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Monday, January 24, 2022

G. I. JOE #60 - June 1987 (The Commercial, Not the Comic)

 


Watch out Joe 'cause trouble awaits ya!

The Dreadnok cycle's gonna devastate ya!

G.I. Joe -- A Real American Hero!

Regretfully, there doesn't seem to be a decent copy of this commercial available online. Once again, I'll state that a mysterious YouTube channel called "Yo Joe" popped up a few years back with high-quality versions of all of these ads, yet named with cryptic titles like "17" or "60," making them impossible to find when doing a search. The channel disappeared maybe a year after it launched, something that may or may not be tied with some controversy surrounding the long-running yojoe.com fansite. 

I'll also repeat that I'm kicking myself for not downloading MP4 copies of these versions while that channel was still up. It is possible there's a "Saturday Morning Commercials - 1987" compilation online that has this ad buried between commercials for Fruity Peebles and Nestle Quick. If so, please pass along a link. 

Regardless, here we are, with another commercial that's popped up only one issue after the previous ad. Why these weren't paced out better, I have no idea, but there's at least some chance it's tied into how the waves of figures were hitting stores. There doesn't seem to be anything clever going on here -- the new villain has discovered the Joes' base and there's going to be a quick fight and that spiffy new Dreadnok Cycle gets blasted to pieces at the end. Due to the poor video quality, it's hard to judge the animation quality, but it seems to be equivalent to the more recent ads.

This is the second animated commercial to air during the era between the original Sunbow animated series and the cheaper version brought to us by DiC, with far simplified character models. At this stage, the designs still resemble the Sunbow cartoon, and this makes the only appearances of some these characters in that style. (Or in animation period, as most of the late 1980s Joes didn't show up on the DiC episodes.)

Sadly, we've reached a stage where the producers are barely even trying with the jingles, so the Dreadnok Air Skiff doesn't receive the equivalent of that disco Zartan theme. We have some actors from the Sunbow cartoon returning, opening with Neil Ross as Monkeywrench and Lisa Raggio as Zarana, followed by Edmund Gilbert returning again as General Hawk. 

I can't find a record for who voiced Zanzibar in his animation debut, but he sounds like he would've fit with the rest of Sunbow's Dreadnok cast. It's regrettable that Chuckles and Fast Draw don't receive any lines (nor did the established voices for Lt. Falcon and Law return, but I suppose getting Don Johnson to cameo as Falcon wasn't so likely in 1987.) It seems Fast Draw ends up with no actor to portray him, ever, thanks to this. Chuckles of course was in the animated movie but didn't have a line of dialogue -- a curiosity that Buzz Dixon starts to address in his DVD audio commentary, right before the audio mysteriously drops out. (Some jerk did attempt an explanation though when doing his Kindle Worlds follow-up to the movie, just for the record.)

It's amusing that the Dreadnoks all having speaking roles while only one Joe can speak. Hasbro's internal testing must've indicated that kids simply loved these Dreadnoks. Just imagine if Larry Hama hadn't pushed back years earlier and suggested they make the Dreadnoks bikers and not fluffy stuffed animals instead.

The actual comic this commercial is plugging has a far more involved plot than the commercial implies. The story has General Hawk encountering new characters Chuckles, Lt. Falcon, Fast Draw and Law and Order in Miami in a plot that involves a "conveniently disappeared" missile now aimed at Cobra Island and what appears to be shadowy actions from the Jugglers, a cabal of Generals with less than pure motives. McFarlane's rendering of the missile is just bizarre, but it's actually pretty close to what we briefly see in the commercial. Recently, Hama actually penned a prequel to the issue in the revived version of G. I. Joe: A Real American Hero published by IDW.

G. I. Joe #60 is somewhat notorious in Joe fandom. It's the issue penciled by a young Todd McFarlane, who was apparently editor Bob Harras' choice for Joe's new artist. Larry Hama had severe problems with McFarlane's storytelling abilities, and so intensely disliked McFarlane's next issue, he had it placed in the drawer and re-penciled by Marshall Rogers at the last minute. Years later, following McFarlane's explosion in popularity, Marvel printed that comic for the first time with a faux-McFarlane cover. (There's a Cartoonist Kayfabe video that goes through the McFarlane version and Rogers version of the same story.) 

I doubt the average Marvel freelancer had the pull to replace an artist like this, but it's not hard to guess that Hama was perceived as the expert on Joe and at least occasionally acting as the book's de facto editor. Harras, meanwhile, will continue to employ "cartoony" artists on his titles, perhaps most famously Rob Liefeld on New Mutants. And when writer Louise Simonson had issues with Liefeld's work, well, let's just say Marshall Rogers wasn't getting any calls.

Anyway, before I go, I'd like to remind you all that my audiobook An Unofficial Guide to NYPD Blue: A Comprehensive Exploration of the Legendary Drama -- which is, in fact, an NYPD Blue guidebook that features my entries from this site in addition to new material -- is on sale now at Audible. If you could check it out and leave a review, or tell a friend who might be a Blue fan, this would help me out a lot. I have free Audible download codes for this book, and my release from a few months ago, the '80s-inspired thriller Blind Cerulean. If you'd like a code, just let me know. There's also an exclusive chapter if you sign up for my mailing list. As always, reviews are appreciated...


8 comments:

  1. For some reason I always thought that was supposed to be Chuckles yelling "Yo Joe!" as he jumps onto the air skiff, given the line's timing with the animation. But it's really hard to tell.

