IDW is holding a tournament pitting the best of Street Fighter's martial artists versus the real American heroes of G.I. Joe -- and you're invited to watch. Scheduled to debut February 24, the six-issue Street Fighter G.I. Joe Series takes this unique crossover event and finds some dream match-ups across the lines of Cobra, G.I. Joe, Street Fighter and more.
Newsarama recently spoke with writer AUbrey Sitterson and artist Emilio Laiso about the upcoming mini-series, the place the characters involved in still have in our nostalgic hearts, how the tournament is set, and who they picked as when they played Street Fighter.
Newsarama: Aubrey, Emilio, like myself you're children of the 80's and early 90's, so can you tell us your love for these franchises?
Aubrey Sitterson: Truth be told: I was terrible at Street Fighter II. Profoundly terrible at it. Always was, always will be – it's even carried over to more recent installments, as for the life of me, I could never really even get decent at Street Fighter IV. But here's the thing: It doesn't matter. Even though I get absolutely shellacked whenever I try to play them, the Street Fighter characters and canon still have a big resonance with not just 80s/90s kids, but anyone who has come along since. Like G.I. Joe, I think that a lot of that comes down to the characters – simple concepts executed amazingly – and the absolutely stunning design work on display with each of them. Both Street Fighter and G.I. Joe, by the strength of iconic characters, have become part of the American pop cultural canon – there's no denying that.
Emilio Laiso: When I was young, cartoon channels monopolized my television, and G.I. Joe, Thundercats and TMNT were my own Holy Trinity!
When Street Fighter II reached the arcade near my house, the hours spent out of the house easily multiplied. I’m talking about countless afternoons! I fell in love with all the characters and my mission was to master them all. Challenging other kids became my favorite pastime…and I was pretty good at taking them down!
Nrama: Some of the matches you've set up in the first issue don't go down as I thought they would have. So, what was the process of setting up these fights? Is it power settings, or is it primarily based on cool things you'd love to see?
Sitterson: It's neither of those things. This isn't a standard "Who would win: Hulk or Superman?" type thing, where we compare handbook entries and let arbitrary things like strength levels – which are no way as rigid in real life as they tend to be in these discussions – determine who wins. No, this is something smarter and ultimately, better than that.
The way I see it, every single character in the tournament – even someone like Dan – deserves to be there, as they are some of the absolute best fighters in the world. This is evidenced by the qualifying rounds, which we lay out and describe in detail in #1's backmatter. So, if one fighter is better or more talented or stronger than another, it's only by a matter of inches, centimeters really, which means that on any given day, it's pretty much anyone's fight. With that guiding principle in mind, it then became a matter of structuring the brackets and the fights that they led to in order to maximize drama – not to try and adhere to tired, stale notions of who should win a given fight. For the wrestling fans out there: We booked it like WWE's King of the Ring.
Laiso: Like any good fighting game, every character is able to win a match, so when I was offered the project I knew that I wouldn’t be able to predict who would win the different fights!
Nrama: So when actually choreographing these matches on paper, what is the easiest and most difficult for both of you creatively?
Sitterson: For me, the most fun thing about working out the matches – which is crucially important, as they take up almost the entirety of each issue – is getting to tell stories with fights. There are definitely folks out there who do it well in other mediums, but generally, if you're looking for dedicated, serious fight-based storytelling, you've pretty much got to go with professional wrestling and kung fu movies.
Too often, in other mediums, creators use fights as simple, base eye candy – just two people taking turns punching one another until one of them punches hard enough that they move to the next scene.
Here, we're trying to do something different, something better, using the individual fighting styles and personalities of each character in every single fight, so that each contest becomes not only a part of the larger narrative, but also a short story in and of itself. Of course, doing this requires a lot of research and thought about how to piece a fight together, but it's absolutely worth it.
Laiso: Aubrey provides many, many references for every kind of fighting move in the script, and that helps me a lot in choosing the right moment for each panel. The funnest part of every single page is working on the dynamics of the page as a whole, in addition to the individual panels.
It was very exciting to express emotions through the fight scenes, and to differentiate so many body types, but I must admit that it was also difficult to handle so many different characters!
Nrama: What matches are you excited for fans to see?
