Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Micro-Reviews: G. I. JOE Vol. 4, Part Two

G. I. JOE #35 (May 1985) John Byrne, avoiding as much detail as possible on those motorcycles. #GIJoe #LarryHama
This issue, Whigham is joined by Mark Bright, Bob Camp, & Hama himself. Under the inks, I can’t tell most of these artists apart.
Mark Bright does stand out; I recognize his art from his later run on the book (almost 70 issues later!)
The Joes discourage a bored teen from joining the military. Hama’s touchy at the thought of this book being a recruitment tool. JOE’s clearly not coming from an anti-military POV, but Hama always wants to be honest about the life. In the midst of the sci-fi elements and toy commercials, there’s careful thought about what it means to be a soldier. Previously the Joes encouraged Billy to enlist as soon as he turns 18, back in issue #10. What the heck happened to panel three? Did someone spill coffee on the original art?
Not the deepest of issues overall (the Dreadnoks cause chaos, then one is captured). It’s a toy commercial issue, so I’m lenient.

G. I. JOE #36 (June 1985) Michael Golden cover art! #GIJoe #LarryHama#MichaelGolden
We have the same fill-in jam team on art this issue. Bright’s pencils are again the ones that stand out. I think Hama drew the Snake-Eyes pages.
Doc is supposed to be a pacifist, but that aspect of his character was never played up. His replacement, meanwhile, was always identified as “The Pacifist Joe.”
The issues that feature heavy vehicle action always feel like toy commercial issues to me. This one actually isn’t, but it’s less entertaining than last month’s actual commercial issue. No real setup for the action, just three different sequences of Joes fighting Cobra. There’s literally one panel that pays off in the future, other than that it’s all pretty forgettable.

G. I. JOE #37 (July 1985) Another toy commercial! Another Mike Zeck cover! 

Flint debuts with the latest Hasbro vehicle. Forgot he’s supposed to have a past with both Duke and Roadblock. I suspect Hama has, too.
The idea of Flint as supremely arrogant with poor social skills never translated to the cartoon. There, his voice actor carried most of the personality. 

Hey, here’s something Hama hated: Tomax and Xamot. Their telepathy gimmick killed any pretense of reality in the comic, sadly.
I like the twins, though. Don’t recall them ever “speaking” like this on the show. Didn’t they only feel each other’s pain? (Something I thought was 100% factual as a kid.)
Another (negative) landmark: Footloose’s debut. Hama’s original memo to Hasbro re: Footloose had him questioning why the Joes needed another infantryman.
This year the line exploded, with Hama growing skeptical of a franchise w/so many characters. Hama suggested just releasing this figure under Grunt’s name, establishing he’d undergone additional training. Interestingly, Hama crafted one of the best dossiers for Footloose. He’s actually a great character just based on that bio, even though he’s rarely utilized. I enjoyed writing him in my book.
Early instance of the Crimson Guardsmen drawn as HISS tank pilots. The debut IDW ARAH issue made the same mistake.
Overall, an improvement over last issue. Fun but nothing special. And Tomax/Xamot do set a bad precedent…
G. I. JOE #38 (August 1985) We’re entering the era of amazing Zeck covers on each issue. #GIJoe #LarryHama @MikeZeck
So much personality, in art and writing, in just one page. Whigham might’ve been the JOE artist who drew the most attractive faces.
Stalker has a grasp of civil liberties that exceeds that of the average citizen using social media today. Voltaire’s philosophy always crops up in Burkhart stories.
I’ve always loved the stories of Billy’s childhood. Hard to see now why he didn’t know his dad’s true identity a few issues ago, though…
The way Hama glamorizes Billy’s loyalty to Baroness and Bludd is odd, but keeping with the philosophy of the book. 
They had ulterior motives for helping Billy...but he recognizes they took him and helped him in some way. He also realizes, even as a kid, that he wasn’t entirely in the right. Characters don’t just do what they feel like in Hama’s stories, there’s a moral philosophy that guides their actions. 

The Storm Shadow/Billy tutorship begins here. Becomes a fixture in the book until the end of the Marvel run. Another way paternal themes enter the narrative.
And, let’s close this out with an action sequence that would’ve been far too intense for the cartoon. Great issue, all around.

G. I. JOE #39 (September 1985) I never noticed Roadblock in the back until just now. #GIJoe #LarryHama @MikeZeck
Note the first issue is now “several years ago.” Hama consistently aged the book in real time, enabling Sean to become 18 by the final issue.
The veteran Joes getting older is ignored, as are the ages of all of those pets. You think Mutt is on Junkyard III by now? 

Hama’s great at adding quick character moments like this. In the midst of a highly detailed rationale for how the Joes can escape a hostile terrain while pursued by the enemy, characterization remains a priority.
Meanwhile, there’s fatherly Storm Shadow schooling Billy in life lessons. This is not the villain we met in issue #21.
Another lecture from Stalker, explaining what used to be basic middle school civics. Social media has made these beliefs seem radical.

G. I. JOE #40 (October 1985) The cover that was too intense for Hasbro! #GIJoe#LarryHama @MikeZeck
Hama said once Zeck was asked to tone things down by Hasbro after turning this in. Probably not the image they wanted in their ads.
Shipwreck debuts. Never a major character in the comics canon, but the TV producers cracked themselves up, transforming him into Nicholson.
Two major events this issue: It’s confirmed Ripcord’s girlfriend Candy is the daughter of the Cobra agent, Dr. Appel. (Yes, making her name “Candy Appel.”)

Secondly, he’s the agent who devises the creation of Cobra Island, which is a major feature for years. Another “Cobra Island,” with no origin provided, also became part of the cartoon canon.
Barbeque also receives the requisite “Just toss in the new toys” intro. BBQ actually appeared in the several TV episodes before being dropped. Hama clearly never cared much for him.
It’s a toy commercial issue. One that has the heroes fearing a nuclear strike from their own government raining down from above.

G. I. JOE #41 (November 1985) Ol’ cheap Marvel crammed this cover together with #40’s, all to ensure the last page of this issue also ended the trade. #GIJoe#LarryHama
At least they’re not running ads for short-lived Marvel books in these trades anymore. Cobra Island is born, and it’s all the Joes’ fault! Granting Cobra their own nation opens new story ideas for the rest of the decade.
At some point Hama lost interest, but the concept of Cobra “diplomacy” and consulates added some variety to the stories. 

Early example of Hama portraying Zartan as far more intelligent than the average Cobra agent. Also amusing to see how Hama incorporates the realities of international law and bureaucracies into an action-themed toy comic.
Whigham was as adept at drawing vehicles as figures. On-model characters, good acting, this is always solid work.
Nice example of the more absurd elements of JOE merging with Hama’s obsessive interest in legitimate military tactics.
And we’ll close this volume with Cobra Commander, delivering a heartwarming message to the kids at home.

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