IDW Publishing has announced at Comic-Con International that, following an arc by SL Gallant, Robert Atkins will return to the ongoing “G.I. Joe” series. Atkins illustrated the first six issues of the main title, written by Chuck Dixon, which runs concurrently with two other “G.I. Joe” titles and finds the real American heroes struggling to keep a step ahead of Cobra, a mysterious terrorist organization. Atkins's next arc will run in issues #13-17. CBR News caught up with the artist to discuss what he's got in store and his experiences developing the current series.
Atkins started by saying that his next arc would have a “definitely more classic 'G.I. Joe vs. Cobra' feel.” “I think some of the comments that were made about the main series after the launch is that it's kind of rolling out at a slow pace. That was done purposefully, I think there's a lot of reasons for it,” the artist said. “But in this next arc, there's a lot of action, a lot of 'G.I. Joe vs. Cobra.'”
He then added hesitantly, “As far as major plot points, we'll see a couple new Joes introduced to the cast. And there will definitely be a G.I. Joe character that people are familiar with that's going to die.”
Though some fans will undoubtedly be upset at this character's demise, Atkins said that mortality is in keeping with “G.I. Joe's” concept. “The whole idea is that, while we still keep part of the sci-fi with the high-tech weapons and so forth, for the most part it should still feel like a war,” he explained. “People are going to be shooting at each other, and they're not always going to miss.”
Atkins said that he enjoys the increased profile of his “G.I. Joe” comics as the live-action film nears its nationwide release. He also praised IDW's planning of the three “G.I. Joe” titles--the main series plus “Origins” and “Cobra”--since the company relaunched the property. “The amount of exposure the series is getting is great for IDW. It certainly boosted their position in the publishing ranks,” Atkins said. “They were brilliant in how they decided to market the book and the release schedule so that, when the movie came out, three trades' worth of G.I. Joe stories would be available. That was just really good timing and really smart on their part. They worked really closely with Hasbro to make the most of it, certainly.”
Atkins also noted that, while IDW is also publishing movie tie-in books, there was no pressure on him from either the publisher or licensor Hasbro to match the comic universe to the film. “I think the most excitement for the movie is that G.I. Joe fans get to see their characters on the screen. While that will bring added attention to the comics, I don't think that puts added pressure on me to make it look like the movie. It really just brings added hype, as a creator, to the creation.”
Unlike some other titles that resurfaced during the nostalgia boom earlier this decade, “G.I. Joe” has endured and thrived, a feat that Atkins attributes to the strength of the property itself. “If you were a kid in the '80s, you know who G.I. Joe is,” the artist said. “When G.I. Joe was big, I was into the cartoon first, because I was the age when that appealed to me. When I got older, I got into the figures, the vehicles. I think I was too young to appreciate them, I was always blowing them up.” Atkins's relationship with “G.I. Joe” would evolve when he accepted his first professional solo work illustrating “Snake Eyes: Declassified” for Devil's Due. “Knowing that I was doing Snake Eyes, I just dived into researching all the previous comics. That's when I really jumped into reading the old Marvel series and everything Devil's Due had put out.”
When “G.I. Joe” moved from Devil's Due to IDW, Atkins was invited to work on character designs for the rebooted comic universe. “That was a lot of exciting, and that helped me feel more a part of the series,” he said.
“I think what appeals to me about the property itself is the characters and their individuality,” he continued. “They work as a team, it's a very classic good-versus-evil, you know who to root for, type of property. I'm really excited about it because it's a big part of my career so far, and of course a big part of my childhood. It's always cool when those things match up.”