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Since its debut in 1982, the comic book history of GI Joe has seen three separate publishers and four main-title series, all of which have been based on the Hasbro toyline of the same name. The first series was produced by Marvel Comics between 1984 and 1993, running for 155 issues and spawning several spin-off titles through out the course of its run; the second series was a short-lived run published by Dark Horse Comics in 1996; and the third and fourth series are in current production by Devil's Due and also feature several spin-off books.

Contents

Marvel Comics

A Real American Hero (Main series)

Hasbro relaunched their GI Joe franchise with GI Joe: A Real American Hero. It was supported by a Marvel Comics series. It was unique at the time in that it was a comic book series that was promoted on television commercials which also supported the toy line. This 155-issue series is considered to be one of the longest-running comic book tie-ins to a toy line. Much of its success is to be credited to Larry Hama, who wrote the entire series save for a few issues with guest writers. Rather than treating the stories as a mere promotion for the toys, Hama wrote the series with seriousness and infused it with doses of realism, humor, and drama. Other than Transformers, no other series was able to duplicate its success. Notable artists include Herb Trimpe, Ron Wagner, Rod Whigham, and Marshall Rogers.

Issue 21 became a fan-favorite, not only because the Cobra ninja Storm Shadow was introduced, but that issue also became a prime example of comics' visual storytelling power, having no dialogue or sound effects.

A number of differences existed between the comic book and the animated TV series. Certain characters who were very prominent in the comic book, such as Stalker, were featured very little in the cartoon, while characters who were less prominent in the comic book, such as Shipwreck, were very prominent in the cartoon series. Another difference was that in the comic book there is clearly a romance between Scarlett and Snake-Eyes, whereas in the cartoon, it is hinted that there may be a romance between Scarlett and Duke (most likely due to the differences between writing for a comic book audience and writing for an animated series). The most notable difference between the comic and the cartoon, however, is in its handling of combat. While the cartoon showed that every character in every battle survived (for example, every shot of an aircraft being shot down was shown to have its pilot escape in a parachute), the comic did not shy away from mass character deaths.

Shortly after the final issue (which was released in December 1994), a GI Joe Special #1 was released, with alternate art for issue #61 by Todd McFarlane. The first 37 issues were also released in 13 digests. In 2001, with the success of Devil's Due Comics run of GI Joe, Marvel Comics collected the first 50 issues in five trade paperbacks, with ten issues in each book. All covers for the trade paperbacks were drawn by J Scott Campbell. Marvel will not publish the rest of the series, because Hasbro has purchased the rights to the comics. Hasbro has since released reprints of some issues with some of their action figures.

GI Joe Yearbooks

The four Yearbooks (1985-1988) collected some previous stories, summarized events, etc. and, aside from the first Yearbook, published new stories that tied into current events in the main title.

GI Joe: Special Missions

The success of the main title lead Marvel Comics to produce a secondary title, GI Joe: Special Missions which lasted 28 issues, with Herb Trimpe as the artist for nearly the entire run, with Dave Cockrun providing pencils on several issues. Spinning out of issue #50 of a story in the main title, the series featured more intense violence and a more ambiguous morality than the main title, while the enemies were conventional terrorists as well as Cobra itself. The first four issues, as well as the backup story from issue #50 of the main title, were later republished as a trade paperback.

GI Joe: Order of Battle

Order of Battle was a four-issue comic series that reprinted the data found on the action figures' file cards with some edits and all-new artwork of GI Joe characters by Herb Trimpe. Published in 1987, the first two issues featured GI Joe members while the third issue focused on the Cobra Organization, and the fourth featured various vehicles and equipment used by both organizations. The second issue caused some controversy when it erroneously listed Sylvester Stallone's Rocky Balboa character as a member of GI Joe. While negotiations had taken place, concerning the character's membership on the team, the deal had fallen through.YOJOE.COM | Sculpt: Rocky Balboa The third and fourth issues contained a retraction stating that Rocky Balboa was not and had never been a member of GI Joe. The trade paperback edition of the series removed mention of the Rocky character entirely.

Tales of GI Joe

Tales of GI Joe reprinted the first fifteen issues of GI Joe on a higher quality paper stock than that used for the main comic.

