Scarlett’s Strike Force Cancelled: Now What?

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The order cutoff for IDW’s G.I. Joe spinoff series Scarlett’s Strike Force #1 has now passed. We don’t know what that number is just yet, but we do know it doesn’t matter. Scarlett’s Strike Force was already cancelled almost two weeks ago. So how did we get here?

It’s a bit of a long and winding road, really. Back in February of 2016, writer Aubrey Sitterson and artist Emilio Laiso premiered their Street Fighter X G.I. Joe six issue mini with IDW. The series started strong with sales of 18,339 for issue one and ended at 6,751 with issue six, which is a pretty typical drop-off. The series was successful enough that Aubrey was on a G.I. Joe #1 before the end of 2016. At the time, there was no push back on Aubrey’s interpretation of G.I. Joe.

Coming onto a #1 of just about any comic series on the heels of a successful series usually offers the creators some more creative freedom. That coupled with G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero being a continuation of classic Joe makes helped allow Aubrey Sitterson to move the series in a fresh, new direction. He, along with artist Giannis Milonogiannis, put the gears in motion to make G.I. Joe an international organization with reimagined versions of some of the characters and new additions to the team like Skywarp, a former Decepticon and a personal favorite of mine.

While the art was stunning and added momentum and energy to this fresh take on this decades-old franchise, there were segments of the comics community that were vocally against this move. Some because it wasn’t the G.I. Joe, they grew up with, some because of the writing and/or the art just isn’t their thing, and some because of what they viewed as SJW content that was present in the book. As the book progressed, more people spoke out, and after a public gaffe on Twitter back in September, it seemed that this segment of the comics community might be seeing Aubrey’s tenure on G.I. Joe coming to an end. Scarlett’s Strike Force being cancelled confirmed that.

Part of how this could have happened could indeed be the sales. We don’t know what the numbers are yet on Scarlett’s Strike Force #1. The sales overall on the First Strike event that sets up Scarlett’s Strike Force were not a big seller. However, since September, there was no more press regarding Aubrey’s G.I. Joe books. According to Aubrey speaking to another publication, he was no longer allowed to do podcasts, interviews or anything else on his end to promote the book. Another factor is the politics. The G.I. Joe readership skews more conservative. As a result, if the content doesn’t appeal to the core readership and liberals are avoiding the book entirely no matter what, it could have depressed sales. And although IDW has made a statement regarding this, it’s still speculated that Aubrey’s gaffe back in September was a factor.

It’s hard to say if this has an impact on comics in general or in licensed properties. We don’t really know if this was more IDW’s decision or more Hasbro’s. It’s too soon to say if this will have any impact on the comics community beyond this one instance. If Aubrey’s gaffe from September was the tipping point then there is reason to be concerned that personal politics of creators could be used to drive them off books or even out of comics.

Social media allows us instant access to comics creators and quick reactions to what they say and do. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment, myself included, and react more harshly than a situation may warrant. Personal politics should not be a big factor when it comes to the fate of comics creators. Aubrey Sitterson being a self-proclaimed Socialist and discussing his political beliefs on social media should not be a factor. That said, this needs to apply to conservative comics creators as well.

While I’m a liberal, I feel Mitch Breitweiser was unfairly targeted for declaring his support of Trump. Mitch Breitweiser is an incredible artist. I even proudly own a page from his work on Journey Into Mystery that I purchased directly through his website a few years ago. His political views don’t affect the quality of his work or my ability to support it. Ethan Van Sciver is another conservative artist who is targeted by the left. It’s easy to get sucked into Twitter drama, so sometimes we need to put things in perspective. A few weeks ago I was at the New Jersey Comic Expo waiting in line for Jerry Ordway. Suddenly I see a kid run up to his mother whose standing in front of me and he couldn’t be more excited. “Ethan Van Sciver’s back at his table!” the kid shouts. He asks his mom for the comics he had her holding on to for him to get signed and runs back off to Ethan’s table. Yes, I don’t agree with Ethan’s politics. But at moments like that seeing how happy this little kid is to meet Ethan, get his signature and not even consider Ethan or anyone else’s politics in comics should make anyone want to take a step back and think about how they conduct themselves and treat others in comics.

While people’s safety and ethical concerns in this and any industry are always worth discussing, when it comes to personal politics of creators we should consider taking a step back. I had the pleasure of reading Aubrey Sitterson’s G.I. Joe and love his take on the characters. I wish IDW/Hasbro the best in moving forward and next steps with the G.I. Joe franchise. And though I’m sad to see Aubrey leave the series prematurely, I’m wishing him the best of luck and looking forward to reading his next project, whatever it may be.

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