G.I. Joe and the creative spark

I know I’ve been mostly using this “blog format” as a say to report news or link to my reviews, and I’ve too rarely simply used it as its intended function…just to write and BS about some of my favorite things.

This is going to get long and elaborate, so click the “Read the Rest of this Entry” link below to dive right in.

Well, with the wife and kids at the in-laws for a spontaneous Sunday pancake breakfast, I wanted to take a few moments and just reflect on what was shown at JoeCon, what’s happened to G.I. Joe over the past two years, and how it impacts me, as a collector.  Keep in mind I’ve been collecting G.I. Joe for nearly three decades.  Back in 2000 I wrote my G.I. Joe fanfic, “The Price of Peace” which was a story that had been brewing in my head pretty much for 10 – 12 years.  I often wrote mini stories during my youth featuring the Joe team, and I took many elements of those stories and wove them into an ongoing G.I. Joe “rebirth”.  To my own surprise, the epic fanfic spanned well over 200 pages, and actually, in my own humble opinion, was pretty effective in telling the story I wanted to tell.  I actually find it rather ironic that some of the tales that I told in that story ended up happening in the more “authorized” G.I. Joe fiction, though I would attribute that mostly to coincidence and that a good idea often finds several different paths to get to the reader.

Then in 2001/2002, I started my own G.I. Joe Dio-Story universe continuing the events from the Fanfic, with a series called “Power Struggle“.  Over the following 5 or 6 years I produced a wealth of others, and I would argue that it’s probably the largest and longest ongoing G.I. Joe continuity aside from the official comics.  Mostly what sparked these stories were the toys.  Yes, I know the “new sculpt” stuff looks pedestrian by today’s standards, but back then they were the shit.  But more importantly, there was character and there was story.  I felt inspired.  The Barrel Roll/Blackout conflict inspired me.  The Venomization protocols inspired me.  Most often, it was the G.I. Joe Convention items that inspired me.

For whatever reasons, since around 2006 or so, the inspiration had somewhat whittled away.  I carried the dio-story universe through to “Ghosts” which featured the introduction of my G.I. Joe Renegades team, and offshoot of the more standard Joe team.  The dio-stories were clearly building towards an ultimate endgame, a script that has already been written, and sets that have already been built.

I had planned to start this final dio-story with a shocking event, that unfortunately, will now probably be a lot less shocking, but because I still intend to tell this story, I will not reveal that event here.

But the funny thing was, as nice as many fans thought the 25th Anniversary was, it failed to inspire.  It was just new versions of old figures, and there really seemed to be no “story” there.  No inspiration to continue my universe.  Certainly, I found more figures to use within my own dio-story, but no major influence towards wrapping up my personal continuity.  Well, as the Pursuit of Cobra started picking up steam late last year, the creative energies were flowing once again.  I once again started getting that desire to tell tales through my dio-stories, and in fact, have even produced a few mini dio-stories used in my reviews to try and satisfy that urge without going whole hog.

Well, with this most recent JoeCon, I’m very afraid I may have to go whole hog again.  Yes, these figures are good, but even more importantly, they tell an awesome story.  Or they have the potential to, anyway.

Listen.  I’m pretty sick and tired of the whole Zombie motif.  Yeah, they’re kinda cool, they make good horror movie villains, but I’ve seen so many Joescale zombie customs and so many “end of the world” scenarios at this point and the zombie fascination has worn itself out a bit, at least to me.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the hell out of Max Brooks’ “World War Z” and AMC’s “The Walking Dead” is pretty awesome, but I’ve never seen how that could integrate with the G.I. Joe universe.  I was even somewhat happy to see IDW’s “Infestation” comic focus more on possessed robots than traditional zombies.

But I’ll be damned if these figures aren’t starting to weave a tale in my mind.  A tale where a team of Hazard Vipers and Techno-Vipers at a remote Cobra Lab are working on an “upgrade” from the Venomization protocols.  Looking for a way to infuse Cobra Trooper DNA with outside DNA to create the perfect soldier.  Only something goes wrong.  “Compound Z” mutates the DNA, effectively “killing” the host and reanimating the corpse, creating a squad of deadly zombified troopers.  Only, these Troopers are totally out of control, and can pass along their mutated DNA by biting their victims.

When local law enforcement gets wind of these strange events, a G.I. Joe strike team led by Airtight moves in to deal with it.  Bringing Lifeline along for medical support, and Sci Fi for his technical mind, the Joes drop in and end up way over their head.  In fact, the tale could even involve Lifeline finally allowing himself to use a weapon against the Zombies, since, after all, they are already dead.  I dunno, maybe this is a dumb story, but for whatever reason, these figures are inspiring that type of creativity in my mind, which is something the G.I. Joe line hasn’t really done in several years.  Sure, I felt invigorated with the Rise of Cobra, and especially leading into the Pursuit of Cobra, but for the first time, I’ve got this intense craving to use these figures to tell a story.

Now the trick is to wait until the Fall and hope the creative drive stays intact.

  • Well said, and we’ve chatted enough to know we’re of the same relative mindset. POC is something How’s needed for a while, a good basis for a new chapter, a new story, some fresh blood (or not, as the case may be :-P), something invigorating to me that inspired me to make stories and play when I was a we’re pup. Even though Airtight, Lifeline and such are re-makes of originals, they’re not lifeless like I felt the 25th line was.

    I’m excited for what’s coming. I can’t wait!

