The GeeksverseTalking G.I. Joe With John Barber

Talking G.I. Joe With John Barber
Published on Thursday, March 1, 2012 by

We got a chance to talk with IDW’s G.I. Joe line editor John Barber about where the books go post Cobra Command and writing the Retaliation prequels.

Comixverse: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. You came aboard G.I. Joe in
the middle of the Cobra Civil War. How far along was the the plotting
of the story and how much of Cobra Command was plotted?

Cobra #12 - Antonio Fuso

John Barber: It was pretty much set up. Because of the logistics of the 9 issues intertwined that made up Cobra Command, everything really had to be locked in place before we could even get started. Cobra Civil War was all plotted out, and Cobra Command was too, several of those scripts were even in place, approved, and being drawn by Alex Cal.

The second season of the G.I. Joe books have been two larger stories, running through the three books. Will this continue after Cobra Command or will each book go back to telling their own stories? (Editor’s note: the first batch of questions were asked prior to the last round of solicitations)

They’ll get back to telling their own stories, with a different mandate. G.I. Joe will still be about the G.I. Joe team, of course—but the events of Cobra Command will have radically changed the team dynamics and the set-up. Snake Eyes will have a very different status quo as well, that should please a lot of people! And Cobra will maybe the most changed of all, in a way. Still Mike Costa and Antonio Fuso, still great comics, but a very exciting new direction that I can’t explain too much without spoiling Cobra Command.

One of the things that made the original G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero so good was seeing the toys in the pages of the book. I’ve noticed that there have been more recognizable vehicles, even some from the latest releases of the toys, showing up in the pages of the books, more so then when IDW first started the Joe books. Was there a push to include more direct toy designs?

Not any specific push, really—we’re all fans, too, so when Cobra made a big move, it made sense to include some of the toys. Some of the weapons and vehicles are all new, some are classics… I think we’ll see more of that in the future.

G.I. Joe: ARAH #176 Pg 11

There have been alot of new Joes created in the IDW books. Do all of these codenames have to be cleared with Hasbro before showing up in the book, even if the character is only one and done, showing up for just that issue and then dying?

Everything’s cleared with Hasbro—they’re very much part of the storytelling day-in-day-out, and a very welcome partner they are! They’re all very creative people at Hasbro—and of course, huge fans of the brand, same way everybody working at a comic book company is a big comics fan. So we’re bouncing ideas back and forth all the time, and the names are no different. Somebody that shows up for one panel is, in reality, less a big deal than somebody who comes in and sticks around, of course. But I talk to Michael Kelly at Hasbro every day, just about, and we talk about all this stuff.

Joe is a war comic and death is part of that. There is some criticism about the one and done characters, of Joe falling into the Star Trek “red shirt” problem. With Joe there have been enough named deaths, but how do you toe the line between the red shirts and the named?

It’s a tough balancing act. You don’t want to off-handedly do away with somebody’s favorite character, right? But sometimes, for the deaths to mean something, it needs to be somebody important. Sometimes, though—like you say—it’s a war comic and we’re losing people that we don’t know. It’s a tricky business. I don’t really have an answer to how we toe the line; sometimes you just have to feel it out.

Brainstorm was a fobbit, and recently killed, will we see any other IDW named characters receive a significant role?

Yeah, you’ll see some new characters popping up around G.I. Joe #13.

One of the fun books that came out during the original run was the Order Of Battle. Any chance of seeing a new version of that?

That’d be really cool, wouldn’t it? Logistically challenging, but very cool. So, um, good idea. Maybe.

Chuck Dixon has done a good job of setting the Joes up into set squads. Will we see a listing of who is in those squads? Is there a listing?

Yeah, there is a breakdown. It’s somewhat fluid—it’s not the same after Cobra Command as before, but that might be something worth running. Man, that’s another good idea. Two for two, Troy!

The end of the first season had the Joes discover a Cobra moonbase. It’s been long enough, the Cobras are probably dead by now, but will we see the moonbase return?