Foreign language versions

GI Joe was published in a number of languages, sometimes by local publishers. Issues were translated into German, Spanish, Portuguese, Canadian French, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Japanese, Arabic and other languages.

Alternate universes

GI Joe and the Transformers

A four issue limited series that teamed-up the Joes with the other popular property of the 1980s, Transformers. The Joes and the Autobots must join forces to stop the Decepticons and Cobra from destroying the world. The story suffered from the need to have the events of the limited series reflect the events of the main GI Joe and Transformers titles published by Marvel Comics at the time. However, while there were references in the Transformers ongoing series to the events of the limited series, the GI Joe ignored it completely, as writer Larry Hama didn't consider it to be canon, though towards the end of the ongoing GI Joe series several Transformers characters appeared in the GI Joe title as a prequel for the upcoming Transformers: Generation Two comic. The issues made reference to the limited series. A trade paperback later collected all four issues.

GI Joe: European Missions and "Action Force"

Action Force was the British counterpart to the 3 3/4-inch GI Joe toyline. An initial comic was launched by Marvel UK in 1987, combining originated strips and modified reprints of the US comic, with the team renamed "Action Force". The title lasted 50 issues before merging with Marvel UK's The Transformers in early 1988. Later that year a second series was launched due to Marvel UK's decision to produce comics in the American monthly format. Known as Action Force Monthly in the UK, this was also published in the USA as GI Joe: European Missions, running for fifteen issues until its abrupt cancellation.

Although the cover text was changed for the U.S. version, the internal dialogue was left unchanged, identifying the team as "Action Force", and little concession was made to the continuity of the main GI Joe ongoing series -- or indeed to the continuing UK reprints of older American stories, which were now the second strip in the UK Transformers title. Most notably, a belated tie-in story was included for the UK release of GI Joe: The Movie.

Blackthorne Publishing

Blackthorne Publishing released six bi-monthly issues of G.I.Joe in 3-D and one annual. These issues were meant to be read with 3-D glasses. The stories didn't contradict the previous Marvel ongoing series, but wasn't considered canon. Blackthorne also published three "How to draw GI Joe" issues.

Dark Horse Comics

In 1996, the GI Joe toyline was relaunched with the GI Joe Extreme series. Dark Horse Comics acquired the rights to publish comics based on the GI Joe Extreme property. The first series was a four-issue limited series that was written by Mike W Barr and drawn by Tatsuya Ishida and introduced the main characters. The ongoing GI Joe Extreme series that was launched afterwards dropped the word "Extreme" from the title. The ongoing series lasted four issue before being canceled, although Dark Horse referred to the title as being on hiatus.

Benchpress Comics

In the spring of 1999, Benchpress Comics announced the acquisition of the rights to produce new GI Joe and Transformers comics. The GI Joe project was to have included Larry Hama as writer. Benchpress's initial plan was to release two GI Joe titles; one would feature a core cast of characters (similar to the Marvel Comics series), while the other would have featured a rotating cast (similar in style to the Special Missions title). For unknown reasons, negotations over hiring Larry Hama stalled and Benchpress went bankrupt, losing the license in the process. Larry Hama's series proposal and the three sample pages of the comic that were produced are available online.YoJoe!.com: Bench Press Studios' GI Joe

Devil's Due comics

Most GI Joe titles published by Devil's Due Productions are available in both comic and trade paperback formats.

GI Joe A Real American Hero (Reinstated)

In July 2001, Devil's Due acquired the rights to GI Joe and released a four-issue limited series through Image Comics entitled GI Joe (vol. 1), written by Josh Blaylock with John Larter and Steve Kurth as the artists. The title quickly became known to the fans as A Real American Hero Volume 2 (following from Marvel's original series) or GI Joe Reinstated (the title of the first four-issue arc). A comics convention special was released before the first issue. Strong sales on the limited series led to it being upgraded to an ongoing series with the publication of a fifth issue and a monthly schedule. The new series picked up seven years after the end of the Marvel Comics series and used elements from the animated TV series. Several older characters were featured in the title alongside several new recruits. The new series also spun off several other series and was responsible for bringing back attention to other 1980s properties such as Transformers, Masters of the Universe and Voltron. Devil's Due later broke with Image Comics and took over the publishing of the book.

The series ended with issue 43 with the introduction of a new enemy and the death of Lady Jaye.

