One of the most interesting facts to people new to the G.I. Joe experience is that it was actually a Marvel comic book at first — and obviously a lot of people associate Marvel comics with Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Avengers. But I feel like the characters in “G.I. Joe” are every bit as much superheroes fighting, supervillains. Do you look at it that way?
Just regular Joes?
Yeah, because I’m not really a superhero guy. It’s a harder fantasy for me to swallow. I mean, the sort of superhero or mutant characters that I’ve worked with [Wolverine, X-Men] were less super. They had powers, but they were more on the human side. In a way, superheroes are sort of a fascist fantasy. It’s like the Ubermensch [idea by Friedrich Nietzsche]. It’s like this outside entity that comes in and is much stronger and could beat up all the bad guys.
But to me, the G.I. Joe fantasy was not as much a military fantasy or a superhero fantasy as it was a fantasy about camaraderie and brotherhood and working together. And that’s the way I saw it. In fact, I’ve said this before, but I’ve always been a Carl Barks “Uncle Scrooge” fan, and still am. So, in my head, basically “G.I. Joe” was “The Junior Woodchucks” with guns.
I think it’s a terrible shame he’s resorting to a slur Fredric Wertham may have originally built up, and has surely dogged the themes and genre ever since. The awful NPR writer Glen Weldon is one more recent example of somebody who pretty much condoned the insult to the intellect by making it sound like it literally makes sense. If Hama’s not into superheroes in general, that’s okay, but he shouldn’t be deriding it as “fascist” fantasies, telling the MSM what they doubtless want to hear.
There’s a wonderful featurette for “Snake Eyes” where Henry Golding appears so thrilled that you gave the blessing to the project. What is it about Henry Golding that makes him the perfect actor to play Snake Eyes?
Well, he’s sort of like the real thing. He has this sort of natural likability, and his acting skills are really all there. If you’ve seen him in anything else, you realize, “Oh wow, he’s acting.” He’s not like any number of stars who are only themselves, ever. And he grounds it. And the fact that the setup is so that this is before he loses his ability to speak, and we get to hear him and find out what he is internally instead of imagining it in the comic form.
Unfortunately, the script and director failed Golding, but you probably couldn’t expect Hama to admit that even now. Notice how they don’t get into the race-swapping used for casting?
I think that fans have a hard time with change, but since you’re supporting the project, is it your belief that comic book storylines and movie storylines co-exist?
They can co-exist, but they’re two different mediums. There are things that work in comics that just don’t work onscreen, because comics are … It’s a medium where you learn everything by increments. You read Batman for 20 years, you know an awful lot about Batman, but you’ve learned it in little bits and pieces every month. In a movie, you’ve got 90 minutes to two hours to get it all up there. So the methodology of getting the information across is very different. In comics, you have to show it visually and make it work as a flow of pictures. In movies, you’ve got sound effects, you’ve got the ability to do all this stuff. And a lot of comic book tricks and storytelling methods were copied from movies. And so it’s this weird back-and-forth. Both mediums feed on each other. Sure.
But does he think fandom is wrong if they find the race-swapping laughable? Again, no clear mention of any controversy over that. Can you see Snake Eyes getting to the point where he becomes that mysterious hero under the mask that fans do know in the comic books? I don’t agree it’s possible to do all the stuff from comics in movies so easily, if only because, if we’re talking about a blockbuster sci-fi movie loaded to the brim with special effects (which today can be called CGI), that can actually take away from the real impact, and certainly if performance is put on a lower level of importance, as has become the case for over 2 decades already. In comics and animation, it’s possible to do a lot of exciting stuff without worrying about special effects overwhelming the cast of characters too much.
Because of course, this would involve some sort of incident — and God forbid, I mean, because my wife says it, too — Henry Golding, he’s a handsome fella. He got hired because he looks good without the mask. Right?
But if you want to follow that comic book line, you’re going to look at disfiguring his face plus losing his ability to speak. I’d hate to see it happen to this iteration of the character, but do you think it’s necessary, and would you like to see it go in that direction?
Well, I think there’s a way to do that. I mean, look at “The Mandalorian.” The main character never takes off his helmet except for the last episode or something. With the “Snake Eyes” format, you could always have flashbacks. There are ways to get around all of this stuff. It’s a very flexible medium.
But how do we know there’ll be a sequel to the movie? It’s already thudded hard, because story merit and such are lacking. And again, Hama refuses to give a clear answer if Golding was hired because the studio thought it was such a big deal that they pander to social justice mentality of casting an Asian actor in the role instead of a white guy.
