Friday, April 16, 2021

Early Influences - Marie Severin: G.I. Joe 28

G.I. Joe issue 28 from October 1984

I shared several posts last year that focused on some of my early influences, and I felt it was time to do another post in this series. In October of 1984, I turned ten, and the issue of G.I. Joe that arrived in the mail was number 28. This issue immediately caught my eye. It looked and felt different than the previous twenty-seven issues. I put a lot of the difference, what made it feel so unique, and why all these years later, it remains my favorite issue of the original series at the feet of Marie Severin. In 1984 I had no idea who Marie Severin was and the length and breadth of her career. I only knew that I loved how the issue was drawn, and I could not stop pouring over each page. Before I go any further, I would be remiss in not mentioning the ink work of Andy Mushynsky and the writing of Larry Hama on this issue. For this post, though, I am focusing on Marie's drawing and visual storytelling. Starting with the cover, we see some Joes in mortal peril in their MOBAT as a Cobra Rattler lets loose a volley of missiles. How will there ever survive?! If the cover is any indication, then I must read this issue right away!

Upon opening the book, you are presented with a trio of Joes in a raft heading towards a large ship. I remember seeing this page for the first time and being excited to see my favorite Joe, Torpedo, but I was also drawn in by the sculptural rendering of the faces and water. It felt very different than what I was used to in a comic book. Also, check out that advertisement for Buckaroo Banzai. They don't make them like they used to.

If I remember correctly, by this age, I had a copy of How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way. I recall looking at these pages and thinking how they followed many of the rules I was desperately trying to learn. I love the first panel in the middle row on the right page, with Buzzer in the extreme foreground looking back at the viewer. There was something about it that made me realize that context in the rest of the panel could allow you to imply that other things were happening. The other characters were on swamp skiers, so it was implied that Buzzer was as well, and you didn't have to show it. At the time, this was mind-blowing to me. You didn't have to show everything to tell a story.

This page is great—a lot of action, humor, and onomatopoeia. We continue to see sculptural handling of faces that I was drawn to. We also see Chief and R.L. for the first time on this page, and they are so fun in this issue.

Again, we see an excellent combination of close-ups, bird's eye views, and everything in between to make the storytelling clear and exciting. It is also two pages full of Destro, the Baroness, Cobra Commander, and Firefly; how could you go wrong. I also love Firefly ripping the control panel off to review an arcade-like set of control.

I am not positive, but I feel somewhat sure that these robotic Cobra troopers were the prototypes for the eventual BATS that would join the ranks of the Cobra forces in a year or two. I thought the design of these robot troopers was a lot of fun, and I sometimes wish some of this look made it into the toys. While we are here, I find the design of the HISS tank to be one of my favorites in all of G.I. Joe, and I adored the toy version. Also, I was curious and looked it up. Westfield Comics is still around and selling comics, though they are now a little more than forty cents.

This spread is one of my favorites. The destruction of the robot troops is dramatic and gruesome. The second panel on the middle row of the right page is some of my favorite drawing in the whole issue. I find the shattering face of the far right trooper to be particularly fun. Lots of action compressed into a few panels.

We all love a good art history reference, and I was thankfully knowledgeable enough at ten to get the visual joke on the left page. More action, various compositions and angles, and yummy drawing fill the rest of the pages.

This is likely my second favorite page spread in the book, and it might eventually become my favorite. The Joes feel like they are in peril as they have a pitched battle with Destro. The bullets bouncing off Destro's faces thrilled me as a child, and I was amazed that his mask was so strong. Giving two panels for the Rattler to explode is also a decision that I adore. There is that moment after Destro ejects that the fighter is still flying also as the fire spreads and systems fail before it finally explodes in a massive ball of flames. I really feel a sense of time and anticipation in those few panels.

Lastly, we come to the final panel. Again, we see Buzzer in the extreme foreground, implying another motorcycle that he is riding. His placement adds depth to the panel and makes it less flat. The background as a child always confused me. It was not until later in life, when I observed streets at night with lots of lights and signs, that I understood how the sky goes solid black because of all artificial lights. You will not see stars on the street like that. Also, the Transformers are here!

Sadly, Marie Severin is no longer with us, and I will never be able to tell her how much this issue and her drawing style means to me. I, unfortunately, continue to seek out my early influences only to find that they are gone.

That's all for another exciting week on the blog. See you back here on Monday! Until then...

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