By Todd Matthy

Cobra Commander is dead!!!!! Long live the Commander…or whom ever is under the helmet. (Killed in GI Joe: Cobra #12) IDW Publishing’s version of Cobra is far different then the Cobra I grew up with. And Cobra Commander, lets just say the one who’s six feet under is not the first to hold that title and at the end of IDW’s “Cobra Civil War” someone new will be stepping into that title. But who? IDW Senior Editor and Comics Experience founder Andy Schmidt knows, and I attempt to pry it (and information about the Transformers “Chaos” event out of him in six questions.

To get the answers, and learn more about Comics Experience, click below.

1. With Cobra being a old, vast, shadowy, illuminati-like organization, are there any plans to tie them to historical incidents? For example, could Cobra have been involved in the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand?

They certainly could have been. The tricky thing with an organization like this one is knowing exactly what extent they were involved in anything. They don’t want to get caught or be seen, so they cover their tracks very well. Their true origins may never fully be revealed. On the other hand, maybe we’ll just do a Cobra Origin book and be done with it. Ha ha.
2. Does Cobra’s being older, mean the GI Joe team (or a version of them) has been operating for a longer period then the comics are indicating?
Not necessarily. The Joes only found out about Cobra’s existence relatively recently. Like within the last year, so there was no known Cobra to fight. Were there other organizations that fought Cobra in the past? Probably so, and maybe we’ll get to meet one of them in the future.
One of the things that I wanted to establish is that there was a reason for the Joes to exist before Cobra. Which I think we did. There are big enough threats in this world that it needs G.I. Joe. THEN Cobra comes along and is waaaaaay worse than anything they ever imagined.

3. Has anyone pitched historical figures like Genghis Khan having a connection with Cobra?

Sure. I get pitches all the time. But that’s not a story that really drives anything forward right now.

4. Your Transformers event is called “Chaos”? Is this a reference to the coming of a certain, planet gobbling, Chaos Bringer? What can we expect from this event?

That would be telling. It’s funny to see how divided the fans are about Unicron (assuming that’s the “Chaos Bringer” you’re referring to). Some fans feel like it’s about time for his return to comics and others never want to see him again. I find that kind of entertaining.
I think the thing to expect in a story called “Chaos” is the unexpected. This is the event that really shakes up the status quo–so all bets are off.
5. Are there any plans to let Simon Furman continue his original Transformers run ala Larry Hama on “GI Joe: A Real American Hero”?
Not at this time.

6. For both GI Joe and Transformers, who would you say are the breakout characters of 2011?

In G.I. JOE, it’s probably Flint. For Transformers I’m hoping it will be Megatron or Galvatron (that I can mention).
Bonus. In addition to being Senior Editor at IDW Andy runs Comics Experience, an online resource for comic creators, teaching writing, art, coloring, lettering, and maintaining a Creators Workshop. To learn more about the program, I asked Andy an additional six questions.
How often are Comics Experience classes?
The courses tend to run for six weeks, meeting live, online, once per week. But students have access to a private message board the whole time–24/7. As for how often we offer them, I try to basically do three rounds per year, but that doesn’t mean each course is offered three times. The Lettering class, for example, i offer once per year.
How did the idea of Comics Experience come about?
I was a college instructor and a high school teacher before I started editing comics for a living, so this was a very natural fit for me. And when I would meet so many passionate people, I just wanted to help out. So I formed Comics Experience to offer the kinds of courses I WISH had been available when I was trying to break into the comics biz.
Do students get one on one time with creators when they sign up for Comics Experience?
The courses are held live, so they get time with their instructor (all of whom are working professionals). There is a very high level of interaction. There is individual feedback on homework and critiques and that sort of thing. Students are encouraged to ask questions during the courses. It’s a very immersive, informative, and encouraging experience.
Will students get their work reviewed and critiqued by instructors?
Absolutely. The assignments are a huge part of the course. And at the end of each course, a student should have work to show. In the writing class, it’s a well-crafted five-page story, in the penciling class, it’s a couple of finished pages, coloring is the same. And so on. It’s as “hands-on” as it can get, given that you’re doing it from the comfort of your own home!
Do students get networking opportunities?
We talk a lot about networking and depending on the course, I may bring in guest speakers for them to talk with. Networking is one of those key-words that few people really define accurately. So what we do is cover strategies that someone can easily apply to their life and start doing form home. But, yes, students do get access to working professionals. And that’s where networking starts. And it starts with each other in the class.
In addition to the courses themselves, I also run the Comics Experience Creators Workshop where folks can put those networking skills to use. It’s an exclusive community where we discuss all kinds of comics and industry issues and topics. We meet twice a month online and live. Once to discuss a graphic novel together and we often have a creator or two of the graphic novel present. For the book club component, we’ve had Robert Kirkman, Kurt Busiek, John Layman, and this week we’ve got Jason Aaron coming in to discuss SCALPED. And we meet one other time also usually with a guest to discuss an industry topic. We’ve covered writer/artist collaboration, marketing your comic, how to budget a comic book project, and this month we’re getting someone from Diamond Distributors to join us so that we can all get a better understanding on how to distribute our comics better.
What teachers have been announced for the upcoming term?
I teach the Introduction to Writing course. In addition to editing, I’ve also written for several franchises like X-Men, G.I. Joe, and Transformers, and I’ve written my own creator-owned comic as well. Robert Atkins is teaching the Introduction to Comics Art course. He’s been penciling for both Marvel and DC for the last couple of years and is the lead artist on G.I. Joe. Chris Sotomayor teaches the Introduction to Coloring course. He’s colored… well… everything. A truly great teacher. And Dave Sharpe teaches the Lettering and Production course. He once headed up Marvel’s internal lettering department and has worked for every major publisher in the industry as well as the small ones.
Special thanks to Andy Schmidt for permitting me to interview him.
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