The comic's cover is a kneeling classic Hooded Cobra Commander with the title of "Secret of the Sludge". This alone implies that Cesspool and his Plasmatox ilk are going to be a focal point of the issue. Only, they're not. They're here. But, they aren't the focal point of the story at all. Instead, that goes to Cobra Commander leading a group of Paralyzer tanks after a squad of Joes manning the Badger and Battle Wagon as the Joes try to reach a safe border.
|G.I. Joe #123 Cover|
The cover date for the issue is April of 1992: meaning it appeared on newsstands in January of 1992, basically 25 years ago exactly. This accounts for the odd assortment of characters appearing in the issue. You have the Hama classic staples of 1983 Wild Bill, 1986 Hawk, 1984 Duke and 1985 Flint and Lady Jaye. Joining them are the 1986 Roadblock, 1991 Dusty, 1989 Rock and Roll and Big Ben. At the time, it was conceivable to really only find two of those figures on retail shelves. But, Cobra was worse. You have the '84 Cobra Commander, 1985 Tele Vipers, 1986 Vipers, Saw Viper and Frag Viper manning the Paralyzer tanks.
|G.I. Joe #123 Paralyzer Tanks|
|Cesspool being himself|
|Snake Eyes Captures the Red Ninja Leader|
One of the other great things about re-reading a 25 year old comic are the ads. The inside cover features an ad for the BeetleJuice Game Boy game. The next is a full page for 1992 Score baseball cards. (One of the cards shown commemorates Dennis Martinez's 1991 perfect game and I remember working a table at a baseball card show the day that occurred. Fun memories.) Fleer outdoes them a few pages later with a 2 page advertisement for their new cards. One full page is Roger Clemens and Fleer's 1992 promotion built around him. Anyone who thinks Roger wasn't considered a future Hall of Fame player prior to his late 1990's stint in Toronto should see this as a reminder of how fans saw Clemens in 1991 and 1992. You then get the requisite ads for Marvel T Shirts. (Remember when the only super hero merchandise you could get was special order?) There's then a full page ad for a series of James Bond Jr. books with a chance to win a Super Nintendo Gaming System and James Bond Jr. game pack. Somehow, I think the SNES was the plum of that prize. You then have the requisite role playing games advertisements in the book and on the back cover. Not to be outdone, though, you have two more ads for trading cards: one for Marvel trading cards and another for Series II of NBA Hoops cards.
|G.I. Joe #123 Ads|
|G.I. Joe #123 Ads|
The trading card heavy content shows how that hobby had grown in popularity during that time period. 1992 was pretty much the begging of the end for that industry, too. High end cards, endless streams of new product, difficult adults and the 1994 baseball strike pretty much killed the hobby and have left the vast quantities of merchandise produced during this time as basically worthless. But, looking back at the ads in these old comics provides good insight into what kids of the time were buying. Unsurprisingly, there's lots of failed merchandise in there. But, that's almost more interesting than finding ads for popular items that have collecting value today.
I missed this issue at retail. I was a senior in high school when this was released. And, while I still visited my local comic shop a couple of times a month, that was down from the multiple times per week of just a year or two before. It wasn't cool to collector or read G.I. Joe. But, it wasn't cool to collect sports cards or any other comics, either. So, there's that. But, at the time, I had other distractions. Music was starting to get interesting and I bought Nirvana's Nevermind for the first ever CD I purchased. I stopped buying around #120 as the ninja plotline didn't do much for me. I did come back when I saw the cover for #125 with the Eco Warriors Flint hanging over the pit of sludge with the flesh eaten hand protruding from the ooze. Comic Carnival had #124 at the same time for retail price so I bought those and then maybe missed one or two other issues between then and the end of the series in 1995.
|G.I. Joe #123 Eco Warrior Introduction|
Of course, this comic is worthless. It's not late enough in the run to have had a truncated production run and there is nothing of note that occurs within its pages. (I'm probably one of about 6 collectors who would consider the introduction of Headman and the Headhunters as noteworthy.) But, it's still a good issue. There's a lot in here that could have made for cool comic pack figures in the 2000's. The white Headhunters alone would have sold a ton of 3 packs. Seeing how Hama had to weave his tales together to appease Hasbro and comic buyers is a lesson in balanced artistry.
|G.I. Joe #123 Headhunters Introduction|