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Sunday, November 1, 2015

FROM HELL (1989)


OUT OF THE BACK ISSUE BIN

Views and Reviews of Comic Books from the Past

By
Reed Tucker
(via special arrangement by John "THE MEGO STRETCH HULK" Cimino)



FROM HELL (1989)


 Written by: Alan Moore
Drawn by: Eddie Campbell


I work as an entertainment reporter at the New York Post, and it is the newspaper’s (horribly misguided) policy to print my email address at the end of every article I write. As you might imagine, I fire up my computer each morning to find my in box clogged with all manner of e-garbage.

It’s almost impossible to overstate just how much of the unsolicited email I receive is absolutely useless.

“Would you be interested in writing about an exciting new carpet-cleaning technique?”

No.

“Expert available to talk about the latest Khloe Kardashian news.”

Not interested.

Scattered among the publicity pitches and the Chinese Viagra ads are also a few missives from real-life readers. This being the Internet, most begin with some variation of, “Dear dipshit,” and then go on to rip me a new one because of something seemingly harmless I’ve written about the latest Johnny Depp movie or whatever. But every once in a long while, something useful shows up in the in box -- something that’s interesting, and on target. Something that I can actually use.

And that’s how I met John.

He emailed me a link to a blog post he’d written about the potential ties between a 1950s children’s Halloween costume and Marvel’s Spider-Man. It was a fascinating story backed by research and reasoned speculation. My first thought was, this is insane. How come no major publication has written about this? If true, this information could rewrite the history of one of the most popular superheroes of all time. Even if not true, it still makes for a great read, check it out here: "The 1963 Ben Cooper Spider-Man Halloween Costume". The editors at the paper agreed, and I wrote an article for the Post summarizing John’s theory called: "The billion dollar Spider-man cover up".

I’ve since met John in person, and he probably has more knowledge of (as well as more enthusiasm for) comic books than anyone I’ve ever come across. Which is why he’s free to email me to tell me to write a review on my favorite book of all time for his blog. Just be sure to begin it, “Dear dipshit.”

Just the other day, a seasoned comics professional confessed to me that he thought Watchmen was -- there’s no easy way to put this -- “fucking overrated.”

“Well, someone had to say it,” he concluded.

I’m not sure I’d go that far, but when it comes to Alan Moore, I know what his most underrated work has to be: From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campell.

As intelligent as Watchmen? Check. As dense and meticulously plotted? Check. Told with beautiful art that’s perfectly suited for the mood of this particular tale? Check. Completely transports the reader to another world? Check. Is populated with engaging and three-dimensional characters? Check. And yet this alterna-history of the Jack the Ripper murders is rarely mentioned in the same breath as Watchmen or even Swamp Thing.


When some rube starts banging on about how comic books are only good for telling juvenile superhero stories, I want to drop this 572-page baby on his toe. To me, this story proves that absolutely anything can be done in a graphic novel. It gets overlooked, I think, simply because it fell outside the whole offering-more-grown-up-spins-on-costumed-heroes revolution of the 1980s.

But From Hell is as satisfying as any historical-fiction novel I’ve ever read. I don’t even care that the theory behind the murders presented here has been mostly discredited. Moore makes it stand up, and that’s all that matters to me.

And he does it with a jaw-dropping amount of research -- most of which is recounted in the series’ extensive footnotes.

And what can you say about Eddie Campbell’s art? The scratchy pen work on display here is so singular, so perfectly adapted for this book. Show someone just one panel, and if they’re a comic fan, I’ll bet you they could tell you immediately where it came from. Even if they’ve never cracked open a comic book in their life, I’d bet they could make a pretty strong guess about the kind of story this is.

It’s amazing what Campbell does with what appears to be little more than a black ink pen. Look at the way he textures a character’s plaid overcoat or creates the outline of a distant building, shadowed in fog, with just a few vertical slashes. Look at the way he creates eerie backgrounds out of violently criss-crossed lines.


