The Data Desk Handbook, GIJoe Special Missions: Manhattan, GIJoe: America’s Elite- The Hunt for Cobra Commander, Scarlett: Declassified, and GIJoe Special Missions: Tokyo. If this list sounds like a required reading of Devil’s Due’s contribution to the GIJoe mythos, it is. However, there is something else that all of these issues have in common and that is Devil’s Due editor/ writer Mike O’Sullivan. A long time Joe fan who now has what many would consider a “dream job”, Mike was gracious enough to sit down for a Q & A with JBL recently.
JBL: For those who haven’t had the opportunity to meet you in person, what can you tell people about “Mike O’Sullivan”?
MoS: Wow. Uhm… I’m originally from California, came to Chicago for college, and just sort of stayed. I left for a few years to do grad school in Georgia, but ended up back here with the friends and city I love! I’m a hard working, fun loving guy that has a pretty high-stress job that he loves more than he can explain!
JBL: How did you end up working for Devil’s Due Publishing?
MoS: Interesting story – I had a very horrifying near-death experience in 2000 that made me re-assess my life and direction. I found that the career path I was taking wasn’t really true to me, so I bagged it all, and went to school to pursue my first love – drawing and comics. I did my graduate studies at the Savannah College of Art & Design, earning a Masters in Sequential Art. Through my whole life, I idolized Mark Gruenwald over at Marvel Comics, and wanted to be him. I wanted to edit desperately. After finishing my art degree, and starting my own illustration company (which I still have), I bumped into Josh Blaylock and Susan Bishop at a Chicago comic book store, and started stalking them until Josh gave me a job. I’ve been here, ever since!
JBL: Were you a fan of GIJoe growing up or was this something that you encountered later in life?
MoS: Huge fan. G.I. Joe’s been a part of my life for the last 25 years and counting!
JBL: What’s it like to tour the convention circuit as the editor for Devil’s Due Publishing?
MoS: Well, I haven’t actually… so far, I’ve only attended a few Chicago Wizard Conventions, and this year’s G.I. Joe Convention. I’ve had a blast every time, though. The fans of our books are so great, and a lot of fun to talk with and hang out with! I’m hoping to make it to San Diego next year…
Special Missions: Manhattan
JBL: Okay, I’ve just got to ask this—what brought about Special Missions: Manhattan?
MoS: We wanted to do an issue that used some of the Joes that didn’t make it into AMERICA’S ELITE. Fans responded to it really well, so we’ve opted to do it again with TOKYO. Hopefully, we’ll be able to keep them coming!
JBL: “My Brother’s Keeper” was a great stand-alone story that featured the Stall brothers in their first appearance since the end of the “Real American Hero” title. Was this intended to provide some closure for the characters?
MoS: Basically. I think the concept of two brothers, one in Cobra, one in G.I. Joe has all sorts of crazy potential. But rather than wait for the time to tell a full story, I managed to get a short one in there, to at least bring it to a status quo. Barrel Roll now knows Blackout is alive, and that he’s fully embraced Cobra. The next time we see them, the conflict could prove pretty darn interesting!
JBL: So, you’re saying we might see more of the Stall brothers in the future? (He asked, fishing for hints.)
MoS: I would hope so! Blackout’s been making some cameos over in ELITE the last few issues, with a fun bit coming up… I hope to get a nice Stall story on the books sometime in the future…
JBL: PETS—where did that come from?
MoS: It came out of the crazy conversations we have during the course of our days here in the studio. It’s been something we have joked about for years, and decided to finally do. Some fans thought we were being too irreverent with the story, but I think there is more than enough room for light-hearted stories. In fact, I think we NEED them! If we can’t laugh at some of the silly aspects of our hobby, we’re in a dangerous place!
The Hunt for Cobra Commander
JBL: This issue marked the first real hint of Cobra Commander since “ America’s Elite” began. As a writer, was it odd to be writing the return of one of G.I. Joe’s most iconic characters?
