The Moviehunter

Pulp Culture
'80s nostalgia
rules the pop
culture world

May 16, 2002
By Franklin Harris

A Republican is in the White House. There is trouble in the Middle East. And a new "Star Wars" movie is in theaters everywhere.

Yep. The '80s are back, all right.

But the surest sign that the '80s have returned is that "Transformers" and "G.I. Joe" are two of the hottest comic books around.

Starscream schemes to seize control of the Decepticons in the revived ''Transformers.''
Illustration © Copyright Dreamwave
Productions. Art by Pat Lee.

Starscream schemes to seize control of the Decepticons in the revived ''Transformers.''
For adolescent boys — and some girls, too — G.I. Joe and the Transformers did more to define the '80s than did Ronald Reagan, big hair or power ballads. Both pulled off pop-culture trifectas, starting as successful toy lines, becoming successful comic books and eventually spawning popular animated cartoons.

They were the Pokémon of their day, only not as cute.

The Transformers inaugurated America's robot craze, as youngsters fell under the spell of the little toy robots that could transform into everything from cars and airplanes to tape recorders and dinosaurs.

The comic book and cartoon, meanwhile, laid out the story of two rival robot armies, the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons, fighting a war with mankind caught in the middle.

G.I. Joe followed the same path, with the comic and the cartoon providing a narrative backdrop for the action figures and their vehicles.

The G.I. Joe team was an elite strike force, formed to counter the threat of Cobra, a terrorist organization determined to rule the world.

Comic-book writer Larry Hama gave the Joes and their Cobra adversaries personalities and backgrounds that made them playground favorites. Everyone's favorite Joe was Snake Eyes, the ninja-trained commando with the top-secret past. And Cobra baddies Destro and the Baroness were everyone's favorite couple.

By 1990, both the Transformers and G.I. Joe had faded from the scene, but in 2002 it's as if they never went away.

For the second month in a row, "Transformers Generation One" is the top selling comic book in the country, according to Diamond Comics Distributors. Not including newsstand sales, "Transformers" No. 2 is outselling even "New X-Men" and "The Amazing Spider-Man."

Cobra returns to menace the world in ''G.I. Joe.''
Illustration © Copyright Devil's Due.
Art by J. Scott Campbell.

Cobra returns to menace the world in ''G.I. Joe.''
Because of "Transformers," Dreamwave Productions is the first independent publisher to take the No. 1 spot away from the Big Four (Marvel, DC, Image and Dark Horse).

The revived "G.I. Joe" isn't doing badly, either. Now on its sixth issue, "G.I. Joe" ranks at No. 10 on Diamond's sales chart, ahead of such mainstays as "Batman," "X-Treme X-Men" and "Peter Parker, Spider-Man."

Devil's Due, one of the studios under the Image Comics umbrella, publishes the new "G.I. Joe," but Marvel Comics, which produced the '80s version, isn't on the sidelines. Instead, Marvel is reprinting the original series. The first trade paperback, collecting issues No. 1 through 10, was a top-five graphic novel in March, and the second volume is due this month.

But it isn't just comics. Old Transformers and G.I. Joe toys fetch hundreds of dollars on eBay, and Hasbro, the company that produced the originals, has revived both lines.

To top it off, a new Transformers cartoon, "Transformers: Armada," will air this fall on Cartoon Network, and Rhino Home Video has released a DVD boxed set of the '80s series.

The set contains all 16 first-season episodes, spread over three discs, and a bonus disc featuring animation tests, outtakes, restoration footage and clips from the Japanese version.

The DVD collection retails for $59.95, or you can buy the three main discs separately for $19.95 each.

Wildstorm offers its take on ''Thundercats.''
Illustration © Copyright Wildstorm
Productions. Art by J. Scott Campbell.

Wildstorm offers its take on ''Thundercats.''
And there is more to come.

Another '80s franchise, "Thundercats," is returning via DC Comics' Wildstorm imprint. The first issues of the new comic series are due in August, and Cartoon Network recently returned the original "Thundercats" cartoon to its afternoon schedule.

Cartoon Network is also bringing back "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe." The new cartoon will air this fall, and, not coincidentally, Mattel is producing new Masters of the Universe toys.

Lastly, Devil's Due is reviving "The Micronauts," which was once a popular Marvel comic. And, of course, new Micronauts action figures are on the way, too.

Who says you need a time-traveling DeLorean to go back to 1985?

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