Let’s talk about G.I.Joe

The future of G.I.Joe comics

If you’ve been following the comic book scene, you may have notice that Karen Traviss had been writing a G.I.Joe book, dubbed “The Fall of G.I.Joe” published by IDW publishing. That series, which was meant to go for 12, ended with issue 8. If you haven’t read it, the story itself was fairly good, full of intrigue and back-stabbing moments that make up any good politically based story. Except that it didn’t feel like a G.I.Joe story, which is important if you’re are writing a G.I.Joe book. For those of you who haven’t read it, and judging by the sales it’s quite a lot that are not, the book was set 8 years after G.I.Joe Volume 3 also by IDW, set mainly in some Eastern Europe country with the main focus on Isaac Craft, the son of a Cobra operative who goes rogue and joins the enemy. From there it becomes a game of who can get to Issac first before he brings the entire area into a war.

If you read that and asked the question “how does G.I.Joe factor into the story?”, then you’d be surprised to know that the team is an after-thought in their own book. The team consists of 4 field members, two known intelligence operatives and that’s it. Cobra, for all of their established members gets cut down to Tomax Paloi, the Baroness and Siren who is Isaac’s mother. Throw in ex G.I.Joe team leader Duke and ex S.A.S. knock about Big Ben and that’s all the comic characters who were pre-established before “The Fall of G.I.Joe” begins. Now, I don’t want it to seem like I am knocking Ms Traviss work, it was a fine tale, but it wasn’t a G.I.Joe tale.

When you’ve cut the team down to four people who don’t show up in the book for long stretches, all are very generic looking and instead focus on characters you’ve created for telling your own tale then you’ve perhaps missed the point of writing for a licensed book. Not including 1-off stories of course. My point is, when you’re a comic company and you have a franchise license, such as my beloved G.I.Joe, Transformers etc, then it’s a good idea to hire a writer who understands what makes the license special and can adapt their writing to suit the needs of the franchise, not writing your own story, no matter how well its written and then as an after-thought inserting a few known characters who don’t end up doing much. Which leads me to my next point: where does G.I.Joe go from here?

It’s debatable whether or not IDW has done a good job with the license and for the record I have enjoyed their output of various titles (some more than others). Cobra remains a high point in the series, whereas there were issues of G.I.Joe origins that were largely forgettable. The main series itself has had its fair share of ups and down, but rarely could you say it was a must read. But the question remains: where should they go from here? It’s more difficult than you think.

There are a few options out there for IDW:

1: Keep the current time line as it is. The Fall of G.I.Joe was set 8 years after Fred Van Lante’s and Paul Allor’s run, so anyone taking over the title may have to deal with Joes who are close to having a mid-life crisis. The series opened with the majority of the team disbanded, so this issue would have to be addressed. While not difficult per say, there would be a fair bit of writing gymnastics involved to get around. To be fair, with Cobra having already won and established as a major peace keeping force, there is the potential for some great stories of the Joes fighting back against the odds, and exposing Cobra for what they truly are.

2: Go with the pre-sequel route. The next series could be about everything that happens between volume 3 and volume 4 of G.I.Joe. There some limitations with this option, mainly that ending is already known to die hard readers, Cobra wins and G.I.Joe gets shut down which is hardly the uplifting story one expects from fiction.

3: The continuity. At this point, the best idea IDW could have is restarting the entire series. While it would be unpopular with the hard core base, this shouldn’t be your only focus. By restarting it you’re free to create new stories, and take existing characters and put a fresh spin on them. It worked wonders for the Ultimate Marvel line in the beginning, so why couldn’t it work for G.I.Joe.

4: Do nothing. Yes, as unpopular as it is, the best approach may be to do nothing. There’s already one G.I.Joe comic out monthly, and Transformers Vs G.I.Joe comes out whenever it does so there are two books already. The market has shown that other G.I.Joe comics haven’t sold as well, because if they had they wouldn’t have felt the need to stop and start the franchise over the way they have. In my mind, as long as I’m getting one good G.I.Joe title a month, that’s all that matters to me.

What’s clear though is that G.I.Joe is a dated title and idea kept a float by 80’s nostalgia. For the license (which includes the comics, toy line and cartoon) to be truly successful there has to be a major over haul in practices. Why was it so big in the 80s? Because you had a cartoon that advertised the comics while both advertised the toy line. For G.I.Joe to be the money-maker it once was there has to be a toy line that goes with a comic, maybe even a cartoon and the advertising to go with it. Advertise the comic via the toy line and vice versa. The comic shouldn’t be more then $2.99, because kids don’t have a lot of disposable income, and $3.99 adds up. Kids should be the focus of any toy franchise, whether we want to admit this to ourselves or not.

In the end, G.I.Joe was always a means to sell more toys to kids, and the by product was one of the best and longest running comic series to date. In this case, lighting may not strike twice, and that is okay with me. So what does the future of my beloved G.I.Joe hold? I honestly have no idea. And doesn’t that make it more interesting?

Thanks for reading.

Matt Dansie


One thought on “Let’s talk about G.I.Joe

  1. Great article Matt. As you said, IDW’s work with the franchise is quite a tricky one to judge. I loved the Mad Monk saga, the Cobra series, and I admit that I loved the concepts behind the V2 series, but it wasn’t always as good in hand. The V4 series were very low paced, with many great dialogues, which helped to understand the backstory and how the characters relate to each other. Sadly the Joes were barely seen, with less and less connection to the previous universe that IDW was created.

    I’m still interested in reading the scripts of the remaining, but unreleased issues, because maybe those could have helped bring forward the future stories – if the publisher ever wants to try to begin something new…


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