For warriors, they say the battlefield is always changing. The key is, to adapt. And the storied G.I. Joe franchise has done just that, through toy lines, cartoons, live action movies and comics. Last month, IDW released the second issue of their recently relaunched flagship G.I. Joe title with Fred Van Lente and Steve Kurth leading the charge into battle, just as the second live-action movie hit the big screen.
In just the first two issues of G.I. Joe we’ve seen the original Joe, Joe Colton, take the team into a more media-savvy era, Cobra subvert an entire Midwestern town, and the debut of a social media sleuth named Hashtag. As we launch our monthly G.I. Joe column, “Yo, Joe!” we asked Van Lente to give us a sitrep on all things Joe and found ourselves talking about surprising things like Joe Sacco, a Marvel employee who helped Van Lente draft his team, and the potential return of the original G.I. Joe team, the Adventure Team.Newsarama: Fred, you have boots on the ground now that the first two issues of G.I. Joe has shipped. What’s the response been so far from fans and retailers with you?
Fred Van Lente: Pretty spectacular. In fact #1 sold out and is going to a second printing, which should be in stores soon.
Nrama: In that first issue we saw the Joes mounting a mission to stop a secret Cobra operation operating in a small Ohio town called Warrenton, but when they got there they found the town was in cahoots with Cobra. What can you tell us about this town?
Van Lente: It's loosely based on the notorious town of Camden, New Jersey, the plight of which Joe Sacco goes into in some depth in his new book with Chris Hedges, Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt. Like a lot of Rust Belt, Northeastern towns, it's never recovered from a loss of manufacturing. It's a town without hope, and anywhere without hope is fertile ground for an organization like Cobra. The G.I. Joe team never expected to be conducted a hearts and minds operation with its own borders.Nrama: The first issue revealed how G.I. Joe’s missions are informed by the heavy public awareness the government has forced on the team, with Duke admitting that his personnel choices for this first mission were based somewhat on demographics and marketing. How does Duke feel about this new public operating face of G.I. Joe?
Van Lente: Well, as he says in the scene he's pretty uncomfortable with it. Fighting Cobra is hard enough without the additional pressure of constant media scrutiny. But if it was easy, they wouldn't call them heroes.
Nrama: A rarely seen face is making her step into the big time here with Cover Girl. Introduced way back in 1983, she’s never really had a major role in the books much until now. In your first issue Hashtag reveals she was on a season of Project: Runway, but what else can you tell us about her?
Van Lente: I will save that for her origin issue, which is #6 with an awesome, sexy variant cover -- oh, look, making more news -- by my pal Hack/Slash and Revival co-creator Tim Seeley. And giving Steve Kurth a one-issue break on art duties will be my old friend Jamal Igle, so I am super-psyched Cover Girl is in good hands.Nrama: Moving to the newest face in the team, the embedded journalist/blogger Hashtag. First off, I have to ask – her real name is Aruna Singh; any relation to Marvel’s PR man Arune Singh?
Van Lente: He is her namesake, yes. Except she has way more hair. As soon as I got the G.I. Joe assignment he was the first person I contacted as he knows more about the franchise than anyone I know. He was very helpful advising me on how to assemble the team, and this was my way of thanking him.
Nrama: Hashtag comes in as an ideal character to see the G.I. Joe in a new light – but what does she bring to the team?
Van Lente: A lot of headaches, frankly. I wanted a "rookie" character, someone whose inexperience was yet an additional complication to the G.I. Joes' desperate situation. I see this book primarily as a war book, and this is sort of my cliché on the new guy in the outfit with a picture of his high school sweetheart in his helmet and a target on his back. Her arc has a distinct, middle and end and is one of my favorites of the first storyline. It'll be quite a roller coaster ride.Nrama: The big reveal at the end of issue one is that the Baroness is the one behind this turning of a small Midwest town to Cobra’s side. Baroness – how do you view her as a character?
Van Lente: She's an unremitting psychopath. Someone with almost no empathy for others. Also, I love her. My wife kind of looks like her, too. I wonder if that was a subconscious choice of mate on my part...
Nrama: Historically, where Baroness is we often find Destro not too far behind. Is his silver-domed head going to be popping up soon in the series?
Van Lente: As the Scottish say, "Aye, laddie." Or at least they say it cartoons.
Nrama: Last question -- Forgive me for not reading much of IDW’s previous G.I. Joe work, but I was intrigued by the original Joe, Joe Colton‘s two mentions of his cold war era fighting squad, the Adventure Team. That takes its name from the original 1970s Joe toys, and is an awesome way to connect it to the main G.I. Joe story, but is there any chance we’ll see some flashback adventures of Colton and the Adventure team?
Van Lente: Flashback adventures? Why not adventures in the present day... (dramatic music).