G.I. Joe Roundtable, Part 2: Feister, Schmidt and More

A G.I. Joe Roundtable With IDW

Newsarama continues its epic discussion of the IDW re-launch of G.I. Joe in 2009 with G.I. Joe Editor Andy Schmidt; writers Larry Hama, Chuck Dixon, and Mike Costa, and artists Tom Feister, Antonio Fuso, and Robert Atkins. Click here for part one

Newsarama: Andy, will these three books be interwoven in the same continuity? Or will the IDW GI Joe line have several different continuities like the Transformer line from IDW?

Andy Schmidt: The only other continuity that will exist is the movie continuity. Those books will be clearly labeled as such with a different logo treatment and all that.

The three books we've been talking about here so far are all a part of the same world. But we're intentionally leaving some wiggle room. For example, Origins obviously takes place earliest in history. But how long before the other two series is a question we're leaving unanswered. There are gaps we're leaving not to be vague but because we've got plans on how to fill them that will blow your mind.

You're going to like your new Joe.

NRAMA: Do any of you writers obsess over any particular characters? And, if so, why that particular character?

Chuck Dixon: I try not to because every Joe is someone’s favorite and I want to feature them all at some point. Flint has always been a favorite of mine so I make sure to get him in there. That said, it’s hard not to let Destro take over the book or to over-expose Snake Eyes. It’s a balance.

Mike Costa: I obsess over Scarlett and the Baroness. But in a healthy way.

Larry Hama: I like Snake Eyes. Easy dialog. Timber, too. Duke was my least fave character of all. He's lower on the rungs than Raptor. I did like Crystal Ball, though...

NRAMA: (laughs) Ahh yes, Crystal Ball… Are there any particular "obscure" Joes that you'd like to re-envision or include in your work?

LH: I used Nemesis Enforcer in a recent Hasbro in-pack comic. I had to actually watch the animated episode for reference, so I guess I can no longer say I've never seen the cartoon show- (just the one episode, though) After I tried on his shoes, I found them to be interestingly comfy.

CD: I think Chris and Mike are handling that by featuring Chuckles in their series.

MC: We have and did. He's our main character. Score one for us.

NRAMA: Each of the artists must have a favorite character or vehicle from the entire armada of toys and comic concepts of the past as well--which are your favorites?

Antonio Fuso: I used to be fascinated by bad guys in fiction; so, G.I Joe: Cobra is perfect for me. I love all of Cobra’s armada but if you want a name…Destro is my favorite!

Robert Atkins: It has always been the vehicles for me. I loved the Skystriker and Conquest jets for the Joes, then you've got the classic Hiss tank and Rattler for Cobra. The vehicles were always just as much of the story as any of the characters. Often they told you alot about the characters that operated them.

Tom Feister: That's a tough one. I'm going to take a different path on my favorite GI Joe memory. I've told this story before so it might be old news to some people. GI Joe was the first book that really got me serious about comic book collecting. I remember walking to the K-Mart near my baby-sitter’s house and buying #13 off the spinner rack. I was hooked.

Cut to a few years later, I’m 9 years old and I’m in the offices of Marvel Comics. My Mom had made arrangements for me to be part of a tour of the offices they did on Fridays. We were told at the start that we would not meet any of the creators as they mostly worked at home. At the end of the tour, my Mom mentioned the woman who had led the tour that I was a fan of the GI Joe book. The woman said, “Oh, Larry Hama is the writer on that book. He's here today. Let me see if he has a moment to say hello.” A minute later, she returned and told me to follow her. We arrived in a tiny, cluttered, office where I met Larry Hama. He was the first comics creator I ever met. I spent about 20 minutes with Larry. He gave me a small stack of GI Joe comics among them a copy of GI Joe #1 which he signed for me.

As amazing as that was, the best part was Larry shared the secret murderer of the Hard Master from the storyline that was running in the book at the time. I knew Zartan did it a year before anyone else. Larry swore me to secrecy. I never told a soul. So here I am a few years later, working on a new GI Joe series from the mind of the great Larry Hama. Moral of the story: every kid that comes in my office gets free comic books.

