A radioactive ninja fights a polar bear, in the most demented scene from the new G.I. Joe cartoon box set. That's something you don't see every day. Honestly, the action-figures-emoting genre reached its pinnacle with these 1980s cartoons.

Everything about the above clip is pure awesome, including Snake Eyes's pet wolf and the weird blind Scottish guy who lives in the tundra and wears a funny eye mask.

Shout! Factory just put out a box set of G.I. Joe Season 1.1: A Real American Hero, which comprises the three original miniseries that introduced us to Duke, Scarlett, Snake Eyes and their COBRA foes, back in the early 1980s. The Love Boat-style disco lounge music churns over non-stop sketchy visuals of square-jawed men (and women) jumping over explosions and trying to hoist meteorites out of volcanos. It sails past campy and just keeps roaring off into the distance, with dialogue like "It's danger, with a capital D — for Destro!"

There's only one radioactive-ninja-fights-polar-bear sequence as far as I could tell, but luckily, the four-disc set is chock full of other crazy moments, all drawn in the same weird heavily inked style, sort of like Herb Trimpe on uppers. I had never seen the original G.I. Joe cartoons before, and now I'm hooked on the ridiculous snarling banter between the helmeted Cobra Commander and the silver-masked Destro. Cobra Commander is like an evil five year old boy, always trying to drag Destro into eating giant turkey legs with him or playing "arena battles" with mind-controlled gladiators. It's a miracle they keep almost taking over the world.

You will get this opening theme song stuck in your head for days:



It's up there with the English-language Starblazers theme.

The voice acting in these cartoons is so insanely over the top, it feels like it's in four dimensions. Check out Cobra Commander leading his umpteenth sneak assault. "A perfect victory!! Almost... too perfect..."

The animation style is simultaneously crude and detailed, in a way that's hard to explain. The pictures are amazing, but the lines are kind of rough and the movement is often kind of ridiculous. And in every other shot, something rolls towards the "camera," either an exploding vehicle or a giant boulder or an evil projectile. It's very in your face. Check out the way Destro's face has those little lines between his eyebrows and around his mouth. His silvery mask is weirdly expressive:

All in all, it's pretty much total lunacy, with crazy plots about COBRA trying to build a giant teleportation machine so they can steal the Eiffel Tower (what is it with these guys and the Eiffel Tower?) and eliminate New York, or destroy all the oil tankers so the world's economy crashes to a halt. Basic supervillain stuff, and the G.I. Joe squad stops every scheme, using the power of pure cheesiness. A couple of the episodes are even written by Bat-God Paul Dini and Howard The Duck creator Steve Gerber.

The DVD set's extras consist of some early Hasbro toy promo reels, plus a collection of amazing PSAs, like this one:

I didn't even realize until the other day that "Knowing Is Half The Battle" was a slogan that nobody ever uttered in the TV show, or in the comic book. It's a phrase that only turns up in these wacky PSAs. Anyway, if you want the full dose of G.I. Joe insanity, you may want to consider skipping the live-action movie and renting this puppy on DVD. And watching it with a jug of the cheapest, most throat-burning bourbon you can find. It's the ultimate experience! [Amazon]