I shudder to think how many books of Victorian reference must populate Campbell’s bookshelf. Every detail here feels authentic, from the clothes to the grimy streets to the gruesome murder scenes. I can still see his drawing of Mary Kelly -- victim #5 -- her eviscerated body spread across a bed.

This is one of the best marriages of art and story I’ve ever come across.


Hollywood tried adapting From Hell a few years ago, and of course, the movie stunk. But instead of diminishing my enjoyment of the source material, it just made me appreciate it more. From Hell is a dense, unwieldy beast that’s impossible to compress into a two-hour movie without taking so many shortcuts that something gets lost. Like any good comic book, it’s a story that’s meant to be appreciated one way and one way only: in comic book form.

And truth be told, I also have an extra bit of fondness for this series because it represents one of the last works Moore released before he turned into a crusty old grump, producing increasingly impenetrable (to me anyway) books about ritual magic involving bear urine and H.P. Lovecraft monsters. The Moore of From Hell represents the writer at the height of his mainstream powers, and it’s the version of the author I like best.




HERO ENVY REPORT CARD
Story: 5
Art: 4
Action: 3
Flow: 4
Reread Factor: 5
Overall Grade: 4
(grading numbers 1 thru 5, with 5 being the highest)



Agree, disagree? Let's hear it fanboys!


OTHER "OUT OF THE BACK ISSUE BIN" REVIEWS

AVENGERS #164, 165, 166 (1977)

Reed Tucker is a features writer for the New York Post covering entertainment and movies -- a position that generously allows him to see crap films like "Tomorrowland" before the general public. He's also written for the New York Times, Time Out NY and Oprah magazine. Still not quite sure how that last one happened. He lives in Brooklyn, just down the street from the late, great Bergen Street Comics. Contact @reed_tucker

www.heroenvy.com

Thursday, October 1, 2015

THE UNCANNY X-MEN #137 (1980)



OUT OF THE BACK ISSUE BIN

Views and Reviews of Comic Books from the Past


By
MITCHELL A. HALLOCK
(via special arrangement by John "THE MEGO STRETCH HULK" Cimino)



THE UNCANNY X-MEN #137 (1980)



 Written by: Chris Claremont and John Bryne
Drawn by: John Bryne
Inked by: Terry Austin


"Write about your favorite comic book."

A simple enough request made to me from John Cimino, he of "Mego Stretch Hulk" fame and "the man who could sell brass knuckles to Gandhi" fame. I kept telling him it’s on my list, but when you produce the greatest comic convention known to the Nutmeg State at the lavish Mohegan Sun (known as the TerrifiCon, the State’s TERRIFIC Comic Con) you get a bit busy. Yet, Cimino would not waver in his never-ending, needling for my rarified remembrance of my favorite four-color fable. What would it be? The amazing antics of a certain angst-ridden, arachnid based teenager? The patriotic, pugilist from the greatest generation? The derring-do of the dark knight detective, or even the floundering fables of the forgotten man from Forbush? Nay, I say to thee... As much as I love each and every comic book I have ever had the distinct pleasure of perusing, I had to make my choice; which one would I sit down and transcribe my thoughts regarding a treasured tale? The heart-wrenching, decision of Mitchie’s choice… (I often don’t refer to myself in the third person, but for the sake of padding the word count for this article I would do it, and even indulge myself by referring to myself as "Mitchie").


Ming Chen (from Comic Book Men), John (the Mego Stretch Hulk himself), and me ("Mitchie")

Thus, the Crackle became Kirbyified! Lo There Shall Be An Ending! I made my selection… what comic book do I hold above many others as being my favorite? I would have to say, that though I am a lifelong Spider-Man fan (and if I stop reading it, the Earth will be ripped from its orbit and plunge into the heart of the Sun, thus ending life as we know it – you can all thank me later for preventing annihilation), I chose a book that I can close my eyes and remember the sheer impact it had on my impressionable young mind... The Uncanny X-Men #137 "The Fate of the Phoenix!"


