Welcome to the two-hundred and eighty-first in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous two hundred and eighty.
Comic Book Legends Revealed is part of the larger Legends Revealed series, where I look into legends about the worlds of entertainment and sports, which you can check out here, at legendsrevealed.com. In honor of the Major League Baseball Playoffs, I'd especially recommend you check out these three special editions of Baseball Legends Revealed spotlighting legends about the New York Yankees, the Philadelphia Phillies and the Minnesota Twins!
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Special theme week this week! All the legends involve animation in some way, shape or form!
COMIC LEGEND: One of the reasons the Marvel G.I. Joe comic book was made was to get around advertising restrictions involving animation.
When it comes to misleading advertising, the government is concerned about the typical consumer. Do note that they are not worried about REASONABLE consumers, but rather, a typical consumer, so when a product is aimed at children, typically kids will surprise you with how much they are willing to believe.
As a result, the government has certain restrictions about the use of animation in commercials for kid's toys. Animation makes the toys seem a lot cooler, because, you know, they're animated! Since kids will be more swayed by commercials featuring animation, companies would love to use more and the government wants them to use as little as possible (and when they DO use it, they also make sure to throw in stuff like "Note: toy does not actually shoot lasers," stuff like that). This is why so many toy companies want to have animated series featuring their toys - they know that this will sell their toys.
How does this affect the Marvel G.I. Joe comic book?
Well, the odds were pretty decent that Hasbro would have done a G.I. Joe comic book for their re-launched 1980s G.I. Joe toy line ANYways, as doing comic book tie-ins for toys were pretty normal (Micronauts being a notable example).
However, doing a comic book had an added benefit for Hasbro.
You see, while there is a limit to how much animation you can use in a TOY commercial, there are NO such limits for how much you can use animation in a COMIC BOOK commercial.
A sample G.I. Joe commercial from the mid-80s features five seconds of animation...
followed by 25 seconds of live action shots of kids playing with the actual toys...
But a comic book advertisement could have MUCH more animation. Larry Hama credits a Hasbro executive named Bob Pruprish for coming up with concept based on that notion.
So Hasbro's deal with Marvel was that Marvel would come up with the backgrounds of the characters and do the actual comics, and in exchange, Hasbro would advertise the comic books on television. It was the proverbial win-win situation. Marvel got unheard of advertising and Hasbro got 30-second commercials that were 90% animation. It was like having a 30-second episode of G.I. Joe snuck into other show's programming.
Since the toy line and the comic book were big hits, it's pretty evident that the idea worked.
Here's a sample G.I. Joe comic book commercial.
First, a series of cartoon action shots...
then a cartoon shot...
that turns into a comic book panel...
and we pull back to see the comic book as a whole...
Pretty cool commercial, huh?
Here's the first issue of the series...