Writer Dan Watters on Revillainizing Destro
Dan Watters
G.I. Joe
We chat with the man behind the man behind Cobra
Monday, June 24, 2024

Everyone’s favorite chrome-masked war profiteer is back with a vengeance in Destro, the latest G.I. Joe series from Skybound’s mega-hot Energon Universe. Writing the book (the first issue of which just landed) is Dan Watters, who’s also scripting Skybound’s hit Universal Monsters: Creature from the Black Lagoon Lives! It’s a busy summer for the Brit creator, but Dan kindly took some time to chat with us about what’s in store for the perennially popular super-villain. Here’s what he had to say…

With Creature from the Black Lagoon Lives! and now Destro, you’ve demonstrated once more your versatility in crafting comics with established characters and IP. Is there a rule of thumb to that? As a fan yourself, are you cautious about getting too precious with these characters?

You have to place any sort of fandom in a box, and then put it away. Because if you create as a fan… you just never want to be doing a sort of cover album. So it's about taking the toys and finding new ways to play with them, and potentially break them. That's always the thing. It's about looking at the universe or the character as raw material, rather than something that I'm a fan of. And that's fun in a whole different way. Then, hopefully, you're making things that will be found out in their own right, rather than always just piggybacking on what's come before you.

Destro 01D Cover

In the case of Destro and the Energon Universe, is it liberating to work with characters getting a fresh start, because you need not adhere to as much prior continuity?

It's an interesting one, because sometimes having a lot of continuity behind you lends weight to stuff. If someone's made a certain kind of character decision for 20 or 30 years of canonical storytelling, and then you take them in different direction, that feels like it means something immediately, without you having to do a lot of groundwork. But being part of reformulating something and restructuring something from the ground up is equally rewarding. G.I. Joe and Transformers aren’t stuff I was super familiar with before being brought on to the project, just by virtue of being British, and it being “A Real American Hero.” So it wasn't something we grew up with in the same way. So being presented with all this raw material, this universe and all these things that have been done with the character before, and then going, “Yes, but this is a whole new version” … You always want to keep as true to the character as you can, because that's the point. Otherwise go write something else. But being able to lay the foundations of that and see where this guy started out, that's been really interesting.

Is it sheer coincidence that Destro is Scottish?

[Laughs.] You'd have to ask the editor… Okay, there's a little part of me that is like, “Well, we need a British megalomaniac.”

Destro 01A Cover

How would you describe your take on the character?

I think in any iteration the character has quite a strong sense of honor and authenticity. He's duplicitous, particularly when it comes to Cobra Commander and trying to get one over on him. But within himself, he tries to live very, very true to his own morals. I think that's been consistent across every version of the character. So I wanted to very much keep true to that. He's weighed down by the idea that he comes from this long line of Destros, who have shaped the world through superior firepower for hundreds of years. He sees himself as the latest in that line, and he can't be the one to lose the family standing. That's the thing that really drives him. It's quite an isolating and intense thing. That's what I thought was interesting, and what I could tap into with him quite easily.

Was there any particular era of G.I. Joe you dived into in preparing to write this book?

The two things I looked at the most were the original cartoon and the Larry Hama comics. Particularly those earlier ones, since this is an earlier iteration of the universe. There is a lot of continuity for the character between them, even though they have very different tones.

Destro has always been a fan-favorite villain. What do you think accounts for his appeal?

I think everyone likes a bad guy. There's always wish fulfillment with someone who's just gloriously evil and has used it to make themselves very powerful and very rich. He's all of that, and yet he still manages to be the underdog in Cobra. I think he's very frustrated, because he's not quite sure why that's happened.

Destro 01G Cover

In addition to Destro, you're also reintroducing the Crimson Twins. What's in store for them in this series?

The interesting thing about coming into this universe is that Cobra isn't fully formed yet. Traditionally, the twins run a certain arm of Cobra, and at this point they’re entirely unaffiliated, and they’re rivals in the arms world. So you have Destro and MAR Industries, and you have Extensive Enterprises, which the twins are the CEOs of. With everything happening in the Energon Universe, the global power shifts, both are going to make grabs for their piece of the pie. So it was really interesting working out what made them different to Destro. How their philosophy is very much opposed to his, and that's what brings them to loggerheads throughout the book. It's really the fact that the Destro sees war as this great thing that’s been the way humanity has always forged its own future. It's always been through conquering and battling that progress is made and how the surface of the planet has been shaped. Whereas the twins are far more interested in being businessmen. To them, war is about making a lot of money killing people.

What's has your collaboration with Andrei Bressan been like? Despite his great work on Dark Ride, he’s still an underrated artist whom a lot of people are still discovering.

It's been great working with Andre. I mean, this book is definitely not 20 pages each issue of people standing around talking. It's 20 pages of things blowing up and people blowing each other up. [Laughs.] I wanted to make sure we could do that without covering it in a ton of text, that it be a visual experience. So having an art team that can just come in and deliver that and create wonderful widescreen vistas of people getting blown up, it's been fantastic.

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