Interview with Josh Blaylock from Devil's Due
On April 4th, 2003, Devil's Due gave SEIBERTRON.com the privilege to interview it's very own owner and author - Josh Blaylock. Josh is the writer of the upcoming G.I.Joe versus Transformers comic book mini-series which is scheduled to be released this June.
Seibertron: What is the basic premise of the upcoming G.I.Joe versus the Transformers comic book series?
Josh Blaylock: The Transformers are still on the Ark who haven't awakened yet [from crashing on Earth]. There is no G.I.Joe; the Cobra organization is a lot younger than it is in the current series. [Cobra] is around yet the public is unaware. They have armies built up but they're just working behind the scenes.
Through information traded with a European arms dealer, who turns out to be Destro, [Cobra] finds the location of this alien spacecraft which is going to make a huge difference in their agenda and give them the ability to all of a sudden leap into having the power to take over the world. Maybe their goals were smaller before ... now they have the power to conquer the entire world!
Seibertron: How are you handling the Transformers in this storyline?
Josh Blaylock: Cobra Commander refers to them as "vessels" - each robot is a vessel of some sorts. He wants to find whatever remains they can of the aliens that piloted these things. No one has played that angle up [of Transformers being aliens]. We all know who they are and they're so much like us even though they're these big robots. These guys are aliens. If they landed here, I think the government would treat them that way. It's not just about the giant robot aspect. They're not these giant robots that we made. They're these bizarre alien creatures that have landed. Once the government found out about this, [the government] would see it as an alien invasion in a way.
Seibertron: So this story takes place during the 1984 era?
Josh Blaylock: We're treating it as a more modern era. I'm not really going to address the time issue which will make it more timeless. The story will not state it's 1984 nor will it state it's 2003. I'm just going to let the reader decide. I think [the story's] pretty current.
Seibertron: What's happening in the promotional image we've seen where it looks like Cobra Commander and his troops are looking through a hole?
Josh Blaylock: Cobra Commander and the guards are cutting into the alien space craft, the Ark, which leads to Cobra investigating the entire ship.
Seibertron: I see Cobra Commander wearing the face shield helmet in this panel ...
Josh Blaylock: He's in battle. That was one of the questions I saw [on your site]. The hood is the more formal wear [for Cobra Commander]. It'll go back and forth [throughout this series].
Seibertron: Do the Transformers realize what's going on but they're totally helpless to do anything about it?
Josh Blaylock: Everyone except Megatron is an automaton. Megatron is fully sentient and able to communicate but he can't transform. In the basic dialogue you'll get the hint of that. It will be played up more in the [second] issue. But don't worry about them staying that way - you'll see the Transformers' personas pop up soon enough, but I don't want to give too much away.
Seibertron: How far ahead do you work on upcoming issues?
Josh Blaylock: Right now, Mike Miller is working on the pencils for issue #2, I'll be working on the script for #3. Voltron hasn't even come out yet and Mike Norton [the artist of Voltron] is working on issue 3 and the writer's working on issue #5 just because we got a jump on it.
Ideally we would be five issues ahead. It just comes down to a matter of money, really, depending on how many projects you have going and how far ahead can you pay out artist salaries until revenue starts coming back in. Each project has to support itself that way.
Seibertron: Who is the first Transformer that Cobra begins having difficulties with?
Josh Blaylock: Cobra Commander starts having problems with one of the robots [who turns out to be] Optimus Prime [one of the HISS Tanks]. He's not really moving, he won't go forward with the plan of attack. They're combatting resistance from a lot of the robots who will [turn out to be] the Autobots. They resist hurting anyone and Prime's giving Cobra the most trouble.
Cobra Commander steps in personally [and has his troops] take care of the uncoming tanks and things while they get Prime out of there. That's when Snake Eyes is bravely shooting away at Starscream, who is nearby. Starscream's laser barrel takes a shot right at his head, grazing the side of Snake Eyes' face and that's when the new origin of how Snake Eyes gets disfigured is revealed!
Seibertron: This really does set up an alternate universe both [G.I.Joe and the Transformers]?
Josh Blaylock: Yes
Seibertron: This series is 3 or 4 issues long?
Josh Blaylock: Six.
Seibertron: What's the status of G.I.Joe's main characters? Where are they?
Josh Blaylock: Sgt Alison Burnett (Lady Jaye) is an intelligence operative who has been working with the CIA and the FBI to gather information on this Cobra organization. The government has known about [Cobra], they've been assessing the threat level, and no one could have imagined that something like this could have happened. Officer Fairborne (Flint) heâ€™s one of the militaryâ€™s main strategical planners. If
Seibertron: How big are the original sheets of artwork?
Josh Blaylock: They're all 11"x17". Mike sends them or scans them to us.
Seibertron: Where is Mike Miller based out of? Do you guys fly back and forth or do you handle everything over the Internet?
