When you see Larry Hama, you won’t think he wrote one of the biggest comic book franchises of all time. He’s among the most fun, most unassuming comic book creators out there too.
Larry is the father of classics like GI Joe: A Real American Hero and many other Marvel storylines. Within the self-deprecating humor of this legend lies a man who likes perfection in his work.
In his most natural form, Hama is a real-world badass. There are so many facets to the man who wrote over a hundred characters, but he exudes the level of humility that’s hard to find anywhere else.
Martial Artist, War Vet: Early Days of Larry
Larry was born on 7 June 1949 in Queens, New York. There’s not much detail in his childhood, other than the fact that he studied martial arts.
He initially studied Kodokan Judo, which extended to Kyudo or Japanese archery. Larry further learned advanced skills in Iaido or Japanese swordsmanship.
He worked towards becoming a painter, with Bernard Krigstein as one of his teachers. He sold his first comic to Castle of Frankenstein, a fantasy film magazine.
Larry eventually served in the military during the Vietnam War, serving in the 18th Engineer Brigade of the US Army. He did his service from 1969 to 1971, returning to New York after his tour of duty.
Hama did some freelance work as an illustrator and inker for the longest time. He worked with some comic book studios and magazines. He even started working at DC Comics for a while, including titles such as Wonder Woman and Mister Miracle.
The GI Joe explosion
The best-known work of Larry is for Marvel’s comic book serialization of GI Joe. The comics was supplementary to the toyline, at the time used to help market them. This period is where Hama’s favorite anecdote comes from.
In many of his interviews, Larry talks about being the “last pick” by his then editor-in-chief Jim Shooter. He notes that people who get the toy tie-ins are usually the ones in the company’s lower ranks.
Hama took on the challenge and did so in earnest. He used his years of military experience and martial arts expertise to legitimize the story. He also wrote the bio cards for each character, giving them a legit background.
GI Joe became one of the biggest cartoons of all time. It’s an icon of the ’80s, together with other stories like Transformers and He-Man. He even co-created Bucky O’Hare.
Larry also wrote other character storylines like Wolverine, Venom, Elektra, and X-Men.
Larry’s Writing: Ever-Flowing, Ever-Changing
If there’s someone who’s a master at creative characterization, it’s Larry Hama. For years, he created varied, equally beloved characters in every story. There were clear morals for each character, and many of his creations “spoke” to many readers.
At the height of its fame, GI Joe was surprisingly famous with young girls. His proper treatment of characters like Lady Jaye, Cover Girl, Scarlett, and even The Baroness was a highlight.
In every Larry Hama story, fans will find someone that resonates with them. He opens his stories with something new every time. He never sticks with one style, but rather improves on his previous storylines with the next one.
“If I didn’t think my writing got better all the time, I’d quit. I learn something with every story. Especially the bad ones,” said Larry in an interview with PreviewsWorld.
“I learn what NOT to do again, like a baby touching a hot stove. I’m always trying to have LESS dialogue. That’s not always possible if the artist is not telling the story completely in the pictures. All change is good, anything that doesn’t change is dead.”
Indeed, Larry’s stories speak of both his successes and mistakes. This is what sets him apart: even after decades in the comic book industry, he’s still getting better at his craft.
We Need More of Larry Hama
Larry Hama is a real American badass, not because he’s perfect – he’s not. He’ll never admit to it, and he’ll likely tell you off. Even then, his lifelong want to hone himself puts him in the league of some of the best.
Hama did it all in his time.
Martial artist. Illustrator. Actor. Musician. Comic book creator.
Like the many characters he made, he’s also a man of many talents and many faces. It’s hard to deny that we need more of Larry in the comic book industry.
GI Joe: A Real American Hero #1 – Larry Hama’s claim to fame
GI Joe: Declassified – offers the backstory to the GI Joe and widely recognized as a classic
G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #21, “Silent Interlude” – the best GI Joe story of all time
Larry Hama – Wikipedia
IN-DEPTH: LARRY HAMA ON GI JOE, THE ‘NAM & MORE – Bill Mitchell, CBR (archived)
Larry Hama (conducted by Rod Hannah of Zartan’s Domain in July 1998) – Part One – Rod Hannah, Joe Guide
Larry Hama’s Lessons On Writing G.I. Joe – PreviewsWorld, Previewsworld.com