After G.I. Joe: a Real American Hero ended, but before G.I. Joe Extreme began, there was G.I. Joe: Sgt. Savage and his Screaming Eagles. Confined to a failed toyline and a single OVA (original video animation) episode titled â€œOld Soldiers Never Dieâ€, Sgt. Savage is one of the most forgotten chapters in G.I. Joeâ€™s animated history, but essential for bridging the gap between the classic Real American Hero cartoon and the not-so-classic Extreme series.
In 1944, Master Sergeant Robert Steven Savage lead a squad of men into Berlin. He was betrayed by one of his fellow soldiers, Krieger, a double-agent for the Axis Powers. Krieger had Savageâ€™s entire squad killed and used Savage-himself as a guinea pig for various genetic experiments. Savage was then cryogenically frozen and sealed inside a secret bunker. 50 years later, G.I. Joe discovered the hidden bunker and, thanks to efforts from Doc, successfully thawed Savage out. Thanks to Kriegerâ€™s genetic experimentation, Savage now has super-human strength, speed and agility. However, his powers are unstable and fluctuate violently. General Hawk leaves Savage in charge of a group of talented but irresponsible sergeants facing court martial and quickly whips them into shape. They dub themselves â€œthe Screaming Eaglesâ€. Krieger, now taking on the guise of General Blitz, leader of the terrorist organization, the IRON Army, plots to attack a space platform and steal a NASA rocket with a satellite inside which will give him control over the worldâ€™s computers. Sgt. Savage and his Screaming Eagles learn of Kriegerâ€™s plot and deploy for action.
A very big change from the G.I. Joe weâ€™re used to, but at the same time, a step-up from the reviled DiC series which took place after G.I. Joe the Movie. The Sgt. Savage OVA marks the return of Sunbow as producers of G.I. Joe animation, but in reality, itâ€™s somewhat of a fusion between the original Sunbow and the DiC series. You have producer Jay Bacal and voice direction Wally Burr back in action, but the voice actors from the DiC series remain on hand. Itâ€™s sort of a â€œbest of both worldsâ€ kind of thing.
While Sgt. Savage and his Screaming Eagles was a failed franchise, this rare piece of animation is essential in tying the Real American Hero and Extreme cartoons together. Several classic â€œRAHâ€ characters make appearances in this OVA, including General Hawk (still being voiced by David Kaye from the DiC series), Doc, Lady Jaye (who is inexplicably blonde) and a brief cameo from Cobra Commander. On the Extreme end of things, while all the members of the Screaming Eagles were never to be seen again, Sgt. Savage would go on to be a prominent character in G.I. Joe Extreme. While, in reality, this OVA was the vehicle of a failed toyline, it still makes for a necessary transitioning period between the G.I. Joe of the 80â€™s and the G.I. Joe of the late 90â€™s.
The animation for the OVA was produced by Akom Studios in Korea. Now, any of you fans off the Transformers probably recognize them as the God awful animators behind such brutally ugly episodes as â€œCarnage in C-Minorâ€ or â€œCity of Steelâ€. However, let me assure you, the animation in this OVA is *far* from ugly. In fact, itâ€™s pretty outstanding. The tone is very dark (the animation style is similar to Extreme, if youâ€™re more familiar with that series) and the animation is incredibly smooth and fluid, especially during action sequences. I particularly liked the 40â€™s newsreel segment and General Blitzâ€™s transformation into the massive cyborg during the finale at the NASA space platform.
While myself and many others found the Ocean Groupâ€™s work in the DiC series of â€œRAHâ€ to be sub-par at the very best, they actually do an outstanding job in this OVA. I have a feeling this is the result of voice director Wally Burr, a former tank sergeant and notorious for having *extremely* exacting standards. Burr knows how to wring the absolute most out of his cast, and he does it again with this video. Scott McNeil plays Sgt. Savage and does a fine job with the grumpy, snarling voice. Gary Chaulk plays General Blitz, and while his German accent can be a little off at times, does a commendable job. And David Kaye returns as General Hawk and actually sounds a great deal more convincing here than he did in â€œRAHâ€. Scott McNeil also reprises his role as Cobra Commander (he had taken over for the final season of â€œRAHâ€, after the original actor, Chris Latta, left) for the characterâ€™s brief cameo and does his usual excellent impersonation of Chris Latta.
One thing that impressed me about this OVA was that they used, *gasp*, REAL bullets! Thatâ€™s right, not a laser to be found. A decent sense of realism amidst all the sci-fi schlock. The references to World War II were also well done, though they had to refrain from using the word â€œNaziâ€, and instead referred to the enemy as â€œthe Axisâ€.
Now that Iâ€™ve gotten all my compliments out of the way, itâ€™s time for the inevitable complaints. The origin of Sgt. Savage is absolutely creatively bankrupt. He is, for all intents and purposes, Captain America reincarnated into the world of G.I. Joe. This angle makes the Sgt. Savage OVA hard to watch for many, as they canâ€™t get past the whole â€œrip-offâ€ thing. And I can understand them to a degree, as it really is a rip-off. Maybe not the degree of Rob Liefeldâ€™s Fighting American, but still not very original.
Also, being only 22 minutes-long, they have to cram a *lot* into the OVA. As a result, things are very rushed and the Screaming Eagles-themselves are almost completely devoid of characterization. The bit where Savage kicks the crap out of them on the basketball court is about the most personality any of them are shown with.
The video cassette containing the single Sgt. Savage and his Screaming Eagles OVA was packaged with the Sgt. Savage toy and never released by itself or shown on television. As a result, it can be a little hard to come by. I got mine off eBay a few years back for about $10 bucks. If youâ€™re a G.I. Joe buff, youâ€™ll probably want to check this out.