Let Slip the Snakes of War! Powers & O'Sullivan talk "G.I. Joe America's Elite"

The forces of G. I. Joe and Cobra have been at war for twenty five years now and starting in July, their conflict will escalate onto an entirely new level as the twelve part "World War III" story line begins in "G.I. Joe: America's Elite" #25 from Devil's Due Publishing. CBR News spoke with "America's Elite" writer Mark Powers and Editor Mike O'Sullivan about their grand plans for the series.

"World War III" is a storyline that's been percolating in Mark Powers mind since almost the day he started working for Devil's Due as an editor. "When Mike asked me to write the book full-time, we almost immediately started talking about it," Powers told CBR News. "He also had the desire to do something big, to try something that hadn't been done before in the book. Once I realized he wasn't joking about offering me the monthly gig, I made plans to drive out to Chicago so we could sit down and plot out the story in broad terms, which we did. We've continued to develop the story over the last few months. We've got so many ideas that I feel like it could have easily been a two year story without feeling padded."

"We were looking for the perfect key to what we've been building up for the past two years," Mike O'Sullivan added. "We knew the general direction, but not the specifics. This was the last piece of the puzzle that we needed. The perfect fit."

Once Powers and O'Sullivan began drafting their plans for war in the Joe-verse, they also set about gathering soldiers for the coming conflict. Since the title began, "America's Elite" has focused on a smaller cast of active Joe team members with other characters serving as reservists, but readers can expect the active ranks of the America's Elite Unit to grow in the coming months. "To begin with, we've got four fan-faves returning to the active roster as of #25," Powers explained. "In #27, as the geopolitical situation continues to crumble, the President makes a major decision regarding this very question. In the course of the yearlong storyline, we're hoping to get in as many of the G.I. Joe members and Cobra operative as humanly possible."

In addition to the large number of returning faces, "World War III" will also mark the debut of a major new character who'll play a pivotal role in the story line known only as Agent Delta. "Mike's forbidden me to say anything more about the subject," Powers said

"Darn tootin'! And it's gonna be tough to keep from talking about it for the next few months!" O'Sullivan added. "He's so excited about it; I'm surprised he's not spoken of it yet!"

Given the sheer number of characters, new and old, involved in "World War III', readers can expect to see events from a number of different perspectives. "The story will certainly focus on a specific group of characters as they're put through the most brutal physical/emotional wringer of all time," Powers stated. "As I alluded to above, however, the story is so big that we will eventually be seeing a multitude of characters -- on both sides of the conflict -- moving through the story."

The conflict that the combatants in "World War III" find themselves involved in will be one of an unprecedented scale in a "G.I. Joe" comic. "Whatever the phrase 'World War III' conjures in your mind, whether we're talking physical battles, emotional challenges, personal tragedies, or politics, it'll come into play during this story line," Powers said. "This is definitely something that's never been seen in this title."

"It's not just big in terms of story, either. From a creative standpoint, I've never been involved in something of this scope -- it's exciting and daunting and thrilling all at the same time," O'Sullivan said. "I know that Mark has had plenty of times of working on large scale stories during his career, so I'm extremely grateful for his wisdom and experience. Mike Bear, Jean-Francois Beaulieu and Phil Kost are bringing their A-game to the table, also. Add everyone in the DDP office and a few advisors we consult with, and we've got a lot of great ideas flowing that are helping to make this a project I am so proud to be attached to."

A conflict on the scope of "World War III" won't be something that can be kept under wraps and the events of the war will have direct ramifications for the way the G.I. Joe team carries out future missions. "There will be an enormous change in how they operate, which will be forced on them by circumstance," Powers said. "And yes, this war will be something that everyone on the planet is painfully aware of. It will be a world war in every sense of the term."

The worldwide public will know what's going on between G.I. Joe and Cobra, but readers shouldn't expect the members of the Joe team to become household names. "The world will be aware of what's going on (after #28, it'll be hard not to be), but they won't be sitting in their living room watching news reports of the Joes fighting Cobra," O'Sullivan explained. "We're trying to have the Joes be less celebrities and more special ops. This war will solidify that."

Public Awareness of the G.I. Joe team might increase some because of the result of "World War III," but the storyline could end up dramatically changing the public's awareness and perception of Cobra. "The public is very aware of Cobra as a threat," Powers said. "In my mind, they're as aware of Cobra as we are of the various international and domestic terrorist groups in the real world."

"But at the same time, they're almost thought of as the boogeyman. Something that doesn't affect them in small-town America," O'Sullivan added. "Nothing that they need to worry about. That's going to change. In fact, in some cases, small-town America may not come to worry about Cobra, but may actually come to support them."

