IDW Publishing's “Infestation” crossover kicks off this month with the first bookend issue by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, and David Messina, from which a plague of zombies will spread into the worlds of “Transformers,” “Star Trek,” “G.I. Joe,” and “Ghostbusters.” Each licensed title in the ambitious event presents interesting opportunities as IDW's “Zombies vs. Robots” and “CVO” characters spill over into quite different universes. For the two-issue biweekly “G.I. Joe: Infestation” miniseries, shipping in March, readers will discover how the rival military forces of G.I. Joe and Cobra respond to a threat from beyond the known world. CBR News spoke with write Mike Raicht about the upcoming series, which features art by Giovanni Timpano.
Editor's note: this interview was conducted before the revelations in "Cobra" #12 and the announcement of "Cobra Civil War."
“G.I. Joe” is probably the most real-world-based of the “Infestation” crossover titles, which could present special challenges to telling a story centered around zombies. “When [IDW editor] Andy Schmidt approached me about writing this book we spoke about that very thing,” Raicht told CBR News. “How do you keep the real world feel? How do you make this part of the crossover cool without compromising the hard work the writers, artists and editors at IDW have done making the books feel real?
“The approach we took was to try to make it a part of the crossover that could fit seamlessly into the regular 'G.I. Joe' and 'Cobra' books without feeling like something different. And to make sure this story has consequences for the rest of the 'Joe' Universe. Then we took the aspects of the 'Zombies Vs. Robots' universe that made the most sense for 'G.I. Joe' and plopped them right in the middle of the 'Joe' universe. One thing the Joes and Cobra have experimented with is the use of robotics. That's half the 'Zombies vs. Robots' name right there! That gave us our in and we ran with it.”
In a crossover in which the various casts of characters do not actually meet, it becomes possible for each series to take its own approach to the concept. Raicht said that “Infestation's” impact on the “G.I. Joe” universe would be subtle at first but have a significant impact. “With the science of dimensional travel being as shaky as it is, especially in the 'Zombies vs. Robots' universe, there are bound to be accidents or what I like to think of as a misplaced traveler or two. Our story deals with one of those accidents,” Raicht said. “Just one small piece of something gets into the 'Joe' Universe. No one knows how it got here but now that it is here both the Joes and Cobra want it for themselves. They're willing to kill each other for it and it just might end up being the death of all of them in the end.”
While the Joes will play a role in the miniseries, the Baroness and her Cobra agents will be taking center stage in “G.I. Joe: Infestation.” “We were given the chance to play with a few very cool characters. On the Cobra side we have Baroness, Interrogator (from Max Brooks' awesome 'Hearts & Minds' series), and the BATS,” Raicht said. “We also get the chance to introduce a few Joes into the IDW continuity including Psyche Out, who, as crazy as it sounds, was always a personal favorite of mine.
“It's always a treat to put characters through their paces. Especially characters like the Baroness, who has a pathological need to be in control and will do just about anything to ensure it. Putting a character like the Baroness, who is the ultimate survivor, into a situation where she does not have all of the angles covered makes for some pretty combustible moments in the book. That's fun for me as a writer. I fear for those around her.”
Raicht's choice to focus on the bad guys reflects to some degree his preference amongst IDW's current “G.I. Joe” series. “I've always been a big fan of 'G.I. Joe' but I've become a huge fan and reader of the current 'Cobra' series. I like to think we tried our best to mirror that feel and intensity,” Raicht said. “[Christos] Gage, [Mike] Costa, [Antonio] Fuso, and Schmidt are doing an awesome job with Chuckles, Tomax, Xamot and Cobra. The book keeps me coming back just to see what happens next. I think that's the tone we tried to bring to the table for this story. Hopefully that grittiness, intensity and uncertainty of what could possibly happen next, comes through in these issues.
“A huge part of the feel of this story is brought by our artist, Giovanni Timpano. He is a great artist and has done a fine job combining the grittiness and wacky science of the 'Zombies vs. Robots' universe and the realism of the Joe universe to this story,” the writer continued. “I'm lucky to be working with him on this. He is a great compliment to what we're going for.”
“ Infestation” #1 reveals that certain people may be susceptible to the influence of the Undermind, a powerful consciousness that directs the actions of “ZvR” zombies. But, Raicht told CBR, this being will not be the central threat of the “G.I. Joe: Infestation” miniseries. “The Undermind is pretty formidable but will be the last thing our group will be worried about,” Raicht said. “The villain of our piece starts out seemingly harmless, but it is of a singular mind and once it grabs hold it will be almost impossible to stop. Baroness, Psyche Out, Interrogator and the rest will have their hands full. I promise you that.”