Larry Hama has been writing “G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero” comics since the series’ days at Marvel Comics.
He wrote most of Marvel’s first 155 issues back when the series began, in the early 1980s, and later returned after IDW took it over in 2010.
“I was amazed at how easy it was for me to slide back into the fantasy,” Hama said to The Washington Post’s Comic Riffs. “Thomas Wolfe was wrong: You can go home again.”
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?”
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.
“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.”
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.”
Despite her popularity, Hama says don’t look for a solo Dawn/Snake Eyes series. He says “G.I. Joe” doesn’t work that way under his writing.
“None of the Joes are designed to be solo characters,” Hama said. “The fantasy is about belonging. I suspect that a lot of writers who have worked on the title didn’t quite get that.”
Hama says there’s no end in sight to his run on “G.I. Joe,” pointing out that many thought the series would last only a few years when it debuted in 1982.
“I’ll keep doing it until they don’t want me anymore,” Hama said. “My mentor Wallace Wood told me back in 1972, ‘Guys like us don’t retire; we just drop dead at the drawing table.’ ”