Category Archives: Comic Books

G.I. Joe Yearbook #3 by Ron Wagner

G.I. Joe Yearbook 3 pg 4 Wagner DeMulder

“Silent Interlude” gets a lot of attention. People who’ve read comics, but have never read G.I. Joe, and who don’t like G.I. Joe, have heard of that twenty-first issue of Marvel Comics’ G.I. Joe, with its wordless tale of action and rescue. And all that attention is deserved. But what never gets mentioned alongside this comic that Larry Hama wrote and drew (at the same time — it was a single step), is the other two silent stories published in the original Marvel run: “SFX,” issue #85, April 1989, penciled by Paul Ryan and Randy Emberlin; and “Hush Job” from Yearbook #3, drawn by Ron Wagner and Kim DeMulder.

Let’s take a look at page 4 of “Hush Job.”

G.I. Joe Yearbook 3 pg 4 Wagner DeMulder

To repeat: This is a silent story. It’s not that the word balloons fell off. There aren’t any.

Ron Wagner, a graduate of the Kubert School, really knows how to draw. Look at those two 3/4 rear views on Storm Shadow. And one is an up-shot. Look at that jaw in panel 4! Look at the intensity of Storm Shadow’s expression in the final panel!

Ron Wagner draws some of my favorite comics ever, and his work here, under DeMulder’s inks, really shines. Note that wonderful negative space treatment on the trees in panel 2. They’re left out, so color and the hatching at that edge creates the night sky. Wonderful depth in panel 1 — foreground, middle ground, background. Also note the storytelling. Silent stories are hard. (If you want to see Marvel stumble, check out the “‘Nuff Said” month of silent comics from 2002.) Here Ron Wagner pulls if off deftly — Storm Shadow and Timber at rest, yet we see the sky, so we’re ready for something to appear. Up-shot, and Scarlett does appear. Touchdown, and Storm Shadow is up. Scarlett shows a photo of Snake-Eyes, captive. Storm Shadow sees it, and is surprised and concerned. Every panel a strong composition, and the whole page has a great balance with darks at top and bottom, with horizontal panels bracketing three tall ones. Great!

Here’s a detail, click to embiggen:

G.I. Joe Yearbook 3 pg 4 Wagner DeMulder

Ron Wagner drew Marvel comics for years: G.I. Joe, Nth Man, Excalibur, Punisher. And at DC, he drew a forgotten “event,” Genesis. Later, he storyboarded for various WB cartoons, where his storytelling skills undoubtedly made him shine but presumably the demands of animation timetables meant more focus on shapes and angles and less on lines and details. And in recent years, he’s drawn a few issues of G.I. Joe — yes, the Larry Hama series that continues the original one that you all ignore — and Wagner is about to draw four comics for DC as part of its “Convergence” event, one with Green Lantern (image below reposted from Wagner’s tumblr) —

Ron Wagner Bill Reinhold Convergence Green Lantern

— and the other with the Teen Titans. Wagner’s art has changed since 1987. In the 2000s, it’s streamlined, and there’s no feathering. That may be down to inkers, but I suspect that he’s saying more with less, as many of the best artists in comics tend to do.

What’s your favorite work by Ron Wagner?

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G.I. Joe original comic art by Lee Weeks

G.I. Joe 107 page 3 detail, Lee Weeks and Randy Emberlin, with color by Tim Finn

In 1990 Lee Weeks had recently finished at the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art (now just “The Kubert School”) and was regularly drawing Daredevil for Marvel.  Before that job started, fellow alum Andy Kubert had helped get him a cover job on G.I. Joe, and in the middle of that 10-issue cover run, Weeks drew a fill-in issue as regular artist Mark Bright’s time on the series was winding down. Continue reading

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G.I. Joe commercials – 1987 Effie award winner

Effie Award 1987 catalog partial cover

No doubt you’re familiar with the Academy Awards, given to films and film artists, planners, and scientists.  Or the Emmys, given for television, or the Grammys and Tonys, for recorded music and Broadway theatre.  You’ve maybe heard of the Clios, which we think of as the Oscars of advertising, but that category is more broadly defined on the Clio website as “advertising, design, interactive and communications.”  And there are the Effies, for “marketing communications” — given to marketers by the marketing industry.

