How a Nick Fury Team Became G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero Instead

In Nothing Was Delivered, we look at announced comic book projects that never came about. We'll try to find out WHY they didn't come out. I'm sure you all know tons of examples of comic book projects like these, so feel free to write me at brianc@cbr.com to tell me some for future columns.

Today, we will look at how a Larry Hama proposed Nick Fury spinoff series ultimately became G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.

Jim Steranko's run on Strange Tales and then Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD, is the stuff of legends.

Steranko is (and was) a storytelling genius and the combination of brilliant artwork and innovative stories (especially for the time) made for iconic comic book stories.

Here was the problem. Strange Tales was great...

And the ongoing series was just as good...

But the transition from doing one-half of a regular comic book to suddenly doing an ENTIRE comic book was too much for Steranko and he left the series. As it turned out, while Nick Fury and SHIELD were certainly interesting, it seemed as though Steranko himself was the really important part.

So the series eventually ended without his involvement. By the end of the 1970s, Fury hadn't had his own series in quite a while. This led to Larry Hama putting together a new take on the series.

As it turned out, this was just at the same time that Hasbro was coming to Marvel to see if Marvel could partner with Hasbro on the creation of the back story for a new line of toys.

Jim Shooter recalled the situation on his blog years ago:

Editor Larry Hama had been working on a reactivation of Nick Fury. He had a lot of ideas. Fury as the head of a top secret, elite strike force, a headquarters in sub-basements below the Chaplain’s quarters. I think. Anyway, he had a lot of stuff going. At some point, he’d told me what he was working on. But I don’t think it was ready to go yet, and we hadn’t yet committed to it—that is, I hadn’t circulated a new project memo and scheduled the thing.

A few days after his fateful meeting with Hassenfeld, Galton asked me to accompany him to a meeting with Hasbro.

It was downtown somewhere. Not at Hasbro’s toy district office. Way downtown. I don’t remember exactly. Their lawyers’ offices? I don’t know.

Anyway, there were a few people from Hasbro present, boys toys execs. Bob Prupis was there I think. Could be wrong. I don’t think anyone from Giffin-Bacal was there. Could be wrong. They were all eager to meet the Editor in Chief that Galton had apparently highly touted.

They showed me what they had. A logo: “G.I. JOE, a Real American Hero.” That was about it. They didn’t want to revive the big doll. Yes, I know it was verboten to use the word “doll,” and I didn’t in front of them. They were thinking about three and three quarters inch figures, like the Star Wars figures, but they hadn’t even settled on that yet. And they wanted a line of figures, not just one. Someone said, “So, besides G.I. JOE, do we have G.I. George, G.I. Fred…?

I said how about if “G.I. JOE” is the code name for the unit? Call in G.I. JOE?” They liked that. I also said it should be an anti-terrorist team. Not a “war” toy. That was obvious to everyone, I guess.

They were sold. They wanted us to proceed and develop a concept. Everybody shook hands and Galton and I took a cab back uptown.

Later, Marvel’s licensing and business affairs people worked out the deal. More on that later.

Back at the Marvel, I went straight to Larry’s office. He, with his military background, was the obvious choice to do the heavy lifting. I told him what happened. He thought, and I agreed, that much of what he’d already cooked up for Nick Fury could be adapted to the project.

Okay, so what WAS this Fury project, really?

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