MoS: Not at all! I’ve had his first return appearance in mind for quite some time, and that issue came through exactly as I hoped it would. I think we did the right thing by having him disappear for a while. Fans were ready for him, and almost chomping at the bit, by the time he showed up. Patience paid off, I think.
JBL: It was great to see Spirit back in action once more. Was he a character choice of yours or was this initially planned as a tie-in to “ America’s Elite”?
MoS: I had lobbied for Spirit from the beginning of AMERICA’S ELITE, but he just didn’t organically fit back then. When we wanted someone to be looking for Cobra Commander, and then taking Flint’s place on the team, Spirit was a no-brainer! One of the world’s greatest trackers hunting the world’s most vile terrorist? It had to happen.
JBL: Ah ha! So Spirit is going to be sticking around for a while then?
MoS: As of #15, Spirit is now officially back on the roster.
JBL: I’ve become a huge fan of the “Data Desk Handbook” entries that DDP is including in all of their G.I. Joe titles. Is this something that we can expect to see more of in the future? Is there any possibility of collecting them all into a single volume some day?
MoS: I’d love to see a big collection some day… until then, my goal is to get a profile in for characters when they make more than a cameo appearance. There will be a few more in the SPECIAL MISSIONS: TOKYO one-shot coming out in September, then a few in ELITE #17. A few more coming after that.
JBL: The most obvious question would be “Why Scarlett?”
MoS: Why not? She’s been there since the very beginning, is one of the most popular, well-known Joes, and yet, we know very little about her past! Revealing more seemed like a good thing to do.
JBL: As a single issue, is this going to tell the story of “her life so far” or rather a key incident from her past?
MoS: It pretty much covers her entire life from age 9 until just after she joins G.I. Joe.
JBL: What kind of research did you have to do to prepare for this issue?
MoS: I re-read the entire G.I. Joe comic library, gathering notes, and pulling all facts about Scarlett together into a rough timeline. I also re-read all of her file cards, and for kicks, watched a lot of the cartoon to see if there was anything there that I wanted to include. It was a lot of prep, but a lot of fun, and well worth it!
JBL: The cover art by Phil Noto has a very retro 60’s spy feel to it. Is this in keeping with the tone of the story itself?
MoS: Not necessarily. There are some “spy” aspects to the story, but nothing 60s.
JBL: I’ve read that we will see a cameo (and a cross over) with “Snake Eyes: Declassified” in the issue—care to shed any light on this?
MoS: This is one I’d like readers to discover on their own… Ultimately, I think what we ended up doing feels really natural.
JBL: Very early into the Marvel series, Scarlett shared quite a bit of “panel time” with Clutch whom she bantered with endlessly. Will some of this be seen in Scarlett: Declassified?
MoS: SCARLETT only goes to right about the time she joins the team. Fitting in more after this time, including Clutch, just wasn’t possible with the page count we had. He’s not really that integral to her origin, but rather a funny and interesting relationship interaction during her experiences on the team.
JBL: In later issues of the Marvel series, Scarlett’s sister Sioban seemed to be the only visible member of her family. Will the Atlanta attorney be making any cameo appearances?
MoS: The family is involved in her story, you bet.
JBL: In most portrayals of Shana’s background, her mother is never depicted as a strong influence in her life. Why do you think this is?
MoS: She’s always seemed like a guy’s gal to me. One of those that wouldn’t necessarily hang out at the mall, nor do slumber parties with the girls… She’s always seemed like a tomboy, of sorts. It just made sense to me that her father would be prominent. Having him become paralyzed sort of answered some fan criticism of why she was able to accept Snake-Eyes’ disfigurement so easily. It’s in her nature, but also, she’s used to being around disabilities, because of her father. Those types of things don’t change how she feels about people. I really wanted to amp that up, using her father as the key.
JBL: Some familiar faces (non-G.I. Joe) make an appearance in this story—was this intended from the “get go” or was it something that came about later?
