G.I. Joe #11, "The Pipeline Ploy" has been one of my favorite issues for a while. The art isn't stellar. Mike Vosburg didn't really have a feel for the characters, and probably hadn't seen a lot of finished product for the new toy-based characters he was introducing, and there are some panels of Doc toward the end where he looks like Fat Albert, and once or twice he gives Wild Bill Gung Ho's mustache... But, Vosburg new how to bring the action and the sense of adventure
that permeate Hama's thrilling script.
Instead of doing an issue summary, I think I'll focus on what this issue introduced to the world of G.I. Joe--that being half of the Hasbro toy-related product from 1983.
Right on the cover (another of my all-time favorites; I think when this week is over I'll rank the covers in order of appreciation, but so far #11 is my favorite just over #7), we see two new Joes and two new vehicles. It's a terrific action shot, spotlighting Snow Job
Something that fascinated and impressed me even as a kid was the diversity in G.I. Joe. Every year, for a while anyway, the line produced new women and new African American characters. And usually they weren't stereotypes or cliche. Doc was a great example; the team's first medic was a black man. Well, actually, yes, according to his file card, Stalker
's secondary speciality was Medic. I know that Hama had a hand in producing the file cards and dossiers for the characters, but I'm not sure what hand he had in creating the characters for Hasbro. It could be coincidence that the first two black Joes introduced had medic training to one degree or another, but I always kind of wondered if Larry Hama pinpointed that on purpose, possibly from a personal experience.
If I made a list of my favorite Joes today (and I did), Snow Job would be at number three. I don't know why, because he wasn't always, but the character has really grown on me. I always liked the snow-based arctic characters and Snow Job was the first. The 1983 line introduced new specialties, new environment-based specialists, new branches of service, and Snow Job was the first guy with skis and a sniper rifle. Okay, it was a laser rifle, but even as a kid I had him one of the team's top sharpshooters, along with Lowlight. I mentioned that I've come to like Snow Job more and more over time. I don't know if it has to do with him being from Vermont and me moving to Vermont a couple years ago. Snow Job is an Olympic skier, and I hate skiing. My one and only time on the slopes ended about as badly as it could without causing an avalanche, and that traumatic story can be found in whole at my blog
. I also love the fact that his name comes from his tactics as a con-man and practical joker, and he plays a great prank on Rock n Roll in this issue.
The cover image also features two new vehicles, the G.I. Joe Polar Battle Bear
and the Cobra Viper Glider
. If the Battle Bear ever appeared after this issue, I don't remember it, but at least it's captured gloriously on this cover.
And how 'bout that Cobra glider? Yeah...
Okay, let's open this sucker and see what else we have. In the first panel we meet Snow Job and Doc, as well as the Joes' ubiquitous chopper pilot, Wild Bill
. He's drawn and covered more like a Cavalry soldier and it's worth noting that he doesn't fly the Dragon Fly in this issue--that'll come later. I think if somebody took the time to calculate the number of appearances of every Joe in the series, Wild Bill would make the Top 10 for sheer number of times he drops somebody into the fire, or pulls someone's ass out. Before this issue is over, he'll be known as much for his quickdraw with Colts as he is for his piloting. (That won't last.)
On page two, we see the dynamic new convention that will reset the status quo for G.I. Joe every month, much to the chagrin of fans of Short Fuse, Flash and Grand Slam. The new Joes are appropriately called "replacements" and they're phasing out the old guard of thirteen to make room for new toys. Some of the originals are literally carried off the battle field while newer, stronger Joes are brought in.
Speaking of which, have we mentioned Gung Ho
, yet? From this appearance, it's hard to tell if Larry Hama abhorred the Marines or Respected the $#@% out of them. Maybe both. Gung Ho's cajun dialect comes off as comical, but not as horrific as Gambit's in Uncanny X-Men
a couple years later. He runs around Alaska without a shirt and beats three Cobras senseless with his gun and fists. How can you not love this guy? That list of favorite Joes I mentioned earlier? Gung Ho is number two.
Cobra finally gets some mobility in the toys and comics, and what a great entry: the iconic H.I.S.S. Tank
. I don't know who is responsible for designing this pseudo-sci-fi marvel of military tech, but he earned his paycheck. From a visual standpoint, the H.I.S.S. is just awesome-on-treads!
What could this issue introduce to make Cobra even more threatening? Two words: #@$%ing Destro
! We don't see his face for another couple of issues (Were Hasbro still developing/designing his head?), and that just adds to the mystery and menace, as does the secret shared history between Destro and the Baroness. Cobra Commander compares Destro to Hawk in terms of field-commanding the forces of Cobra. Not only that but his boots can take a serious beating.
Midway through the issue we get the Joe counterpart to the Viper glider, the Joe's Falcon Glider
, operated here by yet another new Joe, Airborne
. In the cartoons, Airborne was usually depicted wearing a blue uniform with odd orange highlights. Years later when I finally got these early issues and realized that Airborne's first appearances were colored mostly green with some red, I kept asking, "Jeeze, didn't anybody look at the toy before they drew this guy?" Hama makes specific mention of Airborne's file name in this issue, addressing his Native American heritage. It's interesting that Airborne came out a year before Spirit but was quickly overshadowed by the one whose gimmick was acting all Native American-y.
This issue really feels like the beginning of G.I. Joe: Season 2. The story is adventurous and action packed and full of humor. Larry Hama introduces six new characters and gives each of them a moment or two to shine. From this point on, G.I. Joe goes into high gear. Hold onto something!