Wednesday, March 4, 2009

G.I. Joe #1

G.I. Joe #1 was the first comic I ever purchased for more than its cover price.

A lot more.

When I was a kid, G.I. Joe was my favorite comic book, my favorite cartoon, and my favorite toy. The toy was amazing because the joints made it fully poseable, there were so many of them, and they had a ridiculous number of accessories, vehicles, and playsets. I was the king of my neighborhood the day my parents bought me the G.I. Joe Aircraft Carrier. That thing was longer than my bed. It was seriously the best toy I've ever owned and I wish I still had it.

The cartoon was cool because all of the characters from the toys had their own episodes, the animation was awesome, and the stories were actually pretty clever for a kids' TV show. But I've watched a bunch of episodes since, and it really doesn't hold up. The animation still looks good, and the music is awesome, but nothing makes any sense. I have no idea how I was able to follow any of those stories when I was a kid, since the writers must've been on drugs or something.

Why was he staring in their window? Why did that seem normal when I was a kid?

"Now we know!"
"And knowing is half the battle! And, remember, kids, don't tell your mother I was here, ok? Now why don't you hand Doc that bottle?"

And then there was the comic book, which was brilliant. Nobody ever believes me when I tell them that G.I. Joe was my all time favorite comic book. It was created to sell action figures, sure, but it was still great. Writer Larry Hama gave the series a sense of integrity and intelligence that most other's would've shrugged off, assuming kids wouldn't know any better. Hama, a Vietnam vet, understood the army and what war was like, and he even went on to help create the critically acclaimed, and more mature, comic book The 'Nam. His ancestry as a Japanese American, and his mastery of several martial arts, lent an authenticity to such characters as Storm Shadow and Snakeyes, the popularity of whom helped to usher in the Ninja craze that swept through comics and TV in the 80s and 90s.

And then there was Kwinn the Eskimo, a character so morally neautral and ambiguous that he never appeared in the cartoon or the original line of figures. Kwinn's struggle to find inner peace was one of the most brilliant things I'd ever read as a kid, and I still remember his death scene to this day. Kwinn finally managed to track down the evil Dr. Venom, who had betrayed him and set him up to be killed by Cobra. Kwinn had followed him across the globe, deadset on exacting his revenge and killing him once and for all. But when he finally found him and began to throw his grenade, he realized that he was no better than Venom, and that killing him wouldn't bring him satisfaction at all. When he turned to walk away, Venom shot him in the back, killing him, which made him drop the grenade, sending it rolling to Venom's feet. I still haven't forgotten Venom's final words as he realized his fate: "A grenade... fallen from a dead man's hand."

This was powerful stuff for a comic that came out when I was only six years old, though I was probably a couple of years older than that when I first read it, because those early G.I. Joe issues were in the box of comics my brother gave me when he grew out of them.

But I was going to tell you about G.I. Joe #1. That wasn't in my brother's box of comics. But it was for sale in an ad at the back of one of my recent G.I. Joe issues. For thirty bucks. And, remember, this was before ebay or buying anything on the internet. Back then, if you wanted to buy something mail-order, you actually had to fill out an order form that you ripped out of a comic or magazine, send it along with a check, and then wait weeks (sometimes months) for anything to arrive, if anything even did arrive. I'm still waiting on a few things I sent away for when I was a kid.

But G.I. Joe #1 did arrive. Finally. It came in a giant box filled with those packing peanuts, and wrapped up in a mylar slipcase. I never opened it. I had already read the story because they had reprinted the entire run undert the title "Tales of G.I. Joe," so I didn't need to read it again. I just needed to own it. I paid 30 bucks for that thing, I wasn't about to put my greasy little fingers all over it. And until I took that picture, I had never opened it. For all I knew, the inside pages were blank.

Years later, when I had enough comics to put into comic-sized long boxes, I had to remove the comic from its original slipcase because it was too wide to fit into the boxes. Maybe I opened it up for a second when I removed it and put it into a standard size comic back with a backing board, but I doubt it. I was too nervous about touching it that I was afraid I'd rip it or that its finally coming in contact with air would result in it turning to dust before my eyes.

Anyway, I've recently decided to sell off my comic book collection since I have thousands of issues in dozens of boxes that are just collecting dust in my basement. G.I. Joe #1 is collecting dust on my wall, however, since I have it hanging on the wall in my TV room with some other comics that are special to me. It's going for $15 dollars on ebay. Well, the one issue that I saw listed is. Maybe it'll eventually go for $30, but I doubt it. Nobody pays that much for comics anymore, unless they're from far earlier than the 80s, or feature characters more important than the G.I. Joes. Still, $15 is better than it was last time I checked, years ago when I first started using ebay to buy comics. Back then it was worth about a dollar.

And now they're making a live-action G.I. Joe movie, due out this summer, not to be confused with the animated movie that came out when I was a kid. But that's a whole, 'nother blog post. Don't get me started on that movie.

Personally, I think it looks pretty cool, but I'll reserve my judgment until I actually get to see it, or at least, see more of it. I don't understand why all of these superhero movies (for lack of a better term, at least in regards to G.I. Joe) have to get rid of the original costumes from the comics, cartoons, etc, and dress the characters up in ugly black leather bodysuits. It works for Snak-Eyes since that's what he actually wears in the comics, but everybody else had a lot of color and style. This movie looks kind of drab. Also, why isn't that guy playing Destro wearing a metal mask? At some point in the movie, he'd better put on a shiny metal mask. And according to the IMDB, Marlon Wayans is playing Ripcord, which is weird, because Ripcord is white. Maybe they were thinking of Stalker?

But it still looks goofy and fun. But I'd rather they had called in Larry Hama to write it. That Kwinn the Eskimo storyline would've been Oscar-worthy.


Justin Garrett Blum said...

Why is this $27?

Anyway, this reminded me of some Family Guy episode I recently saw where these characters are drinking in the school bathroom and one of the Joes walks out of a stall to lecture them about the dangers of drinking. I know Family Guy isn't your kind of show, but it was brilliant, and I actually went through the trouble of finding it just now.

About ten minutes in.

Donald said...

Yeah, that was funny. Thanks for the link.