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Saturday, August 8, 2009

To Better Know A Hero: Snake-Eyes

Real Name: Unknown

First Appearance: G.I. Joe (vol. 1) #1 June 1982

Nicknames and Alias: The Silent Master

Powers and Abilities: Primary MOS-Infantry, Secondary MOS-Hand to Hand Combat Instructor; trained in Karate, Kung-Fu, Jujitsu, Ninjitsu, Tae kwon do, and other martial arts.

He is also, apparently, highly immune to radiation.

Weaknesses and Achilles' Heels: Snake-Eyes is mute and for a period of time, his face was horribly scarred and disfigured.

Gadgets and Accessories: Proficient in all NATO and Warsaw Pact arms and various ninja weapons; when disfigured, he would sometimes wear advanced rubber masks to disguise his features when in public and out of his usual uniform.

Friends and Allies: Timber (his pet wolf), Scarlett, Storm Shadow (at times), Stalker, Kamakura (his apprentice), the Soft Master, General Hawk and the rest of the G.I. Joe team.



Foes and Antagonists: Storm Shadow (at other times), Zartan, Firefly, Cobra Commander, Destro and the rest of Cobra.



Movies and Appearances: Snake-Eyes has appeared in nearly all incarnations of G.I.Joe since his creation in 1982, including the original "Real American Hero" cartoon and the more recent "Sigma Six" and "Resolute" toons. Ray Park (of Darth Maul fame) plays him in the recently-released live action film.



One Sentence Origin: After several tours of duty in a Long Range Recon Patrol in Southeast Asia (alongside Stalker and Storm Shadow), Snake-Eyes trained as a ninja before joining the G.I. Joe team and, in one of their earliest missions, damaged his face and vocal chords rescuing Scarlett from a crashing helicopter, leading him to adopt the silent visage of Snake-Eyes.

Memorable Moment: G.I. Joe (vol. 1) #21 March 1984: In the famous "silent" issue (in which the story is told without dialogue, captions, or sound effects), Snake-Eyes singlehandedly infiltrates Destro's stronghold to rescue a captured Scarlett, and faces off against Storm Shadow for the first time.


Fun Fact: Larry Hama, who wrote almost every issue of the Marvel G.I. Joe comic book series, also wrote all of the filecards found on the back of the G.I. Joe action figure cards.

Teebore's Take: Without a doubt, Snake-Eyes is to the G.I. Joe comic book story what Wolverine is to the X-Men: that dark, mysterious character nearly everyone knows and loves. In many ways, the entirety of the comic book series is Snake-Eyes' story (especially towards the end of the Marvel series, where his name was featured larger than "G.I. Joe"): the mythology and back story of the character form the spine of the overall G.I. Joe narrative, with numerous characters, both good and bad, tying back to him in some way.

In addition to (or as a result of) his popularity in the comic book, Snake-Eyes remains the most popular and bestselling action figure of the entire line, with several dozen different figures released through the years.



Of course, in the cartoon, Snake-Eyes was, at best, a minor character, appearing in the background of many episodes and featured in only a few (even his relationship with Scarlett was usurped by Duke on the show). Whether this was because the writers of the cartoon didn't hold the same affection for the character as Larry Hama, or because the things that could be done with a mute ninja on a TV show that had to keep the violence from being too realistic were fairly limited, is unknown. It will be interesting to see what kind of a role the character has in the live action film, still hampered by his lack of dialogue but able to cut loose a bit more in terms of action.

4 comments:

  1. As a kid I was never as big of fan of Snake Eyes as other people were. I think it's because I never really bought into the idea that the US Military would need a soldier specifically for his ninjitsu. I always felt that bazookas trumped the martial arts. But I was kid, what did I know?

    That being said, I did get want the 12-inch "retro" action figure of Snake Eyes way back when and got it for Christmas. But that was mostly due to curiosity of what he looked like under his mask. Apparently he's basically Duke with a scar across his eye.

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  2. God i love Snake Eyes

    -A

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  3. Somehow I'm not surprised the "unmasked" Snake-Eyes wasn't as horrific in toy form as we'd been led to believe. Interestingly enough, in recent comic books he's had extensive plastic surgery such that he basically does look kinda like Duke with some badass scars now.

    As a kid, my primary experience with G.I. Joe was via the toys and the cartoon. So I loved Snake-Eyes just because the toy looked really badass, and he had a sword (that snapped onto his backpack!) and a pet wolf (for whatever reason, I loved the Joes w/animal sidekicks and weapons that could be stowed on their person; apparently I was easy to please). On the cartoon though, he was just another dude.

    I didn't really read the comics until well after I'd started reading other comics, and by that time, the Joe comic was winding down and was in its full-on "Ninja Snake-Eyes is God" phase. So I was really surprised, when I went back and read the earlier comics, by the absence of all the ninja stuff. For a long time, Snake-Eyes was just the "commando" (which was his toy designation as well), mysterious because we never saw his face and he never spoke, but otherwise, just another one of the Joes.

    The ninja stuff didn't start to creep in until the mid-20s of the comics. Up until then, G.I. Joe was very much a straight-forward military action comic, but with the success of the cartoon and characters like Storm Shadow and Zartan, more mystical and super-hero-y trappings found their way into the comic, and that's when "ninja Snake-Eyes" really started to ramp up. And of course, he was terribly popular, so it just got bigger and bigger.

    Though Hama also did a pretty good job of reminding people that while Snake-Eyes was a ninja, he was also a soldier. For example, in the silent issue I mentioned, he's confronted by some ninja goons and rather than engage in honorable personal combat and karate chop them to death or whatnot, he pulls an Indiana Jones and just chucks a grenade at them.

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  4. My only familiarity with G.I. Joe is the movie from a few years back (which I friggin' loved, by the way)... I really should pick up Hama's run some time, or at least the silent issue, but I find it so hard to crack the Marvel habit...

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