In our last episode, Tim and his brother Kevin returned home from summer camp and had missed an issue of G. I. Joe!
This timing has long amused and puzzled me. In the four weeks we were away, G.I. Joe issue #91 managed to debut and complete its full sales cycle, so when we at last checked back in we were greeted by issue #92. But how unlikely was it that the very four weeks we were away were the same four weeks that issue #91 was available? Pretty unlikely, but it happened nonetheless, and we had to make do with #92. On the one hand, we were excited to be reading any new G.I. Joe comic book. On the other hand, it was disappointing that we had missed an issue. Yes, there had been those two visits to a comic book store (with a full selection of back issues), but it was a small ordeal to mount a trip there (not really), so for the time being, we had no way of getting #91. Fortunately #92 was excellent.
It’s actually the resolution of a storyline started a month earlier in the spin-off book G.I. Joe Special Missions (a fact that mostly eluded us, despite the footnote saying so). #92 is a great action comic book with many moving parts – different factions of good guys, a rescue from hostile territory, corrupt politicians, a chase, and the series regulars Cobra. And it zips along at a swift clip, and is funny, too. Plus, to refer back to one of my initial reasons for the Marvel series hooking me in, this new issue spotlighted an obscure character, the vehicle driver Long-Range. In fact, he (and his vehicle) get the entire cover to #92. Whenever I lament modern action comic book writing with its poor pacing or lack of visual action, I hold this up as an example. (Also, issue #50. Great action comics both.)
I suspect that Waldenbooks received some of its comics late, because two weeks later the family took its annual trip to the beach, where Kevin and I found – much to our surprise, as we had only just bought #92 – G.I. Joe #93! More on that in a moment, as something else important happened in this summer before 6th grade:
It’s hard to adequately explain how big Tim Burton’s first Batman film was. Everyone was talking about it, everyone loved it, and merchandise was everywhere. I saw more than one Batman t-shirt every day that summer. Montgomery Mall had a keyosk devoted entirely to Batman shirts and memorabilia. I saw the film three times, daydreamed that my school would stage it as a live play and I’d be cast as Jack Nicholson’s Joker, bought the Topps trading cards with their alternatively dry and lurid captions (“Plunge Into Toxic Oblivion!”), and rolled my eyes at the high prices in the special catalog of toys and merchandise that Warner Bros. had printed for movie theatres.
Just a few days before we left for Ocean City, MD, Kevin and I were at the other bookstore at Montgomery Mall, B. Dalton Booksellers. (Yes, the rival chains had names that rhymed – Walden/Dalton.) We rarely shopped “Dalton,” as we inaccurately called it, since it was in a dead corner of the mall, but B. Dalton did carry graphic novels (important later) and that first week of August it did have the deluxe edition of the official DC Comics adaptation of the live-action Batman movie. It was perfect bound, a term meaning rather than paper folded in half and stapled at the centerfold (comics, magazines), this book was printed like a book – glued, trimmed pages, and a square, though skinny, spine. It was $5.00, a huge step up from the dollar we had spent on our G.I. Joe comics, but it was also A) generally fancy – glossy paper, increased color palette, higher quality printing, B) superbly illustrated, and C) BATMAN. I couldn’t get this movie out of my mind, so to be able to read it over and over was exciting. And read it over and over I did. Every day at the beach for two weeks.
On this yearly trip I OD’ed on cable TV, Kevin and I splurged on video games (Mom saved quarters in advance of the trip), we played in the water and built sand castles, Mom and Dad read books, Kevin and I checked off summer reading, we ate out, and Dad took us miniature golfing. And at one of two malls there, we stumbled upon the greatest revelation in all of G.I. Joe history.
What was it? Tune in next week to find out!