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Silent Interlude Redux: a Review of the G.I. Joe 40th Anniversary Special, Part 2

In Part 1, I offered some context for the new G.I. Joe 40th Anniversary Special via a trio of Marvel Comics “Tribute” issues wherein top artists of today each redrew a page from a classic Marvel story. I started making an analogy that comics like these resemble popular song remakes. I’m going to return to that analogy later, but since the selling point of this new G.I. Joe work is each new artists’ take, and the ability to see this story anew, first thought I would riff on each page.

There’s an inherent challenge to a comic like this, and that is somehow showcasing the new artists in a way that doesn’t distract or detract from the original work, and keeping something of the new artist’s own style, that it doesn’t get completely subsumed in the remaking process. For example, page 1 is by Tom Feister. That name calls to mind a particular type of photo-referenced art and a particular color treatment, think G.I. Joe Origins circa 2009.

I like this new Silent Interlude page 1, but nothing about it says to me “Tom Feister.” Partly that’s the page composition. There’s no front-on figure work, and most comics artists who took on this Larry Hama layout were going to disappear in it. Maybe an inker with a strong signature style, think a Klaus Janson or a Bill Sienkiewiez, would show through, but name any 23 current Marvel/DC/Dark Horse/IDW artists redrawing a Cobra CLAW flying in the mountains with two pairs of legs peeking through and I wouldn’t correctly guess them. So my comment that Feister disappears here is not a criticism. He draws the layout with no changes or embellishment. It’s handsome, and as per the original and Hama’s strengths as a storyteller, clear.

None of IDW’s Real American Hero issues written by Hama have had story titles, and somewhat in that spirit, and in saving time/money on a letterer (as with the 1983 original) the words “Silent Interlude” don’t appear on page 1.

Where this page falls down for me is the color. I’m on record as not being a big fan of J. Brown’s work on Real American Hero, so I’ll keep this short, but let me point out three things: 1) The original is sunset. It’s striking. Part of why that is striking is contrast. Pink (clouds) contrasts with green (mountains), and blue (sky) contrasts with brown (mountain). There are two colors in the sky, one for clouds and the other for actual-sky. There’s a different color for the mountains. And that time of day is absolutely certain. Yet in Brown’s hands, all sky and cloud and mountain are the same light purple. No contrast, and I can’t tell what time of day it is beyond “night time.”

[Left to right: “Silent Interlude” original separations on newsprint, 1983; “Silent Interlude” reseparated by Digital Chameleon using the original color as exact guides, 2002 (and used for all IDW reprints since); new art and color, 2022.]

2) Brown treats objects inconsistently. Here’s a zoom-in on the purple rock abutting the grey castle on page 1:

The highlight on this rock should also be a highight on this castle. It is not. If your response is that this is a nitpick, my counter is that this is what colorists do, they render light across space and surfaces, and they lead the eye. Brown often colors as if there are additional, invisible light sources all throughout a scene, and this rock/castle bit is but one example.

I mocked this up with real objects, a grey box and a purple piece of paper. Either the highlight can affect neither or both, but it should be consistent.–

But that third example above with the dark box and the brightened paper is what I see here:

This comment isn’t about one sliver of one page. This kind of light treatment happens all throughout the comic book.

3) Ugly gradients. Now certainly a color in and of itself can’t be ugly. As a kid, brown and green Crayola markers were the least interesting to me in those 10-packs. But now I keep a variety of brown Tombo brush pens near my sketchbook, to work both as colors in and of themselves but also to affect other colors. And certainly one needs brown for all sorts of objects — trees, skin, the cloth of a Cobra W.O.R.M.S. driving his Maggot tank. The same goes for grey-blue-purple or peach-pink-grey. Right? A color isn’t ugly in and of itself, it’s what you do with that. But this gradient, from grey-blue-purple to peach-pink-grey, is unattractive and distracting:

Here it is in situ, a distracting background swatch:

For some reason, the background grey-blue-purple matches Scarlett’s costume, while the peach-pink-grey almost matches her skin and does indeed match Storm Shadow’s. Rather than popping from the background, these foreground characters “rhyme” with it. Here, let me try something:

Not the best solution, as maybe the flat background doesn’t agree with the rendered characters, but at least there’s contrast, returning to point number one.

