Tag Archives: Kevin Finn

The Comic That Changed Everything – Part 14

Part 1[2] - [3] - [4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13]

In our last episode, Tim stretched out this story of getting into G.I. Joe comics by also including Marvel super-hero books like Uncanny X-Men.  This week he gets back to G.I. Joe.  Sort of.

After that first mail order in the early summer when my brother Kevin and I got 11 G.I. Joe back issues for $22, we were hooked on the process.  New Jersey-based East Coast Comics, the fine retailer that had filled that first order, was smart to include an updated catalog (a pamphlet, actually) with it, and some months later we gathered our pennies and plotted to fill more holes in our G.I. Joe run.  At this point, the series is on issue #95 or thereabouts, so we’ve got 70 comics or reprints to track down.  Several options offered opportunities to get those comics, each just uninteresting enough that I will probably blog about them individually on upcoming Fridays – finding other comic book stores, attending our first comic book convention, sampling a mail order company beyond East Coast Comics.  But for today:  Our second and third mail orders.

This probably doesn’t mean anything to you, but for me this image is all nostalgia:  The handwriting of my 11-year old self, my mom’s signature, specific G.I. Joe gaps we were attempting to fill, the fact that I still didn’t understand what “Alternates” were – (second choices in case a comic was sold out, so East Coast didn’t have to issue credit slips), and the fact that we were trying out a new series (Nth Man, Ninja Turtles Teach Karate).

Also, memory is funny in how often it turns out to be wrong:  This scan concretely places when we bought issue #36 of The ‘Nam, meaning I was incorrect a few weeks back in this very blog.  I must not have bought that issue at the Montgomery Mall Waldenbooks as 6th grade began.  Apparently it arrived by mail a few months later.  I have no recollection of receiving this box, although I do remember thinking Solson’s TMNT book was an amateurish affair, remarkable considering how amateurish the production in Mirage Studios’ actual Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was.  So this must have arrived right around Christmas of 6th grade.  Anyway, there it is, what was probably our second ever mail order.

But let’s skip a few months ahead to spring of 6th grade.  The first two mail orders have arrived quickly.  Kevin and I have saved up enough money to place a big order, and with East Coast selling many issues for less than a dollar, this was not going to be 10 or 15 comics.  No, this time we ordered 40 G.I. Joe back issues.  It was bold, exhilarating, and nerve-wracking.  Even though we were clearly comics buyers by now (Joe, The ‘Nam, Marvel super-hero books, Ninja Turtles), it’s still a transition from being boys who spent money on toys to boys who with our own money bought things to read.  (Chapter books and the occasional Garfield collection were paid for by our parents.)  This shift represented, in a very real sense and not just symbolically, us growing up and away from childhood.  We bought toys and played with them for a few more years (me much longer than Kevin), but toys’ days were numbered the moment I bought that first Joe comic.  (Except for me becoming a vintage toy collector, another topic for another day.)

My friend Will (Hi, Will), also in 6th grade with me, was becoming a comics reader as well.  And comics had a certain currency in my tiny classroom.  One friend talked about Wolverine.  I drew a cutely terrible Batman parody in my notebook.  And new G.I. Joe issues did appear each month concurrent to all this.  But as the weeks went by, I got anxious about this big mail order.  Why was it taking so long?  Why was it taking weeks when the earlier order had only taken one?  Was the package lost somewhere en route?  Did East Coast abscond with our money?  Was the parcel stolen from our front stoop?  During lulls in class I would fantasize to Will about what it would be like to open a box with 40 comics in it.  To instantly more than double the size of our collection.

The specific scenario I kept painting went like this:  Arriving home one day, I’d notice our screen door propped open, even though it always closed shut on its own.  Something must be in the way, something I couldn’t see from the car.  We parked.  I approach cautiously.  Now the box is revealed:  It’s eight feet tall, cardboard, sealed with packing tape.  It can only be one thing.  It can only be an East Coast Comics parcel bursting with comics.  Literally, the box edges are no longer straight, parallel, and perpendicular, as if the comics are forcing their way out, the packing tape starting to tear, like a cartoon container for some magical energy, some tazmanian devil, some pressurized tank ready to explode.  Inside the house I cut it open, but a tidal wave of newsprint pages and glossy covers, G.I. Joe comics the likes of which I’ve never known, surge out as if from a fire hose, like an avalanche, pushing me back, smothering me, the sound like the crash of beach surf!

