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    Josh Blaylock Interview

    On January 18, 2005, rumors surrounding the comic book started, hinting at cancellations, reboots, and relaunches. Josh Blaylock, President and founder of Devil's Due Publishing, took the time to answer the following questions for us regarding the rumors and DDP's plans for G.I.Joe.

    Q: Can you give us a basic overview of what is happening to the G.I.Joe title?

    This June, the G.I.Joe world is turned upside down when a new menace blindsides G.I.Joe AND Cobra, and changes things forever. The G.I.Joe team has had a string of bad luck for a while now, and they truly are the underdogs now. Even their own government is working against them in many ways. Cobra, on the other hand, has fallen completely back under Cobra Commander's control, and looks to be upon the verge of victory. Well, things are going to change for BOTH of them in more ways than one.

    Issue #43 will be the last issue of the current G.I.Joe ongoing series, and June 30th, just days before July 4th, the series will be reborn. The continuity is NOT going away. It NEVER was. But what we WILL be doing, is altering the way the Joe team operates, and the structure of Cobra, to make the series more accessible to casual readers, new readers, and big name creative talent. We're going to be tackling some of the 'age' issues with the characters, and the series timeline, but I'll go into that later.

    The "NEW" G.I.Joe will take place one year after issue #43. Some of the characters will have gone through major changes, but all will be more resolved than ever in their mission to defend freedom from the likes of Cobra... and everything ELSE that threatens America. Joe Casey steps in as the new writer, and newly signed exclusive DDP artist Stefano Caselli on pencils. Brandon Jerwa will begin work on a top secret project that ties in with this title, and Tim Seeley begins drawing an equally classified upcoming project that is going to be his best work yet.

    Wrapping up the Current Series

    Q: How will the current G.I.Joe series end?

    With a BANG. We have been working to make this something big, that will shake up the worlds of both G.I.JOE and COBRA.

    Q: Will the cover price rise for the double sized issues (Issues 42 and 43)?

    Yes, they will, but they will be 44 pages of story content for $4.50. So the two will actually be the equivalent of a 4-issue miniseries. So $9.00 for 4 issues worth, compared to the usual $11.80.

    Q: Why the cancellation and relaunch? Sales? Was G.I.Joe reaching the point where it wouldn't have been financially viable to publish?

    First off, I just have to say we didn't make this choice without a lot of thought. I weighed it heavily. I have a lot of pride that we publish a series that's gotten all the way to the 40's, and I want it to go to 100. But I have to look at the reality too - this is a different day and age in comic books, and it's harder than ever to get the comic book retailers' attention. The only reason it got their attention in 2001 wasn't because of the Previews Diamond ads, or anything else - it was the thousands of fans calling and bugging the retailers.

    So fast forward past the 80's boom, and we're the lone survivor. Even past Transformers now. So kudos to all of you who've proven we're not just a fad! That said, retailers aren't ordering like they used to, and we need something to shake things up. Something that not only gets the fans' attention, but the RETAILERS. This is the day to day marketing struggle that we deal with for ALL of our comic books.

    This isn't a new thing. Every comic book that has been around for years and years goes through this cycle. Look at the sales of Batman before Jim Lee and Jeff Loeb came on. Sales slumped and slumped, and they had to do something to shake things up.

    Q: Why not just hype up #44 with the new writer and keep on going?

    This is where, because of that darn 80's trend, we're different than the superhero comics. There's still a pretty large bias, or backlash, that we're getting over. We've tried to do major promotional campaigns - Michael Turner and Talent Caldwell with Wraith, the Return of Serpentor, the Paralyzation of Hawk. But while some created temporary blips, nothing went gangbusters.

    So if I were to completely ignore this trend, eventually it WOULD no longer be viable. This is how all comics go. You have to do something that REALLY gets people's attention - and that's at the risk of upsetting some fans, try as hard as you might not to. We need the 50,000 or so fans who left to come check out the book again. We need the casual fans, or heck, even people who've NEVER read Joe before to feel like this is something the HAVE to check out. The perfect time to come back home.

    The bottom line is, I don't think simply 'shaking things up' in the story will get the attention that we need. Love it or hate it, creating a new "number one" has a lot of power.

    I will admit, though, the reaction from the most passionate fans about the renumbering was harsher than I expected. I didn't realize quite how much they valued the numbering... obviously even more than I do, and this is my "baby." Out of respect for them, I'm considering continuing a bi-line in the credits that states what the numbering 'would' have been had it not been relaunched. That will be Hasbro's call in the end.

    Q: Will the plotlines be tied up at the end of the series?

    Yes, MOST of them will be. There will be a couple of loose ends that we want to revisit later, but the big ones will be wrapped up nice and tight. STORM SHADOW's situation will be explained in much depth in Brandon and Udon's "Master and Apprentice" sequel. One of the coolest books we've done to date.

    Q: Will the series continue to be collected in trade paperback?

    Yes!! Actually, we've been placing a lot of focus on the book store market for the past year, and hope to have our best year for trades period. Part of the side effect of improving our marketing, though, was slowing down how quickly we were releasing them. The Serpentor Trade, and then Players and Pawns will be out very close to one another, though, since it's been a while. The Serpentor trade was received very well, though, in no small part thanks to Tim Seeley's awesome cover.

    This also means, though, that you're not going to see a TPB for a new series for quite a few months after the "floppies" have come out. So if you're going to 'wait for the trade' you'll be waiting a while.

    Q: Will the Red Shadows, especially the specific characters, resemble the old Action Force toy line they are based on, or are you simply borrowing the name?

    For the most part, it's just the name. You know, I love that Skeletron guy, but he doesn't have much of a place in the more grounded universe of the G.I.Joe comic. We wanted a new threat, though. Something that was a danger to both Joe and Cobra. We could have made something up, but this was an existing name in the Joe archives, and just sounded so damn cool. We're keeping the black skull and crossbones. Brandon hated it, but when I tried to stop Tim from drawing it, he kept stabbing me. Ha.

    Jerwa knows so much on Joe lore, though, I wouldn't be surprised if he throws in a few "Easter Eggs."

    Q: Will the Red Shadows include or be led by established characters?

    The characters are part of a very powerful organization that until now has gone unseen. These are VERY patient guys, who plot and scheme until they know their plans will be very effective. Although new to the comics, they will tie in with the distant past of the G.I.Joe universe.

    Q: Will we see Action Force involved in the story at all or possibly in their own series?

    Hmmm... there's an idea. No plans at this time, but I gotta write that down.

    Q: With the coming rise of the Red Shadows there's been word that this new group has the ability to destroy both G.I. Joe and Cobra. Will it be explained how did this new faction was able to rise to such a prominent size and ability while still going unnoticed by either G.I. Joe or Cobra?

    Patience, Stealth, and Ruthlessness.

    Q: It's been rumored that a major Cobra character will die, and a number of less important Joes have all ready been killed. Will we see the death of any prominent Joes, or at least a more peaceful retirement for some of the older members

    SOMEONE is going to die - actually more than one if you include the deaths that have been going on, but things may not be as they appear. Sorry, but I don't want to give away any more than this.

    Part I (Wrapping up the Current Series) - Part II (Relaunch) - Part III (Reloaded) - Part IV (Robots) - Part V (Other)

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