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Brandon Jerwa: Declassified

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Brandon Jerwa came onto the comic book scene as a writer for Devil’s Due Publishing’s G.I. Joe: Frontline. After a brief time co-writing with Josh Blaylock on the core G.I. Joe title, Jerwa took the reigns himself, leading the team through major upheavals and revelations. Having set the stage for Joe Casey’s G.I. Joe: America’s Elite, Jerwa visits the Broken Frontier, to talk about his passion for G.I. Joe, his time on the title and his latest projects.

Broken Frontier - How did your love of G.I. Joe start?

Brandon Jerwa - It all started on an end-cap in the toy department of a K-Mart in Manhattan, Kansas – this was in late spring, 1982. The very unique cool of the toy line brought me in, but the characterization and overall mythos of the Marvel comic is what really KEPT me in. I was already a devoted comic reader by that time, and having the instant gratification of a comic AND action figures was the power of marketing at its best. I was there at the beginning and I’m still here now.

BF - How did your relationship with Devil's Due begin?

BJ - It started in 2001. I was unemployed in Portland, Oregon and feeling restless. I’d apply for jobs during the day and sit up at night pondering the “what am I going to do with my life” question that comes along with unemployment. I told my wife “if I’m going to have this time away from work, I’m going to pursue something I’ve always wanted to do.” She agreed completely, and I sat down to write two scripts: one was a superhero book that went to Dark Horse (rejected) and the other a G.I. Joe submission that would eventually become my debut arc in Front Line, “History Repeating”.

BF - The recently completed Master and Apprentice Volume II didn't seem to gain the same level of appreciation that the first series did. What do you think was the reason for this?

BJ - Honestly? I have no idea! I was actually quite happy with the book, and I wish it would have resonated with the readers as deeply as the first series did. I’m hoping that once it’s collected, people will gain a new appreciation for it. That happened for a few folks with the predecessor, so fingers are crossed that the same will ring true here…

BF - It's fairly public knowledge that there were certain elements you were expected to set up for the upcoming Joe Casey run on G.I. Joe - if you had been given complete creative control, are there any changes you would have made to G.I. Joe #43 [Jerwa’s final issue]?

BJ - Oh, if I’d had complete control, 42 and 43 wouldn’t even vaguely resemble their final output. My original plan for the Red Shadows was vastly different, and wouldn’t have been so… tacked-on? There was supposed to be a much more gradual build on that, a more organic progression of events.

BF - Is there any character(s) that you would have liked to develop further?

BJ - All of them! Specifically, though, I wish I would have had more time to see my long-term plans through for A) the new characters I brought in, and B) the ones that I had clearly set on a path, like Hawk. Nothing I did was arbitrary; if a character went through a significant experience, they did so with a long-term plan in mind. Unfortunately, the clock ticked down and those plans can’t be carried out, so I can only hope that Joe Casey (or anyone else) will do right by them.

BF - What aspect of your writing do you think most improved over the course of your Joe run?

BJ - I guess that would be my adaptability to outside elements and direction. I don’t know if my editors would agree, but I think I tried my best to work in everything they asked for.

BF - What do you think your run on G.I. Joe will be best remembered for?

BJ - Only time and the reflection of the readers will reveal that, but I’d like to think that I brought a sense of an overall larger story, important new characters and some twists and turns people weren’t expecting. Also, I think I managed to take some of the key figures and bring out new aspects of their personalities and stories. Still, this is all a bunch of stuff I hope people took away from the experience…

BF - Your next G.I. Joe project is Snake-Eyes: Declassified. What is this series about?

BJ - This is the definitive Snake-Eyes origin tale, re-told for today’s audience and put together in such a way as to eliminate specific dates. Originally, Larry Hama tied everything to the Vietnam War, and that just doesn’t work for us in the year 2005. Everything the die-hard fans know and love will be included here, but we’re also putting some curves on the road, some new paths for our hero to tread. The great thing is that this has really become a two-person origin story: you have the man who will be Snake-Eyes and the man who will eventually be Cobra Commander. As we get into the story, you find that they’re not so different in terms of their “square one”… it’s how they move across the board that separates them along the way and forges their character. Plus, you get lots of Storm Shadow, which is always a good thing…

BF - A number of long-time fans have pointed out that much of Snake-Eyes' early years have been recounted in the Marvel series. What should readers expect from this series? Will it provide a new back-story, a different take on it or something completely different?

BJ - Well, the thing that should be noted for sure is that while we have seen this story in the Marvel era, it’s never appeared in and of itself; it was always told in flashback as part of a present-day plot. This is just the straight-ahead story with nothing but its own weight to carry… and it’s a heavy one, believe me.

The other thing that needed to be addressed (along with the chronology of things) is the contradictory nature of SE’s origin. There were revisions made in later versions, and this version sorts those things out and streamlines them without destroying the original story in the process. Plus, I’m telling the “director’s cut” version here – there are so many little areas that need to be colored in, from the years at war to the Ninja training and the mission with the Joe team that would rob our hero of his face and his voice.

BF - This is almost an obligatory question - favorite Joes and favorite Cobras?

BJ - For the Joes (and this is from a writer’s standpoint): Kamakura, Hawk, General Rey and Barrel Roll.

Cobra: Destro, Cobra Commander, Overlord, Serpentor and Storm Shadow (although he’s far from a Cobra now!)

BF - What other projects do you have planned for the near future?

BJ - I have five specific irons in the fire right now:

1. A creator-owned property with a hot new company that will debut in San Diego.

2. A telling of the Japanese folk tale “Urashima Taro” that is currently under negotiations with one publisher, but things aren’t quite locked down yet.

3. A black and white trade version of “A Christmas Carol”, under negotiation with another publisher.

4. A second Joe team book that I’ve pitched to Devil’s Due.

5. A sci-fi screenplay called “Radius”.

BF - I know you just got back from Wizard World: Philly - any other convention stops planned for this summer?

BJ - I’m currently waiting on approval of my application for San Diego and I’ll be appearing at Dragon*Con in Atlanta as well.

BF - One interesting thing I learned while researching for this interview, was that you are part of a band. Could you tell the Broken Frontier readers a little about SD6?

BJ - Ah, the rock star dream never dies. SD6 is the end result of my industrial/new wave musical upbringing – electronic dance music with dark pop sensibilities and lots of beats and beeps. We play a few shows a year and are expecting to release our debut CD in early 2006, if all goes well. If you don’t mind the website plug, I’d like to invite your readers to visit Jessica, Nicole and I at www.sd6online.com – we have downloadable tracks for your ears, so come on over and take a listen!

Snake-Eyes: Declassified is solicited in June’s Previews catalogue for an August 2005 release.  For more about Brandon, you can visit the writer’s website at http://brandonjerwa.com/

- Fletch Adams

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