Josh Blaylock: He's in Oregon. Everything is handled over the Internet and Fed Ex.
Seibertron: How is it Megatron and Cobra Commander can work together?
Josh Blaylock: They don't. They hate each other. I figure that would be the only way they would work together because each has their own separate agendas. Cobra Commander would see Megatron as a threat but at the same time he would recognize the benefits of taking advantage of this [alien] technology. Megatron looks at Cobra Commander and wonders what this guy has to offer? "I should watch this guy." It'll be a constant thing back and forth between them and who can get the upper hand. Megatron will obviously have something up his sleeve.
Seibertron: Do the Transformers who have not been taken by Cobra know who they are? (I'm looking at an image of 2 Autobots in vehicle mode on a city street).
Josh Blaylock: I can't tell you!
Seibertron: It's interesting the take you have with this comic book series. In my mind, this is how the Transformers should have been handled from the get go - as aliens. It wasn't ...
Josh Blaylock: I really feel because I've had so long to work on G.I.Joe now this isn't just a crossover it's my time to play with the Transformers. At the same time I'm thinking "Man, I wish I would've ... it makes me kind of want to start the G.I.Joe thing over in a different book or something and play with it that way." It's a real cool way to go about it and it's a lot of fun too. You also don't have to worry about being bogged down with all the characters you have to deal with in the regular continuities.
Seibertron: The G.I.Joe and Transformers posters from the summer of 2002 was the first thing to let us, the fans, know that there's a possiblity of a crossover of sorts or that Dreamwave and [Devil's Due] were discussing such an idea.
Josh Blaylock: We just wanted to play around with it.
Seibertron: For how long has this idea been around or whose idea was it?
Josh Blaylock: We've been wanting to do it for over a year. I mean, that's kind of why I talked with Adam Fortier at Dreamwave and we both thought "hey, let's do these posters for the fun of it." We'll do the good guys, you do the bad guys. We wanted to warm Hasbro up to the idea of doing something like this. Then it was just a matter of working it out so that their legal department was comfortable with us using Transformers and with them using G.I.Joe plus all of this stuff with temporary licenses. It took a long time to get worked out but it did so we got crankin' on it.
Seibertron: So the idea originated with you guys versus Hasbro saying "Hey, merge our two properties together".
Josh Blaylock: Oh yah. It actually took some convincing on our part.
Seibertron: Even though it's been done before?
Josh Blaylock: Well before it was Marvel had a license to both properties. Plus with a company this size [Hasbro] itâ€™s gonna be a whole new crop of people working there. When you have a corporation thatâ€™s multi-billions of dollars, itâ€™s very rare that you can come back there 20 years later and have the same staff there. So we had to kind of re-explain the whole thing over again. Our new account manager we have there was really hip to the idea and he helped speed things along too and really understood how big it could be. The reason it was more complicated compared to last time was that ONE company had both licenses back then. Now youâ€™re talking about TWO companies, who each want to do their own versions.
Seibertron: Was the idea originally that Devil's Due handled three issues and Dreamwave handled three issues?
Josh Blaylock: We never really got into issues. I know Dreamwave wanted to do more of a graphic novel type of a thing or a prestige format. It was just the way the deal worked out with Hasbro that we both decided to do 6 issue mini-series.
Seibertron: Both companies are doing 6 issue mini-series then?
Josh Blaylock: From what I understand, I mean definitely don't let me speak for [Dreamwave] but that's what I understand.
Seibertron: What months will this mini-series be available?
Josh Blaylock: Our G.I.Joe versus the Transformers series will be June through November.
Seibertron: I'm very excited about this series. Just for financial issues, I've always stuck with Transformers but I've always followed Joe. I have a whole bunch of the Marvel comics, I used to watch the cartoon, and I had a year long sprint where I bought the toys. So I've always been familiar with the characters. I've always been excited whenever there has been a cross over. I was really excited when they did the G2 crossover.
Josh Blaylock: My goal is to make this the crossover that every fanboy wants to see. It's what I want to see. I'm getting an opportunity to redo this whole thing.
Seibertron: I got the impression from the synopsis I grabbed from Previews that this wasn't going to be following anything that had been done before.
Josh Blaylock: No it's not and ironically, people ask if there is anything I'm trying to keep out of the old Joe series (from Marvel). Ironically, in the regular continuity, I don't want Joe to have anything to do with the Transformers [which would exclude previous Marvel G.I.Joe/Transformers crossovers]. I don't feel the Transformers have a place with the main G.I.Joe universe. As far as just having a cross over for the fun of it ... hell yah! That's awesome.
Seibertron: A few comments have circulated the 'net regarding legal issues concerning the stories of the Transformers. Dreamwave said they had to throw out the previous history because Marvel owned the rights to both the cartoon and comic storylines and [Dreamwave] decided to make their own path and history. Devil's Due, however, was able to use what Marvel began as the basis of their stories and was able to take it from that point forward. How are you guys able to take that perspective with the book when it's been stated that because Marvel owns the legal rights to that?