Then, two panels later, there’s so much activity in that background that it distracts from Storm Shadow’s mental anguish and the subtlety of his physical motion. Rather, that little electric storm of blue says “HEY, LOOK HERE AT THE TOP OF THE PANEL BY THIS GUY’S HAND!!!!” Storm Shadow’s inner conflict is adequately captured in the line art and needs no background exaggeration. And then, panels 3 and 4 below have the same color treatment, whether light can enter through the portal or the portal is closed. In both, the background is a) not rendered in a curve as per the shape of the prison cell, but as a flat marbleized texture, and b) the same muddy-violet regardless of the amount of light pouring in.

I get it, color need not be literal. It can be emotional. Certainly my yellow background above is not literal. But J. Brown uses every emotion all of the time. I don’t think his approach is a fit for G.I. Joe. And that’s all I’m going to say on the colors.

Let’s get back to me riffing on the pencil-and-ink artists and return to each art page, one at time.


Page 2 is Freddie Williams II. This is a great bit of follow-through on Editorial’s part, because I’ve been a tad disappointed that someone of Williams’ stature has done so much 1980s-toy and licensed work (18 full issues Batman/Ninja Turtles and another dozen between He-Man/Thundercats and Godzilla/Power Rangers) but has only done covers for G.I. Joe. Where’s the love for interior pages? Finally we get one. Williams wrote a fascinating book on drawing comics digitally, and while his ink washes are far too much for my tastes and his covers often get too busy, he’s a earned his place in this comic book. Bonus: No ink washes here!

Williams is the first artist to fundamentally diverge from Hama’s original layout. This is not something I would do were I involved in the 40th Special, but to Williams’ credit, his take is as dramatic and clear — no net change up or down.


Page 3 comes from Tim Lattie. He’s drawn two G.I. Joe covers, but no interiors to this point. One of those covers was for a reprint of Yearbook #2, presumably linking Lattie’s cartooning to Michael Golden’s. Lattie’s “Silent Interlude” page continues this cartooning approach, something you’d expect more from an “Animated Adventures”-type series than a “regular” one. He’s concerned with curves and rounded shapes (like I said — “cartooning”) more than anyone else in the tribute. It’s attractive, but the first jarring shift from one style to another, from Williams’ page 2 to Lattie’s page 3. That is part and parcel of such a tribute comic, and doesn’t affect my enjoyment of any one page, but does affect how I take in the project as a whole, like the second verse of a song performed by a different band.


Page 4 is Alex Sanchez, who has drawn a few covers and two entire issues of G.I. Joe. What sticks out most to me with his previous Joe work is how much his layouts and approach to drawing resemble Travis Charest. Sanchez doesn’t hide this fact in interviews, Charest is indeed an influence. I don’t see that here save some detailing on Snake-Eyes and the plane, but Sanchez is of course playing by a strict set of rules. He makes a few panels smaller so he can increase the size of the main Snake-Eyes-Falling panel, not an unreasonable change. I’m not sure why SE’s left arm is aiming back, though. It gets lost in the inking.


Page 5 is drawn by Brian Shearer. Best known as an inker of many IDW Joe issues, Shearer not-just-inked but penciled and inked issues #253 and #277, and his work is much more open than most Joe artists. It’s not cartoony, but is in that direction. He sticks close to the 1983 layouts.


Page 6 belongs to Dan Schoening, who drew a regular issue of Joe in the style of the Sunbow cartoon, which led to a 4-issue miniseries set in that animated world. Schoening has drawn a load of Ghostbusters comics, and is something of a chameleon. I don’t have a sense of what his default or base style is, so I had to check who drew Page 6, as I couldn’t tell on my own. Schoening makes a tiny but dramatic change, placing not a Cobra Soldier atop the castle, but a Crimson Guard. I’d be up for this kind of update, except that it creates a continuity error a few pages later, as Snake Eyes is going to fight three Cobra Soldiers in that spot, not two Cobra Soldiers and one Seigie. It’s small enough that some readers won’t even notice.