 


Why?

I was not an X-Men fan from day one. I had read the old reprints of the original team, liked the Beast in the Avengers (after he turned furry and blue) and thought Cyclops was cool, but never really got into it. Then in 1975, when I was going to get a Slurpee at the 7-11, I saw the All New, All Different X-Men gracing the cover of Giant-Size X-Men #1. I bought it, I was probably about 9 or 10 years old, and over that summer, sat and sweated on my grandmother’s porch outside of New Haven and read that book until the covers came off. Yet, I never kept up with the ongoing series after that.

It wasn’t until my comic reading pal, Al, started trading his X-Men comics with me. As we smuggled the Marvel’s inside our school workbooks, in valiant efforts to avoid the comic book ripping terrors of the Catholic nuns who taught us at St. Brendan’s school in New Haven, Connecticut (Alma Mater of artist Mike DeCarlo who was a few years ahead of us). I started really staring at the art in the issues around Uncanny X-Men #115-116, and said – WHO IS THIS GUY DRAWING THE BOOK?


A young "Mitchie" A. Hallock bursting at the seams with Kirby Crackle and delusions of comic book grandeur during his Catholic school days.

First the art. I am an unapologetic, unabashed, ultimate fan of MISTER JOHN BYRNE. While I had been drawing since I was 4 years old, and had dreams of being drafted into the drawing circles of the legendary Marvel Bullpen and wanted to be the next John Romita Sr. – who was and is a master of Marvel story-telling, it was Byrne who was on a whole new level for me. I had followed his art from book to book, and would lay on the floor with pen and pencil and recreate the images he filled comic book pages with month after month. NO one could draw the sheer strength of Colossus, capture the tortured features of Cyclops, the reluctant leader of the merry Mutants, the sexiness of Storm, the whimsical weirdness of Nightcrawler, and the ferocity of the feral Wolverine. The framing, the way the panels flowed effortlessly and crafted the visual story-telling blew my pre-teen mind, month after month. John Romita Sr. might have been the Elvis of comic art, but John Byrne was Bruce “Frigging” Springsteen! The God Damned BOSS! You want to be him, but you know you can’t!

Over the years there was an epic brewing with Jean Grey, aka Marvel Girl, aka the Phoenix, and it was finally coming to a climax in an epic battle between the X-Men and the Imperial Guard on the Blue Area of the Moon, home to the Watcher. Having had her powers restrained, the Phoenix force was unleashing itself and Jean Grey was powerless to control it.

Al and I had been talking about what would happen, this was the comic book version of Star Wars, or rather The Empire Strikes Back, where we were left with an epic cliffhanger and we tried to create our own versions of how it would all end up. Al and I even wrote and drew our own versions of comic books as we sat in the back of class at St. Brendan’s School. Al was the mastermind behind the unassuming madness of Mr. Smith and Bozzy (his lopsided cat) where I went for the more action-packed adventures of Crusher, a former professionally wrestling pig (you had to be there). We adapted the Dark Phoenix Saga in our own books and each had our own versions of how it would all end. So as the day approached when the epic issue would be hitting the newsstands, we counted down the days.

Thankfully, there was no internet to ruin the ending of issue 137 for us, the term "spoiler alert" meant your Mom saying don’t use the milk on your Cap’n Crunch because it had gone bad the day before. We had no idea how this tale would end.

