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    Q&A with G.I. Joe: America's Elite Writer - Mark Powers

    Starting with G.I. Joe: America's Elite #21, Mark Powers rejoins the G.I. Joe comic book team as writer. Mark Powers previously served as editor of the G.I. Joe titles from G.I. Joe #31 (Devil's Due) through G.I. Joe: America's Elite #4.

    For more information on art by Mark Powers and G.I. Joe: America's Elite comics, check out the following:

    Thanks to the YoJoe.com forum members who submitted questions, and thanks to Mark Powers for taking the time to answer them!

    Q: How far ahead do you have the book planned?

    We've got issues written through #26, and plotted out through #36. After that, we've got ballpark plans.

    Q: Can we expect the same 4-6 issue "Trade Paperback Length" arcs going forward?

    Well, the Baroness arc ("Sins of the Mother") certainly fits that format. And though it's not quite as cut and dried, the year-long arc we have planned out does roughly break down into three acts. How it's all packaged in trade form is ultimately for Mike O'Sullivan (Editor) to decide.

    Q: How does it feel taking over a book written by someone with the reputation of Joe Casey? Is there any added pressure brought on by that?

    There is some pressure, especially since I personally love Joe's work. But it's a good pressure. Whether I'm up to it or not will ultimately be judged by our readers.

    Q: What is the biggest challenge moving into such a niche title that has such a deep range of characters and history?

    I'd say it's trying to make sure everyone in the cast gets their moment(s), and making sure they're there for a reason - not just to be in the background. Naturally, in any given story line, one or two characters are going to move to the fore front, and act as the prism through which we see the story unfold. But that doesn't mean the other characters can just become sheer background elements - you have to identify aspects of their psyches and personalities that are pertinent to the story at hand, and dramatize them. I've found that to be a real challenge.

    Q: What kinds of things do you foresee trying to accomplish to attempt to bring back some of the fans who have left the book over the past year or two?

    That's somewhat of a loaded question, in that I don't really approach the book with the thought, "some people have left, how do I bring them back?" I try to look at the concept as a whole, at what has made it successful over the long term, and to make sure I'm playing up those elements. Also, I very much have been trying to look at the book and the concept and ask, "what hasn't been done yet?"

    That said, we are going to be seeing a great many Joes that haven't been seen in a while - but their return will be far from voluntary or frivolous.

    Q: How influential is Larry Hama's work to what you're doing in this book?

    Larry created the characters and the relationships that have given the title its longevity. His work is as influential and pertinent to G.I. Joe: America's Elite as Stan Lee's is to almost all Marvel titles.

    Q: Where do you want to see the G.I. Joe universe in 2007?

    I'm trying to answer this in a way that won't give anything away...so let's say, I'd like to see Cobra Commander more dangerous than ever before, and the Joes as badass in opposing him than we've seen. I'd like to see the conflict ramped up, and I want to see how various relationships are put to the test because of these things.

    Q: What is the essence of "G.I. Joe" to you, as far as the mythology goes?

    The Joes are soldiers in the noblest sense of the word. I think that when most people hear or read "soldier," they envision someone who doesn't necessarily want to fight - might even abhor it - but is nevertheless willing to put life and limb at risk for something that goes far beyond themselves. On a more intimate level, the Joes are friends whose bond has been cemented by shared sacrifice, hardship, and tragedy. Their loyalty to each other transcends everything.

    Q: Do you agree with the opinion of previous creative teams that seemed to think a smaller cast was a better dynamic, or do we have a chance to see a broader group of characters brought in?

    From a writer's standpoint, I don't think there's any question that a smaller cast works better. It's certainly easier to work with a smaller cast. There's a reason why most successful TV shows have a fairly limited cast of core characters - the larger you get, the more often the challenges I mentioned above (in terms of giving every cast member a little focus) become problems. Look at LOST-- fans' dissatisfaction (which may be a relative term when it comes to a phenomenon like this show) seemed to begin and multiply as the cast grew, elements were constantly introduced, and previously introduced elements seemed to have been forgotten.

