Let me just preface this by saying that I cannot take credit for any of what follows. Posted on RTM’s ToyBuzz forum earlier today by “Smitty”, the following article takes a humorous look at one fan’s frustration with the seeming anonymity of his favorite character: Specialist James J. Barney – code name: Grand Slam.
Due to the “temporary” nature of posts over at RTM, I’ve decided to re-post the text here. Oh, and if you’re reading this Smitty– I too am a fan of Grand Slam! (I’ve included some links to Grand Slam reviews at the end.)
Rant on, Smitty… Rant on.
It is with pride, and just a bit of anger that I declare myself part of an underground movement.
Though I cannot reveal our names or membership size, I can tell you we call ourselves:
That is, Friends of ‘Ol Grand Slam.
Seriously, Grand Slam is easily the most obscure and under-utilized character of the first ten years of G.I. Joe: ARAH. And I have always had a thing for the underdog, the character that didn’t get much screen time. As a kid, I always wanted to know about the background characters.
Yeah, Batman is cool, but what would he be without Commissioner Gordon or Alfred to play off of?
Sure, we know Sherlock Holmes is the man, but where is he without Dr. Watson?
Mr. Bond? Where are you without Q?
Would Jack Lord have had a catch-phrase without Danny?
Who will be Javert to your Jean Valjean?
Ok. Sorry for the Les Mis reference.
What I’m getting at is that the background/support/3rd-string characters make up the fabric of any corporate culture, and GI Joe is no different.
So I’m going to get to the bottom of it by going straight to the horse’s mouth, to the source of all things Joe. Yes, an exclusive interview with the one, the only, the M*A*S*H* actor, Larry Hama. Yeah, the guy that put the screws to Major Frank Burns.
But before that, I want to adequately provide a chronicle of Grand Slam’s under-use, as it were; I will bring light to the vast right-wing conspiracy against him. A conspiracy that has provided many slights and abuses to our friend, James J. Barney of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.
Slights, you may ask?
Let me just get started here……
1) The first issue of GI Joe, a true classic. My all-time favorite comic book.
On the inside front cover of the issue, we are treated to a “Weapons Profile” of the HAL (Heavy Artillery Laser). Let me ask you this: Who “drives” the HAL? Who is the man in charge of the HAL? What figure CAME with the HAL? What is the name of the dude what makes it work?
That would be Grand Slam, bucko. He of the rockin’ dark green uniform, complete with orange pads, visored helmet, and FABULOUS black gloves/boots ensemble.
But who introduces the HAL in this premiere issue of GI Joe!? What is the name of the character who has the word balloon briefly describing the HAL!?
That would be Flash.
Not that I have anything against Flash. I mean, a straight-arm Flash was my first Joe. Though I would come to hate the neon-colored Joes of the 90’s, I loved my original Flash due to him having just a little bit of color on his uniform.
But why, oh, why, would Flash get to introduce the HAL? He never so much as changed a wheel on the HAL.
And this is primo coverage, baby! Inside front cover of the first issue.
I know you may say this is an artist’s mistake, but two factors counter that argument:
1.2) Subsequent re-prints could have corrected this error, but didn’t. And …
1.3) It wouldn’t be the LAST time Flash steals Grand Slam’s thunder!
1.3A) We all know Flash ambushes Grand Slam in issue #6 of the original Marvel run.
In this, the legendary first appearance of the Oktober Guard, Hawk asks for volunteers for the upcoming mission, a dangerous and intrepid affair. As heroes are wont to do, all the Joes raise their hands to volunteer. But Hawk, being the keen leader he is, anticipated this remarkable show of solidarity and has pre-selected his team for this mission. Grand Slam is of this number. One of Hawk’s chosen few.
So close to glory, yet so far away.
But the team gets to Afghanistan, and inexplicably and astoundingly, WHO has replaced my boy, Grand Slam?!
That would be one Anthony S. Gambello, AKA Flash.
I mean, off-panel, did somebody come up to Flash and say, “Dude, hurry. The plane is leaving. I locked Grand Slam in the Little Joe’s Room and he can’t get out. Why don’t you go take his place and muscle in on some of his glory?” Is that what happened!?
1.3B) Moving right along, Flash the Usurper would continue to consistently hog the spotlight for himself. Remember the cool image on the classic Collector Display Case and first accessory pack?
