G.I.Joe Deviations

Paul Allor is a fantastic writer. If you don’t believe me, then you should check out G.I.Joe Deviations, in which over the course of 24 pages he tells a complete story set in an alternate world of G.I.Joe where Cobra wins, which makes Cobra Commander go a little stir crazy. The nature of the book is more comedy than action orientated, which isn’t to say it isn’t action packed, but the focus of a lighter tone works a lot better then a gritty end of the world type.  The idea of Destro and the Baroness settling down and having kids is brilliant, as is the idea of having to replace several nannies. I won’t spoil it for anyone except to say you should check it out as it’s perhaps one of the better books out there.

But it does lead to a slightly larger problem. While the book is fantastic, I have to question who it is really written for? The Deviations range is certainly inventive, it’s also a bit baffling because they’re seemingly made for fans of the respective title,s of which there are four other books. That’s okay, but they’re not really user friendly, because unless you have a vested interest in the characters already, you won’t really care if Mulder was abducted by aliens or if Optimus Prime decided that he’d rather not die. To be fair there is a recap page in the cover explaining the series, but I can’t really imagine anyone who isn’t already a G.I.Joe fan walking past it on the shelf and deciding to read it. No matter how great the review is. The same goes for the other books as well. Unless I’m already a fan of the series, I don’t really care how a world would be different if X happened and not Y.

That’s not to say that they’re not any good, because they are and if Paul Allor were to write a G.I.Joe book I’d sign up for that in a heart beat. But seeing as the goal of a comic company is to increase readership of these titles, offering an alternate look into what could’ve been doesn’t really strike me as some thing will bring in new readers, and while the concept is cool, I can’t really see it as a basis for a monthly title.

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Justice, like lighting.

Jim Cornette, the patron saint of wrestling once said that the average life cycle of a wrestling fan is seven years, thus you can recycle gimmicks for a new audience to experience fresh if you change the basic premise a little bit. This, I believe was brought up at Marvel during one of their brain storming sessions some time ago because apart from Secret Wars and Civil War 2 we’re also getting a new Thunderbolts comic. Thunderbolts has a specail place in my heart, like G.I.Joe, Squirel Girl and Howard the Duck, the series has brought out themes that not only I can identify with, but is a book of great story telling. It’s the idea of a simple story done really well.

For those of you who missed the original series, it started out as Baron Zemo (who always sounds awesome with a Chris Latta voice) and a version of the Master of Evil posing as heroes after the Fantastic Four and the Avengers all perished while fighting Onslaught. It was the 90’s, what can I say. The first Thunderbolts issue had the debut of new heroes, or older ones such as Citizen V, Atlas, Meteorite, Songbird, Techno and Mach 1 appear but the last pages revealed them to be the aforementioned masters of evil in a twist that could be pulled off because the internet wasn’t really around back then.

I only really came on board after the event Civil War, when Norman Osborn used the Thunderbolts as criminals hunting outlaw heroes as it was written by Warren Ellis, which gave way to them being Osborn’s group of killers before Jeff Parker returned the Thunderbolts to the original idea of criminals redeeming themselves through hard work and being good, while undertaking missions from the US government.

Before you bring up the comparison to the suicide squad book, both books are fundamentally different to each other. The squad is about criminals undertaking dangerous black ops missions in order to get a reduced sentence, or even freedom. The Thunderbolts were about using criminals to undertake mission while working off their sentence, with the plan being that they would’ve been reformed enough to let go. Suicide squad has always been a murky book especially when you get down to the face that the US government don’t want people like Deadshot to be reformed because of how useful they can be, killers without a conscious and all that, and using the squad to carry out assassinations where as the Thunderbolts were almost always used in lower profile missions that were dangerous, but still expected everyone to return.

The Thunderbolts though are more about redemption which can be a powerful motivation. It shows that there is hope for any one who does want to change, and shows us that that change wont be easy and it’ll be hard work. When the title was co-opted for a new take with a team lead by Red Hulk one of the best parts was when Hawkeye heard about it and was pissed off that the name was being used incorrectly. Red Hulk filed the team with mercs and killers, like Elektra and Punisher and made it more of a hit squad then a team based around redemption. That series of books, while okay, is really just an excuse for ultra violence in comics, which if you’re into that is fine.