It was raining out, and Al’s Dad picked us up at school, which was a first. He said he had a surprise for us, and we wondered what it could be. After 30 minutes we figured it out, he had driven all the way to the coolest comic book shops in the area, Dave Armstrong’s SPACE TRAVELER'S TRADING POST in Derby, Connecticut! It was in the basement of a house on the corner and packed floor to ceiling with comics, fanzines, models, posters, artwork, action figures, games and anything relatively close to comics and sci-fi... in other words it was Heaven on Earth! I can remember flying down the street and bursting in the door to get in there, Al and I were shoving each other to see who would be first in the shop. We composed ourselves and asked Dave, if he had the newest X-Men, he reached behind the table and presented us with two, crisp, freshly printed copies. We just stared at it in awe. In our hands was the greatest comic ever produced. We quickly paid and ran back to his Dad’s car, dodging raindrops and covering the sacred four color classic from the elements. As his Dad drove, we were in the backseat turning the pages as fast as we could, absorbing the imagery and devouring every word balloon – it was a Chris Claremont script, needless to say, there was a lot to ingest! 

As the car went down Route 34 and we returned to the Elm City of New Haven, we were reaching the epic conclusion of the fate of Jean Grey. As I turned the page and saw her exchange with our heroic mutant leader and the love of her life, Scott “Cyclops” Summers, my heart dropped. To prevent the Phoenix force from consuming her and wreaking havoc on the universe, the brave Jean Grey did the only thing she could. Using her telekinetic abilities, Jean activated an ancient Kree weapon that had been buried in the moon’s dust for centuries, she pulled the trigger and sacrificed herself. Marvel Girl was dead.




I can remember the rain hitting hard against the car windshield and the wipers valiantly wiping them away. Al’s Dad was quietly humming along with Tony Orlando and Dawn’s “Tie a Yellow Ribbon” as it came through the dashboard speaker. I looked over at Al as he reached the climatic page. He let out an audible gasp. “Holy . . . .” Al muttered. Together we stared at each other stunned, trying to comprehend the fate of the Phoenix. Yes it was a noble thing she did, but we being Catholic boys, the thought of suicide was one of the “big forbiddens” in our Faith. Trust me, there are a lot of those. Yes, we knew that Jean Grey was fiction, and that characters had gone onto to meet their end in other comics, Uncle Ben, Bucky and we would never forget Gwen Stacy, but this was different, we had lost a friend. This left you with an emptiness in you fanboy soul. The issue gave both of us a LOT to think about. The X-Men would never be the same, nor would we ever look at a comic book as mere distraction, a nerd’s hobby, no this was in some way – REAL!


HERO ENVY REPORT CARD
Story: 5
Art: 4
Action: 5
Flow: 5
Reread Factor: 5
Overall Grade: 5
(grading numbers 1 thru 5, with 5 being the highest)


It’s been more 30 years since that fateful day of reading Uncanny X-Men #137. Al, his Dad’s car, Space Traveler’s Trading Post are all phantoms that haunt my memories. I hear about him every few years but never really kept in touch after high school. I saw Hollywood tell the Phoenix saga on the big screen years ago, but even with millions of dollars in special effects it never had the impact that it did with simple ink and paper. I can still close my eyes and see every panel. The placement of every word balloon. The colors. The smell of the newsprint.  I went on to meet the folks that produced that comic, Chris Claremont at a comic con, John Byrne at an estate sale (of all places), but never stopped to thank them for giving me memories that would last a lifetime. Hopefully, this article is making up for that.

So, now I can get back to work on planning, producing and promoting my “terrific” comic convention so that other fans can find their version of X-Men 137, and fall in love with comic books just like I did.




Agree, disagree? Let's hear it fanboys!


OTHER "OUT OF THE BACK ISSUE BIN" REVIEWS

AVENGERS #164, 165, 166 (1977)
Mitchell Anthony Steven Hallock 
Mitchell was born in New Haven, Connecticut in 1966. At a young age he fell in love with comic books, but it was seeing "Star Wars" in 1977 that completely changed his life and led him into the field of graphic design and illustration. During his college years, at Southern Connecticut State University, Hallock was in art classes with future Marvel artist Ron Garney and in play's alongside future Spawn and Black Dynamite actor Michael Jai White. He was also the staff cartoonist for the school newspaper and wrote, edited and appeared on a local television show called "Video Hell" with future TV actor Karl Anderson.
 