(I know I wrote that I was done commenting on color, but J. Brown overloads the page with green light from every monitor and screen. Okay, back to the pencil/ink artists.)


Page 7 is drawn by Casey Maloney, who drew a bit of the Chuck Dixon run in 2011 and one Real American Hero issue of G.I. Joe quite recently. His work is closer to Brian Shearer and Tim Lattie in that it’s more open and his proportions are ever so slightly cartooned. A question I had concerning this page was how the background in panel 1 would get inked. In the 1983 original inker/finisher Steve Leialoha shows the artist’s hand with a sketchy, unfinished approach. The thick black lines reveal some of the paper beneath, equally suggesting a starry sky and the cross currents of rushing wind. You are aware of it as ink on paper. In Maloney’s hands, while those tiny white slivers and triangles still recall an artist making marks, colorist J. Brown adds a white glow-fuzz to each, so they are definitely stars. No other stars appear in panels 2, 3, or 4, but I’m going to let this inconsistency go since there are definitely stars on the previous page.


Page 8 comes from Maria Keane, who has inked a bit of G.I. Joe recently. This is an unusual way to “meet” her, as we’ve not seen her pencil G.I. Joe before. This is the 7-panel bobby pin page, and Keane makes only the slightest changes to posture and posing. It is with this page that I start to wonder if the 40th Anniversary Special is less fulfilling as a comic book and more interesting as an exercise, if it’s less that the sum of its parts, even if all those parts are strange and wondrous. I don’t write that to pick on Keane, as when this comic was solicited I briefly imagined myself redrawing this very page and thought “Oh, but I can’t change anything.” More on this later.


Page 9 is drawn by Adam Riches, who’s known for Hasbro G.I. Joe toy package art — both original and recreations — as well as a few variant comic book covers. Were I contributing to this book, I would be sorely tempted to sign my page as well! As this is the only page with an artist’s signature, it sticks out a little, but in the context of this remake, where I’m always aware that I’m reading a redo of an old comic, it’s fine. This reminds me of the occasional comic where the artist signs all the splash pages, a practice I lightly disagree with. Covers, yes. Final page of a big-deal story arc or the artist’s final issue ever, sure. Page 9? Not needed.

Riches winks at the whole affair, turning Destro’s chess pieces into actual G.I. Joe action figures. They’re colored in grey and white, alluding to marble or ivory, but they are toys, right down to the arm rivets and leg joints. This reminds me a little of the difference between the real world of 1995 and 2005. When the film Toy Story was released, those characters were all invented toys. By the time Toy Story 3 hit theaters, a generation of kids had grown up with Buzz and Woody action figures and plush toys, and so our reaction to the film was subtly different. Of course there were G.I. Joe action figures when “Silent Interlude” was first introduced and 1983-Destro reflected over his chess set, but 38 years later everyone reading (and drawing!) this Anniversary comic is acutely aware of Real American Hero as a generational, nostalgic proposition. There’s no room to make a joke in this special, but Riches finds a way. When I first saw this last month I rolled my eyes, but in re-reading the story since then, I find it sweet and quite funny.


Page 10 is one of the two most interesting of the whole batch. That is because it’s drawn by Alex Milne. He was a robot-drawing wiz, a discovery during the Dreamwave era of Transformers comics. The details were impressive, but the storytelling got lost. In 2006, he pitched in on the end of Devil Due’s third G.I. Joe vs. Transformers crossover, but taking a casual glance, he may have only drawn robots. Somewhere just before the transition to IDW Publishing, something clicked with his page layout, and Milne was on a path to being the best Transformers comic book artist ever. More and more detail, yes, but clear storytelling and great acting. Humans aren’t a big part of his ouevre, especially in the extraordinary More Than Meets The Eye series (10 paperbacks plus three essential tie-ins). However, a version of G.I. Joe was wandering around the Hasbro-verse post-“Revolution” in Transformers continuity, and Milne was briefly reunited with best-Transformers-colorist-ever Josh Burcham to fill-in on issue #4 of Optimus Prime in late 2016. All of the pages are great, but I still wasn’t fully convinced Milne could pull off humans, humans acting, and Joes specifically, until then. He can indeed draw humans:

