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  -- Alpine (before punching Xamot, who explains that he feels everything that his brother experiences)
Home Interviews Larry Hama (conducted by Rod Hannah of Zartan's Domain in July 1998) - Three


Rod Hannah: Recently you mentioned that you've been approached to write a new G.I. Joe comic. What are your feelings at present with regards to this offer? What's the deal/story? (If you can share it)

Larry Hama: No comment on that until I see paper.

RH: You were a consultant for Bench Press Studios new comic, "Warriors Way". I hear you are leaving Marvel and Gen X and going to be working with Bench Press Studios on a new title. any connection to the mention you made of a new G.I. Joe comic deal? Apparently Bench Press is pursuing titles such as G.I. Joe and Transformers... can you confirm they are connected to any of this?

LH: I was never a consultant on Warriors Way. Bench Press is the company that is involved. They are still wrangling with the contract.

RH: It appears Bench Press or Hasbro/Marvel (or someone) is interested in restarting G.I. Joe. How would you feel if another person was offered the job as writer over you?

LH: Well, that has already happened. Dark Horse did G.I. Joe without me. Hasbro is generating new dossiers without me. That's their decision. If they can't tell the difference, then who am I to tell them?

RH: What's Bench Press like? They're a small independent comic company that's just starting out from what I've been able to gather from their web page they look quite promising. Was it a change of pace you were looking for? Do you think you'd like to work for a small independent company/again?

LH: Benny Powell seems to know what he is doing and he doesn't have a board of suits hanging around his neck like a bunch of dead albatrosses.

RH: In that respect does it make the prospect of working with a company organised like Bench Press more inticing?

LH: Sure. I don't get along much with the suits and haircuts.

RH: How do you think G.I. Joe would benefit from a smaller independent company? could it survive on the market without a big name company, like Marvel, to boost it?

LH: It's worth a shot. I don't even know if the Marvel name is really an advantage these days. It may even carry a stigma.

RH: Looking back over the years you spent writing for the Joe comic, do you think you would handle G.I. Joe differently, second time around?

LH: I think I have changed a bit. That would be reflected in the book. I think the audience has also changed. What I can't change is my approach to the story-telling. There is no question of compromise on that.

RH: I wouldn't want your storytelling to change one bit. But in what way do you think the audience has changed?

LH: When G.I. Joe was up to number seventy five or eighty, I went to do a signing in Washington DC at a shop in Georgetown. When I got there, there was a line all the way around the block. I sat there for about six hours, signing every minute and all the fans were between the ages of nine and fourteen. Some kids had the entire run in plastic bags. About two years ago, I did a signing in Manhattan. I signed Wolverines for about two hours and there wasn't a single kid in the line. Everybody was over twenty. In fact, one of the fans was a mail man, who was still in uniform because he skipped out on his route to get his books signed. I think the audience is older and much narrower than it was. I think the comic industry cut its own throat by catering to a very vocal minority and forgetting that kids need something of their own. I don't think any comic should ever be "written down" to a supposed kid level. I tried my best not to do that. I was still categorized and stigmatized as a "kiddie writer" because I did a toy book. I think that a lot of the stuff that is sold today under the label of "adult reading material" is sophomoric to say the least and hardly adult at all. Nudity and violence do not make something adult. Intellectual content does.

RH: If the deal goes through okay, it sounds like you may be "continuing" the story. Do you think this is preferable to restarting and reintroducing the joes to what will probably be an audience with a lot of new faces/perhaps famaliar with the Joes only through the new re-releases? Would you like the opportunity to go back and re-work things in the story such as Destro and the other baddies who are now brainwashed into working for Cobra?

LH: Anybody else would wipe the slate and start from scratch. I think there's a big value to continueing the story as left off and tying up the loose ends, no matter how difficult.

RH: If (again an if question) you had pretty extensive control over a G.I. Joe comic, being produced by an independent company - would you choose to do breakdowns for the title again? Did this eat up a lot of your time in the past? How about character concept sketches? Let me know if you think you'd be able to do that again, it would be the next best thing to having ron wagner doing the art chores, IMO.

LH: I did the breakdowns for G.I. Joe #21 (Silent Interlude) in about two days. That was a long time ago. Arthritis preclude doing long-term drawing at this stage. I used to sit at a drawing board for ten to twelve hours a day, and I was pretty fast, but now, it's the ol' word processor for me.

RH: So you could have been a fashion designer, huh. Well, I'd love to see what your designs for different Joe characters would look ike. If you were allowed to re-design a few appearances here and there, who and what would you change/try?

LH: Apples and oranges here. Comic characters don't look right in Dior.

RH: Even a time when you were depressed with some of the crazier costumed freaks (no disrespect to the deisgners - but a lot of them weren't really suited to G.I. Joe) that came out toward the later years of the toy line?

LH: I never liked the day-glo stuff. I can understand the marketing guys wanting there to be bright colors, but it doesn't fit with the genre. I was just in TRU last week and I saw a whole bunch of after-market 12 inch figure accessory packs that were totally KILLER. They had a LRRPS set, a MACHINE GUNNER set and a GREEN BERET ADVISOR set, all incredibly accurate for Nam era gear, down to smoke grenades, extra canteens and super detailed rucksacks. They were all made in Communist China! I bought all three sets! Man, I would have killed to have a smaller action figure with gear that accurate!

RH: What did you think of the new look Zartan? He showed it off in issue 139, and at first I wasn't all that impressed, but since then the punk look has really grown on me. The darker pants definately work better. Any feelings on the matter? (mild grin)

LH: I liked the old Zartan better.

