If you're a member of the G.I. Joe team, paranoia has a name. It's Zartan. The mysterious master of disguise could be anyone and his skills are up for sale. And if that wasn't frightening enough, Zartan can usually rely on help from his deadly, sinister siblings and the Dreadnoks, a biker gang composed of some of the toughest hard cases around. Beginning this November, readers will finally get a glimpse of the man behind the many masks, as they learn who Zartan is and how he came to be the bizarre and dangerous man he is today in the pages of "G.I. Joe: Dreadnoks Declassified" a bi-monthly three issue mini-series from Devil's Due Publishing by writer Josh Blaylock and artists Corey Zayatz and Joe Dodd. CBR News spoke with Blaylock about the series.
"Dreadnoks Declassified" was born out of the overwhelming positive responses to the two other "Declassified" mini-series published by DDP. "Following the success of 'Snake-Eyes: Declassified' and 'G.I. Joe: Declassified,' we wanted to delve into another set of characters with a majorly in depth, yet largely unexplained past," Blaylock told CBR News "Response to the 'Declassified' series has been great, and we plan to continue them for as long as readers demand them."
The title of the mini-series is "Dreadnoks Declassified," but the star of the story is the Dreadnoks' leader. "I'm focusing mostly on Zartan," Blaylock explained. "How he and the Dreadnoks cross paths will be a major part of the story, too, but it might not happen the way people expect it to."
"Dreadnoks Declassified" is mainly the story of Zartan, but readers can also expect to see glimpses into the pasts of Zartan's family and Dreadnoks like Buzzer, Ripper, and Torch. "Those three are the main members of the gang being focused on, but many others will make cameos," Blaylock explained. "Zartan is the star of the show, though. But a few of the Dreadnoks play an integral role in him gaining his power, which is why he still respects them (at least a little) to this day. I'm definitely treating them as hard nosed bikers, though, and not bumbling idiots. Buzzer was a scholar who became fascinated with the biker phenomena (already established in the old comics), so he's far from stupid, and the others are school drop-outs, but still street smart, and dangerous guys and no Zartan or Dreadnoks story is complete, though, without Zartan's younger sister and brother, Zarana and Zandar, who play a very important role in the formation of the Dreadnoks as they are seen in the early 'G.I. Joe' comics."
In the regular "G.I. Joe" comics Zartan and his siblings are usually seen as mysterious bad-asses. In "Dreadnoks" some of that mystery will be revealed and readers will see the moments that shaped the series protagonists into the hard cases they are today. "Zartan and his siblings, as most of us, have very defining moments from their childhood that steer them down the path of life they later choose. They're faced with some very tough circumstances, and unfortunately make the wrong choices. They are, after all, the bad guys," Blaylock said. "At first Zartan is known for an amazing ability to impersonate others, and also for a case of schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder. These are all intertwined, and ironically, his ailments are what help him to be so good at his specialty, yet make his problems worse. I'm delving into the origins of these traits, and hint at how they may have gotten out of control.
"Then, somewhere along his journeys, he became imbued with the ability to change his skin tones like a chameleon, and literally 'become' other people (enter the comic book element)!" Blaylock continued. "Was it genetic manipulation? Was it holograms (man, they loved their holograms in the '80s)? All were used or at least hinted at throughout the years, but never explained. I'll be tackling that challenge, too! At the end of the day, Zartan's an amazingly talented, driven man, but a complete neurotic. He's not well. And despite some of his endearing qualities, he's only in the game for himself, and to a lesser degree, his family. Everyone else can jump off a cliff."
The action in "Dreadnoks Declassified will take readers to cliff sides, bustling metropolises, and a variety of other locales. "Zartan is a bona-fide globe trotter, and the Dreadnoks are from the land down under," Blaylock explained. "This story takes us through Florida, Vegas, Chicago, France, Australia, Scotland, and a country added to the list of G.I. Joe's other fictitious nations, Rusnia."
Blaylock had to stay mum about the specifics of the actions that go down in the varied settings of "Dreadnoks Declassified." "I don't want to reveal much, because each chapter really is a surprise," he explained. "You'll finally see where Zartan and his siblings come from, from day one, and how they got to be who they are today. That's all I can divulge, lest my own editor put out a hit on me. I've possibly already said too much."
As with many origin stories the worst enemies faced by the cast of "Dreadnoks Declassified" will often be themselves, but that doesn't mean many familiar faces won't appear to oppose or offer assistance to Zartan, his family, and his gang. Blaylock revealed that familiar operatives of both G.I. Joe and Cobra will play very important roles in the series.
With a varied and colorful cast of characters in both large and small roles, readers can expect the action in "Dreadnoks" to be just as diverse. Blaylock described the tone of the series as, "Start out with James Bond, and end with Stone Cold."
Blaylock has had a lot of fun crafting the origin of Zartan, his siblings, and their gang of motorcycle riding roughnecks in "G.I. Joe: Dreadnoks Declassified" and hopes readers who are even remotely intrigued check out the series. "The camps have always been divided on my G.I. Joe stories," Blaylock stated. "Some love them, some not so much, but for whatever reason, I always received a majority of positive response to my handling of the Dreadnoks. When the time came for me to take a crack at the Joes again, this seemed like the natural choice, and it's also something I've had ideas for, for the past five years. It's nice to finally get those silly little voices, I mean ideas, out of my head."