And then Flint flies a Skyhawk! I’m skipping that page. Here’s the one that follows:

Milne would certainly nail the vehicles if he became series regular on Real American Hero, amiright? Oh, also, he did a V-Wars one-shot for IDW. I’m not sure why, but Milne’s acting and action in that entire comic book are a tad stiff. Maybe it’s the script, maybe it’s because vampires are kinda stiff. Interestingly, in the 40th Anniversary Special, Milne’s page is the closest to Hama’s originals, with the least amount of changes. I don’t want this to become a blog post about Transformers, but A) Alex Milne exaggerates and slightly cartoons his Transformers, which is an amazing feat. B) Josh Burcham knew the key to coloring complicated scenes of robots covered with detail and overlapping each other was to color less, not more. C) Please someone hire Alex Milne and Josh Burcham to make G.I. Joe comics.

Where was I? Oh, right, the G.I. Joe “Silent Interlude” tribute issue!


Page 12 belongs to Netho Diaz. This is bittersweet, as it’s likely Diaz’s swansong on Joe, minus a variant cover or some end-of-year/series-finale-issue-#300-surprise. Diaz’s decent-sized association with Larry Hama’s G.I. Joe, from the “Rise of the Arashikage” arc in #246 to #250, to the Silent Option miniseries, some of “Snake Hunt,” to a pair of self-contained issues since, are a ramping up in kinetic excitement for Real American Hero. Loads of detail. His storytelling at the start was not strong, but he brought a visual flair and amount of detail that would be right at home with the house style of, say, DC Comics in the last ten years. If not for that Thunderbolts fill-in upcoming, I’d bet Diaz would be drawing Green Lantern or Detective Comics in 2022. Clearly he was never going to stay at IDW for very long, as the lure of higher profile work would call. Here’s a nice reminder of how good we had it for a dozen-plus issues.

Diaz adds a torch to the background of panel 1, another small continuity glitch I’ll chalk up as “interesting.” He draws Snake-Eyes regularly in the bottom two panels, a change from the original issue #21, where the ninja commando is drawn and colored light and almost translucent, like he’s moving too fast to see. It’s a small story change, but I prefer the original.


Page 13 is a contribution from Billy Penn. This guy drew a great issue of Joe last year and then immediately returned to his day job, so like Diaz, I’m quite aware that this is likely it for him on Joe. Penn inks his G.I. Joe more like a 1980s comic book, and is one of the most thoughtful storytellers — I mean page and panel layout — of the last 12 years of Joe comics. Penn flops the angle on Hama’s panel 1, a change I wouldn’t dare, but he pulls it off. He pushes his third panel in closer, which adds some immediacy to this Cobra Soldier falling to his doom, but since the subsequent panel hits a similar note, I prefer the original Hama breath-pause of pulling back on that third panel. Penn’s final panel manages to lose some of the urgency of the moment as all of those Cobra Soldiers don’t look like they’re rushing. I still like this page, and love the balance of gritty realism and weird cartooning he pulls off. Someone came into my shop recently and wanted to read a new issue of G.I. Joe. I heartily recommended #287, seen above.


Kei Zama draws page 14. This is a fun pick, as some of you regular readers of the current Real American Hero series may have missed Zama’s contribution. She drew the 2019 G.I. Joe Yearbook, but more recently we know her from most-of-two-years on Optimus Prime (at the finale of the previous Transformers continuity, that ended with Unicron), and a (speaking of metal bipeds with guns) Death’s Head miniseries for Marvel. Zama’s storytelling was not always clear on the former, and there are some occasional chunky bits to her anatomical drawing — style over form — but she sticks close to Hama’s 1983 layouts and slightly shrinks three panels so the exciting one of Snake-Eyes at the end gets increased real estate.

