Movies & TV / Columns

Comics 411: Farewell to G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero

September 21, 2022 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
G.I. Joe: A Real-American Hero 300 Image Credit: IDW Comics

Welcome back! I’m Steve Gustafson and if you enjoy discussing anything comic book related, you’ve come to the right place. Each week we cover something in the industry and I always enjoy your input in the comment section below.

Previously on…

Last time we asked Who is the Worst Avenger?. Here’s what some of you had to say:

Rick: “I thought of Starfox immediately and found him flying at me when I clicked. Somtimes the Avenger lineups had people who just did not belong.”

D-Unit: “Agree with everything you wrote and I’ll add “The Swordsman”. Always hated that guy, he had no place on what was supposed to be an “elite” team of Marvel’s best. Costume was stupid, gimmick was stupid.”

Wool Hat: “I liked Firebird, but she totally fizzled out.
Also, Marrina had at least partial status until they spent three issues turning her into a giant sea monster that had to be killed.”

tw75: “Reed and Sue Richards for me. They never worked as members of the Avengers as they are so synonymous with the FF.”

SharkLasers: “Can’t we pretty much name any superhero and at one point they’ve been an Avenger, even if it’s just a reserve member?
Hawkeye made some Avengers offshoot after Civil War called “Occupy Avengers,” and one of them was Wheels, a kid in a wheelchair who had no powers but was a good mechanic. Yeah, let’s throw the paraplegic with no powers and the skill of a decent garage worker into danger. “Hey kid, have you ever wanted to stand against an out of control Hulk? Match your wits with Ultron? Have I got an offer for you!” Even worse, Wheels always brought his cat with him. A totally normal house cat.”

Too many great comments to list! Thank you to everyone who commented last week!

This week we say…

Farewell to G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero

Anyone who has read my stuff for any amount of time knows I credit Larry Hama’s G.I. Joe as my entry into comic book collecting.

Yes. G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #1. The publication date says June 1982 but I distinctly remember getting it inside of an Easter basket. I was 8. The art and story drew me in and I must have read it over 500 times. My issue was held together by tape until it finally became too fragile to keep. Of course I bought another copy, along with the collected editions. It was the first series that I collected in total and, also as I mentioned, it made Larry Hama one of my heroes. There’s a weird comfort going back and reading it. I can almost remember where I bought each individual issue.

Now, IDW announced that it will bid farewell to its long-running series with the publication of G.I. JOE: A Real American Hero #300, written by Hama with art by SL Gallant, inks by Maria Keane, colors by J. Brown, and letters by Neil Uyetake. 

Issue #300 marks the culmination of a culture-shifting 40-year franchise helmed throughout by Hama. Nearly every issue of the original 155-issue run was written by him until Marvel ended publication in 1994, and when IDW acquired the license 15 years later, Hama was welcomed to continue the storyline right where he left off. Hama himself looked back at this momentous feat, “I handed in the plot to G.I. JOE: A Real American Hero #300, which is the final issue of the series for IDW, with a mix of sadness and amazement. Sad, that a storyline I began in 1982 is coming to an end, and amazement that it has lasted this long. Back in 1982, it was common knowledge that a toy licensed comic lasted one to two years at the most, and toy companies were reluctant to let a series based on a toy line run longer than three years, lest they get stuck with warehouses full of unsaleable Cabbage Patch Dolls or Beanie Babies. Every year that G.I. JOE and Transformers made it to the next season seemed miraculous.”

He went on to say, “I remember finishing the very first G.I. JOE story, and thinking to myself that that was it, those were all the ideas I had. I had no clue what to do for the next issue. So I did what I’ve been doing now for forty years: I jumped into the deep end of the pool and wrote page one without any idea about what would happen on page two. Then I slogged ahead, page by page, until I got to the end.”

As far as the deep history of the fabled team, “I’ve never been concerned about ‘plot’ or ‘continuity.’ Most of G.I. JOE is a long, continuous ret-con. My main concern has always been the characters, getting them to stand up and walk around inside their own universe. My second concern is visual storytelling—making sure the story is carried along in an impactful way by the succession of images. The words always come dead last, and that’s why I don’t identify as a ‘writer,’ but as more of a ‘penciler with a word processor.’

“I did 155 issues at Marvel, and they pretty much gave me free reign to do what I pleased. When IDW got the license, they wisely chose to turn me loose with my own methods, and I happily produced a run that is only five issues short of my Marvel run. The editors and staff at IDW have been incredibly understanding and supportive.In particular, they’ve been highly respectful and considerate of all my odd working methods and peccadillos. I’m thankful to all of them. Now, however, I have come to the end and it truly feels like leaving home, leaving characters that have been my friends for four decades—many of which are, in fact, based on my actual friends and acquaintances—and I can feel a real emptiness looming.

“Somehow, though, I suspect the story doesn’t completely end here, that the story will go on and the PIT will not be in mothballs for long. See you in the next incarnation!”
I figure at some point, all of us picked up a copy of G.I Joe. Some stayed longer than others as far as collecting but I was hooked from issue #1. While not everything grabbed my attention, I appreciated and loved where Hama took it. 

One of the highlights of my simple writing career was interviewing Larry Hama himself, where I was able to humbly thank him for making me a fan.
OK, here’s the part where you come in. What’s your favorite G.I. Joe comic book memory? 

A quick Top 5 for me is…
The First Issue”Silent Interlude””The Battle For Springfield”
“Snake Eyes: The Origin”

But I have so many more!

That’s all the time I have. See you next week!