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Posted 11/04/2013 by Axel in Columns
 
 

G.I. Joe Special #11 – G.I. Joe in Comics (1): Moira Hunger over Marvel en Larry Hama

Well, here we are, we’ve finally reached the end of our G.I. Joe Special. I reckon we might as well go out with a bang. A three-part bang of an interview.

In our last episode we talked to and about “The Godfather of G.I. Joe” Larry Hama, and mentioned some minor tidbits about Hasbro‘s toy giant’s legacy in comics. Marvel Comics (1982-1994), Dark Horse (1995-1996), Devil’s Due Publishing (2001-2005) and IDW Publishing (2008-present) all published G.I. Joe comics at one point or another.

There are, however, a lot of comics in different continuities and it can be confusing at times. Thanks to collector Gary Head, I got in touch with the COIL Club’s comic book expert. Moira Hunger immediately said yes, and offered to guide our readers into the comic book world of the Joes, whilst also offering a unique female perspective on being part of the Joe community.

Who is Moira Hunger?

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Thank you, Moira, for helping us out. This interview couldn’t possibly begin without a proper introduction.

My name is Moira Hunger and I’m a member of the COIL Club (Midwest GI Joe Collector’s Club) and some other comic book related groups on Facebook. I used to be far more active in the community, before kids and major household responsibilities got in the way. You know how it is.

I did marry a Joe collector (Jay Hunger, from Carded Heroes and the Moderately Geeky podcast) and we have two little Joe collectors, may God have mercy on my household budget!

I’ve been on “What’s on Joe Mind?” and you can hear me on Joe Declassified: Spec Ops.

When and how did you become a fan?

I became a fan waaaaaaay back in 1983. I was at the grocery store getting my comics (as you could do back then) and I saw issue #10 of Marvel’s G.I. Joe series out – “A Nice Little Town Like Ours“. Scarlett‘s on cover; she’s a redhead. I’m a redhead. I was, therefore, duty-bound to buy it. I found issues #7 and 9 at the flea market that weekend and it was pretty much on from then. (My brother had some of the toys, but I didn’t really play with those at all, because I was 9 and waaaay too sophisticated for that. I just took all of his file cards. I loved the file cards for the figures.) Our local tv-station carried the Sunbow cartoons until I was in high school, and I would still come home every day that I didn’t have to work and watch the cartoon before starting my homework. Priorities.

joe10You’ve mentioned Scarlett as the character that got you into the comics. Everybody seems to have their own favorites. Which are yours?

There is a long-running joke among my friends that all of my favorite characters are dead.

This isn’t strictly true, as one or two of them isn’t dead in any continuity and some of them are only dead in some continuities. So, in no particular order: BreakerMainframeCrazylegsSneak PeekThunderLaw & OrderDusty, and Steeler. I really like Lady Jaye in IDW‘s Cobra title, and I am loving Hard Drive from IDW’s main G.I. Joe and G.I. Joe Special Missions titles. I have a strange fondness for all of the Joe animal side-kicks and partners, with the exception of Polly. (Thanks, Sunbow.)

map_usa_states_rhode_islandI also, like every other kid before me, held local Joes in particular fondness. I grew up in Southeastern Massachusetts, and lived in Rhode Island for most of my 20s, so I had lots of local Joes to pick from. Represent!

You are a part of the G.I. Joe community. What do you enjoy most about it?

It’s a wide and varied fan base. I like that there is always someone out there who will listen to me talk about these people like it matters and not think that I’m an absolute madwoman. Everyone comes to G.I. Joe for some particular reason, and the franchise itself is big enough with a long enough history that it can support all of our individual little pieces. It’s so easy to drift from topic to topic with Joe fans, whether online or in person. You’re going to talk about T-crotches and I can talk about Cobra Island.

Anything in particular?

I also love the fan fiction. There are some stinkers, as with any fandom, but there are some absolutely amazing stories out there. One of the big draws for me with G.I. Joe (and I’ll babble on about this later) is that there’s an infinite number of stories to tell. Everyone has their own take on the characters, whether they are willing to admit this in public or not. It doesn’t matter if you actually sit down to put pen to paper, make dio-stories or were just playing with your figures in the backyard as a kid.

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On Classic Marvel G.I. Joe (1982-1994)

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What makes the early Larry Hama run such a thrill to read?

