Monthly Archives: July 2010

Review: G.I. JOE COMICS MAGAZINE #1-4, 6, 13

(Marvel Comics, 1987. Writer: Larry Hama, Art: various)

Well, I bought these because I’m slightly addicted to digest-sized comics. It’s weird, I know. I also hear people talking about how good these old Marvel G.I. Joe comics are all the time, so I figured I’d better finally check them out. Most of these reprint three issues each of the series and they are considerably cheaper than trying to get the back issues or even the current TPB reprint series. Especially for me since I probably won’t be looking for any more of them

Look, I know, I know. It’s a goddamn G.I. Joe comic. What did I expect right? How could I come in here remotely expecting to find a comic I could give a positive review to?

I was biased to begin with. As a kid I liked science fiction, and I hated anything that promoted the idea of American military superiority or American patriotism / nationalism. I liked Knight Rider, and I hated The A-Team. And I loved Transformers and I disliked G.I. Joe (except for the ninjas). As an Indian-born kid growing up in Canada, I found it hard to see — even at that age — how one country could be said to be better than any other, especially if the grounds of that claim was muscle-power or money or Olympic medals. Also, there were a lot of redneck tough guys on the Joe team (an affliction COBRA did not seem to suffer from) which is something I REEEEAAAALLLYYY hated. — the same reason I could never watch Dukes of Hazzard. And I was never interested in “tactics” or “ops” or “hardware, This may sound strange from someone who suffered from severe Punisher-itis for twenty years, but that was more a case of me enjoying the violence rather than details about guns.

Of course, the basic concepts of neither G.I. Joe nor Transformers make any kind of sense if you think about them for more than five minutes. I always preferred Ditko’s Doctor Strange to Spider-Man, because with Spider-Man you have to at least consider the science-fictional constructs and it all falls apart. With magic, if it doesn’t make sense you can just write it off to something they didn’t explain on-screen. Transformers was so out to lunch, it was practically in the magic category. G.I. Joe, why do you only have ONE GUY that can pilot a jet?

So, anyway, Larry Hama’s G.I. Joe. People swear by this comic, and many point out how much better it was than the cartoon. That may be true. COBRA peons get regularly killed instead of ubiquitously ejecting to safety whenever they’re shot out of the sky. Hama seems to have staged all of the combat so that it works within the three-dimensional space described. Early issues feature one-issue stories, around issue #14 or so, we start seeing longer, interconnected, more complex storylines running over multiple issues. The introduction of the COBRA character Destro around this period and also his romance with the Baroness is interesting. They also introduce internal dissent and backstabbing within the COBRA ranks around this period which was way more fun than Joe-vs-Cobra-listen-to-my-witty-banter-while-I-describe-my-tank over and over again for reams of issues.

But this is still a G.I. Joe comic, aimed apparently, at stupid twelve-year olds. Snake Eyes is arrested and spends several issues in jail. At no time during his booking or jail time is he ever made to remove his mask. The G.I. Joe scuba guy participates in dry-land missions always in his full scuba gear. A COBRA agent attacks Snake Eyes on a ferry, and after beating him, Snake Eyes throws him overboard rather than taking him prisoner.

Take a look at the cover to issue #10. I get the point of this cover — it’s supposed to be a nice town, but COBRA is secretly lurking in the background. Except I wonder how normal any town is where a ninja and a woman carrying a crossbow can walk around in broad daylight (the woman with a huge grin on her face) without causing any issues.

I hear tell that there’s some ninja stuff later on — Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow stuff. That is some material I would genuinely like to read if anyone can tell me the relevant issue numbers. I would like to read the famous silent issue as well.

Otherwise, the idea of continuing to read this series to the stage where we discover that freakish, flamboyant, psychotic mastermind Cobra Commander used to be a used car salesman (actual storyline!) is just too head-spinning to contemplate.


Marvel Strip-O-Gram!

Late last year, Marvel announced its “Strip your DC event comics covers to get a free Deadpool variant” promotion, a juvenile attempt to show up DC’s premium-driven sales for what Marvel believed they really were (DC gave out free Green Lantern rings to retailers for ordering X number of copies of certain books).  In January, I wrote this is an email to Mulele about the whole thing:

I think the bottom line is really Marvel should offer free variants in exchange for their own overhyped event bullshit comics, rather than wasting their time trying to make DC look bad.
The thing about DC’s promotion was: if the retailer buys 50 copies of a specific comic, they get 1 (or some? or 50?) green lantern rings, buy 50 of another specific comic, the retailer gets a red lantern ring, etc. If you are a comic shop that normally sells 5 copies a month of title XYZ, but then you order 55 to get the ring, and now you are stuck with 50 extra copies — guess what, it’s the retailer that fucked up, not DC. Marvel thinks they are pulling a stunt on DC, but it’s really mud in the eye of stupid retailers, who will now be rewarded for their stupidity.

Well, it looks like Marvel — like the CIA — has been reading my emails because apparently they are listening, and are now offering premiums for returns of stripped covers on their own books: . This seemed like a ballsy move to me at first, but actually Marvel only stands to make money from this.

Back in the early days of newsstand returnability, retailers would tear the covers off the comics and mail the covers back to the companies for a refund. But in this case, the comics are still non-returnable. Meaning Marvel gets to keep its money and only loses a few bucks from the few premium comics it has to print up.

