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Comicbook: GI Joe A Real American Hero Marvel
A comic series launched in 1982 to promote the return of the G.I. Joe
brand to toy shelves and to introduce the new individual characters developed for the new line. GI Joe was introduced as an elite counter-terrorist/special mission force that conducted covert operations around the world on behalf of the US Government. The primary enemy of the Joes was an organization called Cobra. Cobra was involved in various schemes and plots in an attempt to increase the organization's wealth and power by any means necessary.
The primary writer of the comic was Larry Hama
, who wrote all but a handful of issues over a twelve year run (as well as many of the character bios for the action figures). Prior to the relaunch, Hama had an idea for a Marvel Universe
comic called Fury Force
, which would have seen the son of Nick Fury
put together a team to fight Hydra, Marvel's resident terrorist group; his G.I. Joe
series was based primarily on this unused pitch. Despite a large amount of restrictions and interference from Hasbro, Hama was able to make the comic more mature than the cartoon. It allowed bloodied fighting, multifaceted characterization, losses for the heroes, and characters that could be killed off, eventually growing into a functional canon that developed into a fleshed-out background for its universe.
The book proved to be very popular, in part because it was the first regular comic book to be regularly advertised on television, and at one point it was Marvel's bestselling comic. It was even given a spin-off comic in 1986, G.I. Joe: Special Missions
, which focused less on Cobra and more on various dictators, terrorists, and more realistic enemies for the Joes to confront. This series lasted until 1989. A slide in popularity (and some would say quality) began and the regular series ended in 1994.
In 2010, IDW added G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero
to its catalog of Joe
comics, effectively restarting the original Larry Hama continuity and picking up where the Marvel series had left off.
Perhaps the most famous issue is issue #21, which told a story without using any speech bubbles or sound effects
, and has been endlessly homaged and parodied.
- All American Face: The whole team.
- All Bikers Are Hells Angels: The Dreadnoks.
- America Saves the Day: But not always...
- And Knowing Is Half the Battle: The comic wouldn't include An Aesop PSA, but characters would take the time to talk about the negative consequences of combat and war.
- Animal Motifs: Cobra.
- Art Shift: The comic had several different artists during its run, but the most jarring was the period where Frank Springer and Rod Whigham were alternating the art chores on a string of issues. This was a side-effect of the book going biweekly for a period, which also happened to coincide with the Cobra Civil War plotline. Noticeable on Issue 60 which was drawn by Todd McFarlane (yep, Todd McFarlane). McFarlane actually drew Issue 61 but his art was rejected and replaced with art by Marshall Rogers. When McFarlane became famous in the '90s, his version of that issue got released as a G.I. Joe special issue.
- Badass: Lots.
- Badass Beard: Many of the Joes were designed with beards to add detail to the figure head-sculpts. This carried over to the comic.
- Bandaged Face: The Baroness has her head completely swathed in bandages when she checks into a private Swiss clinic after her face was badly damaged in a tank explosion.
- The Baroness: First appeared in the comic.
- Because I'm Jonesy: In one issue of the series, Zartan infiltrates the Pit, and moves about shifting his appearance from one Joe to another as he goes. However, he shifts into looking like Gung Ho just as the real Gung Ho enters the room; alerting the Joes to the fact that one of them is an impostor.
- Better to Die Than Be Killed: While the death doesn't happen as they are quickly saved, Scarlett invokes this by having a gun with two bullets specifically for this when she and Snake-Eyes are surrounded by Colonel Sharif's men.
- BFG: Roadblock and his vehicle mounted "Ma Deuce" are the most notable. At one point, two average sized Joes (Rock & Roll, himself a machine gun specialist, and somebody who escapes recollection for the moment) unload the machinegun from a car that is already buckling from it's weight. They state that the two of them can barely lift it off the ground and ask how Roadblock can possibly wield it in battle. Roadblock takes it in one hand and calmly responds "good diet and high pain tolerance".
- Big Bad: Cobra Commander, who was a lot more competent than in the animated series.
