Strength of Character: Casey talks "G.I. Joe: America's Elite"

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The G.I. Joe-Cobra war is coming to a close. The Joes have experienced heavy losses and now they find themselves not only fighting the remaining forces of Cobra, but a new terrorist threat as well, the Red Shadows. The team is outgunned and wounded, but the G.I. Joe team won't back down, they'll step up and show the world why they are "America's Elite." The new monthly series, "G.I. Joe: America's Elite" written by Joe Casey with art by Stefano Casseli, launches this July from Devils Due Publishing with a special $.25 cent zero issue. Casey briefed CBR News on the new, more dangerous era for the G.I. Joe team.

What drew Casey to the monthly "G.I. Joe" book was the work of the title's previous writers. "Josh offered me the opportunity to take on the relaunch late last year. When he sent me the full DDP run that had been published up until that point, I was really impressed with how cool the series was," Casey told CBR News. "I give full props to Josh for bringing back this franchise with a true fan's passion. So, when a bar's set that high, the challenge alone gets me interested. The characters are great, the fans are a dedicated crowd, so I figured it'd be a fun ride."

When "G.I. Joe: America's Elite" begins, a year has passed since readers last saw the Joe team. The year allowed Casey to adopt more of a clean slate approach to the title. When the title begins, many new things are happening to the G.I. Joe team. "They've gone back to a covert status (which a few Joes jeopardize in the very first issue!), they've got a new CO and a new headquarters located in an American landmark" said Casey.

Casey would not reveal who would be part of the new team. "Readers will have to check out the book to find out the answers to those questions," he explained. "Seeing the new status quo is part of the fun."

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The G.I. Joe team isn't the only ones entering a new era. The Joe's principal adversary, Cobra, has undergone a number of changes as well. "This is the only thing I can say about the current series-- the way it wraps up has an enormous effect on Cobra and their presence in the world," Casey said. "I think Cobra Commander is one of the coolest villains in comic books and one of the main things we've set out to do with the new series is to reinstall a sense of mystique to him. He should be the heavy hitter in the Joe's universe, the man that truly gives them pause. And, even more worrisome than when he is around... is when he isn't. Cobra Commander will end up being the obsession of more than one of the Joes."

Readers shouldn't expect to immediately see a huge number of former foes in "G.I. Joe: America's Elite." "Some of the Joes' adversaries are going to be placed on the shelf for awhile, at least for the first year," Casey explained. "One of my mandates has been to streamline things and provide a good jumping on point (yup, that old chestnut!) for any newcomers. Plenty of old favorites will be showing up for the party, but I'm keeping a tight focus so things don't ever spiral out of control. Sometimes, too many characters running around leaves no room for real drama."

There is one old enemy readers will definitely see in the pages of "America's Elite." "Destro is probably one of my favorite characters, from way back when I first saw the action figure that one of my childhood friends-- who was the G.I. Joe collector of our little clique-- got for his birthday," Casey explained. "Maybe because he's got a real Doctor Doom thing going for him. He's regal and evil at the same time. And, of course, the death of the Baroness has made him more driven than ever, but in a whole new way."

In addition to old threats the G.I. Joe team will also be battling new opponents. Casey said that expanding the Joe's universe was another reason for the relaunch.

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The plot of the book won't be broken up into short multi-part arcs. "I haven't really been writing any of my comic books in 'arcs' lately," Casey said. "I think the whole 'Part 1 of X'-mentality has been burned out lately. Issue #0 kicks off a long story that will take many twists and turns through the first year of the series. Character relationships and old rivalries take center stage, accompanying catastrophic events that put the 'war' back into G.I. Joe as a 'war comic.'"

The tone of "America's Elite" will reflect what Casey feels is the book's most important elements. "Military-styled, hi-octane action plus deeper characterization and emotional drama," Casey said. "We want readers to get reinvested in the characters again. If we can do that, mission accomplished."

Casey hopes that the characters and their interactions will become the primary reason readers pick up 'G.I. Joe: America's Elite." "I think the main difference between the new series and previous volumes is that harder focus on character relationships. Sometimes readers of a franchise that's been around for awhile can start to care more about the characters because of their own personal attachment rather than the events that take place within the actual stories themselves. It's only natural and it's one of the great things about comic books, that kind of intense reader interaction and the way certain characters spark the imagination. What we're hoping is to get people talking about the actual stories again, seeing exactly what happens to these characters right on the page and getting caught up in it."

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