I talked to Chuck about that a while back. Are they dead? Hmmmm…

Snake Eyes #11 - Alex Cal

I just noticed in the new Previews that Snake Eyes becomes Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow. Is this a result of Cobra Command or planned from the beginning of the series?

Well—both! That’s what I was hinting at earlier, about the big change on the Snake Eyes series. We’ll have a lot of ninja action, and a lot of mystery going on. Snake Eyes is so enigmatic a character, I think putting him in a situation like Chuck Dixon has, where his motivations become less clear, really casts the character in a very cool light. There are times where you’re not sure as the reader what kind of a game Snake Eyes is playing. And Robert Atkins, by the way, returns to the G.I. Joe books and really brings this action to life in a tremendously powerful way.

So, anyway—to answer your question—Cobra Command was pretty much planned from the start, or anyway everybody knew that Cobra Civil War was leading to something like that when the Snake Eyes series started. So in a way, the change to Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow was planned from the beginning. The idea to change the title evolved naturally as it went on.

Devil’s Due created a couple of characters that, many years later, became figures (Wraith and Zanya). When will we see the first IDW created character appear in figure form?

G.I. Joe #12 - Will Rosado

Well—that’s a good question! I think that’d be a lot of fun, but you’d have to ask somebody at Hasbro. I think they have a lot of good material coming out already, but that would be a cool honor.

IDW’s continuity is pretty different from any other version of Joe out there, but there are some things that cross the different continuities (Dial-Tone being female, Ripcord being african american). Dial-Tone was made female in Resolute and Ripcord was from Rise of Cobra. Has there been anything that IDW has created that will now be influencing other continuties?

I think everything winds up influencing everything else, to one degree or another. There are specific things like you point out, and there are wider tonal influences, and every iteration of the G.I. Joe brand, I think, has to be aware of the other ones. I don’t know if it’s always measurable, but I think an influence where some of the best parts of one take on the G.I. Joe brand will come through to others, as time goes on.

You wrote the Retaliation Prequel comics, so I’m assuming you’ve seen the script. Is there anything from Retaliation that you’d like to work into the IDW-verse. Also, is it difficult to deal with the two different continuities (Retaliation vs IDW)?

Well, I can’t really say anything about G.I. Joe: Retaliation (other than the fact that everything I know about it makes me very excited to see it!). In terms of bringing things in from the film to the comics continuity… I like to celebrate the differences when I’m working (in different capacities) in the different continuities. I think a story in the Retaliation world wouldn’t necessarily work in an issue of Cobra, or vice versa. The physics of the worlds are just a little different, if that makes any sense. The nuances of the characters are a little different, too. I like that there are different feels for the different stories, myself.

It’s sometimes hard to keep track of where certain characters are in my head between all the different worlds IDW plays in, but really—it’s all about focusing on the story at hand and telling the best one you can.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation Prequel #3 Pg 4

You edit the G.I. Joe books, wrote the Retaliation prequels and you’re writing one of the Transformers books. Were you a fan of the toys growing up?

Oh yeah, of both. I got my first G.I. Joe figures from wave 1; Flash and Rock N Roll. I had a ton of them. Well, actually, ask my dad—I still have a ton of them at his house, up in the attic! My nephew plays with the Transformers a lot, but he hasn’t managed to crawl up to where the G.I. Joe toys are yet.

Yeah, I was absolutely what you might call an avid fan of the toys and the comics and the cartoon. I sent away for Hooded Cobra Commander and even before that—what was the first send-away? The Cobra Soldier or the Cobra Officer? I’m not going to look it up… but yeah, big big fan. Even more than that, G.I. Joe and Transformers were the comics that got me into comics. I owe my professional and artistic life to G.I. Joe, in a very real way!

G.I. Joe and Transformers were got me into comics as well, and I think a lot of other people too.

Yeah, definitely. One of the things I really appreciate about that is that—much as I love superheroes, and I do love superheroes—because I started with a military-action comic and a science-fiction series about mechanical life forms, I never had any sort of correlation where “comic books equal superheroes.” I think that’s a good thing.

Thanks to John for talking with us. Sounds like things are going to get exciting in the Joe books. If you’re not reading them, now would be a good time to start.

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