Hallock continued his art career becoming an Art Director until eventually moving into Marketing. Still loving film and television, he wrote the comedy "Father Vegas", an "X-Files" script called "Pawns" that was in development for season three. In the 2000s, Hallock became a writer for the Indiana Jones based website Theraider.net, voted the number 1 movie website by Entertainment Weekly in 2008. He also became a regular on the podcast TheIndyCast.com since 2007, and appeared in the films: "Indyfans" (2008), "Made for Each Other" (2010), "Indiana James" (2012) and "Springsteen & I" (2013). Hallock would later appear in season four of AMC's "Comic Book Men" as an Indiana Jones collector. 

Hallock has produced and organized comic book conventions in Connecticut and now runs the TerrifiCon - Connecticut's Terrific Comic Con at the lavish Mohegan Sun. Come check it out!
http://www.ctcomicon.com/


Thursday, August 6, 2015

THE TOP 10 GREATEST G.I. JOE FIGURES EVER!


TALES FROM THE TOY CHEST

Stories of Childhood Toy Triumph and Tragedy



By
John "THE MEGO STRETCH HULK" Cimino


CASE NUMBER: 8283848586-YOJOE
THE TOP 10 GREATEST G.I. JOE FIGURES EVER!


G.I. Joe was originally a line of figures produced from 1964-1969 by Hasbro. They were 12-inch figures that represented all branches of the U.S. armed forces. The development of these figures led to the coining of the term "action figure." From 1970-1976 Hasbro renamed this line to "Adventure Team G.I. Joe" and added a host of comic-like characters and villains. While these lines did well with children of the day, they quickly fell into obscurity as other, more colorful action figures began to hit the toy market.

But it was in 1982 (when I was 9 years old) that saw the highly successful relaunch of this toy line. Now renamed to "G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero" with new figure molds scaled down to 3.75-inches (to mimic the Star Wars figures) and with new characters, vehicles, playsets, and a complex background story involving an ongoing struggle between the G.I. Joe Team and the evil COBRA Command which seeks to take over the world through terrorism, this toy line quickly became a pop culture phenomenon. It was so big in fact, that in 1985 both Toy Lamp and Hobby World ranked G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero as the top selling American toy. To go along with its enormous popularity were cartoons, an animated movie, comic books, posters, T-shirts, video games, board games, kites, etc. for me and every boy and girl that wanted to shout "YOOO JOE!" And speaking of girls, I can't even remember a prominently male toy line that showcased such awesome female figures that every boy wanted without question.

While this line lasted until 1994, and had many resurgences thereafter that continue on to today, it has never recaptured the popularity and quality it had during the years of 1982-1986. Everything we see today is loosely based on those prime years; the two blockbuster movies in 2009 and 2013, the revamped figures, the comics, etc. But IMHO, it will never recapture the magic G.I. Joe had on me and millions of other kids during that time. The package card art, the file card bio's (all written by Larry Hamma, who also wrote the comics and bible of the G.I. Joe world), the vehicles, playsets, box art -- everything. It was just a magical time for this toy line and I was lucky enough to be at the right age to enjoy every minute of it.

So in trying to capture the "magic" of the best of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, I put together a list of "The Top 10 Greatest G.I. Joe Figures Ever" in this Tales from the Toy Chest write up. Sure, like always, a top 10 list is purely subjective, but these were the figures that captured my imagination and had an impact on me as a kid while collecting them (and all the kids in my neighborhood and middle-school school drooling over them in envy). As I list my favorites, I'll also give some back story on why they impacted me the way they did (some even left scars on my psyche that still affect me today lol). So lets lace up your boot straps, tuck in that shirt and grab a canteen because you're in for a real treat... YYOOOOOO JOOOOOE!!!!



