Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Not my G.I. Joe




They are like a second family to me.

That might sound sad, but I believe that everyone has a stable of fictional characters, whether it be on a TV show or in a movie, that they know so well that they almost feel real.  For me, those characters are not any of the usual suspects with "Star" somewhere in the title.  Honestly, for me it's G.I. Joe.

And I'm talking about long before the cartoon showed up with red and blue lasers and a "knowing is half the battle" parable and certainly long before that dreadful movie G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and the upcoming sequel, G.I. Joe: Whatever It's Called.  Additionally, I'm not so sure the new line of comic books by IDW are what I'm after, either.

According to Dorkland, the new comics portray G.I. Joe as a unit of "celebrity soldiers" in an age "where news and advertising are as much weapons as guns and knives."  Up front, I need to say that I have not read this current crop of comics from IDW, so in a manner of speaking I am not fully informed.  But ya know what?  I'm not so sure I want to be.  Not my cup of tea, you see.  For this is not my G.I. Joe.

Several times, Dorkland has questioned why this is for me.  Whenever I would argue that contemporary movies or comics were too "out there" to really be G.I. Joe, he would respond, "G.I. Joe is a science fiction story."  I respectfully disagree.

True, there are elements to the G.I. Joe mythos that are science fictional.  To be exciting, the technology the team has is highly advanced and a bit "out of this world." Plus, the whole notion of Cobra is science fiction in that anything of its kind could even exist in the first place.  Despite all of that, what made G.I. Joe a smash success as a comic book (155 issues!  12 years!) and toy line, thereby cementing itself in the cultural chemistry of the 1980s, can be boiled down to three words: writer Larry Hama.

In addition to be a seasoned and sharp writer, Hama is a military veteran.  He created a story that is quintessentially about a covert military team.  The characters were distinct, fresh, and engaging.  Each of them had their own history and backstory.  People got hurt and sometimes didn't come back at all.  There were very few laser weapons for his team to employ.  Instead, they would have to rely on "Vulcan 20 Mike-Mike" from the SkyStriker, let's say.  If you were down to your last ammo clip in a firefight, no superscience was going to get you out.  You'd have to rely upon your wits and hope that you had a good E&E trainer.  These were war stories, pure and plain.  They were not the light zephyr of the cartoon series or even the current line of comics.

Hama's stories were about men and women devoted to silent service, to honor, and to each other.  True, their personalities could be bigger than life, but never once did they feel like they were bigger than the job at hand.  Sure, one could argue that this was all about the macho and "militaristic" Reagan era, but it went deeper than that.  The characters mattered.

I wish the current Powers That Be knew that.


And The Baroness is hot.


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