Getting the human side of military fiction right

I bang on about this a lot, I know, but a conversation this week with a serving US soldier reminded me why I should harp on about it forever: getting military fiction right, especially the human side, matters more than ever. Fiction is frequently the most powerful and sometimes the only window people have on the real military world. My crusade in life is to erase lazily written military stereotypes from the face of the Earth, unless it's forced to carry a CONTAINS BULLSHIT warning in big red letters.

The first part of my guest blog for Fictorians is here. Part II is here. And remember that just because a movie, book, or whatever tries to pass itself off as authentic, it doesn't mean that it is. Try my three-movie test, as outlined in the blog.

If you get the details of a fictional plasma-powered rifle wrong, you've upset a few fans. It doesn't impinge on the real world. If you portray military personnel inaccurately, though, you've done real people (and dare I say it, the best of our species) a serious disservice. I know which matters more in the global scheme of things.

No Joe

If you're a regular G.I. Joe reader, you've probably worked out that the Fall of G.I. Joe series is ending next month after eight issues instead of twelve. It's a shame, because I was really enjoying it and Steve Kurth and I had developed a great creative partnership. Inevitably, a story planned for twelve issues can't suddenly be collapsed into eight with five issues wrapped up in the final book without some gouges and dents, so I left the characters in as good a shape as I could so that some story arcs were resolved and the characters could be picked up again in the future if needed.

To give IDW their due, they were open with me from the start that they weren't sure how long they could keep the new series going, and I took the job on that basis. All we could do was plan for a year and see what happened month by month. They finally pulled the plug at issue #7, which gave me one issue to tie up what I could and give readers some closure. That meant making drastic changes to a couple of storylines; but, like all stories that go off at unplanned tangents, it just made them more interesting for me and I was quite sad that I wasn't going to be following where they went. Working with Steve Kurth was a treat because we found our mutual "zone" fast and then we were on a roll. It's a great experience when you really gel with an artist. Kito Young (colourist) and Jeffrey Veregge (cover artist) did some fabulous stuff too. It was a cool team and I learned a lot from everybody. We were aiming for a modern spy thriller, a little different to the traditional G.I. Joe, and I feel we delivered on that.

Anyway, that's how comics are. Readers and creatives all know the industry works on tight budgets, and we're used to series suddenly getting chopped. It's a tough market. But I had a great time with IDW, who were honest and courteous throughout. I met some great Joe fans along the way, too. So all in all, I'm glad I worked on it and sorry that it had to end too soon.