Who is front and center, flying the JUMP jet pack? Would it be the Joe who “drives” the JUMP? Would it be the man in charge of the JUMP? What is the name of the dude what makes it work? What action figure CAME with the JUMP jet pack? That would be Grand Slam, bucko. This time in oh-so-cool silver pads.
But who is flying the JUMP on the carrying case?
That would be Flash. Note the brown gloves and boots, a la’ Flash. My buddy Grand Slam is conspicuously absent. Or, as they say in England, *conspicuously absent*.
2) But let’s go back to another egregious slight in issue #1.
Last page of the main story. Career kidnap victim Dr. Adele Burkhart is rescued, Cobra is defeated. A bomb blows up just as Zap flies the Joe team off of the doomed Cobra castle. We get a cute panel with Rock-N-Roll, Clutch, and Steeler bemoaning the loss of their respective (and respectable) vehicles in the blast.
“My bike,” says Rock-N-Roll.
“My jeep,” says Clutch.
“My tank,” says Steeler.”
First off, this makes no sense to me. Not only was Steeler’s tank already destroyed before he even got in the castle, but I’m betting Clutch and Rock-N-Roll didn’t bring their vehicles into the castle. Why, then, when the bomb blows up the castle, do they whine about losing their vehicles?
Regardless, why wasn’t Grand Slam at least allowed to whine with them and say, “My laser cannon!”
3) More than any other member of the original 13, or, I would hazard a guess, more than any of the Joes from the first four “waves” of figures, there were HUGE gaps between issues that Grand Slam appeared in. His lack of coverage was shameful and saddening. In fact, he was completely absent from cover or interior from issues 18-59, a span of three years! And not seen again until issue #82! Sadly issue #82 would be the last time he would appear in the original run of the Marvel comics.
So *conspicuously absent* was he, that he was completely MIA from such important events as the Battle of Springfield (issue 50), the Cobra Civil War (73-76), the Second Cobra Civil War, GI: Joe: Special Missions, GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra, GI Joe: Resolute, GI Joe: Renegades, etc, etc, etc, ad infinitum.
Need I go on?!?!
Issue 17 was the only issue of the original 155 issue run that Grand Slam was cover-featured on.
In fact, I don’t think he made another cover appearance until issues #24(variant), #36 & #39 of the Devil’s Due series.
Issue 17 was a FOOGS’s dream. In our FOOGS meetings, we refer to this issue as “Grand Slam Triumphant.”
4) Another slight. Issue #33, also known as Opening Ceremonies. The setting: unveiling of the new PIT. During the festivities, the visiting dignitary singles out several original Joes, including: Breaker, Zap, Short Fuse, Grunt, Rock-N-Roll, Flash, Stalker, and Scarlet for a promotion and a medal . Scarlett, ever observant, says, “But General, you mentioned all the original Joes except Snake-Eyes…”
Au contraire, Scarlett! How could you forget about Clutch, Steeler, and Wisconsin’s favorite son, Grand Slam?!
5) Why was Grand Slam the token injured guy? In nearly every appearance he made, he would have qualified for a Purple Heart. How many times was he injured, you may ask?
Issue# 8, He is vaguely injured (by shrapnel?)
issue #11, He is vaguely injured
Issue# 82, He gets shot
And that doesn’t even count the GI Joes: Origins issue # 7 where he makes ONE appearance only to receive a fatal headshot! GAH! Oh, the humanity!
On to the Grand Slam action figures …
6) Grand Slam, as it has been pointed out by others more intelligent than I, is the ONLY member of the original 13 Joes that has never had a unique head sculpt all to himself. His original head was a hand-me-down (or should I say, a “head-me-down?”) from Grunt and Zap. Subsequent figures of him would be re-colored versions of other characters.
How many versions of Grand Slam have been produced? A measly seven!
How many versions of Duke? 43!
Cobra Commander? 44!
Ok, bad example.
Keep in mind, Grand Slam has been around since 1982. How does he stack up compared to other original Joes regarding NOV (Number of Versions)?
Clutch (and yes, I’m counting Double-Clutch, here): Nine!
7) Finally, I need to point out one more glaring example of the under-exposure of Grand Slam. And that is, GI Joe: The Animated Series.
Listen: All of the Original 13 *except* GS receive speaking roles in the animated series. Short-Fuze? Yup. Zap? Mm-hmm. Grunt? Yessir.
But our boy *does* have a tiny cameo, as seen in an opening sequence, seated next to Clutch in the VAMP(missed that, did ya?). But that’s it. Such a sad state of affairs.
