When it was announced at last summer's Wizard World Chicago, CBR was the first to bring you news of Devil's Due Publishing's new six-issue take on the Lanard Toy Company's military action figure line, The Corps! Debuted in 1986 on toy shelves across America, The Corps! have remained in production to the present, with their most noticeable feature being a virtually identical design to Hasbro's 3 and 3/4" G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero line of action figures. While The Corps! never had the elaborate back story or multimedia support that the Joes have enjoyed for many years, what they lacked in depth they made up for with moxy, including a string of codenames including Crusher McClosky, Lightening Mobutu and The Gasman.
Now, with DDP's special zero issue hitting the stands in October, CBR's back to fill in the specifics on the series, and as writer Rick Remender tells it, those specifics are delving into some pretty shady areas. The scribe behind such morally messy titles as "Punisher War Journal" and "Fear Agent" explained how "The Corps!" won't be your average tales of toyetic heroes and villains.
CBR: What is the high concept that makes "The Corps!" a unique military comic book?
Rick Remender: I like the intrigue aspect of "Mission: Impossible" quite a bit. I like that you never know who to trust or whose side anyone's on. It's not just double-cross, but it's triple-cross and quadruple-cross. I think that if you're always guessing, and you can never really get a beat for any one character's true motivations but there's threads lying in there that hint at potential duplicity and shenanigans -- that's what make a spy or a military thing work. So I've tried to incorporate a good deal of that with big, high adventure action stuff.
And then beyond that, I'm also using a good degree of new world order stuff and tapping into the political climate with what's going on with organizations like Blackwater. An organization like that begs a lot of questions like, "At what point does a government just give up having its own sanctioned military that deals with consequences and has to answer to the general population and just hire out mercenaries?"
The Corps and The Marauders -- our two groups -- I didn't want there to be a straight up G.I. Joe/Cobra connection where you've got the clear connection. Anytime you know who's good and who's bad, at that point it just becomes about watching the struggle and waiting out the inevitable "win" for the good guys. What I wanted here was that I wanted it to be grey. No character here's motivations should solely be evil -- they shouldn't be twirling mustaches and be thinking, "We're going to make a bunch of money and destroy nations" or "world conquest." These things are sort of juvenile concepts, and I wanted to find something that was a little more realistic, and in the course of doing that, "The Corps!" sort of became a Petri dish of mixing high adventure stuff with a lot of what's actually happening, and for me writing it went from being just a job to something where I was actually invested in it. I think with anything, your idea has to have subtext -- the point of story just beyond conflict resolution.
So the guys in "The Corps!" aren't necessarily going to be square-jawed, shoot 'em up, Uncle Sam-loving heroes?
Right. And it's not going to be as easy to say if the Marauders are all "bad guys," whatever that means. Everybody's motivations are different. I think that as humans, our motivations mostly lie in very selfish things -- recognition, praise, financial gain, stature, sex. Given that that's the base level foundation for most of humanity's motivation, I don't like to write anything from the standpoint of "these are the good guys, these are the bad guys." There are two different bands, two different standpoints and two different sets of motivations, and I think that as that plays out, it should make the book a lot more entertaining to people than standard military fair where you go, "This is the bad guy. He wants to take your children and make them eat yucky sandwiches full of mustard. This is the good guy, and he wants to buy them ice cream and build you a house."
The idea with this is that you should like the villains even as they're being villainous. You should buy their motivations and buy them as three-dimensional humans. The same with the heroes. The fun thing of this is, are they interchangeable? Well, not exactly. The length they'll go to get what they want sets them apart and makes one a little bit despicable. But the origin of The Corps!, when it's revealed, also makes the good guys a little bit fallible and shows that sometimes to get to their ends, the means can get a little skewed.
Tell us about the characters in the cast. Who do we meet as issue #1 roles out?
First we'll meet the new Corps [in the zero issue]. There's been a couple generations of this team over the past few years, and the new team consists of your standard covert team. There's Dusk -- Dusk is your standard knives expert/covert operations bad ass. She's the only Corps member who has been around since the last generation. The rest are all new, and that includes a poisons expert named Plague, a munitions and weapons expert named Ravage and a lot of red shirts and some older Corps members as well. They start out in a position of weakness. The original Corps has been disbanded, and the new Corps is actually called the Marauders. They've taken over because a job has been botched in North Korea.
The fun thing is to start from a position where the original Corps, after they've been disbanded, are unemployable. As mercenaries, as professional soldiers, the thing that got them disbanded was fairly public and so these guys have had to deal with the consequences of ignoring orders, going into a country they weren't supposed to. Their reasons for doing so were altruistic, and they had the best intentions at heart, but the end result was pretty ugly.
