Jealous Hulk steals G.I.Joe title (*)

Jealous of Sgt. Slaughter landing a job with the Joes, Hulk Hogan stars in a movie with this exact same title as a G.I. Joe story in 1989. That is 2 years after this story was released. On another note, today we will be having absolutely no limits or restrictions as far as the levels and nature of the hostilities and offense. We’ll be taking to an especially ruthless or vicious manner. Time to get into the story told in Special Missions #4, featuring on the Impel Trading Card #86, No Holds Barred.

(*) Uncomfirmed, but if it’s on the internet, it’s true, so there you have it. Alternate facts 2.0.

Impel_C_86.png

Wild Bill is piloting a PBY transport plane somewhere over the South China Sea. The rest of the team are Leatherneck, Roadblock and Lifeline. The cargo is a captured Cobra Firebat. The plane is under attack by a Hind helicopter of the Oktober Guard. Roadblock and Leatherneck trade shots with the Guard.

Marvel_SM_04_Title.png

Lifeline insists he is a non-combatant medic and he’s trying to extract the Firebat’s black boxes. The fact that Lifeline doesn’t want to shoot at the Oktober Guard and he is currently failing to extract the black boxes by needing to bypass several anti-tamper devices, is causing Leatherneck to give him a hard time. The plane’s engines get shot and Wild Bill orders everyone to bail out. Leatherneck has a Stinger Missile launcher with him, but couldn’t fire it from within the PBY so once in the air – freefalling – he fires one at the Hind and knocks out the tail rotor, sending it crashing down too.

Marvel_SM_04_Stinger.png

The Joes touch down in the middle of the jungle. They find Lifeline caught up in a tree with his parachute. After they cut him down, they move out in the direction of the PBY’s crash site to recover the black boxes. The Oktober Guard – having crash-landed themselves, take off with the same goal in mind. The jungle proves to be treacherous and the Joes need to overcome leeches and get past a tiger. The Oktober Guard have found a trail and use a bend in the path to lay an ambush. The Joes are heading down the same trail when Leatherneck notices the same curve and points out that it would be perfect for an ambush. He catches the smell of the Russian tobacco from Brekhov’s cigarette and the Joes scatter in defense. Both sides exchange fire and Leatherneck gets wounded. Wild Bill and Roadblock keep the Oktober Guard pinned down while Lifeline drags Leatherneck to safety. Lifeline refuses to use Leatherneck’s grenade launcher which leads to more insults by Leatherneck. Wild Bill gets shot too and Roadblock and Lifeline carry the 2 wounded Joes away (including Wild Bill’s hat). Stormavik and Schrage have also been wounded but Brekhov orders them to continue to the crash site as he knows the Joes won’t stop either.

Marvel_SM_04_Roadblock_Wild_Bill_hat.png

The Oktober Guard reach the crash site first and Daina climbs on board, her being the lightest. She extracts the black boxes with ease – Lifeline had done all the difficult work before the PBY went down – when the Joes arrive. Another heated exchange is cut short when both teams come under fire from river pirates. The pirates’ leader, Sarawak Sally, keeps them locked up their boat.

Marvel_SM_04_River_Pirates.png

Marvel_SM_04_Ugly_one

The pirates are forcing other prisoners to fight for their entertainment. The loser of the latest fight is shot by Sarawak Sally. The Joes and the Oktober Guard are then brought up to the deck. Each side will have to draw straws to see who gets to fight for their teams freedom. Horrorshow makes a nasty comment and Sally wants to make sure that he gets the shortest straw.

