6 Subtle but Unmistakable Homages to Larry Hama from G.I. Joe: Retaliation

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by Howie Decker @HowardTheDeck on April 10, 2013

in G.I. Joe

With the recent news that Paramount has greenlit a third G.I. Joe movie, one thing can be said about G.I. Joe: Retaliation- it truly was in the hands of a lifelong G.I. Joe fan.

When Jon Chu was announced as the director of Retaliation, Joe fans were optimistic about his credentials (including me – I only asked him to “Save Our Childhood“, no pressure). Regardless of how you felt after seeing his final product, one thing cannot be argued: he is in fact a G.I. Joe fan.

Retaliation is much more of a “G.I. Joe movie” than Rise of Cobra was. RoC contained exactly ZERO references to the Marvel G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero comics, and besides a few patronizing nods like “Kung-Fu Grip” and “knowing” being “half the battle”, there was no real influence by the original toys or cartoon either. Retaliation shows a tangible allegiance to G.I. Joe’s various forms of source material.

The deepest base of G.I Joe source material comes from the A Real American Hero comic, written by Larry Hama. The original run lasted 155 issues from 1982 to 1994, and is one of the most underrated comic runs in the history of the business. Joe fans were so passionate about it that in 2010 IDW brought Larry Hama in to revive the series, picking back up with issue #155 1/2, and continuing through today.

The comics gave fans a chance to see much more of their favorite Joe and Cobra characters. Hama’s writing lent them so much more depth and development than any 22-minute animated toy commercial ever could. The rich backstory provides so much for modern creators to work with, and Chu did a good job borrowing elements from Hama’s world.

Here are G.I. Joe: Retaliation’s 6 unmistakable homages to Larry Hama.


The LZ

In the opening scenes of G.I. Joe: Retaliation, the Joes are seen in an aircraft, preparing for arrival. Duke and Roadblock are in the forefront, and in what most viewers would perceive as a throwaway line, he remarks about the preparedness of the “LZ”.

This detail would likely be lost on the casual moviegoer, but two groups of people might have picked up on the reference: if you have first hand experience with military aviation, you might know the “LZ” to be shorthand for “landing zone”. The other group (myself included) have absolutely no knowledge of this, but recognize it as a term used frequently in Larry Hama’s G.I. Joe A Real American Hero comic run.

Much like the Cobra B.A.T.s, the first few times the acronym was used in dialogue  in the comics, it was enhanced with an asterisk and accompanying text box to elaborate. For every use of B.A.T.* there was a little box telling the reader what it stood for (*Battle Android Trooper). The same was done when airborne characters would refer to the “LZ”- we’d get a small box containing the words (*Landing Zone). Duke mentioning the “LZ” in the opening scene of the movie is an unmistakable homage to Larry Hama.



While Sunbow’s version of Jinx debuted in G.I. Joe: The Movie as one of Beach Head’s Rawhides, Larry Hama’s Marvel comic version of Jinx was Snake Eyes’ protege, and a member of the Arashikage family. The Jinx we saw in Retaliation was clearly Hama’s Jinx, and no one else’s.


Sit Rep

Another oft-used term in the Marvel A Real American Hero comic, “Sit Rep” is short for “Situation Report”. Duke or Hawk would often ask for a “sit rep” in Hama’s comics, meaning they’d like to be apprised of the current status of a remote mission.

When a portion of the Joe team was in one of the wonderful places created in the comics, like Benzheen, Trucial Abysmia, Darklonia, or Sierra Gordo, the leadership contingent back at The Pit would keep tabs on them via periodic “sit reps”. When the term is used in G.I. Joe: Retaliation, it’s an evident tribute to the comics.



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zedhatch April 11, 2013 at 12:56 pm

LZ and Sit Rep are common military terms, They are used in almost any military themed film, I can’t see counting them as a reference.

The Pit and Hard Master storylines were in ROC, yet you say there was Zero references in ROC.

