While some complained about Heavy Duty starring in “G.I. Joe – The Rise of Cobra,” I was perfectly happy with Roadblock sitting that one out so as not to sully his good name as truly only Snake-Eyes, Storm Shadow and Baroness could escape that fiasco unscathed.
Fortunately for the character, it looks like he’ll have a much smoother time making the live-action transition in “G.I. Joe: Retaliation,” set for release on March 28. Here’s all you need to know on the Joe’s heavy machine gunner.
As you can see from the cover of comic book #23, Roadblock is a towering, intimidating guy. He’s gotta be in order to carry the massive Browning .50 caliber machine gun he totes around like a pistol. His file card, written by G.I. Joe guru Larry Hama, gave him one of the more interesting back stories of his teammates.
Yep, the big muscle-man of the team primarily joined the team so he could be a chef. That’s a great dynamic and in the comic book — also written by Hama — that was one of Roadblock’s defining character traits. In one of his earlier memorable appearances, Roadblock and Duke are on a stakeout and Roadblock offers his critique on the food of the various restaurants they visit. It’s such a fun contradiction from what was the norm for a team’s black character at the time and helped to give Roadblock an outside the box personality.
Hama doesn’t always get his credit beyond Joe fans, but he was easily one of the best comic writers of the 80s and early 90s. One thing that always stood out then (which I’ve since admired even more as I’ve gotten older) was how Hama kept Stalker and Roadblock constantly featured and never felt the need to club you over the head that they were black by writing them as jive-talking caricatures. They were just regular guys and while writers fell into that easy trap especially in the 80s, Hama was far above that. After the final issue of the original series ended, I wrote Hama a letter thanking him for the positive portrayal of the black characters. I don’t know if he ever got it, but I hope he knows how much his writing kept me a longtime comic fan as a result.
The cartoon series gave Roadblock a very different persona. He wasn’t much bigger than his teammates and traded in his machine gun for the cartoon standard issue Joe red laser gun that had dead-eye accuracy for shooting down Cobra vehicles, but not much else. Roadblock had one of the more unique traits on the show as he typically spoke in rhymes. Remember what I said about the regular portrayal of black characters at the time? Still, Roadblock was a featured Joe on the show and everyone can tell you what helped make him stand out from the others.
Roadblock also had the distinction of being one of the tough Joe action figures. I always thought that as along with Gung-Ho and Sgt. Slaughter, he was one of the first few Joes to run around in little more than a tank-top to show off his muscles. Course there’s Quick-Kick too, but that guy was nuts enough to run around fighting barefoot and shirtless so you can’t count his fashion sense against him. I hated that goofy little green helmet that came with the figure and never had it on him. At that time, a bald black guy was a unique look so I think it’s safe to assume that Roadblock was the inspiration for Michael Jordan…
Since he was such a popular character, Roadblock was the third (alongside original members Hawk and Snake-Eyes) to get a new look early in the line. His second outfit wasn’t all that spectacular, but it was a bit more functional and gave him a little more extra bulk compared to the skinnier original figure.
In “G.I. Joe: Retaliation,” Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson will be playing Roadblock. I’m as big a Rock fan as anyone, but in a perfect world there was no one more suited to play Roadblock more than this guy.
I suppose Terry Crews is the next best option, but Rock wouldn’t be on my list at all. Mainly because he’s the kind of guy who’s charisma demands that he’s front and center and that’s never been the kind of character Roadblock has been so this will be very interesting watching a Roadblock-led Joe team. At the very least in this picture we see him with Roadblock’s trademark weapon. We’ll see come March 28. So now you know about Roadblock and knowing is half the battle.