I totally agree with you that it had a wonderful S.H.I.E.L.D.-quality to the series. If what I’ve read in other interviews and histories of the comic are correct, Hama had originally developed or pitched the core of what would become the G.I. Joe comic as a S.H.I.E.L.D./Nick Fury/Nick Fury’s son special operations-type team.

Everyone loves a story about good guys fighting the good fight which they may or may not win. It helped that they didn’t always win and sometimes didn’t break even. No story is simple, and I have always enjoyed that G.I. Joe, while primarily serving as a merchandising tool, never spoke down to the readers. There were moral ambiguities, bureaucratic nonsense, political maneuverings, budget concerns…while some of the Joes were out physically fighting with Cobra, we still saw Hawk and other members of command dealing with the politicians and the fall-out from some of the Joes’ battles. That was never boring to me. I loved reading all of the different layers of the story. Things were never cut and dried for the Joes, which kept it exciting. The political landscape that the Joes lived and worked in shifted constantly – this week, Sierra Gordo was under friendly rule, next week…not so much. Things like that. Besides – a super-secret special missions force headquartered underneath the Motor Pool at a Chaplain’s Assistant’s school? Such a fun conceit.

americancobraSo true, Larry Hama put in all these different nuances. Nothing was ever black and white.

I also really liked how Cobra was not a unified whole. Cobra Command was constantly fighting amongst themselves and shifting allegiances. I thought the introduction of the Crimson Guard was fantastic. Here are families that are deep undercover and so loyal that they completely sublimate their identities for Cobra. We did see a number of Cobra families in the Marvel series (and later in the IDW ARAH continuation) which also brings home the fact that these are just regular people. Not all of them are biker assassins with holographic projectors. Not all of them are ninjas (thank God). Behind the balaclavas and metal faceplates, these Vipers and Cobra Troopers are just people in your neighborhood. I’m not saying that I want to read more about Televiper Bob’s home life or anything. I just appreciate the glimpses that we’ve seen. Cobra is not a nameless, faceless horde following crazy people in steel masks.

So you kept reading the comic?

What kept me with G.I. Joe, though, was how each character in the multitudes of Joes had their own personality in the books. The series wasn’t all action and explosions. There was plenty of downtime for the Joes (and Cobras) during the series, and this let us see who the Joes were as people. We got to see relationships develop and friendships form, and those small touches of continuity help to keep the characters consistent and human. Out of all of the large ensemble comic books that I have read, I’ve always felt that G.I. Joe did the best job in making its cast read like people and not just characters.

wagner_ron_gijoe72_0688Who is your favorite artist on the classic series?

Herb TrimpeRod WhighamRon Wagner, in no particular order. It’s always been very cool to me that Larry Hama did a bunch of breakdowns. And I love the choice of SL Gallant for the IDW continuation. I confess my fangirlishness for him.

I bet you have a favorite story (or stories) from that original run.

Here’s just a few, because it would have been a lot easier to ask me what stories I didn’t like…

Discover Moira’s favorite classic Joe stories

Issue #3, “The Trojan Gambit – Joes are locked in the Pit, fighting a giant Cobra robot while there is a tea party upstairs in the Motor Pool. I just love the comments that Hawk and Scarlett have to make to deflect the attention from the sounds of the fight. “I could swear I smelled an electrical fire.” “It’s just the cross-wind from the mess hall.

joe34-Issue #34, “Shakedown – Ace and Lady Jaye in the Skystriker face off against Wild Weasel and Baroness in the Rattler. The entire issue is one dogfight but is absolutely one of the best issues of the run. Show me a Joe fan who does not love the page with Ace and Wild Weasel saluting each other as they turn to coax their planes back to base…. (so true, Axel)

-Issues #40, #41 – Hydrofoil” and “Strategic Diplomacy – the creation of Cobra Island, which was undeniably a stroke of genius. The Joes were completely manipulated into creating Cobra Island, which then immediately sued for sovereignty.

-Issues #49, #50 – “Serpentor” and “The Battle of Springfield – The invasion of Springfield by the Joes. It was a big battle and I loved seeing how the different Joes were divided up into teams. That may be a strange thing to get excited about, but so it goes.

