Vids I Dig 098: Comic Tropes: Rare ‘G.I. Joe’ Comics

From Comic Tropes’ YouTube description: This video is part of Cobra Convergence, a yearly event where content creators focus on G.I. Joe and their enemy, Cobra. This year, I take a look at some fairly uncommon comics. A European version of G.I. Joe that takes on a splinter sect of Cobra and is tied to the Marvel superhero universe; a G.I. Joe book illustrated by Todd McFarlane that Marvel decided to completely redo by another artist; and the origins of G.I. Joe’s Russian counterparts, the Oktober Guard.

Comic Review: Batman: Year Two

Published: 1987
Written by: Mike W. Barr
Art by: Alfredo Alcala, Alan Davis, Todd McFarlane, Paul Neary

DC Comics, 169 Pages

Review:

I’ve heard great things about Batman: Year Two. Surprisingly, I’ve never read it even though it came out in the time when I was just starting out reading superhero comics, specifically Batman titles.

Plus, seeing that this was written by Mike W. Barr is pretty exciting, as I read Camelot 3000 a few months back and loved it.

This story starts off with a bang. However, it gets away from itself after the first issue or so.

It explores Batman’s motivations and what he is willing to do in the name of justice. The story actually sees him team up with Joe Chill, the guy who murdered his parents, and Batman does brandish a gun in this. Eventually, he becomes the Batman we all know and love but his journey here was weird and it seemed kind of forced and shocking just to be shocking.

I guess this is a sort of sequel to Frank Miller’s Year One but it doesn’t seem to fit well with it.

I liked the Reaper character and his weird way of passing the torch to Gotham’s new hero but honestly, this was kind of a mess and Batman, despite this being early in his career, didn’t feel true to the character. I guess that’s kind of the point but it didn’t gel for me.

That being said, this is still worth a read and it has resonated with a lot of people. Also, it’s really cool seeing early art from Todd McFarlane, before his epic Spider-Man run.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: Batman: Year One and other late ’80s Batman tales.

TV Review: The Comic Book Greats: Episode 6 – How to Create a Comic Book (1992)

Released: 1992
Created by: Stan Lee
Directed by: Rick Stawinski
Music by: Rick Stawinski, Rob Stawinski
Cast: Stan Lee (host), Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld, Whilce Portacio, Jim Lee

Excelsior Productions, Stabur Home Video, 47 Minutes

Review:

Well, being that this came out in the second year of this home video series, a lot had changed since the first time we saw Todd McFarlane and Rob Liefeld in the first two episodes. By 1992, the two (and five others) had left Marvel and formed Image Comics. If you weren’t aware of the then new imprint, McFarlane mentions Image almost every five minutes in this video.

But it was cool to see these guys still come together with Stan Lee, the father of Marvel Comics. Granted, Stan Lee is barely in this episode as he is just there to kick it off and then pass it over to Todd and Rob. He also comes back to close out the show once other Image Comics founders Jim Lee and Whilce Portacio show up for short cameos.

When this video series was actually something new, this was the first one that I bought. At the time, I was making my own comics with friends, we had our own little imprint and were selling comics to kids at school and around South Florida. In fact, we were featured in the newspaper at the time for the buzz we created.

The reason I mention to above story is because my friends and I were inspired by Image and specifically the guys featured in this video. So when they all came together to teach aspiring comic book creators on how they actually create their own comics, this was something I had to own.

Even though times and methods have changed, Todd and Rob are pretty good teachers and a lot of what they teach here isn’t outdated and is still useful knowledge for this artistic medium.

This is one of the top episodes of the series because it goes beyond interviews and sketching and gets down to the nitty gritty. It gives real insight into the craft. Plus, in 1992, these were the best guys to use for a video like this.

This episode has aged well. Most of it is still relevant. My only complaint is this shouldn’t have been one 47 minute episode, it should have branched out into its own series where the Image guys actually go on to teach more than just the basics. It felt rushed and incomplete and more time and context would have been fantastic.

This is still worth a watch though, whether you want tips on how to make better comics or if you are just a fan of these creators.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other episodes in The Comic Book Greats video series.

Documentary Review: So Much Damage: How Image Comics Changed the World (2017)

Original Run: November 20th, 2017
Directed by: Jon Erwin
Written by: Michael Avila
Music by: Paul Terry

Syfy, 5 Episodes, 15 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

This is the second documentary I have seen on Image Comics but this isn’t just a rehash of what was already covered in the slightly superior The Image Revolution.

This one was broken out into five 15 minute web episodes and put out by Syfy, who used to be the much cooler Sci-Fi Channel before they changed their channel’s spelling into something stupid.

Anyway, like The Image Revolution this documentary interviews all the key players and gets their stories. But what I like most about this is how it spends a good deal of time talking more about modern Image Comics and not just the revolution of 1991. As cool as that revolt was, modern Image has grown into something that I don’t feel any of the founding members could have fathomed back then.

It’s always fun to hear these guys talk about themselves, their experiences and the creation of Image, as it was a really exciting thing for me to experience as a fan in 1991. It was and still is the coolest thing that happened in the comic book industry in my lifetime.

So this certainly stirs up nostalgia but that doesn’t mean that this survives on that alone. It’s informative, has a good pace and is well organized and presented.