 10.) FLINT (1985)



The first figure to make my list is the cool-looking, beret wearing Warrant Officer code named Flint, who was first released as part of the fourth (and best) series of the G.I. Joe toy line in 1985. Leftover Hasbro stock of this figure was packaged with new accessories (a pistol or a rifle) and sold at an early G.I. Joe Convention. But taking away a "sawed-off" shotgun from a toy figure was a travesty in my eyes. So I'm only talking about the carded Flint here because you can only imagine how many COBRA soldiers I gunned down with that shotgun in the wars that took place in my backyard. When I had a special mission going down, Flint, his cocky attitude and his trusty sawed-off cannon-blaster (I nicknamed "ol' Betsy") was always included.


9.) BARONESS (1984)



There's something a lot of people tend to forget about when talking about the G.I. Joe line -- it was the first boy action figure line that had cool girls in it! And not just one, a bunch of them was in as much demand as any male figure. What other boy toy line could boast that? Especially from that time period!! An argument could be made for any female in this line to make this list, especially Scarlett or Lady Jaye, but Baroness is without a doubt the best of them IMHO. She was beautiful, alluring, seductive and deadly as any member of COBRA. Released in the third series in 1984, she still stands as one of the most iconic figures in the entire line.


 8.) SGT. SLAUGHTER (1986)

Mail-Away Sgt. Slaughter came in a clear bag.

The Mail-Away Sgt. Slaughter came in two different boot variants.

Sgt. Slaughter came with Triple "T" Tag Team Terminator vehicle

Their were two variants for the Sgt. Slaughter figure that came with the Triple "T" vehicle.

Both Sgt. Slaughter figures side-by-side and they were BOTH awesome.

Sgt. Slaughter file card that came with the Mail-Away figure

Sgt. Slaughter file card that came on the back of the Triple "T" box.

Professional wrestler Sgt. Slaughter was the first celebrity immortalized as a member of the G.I. Joe Team. In addition, he voiced his own character in the G.I. Joe cartoons, filmed promotion spots and introductions to some of the G.I. Joe cartoons, and served as the spokesman in G.I. Joe commercials from 1987 to 1990 (he was let go by Hasbro when he turned heel for the WWF). Sgt. Slaughter was the first "muscle-bound" figure and the first available as a mail-order from Hasbro Direct in early 1986 (he was also available on and off from 1987 through 1989), and then was officially part of the fifth series in 1986, packaged exclusively with the Triple "T" Tank (in two variants). This made me REALLY love the G.I. Joe toy line because I was such a huge wrestling fan at the time and to see an actual wrestler as a G.I. Joe figure literally exploded my head. Although I never got the Mail-Away figure, I was lucky enough to convince my mom to get me the Sgt. Slaughter with Triple "T" Tank on my birthday that summer.


7.) DESTRO (1983)



Destro was released as part of the second series in 1983, and was never really appreciated by me until I got older to fully understand what he represented in the G.I. Joe world. First off, Destro was incredibly dangerous. He seemed to thrive on chaos and war and the more of it that went on, the richer and more powerful he would become. He was a weapons manufacture that created high-tech weaponry for whoever was the highest bidder and seemed to love the destruction and death that it caused. Plus, he looked so incredibly menacing with the iron mask he donned which was reminiscent of the Fantastic Four's greatest villain Dr. Doom whom I always worshiped.


6.) COBRA COMMANDER (1983)



Cobra Commander was first available as a mail-order offer with straight-arms in 1982, and he was overlooked by me because he looked nothing more than a COBRA solider with a silver mask. But when he got the swivel-arm treatment and released on card as part of the second series in 1983, he finally became the tyrannical face of the COBRA Command (something about seeing a figure in the G.I. Joe packaging in a store and reading a file card can totally change your perspective on it). While the ruthless commander of COBRA was always a figure that all the kids in my neighborhood wanted, it was the cartoon that really made him a legend. Voiced by Christopher Latta (who also voiced Star Scream in the Transformers cartoon), Cobra Commander rocked as the crazed evil fuehrer in a big way! When he entered the battle leading his legion of soldiers you couldn't help but scream "CCOOOOBRAAAAAA!!!" the way Latta did.


