1984. A friend gives me a comic book as a present. I don’t remember what the occasion was – I don’t think it was my birthday – I think I invited him over to hang out or something and his father had told him that you don’t just go to someone’s house as a guest without taking a gift or something. I’m pretty sure that was what it was all about.

Anyway, they ran through a store and he picked up a comic and presented it to me when he came over. It was G.I. Joe #21: Silent Interlude.

GIJoe - Silent InterludeI’d had comics before – mostly Star Wars or Spider-Man, but nothing like this.  First off, this was about a pair of Ninja.  Second, there was no dialogue.

Think about that for a second – it was a comic book that had to tell the whole story without the use of any dialogue.  I won’t say that I knew how profound that was, but I did know that it was the coolest thing anyone had given me in a long time.

The story was about Snake-Eyes, who never spoke.  He’d had his face blown off in Vietnam and hadn’t spoken since.  He also almost always wore a mask.  Scarlet had been his girl.  When he came back, he cooled things off against her will but she still meant a lot to him (some might say, ‘everything’), so when she was taken hostage, he went off to get her back.

Turns out, Storm Shadow had her.  He was another Ninja and, as we found out later, from the same clan who had trained Snake-Eyes.

From a storytelling point of view – a tale of Ninja would, of course, be silent.  Especially when one of them never spoke anyway.  The impact of the book on me was that I started to get more interested in comics.  I didn’t know yet that comic book stores existed, so I went down to Long’s Drugstore where they had a pair of rotating displays with comics in them.  They didn’t update things often but I could ride my bike down there and buy stuff without having to ask anyone to take me so it worked well enough for me.

Little did I realize the impact that book had on other people though.  I remember people trying to buy the issue from me, or trade me for it – it was a sought after issue, a collectors item almost immediately.  I’d say it could very well be the best G.I. Joe story ever told.  Various comic book writers have said that they received inspiration from this issue and I don’t doubt it.

Normally the dialogue pushes the story along and lets the reader know what’s going on, but in this case, the picture is worth a thousand words.

Older now, I see the genius involved in the issue and to be honest, what surprises me is that it was published at all.  I can imagine the looks on the editors face when the writer and artist (written and drawn by Larry Hama) handed em a book with no one saying anything.

Probably choked.

~P