After last year saw Cobra take center stage in IDW’s comic universe in the bloody power struggles of “Cobra Civil War,” the core book of the Joe world is getting back to being about military action where the good guys come out on top — at least for now. Currently, the Joe team is embroiled in the “Deep Terror” story where a handful of operatives go deep underground — literally — to take on a Cobra mining operation far below the earth’s surface.
But as the writer explained to CBR News, there’s more to the book than meets the eye (to steal a phrase from another Hasbro property). Alongside the gun toting action of “Deep Terror,” the writer is exploring new romantic angles to the franchise, getting back to basics with longtime collaborator Will Rosado and gearing up for the next major story involving a possible defection from the team’s ninja warrior in “Target: Snake-Eyes.”
CBR News: Chuck, since the end of “Cobra Civil War,” “G.I. Joe” has really given a lot of time to the new Cobra Commander — both revealing his full origin in the Gold Triangle’s drug trade and developing his first major plan at the charge of the terrorist organization. Was there something specifically in that series of events that drew you in as the writer who’s been handling the Joe side of things?
Chuck Dixon: I just thought that you had to stay ahead of the headlines. I mean, you hope that none of this stuff actually happens, but in “G.I. Joe” you want to be somewhat plausible. Otherwise, G.I. Joe threatens to fly off into science-fiction/fantasy. At the bottom of it all, “G.I. Joe” is a war comic. It’s about soldiers and war. So we all thought that a change in Cobra Commander would be a good idea and a change to a more militaristic Commander would move us into the war book genre. And that’s where we are.
Now we have a Cobra Commander who was literally born on the battlefield and raised in war. It’s like a lot of what’s going on in the third world or the developing world — they always seem like they’re gearing up for a fight constantly. And war can spring up anywhere in the world at any time, which is the perfect story environment for the Joes who are a rapid response commando platoon.
You’ve always worked in a lot of authentic lingo and background details when you’ve written military comics, and “G.I. Joe” is a property where Larry Hama established a specificity early in the original series. What is it about playing up those aspects that remains important to you?
I want to get it right. Larry lived this stuff. I didn’t. This is all second nature to him while I had to learn it in books. I think Larry has the Army Field Manual memorized. In fact, I’m certain he does. [Laughs] But I’ve got to look things up and talk to soldiers. Fortunately, at conventions and signings, most of the Joe fans that show up are men and women in uniform. They’re either just back from the combat zone or going there. They give me feedback, though for the most part they tend to tell me they like what I’m doing because I’m doing the homework and showing them respect. That’s what’s at the bottom of G.I. Joe. Larry’s philosophy was always that these are honorable warriors doing a thankless job so that the rest of us can goof off.
But I fight to try and keep up with military jargon because it changes as much as the rest of the language. It requires a lot of research to ensure my stuff is cutting edge. And I never want them not dealing with a technology that would be available to them. It’s weird. We recently crossed with the headlines in an unintentional way in a story where the Joes get their budgets cut. Now they have to deal with less resources and more creative ways of getting the resources they need. That took a lot of research and thinking about.
Coming up soon is the “Deep Terror” story where you’re putting the team in a high pressure situation, but you’ve also got a romantic entanglement coming for Scarlet and Mainframe. That’s new to the franchise. What was the draw to adding a new wrinkle on that front?
Everyone’s interested because Scarlet has always been torn between the two alpha males of G.I. Joe: Duke and Snake-Eyes. When I began my continuity, I made it clear that whatever relationship she had with Duke was over and never to be revived. She was still dedicated to Snake-Eyes. Then, over the course of writing this stuff, it became clear that Snake-Eyes is not a very good boyfriend. [Laughter] So it was about time she get realistic. And Mainframe has been working it so hard. He’s obviously so attracted to her and has been working so hard to get her attention and respect over the last few years that it just seemed natural to get the two together, or at least have her notice him. He is a decent guy. He’s a hard-fighting guy, and he’s a smart guy. That’s more in line with the way she approaches everything.
It’s like when I was a kid. I told myself I bought “Spider-Man” to see him fighting Doctor Octopus and the Lizard, but it’s really because I wanted to see if him and Mary Jane were going to get together. [Laughs] Boys don’t want to admit that, but that soap opera aspect is what keeps readers coming back. And it makes things more real. It makes the characters more human and add some stakes to the stories so you care about what happens. But as in all great romance stories, the two participants are constantly being pulled apart and put together and then pulled apart again.
The other interesting aspect to this story is that Will Rosado, who you’ve worked with many times before, most notably on “Green Arrow,” is coming on to draw the book again. I feel like this is the most recent chance you’ve had to tap one of your old partners for a new project. What’s he bringing to this story?
I wanted Will on “G.I. Joe” for a while. It took a while to get him because he does a lot of storyboarding and commercial work, so it took a while to find the right place in his schedule. I’ve been staying way ahead of him on scripts to make sure he sticks with us. We’re working to his schedule. But he’s a terrific artist and a terrific storyteller. He’ll get all the gear right, which is really important to “G.I. Joe” readers. I had no idea Will was really a G.I. Joe fan until he took on the first book, but he just gets everything right. He’s draw all the crazy stuff that I ask him to draw, and it’s clear and compellingly told. He’s the perfect package to me, and perfect for “G.I. Joe.”
“Deep Terror” seems to be a more stand-alone story after a long stretch in big crossover territory for the franchise. Do you think you’ll stick with smaller stories being held in this one book for a while?
I’m in the middle right now of writing sort of a mini crossover between “G.I. Joe” and “Snake-Eyes.” The events over in “Snake-Eyes” are so crazy that they have to impact the events in “G.I. Joe.” So after “Deep Terror,” we get a little bit of a breather before we go into a story called “Target: Snake-Eyes” where the Joes finally come to the realization that maybe Snake-Eyes has gone over to the other side. He’s rejoined the Arashikage ninja clan, and maybe it’s not a double agent thing. Maybe he’s really gone back to the clan and is loyal to them now. And because he knows so much about the Joes — probably more than anyone else in the organization — that makes him a constant threat to them from an intelligence point of view. And that’s sort of a mini-crossover. It’s not an event that goes on and on, but it’s an important story.
And with “Deep Terror,” I needed an arc that showed that the Joes can kick some butt. They get their heads handed to them on a regular basis. They’re playing catch-up with Cobra so much of the time that I wanted to show an event where Cobra really comes out on the raw end of the stick.