Hey Joe Fans Hope all are staying safe at home. Joe Declassified and General’s Joes Reborn are teaming up to help solve one of G.I. Joe Comics greatest mysteries. (And to give you a reason to dig in your comics boxes).
Below this introduction is a history of the #21 2 nd Printing Hunt that is written by Josh Eggebeen.
What we are asking the Joe community to do is help find a #21 2 nd Printing and/or new information that helps solve why in 36 years no one has ever found a #21 2nd Printing.
So dig through your brains, dig through Joe comic boxes and help find #21 2nd printing. The logo connected with this post shows the four versions of #21 released in the 1980’s. Of course #21 has been recreated numerous times in many different versions including the comic pack version in 2000’s. So those don’t count. So read the theory and the history below. Joe Declassified members will be helping verify any new information found.
G.I. Joe A Real American Hero #21 2nd Printing Mystery
Phrases like Holy Grail, Biggest Mystery and Just a Theory apply to lots of aspects of comics. And for G.I. Joe comics, those phrases have all been applied to the G.I. Joe #21 2nd Printing.
This Holy Grail hunt has been happening for 36 years.
A brief history on why the G.I. Joe #21 2nd Printing has been so elusive:
Marvel Comics G.I. Joe #21, titled Silent Interlude, came out in March 1984, written by Larry Hama; it is a landmark issue in the comic industry and has been well documented on its creation. It’s importance in terms of story, connecting Snake Eyes to Storm Shadow’s history together, gave G.I. Joe A Real American Hero a long term story that is still going strong today.
There is a Snake Eyes movie coming out in October of 2020 that can trace its roots to this one issue. Larry Hama created an issue without a single word, commonly referred to as the “Silent Issue” and to this day, only a few writers have written a no dialog issue. #21 has inspired numerous kids to become comic book artists themselves as adults. So issue #21 is generally ranked as one of the most influential comics in history on many levels and for many reasons. Plus, it helped sell a toy franchise, let’s not forget that.
Now G.I. Joe in 1984 was close to Marvel’s top selling comic, G.I. Joe as a brand was reaching the height of its popularity in the culture with booming toy sales, a TV cartoon and a tremendous amount merchandise everywhere. So doing a 2 nd printing of Marvel’s most popular comic was a very common place occurrence, more then half of the first 64 issues have second printings.
The true mystery of the #21 2 nd Printing really starts with its 3 rd Printing. The #21 3rd Printing would have been released in July, 1985 (same month as GI Joe #37). This can be verified by matching the advertisements Marvel used in its comics.
Marvel switched its advertisements each month. Also, these 3 rd Printings are all clearly marked with the typed words “3rd Printing” below the indicia copyright section. #21’s copyright date information remains the same saying G.I. Joe A Real American Hero Vol. 1 No. 21, March 1984.
But no known G.I. Joe #21 has ever surfaced with the typed words “2nd Printing”. So how do you get from 1 st Printing to 3 rd Printing without a 2 nd Printing? There are couple obvious questions to be asked: first was the 2 nd Printing labeling was just skipped, was this just a human error? Was there literally a printing problem that happen to the 2 nd Printing? Well in the 36 intervening years there has never been a rumor in the G.I. Joe community nor any Marvel employee who talked about any errors in connection with #21 printing.
Lacking any rumors or knowledge of an error, the collective Joe comics collecting community came to create a theory that the #21 2 nd Printing came out without the words 2nd Printing and would have been released between April 1984 and June 1985 and would have a Black Spidey Head in the Direct Market Box.
So operating on this theory the mystery of the #21 2 nd Printing started.
Part 1 of the Mystery – the Printings:
The mystery of #21 2 nd Printing starts with how the comic industry handled reprints of issues. To briefly explain: An issue of any particular comic would sell out in the comic book stores. To get more of the sold out issue, the comic book store would have to reorder the issue, and the publisher then would reprint the issue based off the number of reorders. These reorders would usually take a few months to be reprinted and be received. This new batch of comics would be labeled 2 nd Printing and be placed on the shelves again. These printings were generally labeled to indicate a clear difference between versions for a collector and the comic book shop.
The most obvious difference was that the phrase “2nd Printing” was typed below the indicia copyright information section on the first page. In general, a 2nd Printing also had a few differences on the cover, and the interior advertisements were almost always different. So for the different printings its possible to match the month it was released by the advertisements inside.
Part 2 of the Mystery – the Direct Market Symbol:
The second part of the theory of the 2 nd Printing revolves around the Direct Market Symbol. The #21 2nd Printing mystery is tied into another major event that happened the next month in Marvel history.