- Bilingual Bonus: Dr. Hundtkinder, the surgeon who fixes Snake-Eyes' face before selling him out. His name translates as "Dog-child". Or "son of a bitch".
- Bittersweet Ending: On several occasions, which especially under Marvel had the Joes frequently running up against the complexity of international politics and conflicting interests within the U.S. government.
- The Blank: Cobra Commander's mask is either a featureless reflective plate or a blue hood with eyeholes cut out. Also, Firefly's face.
- Blind Weaponmaster: The Blind Master.
- Brainwashed and Crazy: Unlike the cartoon, the comic subverted this on several occasions. Most notably when two Joes were brainwashed and programmed to go postal upon hearing a special signal. They were unable to fire on comrades and passed out from the stress.
- Canon Immigrant: Certain characters were originally created for the comics and cartoons before they were introduced to the toyline such as the Baroness, General Flagg, the Oktober Guard, and Kamakura.
- Cat Fight: Lady Jaye and Zarana have a nasty, knock down, drag out one in an issue of the comic...while all the male Joes and Cobras watch in stunned silence.
- Chainsaw Good: Buzzer and his diamond tooth chainsaw.
- Chef of Iron: Roadblock. His dream is to attend the Escoffier School in France, one of(if not the) premiere gourmet cooking schools in the world.
- The Chick: Somewhat averted, with the girls being competent on both sides, but the code names of the Joe girls fit this: Lady Jaye, Scarlett, and Cover Girl. Daina of the Oktober Guard averted this in the comics by wearing a BDU and being a badass sniper.
- Cold Sniper: Lowlight, in a Special Missions issue, shows he isn't cold enough to pull the trigger on a man begging for his life.
- Code Name: Joes were usually only referred to by their code names.
- Cold War: Since the series began in The Eighties, it was very much on and the Joes had several run-ins with the Soviets and other communist forces. The most frequent of these was the Oktober Guard. In the final run of the series, political reality caught up and they were more or less allies, though the Oktober Guard hadn't fared so well as the Joes in terms of survivability or funding.
- Comic Book Fantasy Casting: On three separate occasions, early issues of the comic featured civilian characters based on Laurel and Hardy.
- Contrived Coincidence: The comic runs on this trope! It seems that every character is connected through The Vietnam War or other incidents. Here are just a few examples:
- Storm Shadow, Stalker, and Snake Eyes were all on the same Long-Range Recon Patrol in Vietnam. And another member of that LRRP team thought dead turned out to be a Cobra Crimson Guardsman assigned to watch GI Joe Headquarters.
- Snake Eyes is informed that he lost his whole family in a car wreck by his future CO, Hawk, which leads to...
- Zartan being hired to kill Snake Eyes because Cobra Commander's brother was the driver of the other car. Cobra Commander blamed his brother's death on the surviving family member.
- The Baroness' brother was killed in Vietnam. Snake Eyes was among one of the soldiers who responded. Thinking that her brother was accidentally killed by the Americans, The Baroness blamed her brother's death on Snake Eyes.
- Several years into the comic's run, It was revealed that Firefly was also hired to kill Snake Eyes but decided that Snake Eyes was too dangerous. Firefly recommended Zartan instead.
- Cool Boat: The ridiculously gigantic USS Flagg built into a seven-and-a-half-foot long, three foot tall aircraft carrier, making it the largest playset in the line (though not the most expensive) and one of the biggest toy playsets ever released. Many futile notes to Santa were written requesting it.
- Cool Plane: Both the Joes and Cobras have some pretty impressive aircraft in their respective fleets.
- Covert Group with Mundane Front: The chaplains' assistants motor pool at Fort Wadsworth not only concealed the original Pit, but provided the cover operation for the Joes themselves, since a number of them were vehicular specialists. Still, the chaplains' assistants were always put off by those "ruffians" from the motor pool.
- Creator Provincialism: An unusually high number of the Joes are from the very small state Rhode Island, according to their file cards. Where Hasbro just happens to be headquartered at...
