Everything has changed for IDW's G.I. Joe title with the advent of Revolution, which brings together other Hasbro franchises such as Transformers, Rom, Micronauts, and MASK in one cohesive continuity and universe.
And leading the way is writer Aubrey Sitterson and artist Giannis Milonogiannis in an all-new G.I. Joe ongoing series.
Scheduled to launch in December as an ongoing with a G.I. Joe: Revolution one-shot preceding it in October, this new series puts America's fighting force square into a battle against the invading Transformers. This time Scarlett is leading the team, with what Sitterson calls an "all-star varsity squad" consisting of Roadblock, Rock 'n Roll, Quick Kick, Helix, Shipwreck and Snake Eyes.
Newsarama spoke with Sitterson and Milonogiannis about thier upcoming series, working in the shadow of Larry Hama, and what they see as the way forward for the franchise in comic books.
Newsarama: Aubrey, Giannis, what can you tell us about your plans for G.I. Joe?
Aubrey Sitterson: G.I. Joe is a major, massively influential part of our pop culture tapestry, so I take being tapped for this job, chosen to add on to that tapestry, as not just an amazing privilege, but a colossal responsibility. But that responsibility to this franchise and these characters isn't just to continue on with more of the same – it's to take what works about the concept, to take what everyone loves about it, and recontextualize it into something that works for the here and now, all while still feeling familiar.
This is what the inimitable Larry Hama did with his monumental run on the series at Marvel through the 1980s and into the 1990s, and continues to do with the G.I. Joe: Real American Hero series at IDW. But here's the thing: Hama and his work are, as I mentioned, inimitable. His take on the G.I. Joe concept – melding it with real world military elements, bestowing upon it a stunning degree of veracity and verisimilitude – was his and his alone. Even if I wanted to, I couldn't continue down that road of increasing realism. And the fact of the matter is? I don't want to.
Giannis and I are going to do something new with G.I. Joe. We're going to lean into the wilder, more fantastical elements of the franchise, because frankly, that sense of wonderment is sadly lacking, not just from G.I. Joe or even comics as a whole, but culture at large. The new G.I. Joe is going to be high octane, action-packed and – this last part is important –aspirational.
Giannis Milonogiannis: It's so exciting to be part of this and get to help Aubrey do all these things he has in mind for G.I. Joe. On my end, I'm hoping to make a book that's fresh and fun to read, and a new take on the characters. There's a lot of crazy stuff Aubrey is planning, and it'll be really fun to see how people will respond to that.
Nrama: Aubrey, we've seen your take on G.I. Joe to some degree with the Street Fighter crossover. How would you compare that to this?
Sitterson: Street Fighter x G.I. Joe was a blast to write, but it came with certain limitations. Not from the licensors – both Hasbro and Capcom were amazing and shockingly easy to work with – but from the simple fact that we had six issues, with 20 pages each, and a whopping 16 combatants to fit in there, in addition to other folks like Destro! That didn't leave a lot of space to introduce and develop these characters while still leaving time to build and pay off character arcs. I'm biased of course, but I think Emilio and I did a pretty stunning job of making it all work.
To make it happen though, we had to deal with what I refer to as the platonic versions of these characters. We had to take Roadblock and Jinx and Gung Ho and all the rest and distill them down to the purest versions of themselves, such that they worked for long-time, hardcore fans, complete G.I. Joe neophytes, and everyone in between. That meant a lot of short-hand in the character work and it necessitated that we lean on archetypes to a heavy degree.
With the new G.I. Joe, that's not going to be the case. This is an ongoing series, daddy, where we're going to be building the team and the concept from the ground-up. When IDW came to me about the series, they asked me to plot out at least a year and a half's worth of stories, and I, well…I started making plans for twice as far out. And a massive, massive, unspeakably massive part of those plans are the character arcs and changes that each member of the team will be going through.
Nrama: What would you say is the core cast - in the initial arc at least?
Sitterson: I pieced the core cast together in a very holistic way, thinking about what an all-star, varsity squad version of G.I. Joe would look like, who would need to be there and where we could potentially generate internal conflict. Without giving anything away in respect to their roles, you should expect to see prominent roles for Scarlett, Roadblock, Rock 'n Roll, Quick Kick, Helix, Shipwreck and a little-known character by the name of Snake Eyes. Also, I can't say any more about who it is now, but there is going to be another member who will have an absolutely transformative effect on the team and how they operate as a unit.
But just because those are our core cast members, don't think we won't be delving into G.I. Joe's exceptionally deep roster – it's one of the best things about the franchise after all. In fact, we've already got plans for Gung-Ho, Cover Girl, Lady Jaye, Grand Slam, Spirit and both the original and revamped versions of Doc.
Nrama: And what are they up against?