G. I. Joe: Battle Files

GI Joe: Battle Files gave profiles of the GI Joe and Cobra teams, as well as information on their vehicles. Battle Files was published between April and September of 2002. A Sourcebook trade paperback was published in February of 2003, which collected issues one through three with additional profiles added.

GI Joe: Frontline

This series lasted eighteen issues and featured a rotative creative team for every story. The stories explore what happened to GI Joe and Cobra during the seven-year interlude between the Marvel and Devil's Due comic series. Larry Hama wrote Frontline's initial offering, "The Mission That Never Was," a four-part series set one month after the events of the Marvel series' Issue # 155.

Arashikage Showdown

A single digest featuring Snake-Eyes, Storm Shadow, Jinx, Scarlett, Kamakura, TJBang, Nunchuk and Budo. The martial experts try to recover the secret scrolls of the Arashikage Ninja Clan, to which several of them belong. This book has been considered to be non-canon by fans as it incorporates magical and fantasy elements not present in the main series.

GI Joe: Master and Apprentice I & II

These were two four-issue limited series written by Brandon Jerwa. Volume 1 was about how Snake Eyes met and trained his apprentice Kamakura, while Volume 2 focused on Storm Shadow and his apprentice/lover Junko Akita.

GI Joe: America's Elite

GI Joe: America's Elite, officially entitled GI Joe Comic Book Volume 2 on the inside cover, is the current main GI Joe title. It started with a "zero" issue and picked up the story one year after the events of the last issue of GI Joe: Reinstated. The series features a darker tone and a smaller group of Joes than in Reinstated. The series starts off with the president asking General Joseph Colton, the original GI Joe, to be the team's C.O., replacing General Hawk, who was paralyzed in the previous series. Character profiles are provided in the Data Desk Handbook, as well as in individual issues. Joe Casey wrote the first eighteen issues before editor Mike O'Sullivan wrote issues #19 and 20. Mark Powers and Mike Bear became the current writer and penciller on the book with #21. Issue 25 marked the beginning of the 12-issue "World War III" story arc, which Devil's Due is promoting as a major event for the book. The future of the series after issue 36 is uncertain, as Devil's Due's licence with Hasbro expires.

Storm Shadow

This series written by Larry Hama lasted seven issues and focused on former Cobra and GI Joe team member Storm Shadow. The series began in May of 2007, and, while not bearing the "America's Elite" subtitle, the events occur in the same time frame as the main series.

Data Desk Handbook

An original one-shot published files for GI Joe America's Elite main characters at the launch of the series. The files are presented as computer entries written by General Joseph Colton. Several other files were later published in individual issues of America's Elite, Special Missions and several trade paperback volumes. An updated version in two issues (A-M and N-Z) was released in October and November 2007.

The Hunt for Cobra Commander

This one-shot issue was set in the year between the Devil's Due A Real American Hero series and America's Elite series and featured G.I Joe team member Spirit.

Special Missions

A series of one-shots featuring reservist Joes, and set in different parts of the world. The series bears the subtitle America's Elite.

  • Manhattan - This one-shot featured GI Joe reservists Beach Head, Cover Girl, Mercer, Low-Light and Tunnel Rat, on a special mission involving a bio-weapon threat in New York City.
  • Tokyo - This one-shot features the ninja Jinx, samurai Budo, and "yahoo" reservists Wild Bill (Texan chopper pilot), the Cajun Marine codenamed Gung Ho, ladies man Clutch and Malibu surfer and gunman Rock N' Roll who try to prevent a coup in Japan.
  • Antarctica - This one-shot, released in December 2006, features Snake Eyes, Stalker, Duke and Scarlett, as well as reservists Snow Job, Frostbite and Iceberg.
  • Brazil - This one-shot features characters that came with the 1986 GI Joe Special Missions Brazil Toys R Us exclusive boxed set.
  • The Enemy - This one-shot contrasts the motivations of original GI Joe infantryman Grunt with those of an unnamed Cobra "Blueshirt" trooper, with a backup tale about the mission where Cobra forces abduct the Baroness' child.

Declassified

The various Declassified series and one-shots explore the origins of the characters, and are set before #1 of Marvel's GI Joe series.

