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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Favorite Fictional Characters, #276: John "Hannibal" Smith

After-Dinner Cigar at Tiffany's

The A-Team was, in keeping with the endemic foolishness of the mid-1980s, a ludicrous premise. To quote: "A crack commando unit sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune." Sounds plausible. So yeah, you had Mr. T.'s iconic B.A. Baracus, the nutty Murdock, and suave Face, led by George Peppard's unflappable, homily-spouting Colonel Smith (variably a Lieutenant Colonel and full bird during the series' run), known as Hannibal after the famed Carthaginian general of antiquity.

Hannibal was the guy who landed the justice-dealing gigs for the A-Team, using his mastery of disguise and intrigue to contact various potential clients. The team sought to fight for the little guy, usually against third world dictators and nameless thugs, all while evading capture from a bungling military establishment that sought to return them to prison. The show employed the cartoonish network-approved violence of the time, with lots of big guns and fiery explosions and almost no consequences. As a kid it was cool how they made trucks out of dumpsters and guns out of blenders and whatever else was at hand, sort of Mission: Impossible meets MacGyver meets Rambo. Hannibal was always at the center of it all, both master tactician and B-grade actor, concocting convoluted strategies that often paid off somehow. And boy, did he love it when a plan came together. With his omnipresent cigars and black gloves and infectious laugh, Hannibal was the kind of leader even ill-tempered grumps like Baracus would follow.


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