G.I. Joe won a silver Effie in 1987. Continue reading

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10 Things You Didn’t Know About G.I. Joe

Destro Duke GI Joe action

My article for TheFw is up.  Read it here!

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Larry Hama’s Fury Force Helicopter

Close up of Larry Hama handwriting from Fury Force helicopter pencil sketch

Told at many conventions and in many interviews is the prehistory of G.I. Joe, how Larry Hama pitched a military comic to Marvel called “Fury Force.” He sketched out six heroes — covert military types — along with a motorcycle, a van, and a secret base underground base. And later grafted it onto Ron Rudat’s G.I. Joe action figure designs, and made it the through line for the monthly G.I. Joe comic book.

Fury Force had a helicopter, too.

Fury Force helicopter sketch by Larry Hama

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G.I. Joe Special Missions #21 cover art

G.I. Joe Special Missions 21 cover tease Wagner McCleod Not much to say about this, except that it hangs on my wall and is a wonderful piece by Ron Wagner and Bob McLeod.  It’s been great to see Wagner back on G.I. Joe at IDW, and there are twenty books from Marvel and DC I wish Bob McLeod were inking.  His talents are stellar, and it’s unfortunate he’s not active in the industry.  Click to enlarge:

G.I. Joe Special Missions 21 original cover art Ron Wagner and Bob McCleod

Part of the thrill of this image is that it pairs the obscure Spearhead (and his lynx, Max), who never showed up on the G.I. Joe cartoon and barely appeared in print, with the slightly higher profile Tunnel Rat and Airtight.  And it’s replete with mood, and just wonderful, wonderful spotted blacks.  Here’s a detail.

G.I. Joe Special Missions 21 original cover art detail Ron Wagner and Bob McCleod Here’s a great example (not from G.I. Joe) showing how much decision-making can go into inking.  McLeod’s website has numerous before and after examples, some where he maintains the style of the pencil artist, others where he’s given more leeway and adds much of himself.  And then another page of such examples.

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Behind the scenes of G.I. Joe – Marvel Issue #1, 1982

Sorry for the missing weeks.  Things have been crazy, but I’m back on schedule with more art, memories, and anecdotes.

Today’s post is a photocopy of Herb Trimpe’s pencils to Marvel Comics’ G.I. Joe issue #1, cover dated March 1982.  Click to enlarge.

Original pencil art by Herb Trimpe for "G.I. Joe" issue #1, March 1982

Trimpe clearly put a lot of effort into this, as evidenced by the distinct facial types, lush backgrounds, and dense spotting of blacks.

Here’s the page as printed, now with inks by Bob McLeod and colors by Glynis Oliver.  Notice how much McLeod has redrawn and softened the organic stuff.

"G.I. Joe" issue 1 pg06, as printed, March 1982, Trimpe/McLeod/Wein.

When Marvel issued its G.I. Joe Volume 1 graphic novel in 2002 (reprinted more recently by IDW Publishing as Classic G.I. Joe Volume 1), a friend re-read the issues contained therein — #s 1-10, and made an observation.  He remarked that early G.I. Joe was very much a weird Marvel ’70s-post Silver Age comic book, what with Trimpe’s Kirby faces and invented Kirby technology.  That it didn’t become the familar ’80s G.I. Joe we know until late in or after the first year.  (Issue 6 is another good example, with the Joes building a weird desert dune buggy.)  Just look at the tech framing on the top and bottom of panel 1, and the computer in panels 4 and 5.  And not that it carries through to the inks, but look at Austin’s cheekbone in panel 3 — a Kirby line! — and his eyes as well.

What other artistic influences do you see?

-Tim

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