JoeBattlelines: It’s been 20 years since the original Marvel run began. Do you find it difficult to try and write new stories in a period and style that is now two decades past?
Larry Hama: Sure, since almost all of what was in RAH #1 was ret-conned later. I only write one way. The way I happen to be writing at the moment I write. I hope it’s changing for the better.
JBL: Do you feel that Declassified will be accessible to new readers as well as fans of the original run? Was there any focus placed on making this title more inviting to new fans?
LH: None at all. It exists to fill in the blanks.
JBL: When Declassified was announced, many fans were eager to see if the fabled “Shooter” would be revealed? The popular theory is that Shooter was initially intended as a nod to Marvel’s Jim Shooter and never meant to be a real member of GIJoe. Can you shed any light on this?
LH: The letterer simply inserted the name of the Editor in Chief in the space that was left blank.
JBL: I’m probably fishing more than I should be, but could fans expect to see Shooter again outside of Declassified?
LH: Not likely, Fred.
JBL: Are there any specific characters from this era that you were particularly interested in writing new stories for?
LH: Kwinn and Major Bludd on a job together.
JBL: In Issue #1, we see a familiar face in the form of Chuckles who was originally introduced back in #60 of the Marvel run. Back then he seemed to be more of a background character, yet now he’s moved to the forefront in terms of his purpose. Can we expect to see more familiar faces from the Marvel series?
LH: Absolutely. A lot.
JBL: Is there any chance of a Dr. Venom cameo in the series?
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JBL: Sparks, originally a character from the animated series, makes a surprising and poignant appearance in issue #1. His flashback shed new insight into the background of Steeler, as Chuckles’ appearance did into Hawk’s. Can we expect other “secondary” team members such as Short-Fuze, Grand Slam, and Zap to receive similar treatment?
LH: All thirteen original Joes will have light shed upon them.
JBL: So, will we treated to the reasons that some of the “original 13” enlisted in the first place?
LH: You will be treated to reasons for ALL of them. And then some.
JBL: Is there any character in Declassified that you particularly wanted to be able to develop further?
LH: That might give away too much.
JBL: The original GIJoe comic run was very much a “Cold War era” comic. Now, the current geo-political stage seems to be more divided along lines of “ideology” as opposed to nationalism. Does this present any challenges in making GIJoe accessible to new readers?
LH: Ideology was something that was always read into the stories (or inserted by an editor). My POV is the regular soldier’s.
JBL: You’re giving us a glimpse into the early days of Cobra and the beginning of the Crimson Guard program. As a young child, this was always one of my favorite aspects of Cobra—the “societal infiltrator”, if you will. Will the “Siegies” be playing a big role in the Declassified mini-series?
LH: Yes. No. Maybe. Mostly NO.
JBL: Being that this story is a prequel to the Marvel run, will we be seeing more of “commando Snake Eyes” as opposed to “ninja Snake Eyes”?
LH: You will be seeing “Master of Improvisational Culinary Skills” Snake-Eyes.
JBL: Would you consider writing modern GIJoe stories if given the opportunity?
LH: Nobody believes I can write “modern.”
JBL: I’ve read elsewhere that you came onto Wolverine when the book was in danger of cancellation. You stayed with the book from 1990 – 1997 and seemingly breathed new life into what is now one of Marvel’s signature characters. Was it an odd transition from GIJoe to Wolverine?
LH: Yes. I was pretty much totally unfamiliar with the character. But then I realized, “Hey, he’s just Snake-Eyes with adamantium claws and he can talk.” I didn’t consciously try to write any differently. The available artists made a big difference. Try to imagine Snake-Eyes, Storm-Shadow and Scarlett as drawn by Marc Silvestri, Adam Kubert or Mark Texeira.
JBL: How much freedom did you have with the title? Were there characters that were completely off limits or could use any of the “X-verse” cast?
LH: Nobody cared what I did for the first few years. Then it became really popular, and then EVERYBODY wanted to get in their two cents.
JBL: Wolverine’s memories of his past (at that point) were pretty much a jumbled mess. Were you given specific guidelines as to what could or could not be shown in flashbacks?
