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DF Interview: From Revolution’s ashes comes Aubrey Sitterson’s new global G.I. Joe
By Byron Brewer
In the wake of IDW Publishing's latest crossover event, G.I. Joe's mission has become a global one. They aren't just Real American Heroes, they're Real EARTH Heroes!
Rising from Revolution, get ready for an explosive, innovative take on Joe, as writer Aubrey Sitterson (Street Fighter x G.I. Joe, SKALD) and artist Giannis Milonogiannis (Prophet, Old City Blues) bring us lasers, intense sci-fi action, and the return of all your favorite characters!
DF wanted to discover more about this new take on a venerable franchise, so we spoke with writer Aubrey Sitterson. Here’s what he told us. Go Joe!
Dynamic Forces: Aubrey, with the end of Revolution has come a new Joe. Going forward, tell us about this IDW/Hasbro mainstay’s new mission and how it will affect the shared universe in which G.I. Joe operates.
Aubrey Sitterson: It's not just G.I. Joe anymore. With the events of Revolution, The Crown Jewel of the Hasbro Universe now exists in a world with giant robots, miniature astronauts, shape-shifting aliens and Spaceknights, all of which means that it no longer makes sense for G.I. Joe to focus solely on real-world threats.
Instead, G.I. Joe will proudly step into its rightful role as the cornerstone of the Hasbro Universe, with Joe representation in almost every book in the line. With all of these otherworldly teams, threats and organizations squatting on our rock, humanity needs someone looking out for them, and that's where G.I. Joe comes in. It's the first and best line of defense against anything that threatens the planet Earth.
DF: For the uninitiated or those with Big-Two-Only fever seeking a break, tell us about the team as it comes together in this iteration of G.I. Joe. And can you give just a little capsule summary on each protagonist?
Aubrey Sitterson: One of the best things about G.I. Joe as a franchise is its expansive roster. People keep asking me whether I'll be creating any new characters and my response is always the same: Why would I when there's already a Joe who can perform whatever specialized task I could possibly think of?
Our Joe book is intended to make heavy use of that deep bench of talent, and while there certainly is a "core cast" at the start of things, it's going to expand dramatically, with a new Joe introduced in almost every issue. G.I. Joe is a massive organization, which enables them to pick the exact right soldiers for any job.
While it'd take me far, far too long to give you bios on everyone we plan on using, here's a glimpse at just some of the folks we have showing up in #1 alone…
Scarlett: The boss. After years spent in the shadow of other popular, mostly male characters, or even being relegated to love triangle status, we're finally giving her the respect she deserves.
Roadblock: The field commander. Roadblock has been promoted out of the kitchen and is now the top dog on any field mission. It's an evolution for the character that makes sense given how central he's been to the series for so long.
Snake Eyes: It wouldn't be G.I. Joe without the franchise's most popular character silently cutting and blasting his way through enemy threats.
Helix: The newest character on the team, Helix was a big part of the previous IDW runs, and she'll be an important one in ours as well, serving as a battlefield advisor and mouthpiece for Snake Eyes.
Rock 'n Roll: Despite being part of the original 1982 line of toys, Rock 'n Roll has never really gotten his personality fully fleshed out. We're fixing that, giving him a new, contemporary look in the process.
Quick Kick: One of my favorites. We're downplaying the more stereotypical elements of the character, positioning him not as a stuntman but as a serious MMA fighter…albeit one who busts out all the coolest kung fu moves.
Doc: Our series includes not just the original male Doc, but his daughter as well. Two Docs for the price of one! While Doc Sr. will handle medical duties back at the base, Doc Jr. will fill the role of field medic.
Skywarp: For the first time ever, there's a Transformer on the G.I. Joe team. I like to refer to Skywarp as our "Vegeta" character – a barely reformed villain, who, while no longer outright evil or murderous, isn't exactly a pleasant guy to be around.
DF: You have a really great cast here. I suspect we will be seeing some character-driven arcs coming from the Joes? Any favorites among this lot?