For the Joes, Lifeline drew the short straw. He argues that he is a non-combattant, but Horrorshow starts attacking. Lifeline deflects him every time, until Horrorshow crashes into a mast and remains unconscious. Wild Bill explains that Lifeline is a black belt in Aikido – “a Zen martial art with no offensive moves. The purpose is to redirect violent energy away from oneself…”

Marvel_SM_04_Sorry_not_Sorry

Sarawak Sally congratulates Lifeline and wants to execute Horrorshow. Lifeline steps in and refuses to let her kill him. She calls him greedy, asking for not only his own life, but that of his team and the lives of the Oktober Guard. She asks if he wants the black boxes as well. He replies that they are not worth more bloodshed. He tells her the boxes contain Cobra secrets and that they would be rewarded if the pirates bring the boxes back to the Cobra embassy, much to the outrage of Leatherneck. Lifeline stands his ground and responds that if he didn’t tell Sally the truth, the Oktober Guard’s blood would be on his hands. Sarawak Sally laughs and tells them they are all free to go because one of them has the courage of his convictions. She drops the boxes in the river as an offering to the river spirits and the ships sail away.

Marvel_SM_04_Hahahaha.png

I have to admit, I find this a bit of an odd story. The plot and the battle scenes are great, but the River pirates are a bit too much. I get that you’d need a third party involved to show respect for Lifeline’s beliefs as a medic, but they’re just that little bit over the top. Also, for the fourth time in a row, we don’t really get any Cobras. Sure, it’s their Firebat and secrets the plot runs with, but they don’t seem to be chasing the Joes. Also, black boxes aren’t really black and they are designed to survive plane crashes on land and water, so the Joes or the Guard could just return to the river later and search for the boxes. They also send out a signal, so locating them in the river should be fairly easy. As Special Missions go, this one doesn’t do it justice. There are other stories that are far more compelling and – well – just better.

I do have to point out that I also share Lifeline’s conviction of non-combat. I do believe that violence is never the answer and there are always better solutions to be found. Compromise is underrated. I don’t approve of the pointless bickering and discussing in politics, but I do believe that true solutions can only be found by analyzing the issue, taking account of all the viewpoints and finding a solution that can be agreed on by all involved parties. The survival of the fittest has been turned around to the survival of the best armed and that is never a good thing. A few weeks ago, a new war was avoided by not attacking Iran. I hope this sets a tone for the international politics going forward because the only people getting hurt by war and terrorism are the men, women and children like us. The people living their lives, working, paying taxes, enjoying the arts, playing games, … It’s never the politicians or the rich, they only profit from it. All I am saying, is give peace a chance. I get it, strange to come from someone who writes about a toy line, comic book series and all things related, that is focused on war, terrorism and conflict. Don’t get me wrong, I love G.I.Joe and I like watching action movies and reading war stories and so on, but think about it. Stories were once told by professional storytellers to give the illiterate people a chance to learn about something. The stories would have morals and meaning and would educate or inform the listeners. If we take this concept into the modern world, shouldn’t we consider all these war stories and violence on tv, in books and movies as a warning about how ugly conflict is? Imagine there is no war, we wouldn’t need to spend billions on weapons and defenses. The money saved would enable the hungry to be fed, the homeless to get sheltered, we – the human race that is – would become better, focusing on ourselves as humans rather than on gods, kings or countries. Bettering ourselves rather than finding new ways to kill the planet and other people. Maybe it’s utopian, maybe it’s visionary, maybe it’s hope. Maybe I’m a dreamer, but let me have this dream. Now, I may have used quite a lot of references in this little rant, but let me end with a quote of a man with a vision.

The strength of a civilization is not measured by its ability to fight wars, but rather by its ability to prevent them. — G. Roddenberry

Right, now, let’s get back into it with the character spotlight on this card, Lifeline. As a kid, I was part of the Red Cross Youth and so it’s no big surprise that the Joe’s medic would be one of my favorites. At the time I got my Lifeline figure, I didn’t know that there had been another medic (Doc) and seeing that he came with a lot of accessories made him an instant draft whenever I went into battle against Cobra in another backyard battle. There have been 8 figure releases of Lifeline over the years, starting with the v1 in 1986. Now, immediately upon looking at the figure and his accessories, you’ll notice something strange. He has a molded gun on his left leg and he came with a silver gun – supposedly this one came from the holster on his chest. WTF Hasbro!? Seriously, Mr. Hama goes to the trouble of creating file cards and character depth and the toy manufacturer just adds some guns for fun. Maybe it’s supposed to be a BB-gun or a flare gun. Or it’s one of those novelty lighters… but then again, smoking kills so that would also send a wrong message.

