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G.I. Joe brand needs big resurgence

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G.I. Joe brand needs big resurgence

Ever since its humble beginnings as an action figure line in 1964, G.I. Joe has been an icon to the youth of America. Whether it was through the toys, cartoons or comics, the Joes have had an indomitable impact on pop culture, waging their brutal war against the forces of Cobra wherever freedom is threatened. But alas, our “Real American Heroes” have seen better days.

The ongoing comic book aside, G.I. Joe has almost completely fallen off the face of the Earth these last few years. What was once an inspirational tale of brave soldiers’ war on terrorism has been overshadowed and forgotten in favor of whatever superhero movie of the week is playing at the cinema. While there is no official reason why, the responses seem to vary depending on who you ask.

Some say it was the brand’s mediocre movies that were released in 2009 and 2013 that did everything they could to destroy and dissect the fantastic story and characters built around G.I. Joe. Others say that the company, Hasbro, simply wished to put more emphasis on other properties. Other more ridiculous reasons ranged from G.I. Joe not being socially acceptable in the current political climate to promoting toxic masculinity in young men.

While I could go on and on about why all these reasons are utterly moronic, I’ll just say that it’s high time we stop letting others dictate our entertainment through their own political and social stances and remember what made G.I. Joe so great.

By examining the concept as both a story and a series, I hope people can start to see why I believe the Joes are long overdue for a resurgence.

For starters, the characters of the G.I. Joe series were far from the mindless toy soldiers people played with at home. While most of the cartoons presented more clear cut, good versus evil mentalities, the original comics gave the soldiers depth on both sides, with morality on the grayer side of the spectrum. Cobra Commander in particular had moments becoming of a typical Saturday morning cartoon villain, like the time he shed a tear upon seeing his son in the hospital, admitting that, despite his villainous nature, he should have been a better father.

Then there was everybody’s favorite masked ninja-commando, the scarred and silent Snake Eyes. Not only did Snake Eyes’ lack of vocabulary and facial expressions make him one of the most compelling and iconic characters of the franchise, but the lore and world-building of his origins in Japan, particularly with the Arashikage Ninja Clan, gave the American property a healthy helping of internationalism. While there were many other Joes with complex backstories and character motivations, none could dare to rival Snake Eyes.

Yet, Snake Eyes as a character is not the only thing that made him iconic. The concept of his silence did as well. Snake Eyes and his adventure in issue 21 of the original comic book became quite famous for being the very first comic to tell an entire story without any dialogue.

While the term “Silent Issue” is now a staple of the comic book world, Snake Eyes and G.I. Joe comics paved the way for that trope.  This is only one of many ways the series has influenced the world of comics and storytelling as a whole. The issue is so iconic that it’s even studied by students and professors alike in most art schools for its perfect use of visual storytelling.

The series was also quite ahead of its time in having one of the most naturally diverse casts I have ever seen. Women and minorities like Lady Jaye and Stalker fought alongside guys like General Hawk and Flint as equals, not once bothering to annoyingly emphasize or even mention the fact that any of them differed in race or gender.

To fans, the series was extremely well done because at the end of the day, these characters were not defined by their backgrounds or appearances, but by their personalities and decisions.

Finally, the most important reason we should respect and revive “G.I. Joe” is because of what it has meant to a lot of Americans, fans and U.S. soldiers alike. One thing I have noticed about the series is that many of its fans have military backgrounds, often using the comics and cartoons as a coping mechanism. Many people in my life alone, friends and family, have been influenced or inspired by the Joes in one way or another.

The most prominent example comes from my best bud Stu’s late father, Brian, a man who was like an uncle to me. As a Navy Seal, Brian had the biggest collection of  G.I. Joe toys and comics I have ever seen. While Stu and I would often just sit around and play with the Cobra tanks, we would occasionally catch Brian skimming through the pages of his old comics in his office, reliving the nostalgic stories all over again.