- Cultural Translation: In the UK, the good guys were called Action Force, and the theme tune called them International Heroes instead of Real American Heroes. Over time this slowly changed to "GI Joe, The Action Force" (it was as awkward as it sounds) before eventually just using the GI Joe name. This actually dates back from the 60's, when Palitoy licensed the original G.I. Joe figure as Action Man. Two decades later, Action Force was launched as an independent extension of the Action Man line. This changed with Hasbro's acquisition of the Palitoy assets, after which the Joes were introduced with European birthplaces.
- Custom Uniform: Joes who reglarly wore standard military uniforms were few and far between.
- Determinator: Cutter found out there were no Coast Guard personnel in G.I. Joe and pestered his congressman until they transferred him just to shut him up.
- Dirty Communists: Subverted and played straight. The Oktober Guard and other Soviet troops were given a lot more depth than most fiction of them time. It was, however, made clear that they were still a threat to the mission. It should also be said that the Borovia arc featured an Eastern Bloc gulag and guards as sadistic as any ever portrayed in fiction.
- Drill Sergeant Nasty: Sergeant Slaughter and Beach-Head. Probably Snake-Eyes as well, since he was said to be the Joes' hand-to-hand combat instructor.
- Drunk Driver: Snake-Eyes' family was killed by one on their way to pick him up from the airport after he returned from Vietnam. The drunk driver's brother later became Cobra Commander and the driver's death started his decent into villainy.
- In another issue, both Billy and Candy hitched a ride in the same car, where the driver had a Thermos of "special" coffee (which Candy discovered was mostly brandy). He then crashes into a train crossing while trying to avoid a collision with the Soft Master (who was running from Cobra in a stolen Springfield police car). While the train is still crossing, Scrap-Iron (who'd been pursuing the Soft Master with Firefly) climbs up a pole, shoots the Soft Master with one of his rockets, and after asking Firefly about the crashed car, blows it up for good measure. Later, it's revealed that Candy and the drunk driver burned to death while Billy survived but lost an eye and a leg.
- Elaborate Underground Base: Several of Cobra's bases; G.I. Joe's "Pit".
- Enemy Civil War: Destro's Iron Grenadiers vs Cobra Commander's side of Cobra vs Serpentor's side of Cobra (which the Joes reluctantly supported for the return of stolen technology). Although, the Grenadiers never fired a shot at either side; once they established their position on Cobra Island, they literally kicked back and drank tea while the two Cobra factions slugged it out until it was over, and Destro simply retrieved the Baroness and left.
- Enemy Mine: On several occasions, the Joes teamed up with their Soviet counterparts, The Oktober Guard, to fight against Cobra. The Joes also had relatively friendly dealings with Destro after he later split from Cobra.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Cobra Commander started to lose it after his brother was killed in a car wreck. later on, it was revealed that he had a son named Billy. Zartan worked with his brother and sister, and The Baroness became a terrorist after her beloved older brother was(she thought) unjustly killed by an American soldier.
- Eyepatch of Power: Major Bludd and Billy.
- The Faceless: Cobra Commander's face is rarely shown, and even when it is, he's wearing huge mirrored sunglasses, a possibly fake mustache, and for some reason, a beret. He definitely has brown hair, though, and also seems to have a ponytail(unless it's a wig). Snake Eyes' face is rarely shown in the 'present', but flashbacks reveal him to be a standard 'handsome blonde guy'. At least it is once he gets it fixed by a top plastic surgeon. In the issue before the operation we finally get to see him, and find he had good reason to wear those rubber masks.
- Faceless Goons: It seems like all Cobra uniforms include face-obscuring helmets or masks.
- Fake Cross Over: Duke showed up in Amazing Spider Man #268 (1985). He is unnamed, but puts in an appearance as head of a military unit assigned to carry out the wreckage of the Heroes for Hire building (which the Beyonder had turned into gold).
- Fan Service Pack: An injured Baroness received reconstructive plastic surgery and then some around the time she got her own toy.
- Four-Star Badass: Hawk, who started as a Colonel Badass, with a short stint as a Desk Jockey in between. His bio even lampshaded this by saying that "When Hawk takes you into a hairy situation, he's usually in front of you yelling "Follow me!"
