First off, I’d like to thank Mark for taking time out of his busy schedule of fighting COBRA and saving the world to talk with us today.
Let’s start off with an “easy” question: Who is Mark Powers?
You can tell I’m a screw up by the fact that I consider this the hardest question! The quick answer is, I’m the new writer on G.I. Joe, working alongside Mike Bear under Mike O’Sullivan’s watchful eye. A couple years back, I worked on the title as the editor; even further back, I worked on Marvel’s editorial staff for quite a while.
In terms of writing, what are some of your biggest influences?
I’m not sure “influences” is the right term, because it implies that I am consciously thinking of so-and-so’s work in how I approach G.I. Joe. I’m not sure that’s something any writer does, so I’ll answer by listing some of my favorite storytellers, in no particular order: Alan Davis, Jeph Loeb, Warren Ellis, Bob Harras, Chris Claremont, Mark Gruenwald, James Felder, Peter Milligan, Scott Lobdell, Joe Casey; I should include what probably sounds like an obligatory mention of Alan Moore – V for Vendetta being one of my favorite stories of all time. And so I sound pretentious, David Lean and Frank Herbert.
How would you describe your writing process for G.I. Joe?
Back in early December, I went out to Devil’s Due for a week, where Mike O’ and I planned out – in rough form – a year-long storyline. I use that outline as a skeleton upon which to build the individual stories you’ll see each month. Based upon that, I’ll create a brief outline for each individual issue, which will precipitate some back and forth between Mike O’ and I. Once Mike O’s signed off on it, and subsequently, Hasbro, I’ll move on to writing the script.
You’ve served previously as the editor for “G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero”. Now you’re serving as the writer for “ America’s Elite”. How does it feel to be “on the other side of the pen”, so to speak?
It feels great. It’s a challenge, but a welcome and refreshing one.
Here’s a tricky question—do you consider yourself to be a G.I. Joe fan?
I definitely consider myself a fan. I didn’t grow up with G.I. Joe – unless you count the 12-inch version (I’m old) – but I really came to love the characters during my time as editor of the book.
In the 80s, the conflict between G.I. Joe and COBRA was very much analogous to the Cold War. Obviously, the global climate is a bit different now than it was then. How do you see G.I. Joe fitting into today’s world?
Cobra is a domestic terrorist group that’s grown into an international threat. Given the current geo-political climate in our own world, I think it’s fairly easy to see how what we do in the series reflects certain real world elements, albeit on a larger screen. We’re all very aware nowadays of certain groups and factions using violent means to promote their extremist viewpoints. Many of the individuals involved in those groups are true believers, fanatics; for others, violence is its own end. Those are elements that are certainly present in how we depict Cobra. In our own world, there are people who claim to believe one thing, but whose actions reveal something else. That’s certainly present in some Cobra characters, too.
G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero has always a bit of a multi-faceted continuity—with the original Marvel Comics series and the Sunbow (and later DiC) animation each going their own way. Which “flavor” of G.I. Joe has a stronger influence on your writing?
Definitely the comics, when it comes to the continuity. I’ve only seen one episode of the cartoon.
Do you have a favorite issue or storyline from the previous issues of either G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero or G.I. Joe: America’s Elite?
It'd be tough to name just one, and it's hard to be objective about stuff I've had some involvement in, as my memories of working with people on the stories often make me have warmer feelings towards those issues. That being said, I really liked the first Master & Apprentice series, which was the first story that really made me look at the Joe characters as people. I enjoyed the last few issues of the old series, warts and all, because it was the first time Mike and I got to work together. Same thing with the Snake-Eyes: Declassified series, especially issue #2.
Your first major storyline appears as though its going to answer many lingering questions about the Baroness and her “state” since the “America’s Elite” title began. Is that a fair assessment of what we’ll read on the printed page?
Most definitely. My first arc really belongs to Anastasia and hopefully gives some insight into who she is and why she acts the way she does. She’s a great character. I can’t wait to write her again.