When you have a Blackwater group like this that is hired by governments but not under government jurisdiction and they mess up, can the countries that hired them be held accountable? Is that the idea, or can anyone hire bands of mercenaries to fight one another and then no one's accountable for what happened? So what happened sent the world into red alert, and it's still in red alert.
The bigger characters that we've got: the former leader's name is Alex Brody, codenamed Rucker, and he's presently drunk hiding out in the mountains trying to stay away from humanity because of what went down in North Korea a few years earlier. We've got Crash, who is sort of the wild card of the group. You've got such a large team. You've got a covert team, an aquatic team, an aerial team, the ground team -- over the course of six issues, these guys all play different roles, and they all have some time in the spotlight. But the main team is Rucker who's the leader, Ice who's kind of our mountaineering guy and Crash who's their mechanic/crazy motorcycle driver.
With the Marauders showing up in issue #0 and tearing it up, will the main thrust of the miniseries be on the original Corps and the mystery of how they screwed up so bad?
We're going to find out their origin. We're going to find out why they were disbanded. There's going to be a couple of flips too. The Marauders motivations are going to be re-established a few times, so once you think you know what's going on, you'll realize you don't. And with the original Corps members, these guys basically have to get back together with no financial backing, no home base, no cache of weaponry that they can just magically get to -- they're just guys at this point. They have to get involved with something going on with these new Marauders, but I think to give that away would kill some of the reveals in the book. Suffice it to say, what's going on is of international importance.
With any of these things, the stakes have to be pretty large. And there've been a few betrayals and what not, so when these old Corps members get back together, it's like you're dealing with the first and second generation of G.I. Joes when they brought in Duke and the new guys. But there is no Cobra. There's just the Marauders and the Corps, and it'll be interesting to see some of the low-tech washouts as they have to interact and try to stop the new group. And maybe they shouldn't be stopping them.
In a world of moral grey area, while we will be following one point of view group of characters, do you expect that fans will have a hard time figuring out who they want to root for?
I think that if you only want one side to win, then you already know what side's going to win. In something like this, if it's too clear who's good and who's bad, then you kind of already know that you're just going through the motions until the good guys end up victorious. You should probably have varying degrees of empathy for both bands. The idea is that once they come into contact with each other, you should be able to empathize with both points of view and both missions.
Tell us about Michael Penick, who's drawing the book. What has your reaction been to his art with the characters so far? He seems to have a real knack for expressing the characters through their facial expressions and physicality.
Yeah. He's a great storyteller. He comes from the storyboarding and illustration world, and like most people he has a comic book bug, so he was extra excited to jump on the project, and we're glad to have him. With the colorist, Kevin Cross, Penick I think is working towards an open line style which allows Kevin to do a lot of rendering. It's a very modern feel. And beyond just having the storytelling chops and doing great action, I think Michael's done a really great job of establishing the humanity of the characters through their acting, like you said. There's not a lot of teeth-gritting. He's got appropriate reactions to the situations.
Are you hoping to establish a kind of status quo for the property once you reach issue #6, or do you always want there to be this sense of upheaval in the book where no one knows what's going on?
Ultimately, that's what I'm bringing to it. That's my vision for it. It needs to separate itself from the G.I. Joe franchise. It needs to be a separate thing. If it's just another, "Hey, we're the good guys!" and "Hey, we're the bad guys!" then no one's going to give a shit. It's just going to be a watered down, second rate version of that. So in order to give it its own thing, as the rosters exchange between these two bands, I think it's more interesting as an examination of motivations and letting the readers decide which motivation is right or wrong.
One motivation might be "If you kill 500 people in a certain situation, you can save 100,000" and you have to kill them, you have to murder 500 people to save 100,000. Is murdering 500 people okay? There are various degrees of ends justifying the means like that. I see as the thing moves forward, I think it would be more interesting if it continued to be bouncing back and forth between the Marauders and the Corps but never clearly defining either as just good or bad.
Have the owners of the toy company had any adverse reaction to this idea?
We've gone back and forth on it. They have clearly got a good and a bad guy team in their heads. And most people will probably end up seeing the Corps as the good guys, but I'd like to make sure that the Marauders' motivations are identifiable to some people as well. And even people who don't agree with them should feel, "I believe that people would feel that way or come up with that." And the toy company and the guys at Devil's Due have responded to that. I think that it's paramount in something like this, and it will really help define it and separate it from something that's similar.