Ho are both G.I.s, members of the G.l. Joe Mobile Strike Force, and they are searching for COBRA hijackers. Spirit is a Native American; Gung Ho, I assume, is of Chinese descent. The dialogue and the story come from a lavish new magazine for children, G. I. Joe Magazine, published by Telepictures Publications in New York. It's available in Canadian stores for $1.95, and it came on the scene just in time for Christmas.
The recent controversy over whether or not G.l. Joe toys serve to "recruit" children (especially boys) into the US military -- with all that that entails -- now becomes more interesting. The inside back cover of the magazine is, in fact, a recruitment poster, with a powerful G.I. pointing his finger at the reader and saying, in finest Uncle Sam voice: "The G.I. Joe Team Wants YOU!" This exhortation is followed by a more elaborate account of the G.I. Joe Team:
Do you have the right stuff? Are you tough enough to look COBRA Commander in the eyes and not shake in your boots? If you think you are, then we're counting on you to join the ranks of the G.I. JOE MOBILE STRIKE FORCE TEAM. And help defeat the ruthless COBRA forces once and for all.
No one says it's gonna be easy, but you'll be protecting our American way of life. And what could be more important than that? So get set for adventure, trooper! Just cut out and mail your enrollment Form today!
Be a real American Hero. Just like G. 1. Joe. ...Remember, the Free World is counting on you as much as we are.
If this gets you interested, you can tear off a form ("G.l. Joe Enrollment Form"), which says: "Please enlist me as a member of the G.l. JOE MOBILE STRIKE FORCE for a one-year tour of duty." For $5.00 you get a number of items, including a G.I. Joe ... G.l. Joe Wall Poster. And the G.l. Joe Dog Tag. "Wear it with pride on its 24 inch stainless steel chain, just like Duke. Look for it to know who your allies are."
One thing is certain. There's plenty in this magazine to challenge the young mind. For example, "There are twelve (American) flags hidden throughout this issue of G.I. Joe Magazine. Your assignment is to try and locate all of them." Then there's "Behind Enemy Lines," a board game where the object is to get through the barbed wire to enemy HQ. And, of course, you can send in your cards and letters to G.l. Joe Mailbag, along with your crayon drawings of soldiers, rocket launchers and ammunition depots.
No one can say G.l. Joe Magazine won't give children ideas. As one enthusiastic boy from Portland, Maine, puts it: "My favourite way to play Strike Team is to make up my own special enemies. And reading about G.l. Joe always gives me new ideas."
What ideas will children get from G.l. Joe Magazine? Mainly that the enemy of "our American way of life", who is "cruel ... evil ... totally ruthless and out to conquer the world" must be utterly and finally eradicated by whatever means technology provides, and that this must be undertaken without delay.
But perhaps the most curious thing of all is the G.l. Joe team itself. In addition to the central G.I. Joe figure ("Duke"), who is a white Anglo-Saxon male, the team includes black, Chinese and native men, as well as a woman, Scarlet (referred to affectionately as "Cover Girl"). Also among the plastic figurines sold in Canada (I haven't seen him in the magazine yet), is at least one Canadian. Definitely a well integrated team.
Of all these team members I'm perhaps most struck by Spirit, the native person. You wonder why he is called Spirit? The magazine tells us:
"Before Spirit goes into battle, he thinks about what he is doing in a very special way. He remembers the spirit of his ancestors, and then he moves, slow and calm, to his duty. He moves, like a Spirit with the strength of his thoughts."
I wonder what tribe his ancestors belonged to. Presumably not to one of the many tribes helped on their way to extinction by the U.S. Army. Perhaps the Cherokee, then? Or the Sioux? These tribes have survived. Very well, then, Spirit, remember the spirits of your ancestors. Remember the Trail of Tears. Remember Wounded Knee. And before you get a rocket-launcher, I suggest that you think 'in a very special way' about what you are doing.