- From Nobody to Nightmare: Cobra Commander was a used-car salesman who felt that big business/government crushed his dreams and formed Cobra to gain power outside the system.
- Gas Mask Mooks: Destro's Iron Grenadiers. Also, the Toxo-Vipers.
- Gatling Good: Naturally shows up here and there, but by far the most delightfully ridiculous example is Rock n' Roll Dual Wielding twin gatlings◊. How the recoil doesn't knock him over is anyone's guess.
- General Failure: Subverted with Cobra Commander. Unlike his cartoon counterpart, the comic version of Cobra Commander was quite competent and cunning. Most of his victories didn't involve beating the Joes on the battlefield, but tricking or distracting them until he could accomplish his ultimate goal. The creation of Cobra Island was the best example of this. There were several times that the Joes would turn this around on him—most notably when the Joes saved the original Pit by convincing Cobra Commander that a facade was their main headquarters (as opposed to the underground complex). It should also be noted that Word of God stated Cobra Commander's greatest strength was not in superior tactics or grand strategies, but in inspiring the disenfranchised to join his cause.
- Hawaiian-Shirted Tourist: Chuckles is usually wearing one (a shirt that is, not a tourist). He is also the Joes' best undercover operative. A frequently mentioned point is that most people would never imagine an undercover operative to stick out like a sore thumb as he does.
- Heel-Face Turn: Storm Shadow.
- Heroic Sacrifice: This happened on numerous occasions. The Trucial Abysmia arc featured several Joes dying in heroic ways. Other characters would also die this way, most notably in the Special Missions comic. Since the Joes were cleared out of the Pit for a formal review following the Springfield debacle, the only ones inside the Pit when Cobra invaded were Hawk, Generals Ryan and Hollingsworth, and Admiral Dyson. Ryan in particular had been in favor of shutting down the program, but he (along with Dyson) end up sacrificing themselves to save Hawk and Hollingsworth, getting the Joes reinstated in the process.
- Highly Conspicuous Uniform: The Cobra uniforms, in spades.
- Icon of Rebellion: COBRA, naturally enough, has a red cobra's head with its hood open.
- Inexplicably Identical Individuals: The "Fred" series of Crimson Guards.
- Killed Off for Real: When a character died, nine times out of ten they stayed dead. A story arc that coincided with the Gulf War in the early 90's had the Joes engaging in a massive campaign against Cobra in the Iraq and Kuwait Expies of Benzheen and Trucial Abysmia. One issue had four Joes killed by a psychotic Cobra S.A.W. Viper, and later that Viper's armored column kills off all but three of the remaining Joes on the team, not limited to Red Shirts and unpopular Joes. This was seen mostly as housecleaning to get rid of a bloated roster of characters who got little to no book time, or were full-on fact unpopular. Some characters did make reappearances after death, such as Cobra Commander, who'd been ousted and impersonated; Firefly, who was revealed as a ninja; Dr. Mindbender, who was cloned with cyborg implants; and Zartan, who's a shapeshifter. Sometimes this was due to them being Killed Off Screen, or out of extreme annoyance to the writer under pressure due to Executive Meddling. For example, Larry Hama was pressured to kill off Cobra Commander around the time of the 1987 animated movie's release due to Cobra Commander's apparent death in the movie, despite a new Cobra Commander figure being released that year. Hama came up with a story line that had one of his Crimson Guardsmen named Fred VII kill the Commander and take his place leading to an eventual civil war (Fred's incompetence rivaled the real Cobra Commander in the cartoons—shocking since he was a Crimson Guard, the best and brightest). Cobra Commander stayed "dead" for many years having been revived off screen and rebuilding his fortune the same way he did last time—through pyramid and get rich quick schemes, among other means. Upon his reveal as being very much alive in issue 98, he returned to Cobra Island and disposed of his traitorous underlings and became an even bigger madman. Even then, three of those killed off after his return survived being entombed.