Will and I said this to each other in a stage whisper, as I’d act it out in my seat, making the rumbly sound effect for the shower of comics.  It was a vignette we’d quietly pantomime for each other, sitting in our seats during a lull in class.  Will’s enthusiasm only reflected back on me, and the wait only became more difficult.

WHEN WOULD THE BOX ARRIVE?

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The Comic That Changed Everything – Part Nine

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In our last thrilling episode, Tim bought G.I. Joe issue #93 and saw Snake-Eyes’ face!

Just below issue #93’s great cliffhanger was the “next issue” blurb, one that promised the beginning of “The Snake-Eyes Trilogy.” My brother and I owned enough issues of G.I. Joe by now to know that the series had never been delineated with story arcs. Chapters weren’t branded as “part 1,” or “part 2.” It was all an ongoing story, with some characters and plotlines taking the spotlight and others moving to the back or dropping out for stretches at a time. So combined with the fact that this “Snake-Eyes Trilogy” was about the mystery man, and that we had just seen his scarred face for the first time, here was ample evidence that #94 and beyond were a big deal. The tiny preview of next month’s cover showed a healed Snake-Eyes pulling the bandages off his head and brandishing a pistol, a steely look of resolve over the NINJA COMMANDO’s face.

Oddly, when that issue did arrive at Waldenbooks in September, the cover was different. The earlier image had been redrawn, and much of the space was now taken up with giant type that read “SNAKE-EYES GETS A NEW FACE!” And “THE SNAKE-EYES TRILOGY PART 1: WARRIOR REBORN!” And “TOP SECRET.” One of the important factors that separated the monthly G.I. Joe from almost all of Marvel’s other output was the lack of type on its covers. Marvel super-hero comics (and some of the licensed books) regularly had dialogue on the front, and copy that sought to pull in young readers, a decades-old remnant of once head writer and editor Stan Lee’s hyperbolic writing style (“The Day Kitty Pryde Leaves the X-Men, is the Day the X-Men Fall!”) In fact, only 16 out of the previous 93 issues of G.I. Joe had cover copy. This point is worth spending some time on. By way of example, note how impactful this random cover by Mike Zeck (issue #62) is:

G.I. Joe issue #62 cover by Mike Zeck - as printed

There’s tension. You’re worried about the prisoners. One looks injured, one looks seriously ticked off. Maybe he’ll try to escape! Visual cues let you know they’re out of their element: barbed wire and AK-47s particularly. These guys are prisoners behind the Iron Curtain. That’s a scary thought for a soldier in 1988 or so, or a boy following his exploits. But the cover loses all its power if there’s copy:

G.I. Joe issue #62 cover by Mike Zeck - type added

So when Kevin and I found issue #94 at Waldenbooks, with its leading cover text, even if we didn’t consciously realize it, the “part 1 of 3” and the mere presence of a blurb meant that something was different. Now it may have just been Editorial trying to goose sales — Read this issue or you’ll miss out! – but the cover treatment, whether it pulled in additional readers or not, was an accurate reflection of the heightened stakes in this run of issues. I mean, last month the Baroness just blew up the Dreadnoks’ van. In this new issue, she shoots Scarlett point blank in the head! I’m not a bloodlustful guy, but I do appreciate edgy kid entertainment, and stories that don’t talk down to me. This kind of violence could never have flown on TV, but we knew that in war, people get hurt. People die.

And some wars come to a premature end.  Which one was it, metaphorically?  Tune in next week to find out!

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The Comic That Changed Everything – Part Eight

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In our last episode, Tim bought G.I. Joe #93, a comic book that promised to tell much about NINJA COMMANDO Snake-Eyes, but surely would not reveal his never-before seen face!  But then Tim turned to page 18…

There it was, taking up almost the entire left side:  A full portrait of Snake-Eyes, unmasked!  Four huge scars crossed his cheeks and mouth, his right eye bugging out, a calm expression on the martial arts master’s face.  It was a shock.  I must have made some noise outloud, or burst out “WHOOOA!”  Kevin must have asked what was up.  I didn’t show him the page, but I sure wanted to.  “There’s something in here you’ll really like,” was all I could tease.  Surprises in fiction, whether they be dramatic reveals at the end, unexpected cameos, or twists and turns along the way, are the most exciting parts of reading stories and watching films or TV, and this was possibly the biggest surprise of them all.  (In a dead heat for first place are the deaths of several key characters at the beginning of the animated Transformers: The Movie, a shocking theatre-going experience that had taken place three years earlier and three miles north.)

