July 17th, 2008 | Work
Okay, I meant to get around to this several weeks ago. But, you know, working for a living, etc.
So I wrote what we call a "micro-series" called GI JOE: RESOLUTE. (This has been misreported elsewhere as GI JOE ABSOLUTE, which may give aid and comfort to the people at Hasbro who weren’t wild about the title!) It’s an hour long, broken into ten 5-minute episodes and one 10-minute final episode.
It went like this. Sam Register phoned me up and said, we’d really like you to write a GI JOE animation, at a PG-13 rating, aimed at an older viewer. I said, I’ve never seen a GI JOE cartoon in my life. The closest I got to a GI JOE comic was drinking with Larry Hama. I’ve never even seen a GI JOE. Couldn’t tell you what they look like if you paid me. I know nothing about GI JOE. It is meaningless in my world.
Excellent, Sam said. Just the guy we need.
It was hard not to notice, at this point, that Sam Register is crazier than a shithouse rat. Therefore I decided to take the job.
I was told, some time after I finished the job, that GI JOE is actually kind of similar to Action Man. "Why didn’t they SAY so?" I yelled. Eagle Eyes! Gripping Hands! The Red Devil Action Man who had a hideous accident in a tree during a parachute op in my back garden when I was three years old. The mutilated Action Man whom my grandad found in a lay-by and thereby became default Torture Sequence Action Man for several years. Ah, the 1970s, where setting action figures on fire in the woods was considered part of a healthy childhood.
"Ask them if GI JOE and Barbie can have a really disturbing sex scene where they get naked and then realise they don’t have any genitalia," said my girlfriend.
Everyone was so helpful during this project.
So my brief was to produce a non-tiny-child-oriented GI JOE. Which necessitated reading just a toxic amount of research, leading me to birth an odd, lumpy, normal-for-Norfolk-looking hybrid of the comic and the cartoon. The idea was, as I understand it, that bringing in a writer with absolutely no nostalgia for the property would give them the tone they were looking for. I think they were happy when I presented them with the initial list of characters I was going to just kill. And then the list of things I was going to blow up.
The people at Hasbro were actually remarkably supportive. And I did apologise after shouting at them those times. And they did give me one of those conversations that you never really expect to have when growing up:
HASBRO: No, Warren, you cannot wipe Beijing from the face of the earth.
ME: Shit. (pause) What about Moscow?
HASBRO: Wiping Moscow from the face of the earth would be fine.
The point was to write an hour-long story that really put the property and the characters through some shit changes: as if this were the GI JOE film (at the time of my writing RESOLUTE, there still wasn’t a locked script on the live-action film) and I was rebooting and re-grounding the property on my own. These sort of gigs are immense technical challenges, and really sharpen up some skills I wouldn’t ordinarily use.
One other error in the reportage I’ve seen: someone mentioned Lady Jaye in connection with RESOLUTE. Lady Jaye is not actually in RESOLUTE. Scarlett is the female lead on the Joe side of the story, I guess, although there is another female character on the new Joe team with a significant role. Two probably-beloved characters die in the first five minutes. Snake-Eyes gets to impale someone while travelling at a hundred miles an hour. Cobra Commander isn’t very funny any more. Although, really, given that his uniform includes wearing a bag over his head, there are limits to how unfunny he can be at any given time.
RESOLUTE will be screened on the web first, I believe, sometime in 2009.
Hasbro, as I say, were pretty easy to work with, especially given the things I was doing to their toys. The animation team were lovely people, and I’m hoping I get to work with crazy Sam Register again in the future.