  • Stupid autotext… Joe’s, not How’s…

  • dantedmc37

    Man I was always waiting for the next installment in your Dio stores,They were awesome(not to mention all the great reviews!)! I used to bum around my girl friends college and wait for her to get out of class. While I waited I used the printer from the schools computer lab to print out the whole Price of Peace and fit it in three binders. I read it at least three times, I even brought it on deployment with me when I was in the military. What a masterpeice! Now that was insperational. I know you were part resposable for helping GI Joe be a success in comming back to store shelves. Back then you were doing your thing, Devils Due was dropping comics, Hasbro was realeasing Joe toys for the first time in years,It was a golden age! There was a riot from us when the first wave of new Joes came with no O Ring(I could’nt beleive my eyes when I first read “I hate O ring figures,they suck!” from today’s Joe fans. I feel sorry for them. They missed out on the best days and don’t even know it.) That was a great time to be a Joe fan,I miss those days.I hope you keep that spark till the new Joes come out! I’ve been a little uninspired with Joe’s myself for the past few years, we need you again General!

  • I had the same story kick through my head last night, as well. Maybe you could have Low-Light or (PoC) Beach-Head tag on as part of the mission… the Joes always had a heavy-hitting badass around in case things got hairy.

    I figured Airtight could be the guy who convinces Lifeline that using a gun on the undead would actually make him a messenger of peace, as ending the existence of a zombie would free the soul from its strange, non-living state. In my mind, Airtight (“a strange kid who grew into an even stranger adult”) always palled around with the oddballs of the team, which a pacifist Lifeline would most definitely be.

  • weaponlogic

    I think thats the best thing about gi joe. For myself as a Kid in South Africa we didn’t reallly have the show so I only had file cards and characters with no story to tie em together.
    It ended up being one of the earliest springboards to my art career, as I used to try draw my own joes and make file cards for em as a kid.

    This has worked it’s way into me being a character designer and lead artist for a local gaming company, so yeah these toys rock and is why i like to keep a small unit of joes or cobra’s at my office studio.

    Loving the idea’s that the data viper and hazard viper are conjuring up in my head.

    great article man.

  • FredVIII

    Well said! The infusion of new blood . . . er, plastic . . . always gets me to rethink the structure of my own mythos. RAH will always be my foundation, but who wouldn’t want to expand that foundation to include awesome new figures like the Hazard Viper or the new Cobra Trooper? The latter is an interesting case for me. Clearly and awesome fig that I’ll want to army build, but where does it fit in? It certainly won’t become the standard, infantry troop class for me, so I’ve got to figure out a place and purpose for him. But that’s half the fun!

    Can’t wait for more dio-stories, Justin!

  • Alexx

    Oh yeah, totally agree. Even some of the filecards are starting to tell you about the character again. Maybe not completely, but they’re at least TRYING, this time. PoC really brought back the flavor, ya know? The most important thing, though, is NEW characters. Shadow Tracker, for one. The creative juices flowing from ’em are potent. I love that people are finally trying to create new things. Though the figures in the early 2000’s were going through a lot of changes in terms of sculpt and accessories, they were trying to create new characters and new looks for old ones along the way. It’s a travesty that the Stall siblings won’t make it in again, or guys like the Cobra Claws Commander or the new Overkill. At the very least, they are trying to make new things again, if they aren’t going to pay attention to thier previous new stuff.

    As for the zombies…well, I can’t say I’m tired of it yet. Yeah, it’s all over the place nowadays, but I love the hell out of the idea. And while and full on apocalypse doesn’t work for G.I. Joe, I think zombies are something that Cobra would delve into, or run into accidentally. Even more so with the zombie they’ve created with this line; it’s not just a classic zombie, it’s a bio-zombie with crazy tenticle arms!! Now THAT sparks the imagination; way more so than just a standard zombie. I mean, a zombie is a zombie, but a crazy bio-freak zombie is TOTALLY Cobra!

    If you’re cooking up a zombie story for your dios, then MORE POWER TO YOU. That’s coming from a guy who loves those stories, and from that guy a few years back who first found your reviews and dios and fed off your enthusiasm for the toyline. And, you know, I’m never opposed to anything that used Techno-Vipers! I know my own TVs will encounter those zombies at one point…

  • Great idea for a story; I’ll read it!

  • Lee Fleming

    Awsome man I’m glad to hear your starting to get back into it and I know that anything you produce will be fantastic.

  • Eduardo M.

    So when will we see “Darkness Falls”? I want to see what happens with Hit & Run and Vypra, Zartan’s quest for revenge on Barrell Roll over Zarana, What will happen as more Joes see Hawk, Duke and Flint alive and well.

    When when when?

  • great idea, looking forward to it

  • Frank Castle

    I missed your dio-stroies. On a whole I have enjoyed them much more then Devils Due and the current IDW storeis so far.

  • Nas

    I was just wondering about your dios, Justin. I miss ’em in the Collector’s Club magazine. I like seeing your name attached to the reviews, but I read those here. The dios in print were pretty special. Any chance the collectors club might be inclined to collect them all into a trade paperback or something? That I’d buy!

    So, good on you. I’ve been tossing the ideas around to do my own dios with more (read: actual) continuity than my Flickr pics, and I agree…the new crop is amazing. Very inspiring.

  • Bob

    I’m not sure how well this will fit into your Joeverse as it has been a while since I read your dio-stories (which have you ever thought about getting put into a printed book format…not sure what legal issues would be involved with that), but an idea I think would work well for a Zombies in a Joe world would be to have the Zombie outbreak on Cobra Island. Because of the uncontrollable Zombie outbreak on the surface a group of Cobra scientist, Techno-, Hazard- and Data-Vipers, along with their dwindling B.A.T. defenses holding up in the deep sub-basement bunkers, activate a self-destruct devise that would end up showering the Gulf of Mexico and surrounding land with radiation. because of this threat a team of Joes has to get on the island and to the sub-basement bunker to deactivate the devise.
    Looking forward to your continued reviews and stories.

  • Napoleon

    Go for it Justin!