Looking back at Mark Bright’s robust portrait of everyone’s favorite Joe I’m struck by how tame the gore is by any standards of action and violence twenty years on.  (This is a topic for another day, but it’s clear that what used to net an R-rating now is routinely PG-13, and concerning blood and violence we’re a much more permissive and desensitized society.)  When I really think about it, Snake-Eyes doesn’t look that bad.  This is the face of a soldier who took trace fire in Vietnam, and who took a face full of exploding fuel in a crashing helicopter on the way to the Iranian Hostage Crisis?  I mean, his skin doesn’t look like what little I know of burn victims.  But again, this is me being rational and methodical in an analysis that benefits from decades of hindsight and reflection.  This image, and indeed all of the violence in Marvel’s G.I. Joe, had to meet the standards of the The Comics Code Authority, the industry’s self-censorship board.  But as a soon-to-be sixth grader mired in the height of kid G.I. Joe fandom, this was a revelation without comparison.

The rest of the issue is thrilling.  The Joes arrest and then lose the Dreadnoks, Flint and Roadblock threaten civilians (not really), the Baroness learns that the same plastic surgeon who fixed her years earlier (a footnote to issue #22, waaay too early for my brother and I to register as a big deal) is the some one operating on Snake-Eyes, and that Snake-Eyes killed her brother!  And then, the Baroness blows up Zarana and the Dreadnoks’ van via remote control — while talking to Zarana on the telephone!  This ranks as one of the best cliffhangers ever, and is heightened by the cruelness with which the Baroness executes her task, frowning while she literally pushes a red “detonate” button.  (“Luckily I had a contingency plan.”  WHAM!)  It was all too much excitement, and if it weren’t for needing to shove the issue into my brother’s hands so he get up to speed, I would have read it again from page 1 that very instant.

It is this magic that I long for when I read comic books.  A thrilling hunger to know what will happen next, and a  nervous worry that anything will, and that my favorite characters might not make it out of the next story alive.

What Kevin and I couldn’t have known was that we started reading the G.I. Joe comic book right around the time that writer Larry Hama was pulling together several plot threads and character revelations, and that the next few months would be my favorite comic books of all time.

What are they?  Tune in next week to find out!

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The Comic That Changed Everything – Part Seven

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In our last episode, after returning home from summer camp and buying G.I. Joe issue #92, Tim went with his family to Ocean City, Maryland.

One of OC’s two malls, Ocean Plaza Mall, had a toy store near a bookstore next to a video arcade in front of a food court with my favorite pizza, so it was a destination.  And one afternoon in the August before 6th grade I wandered into Harriet’s Books, which was a small shop with (I want to say) a green sign with yellow letters.  Kevin had gotten into Dungeons and Dragons novels, and I might’ve had to pick up a summer reading book.  Just inside on the right was a newsstand with magazines and – COMIC BOOKS!  Comic books?  Why, if those had been there in years past I certainly hadn’t noticed.  But my eyes worked differently.  Now I was on the lookout.  And there on the bottom shelf was a bright yellow logo that spelled one my favorite words:  “G.I. JOE.”  It was issue #93!  Confusing!  Hadn’t we just bought issue #92?  Was Waldenbooks behind?  Was Harriet’s Books ahead?  It didn’t matter, all I knew was that I now had three comics to read over and over on the trip (we had brought G.I. Joe #92 and the Batman adaptation).

For some reason Kevin had stayed in the car – I guess my jaunt inside was going to be quick?  Mom or Dad must have been there, or both?  Maybe they were in the Super Fresh (grocery store) and I had enough time to kill to run in the mall?  Anyway, I opened the car door and excitedly showed Kevin.  “Awesome!” was probably his reply.  Contrary to his mild reaction two months earlier regarding issue #90, Kevin was now fully onboard and we were splitting all comics purchases 50/50.