But Brian didn’t love the series simply because he was a military man. He loved G.I. Joe because to him it was the definition of his childhood. Stu and his family still have at least a hundred G.I. Joe figures and comics from Brian’s collection, and when I spoke to him recently, Stu told me they really inspired the youth in Brian. In essence, they were his inspiration to be a patriot.

He was truly an inspiration to the world, and I know he would love to see new generations thrive from the same stories and characters he read about.

This makes me all the more upset that the series has just vanished from the eyes of the public. But with the comic book still going and a possible film reboot starring Snake Eyes on the horizon, I believe that G.I. Joe can stand strong once again.

So, I write not to just complain or yearn for the old days, but also to inform you all of how this resurgence can commence. Go out and buy an issue if I have piqued your interest. Go see the Snake Eyes film if that actually turns out to be good.

Because at the end of the day, the only way the Joes can begin their fight for freedom once more is through the power of the American dollar. With new folks falling in love with the series, I know it can persevere. Now you know and, cheesy PSAs aside, knowing is half the battle.

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3 Responses to “G.I. Joe brand needs big resurgence”

  1. Kevin on February 9th, 2019 8:23 pm

    I am concerned that Hasbro is going to make the same mistakes that they had made in the past when they make the new spin-off Snake Eyes movie. I have heard that they are changing the entire backstory to his character along with Storm Shadow. Something about a love triangle between them both and a girl- WHA? ? Why not Stick to the basics! Just take notes from the 80’s comics and just set it in modern times? I was a child of the 80’s and grew up playing with the toys, watching the cartoon and reading the Marvel Comics. I am a huge fan of the comics and always felt they should have had SunBow animate the comics for the show.

    When Stephen Sommers did Rise of Crap- I mean Rise of Cobra- he knew nothing about the 80’s action figure, because he played with the 60’s and 70’s Joes. That was Hasbro’s first mistake; getting someone in there to direct a film on a property they knew nothing about in the first place. Then they had Stuart Beattie re-write others peoples drafts- will Mr Beattie is from England so he knew G.I. Joe as “Action Force” and that was nothing like the A Real American Hero. They hired Larry Hama as just an adviser to the film, but in my opinion they should have just had Larry Hama write the script in the first place! Evey-thing was all wrong with that film and the charterers backstories. I feel they really needed to have gotten a film maker that was a fan of the toy-line and a reader of the Marvel Comics.

    When Retaliation came out at least Jon Chu was trying to fix mistakes made in the first movie, but he was building off a flawed first film. Hasbro should have just did a complete reboot then. Now this talk of a Independent Snake Eyes film is taking the same path as the films before it, by changing his back story instead of what made his charter cool in the first place. So we have to ask is the director Robert Schwentke or writer Evan Spiliotopoulos fans of the original G.I. Joe source material? I hope they know something about it the material in the end, because if they don’t we are just going to see a film about the characters that I love and grew up with- distorted for the third time!

  2. Liam on February 11th, 2019 5:31 pm

    Definitely with you on all that. Snake Eyes could really go either way but the films didn’t hurt him too bad compared to the others so I’m cautiously optimistic about it. Hopefully they’ve learned from past mistakes now that its been a few years.

  3. Kevin on February 13th, 2019 3:08 pm

    I am trying to be optimistic Liam, but when Hasbro has stated in press releases they have said that they want to make G.I. Joe appeal to millennial’s. This might mean that they will totally change things like they did from the Joe’s of the 60’s and 70’s to the Joe’s of the 80’s. I felt as a child of the 80’s that I really didn’t get a fair representation of my G.I. Joe’s with those movie. I did like Retaliation so much more than Rise of Corba. I just wish Hasbro would have paid tribute to us core fans. I am going to try to keep an open mind about the Snake Eyes film, because of what I saw in Bumblebee- Transformers looking like the G1 Transformers of the 80’s-So we shall see. I just hope I will not be disappointed, because I am huge Snake Eyes fan!!

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