GeneralsJoes Interviews Larry Hama

With two months in the books and a certain-to-be-exciting remaining 10 months in the year, 2009 is already shaping up to be a seminal year in G.I. Joe history.  Regardless of your opinion on the movie, we can all agree it is a critical juncture in G.I. Joe history and something that could change the brand’s identity for a long time.  Let’s all face it, G.I. Joe hasn’t had a ton of street cred since the 90’s, and this is a chance for it to become a focused, viable brand again, which is great news for all fans, even folks who aren’t wild about the look of the upcoming film.

With all of this excitement on the horizon, I took some time to talk to the G.I. Joe “godfather”, Larry Hama to find out what his thoughts are as the year goes on and The Rise of COBRA looms in the future.

———-

GeneralsJoes:  I get the impression you’re a pretty busy guy. What’s on your plate these days?

Larry Hama: A lot of projects I can’t talk about! Pretty busy with real bread and butter jobs like the Origins book and other comics projects. Also doing animation development, “adaptations,” script doctoring,and other “under the radar” stuff.

GJ: You have a recent movie that you have writing credits on, All Ages Night.  This seems like a fairly drastic departure from your past military and super hero works. What drew you to dive into that particular universe?

LH:  I played in garage bands most of my life. It’s a world I know a lot better than mutants or clandestine military ops! None of the genres I am best know in are the ones I was the most interested in. I started out doing humor stuff, and my dream job was always Uncle Scrooge.

GJ:  What are some of the differences between working on a film compared to TV, stage, or even comics?

LH:  Not much as far as my end of it goes. I usually try to act out choreography to make sure it works, or at least diagram it out. Most of the people I know who draw comics keep a shaving mirror on the drawing table to nail facial expressions with, so acting is important. I once took acting classes with a bunch of drawers that included Neal Adams. It’s all about figuring out the same basic things to be able to tell a cogent story in pictures.

GJ:  You’re certainly accomplished at many different aspects of entertainment, from musician and writer to artist…what do you find the most satisfying?

LH:  I don’t use the word artist. It’s an appellation and an accolade, NOT a job description. It seems a bit presumptuous, like calling yourself a poet. I digress– what’s satisfying to me is entertaining people. Telling a joke that makes people laugh is very satisfying. I don’t do what I do for “art’s” sake (there’s that dirty word again) and taking it all too seriously really does make my teeth hurt. I found a lot of satisfaction in teaching neighborhood kids the rudiments of graphic storytelling at Project Reach in the Lower East Side. In the end, nothing much matters more than passing on what you know to others. If we don’t do that, we’re just animals.

GJ:  I would imagine that the most satisfaction can be drawn from breathing life into your own universe rather than creating characters for someone elses. Do you find that to be the case?

LH:  Very subjective. Most of that stuff was just a job to me. “Passing It on” is everything.

GJ:  Let’s talk about the big stuff first. You’ve been listed as a “creative consultant” on the upcoming big budget film, G.I. Joe: The Rise of COBRA. Can you be a bit more specific about what your duties were while you were on set?

LH:  No. But, I saw the rough cut, and I loved it. And I am pretty picky. (I have never seen any of the GI Joe animated versions all the way through because they MADE MY TEETH HURT.)

GJ:  We’ve all heard you had a cameo in the film as well, what was it like filming on the set of such a large operation? You’ve been involved in many television and big screen productions in the past, but I can’t imagine it was on the level of something like this.

LH:  Film and TV is a lot of sitting around waiting. Working live on stage is tons more exciting, even if it’s a tiny venue.

GJ:  In all honesty, there is a large percentage of the fandom who is very uncertain about the way the film has been progressing. How do you feel about how Paramount and the film makers are treating the “Spirit” or “character” of G.I. Joe?

LH:  It’s always “cooler” to be negative; If you are a socially retarded anal-retentive developmentally arrested proto-adolescent with hostility issues. No, the movie does not adhere to the comic book canon. So what? It was a lot of fun to watch, I liked the characters, and it made sense. To me that’s much better than a sharp stick in the eye or two and half hours of “art.”

