EXCLUSIVE: IDW's "G.I. Joe" Re-Launch Breaks Bad in Costa's "Cobra Files"

This April, Mike Costa gets to show just how well he can write bad when he tackles "G.I. Joe: The Cobra Files," the villainous Cobra-centric book of IDW Publishing's ongoing "G.I. Joe" re-launch.

Perhaps best known for his work on IDW's previous Cobra title, "G.I. Joe: Cobra," which he penned for over four years right up until the recent "G.I. Joe" re-launch, Costa's "G.I. Joe: The Cobra Files" finds ex-Cobra agent Chameleon attempting to reform her evil ways and join a black ops "G.I. Joe" squad. Joining Costa on pencils is his long-time "G.I. Joe: Cobra" artist Antonio Fuso.

Costa spoke with Comic Book Resources about "G.I. Joe: The Cobra Files," revealing how the book connects to the previous volume, what fans can expect to see in "Cobra Files" and why it's more fun to write the bad guys.

CBR News: Mike, what's the premise of "G.I. Joe: The Cobra Files?"

Cover by Michael Lark

Mike Costa: "The Cobra Files" focuses on a secret team within G.I. Joe that runs the blackest of black operations. They're so off the grid that they don't even officially exist, and two of their members are Cobra defectors. Their specialty is to deal with threats before they even become threats. But for most of them, the biggest threat is not being able to trust the people on their own team.

How does "Cobra Files" fit in with the IDW "G.I. Joe" re-launch overall? What's the purpose of this book next to Fred Van Lente's "G.I. Joe" and Chuck Dixon's "G.I. Joe: Special Missions?"

Since IDW launched their "G.I. Joe" franchise a few years back, there has always been a "Cobra" book in the line, which has dealt with the dark-half of the franchise. It's the book about bad, broken and guilty people. The book where the bad guys win. "The Cobra Files" proudly carries on that subversive tradition.

Will your story be told from the perspective of ex-Cobra agent Chameleon?

I feel like a book benefits from a strong, central P.O.V., so Chameleon will definitely be our "main" character from that standpoint. However, I will be carrying on the tradition of doing single issues from the perspectives of other characters in-between larger story-arcs in order to round out other members of the team.

You also wrote the ongoing "G.I. Joe: Cobra" just prior to the line-wide "G.I. Joe" re-launch. Will "The Cobra Files" pick up where "Cobra" left off?

We are definitely picking up from the previous series, but new readers will still be able to catch up very quickly. The final issue of the previous "Cobra" series ended a mission and left one particular sub-plot dangling, which "The Cobra Files" definitely follows up on, but other than that our first issue is a re-introduction of our cast, and a clean set-up and example of what the team is and what they do, while setting up a larger story that will take us through the first year of the book.

Do you relate more to the bad guys than the good guys when writing stories?

Well, I think any writer will tell you that the bad guys are the most fun to write. I think there's a lot of wish fulfillment involved in breaking all the rules and just letting your id run rampant, which is why a good villain is always a great engine to power a story. I wouldn't go so far as to say I "relate" to them though.

The Baroness is a great character. When someone annoys her, she shoots them. She's utterly fearless, probably to the point of insanity. I enjoy writing a character that dynamic and strong -- maybe I even envy her a little, because who doesn't want to just bulldoze through all your obstacles like they aren't there? - but that's definitely not me. I relate much more to characters who are conflicted. Who are gnawed by guilt or regret. Who act selfishly and lie to themselves and lay awake at night eaten alive by self-loathing.

In my life, this happens because I steal my roommate's shampoo and helplessly gorge myself on four bowls of Lucky Charms at 3 AM. In "The Cobra Files," it happens because my characters have caused the deaths of innocent people and have made impossible moral compromises. But it's essentially the same thing, I'm sure you'll agree.

Cover and art by Antonio Fuso

What type of military research did you do for "The Cobra Files?"

Most of my day-to-day research tends to be geographical -- I try my best to get details right about the places I set the missions in, and often details I dig up will inform some part of the story. Similarly when I write about a certain kind of structure or technology, like a submarine or specific kinds of weapons systems. However, in terms of straight military research, I must confess I don't do a whole lot. Don't get me wrong, I have a lot of respect for men and women in the military and it's important to me to get those details right... but, luckily, my book is about people who are mostly in covert or paramilitary organizations, so actual military protocol isn't involved. Which is lucky for me. Chuck is an expert at that stuff, but I'm a total dunce.

Any plans for crossovers with either Fred Van Lente's "G.I. Joe" or Chuck Dixon's "G.I. Joe: Special Missions?"

I think the plan right now is to give the books some room to breathe and grow on their own, and to fully establish their own identities, before we start doing any serious official crossovers. But Fred, Chuck and I stay in touch with each-other and do big conference calls with our editors John [Barber] and Carlos [Guzman] so we're all abreast of what's happening in the books and nobody is stepping on anyone's toes. What's happening in Fred's book is such a big deal that it's definitely felt in my book, but you certainly don't have to read it to understand the story I'm telling.

Did upcoming film sequel "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" inform any of your decisions when writing "Cobra Files?"

Honestly, no. Hasbro is really great about letting us tell our own stories and not allowing marketing to dictate what kinds of directions we need to take, or which characters we need to use. Or I could be giving myself too much credit and the truth is I'm just not important enough to get any kind of advanced look at the movie. Either way, I don't know any more about what happens in the movie than any other poor slob who reads Ain't it Cool News, and I'll be seeing it in the theater when it gets released just like every other fan.

Can you tease any upcoming "Cobra Files" stories?

Well, fans who like to see older characters updated in my book will be very pleased. We have a classic character showing up in issue #1, and then a bunch more in issues #2-4. And after that, our second arc is probably the most intense and tragic that we've ever done on the book. Never let it be said that things can't get worse for the heroes in a book with "Cobra" on the title. Because if there's one thing all my ex-girlfriends will tell you I'm good at, it's crushing all hope.

Do you have any other comics projects in the works right now?

Well, my first-ever work for Marvel Comics is being released in March in the anthology book "A+X" #6, so that's very exciting. And in April, the month that "Cobra Files" premiers, DC is also releasing a "World of Warcraft" OGN I did with the amazing Neil Googe. I also have a big project with DC Comics on the horizon for later in the year. But, for all intents and purposes, I owe my career to "Cobra," and I'm so proud that I am still writing that book to this day. And 2013 will see the culmination of a few threads I've been playing out on that book for a very long time now.

"G.I. Joe: The Cobra Files" #1 by Mike Costa and Antonio Fuso is out this April from IDW Publishing.

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