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Monday, April 16, 2018 

Larry Hama is losing it

The Washington Post's Comic Riffs section spoke with Larry Hama about his creation of Dawn Moreno, the Latina girl who replaces the male Snake Eyes in GI Joe. After reading this, I honestly don't think he made good points:
Hama’s latest, and perhaps most popular, addition to the “G.I. Joe” comic book world is the creation of a young new female Snake Eyes who happens to be Latina. The character first appeared in the “G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero” No. 226 and was more recently featured in the five-part “Dawn of the Arashikage” story, ending at the 250th issue, which was published on March 28 and illustrated by Netho Diaz.

Snake Eyes was one of the most popular “G.I. Joe” characters, both in the comics and in various animated series and even the “G.I. Joe” live-action movies. Hama killed off the character in the comics in 2015 but saved the name for Dawn Moreno, the young Latina who now takes on the mantle of Snake Eyes, which comes with the ninja’s memories.

Hama is aware of diversity efforts at major comic publishers such as DC Entertainment and Marvel Comics where people of color have assumed well-known comic book mantles, such as Miles Morales/Spider-Man and Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel. But he says the idea for Dawn Moreno as Snake Eyes came from female “G.I. Joe” cosplayers who complained to him that there weren’t enough female characters.

“I started thinking about what kind of outfit a female cosplayer would be excited about,” Hama said. “So, yes, it was sparked by inclusion, and then I thought, why not make her a young Latina?”
But does that mean they had to replace a notable male character with a female character in the same role? Even if the mantle passing in GI Joe wasn't handled as badly as DC/Marvel did theirs, he still embellished what's now a running joke in comicdom. Introducing a new character of a different racial background is fine. But what's even more bizarre is why Dawn had to be injected with SE's memories, and above all, why she couldn't be introduced as her own separate role? By now, this diversity replacement mentality's become a cheap gimmick that certainly didn't pay off for the Big Two. I'm sure not all the cosplayers expected him to go to such lengths to replace the older character with a new one in the same costume.
The character has received a positive reaction from fans, and the issues are flying off the shelves. Hama attributes the success to giving a new idea a chance without worrying about the “G.I. Joe” status quo.
Oh, and it's just like them to rely on that scrappy news site known as Comics Beat, which doesn't even specify in digits how many additional printings were made for the introductory issue of Dawn Moreno. What if it was just a few hundred? That still wouldn't measure squat. And the following statement from Hama makes me feel more disappointed:
“The best we can do is give something a good shot and throw it out there, and see if it flies,” Hama said. “I don’t write for the middle-aged male fanboy, nor did I write for the 9-year-old kid back in the day. I write for myself.”
Good grief, I don't think that's a good way to promote the work. To say everybody's just some moldy oldy fanboy risks insulting even the younger core audiences. Nor is "writing for oneself" the best way to go, because while there are many writers who take pride in their work, it's more wonderful when you can find an audience to share the enthusiasm. It certainly doesn't get better with this:
Hama does recognize that putting a character of color in a popular and established mantle sometimes has a more powerful effect than creating a new character.

“There is definitely a lot of power in donning the mantle. If Dawn had been just another female ninja, nobody would have cared. It’s the whole idea of Snake Eyes living on inside her that makes her stand out enough for readers to give her continuity a try,” Hama said. “Once their eyes are on the page, you have to present a character they can get into, and a story line to back it all up. Otherwise, it’s just a gimmick like an alternate cover or an imaginary story.”
Is he kidding?!? By that logic, nobody would care about William Tucci's Shi, let alone kunoichis who appear in any popular manga book. For heaven's sake, if Dawn were her own agency, I would've cared a lot more, and given him far more credit. His statements suggest he lacks confidence in the ability to win over a crowd with a new protagonist in her own personal role. What's the use of the medium if they can't market new concepts as their own agencies?

And gimmicks is exactly what Marvel/DC's stunts were when they replaced established characters with POC, and changed the sexual orientation of others like Iceman. Interesting he notes variant covers are gimmicks, because many most certainly are, for the sake of drawing speculators who hope the books will become valuable someday based on that. Exactly what's harming the industry's image. But he's disappointing on the subject of drawing reader interest.

It's a real shame he's succumbing to cheap gimmicks, and buying into propaganda that did nothing to improve Marvel/DC's already dwindling fortunes. But realizing he's liberal-leaning (and he even signaled a few months ago he buys into "social justice"), I know I'll have to come to terms with how it's not all that surprising when you think about it.

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Stan Lee always used to say that he wrote what he liked to read because he figured that if he liked it, other people would too. Readers, especially kids, see through phonies; but if the writer loves what he is doing, they pick up on that and like the story because of it.

I grew up on Hama's G.I. Joe because it was so well written and didn't talk down to the audience nor aim over their heads. I've always had such respect for him and what he's written, but lately he's been making that a lot harder. I totally get giving the female cosplayer something to aim for but if he's telling the truth when he says he doesn't write for the fanboy, how odd he contradicts that by writing for the fan girl. I'm too busy working for a living to read much comics anymore, at best I buy them once a year and spend a part of a day catching up on today's G.I. Joe. I was a bit concerned about an hour ago when I finally got around to reading issue 244 where Trump supporters are portrayed as ignorant hillbillies who carve the name Trump on the wall of a cabin they're vandalizing. If ignorant vandalization is what he wants to portray, he should turn on the news and see who's rioting and behaving like a bunch of babies in the streets since Nov 5th 2016.

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