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A comic series launched in 1982 to promote the return of the GI Joe brand to toy shelves and to introduce the new individual characters developed for the new line. GI Joe was introduced as an elite counter-terrorist/special mission force that conducted covert operations around the world on behalf of the US Government. The primary enemy of the Joes was an organization called Cobra. Cobra was involved in various schemes and plots in an attempt to increase the organization's wealth and power by any means necessary.
The primary writer of the comic was Larry Hama, who wrote all but a handful of issues over a twelve year run. Prior to the relaunch, Hama had an idea for a Marvel Universe comic called Fury Force, which would have seen the son of Nick Fury put together a team to fight Hydra, Marvel's resident terrorist group; his G.I. Joe series was based primarily on this unused pitch. Despite a large amount of restrictions and interference from Hasbro, Hama was able to make the comic more mature than the cartoon. It allowed characters to be killed off and contained a functioning canon that developed a deep fleshed-out background for its universe.
The book proved to be very popular, and at one point it was Marvel's bestselling comic. It was even given a spin-off comic in 1986, GI Joe: Special Missions, which focused less on Cobra and more on various dictators, terrorists, and more realistic enemies for the Joes to confront. This series lasted until 1989. A slide in popularity (and some would say quality) began and the regular series ended in 1994.
Perhaps the most famous issue is issue # 21, which told a story without using any speech bubbles or sound effects, has been endlessly homaged and parodied.
- All-American Face: The whole team.
- America Saves the Day: But not always...
- And Knowing Is Half the Battle: The comic wouldn't include An Aesop PSA, but characters would take the time to talk about the negative consequences of combat and war.
- Animal Motifs: Cobra
- Art Shift: The comic had several different artists during its run, but the most jarring was the period where Frank Springer and Rod Whigham were alternating the art chores on a string of issues.
- Badass: Lots.
- Badass Beard: Many of the Joes were designed with beards to add detail to the figure head-sculpts. This carried over to the comic.
- The Baroness: First appeared in the comic.
- Because I'm Jonesy: In one issue of the series, Zartan infiltrates the Pit, and moves about shifting his appearance from one Joe to another as he goes. However, he shifts into looking like Gung Ho just as the real Gung Ho enters the room; alerting the Joes to the fact that one of them is an impostor.
- BFG: Roadblock and his vehicle mounted "Ma Deuce" are the most notable.
- Big Bad: Cobra Commander, who was a lot more competent than in the animated series.
- Bittersweet Ending: On several occasions, which especially under Marvel had the Joes frequently running up against the complexity of international politics and conflicting interests within the U.S. government.
- The Blank: Cobra Commander's mask is either a featureless reflective plate or a blue hood with eyeholes cut out.
- Blind Weaponmaster: The Blind Master.
- Brainwashed and Crazy: Unlike the cartoon, the comic subverted this on several occasions. Most notably when two Joes were brainwashed and programmed to go postal upon hearing a special signal. They were unable to fire on comrades and passed out from the stress.
- Code Name: Joes were only referred to by code names.
- Cold War: Since the series began in The Eighties, it was very much on and the Joes had several run-ins with the Soviets and other communist forces. The most frequent of these was the October Guard.
- Comic Book Fantasy Casting: On three separate occasions, early issues of the comic featured civilian characters based on Laurel and Hardy.
- Contrived Coincidence: The comic runs on this trope! It seems that every character is connected through The Vietnam War or other incidents. Here are just a few examples:
- Storm Shadow, Stalker, and Snake Eyes were all on the same Long-Range Recon Patrol in Vietnam.
- A member of the LRRP team thought dead turned out to be a Cobra Crimson Guardsman assigned to watch GI Joe Headquarters.
- Snake Eyes is informed that he lost his whole family in a car wreck by his future CO, Hawk, which leads to...
- Zartan being hired to kill Snake Eyes because Cobra Commander's brother was the driver of the other car. Cobra Commander blamed his brother's death on the surviving family member.
- The Baroness' brother was killed in Vietnam. Snake Eyes was among one of the soldiers who responded. Thinking that her brother was accidentally killed by the Americans, The Baroness blamed her brother's death on Snake Eyes.
- Several years into the comic's run, It was revealed that Firefly was also hired to kill Snake Eyes but decided that Snake Eyes was too dangerous. Firefly recommended Zartan instead.
- Did Not Do the Research: Averted for the most part, Hama was a veteran and used his military experience to portray the Joes acting as real soldiers would.
- Dirty Communists: Subverted and played straight. The October Guard and other Soviet troops were given a lot more depth than most fiction of them time. It was, however, made clear that they were still a threat to the mission. It should also be said that the Borovia arc featured an Eastern Bloc gulag and guards as sadistic as any ever portrayed in fiction.
- Enemy Civil War: Destro's Iron Grenadiers vs Cobra Commander's side of Cobra vs Serpentor's side of Cobra (which the Joes reluctantly supported for the return for stolen technology). Although, the Grenadiers never fired a shot at either side; once they established their position on Cobra Island, they literally kicked back and drank tea while the two Cobra factions slugged it out, until it was over, and Destro simply retrieved the Baroness and left.
- Enemy Mine: On several occasions, the Joes teamed up with their Soviet counterparts, The October Guard, to fight against Cobra. The Joes also had friendly dealings with Destro after the later split from Cobra.
- Faceless Goons: It seems like all Cobra uniforms include face-obscuring helmets or masks.
- Fake Crossover: Duke showed up in Amazing Spider Man #268 (1985). He is unnamed, but puts in an appearance as head of a military unit assigned to carry out the wreckage of the Heroes for Hire building (which the Beyonder had turned into gold).
- From Nobody to Nightmare: Cobra Commander was a used-car salesman who felt that big business/government crushed his dreams and formed Cobra to gain power outside the system.
- Gas Mask Mooks: Destro's Iron Grenadiers.