The G.I. Joe toy line and comic books share a history which extends back twenty years. The toy line, which started in 1962 with a number of 12-inch dolls, underwent an overhaul in the early 1980’s. Hasbro, the owner of the G.I. Joe license, decided to create a series of 3 ¾” “action figures”, a style that first became popular with the toys Kenner released for the Star Wars movies in the late 1970s.
Hasbro called on comic writer Larry Hama to collaborate in the figure line. Hama created personalities and backgrounds for each member of the team and was given the task of writing the tie-in comic published by Marvel. Both the toys and the comic book hit the stands in March of 1982 and both were very successful.
The toy line came out with 13 waves from 1982 to 1994 and the comic book ended the same year. The toy line had a slight resurgence in 1997 and a bigger one in 2000-2001. It was during this second reincarnation that art studio Devil’s Due acquired the G.I. Joe license and with Image Comics published a brand new comic book featuring many of the same characters from the Marvel run. Eventually, the studio broke from Image, creating its own publishing company and taking the license with them. Devil’s Due currently lists six title featuring the G.I. Joe characters, including G.I. Joe: Sigma 6.
Last year, Hasbro did another revamp of the G.I. Joe toys. The figures are now eight inches tall, stylized versions of the characters created 24 years ago. The new line is called G.I. Joe: Sigma 6 and like its predecessor, a tie-in comic is being published to go along with it.
G.I. Joe: Sigma Six is designed to be an easily accessible, all ages book that is essentially an advertisement for not only the toy line but also the new cartoon series seen on the Fox network.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. After all, the Marvel series (and the cartoon that appeared around the same time) were created to give the toys a sales push. But the Marvel series transcended just being a toy tie-in, showing originality and well thought out storylines. The story in G.I. Joe: Sigma Six #1 is a bland, by-the-numbers tale that doesn’t seem to expend much effort.
The comic is obviously aimed at children. But skewing the writing to a young audience doesn’t mean it has to be boring or lack intelligence. I run with the attitude that it’s never too early to have them appreciate good character and plot development. So the “it’s only for kids” argument isn’t going to hold water with me.
The story consists of G.I. Joe team member Duke being called upon for a search and rescue mission to find three lost scientists and the submarine they were riding in. Yes, one man sent to save three people and a five ton sub. Well, he isn’t the leader of the G.I. Joe team for nothing.
While down there, he finds a secret Cobra mining installation under the command of Destro. Destro shanghaied the sub and its crew. The reason why he did this is not given. Possibly because they were getting too close to his operation, this in itself is hard to figure out, but apparently involves mining the ocean floor for “power crystals” of some sort.
The author, Andrew Dabb, throws in a bunch of stuff he thinks the kids might like: cheesy humor, robot troopers and radio controlled sharks. But these don’t make up for a flimsy plot that stretches suspension of disbelief to the breaking point and beyond.
It’s like Dabb has a mortal fear of confusing a child that picks up this book. Even though there are numerous characters that make up both the G.I. Joe and Cobra teams, the issue is essentially the Duke and Destro show. Actions seldom are given reasons and logic barely makes an appearance. Dabb keeps the story simple, either because he thinks that kids wouldn’t be smart enough to follow along or would be hopelessly lost if they had to devote a few seconds to thinking about the story.
As a comic book, G.I. Joe: Sigma Six #1 is irritatingly dumbed down more than needed to reach its target audience. And, in comparison, it makes the first G.I. Joe comic look like it was written by Shakespeare. Just because you are trying to reach kids doesn’t mean that the story should suffer.