Anyway, the same mold has been used to create the Tiger Force version in 1988 and the v3 in 1991 (mail-in offer with the original colors but different legs because Kellogg’s didn’t want guns on the figure).

In 1994 and 2002 we get different versions altogether. As part of the Battle Force, Lifeline got a new design with a red bomber jack and white pants and helmet with red details. His accessories were bright neon yellow. That would stick out in a crowd. No guns this time except for a flare gun (they got their act together now). He also got a knife, flashlight, case and grappling hook. The 2002 figure is a repaint of the v4 with a new head, no helmet this time, unshaven and with black accessories.

Then in 2004 we get Sgt. Lifeline (I’m beginning to see a pattern here, Hasbro really should hire someone to take care of their trademarks.) The Anti-Venom Task Force was a Toys ‘R US exclusive set that also featured Barricade, Charbroil, Duke, Mutt and Roadblock. Lifeline here is a repaint of Stretcher (that other medic the Joes got in 1990). He even comes with that flashy looking sled contraption. The filecard does depict him as we know him with the red helmet and green glasses.

From 2010, we get Edwin ‘Lifeline’ Steen. This figure was part of the Z-Force 3-pack alongside Calvin ‘Jammer’ Mondale and Rico ‘Gaucho’ Gonzalles, made for the 2010 International G.I.Joe Convention of the Official Collector’s Club. It was -again- a repaint of the v4 including the head. He did finally inherit Doc’s stretcher though.

The next year the v7 of Lifeline is an homage to the original figure, taking back to the red & white color scheme. Accessories galore, including an IV drip, a new stretcher, shock pads, removable helmet, medic pack, syringe,  … It did come with a pistol (could still be a flare gun), but also came with a rifle. That one is just unexplainable.

Finally in 2015, we get a new version of the Tiger Force Lifeline as part of the

Tiger Force vs. Iron Grenadiers 2015 Joecon Exclusive boxset. The Springfield edition. The set also included Sgt. Stalker, Dial-Tone, Big Brawler, Wreckage, Recondo, General Mayhem, Metal-Head, Undertow Officer, three Iron Anvils and three Undertow figures. Mostly a repaint of the 2010 version, but without the assault rifle.

My absolute favorite will always be the v1, the only one I have in my collection and my only medic…

The story we looked at today, SM#4 No holds barred, is the introduction of the character of Lifeline. He later is part of the team that meddles in the Cobra Civil War and in another Special Mission (#25), we’ll see him again as part of the Tiger Force when they fight the Lower Darklonian Separatist Front in New York.

As I said before, Lifeline was my first medic and having spent some of my childhood as part of the Red Cross Youth, I held him in high regard as part of my team. I never knew the comics as a kid, but when I played with Lifeline, he was a pacifist. Do no harm!

Lifeline_RAH.jpg

Since the next few cards will keep on showing (awesome) covers of the Special Missions, it’s no great mystery as to what we’ll be discussing next time. Still, I hope to see you then when we look at an epic battle with a clear difference between good and evil. A bit too clear perhaps, but still a hell of a fight. So, see you later. Keep afloat!

Happy Collecting and YoJoe!

Burn-out

The state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress that occurs when one feels overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands… Or the reduction of a fuel or substance to nothing through use or combustion. Actually, both explanations are appropriate for today’s story. Nice work on the pun people. We have arrived at the Impel Trading Card #85, spotlighting the Marvel Special Mission #3, Burn-Out.

Impel Trading Card #85 - Marvel G.I.Joe Special Missions #3
Impel Trading Card #85 – Marvel G.I.Joe Special Missions #3
Impel Trading Card #85 - Marvel G.I.Joe Special Missions #3 - Featuring Slip-Stream
Impel Trading Card #85 – Marvel G.I.Joe Special Missions #3 – Featuring Slip-Stream

Somewhere in the Middle East (Trucial Abysmia?), Stalker, Leatherneck and Slip-Stream are sitting in front of a restaurant with a jetfighter mercenary named Deke.