MoS: I had a short list of people I wanted to have been in her history, but didn’t want her to become another Snake-Eyes – you know, where EVERY character in the G.I. Joe mythos is tied to his history somehow… Some made it into the story, and I cut a few others. I think it all worked out well, though. It felt natural to have her interact with the people that ended up in the story, and in her past.
True confessions: one of my favorite things from my childhood was the fight between Destro and Scarlett on the airplane in the original G.I. Joe cartoon mini-series. I’ve always thought that the two of them would make great foes, and have been looking for a chance to make that happen. I was really happy when I found a place to make it work out…
JBL: In any interesting twist, you wrote Scarlett as having passed the bar and worked as an attorney for a brief time. Her 1993 file card mentions that she graduated summa cum laude from two Ivy League universities but makes no mention of her area of study. How did she come to be a lawyer in your eyes?
MoS: Because I knew I wanted her to have an FBI agent, and a law degree is one of the degrees you need to have to apply for the FBI. Plus, a rigid application of the law seemed to really fit her personality, as I wrote it in the book. I thought that it was just a nice fit. It meshed well with her logical and regimented mind!
JBL: As a writer, do you feel that there is a danger in revealing too much of a character’s past? (IE- Marvel Comics and Wolverine) If so, do you approach the character knowing that you’ll be leaving some questions unanswered or do you feel that the back story adds more depth to the character?
MoS: It’s only natural that after 25 years, things eventually need to be told, or things can get stagnant. Scarlett hasn’t had that much revealed about her, and was never meant to be a mysterious character. Revealing her past isn’t really going to cost us anything in character depth, but rather, add to it. There are always more things we can learn. After all, with only 40 pages, we couldn’t tell EVERY part of her life… that’s the fun with comics; you can always find new stories and moments in-between panels and pages!
Special Missions: Tokyo
JBL: Aside from functioning as the editor, what is your involvement with the forthcoming second Special Missions comic?
MoS: I’m writing the back-up story in the book, revealing whom Major Bludd killed (as revealed in ELITE #9). I’m also co-writing the profiles with Sam Wells. But, as with all G.I. Joe books, I’m pretty deeply involved all the way along.
JBL: If you could describe this issue in one word, what would it be?
MoS: Pitch-perfect. This issue became exactly what I hoped it would be. I’m extremely proud of this one, and enjoyed working on it almost more than anything I’ve been involved in during my career.
JBL: Will we see PETS part 2?
MoS: Not in TOKYO. Maybe some day.
JBL: Can fans hold out hope for more Special Missions issues in the future? Will even more familiar faces make appearances outside of the regular “ America’s Elite” title?
MoS: “Ho ho ho” is all I’ll say.
JBL: Can we expect to see more “Mike O’Sullivan” writing credits published in the future—including outside the realm of G.I. Joe?
MoS: My plate is insanely full these days, without trying to do more writing elsewhere… Maybe some day that will happen. But, until then, I’m very happy with telling tales within G.I. Joe. SO much to tell with them! My words will be seen in ELITE #19-20, and then one other project coming up sometime soon…
JBL: If you had the opportunity to write for any one character in all of literature, which one would you choose?
MoS: Oh, man… That’s a huge question. My interests in literature run the gamut… so much so, I’d be impossible to pick just one. These days, a lot of my personal writing seems to focus on real people, and telling their stories, slice-of-life style. Not really for mass consumption, but rather just trying to give a voice to people’s stories. Maybe someday, I’ll find the proper forum for sharing those…
But, for the sake of this question, focusing just on comics, honestly, Scarlett and Spirit were always at the top of my list. Following close behind is Kitty Pryde of the X-Men. There are lots more, but those are just the first two that come to mind.
JBL: Again, a big “thank you” to Mike O’Sullivan for his time today.
MoS: Thank YOU! This was great fun! I really appreciate being a part of this conversation! Say hi anytime!
Questions? Comments? Wonder if there will ever be an "Ice Cream Soldier: Declassified"?
Discuss this interview HERE.