Younger comic book fans today will probably find some value in this, even though it’s made to attract the older fans who remember all of this like it was yesterday.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: The Image Revolution and Chris Claremont’s X-Men.

 

TV Review: The Comic Book Greats: Episode 4 – Overkill with Todd McFarlane and Rob Liefeld (1991)

Released: 1991
Created by: Stan Lee
Directed by: Rick Stawinski
Music by: Rick Stawinski, Rob Stawinski
Cast: Stan Lee (host), Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld

Excelsior Productions, Stabur Home Video, 26 Minutes

Review:

Revisiting this video series from my childhood has been a lot of fun. In fact, this episode is a real highlight in this series, even if it only clocks in at a scant 26 minutes. But unlike me in the early ’90s, you don’t need to spend half of your allowance on this episode just to see it, as these are all streaming on YouTube for free… assuming they don’t get pulled down, at some point.

The first two episodes in this series were interviews with comic book legends Todd McFarlane and Rob Liefeld, this brings both of them back in an effort to create a new character, as dictated to them by Stan Lee.

What’s funny about this, is that this character named Overkill eventually showed up under the name Overt-Kill in Todd McFarlane’s Spawn about a year later. I’m assuming the name alteration, change of color scheme and some artistic tweaking saved McFarlane and Liefeld from any legal shenanigans, as Stan Lee did come up with the name and had some other creative input.

Anyway, this was really fun to watch, especially for me, as I was an aspiring comic book artist the first time I saw this. Todd, Rob and Stan talked through the process and I learned a lot from their insight here and I think any aspiring comic book artist would find this just as useful as I did back in 1991.

This is just a really engaging and fun video series. I’m still glad that Stan Lee did this way back in the day and even if it feels dated, the knowledge gained from these episodes isn’t.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other episodes in The Comic Book Greats video series.

TV Review: The Comic Book Greats: Episode 1 – Spotlight on Todd McFarlane (1991)

Released: 1991
Created by: Stan Lee
Directed by: Rick Stawinski
Music by: Rick Stawinski, Rob Stawinski
Cast: Stan Lee (host), Todd McFarlane

Excelsior Productions, Stabur Home Video, 50 Minutes

Review:

I didn’t have all of these VHS tapes when I was a kid but I did have a lot of them. Luckily for me, and all of you, these are on YouTube. I’ve wanted to revisit these for ages but I haven’t had a working VCR since the Bush II administration.

I was going to review the series as a whole. However, after watching the first episode, which featured Stan Lee interviewing Todd McFarlane, I felt that each episode probably deserves its own review.

This was great to see, twenty-seven years later, as I’m no longer twelve and I had a much greater appreciation of this now than I did back then.

First of all, it was fantastic seeing Stan Lee, still with some youthful vigor, interviewing Todd McFarlane and discussing art techniques and the history of the business, as well as Todd’s career.

It’s pretty clear that Todd would have been a great teacher, as he shows the how and why he employs the techniques he does. For those wanting to get into drawing comics, this is a pretty valuable tool and I’m assuming the other episodes in this series are too. That’s actually why I bought a half dozen of these back in the early ’90s.

All in all, I liked hearing Todd and Stan share stories of the comic industry. Watching them shoot the shit for an hour was a lot of fun.

McFarlane is one of the all-time greats and what makes this even more interesting, is that it came out when he was transitioning away from Marvel and Spider-Man and just gearing up to establish Image Comics and his greatest creation, Spawn.

I really enjoyed this episode and I hope the others live up to the precedent set with this first one.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other episodes in The Comic Book Greats video series.

Comic Review: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero – Classics, Vol. 6

Published: December 16th, 2009 (IDW reprint version)
Written by: Larry Hama
Art by: Rod Whigham, Todd McFarlane, Ron Wagner
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

Marvel Comics (original printing), IDW Publishing (reprinted), 236 Pages

Review:

This collection of the classic Larry Hama G.I. Joe comics is probably most unlike any of the others before it. The string of issues collected here, numbers 51 through 60, showcase a lot of new Joes and members of Cobra, as well as dealing with Serpentor taking control of Cobra while Cobra Commander spends some time connecting with his estranged son and trying out his battle armor, which was worn by his action figure after G.I. Joe: The Movie in the cartoon series and toy line.

One cool thing worth noting is that one of the issues here was drawn by Todd McFarlane before he would achieve fame with The Amazing Spider-Man and later, Spawn.

While I didn’t enjoy this as much as some of the collections before it, it is still a good string of tales. However, this is getting closer to the era of G.I. Joe that I didn’t like as much as the earlier stuff.

The franchise, at this point, has so many characters that comic book debuts happen nearly every issue and usually with multiple new faces showing up at the same time. One issue in here had the new look Cobra Commander out on his first mission with the debuting Raptor, Fred VII and a new group of Joes like Tunnel Rat and Outback. And I know I’m probably missing several others. It’s just hard for the comic to follow a tightly knit narrative like this series did at it’s peak from volumes 3 through 5.

Don’t get me wrong, if you love G.I. Joe, especially the Larry Hama side of the universe, then this should still satisfy you. It just shows that this is a franchise in constant flux and this feels more like a transition to newer things than something that builds off of what we’ve come to know thus far. But this is also planting seeds for the Cobra Civil War storyline, which was one of the high points in the comic’s entire run.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Any of the original Marvel G.I. Joe and Transformers comics.