I received one of my most memorable and influential gifts on Christmas day 1983. I was 11. My older brother, Joel, got me a one year subscription to the Marvel comic G.I. Joe. It was such a trill to once a month open the mailbox and see that brown paper wrapper with my name above the address. The first issue to come – the first comic book I owned – happened to be number 21, one of comics most legendary single issues. It had an impact on me. A few years ago I was going through some old stuff and found a childhood sketch book. The first page had my rendition of this comic’s cover. Apparently it wasn’t just me. Many current comic creators cite G.I. Joe 21 as their inspiration for getting into the field.
Right on the cover was the intriguing declaration: "The Most Unusual G.I. Joe Story Ever!!" The issue was titled: "Silent Interlude" and what was unusual was the fact that there was not a single word of dialogue! Larry Hama (who wrote and penciled the issue) explained:
"I wanted to see if I could do a story that was a real, complete story – beginning, middle, end, conflict, characterization, action, solid resolution – without balloons or captions or sound effects."
As an 11 year old I loved the issue. It was an awesome story made all the better by the fact that I didn’t have to do any reading! I’ve since found out that many consider it the greatest Joe story ever told. One blogger describes the impact its way:
And then came Issue #21. Written and drawn by Larry Hama, "Silent Interlude" would become the most talked-about, the most widely praised, and at the time among the most controversial comic books ever published. It permanently elevated G.I. Joe away from its perception of being a "toy franchise" and into the realm of exceptionally mature narrative.
"Silent Interlude" also laid down the foundation for all the G.I. Joe continuity that was to follow for the next ten years and beyond. It established mysteries and connections that have come to be regarded as some of the finest storytelling that the medium has yet produced.
Earlier this year a CGC-certified 9.8 copy of G.I. Joe #21 sold for $3,050 on eBay.
My copy isn’t in quite as good shape.
I stopped subscribing to G.I. Joe 40 issues and 3 years later. After digging into an old comic book box I see that my last issue was number 61. A pretty good run for my attention span. Just as a point of comparison: that initial subscription back in 1984 cost around $6 (or 50 cents an issue). A current 6 issue sub to IDW’s Joe title is $33 shipped (or $5.50 and issue). Now that’s inflation!
Amongst other things G.I. Joe 21 debuts the ninja in white: Storm Shadow. And not only are we introduced to him . . . we get the amazing reveal on the last page that he and Snake Eyes have the same tattoo on their forearms. Whoa.
How can you go wrong when a story stars this lot?
Here we are 25 years later. My "little brother," Johnny (who is coincidentally 11 years old), mentions that he’d like to go see the new G.I. Joe movie with me. I’m not sure exactly how big it got but this comment most certainly produced a noteworthy grin on my face. We finally got around to seeing the movie this past weekend. Johnny was pretty engaged. At the end he turned to me and said: "That was the best movie I’ve seen!" He informed me that it had all the elements of a good movie: action, comedy, and romance. I loved that. I wasn’t about to squelch his enthusiasm with my irrelevant opinion:
This G.I. Joe movie wasn’t for us. It was for Johnny and his generation.
As a consolation us old soldiers got G.I. Joe Resolute.
Afterward we popped into the Walmart across from the theatre. He was to pick one figure and I was to pick one figure. Johnny wanted a Duke but not the desert camo one. Since this store didn’t have the "Reactive Impact Armor" version Johnny was left to choose between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow. He chose the latter so I got the former. The appeal of those two ninjas is as real as it was 25 years ago. Here’s to a new generation of G.I. Joe fans!