GJ:  Does it seem like the characters and the brand are getting treated with respect? I suppose 170 million dollar budget could be considered “respect”…

LH:  Yes.

GJ:  Obviously without risking the wrath of Paramount’s Legal Department, can you share some of your thoughts and reactions on the film from what you’ve seen during shooting and afterwards?

LH:  I liked it.

GJ:  Personally, I’m excited for the film and definitely keeping an open mind…was there any exceptionally interesting event or something that struck you during film making that really made you appreciate the kind of work that goes into a production like this?

LH:  Yes, but can’t talk about it.

GJ:  Your involvement with the motion picture has been pretty widely publicized, but the new animated feature “G.I. Joe: Resolute” is what has the attention of a lot of the collectors out there. Were you involved in that at all?

LH:  I don’t even know what it is.

GJ:  Really?  So it would appear that you and Warren Ellis (the screenwriter for Resolute) have not had any communication back and forth about the project?

LH:  No.

GJ:  What do you think about Mr. Ellis’ work? Do you have confidence that he can capture the energy and spirit of G.I. Joe?

LH:  I don’t believe I have read any of his work. But then, I don’t read comics in general. I look at the pictures, though! I read American comics the same way I read French, Spanish, Italian and Japanese comics. What’s in the balloons is just squiggles to me. EVERYTHING is in the drawings.

GJ:  Along with the multimedia projects, IDW has currently catapulted G.I. Joe full tilt into the comic world as well, and you’re writing G.I. Joe: Origins, once again tasked with creating a new universe for these familiar characters. Is it more challenging bringing these characters back and trying to find something new about them, or do you find it a bit easier to “rediscover” them, so to speak.

LH:  Nothing much to rediscover. They’ve always been walking around and talking to me. Except for that guy with the sword and the Uzi, of course.

GJ:  How much of their essence in the past Marvel Universe do you take into consideration when building them up in this new one?

LH:  The core of their characters. Everything else is up for grabs.

GJ:  You’ve been on record in the past as not caring a whole lot for the Duke character in the Marvel days. Was having him be such a major focus of the IDW universe at the request of Hasbro?

LH:  It always has been.

GJ:  Knowing that you weren’t really a huge fan of the character back then, what are you trying to do differently to change him or separate him from his clichéd past life in this new world?

LH:  Make both him and Hawk less two-dimensional.

GJ:  Origins is apparently a limited series…can you tell us where it ends up? Does it lead directly into the ongoing series, or are there other “gaps” that could potentially be filled in at later times and dates?

LH:  It’s more open ended. The “gap” could be ever-expanding.

GJ:  Do you have other things in the hopper once your work on Origins is done?

LH:  Is it done??

GJ:  What changes (if any) have you been looking forward to implementing the most with this new take on the G.I. Joe team?

LH:  That’s a spoiler.

GJ:  Throughout the Marvel run, you had this knack for being able to walk the line between military realism and science fiction & fantasy. The IDW series seems to go over the sci-fi line even further. Has that been distracting to you at all, or do you feel like you can still separate the two with no issues?

LH:  I always thought it was pure sci from issue #1. I mean, there’s a LASER TROOPER!

GJ:  Which character are you most looking forward to writing back into the universe a second time around?

LH:  Chuckles.

GJ:  IDW actually kind of broke into the G.I. Joe comics gig with the latest wave of comic packs featuring your “name sake” so to speak, Tunnel Rat. Were you given any kind of background on writing those particular comics, or was it just from the hip as the others were that you had done?

LH:  Well, they just sent me the design specs for the figures. The rest was up to me.

GJ:  Any specific restrictions or challenges that you had to deal with writing the comic packs with the figures as opposed to just writing a straight-up comic story?

LH:  It takes the same amount of work to write one stand-alone in-pack comic as it takes to write a five issue arc of a regular comic!

