Kyle Baker Deploys His "Special Forces"

Tue, July 17th, 2007 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Michael Patrick Sullivan, Contributing Writer

"Special Forces" #1, on sale August 22

Kyle Baker has established himself as a modern renaissance man of comics. As an Eisner and Harvey Award-winning writer and illustrator, Baker has worked on iconic DC and Marvel characters without ever losing the indie cred he earned with such graphic novels as "Why I Hate Saturn" and "You Are Here." Now, Baker brings his sense of humor and of outrage together in a biting satire about the state of the United States military, "Special Forces." Baker briefly spoke with CBR about the six-issue miniseries.

"First and foremost, this book is about teenage hot-bodies blowing shit up," Kyle Baker told CBR News. "All the best comic books are about fights and teenage angst. You want messages, buy a phone. This story is more about teenagers growing up in the 21st century. A world where kids post suicide manifestos on YouTube before shooting up their school with easily obtained automatic weapons. A world where the hot underground drugs are Adderall and Xanax. You can't make this stuff up."

"Special Forces" is a comedy based primarily on recent news stories about armed forces recruiting scandals. "The military is so desperate for troops right now that they're letting almost anyone in," said Baker. "The main ['Special Forces'] characters are criminally violent girl, an autistic boy, a crooked recruiter, a 'don't ask, don't tell,' and an obese guy. There's a black guy, but everybody knows the black guy always dies first.

"They all go to Iraq to battle terrorism. It's a story about how young Americans from different cultural backgrounds confront their individual character flaws and become better people by uniting toward the higher purpose of bringing freedom and democracy to the oppressed savages of Iraq. This miracle is accomplished without the aid of armor or clean water. Also, about one million people get killed. Lots of explosions and gunfights."

"Special Forces" #2
Baker mentioned a specific news story that particularly inspired the series. "Last year, the Army recruited two autistic kids and tried to send them to fight in Iraq," Baker explained, referring to the case of Jared Guinther, who was diagnosed as autistic at the age of three and at the age of eighteen was allowed to enlist in the United States military with an eye toward the position of cavalry scout, one of the most dangerous assignments. Guinther was released from his commitment when his family protested the enlistment and the recruiter's refusal to accept his medical records. The recruiters involved are now being investigated.

"It's in the newspaper every day," said Baker when asked about research for the project. "About ten pages after the Lindsay Lohan and Anna Nicole stories. "

On the surface, the irreverent tone and military setting of "Special Forces" may put readers in the mind of such films as "M*A*S*H" or "Stripes." Baker agrees, "It's exactly like those two films, also 'Dr. Strangelove,' and 'Catch-22.' Every generation needs their war comedy."

While recognized for his creative innovation, Baker chose to go in a more familiar direction, artistically, when it comes to "Special Forces."

"My new creative innovation is to draw it in the old style I used on Marvel Comics in the '80's," said Baker. "It'll look a lot like 'Why I Hate Saturn' and 'The Shadow.'"

"Special Forces" #3
A political satire such as "Special Forces" is likely to draw attention from quarters outside comics, and indeed it has. Baker's even had inquiries from the film industry. What he hasn't heard from is the United States Government itself. Said Baker, "I hope the military knows they have bigger problems than cartoons."

"Special Forces" is one of Baker's first projects to be published by Image Comics. After having operated Kyle Baker Publishing for the previous two years, "I was spending all my time at the Post Office," Baler explained. "I didn't realize that publishing involves making lots of packages and invoicing and purchase orders. If a book is successful, you will have to make hundreds of little packages, invoices, and [post office] visits. It was taking time away from the cartooning. Image is run by cartoonists --good ones-- and I don't get into arguments about format."

Beyond "Special Forces," Baker has much in the pipeline, both from Image and elsewhere. "Two more 'Bakers; books," said Baker, referring to the comedic graphic novels based on his family life, "and the long-awaited 'Important Literary Journal,'" being Baker's upcoming parody of high-art comics. "I'm doing a lot of animation, which can be seen at kylebaker.com. Inexplicably, I'm making income on the website, so I'm putting more energy into it."

"Special Forces" hits the stands August 22, 2007.

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