Over on Chuck Dixon’s message board, long time Joe comic fan cashel brings up a great question to Mr. Dixon himself, inquiring about the pacing and the writing for the main G.I. Joe title. First of all, kudos to him for taking it straight to the source. Often times the fandom is happy to sit on their haunches (myself included) and decry various things without even inquiring about reasons or bringing the issues to anyone’s attention. I’m glad to see cashel speaking to Dixon directly about his concerns.
Anyway, Chuck was thoughtful enough to post a reply, which I have quoted below:
“I got this complaint on Nightwing when I was on it and for many of ths same reasons cited here. There was no first person narration on Nightwing or very little of it.
And, trust me, my editor chimed in on this.
The whole question is one of periodicals versus trades. It’s not much a question to my mind. Trade collections are where it’s at. There is a very strong chance that the trade sales on Joe will be higher than the average monthly sales. That’s the track record for non-superhero trade collections of household name characters anyhow. And overseas, there are no periodical editions. It’s all trades all the time.
So, my potential audience in trade form dwarfs those few, those merry few, who still pick up the monthlies.
I could go as other writers have gone in the past to a kind of “feature film” approach with lots of frontloaded set-up and character bits and all that. (which is actually a terrible approach to escapist entertainment) Or I could go the plot advancement/action/plotadvancement/action approach that standard action stories take.
But I decided to fall back on my strong suit and advance plot and character through action and pace the whole thing briskly enough to carry the potential trade reader through the 120+ pages in one sitting.
But what about the monthly reader? Well, they get an action-packed chapter each month that also advances sub-plots and explores the world of Joe. In five issues we have met the Joes (a whole lotta Joes!), met Destro and Baroness and had a peek into how Cobra does business. We’ve seen that Scarlett, Snake Eyes and Duke have a history. We’ve traveled the world from the Gulf of Mexico to the Phillipines, to Patagonia and to the Nevada desert. We’ve seen the MASS Device in (dysfuntional) operation. All of this with a sword fight, robot fightin’ action, Snake Eyes ninja stuff, a car chase and more punching, shooting and stabbing then you get in most comics these days. And issue #6 delivers. I promise you this. There’s a couple of developments that will floor Joe readers.
I took my time in The Pit battle because it was important to see the Joes in action on home turf in an extended military confrontation. Larry used to do whole issues of just Joe and Cobra fighting. Remember the issue where Cobra and Joe land on opposite sides of an island and fight for supremacy? If Larry had been writing for trades I’m certain he would have taken an approach closer to mine. His own (excellent) origins rolls out a more deliberate pace.
All my career this has been a question. I had a hard time breaking into comics because I rejected the Roy Thomas approach to comics writing. I was all about Archie Goodwin. But even Archie was conforming to the wordy comics norm when writing superheroes. When not, his work was more balanced between words and pictures and more purely comics.
There are readers who like their comics verbose. Sorry, I can’t do it. Believe me, I’ve tried. I like my comic books lean. And the whole trade collection deal allows me to pace things differently with the kind of lightly dialogued sequences I would never have done for the monthly-only format. The next arc on Joe has a major Snake Eyes sub-plot that (by necessity) is virtually wordless.
And for Joe fans who are diappointed that we’re not going Joe on Cobra right out of the box—well, that’s the way we’re doing it this time. And Cobra is going to be cooler, meaner and scarier than you’ve ever seen them before. The Cobra minis by Gage and Costa are nasty noirish spy thrillers that bring you inside Cobra. My job is to show both the Joes’ and Destro’s learning curve. In the next arc we’ll see our first direct Joe/Cobra contact and it’s epic.”
Again, credit to cashel for bringing the question up, and lots of credit to Chuck Dixon for responding. I feel a LOT better about the direction of the main title now than I did even twenty minutes ago. I’m sure we all realized it was a trade paperback thing, but hearing him talk about how things might end up shaking out is a nice change of pace, and I think things are probably heading in a good direction. Thanks to Xassonex from JoeBattleLines for bringing this to my attention!