The cover to #93 teased big revelations regarding Snake-Eyes, the masked ninja commando clothed in all black.  It’s important to properly set the scene of how mysterious and cool this character was:  We’d never seen his face, he never spoke, his action figure came with a sword, an Uzi, and a wolf, AND HE WAS A NINJA COMMANDO.  I also liked grenades, and his action figure had three molded onto his chest.  Very cool.  Since he didn’t speak, the writers on the TV show seemed not to know what to do with him, and besides three or so episodes, Snake-Eyes rarely appeared.  It fell to Larry Hama, who had created the character’s entire back story, to flesh out him in the pages of the monthly comic book.  Even though we only owned less than 15 G.I. Joe comics by this point, Kevin and I knew that portions of Snake-Eyes’ origin and motivations had been doled out over time – issues #21, 26, 27, 43, 84 – but we didn’t have most of those yet.  We were in the dark.

I got in the car and started reading.  The issue was great, starting with a compelling splash page of the Baroness and Zarana (two villains) grappling with each other in the open doorway of a transport helicopter over Manhattan.  At the top, the title “Taking the Plunge” only added to the drama.  In the story, threads from issue #90 continue and new story beats develop: Destro asserts his leadership over Cobra; the Dreadnoks brainwash Clutch and drive an ice cream truck; Flint, Lady-Jaye, and Roadblock (three series regulars from season 2 of the TV show) drive G.I. Joe’s Tiger Force-recolored vehicles; and seemingly innocuously, Snake-Eyes and Scarlett see a plastic surgeon in Switzerland.  Tantalizingly, Dr. Hundtkinder removes the ninja commando’s mask (the one that looks like a normal face for going about in public, not the black costume one) and rattles off anatomical mumbo-jumbo.  (Actually Hama being diligent and accurate.)  But we weren’t going to see Snake-Eyes’s real face because that was a permanent part of G.I. Joe lore.  Since early 1982, Hasbro, Marvel, and Sunbow had held back what masked characters Destro, Cobra Commander, and Snake-Eyes looked like.  It was embedded in the mythology.  Those visages would forever be mysterious and unknown.  The comic book had previously gone to some lengths to show Snake-Eyes without his mask, but always in shadow, cropped, or from behind.

And then I turned the page.

What did Tim see?  Tune in next week to find out!

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The Comic That Changed Everything – Part Six

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In our last episode, Tim and his brother Kevin returned home from summer camp and had missed an issue of G. I. Joe!

This timing has long amused and puzzled me.  In the four weeks we were away, G.I. Joe issue #91 managed to debut and complete its full sales cycle, so when we at last checked back in we were greeted by issue #92.  But how unlikely was it that the very four weeks we were away were the same four weeks that issue #91 was available?  Pretty unlikely, but it happened nonetheless, and we had to make do with #92.  On the one hand, we were excited to be reading any new G.I. Joe comic book.  On the other hand, it was disappointing that we had missed an issue.  Yes, there had been those two visits to a comic book store (with a full selection of back issues), but it was a small ordeal to mount a trip there (not really), so for the time being, we had no way of getting #91.  Fortunately #92 was excellent.

It’s actually the resolution of a storyline started a month earlier in the spin-off book G.I. Joe Special Missions (a fact that mostly eluded us, despite the footnote saying so).  #92 is a great action comic book with many moving parts – different factions of good guys, a rescue from hostile territory, corrupt politicians, a chase, and the series regulars Cobra.  And it zips along at a swift clip, and is funny, too.  Plus, to refer back to one of my initial reasons for the Marvel series hooking me in, this new issue spotlighted an obscure character, the vehicle driver Long-Range.  In fact, he (and his vehicle) get the entire cover to #92.  Whenever I lament modern action comic book writing with its poor pacing or lack of visual action, I hold this up as an example.  (Also, issue #50.  Great action comics both.)

I suspect that Waldenbooks received some of its comics late, because two weeks later the family took its annual trip to the beach, where Kevin and I found – much to our surprise, as we had only just bought #92 – G.I. Joe #93!  More on that in a moment, as something else important happened in this summer before 6th grade:

Batman Movie Comics Adaptation

Batmania.

It’s hard to adequately explain how big Tim Burton’s first Batman film was.  Everyone was talking about it, everyone loved it, and merchandise was everywhere.  I saw more than one Batman t-shirt every day that summer.  Montgomery Mall had a keyosk devoted entirely to Batman shirts and memorabilia.  I saw the film three times, daydreamed that my school would stage it as a live play and I’d be cast as Jack Nicholson’s Joker, bought the Topps trading cards with their alternatively dry and lurid captions (“Plunge Into Toxic Oblivion!”), and rolled my eyes at the high prices in the special catalog of toys and merchandise that Warner Bros. had printed for movie theatres.

