Chris Ryall on IDW and GI Joe

Chris Ryall on IDW and GI Joe

As announced earlier today (and not surprising many people), the comic book license for Habsro’s G.I. Joe has been acquired by IDW Publishing, with a start date of October.

G.I. Joe comics began in 1982 with the title series at Marvel Comics. The series lasted at the publisher for 155 issues and a handful of spin offs. The property saw a short-lived run at Dark Horse following its acclaimed run at Marvel, and then, in 2001, was picked up by Devil’s Due, which revived it (and started a wave of ‘80s properties coming back as comics). Devil’s Due produced two main series, G.I. Joe and G.I. Joe: America's Elite, as well as many miniseries and spin-offs, including a more realistic take on Joe with G.I. Joe: Reloaded.

As Newsarama reported Hasbro began the process of replacing Devil’s Due late last year, with many assuming that IDW would get the license.

With the news finally official, we spoke with IDW’s Chris Ryall about the publisher’s plans for the property.

Newsarama: Chris, not to give too much credence to rumors, but this was something that had been in the "probably true" category for a while now. Can you give us the timeline of this - when you pitched, and what you've been doing with the property since?

Chris Ryall: You.... knew about this already and didn't tell me? I thought we were friends, Matt! Imagine my surprise today when I saw the announcement and... okay, this probably was one of the worst-kept secrets in comics. Or at least the most-unconfirmed-rumored bits of news, anyway. As soon as word went out that Devil's Due would no longer be doing Joe comics, many people naturally assumed we'd jump in on this, due to our association with Hasbro's Transformers. We started talking seriously at the start of '08 or so--I forget the exact timeline since the timing of all of this. We met with Hasbro and presented our plans, and then from there, the business side back-and-forth takes over for a few months.

It was fun to watch the online speculation, even though we couldn't comment on it at all. There was someone--possibly here at Newsarama--that ranked all the possible companies and the odds of them landing the license. At the time that ran, we'd already secured the license and yet the person had us ranked like fourth or something. There were also a few "insiders" who were vocal about how they had inside information that we had the license, back before we had the license. Many were insides who neither side had ever heard of or talked to. It's always fun to watch the online scuttlebutt.

NRAMA: This probably goes to your pitch to Hasbro, but how will IDW be handling the series? What's the larger vision for it? Clearly, there's some timelessness there, but the live action movie seems to be suggesting something of a, slight at least, shift in tone...

CR: We'll take a similar approach to the Transformers, with the movie continuity being its own animal.

NRAMA: So, in other words, you’ll be publishing bridge and prequel material as well as an adaptation?

CR: Yep, exactly, and likely some comics that spin out of the movie as well.

NRAMA: What will the main monthly series be like? So - between this and the monthly, are we looking at two distinct continuities?

CR: Second question first, yep, two continuities, movie and the regular Joe "universe" comics. As to what the main monthly series will be... we'll talk details on that very soon. Until then, I'll be watching all the "reboot vs no-reboot" discussions with great eagerness.

NRAMA: So you can’t answer the continuity question?

CR: That certainly is the big question. Big answer to come.

NRAMA: You've got the crown jewels of Hasbro's boys line. They've been teamed before - are more GI Joe/Transformers meetings in the future?

CR: You know, when we first started the Transformers books, we had the rights to do a crossover and I had some ideas about doing that, but held off since there were an array of others already out there. So right now, I don't really have any interest in doing those. I do think there's a good way to do a new one but I'm much more interested in establishing Joe comics for the foreseeable future.

NRAMA: Your agreement also includes reprints - what materials will you be looking at reprinting first?

CR: Aaaaall of 'em, including some old comics that have never been collected in traditional comic-book form, which will be explained more thoroughly later on. I especially want to get all the hard-to-find Marvel material offered up in attractive new formats. And we have some plans to update some of those stories in ways that will make long-time fans very happy.

NRAMA: Any creators that you can mention that will be working on the property?

CR: Well, it wouldn't be G.I. Joe with Larry Hama's involvement, I'll say that for now.

NRAMA: Last thing – from your chair, how do you make Joe work for an audience today? This is a property that's shown amazing resilience over its lifespan, but 2008 is not the 1960s. What keeps it pulling in an audience?

CR: It's the characters, like with any property, no matter when it started. Doctor Who, James Bond, Spider-Man, Maxwell Smart, James T. Kirk... all of these characters have legions of fans because people love and respond to the characters. G.I. Joe is the same thing, no matter what era they appear in.

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