G.I. Joe Comic - Storm Shadow & Snake Eyes

Weekend Roundtable: Ninjas Ninjas Ninjas!

In the words of eminent philosopher Robert Matthew Van Winkle: “The power of the ninja is strong\ Fightin’ all crooks until they’re all out cold\ Go Ninja Go Ninja Go!\ Go Ninja Go Ninja Go!” Indeed, good sir. Well said.

This week’s Roundtable is about our favorite fictional ninjas, whether they be from movies, TV, books, comics, videogames or any other media of your choice.

Shannon Nutt

This week’s topic is a good one, as I realized that not a whole lot of movie ninjas have captured my interest. Why isn’t there a great ninja movie out there?! With that in mind, I must default to the most obvious choice: the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. But which movie of theirs to pick? Let’s be honest, no ‘TMNT’ flick yet has completely done these characters justice. I guess I’ll have to go with the original 1990 film which, for all its cartoonishness, probably had the best fighting/action sequences featuring the Turtles of any of the movies we’ve seen so far and was geared more toward older teens than all the sequels and reboots that have followed it.

Luke Hickman

Ninjas have never really done much for me. They tend to only serve one of two purposes: being indestructible ghosts, or be faceless cannon fodder. While my pick certainly fits into those categories, I chose it because it gave them a purpose and a background.

I’m going with ‘Batman Begins‘. I know it’s hard to think back that far, but do you remember when the first footage of Christopher Nolan’s adaptation was released? I recall it premiering during an episode of ‘Smallville’. I never watched the small-screen Superman series, but being a huge Batman fan, I tuned in for that. The only thing better than the extended trailer was the reaction that people (including myself) had to it. The movie took a superhero and placed him in the real world, something that only the X-Men had come close to doing at that time. Grounded in our reality, a plausible explanation was given to nearly everything. How did Nolan and David S. Goyer choose to make the superpower-less superhero a force to be reckoned with? They wrote his character as being trained in a far-off fortress by a group of elite rogue ninjas. I can’t think of a more perfect way to bring Batman into our world.

M. Enois Duarte

Back in the late ’70s and early ’80s, there was a crazy trend for all things martial arts, evidenced by the surge of action movies featuring a variety of fighting styles. A majority of them are pretty bad but weirdly entertaining – for me, at least. The infamously bizarre 1984 action/horror flick ‘Ninja III: The Domination‘ is related to its previous two installments more by happenstance than being a direct follow-up. Here, a telephone-line worker who also happens to be an aerobics instructor by night (because… why not?) is possessed by the malevolent spirit of a murdered ninja vowing revenge on those who did him wrong.

The whole thing is hilariously funny as the young possessed woman struggles with her literal inner demon, slowly growing insane as the body count mounts. Nevertheless, director Sam Firstenberg and cinematographer Hanania Baer do some decently impressive work while Lucinda Dickey, the star of two ‘Breakin’ films, is surprisingly great in her role for a largely forgettable production.

Brian Hoss

Of the many cybernetic ninjas found in the ‘Metal Gear‘ saga, Gray Fox has to be the most memorable. With a cyber skeleton, full-optic camo, and a high frequency blade, Gray Fox is a real badass among badasses during the Shadow Moses incident. His major flaw is his twisted, duct-taped mind, but he still sliced off Ocelot’s hand, which basically set the stage for several subsequent ‘MGS’ titles.

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

The only things more awesome than living, breathing ninjas are, of course, zombie ninjas. That was the hook that convinced me to crack open my wallet for ‘Raw Force‘, and undead chop-socky action is just part of what’s cemented the legend of this 1982 genre mashup from the Philippines.

In this corner is a boatful of martial artists taking in the sights of the Far East. In the other is an island of cannibalistic monks who fork over mountains of jade to slave traders in exchange for young, nubile women. Inevitably, the slavers go lady-shopping on the martial artists’ chartered boat (captained by Cameron Mitchell, naturally), prompting a rescue mission on the sinister shores of Warrior Island. While the monks nibble on womenfolk, their island is protected by ninja warriors they’ve resurrected from the dead.

Too many exploitation flicks offer maybe 8-10 minutes of gonzo action and depravity mired in an hour-plus of filler, but ‘Raw Force’ is unhinged pretty much from its first frame to the last. The movie never goes more than a couple of minutes without some kind of battle or laughably shameless nudity (frequently both at once). Plus, its pacing can’t possibly have a chance to drag when kung-fu ghouls, flesh-eating monks, almost-Hitler, piranha, and a bazooka are in the mix. ‘Raw Force’ has thankfully found its way to Blu-ray courtesy of Vinegar Syndrome.