Just a few days before we left for Ocean City, MD, Kevin and I were at the other bookstore at Montgomery Mall, B. Dalton Booksellers.  (Yes, the rival chains had names that rhymed – Walden/Dalton.)  We rarely shopped “Dalton,” as we inaccurately called it, since it was in a dead corner of the mall, but B. Dalton did carry graphic novels (important later) and that first week of August it did have the deluxe edition of the official DC Comics adaptation of the live-action Batman movie.  It was perfect bound, a term meaning rather than paper folded in half and stapled at the centerfold (comics, magazines), this book was printed like a book – glued, trimmed pages, and a square, though skinny, spine.  It was $5.00, a huge step up from the dollar we had spent on our G.I. Joe comics, but it was also A) generally fancy – glossy paper, increased color palette, higher quality printing, B) superbly illustrated, and C) BATMAN.  I couldn’t get this movie out of my mind, so to be able to read it over and over was exciting.  And read it over and over I did.  Every day at the beach for two weeks.

On this yearly trip I OD’ed on cable TV, Kevin and I splurged on video games (Mom saved quarters in advance of the trip), we played in the water and built sand castles, Mom and Dad read books, Kevin and I checked off summer reading, we ate out, and Dad took us miniature golfing.  And at one of two malls there, we stumbled upon the greatest revelation in all of G.I. Joe history.

What was it?  Tune in next week to find out! 

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The Comic That Changed Everything – Part Five

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In our last episode, Tim and his brother Kevin ordered G. I. Joe back issues by mail!

Exactly 7 days later, Betty (our housekeeper/nanny/second mom) was taking Kevin and I miniature golfing.  It was a perfect early summer day.  Blue sky, bright sun, green grass, low humidity.  On our way out, I noticed a light, slim, cardboard parcel wedged between our heavy front door and the screen door.  It had my name on it, which was odd since 10-year olds don’t get mail, but putt-putt beckoned, so whatever this was could wait.  On our return I opened the box.  Kevin and I were thrilled.  It was the mail order!  East Coast Comics was real!  Inside were our 11 comic books, all in pristine condition, along with a giant, updated fold-out order form, and three coupons!  One was for a free “grab bag” of 15 comics for a purchase of $30 or more.  (Again with these terms we didn’t understand!  What was a grab bag?)

Kevin and I spread out our booty over our yellow shag carpet, ah-ing and gawking at the saturated colors and compelling cover art.  (Betty sat in her chair, watching soap operas or folding laundry.  We had played with our action figures, sound effects and all, in front of her for years, so she paid us no mind.)  Overnight the two of us had gone from owning the one newest issue of a comic book to having ten times that amount in back issues.  We were now collecting a series.  We were on our way to having a run.  Someday, somehow, a complete run!  (That was a daunting task since East Coast didn’t even have about 15 issues in stock, and we would soon learn that issues #1 and #2 were valued at over $40 each.)

Reading these comics piecemeal, #54, #77, #84, was tantalizing.  No consecutive issues to link story threads together.  We had to do that ourselves, or live with the pleasant anxiety of not knowing the whole story.  This is an anxiety I miss in the age of graphic novels reprinting whole comic book arcs and DVD box sets (or Hulu) laying out for me everything start to finish.  Before on-demand and MySpace Music, if you didn’t own an album you only heard a song when it played on the radio.  Before home video transformed itself from just top movies to everything ever, you only caught an episode when it premiered on TV, when it reran later in the season, or if you were lucky, when it was syndicated.  But half that was random.  It’s a topic for another blog post, but the serendipity of hearing/seeing just what you need when you least expect it is a tremendous feeling, and a rarer one when you can watch or listen to anything anytime you’re near any electronic device.  And that carries over to sequential storytelling.  To get those G.I. Joe issues we didn’t have, we’d have to save up and order again from East Coast Comics.  But to track down the ones East Coast didn’t have… we’d have to… Well, we didn’t know.

After issue #90, it would be safe to assume Kevin and I returned to Waldenbooks the following month to pick up issue #91.  (And that was a weekly trip anyway, so we were on the lookout.)  But summer camp happened instead.  My budding interest in comic books was frozen, pushed aside by four weeks in the woods of Cedar Mountain, North Carolina.  Besides regular outdoor camp stuff, I drew, and read prose books, but didn’t ask my parents to mail me care packages of comic books, and didn’t know anyone at camp who had brought any.  This wasn’t a hobby or an obsession yet.  It was still just an engaging lark.    Kevin and I would get the next issue of G.I. Joe when we could, but we had no concept that five years later we’d own 10,000 comics and I would work in a comic book store.  For now, it was just a G.I. Joe thing.

