G. I. JOE #6 (December 1982). Herb Trimpe flexing his Kirby muscles on the cover.
The storyline is another one plotted/drawn by Trimpe, scripted by Hama. An experimental Russian craft has crashed in Afghanistan. Both Russia and Cobra want it, conflicts ensue.
Oh, also, Hawk is a traitor.
This issue is the JOE debut of the October Guard. Fan favorites who even appeared in the cartoon. I’ve read before they were actually created by Tom DeFalco, and debuted in a B&W Marvel magazine. If so, how did Hasbro end up with the rights to them?
G. I. JOE #7 (January 1983). Special guest inker, Chic Stone! My favorite Kirby inker.
The cleaner inks bring out Trimpe’s skill for facial expressions. This is buried under most inkers, including Trimpe himself, but Stone pretties everything up.
Page Four, and the Shooter-approved “I can’t…yet I must!” conflict is established.
Funny that last issue’s cliffhanger had the Commander ordering the Joes executed, yet this issue he uses any excuse not to off them. He seems more intimidating this issue than in earlier issues, though.
Another outright deception from the last issue. Script doesn’t seem to match the art, either. Why is Hawk so glum about sending the Joes out as decoys?
It’s the kind of ending SPECIAL MISSIONS will later exploit. The Joes not knowing all of the details, being played as pawns in some way, stories emphasizing following orders over traditional heroics.
G. I. JOE #8 (February 1983). This cover is Mike Vosburg’s first JOE work.
Trimpe is now scripting, plotting, penciling, and inking this issue. Rick Parker also makes his JOE debut, lettering his first of many issues. Honestly, I have a hard time telling Novak and Parker letters from this era apart.
Jim Novak’s letters would later become conspicuously large, for reasons I never understood. Parker would soon letter the entire line of Spider-Man books, and G. I. JOE for years.
Aside from one of the few references (the only?) to Baroness’ past as a leftist radical, nothing significant here. Trimpe’s plots differ from Hama’s in that he’s more willing to drag the Commander into the action. And there’s more action, period. Hama paces this stuff out, Trimpe wants explosions on almost every page.
I believe Trimpe also had a military background. Writing from the grunts’ POV, mocking dumb decisions from commanders and “the Army way” gives the issue some authenticity.
G. I. JOE #9 (March 1983). The first full Mike Vosburg issue. And the fourth issue in a row Hama hasn’t plotted.
I wonder if the licensing fee Marvel paid Hasbro had anything to do with so many inventory stories running in a row. Maybe JOE couldn’t afford to leave any issues in the drawer?
Steven Grant is the fill-in writer, meaning the main creative team consists of people who hate G. I. JOE and took the job for the money. Grant is less vitriolic than Vosburg, who comes from underground comix and has a moral objection to even the concept of the series. Guys running JOE fansites who contacted Vosburg for interviews learned this stuff quickly.
Grant seems perplexed anyone looks back fondly on this issue, but has the attitude of “Hey, at least someone liked it.” I enjoyed it as a kid, and it holds up rather well. The Joes are protecting a diplomat who’s secretly a Cobra agent, and something crazy happens on almost every page. It’s corny in a way Hama’s stories aren’t, but it doesn’t bend the reality of the series too far.
G. I. JOE #10 (April 1983). The return of Hama! The debut of Springfield, Dr. Venom, and (sorta) Billy!
Vosburg really doesn’t seem concerned about drawing Cobra uniforms on-model.
And here Hama develops a plausible rationale for how mindreading could work. The scanner later goes into pure fantasy territory, but the starting place was grounded in firm reality.
More firsts -- Snake Eyes’ origin is teased. First hints that he’s a ninja, not a mere commando, surface. Unbelievable how significant an issue this.
Billy’s appearance here, though, doesn’t quite work. He looks nothing like the character we’re later told is the Commander’s son.
Hama cops to making his stories up as he goes along; I wonder when it dawned on him that he could revive that kid from this issue and do something with him. Not sure if he ever reconciled how Billy’s family were in the underground anti-Cobra movement, and Billy was caught scrounging for supplies and captured right before we meet him this issue. Clearly, this kid was not conceived as Cobra Commander’s offspring.
Let’s close with a promo for Marvel’s personal appearance program. Did the Joes ever join Hulk and Spidey?
That’s the end of the first trade; unless you count a two-page ad for Marvel’s 9-11 exploitation title THE CALL. Remember paying $25 for trades and getting ads in the back?