The preview art for #21 shows the Valor vs. Venom incarnation of Croc Master and some of the Master Collector exclusive Jungle Vipers in action. Can readers expect to see closer ties between the comic and the toy line?
In terms of design, I’d say yes. Though that’s probably more of a question for Mike O’.
Are there any characters/groups you’d like to bring back from the Devil’s Due run on ARAH? Will the Red Shadows, Billy, the Coil, the clone children and Hannibal, or anyone else be making a reappearance?
In the next year, you’re going to see pretty much everyone who’s anyone in G.I. Joe lore. I’ll leave it at that for now…
Even Bongo the Balloon Bear? (Flashbacks can happen!)
I'm pushing for the Fridge.
If you could describe your take on G.I. Joe in one sentence, what would that sentence be?
Men and women who’ve been asked to combat the greatest threat to civilization – without selling their souls to do so.
Are they any characters in particular that you’re looking forward to writing?
As I mentioned above, I am anxious to write the Baroness again. I love Storm Shadow. I’d really love to delve more into Duke; and Stalker, who never seems to get enough screen time. There are some others, but that’d be telling…
Will General Colton be sticking around now that Hawk is back with the team? If so, will Jane be taking on a more active role?
Colton’s definitely sticking around, and you’ve already seen Jane show up in recent issues. I’m not sure yet about Jane having an active role, but events are forthcoming that may not give her – or anyone else – a choice in the matter.
Devil’s Due recently raised the price-per-issue on G.I. Joe: America’s Elite. Some fans have stated that this makes the book a bit harder to justify each month. Do you think fans will be getting their money’s worth with the new creative team?
I’m as painfully aware as everyone else nowadays of just how expensive it is to buy comics, so all I can say is I’m putting everything I have into the book, and so are Mike Bear and Mike O”. I think, as the next year unfolds, fans will feel like the ride is worth their investment.
In the “age of the internet”, feedback on a particular issue is almost instantaneous. Fans post their comments (both praise and criticism) on forums around the web within hours of a books release. Do you find this kind of instant feedback daunting?
I don't find it daunting, because I feel like I have a good handle on how to approach that feedback. I look at our readers' responses – whether online or through regular mail – as a resource. I don't let myself get emotionally tied up in whether the online reaction is positive or negative – I just try to use the information.
Due to the popularity of trade paperbacks at mass-market outlets, many writers have opted to script their stories in six to seven issue arcs—the “perfect” size for reprinting. Some readers have commented that this tends to endow a particular title with a more “choppy” feel as opposed to a natural story flow. Will we be seeing some longer, more far-reaching storylines in America’s Elite or will the book continue to work in terms of a series of shorter, more fast-paced arcs?
I think it'll vary. Nowadays, you can't completely ignore the role of trade paperbacks, and you have to be aware that most stories in a title like G.I. Joe will eventually be collected. That said, I don't worry about it all that much. At the end of the day, you just have to write what you feel will get people emotionally involved; that'll determine the structure.
It’s been said before that COBRA can never truly be successful in a comic as it would push the world of the series further away from the world we live in. Is this a statement that you would say is true and, if so, do you find it limiting as a writer?
Hmmm…define "successful.” What is it they're after?
Do you find it difficult to write a “military comic” in terms of accuracy, lingo, etc knowing that a sizeable percentage of your readers have been active military personnel at some point in their lives?
It's definitely challenging, but luckily I get to work with Phil Kost, who advises us on all things military.
How long do you see yourself staying with the title? Do you have a specific “run” in mind?
I am having a great time, so I'd like to stick around for the long haul. I'm sure, ultimately, this will be decided by the readers and Devil's Due. Right now, we have a year-long arc plotted out. One which will have major ramifications… ramifications that would be a lot of fun to write about.
One more question before we let you off the hook today. 2007 marks the 25 th anniversary of the launch of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero. Do you have any plans to mark this milestone?
That's more of a Mike O’ question.
JBL would like to thank Mark Powers for taking time out of his busy schedule to sit down and answer a few questions.