Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Micro-Reviews: G. I. JOE, Vol. 5, Part One

The final Marvel collection of the original G. I. JOE comics. Serpentor enters, dividing fandom (who had no clue Cobra-La was coming.) 
Funny that the cover features Joes Hama never showed much interest in. Sunbow fans would probably respond to this, tho. With the possible exception of Airtight, these were prominent Sunbow characters. Serpentor is also in his Sunbow colors; his cape (and often cowl) was always green in the comics, for some reason.

Some part of me would still like to see the JOE comics reprinted with Toei-style colors (which Udon could do fantastically.)

G. I. JOE #42 (Dec 1985) We’re luckily still in the Zeck cover era. Some guy with big ears is gonna get sliced, apparently. #GIJoe #LarryHama
Hama works in the exposition in his unique way. And the seeds for some of the 1986 changes are planted.
The Joes visit the Vietnam Wall Memorial. Even in quiet moments, Hama ends each page with either a cliffhanger or memorable image.
Following a few issues catered towards the commercials, Hama returns to his normal style. Numerous subplots, a few character moments, with some action tossed in. He’s always mindful to have something visual happen every few pages, so even a “middle” issue like this doesn’t feel dull. This is the source of that highly deceptive cover. Hama acknowledged even then that covers and solicits are often inaccurate, as he invents the stories from page to page.
Reminder that the kid with freckles will go on to be Snake Eyes. And I love how nasty this Fred is.
Although this issue ends with a stunning revelation—this Fred is the Wade Collins who served with Snake Eyes in Nam! Various threads are coming together (Soft Master, Candy, Billy and Storm Shadow), as Hama builds the mythology. #GIJoe#LarryHama

G. I. JOE #43 (Jan 1986) Mike Zeck, folks. #GIJoe #LarryHama
Another return to Nam. This isn’t pleasant reading, even for an adult.
I think Hasbro deserves some credit for just letting Hama do what he wanted in the non-ad issues.
Most toy companies would’ve been far more protective over the content featuring their characters.
Mattel was terrified He-Man would be perceived as “violent” even in a PG live-action movie. Billy’s personality begins to form. For much of the run, he’s the moral voice of the series.
A drunk driving accident (involving a Cobra rocket launcher) that still affects the continuity of the series. Soft Master and Candy killed. Billy horribly maimed. Acts have real consequences in this world.
The mythology that’s been crafted within ARAH is essentially unprecedented. Marvel nominally has a backstory going back to 1961, but that hasn’t really been true for 20 years now.
ARAH is one of the few series still going with a strict continuity, and one creative voice determining the direction. (Even as Hama acknowledges he only maintains continuity because fans demand it.)
SAVAGE DRAGON and SPAWN are the only two current series I can think of with a comparable history. And those two books are unrecognizable compared to their glory years.

G. I. JOE #44 (Feb 1986) I was always bothered the B.A.T.s’ coloring didn’t match the cartoon’s. #GIJoe #LarryHama
We’re in a stretch of issues with no toy commercials attached. Although this issue certainly feels like a commercial tie-in. The opening page is the kind of stuff you get when Hama’s told what vehicles have to appear this month.
I think this was going to be a commercial, but plans changed. The B.A.T.s and Dr. Mindbender debut here in late ’85; didn’t appear in the show until Fall ’86.
The idea of a mad scientist sending robots and plant spores against the Joes is the kind of stuff Hama never did on his own. Reads as something the ad-men devised. And Dr. Mindbender is referred to as his prototype name throughout the story. Did Hasbro jump the gun on this issue?
But, through it all, Hama tries to apply some plausible rationale and critical thinking behind all of the insanity.
The printer’s error on the Baroness’ face in this panel inspired her facial scars in @tomscioli's TRANSFORMERS/G.I. JOE series.
Story ends with Jaye telling us how cool these new Joes are. Typical of the commercial tie-ins, even if I can’t find a record of an ad today. #GIJoe #LarryHama
Plenty more with the B.A.T.s in my free #GIJoe novels, by the way! (smashwords.com/profile/view/G…)

G. I. JOE #45 (March 1986) For some reason, I have strong memories of this cover, despite not owning the actual issue. #GIJoe #LarryHama
The Terrordrome debuts, along with Quick-Kick and Alpine. Odd to see them all appear together; I strongly associate those Joes with the 1985 line, and the Terrordrome with 1986.
This was released in late ’85, so the comic debuted the Terrordrome almost a year before the show. And Hawk is promoted to General almost a year before he even appears on the show!
One of the first instances of Hawk passively-aggressively disobeying orders. Also funny to see Ripcord as one of the few Joes to receive such individualized attention.
Another event that changed the course of the book’s history. This Zartan/Arashikage stuff ran deep, over literally years of issues.
Hama melding the sci-fi elements with realistic military action is a series trademark.
This is a run where every issue feels like an event. Whigham is also consistently great in this era. It’s an easy transition from the cartoon to the comic, visually-- because Whigham’s renditions of the cast feel “on model.” His art still has personality, but isn’t so stylized kids feel disconnected from the JOE they know from TV. #GIJoe #LarryHama

Now, while on the subject of JOE, he's my routine reminder that my final JOE novel is up for free at Smashwords. I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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