Welcome back to G.I. JoeVersity. This month, we’re taking a little break from reviews to talk with writer Fred Van Lente about the upcoming relaunch of “G.I. Joe!”
Announced at New York Comicon, IDW’s shared-continuity line of G.I. Joe comics will be restarting in February, beginning with the brand new ongoing “G.I. Joe” written by Van Lente with art by Steve Kurth. Each month thereafter, IDW will roll out another new title, with “G.I. Joe: Special Missions” by Chuck Dixon and Paul Gulacy in March, and “Cobra Files” by Mike Costa and Antonio Fuso in April. Van Lente is the first new voice to join the property’s writing-team in some time, and we sat down with him to find out how he got involved with the project, and what he has in store for the Joe team in 2013!
Fred Van Lente: He has come out of retirement to mentor and spiritually counsel Mark Sanchez. God knows that guy could use it.
IDW has been publishing G.I. Joe since 2008, and really, only three guys have been front and center on the writing side of things — Larry Hama, Chuck Dixon, and Mike Costa (w/ Christos Gage). How did you become involved with this relaunch of the series, and what’s it like being “the new guy?”
FVL: Like many of these projects, I got an email out of the blue asking me to do it, for which I was hugely grateful and thrilled. It’s great being the new guy! And I am a huge fan of the COBRA series and everything IDW has done with the GI Joe team, so it’s a very special privilege. We’ve all met — Mike, Chuck and me — and it was great fun, I hope we make the brain-trust thing a regular activity.
Obviously we can’t blow the finale of the current series, but can you set the stage for us: what can you tell us about your book, and what makes this new series, distinctly, YOUR G.I. Joe?
FVL: It’s a new direction for the series — in Chuck Dixon’s run, Cobra “outed” the formerly covert GI Joe team and in response, the Pentagon has taken them fully public: They have relocated to a more high-profile base in New York City, their individual personas have been leaked to the media for recruitment and PR purposes. They’re being held up to the public as “Real American Heroes.”
This is a huge challenge for them — they even have a new, thoroughly unwanted team member, an embedded blogger codenamed “Hashtag” — and it’s arrived just in time for the war against Cobra to move onto US soil for the first time.
So we’re looking at brutal, street-by-street urban combat here in the good ol’ USA– think “Black Hawk Down” but with way more white people.
(Hey, we can use that last line in the solicits, don’t you think?)
How did you decide who was on your team? Was there a list of who you could and could not use, or were you free to pick who you wanted?
FVL: Some of it was process of elimination — Snake Eyes, Scarlett, Lady Jaye & Flint all have their own titles, so they were off the table — but I interviewed a bunch of pro friends of mine who were huge Joe fans like artist Jamal Igle (who does a great wraparound cover for our #1) and Arune Singh, Marvel market guru (whom Hashtag is named after). I think it was Jamal who really pushed for Quick Kick. I mixed in their recommendations with my own preferences.
I read somewhere that General Joe Colton — the original G.I. Joe — was returning, and would be playing a pretty big role in your book. Can you tell us a little about that, and also, who do you think the standout Joes of this story will be?
FVL: Well, I am sooooo old that I actually owned the Colton-era GI Joe figures as a kid — the taller ones, the Adventure Team with Bulletman and Mike Powers (the cyborg!) and the like. So yes, they are major characters in this run. In our continuity the Adventure Team was a public Cold War team and Joe has been brought in the command the GI Joes — Hawk having been thrown under the bus by the brass after the “Cobra Command” storyline — as he has some experience with this whole “celebrity soldier” thing.
I used to describe Colton as “kind of General Petraeus type,” as in one of these beloved public generals, before the cheating scandal broke. So I guess he’s like… Colin Powell? Ike Eisenhower? He’s hugely politically influential but also an outsider to the GI Joe team, so it’s going to take them a while to warm to him. (If ever.)
Obviously, the nature of G.I. Joe is that they fight Cobra, so tell us about the villains. What’s Cobra’s role going to be in the new series, and what snakes will we be seeing?
FVL: Cobra is trying to present itself as a viable alternative to the US government, and as we see in the first arc, “Homefront,” they are shockingly successful.
I like using as many Cobra villains as possible. While Baroness is the public face of Cobra (and what a face she is, va-va-voom) I’m using as many as I can. Destro, Croc Master, Firefly, the Iron Grenadiers, Crystal Ball, Dr. Mindbender … and one particular fan favorite readers have been clamoring for.
Oh, you tease.
So, where you a fan of G.I. Joe before this project? The toys, cartoons, and/or the various comics (well, except the Dark Horse G.I. Joe… nobody liked that one)? And how, if at all, does that affect the way you approach the project?
FVL: I really loved Larry Hama’s series, and I think Mike Costa’s COBRA series is the best GI Joe fiction, ever. IDW’s stuff across the board has been stellar, and as a creator it’s great to have that thrown down as a gauntlet — I’m trying to rise to and exceed the challenge!
As a lifelong fan, I’ll buy just about anything with G.I. Joe on it, but for someone unfamiliar with G.I. Joe, why should they read your book?
FVL: It’s some characters you love, some characters you’ll learn to love, fighting against one of the worst threats America has ever faced, in a brand new setting and mission.
Plus, there are explosions. Lots and lots of explosions.
Look for the all new G.I. Joe,. coming February 2013 from IDW Publshing!