Marvel G.I.Joe Special Missions #3 - Deke.
Marvel G.I.Joe Special Missions #3 – Deke.

He’s a veteran American pilot who was shot down and spent several years as a POW. After returning to the States he no longer could find a piloting job. The local despot, Colonel Sharif, is generously paying foreign pilots, so Deke signed up. Deke is giving the Joes a map with all of the SAM sites, as well as location of an aircraft storage and the maintenance crew housing. In return, Deke gets a stack of money. Leatherneck warns Deke to stay away from the air base tonight.
One of the locals hears them talking and rats them out to the authorities. In Colonel Sharif’s office, Captain Habib reports that someone had informed him that Deke had met with the Americans. The Captain’s orders are to have Deke detained, questioned and shot. And to find the Joes.
Back at the garage the Joes are using as their base, Crank-Case is modifying a van for the assault on the airbase.
Meanwhile at police HQ, Captain Habib is beating Deke to learn the location of the Joes. Deke refuses to give up any information even when a Sergeant Abdul continues to beat him.

Marvel G.I.Joe Special Missions #3 - Sgt. Abdul at work
Marvel G.I.Joe Special Missions #3 – Sgt. Abdul at work

Finally, Captain Habib threatens to poke out his eyes which gives Deke the incentive to tell him the location of the Joe’s temporary base of operations. Being the administrative bureaucrats that most totalitarians are, they want Deke to sign a written confession. As Sharif unties Deke, he tells him that there is a secret SAM site and calls him a coward. Deke stabs Sharif with the pen, kicks him to the ground and smashes a chair over the head of the guard and escapes.
At the garage, the Joes are applying the finishing touches to the van, while Stalker is giving Ace the SAM coordinates over the radio. At that moment, Colonel Sharif’s men show up outside the garage. Busting out, Leatherneck shoots a grenade into an APC that was blocking the road. A car chase with other APC’s takes them back into town. The Joes get some help from the Royalists as they destroy the APC’s in pursuit.

Marvel G.I.Joe Special Missions #3 - The enemy of my enemy.
Marvel G.I.Joe Special Missions #3 – The enemy of my enemy.
The Joe team crashes the gates of the airfield but then the van’s engine dies, so they have to go on foot. The mission was to get Slip-Stream to a new Russian YAK-36, the equivalent of the Harrier VTOL jet. A new problem arises when they notice the hydraulics where pulled for repair. So Slip-Stream comes up with the idea of loading the fighter in one of the large cargo aircraft. As the Air Force is dropping bombs on the airfield, the cargo plane is able to take off with all aboard.
After his escape, Deke has made his way to a fighter jet. He is determined to help the Joes escape. Captain Habib, having shot the mercenary pilots for refusing to fly, sees the Joes taking off and takes command of the secret SAM site at the end of the main runway. Deke having gotten in an unarmed MIG flies up next to the Joes and then circles back to crash kamikaze style into the SAM site and Captain Habib, giving his life to save the Joe team.
Marvel G.I.Joe Special Missions #3 - Going out with a BANG.
Marvel G.I.Joe Special Missions #3 – Going out with a BANG.
Did you notice? No Cobra in this one. Still a good story though. But let’s start with the statistics stuff. The cover is done by Herb Trimpe, story by Larry Hama, coloring by Bob Sharen, letters by Phil Felix, editing was done by Bob Harras and the Editor in chief was Jim Shooter. Dated on February 3, 1987 with a cover price of $.75 (can you believe it?). 

Marvel G.I.Joe Special Missions #3 - Burn-out!
Marvel G.I.Joe Special Missions #3 – Burn-out!