  • Snake Eyes: Declassified - A six-issue limited series written by Brandon Jerwa and set before Marvel Comics' GI Joe #1, retelling and expanding the story of Snake Eyes.
  • Scarlett: Declassified - A double-sized one-shot issue telling the history of the character code-named Scarlett (Shana O'Hara), set between Snake-Eyes Declassified and GI Joe Declassified.
  • GI Joe: Declassified - Written by Larry Hama, this series of three double-sized issues was released bi-monthly beginning in the Summer of 2006. The story is set between Scarlett Declassified and issue #1 of the original Marvel Comics series, telling the first missions of the original thirteen members of the team.
  • Dreadnoks: Declassified - A limited series of three double-sized issues written by Josh Blaylock telling the complete origin story of Zartan, including how he gained his abilities and how he became leader of the Dreadnoks.

Alternate universes

GI Joe vs. the Transformers

This was a cross-production with Dreamwave Productions, who, at the time, held the license to create Transformers comics. Each studio released their own six-issue limited series which featured their own take on a crossover between the two franchises. Unlike previous efforts to bring the two properties together, the Devil's Due story takes place in an alternate present day where Cobra, just rising to prominence, has uncovered the Ark. Cobra steal the Transformers found inside, such as Optimus Prime, Ironhide and Ratchet, and adapt them into Cobra assault vehicles such as Cobra HISS tanks. GI Joe is formed to stop Cobra and receive unexpected help from Wheeljack and Bumblebee, who managed to avoid being taken by Cobra.

The second mini-series was a follow-up to the first story. Cybertronian technology has augumented both GI Joe and Cobra's forces, who are still fighting each other. During a battle, an accident causes several Joes and members of Cobra to be accidentally transported to Cybertron. The backlash of the accident also pulls several Transformers to Earth as well as scattering them through time. The Joes and Cobra must travel into the past and future to retrieve the missing Autobots and Decepticons before the Earth is destroyed. This is complicated by the fact that most of Cybertron is under the control of the Decepticon Shockwave.

The third mini-series, entitled The Art of War followed on from the second mini-series, using elements of the first. The new story focused on a reimagined version of Serpentor, in this continuity a cyborg created from the DNA of great warleaders and the mechanical components of Megatron. Inadvertently freed by a Cobra raid, Serpentor journeyed to Cybertron. Now Hawk, Grimlock and the other Autobots and Joes must stop him before he takes the Autobot Matrix of Leadership for himself.

A fourth mini-series consisting of two double-sized issues, entitled Black Horizon, was released in early 2007. After Hawk resigned from GI Joe in the wake of the events of "The Art of War", he formed a loose alliance with the Autobots to stop the spread of Cybertronian technology. However, a much bigger threat looms: the serpent cult Cobra-La and the dark god of the Transformers Unicron. Hawk, Flint, and Optimus Prime go the Himalayas to confront Cobra-La, and find a long lost hero: Joe Colton, the original GI Joe.

See also Dreamwave's Transformers/GI Joe section in Transformers (comic).

GI Joe Reloaded

GI Joe Reloaded was an ongoing series published by Devil's Due. The comic featured a more realistic take on the GI Joe universe and used altered versions of the main characters. Snake-Eyes is Storm Shadow's half-brother and a former Cobra agent, the African-American woman Carla "Doc" Greer is GI Joe's field medic as opposed to the character Carl "Doc" Greer from the main comic universe, and one of the Joes is an undercover Cobra agent who betrays the group. The series was preceded by the Cobra Reborn and GI Joe Reborn one-shots which introduced the main characters and featured the formation of GI Joe and the Cobra Organization. The series had no connection to the main comic series and was canceled after fourteen issues due to low sales.

GI Joe: Sigma 6

Written for a younger audience, GI Joe: Sigma 6 is a six-issue series based on the new GI Joe toyline from Hasbro and the animated TV series of the same name. While the stories don't fit into the main comic universe, the characters largely have the same personas: Hawk is commanding officer, Duke is field leader, and there is a connection between the ninjas Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow.

IDW Publishing

As of January 2008, Hasbro has not renewed the GI Joe comics license with Devil's Due, who will be publishing their last book in July 2008.Newsarama.com: HASBRO RECRUITS NEW GI JOE LICENSE SUITORS Speculation has bound that the license has been given to IDW Publishing, though there is yet to be official confirmation.IESB.net: Devil's Due Loses GI Joe Comic Book License


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