5.) DUKE (1984)



Duke was available first as a mail-order exclusive for the second series in 1983. He then became carded and available in the third series in 1984. What made Duke so cool was the fact that he was the face of G.I. Joe and he would lead your team into battle against the forces of COBRA. And when it came time for a final confrontation between the G.I. Joe Team and COBRA Command, it always ended up with Duke vs Cobra Commander for the fate of the world. In school, we debated on this outcome every chance we could get. When Duke lead his team into the battle you couldn't help but scream "YOOOO JOOOE!!!"


4.) FIREFLY (1984)

Firefly came in two variations


Separating the men from the boys on this list starts with the ever-villainous and mysterious Firefly. He was released as part of the third series in 1984, and just looking at him on the toy racks I knew I had to have him. Something about his outfit, sub-machine gun, accessories, backing card art and mysterious characteristics meshed together so well and captured my imagination. Firefly was a must for every kid on the block, we all loved to play with him because he was a complete "dick" and always in the game for himself. His file card said it all; Primary Military Specialty: Sabotage, Demolitions, and Terror (reading that as a kid you knew you had to have him no matter what).


 3.) ZARTAN (1984)

Zartan came with the Chameleon Swamp Skier vehicle

Zartan back card image

Zartan figure with accessories

Version one of Zartan's file card. After getting complaints that the file card was misleading people into thinking that schizophrenia and multiple personalities were one and the same, Hasbro changed the file card.

Version two of Zartan's file card without schizophrenia and multiple personalities mentioned.

While only a select few G.I. Joe figures could actually be cooler than Firefly, Zartan is definitely one of them. He was released as part of the third series in 1984, exclusively with the Chameleon Swamp Skier. Zartan was a toy that could do so much and look so good doing it that every kid wanted him. He could change color (with heat sensitive stickers that were included and came in two different variations) and put on a mask to disguise himself from the G.I. Joe Team to cause chaos among their ranks. Then place him on his Swamp Skier for a quick getaway and call in his Dreadnaughts to start more trouble. Simply put, this toy was only limited to your imagination.


2.) STORM SHADOW (1984)



There are very few figures in any toy line ever created that can truly take the place of Storm Shadow from G.I. Joe. He was first released as part of the third series in 1984, and no child was ever the same when they saw him or heard of his legend from other kids. If you can think back to 1984, when this figure first appeared on the scene ninja's were the shit (and I mean "shit" in a good way)! And Storm Shadow was the shittiest of the shits! This toy simply revolutionized and modernized how every kid views ninjas. Period. He was the figure that you always dug for on the racks and prayed he was there (most likely he was already sold off). In school, if any kid was lucky enough to have him and bring him into "show and tell" that kid was instantly the most popular kid in school. Never could a toy change the political climate of cliques in the hierarchy of power among American boys than the way Storm Shadow did. Even I had to succumb to this ninja's mighty elusiveness as a child as I was never able to get him and that trauma still haunts me even to this day. He was that awesome, that desirable and that powerful. Only one figure can claim to be greater than Storm Shadow and it's still debatable if it even is...


1.) SNAKE EYES (1985)



Everything I just said about Storm Shadow can be said about the second version of Snakes Eyes (third if you include the straight-arm Snake Eyes from 1982, and then swivel-arm Snakes Eyes from 1983) released in the fourth G.I. Joe series in 1985. It is widely considered that the G.I. Joe fourth series was the pinnacle of any G.I. Joe series Hasbro ever produced and it's mostly due to this legendary figure. Never in the history of toys can I remember an improvement from one version of a figure to the next that impacted the entire toy line so completely. The detail, the accessories, the package art, everything! Kid's all across America wanted this toy so badly that they were willing to do chores for a week wholeheartedly to get it. 

