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Back Issues: G.I. Joe, He-Man have history in toys, comics

Two familiar properties hitting theaters and Netflix this week are best known for their action figure and animated incarnations, but they’ve got impressive comic book pedigrees as well.

After a so-so pair of movies (to me anyway), G.I. Joe is back in theaters Friday with “Snake Eyes,” a rebooted origin story for the silent ninja hero who even I, who owned only a few figures, knew was the coolest guy on the team. With Henry Golding in the starring role, it’s a safe bet he won’t be masked and speechless the whole time. Scarlett, Storm Shadow and the Baroness are also along for the ride,

Snake Eyes was a standout in the “G.I. Joe” comics Marvel published for 155 issues in the 1980s and early ’90s, most of them written by Larry Hama. The series featured many characters from the popular toy line and cartoon, but instead of red and blue lasers and pilots parachuting out of exploding aircraft, the comic had live ammunition and actual casualties.

Snake Eyes starred in the most famous issue, 1984’s “G.I. Joe” #21, which contained no dialogue. It’s an effect that Marvel would attempt to recreate in 2002, publishing two dozen “silent” titles under the banner “‘Nuff Said.”

After numerous reboots at different publishers, Hama picked up where he left off 15 years later, when IDW began publishing “G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero” with issue 155 1/2. The series continues to this day, with Hama at the helm, alongside other continuities, including one the characters shared with the Transformers and other Hasbro properties.

A new live-action movie keeps getting delayed, but He-Man and company are returning in animated form with “Masters of the Universe: Revelation” on Netflix Friday.

That toy line may have been my introduction to comic books, in the form of the mini-comics that came packaged with each figure. These provided quick but intriguing backgrounds to the host of characters I eagerly collected for years.

DC produced some of the mini-comics that came with the second wave of figures and pitted Superman against He-Man and Skeletor in 1982’s “DC Comics Presents” #47. That was continued in an insert appearing in multiple DC titles, which segued into three-issue limited series in 1982.

An early 2000s cartoon series and some collector’s additions to the toy line sparked additional comics content. But in 2012, DC introduced a new, original limited series in which Prince Adam (He-Man’s alter ego) and other major characters had no memory of their past lives. That was followed by the six-issue “DC Universe vs. Masters of the Universe,” in which Skeletor fled to Earth and the pursuing Masters ran afoul of DC heroes like Superman, Wonder Woman and, weirdly, John Constantine.

An ongoing “Masters of the Universe” series lasted 19 issues and opened with He-Man being pitted against his long-lost sister, who longtime fans recognized as the once and future She-Ra. DC has kept the property active with various other series, including crossovers with fellow ’80s icons the Thundercats and “Injustice,” a dark DC story inspired by a video game in which Superman goes bad.

Evan Bevins can be reached at ebevins@newsandsentinel.com.

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Recommended Reading

* “Classic G.I. Joe” Vol. 3 — Check out Larry Hama’s early G.I. Issues, including the classic “silent” issue.

* “G.I. Joe” (2016) Vol. 1 — Following the events of the “Revolution” crossover involving M.A.S.K., Rom the Spaceknight and the Transformers, G.I. Joe gets a new mission with Scarlett in charge and the Decepticon Skywarp a reluctant member of the team.

* “DC Universe vs. Masters of the Universe” — When Skeletor flees to Earth, He-Man and his allies find themselves in conflict with the Justice League.

* “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” (2013) Vol. 1 — He-Man and company face the threat of the Horde and his long-lost sister.

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