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!