GJ:  Are you pleased with IDW’s decision to “reboot” the G.I. Joe universe, or would you have rather built on what you had already begun so many years ago?

LH:  Culling is necessary.

GJ:  Staying with comics, you’re currently working on Spooks for Devils’ Due. I’d imagine this was born from the work you did with G.I. Joe for them. How similar do you feel like the Spooks team is compared to the Joe team?

LH:  Actually it was Ryan Schifrin who got me involved with SPOOKS. It’s a very different feel. It’s a universe where vampires and werewolves are real. Ryan really put a lot of effort into realizing the concept and the world before I ever got to see it, so it was a pretty good experience for me.

GJ:  Do you pull from the G.I. Joe characters when creating some of the military operatives for Spooks?

LH:  Not so much. It’s a very different crew. Some different takes on what could have been the same old stuff..

GJ:  Are there any particular challenges to working with another writer on the book (RA Salvatore)?

LH:  Not really. Salvatore has good chops and he does his own thing.

GJ:  What’s the main focus from your perspective, the military angle, or the supernatural one? Can one exist without the other?

LH:  I guess it’s sort of like Buffy in uniform, but I can’t really say for sure since I’ve never actually seen an episode of that show. Never watched Cheers, Friends or Seinfeld either for that matter. Haven’t watched Lost or 24 either.

GJ:  Do you and Mr. Salvatore each tackle a separate part of the story, (you the Military, him the horror) or is it more of a “blended” effort between you two?

LH:  There’s no interaction between us whatsovever. He writes what he writes and I write what I write.

GJ:  So, you’ve got “All Ages Night”, and “G.I. Joe”… when can we expect to see a feature length “Bucky O’Hare” Adventure on the big screen?

LH:  Neal is always working on Buck in some form or the other.

GJ:  Larry, thanks very much for taking some time to talk to us with your busy schedule. Much appreciated!

If anyone wants to look into what Larry’s working on now, check out the following links:

  • G.I. Joe Origins @ JoeReloaded.com
  • Spooks @ Devils’ Due Publishing
  • All Ages Night @ MySpace.com
  • BuckyOHare.org

    GeneralsJoes:  I get the impression you’re a pretty busy guy. What’s on your plate these days?

    Larry Hama: A lot of projects I can’t talk about! Pretty busy with real bread and butter jobs like the Origins book and other comics projects. Also doing animation development, “adaptations,” script doctoring,and other “under the radar” stuff.

    GJ: You have a recent movie that you have writing credits on, All Ages Night.  This seems like a fairly drastic departure from your past military and super hero works. What drew you to dive into that particular universe?

    LH:  I played in garage bands most of my life. It’s a world I know a lot better than mutants or clandestine military ops! None of the genres I am best know in are the ones I was the most interested in. I started out doing humor stuff, and my dream job was always Uncle Scrooge.

    GJ:  What are some of the differences between working on a film compared to TV, stage, or even comics?

    LH:  Not much as far as my end of it goes. I usually try to act out choreography to make sure it works, or at least diagram it out. Most of the people I know who draw comics keep a shaving mirror on the drawing table to nail facial expressions with, so acting is important. I once took acting classes with a bunch of drawers that included Neal Adams. It’s all about figuring out the same basic things to be able to tell a cogent story in pictures.

    GJ:  You’re certainly accomplished at many different aspects of entertainment, from musician and writer to artist…what do you find the most satisfying?

    LH:  I don’t use the word artist. It’s an appellation and an accolade, NOT a job description. It seems a bit presumptuous, like calling yourself a poet. I digress what’s satisfying to me is entertaining people. Telling a joke that makes people laugh is very satisfying. I don’t do what I do for “art’s” sake (there’s that dirty word again) and taking it all too seriously really does make my teeth hurt. I found a lot of satisfaction in teaching neighborhood kids the rudiments of graphic storytelling at Project Reach in the Lower East Side. In the end, nothing much matters more than passing on what you know to others. If we don’t do that, we’re just animals.

