G.I. Joe #21 and a New Generation
September 1, 2009

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!

TAGS:
Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann
Action figure anthropologist, Professor Cantina Dan Neumann has been a scholastic contributor to the online community studying the complex world of parumplasticus populus {little plastic people} since the turn of this millenium. His primary focus is the visual cataloging of species exhibits through photo-journalism.
Read other articles by Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann.

 

 

 

18 Comments »

  • chad says:

    cool story for gijoe is one of of those generation things glad to see a new generation falling in love with gi joe.also thought gi joe twenty one was the most mind blowing issue to me for mostly had to contiue the series to find out why storm shadow and snake eyes had the same markings

  • Love it. Personally, I thought The Rise Of Cobra was much better than Resolute, and a lot more true to the characters. Other than that, nearly everything in your post could have come straight from my own keyboard. I guess you’re a few years older than me, because I was five when I started reading G.I. JOE. Larry Hama’s stories had a tremendous impact on me, and they’re a big part of why I took reading and writing seriously as a student. If you haven’t already, you should give this interview a listen (he talks specifically about #21): http://handsomegeniusclub.blogspot.com/2009/08/hgc-radio-episode-48-real-american.html

    • Danny CantinaDan says:

      Yes, thanks for the link, Jon. Enjoyed that. I appreciate yours (and Hama’s) thoughts regarding “Rise of Cobra” vs. Resolute. I suffer too much from fuzzy memory and too strong of a visual bias.

      I love his line regarding inventing the Baroness: “Lets add this hot babe in leather.”

      And after all these years and all he’s done in the G.I. Joeverse he says at the end of the interview that #21 is his favorite issue. Nice.

  • Emerald says:

    I had a similar experience. I thought #21 was the coolest comic I’d ever “read” as a kid….made me want to buy the Storm Shadow figure as soon as possible. Incidentally so did every other kid because he was a hard figure to find in those days for me.
    I have a feeling a GI Joe movie reboot will happen years from now. Rise of Cobra is nice for new fans, but this comic is a good example of what us old soldiers we’re hoping for — a more serious, non-cartoon approach to the franchise. I thought Resolute was styled nicely, but written terribly. With the obvious money in it now, someone will undoubtedly come along with Hama-like inspiration again and show GI Joe’s full potential.

  • xrmc20 says:

    I know I read that when I was a kid, but I don’t have it anymore. Now I’m gonna look for it at my LCS.

  • xrmc20 says:

    Thanks for that link CC. Great great stuff in there about Hama’s creative processes and how things grow.

  • Darren says:

    Issue 21 was legendary, and still one of my most memorable! I think my copy is equally AFA fail and well loved.

  • Howard the Duck says:

    One of my all-time favorite single comic book issues ever! All artists should aspire to that level of storytelling(where you can ‘read’ the story without the added benefit of word balloons).

    Plus, it was damned cool!

  • Lt. Clutch says:

    I had been reading the series for a about a year and remember loving the artwork. Larry Hama and Steve Leialoha made a great team and this issue left me wanting more. I had yet to learn at the time that Hama was an artist as well as a writer. The ending was very well done, but I’ve never been a fan of Storm Shadow or all the ninja stuff which followed his debut, so that’s the only part of the issue that doesn’t hold up too well.

  • I found Resolute to be a lot of crap, but it was entertaining. The movie was good. Glad to hear kids love it.

  • UncleMarsellus says:

    Fantastic blog. I’m with you. I never had #21 but I remember the cover distinctly as it was used on one of the digests of reprints I had. Remember those? You often found them in convenience stores. I don’t remember if 21 was actually reprinted inside though.

    But, yeah, though I liked the movie for what it was, I’m mostly happy that I see kids buying GI Joes again. Talking about Snake Eyes and how cool it all is. At least the movie toys are great!

  • Bill says:

    My first issue was #19, but #21 cemented me as a fan. I stayed with the series all the way to the last issue (#155 or so). Storm Shadow was my first GI Joe figure. I loved him and the whole Snake-eyes/Storm Shadow opera. Perhaps the best GI Joe issue EVER>

  • Parkdaledude says:

    As someone who is about to become a father I hope I get to have a similar interaction with my kid as you had with your little brother, also I Totally agree with you about the Rise Of Cobra/Resolute thing being for the 2 different generations but I still didn’t mind Rise Of Cobra.

  • Sidewinder says:

    Great blog post.

    I host a podcast called the G.I. Joe review. http://gijoereview.libsyn.com We mostly review the Marvel G.I. Joe comics starting with Issue 1. We also have a sprinkling of related Joe news as well.

    If anyone is interested – we covered Issue 21 in our episode #009. That same episode features an interview with Larry Hama.

    http://gijoereview.libsyn.com/index.php?post_year=2007&post_month=11

    • Danny CantinaDan says:

      Thanks very much for the link! I just listened to your issue 21 episode and really enjoyed it. I happened to have my issue here and was able to follow along as you did the page by page recap. It was like I was reading the issue again for the first time. Enjoyed the Hama interview as well.

  • Brainlock says:

    Did Marvel ever release GI Joe in trade form? Mine are all gone, now, but I picked up the book around #8 or #9 until the end, even had the digest trades of the first few issues.
    .
    btw, Amazon apparently has 12 issue subscriptions, now, with Free Shipping.
    Not sure what all titles are involved, but at least a few DC titles. Not sure if IDW has any Amazon deal like that, esp at that preposterous price.

    • sidewinder says:

      Marvel didn’t release trades back when the comic was originally being published.

      In 2002, however, Marvel started releasing trades of the Marvel series. There were 5 trades, each covering 10 issues. These were discontinued supposedly because of lack of interest. I’m not exactly sure that is true, though. Some of these books were really hard to find (especially vol 4). I think that they just had really short print runs and people couldn’t find them.

      In 2009, IDW started re-releasing the old Marvel trades. Same exact format as before, including covers. IDW has said that they plan on reprinting all of the Marvel series, but vol 6 has not been released yet.

      IDW is also printing a bunch of “Best Of” hardcovers. I’ve not checked these out, so I can’t comment too much on them. They have a theme like “SnakeEyes” or “Larry Hama” and have Marvel stories related to them.

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