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So, I know that a lot of Joe fans are excited about your latest project—Snake Eyes: Declassified. Let me just ask this—why Snake Eyes?
It’s what they offered me!
Seriously, though – this was first presented to me as a Snake-Eyes ongoing set in present day, and then trimmed back to a mini-series. Given that format, they put forth the idea of doing the definitive origin tale. I had to think it over, but it didn’t take long to warm up to the idea. After all, if this goes well, it would certainly be a great primer for a Snake-Eyes solo book…where better to start than at the beginning? Plus, it’s a story that’s never been told in a complete way; it’s always been pieced out and tied into other story elements. That’s absolutely irresistible for me.
So, you’d be up for a Snake Eyes solo book—any ideas as to what directions you’d like to take the character?
Yes, sir! I think there are some things that are absolutely necessary for a Snake-Eyes Book, plus I have a list of my own personal wishes. To me, you would have to distance Snake-Eyes from the proper Joe / Cobra conflict and build a rogue’s gallery for the guy. Sure, you’d see Firefly and guys like that, but SE would also need some personal enemies – some rooted in the past, some in the present.
I also think that the supporting cast is just as important to the book as it is to Batman. You have to see Scarlett, Kamakura, Jinx and Budo for sure – at least in a rotating sense. I would probably not have Storm Shadow lurking around too much, though. He has his place there, but if he’s in the main book, you risk overexposure. You ever see the Ewan McGregor documentary show Long Way Round where he and his pal go motorcycling around the world? I’d love to start an ongoing Snake-Eyes book with SE and Kamakura on motorcycles out in the middle of nowhere, kicking us off with a road-movie sensibility where we can focus on the friendship and respect these two share.
Then they roll up on some villain and cut his toes off. Haha.
I’d like to see the Arashikage clan finally see some rebirth, although a Snake-Eyes monthly shouldn’t be Ninja-centric…not all the time, anyway. It’s a vital part of the SE mythos, but it’s not the only part. The other key element for me would be finally taking the character into the future; we’ll know his past by the time Declassified is done – it’s time for him to move forward.
Of course, it’s all a dream at this point.
What’s it like, as a writer, finding yourself telling the back-story of one of GIJoe’s signature characters?
Terrifying. We’re talking about the franchise player here, and I know that there will be people who won’t be happy no matter WHAT I do with the story. All you can do is devote your path to staying true to what’s been established and hope the sincerity comes through. The responsibility on my shoulders is massive with this project.
What I can say is that I am extremely proud of this series. Finding the emotional center for Snake-Eyes was so much easier than I thought it would be – it’s not that we haven’t seen glimpses of that center in the last 20-odd years, but it’s never been verbalized to any substantial degree. I was reading the first issue script to my wife and I had her in tears by the time it was done, but the tears started at a very optimistic point in the story – during interaction between Snake-Eyes and Tommy, easily the two best friends in the Joe universe. The tragic end didn’t help, obviously, but I was happy to see that the emotional impact of the devotion these two guys have for each other came through.
Wow, that’s a pretty strong reaction! We’re going to be seeing a lot of the Snake Eyes/ Storm Shadow early days—does the same apply to Stalker as well?
Lonzo plays his part – it’s fairly significant in issue 1 and he returns for issues 5 and 6.
Some people might say that this story has already been told in flashbacks in the original Marvel series. How do you address statements like that?
To those people, I say this: check it out and see for yourself. There will be things that are exactly the way you remember them – they way they should be – but there are easily just as many new elements, maybe more.
When, in Snake Eye’s life, does this story take place?
It starts at age 18, just before he ships off to war. It ends after a fateful mission in the early days of the G.I. Joe team…
Fateful mission? So, we’re going to be seeing the infamous accident that transformed Snake Eyes forever?
Oh, yes. Now I just need to figure out how it is that Doc is there, even though he didn’t seem to know Snake-Eyes later in issue #11 of the Marvel run. And then there’s the problem about those Viper uniforms…it’s all workable, though. I’ve got some ideas in my head.
The moral of this whole face-burning thing? “Redheads are trouble.”
So this story takes place during Viet Nam?
It takes place during a war in a foreign country that has lots of stinky jungle terrain. If the die-hards want to read that as the ‘Nam, we’ve been very careful to allow that…but we’ve also left it open for time-free interpretation. Andrew Swenson and Todd Weinzierl were absolutely invaluable in their advisory positions, and I even had some correspondence with ol’ Straight Edge about some things. Also, James McFadden’s timeline is my best friend. I should have it tattooed on my arms.
What—no Arashikage tattoo?
You know, I don’t have any tattoos – but I’ve been considering getting one to represent each different “universe” that I work on in comics. Right now, I’d need something Joe or Cobra-centric, something for The Last Bastion and something in Japanese.