Aubrey Sitterson: All of the arcs are character-driven. All of them. Every single one. If they weren't, it'd basically just be, well…action figures smashing together, right? When I developed my outline for the series, I gave each member of our cast – those above as well as many more – a character arc, because I realize that for all the big, explosive sci-fi action, it's the character stuff that's really going to make people fall in love with our book.
As for favorites, it changes depending on which issue I'm writing, but right now I'm most excited about what we have in store for Rock 'n Roll. If you read the Revolution one-shot, you know that he had …a pretty rough time of it during the team's mission at the Bikini Atoll EDC facility. Everything that happened there will have long-lasting ramifications on his character, and it's a big part of how we're fleshing him out. Mark my words: He and Quick Kick are going to be the breakout stars of this series.
DF: G.I. Joe in its completeness is obviously the oldest of the Hasbro properties inhabiting IDW’s new shared universe. As writer of this new series on the team, what is the greatest challenge in keeping the Joes focused on their mission (which obviously takes in more of the sci-fi aspects of the book) while still keeping the flavor that diehard Joe fans love?
Aubrey Sitterson: The great thing about G.I. Joe is that there isn't just one true expression of the franchise. For a lot of those "diehard Joe fans" you mentioned, their definitive version of the property is, no doubt, Larry Hama's groundbreaking work on the title starting in the 1980s – and with good reason! For far more folks than those diehards would probably like to admit, however, their view of G.I. Joe is very much informed by the two recent live action movies. And then, there are folks like myself and Giannis, who as the first millennials to ever work on the property, are much more influenced by the Sunbow cartoon series than anything else.
We're wearing that influence on our sleeves, not just with the fun, adventure-based science fiction aspects, but in our approach to plotting: This book is nonstop action and twists, with constant good-natured verbal sparring from our protagonists … it's a smart, contemporary take on what made the Sunbow series so great. That being said, while we're taking most of our cues from the cartoon, I don't find it that difficult to also keep the diehards happy. Reason being is that while our Joe looks and feels different than anything else that has come before, we're making sure that the heart and soul of the series remains intact.
DF: Following up from above, some say that nostalgia is the waiting room of death. But it is a big part of what keeps folks reading comics. What iconic aspects of G.I. Joe may we see either remaining or resurfacing as this new adventure begins?
Aubrey Sitterson: This is where that "heart and soul of the series" talk from above comes into play. As different as the many iterations of Joe over the years have been, there are certain things that always show up in any successful, beloved take on the property: The Joes as a diverse group of friends; an aspirational, heroic tone; big, explosive action; and a homogenous, fascist organization that always get their comeuppance in the end.
You can expect to see all of the above showing up in our take on G.I. Joe – in fact, we're putting all of that stuff at the forefront, so it's going to be impossible to miss. More specifically, however, you can also be on the lookout for more Sunbow-influence elements. The most notable of these is, of course, the return of lasers to the franchise, but I'm also excited about the amount of humor that we're bringing to the title. There seems to be this idea in comics that a book can't contain both serious action as well as legit laughs, but we're already blowing that misconception out of the water. In G.I. Joe, as in all well-written fiction, humor serves an important role in the build-up and release of narrative tension. Expect some laughs to go with your gasps!
DF: So, as the solicit points out, the Joes “aren’t just Real American Heroes, they’re Real Earth Heroes.” What can you tell us of some of the big-bads, an obvious one or two and some maybe not so obvious, the team will be facing in the coming months?
Aubrey Sitterson: In the first few issues, the team finds themselves up against some of my absolute favorite Joe villains: The Dreadnoks. How can you not like an evil biker gang? But like everything in our new take on Joe, the Dreadnoks have gone through some drastic changes, falling under the sway of a mystical guru by the name of Crystal Ball.
Following that, Joe will turn their gaze to the ground at their feet and a menace that lurks beneath it. It's a threat that's both old and new – one that they have never faced before. I don't want to give anything away, but this is the type of story that I've been dying to tell with Joe ever since first getting the call from IDW. It's more Challengers of the Unknown than it is Sgt. Rock and the team is going to be very glad they've got those laser munitions.