Jinx, did she even appear in the comic? I have a hard time remembering her, which maybe with her lessened role in Retaliation is accurate then.

Howie Decker April 11, 2013 at 1:00 pm

But LZ and Sit Rep were never used in any GI Joe medium (Sunbow, RoC) besides Hama’s comic, so Chu being the only other to use them since Hama has to be considered more homage than coincidence.

I’m not saying Hama invented the terms, just that he was the first to use them in any G.I. Joe medium.

And yes, Jinx debuted in issue #59 I believe.

Martin Smith April 11, 2013 at 2:04 pm

Or, you know, LZ and sit-rep were used because the screenwriter and/or director have seen any military action movie ever. Picking those out as Hama homages is ridiculous.

handsybroad April 11, 2013 at 7:47 pm

I disagree. While those references have certainly been used before, Chu inserting them here is a nod to Hama IMO. if they’re so prevalent in every military action movie ever, why were they not used in Rise of Cobra?

James April 12, 2013 at 9:17 am

Must agree with the writer, those terms are indeed common but they were not used in the first Joe movie or in the cartoon. They invoke a “Marvel Comics GI Joe feel” so I’d include them on this list of SUBTLE Hama homages.

Tom April 11, 2013 at 2:32 pm

I suppsose it’s difficult to say if the use of military terminology was a direct nod to Hama, he did like to pepper his stories with realistic military terms, so that in itself could be a nod. Retaliation does seem to fit the tone of the Hama oeuvre quite a bit more then Rise of Cobra be it nod/homage or just better storytelling really doesn’t matter, I’m just thankful it was a better movie.

Howie Decker April 11, 2013 at 5:18 pm

Agreed on all counts. Thanks for reading and for the comment Tom.

handsybroad April 11, 2013 at 7:43 pm

Yes! When I heard “sit rep” the first thing I thought about was the arah books. I’d say the silent scene was a thinly veiled homage to issue 21, but you mentioned that in your review I believe.

Brian October 13, 2015 at 9:46 am

I enjoy reading your posts, but I have to comment that it is contradictory to state that Rise of Cobra has “zero” connection to Hama’s comic book run and then cite 2 things in Retaliation which also appear in ROC as being “homages” to Hama. The Pit physically appears and is referenced numerous times in Rise of Cobra. Not only that, it is the multi-floored, subterranean, secret location Pit from the comics, not the base with the turret sticking out from the cartoon or toy line. A simple reference to the name “Pit” in Retaliation can’t be accepted as a nod to Hama if you are going to disregard it’s exact physical representation in Rise of Cobra. Also, the line “this will be our Pit for now” is an exact reference to the secret location Pit of the first film being located and infiltrated, which necessitates there being a “temporary Pit” in the sequel.
Secondly, the plot point of Retaliation involving Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow, the Hard Master, and Zartan was completely set-up by events which were depicted in Rise of Cobra, which allowed them to be fleshed out and brought to conclusion in Retaliation. So again, connections to Hama’s comic book run did in fact take place in Rise of Cobra.
Rise of Cobra may have taken tremendous liberties with its source material, but to deny that there were any connections to the comic book at all is not being truthful either.

Outback February 2, 2016 at 12:56 am

Heck yes, Retaliation really shocked me when I first saw it (on TV) due to it’s very close following of the Zartan-Hard Master-Storm Shadow-Snake Eyes narrative, which Hama did wonderfully in the series, and I think was portrayed well on the screen. They even included the Blind Master. I was tickled.

So much better than the first G.I. Joe movie (also– eyerolls at not making the Baroness pure evil of her agency but rather mislead/brainwashed and saved by her ex; because I guess no woman would have the agency to be evil of her own violation. That was sexist and really disrespectful to the Baroness, who was a badass, ruthless, unrepentant, and intimidating villain, having nothing to do with her gender.

Anyone looking for a badass female villain with no stupid male savior or brainwashing or other BS, Charlize Theron in Snow White is AMAZING and scary as hell.

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