- Loads and Loads of Characters
- Long Runner: At 155 issues, the original G.I. Joe is easily the longest-lasting toy tie-in comic. For comparison, for the runners-up, the original Transformers comic only made it to #80 and ROM: Spaceknight made it to #75. That's without counting the Special Missions series, Yearbooks, Orders of Battle... oh, and Larry Hama wrote almost every word of it.
- Magical Native American: Spirit
- Market-Based Title: Rather more extensive than usual:
- At a basic level, the tagline ("A Real American Hero") was changed to "The International Hero" outside America.
- In the UK, the original 12" figures were renamed Action Man, and eventually gained their own, separate canon.
- Later, the 3 3/4" figures were sold in the UK and elsewhere as Action Force. This incarnation reimagined Action Force as a European anti-terrorist organisation based in Europe, which sometimes cooperated with GI Joe.
- The changes later happened in reverse, when the Action Force comic changed from a weekly to monthly publication schedule, and was renamed Action Force Monthly. This was then sold in America as GI Joe: The European Missions.
- Finally, in the late 80s, a short strip that appeared in a couple of Marvel UK comics had GI Joe and Aciton Force merge into a single entity to more efficiently fight Cobra. Henceforth, it was known in the UK as GI Joe the Action Force. This made Scarlett's situation incredibly confusing
- Master of Disguise: Zartan, Zandar and Zarana for Cobra, Lady Jaye for the Joes. Zartan had limited shapeshifting abilities and Zandar had some sort of camoflauging power, while Zarana preferred to use makeup, prosthetics and costumes. Lady Jaye used similar tactics to Zarana, with a touch of Method Acting thrown in for good measure.
- Mecha-Mooks: Goddamn B.A.T.s. The odd mention of B.A.A.T.s isn't a case of Spell My Name with an "S", but a case of two similar sets of Fun with Acronyms; B.A.T stands for "Battle Android Trooper", while B.A.A.T stands for "Battle Armored Android Trooper".
- Merchandise-Driven: Since the book spun off from a toyline, this is obvious. The book was popular enough that a second title, Special Missions, was created that specifically wasn't toyline-driven, allowing Hama to pick his own characters and vehicles. (This doesn't mean that Hama didn't use some of the cooler toys, like the Cobra Z-25 Condor, in those stories.)
- Mess on a Plate: One issue shows Joe candidates going through Training from Hell. This includes their meals, which are described by Chef of Iron Roadblock as "mystery meat on a shingle". One of the candidates muses "How do they get it so gray?".
- Mix-and-Match Man: Serpentor.
- Nice to the Waiter: Discussed by Destro◊ as he literally pets the dog. Mind you, that actually backfires on Destro—that dog is Junkyard, Mutt's dog, and he leads the Joes right to Zartan's cabin shortly thereafter.
- One-Way Visor: Cobra Commander.
- Pirate Parrot: Shipwreck's parrot Polly.
- Poorly Disguised Pilot: One Story Arc of the comic was written purely to launch Transformers Generation 2.
- Praetorian Guard: The Crimson Guard.
- President Evil: One storyline has Cobra's private island lair, the incredibly obvious "Cobra Island", declared a sovereign nation, and thus outside Joe jurisdiction.
- Professor Guinea Pig: One of Cobra's operatives used to be a dentist. He later decided to experiment with a new mind altering system to alleviate pain in his patients...on himself. The experiment caused a complete morality shift and he ended up joining Cobra to pursue mind control experiments. He now goes by Dr. Mindbender.
- Punny Name: Cutter's real name is Skip A. Stone. You might think he's a navy man, but actually he's from the Coast Guard.
- Alpine's real name is Albert Pine. Yep, his code name is the same as his file name.
- Ripcord has a girlfriend named Candy for a few issues. We later meet her father, one of Cobra's Crimson Guardsmen. His last name: Appel. Yes, Candy Appel.
- Ragin' Cajun: Gung Ho and Muskrat.
- Rated M for Manly
- Red-Headed Hero: Scarlett, and many others.
- Lady Jaye was almost consistently miscolored as a redhead in her first few appearances.