Thunderbolts will always have a special place for me, because it has themes I can identify with and has a foundation of really solid story telling. The new series will be written by Jim Zub of Skull kickers fame and will feature most of the classic line up. Whether or not it will be any good remains to be seen, although I am hopefully it will live up to it’s legacy. Classic Thunderbolts featuring Hawkeye will be out later this year.

G.I.Joe cartoons and the struggle to watch them

So last year I got the complete G.I.Joe boxset, which contains the entirety of the G.I.Joe cartoon output except for renegades. This includes the cartoon pre-movie, the 1986 movie, the cartoon after the movie, G.I.Joe Sigma 6 and G.I.Joe resolute. I decided some time ago that I would watch all of these discs, mostly because if you buy a series and don’t watch it, I might as well be giving my money away and I continue to call myself the worlds foremost G.I.Joeologist, then I need to be across all G.I.Joe media or else well, I am not really the worlds foremost expert am I? The thing is, I may have bitten off more than I can chew.

Having seen the pre-movie cartoons before, I understood that the hit to miss ratio of that series is fairly scatter-blast but it’s still a lot more thought out in terms of plots and makes more sense for a cartoon aimed at kids to sell toys. It does have a semi coherent structure, which also helps. Cobra would come up with a wacky scheme or some sort of plan and the Joes had to figure it out before they could stop them. Yes the plots were silly, one had Cobra trying to frame the Joes over Christmas and had the joes stopping them via Cobra Equipment. The problem though happens with the DIC produced series

See, while there was always hint of humour in the first series, it was mostly based around the fact that Cobra would have a plot that the Joes would thwart. Sure not all of the plots were winners, the Cobra love potion episode comes to mind, but such episodes were just few and far between. The DIC did away with that formula and gave some truly absurd plots. One had Cobra kidnapping Sgt Slaughter then challenging the Joes to a football match in order to win him back, another had Pathfinder chained to Cobra Commander as they ran through the jungles of Africa while being chased by an angry lion and a love struck gorilla, I am not making this up. There were created by people who had a basic idea down pat but then just came up with some, quite frankly crap episodes.

Going into it, I knew things would be bad. Looking back on things from your childhood isn’t always easy, there is a level of expectation that aren’t always met. But this is some next level stuff. The episodes aren’t just bad their cringe worthy. If some one were to walk into the room while I was watching an episode, I would reach for the remote to change the channel so quickly that a localised black hole would emerge in my lounge room.

Yes I know it’s made for kids, but it should at least be watch-able and have some sort of internal logic. Watching Joes defeat night creeper ninjas by throwing pies at them is just plain stupid. There are some high points, such as seeing different types of Cobra forces, like range vipers, saw vipers etc. and the different vehicles are a nice change, but most of these are offset by the quite frankly boring stories.

There is a good G.I.Joe cartoon that can be made, perhaps not now seeing as the brand has been in a slow decline mostly because Hasbro would rather chase the MLP money, and who can blame them as there is more money to be made from colourful ponies prancing about than a cartoon about two sides locked into a never ending struggle. Which is a shame, because after so many years of enjoyment, the best the series can muster is four people on the run from a shadowy company after being accused of a crime they didn’t commit.

The only problem is that violence in cartoons now are on the front of every ones mind, and rather then just showing that good can triumph over evil through the power of teamwork, the idea of of American armed forces running over the world stopping bad guys is a tad on the nose. So just make the Joes international heroes, be careful when you’re creating the characters that you avoid terrible stereotypes and you can have on your hands a decent cartoon.

So you need to submit a pitch for a comic event!

So you’re a comic book writer who spent his time last night out at a party for comic book writers. You got roped into a discussion over tea with the charming Neil Gaiman, tried to avoid the glare from Jason Aaron’s head, made the mistake of asking Chris Sims about his favourite Batman story and was distracted when Ryan Browne was dragged out of the party for attempting to spike the punch. You woke up and checked your e-mail and you have a message there from a major comic company asking when you’re planning on dropping in the pitch for the comics event you foolishly agreed to write and in your panic to come up with some thing, you’ve decided to stop by here. So follow this list, and you’ll be right as rain.