    Now, all that being said, this is part of what makes G.I. Joe a different animal. The enormous cast is part of the concept itself - the team is comprised of a couple hundred soldiers from all branches of the military. Fans want and expect to see as many of them as possible. What Mike O' and I are trying to do over the next year is to make use of these characters in a way that doesn't seem arbitrary.

    Q: I'm already excited for issue #23 with the return of Flint; will we be seeing more Joes making special guest appearances or cameo shots?

    As alluded to above, yep.

    Q: How seriously do you take fan input and opinions when you map out a typical story line?

    As seriously as I took it when I was editor of G.I. Joe, or for that matter, when I was an editor at Marvel: which is to say, I do read and consider what readers have to say - to an extent. You want to weigh the opinions of those who pay our salaries. But opinions can be mercurial, so you have to be able to identify the larger trends in thought and reaction, and make use of them.

    Q: In your opinion, what drives Cobra to do what they do?

    I don't think there's any one answer for that. Some Cobra operatives do what they do purely for ideological reasons; others for selfish reasons; others still fool themselves into thinking they're in it for noble purposes, while they're really just indulging some darker aspect of their psyches.

    Q: Do you have plans for the return of the Red Shadows?

    They'll be back at some point, but they're not the focus at the moment. Which isn't to say one or more of them won't be seen at all in the very near future.

    Q: Do you have plans to pay tribute, use these old names, or at least more nods or connections, to the original Red Shadows?

    It's too early to say, but I'd like to make use of any and all aspects of the overall concept where and when it makes sense.

    Q: Will we learn whom Vaughn and Dela Eden are talking to when they are spying on Joe Colton and Hector Ramirez (G.I. Joe #40)?

    Were they talking to someone we've never seen, or someone we have seen? Time will tell...

    Q: You've stated you'll be drawing on elements set up in previous series - does this include the Marvel run and are there any story/character ideas you remember for that which could be worked into America's Elite?

    Well, of course it includes the Marvel run, that's considered part of our continuity. Mostly, when it comes to things like this, I'm thinking of relationships and personal connections that have been previously established, but which have been neglected or forgotten. And/or, looking back to see where gaps have been left, and considering if and how those gaps should be filled, if it can impact current events.

    Q: Who is your favorite character?

    It's tough to name just one. I like Storm Shadow a lot - it's hard not to identify with a guy who, even though he's always tried to do the right thing, keeps getting the short end of the stick. (Of course, DD wisely has Larry handling Tommy!) I like Scarlett a lot, Stalker, Flint. On the Cobra side, I love the Baroness, Destro, Cobra Commander. When you think about it, the villains are much more fleshed out than the Joes; we know a lot more about their pasts and their relationships than the Joes'. I'd actually like to delve more into the Joes' pasts more.

    Q: What aspect draws your interest and what part of the mythos do you look forward to exploring and expanding the most? What do you think readers have seen enough of and you would like to avoid?

    I'd like to see - and we're going to see - more of how Cobra Commander continues to build this violent movement. He's not just some homicidal nut in a hooded mask. He's a complex, cunning individual, one of great ambition, and that's going to be more apparent than ever before in the next year. I think readers have seen enough of Cobra getting their asses handed to them way too easily.

    Q: How important are the "ninja elements" to the essence of G.I. Joe, in your opinion?

    They're not important at all to the essence of G.I. Joe, but they are to a handful of characters.

    Q: Previous creative teams have integrated the untapped corners of G.I. Joe lore. (Red Shadows, Sei-Tin, and Mike Powers brief appearance in "G.I. Joe vs. Transformers: Black Horizon.") Do you intend to do something similar, and which corner of the universe are you planning on exploring?

    The Red Shadows are still ripe for further exploration. But that'll be down the line. I always joke with Mike O' that I come from the "kung fu grip" era of G.I. Joe toys, and that I want to see Colton (being the original "G.I. Joe") back in action at some point, administering some butt-kicking, Action Team style. In all seriousness, I would actually like to see Colton put in a position in which he's forced to embark upon a crucial field mission, and we get to see what made him the original G.I. Joe to begin with.

    Check out the first issue with the new creative team of Mark Powers and Mike Bear (with cover by Clement Sauve) in G.I. Joe America's Elite #21, in stores February 28, 2007! Check out the Five page preview at DevilsDue.net!


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