G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (Marvel Comics)

G.I. Joe has been the title of comic strips and comic books in every decade since 1942. As a licensed property by Hasbro, comics were released from 1967 up to this day, with only two interruptions longer than a year (1977-1981, 1997-2000). As a team fighting Cobra since 1982, the comic book history of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero has seen three separate publishers and four main-title series, all of which have been based on the Hasbro toy line of the same name. The first series was produced by Marvel Comics between 1982 and 1994, running for 155 issues and spawning several spin-off titles throughout the course of its run; the second and third series, published by Devil's Due Productions from 2001 to 2008, totaled 80 issues and included several spin-off titles as well. The fourth series is being published by IDW Publishing since October 2008, and various spin-off titles were launched as well. Another series, based on the G.I. Joe Extreme line of toys, was a short-lived run published by Dark Horse Comics in 1995-1996.

Today, we're going to take a look at the Marvel Comics run.

 A Real American Hero (Main series)

Hasbro re-launched their G.I. Joe franchise with G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero. It was supported by a Marvel Comics series. It was unique at the time in that it was a comic book series that was promoted on television commercials which also supported the toy line. This 155-issue series is considered to be one of the longest-running comic book tie-ins to a toy line. Much of its success is to be credited to Larry Hama, who wrote the entire series save for a few issues with guest writers. Rather than treating the stories as a mere promotion for the toys, Hama wrote the series with seriousness and infused it with doses of realism, humor, and drama. Other than Transformers, no other series was able to duplicate its success. Notable artists include Herb Trimpe, Ron Wagner, Rod Whigham, and Marshall Rogers.

Issue #21 became a fan-favorite, not only because the Cobra ninja Storm Shadow was introduced, but that issue also became a prime example of comics' visual storytelling power, having no dialogue, only pictures.

A number of differences existed between the comic book and the animated TV series. Certain characters who were very prominent in the comic book, such as Stalker, were featured very little in the cartoon, while characters who were less prominent in the comic book, such as Shipwreck, were very prominent in the cartoon series. Another difference was that in the comic book featured a romance between Scarlett and Snake-Eyes, whereas in the cartoon, a romance between Scarlett and Duke was hinted at instead (most likely due to the differences between writing for a comic book audience and writing for an animated series). The most notable difference between the comic and the cartoon, however, is in its handling of combat. While the cartoon showed that nearly every soldier in every battle survived (for example, many shots of different aircraft being shot down were shown to have its pilot escape in a parachute), the comic did not shy away from mass character deaths; for example, issue #109 included the deaths of a large number of Joes, including fan-favorites like Doc, Breaker, and Quick-Kick.

In 2001, with the success of Devil's Due Comics run of G.I. Joe, Marvel Comics collected the first 50 issues in five trade paperbacks, with ten issues in each book. All covers for the trade paperbacks were drawn by J. Scott Campbell. Marvel will not publish the rest of the series, because Hasbro has purchased the rights to the comics. Hasbro has since released reprints of some issues with some of their action figures.

G.I. Joe Yearbooks

The four Yearbooks (1985-1988) collected some previous stories, summarized events, etc. and, aside from the first Yearbook (which re-printed the seminal first issue), published new stories that tied into current events in the main title.

G.I. Joe: Special Missions

The success of the main title led Marvel Comics to produce a secondary title, G.I. Joe: Special Missions which lasted 28 issues, with Herb Trimpe as the artist for nearly the entire run, with Dave Cockrum providing pencils on several issues. Spinning out of issue #50 of a story in the main title, the series featured more intense violence and a more ambiguous morality than the main title, while the enemies were conventional terrorists as well as Cobra itself. The first four issues, as well as the backup story from issue #50 of the main title, were later republished as a trade paperback.

G.I. Joe: Order of Battle

Order of Battle was a four-issue comic series that reprinted the data found on the action figures' file cards with some edits and all-new artwork of G.I. Joe characters by Herb Trimpe. Published in 1987, the first two issues featured G.I. Joe members while the third issue focused on the Cobra Organization, and the fourth featured various vehicles and equipment used by both organizations. The second issue caused some controversy when it erroneously listed Sylvester Stallone's Rocky Balboa character as a member of G.I. Joe. While negotiations had taken place, concerning the character's membership on the team, the deal had fallen through. The third and fourth issues contained a retraction stating that Rocky Balboa was not and had never been a member of G.I. Joe. The trade paperback edition of the series removed mention of the Rocky character entirely.

G.I. Joe Special

Shortly after the final issue (which was released in December 1994), a G.I. Joe Special #1 was released, with alternate art for issue #61 by Todd McFarlane.

G.I. Joe Comic Magazine

The first 37 issues of the main series were republished in the thirteen digests known as G.I. Joe Comic Magazine.

Tales of G.I. Joe

Tales of G.I. Joe reprinted the first fifteen issues of G.I. Joe on a higher quality paper stock than that used for the main comic.

G.I. Joe and the Transformers

A four issue limited series that teamed-up the Joes with the other popular property of the 1980s, Transformers. The Joes and the Autobots must join forces to stop the Decepticons and Cobra from destroying the world. The story suffered from the need to have the events of the limited series reflect the events of the main G.I. Joe and Transformers titles published by Marvel Comics at the time. However, while there were references in the Transformers ongoing series to the events of the limited series, the G.I. Joe ignored it completely, as writer Larry Hama didn't consider it to be canon, though towards the end of the ongoing G.I. Joe series several Transformers characters appeared in the G.I. Joe title as a prequel for the upcoming Transformers: Generation Two comic. The issues made reference to the limited series. A trade paperback later collected all four issues.

That’s a whole lot o' Joes

And there you have it - The Marvel run of G.I. Joe.

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