Did I say that out loud? Hmmm. Maybe I’ll have to tell you what that means some time.
What kind of research did you do to prepare for this series? (Outside of journeying to Japan to join a ninja clan.)
Besides calling in the aforementioned experts to make sure my ideas would work properly, I made a lot of trips back in time to the Marvel book, refreshing myself on the miniscule personality traits for even the minor characters – looking for the slightest bit of nuance and open interpretation to combine with the specific, established things.
The most crucial “research” was the mental process of getting inside the head of Snake-Eyes. I had to write dialogue for Snake-Eyes. Do you know fucking scary that is?
And he’s not the only character that required total immersion. Really, they all do, but there are obviously key players that take the spotlight at various points, and I really had to inhabit those characters completely. Maybe I sound like an ass by putting in such grand terms, but that’s the way it is. I’m praying that this turns into a regular Snake-Eyes book for me, because I am SO in touch with the guy at this point that I don’t know what I’ll do if I have to stop writing him.
So, can we expect to see characters like the Hard Master, Soft Master, Onihashi, Wade Collins, etc in this mini-series?
Oh, yes. Wade’s in issue one along with Dickie and Ramon. Issue two is about Snake-Eyes’ relationship with…ummm….issues three and four are the Ninja years, issue five is the fall of the clan and the recruitment into the Joes and six is the birth of Snake-Eyes as we know him now. You’re going to see more of characters like Hard Master, Soft Master, Jinx, Firefly, Zartan, Cobra Commander and Onihashi than you might expect -there’s definitely been some more detail added to their roles.
Oh, and I’ll fight tooth and nail if necessary to ensure that Breaker and Flash show up in the Joe years, preferably together. It has to be done.
Yes, Breaker and Flash are essential characters considering how small the team was at that point. Will the “early Joe” Snake Eyes be much different from the character we’ve all come to know?
Not so much, in my eyes. When he’s brought to the Joe team, he’s been living in seclusion after a pretty tragic life. He’ll already have the “quiet and scary” thing down pat. Of course, he won’t be wearing a mask and he’ll be able to talk, so that should temper it a little.
I’ve got to ask this—Snake Eyes and Scarlet, are we going to see any hints of their eventual romance?
If you had to describe this series in five words or less, what would you say?
“Snake-Eyes The Movie”, or “Keep Me In The Joeverse”!
You’ve completed a run on the GIJoe title which is many a fan’s dream. Looking back, do you have any thoughts about your run on the main title?
My feelings about it vary from day to day, honestly. I won’t lie – I can’t imagine what my life would be like without working on Joe in some capacity. It’s been a pretty up-and-down experience (as any comics experience is, I’m learning) but I still consider myself very fortunate to be able to work so closely on something that I truly love. Do I wish some things were different? Yes, absolutely…but in the end, those aren’t my decisions to make. All I can really do is write the best stories I can and hope they come through to the readers. If that happens, then I have faith the readers will reward me with their support. You’ve certainly done very well by me so far, and I thank you for it.
Can we expect to see any new GIJoe projects from you down the road?
That’s up to you guys – and Devil’s Due. I’m absolutely up for more Joe work – if you want DD to keep me working, you need to let them know by buying the Snake-Eyes book and making your voices heard as politely as possible. I’d love to do a Snake-Eyes book, or more historical stuff for sure – but ultimately, if it’s in-continuity, you can count me in. Hell, I’d even do a Ninja book. How about “G.I. JOE – THE EDGE”, a Ninja team book? No?
If you could choose any Joe—past or present—to be the subject of a future mini-series, who would it be?
Oh, you bastard. That’s so hard. You know me – I’d love to do “CHUCKLES FOREVER”, but you have to consider sales when it comes to this stuff. Hmmm…Duke would be fun, maybe a Hammer Team 2.0 book? General Rey is big on my list - I did pitch a second black-ops style team book to DD a while back; they would have been led by Rey and the line-up included Kamakura and Barrel Roll, two characters I feel close to. Snake-Eyes, of course. Wraith – yeah, I said it.
Do you have any other non-Joe projects that you can discuss at this time?
Yes, I do! I’m in final negotiations on something very different that I can’t discuss, but in the meantime, there is the creator-owned Voicebox Universe that I share with Dan Jolley and Marie Croall, starting in February from Speakeasy Comics. Dan’s doing a supernatural private investigator tale called Sawed-Off Mojo, Marie’s laying down some serious dark psychological horror in Shelter and The Last Bastion is my take on four magic-users who become our world’s first super-heroes. It’s a summer-movie action comedy that also gets pretty dark at times. The artist is Zeu, who’s kicking ass on Genie for FC9 right now.
You can find out more about all three books at www.voiceboxcomics.com – we’ll see you there!
Thanks for answering our questions today Brandon.