Not Your Average Joes: Powers & O'Sullivan talk "G.I. Joe: America's Elite"

When Devil's Due Publishing's"G.I. Joe: America's Elite" began, the Joe team's arch-enemy Cobra Commander was at his most dangerous; on the loose, underground, and scheming. In recent issues, Cobra Commander's latest scheme was revealed; he had been posing as the U.S. president's Chief-of-Staff in order to gain access to classified information. The Commander also used his newfound power to send a team of Cobra Operatives disguised as U.S. soldiers to attack and replace the G.I. Joe team.

In issue #18, the Joe's defeated Cobra Commander's team, the Phoenix Guard, but having found the information he needed, Cobra Commander fled the White House and returned to his troops. Now a new stage in the war between G.I. Joe and Cobra is about to begin and with that new stage comes new writers. Editor Mike O'Sullivan will be penning a two part arc of "G.I. Joe: America's Elite" in issues #19-20 and former "G.I. Joe" editor Mark Powers will take over as the book's regular writer as of issue #21. CBR News spoke with both writers about their plans for the book.

"America's Elite" #18 was the final issue of writer Joe Casey's run, but it shouldn't be the final time he chronicles the adventures of the Joe team. "Joe left for the time being because he was juggling a lot of other obligations, and felt like he'd told the stories with the characters that he wanted to tell," Mike O'Sullivan told CBR News. "He'll still be popping in from time to time, and I have something in mind that I'd like to talk to him about – time will tell."

Mike O'Sullivan's two part story focuses on a man dealing with some hard truths, General Philip Rey. Rey had lead the G.I. Joe team at the end of Devil's Due's first "G.I. Joe" title and had recently resurfaced in the pages of "America's Elite" where he was duped into leading the Phoenix Guard. "The last few pages of #18 are pretty clear where Rey's head is as we start #19," O'Sullivan explained. "He's just had the wind knocked out of his sails in a very confusing way – he's trying to make sense of some things that have happened, his past, and where he's going with his future. He's a pretty conflicted and confused person after all that's happened, and all that he's done. We learn a little bit of what he's been up to, but not a lot of time is spent focusing on that. It's safe to assume, like all the other reserve members of the team that he's been busy with other missions, other activities and even some civilian stuff."

Readers have been speculating about Rey's origin since the character's first appearance and "America's Elite" #19-20 will answer many of the burning questions fans have about the character. "Some things with Rey are exactly what some expect, others not at all," O'Sullivan said. "I think there are some parts that will be what has been predicted, but still some twists and details that offer some surprise."

Rey will be aided in his quest for the truth about his past by a former comrade, Conrad S. Hauser, a man who's best known by his codename, Duke. "Duke and Rey have a really interesting history for the short   time Rey's been around – they started in a place of distrust and tension, came to work well together, having to trust one another in a dark chapter of the team's history," O'Sullivan stated. "Now, Rey's been involved in one of the worst things to happen to the Joe team – in the mind of Duke,   a bloody betrayal that they have suffered at the hands of Rey.   How do you think Duke would feel about Rey because of that? But, concurrently, Duke may be a boy scout, but he has his own shady past, and has gotten his hands dirty to accomplish his missions.   I think there is a deep understanding and appreciation of Rey, even if there are moments of bad blood between the two. They've got a dynamic that I have really come to enjoy reading and writing."

General Rey and Duke won't be the only recognizable faces in O'Sullivan's story. The two-part arc will feature appearances by a number of familiar G.I. Joe and Cobra operatives. "There are one or two that people expect, and at least two that I think will be a nice surprise and payoff for readers," O'Sullivan said. "I found a way to include some characters that people have wanted to see again. I'm even going back on one of my own promises by using a character that I   said I'd never consider – that should make a number of our fans have some 'tease Mike' ammunition!"