So why was all this evil and obscurity perpetrated on Grand Slam??
I thought I’d just go to the primary source material and ask Larry Hama.
Presented for the first time ever is the entire transcript for the exclusive interview that provides us with startling revelations regarding the true origins of Grand Slam, including his parental ties to those Pentagon puppeteers, the Jugglers.
Larry Hama: “Hello?”
FOOGS: “Larry Hama?”
LH: “Yes. Who’s this, please?”
FOOGS: “Um, yeah, I wanted to ask you about Grand Slam and how he…”
LH: “Wait. Who is this, please?”
FOOGS: “Um, ah. This is the guy who gave you back your phone at the GI Joe convention in Atlanta. You had dropped it and…”
LH: “One second. If this is that balding guy with the goatee and ugly Hawaiian shirt? If I remember correctly, you grabbed my phone out of my hand, ran off with it and then gave it back only when I pointed you out to security.”
FOOGS: “Ah……, I wanted to ask you about Grand Slam. Is it true that his father was one of the Jugglers and was constantly trying to protect his son and therefore always striking his code-name from official accounts of military action the Joes were involved with and that’s why Grand Slam doesn’t really seem to appear in a lot of…”
LH: “And how did you get my number?”
FOOGS: “Well, um, when I found your phone…”
LH: “And by ‘found’ you mean ‘took it,’”
FOOGS:” Well, I used it to dial my phone number and then when the call came through, I saved your number in my phone and…”
LH: “You what? I’ve been getting an crap-ton of calls since that convention from all kind of crazies. Did you give my number out to anyone?”
FOOGS: “Well, I posted it on my blog because your accessibility to fans has always been so great and I figured you would appreciate me connecting your fans to you that way. And…”
LH: “Your blog?”
FOOGS: “Yeah, it’s a site where I post my fan-fiction. In my Joe-verse, you and me are on the Joe-team and the girls on the team all fight over me and…”
FOOGS: “Hello? Mr. Hama?”
There you have it, folks. No one less than Larry Hama has confirmed our long-time suspicions that there is more to Grand Slam than meets the eye. That, unbeknownst to the rest of the GI Joe team, Grand Slam is the long-lost child of Zartan, raised to be a soldier by his protective adoptive father who became one of the Jugglers. And all the female members of the Joe team had the hots for him.
And Grand Slam was raised as a ninja. And he’s part Transformer.
Now we know.
And knowing is half the battle.
For more on Grand Slam, check out:
25th Anniversary Night Specter with Grand Slam
2007 “Tanks for the Memories” Convention Set (featuring Grand Slam) – (GeneralsJoes.com)
This has got to be one of the BEST posts I have seen on any subject regarding GI Joe I have seen in many many many years. I want to be a member of F.O.O.G.S. now after reading this post.
Awesome stuff Leo. Thank you for posting and saving this gem of an article for Grand Slam.
So pleased to see my rant posted here–thank you.
I’ve actually been tracking down the character profiles from GI Joe #1. I fear our buddy Grand Slam has been slighted yet again.
As you recall, GI Joe #1 had beautiful full-page character pin-ups by Herb Trimpe of:
Evidently, the remaining art for the rest of the Original 13 went into the “Marvel inventory.”
The pin-ups for Rock-N-Roll and Steeler, same artist and page layout, showed up in a later GI Joe Yearbook.
The Snake-Eyes profile appeared in the back of GI Joe # 19, which you may remeber was the issue where Kwinn, Dr. Venom, Scarface and General Flagg died.
I recently stumbled upon a site that had images of the uncolored original art (again; same artist, same layout) for:
Of the Origianl 13, that just leaves Hawk and ….wait for it….Grand Slam. Evidently these two pieces of art have never been see in public.
Perhaps someday Joe fans, and, of course, Fans of Ol’ Grand Slam we can start an online campaign to find this lost art.
Very funny text (with all due respect).
I think Grand Slam is more than “obscure”…he´s “forgettable”: most of Joe fans never think about his existence.
I only start to pay attention on him after the release of his DTC figure. Obviously, he could be Flash, but something, probably the “5 o´clock” shade and the loose stripe of his helmet, said “he´s a different guy”. I started to see him as a leader of a team formed by all DTC era Joes.
Also, I loved his Con figure, released as a partner of Starduster as JUMP troopers.
Now, I see him as one of senior field commanders of Joe team. I think he´s finally get his role.