Last year's relaunch of the “G.I. Joe” comic franchise at IDW Publishing saw the release of three series examining different aspects of these Real American Heroes' world. The main series, titled simply “G.I. Joe,” follows the adventures of Duke, Scarlett, Snake Eyes, and company as they fight the emerging threat of Cobra, while “G.I. Joe: Origins” examined the team's foundations and the first “G.I. Joe: Cobra” miniseries told a tale of espionage. “Origins” was written by Larry Hama, whose history with the Joes dates back to the Hasbro property's days back at Marvel, and Chuck Dixon, who also writes the core title. Beginning with January's issue #11, “G.I. Joe Origins” began a series of one-issue spotlights featuring the defining moments of several heroic Joes and nefarious Cobra agents, written and illustrated by rotating creative teams. This month's special, though, not only features one of “G.I. Joe's” most intriguing villains but also the unexpected match up of “Manhunter” scribe Marc Andreyko and macabre artist Ben Templesmith. CBR News spoke with both creators about “G.I. Joe Origins” #12, on sale this week.
“G.I. Joe Origins” #12 reveals the early days of the Baroness, who left behind her wealthy aristocratic family to embark on a life of terrorism with Cobra. “As a kid, I was always fascinated by the Patty Hearst story (look her up, yung’uns!) and when Andy Schmidt (editor of all things 'G.I. Joe' at IDW) called me about doing a Baroness story, I immediately wanted to see what happened in her life that ultimately led her to Cobra,” writer Marc Andreyko told CBR. “Was she a good girl manipulated into doing bad or was this a life she actively pursued with the blinders off?
“I love the fact that she is such a hard-core character,” Andreyko added. “In many ways, I find her far more intimidating than Destro or Cobra Commander, mostly because the Baroness more than holds her own in the testosterone-laden world of the Joes.
“And I have to give Hasbro some major props on this one. My story is a little darker, a little grittier than the normal Joe story and the folks at Hasbro were totally supportive about the direction. You never know how working with licensors will be, and this time was an absolute dream.”
The creative team for the twelfth issue of “G.I. Joe Origins” differ significantly in their histories with the franchise. “Never watched the cartoon,” artist Ben Templesmith told CBR. “Barely read the comics until a bit later. I did, however, have a decent sized collection of Cobra figures and toy stuff. Loved all the Vipers. Always hated the actual Joes. Do-gooders never looked as cool as the bad guys, let’s be honest. I needed a few of course, otherwise, who would I burn with gasoline in my famous backyard bunker fights? Those that survived the massacres mostly ended up being sold off at swap meets in later life. I’m slowly trying to get a collection of Cobra sods back now.”
Andreyko, by contrast, said, “I was an old-school G.I. Joe fan – y’know, the 12-inch dolls, ahem, action figures, with the 'real hair' beards and buzzcuts.
"The Marvel/'80s 'G.I. Joe' became a phenomenon after I had already finished my toy buying phase as a kid, so my knowledge and interest in them came while researching this project," Andreyko continued. "I was pleasantly surprised with the depth of the characters and I wanna convince Ben that we should do a series of these 'bad-guy' one-shots!”
Andreyko made a name for himself writing another strong female lead over at DC with “Manhunter,” which is currently published as a backup feature in “Streets of Gotham.” As to how the Baroness differs from Kate Spencer, the prosecuting attorney-turned-superheroine, Andreyko said that, “in different circumstances, Kate could have gone down the same path as the Baroness.” “It’s interesting to explore a character who has not only accepted her darker impulses, but embraced them. If Baroness had a motto, I’d say it was 'no regrets, no apologies' and I’d probably add 'no mercy' to that as well.”
Artist Templesmith said that in addition to the appeal of drawing “ladies with guns,” this lady in particular gave him a lot to work with. “I do have a liking for strong female characters, especially ones with glasses. There is nothing like an intelligent woman who knows what she wants to do in life. If that’s take over the world, well, more power to her. That’s the reason I did a Cobra thing, basically. Bad guys are always much more interesting to me.”
Templesmith added that, while “G.I. Joe” may be thought of as a high-action series, his “Origins” issue is “more a character piece.” “I’ve done more action in 'Fell,' 'Wormwood,' and '30 Days of Night' a whole bunch of times,” Templesmith said. The differences between this issue and more usual dark, horror, and atmospheric fare came more in the creative process. “The script was very freeform, which I’m not used to but was quite refreshing as it allowed me to chose how many panels and the actual sequences of events a bit more. But yeah, no difference to the action. Drawing blokes shooting at each other is something I can do. I did try to be a little more respectful of actual weaponry tech and such, so less fantasy obviously, but the only major difference is it’s in my style a bit. Which is a little different for the typically comicybooky style look of 'GI Joe' and mainstream comics I guess.”
Asked to name a scene from the issue he particularly enjoyed bringing to life, though, Templesmith did choose an action sequence. “Baroness looking all snooty and badass in a doorway, after she just blew it up. See, I kinda wish I got to draw her like that a bit more!”
Andreyko said that working with Templesmith “makes me want to write stuff worthy of his art.” “I have been a huge fan of Ben’s for a looooong time and the opportunity to work with him is a dream come true,” Andreyko told CBR. “I just wrote and anxiously waited for art to come in. And when it did, I realized that Ben Templesmith makes me look like I know what I’m doing! I would work with Ben on anything, no questions asked. He’s a dream collaborator.”