-Issue #53 – “Pit-Fall – the beginnings of a grand tradition, as the Pit falls a couple of times during the series. The Joes have been suspended following the events of “The Battle of Springfield” and have to actually destroy their own headquarters. As Roadblock notes, “At least we know where all the weak spots are!” Plus, Gen. Hollingsworth has a pipe in his mouth during the entire assult. That just tickles me.

joe67-Issue #67 – “Cold Snap – Lady Jaye punches Flint. He deserved it.

-Issues #70 and #71 – “Fair Trade” and “Bailout – Wild BillCrazylegs and Maverick have to team up with ZaranaMonkeywrech and Thrasher to get a plane full of refugees out of Sierra Gordo. (The story actually started in issue #69 “Into the Breach“, which is noted for Roadblock’s quote “Nobody ever died for a typewriter.“)

-Issues #73, #74, #75 and #76 – “Divided We Fall“, “Alliance of Convenience“, “Holding Actions” and “All’s Fair – Cobra Civil War. Another huge blowout battle, with the appearance of Destro’s Iron Grenadiers. Fast-paced and cutting between different teams on the three different sides, it’s a great battle with a sudden, unexpected and entirely aggravating ending.

-Issue #80 – “Weeding Out – G.I. Joe training program with requisite Cobra attack. Not the best issue in the run, but still one of my favorites.

joe109-Issues #108 and #109 – “Apparent Conclusions” and “Death in the Desert – Trucial Abysmia storyline where Cobra kills DocCrankcaseThunderHeavy MetalQuick KickCrazy Legs and Breaker.

-Issue #113 – “Previous Agreement – part of the Trucial Abysmia storyline, but features the death of Sneak Peek. I hate to say that a death is “well done” or “well written” but his death was. It just seemed to be the most meaningful of the Joe deaths at the time. There wasn’t a huge explosion, he wasn’t mowed down in a ditch, he was shot while trying to save a kid in the street. He knew it was probably a trap, but wasn’t willing to chance it being real. This death is the one that just sucked the most. I played right into Larry Hama’s hands there, didn’t I?

-Issue #115 – “Counting Coup – the art doesn’t do it for me in this issue and it’s really kind of silly, but I did love that stealth plane.

-Issue #155 – “A Letter From Snake-Eyes – best closing issue ever. Ever. I thought at the time, and still feel today, that this encapsulates every message that the G.I. Joe comic book series tackled.

Order of Battle #1-4 – Did I mention how much I loved the file cards?

Special Missions – “Best Defense (backup story in main series issue #50 – this just encapsulates the feel of the Special Missions series.

SM #1 – “That Sinking Feeling – finally the Navy Joes get to show off! Ignore Polly.

sm12SM #12 – “Airshow – worth it for all the different types of airplanes.

SM #13 – “Washout – Dusty and Outback carry out a mission with two probationary Joes.

SM #21 – “The Lower Depths – everyone that I know remembers this issue fondly. Tunnel Rat’s team runs into a homeless vet in the sewers and closed subway tunnels of New York City. Ignore the fact that there’s a bobcat in the sewers and I think that you’ll enjoy the story.

SM #22 – “Decisions – the Joes face a hostage situation with a number of unknown variables. This issue was drawn by Dave Cockrum, which I had completely forgotten.

SM #26 – “Passing of the Guard – features the death of some of the October Guard – in keeping with tradition, it was only my favorite characters, Col. Brekhov and Horrorshow, along with Schrage. I still get sniffly when Col. Brekhov realizes that Horrorshow’s dead.

On Larry Hama

Larry & The Joes

Can you imagine a G.I. Joe without Larry Hama?

Yes, I can imagine it. I just choose not to. Larry Hama is not the perfect writer, but he imbued G.I. Joe with the elements that it needed to thrive and survive. What was supposed to be a toy line tie-in took on its own life. I still believe that giving the characters distinct personalities and backstories was one of the best moves to be made. As long as you have an emotional investment in a character, you care about their story and you care about the other characters that they interact with.

I mentioned before that G.I. Joe was not dumbed down to kids – the subject matter was certainly made to be age appropriate, and that is a very fine and difficult line to walk.

We’ll continue our interview with Moira tomorrow. Coming up: G.I. Joe crossovers with Transformers, Danger Girl and the comics of Devil’s Due Publishing

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