This is the thirty-second in a series of examinations of comic book urban legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous thirty-one.
Today is another special theme week, inspired by a request by David Campbell, asking to clear up one of the urban legends on the list today.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: The GI Joe series was partially based on a previous Marvel pitch Larry Hama made to Marvel.
In the early 80s, Hasbro came to Marvel looking to both have a comic book to tie into their new launch of smaller, more detailed GI Joes and also have a back story for the characters.
Luckily, Marvel editor Larry Hama already had developed a series for Marvel that had not been picked up called Fury Force, which was about, oddly enough, a group of specialized soldiers who worked for SHIELD.
The concepts very easily translated to Hasbro’s pitch, and Hama was given the job of not just writing the comic, but designing the backstory for each toy character.
According to Hama (in an interview at QKTheatre.com),
There were a lot of holdovers from the ‘Fury Force’ concept that I had been developing for Marvel at the time. The whole idea of a secret base under a motor pool, for instance. I even had a “Snake-Eyes” type character, who didn’t speak, had his face covered with a cowl and was a mysterious assassin type. He carried a pump shotgun and a commando knife in his boot and was actually inspired by the Pahoo-Ka-Ta-Wah (Wolf Who Stands in Water) character in the old ‘Yancy Derringer’ TV show.
Luckily for us, Metropolis Comics got ahold of the original Fury Force design sheets, and they have a nice bit about it at this link. Here are some of the original designs:
The whole team
Soon, all of these characters would make their way, in one form or another, into 1982’s smash hit, GI Joe #1.
Oddly enough, though, while you might have expected that Cobra was just a substitute for Hydra, that was not the case. Archie Goodwin came up with the concept of Cobra after Hasbro approached Marvel.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: The famous “Silent Issue” of GI Joe was originally meant to have dialogue in it, but it was left out due to some sort of error.
The 1984 issue of GI Joe #21 has become a modern comic classic.
The concept of an entire comic without any dialogue was fairly novel at the time (not the first time it was done, but one of the most notable), and on such a popular title!
Rumors have swirled around since then, because the idea was SO weird, that it was not INTENTIONAL, that the dialogue was lost in a printing error, or something like that.
This, however, was not the case.
It is true that the issue was produced in haste, as the book was behind schedule, leaving Larry Hama to not only write the issue, but DRAW the issue as well (he even provided the classic cover).
However, the idea for the silent issue was in Hama’s head for awhile. According to Hama (in an interview with Dwight Jon Zimmerman, from David Anthony Kraft’s Comics Interview #37 & 38),
I wanted to see if I could do a story that was a real, complete story – beginning, middle, end, conflict, characterization, action, solid resolution – without balloons or captions or sound effects. I tried to do it again, as a matter of fact, with the Joe Yearbook #3 story.
So while yes, the genesis of the issue probably came due to Hama’s interest coinciding with a need for haste, but the issue was always meant to be dialogue-less.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: One of the G.I. Joes was based upon Larry Hama himself.
For years, one of the coolest things about the GI Joe toys was how much effort and detail Larry Hama went into with the backstory and origin of each member of the team. Hama would often give characters real names that were puns or names of people he knew, even going so far as to take names off of the Vietnam War Memorial (Hama, himself, was an Army veteran) as a tribute to the fallen soldiers. He eventually dropped this practice when requests became too numerous.
However, in 1987, the ultimate honor that Hasbro could give to Hama came about, they made HIM a GI Joe!
As Hama recounts (in this interview with Dan Epstein), That was a lot of fun. They actually sent the sculptor to take photos of me. He’s the same guy that did a lot of the holograms for credit cards. He’s a miniaturist sculptor. He did the dove for the VISA card. Once you sort of reduce a likeness to that size, a lot is lost. It was rather flattering.
Here is a picture of the figure (courtesy of Fletch Adams):
Pretty cool, eh?
Well, to quote the adage, now you know, and knowing is half the battle!
Feel free to drop off any urban legends you’d like to see featured!!