In his hit IDW G.I. Joe miniseries Snake Eyes: Deadgame, Deadpool creator Rob Liefeld has been doing all of the heavy lifting himself. As writer, penciller, and inker, Liefeld has been the key selling point of the book, which has been one of the publisher's biggest hits in years. For its finale, though, Liefeld wanted to celebrate the history of the G.I. Joe franchise, and the Bronze Age of comics, during which the first G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero comics were published. To that end, the last issue will feature a script and pencils by Liefeld, but he will not ink it himself.
So what inker did he call upon to help him finish the series with a bang? Actually, a lot of them, many of whom have never worked on G.I. Joe before, and some of whom are huge comics stars in their own right.
"This is a fulfillment of my dream," Liefeld told ComicBook of the jam issue, which puts an exclamation point on a series that he had already been openly emotional about. "And to be honest, every one of these guys, when they said yes, my heart soared."
The list of all-star names joining Liefeld on the issue includes Neal Adams, Jerry Ordway, Whilce Portacio, Karl Kesel, Joe Rubinstein, Art Thibert, Philip Tan, Dan Panosian, Dan Fraga, Ed Piskor, Jim Rugg, Tom Scioli, Cory Hamscher, Chance Wolf...and Liefeld told us that there are more coming that he doesn't want to announce until the publication date is closer.
The lineup is a blend of creators who were active during the Bronze Age of comics, and some who grew up reading the comics of that era -- and G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero in particular. According to the artist, he surprised publisher IDW with the idea only after enough big-name inkers had accepted his idea to make it essentially a fait accompli.
"None of these gentlemen are not people that I don't know, but to get them to carve out time in their schedule, and to jump on the project and embellish and finish me? I told all of them, 'Look, man. If I wanted Rob Liefeld, I'd ink it myself, like I have the other issues.'" Liefeld explained. "I said, 'Have fun, embellish me, finish me. The layouts and the energy will always be there, but do your thing.' SIt has been phenomenal watching them come in. I watch my email box every day, trust me. Tomorrow's a new day, a new batch of pages will come in. I think IDW at some point is going to say, 'Rob, you don't have an infinite amount of pages.'"
He said that both he, and his editor at IDW, have been awestruck by some of the pages, especially a double-page spread pencilled by Liefeld and finished by legendary comics creator Neal Adams.
"When you can send out an email that says, 'Hey, I got Neal Adams on board,' it's a big deal," Liefeld said. Even my editor said, 'Rob, you told me it was coming, and I still can't believe I am looking at a double-page spread that Neal Adams inked over you. Holy s--t.' So I was like, 'wow, John Barber hasn't said that to me, ever.'"
Because Liefeld has spoken openly about the emotional attachment he has to the G.I. Joe property, and what a bucket-list job Snake Eyes has been for him, it may seem strange at first glance that he would cede so much creative control over the book's visuals in the final issue of the series. That isn't how he sees it, though. Instead, Liefeld says this gives him an opportunity to do something that any comics writer with a great artist by their side loves to do: watch those pages filter in and be pleasantly surprised by each new reveal.
"This is the most fun I've had in maybe over a decade," Liefeld said. "My love of G,I Joe, it's something weird. You know, G.I. Joe was a toy, before it was a comic, for my generation. So I fell in love with Eagle Eye G.I. Joe, Kung Fu Grip G.I. Joe, and then saw them cycle out, and then explode back with the Real American Hero line. That's 1982. It actually was March 2nd, 1982 that G.I. Joe landed, and Marvel's Real American Hero. So I just was like, 'You know what? I'm going to make this a celebration of either the Bronze Age, or all the kids who grew up on this stuff.'"
Including younger artists who loved Bronze Age comics or G.I. Joe was as much a practical decision as an emotional one, Liefeld explained, saying that he couldn't find two dozen or so top-tier Bronze Age inkers who were still working, with at least one person he approached apologetically declining due to poor eyesight.
Key to the success of the project, though, was a number of early joiners who helped Liefeld show other people that he was serious. The first five people he invited all said yes, Liefeld explained, and when you can go to other creators and say that Adams, Jerry Ordway, Whilce Portacio, and Karl Kesel have all said yes, it provides other potential collaborators with a sense that the book is going to be an event.
"Every single one of their yeses, was just phenomenal," Liefeld said. "A guy like Jerry Ordway, he was a mentor to me. He took me in, I stayed at his house when I was doing Hawk and Dove, and I visited New York City and I had already met him on the convention trail and then I got to watch him work, up close and personal. Like Neal, these guys are outstanding gentlemen."
Liefeld also told us that he has asked IDW to consider a "director's cut"-style issue that would give fans a peek behind the curtain, reprinting the issue in black-and-white and featuring side by side comparisons of his pencils and the final product after finishes.
Joining the dozens of creators on this swan song will be all the characters fans have been itching to see Liefeld interpret in the series, he promises. After a big reveal at the end of last issue proved to be a game-changer for the final stretch, Liefeld told us that fans will get to see a number of the heroes and villains he had intentionally put on the shelf, giving the finale an outsized narrative impact in the same way it will be visually explosive.0comments
"People have been asking me all throughout Snake Eyes: Deadgame. 'When are these characters coming?'" Liefeld said of the rest of the G.I. Joe roster. "I had done some; I had had Scarlet and Roadblock, but I had put the villains away. I always knew that Destro and Baroness were going to be on the last page of issue #4, and it was hard to keep that from happening earlier. But I'm like, 'I gotta be disciplined, here.' The fifth issue is a giant, G.I. Joe fest with more characters from the canon. Hasbro's been great to me; they've greenlit everything. They've always cheered me on and been supportive, and IDW too. This is just a spectacular way to end. I used to love this one as a kid, when you get jam issues. And you'd see who drew what page and, 'oh, this is so fun.' That's what I wanted."
Snake Eyes: Deadgame will be available in stores and online this April.