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Wednesday, January 10, 2018 

Which way for GI Joe now?

Bleeding Cool recently ran a guest article by a guy giving his ideas of what to do with the Joe franchise in comics. Surprisingly, he does bring up some challenging subjects, but first, let's comment on the beginning:
In a March 2017 interview with the LA Times, Simon Waters, Hasbro Senior VP commented, “The world has changed, and I think you’re going to see G.I. Joe changing with it.” He added, “There’s going to be a much more contemporary approach to the whole franchise, and that will allow us to develop different characters.”
Well we've seen the changes they made this past year under Aubrey Sitterson for one, and were not impressed. They changed Salvo from a man into an overweight woman, and we're supposed to find that great why? It goes without saying Sitterson's alarming contempt for Joe fans on one of the notable fansite forums and his disturbing comments about 9-11 only precipitated the audience decision not to give him the time of day, and so, the series and spinoff he was writing crashed to the floor and never recovered. Hopefully, he's on his way out of the medium to boot. That doesn't mean the rotten apples at Hasbro aren't still there. If they are, they decidedly need to go along with Sitterson.
This is the stick and rudder IDW needs for the direction of the comic book GI JOE franchise. The world has changed and IDW has all of the elements it needs to move the franchise into the future. With over 15 years of war, audiences and readers have become more sophisticated. The 1980’s Joes fighting with laser beams and cheesy battlecry is a thing of the past, as is the deployment of America’s premier Tier 1 fighting force against dinosaurs and other supernatural threats. Readers don’t read GI Joe for science fiction, they read it for guns, bullets, bombs, and Americana. They read it to see the Joes fight terrorists in the form of Cobra which is bent on world domination. Chuck Dixon’s work on GI Joe: Special Missions presented a much more grounded Joe world which was in line with what the country has been experiencing since 9/11. Having any new Joe titles land somewhere between Dixon’s Joes and Nathan Edmonson’s The Activity would be optimum.
First, is this the Saturday morning cartoon, or the comics Marvel originally acquired the license to publish? Because in the latter, the Joes and Cobra alike usually used bullet weapons (M-16s and automatic pistols, for example), and their missions, while they did have sci-fi elements and surrealism, was still based on how military can operate in real life, and metaphors for what was eating up the world at the time. I can't remember if they made serious use of battlecries either, and certainly not on missions where they could be going under camouflage in a woods. That was more in the cartoons.

But the guy's got a good point about what a lot of Joe fans usually read the comics for - seeing the military operation combat terrorist movements, primarily in the form of Cobra. That's what Dixon was particularly successful in working on, and I'm glad to see he's being given credit. IDW or any other company holding the license for GI Joe should rehire him.

On the other hand, he also says:
There is another opportunity for IDW here. There are many military occupational specialities (MOS) and units that do not have a GI Joe character on the roster. This presents a real opportunity for IDW to create some new and exciting characters to add to the team, instead of just reusing the same core group of characters like Snake Eyes, Scarlett, Roadblock, Shipwreck, etc. By new characters, we don’t mean throwaways like Big Lob, Captain Grid Iron, Salvo, or Banzai either. Let’s see some real badasses. [...]
Not so fast. Let's remember the awful remake of Salvo as an obese woman was a fiasco, and you sure can't call that a badass creation. Even if that's not what he meant, he's still falling into the trap of acting like fictional characters are literally real life people whom he met on the street. If you don't find their personalities great, then gee whiz, that's something that can be modified. So long as it doesn't render the characters unlikable, it should work well enough. What a shame we have here another example of somebody running the gauntlet of blurring difference between real and fictional worlds. That's no way to run an argument on how to build a cast of characters for an adventure.
In January 2016, US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced all MOS and positions would be open to women without exception, as long as they qualify and meet the standards required, of course. This means increased diversity for the team and not just relying on the Big 4 females in the Joe Universe, Scarlett, Lady Jaye, Covergirl, and Jinx. It would definitely be interesting to see some new women in the fight.

Racial and ethnic minority groups made up 40% of Defense Department active-duty military in 2015, up from 25% in 1990. Black people made up 17% of active-duty military, higher than their 13% share of the US population aged 18 to 44. The share of the active-duty force that is Hispanic has risen rapidly in recent decades. In 2015, 12% of all active-duty personnel were Hispanic, three times 1980’s share.

