Upcoming G.I. Joe comic book series Scarlett's Strike Force has been cancelled by IDW Publishing before final orders from retailers were due, leading to to the book's writer and industry professionals publicly questioning the circumstances behind the decision.
Scarlett's Strike Force is set to debut in comic book stores on Dec. 27, but as confirmed by CBR, the book has already been cancelled with no issues planned after #3. Its fate was sealed more than a month before the book's "Final Order Cut-off" (FOC) date of Dec. 4, and the series will now end on a cliffhanger.
While IDW has stated that the cancellation is due to low sales, observers have wondered if ongoing controversy surrounding series writer Aubrey Sitterson influenced the decision.
On Sept. 11 of this year, the 16th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington D.C., Sitterson tweeted, "Oh good, it's Self-Centered National Tragedy Remembrance from People Who Weren't Even Anywhere Near New York City Day." As provocative as that may be, the tweet didn't receive much attention until one day later, when, as detailed previously by Bleeding Cool, the G.I. Joe fan site YoJoe.com posted on Facebook that it would "no longer promote anything from IDW Publishing while Aubrey Sitterson is involved with G.I. Joe or any other Hasbro brand."
Sitterson, who lived in New York City during the time of the attacks, provided further context to his comment on Twitter, underlining the difference he sees between "sincere remembrances & self-centered ones." That didn't stop the writer from being targeted over social media from both a section of G.I. Joe fans -- many of whom already had issues with his direction for the franchise -- and the same corner of comics fandom that earlier this year targeted Marvel editor Heather Antos. This contingent of fans purports to be displeased with the push for increased diversity and representation in the industry, and employs tactics that have drawn association with and comparison to the alt-right. One of the most vocal critics of Sitterson has been the highly contentious and widely condemned "Diversity & Comics" Twitter and YouTube account, which currently has published at least six videos targeting the writer, including "This Is What You Get When An SJW Writes G.I.JOE." (Its other videos include "ICEMAN Coming Out Is Worse Than You Could Possibly Imagine" and "SJWs Look Even Worse When Compared To Normal People.")
On Sept. 13, IDW released a statement distancing itself from Sitterson's 9/11 tweet. The statement, which did not mention Sitterson by name, read in part, "IDW in no way condones or supports these personal opinions whatsoever, and recognizes the pain they may cause our readers. Discussions regarding next steps are underway."
Reached by CBR, IDW Publishing Chief Creative Officer Chris Ryall said the decision to cancel Scarlett's Strike Force was solely based on sales numbers. Sitterson told CBR he was told the same, and was informed of the cancellation via email on Nov. 1.
"The decision to cancel the book was based solely on the low initial orders," Ryall said to CBR. "At the time of the tweets you refer to, the last G.I. Joe series written by Aubrey was under way and it continued on with Aubrey at the helm until it reached its conclusion at issue nine, something we’d already settled on with Aubrey due to low sales."
Sitterson first wrote G.I. Joe in the 2016 Street Fighter x G.I. Joe miniseries, which led to him writing IDW's main ongoing G.I. Joe series. Scarlett's Strike Force, illustrated by IDW veteran artist Nelson Daniel and starring Scarlett as team leader, is a relaunch of the series following the company's First Strike event, its latest crossover involving its licensed Hasbro titles. The series was initially announced as G.I. Joe: Unmasked.
While writing G.I. Joe, Sitterson drew criticism from some fans of the franchise for progressive moves including reinterpreting the character of Salvo (traditionally a white man) as a Samoan woman, abandoning traditional guns in favor of lasers (similar to the G.I. Joe animated series) and a variant cover by Wuvable Oaf's Ed Luce, described by the artist as knowingly homoerotic. Given this history, Sitterson told Bleeding Cool last month that he believed he was already a target of the same fans that attacked him following his 9/11 tweet.
According to Ryall, not only is it his belief that Sitterson and Daniel were "doing great things" on Scarlett's Strike Force, cancelling a book before FOC is a relatively commonplace move.
"It’s common for all publishers to cancel a series when orders result in losses from the first issue," Ryall told CBR. "Very low pre-orders create a hole that FOC, which might swing sales up (or down) 5 percent or maybe 10 percent, would not dig us out of."