These Special Missions are truly stand alone stories, although later some of them do tie in to the main story line. In this one, we visit Colonel Sharif for a second time. His first appearance was in the ARAH #1 mini-story, Hot Potato. We’ll cross paths with him a few times more in the future. Deke we only get to meet here in this story, given the fact that he seeks redemption for selling out his soul to fight for Colonel Sharif. The first shot we get of him, shows him drinking beer and smoking. Remember this is 1987, but still, it’s a comic book, aimed at kids, teens and adolescents. I don’t think you’d get away with something in this day and age. And to be honest, maybe that’s for the best. Deke was a POW and when he finally got released and returned home, nobody would hire him to fly. A man needs to make a living, so he got tempted by the money Colonel Sharif was offering… The Colonel’s own pilots can’t land at night… Quality staff right there. It must be hard to have to come home to a country that you almost died to protect and not being recognized for the sacrifice you made. I’m not saying Deke chose the right path, but you can certainly understand why he chose to work for Sharif. In the end, he feels responsible for the Joes, who are his team mates in this operation after all. And he gives his life to protect and save them, redeeming himself without even knowing what it was all about. A powerful story. And one that we will revisit in these Special Mission…

That it for this time. I’ll try and post the next one a bit sooner and more regularly than I have been posting. Life has been busy and I haven’t had the time to write on a regular basis as much as I would have loved to. I’m starting a new tradition here, half-New Year resolutions. Or something like that. Write more. It’s as simple as that and I really want to keep it up. So, keep coming back for more Joe. Next time, make sure you bring an offering for the River Spirits. Or if you want to sponsor me rather than them, let me know and I’ll send you my PayPal 🙂

Happy Collecting and YoJoe!

That Sinking Feeling.

We’re entering a new phase. The cards no longer focus on just one character, well, they still do, but only on the back. The front of the next cards each display a cover from the Marvel Special Missions, and the character on the back plays a (big) part in the featured comic. We’ll discuss each story and take a look at the character that was placed in the spotlight.
The Special Missions series ran from 1986 through 1989 and consisted of 28 issues. The stories could be read separately, but they were connected to the main ARAH continuity. What better way to start this mini-series with #1 of the Special Missions? I have to admit, starting with any other issue would be rather foolish. Anyway, this is Impel Trading Card #83, featuring Special Missions #1, That Sinking Feeling.