While two-thirds of the way into this comic may not be an ideal place to wrap up this post, I will be back soon with riff-thoughts on the final nine pages, the cover, and an overall reflection on the object.

[Jump to Part 1] – [You Are Reading Part 2] – [Part 3 Coming Soon]

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Silent Interlude Redux: a Review of the G.I. Joe 40th Anniversary Special, Part 1

I can’t write about this week’s double-sized G.I. Joe comic book special without first looking back a few years at something similar published not by IDW, but by the House of Ideas. In 2020 and 2021, Marvel Comics created a precedent with a trio of oversized remake comics. These were Fantastic Four Anniversary Tribute #1 (that premiere issue plus the wedding of Sue and Reed from FF Annual #3), Captain America Anniversary Tribute #1 (Cap’s origin/Red Skull’s debut from 1941’s Captain America Comics #1 plus Cap’s return in Avengers #4) and Giant Size X-Men Tribute #1, a double-sized redo of just that original issue from 1975). But these weren’t reprints.

The idea was to have current, popular artists each redraw a page from the originals, but to maintain the original scripts. The experience would be new, yet familiar, with a decades-old Joe Simon or Stan Lee or Len Wein script underneath modern drawings, the coloring of today, and re-done word balloons and sound effects. This is the beginning of the remake comic, and I wonder how long until we get several a year, with DC trotting out a “Case of the Chemical Syndicate” redux (sort of already done in 1991’s Detective Comics #627, but that involved new scripts) or IDW paying all these great modern Ninja Turtles artists to redraw the 1984 Eastman and Laird debut. To an extent, we’ve all lived with something comparable for years, as artists have drawn “homage” or “tribute” covers, swiping the pose and arrangement of well-known images but with new characters. It’s one thing when an artist cheekily “swipes” themself, like Todd McFarlane drawing black duds for the cover of Amazing Spider-Man #300, and then a month later, redrawing that same image with the web-crawler in his red-and-blues.

And of course, McFarlane did it again with Spider-Man #1 and #13. But it’s another thing when Phil Gosier adopted that Spidey haunch for the 1994 G.I. Joe Special Edition comic that ended the Marvel run for Real American Hero. Yes, cover “swipes”/”homages” have been here forever, and while they used to be rare and special, now there are several every month if you count up all the American comics publishers.

Name a famous cover, like the Byrne/Austin “Days of Future Past,” that McFarlane 1990 adjectiveless-Spider-Man, or the Lee/Williams adjectiveless-X-Men #1 from a year later (at this moment as I type this in 2022 being redrawn with Spawn characters by McFarlane of all people), and you can probably name several “swipes” for each. I think those were once fun, but there are too many, and too often lesser artists are riding on the coattails of greater talents. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but if Dynamite or Scout publishes four of these a month, with Vampirella and her pals taking the 1984 rooftop Ninja Turtle poses or whatever, it starts to lose its resonance. There’s the Mona Lisa, and there’s the Mona Lisa as a print available from the museum gift shop, and there’s the Mona Lisa duplicated in a repeating pattern on an umbrella. The umbrella designer isn’t saying anything important. Da Vinci was.

But covers are not interiors, and one full-frame image is not the same as 22 pages of panel continuity.

I was intrigued by those Marvel tributes, because it makes a kind of sense. Marvel artists often briefly draw in a Jack Kirby-style for a flashback, and everything post-Kirby and -Buscema and -Kane and -Romita Sr. and to a lesser extent -Ditko is in effect a love letter to them. Remaking a whole comic allows us to both appreciate the artistic heights of the original, as well as to see it through a new lens. I don’t know about you, but what a thrill it would be to have Kevin Nowlan, Chris Samnee, Takeshi Miyazawa, Marco Checchetto, and others redraw pages originated by Dave Cockrum! Because they and many others did just that for the X-Men Tribute. Cockrum’s style is a little old-fashioned, so some 2020-flair will inject new life into that foundational X-story. But an important question arises: Does this experiment run the risk of diminishing the original? I don’t mean that it would make me dislike “Second Genesis,” that killer tale that introduced a whole new mutant roster and the island of Krakoa, but is there a mismatch? Might it be more distracting to have all these disparate talents trying to make something cohesive? Does 2021 art fit a 1975 script? Is it impossible to enjoy one of these tributes on its own?

