Iconic ’80s action heroes the A-Team get a makeover for the big screen in June 2010 in a film starring Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Jessica Biel, “District 9’s” Sharlto Copley, and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in the role made famous by Mr. T. Beginning in March, though, IDW Publishing gives fans a taste of excitement to come in two biweekly “A-Team” miniseries. “The A-Team: War Stories” is a series of one-shots, each one focusing on a different member of the elite special forces team, written by Chuck Dixon and Erik Burnham with art by Hugo Petrus, Casey Maloney, and others. Another miniseries, “The A-Team: Shotgun Wedding,” brings the whole team together for a mission written by the movie’s director Joe Carnahan and Tom Waltz and illustrated by Stephen Mooney. CBR News caught up with Chuck Dixon to discuss his work on the Hannibal, Face, B.A. Baracus, and Murdock one-shots, as well as the best approach for a successful remake.
In the original television series, “Hannibal” Smith, “Howling Mad” Murdock, “Faceman” Peck, and B.A. Baracus were heroic adventurers on the run from the government for “a crime they didn’t commit” during their stint as soldiers in Vietnam. The upcoming movie pushes the time frame forward so that our heroes served in Desert Storm, the war in Iraq which took place during the elder George Bush’s presidency. “All the one-shot prequels are set during that period,” Dixon told CBR. In “War Stories: Hannibal,” the title character who “loves it when a plan comes together” may find himself in over his head. “Well, Hannibal is doing what he does best; getting himself deep into trouble and then thinking (and shooting) his way out of it,” Dixon said. “He takes some crazy risks in inserting himself into Iraq early in January ’91 to kidnap a scientist who’s aiding Saddam. Everything goes wrong, and Hannibal has to keep changing his plans on the fly.”
As for Dixon’s second one-shot, due in April, the writer said, “In the Face story, we have Templeton Peck making one deal too many in his capacity as a scrounger. His error compounds himself through a series of disasters until he finds himself on the infamous Highway of Death, saving the life of a beautiful woman he just happened to run across. Classic A-Team stuff.”
The specials focusing on B.A. Baracus and Murdock, shipping in March and April respectively, are primarily written by Erik Burnham, Dixon told CBR, though the pair are listed as co-writers for all four issues. “Erik and I wrangled around some plotlines and decided, because the deadlines are so tight, to split up the stories between us,” Dixon said. “We each had a lot of input on each other’s stories through the approval. But the scripting chores are mostly solo, with me on Hannibal and Face and Erik on B.A. and Murdock.”
That doesn’t mean that Dixon woudn’t share a few hints about his collaborator’s one-shots. “B.A.’s story, quite naturally, deals quite a bit with his…um…aversion to flying,” he said. “Murdock’s story is a tale told by him through his own skewed perspective on reality. Both are very funny, with Murdock’s story being packed with laugh-out-loud lines. Erik killed on both of them.”
Like “G.I. Joe,” which Dixon also writes, “The A-Team” has significant military aspects to it, but also like “G.I. Joe,” it employs a bit more action-fantasy than in-the-trenches realism. Asked about similarities between the two properties and what makes each distinct, Dixon said, “There’s more of a humor aspect to the ‘A-Team.’ Though there’s plenty of action and suspense, these guys are far more the devil-may-care cowboys than the Joes.” The writer added, however, that “there is some dark humor in ‘Joe.'”
Prior to working on “The A-Team” professionally, Dixon told CBR that he was a devoted fan of the television series. “I watched it from the first episode to the last,” he said. “To me, it was perfect escapist entertainment. Appealing characters, ridiculous situations, and the good guys always came out on top after firing thousands of rounds and flipping lots of cars.”
In recent years, attempts to revitalize 1980s television and film properties have resulted in mixed results, with some projects coming off really well and others much less so. Dixon said, though, that 2010’s “The A-Team” has taken the right approach to rebooting classic properties. “The key to any re-make or re-launch is to find what made it work and go with that. Too much updating or streamlining and you wind up with that awful ‘Lost in Space,” the writer said. “This new effort on the A-Team keeps everything that was cool about A-Team and just hypes it up a tad.
“We were told to simply write the characters as we remembered them. And that’s what made it fun for Erik and I.”
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