Every other week, Jason Shayer will highlight an issue or a run of issues pulled from the horde of comic book long boxes that occupy more room in his house than his wife can tolerate. Each of these reviews will delve into what made that issue or run significant as well as discuss the creative personalities behind the work. “Long Box” refers to the lengthy, white cardboard boxes most comics find themselves stored within – bagged, alphabetized and numerically ordered.
Marvel Comics was the first company to produce a comic book version of the famous Hasbro toy franchise. The comic book series’ launch was timed with Hasbro’s new toy line in 1982. They moved away from the single, larger G.I. Joe action figure and to a team concept with figures of 3 ¾” scale.
The first issue, as the cover described, was a Blockbuster 46-pages long and featured the first appearance of G.I. Joes: Breaker, Clutch, Flash, Grand Slam, Grunt, Hawk, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Scarlett, Snake-eyes, Stalker, and Short-Fuse. As well, Cobra Commander and the Baroness made their first appearances as well.
From Jim Shooter’s blog, he revealed that after the initial meeting with Hasbro, he “went straight to Larry’s office. He, with his military background, was the obvious choice to do the heavy lifting. I told him what happened. He thought, and I agreed, that much of what he’d already cooked up for Nick Fury could be adapted to the project. [Archie Goodwin] came up with the first bad guys, the Cobra Command and the Cobra Commander.
Larry Hama was interviewed in Comics Interview #37 in 1986: “The big, really major difference was they wanted to give all of the guys characters and backgrounds, and they wanted to have a comic book. They wanted to have a back story. That’s why Marvel was brought in at the very beginning. When we showed up they had basic designs for the figures. What they knew about these figures at the time was that one was a basic infantryman, one was a commando, one was a mortar, one was communications, one was a laser expert, and so on and so forth. We agreed to do dossiers on each figure, to come up with the background and characterization and the way they would fit together as a team. The surprising thing for all of us was they hadn’t even thought of doing a bad guy.”
The kidnapping of a prominent scientist prompted the US military to engage its new counter-terrorism team, G.I. Joe. The team came together quickly and assaulted Cobra Island where the scientist was being held. Each member got to show off their unique skills and Hama didn’t waste time bringing out the hardware and vehicles.
But, Hama wasn’t really writing this series to promote toys. These comic book heroes used real-world firepower and their combat was handled with a stark realism. Characters suffered injuries and there was usually a deadly cost to their engagements. Larry Hama would go on to write all but a few issues of the 155-issue series and was recently brought back by IDW Comics for the relaunch of an ongoing series that kicked off where the 1980s series had left off.
The core story was backed up by 10 page story called “Hot Potato” featuring Snake-Eyes, Scarlett, and Rock ‘n’ Roll. The extras seemed endless with a double-page spread detailed the G.I. Joe Base called “The Pit”, heavy weapon and vehicle profiles, and classified personnel files.
I found the art to be a bit lack luster. Herb Trimpe, who had penciled the Hulk’s adventures in the 1980s, was never, in my humble opinion, the best fit for the book. Although, for issue #1, the talented and underrated Bob McLeod inked Trimpe’s work and gave it that extra punch. Unfortunately, after the premiere issue, Trimpe’s inkers weren’t as well suited and really didn’t do his art any favours.
G.I. Joe: The Complete Collection Volume #1 hardcover was recently published by IDW reprinting the first twelve issues and they’ve done a great job. They’ve faithfully reprinted all the extra materials and all the military dossiers. The reprint quality is great and even the format is slightly a bit larger than the original comic size and it has been beautifully recoloured.
Jason Shayer has been trying his best not to grow up for that last 30 years and comics books are one of the best ways to keep him young at heart. He’s also known as the Marvel 1980s guy and has probably forgotten more than you’d ever want to know about that wonderfully creative era. Check out his blog at: marvel1980s.blogspot.com.