It won't be just Rey's life that readers of "America's Elite" #19-20 will be learning about. Readers will also be given glimpses into the personal lives of the book's cast. "You'll learn more about all of the active team – General Colton, Snake-Eyes, Kamakura, Scarlett, Spirit, Hawk, Stalker, Shipwreck and Roadblock. Because of the nature of some of these stories, we also are given some glimpses into other cast members, too – Rock 'N Roll, Clutch, Cover Girl – I really tried to fill these pages with some Easter eggs and moments that would make me extremely happy as a Joe fan. We're also learning a decent amount about the families of the Joes, also. All in all, something for everyone, I feel. There's even a moment or two in there that will get a decent amount of conversation going amongst Joe circles – I may be loved or hated, depending on how they are received."

Mark Powers, whose run on "America's Elite" begins after O'Sullivan's story, wasn't originally going to become the book's regular writer. "Mike asked me to write a four issue story arc that would run in issues 21-24 and we had a great time collaborating," Mark Powers said. "More importantly, I think Mike and Josh [Blaylock] both got the sense that I 'got' G.I. Joe, and that I could contribute more good stories in the long run."

"The bribery didn't hurt, either," O'Sullivan joked. "Once Mark and I started working on the first story, it just felt right. The story came together and it felt like a solid fit to have him write more after that. It all came together very organically."

Powers finds his new job of writing the G.I. Joe team's adventures both similar to and different than his previous job of editing them. "The key thing is the same on both sides of the desk, which is staying focused on the characters," Powers stated. "Asking what makes them tick? Why are they doing what they're doing?   What's the worst thing that could happen to them?   What would readers never expect us to do in a thousand years?"

Along with a new writer, issue #21 of "America's Elite" sees the debut of new penciller. "Mike Bear is illustrating my first four issues and I know Mike O'Sullivan very much wants to keep him busy," Powers stated. "I love what he's done so far, so I hope he'll be around for a long time. He makes me look good!"

"Bear is a genius and an incredibly nice guy on top of his brilliance," O'Sullivan said. "I really think he's got a style that is custom fit for G.I. Joe. I'd like to keep him working as long as he wants."

When O'Sullivan and Bear's run begins, the G.I. Joe team is emotionally battered but they're standing together. "I would say their emotional state is unified resolve. They've been through the wringer, emotionally and physically - something that will continue, I may add - but it's brought them closer together," Powers explained. "The Joes will be looking to take the fight to Cobra."

There's a reason why the Joe team has been through the wringer. "They've been frustrated at a lot of the things that have been tying them down. They've been confused and angry at some of the situations they've faced. They've been tense. This has been intentional," O'Sullivan said. "We needed some time to help get some of the humanity back to these characters – give them foibles, scars, some normal responses to things.   Now that they've faced some hard times and come back from them, they are ready to take things to the next level. What hasn't killed them has indeed made them stronger. It's time for them to prove that."

Power's first arc focuses on an enemy of the G. I. Joe team who's also been through the wringer. "My first arc is focused on the Baroness," Powers said. "She's been a prisoner for over a year. She's had her child taken from her. Now she's on the loose, and nobody is safe. Payback is a bitch, in more ways than one in this case. There are a number of individuals who should be double-locking their doors and turning out the lights just about now. And we'll get a sense of what makes her tick."

"This is the fundamental story for the Baroness. Finally! She really comes into her own here," O'Sullivan stated. "She's always been 'Cobra Commander's 'gal Friday' or 'Destro's love interest,' or 'Zarana's competition.' It's been a long, long time since we have seen her fleshed out on her own as a very dangerous woman. She's another villain that's about to prove why she should be feared in a very serious, serious way."

Powers first arc will also have severe ramifications for the conflict between G.I. Joe and Cobra. "The events of the Baroness arc will lead to an escalation of the war with Cobra in a very clear, concrete way," Powers explained. "Actually, 'escalation' may be an understatement."

"Things escalate in a way that will cause Cobra Commanders 'friends' and enemies alike to get that 'oh $#!&' feeling in their stomach," O'Sullivan added. "Cobra

Commander's grand scheme and plan is coming to a very nasty, explosive head. His hiding out for a year was a part of that plan; his infiltration of the White House was another part of it. The Phoenix Guard ruse another. His possession of a baby another. It's all been a part of a greater goal – one that's about to be made very much known. This is one of the most manipulative, smart villains in pop culture today. It's time for him to show his potential. I think this storyline will do that."

