by Chris Ryall
In my first blog here, I talked about our reasons for relaunching G.I. JOE after being awarded the franchise. Spent nearly 900 words explaining our sound rationale, our respectful feelings toward the fans and toward the comics that had come before, our well-reasoned plan for how to best ensure the comics’ survival in the 21st century…
…and after all that, some of the responses smacked me upside my rational, well-reasoned head.
“Personally I felt the decision to reboot was a lazy, easy way out for IDW.”
“The Reboot is a very cheap cop-out.”
“Is IDW too lazy to create new characters and actually develop old ones that they need to go back to the status quo from the 80s? If you’re that desperate, go on a fanfiction site, but seriously character need to change and develop. Did Tolkien reboot Frodo? Was James Bond rebooted so the 20 movies were non canon?”
Things went onward, or maybe downward, from there, although I’m now intrigued by the idea of seeing Millar and Hitch’s Ultimate Frodo.
I mulled over responding to these complaints, where I could offer up more sound rationale and explanations and win over the accusatory and disgruntled one response at a time. And then I got my wits about me and decided that was a terrible plan. This is the Internet, and I’m no novice to this, having survived the Great (well, Pretty Solid, anyway, according to most) Transformers Relaunch of 2005. And defending too vehemently just makes one come off, well, defensive. So instead, I’ll admit I respectfully (but vehemently) disagree with the sentiments, as there is nothing cheap at all about our approach to the new titles, and I’ll let the relaunch – starting with this week’s G.I. JOE #1 – stand on its own and let the curious decide for themselves after they see where were headed with the books.
So all of that aside, we’re back live this week with JOE #1, which is really only scratching the surface-to-air of what we have planned. I left off last time with a promise to look at new Senior Editor Andy Schmidt’s overall plan for launching the comics, so let’s do it.
Andy hired on last summer, having spent his prior year since leaving Marvel evidently missing deadline crunches and getting tired of having ample time to write and run his Comics Experience classes and be with his family. He came in and was immediately thrown into a brand-new property that needed a big plan if we were going to make a relaunch work at least as well as the idea of Tolkien rebooting Frodo.
Andy scrambled, and I’ll admit we were all helped by a couple of factors: one was Larry Hama’s willingness to jump back into Joe since we offered him a chance to not just hit the ground without restraint but to start over in whatever way he wanted. I met up with Larry and Andy in New York and we talked about JOE, and Larry’s feelings for the property and what he would do if given a blank slate.
Larry admitted that he sort of “Stan Lee’d” the book at the start, making things up as he went along. And as he worked on the series for years and became a better writer and had time to think about the characters more and more, there were naturally things he would’ve changed about his earlier issues. And now he had that chance, to sort of go back and change/tweak/revise as he’d always wanted to. Which is a nice feeling to be able to offer someone, and a rare feeling, too – how many guys get a chance at a do-over at something that was pretty damned solid in the first place?
So Larry was in. As was artist Robert Atkins. But to really launch things right, Andy felt we needed more, and we lucked into some of that “more” in the form of Chuck Dixon. Now, anyone who’s read Chuck’s comics knows that he can write anything well – superhero comics, action-oriented books, fantasy, whatever. But war comics are what really suits his style, and when Chuck suddenly “became available” last year, we dropped him a line the next day. Possibly that same day. Chuck was in. Atkins was moving to Chuck’s book, Larry’s title would pick up Tom Feister and Mike Hawthorne, and… one more book was needed/wanted.
I’d had in mind the idea to do a COBRA book from the start, something that looks at the Joe world through very different eyes. And I kicked around ideas with a couple talented guys, but this was all before the direction was really set, and once Andy joined up, I wanted the books to be well and truly his, so when he presented a different take on a COBRA title, and brought in Chris Gage and Mike Costa to write, along with Italian artist Antonio Fuso to write, I knew it had potential. Potential to fracture the audience, since the things that are being done in that series are not like anything seen in JOE comics before. Issue 3 alone is possibly the most gripping JOE tale I’ve ever read. And I’ve now read juuuust about all of them. It also has the potential to be the wild-card favorite of everything we’re doing. And it will make people think about the character of Chuckles differently than they ever have before. In short, it really justifies the idea of a reboot since it does things that couldn’t have been done before. That HAVEN’T been done before. I’m a bit excited about this one, despite my overall bias and pleasure at the entire line of JOE books coming.
So the plan was set: G.I. JOE (launching Jan. 14) by Dixon and Atkins – along with variant cover artist Dave “100 Bullets” Johnson – would be the “main” title, in that it would be action-oriented and exciting; G.I. JOE: ORIGINS (February) by Hama and Hawthorne and cover artist Andrea Di Vito will be more subtle than full of wide-screen action, more character-driven, and more personal. And COBRA (March) by Gage/Costa, Fuso and cover artist Howard Chaykin would be something else entirely, offering the reinvention of a character, the new exploration of the COBRA organization, and the most gripping tale you’ve ever seen from a guy who wears a Hawaiian shirt as his uniform.
We kicked all of this off in October ’08 with our #0 issue, which featured new 5-page standalone tales from each creative team, just as a way to not only whet peoples’ appetites but to also show that this new Joe would be just that, a new JOE and not just a backwards step to the past.
And now? Now we’re on the cusp of finding out if our Ultimate Frodo-ish plan works. And Andy Schmidt’s restful days are, like the old G.I. JOE continuity, well and truly a thing of the past…
Chris Ryall is the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of IDW Publishing. And he’s at Blogspot, on Twitter, on Facebook, now on year 7 of writing a weekly TV column at Comics101.com, probably still on MySpace, at LinkedIn, figuring out what Plaxo’s Pulse is, trying to bury an old Friendster page, scrawls graffiti in public restrooms, writes his feelings down on Post-It notes to plaster them on cars, and broadcasts his thoughts through the fillings of mental patients. His GROOM LAKE comic will look great thanks to Ben Templesmith, and the book he co-wrote for Impact Books, COMIC BOOKS 101, will read nicely thanks to Scott Tipton. His wife is eyeing him warily as he types this.