G.I. Joe #21 or why I used a dictionary for a comic book with no words

One of the comic books I collected regularly was Marvel Comics “G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.”  I was a fan of the toys (as was every other boy my age) and the cartoon, so naturally the comic book was right up my ally.  I was on board pretty much from the beginning and to be honest, the only issue of the entire run I am missing is #1.  The Marvel series ran for 155 issues and was written, for the most part, by Larry Hama.  G.I. Joe also held the distinction of being one of the only (if not THE only) comic book to be advertised on television.  The series had many unique qualities and milestones during its run, some good, some awful.  But the one the sticks out for me, and many others, is issue #21 “Silent Interlude.”

G.I. Joe #21
G.I. Joe #21

Issue #21 came out in March, 1984, and to me, it was way ahead of its time.  The entire issues contains no dialogue, and there is only one panel that contains words on a computer screen.  I didn’t quite get it at first, I thought maybe it was misprinted or something.  (as it turns out there was an urban comic myth that it was misprinted and shipped that way, but it turned out false)  But as I looked it over again and again I started to understand.  This was the first time I saw comic books as art.  There was one other thing that I didn’t quite understand: the title.  I had no idea what an “interlude” was.

I didn’t expect to see a five dollar word in a sixty cent comic.  Growing up, when I ran into a word I couldn’t pronounce or didn’t know the definition of, the answer I got was “sound it out” or “look it up!”  So I turned to our family dictionary.  Merriam-Webster dictionary defines interlude as ” a usually short simple play or dramatic entertainment.”  Doesn’t that sound like the definition of comic books in general?

The lesson I took away from this was that we never stop learning, even when immersed in the world of comic books.    Many people and parents look down on comic books as a waste of time, a detractor from “real reading.”  When I talked to my parents a few months ago about my reading differences, my father said “we never criticized you for reading comic books because you were reading.”  I am glad they had that attitude.

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