Last week, Bleeding Cool broke the story that IDW canceled Aubrey Sitterson's GI Joe series, Scarlett's Strike Force, making the decision weeks prior to the final order cutoff for the first issue. This followed a two-month period of not only refusing to promote the comic themselves, but, according to Sitterson, prohibiting him from promoting it. Sitterson's run on IDW's previous GI Joe title was met with some backlash by a vocal minority of fans who disagreed with the writer's politics, and those tensions flared up on September 11th — two days after Scarlett's Strike Force was first announced — with some "fans" sending Sitterson death threats and campaigning for him to be fired.
At the time, IDW appeared to stand by Sitterson, refusing to fire him from the book. But the lack of any visible promotion beyond two tweets about the book in the roughly 10 weeks since then, followed by a cancellation said to be for low sales before all of the orders for the first issue were in, appear to paint a different picture. Cancelling the relaunch of a major licensed comic before final order cutoff of its first issue by a premier publisher is highly unusual, to say the least. IDW denies that the controversy had anything to do with the book's cancellation.
But Sitterson's GI Joe isn't the only Joe comic to come under fire from fans for political reasons. In GI Joe: Real American Hero #244 by Larry Hama and SL Gallant, one scene depicts some unsavory locals with at least one NRA hat and one confederate flag tattoo breaking into the deceased Snake Eyes' cabin in the woods, identifying Snake Eyes and Scarlett from a photo as "city slickers with big bucks" while trashing the cabin before remarking, "it's folks like us who made this country great." Before being interrupted by a none-too-pleased Timber, Snake Eyes' wolf companion, one of the miscreants carves "Trump" into the side of the cabin with a knife — graffiti too far for some fans.
A few fans on the Hiss Tank forums weren't pleased with the depiction, calling it "cultural Marxist propaganda" and "anti-right propaganda." In a different thread on the same forums dedicated to despising Aubrey Sitterson, now deleted, IDW editor Tom Waltz addressed complaints about the joke. He claimed that Gallant drew the Trump graffiti as an inside joke, placing blame on himself for not having it removed before the book saw print. He promised to have the art changed before the issue gets collected into a trade.
Actually, no. The TRUMP knife-grafiti vandalism was my fault… because I missed it before we sent this off to the printer. It was a silly inside gag (Gallant's always f'ing with me… he's like Loki when it comes to being a trickster, and I'd kill him if I didn't love him like a brother. Wait… does that make me Thor?) that I had made a note to myself to take care of and have modified… then it got lost in the production/deadline rush to get this out to stores.
Why am I telling you this? Not to defend my mistake (these things happen… sucks, but they do) but because it was Larry, when we were putting together the balloons and captions for the issue, who requested we remove anything overly/overtly political in the scene, because despite whatever political leanings he (or anyone involved with the book) might have, RAH (in his exact words to me when he made said request) "isn't the place for this." And I (and IDW) 100% agree with him, which makes me even more bummed that I missed it (total disclosure: I didn't realize I had let it slip through until I read this forum thread).
I wouldn't dare speak for Larry as to how he feels about anything, politically or otherwise — he's a grown man, who is fully capable of doing so for himself should he choose to do so. However, I think it's important I point out facts in this specific case to counter uninformed online conjecture. Larry didn't want that stuff in the issue. I didn't either. IDW didn't either. But… it got lost in the shuffle anyway, and as editor, that's my bad.
Look — we are doing a lot of stuff behind the scenes here at IDW when it comes to JOE — a lot of exciting things. Personally, I'm so excited for what's coming with DAWN OF THE ARASHIKAGE, I could wet my trousers! (You guys wanted gritty? Get friggin' ready!) And despite just about 99.9% of what's being thrown about online (by folks who have zero clue what we do day-to-day, or who we are as people at IDW… which, if you're curious, is a VERY diverse group, with everything from young hipsters to old, crusty former Marines like yours truly, and everything in between), I can say without reservation that our number 1 priority is to the properties we are blessed to be working on… as well as finding ways to tell the best stories possible through those same properties… and not some "Marxist propaganda campaign." Hell, the only campaign I know of here is to get more varieties of coffee in the office kitchen (I keep telling all these wimps to drink it black… problem solved! LOL). Truth is, there are damn good people here at IDW (and over at Hasbro) that I'm proud to work alongside, just as I was once proud to serve alongside a diverse group of Marines back in the day — all differences in races, genders, and political leanings notwithstanding.
My point is, to everyone here on Hisstank: please don't assume to know what folks are thinking or doing unless you either intimately know them… or you actually ask them and let them explain it to you. Your assumption might just be wrong and when you share those inaccuracies with the vast online world, it only creates unnecessary confusion and animosity. I'm not trying to scold or berate… I'm just letting you folks know that we are all on the same team here — the team that wants to bring G.I. JOE back to the glory (guts and glory!) and prominence it deserves. And I promise — we're working on it every single day!
As for Larry? Larry bleeds G.I. JOE. And I'm learning so much from him — all of it good and honorable. You know who else bleeds G.I. JOE? SL Gallant (the trickster bastard). That guy's one of the biggest JOE (and overall 80s nostalgia) nerds I know! Hell… all the gang: Brian Shearer, James Brown, John Royle and his team… they LOVE being on this book. (And they aren't done yet… look for a cool announcement at NYCC… hint, hint.)
And I know you all bleed JOE, too, so please accept my heartfelt thanks for supporting us through thick and thin… the best is yet to come!
Netho Diaz took over as series artist beginning with GI Joe: Real American Hero #246, though there's no indication this was a punishment for the incident. Instead, Gallant is drawing the upcoming crossover comic, GI Joe vs the Six Million Dollar Man, with writer Ryan Ferrier in February.
GI Joe: Real American Hero #244 will be collected in GI Joe: Real American Hero Vol. 19, due out in January.
We reached out to IDW for comment, but at press time, they had not responded.