“Silent Interlude” gets a lot of attention. People who’ve read comics, but have never read G.I. Joe, and who don’t like G.I. Joe, have heard of that twenty-first issue of Marvel Comics’ G.I. Joe, with its wordless tale of action and rescue. And all that attention is deserved. But what never gets mentioned alongside this comic that Larry Hama wrote and drew (at the same time — it was a single step), is the other two silent stories published in the original Marvel run: “SFX,” issue #85, April 1989, penciled by Paul Ryan and Randy Emberlin; and “Hush Job” from Yearbook #3, drawn by Ron Wagner and Kim DeMulder.
Let’s take a look at page 4 of “Hush Job.”
To repeat: This is a silent story. It’s not that the word balloons fell off. There aren’t any.
Ron Wagner, a graduate of the Kubert School, really knows how to draw. Look at those two 3/4 rear views on Storm Shadow. And one is an up-shot. Look at that jaw in panel 4! Look at the intensity of Storm Shadow’s expression in the final panel!
Ron Wagner draws some of my favorite comics ever, and his work here, under DeMulder’s inks, really shines. Note that wonderful negative space treatment on the trees in panel 2. They’re left out, so color and the hatching at that edge creates the night sky. Wonderful depth in panel 1 — foreground, middle ground, background. Also note the storytelling. Silent stories are hard. (If you want to see Marvel stumble, check out the “‘Nuff Said” month of silent comics from 2002.) Here Ron Wagner pulls if off deftly — Storm Shadow and Timber at rest, yet we see the sky, so we’re ready for something to appear. Up-shot, and Scarlett does appear. Touchdown, and Storm Shadow is up. Scarlett shows a photo of Snake-Eyes, captive. Storm Shadow sees it, and is surprised and concerned. Every panel a strong composition, and the whole page has a great balance with darks at top and bottom, with horizontal panels bracketing three tall ones. Great!
Here’s a detail, click to embiggen:
Ron Wagner drew Marvel comics for years: G.I. Joe, Nth Man, Excalibur, Punisher. And at DC, he drew a forgotten “event,” Genesis. Later, he storyboarded for various WB cartoons, where his storytelling skills undoubtedly made him shine but presumably the demands of animation timetables meant more focus on shapes and angles and less on lines and details. And in recent years, he’s drawn a few issues of G.I. Joe — yes, the Larry Hama series that continues the original one that you all ignore — and Wagner is about to draw four comics for DC as part of its “Convergence” event, one with Green Lantern (image below reposted from Wagner’s tumblr) —
— and the other with the Teen Titans. Wagner’s art has changed since 1987. In the 2000s, it’s streamlined, and there’s no feathering. That may be down to inkers, but I suspect that he’s saying more with less, as many of the best artists in comics tend to do.
What’s your favorite work by Ron Wagner?
7 responses to “G.I. Joe Yearbook #3 by Ron Wagner”
Nice analysis of a great comic artist.
Of the top of my head: GI Joe #74 “Alliance of Convenience” – the best issue of the Cobra Island Civil War and one of my favourites from the whole run.
Nth Man was one of the first complete stories where I was flabbergasted at how everything tied together at the end. It would be great if they could reprint it in a collection for more people to see.
I’m really a fan of Wagner’s Joe comics. He does greatly detailed work and he gives us most of the Cobra Island civil war storyline. I think that sometimes his art is not done justice by the older printing style and some not always great coloring in those comics. Out of the Joes with a good run on the comic, Wagner and Whigham are the best, and their versions of the characters are the most iconic.
Larry actually just did the breakdowns for #21, someone did the finishes. Also, did you know why the issue was even made? It was necessity. They were running behind schedule and rather then be late Larry offered up the idea which would save them time on shipping the storyboards to the letterer. The comic was completed in 3 days!
Ron Wagner has always been my favorite Joe interior artist, along with Mike Zeck doing the covers, with Whigham being a close second. Two of my favorite issues that Wagner did are #59 and #68 because he was able to make some of the crazier concepts actually look cool and fit in with the more realistic designs without looking out of place. Case in point Raptor and the Pogo in #59 and Battle Force 2000 in #68.
“Hush Job” is one of my favorite comic books, period… and I think that’s because it, like Golden’s “Triple Play” in Yearbook #2, has rewarded me each time I’ve revisited it over the past (holy crap!) 26 years.
Like you mentioned in your post, Wagner has an incredible sense of how to build tension, of how to elicit reactions in a reader by making exactly the right narrative choices… I can’t tell you how many times I replayed Storm Shadow’s infiltration of the Cobra Consulate building from this story when I was a kid… from the Eel floating face-down in the sewer, betrayed by his rebreather, to Storm Shadow’s near-decapitation by the Red Ninja with a katana (blink and you miss it, but it’s why his mask is drooping in the following panel), to the spark from the throwing star, to… well, I could go on.
Little touches like that make a world of difference to a reader. G.I. Joe was chock-full of those kinds of details through the work of its various artists – it’s nice to see one of them getting recognized for work that’s largely seemed to have flown under the radar of most of the rest of the comic book world.