    GJ:  I would imagine that the most satisfaction can be drawn from breathing life into your own universe rather than creating characters for someone elses. Do you find that to be the case?

    LH:  Very subjective. Most of that stuff was just a job to me. “Passing It on” is everything.

    GJ:  Let’s talk about the big stuff first. You’ve been listed as a “creative consultant” on the upcoming big budget film, G.I. Joe: The Rise of COBRA. Can you be a bit more specific about what your duties were while you were on set?

    LH:  No. But, I saw the rough cut, and I loved it. And I am pretty picky. (I have never seen any of the GI Joe animated versions all the way through because they MADE MY TEETH HURT.)

    GJ:  We’ve all heard you had a cameo in the film as well, what was it like filming on the set of such a large operation? You’ve been involved in many television and big screen productions in the past, but I can’t imagine it was on the level of something like this.

    LH:  Film and TV is a lot of sitting around waiting. Working live on stage is tons more exciting, even if it’s a tiny venue.

    GJ:  In all honesty, there is a large percentage of the fandom who is very uncertain about the way the film has been progressing. How do you feel about how Paramount and the film makers are treating the “Spirit” or “character” of G.I. Joe?

    LH:  It’s always “cooler” to be negative; If you are a socially retarded anal-retentive developmentally arrested proto-adolescent with hostility issues. No, the movie does not adhere to the comic book canon. So what? It was a lot of fun to watch, I liked the characters, and it made sense. To me that’s much better than a sharp stick in the eye or two and half hours of “art.”

    GJ:  Does it seem like the characters and the brand are getting treated with respect? I suppose 170 million dollar budget could be considered “respect”…

    LH:  Yes.

    GJ:  Obviously without risking the wrath of Paramount’s Legal Department, can you share some of your thoughts and reactions on the film from what you’ve seen during shooting and afterwards?

    LH:  I liked it.

    GJ:  Personally, I’m excited for the film and definitely keeping an open mind…was there any exceptionally interesting event or something that struck you during film making that really made you appreciate the kind of work that goes into a production like this?

    LH:  Yes, but can’t talk about it.

    GJ:  Your involvement with the motion picture has been pretty widely publicized, but the new animated feature “G.I. Joe: Resolute” is what has the attention of a lot of the collectors out there. Were you involved in that at all?

    LH:  I don’t even know what it is.

    GJ:  Really?  So it would appear that you and Warren Ellis (the screenwriter for Resolute) have not had any communication back and forth about the project?

    LH:  No.

    GJ:  What do you think about Mr. Ellis’ work? Do you have confidence that he can capture the energy and spirit of G.I. Joe?

    LH:  I don’t believe I have read any of his work. But then, I don’t read comics in general. I look at the pictures, though! I read American comics the same way I read French, Spanish, Italian and Japanese comics. What’s in the balloons is just squiggles to me. EVERYTHING is in the drawings.

    GJ:  Along with the multimedia projects, IDW has currently catapulted G.I. Joe full tilt into the comic world as well, and you’re writing G.I. Joe: Origins, once again tasked with creating a new universe for these familiar characters. Is it more challenging bringing these characters back and trying to find something new about them, or do you find it a bit easier to “rediscover” them, so to speak.

    LH:  Nothing much to rediscover. They’ve always been walking around and talking to me. Except for that guy with the sword and the Uzi, of course.

    GJ:  How much of their essence in the past Marvel Universe do you take into consideration when building them up in this new one?

    LH:  The core of their characters. Everything else is up for grabs.

    GJ:  You’ve been on record in the past as not caring a whole lot for the Duke character in the Marvel days. Was having him be such a major focus of the IDW universe at the request of Hasbro?

    LH:  It always has been.

    GJ:  Knowing that you weren’t really a huge fan of the character back then, what are you trying to do differently to change him or separate him from his clichéd past life in this new world?

    LH:  Make both him and Hawk less two-dimensional.