This has really been a great year for Asian representation in Hollywood, from “Snake Eyes” over the summer and now to “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.” How thrilling is that for you as an artist of Asian heritage?
Very thrilling. I mean, it’s something I thought would never happen. It’s like Obama getting elected president. I never thought I’d see that in my lifetime. And I never thought I’d see this sort of Asian representation in media. I mean, when I was a kid, I mean, I remember my grandmother would come out of the living room, yelling, “There’s an Asian person on TV!” We’d all have to go, “Holy smoke,” because it was unheard of.
I think it’s good and that we’re getting away from those these godawful stereotypes. I’ve been in the Screen Actors Guild since 1976. And for years, the only parts I ever got offered were bad guys. Or I auditioned for commercials, it’d be like a Japanese car company executive, a medical examiner, a doctor, some sort of guy in a lab coat or a waiter. Those are the only parts around. And now it’s wide open.
Ah, so here’s where he ventures into partisan politics, acting as though it’s such a big deal being elected on racial background alone, not merit. Obama was responsible in his time for much of the fiasco we’re at now, including the Benghazi catastrophe. But does all that matter to Hama? If he’s got no intention of writing metaphors for any disaster a Democrat politician could cause, including Afghanistan’s, into the pages of his future GI Joe work, that’ll be all we need to know. Representation is great in itself. But if merit and responsibility aren’t factored in, it all rings hollow. Besides, does Hama care that Larry Elder was rejected in favor of Gavin Newsom as governor for California?
Here’s another interview from CBR, where Hama said:
My favorite issue of G.I. Joe is that first silent Snake Eyes issue from the ’80s. How is it approaching the creative challenge of having a silent protagonist as a writer and artist?
I love writing about Snake Eyes because it’s a lot less work because there’s no dialogue. [laughs]
I don’t think of myself as a writer. I started out as a penciler. I had to draw comics for years and years and years before anybody let me write one. All the editors were writers trying to walk away from that. [laughs] That’s why I took G.I. Joe on because I had been trying to take on writing work for a while but no one would give me writing work. When Hasbro came to Marvel with G.I. Joe, they asked every single writer at Marvel who all turned it down. That’s how I got the book. I was the only one who could do it. [laughs]
Hama told the previous site that for a decade, he couldn’t convince any Marvel editors to give him some writing work. Why only here does he state clearly that his ascension to more of a writer had to do with building up his reputation through art and editing? By the way, would he be willing to give conservative-leaning writers who’d like to make waves in the mainstream any backing? If not, I don’t see the point of this.
What are the things that you love about Snake Eyes that has endured for years and across its different permutations?
It’s pretty straightforward, it’s just badass. [laughs] When I do a Snake Eyes story, my only concern is what more can I say about how badass he is? [laughs] That’s the story goal, with every story it’s reinforced.
But will they survive in cinema, after the Snake Eyes movie tanked? If the reception was any indication, this film did almost as much of a disfavor to the military martial artist as the previous 2 GI Joe movies did. No thanks to Paramount’s contempt for the source material, of course.
Hama was also interviewed by Pop Culture, and they’re equally sugarcoated:
Paramount’s Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins movie exploded into movie theaters back in July, and it had fans excited about a new direction for the hit franchise. […]
Which is oblivious to the reality of the critical/financial failure, but hardly a surprise they’re avoiding any mention, especially in today’s PC environment. I do vaguely recall Geoff Johns acting at a convention like the Green Lantern movie he’d led to failure a decade ago was far from that situation several months after its release, and not showing any ability to admit capability of making mistakes. So it’s not new, but not a good example either.
Hama shared that even in the G.I. Joe mythology there is always a “rift” that “divides” the two men, but he explained that it has almost always led to a “redemption” and “reconciliation.” In the Snakes Eyes movie, the traditional storyline between the two is slightly “reversed,” but Hama clarifies that all the crucial “elements are still there.” He added, “That’s what makes the relationship work.”
What if they aren’t? Again, the film flopped. And of course, this says nothing about whether race-swapping was truly such a big deal. I honestly wish some career writers wouldn’t be so ostensibly diplomatic on the one hand, yet so politically correct on the other. It just doesn’t help improve the state of entertainment, artistically or otherwise. It is a shame the movie turned out just as dreadful as the previous 2. But inability to acknowledge PC conduct is exactly why it will continue. And Hama’s description of the superhero genre as a fascist fantasy doesn’t help either.
Originally published here.