In future storyline's Cobra Commander will be showing his potential in a variety of ways. "I personally would like to see Cobra Commander get his hands dirty in a more direct way," Powers said. "At the same time, he'll never stop being the shadowy manipulator. That's one thing that Casey really restored to him, I think - not just that he's this manipulative guy, but that he's frighteningly good at it. You'll see just how true that is by the end of the 'Sins of the Mother' arc. And in the months to come, you'll see exactly what the makeup of the rejuvenated Cobra is. You can expect to see new Cobra characters that'll be integral to the events of the next year .

"Cobra is about to become even more dangerous than they ever have been," Powers continued. "And that will have truly global implications. Amidst all this, we'll get a glimpse of how Cobra Commander goes about recruiting men and   women who are the best and brightest, from within the various arms of the military, and from within the world of business and government."

As readers will see in future issues, Cobra Commander's organization attracts very specific individuals. "By nature of being villains, mercenaries, and self-serving characters, Cobra will always have elements of fracture," O'Sullivan explained. "There are some characters that will never serve Cobra Commander ever again. Others are just waiting for the right motivation to. We're going to be seeing Cobra in a way never seen before, and on a scale that no one thought we could do. You thought the Joes had it tough before . . .?"

Cobra Commander's recent activities in the White House have proved detrimental to the U.S., but readers shouldn't think that America is the only nation the terrorist mastermind has his sites set on. "He did just spend months at the very heart of the U.S.

Government," Powers said. "Learning every secret, extending his reach further and deeper than ever before. He's not a man that thinks small."

"We'll also be learning a bit more about his motivation and purpose," O'Sullivan added. "He's got goals, and he has purpose. He's not just haphazardly causing chaos for terror's sake. He's got a motivation that we will see fleshed out more and more. But like Mark said, readers (and the Joes) need to remember that he doesn't always think small-- There's a reason he's one of the most (if not the most) wanted man in the world. They'll be reminded of this soon."

The Joes will also be reminded soon that there are other individuals and organizations out there that bear them animosity towards them who are loosely affiliated with or have no ties with Cobra. "As one would expect, Destro will play an important part in issues #21-24," Powers said. "But I don't think it'll happen in the expected way. Destro will be making a particularly important decision in the very near future. One that will have very broad implications for everyone in the Joe mythos."

"And the Dreadnoks turn up soon, too," O'Sullivan added. "I never knew that I could come to like them as much as I have."l story arc of Devil's Due's first "G.I. Joe" series, readers were introduced to a new threat that hated both G.I. Joe and Cobra equally. The threat was a shadowy organization known as the Red Shadows that was founded and lead by a former British solider named Wilder Vaughn. "The Red Shadows are out there, and Vaughn made clear in the 'Rise of the Red Shadows' arc that his group had a long term plan for the world. I'm sure we'll hear from them when we least expect it."

"Anyone wonder what Flint's been up to since #12?" O'Sullivan asked cryptically.

As fans might have guessed, Powers will be picking up a variety of plot threads for his run on "America's Elite." "I'll be looking to make use of stuff set up in Joe's run, Mike's stories in 'Special Missions,' and even elements set up in our   previous series," Powers said.

Powers and O'Sullivan are having a blast working on "G.I. Joe: America's Elite" and hope that fans will have as a good of a time reading their stories as they did writing them. "I'm incredibly excited about the book, and working with Mike and Mike," Powers said. "Oh, and Yo, Joe!"

"This is what comics are all about to me: solid stories with characters people love (or love to hate)," O'Sullivan stated. "It's a huge bonus that I get to work with people I care about deeply and with a license that has been a part of my life for over 25 years. There aren't many more ways I could be more excited about G.I. Joe and what's coming up in the stories. I hope that passion comes through in every page."

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