Many "America's Elite" readers are wondering if Cobra's latest scheme will receive support from the newest member of Cobra Commander's family, Destro's former son Alexander. In issue #24 of "America's Elite," Destro literally gave his adult son Alexander to Cobra Commander in exchange for the infant son that he and the Baroness had conceived together that Cobra Commander had been holding hostage. "That's a situation that will begin to be addressed in issue #26," Powers stated. "Why does Cobra Commander want Alexander?"

"And how does he feel about being embraced by his father at long last and then so rapidly discarded?" O'Sullivan added.

Over the course of "World War III," readers will learn why Cobra Commander wants Alexander and they'll also be learning about the other desires and goals of the masked megalomaniac. "Part of the genesis for this story was asking the simple question: what exactly does Cobra Commander want? Why does he do what he does? What would happen if he actually achieved it? He's a complex character, and we'll be exploring him in depth during this arc."

"At times, Cobra Commander has seemed sort of one-note... just causing trouble for the sake of causing trouble," O'Sullivan said. " He may have seemed evil, but not really all that clever or intelligent. We're trying to change that. I want Cobra Commander to be the most cunning, thought out, manipulative, dangerous man in pop culture. I would love for him to be able to stand alongside the likes of Lex Luthor, Michael Corleone and Hannibal Lecter and hold his own. This story will make that a reality in the G.I. Joe universe."

At the end of "America's Elite" #24, Cobra Commander manipulated Destro and the Baroness into giving him exactly what he wanted, but readers shouldn't think that just because the duo got their son back from Cobra Commander that they've seen the last of James McMullen Destro and Anastasia DeCobray. "Destro's decision in #24 paves the way for the horror and tragedy that will follow over the next twelve months," Powers explained. "I'd say that it's inevitable that he and Ana will play a part in the conflict at some point."

"They're just way too cool to not use, so you know they'll turn up soon," O'Sullivan added. "Who doesn't love the Baroness?"

There will be other wild cards that affect G.I. Joe and Cobra's clashes during "World War III." G.I. Joe fans know that there's another organization lurking out there that hates both Cobra and G.I. Joe and has been keeping very quiet as of late. "The Red Shadows have a specific, long range plan," Powers said. "Whether current events force them to alter those plans remains to be seen..."

G.I. Joe readers haven't heard much from another organization lately the Dreadnoks and their leader Zartan but the biker gang and their leader will play roles in "World War III." "Fairly soon, a large part of the Northern Hemisphere will become a renegade biker gang's wet dream," Powers stated.

"Someone does something in the storyline that will make Zartan extremely unhappy," O'Sullivan explained. "He may have to get involved due to that. Also, are you sure we haven't been hearing from Zartan?"

"World War III" is a storyline that will not only involve a huge cast of characters, but the action between these characters will unfold in a variety of locales as well. "This will be a globe-hopping story. In the very near future, we'll see Chechnya, Japan, Namibia, and Turkey...and that's just over the next few months!" Powers said. "We're definitely taking the 'World' part of "World War III" to heart!"

"It's amazing to me how much Mark really knows about the globe," O'Sullivan remarked. "He's always bringing in locations and facts that are just fun to learn about. You could see hints of that in the 'Sins of the Mother' storyline, and even more of the same through 'WWIII'. He's the perfect guy to write a global tale."

The globe hopping action of "World War III" begins shortly after the end of the "Sins of the Mother" storyline, which concluded in "America's Elite" #24. "Not much time has passed; as hinted at the end of #24, everything that's happened recently has been part of a far grander scheme on Cobra Commander's part," Powers explained. "Now, at long last, he's got everything he needs to move on to the next stage of that plan. Events around the world will cause a swift deterioration, a spike in violence and conflict, and lead to something we never thought could happen..."

"World War III" is the culmination of both Cobra Commander's grand scheme and Devil's Due's master plan for the character. "'America's Elite' as a whole has been a fairly short amount of story time. But in publishing time, we've taken the last two plus years to really build Cobra Commander and Cobra back up. Having them gone for a while was intentional. Having CC come back gradually was intentional. Having Cobra appear in a clandestine method when they finally showed up was intentional. Now, people are going to see what we've been working toward... It truly has been part of a big plan, people! The payoff starts now!"

When "World War III" concludes one side will emerge victorious, but a heavy toll will have been exacted. "Along the way, individuals on both sides of the conflict will be tested and suffer as never before, paying the price for their respective choices," Powers said.

"While one side may be declared the 'winner,' the losses on both sides make it impossible for either to feel as if they've won anything," O'Sullivan added. "What happens in issue #36 was one of the toughest calls for me to make as an editor and creator, but I think it was vital for the story of both sides to be progressed in the best way possible."

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