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Larry Hama at the Silver Snail

It was G.I.Joe #43, and I bought it at a used book sale for fifty cents in the mid 1980s, mostly because it had the grim reaper holding a submachine gun on the cover. It was my very first comic book ever. And the man who wrote it was at the Silver Snail today.

His name is Larry Hama. He's written for titles such as Wolverine, Batman, and Generation X, but he remains best-known, and best-loved, for being the all-seeing author of the G.I.Joe comic for most of the 1980s.

G.I.Joe was my introduction to comics. It was a marketing offshoot of the toy line, but in Hama's hands the title became a strong, character-driven adventure story that rivalled anything else Marvel had on the stands. Integral (and still popular) characters such as Storm Shadow, Snake Eyes, and Scarlett gained much of their ongoing charisma through Hama's peculiar blend of military action, martial arts mysticism, and playful soap opera.

In person this afternoon, Hama was a friendly, laid-back fellow who was more than willing to talk at length about any aspect of his life and career. He spoke about writing certain issues to suit the interests of the artists who would be drawing them ("You like drawing planes? I'll give you planes"), and about a writer's neverending combat with the demons of procrastination, and about the challenges of writing for a comic whose character lineup was, after all, dictated by a toy line.

Some characters (Hawaiian shirt-wearing undercover operative "Chuckles" was named as a good example) came to life on the page in spite of being shoehorned into Hama's stories by the toy manufacturer. Others appeared and disappeared as quickly as their action figures.

I got my G.I.Joe #43 signed by the man who created it and got me started on my love of comics. I'm not much of an autograph guy generally, but this was an irreplaceable opportunity to connect with my roots.


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