Amazing Spider-Man #252 is the 1 st appearance of Peter Parker wearing the Symbiote Suit in the main Spider-Man series. Though chronologically it’s actual first appearance was in Secret Wars #8, several months later. This suit would go on to become Venom and be one of the most fan favorite changes to Marvel’s most popular character. In connection with this new costume for Marvel’s most iconic character, Jim Shooter, the Editor in Chief of Marvel, changed the Direct Market logo on all Marvel comics from the previous White Spidey Head to a Black Symbiote Spidey Head. Here is a quick overview of the Direct Market symbol history; it starting in 1979 as comic book publishers started selling comics directly to comic book stores and bypassing the newsstands. A system was set up where comic book stores ordered and never returned a certain amount of comics. Newsstands were able to return unsold issues or just their covers, comic book stores could not return them. The difference in the issues was determined by a box in the bottom left corner.
For Newsstand editions the UPC code was in the box and for the Direct Market versions anything the Editor preferred. From 1979 to 1984 the White Spidey Head was the most commonly used version on Marvel titles. By 1984, the Direct Market comics were starting to outpace Newsstand sales. G.I. Joe #21 comes out in March 1984 with a White Spidey Head in the Direct Market Box along with a Newsstand UPC version plus a 0.75 cent Canadian priced Newsstand version. It’s a sold-out comic and reorders happen immediately.
In April 1984, Marvel then begins the transition from white Spidey Head to the Black Spidey Head in the Direct Market box. G.I. Joe issue #22, April 1984, has separate variants with both a white and black Spidey Head Direct Market version. Every G.I. Joe issue from #1 to #22 has a White Spidey Head until #23, May 1984, when the Black Spidey becomes the standard, it does revert back to the White Spidey Head with issue #68 in February of 1988.
Part 3 of the Mystery – The Collector Hunt.
So by 1994, the G.I. Joe comic series ended. And the fans who grew up reading the book were generally headed off to college and new lives often away from their comics. But the collectors who remained, when there was little to collect for G.I. Joe comics, started discovering differences on the cover; and other notable variations between printings this knowledge of Direct Market/Newsstand, 2 nd and 3 rd Printings and Canadian priced variants was slowly added to the community knowledge base. Part of collecting G.I. Joe comics was hunting for the 2 nd printing of #21 but it proved elusive. At the time of the release of #21 2 nd Printing, it’s unlikely that any collector actually wanted the 2 nd Printing. So no one was hunting for it when it was released.
And in general, even to this day, 2 nd Printings don’t have the value of a 1 st Printing. So its likely more then a decade went by before anyone was even really looking for it and during the 36 years of #21’s history, its also very likely that collectors have had #21 2nd Printing sitting in a long box and didn’t know it.
Another potential theory is that #21 2nd Printing was to be bundled with the Marvel Comic multi-packs that were being sold in various stores. #21 3rd Printing is included in one known Marvel Comics multi-pack that also has issues #10 & #30. Part of the theory is that the many of the 2nd and 3rd Printings of G.I. Joe often came from opened multi-packs, but this has been extremely hard to confirm.
Part 4 of the Mystery – the Collector Theory
The best theory that collectors could figure out about the #21 2 nd Printing became: #21 2nd Printing has a black Spidey Head in the Direct Market box.
Contains no markings, typing or anything other then the normal #21 1 st Printing indicia copyright information in the space at the bottom of the first page.
The advertisements on the inside and back cover will be different then both the 1st and 3 rd Printings.
Other differences may appear on the cover like price, codes, M logos, wording changes etc. For decades, no collector has been able to find a confirmed version.
And so with that history of the mysterious #21 2 nd Printing now explained let the hunt begin…
Two links to G.I. Joe comics for 2 nd Prints and the Direct Market/Newsstand for GI Joe comics:
IDW Publishing has released their preview for G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #253, which is a “special missions” style issue focusing on Duke. Check out the solicitation info and the preview below.
G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #253—Cover A: Brian Shearer
Larry Hama (w) • Brian Shearer (a & c)
“Special Missions,” Part 3 (of 5). G.I. Joe. Cobra. Two opposing forces. Two powerful war machines, each made more lethal by the undeniable strength of their individual parts. But who and what are those parts? Living legend Larry Hama shares some of their amazing stories in “Special Missions”—one-shot stories featuring a variety of characters and different artists to draw them! This issue, longtime G.I. Joe alum Brian Shearer joins forces with Larry to present G.I. Joe’s intrepid first sergeant without equal: DUKE!
FC • 32 pages • $3.99
G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #253—Cover B: John Royle
Larry Hama (w) • Brian Shearer (a) • John Royle (c)
During the History of the GIJCC Club Comic, Dave Lane made sure to point out that we may see some new characters in upcoming comics, but not to get too excited because the license was winding down and they likely wouldn’t be getting to everyone we’d be seeing. They were placed in there as Easter Eggs primarily.
Well, the latest issue of the Club Comic has arrived in mailboxes and there are Easter Eggs aplenty, including a surprise appearance by a non-G.I. Joe character. Generally I frown upon showing images from the Club Comic, I know they keep the monthly newsletter close to their vest, but with the license winding down in a few months, it seems like not such a big deal.