NRAMA: From an artist's perspective, what seems to be your most important personal touch on each of these three books--is there an emphasis on sequential action, technical accuracy, or just a really polished all around product?

RA: I’m trying to capture the scope of a global military operation. In reality, GI Joe would be an enormous undertaking, and with Chuck's approach on the book, it's really stretching my imagination. I look at a scene and work up my sketches then sit back and think, "How can I make this bigger?". That and I pay a lot of attention to the details. Specific weapons, vehicles, facilities, and locations are all elements I want to keep as authentic as possible.

AF: The sequential action is so well scripted by Christos and Mike that all I have to do is follow their script step by step to have a great thrilling book! In my work I try very hard to squeeze in as much technical accuracy as possible so that every project I work is the best it can possibly be.

NRAMA: As artists, what proves to be the most challenging aspect of working on a high profile concept like GI Joe?

AF: The real challenge of working on this concept will be to satisfy all the fans of GI Joe, so many people have grown up loving these characters as much as I do! YO JOE!

RA: (laughs) Yeah, the fans can be intimidating. When you get something wrong, they will call you out like no other. I enjoy getting their feedback and incorporating suggestions. I try to make myself as available as possible to let them know they have a voice when it comes to the production of what they love.

TF: Having only just started the most challenging part is getting together the proper reference for guns and vehicles. There is a huge GI Joe convention in Atlanta that I go to every year called JOE-LANTA, and from my experience the fans are very knowledgeable about the weapons and equipment the Joe's use. They are going to know if we are faking it.

NRAMA: Chris, IDW is going to be reprinting all of the original Marvel GI Joe stories, correct? When can fans expect to be able to pick these trades up?

CR: We'll have a number of the books out early in '09. These won't just be scanned reprints, either, they'll be nice, vibrant presentations of this classic material. And we have special things planned for some of the material, like the Michael Golden Yearbook 2 story, which will be getting some extra handling to really make the re-presentation of it special.

NRAMA: In the early '80's when this line of toys was revamped--it had a very hi-tech futuristic edginess that slowly sort of carried the line for a number of years. With the developments in modern military weapons of the 21st Century being less "radical" than the sci-fi aspect of the early years of GI Joe--will that original "sci-fi edginess" be replaced with a more realistic interpretation of military hardware or will that same mode of thought be carried out in these books?

AS: This is absolutely more realistic. The book’s tone is terse and the weapons and such are highly advanced but not ridiculous. Every thing you see is either 100% real or else an invention for a given story arc.

CD: For me, it’s an opportunity to both. Joe demands a certain amount of bleeding edge world threats. I’m resurrecting a favorite in my first arcs but I’m trying (along with the game writers) to make the science less a fantasy and more a possibility. But I love guns and things that blow up real good. So, I’ll be presenting as much real world weaponry and equipment as I can. And I want to stress logistics (the nuts and bolts of delivery and re-supply) as well as tactics.

MC: Our book shows you a lot of the inner-workings of Cobra, and what they've got down there, and while it's certainly more advanced than current military technology (as far as I know) it's not blue and red laser-rifles either. I think of it as tech that's like one-step above Tom Clancy fiction. Luckily, Christos is an expert in just-above-Clancy-technology, so expect the book to feel authentic.

LH: Sci-fi is more here than not. The FN P-90 is an operational weapon system that looks so out-there that they use it on Stargate. Helmet cams seemed totally futuristic in Aliens, but they are everyday equipment now. Other stuff like super-coagulants, and armored laptops are in common use but don't get a lot of publicity. It's only when the technology leaks over into civilian use (like the GPS) that the general public becomes aware of it. Yes, a certain amount of extrapolation of technology can be expected.

NRAMA: To close, will these books have a body count or are all the red beams and blue beams from the rifles going to strategically miss everyone during a heavy firefight?

AS: Hey, now, that's just insulting. We're shooting for a more adult audience. No lasers here, blue or otherwise.

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