Thursday, January 31, 2008

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #1 (June 1982)

Operation: Lady Doomsday

Credits: Larry Hama (writer), Herb Trimpe (artist), Bob McLeod (inker), Jim Novak (letterer), Glynis Wein (colorist), Tom DeFalco (editor)

Feature Characters (first appearance for all): Breaker (Alvin R. Kibbey, appears next in G.I. Joe #2), Clutch (Lance J. Steinberg, middle initial revealed in G.I. Joe #20), Flash (Anthony S. Gambello, appears next in G.I. Joe #3), Grand Slam (James Barney, appears next in G.I. Joe #3), Grunt (Robert W. Graves, full name revealed in G.I. Joe #55, appears next in G.I. Joe #3), Hawk (Colonel Clayton M. Abernathy), Rock ‘N Roll (Craig S. McConnell, full name revealed in G.I. Joe Yearbook #1), Scarlett (Shana M. O’Hara), Short-Fuze (Eric W. Freistadt, full name revealed in G.I. Joe Yearbook #1, appears next in G.I. Joe #3), Snake Eyes (real name never revealed), Stalker (Lonzo R. Wilkinson), Steeler (Ralph W. Pulaski, appears next in G.I. Joe #3), Zap (Rafael J. Melendez, appears next in G.I. Joe #3)

Clutch, Hawk, Rock 'N Roll, Scarlett, Stalker, and Snake Eyes appear next in the second story, "Hot Potato"; then Scarlett, Stalker, and Snake Eyes appear in G.I. Joe #2; then all six appear in G.I. Joe #3.

Supporting Characters (first appearance for all): General “Iron Butt” Austin (full name never revealed), General Lawrence J. Flagg (full name revealed in G.I. Joe Battle Files #1), Dr. Adele Burkhart (appears next in G.I. Joe #39)

Cameo Appearance: Shooter (name only, see Continuity Note)

Villains (first appearance for all): Cobra Commander (real name never revealed, appears next in G.I. Joe #3), the Baroness (Anastasia deCobray, full name revealed in G.I. Joe #94, appears next in G.I. Joe #5), Gregor (appears next in G.I. Joe #39), Cobra Command troops (none named, some appear next in G.I. Joe #3)

Continuity Note: When the Pentagon sergeant calls up a display of the G.I. Joe team, her hand in is in the way of the head shot for someone code named Shooter. At the time, this was meant as an in-joke to Editor-in-chief Jim Shooter. However, Larry Hama would eventually use this character 24 years later in G.I. Joe: Declassified.

Story: The terrorist organization Cobra Command has kidnapped whistle-blowing nuclear physicist Dr. Adele Burkhart. Special Counter-terrorist Group Delta (code name: G.I. Joe) is sent to Cobra’s island stronghold to rescue her.

Reagan-era Goodness: On the front cover, G.I. Joe is called “the ultimate weapon of democracy.” Take that as you will.

Dr. Burkhart mentions the Doomsday Project as the development of a retaliatory weapons system designed to annihilate all life on the planet—essentially MAD taken to an extreme.

Review: The one that started it all. I wouldn’t see my first issue of G.I. Joe until a year and a half later (issue #12), but you couldn’t get through an afternoon without seeing the commercial for this premiere issue at least a dozen times. Oh yeah, it was the first comic book ever to have a television commercial and it was made of awesome. Eventually, this comic series would spawn the comics obsession I retain to this day.

The plot is incredibly straightforward but is riddled with clichés like the Pentagon having a giant room full of high-tech wizardry, lots of dialogue while fighting, and diatribes about “what we’re fighting for.” We also get a fair amount of exposition as we’re introduced to the G.I. Joe team and Cobra Command (eventually shortened to just Cobra). When I first read this story as a reprint in G.I. Joe Yearbook #1, I liked it quite a bit. Reading it now is a tad difficult given the clichés listed above and knowing this was geared primarily to sell toys first.

This first issue also contains a number of pin-ups with short dossiers of various team members and equipment as well as a second story, “Hot Potato,” which I’ll tackle soon.


One of my favorite comic book series growing up was Marvel's G.I. Joe. The series, chock full of action, paralleled my enthusiasm for Hasbro's toy line for a good long while. Even when I wasn't buying the figures any longer, I was still reading the comic. Like a number of kids my age, G.I. Joe was the "gateway" comic that led to reading other comics. The amount of money per annum spent on comics can be blamed squarely on picking up my first issue of G.I. Joe.

Toward the last year or so of the series, I stopped reading as things had become a bit too silly thanks to Hasbro's mandates that characters and situations created for the toys had to be featured in the comic (with one notable exception—Cobra-La). Thanks to keeping up with the comic-related press at the time, I learned of the series cancellation ahead of time and managed to pick up the last few issues. When I visited a comic show this past December, the last five issues tend to sell for much much more than cover price.

It's unfortunate that both the toy line and the comic book went out with a bit of a whimper instead of a bang. Eventually, both would return and the fever pitch of the toy line as I type this is almost on par with the situation 25 years ago. It's certainly a good time to be a Joe fan.

This index is my attempt to index the G.I. Joe comics "universe" as I know it. We'll begin with the Marvel series and its subsequent spin-offs in chronological, production order. Eventually, we'll get to the modern stuff but you'll find references to the modern comics scattered throughout. If something has been omitted or is just outright wrong, feel free to tell me in the comments section for each book.

Some of you comics "old timers" might recognize the format of the index as the one used by George Olshevsky during his days of chronicling Marvel comics back in the 1980s. Olshevsky's format was co-opted by Murray Ward for his line of DC comic indexes and then again when Ward and Peter Sanderson attempted to revive the indexes for Marvel in the mid-1990s.

I'm not sure what else to say at this point so strap in and get ready for Mr. Peabody's Wayback Machine to take us to a time when A Flock of Seagulls inspired stupid haircuts, Michael J. Fox was charming audiences on Family Ties, and Coca-Cola lamely tried to hide switching from sugar to corn syrup with New Coke.