(I did draw a comic at camp, but I believe it was actually the summer before, and it feels as disconnected from me being a lifelong comics maker as much as those first two Yearbooks feel disconnected from me being a lifelong comics reader.  Like a prehistory thing, and not a part of a changed mindset.  It was called “Thorax the Ant,” and is about an ant on a quest.  But it’s more connected to me reading newspaper comics and occasionally illustrating story drawings than wanting to draw comics.  So it was also a lark.  Which is to say that after I finished drawing it, I didn’t have strong feeling to make more comics.)

But when we returned to suburban Maryland, and made our Wednesday rounds at Montgomery Mall, issue #91 was nowhere to be found!

What did we do?  Tune in next week to find out!

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The Comic That Changed Everything – Part Four

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In our last episode…

Tim Finn buys his first comic book, "G.I. Joe" #90

In addition to all those other thrilling attributes of G.I. Joe issue #90, there was also this:

G.I. Joe #90 East Coast Comics ad

A full-page ad for a mail order comics retailer.  My brother and I were a little confused – comics by mail?  Or anything by mail, really.  How did we know this operation was trustworthy?  So, what, we just send them money and they send us comics?  What if they ran off with the money?  My 11-year old brain tried to reconcile the risks.  I had subscribed to a magazine or two, but that was direct.  Mad Magazine sent Mad Magazine.  (Not really, but play along.)  This third-party could be anyone.  My mom, who had done her fair share of mail order shopping (and whose father had owned a department store), didn’t see a problem.  My brother and I would give her our money, and she would write a check or provide her credit card information with our order.  But again, what if our letter was intercepted?  Or what was stopping this company from racking up excess charges on Mom’s Mastercard?  It’s funny to me that compared to today’s world of internet banking, online credit card purchases, and PayPal, I was so hostile to this by-then already old-fashioned mail order concept.  It seemed like a step was missing, like they should tell us they’d received our order, or we should call and confirm our wants were in stock.

Also, there was no individual’s name on the ad.  And no phone number.  Just the company moniker and a PO Box.  I only ever had positive experiences with East Coast Comics in the ten or so years I ordered from them, but at the start it looked entirely shifty.  I mean, Trenton, New Jersey?  Come on!

G.I. Joe #90 East Coast Comics ad

The first thing Kevin and I noticed was that the prices were low for the most recent thirty issues.  But there was much that didn’t make sense.  What was “Tales of G.I. Joe”?  What was “G.I. Joe Digest”?  What were “2nd prints?”  What were “alternates,” and why did we need to list them?  Instead we focused on what we did know, that we couldn’t get all of the regular back issues, so we’d have to pick and choose.  We retrieved Yearbooks #3 and #4.  What I didn’t mention earlier was that those Yearbooks had cover galleries showing thumbnails of a year’s worth of the monthly G.I. Joe.  At the time we first read the Yearbooks, those galleries didn’t mean much, but now they offered a roadmap.  We picked the issues with the most compelling covers, the ones with favorite characters or dire situations, and added on the one cited in issue #90’s footnote.  All tallied it was 22 comics for $11.  I typed a letter in Word Perfect, but I didn’t know how to frame the order, so I awkwardly wrote “Dear East Coast Comics, I would like to ask you to send me the following issues.”

I had sent away for a few premiums in my young life – t-shirts and pencils from cereal boxes, G.I. Joe toys from Hasbro Direct Mail, and the aforementioned subscription to Mad.  And everything took 4-6 weeks.  It was as if all the mail order retailers, warehouse workers, and courier and postal delivery people of America had united to make the nation’s kids wait in agony.  No matter the distance or the complexity, no matter the item, you wouldn’t see it for at least a month.  So after Mom fired off our order to East Coast Comics (from the office, by phone, with credit card – probably early in the morning before anyone else arrived, when she was most productive), I put it out of my mind.  It was summer vacation!  That meant bike rides and Slurpees and gameshows on TV.

But something arrived exactly seven days later.

What was it?  Tune in next week to find out!

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