I am Puerto Rican and Dominican, an Afro-Latino. I can tell you that the only two Hispanic Joes are: Hector Delgado – Shipwreck and Rafael Melendez – Zap. There are not many Asians aside from Quick Kick and Jinx which are boring characters, at least to me. I was never a fan of the whole ninja angle with Joe’s as there are no ninjas in the military. Besides, there are so many incredible jobs and units that do not have any Joes at all.
Let us be clear. Of course there's always room for new characters, ongoing and guests, of black/Latino/Asian descent, and women. But they should be brand new cast members, their own agencies, and not retcons of established characters. As for ninjas, well that's all part of the surreal side to GI Joe, as are the sci-fi elements like Cobra Commander wearing a helmet concealing his identity. And the writer shouldn't be slipping into that joke-land approach again with fictional characters while dismissing the writers in charge of their persona development entirely.
Let’s also consider that terrorism has many faces and for the Joes, that face is Cobra. Al-Qaeda isn’t the only terrorism show in town; ISIS, the KKK and a host of others are very prominent. Creating a new threat vector for the Joes in the form of a new terror organization would certainly breathe new life into the franchise. Cobra would still cause havoc but it wouldn’t be the only Big Baddie anymore…Again, this means more toys and merchandising. [...]
First off, it would definitely be a courageous step if the Joes fought jihadists, something the medium by and large have made an effort to avoid, to the point where they wound up producing material sympathetic to the positions of Islamofascists, as seen in the Marvel Knights Captain America during 2002. But in the current climate of fearmongering, the chances are still very extremely slim, and those who do have watered it down in some way or other. Some, like the recent Omega Men retcon, have even, horrifically enough, turned the bunch we're supposed to be rooting for into terrorists. So long as that keeps up, even metaphors for real life figures and beliefs won't work out well.

And I don't think anybody would want to turn Al Qaeda and ISIS into toy merchandise so easily, because it could be seen as giving real life evil a spotlight they don't deserve. Real life enemies should, for the most part, remain what they are, and not be marketed as toys children could play with.

It's also worth taking time to look over this Newsarama interview with editor Tom Waltz, where he goes into discussion of the girl who takes up Snake Eyes' role:
Nrama: That issue was originally published back in the spring of 2016, and I’ve heard it said that Larry only plots ahead two to three pages at most. Did you and the rest of the team know that Dawn would be taking on the mantle of Snake-Eyes or was that something that evolved as you and Larry worked on developing her story?

Waltz: Larry works in a very organic and fluid way, so Dawn’s transition is something that has evolved naturally within the ongoing story he is constantly plotting. As for Dawn taking on the mantle of Snake-Eyes, it was something that really jumped out at me when I first took over editorial duties for the series. As both the editor and a fan of the book, I saw so much potential in the Dawn-as-Snake-Eyes tale that was unfolding. It just felt like all the pieces were in place for her to take the next step toward becoming Snake-Eyes.

But not an easy step, by any means - Dawn is literally possessed by Snake-Eyes’ memories (thanks to Dr. Mindbender’s Brainwave Scanner), so the change is a terrifyingly confusing one for the young girl (and one she is not making voluntarily) all of which, in my opinion, make it more believable and far more dramatic. I wasn’t sure what Larry would think about the idea when I first brought it up to him, but to my pleasant surprise, he was immediately onboard -- not only because Dawn’s story was so intriguing, but also because he saw this as an opportunity (through Dawn’s implanted memories) to finally present stories from the original Snake-Eyes’ past that he’s long wanted to tell… and which many fans have requested over the years.

So, once we had our story plan in place, Larry quickly came up with the very cool design for the modified Snake-Eyes’ costume Dawn wears. It’s an awesome costume and I won’t be surprised if it becomes a cosplay favorite in the near future.
In all due honesty, even if the real Snake Eyes is dead, this still sounds like the kind of social justice tactics Marvel and DC took of recent, even if here, it's only implanted memories. It's honestly ludicrous, and if Chris Claremont could run out of steam long ago as the X-Men scribe, who's to say Hama hasn't worn out his own welcome as GI Joe scribe? I'm sure there's a lot of Snake Eyes stories fans have asked for, but with the mute guy in the dark costume whose background usually remained classified, not a girl whose identity is known, and who by contrast may be able to speak. If they want to implant SE's memories, that's one thing, but it'd work better if they'd give Dawn Moreno her own costumed role and/or codename. It may not be as dreadful as how Marvel's been doing it, but this is still treading that same SJW tactics that brought down Marvel in the past few years. And that's not what the audience is truly asking for.

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  • From Jerusalem, Israel
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