Original G.I. Joe comics creator Larry Hama says Snake Eyes, who has historically been written as white, probably should’ve been Asian from the start.
Snake Eyes should have been Asian from the beginning of the G.I. Joe comics, says the character’s creator. Despite having trained as a ninja in Japan, Snake Eyes was always depicted as white in the original cartoon and comics, on the rare occasions when the face beneath his mask was seen. That’s all changing in Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins, with Henry Golding playing a new, updated version of the character.
In the original G.I. Joe stories, Snake Eyes was an American military commando who fought in Vietnam. After he returned home, he was invited to train as a ninja by his former comrade Storm Shadow, who belonged to the Japanese Arashikage clan. The new movie is changing that story up a bit by removing the military element, but the relationship between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow and the former’s journey to becoming a ninja seem to be largely the same. One thing that isn’t staying the same, however, is Snake Eyes’ race – a decision that’s been celebrated by the character’s creator, Larry Hama. Hama was the lead writer on the original Marvel Comics G.I. Joe series, which served as the foundation for the hit 1980s cartoon and the various toy lines that followed.
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In a recent interview with Empire, Snake Eyes producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura revealed that Hama was consulted extensively during the making of the film, and that he was incredibly supportive of making Snake Eyes Asian. Read di Bonaventura’s full quote below.
Larry Hama, the creator of Snake Eyes, is in on many of the decisions…Snake in the comic is blond haired and blue eyed. We asked [Hama] why he made him that way. He said he didn’t really know. So we asked if he cared if he’s dark haired and Asian here? ‘Probably should have done that in the beginning!’
Hama himself practiced martial arts and traditional Japanese swordsmanship, or Iaido, from a young age. He also served as an explosive ordinance expert in the Vietnam War. All of those real-life experiences played into the tone and storyline of the original G.I. Joe comics, especially the character of Snake Eyes. At the time that Hama first started working at Marvel, however, the comics industry was overwhelmingly white – a trend that carried into the comics themselves, which were often centered around white male characters. It’s possible that inherent external pressure to center white characters played into Hama’s decision to make Snake Eyes white.
Though there was a missed opportunity to make Snake Eyes Asian from the start, Hama’s work on G.I. Joe was significant in many other ways. The writer has spoken in the past about his desire to create strong and nuanced female characters, for instance, which helped the series become popular with fans of all genders. Two of those characters, Scarlett and Baroness, will feature in Snake Eyes, possibly setting up more live-action films to follow. Snake Eyes releases in theaters on July 23, 2021.
- Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins (2021)Release date: Jul 23, 2021
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