    Also, just before that "Yo Joe!" the voice shouting "Cobra!" kind of sounds like Corey Burton to me, using the same cadence he used as Tomax -- but again, I'm not positive and that's the only line in the entire ad that sounds like Burton to me.

    This was about the point I lost track of the comic as a kid. I know I mentioned before that I came into JOE late, around middle school when my brother got into the toys. So I started reading with issue 120. But I also bought several back issues in various formats -- some digests reprinting the first ten or so issues, and about a dozen single issues mail-ordered from Mile High Comics, covering roughly issues 48 through 59. Not sure why I went for that chunk specifically, unless it was simply that they were fairly low-priced as back issues.

    Eventually I filled in the earlier gap through various means so that I mostly had a run of issues 1 - 60, but I never closed 61 - 119, aside from a few random issues here and there picked up in back issue bins and at our local comic convention, for a very long time. I was an adult in my thirties when I finally read all that stuff in IDW's reprint trades!

    So I have great fondness for the first five years of the JOE comic, and for its final three years, but I have very little sentimental attachment to the middle years.

    Regarding Hama's influence on G.I. JOE -- I've long felt that whoever held the "editor" title on this series was a figurehead. I'm pretty sure all that person did was make sure the book shipped on time. I'm pretty sure Hama, for the most part, functioned like a 1970s "writer/editor" at Marvel would have, with regards to the creative side.

    Even to this day, I'm pretty sure I read that he draws layouts for the IDW cover artists to follow!

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    1. Wow, I really should've proofread this before posting. I'm "pretty sure" of three things in the span of three sentences.

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    2. I loved the JOE digests. In addition to the Spider-Man one (which reprinted classic Lee/Romita) and the Transformers, these were essential to me as a kid new to comics. Only recently did I learn DeFalco created the modern digest format when he was working for Archie, and then carried it over to Marvel.

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    3. I had the TRANSFORMERS and SPIDER-MAN digests too. Those Spidey digests were my first extended exposure to Lee/Romita. I remember reading the storyline where Spider-Man had amnesia and teamed up with Doc Ock, and the long stone tablet saga both in that format.

      Lee/Romita is one of my all-time favorite comic book runs on anything, and I have often said that while I appreciate what Steve Ditko did for Spider-Man (including, uhh... creating him, his supporting cast, and all of his major enemies), I vastly prefer Romita's work on the series. But anyway, my love for that run can be traced directly back to those digests, along with a squarebound book that reprinted AMAZING #80.

      (Anytime I start thinking about Romita's Spider-Man run, I just want to sit down and read all of it, start to finish.)

      I didn't know that about Tom DeFalco! I was aware of his time at Archie, but I had no idea he was the digest mastermind. Pretty cool. Those things were Archie's bread and butter for decades (and probably still are)!

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  2. Sure was helpful of the Joes to build their missile base on a beach so both Dreadnok vehicles could attack at once. :)

    Or in animation period, as most of the late 1980s Joes didn't show up on the DiC episodes.

    Yeah, I was amazed to see Fast Draw in animated form.

    Just imagine if Larry Hama hadn't pushed back years earlier and suggested they make the Dreadnoks bikers and not fluffy stuffed animals instead.

    Wait, what? How do I not know this?

    And when writer Louise Simonson had issues with Liefeld's work, well, let's just say Marshall Rogers wasn't getting any calls.

    LOLSOB

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    1. Yeah, Hama has said Hasbro wanted something like the Eworks, or maybe Gizmo. The third (?) JOE TV miniseries with the space station and the cutesy aliens that turn into monsters...ever since Hama revealed this, I've assumed those were the original plans for the Dreadnoks.

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  3. The only thing I can add to this conversation is that while vacationing with my family in Cairo, Egypt, during the winter of either 1988 or 1989, I ended up buying the the Zanzibar & Air Skiff toy from the gift shop of the hotel we were staying at.

    That is all.

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  4. Early McFarlane (before he fell in love with splash pages, like every other "hot" artist in the 80s) had pretty solid storytelling chops. His two years on Amazing Spider-Man won't have anyone confusing him with Howard Chaykin in their layouts and pacing, but they're well-told stories from a visual perspective (I dunno, maybe the Spidey editors had him on a shorter leash.)
    That said, this source issue is a mess. Whatever occasionally interesting things McFarlane did here or there, it's easy to believe that he and Hama didn't click. Both went on to better things without each other.

    Just as Matt says above, this is where my interest in the comic started to heavily wane. I doubt the art had anything to do with it, although it probably didn't help to see such cartoony action in a series that had managed to stay as grounded as a story about nonjas and DNA clones who command android armies could be. I think instead it was that this issue was the first where my mind said "oh, this is an introduction of six new action figures and a couple of vehicles." Now, I'd known that was part of the reason for the comic's existence basically since I'd started reading it, but up until now it had always been an afterthought. This was the first time I'd had that thought before the comic had managed to get me engaged with the characters or story. And as much as I enjoyed (and still enjoy) Hama's storytelling, he was nevertheless a slave to the arbirtary introduction of new toys on a regular basis. By contrast, I'd just recently discovered The X-Men a few months earlier (#213) and the shift in tone was jarring. I won't say I never looked back, but for a poor 12-year-old kid who could only afford a few books every month, Claremont's world of deep characterization and self-examination was far more enticing than the eternal carousel of action figure showcases.

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