Tag Archives: Issue #93

The Comic That Changed Everything – Part Eight

Part OneTwo Three FourFiveSixSeven – Eight – Nine

In our last episode, Tim bought G.I. Joe #93, a comic book that promised to tell much about NINJA COMMANDO Snake-Eyes, but surely would not reveal his never-before seen face!  But then Tim turned to page 18…

There it was, taking up almost the entire left side:  A full portrait of Snake-Eyes, unmasked!  Four huge scars crossed his cheeks and mouth, his right eye bugging out, a calm expression on the martial arts master’s face.  It was a shock.  I must have made some noise outloud, or burst out “WHOOOA!”  Kevin must have asked what was up.  I didn’t show him the page, but I sure wanted to.  “There’s something in here you’ll really like,” was all I could tease.  Surprises in fiction, whether they be dramatic reveals at the end, unexpected cameos, or twists and turns along the way, are the most exciting parts of reading stories and watching films or TV, and this was possibly the biggest surprise of them all.  (In a dead heat for first place are the deaths of several key characters at the beginning of the animated Transformers: The Movie, a shocking theatre-going experience that had taken place three years earlier and three miles north.)

Looking back at Mark Bright’s robust portrait of everyone’s favorite Joe I’m struck by how tame the gore is by any standards of action and violence twenty years on.  (This is a topic for another day, but it’s clear that what used to net an R-rating now is routinely PG-13, and concerning blood and violence we’re a much more permissive and desensitized society.)  When I really think about it, Snake-Eyes doesn’t look that bad.  This is the face of a soldier who took trace fire in Vietnam, and who took a face full of exploding fuel in a crashing helicopter on the way to the Iranian Hostage Crisis?  I mean, his skin doesn’t look like what little I know of burn victims.  But again, this is me being rational and methodical in an analysis that benefits from decades of hindsight and reflection.  This image, and indeed all of the violence in Marvel’s G.I. Joe, had to meet the standards of the The Comics Code Authority, the industry’s self-censorship board.  But as a soon-to-be sixth grader mired in the height of kid G.I. Joe fandom, this was a revelation without comparison.

The rest of the issue is thrilling.  The Joes arrest and then lose the Dreadnoks, Flint and Roadblock threaten civilians (not really), the Baroness learns that the same plastic surgeon who fixed her years earlier (a footnote to issue #22, waaay too early for my brother and I to register as a big deal) is the some one operating on Snake-Eyes, and that Snake-Eyes killed her brother!  And then, the Baroness blows up Zarana and the Dreadnoks’ van via remote control — while talking to Zarana on the telephone!  This ranks as one of the best cliffhangers ever, and is heightened by the cruelness with which the Baroness executes her task, frowning while she literally pushes a red “detonate” button.  (“Luckily I had a contingency plan.”  WHAM!)  It was all too much excitement, and if it weren’t for needing to shove the issue into my brother’s hands so he get up to speed, I would have read it again from page 1 that very instant.

It is this magic that I long for when I read comic books.  A thrilling hunger to know what will happen next, and a  nervous worry that anything will, and that my favorite characters might not make it out of the next story alive.

What Kevin and I couldn’t have known was that we started reading the G.I. Joe comic book right around the time that writer Larry Hama was pulling together several plot threads and character revelations, and that the next few months would be my favorite comic books of all time.

What are they?  Tune in next week to find out!

Part OneTwo Three FourFiveSixSeven – Eight – Nine

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The Comic That Changed Everything – Part Seven

Part OneTwo Three FourFiveSix – Seven – EightNine

In our last episode, after returning home from summer camp and buying G.I. Joe issue #92, Tim went with his family to Ocean City, Maryland.

One of OC’s two malls, Ocean Plaza Mall, had a toy store near a bookstore next to a video arcade in front of a food court with my favorite pizza, so it was a destination.  And one afternoon in the August before 6th grade I wandered into Harriet’s Books, which was a small shop with (I want to say) a green sign with yellow letters.  Kevin had gotten into Dungeons and Dragons novels, and I might’ve had to pick up a summer reading book.  Just inside on the right was a newsstand with magazines and – COMIC BOOKS!  Comic books?  Why, if those had been there in years past I certainly hadn’t noticed.  But my eyes worked differently.  Now I was on the lookout.  And there on the bottom shelf was a bright yellow logo that spelled one my favorite words:  “G.I. JOE.”  It was issue #93!  Confusing!  Hadn’t we just bought issue #92?  Was Waldenbooks behind?  Was Harriet’s Books ahead?  It didn’t matter, all I knew was that I now had three comics to read over and over on the trip (we had brought G.I. Joe #92 and the Batman adaptation).

For some reason Kevin had stayed in the car – I guess my jaunt inside was going to be quick?  Mom or Dad must have been there, or both?  Maybe they were in the Super Fresh (grocery store) and I had enough time to kill to run in the mall?  Anyway, I opened the car door and excitedly showed Kevin.  “Awesome!” was probably his reply.  Contrary to his mild reaction two months earlier regarding issue #90, Kevin was now fully onboard and we were splitting all comics purchases 50/50.

The cover to #93 teased big revelations regarding Snake-Eyes, the masked ninja commando clothed in all black.  It’s important to properly set the scene of how mysterious and cool this character was:  We’d never seen his face, he never spoke, his action figure came with a sword, an Uzi, and a wolf, AND HE WAS A NINJA COMMANDO.  I also liked grenades, and his action figure had three molded onto his chest.  Very cool.  Since he didn’t speak, the writers on the TV show seemed not to know what to do with him, and besides three or so episodes, Snake-Eyes rarely appeared.  It fell to Larry Hama, who had created the character’s entire back story, to flesh out him in the pages of the monthly comic book.  Even though we only owned less than 15 G.I. Joe comics by this point, Kevin and I knew that portions of Snake-Eyes’ origin and motivations had been doled out over time – issues #21, 26, 27, 43, 84 – but we didn’t have most of those yet.  We were in the dark.

I got in the car and started reading.  The issue was great, starting with a compelling splash page of the Baroness and Zarana (two villains) grappling with each other in the open doorway of a transport helicopter over Manhattan.  At the top, the title “Taking the Plunge” only added to the drama.  In the story, threads from issue #90 continue and new story beats develop: Destro asserts his leadership over Cobra; the Dreadnoks brainwash Clutch and drive an ice cream truck; Flint, Lady-Jaye, and Roadblock (three series regulars from season 2 of the TV show) drive G.I. Joe’s Tiger Force-recolored vehicles; and seemingly innocuously, Snake-Eyes and Scarlett see a plastic surgeon in Switzerland.  Tantalizingly, Dr. Hundtkinder removes the ninja commando’s mask (the one that looks like a normal face for going about in public, not the black costume one) and rattles off anatomical mumbo-jumbo.  (Actually Hama being diligent and accurate.)  But we weren’t going to see Snake-Eyes’s real face because that was a permanent part of G.I. Joe lore.  Since early 1982, Hasbro, Marvel, and Sunbow had held back what masked characters Destro, Cobra Commander, and Snake-Eyes looked like.  It was embedded in the mythology.  Those visages would forever be mysterious and unknown.  The comic book had previously gone to some lengths to show Snake-Eyes without his mask, but always in shadow, cropped, or from behind.

And then I turned the page.

What did Tim see?  Tune in next week to find out!

Part OneTwo Three FourFiveSix – Seven – EightNine

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