1) Figure out the idea. Event comics are nothing new, and there has been at least one major event every year since 2006. We’ve had good guys fighting each other (Civil War) alternate worlds (House of M, Flashpoint) zombies (Blackest night, Infestation) old gods (Infestation 2) sieges (siege) invasions (secret invasion) good guys turning evil (Shadowland) old gods trying to destroy the world (Fear Itself). So don’t worry if you can come up with some thing new and original. If you’e stuck for ideas, try combing two ideas to see if that works. Maybe zombies have grabbed magic space hammers and are intent on destroying the world? Maybe there is an alternate world where Cthulu and his pals are fighting heroes in a series of Olympic level events. If all else fails, you can simple mash worlds together and pretend you knew what you were doing all along. (Secret Wars, Convergence)

2) There has to be at least one death and one return. Deaths and returns are nothing new in the comic book world. It’s very rare that some one stays dead for any period of time in any comic world and an event is the perfect time to have them return from the dead, because reasons. You don’t have to explain it if you don’t want to, infact you can just say they wanted to come back and leave it at that, I’m looking at you brightest day. But to bring some one back, you need to kill off a character, and so you need to learn the system.

Killing off a character is easy, but there have their own rules to do it. 1 A grade character is worth 2 B grade characters etc. It’s even better if they are a legacy character, some one else who can pick up the mantle if they die, but before they return. Legacy characters can include Captain America and Batman, as they both have had replacements. You can negative points if the person was part of a minority, but you can cancel that out if you bring back/ replace them with another minority.

3) Tie ins are important. Remember, you’re writing the main book so you don’t need to throw every idea in there. You need to leave just enough scraps so that other writers in their books can take your general idea and run with it. You don’t want to put every thing into the main book, because you need to sell those sweet tie ins and if you did put every thing into the main book, then it would be a bloated mess of ideas. You basically tease the readers by giving them some sweet imagery then telling them you need to by book X to see the overall fight. As for the length of the book, 5-6 issues is fine, any more than 8 is excessive.

So there you have it, follow that guide and you should be fine in writing your comic event. Now if you could please pass on my comic to be read by the editors that would be great.

Thoughts on Deadpool

Have you seen Deadpool yet? If you haven’t yet but you’ve seen the trailer, then congratulations you have seen the movie. Yes that’s the problem with trailers these days, they show you all the good bits and leave nothing to the imagination. I had the same problem with the Ant Man movie, which was still good, but because I had seen the trailer about 6 times, all the good parts were ruined for me. But that’s a rant for another day.

On the off chance anyone asks me what I want from a comic book movie, I’ll point to Deadpool and say “make it like that please” and dustoff my hands while they want for me to elaborate. See Deadpool is a fun movie, it’s very light, comedic and very forgettable. That’s not a knock on the movie itself, because it’s still a good movie, but it’s one that wont ever really stay with you, unlike say “Children of Men” or “Shoot ’em up” and that’s okay. But what makes Deadpool a great comic book movie is that it’s faithful to the characters it portrays.

The characters all act like they should from the comics, with Ryan Reynolds nailing Deadpool exactly how he should be, with TJ Miller spot on for Weasel. Even though some of them a bit one note it succeeds. Even better, it presents a whole new story for Deadpool, without rehashing anything old, which is the problem Watchmen had.

To me, the greatest adaptations take characters we all know and love and are able to use them in new and exciting ways while still remaining true to them overall. I don’t want to see another comic book story “faithfully” transferred to the big screen because I’ve already read it, which again is why Watchmen fails in my mind.

Deadpool has proved a success which means Hollywood has learned a valuable lesson with R rated comic books. Well be getting a whole lot more of them now, instead of well thought out movies. Deadpool succeeded because it was different to what came before it, and it was unique in the shining sea of comic book movies. If you’re idea is to produce dozens of wacky anti-hero movies with R ratings then you’ve missed the point of the movie. I don’t want or need an R rated version of G.I.Joe, such an idea scares me more the playing Resident Evil 4 in a darken room. If you start producing nothing but the same thing then we’re back to where we started, wanted for the next huge change up to save us from the glut of the same movies.

Deadpool was fun but flawed, and to try to copy that success will only lead to failure.