Friday, May 15, 2009

An old G.I. Joe comic has eerie parallels to Laura Ling's ordeal

G.I. Joe #61 cover by Mike Zeck
I posted about this recently on my Twitter page. While searching my storage boxes in my parents' dusty garage for some old Starlog issues because I wanted to look at a couple of Starlog articles about Gerald Fried and the making of The Rocketeer, I stumbled into a stack of '80s Marvel G.I. Joe comics written by Asian American comics author Larry Hama, whose work is admired by all of us creators from Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology. (Quick Kick--one of the few Asian American heroes in '80s comics and voiced on the original G.I. Joe animated show by none other than Dr. Pierre Chang--was Hama's creation. A chat between Hama and Secret Asian Man creator Tak Toyoshima appears in Secret Identities as an interstitial feature drawn by Tak.)

'S.A.M. Meets Larry Hama' by Tak Toyoshima
At the top of the stack of G.I. Joe comics I unearthed from the garage was one of the first comics I bought for myself, G.I. Joe #61 from July 1987, which is notable for two things: a badass Mike Zeck cover depicting Snow Job, a wounded Quick Kick and a mad-as-hell Stalker in the middle of a shootout (one of my all-time favorite comics covers) and some early Todd McFarlane artwork that Marvel rejected because it didn't meet their standards. Marvel replaced the future Amazing Spider-Man and Spawn illustrator with Marshall Rogers, whose late '70s Batman comics I've always dug (one of Rogers' Batman stories was later adapted by Batman: The Animated Series into "The Laughing Fish").

But McFarlane's scrapped art actually isn't the most interesting thing about issue #61, which, like many of Hama's other G.I. Joe comics, is grittier than the bloodless, Star Wars-like '80s animated series and Paramount's upcoming G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. (Uh, Stephen Sommers, I think you've gotten your '80s cartoons mixed up. The shiny skintight power suits aren't G.I. Joe. That's Silverhawks, pal. And that long-winded Rise of Cobra title is terrible. It's not going to attract non-fans who think it's a documentary about health insurance for the unemployed.)

Hama's story in #61 centers on the Joe unit's attempted rescue of an American reporter who's arrested on trumped-up espionage charges in the fictional country of Borovia.

G.I. Joe #61 page 1 by Larry Hama and Marshall Rogers
While re-reading #61, I couldn't help but think of recent headlines involving captured journalists, like the North Korean detainment of Current TV staffers Laura Ling--a correspondent for Current's Vanguard and the younger sister of reporter and ex-View co-host Lisa Ling--and Euna Lee.

G.I. Joe #61 page 2 by Larry Hama and Marshall Rogers
Hama's comic makes me wish that a special ops unit would sneak into North Korea and bust them the hell out of there.

Those of us former or current journos who are worried about Ling and Lee's impending trial (and hope they are released like captured Iranian American journo Roxana Saberi recently was) should read the LiberateLaura Twitter page, which has been posting both updates on Ling and Lee's case and links to candlelight vigil announcements and press coverage. I first learned about the page when its tweeter replied to my tweets about the 1987 G.I. Joe issue.

Laura LingA lot of bloggers are blasting the Al Gore-owned channel for not publicly acknowledging the ordeal. Current continues to air Ling's past Vanguard segments as if nothing awful has happened to her. For instance, the channel has lately put Ling's segment about Vietnamese bird flu into heavy rotation because of its relevance to the swine flu problem, but Current Tonight host Rawley Valverde didn't mention his colleague's present situation at all during a recently recorded intro that preceded the bird flu segment. The channel's silence must be due to legal reasons--as angry asian man notes, not even Ling's family members can publicly "go into detail regarding her ordeal due to the sensitive nature of the case"--and what I assume is the Current staff's discomfort with having two of its reporters become the story.

By the way, when will newspapers and blogs stop posting the same two blurry DMV driver's license photo-quality pictures of Ling and Lee? Are these papers and blogs lazy or what? Ling wasn't exactly reclusive in her line of work, so how can that be the only picture these papers and blogs have of her?

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