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G.I. Joe: Back to the Future with Andy Schmidt

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Hasbro has two important franchises in today’s world of pop culture: Transformers and G.I. Joe. And there is one man who has worked on the printed adventures of both.

Andy Schmidt is a former Marvel editor and the current editor of IDW Publishing, but he also has a growing list of titles under his belt as a writer, such as Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and the weekly series 5 Days To Die. His latest title is a bold interpretation of the classic G.I. Joe characters, with black-and-white art supplied by Giacomo Bevilacqua, and an intriguing environment for the fan-favorite adventurers.

BROKEN FRONTIER: What’s the significance of the title Future Noir beyond just sounding cool?

ANDY SCHMIDT: Honestly, it's mostly that it sounds cool. This is one project where I just let my gut go and had as much fun as possible. Kind of went in some crazy directions for a G.I. Joe story. Of course I made sure that the story makes sense and flows and that there are good character arcs and such, but this is a let's-just-have-fun kind of project. Keison (the artist with many names), Carlos the editor and I just had a blast putting this together. And we didn't have a title. We'd been calling it G.I. Joe: Manga, but that wasn't exactly what the book was, and so we just hit on Future Noir as sounding cool and evoking what the book is. It's not true noir, but it is set in the future.

BF: Was Hasbro accommodating with this rather surprising direction?

SCHMIDT: Absolutely. I had pitched the basic idea as a way to use some of the more fantastical elements of the old G.I. Joe comics and cartoon without going overboard in the current comics continuity. This was pitched as a way to use some elements that were kind of off the table for story reasons, and go crazy with them in a setting (and continuity) where that would be acceptable.

Hasbro was very receptive from the beginning. Turns out they had once had a similar vision for a past project, so it worked out very well.  They've been great!

BF: What is it about G.I. Joe that can fit into different interpretations, from the classic 1980s cartoon to Warren Ellis’ approach in the Resolute series to Future Noir?

SCHMIDT: It's an extremely malleable franchise because it originally launched (well, re-launched in the 1980s, I should say) with many different elements. It's a military task force, but it has ninjas and it operates almost independently to take on the most vague of threats (yes, the organization called COBRA), but what they do is hard to pin down. Right there, you've got military, adventure, martial arts (which leads into mysticism) and super technology which leads into science fiction. So, from the onset, the ground work was laid for multiple genres.

And to this day, go to any G.I. Joe fan site and you can see the constant debate of what is and what is not acceptable to the fans in a G.I. Joe story. In this one, we embrace the science fiction and adventure aspects. In the current IDW line of comics, we embrace the military and some aspects of science fiction. And in yet a third continuity, we embrace some of the more mystical aspects with the ninja characters.

It's just built to be able to do all of these things which keeps it interesting to work on. Heck, even within the IDW line we've also got a spy-thriller comic that's been met with a huge critical response.

BF: Did you have to do any research or is the series less rooted in reality?

SCHMIDT: It's definitely less rooted in reality. It's set in the future and the world is a very different place. Lots of tech weapons and equipment and a kind of James Bond over-the-top action style, so it's rooted in a reality that resembles our own, but is different.

BF: Why publish this story in two extra-sized issues rather than a traditional, longer mini-series?

SCHMIDT: You know, I'm not really sure. Each issue was 26 pages instead of 22 and I think they felt like soliciting a 52-page comic sounded pretty cool. Also, we've found lately that when we release something a little more quickly, it tends to be a more immediate (for obvious reasons) reading experience.

I'm coming off of my own weekly series, 5 Days To Die, in September and the response to that was really remarkable, so I think maybe it's just becoming my schtick! Ha ha.

BF: Which characters can we expect to see and will there be any new creations?

SCHMIDT: There's a new COBRA guy named King Cobra. For this setting, I didn't think Cobra Commander really worked for the way COBRA operates, so we created someone new for a similar kind of position. He looks pretty darn cool, I think.

On the G.I. Joe side of things, we've got Duke, Scarlett, Agent Helix, Sci Fi, Roadblock, and Snake Eyes. And of course Hawk, too.

BF: Did you already have in mind what new looks the characters would sport, or did you work closely with Giacomo Bevilacqua?

SCHMIDT: Giacomo (or Keison as I call him) did the designs with the most basic notes from me. I knew I wanted Scarlett's crossbow and I had ideas for sci-fi that were particular, but I really only mentioned stuff that I thought had a story reason to be in there. He'd turn in preliminary designs and we'd get Hasbro's input and add our own (Carlos and I) and we just work-shopped the designs; again, going for stuff that just felt or looked cool or fun. There's really no good reason for someone in the future to have a crossbow mounted on her wrist, but it is kind of cool.

BF: How important are franchises like G.I. Joe and True Blood and Doctor Who to IDW, and do you find readers move on to other titles after discovering your more well-known series?

SCHMIDT: Right now, they're very important. The loyal fan base from those books may try other things, but really these comics put a roof over our heads. We're still a very small publisher. We have a quarter of the number of employees that Dark Horse does and we're all busting our humps to make sure we're in the black each and every month. And the more books like these that we have that are successful, the more smaller independent books we can do as well.

In other words, these are the comics that are our life's blood.

BF: Your recently announced Infestation crossover generated a lot of buzz, understandably. Is this a chance to distinguish yourselves from other publishers with franchise books?

SCHMIDT: Sure, it's an opportunity to do that, but much like Future Noir, Infestation is based on the idea of just having as much fun with the characters and properties as possible. I laughed my butt off when I read that there would be a zombie Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. And the idea for G.I. Joe is really creepy and claustrophobic and cool.

BF: Will we see other similar approaches to the Joes universe down the track, or will there be a Doctor Who or Star Trek or Ghostbusters: Future Noir?

SCHMIDT: No plans for more at this point. Let's just see what the reaction is like to this and then we'll take it from there.

G.I. Joe: Future Noir #1 is available now from IDW Publishing. The second, and final, issue will be released on December 1.

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