Josh Zyber

When I was a kid, I worshipped at the altar of ‘G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero‘. The TV cartoon was great and all, if a little goofy, but the Marvel comic written by Larry Hama was my bible. Despite ostensibly being a military title, the heart of the comic very quickly proved to be the relationship between the mysterious mute ninja named Snake Eyes on the Joe team and his Cobra counterpart, Storm Shadow.

Snake Eyes broke out as a superstar with the famed Issue #21, ‘Silent Interlude’, published in March of 1984. In the completely dialogue-free story, the black-clad commando scaled a mountain, raided an enemy castle, and clashed with a clan of evil ninjas (led by Storm Shadow, introduced that issue) in order to rescue his kidnapped teammate, Scarlett. The issue was incredibly successful and influential, and the “silent” gimmick has been imitated countless times since.

After more than two years of only vague hints about it, Snake Eyes’ backstory and his deep connection to Storm Shadow were finally revealed in the two-parter of Issues #26 and 27. This became the basis for a very complicated ninja mythology that grew in importance over the course of the series’ run. In its later years before its first cancelation in 1994, the ninja stuff took over the whole book, to the point that Snake Eyes’ name was displayed on each issue cover in a much larger text font that dwarfed the ‘G.I. Joe’ title. Frankly, it got to be pretty ridiculous and the comic had a big downturn in quality. Nevertheless, Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow were terrific characters, and the storytelling in the early issues was great stuff that obsessed my younger self.


Tell us about your favorite ninjas in the Comments below.

14 comments

  1. Bolo

    ‘You Only Live Twice’ – James Bond goes to ninja school and learns to “become Japanese” which involves a sham marriage along with a wig and some facial prosthetics that make him look more like a Vulcan than anything. Even though assassination attempts against him while he’s in ninja school would indicate that his enemies in SPECTRE know what he’s up to, he continues with his cover as Japanese peasant, keeping a low profile by flying a bright yellow helicopter around during the day and blow other enemy helicopters out of the sky. Bond leads an army of ninjas into volcano in Japan that’s been discreetly retrofitted in a space station for a space ships that eats other space ships. God I love this movie.

    For something more credible, the tv movie of James Cavell’s ‘Shogun’ puts ninjas to good use.

    • Alex

      I have the fondest memories of teaching my grandfather how to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (he’d never had them…at least that’s what he told his six-year old grandson) and watching old James Bond movies all day. Our favorite was always “You Only Live Twice”. Even as he got older and his memory started to go, he would still bring up those wonderful days with a smile and a twinkle in his eye.

  2. Nagara

    Michael Dudikof. American Ninja! I must have watched that movie a million times when I was growing up.

    Ninja Assassin was great.

    Ninja Scroll. Jubei is one of my fav characters.

    Ryu Hyabusa from Ninja Gaiden.

    Storm Shadow, Snake Eyes, and Jynx from GI Joe.

    The ninja from the shinobi games.

    Nobu from Daredevil.

    Of course the turtles from the sewars.

    And my all time favorite ninja and ninja movie….. Azumi. Ryuhei Kitmura’ s best work. “Real” ninjas.

  3. Csm101

    Sho Kosugi in any ninja movie gets a vote from Mel. Good call e-noize on Ninja III: The Domination. My favorites from him would have to be Revenge of the Ninja and Pray for Death. As far as modern ninja flicks, I love Ninja starring Scott Adkins.
    Hey Josh, remember when they revealed Snake Eyes face in the Joe comics? I didn’t think he looked that disfigured, but it was still cool to see.

  4. Pedram

    Scorpion and Sub Zero! Can’t believe no one mentioned them. They have a cool interwoven back story like snake eyes and storm shadow, and wicked powers on top of their fighting skills.

  5. Deaditelord

    As far as ninja movies, I love the character of Jubei in Ninja Scroll. A real shame that Yoshiaki Kawajiri never made a movie sequel to Ninja Scroll.

  6. Totally agree with you Josh. Once I read the title I thought of Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow and GI Joe 21.

    As a kid Ninjas really piqued my interest. I love the old Sho Kosugi movies. Nothing like taking a Chinese throwing star to the eye!

    Then as a tween and young teen reading the original Eastman and Laird Ninja Turtles comics.

    Anybody have fond memories of playing Shinobi? 🙂

  7. Although I’m a major fan of the franchise (just bought a Russian variant on card this weekend!), I have never read the G.I. Joe comic (I did buy my first issue this year, because it has a focus on my favorite vehicle ‘Defiant’, but I have yet to read it). As such, I don’t know anything about the ‘deep connection’ mentioned that the characters share. What was it? Were Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow secret lovers?

  8. EM

    The closest I get, not being a fan of the ningenre, would be such pseudoninjas as Diabolik (Danger: Diabolik) and Zhang Ziyi’s character in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

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