Wait, What? Ep. 332 — Toy Stories

December 5, 2021

00:00-1:45: Greetings, and welcome to our first podcast of December! As Graeme explains here, it’s a bit of a departure for us: due to Jeff’s very busy December, we are recording this Thanksgiving weekend for release the following week.  And so we will not be discussing (and over-discussing) comics news, nor getting updates on soon-to-be-released books that Graeme wishes to tease us all to distraction with.  Instead, we assigned ourselves homework and will be discussing Classic G.I. Joe Vol. 5, by Larry Hama, Rod Whigham, Keith Williams and Andy Mushynsky (and Mike Zeck on covers!), IDW’s reprint of Marvel’s G.I. JOE: A REAL AMERICAN HERO issues #41-60 from 1985.  All of IDW’s reprints were for sale for stupidly cheap prices during the Black Friday sales, but if you missed out and have Comixology Unlimited, you can check out this volume and read it for free. (You can also do the same if you have Hoopla, I should mention.). In short, if you are frustrated by the idea of hearing us talk about 35 year old comics that you haven’t read, please feel free to read them and join along!  It’s always easier to yell at us when you know what we’re talking about, I’ve found.

01:45-41:04:  But first, Graeme wants to talk about toy comics in general, in part because not only did Graeme buy all the G.I. Joe reprint volumes, he also purchased all the sale volumes of Transformers: Classics (reprinting the Marvel run of the 80s) as well as the Transformers: UK volumes.  Since Jeff hasn’t really read the books (a few years back he tried reading the first three or four issues and tapped out), Graeme gives Jeff a schooling on the original miniseries, the British strips and the emergence of Simon Furman. And then beyond that, we talk about the rise of the licensed toy comics at Marvel including Micronauts and Rom: Spaceknight. If you want to find out who Graeme’s favorite Transformers were, this is section of the episode for you!

41:04-1:50:32: And here we go with the Joe—Graeme tells us why he picked Vol. 5 of Classic G.I. Joe and one of the things he hadn’t realized about these issues until reading them now.  We talk about when Graeme started reading them, and how this era of the Joes are basically superheroes. We go on to talk about the greatness of Larry Hama as a writer and storyteller (so much so that Jeff favorably compares Hama’s work on G.I. Joe to Wagner/Grant on Judge Dredd); and we just try and drill down into these comics to see if we can understand and talk about  what makes them so great.

1:50:32-end: We start to veer toward closing comments here with Graeme updating you Whatnauts as to how our December schedule is, uh, scheduled.  I’m sure you’ll think I’m joking when I tell you Hardaway plays a crucial role in that update, but I assure you I am not.  And but finally: Closing Comments with some especially heartfelt thanks to our listeners from Jeff. And so but also finally: look for us on  Stitcher! Itunes! Instagram! Twitter together and separately: Graeme and JeffTumblr, and  on Patreon where a wonderful group of people make this all possible, including Empress Audrey, Queen of the Galaxy, to whom we are especially grateful for her continuing support of this podcast.

NEXT WEEK:  When is an episode of Drokk not an episode of Drokk? When it’s Spreck! Jeff and Graeme discussing Volume Two of Strontium Dog Search and Destroy Files! (Jeff hasn’t read volume 1 so you don’t need to, either!)


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12 comments on “Wait, What? Ep. 332 — Toy Stories

  1. Jeff Lester Dec 5, 2021

    Need just the link? Say no more, soldier!

  2. Eddy Webb Dec 6, 2021

    In what I’m sure was pure coincidence, I laughed that episode 332 talked about the Transformers UK comic, which lasted 332 issues.

    In all seriousness, this is an excellent episode. I grew up on both Transformers and GI Joe in the 80s, and I’m glad that people are still excited about these comics today. But I agree that Hama should be in the pantheon of long run comic writers like Lee and Englehart, because regardless of the toy toe-in, these are just great comics, period.

  3. Bobby K. Dec 6, 2021

    It’s probably no coincidence that I often have just read something that you guys soon discuss (New Defenders and Justice League International being two recent examples). But I was SO happy to listen to this episode about Larry Hama and Classic G.I. Joe. A couple years ago I re-read everything up to Vol. 19, and I finally read Vol. 20 last week. It makes me want to keep on rolling. I decided (probably stupidly) to stop buying the trades of ARAH and stick to the Classic volumes at some point. And now, with the license likely moving, everything is in disarray.

    I’ll soon be subscribing to Comixology Unlimited so I can keep reading. I couldn’t agree more with your takes on Hama’s writing. It’s just one of the great comics runs, great example of 80s Marvel, mind-blowing plotting and pacing… I could re-read his origin for Cobra Commander a thousand times and my mind would still be blown. I laugh out loud thinking about some of the moments from that book’s decades of awesomeness, including the occasional almost-sympathetic portrayal of someone who is basically a member of a domestic terrorist organization (albeit a cartoonish one whose origins are similar to those of Amway)! I want to sit down and re-read it all right now!

  4. Joe Iglesias Dec 6, 2021

    I don’t think anyone would object if Drokk was followed up by Springfield Confidential…

  5. Justin Harman Dec 6, 2021

    Simon definitely has a bit of a Claremont-lite vibe to his stuff, for good or ill.
    TFUK issues were very confusing to me, a Transformers fan in the US who randomly bought some TFUK thru mail order without knowing what they were. Most of the initial issues I happened to buy were reprints, but a couple of precious copies were high octane Furman issues, and I was blown away.