There have been X-Men comics that brilliantly split up the art chores, Uncanny X-Men #273 and X-Men Annual #1, notably. In the former, the best X-artists ever each take three pages in a row so Jim Lee could get ahead for the double-sized anniversary issue arriving two months hence. Joe Rosas, then regular colorist, handled the whole issue, so it’s all cohesive. And switching from Whilce Portacio to John Byrne to Rick Leonardi to Michael Golden (yes, it’s a murder’s row of eye-pop in this somewhat transitional story — wrapping up the last arc and setting up the next) works because most handle a discrete scene and they’re all incredible talents. Importantly, they’d all worked on that series, so this was a welcome return. Jim Lee provided layouts for the Annual, so while the art-style jumps are much bigger — P. Craig Russell’s art nouveau and Brian Stelfreeze’s architectural shading and Mark Texiera’s dimensional grit — it has an internal consistency. And while each creates sequential pages, they’re all in different amounts, so it’s a little distracting.

One is more successful and the other is less so. But now imagine if these two X-issues had divided up the contributors one page at a time. That’s a lot more shifting for the reader. And now imagine the colorist wasn’t the same all the way through. Here’s two pages from the 2020 X-Men Tribute, click to enlarge:

The first page is Rod Reis, who draws and colors his own work. It’s energetic in that post-Sienkiewicz style for which he’s known. Cool! Modern! The second page is penciled by Javier Rodriguez and inked by Alvaro Lopez. Rodriguez draws in a slightly reduced, “retro” style here, with less detail to more closely align with the look of a 45-year old story. He also colors himself, deciding to further make this page retro, not with the gleaming white of modern paper, but with a yellow tint that suggests the off-white newsprint of the 1975 original. That’s a cool decision, but these two pages slam up against each other. Reis and Rodriguez are certainly their own best colorists, but they’re subtly working at cross purposes here. Every page is different. Too different.

In flipping through these three Marvel Tribute comics, I decided that as much as I wanted to buy them, because they’re fun, and indeed a celebration, they’re also too distracting to enjoy. A music analogy: I was at a concert recently for a favorite rock music guy. It was powerful and visceral, as live music always is, but I was too aware that I was at a concert. Either the volume was too high, or with my earplugs in I was too aware that I wasn’t hearing everything. And either I could stand too far back but with an unobstructed view, or just thirty feet from that Famous Guy, but with a massive pillar blocking the rest of the band. I couldn’t ever entirely relax because I was constantly aware that I was at a venue seeing a live show. I had a great time, but just staying at home and listening to a CD on headphones would be the purest way to experience that music. Reading a Marvel Tribute issue is an exercise in never forgetting that I am reading a re-draw of an important comic. Flipping through it, now that I can do! But sinking into it? Impossible. Maybe I just want to re-read the 1941 original, the 1961 original, the 1975 original. Or a traditional reprint of them.

I’m going to return to a musical analogy, but let’s finally shift to G.I. Joe.

I will buy anything Joe that IDW publishes, both for myself, and also to stock at my store. I vote with my dollars as a reader and as a retailer. IDW has been a good steward of the G.I. Joe brand, and I was excited when this was first announced. Let’s check in with that solicit, click to enlarge:

Just in case that jpeg isn’t loading, here are highlights, followed by my reactions:

“SL Gallant, Netho Diaz, Andrew Lee Griffith, and many more!” Great! All those guys have turned in excellent work on Larry Hama’s monthly in the last few years, so they deserve to take part in this celebration! I wonder if anyone who drew IDW’s non-Hama continuity (sometimes called the “Chuck Dixon-verse”) will show up? (The answer: yes.)