Sitterson: I don't want to give away any earlier tournament results by talking about later matches, so I'll give you two from the eighth-finals, which take place across #1 and #2. In #1, I'm a big, big, fan of our opening round hoss match: Hakan vs. Roadblock. It's two massive dudes going toe-to-toe trying to outpower one another, and if you're familiar with Hakan from Street Fighter IV, you know that things will definitely get kinda weird. It's a strange, complicated fight and Emilio knocked it out of the park.
In #2, I think people are really going to be surprised by Chun-Li vs. Dan. The way the brackets worked out, there are a couple fights that feature folks from the same franchise going up against one another. At first, it might seem like old hat to see these two square off, but once the pieces fall into place, I think folks will be blown away by how this match plays into the larger story.
Laiso: In the first issue, I think that the fans will enjoy the fight between Baroness and Rufus. Two characters with very different personalities and body types. It’s been very funny to see them move in these pages! And in #2, I’m sure that one of the most anticipated fights will be Cammy vs Bison!
Nrama: Now working with these franchises, how hands on was the higher ups at Capcom and Hasbro about how these characters were represented?
Sitterson: I'm going to level with you: While I was super excited to take on this job, I was also pretty nervous. I've heard horror stories about writing licensed comics, and they all seem to get worse the bigger the franchises. And this? This comic has not one, but two absolutely massive franchises. As it turned out though…those nerves were completely unnecessary and misplaced. One of the best things about this project is that everyone involved: Emilio and David Garcia Cruz on art, Carlos Guzman in editorial, Kahlil Schweitzer in PR, right on up to the fine folks at Capcom and Hasbro, they all get what we're doing here. As a result, there hasn't been any back-and-forth about, say, which character should or shouldn't lose a particular battle. Trust me: Capcom and Hasbro are as excited about this as we are.
Laiso: Okay, I will be super honest: When we began, I was totally scared. Sure, I was incredibly excited, and I was very close to jumping up and running along the street screaming “I’m drawing STREEETFIGHTERVERSUSGIJOOOOOOOOOOE!” But Aubrey and I have also heard horror stories about licensed comics, so when I thought about Hasbro and Capcom, I felt like a little speck compared to two huge giants. But then we all got to work, and the professionalism and enthusiasm of the whole team made me relax. I think we all did a great job, and Capcom and Hasbro have not requested any major changes so…well, it seems that they agree!
Nrama: Tell us about some of these cool variants you have for the series? I absolutely love the nod to the figure two-pack, I had a few of those myself.
Sitterson: Carlos lined up an absolute murderer's row of talent for these things, right? I'd be here all day if I wanted to tell you about all of the awesome covers for each issue, so let's restrict ourselves to #1, shall we? Baseline is strong to very strong, as we've got Mike Choi on the standard cover. And that's just the standard cover! In addition to that, and the toy variants you mentioned, we've also got Corey Lewis – a guy who has Capcom fighting games running through his blood – as well as an 8-bit variant by Matthew Waite. Given your questions about classic fighting games, Lan, I'm guessing this one might be your favorite, especially since each of the 8-bit variants – one for each issue – combine to make a single, awesome image.
Nrama: I know you said you were horrible at the game, Aubrey, but did you guys have a favorite go-to character when you actually played Street Fighter II?
Sitterson: Did I mention that I'm terrible at Street Fighter II? I'm terrible at Street Fighter II, Lan. As a result, I like to play with characters that do something awesome just from me mashing the same button over and over again: Chun-Li, Blanka and E. Honda specifically.
Laiso: Ryu, Ken, and Akuma.
Nrama: Lastly, taking this fantasy booking formula of 80’s franchise and fighting game, who would win: Masters of the Universe or Mortal Kombat?
Sitterson: If we're going by total wins divided up by franchise, I'm going to give it to Mortal Kombat, more or less because those guys have no qualms about ripping off Man-At-Arms', well…arms. But this is a tournament, daddy! There can be only one winner at the end of it, and if you're forcing me to pick someone, I'd have to say that He-Man goes over strong. Possibly with a Battle Cat run-in. Probably against Goro. Who, fittingly, was the guy who ripped off Man-At-Arms' arms.
Laiso: Hmm, it’s a hard choice—and I’m scared of having some parts of my body sliced up or torn up for saying this—but…Masters of the Universe!