  6. Justin Harman Dec 6, 2021

    Todd Rundgren in Utopia pants showing up in GI Joe would have been amazing

  7. Hama’s GIJoe was what got me into comics. Hama is GIJoe. Great episode. Thanks for taking the time to elucidate what’s so great about the phenomenon.

    In particular that line that Susie says, “an entry wound like an extra navel and an exit wound like a chicken pot pie”…so good.

  8. Shadavid Dec 9, 2021

    I was pretty much the wrong age and in the wrong circumstances to get in on GI Joe when it launched. 23 years old and with a very limited budget for comics. Mediocre artwork and a sniffy attitude about toy-based comics not drawn by Mike Golden didn’t help. However, I took the plunge and bought vol 2 in the Black Friday sale on Comixology, so this episode was a timely burst of enthusiasm for Hama et al and delights to come.

  9. Simon Dec 12, 2021

    Hey guys. Was listening to you talk about the way Hama wrote these comics and how fast and tight the plotting was. In a way I’ve not entirely put together yet the first thing it put me in mind of was the Young Justice Animated series.

    This is a show that debuted in 2010 and in 2021 is in the middle of it’s 4th season having abandoned normal comic/animated timlines during it’s hiatus’ (hiati?) and having the characters age in real time the same way Dredd does.

    Not sure if you’ve seen this or not but the way you described Hama continually building on rolling plot threads really put in mind how Young Justice has been constructed over time and had one evolution roll into the next while setting up the future storylines at the same time.

    Anyway, thanks for the pod. As a UK reader Action Force was something I remember seeing odd issues of as a kid but something was never really available as more than that. So I’m gonig to check this out now.

    Finally, shout out to circuit breaker and the one issue I saw her in which also had Starscream (fucking Starscream!) learn about the spirit of christmas.

  10. Wow, what an early Christmas present! Never in a million years did I expect you to discuss the toy comics of my youth. Every now and then you’re previous Micronauts’ discussion would bring you maddeningly within spitting distance of Transformers, but you never went full bore.

    Transformers (and the Mirage TMNT) was what got me back into comics as regular reader. I was really turned off by the original 10 issues of Transformers because of how divorced it was from the cartoon show.The art was terrible, in part because it was based on the toys themselves and not the show models. (You tell me if Rachet’s robot form looks anything like, well, a robot.) And the characters’ personalities were just not in line with anything the show was doing. I dipped back in when Optimus was killed, and I remember being so angry that he was killed in a video game. I even wrote an angry fanboy letter explaining why the writer didn’t get Transformer, and if he just watched the cartoon every day on channel whatever at XXX time like I did, he would know what TFs were about. Man, what an angry fanboy, and only 10 years old. I also hated that the writer/s couldn’t get the appeal of anthropomorphic robots and had to keep centering random humans in every issue. Then they introduced that group of superhumans whose job it was to kill TFs and I was out. But I remember walking into my first comics and baseball card shop, and looking at the titles and seeing Transformers. I was feeling nostalgia since the show had been off the air, and i picked up, I think, issue 48. And I stuck with it! I think having it be the only source of TF lore made me more amenable to the storyline. (Although I couldn’t understand how Ratbat, one of the goddamn cassette tape, was leader of the Decepticons.)

    When Simon Furman came on, it was breath of fresh air. I really, really enjoyed his work. Crazy to think he defined so much of the lore that has lasted all the way to the Michael Bay movies! And when he was joined by Andrew Wildman on art duty, whom I dubbed “the Todd McFarlane of TF artists,” the book was unstoppable. It’s funny to think how you could buy back issues of TF from the quarter or dollar bins back in the day, and now those issues go for hundreds of dollars.

    I always loved the G.I.Joe cartoon, and could even tell it was better written than TF. But what really annoyed me when reading my friends’ copies of the Joe comic was how much better the storytelling was. That issue where the Joe pilot and the Cobra pilot expend all their ammo in a dog fight, then fly by and salute each other? That stuff was great. And those Mike Zeck covers! Nothing screams awesome Marvel ’80s like a Mike Zeck cover. (His Captain America ones are some of my favs.) Fortunately, TF had a few early Jim Lee covers near the end of its run.

    I was always bothered by the fact that both GiJoe and TF had to keep pace with the toys instead of being able to focus on the characters in the story. I think that led to a lot of unnecessary character deaths, and the totally unnecessary psychological scarring of elementary school me.

    What a great episode. Thanks for this one.

  11. Dasbender Dec 18, 2021

    Thank you, gentlemen, for this very special episode. Like many other listeners, Joe and Transformers was also my door into comics. I had sampled the occasional Star Wars or random cartoon character comic, but nothing got me hooked month-to-month like G.I.Joe. I only ventured into superheroes after years of seeing house adds about X-Men, Spider-Man, and Captain America. Simon Furman and Larry Hama (and Andrew Wildman, Geoff Senior, MD Bright, Mike Zeck, and Lee Weeks) forever changed my life with those comics. I missed the early years of both titles, which meant I came in when they both were already firing on all cylinders. Anyone with the slightest whiff of nostalgia should check out James Roberts’ IDW Transformers stuff (More Than Meets the Eye and Lost Light). Such great social and political commentary under a candy coating of a 1980’s toy franchise / lifestyle brand.