But I immediately noticed that there are superstars and then there are superstars. Three artists out of 21 listed! There’s a likelihood that whoever your favorite artist is wasn’t going to contribute. Oh, there are many reasons, like so-and-so is under contract at DC or at Marvel and isn’t allowed to draw for another publisher, or the deadline is tight, or drawing for IDW’s page rate isn’t going to excite some talent. But you know what? As much as I want this single issue to break through and sell a million copies to all those readers and collectors and speculators who haven’t paid attention to G.I. Joe since 1994 (or earlier!), maybe this is actually just for the 7,000 of us who are paying attention to Larry Hama’s modern G.I. Joe monthly series, and damn the non-fans and lapsed fans. With that in mind, I made a mental guess of who else had drawn for Real American Hero since 2010, and when the final contributor list was made public earlier this week, I was pretty close. Music analogy: You don’t want to get back into our favorite band now that they’re reunited all these years later? Then that band’s new mixtape is just for me.

A sidenote: While I’m excited to see everyone’s contribution, from an SL Gallant (who has drawn more G.I. Joe than anyone ever!!!) to a Kewber Baal, who’s only ever drawn one G.I. Joe comic (and it’s so recent, you still haven’t heard of him), the two names that most jumped out to me are Antonio Fuso and Alex Milne. Why? Keep reading!

Another promise made in the catalog solicit: “Additionally, the issue will contain stories and essays by creators who were influenced by Hama.” Wow! That sounds amazing! Finally, some scholarship in this most famous of ’80s comics! As a G.I. Joe researcher/historian/nut, I am hungry for that! But I’m sorry to say that whoever wrote this copy was either hoping, or some things did not come through by deadline-time, because there are no such “stories” in the Anniversary Special, just the main story redo and a reprint of the original “Silent Interlude.” And there are not “essays by creators who were influenced by Hama.” Rather, there is one, a singular and not plural. This is a pet peeve of mine, when books promise loads of bonuses, only to under-deliver.

Titan did this with its Marvel Transformers reprints around 2002 (which, besides the complaint of this paragraph, I rather like), with each volume’s back cover promising “incredible background material.” You mean a credits page? An ad for the next volume in the series? No, that must not be it. Oh, you mean a couple “Story So Far” pages? Hey, Titan editor, do you think that counts as “incredible”? Maybe this is my fault for mentally swapping in “bonus” for “background,” as in “bonus material,” but I was hoping for some preliminary or rejected art or script pages, or an interview. Regarding the G.I. Joe Anniversary Special, any promise of multiples that results in a single amount is a disappointment. But hey, one essay is still something, right?

But I’m cautious about essay contributor Chad Bowers showing up here. He’s also the guy who wrote dialogue for Snake-Eyes: Deadgame. Uh, yeah, I guess that was influenced by Hama, but that was a Rob Liefeld vehicle, who in terms of writing and drawing and storytelling might be called an anti-Hama. That miniseries may have been a PR win, and moved some units, but it’s not going to turn anyone into a Joe fan or return any lapsed fans to the fold. But what a relief, Bowers’ essay is great, and everything you’d want it to be. It’s personal, it puts the original “Silent Interlude” in context, and it comments on that story’s legacy. He does earn his place in this 40th Anniversary Special. But surely there was a call for other contributors. Did no one else respond to what must have been Editorial’s “Since you were influenced by Hama, do you want to contribute a story or essay?” Or maybe Bowers was the only person who was asked, which stings even more. Bowers wrote text pieces on G.I. Joe and Hama in the 2019 Sierra Muerte miniseries, so that we have heard from him recently does make me wish for other voices here. I see so many comics professionals, people who wrote or drew or write or draw, effusively reply to Hama when he posts on Facebook, like “I learned so much from you,” and none of them are present in the Anniversary Special. Here’s one from a comics and animation pro (who even contributed to G.I. Joe a bit), name removed, from May 2021:

Larry, I see you as a mentor who gave me a shot
at the big time in comics and taught me much. Yes
sometimes I would show you a comic page and you
would tell me [it] sucks and laugh about it. Then
you would lay tracing paper over the page and explain
why it sucked and how to fix it. I also see you as
someone [whose] credibility I never question. Anybody
I know that actually knows you gets you and admires
you as much as I do.

