It’s been a full and yet challenging year. Ha! Even the fact that this post is two months late is a commentary on that fact. But a remnant of the school-teaching calendar is that I consider February 15th to February 14th, rather than Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, to be my book-writing year, and here we are. Were. Are.
In December 2020 — that is, a little over 12 months ago — I was interviewed by “Funky Bunch” Mark for the Talking Joe podcast. He was interested in my book. I admitted the previous year hadn’t been great for writing, as pandemic challenges, teaching, and my shop renovation took up much time and mental space. But I was certain that 2021 was going to be different! But those three elements have continued, and in terms of just researching and just writing and just editing, I don’t have much to report.
It’s striking to see the great strides that a few hard working peers have made in the realm of G.I. Joe publishing. And I’m encouraged by the positive responses their various outreaches and crowdfunding campaigns have netted. Maybe that bodes well for a book like mine. Certainly the 40th anniversary would have been a good year to launch A Real American Book! into the world, but there’s still a chapter to write, several chapters to edit, and several to redesign. But something has shifted that will make part of ’22 better for sitting at the computer and flicking my fingers across the keyboard. More on that below.
A G.I. Joe Thing I Did This Year: Posted 10 articles here at the blog. That’s an okay number. To my eye, there are three glaring omissions, interview excerpts with and remembrances of a few important G.I. Joe alums who passed away. I just didn’t get around to banging those blog posts into shape. Maybe in this new year. (I keep trying to post short articles, like one rare image with a 50-word paragraph, but as you can see from the Rob Liefeld tome or the Marie Severin thing, it’s difficult to not expand — more context, more examples.
Non-G.I. Joe Things I Did This Year That Are Good or Interesting-
I finished the 16-month renovation of my comic book store. You know this part already, but the pandemic shutdown and the slowing of in-person commerce right after that offered a window of time to rip out some walls, floors, windows, electricals, and everything-elses. A year ago in the ’20 Review, I was only halfway done.
I shot, edited, uploaded, and posted 55 short films. To keep customers, as well as family, friends and internet well-wishers up to date on the renovation, I made use of my phone, Premiere, and social media. This was nice, because I got to scratch that filmmaking itch, plus my acting itch, and also to put on a different hat and be dumb on camera. By contrast, teaching and comics retail are serious. These video works are all one-minute in length, and by “short films,” I really mean “ads,” but they are informative ads with little to no hard sell. Posting these to YouTube, Facebook, the shop website, and then handing them over to an employee who runs our Instagram meant that merely rendering a final mp4 was never the last step on a Tuesday night, but we get nice reactions so it’s worth it. Here’s one from April ’21:
And all of them, in order, are here.
Re-opened my store. The renovation basically ended in mid-August, and we moved and unpacked 180 boxes and set the shop for the not-so-grand reopening four days later. As this is a G.I. Joe blog and not a Hub Comics blog, I’m keeping these non-RAH paragraphs short, but you probably know that everything is harder in the pandemic. Ordering merch, communicating with customers, wrangling employees, it’s all slower, more expensive, and/or heavier. We said goodbye to a wonderful staff member (who is fine, thanks), and have contended with Marvel and Penguin Random House and DC and so-and-so-Distributor and what you might call Distributor Wars Two. (Remember 1995?) But the customers have been kind and enthusiastic, and notice the great work by our contractors and their sub-contractors.
Almost capital “F”-finished the renovation of my store. That reopening date of August 14th, 2021 was also Free Comic Book Day, but we’d only actually gotten to “92% finished.” The fall and winter involved many punch list items and filled the progress thermometer up to “98% finished.” That’s new seating, reworking our internal forms, window blinds, fixing some water damage, rehanging the TV and resetting the A/V, cutting three inches off a table and putting it on casters, installing bookcase end caps, and more. The punch list continues. Even as I write this, today I’m coordinating with our electrician for next week and our handyman for the week after.