    GJ:  Origins is apparently a limited series…can you tell us where it ends up? Does it lead directly into the ongoing series, or are there other “gaps” that could potentially be filled in at later times and dates?

    LH:  It’s more open ended. The “gap” could be ever-expanding.

    GJ:  Do you have other things in the hopper once your work on Origins is done?

    LH:  Is it done??

    GJ:  What changes (if any) have you been looking forward to implementing the most with this new take on the G.I. Joe team?

    LH:  That’s a spoiler.

    GJ:  Throughout the Marvel run, you had this knack for being able to walk the line between military realism and science fiction & fantasy. The IDW series seems to go over the sci-fi line even further. Has that been distracting to you at all, or do you feel like you can still separate the two with no issues?

    LH:  I always thought it was pure sci from issue #1. I mean, there’s a LASER TROOPER!

    GJ:  Which character are you most looking forward to writing back into the universe a second time around?

    LH:  Chuckles.

    GJ:  IDW actually kind of broke into the G.I. Joe comics gig with the latest wave of comic packs featuring your “name sake” so to speak, Tunnel Rat. Were you given any kind of background on writing those particular comics, or was it just from the hip as the others were that you had done?

    LH:  Well, they just sent me the design specs for the figures. The rest was up to me.

    GJ:  Any specific restrictions or challenges that you had to deal with writing the comic packs with the figures as opposed to just writing a straight-up comic story?

    LH:  It takes the same amount of work to write one stand-alone in-pack comic as it takes to write a five issue arc of a regular comic!

    GJ:  Are you pleased with IDW’s decision to “reboot” the G.I. Joe universe, or would you have rather built on what you had already begun so many years ago?

    LH:  Culling is necessary.

    GJ:  Staying with comics, you’re currently working on Spooks for Devils’ Due. I’d imagine this was born from the work you did with G.I. Joe for them. How similar do you feel like the Spooks team is compared to the Joe team?

    LH:  Actually it was Ryan Schifrin who got me involved with SPOOKS. It’s a very different feel. It’s a universe where vampires and werewolves are real. Ryan really put a lot of effort into realizing the concept and the world before I ever got to see it, so it was a pretty good experience for me.

    GJ:  Do you pull from the G.I. Joe characters when creating some of the military operatives for Spooks?

    LH:  Not so much. It’s a very different crew. Some different takes on what could have been the same old stuff..

    GJ:  Are there any particular challenges to working with another writer on the book (RA Salvatore)?

    LH:  Not really. Salvatore has good chops and he does his own thing.

    GJ:  What’s the main focus from your perspective, the military angle, or the supernatural one? Can one exist without the other?

    LH:  I guess it’s sort of like Buffy in uniform, but I can’t really say for sure since I’ve never actually seen an episode of that show. Never watched Cheers, Friends or Seinfeld either for that matter. Haven’t watched Lost or 24 either.

    GJ:  Do you and Mr. Salvatore each tackle a separate part of the story, (you the Military, him the horror) or is it more of a “blended” effort between you two?

    LH:  There’s no interaction between us whatsovever. He writes what he writes and I write what I write.

    GJ:  So, you’ve got “All Ages Night”, and “G.I. Joe”… when can we expect to see a feature length “Bucky O’Hare” Adventure on the big screen?

    LH:  Neal is always working on Buck in some form or the other.

    GJ:  Larry, thanks very much for taking some time to talk to us with your busy schedule. Much appreciated!

    If anyone wants to look into what Larry’s working on now, check out the following links:

4 thoughts on “GeneralsJoes Interviews Larry Hama

  1. Pingback: The Terror Drome | Daily G.I. Joe News and Discussions » Blog Archive » New Larry Hama Interview

  2. Hama always strikes me as this dude who just wrote some comic book in the 80s, wrote it well, got paid for it and moved on. It’s a lot like Budiansky’s situation with Transformers, in fact. They don’t treat it with the almost Messiah-esque respect we do, they just see it as another job in a series of many. I mean, nobody goes back and asks Budiansky about his run on Ghost Rider, do they?

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