While both Storm Shadow and Snakes Eyes can be debated on until the end of time on which is better or a more desirable action figure, I had to rank Snake Eyes higher because this figure commands a little more money on the secondary market today (and because Snake Eyes was a tougher version of Storm Shadow and usually kicked his ass, as he was the only one that could). Not to mention that he was much more mysterious due to his fully covered black outfit and silent, brooding demeanor (Snakes Eyes never spoke). Storm Shadow always boasted about his superior skills and cried foul about playing second fiddle in the ninja ranks to Snake Eyes. I always thought that it was these facts that made Snake Eyes the cooler and better figure to play with as a kid. But regardless of who you think is the greatest G.I. Joe figure, this version of Snake Eyes will always rank at the top of any G.I. Joe collectors list and that is something everyone should know. And knowing is half the battle...


HONORABLE MENTIONS:

ROWDY RODDY PIPER (2007)



An honorable shout out has to go out to legendary wrestler and icon Roddy Piper who was immortalized as an exclusive G.I. Joe figure at a G.I. Joe Convention in 2007. I listed this figure because Piper makes a perfect COBRA combat trainer who can match-up with the likes of Sgt. Slaughter for a rivalry that can even rival "Snake Eyes vs Storm Shadow." Plus, if I was a kid seeing this figure for the first time it would've impacted me much more than when I first saw Sgt. Slaughter. So here's to you "Rowdy" Roddy Piper (who passed away on July 31, 2015), the Hot Rod and a perfect representative of the COBRA Command!!!


FOOTLOOSE (1985)



Another honorable shout out goes to a childhood favorite -- Footloose! He was first released as part of the fourth and undoubtedly greatest line of the entire G.I. Joe series in 1985. While this figure may be a total surprise entry for a lot of the G.I. Joe purists out there, I think it's best to point out that it was the cartoon that got me to absolutely adore this character and want to purchase him. Footloose was fun-loving and always had a smile on his face regardless of how dire the situation would become. As I grew older it was clear to see that he was a total "pothead" and the cool "hippie-stoner" of the G.I. Joe Team. Believe it or not, this made him even more lovable in my eyes. In his bio it states; "he got lost on the way to the fair..." yeah, it's because he was high as a kite from smoking friggin' dope or dropping tabs of LSD all day long! How could you not love this guy?


Agree? Disagree?? Let's hear it fanboys!

Other Tales From the Toy Chest:

THE HULK ROLLER SKATES DEBACLE
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2011/11/hulk-roller-skates-debacle.html

THE STEALING OF THE SUPERHERO STAND-UPS
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2011/11/stealing-of-superhero-stand-ups.html 

MY TOP 15 GREATEST TOYS EVER
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2013/09/my-top-15-greatest-toys-ever.html

BATMAN COLORFORMS AND MY DAD
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2011/11/batman-colorforms-and-my-dad.html 

THE MANGLOR MESS UP
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-manglor-mess-up.html 

SUPER MARKET SKIRMISH: THE PDQ INCIDENT
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2014/05/super-market-skirmish-pdq-incident.html 

HULK OR HOLOCAUST
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2014/07/hulk-or-holocaust.html 

THE WRANGLING OF WRESTLEFEST
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2016/05/the-wrangling-of-wrestlefest.html 



   John "The Mego Stretch Hulk" Cimino
John Cimino is a Silver and Bronze Age comic, cartoon and memorabilia expert that runs a business called "Saturday Morning Collectibles." He buys, sells, appraises and gives seminars on everything pop culture, so if you got something special, let him know about it. He contributes articles to ALTER EGO, BACK ISSUE and THE JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR from TwoMorrows Publishing and has appeared on the AMC reality show Comic Book Men. He also represents some of comicdoms biggest stars and brings them to a Comic Con near you. John still thinks he's really Captain Marvel, people just don't have the heart to tell him he's just an obsessed fanboy that loves to play superheroes with his daughter Bryn. Contact him at johnstretch@live.com or follow on twitter at @Elastic_Hulk and have some fun.