Impel_C_83

Impel_C_83b

The cover for this issues is also used as the cover for the TPB of the Special Missions. As a kid (I must have been 12-13), I found my first G.I.Joe comic book in a bargain bin during our local Comic Book Festival. Now, don’t confuse/compare this with/to a Comic Con, first of Belgian comics (a.k.a. strips) != comics and the Festival is more of an expo with cardboard cutouts of comic book figures and then a sales room and an artist alley. All-in-all, nothing spectacular, but they always did get the most well known Belgian & French artists over to sign/draw. I used to go there every year and on one of my visits I browsed through the comic books bargain bin. I had a few comics back then, some single issues of ALF and TMNT – both in Dutch – from when I was a kid. Just a few issues, non-sequential and so I never got to find out the rest of the story or how it all started. That was the reason I looked through them that day. I didn’t find any of those comics, but I did find the G.I. Joe Special Missions TPB #5. At that time, I was still playing with my Joes. I had some of the cartoons on VHS (also in Dutch), but had absolutely no idea there was a comic book series (don’t judge me, this was before the internet). Needless to say, it was an instant buy for me. Quite a bargain too, I believe I paid about 100 Belgian Franks (about $3). I guess you could say that this was the start of my collector’s life.
The Festival was organized by the Comic Book Library/Store in my home town. Yes, a library foremost. And you needed to be a paid member to lend the comic books. They had mostly Belgian strips, but they also had a few comic book racks… all in Dutch. After the Festival, I went over there and found out they only had the TPB #4 in stock. And only for lending, it was not for sale :-(. I registered as a paid member and lend the TPB a few times so I’d have some more comics to read. The next year, they sold it off in the bargain bin on the Festival. So, now I had 2 TPBs. It took me a few years and a lot of searching online (hooray for the internet!), but I finally managed to track down the other TPB’s and even the single issue comics that got released/translated as well. We got 19 issues in the series, and not all covers are the same as the original series. For more details, check out YoJoe.com.By this time, I had already discovered that the Special Missions were a spin-off of the Marvel ARAH run and started buying those as well. Then there were the DDP issues and … well, let’s just say that I have a pretty complete G.I.Joe comic book collection. And it’s still growing.
Wow, that was quite the sidetrack. Let’s get back to the cover at hand.
The cover art for issue #1 is done by Mike Zeck and John R. Beatty, the story by Larry Hama and the art is by Herb Trimpe.Browsing the interwebs, I came across Mike Zeck’s webpage and found out that he is selling art prints of some of his Joe covers. It didn’t take me too long to place an order and I hope to write a post about them soon (Spoiler. One of them is this cover!).
Marvel_SM_01_cover.png
The story begins in the Baltic Sea where we see a Swedish fisher’s boat being investigated by the October Guard. Apparently the Russians have detailed dossiers on the Joes and Colonel Brekhov, aboard the Hind piloted by Daina, is able to recognize some of the undercover Joes. The Joe team consists of Shipwreck, Cutter, Deep Six, Torpedo and Wet Suit, all posing as Swedish fishermen. As the Hind takes another pass, 3 Cobra FANGs approach. The Baroness, escorted by two Cobra Troopers (a.k.a. cannon fodder), is assaulting the October Guard’s helicopter. Both support FANGs are destroyed and the Hind is crippled, but both them and the Baroness escape the fight.
Marvel_SM_01_polly.png
After the shooting, Deep Six takes out the SHARC with a live video connection to the surface. Meanwhile, Daina and Brekhov crash/land the Hind on the Russian Navy frigate, Udaloy. The Baroness crashes into the ocean near a Cobra hydrofoil with Firefly and a group of Eels. Both sides conclude that the Joes’ presence is proof that there is disabled submarine on the bottom of the sea. They both decide to engage the Joes. The Russian’s Captain Bulgakov asks the Joes to surrender, but in the mean time, Horrorshow and Daina are diving towards the SHARC to tap into the video feed. Daina then goes on to attack Cobra and Horrorshow dives deeper down to locate the submarine. Meanwhile, the Baroness send 2 Eels to board the Udaloy, the Russian frigate. On board, they overhear Schrage and Bulgakov discussing the video feed and they confirm the finding to the Baroness.
On the deck of the Udaloy, the fighting starts. Daina fights the Baroness on the Hydrofoil and Horrorshow gets knocked out by Deep Six when he discovers the SHARC’s video tape recorder. The Hydrofoil crashes into the Udaloy after Daina got kicked into the water. Firefly and the Baroness to join the Eels in the fight with Brekhov, Stormavik and Schrage. Daina made her way back to the aft deck of the frigate and takes out the Eels with her sniper rifle. During the fight, Torpedo and Wet-Suit climb aboard on the other side of the ship and walk up to Bulgakov on the bridge.
Marvel_SM_01_bulgakov.png
The Baroness and Firefly are losing the fight and Colonel Brekhov asks them to surrender. Then a Cobra submarine surfaces and Destro appears. He explains that there is no American submarine stranded on the bottom of the Baltic Sea. It was all a hoax set up by the Joes to enable a defector to cross over. On the top of the bridge, Captain Bulgakov is standing by wearing a STABO harness and while he explains his motives, Wild Bill and Hawk are flying over in a C-130 to pick him up. Destro’s troops try to shoot at Bulgakov as the Joes sweep him off the ship, but to no avail, they were already to far away.
The fighting stops and the Joes throw Horrorshow back into the water as the October Guard kick the Baroness and Firefly off their ship. The Joes have accomplished their mission without firing a single shot.
Marvel_SM_01_not_a_shot.png
Normally, I’d be finding some cryptic way of teasing what the next post is going to be about, but you can probably guess it. Anyway, did I mention before that these Special Missions are some of my favorite stories? Probably a few times already. But let’s face it, they are great stories. I can’t wait to get back to reading the next issues and write about them. Especially the next one… I might have mentioned this one before a while back. (see #48 – Clutch).
See you later! Happy Collecting and YoJoe!