LH: I ret-conned that by saying that most of those memories were implants.
JBL: You were writing Wolverine back when he went through his “feral regression” post #100. For a time, he more animal than man yet within six issues he was back to normal again. Was this a decision of Marvel’s to undo the effects of #100?
LH: Some of these things were the results of the yearly X-Conferences, where all the writers on the X titles would have to go on retreat together and hash out what would happen over the next twelve months and agree to arcs and intersections. All I remember about them was that the food was pretty decent.
JBL: Would you consider revisiting Wolverine again if given the chance?
LH: There are no characters I wouldn’t write if somebody were paying me. I even liked writing the Howard The Duck Christmas Special. I would kill to write Uncle Scrooge.
JBL: So, what was the inspiration behind “Bucky O’Hare”? Its tone was semi-satirical—was it a parody of anything specific?
LH: That was my Wally Wood tribute piece. Everything about it was pure Woody. The kid hero, the retro space-ships, the funny animals, even the title. It’s not a parody, it’s straight adventure, only with ducks and rabbits and toads.
JBL: The end of the first story arc (collected in the graphic novel) seemed to resolve most of the major storylines, save for Willy’s being stranded in the Ani-verse. Was this the end of the story?
LH: No. The graphic novel as printed was supposed to be the first half of a two part story. I actually wrote the whole story as a screenplay. I wrote the script for the second graphic novel based on the screenplay, and it resolves everything from the first one and gets Willy back home. Michael Golden drew most of the second graphic novel, but Continuity Publishing went under before it came out.
JBL: Would you consider revisiting these characters, given the chance?
LH: Sure. There was tons of stuff done that never saw the light of day. Michael Golden, Neal Adams and I designed a whole second season worth of figures and vehicles for the toy line. Toadborg is awesome, as is Pit-Stop Pete! The scenes on the Toad Planet are mind-boggling.
JBL: The comic was turned into an animated series in the early 90’s and even a toy line. Were you consulted regarding the development of either?
LH: Well, Golden and I designed all the characters as toys first. That’s why the figures are EXACTLY like the comic characters, down to the 3mm plugs on the belts and the 3mm holes in their feet. I had virtually nothing to do with the animated show, as again (like with GI Joe) I was not considered a good enough writer to work for TV animation. I think the bias worked both ways. Comic book editors didn’t think the animation writers made very good comics writers. A few animation writers showed up and did some comics work for while, but they had the attitude of “now we’re going to show you kiddies how to really do this stuff,” which didn’t go over so hotsy-totsy. Very subjective bias going on since both groups considered what the other was doing was childish! I guess, until I really dealt with the animation people, I never really thought about the audience demographic-- Oh, we’re supposed to be doing this stuff for KIDS???
JBL: What do you feel was more important to your success at establishing the G.I. Joe universe - your background in the military, or simply your imagination?
LH: Imagination. Unconcern with trying to impress other comics writers- I wasn’t going to do that anyway!
JBL: A great many fans actually credit your work on GIJoe as their “introduction to the comic medium”. Is it daunting to think that something you wrote opened the doors to the world of comic books for so many?
LH: I am not aware of it, since I don’t get to very many conventions, and even when I do go, there doesn’t seem to be very much interest.
JBL: Which do you feel is a more daunting task, essentially creating a whole new universe from your own imagination (like Bucky O'Hare, and G.I. Joe) or taking on a writing job for characters that already have decades of history and a fiercely loyal fan base (like Wolverine or Batman)?
LH: It’s a lot harder to take on somebody else’s fantasy. Easier to make your own shoes and walk in them than to cram your feet into Doc Martens that don’t fit.
JBL: Any immediate future plans with Devils' Due for more G.I. Joe oriented work?
LH: We are talking.
JBL: What else are you working on currently?
LH: I’m doing educational graphic novels about famous battles for Osprey/Rosen, and a lot of things I can’t talk about. Some film stuff, some TV animation.
Thanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer a few questions for us today, Mr. Hama.