At WizardWorld Chicago, Devil's Due Entertainment set out to prove that crafting a top military-fueled comic book doesn't necessarily mean that things have to come Government Issue. Today, the publisher announced a new six-issue mini series based on Lanard Toys' long-running action figure line The Corps! to be written by Rick Remender ("Fear Agent," "Punisher War Journal") and drawn by Roberto Carlos with a kick off cover by Tony Shasteen ("Occult Crimes Taskforce") and designs by superstar Lenil Francis Yu.
For readers scratching their heads about the property, The Corps! debuted in 1986 on toy shelves across America and have remained in production to the present with their most noticeable feature being a virtual identical design to Hasbro's 3 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 had, what they lacked in depth they made up for with moxy including a string of codename's including Crusher McClosky, Lightening Mobutu and The Gasman and economically sensible three-pack figures.
"The premise is wide open," says Remender, promising an original and twist-laden take on the traditional toy licensed comic series. "I got to take a line of toys and write whatever premise I wanted to. That opened it up and made it into a pretty fun project. I think people who pick it up will dig it."
As for how the deal to create a comics mythology for The Corps! after over 20 years without one came about, Remender explained that the project came through former Image Comics employee and freelance editor/convention organizer Jim Demonakos. "Jim is an old friend of mine, he contacted me and said they needed somebody who could pull some asses into seats, and I said, 'Are you sure you got the right guy?' But Jim seemed to think I could pull some people towards the book."
Remender's plan for making "The Corps!" a viable comic series starts with a high concept that combines the gonzo qualities inherent in a toy-based storyline and a set of circumstances more reflective of today's world. "Basically, there's a self-made billionaire named Renton Des who sees in the governments around the world a need to be able to order covert operations while maintaining deniability," the writer explains. "He's a businessman - an entrepreneur. He creates a Blackwater-style organization, and in this complicated modern world stage offers a unique and profitable opportunity for a privately owned team that can accomplish these delicate assignments.
"That was one of the things that made this series interesting to me - I'm playing on the current world stage. We have a limit to how far we can take technological advances and science fiction stuff. It is definitely a little bit above where we're at currently, and that's fun because you don't want to have everything based in reality. But the current world stage is the current world stage, and so I get to make subtle commentary. Having a group of military characters that are grounded in reality makes for a much more interesting approach."
And while the history of The Corps! toy line may be filled with a hodge-podge of military characters from the entirety of the armed forces, Remender is hard at task crafting a story that will pull those disparate elements into something practical and fun. "Once I had my high concept and knew what the team and the objective were and what the bad guys were all about, I went from the standpoint of 'How do I make all of these characters fit into this world? What specifically are their roles?' As I worked on the beats, it was about finding out how their roles had a purpose beyond, 'Hey! I'm the water guy!' and figuring out adventures where a water guy would be a necessary component instead of a Deus Ex Machina. So I tweaked the story a bit to fit the characters and vice versa."
And in building those characters, Remender ran wild in changing and adding different tropes until the makeup of The Corps! team lined up with his ideal military unit. "I've been given carte blanche to introduce some of my characters as well, so I created three or four new characters that were akin to what I wanted to do while drawing from what they had," he says. "You've got your mechanic. You've got your leader. You've got your ice climber guy and some aerial assault force guys. There's a team of covert ops guys. With that many characters, you don't want to introduce them all at once, and you don't want to haphazardly place them in the story."
The team readers will be seeing when the series starts up later this year includes squad leader Ricochet who "you can play him off as that ultra serious, alpha male type who is barking orders and taking charge, but inevitably you want to keep the deck stacked against them" as Remender notes, as well as Hiro "Ghost" Namura - "A descendent of some feudal era bad asses, but he's a modern 'Splinter Cell' looking guy" - and Hugo "Shadow" Ortiz who provides a more covert element to the core team.
The villains of the piece include aerial assault trooper Vulture, poisons expert Plague and Ravage, the leader. "He's an anarchist at heart, and he's a sociopath with a clear objective. He wants to spread chaos and see the world brought down to anarchy. But before that, he wants enough money so he can secure himself an island," laughs the writer. "An anarchist who's money-minded seems a little hypocritical, but you're dealing with schizophrenic sociopaths, so I think it's understandable."
While the rest of the story points will remain slightly secretive until the first issue hits stands, Remender feels that a major selling point for the series will be the ability for the book to turn on a dime and deliver for readers what they'd never expect from a toy tie-in comic. "So far I'm being given free reign to tell the story how I want it, so hopefully that'll make for a more interesting licensed property," he says. "An appealing element to a book like this is that I can change things. I can have character arcs and major shifts so people taking the chance on reading something new, if they stick around, which I think they will - the end of the story's landscape is drastically different than the beginning. I don't think you can do that with most licenses."
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