Nothing is Over: Rambo in Comics

by Blaise Tassone

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Troubled Vietnam vet John Rambo was a 1980s cinematic sensation. Like other famous and iconic 1980s action film franchises, i.e. series like: the Alien movies, the Predator films and the Terminator saga, the Rambo franchise didn’t just remain a box office property.

The popularity of the character led to everything from cartoon series (yes, there was a ‘Rambo’ Saturday morning cartoon, see here, for details), to action figures, lunch boxes and….wait for it…comic books.

While many think the character was created by Sylvester Stallone, Rambo was originally the protagonist of a 1972 novel by Canadian/American writer David Morell. Simply titled First Blood, the novel was- not surprisingly- the basis for the first (and for many, including this blogger) the best of the Rambo film series.

That said, First Blood the film was a bit different from the novel. While following the novel closely at a point, in the book Rambo is portrayed as much less principled; killing without restraint and (spoilers) he dies at the end (see here if you’re curious about other ways in which the two versions differ).

The original First Blood movie, by contrast, was changed when Stallone decided that no one would root for the savage killer. Hence the character became a poster boy for PTSD and injures, but does not intentionally kill, the police hunting him. Instead, the movie decided to tackle the little-discussed, highly ambiguous, legacy faced by many Vietnam vets in the aftermath of that very unpopular war.

Most significantly, in the 1982 First Blood movie, Stallone decided to keep Rambo alive at the end. Financially speaking this was a very shrewd move. Fast forward to the present and we arrive at the sixth (and likely last) installment of the Rambo series. Rambo: Last Blood was released in cinemas on September 20, 2019. I actually liked the film since it works as an action movie, even if the vast majority of critics seem to detest it.

Turning to comic books, for some reason, of all the big-name 1980s action franchises, Rambo has had the least presence in the comic book market. Why this is so is actually a bit of a mystery.

The Rambo character, an ex-Green Beret and expert in hand to hand combat and guerrilla warfare, seemed ready-made for an action-adventure comic book series.

Imagine a ‘Wolverine’ type anti-hero character who is basically a killing machine and joins G. I. Joe for special missions. Instead, the few Rambo comics that exist are not exactly the best action comics you will find (Marvel’s G.I. Joe to take my already cited example, easily puts them to shame in terms of scripts and art).

In what follows I will list all the available Rambo comics from least to most collectible.

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Rambo: Vietnam Hero #1 (1986)

The earliest Rambo comics may have been the series Rambo: Vietnam Hero published by the Vietnamese company Pocketkomix. Rambo: Vietnam Hero #1 (1986) is a hard comic to find. There are no copies listed on eBay as of this writing. I’m assuming the text is in Vietnamese and, to my knowledge, there have been no English versions of these published.

When we turn to English language titles, the only American Rambo comic books I know of were published by Blackthorne Publishing starting in 1988.





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Rambo III #1 (1988) – Comic adaptation of the Movie

The first comic released was actually a comic version of the third Rambo film. With an adaptation of the third Rambo movie by Bruce Jones and pencils by Charlie Baldorado this comic is still around. There was also a 3-D variant version released. Again, no known sales data on GoCollect. But near mint copies are selling for somewhere between $5.00 to $10.00 dollars on eBay. The latest Rambo film also opened to a $19,000,000 box office take (third highest-grossing film last weekend).

Obviously, there are a few Rambo fans still out there. eBay sales on these comics have subsequently increased during the last few days.






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Rambo #1 (1989) – First Original Rambo Story in American Comics

Written by Ron Fortier, with black and white art by Aaron Lopresti and Donnie Jupiter, the self-titled Rambo comic features an original story in which Rambo encounters a renegade soldier from his past who now leads a squad of mercenaries. In the case of Rambo #1, we do have sales data, but it’s minimal.

GoCollect records one sale of a 9.4 for $38.00 back in 12/21/2016. The CGC registry shows no data on an exact number of copies graded. That means that, if you certify a 9.8 copy, you can, therefore, be the first to possess the highest graded copy. You may pick up some coin for that on eBay since sales of this comic have increased after the release of the latest Rambo film.




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