- Read the Freaking Manual: In Special Missions #3, Slipstream attempts to pilot a Russian transport plane he has never flown before. He does attempt to read the manual, only to find it is Russian and Farsi, neither of which he can read. Fortunately the illustrations were clear.
- Reality Ensues: Occasionally in the early stories, there was some concession to reality. For instance, when Cobra tries capturing the GI Joe MOBAT Tank on the streets of New York City with armed troops dressed as marching band members, a squad leader reports they are proceeding with caution. Cobra Commander roars in response that they only have a few minutes before the NYPD and the military fully realizes what is happening and responds so they have to speed things up.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Cobra Commander after beating Serpentor.
- Redundant Rescue: In the silent issue where Snake-Eyes fights his way through Destro's castle to rescue Scarlett, she's already gotten free and acquired transportation out by the time he gets to her.
- Scary Black Man: Even on a team with a lot of muscular types(Rock N' Roll & Gung Ho foremost), Roadblock is one of the biggest guys on the roster. But even though he's usually a pretty calm guy, when he goes off, watch out. His bio even said that his temper "is a long time coming, and once lit, a long time going."
- Sergeant Rock: Duke, who despite there being other soldiers of higher rank(Flint & Falcon, for example), was pretty much completely in charge of field operations unless Hawk was there to personally oversee things.
- Semper Fi: Gung Ho and Leatherneck.
- Shown Their Work: Larry Hama was an EOD(explosive ordnance disposal) technician in the United States Army during Vietnam. As such, he gave ARAH a lot more "weight" than other military comics, since he was intimately familiar with military terminology and behavior.
- The Speechless: Snake-Eyes, when we are given a reason for his silence. While he was always a bit taciturn by nature, when a helicopter he and Scarlett were on was going down, she was restrained by a piece of equipment. Snake-Eyes stayed inside to save her, and a fuel line blew up in his face; he inhaled some burning gasoline and scorched his vocal cords beyond the point of recovery.
- Spy Ship: In Special Missions #1, the Joes stage a mission off a fake trawler.
- Super Reflexes: One issue of Marvel's Joe comic featured the Star Viper, a Cobra pilot who could connect himself to a computer to gain augmented speed and reflexes.
- Supreme Chef: Roadblock.
- Take Me Out at the Ball Game: In G.I. Joe: Special Missions #24, the Joes have to protect the President from an attack from Cobra at a baseball game.
- Take That: Between Major Bludd and the Dreadnoks, Australians don't come off too well in GI Joe. That's because Hama served with a bunch of rather rude Australians during Vietnam.
- Taking Over the Town: Cobra does this to Millville in issue #100.
- Tank Goodness
- Technology Marches On: Back in 1984, Ace's brag about the Skystriker having 92K of memory was impressive. Today, even the cheapest "kiddie" MP3 player made has at least 256MB; meanwhile, a modern F-22 has 300,000 times more computer capacity.
- Thirty Xanatos Pileup : Who's doing what and who's betraying whom during the Destro Saga gets so complex that you need to go back over it at least twice, especially towards the end when Scar-Face starts betraying and counter-betraying everyone.
- Tunnel King: Tunnel Rat. He was an EOD tech(like Hama) and the toy was designed to resemble him.
- Unreveal Angle: Issue #55 was advertised as finally showing the real faces of Snake Eyes, Cobra Commander, and Destro, three major characters who had never been seen without their masks. The cover◊ of the comic book and the title of the story ("Unmaskings") further tease the supposed reveal. And sure enough, during the story all three characters take off their masks and show their true faces... but only to other characters. "Camera angles" and shadows are used so that the reader never gets a proper look at the faces.
- War Is Hell
- Wrench Wench: Cover Girl is a former high fashion model turned missile-tank driver. Who insists on doing all of the upkeep and maintenance on her vehicle.
- Writing Around Trademarks: A Running Gag is that nobody can remember the name of the X-19's pilot. That's because his name is Ghostrider, and Marvel had a slightly more visible character with the same name. Whether it's because Marvel requested it or as an in-joke, Hama has continued this in the IDW series.