For decades now, Hasbro's "G.I. Joe" brand has been one of the great cross-media success stories, with popular toy lines, television series, comic books, and even a recent, live-action, blockbuster film. While the stable of G.I. Joe characters has grown over the years, the basic formula has remained largely the same: G.I. Joe are the good guys, Cobra are the bad guys, and Cobra Commander is the baddest of the bad guys.
All that changes, however, with this week's issue of IDW Publishing's "G.I. Joe: Cobra" #12.
SPOILER WARNING: If you haven't read the issue yet (and plan to), you might want to check it out, find out what happens, and then come back for the rest of this story. After all, knowing is half the battle.
Good to go? Okay, then...
BREAKING NEWS: Cobra Commander is dead.
And while deaths and subsequent returns to the land of the living are a common occurrence in the comics world, IDW assures MTV News that this time, death is a one-way ticket for the mysterious leader of the terrorist organization known as Cobra. Furthermore, the character's violent passing in issue #12 will usher in a complete relaunch of the licensed comic book line beginning with April's "G.I. Joe: Cobra Civil War" #0 and a 100-page issue that will serve as a tribute to one of the most sinister characters in the G.I. Joe universe.
"This is the real Cobra Commander, but they have to elect a new one once in a while," said IDW's "G.I. Joe" editor, Andy Schmidt. "They've never had one shot through the brain before. This isn't entirely unprecedented, in that they've had previous Cobra Commanders of the organization, but this is the first one that's been shot down in the line of duty — or however they would put it."
According to IDW, there's been no decision made at this point as to how Cobra Commander's death will resonate throughout the rest of the Hasbro brand (if at all), but as Schmidt points out, it's not unheard of for the G.I. Joe toy lines, television series, or movies to influence the comics — and vice versa.
"We have a little more leeway than some other licensees might," said Schmidt. "If there was something in the movie we liked as a costume design element, we can give it a try in the comics, and Hasbro is usually pretty open to that sort of thing. Still, there are certain things that they see as specific to this version of the brand, and we don’t cross those things over ... but in terms of design and things like that, we can do slight variations on costumes and try new things."
And with more than four decades of nearly continuous publication, it's easy to see why G.I. Joe comics have often played a big role in integrating and influencing the Hasbro brand in all its various incarnations.
During a recent press event, Schmidt and IDW unveiled a series of covers for the new books that will kick off in the aftermath of Cobra Commander's death. Along with "Cobra Civil War" and the Cobra Commander "Tribute" issue ("I think it’s kind of funny to have a tribute to such an evil jerk," said Schmidt), IDW will also launch three new ongoing G.I. Joe comic book series in May: "G.I. Joe," "Snake Eyes," and "Cobra."
And as any fan might expect, the relaunch of the line begins with the search for a new Cobra Commander — and a contest to determine who should wear the iconic mask.
"He who kills the most GI Joes becomes the next Cobra Commander," explained Schmidt. "It’s pretty simple, it’s straightforward. It should be pretty brutal and it should be pretty fun for readers."
According to Schmidt, with leadership of the terrorist organization up for grabs, all of the key players in the Cobra organization will be out to raise the Joe body count — and keep their competition from doing the same.
"It wouldn’t be Cobra without backstabbing," laughed Schmidt. "That’s the best part! They’re keeping score, and they’re trying to trip each other up."
"We’ve been building to this," he said of the iconic character's death. "We’ve known about 'Cobra' #12 for over a year, and we know where this is heading."
"G.I. Joe: Cobra" #12 is on shelves now. "G.I. Joe: Cobra Civil War" #0 and "G.I. Joe: Cobra Commander Tribute 100-Page Spectacular" hit shelves in April, with the three ongoing series launching in May.
You can check out some of the covers for IDW's upcoming relaunch of the G.I. Joe comics universe below (click on each thumbnail for the full image):
Yo, Joe! Let us know what you think of Cobra Commander's death and IDW's plan for the G.I. Joe line in the comment section or on Twitter! You can also follow me, Splash Page editor Rick Marshall, on Twitter!