Like virtually every major comic book released in 2020, it seems like it has been a long time between the announcement of Rob Liefeld's Snake Eyes: Deadgame and its eventual release, which comes next Wednesday. The series, which brings Liefeld to one of the properties he has said was on his creative bucket list, was announced back in July of last year with a targeted launch date of "early 2020." By the time we spoke to Liefeld in February, the plan was to have the first issue in stores by June which, given the long delays suffered by a lot of titles as a result of the pandemic and Diamond's brief shutdown, seems pretty on-point for IDW.
The character is popular, with a movie spinoff in the works and one of the most beloved stories in the history of G.I. Joe comics under his utility belt, but Liefeld said he still viewed the project as a challenge, and a chance to expand beyond his wheelhouse. The first issue is being supported by a combined 36 retailer and convention exclusive covers, including nine that were illustrated by Liefeld himself. That's...a lot. And the obvious question -- asked by fans, reporters, and some retailers -- was "Why so many?"
"Moments before we hopped on this interview, a guy on Twitter is like, 'Why is there all these covers on this book?'" Liefeld explained to ComicBook.com. "As you know -- and I think this is interesting to know -- there are covers you offer to get ordered, and then there are covers you take orders for. We had no leverage over the retailers who called up IDW and said, 'We would like to participate.' And I said to this guy on Twitter, 'All we had was the excitement for this project. We could not force retailers in a pandemic to be excited about this. They chose their excitement. They jumped on, they voted.' I said, and I'll say here, our retail partners on this are really excited. We're thrilled that they're excited. I think I delivered a product that they're going to get some good results with, that's going to connect with with fans. It's that simple. We had no leverage other than the excitement we brought to the table. And again, I feel like I did my seven year old self a solid, you know? G.I. Joe was my first love."
"Rob Liefeld's unique take on the G.I. Joe franchise is truly the very definition of 'event comics,' guaranteed to generate fan excitement and attract lots of foot traffic to comic shops," said Chris Ryall, IDW's President, Publisher, and CCO. "We are extremely grateful for our retail and convention partners who have recognized Snake Eyes: Deadgame as one of Summer 2020's biggest titles and supported this launch so enthusiastically."
He said that he had been specific enough about his love for the old kung-fu grip figure from the '70s that one of the retailers actually surprised him with a gift, in the form of 2000's reissue of that toy, which was packaged and appeared authentic to the period of its original release. Liefeld was stunned and touched by the gesture.
"Rob Liefeld and Snake Eyes were destined to come together," John Barber, IDW's Editor-in-Chief, said in a statement. "We could not be more excited to have one of comics' all-time most iconic artists take a stab — pun very much intended — at telling a tale of one of the world's most iconic characters."
Per the official synopsis, "Snake Eyes has long been the most mysterious member of the G.I. JOE team, but within the pages of Deadgame, he'll finally be forced to play his hand! How long can he keep his past classified…and what deadly secrets will come back to haunt him?"
Along the way, Liefeld will introduce a new villain, Kirigun, and his daughter. The pair will be the ones threatening to expose elements of Snake Eyes's backstory, putting him and the rest of the Joes in danger.
"I wanted to go big, mythological, mystic. You've got such a ninja culture in GI Joe between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow, and so why not tap into some of that?" Liefeld told ComicBook.com. "I didn't want to do a standard GI Joe - Cobra back and forth. I wanted to maybe pick a different direction, and that's not to say that they're not both going to eventually be participating at maximum levels that the Joes and Cobra can, but it's crafted around this ancient evil that we are resurrecting in the first issue."
"He's my Thanos, man. He's my bad guy," Liefeld added. "His intentions are bad. We call him the Dead Master. He wields the Sword of the Dead or the Dead Sword, and you're going to see the full breadth of that. And I love that, cause I kind of jumped into Snake Eyes' skin as I'm doing these pages. It's one of those rare books that I did in order, in sequence. I normally draw out a sequence, so when I got to where Snake Eyes is overwhelmed, I felt overwhelmed. You're going to see where he's like, 'Oh, oh, this is bigger than me.' We do some fun stuff. I think the first issue is a great first act, and I hope that everybody, as page 24, 25, 26, 27...as you get to those pages in the issue, that you're on board for the whole series."
The first issue of Snake Eyes: Deadgame will arrive in stores on July 15. To reserve your copy, please contact your local comic shop or use the Comic Chop Locator to find a store near you.