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.