This time around — hypothetically — foolish retailers might order 55 copies of Marvel comic X so they can tear the covers off and return them for the premium. I can’t imagine anyone would actually do this, but let’s say it happens. The retailer then sells the 5 copies he would have normally anyway and strips the 50 others for the freebie. Then three more customers come in looking for the same comic. Whoops! All his extras have the covers torn off. He can order three 2nd printings of course (which cannot be stripped for the premiums) and Marvel has now sold 58 copies, and only has to give away 1 free variant comic which cost Marvel $1.18 to print.

Like I said before, I don’t imagine this scenario will ever happen, but in any case, Marvel cannot lose in this situation. They don’t even come off looking like idiots the way they did trying to sabotage DC.


Unrelated: Here’s a book on “self-publishing” that I will NOT be reviewing, but you can check out for yourself:

How to Self-Publish Comics… Not Just Create Them #1-4

How to Self-Publish Comics… Not Just Create Them #1-4

by Josh Blaylock

Devils’s Due Publishing, 2006

This is another pretty awful book about self-publishing comic books. I would like to say that — like with How to Self-Publish Your Own Comic Book by Tony Caputo which I reviewed recently — anyone attempting to follow this book to self-publish a comic book is bound to crash and burn, but the reality is, I don’t think there is enough information in here to even start a company to drive into the ground.

The problem most often with this book is that Blaylock tells you WHAT to do but not HOW to do it. This is a book full of advice, but without information to act on.  Just flipping through issue #1 again here, Blaylock’s “chapter” on ‘Distribution: Bookstores” is a whole half-a-page long, he says: “When distributing your comic books through bookstores, there are a lot of distributors out there.” He mentions a few of these but doesn’t give any contact details or discuss in any way how to approach these people or what is needed from you when you do so. At one stage on this same page, he says: “In a future volume, I will go into more detail about marketing to the book market,” but I’ll be damned if I can find where he actually got back around to that detail anywhere in this series.

It feels like most of his chapters end with: “There’s lots of information about this on the internet, so be sure to go look it up!” rather than himself telling you how to do it. Where the Caputo book was almost overloaded with in-depth details, Blaylock reads like he wrote this thing in between games of Halo and picking up nachos. He is so vague at times and clandestine with concrete information that I felt like he must have been so deliberately in order to sabotage any possible competition. Caputo was out of business when his book came out — Blaylock is still in it. Coincidence…?

Another unforgivable offence with this book is his “chapter” (this time a whopping seven sentences long!) on “Distribution: Newsstands.” The chapter describes what newsstand means: “Newsstand is the avenue of distribution for periodicals such as the magazine rack at your local grocery store, or the comics you find in convenient stores” (that hilarious typo is Blaylock’s, not mine). Blaylock then goes on to say that he doesn’t really know anything about newsstand distribution and that he “may cover Newsstand distribution in further detail in a future supplement, but for now I’ll only touch on it, because it may have been an outlet you were planning to exploit.” Actually, he didn’t even really touch on it for those people — he only mentioned it existed for people who already knew it existed anyway having been planning to exploit it. This chapter is fucked. If you are writing a chapter about something in a non-fiction book, you have to write about it. If you don’t know much about it, you have to research it. You can’t say: “I don’t know anything about this subject” and then slap a $4.95 cover price on the front. Imagine opening up a biology textbook to the chapter on photosynthesis and finding: “I don’t know much about this subject, but I sure would like to. Maybe someday I’ll get back around to it.”

(below: The offending page on newsstand distribution.)

The typo I mentioned above also brings me to one of my favorite passages in the book — this line about being accepted by Diamond Comics Distributors: “Their requirements aren’t really that strict, so a rejection means you need to take a serious look at your comic book. It’s most likely nowhere near the professional level it needs to be, and you need to be honest with yourself about the quality of what you’ve put together.” Well, Diamond regularly rejects art comics too, so this statement from the publisher of Barack the Barbarian sounded slightly narrow-minded to me. But what I love is that at the bottom of this page and the top of the next, some text has been deleted resulting in unintelligible gibberish. Is this what Blaylock means by a professional level of quality? It certainly seemed to be good enough for Diamond so even the validity of the statement’s intended meaning is questionable. Typos are frequent in the series.

(below: Another offending page — misprinted professionalism.)

I also found it weird that “Vol. 1” (issue #1) covered “Building the Infrastructure” such as setting up shippers and distributors, and Vol. 2 was “Building Your Creative Team.” But you need to have the comic before you can approach distributors to distribute it for you. Weird, especially since the goddamn title of the book seems to assume that you’ve already created the book.

The one thing I did like about this series was the sample contracts, invoices, and other practical documents at the back of each issue. Issues 3 and 4 then had 10 and 8 pages of house ads respectively, which led me to the belief that this was really intended as an exploitation book. There are a lot of people out there — myself included — who are hungry to self-publish and will spend money on a book like this as soon as they see the title — like I did. What they get is lazily written and shoddily put together, and full of ads for titles published by Devil’s Due; and delivering those ads (at an inflated cover price) to vulnerable, unwitting readers strikes me as this title’s real agenda.


P.S. This series was also published in a trade paperback edition which I struggled to find, so I got the periodical version.

P.P.S. Hilarious update, one day after writing the above review: