Writer Aubrey Sitterson and artist Giannis Milonogiannis discuss their vision for the new series
After revolution comes reconstruction. In the wake of IDW’s explosive Revolution comic series, which brought all its famous Hasbro franchises (G.I. Joe, Transformers, Micronauts, ROM, Action Man, and M.A.S.K.) into one interconnected fictional universe, those characters now have to find their way in this new world. This week sees the launch of G.I. Joe #1, a new series featuring “The Crown Jewel of the Hasbro Universe,” written by Aubrey Sitterson and illustrated by Giannis Milonogiannis. Ahead of its release, Sitterson and Milonogiannis spoke with EW about their vision for the series, the Joes’ status quo in this new universe, and how this version delves a little more into science-fiction. Check that out below, along with a preview of the first pages of the new issue, out in comic shops this week.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you first encounter G.I. Joe?
MILONOGIANNIS: My first and main knowledge of the Joes was with the cartoon and action figures as a kid. In fact, one of the most fun aspects of working with Aubrey on the book has been rewatching some of the series and digging out old figures. I lost contact with the franchise growing up, but it’s been ridiculously fun to reacquaint myself with the Joes.
SITTERSON: The first wave of G.I. Joe comics were by the inimitable Larry Hama. Without him, G.I. Joe wouldn’t exist in the form we know today, and ever since then, it’s been informed by his amazing work on those original Marvel comics starting in the ‘80s. As a result, the books have taken on a certain tone, heavy on the real-world military aspect. Giannis and I are coming at it from a different angle. Our biggest connection to the franchise isn’t the Hama stuff (which I’ve since read and fallen in love with); for us, it was the toys and the cartoons. My conception of G.I. Joe wasn’t real-world military action and terrorism, it was blue and red lasers flying around and crazy sci-fi stuff. That’s my biggest influence and made me fall in love with G.I. Joe – this big massive roster, full of diverse characters, to fight this cartoonishly evil fascist organization. That, to me, is the core of G.I. Joe. I know for some folks it’s a military book, but for me it’s more Challengers of the Unknown than Sgt. Rock. We’re part of this larger universe now. Previously the IDW G.I. Joe comics were set in our world. There were some sci-fi elements, but it was very much our world. With Revolution and the shared universe, it’s not our world anymore. There’s giant astronauts, there are space knights, there are shape-shifting dire wraiths. It’s the world that they inhabit, and it would be off if our book didn’t fully embrace that sci-fi world.
What’s the status quo like in the wake of Revolution?
SITTERSON: One of the big changes to the book that we’re using to differentiate this series from others is that G.I. Joe has always been the “Real American Heroes,” and that doesn’t apply anymore. It’s not that they’re un-American, they’ve just expanded their mission. They’re no longer just protecting American interests, they’re protecting the entirety of the planet. In a world where you’ve got all these creatures and aliens, somebody needs to stand up for humanity, the earth, and everybody on it. Coming out of Revolution, that’s the mandate.
How are you striking the balance between making the series your own and paying homage to what’s come before?
MILONOGIANNIS: With the designs, I worked from Aubrey’s excellent direction and mainly the original designs and felt things out by instinct to get to the final costumes. I actually keep an eye on the cartoon designs because of how recognizable and easily they read, and mess with those as we go.
SITTERSON: The guiding principle is to make it a fun book. It’s nonsense that you can’t have a book that’s fun and funny without being light and inconsequential. Humor’s an important part of the drama, used as a release. I’m also working on the fifth issue this week, and thus far every issue introduces a new character. It’s one of the biggest, best rosters in all of comics.
What characters are you most excited about?
MILONOGIANNIS: Roadblock, Scarlett, and Rock ‘n Roll have been my favorite so far. They’ve been in the spotlight of the series so far, and I’ve become attached to them in a big way.
SITTERSON: Rock ‘n Roll and Quick Kick. With Rock ‘n Roll, I was looking for a character who was a little bit of a blank slate, who we could really use as an entry point for readers to inhabit and see the world through that character’s eyes. Rock ‘n Roll was perfect for that, because despite being one of the oldest Joes, he’s one of the least fleshed-out. He’s blond, he likes rock n roll, he shoots a machine gun, and that’s it. Because he’s tabula rasa, he’s been awesome to write. I’m also excited for Quick Kick because I’m a huge kung-fu fan. We’re leaning fully into that. Giannis’ design looks like an MMA fighter, like somebody getting into the ring against Conor McGregor. But he’s so fun to write, because while he has this more realistic anime look, we’re going full-in on cool, cinematic martial arts styles.
Given that G.I. Joe can and has been seen as glorifying the military-industrial complex, how often do the potential political implications weigh on you while writing?
SITTERSON: Exceptionally frequently and exceptionally heavily. Especially given the current geopolitical climate, with the rise of multiple ethnonationalist movements, the troubling militarization of the police and our own president-elect threatening to start a new nuclear arms race. This was something that was very much on my mind, and there were a couple decisions made as a direct result of it. The first is moving G.I. Joe away from being strictly an American team. The Decepticon Skywarp is our first non-American team member, but there are already more in the works – human ones from real world countries. The other change is our choice to have the Joes use lasers. Not only is it a nice nod to the Sunbow cartoon series (which is where Giannis and I first fell in love with Joe), but it avoids the more ugly aspects of the concept. To me, there’s something grim about putting heavy-duty, real-world weaponry in the hands of these heroic characters. Our Joes prefer to solve problems without brutality, and they’re talented and well-trained enough to manage it. I actually think that G.I. Joe can do a lot more good in another way, by embracing what has always made the series great, going all the way back to the cartoon series, where people of all genders, races, and ethnicities willingly came together to accomplish a goal.
What can you tease about the series going forward?
SITTERSON: Moving forward, one thing that’s really important to me was that it feel like an ongoing series. We’re fortunate because this is the crown jewel of Hasbro universe. This is something IDW and Hasbro are fully behind. What that all means is we have a ton of freedom to actually do an ongoing comic series, which is to see not arcs but one giant ongoing story, like a soap opera, or wrestling. Everybody has an arc, every villain and fight matters, no stuff is throwaway. Everything pays off, everything feeds together. We want to stay on this book forever. My favorite comics are the big, sprawling ones, like Grant Morrison New X-Men or Scott Sndyer and Greg Capullo’s Batman. People are gonna find out this Dec. 28: G.I. Joe will be the best-looking book on the racks.