Spy thrillers in Hollywood have always been well received by audiences, with James Bond the reigning king of that genre. This Summer Hollywood’s unleashing a “James Bond for the 21st Century” in the Vin Diesel vehicle “XXX.” And while Hollywood’s looking forward, Andrew Cosby and Matthew Haley are looking to the past for inspiration.
Late this year writer Andrew Cosby and Matthew Haley will unleash “Jack Hunter: G.I. Spy,” a new four-issue limited series set in the war ravaged 1940s. The series is written by Cosby, a producer on the upcoming film version of Matt Wagner’s “Mage” as well as the creator/producer and head writer of the new UPN series, “Haunted,” coming this fall. Handling the art chores is Matt Haley (“The Order”).
“‘G.I. Spy’ is a ‘behind-the-lines’ story which follows America’s first counter intelligence agent as he uncovers Hitler’s secret ‘Wonderweapons’ program, which if left unchecked could give the Nazis the edge and allow them to actually win World War II–and rule the world,” series artist Matt Haley told CBR News. “It’s basically ‘James Bond-meets-Indiana Jones’ with Albert Einstein as ‘Q,’ a World War II pulp adventure. I think the great thing about this book is that it’s about the ‘war behind the war.’ The idea is, sure the Allies won the war, but if this particular guy hadn’t been at the right place at the right time, the Axis would have run roughshod over the world with their bizarre weapons that were (according to legend) just about to be launched near the end of it all.
“Make no mistake, this isn’t your average, run-of-the-mill war story,” series writer Andrew Cosby told CBR News. “What we tried to do was take a really interesting look at what was really going on in World War II (the atomic race for instance) and mix it with a sense of pulp action and high adventure. That way, you get the perfect blend of fact and fantasy. After all, everyone already knows what a WWII battlefield looks like. But do they know what a German UFO, a Tesla Ray or a Nazi rocketrooper look like? Probably not. That’s where our story comes in.”
Our protagonist is G.I. Jack Hunter, a bit of a rookie to the spy game, who’s not the perfect James Bond type. Untested and a bit naive, his patriotism is the main motivator that drives him.
“Jack is my favorite ‘Andy Cosby’ character, on the surface, he’s a typical lantern-jawed ’40s football jock who comes off as earnest and cocky, if a little naive,” said Haley. “But that seeming naiveté means that he’s not really aware of his limitations (the popular stereotype of Americans at the time), and that means that he can sometimes pull off the impossible.”
Cosby continued, “Yeah, we wanted to establish an iconic character who would be interesting from the outset and then get even more interesting as the story grew. For instance, Jack begins the story as a skirt chasing flyboy who just got blasted outta the sky while trying to warn Pearl Harbor about the impending attack. Kinda our way of giving the comic hero an origin story without it looking too comic book hokey. Anyway, he survives and is immediately drafted into the new G.I. program, in essence going from flyboy to spyboy overnight. And that’s the heart of the character – a guy who leaps in headfirst and worries about the consequences later. He’s the epitome of the American spirit. An average Joe thrust into an above-average situation who survives on his wit, his charm, a little luck and a lotta heart.”
Jack’s rival in the series is Kaitlin Shepherd, a by-the-book agent who’s Jack’s opposite in every way whose background is with MI-6, England’s spy service.. She balances Jack out in that she has the experience and training that Jack doesn’t.
“In other words, Jack has a lot to learn from a gal like Kaitlin,” said Cosby, “but she also learns a great deal from him. And it’s this yin-yang chemistry that makes the characters work so well together. Hell, they spend more time fighting with each other than they do fighting Nazis!”
And while the story and characters are completely fictional, there’s one member of the cast who’s very much a real person. Albert Einstein.
“Einstein actually kicks the story off and gives it purpose by writing the letter to Roosevelt that starts not only the Manhattan Project but the G.I. program as well,” said Haley.
“Again, he’s part of the heart of this comic series, ultimately becoming a kinda father figure to Jack,” continued Cosby. “And the duality he represents matches the story both visually and thematically. I mean, here’s this pacifist who inadvertently helped to create the most destructive device known to man. But that very same device is probably the reason you and I are here talking about comic books and not goose-stepping our way to work every morning.”
“We’re going to have all kinds of historical cameos,” said Cosby. “Churchill, Patton, McArthur, Rommel, even Marilyn Monroe, as Norma Jean of course. Did you know she was actually working as one of the ‘Rosie the Riveters’ during WWII? There’s all sorts of little-known factoids like this throughout the series.”
Currently a publisher for the book hasn’t been determined. Cosby and Haley are looking at a variety of different options including self-publishing. And as is true with the creation of all new comics, this project has been in production for some time.
“Andy called me one day a couple of years ago, having a fit because he’d just had a brainstorm — he wanted to create an American James Bond,” said Haley. “That was it — because, just as soon as he’d said it, I blurted out, ‘Yeah! He could go after that supposed secret Nazi Wonderweapons base in the Antarctic! We could have German Flying saucers, walking tanksuits, it’ll be great!,’ and
we basically had our outline within an hour. Andy already had the Einstein character bit in mind as well. The more we worked on it, the more into it we got, until we finally realized we’d been developing it for too long, let’s run it up the flagpole.”
When you hear the title “G.I. Spy” some fans may associate the book with “GI Joe,” which this series is definitely not.
“[‘G.I. Spy’] just describes what the book is about,” said Haley. “He’s part G.I., part spy. That’s reflected in the design of his outfit. He’s a spy, sure, but he’s in the U.S. Army. G.I. Joe didn’t really enter into this book at all, all soldiers were casually referred to as “G.I.s” (Government Issued) during WW II, so it seemed to fit.”
With “G.I. Spy” set in the ’40s, this book presents a host of new challenges for Haley artistically.
“I’ve never attempted a period piece, so I’m sure I’ll be relying heavily on my pals who are deep into the WW II era for reference. What makes ‘G.I. Spy’ work, in my opinion, is that we try to straddle the line between plausibility and fantasy, where much of what you’ll see in ‘Spy’ is
based on actual or proposed schemes that either the Allies or the Axis Powers were working on. Jack uses a helicopter backpack, and there was an actual helicopter backpack on the drawing board for use by the US Marines.”
For those of you who enjoy the gadgets, “G.I. Spy” will be filled with them.
“The first thing Andrew described to me was, of course, the Heli-pac. That one’s pretty straightforward, but visually arresting. Naturally, our hero needed a weapon, but I didn’t want him to mow down the bad guys with a Tommy gun (we’ve seen enough of that), so I gave him a ‘gyrojet pistol.’ which is an actual gun that was invented in the ’50s that fires a little missile instead of a bullet. This allows him to defend himself against the faster Nazi Rocketroopers he encounters in the story. We also see an early Geiger counter, the Valise 400, which is a motorcycle that fits in a suitcase (very cool), and my personal favorite, a Howard Hughes designed spyplane that converts into a mini-submarine!
“My art is certainly better than it was even a year ago, and it’s only now that I think I’m capable of tackling a project like this. I catch a lot of flak (no pun intended) for being so durned slow, and I figured I might as well be slow drawing my own doggone book. I’m also a control freak, and I’ve been unhappy with how my work has looked in print over the past couple of years, so this way I can finally have some influence on what the reader’s get to see, which will be my best work to date.”
Those wanting to learn more about this project should stop by Matt Haley’s booth at Comic-Con International: San Diego. On display he’ll have artwork from the series and ashcans.
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