IDW’s final G.I. Joe comic features more than 300 characters on one of its covers

Larry Hama wraps up 40 years of writing a ‘Real American Hero.’ as IDW potentially sets a new world record for ‘most comic book characters on a single issue cover.’

With G.I. Joe set to leave IDW for, um, somewhere else at the end of the year, IDW is pulling out all the stops on their big finale for the line. Their last comic, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #300, will arrive in stores in November, featuring a story by longtime G.I. Joe scribe Larry Hama, with art by SL Gallant, inks by Maria Keane, colors by J. Brown and letters by Neil Uyetake.

“I handed in the plot to G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #300, which is the final issue of the series for IDW, with a mix of sadness and amazement. Sad, that a storyline I began in 1982 is coming to an end, and amazement that it has lasted this long,” Hama said.

This is not the record breaking cover

There’s way more to his quote than that, and IDW didn’t skimp in the press release. So hey, here’s the whole thing:

“Back in 1982, it was common knowledge that a toy licensed comic lasted one to two years at the most, and toy companies were reluctant to let a series based on a toy line run longer than three years, lest they get stuck with warehouses full of unsaleable Cabbage Patch Dolls or Beanie Babies. Every year that G.I. JOE and Transformers made it to the next season seemed miraculous.

“I remember finishing the very first G.I. JOE story, and thinking to myself that that was it, those were all the ideas I had. I had no clue what to do for the next issue. So I did what I’ve been doing now for forty years: I jumped into the deep end of the pool and wrote page one without any idea about what would happen on page two. Then I slogged ahead, page by page, until I got to the end.

“I’ve never been concerned about ‘plot’ or ‘continuity.’ Most of G.I. JOE is a long, continuous ret-con. My main concern has always been the characters, getting them to stand up and walk around inside their own universe. My second concern is visual storytelling—making sure the story is carried along in an impactful way by the succession of images. The words always come dead last, and that’s why I don’t identify as a ‘writer,’ but as more of a ‘penciler with a word processor.’

“I did 155 issues at Marvel, and they pretty much gave me free reign to do what I pleased. When IDW got the license, they wisely chose to turn me loose with my own methods, and I happily produced a run that is only five issues short of my Marvel run. The editors and staff at IDW have been incredibly understanding and supportive. In particular, they’ve been highly respectful and considerate of all my odd working methods and peccadillos. I’m thankful to all of them. Now, however, I have come to the end and it truly feels like leaving home, leaving characters that have been my friends for four decades—many of which are, in fact, based on my actual friends and acquaintances—and I can feel a real emptiness looming.

“Somehow, though, I suspect the story doesn’t completely end here, that the story will go on and the PIT will not be in mothballs for long. See you in the next incarnation!”

Hama seems to be teasing something there, doesn’t he?

Anyway, let’s talk about this variant cover for the issue by Jamie Sullivan, the one mentioned in the headline. According to IDW, it features 300 characters:

And they claim it sets a new world record. Now, is that something that someone, like the fact finders at the fabled Guinness Book of World Records, actually keeps track of? Why yes, yes it is — “most comic book characters on a single issue cover.” I remember writing about it at Robot 6 several years ago, when I took a look at several covers that had a bunch of characters on them.

Back in 2014, when I wrote my story, Deadpool #27 was just coming out, featuring the wedding of Deadpool and Shiklah. Is she still around? I know the marriage didn’t last. But here’s that issue’s character-packed cover:

It had 232 characters on it, although “224 were deemed publicly familiar enough by Guinness World Records to qualify for the mark, establishing a true comics first,” according to GWR’s own article on it. But … no. It actually wasn’t the first comic to have that many characters on it.

But if you look at my original story, you’ll see that I highlighted a cover from 2007, G. I. Joe: America’s Elite #25 from Devil’s Due Publishing, which actually had 236 characters on it. At some point in the last eight years, Guinness updated the page for that particular record to reflect that Deadpool did not hold the record. This guy did:

Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out this cover for the collected edition of Crisis on Infinite Earths, by George Perez and Alex Ross. It features a whopping 562 characters:

… but is not for a single issue, like the record states. It’s for a collected edition. Still, that’s a lot of characters.

It’ll be interesting to see if Guinness updates its site to reflect the change; I’m sure there’s a verification process with all sorts of checks and balances they have to go through. But will they complete that process before we learn where the heck the G.I. Joe license is going to land in 2023? I guess time will tell.

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