The Secret Origins Of Cannon Fodder

"So, do any of these guys have names?"
“So, do any of these guys have names?”

G.I. Joe was the sort of 80s animated series that didn’t necessarily excel in answering questions, but here’s one that maybe should have been answered:  where exactly did Cobra find all its soldiers?  Knowing may have been half the battle, but maybe you could cut the battle by another half if you could dry up Cobra’s recruitment.  Instead, there’s a ton of generally faceless guys who seem to line up in order for the Joes, a military unit with the loosest uniform standards in the entire American Defense Department (thanks for that joke, Robot Chicken), to punch out by the dozen.  Its a good thing the Joes couldn’t shoot any straighter than Cobra could, because that would have been rather messy.

Seriously, where do groups like Cobra find recruits?  Who lines up to join them?  I suppose the same question could be applied to modern world terrorist organizations, but unlike them, Cobra had a whole island that everyone knew about.  I am sure a more pro-active group like Seal Team 6 would have stormed that place and taken out the top leadership in about a minute and a half (again, thanks for the joke, Robot Chicken).  Cobra had cheap equipment, and most missions had the Joes rounding up the foot soldiers by the hundreds to, I dunno, go to prison somewhere.  And its not as if Cobra is alone here.

The evil army is a trope that’s been around for ages.  Individual soldiers are never a match for the protagonist hero.  They’ll just slow him down.  If these sorts of stories were more retrospective, I am sure they would explain where and how these forces get their recruits.  Is there a signing bonus?  Conscription?  What if you’re the orc who would really rather stay home on your Mordorian farm and don’t care to overrun the kingdoms of Men and Elves?

Pictured:  a lack of conscientious objectors.
Pictured: a lack of conscientious objectors.

At least orcs are a species that make some sense.  Mordor also recruited a lot of men riding giant elephant things.  Why sign up for that bunch?

For that matter, who becomes a Stormtrooper?

The draft hadn't been suspended yet in a galaxy far, far away.
The draft hadn’t been suspended yet in a galaxy far, far away.

Then again, the Empire looked like the winning side a few times.

Its a staple of genre fiction for armies to form, composed of, I suppose, the disaffected youth and unemployed of the setting.  Join the Empire!  See the Galaxy!  Get shot by a farm boy with Jedi potential!

It’s not something we think about, because they guys aren’t the heroes.  They’re not even the villains.  They’re the guys for the heroes to plow through on their way to the villain.  They don’t need motivation.  They can be the Foot Clan trying to stop some Ninja Turtles, Hydra looking to bring down Captain America, or the Soggies looking to oversaturate Cap’n Crunch.  They don’t have origins.  They don’t have individual personalities.  They just need to go down.

Of course, there is a group that, no matter how many you beat, eventually seem to win more often than not.  And unlike the others, they don’t really need to worry about motivation and their origins explain their behavior just fine.  Of course, they’re also brainless.

The people who keep the Kardashians on TV.
The people who keep the Kardashians on TV.

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