Larry Hama may not have been at the table Saturday for IDW Publishing’s G.I. Joe panel at the Chicago Comics & Entertainment Expo, but he'll be front and center for the franchise when he relaunches his "G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero" series starting with #155 1/2 on Free Comic Book Day with artist Agustin Padilla. IDW Senior Editor Andy Schmidt announced the first details at C2E2 along with artist Klaus Sherwinski, writer Mike Costa and artist Robert Atkins.
"We had [Hama] on 'Origins,' and he actually has another 'Origins' issue – at least one more – coming up later," Schmidt said. IDW had already announced Hama's FCBD release, but the new news of the day was July's "G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero" #156, which will follow in continuity with the classic series' first 155 issues.
"The big announcement is that it's continuing after #155 1/2 in July with issue #156 and will continue thereafter for as long as you buy it," Schmidt confirmed. "Larry Hama doing what Larry does."
"A Real American Hero" will be accompanied at some point in the near future by another mystery title.
Another familiar name will show up in comic stores with IDW's "G.I. Joe: Cobra II" #5, even if the book's co-writer took some convincing to revive a classic villain. "We are introducing Serpentor," Schmidt stated. "So I hope you like Serpentor, because he's there."
Mike Costa, who will be co-writing the issue with Christos Gage, was one of the first voices in the room to speak up. "Gage said on the phone to me one day, 'I have got an idea for Serpentor,' and I said, 'That better be the best idea I've ever heard, because Serpentor is the dumbest character in G.I. Joe," Costa recalled. "Sorry guys, in terms of what we're trying to do with G.I. Joe and Cobra and keep things marginally realistic, it's tough to go with a genetically engineered Superman from the DNA of Dracula. It's tough!"
Costa and Gage aren't the only ones figuring out how to depict Joe characters in new ways at IDW. Artists Robert Atkins and Klaus Sherwinski have also been hard at work retooling designs and concepts. One revision that didn't make the cut, however, included a New York Yankees logo on Snake Eyes. "Funny story about that shirt," Atkins said. "In the script, he was wearing a Yankees shirt, and then I turned it in and I'm already going on to the next page, but Andy says, 'This looks great, but Hasbro came back with a revision.' I was like, 'What?' Because Hasbro up to this point – this was ['G.I. Joe' #15] – I've never had Hasbro say or dictate to change anything, and the one revision they gave me was that Snake Eyes does **not** like the Yankees."
Eventually, Snake Eyes ended up with a neutral shirt without a logo at all, which got Hasbro approval and eased any fears in the IDW offices that Major League Baseball lawyers might have a problem with a logo's use.
While Atkins didn't get to make Snake Eyes a Yankees fan, he was still able to modernize the ninja commando's street look. "I want to keep it as authentic to the character, but make it contemporary – 'Make it practical' was always a mantra from the beginning for me," Atkins explained. "I wanted the bungles to look like they bungled and the guns to like the guns that would work."
IDW took a slightly different approach to the Cobra hypnotist villain Crystal Ball, though. "A lot of attention was put on the redesign of Crystal Ball," writer Mike Costa explained. "He looks a lot like another particularly famous comic book writer." By the time final notes were given, the character developed a likeness to the author of "Watchmen" and "V: For Vendetta." "We were trying to think of who has the abilities or the sort of personality, the way Crystal Ball's classically supposed to act," Costa recalled. "I just kept coming up with Grigori Rasputin, but there was a lot of notes in the scripts to have certain kinds of paganistic and Eastern European religious fetishes, and it just came out looking like Alan Moore. But that was not an intention. I did not say, 'Draw him like Alan Moore.'"
Costa spoke knowledgeably about Joe history at the panel, but he said he still hasn't gotten around to seeing last year's live-action film. "
"I actually honestly still have not seen that movie," the writer explained. "And the only G.I. Joe movie I recognize has got Cobra-La in it."
Sherwinski, meanwhile, called "The Rise of Cobra" "an okay thing." He took issue with Snake Eyes' look for the movie, however, saying "He needs lips like Batman needs nipples."
No matter who is designing a look for Snake Eyes, the panel demonstrated that voices on both sides are bound to have opinions. Still, the months ahead for Joe books at IDW should be packed with stories for new and old audiences alike.