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Cobra Finds Out How Quickly People Will Trade Freedom for Jobs

This is a feature called "A Political World," where we spotlight 20th Century comic book stories that came out back when comic books were not political at all, unlike comic books nowadays.

One of the most popular comic book series of the 1980s was G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero. Created by Larry Hama, the idea of the series was to come up with a back story that Hasbro could use to sell their new line of G.I. Joe action figures. So Hama came up with a concept for the good guys (the G.I. Joe squad) and the bad guys (Cobra) and Hama's ideas were then used for the action figures and a comic book series for Marvel Comics. Meanwhile, Marvel's animation studio of the time then did a super-popular animated series using Hama's ideas. Hama was not involved in the cartoon, though, so the show went in a very different direction than Hama with a lot of the characters (for Hama, Snake-Eyes was the main character. For the cartoon, Duke was the main character. That even reflected in who Scarlett's love interest was. On the show, it was Duke. In the comics, it was Snake-Eyes). For the next 12 years, Hama wrote the ongoing series, where he had to deal with constantly working in new characters as Hasbro invented new figures (who Hama would then have to come up with back stories for almost all of them).

Beyond constantly working in new characters, though, Hama had a pretty free handle on what he wanted to do with the series and Hama liked to make the series feel as "real" as possible, which meant consistent references to modern day themes and stuff like that. I spoke with Hama back in 2017 about how his G.I. Joe series had always been one that was specifically ABOUT "social justice" and he discussed the term "social justice warrior." He said, "I embrace the term. It was coined to be a put-down, but I don't see anything wrong in being a "social justice warrior." Isn't that better than being a "a vigilante with remorse?"

One of the most fascinating characters of Hama's G.I. Joe series (which picked back up in 2010 in a new series for IDW that picked up where the old series left off in 1994. Hama has been writing it every since) has got to be Cobra Commander, the former used car saleseman who manipulated his way into becoming the head of a dangerous terrorist organization.

We learned about Cobra Commander's past in G.I. Joe #55 (by Hama, Rod Whigman and Andy Mushynsky), where Destro and Cobra Commander have to go on the run after a failed mission...

However, that same mission reunited Cobra Commander with his long lost son, Billy...

That became significant because it led to Cobra Commander deciding to retire to spend more time with his injured son. One of his Crimson Guard, however, seemingly killed Cobra Commander and took over using a new special armor that kept people from telling the difference (plus, since no one knew what Cobra Commander looked like under the mask, so it was easy to take over from him).

Cobra Commander returned to take control of Cobra, though, and wiped out pretty much all of his enemies in one fell swoop. This then led to a bold initiative in G.I. Joe #100 (by Hama, M.D. Bright and Randy Emberlin) where Cobra Commander decided to take over a town in the United States!

See how familiar his approach sounds...

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