IDW Exclaims, "Yo Joe!"

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“We're aiming to reach a new audience, sure. But mainly, for me, because this is true of me, I want to get all those G.I. JOE fans back who have migrated elsewhere. I stopped paying attention as a fan, and now I'm totally into this! I want to get all those people back, and the reboot is a good way to do it.”

So says IDW Senior Editor Andy Schmidt in regards to the publisher’s recent acquisition of the G.I Joe licence. Some would say IDW was the next natural home for the much loved ’80s toy and toon powerhouse, as the publisher has steadily increased their output with well-known properties from the world of film and TV. Before G.I Joe their most recent acquisition was that other 80s franchise. “I think IDW's success with TRANSFORMERS couldn't have hurt!” agrees Schmidt.

After Hasbro witnessed the San Diego company’s take, and the multitude of titles that pleased the abundance of TransFans, they wisely gave IDW the keys to the Joe kingdom. “I can tell you that working with Hasbro has been very smooth on my end. I certainly get the sense that everyone on IDW's side is very pleased with the G.I. JOE license and cast of characters.”

Schmidt believes it was one word that enticed Hasbro to IDW after a 7 year run at Devil’s Due Productions; reboot. “I'm not sure where the reboot idea started, but when I came on board I was lucky enough to dig in and help shape the new direction--the new beginning--for G.I. JOE. Pretty awesome,” he enthused. “I think that Hasbro appreciated our commitment to the characters and to the strength of the brand. When they heard our plan to launch not 1 or even 2 titles--but 3, I think they knew that we were backing them 110%.”

Schmidt understands the boldness of starting a new title with 3 unique series, but reveals that such an endeavour wasn’t necessarily a given. “It started as one and when we saw how that was going so well, we knew we had something really special on our hands and two other titles naturally fit into the world we were creating. This is going to be great!” Rather than simply flooding the shelves in order to fill thirty-something fanboys with nostalgia, IDW believe that the strength of the line comes from the diversity that each of the books bring.

Schmidt explains the difference, “G.I. JOE (with no subtitle) launches in January with writer Chuck Dixon and artist Robert Atkins and it's the most mainstream of the three. It's your big action book with the largest cast of characters--it's great stuff! G.I. JOE: ORIGINS launches in February and it details the earliest days of the organization.

“This is where Larry Hama and Tom Feister are re-defining who these characters are. This book completely reimagines what it means to be a member of G.I. JOE. G.I. JOE: COBRA launches in March with writers Christos Gage and Mike Costa with artist by long-time G.I. JOE fan Antonio Fuso. This is the book that looks into the dark side of Cobra. We follow an under cover operative into the belly of the beast. Very dark--very suspenseful. This is a fight for a man's soul.”

Apart from Hasbro, there is another name of equal value to the Real American Heroes. Veteran writer Larry Hama’s name is synomonous with G.I Joe, as he virtually lead the charge as the sole writer of the first series by Marvel, which lasted over 150 issues. Bringing Hama on board was a wise decision and surely one which will please life-long fans.  “Larry's got the book where he gets to play with the core characters and define them for the rest of us. So, I think this is still really Larry's show.”

Of course, all heroes need enemies to battle, and in the new series it may not be COBRA alone who cause the Joes their grief, teased Schmidt. “ The new villain appears in Larry's ORIGINS book and he/she/they is/are really different from COBRA. And very nasty. COBRA itself which is handled in the other two books is quite different as well. But I think fans will like the adjustments.”

Schmidt has some adjusting to do himself, as the overseer of the line, who must balance creative satisfaction from his creators with brand integrity from Hasbro. “There's an inherent assumption in the question that Hasbro is somehow trying to impede the creative process and that's just not the case. Hasbro chose IDW and IDW's battle plan. Hasbro has been very encouraging and enthusiastic, “ Schmidt corrects. “As for my approach, I'm dealing with a lot of opinions, so I try to take myself out of the equation as much as possible. My job is to help the storytellers tell those stories to the best of their ability.

“So, I think on my end, there's a lot of coordination. I want all the writers seeing what everyone else is doing so they can play off of each other and get excited by it. I toss in ideas for them to use if they wish, but I don't mandate that they must. I'm quality control and I'm interference when I need to be (which is almost never). I'm the tie-breaker vote, as it were. It's a lot of work, but these books are turning out great, so it seems to be paying off!”

Now that IDW hold the patriotic heroes as well as the transforming robots in their stable, the obvious question on reader’s minds must be a potential cross-over at some point, as has occurred with past licence holders. However, Schmidt is playing coy for the moment.

Crossovers for crossovers' sake is just a gimmick. And I won't say that it will never happen--but it won't happen just because. With the right story and the right take on it, it could be great. But at this point, I don't see the TRANSFORMERS fitting into the world of G.I. JOE as it's being created now. It's just a little too fantastic for us at the moment.”

What else is fantastic is the growing list of IDW licences, which also includes Angel, Doctor Who and Star Trek . Yet surely there must be further dream properties that Scmidt and co. would love to see stamped with the IDW banner one day. “I'd love to see ROM here!” Schmidt admits.

Apart from planning the future of their newest title, IDW are also looking back to where it all began. Bringing Hama on board must have inspired the team at IDW to reflect on the Japanese American’s classic tales at Marvel, as they now have plans to republish them for a new generation of fans.

“I'm not sure what other people here think, but I think it has to do with respect. Respect for the fans who have supported G.I. JOE for so long and who deserve a very good treatment of the foundation material and I think it has to do with respect for G.I. JOE itself. What we're doing exists because of those comics even though we're not following the same continuity. It's important that we know where we came from and honor that.”

IDW is the fourth publisher of G.I Joe, but Schmidt doesn’t believe for a second that there are no new Joe stories yet to be told. “I think we've gathered an outstanding group of creators for G.I. JOE--people who really care about the characters and the success of the franchise. There are new voices and old. I think what we're delivering is a total package for everyone interested in reading a great G.I. JOE comic.”

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