RH: Okay, I can certainly say I beleive I am the biggest Zartan fan out there. The dreadnoks come a close second. But regarding Zartan's character, what's your analysis - coming from the guy who created him and his intellectual personality?

LH: I wish I could have had the time to flesh him out a bit more. There was a bit of a hassle with Zartan in the beginning over his dossier. They had to recall the whole batch because I originally said he was a paranoid schizophrenic. All sorts of mental health self-help groups raised a stink. A friend of mine who is a shrink (and the head of out-patient psychiatrics at a big university hospital) said, "What did you expect? They're PARANOID! Of course they're going to feel threatened and raise a fuss!"

RH: In the cartoon, Zartan used make-up and disguise, his only oddities were skin camouflaging and a weird voice. However you were the person to write the filecard, and the cartoon seems to have generally stuck to what it says. Of course holograms are becoming more and more possible as the years roll by, it's just the make-up and costume method of disguise certainly seems more conventional. So, how come Zartan can shapechange in the comic? I'm not complaining though, I like what you've done, but am interested in the "why" part? What were your ideas for Zartan at the time that you came up with holograms... ?

LH: Looking at many panels of a character changing make-up is dead BORING. I also had to come up with a way to show the "color change" technology that was being built into the figure. I pushe the envelope on the color changing and made it holographic.

RH: You came up with the idea of the Dreadnoks, and you also gave zartan a lot of your own stuff, like his sci-fi ability to shapeshift. You seemed to explain this in two different ways, holograms, as well as chameleon DNA. Were you toying with both explanations of his shape-shifting ability, at the time?

LH: Most of the time, I was just making stuff up to explain whatever silly attribute they built into the figures. Sometimes, I just gave up. I couldn't think of any way to make the Fridge work. If a character was TOO silly, I tried to kill him off at the first opportunity. RAPTOR was one of them.

RH: You spared Zartan and Billy from death in the freighter - something I am eternally grateful for - but why? Was it not the idea from the start to kill off some Cobra characters, and clean house? Did you have it planned all ahead to spare these two? Or did you change your mind?

LH: Zartan and Billy were meant to escape from the git-go.

RH: It was a shame about tyrone... I seem to like the nitty gritty realism in a lot of your work. Tyrone, Wolfpack, issue 155's epistolary tale... if a new comic does turn up, could I request/suggest more of this kind of stuff, if only as a sub/sub plot for character development. do you like telling those sort of "life's hard" tales?

LH: Life IS hard. True valor is just getting through an ordinary life. I think those types of stories always have appeal.

RH: Zartan's archery. Very cool. But is a compound bow really that powerful? In issue 26 Storm Shadow's arrow goes through the wall and hits a squirrel. That's pretty lethal. Here's a really dumb fanboy question i'm going to ask you, just for fun. Who is the better? Zartan or Storm Shadow at kyudo? What is kyudo (zen archery)?

LH: I studied Kyudo with one of the few masters on the East coast. The bows were double reflex and seven feet long. To string it, you had to lock one end into a notch cut into a wall and lean down on it with all your weight. To draw it, you needed a special glove with a steel clamp built into it. They were developed in feudal Japan to penetrate ARMOR. ZARTAN is the better archer. It is a specialized skill.

RH: Flint and Lady Jaye. For me they are the icons of G.I.Joe. an army guy and an army gal. They really played well off one another.. The scene in the issue prior to the civil war, with the Star Viper finding them having a passionate kiss in the empty barracks was very funny. I really loved the punch in the jaw LJ gave Flint. And finally when Flint throws CC off the bridge in issue 151, LJ doesn't speak to him and typical of us males, he doesn't know why. Hahaha. You’re so good. A friend of mine has given them the nick name "Snake-eyes and Scarlett's sidekicks". How do you see them?

LH: They are what Snake-Eyes and Scarlett would be, if they were "normal". Their relationship isn't as grounded and as bullet-proof as Scarlett and Snakes.

RH: You mention the effect movies like Star Wars had on everything in the early 80's, in particular you were talking about the Ewoks - which became the Dreadnoks. I can't help but notice the name sounds similar? also, did films like mad max and it's sequels have any effect on the Dreadnoks? The second Zartan design looks a lot like that red mohawked villain in one of those Mad Max movies.

LH: All pop culture is incestuous.

RH: I miss Candy. That accident - the whole situation was nasty. How'd you come up with that idea? Why did you decide to write off the Soft Master, Candy, and I guess at the time - Billy too?

LH: It wasn't a decision to write off the characters. They were set up for that way in advance. That was their JOB.

RH: It is my opinion that issue 155 was the best ever. Epistolary novels always make for a good "real" feel. Had you planned something like this prior to the news of G.I. Joe's end? Basically I just want to congratulate you in person for that issue. It's only sad that it was the last issue. Man.... (sniff)

LH: No, the last issue was not planned for. That was something I came up with on the spot.

RH: And finally, the big question.... how was the "G.I. Joe" experience?

LH: I had a great time. For the most part, the folks I worked with were really nice and dedicated. All the creative folks at Marvel, Hasbro and Griffin/Bacall were total sweethearts and ultra professional. The PROBLEMS always came from the suits and haircuts.

RH: Thank you, Larry, for your time, the speed of your replies, and consenting to this interview.

Part One - Part Two - Part Three

Jan 25: G.I.Joe Examined on Podcasts
Jan 25: Buzz Dixon Interview
Jan 25: Paulsen Annie Nomination & Dini on Batman Comic
Jan 12: Sgt. Slaughter Signing in Atlanta
Jan 11: G.I.Joe to Return on G4
Dec 30: Paramount Movie Reviewer Plugs JoeGuide.com

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