Meanwhile, the Joe team's most famous adversary, the terrorist organization known as Cobra, remains … somewhat conspicuous in its absence. But don't worry: We haven't forgotten about them. Far from it.
DF: What can you tell us about any of the redesigns on some classic characters done by artist Giannis Milonogiannis for this new run? Any collaboration with yourself on these? And what challenge does it bring to the creative team that there is Hasbro as well as the publisher to weigh in on these types of things?
Aubrey Sitterson: I can tell you that they're awesome and bring the characters into the present-day without losing any of the things that made them unique, but you probably already noticed that, right?
Before we even had an artist locked down for the series, I began putting together a massive document full of thoughts and visual reference for not only individual characters, but for the series as a whole. Comics is a visual medium, and even though I don't draw any of the stuff you see on the page, I'm always thinking about how things will look. This document had a ton of ideas and thoughts on how we might update the characters we were using and it all got sent to Giannis.
Of course, those ideas and thoughts were merely suggestions, starting points for Giannis to go to work. As a result, some of the character designs are exactly what I envisioned, while others are far, far different, but much improved due to Giannis' unparalleled aesthetic and design sense.
As for working with Hasbro and IDW…I don't want to jinx it, but it's been an absolute dream. I don't think there's anything that we've wanted to do with the characters visually that they turned down, largely due to the fact that we aren't trying to change things just for the sake of changing them. Some designs, like Snake Eyes', for instance, are perfect as is – no changes necessary. While others, such as Scarlett's, could benefit from an update that still maintained some of the visual touchstones of the original look. No matter what we're doing, however, staying true to the property and what people love about G.I. Joe is always our No. 1 priority.
DF: Aubrey, do you have any projects currently or in the near-future you’d care to let us know about?
Aubrey Sitterson: You don't get hired to work on The Crown Jewel of the Hasbro Universe without people taking notice. As a result, I've got a boatload of comics projects brewing – publishers have already started responding to the unique tone of G.I. Joe, and now they want that approach on their books. That being said, none of them have been announced yet, and if I spilled the beans here, I'd have editors and marketing folks at a half dozen publishers blowing gaskets. So, sadly, I'll have to stay mum on those for now! Ask me again in a month or two!
If people want more of my work, however, I would absolutely suggest that they check out my serialized sword & sorcery podcast, SKALD. It's weird, violent, nihilistic, psychedelic and totally brutal – like Conan the Barbarian as told by Ultimate Warrior. For more than a year and half, I've written a brand-new chapter every single week, and then recorded each 30+ minute episode in one, single, flawless take. It's like an ongoing comic story that you can listen to on your commute or at the office. Find it on iTunes, Google Play and Stitcher, or search for the SKALD YouTube channel, where I post one of my "back issues" daily.
Finally, if you're a professional wrestling fan, but you're not listening to STRAIGHT SHOOT, the World's Smartest Rasslin Talk Show…I don't even know what you're doing with yourself. Each week, I talk about what went down in professional wrestling with amazing guests from the worlds of wrestling, MMA, comics, comedy and more. Some past names I've had on include Cody Rhodes, Roderick Strong, Shayna Baszler, Jason Aaron and Ron Funches, just to name a few. It's on iTunes, Google Play and Stitcher, or you can watch the original, video version (so as to see my shining face and luscious locks) at youtube.com/c/straightshoot.
Also: Make sure to come follow me on Twitter (@aubreysitterson) and tell me how much you're loving G.I. Joe! I'm completely shameless and will retweet all compliments sent my way.
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Aubrey Sitterson for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. G.I. Joe #1 from IDW hits stores Dec. 28th!
For more news and up-to-date announcements, join us here at Dynamic Forces, www.dynamicforces.com/htmlfiles/, “LIKE” us on Facebook, www.facebook.com/dynamicforcesinc, and follow us on Twitter, www.twitter.com/dynamicforces
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