Josh Blaylock: I don't know ... Marvel owns the copyrights to the old artwork itself. That's why they're able to strike a deal with Hasbro again to sell their trade paperbacks. The Transformers, I think, is a more complicated license. I donâ€™t know the details of it, but besides the rights being owned on this side of the world by Hasbro, the Transformers parent company is TAKARA, and Iâ€™m not anywhere near educated enough on the subject to tell you anything you probably donâ€™t already know.
Seibertron: So it never came up for [Devil's Due] when you decided that you were going to take the Marvel comic foundation and move it forward ten years in the future?
Josh Blaylock: We don't specifically mention "issue 127 of Marvel Comics". We're not going to think of doing something like that. We just go with the characters that we have. I know that a lot of the issues [Hasbro] has with names of toys are a different case than literature because it's totally different laws and ...
Seibertron: Kind of like the Hard Hero statue busts [of the Transformers]?
Josh Blaylock: Yah. Unless they tell us not to do it.
Seibertron: You've been a fan of G.I.Joe for quite a while?
Josh Blaylock: Oh yah, I was actually into both of them. I actually started out into Transformers and my cousin was huge into Joe. We always played with them at my Grandma's house. He was a couple of years ahead of me and I don't know what happened but I started getting into G.I.Joe more and more. I made some pretty foolish trades where I had the whole first G1 line like Mirage, Sunstreaker, and Wheeljack. I would trade one of those which is probably like a $15.00 toy for 3 beat up G.I.Joes who didn't have weapons anymore because I wanted the Joes so bad.
I was into both, I just think I wasn't as into Transformers because I didn't follow the comic book stories where with G.I.Joe I did. With Transformers I'm kind of a casual fan that has the cartoon information and I read up on a lot of the other continuities of the past because I was really interested in it and I liked a lot of the stuff that Simon Furman had set up from what I had read up off websites and things. And I've been into all the Dreamwave stuff. With G.I.Joe, I was inundated with all of it: the comics, the cartoons ...
Seibertron: Larry Hama is doing Front Line?
Josh Blaylock: He did the first introductory first 4 issue story arc. He and Dan Jurgens. Front Line is a rotating cast of creative teams. The current story arc features Dan Jolley and Drew Johnson. After that, it's going to be a 2 parter by Sean McKeever who's writing a bunch of X-Men stuff now and an artist named Andre.
Seibertron: So it's like a G.I.Joe all-star creative staff?
Josh Blaylock: Yah. [The 2 parter by Sean McCeaver] will be the origin of Zanya, the character I created who's Zartan's daughter. And then after that we've got a special stunt announced for August. We're going to be putting out a lot of books in August. And then I think there's something [referring to the rotating staff on Front Lines] that no one at Image has ever done before if I'm correct. Followed by that we're going to have a Stalker special. The Front Lines stories are going to be lined up with rotating creative teams so you can have different people working on it at different times. And then sometime in there we're going to have a story in there by Paul Jenkins and David Mack.
The regular Joe series is leading up to a big story arc with issues 22 to 25 which most people now know has something to do with Serpentor and that's going to be my last issue as the regular writer on that series. I'll probably still be involved with the plot and come back for follow ups and things like that.
Seibertron: Is the main G.I.Joe artist based out of this office?
Josh Blaylock: The main artist right now, Brandon Badeaux, and he is in Louisiana. Tim Seeley is in this studio and he just drew issue 16 which has gotten really great response. People love Brandon too. Tim and Brandon are totally different but everyone's had an equally good response to their stuff.
Seibertron: What is it like writing G.I.Joe with Cobra being a terrorist organization in today's times. The day before the first issue came out was September 11th. Do you think of "should I, shouldn't I" when you are writing the book?
Josh Blaylock: Oh definitely but if you think of something that wouldn't have been a big deal a few years ago and now it's a touchy touchy subject. To a point you can't live in fear of that all of the time. It is an issue but at the same time it's not cause a lot of people that aren't familiar with the G.I.Joe universe they think it is a big military thing anyways and it's some pro-army cartoon. It's not! It's about normal people who are really good at what they do fighting these wacky super villians. Cobra is so over the top ... I mean there's ninjas for christ's sake and there's clones and killer robots and all kinds of stuff. It's about making the soldiers having a grounded realism to them while they're fighting these other crazy characters (for lack of a better term).
Had all of this stuff not happened and this not become such a sensitive issue now, I probably would have gone more the other direction. I really wanted to deal with giving Cobra a real creepy foreign element and doubling into that's what these guys really are. And maybe some of the things they would have done would be a little darker. That's not really too big of a deal. We're just keeping Cobra how they've always been. . The fact that it comes down to being a kids property, and Hasbro never wants it to get too dark for a young audience anyway. Either way, itâ€™s G.I.Joe, and Iâ€™m happy to be putting out these comics.