My company produced 27 video shorts. Most of the credit goes to partners Nick Nadel and Kevin Maher. If you want to see two of our two best bits, here’s a local TV ad gone off the rails. And you must like the ’80s if you’re here, right?, so here’s a video essay on an ’80s show that didn’t make it. Also, our marquee animated short got into 15 or so film festivals. It’s three and half minutes long and funny.
Co-hosted the long-running Talking Joe podcast. It turns out that “Funky Bunch” Mark was in need of a new on-air partner right when he was interviewing me. It was the pandemic, and so making internet friends from home made sense. Further, reading and then expounding on G.I. Joe comic books new and old was right up my alley. Two or three locals sure know about my strong feelings on printed Joe tales, and now the whole internet can, too! Plus I can get my name out there to a different audience, and bring in my own to Mark’s existing pool.
While I habitate the role of grump in our duo/trio — two hosts for current comics, three for older ones — most of the credit should go to Mark as well as “Disavowed” co-host Jay Cordray. It’s one thing to show up with a microphone and Talk Joe. That’s easy. It’s another to wrangle the audio feed, invite and manage guests, and to edit and post a two- to three-hour episode every week! Mark does that. Additionally, episodes also now have a bit of a visual component, our YouTube videos in case you like watching a podcast. Not us gesticulating to the camera, but graphics and comic panels that correspond to our chatter, and Mark edits and posts half of those! And Jay does the other half! You think editing a 60-second film every week is fun-but-tiring, man, think about content that’s 120 times as long! And on top of alllll that, Mark and Jay share and post all this to social media. I am grateful to Mark for the opportunities, both to explode my strong feelings about comics to a wider audience, but also for connecting us with killer guests, both current and retro. I take the art (and commerce!) of comics seriously, and it’s lovely that Mark and Jay are willing participants when it comes to construction, analysis, design, history, and context. An issue of G.I. Joe is not just an issue of G.I. Joe.
We’ve never met in person, so therefore we’ve never recorded in the same room, but you might pretend it looks like this.
I’ll post a separate blog “article” here with images and marquees for each of our episodes.
But to put a fine point on it, on the subject of G.I. Joe and with Mark and Jay, I recorded about 5,580 minutes of audio this year. Plus a few hundred more for when we continued to chat with guests after hitting “Stop.”
I read a book. In previous yearly Reviews, I’ve often recounted several pop culture histories that could directly or indirectly benefit A Real American Book! But it was just one in ’21. Douglas Wolk’s All of the Marvels doesn’t mention G.I. Joe, but it does mention Transformers, so it almost counts.
I taught History of Animation each semester. I had handed off my other classes recently, but this one is vitally important to me, the course I could not drop. I didn’t originate it, but I do think I evolved it and it evolved me in the last decade and a half.
But while my connection to this university where I’ve worked for 17 years is strong, I also need some time off, so this will be my last term teaching, at least for a time. I’ve thought about this a lot, and there are many feelings about being available to pursue other jobs and projects, yet feeling a tad bereft about leaving important moments, connections, and lessons behind. Yet it is time for something else. I may return, or teach elsewhere, but to loop back to the opening paragraph above, for now I need more time and mental space to work on my G.I. Joe book. And so this summer and fall look and feel open and sunny and wonderful for staring at a monitor and pounding the keyboard.
And so: A month back marked the actual anniversary of Marvel Comics’ G.I. Joe issue #1, and more recently saw the 40-year date for Hasbro’s first Real American Hero toys arriving. I appreciate that many G.I. Joe-friends marked these passages on social media. I thought of commenting, or making my own post. Then I thought I should turn that into a proper, full-blown blog post here. Then a few days went by, and the moment had passed. Plus there was this blog post to finish, and that Part Two post about Marie Severin, and three others I’ve started on. And then I needed to grade some school work, or format the weekly comic book store email to customers, or something like that. Which loops back to the beginning, that this has been a difficult year. Oh, it’s been a great year for my store, and satisfying for the educator in me, but I’ve talked a lot with my therapist about writing my book, or not writing my book. And now it’s time to get back to it, not just “working on” but actually finishing.