First of all – look at all dat Star Brigade goodness! Sigh…
But really it’s that second panel that has me (and plenty of other folks) excited… Miles Mayhem sitting at the head of the table full of COBRA operatives. It would seem, even within the Club comic, the worlds of G.I. Joe and M.A.S.K. are being linked more closely together.
Just imagine if the Club had an opportunity to do a M.A.S.K. Convention Set? My heart weeps. Granted, it would go pretty strongly in opposition to their recent philosophy against removable helmets. Maybe if they’d done one with Boss Fight’s involvement in 2014… excuse me while I go cry in a corner somewhere.
It is a word that you don’t hear used a lot any more. That is because they just don’t happen too much any more. Our lives today are fast, We don’t follow Ferris Bueller’s advice to stop and look around. We also don’t put our hair in a mohawk in the shower. What I mean is, life is even faster and we can only take things in chunks. Anything long lasting is intimidating. G.I.Joe from day one continues to be something that was built to last. An exception.
It all began in 1982 when Hasbro visited the Marvel Offices and sought out a creator to bring their re-envisioned version of G.I.Joe to life. Chosen by elimination, Larry Hama took what could have been a side project and infused it with real storytelling.
The late Herb Trimpe, a veteran at Marvel comics, brought his art to the table. Jim Shooter, Todd McFarlane, Rod Whigham, Ron Wagner, Andrew Wildman, Michael Goldman, Mike Zeck, Mike Vosburg and most recently S.L. Gallant, Brian Shearer, J. Brown and Netho Diaz among countless others all contributed to the success and look of G.I.Joe.
250 issues. It has run from 1982 to 1994 and then again in 2010 picking up exactly where they left off in 1994. There were a few half issues in there expanding the stories from the sidelines, but the official 250th issue comes out today.
We have seen new characters, beloved comic only characters, the deaths of characters, the rebirths of characters, minds reprogrammed, cat fights, towns taken over, civil war, alien robots, disguises, close calls, patriotism, imposters, flashbacks, characters seeing the light, ninjas, detailed locales based on reality, a little bit of advice, military jargon, comical moments, and even one issue used as the basis for a movie about a giant asteroid hurtling toward Earth. It is the golden boy and Mom’s apple pie vs Orson Welles in a hood. It is the many faces of diversity both physical and of character.
The characters as Larry has admitted in several interviews are based on the people he knows so he can keep track of them. This provides a wonderful consistency and is the main reason no one can ever really nail down the character’s essences like he can. It would be like you trying to write about someone else’s uncle. You could get some things right but there would be something missing. I would love to meet the practical joker Airtight is based on he/she must be a wild one.
G.I.Joe is centered around the life of a stand out main character, who cannot talk. Imagine creating this tragic tale of a man who expresses himself in other ways besides speech. It is indeed a tragic tale. G.I. Joe, says Hama, is Junior woodchucks with guns. G.I. Joe takes us all around the world and back in time. G.I.Joe is different things to different people. Hama himself says it best however.
“They don’t understand the intrinsic fantasy. G.I.Joe isn’t a military fantasy, it’s not a war book, it’s a fantasy about loyalty and camaraderie. Which to a ten year old kid is an extremely powerful fantasy because every ten year old kid has been betrayed. Obviously. The idea of best friends that never let you down and will stand up for you; if you are in trouble they will come and get you. That’s a powerful fantasy and its also a fantasy of doing the right thing and having integrity without looking for the reward and about duty, and old fashioned things like that… that to a kid represents order and it’s very comforting.” (Larry Hama YoutubeInterview by Roy Turner 2018)
To center a comic around that theme, and not just make it a toy comic, pushed it into the pantheon of comics that last into the hundreds of issues. Iconic comics.
So I realize as I prepare to write this that I’ve been taking something for granted. Month in and month out, the greatness of Larry Hama and SL Gallant effortlessly weaving their way through the G.I. Joe mythology, incorporating new things, adding some great vintage homages and generally having fun with it all. I’ve been buying it every month, reading it every month, and enjoying it every month. But it became a routine and I just kind of expected to have it there, month in and month out.
When IDW announced that SL Gallant would no longer be the primary artist on G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, I have to admit, I was pretty upset. His work with Hama had become evocative of the legendary Hama/Whigham work from back in the day, a team that became so inexorably tied with the brand that it’s difficult to think of that era of G.I. Joe without picturing those particular versions of those characters in your head. The same had become true of Gallant’s time on the title, and now that I don’t have that routine anymore, it feels like a piece of that history is gone.
It’s odd because I’m typically not a fan of brands leaning on vintage nostalgia like a crutch, and I’d much prefer to see different ways that brands can evolve and stay relevant with these days rather than becoming overly reliant on trying to revisit the past…yet Hama/Gallant had just enough taste of the past to feel natural without feeling forced.
That being said, Netho Diaz has certainly made a splash and a very good impression with his work here. Keep reading for a full review.