Sitterson: Well, that would be telling, right? While I don't want to say anything that will give away the shocking events of the Revolution series, I can say the following…
The breaking down of the barriers between these franchises – G.I. Joe, Transformers, MASK, Rom and Micronauts – is an unspeakably massive event, especially for Joe, which, by virtue of being about "normal" human beings, is traditionally the most realistic of the bunch. Just think aboutTransformers alone…think about everything that would change not just about warfare, but everyday life, once you have these massive robots flying, driving and walking around? Now, throw people with cybernetic connections to their own transforming vehicles, Space Knights and miniature warriors from another dimension into the mix.
What G.I. Joe will be up against is everything. Absolutely everything in a rapidly changing world, one that threatens to outstrip them in terms of power and influence at every single turn. The G.I. Joe team is the vanguard, not just for America, but for humanity as a whole, and it's going to be their responsibility to confront the bizarre weirdness that has taken over their world, and confront it head-on.
Nrama: What is your reference material for this G.I. Joe series? Toys? Comic Books? Family that have been in the military?
Sitterson: I mentioned Hama's work earlier and that's because you have to. Not out of some sense of obligation, but because if you want to do any kind of take on a pre-existing concept, it behooves you to understand what makes it tick. And where better to look than the most critically acclaimed take on it? One that was one of the most popular comic books in the entire industry during its original run!
But while I love and respect Hama's work to the utmost, I can't sit here and tell you that it was my introduction to theG.I. Joe concepts. Nope, for me, it was the toys and, to a lesser degree, the cartoons. I know that might put me at odds with certain members of the G.I. Joe fanbase, but it's the absolute truth: G.I. Joe toys and cartoons were a seminal part of my youth, and it's because of the over-the-top nature of them both.
My favorite G.I. Joe characters weren't the obvious or most popular ones. They were the ones that I had toys of, and those tended to be the crazier looking ones. An action figure with a crocodile? Sold. A laser rifle? Give it to me. As a kid, my favorite characters were actually Zandar and Zarana because I mistakenly thought that they were indigenous peoples.
My plan with this new G.I. Joe series is for Giannis and I to take the awesome sense of wonderment and the fantastic contained in the G.I. Joe toys and cartoon series, that wide-eyed optimistic belief in the good guys' ability to triumph over the villains, and adapt it into something modern and relevant.
Milonogiannis: The toys and cartoons are what I was most exposed to growing up, too - so it's been fun to go dig stuff up out from boxes and see what we can take from that and bring it in for a new direction. Like Aubrey mentioned, the cartoon was a really crazy "anything-goes" world, and that's definitely something we respond to.
Nrama: Going back to the bigger picture, this is coming out as part of IDW's Revolution. How is the G.I. Joe puzzle piece fitting into that?
Sitterson: As I mentioned earlier, the nature of the Revolution event shakes the very foundations of the G.I. Joe team's world. Everything is different. Everything.
And in keeping with that, it just wouldn't make sense for G.I. Joe to keep working like a standard paramilitary unit – like the S.E.A.L.s but with wacky codenames. In fact, given the global nature of the threats revealed in Revolution, it doesn't even make sense for the G.I. Joe team to be focused solely on the U.S. of .A.
While the Joes might not have the freedom to blast off into space or the Microverse, that doesn't make them impotent. All it means is that their focus is more terrestrial based – it's their responsibility to ensure the safety of not just America, but the entire world, whether it be against the forces of Cobra, threats inadvertently unleashed by the other members of this brave new world or even those other franchises themselves…
Nrama: Of all the other titles and their characters, are there ones that G.I. Joe seems more drawn to than others?
Sitterson: Truthfully, I'd love to put the G.I. Joe team head-to-head with any of the Hasbro properties. Even the ones not included in the crossover! In fact…especially Jem & the Holograms. I'm dying for a Cold Slither reunion and Rock 'n Roll is just simply made to be an undercover roadie. It has to happen. Kelly! Sophie! Call me!
That being said, I think the true, obvious answer is…Transformers. Though Transformers has eclipsed G.I. Joe in recent years, these are still Hasbro's most enduring franchises, and their crossing over in a meaningful, consistent, ongoing way is something that fans have wanted for years. I'm delighted that Giannis and I are the ones to finally give it to them.
Nrama: Big picture, what should readers look forward to when G.I. Joe debuts this fall?
Sitterson: The reinvigoration of an old concept. A shot of new life being injected into one of pop culture's oldest, most beloved franchises. A project that transcends and shatters any preconceived notions of what a "licensed book" can or should be. Giannis and I are going to do something special, amazing, deceptively smart and, most importantly, a lot of fun. No offense to the other creators involved with the IDW Hasbro books, but G.I. Joe is going to be the crown jewel of this new line. Mark my words.
Milonogiannis: All of what Aubrey said and just -- a good time all around. We're making this looking to appealing to new audiences as well as the current core of Joe's fans. Please look forward to it!