Friday, July 29, 2011

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero

Shieldmates no.1 by Emmanation
G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero mostly got it's start from Larry Hama who wanted to start an ongoing Nick Fury comic book for Marvel. Almost all of what G.I. Joe is was because of Hama.

"A Real American Hero" was brought about as a revival of the original 12 in (30 cm) G.I. Joe brand of the 1960s and '70s. After the 12" figure had been absent from toy shelves for a few years, G.I. Joe was re-introduced in a 334 in (9.53 cm) action figure format following the success of the Star Wars and Micronauts 3 3/4" scale toylines.
The genesis of the toy line came about from a chance meeting in a men's room. According to Jim Shooter, then editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics:
The President or CEO of Hasbro was at a charity event that Marvel’s President was also at. They ended up in the men’s room, standing to each other peeing, and I think that’s how they met. They were talking about each other’s respective businesses, and it came up that Hasbro wanted to reactivate the trademark on G.I. Joe, but they were trying to come up with a new approach. [Marvel’s guy] was like ‘We have the best creative people in the world! Let me bring in this Editor-in-Chief of mine and we’ll fix it for you![4]
Prior to G.I. Joe's relaunch in 1982, Larry Hama was developing an idea for a new comic book called Fury Force, which he was hoping would be an ongoing series for Marvel Comics. The original premise had the son of S.H.I.E.L.D director Nick Fury assembling a team of elite commandos to battle neo-Nazi terrorists HYDRA. The idea was nixed, but Hama used the basic premise when he learned of Hasbro's plans to resurrect the G.I. Joe toyline. Each G.I. Joe figure included a character biography, called a "file card". Hama was largely responsible for writing these file cards, especially for the first ten years. When developing many of the characters, he drew much from his own experiences in the US military. The overall premise for the toyline revolves around an elite counter-terrorist team code-named G.I. Joe, whose main purpose is to defend human freedom from Cobra, a ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world.

The first issue introduces the whole line-up of characters from the toyline. What a great issue! Hama masterfully gives us what this comic will be all about showcasing everyone and all the vehicles at that time. The plot revolved around the kidnapping of a Dr. Adele Burkhart and her knowledge of the Doomsday Project. The perfect McGuffin to get the action rolling.

An interesting note of trivia- In one panel there is a picture of each of the team members. In the corner is a character that was not part of the original toy line or a prominant character in the comics or animated series. It wasn't until later that Shooter was featured in back up stories. There is a small list of appearances now featuring the character.

Having read a lot of both, now, I feel that G.I. Joe is the better product when compared to most eras of S.H.I.E.L.D. The biggest advantage Joe has is the series exists in it's own universe and doesn't suffer from the outrageous appearances of caped superheroes.  A Real American Hero came close enough to that sort of stuff with some of it's rogue gallery. It also often had to endure crossovers with Transformers which I never really cared for. But as for spy/military comics- S.H.I.E.L.D. couldn't tell those kinds of stories because most of the bad guys were beyond human. This can be cool, but G.I Joe has always been more in my taste. I am quite biased, regardless.

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