And there are all those comics journalists who write for well regarded fanzines, comics criticism magazines, and established blogs — I had hoped that one of them would be included. As much as I didn’t want IDW to further double dip — we’ve got a lot of “Silent Interlude” reprints out there (one as recent as 21 months ago), I would’ve just included Mark Bellomo’s essay from the Silent Interlude 30th Anniversary Edition hardcover.

And now for that final promise: “as well as a fourth wall-breaking short story written by Larry himself, celebrating his unparalleled four decades of work on G.I. Joe: ARAH.” What!? An auto-bio yarn by Larry Hama? That’s amazing! Even if it’s only one page (I was hoping for six, but realistically guessed it would be four), that could be fun, and revealing, and maybe emotional! I know Larry, and he has a great sense of humor. Does “written by Larry himself” mean someone else would draw it? Or maybe it would be a text piece, an essay. But maybe Hama, who cranks out dozens of sketches at conventions, and who recently broke down in pencil dozens of entire Deathstroke issues for DC, was going to write and draw this! Some years back he posted to Facebook a two-panel gag comic, a funny interaction he had with a cab driver. Just pencil, like his cover sketches, and lettered in his pleasing, scratchy handwriting. Click to enlarge:

I’ve always wanted to see more, but drawing is a bit hard for Hama with arthritis, and he’s mostly getting paid to type plots and scripts. But comics or prose, this 40th Anniversary autobiographical story was going to be great! Or at the very least, an interesting failure! But alas, it doesn’t exist, or didn’t make the deadline.

As a reader, I can be disappointed that the advance solicitation for the G.I. Joe 40th Anniversary Special didn’t deliver on some of its promises. And as a retailer, I can be as well, because it’s harder to sell. But I have another tool in my toolkit, which is that IDW can authorize Diamond, our distributor, to make this returnable for credit. The sales terms for most publishers selling through Diamond Comic Distributors is that if a book is late, if the cover is different or if the interior contents are significantly different than what was solicited, then the book is to be made returnable. The idea is that I can’t sell it in the quantities that I expected back when I ordered it, and it’s the publisher’s fault, so they should be responsible. I don’t know if the G.I. Joe 40th Anniversary Special has been made returnable. I get the sense that no one notices these discrepancies — essay/essays and the Hama story — except me, and I get the sense that no one cares, both of which make me sad. I also don’t wish to punish IDW. This is supposed to be a celebration! I want IDW’s sales people to worry about selling the next issue rather than back peddling on the last one. And I want IDW’s editorial folks to spend time making the next issue of G.I. Joe rather than explaining why this one didn’t deliver. IDW is already losing the G.I. Joe license, do I actually want the company to pay me back (however indirectly) for the significant quantity of this eight-dollar comic that I ordered? No, I don’t. I will not ask Diamond to make this returnable. But this just adds to my complicated feelings about this Real American Hero comic book.

One last comment on this object, overall, before I get into the guts. It’s called the 40th Anniversary Special. But “Silent Interlude,” the original issue #21, is from 1984, so this is the 38th anniversary of that story. If you’re going to use the name 40th Anniversary Special, wouldn’t it make more sense to publish a remake of issue #1? Certainly a remake of “Operation: Lady Doomsday” isn’t going to sell as well as one of “Silent Interlude,” and I’m not actually suggesting the more-accurate “38th Anniversary Special” should be on the cover of this comic. Heck, the 40th Anniversary Special even reprints the cover to issue #1 as a full page interior for some reason. But then the immediately following pages are behind-the-scenes for this #21-remake, and there’s nothing about 1982 or G.I. Joe issue #1 anywhere.

As a title and its relationship to the object, what we did get feels a little off, and that on top of my earlier comments about what’s not included adds a lot of baggage to my experience of this book before I’ve even read the first page. But whatever anniversary we’re celebrating, and whatever content I was expecting, it’s a double-almost-triple-sized G.I. Joe comic book, which is always exciting!

As for what I thought of the actual interiors, check back in a few days for Part 2.


Filed under Comics Reviews