IDW Publishing's re-launch of the G.I Joe universe continues this March with the debut of "G.I. Joe: Special Missions" by writer Chuck Dixon and artist Paul Gulacy. "Special Missions" finds the Joe team evolving into a leaner, meaner military strike squad led by fan-favorite character Scarlett. The title, "Special Missions," is a deliberate tribute to Larry Hama's Marvel Comics book of the same name from the mid-'80s.
Dixon, best known for his extended runs on "Batman," "Nightwing" and "Robin," is no stranger to IDW's G.I. Joe comics, having written the main "G.I. Joe" title for several years, right up to this year's franchise re-launch helmed by writer Fred Van Lente. In addition to that, Dixon is currently the writer on "Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow," which follows the adventures of the franchise's popular ninja.
Dixon spoke with Comic Book Resources about the re-launch of "G.I. Joe: Special Missions," sharing his thoughts on "G.I. Joe" fans in the military, the live-action "G.I. Joe" films, what fans can expect from "Special Missions," adhering to "The Path of Larry" and more.
CBR News: Chuck, what's the concept behind "G.I. Joe: Special Missions" and what sets it apart from other "G.I. Joe" titles?
Chuck Dixon: Basically, it's a continuation of the continuity I've been writing in the main "G.I. Joe" book over the past four years. Readers will know that we've been moving toward the "Special Missions" kind of story for a while now. The Joes have gone through some massive budget cuts, and much of their operations are now of the hunter/killer surgical strike kind of capability.
"Special Missions" is about a shifting team of Joes headed up by Scarlett, with Mainframe as her second in command. Scarlett chooses the team for each highly-classified mission based on the specialties of the various grunts under the Joe command.
What type of stories will we see in the first few arcs of "Special Missions?"
In the first arc, Scarlett and the team salvage forty billion dollars in Cobra funds lying in a wreck on the floor of the Atlantic. They run into Baroness, who's looking to recover the same loot. Everything goes wrong, and the Joes suffer lethal mission creep. Lots of "Thunderball"-type action under the water. I wrote it the way I did because my artist on the first arc is Paul Gulacy and he kills on that kind of subject matter.
The second arc features the Dreadnoks in a story that resonates all the way to the beginning of my first Joe storyline. Will Rosado is back for the art on that arc and I'm thrilled that he's staying with us.
Is this title in continuity with any other "G.I. Joe" comic titles or TV shows?
It's in continuity with the two titles that Fred Van Lente and Mike Costa are writing.
Are any crossovers planned for the re-launched "G.I. Joe" IDW titles?
We're going to let the books get off to their own starts before we get into any crossovers. But readers should expect we'll have an event or two maybe in year two of the books.
Are you only writing the inaugural arc of "Special Missions" or are you planning to stick with the title for a while?
I'm on the book till the wheels come off. That's my plan, anyhow.
What classic characters can fans expect to see in the new series?
Beachhead, Tripwire, Ripcord, Torpedo and lots more. Spirit finally shows up in the second arc, and I'll be using Shockblast (formerly Shockwave) in an upcoming story. We'll also be seeing the Dreadnoks finally introduced into this continuity.
"Special Missions" seems to flow very naturally out of the Joe continuity you've already established. Was this series always in the back of your mind as far as a long-term plan?
Only in so far as "Special Missions" was always my favorite Joe book. Back when Larry and Herb Trimpe were on that book, it was a treat to read each month. Between the two of them, it was Storytelling 101. Shrinking the team's complement and core mission led to this new book, but part of that was us trying to reflect the realities facing the US military today with shrinking budgets.
How much research do you do for military themed titles like "G.I. Joe: Special Missions?" Do you try to be more accurate to the real world with regard to speech or military gear than when you write superhero titles?
I follow Larry Hama's guidelines for anything Joe and work to keep the gear and language and action as close to honest as I can. It's hard to be "realistic" in a book like this, but I try to keep it as accurate as I can. I do a lot of reading on military subjects anyway, so it's no chore to keep up. Doing the piles of research needed for the series of "SEAL Team Six" novels I write serves double duty for Joe. I also get to talk to a lot of Joe fans who are currently serving, and they load me up with jargon and anecdotes.
Are there any stories or observations you've received from those Joe fans serving in the military that you've been able to use in your writing?
Mostly it's just been encouragement. It always amazes me that young men and women who are actually in harm's way have such a high regard for "G.I. Joe." I can only think that they enjoyed it as a kid and it spoke to them. So much of Larry's personal experiences from his time in uniform are at the center of the franchise. A few have told me that Joe was what got them interested in the services in the first place, and I think they appreciate a fun, escapist fiction where the good guys are Americans in uniform and the bad guys are unremittingly, unapologetically, unequivocally bad guys.
I haven't used much in the way of details that have been told to me. I try to keep Joe somewhat divorced from the real War on Terror. We're not trying to be anything like realistic here. I think that would do a disservice to our people down range. It trivializes what they do. But I have taken the espirit de corps I get from them and that brand of grunt fatalism that probably goes back to the first men to carry weapons and march in file.
Why do you think "G.I. Joe" has seen such a surge in popularity the last few years?
It's a super franchise and, when handled right, is always a winner. This time out at IDW, we're all following the template laid down by Larry Hama. You simply cannot go wrong as long as you follow the Path Of Larry.
Larry Hama does seem to act like a bit of a godfather to the Joe comics, even today. How would you define, as you phrased it, the Path of Larry?
It's not really written down anywhere. First and foremost is a respect for those who have served and the sacrifices they make. Next is the brand of honor peculiar to the American fighting man. He's a bad guy to cross, but the first one you want to see when the trouble starts. This goes back to Larry's own experiences as well as the firm grasp of history he has. I'm a history nut, too, and one thing that comes through when reading about the American soldier is that he is unlike any other army that came before him. We're the only nation on the planet who leaves things better than when we arrived following a military action.
There's also the humor. Sometimes dark, sometimes fatalistic and sometimes just plain wacky. I can't say that I can read what's in Larry's head all the time. But I try to infuse the stories with his brand of humor where possible.
Do you plan on seeing the new "G.I. Joe" film when it finally comes out later this year?
Oh, yeah! It looks like fun. I enjoyed the first movie. It had some great action set pieces. My only complaint is that they tried to jam too much into its running time. This new movie looks leaner and meaner.
As you mentioned earlier, in addition to scripting the adventures of the Joes, you also write a series of more reality-based military-themed novels --
I write a series of novels for Kindle about SEAL Team 6. There are four out now,I know there's and I'm currently halfway through writing the fifth. They've been well received and are consistent sellers on Amazon. These are very much in the men's adventure vein that I used to devour in the 1970s. We follow five SEALs on missions against Al-Qaeda and other terror outfits. They're far more bloodthirsty and graphic than anything in "Joe," but they allow me to dual purpose all my research.
"G.I. Joe: Special Missions" #1 by Chuck Dixon and Paul Gulacy hits shelves on March 20th from IDW Publishing.