Justin Bell has been the driving force behind Generalsjoes.com, one of the leading G.I. Joe websites on the internet. His dio-stories are among the most intricate and compelling anywhere. Justin is one of the leading G.I. Joe authors taking part on Kindle Worlds, where his “The Price of Peace” trilogy is a favorite among Joe fans. His newest novella has just arrived – let’s learn more about “Welcome to Wolf Squad.”
MW: You are obviously a massive fan of G.I. Joe – how were you first introduced to the brand?
Justin: Let me see if I can remember back that far…it was a long time ago! As nearly every young child of the 80s was, I was a massive fan of action figures in general, starting with a fascination with Star Wars. During a routine trip to a local department store, I saw the original 1982 line of G.I. Joe figures for the first time. They were the same size as Star Wars, but they had actual knee and elbow joints! Those two extra joints are what sold me initially, then things just kept getting better. During that first 1982 series, I received a surprise package from my father (who was a Navy veteran) on Christmas and it contained nearly the entire 1982 assortment! Figures, vehicles, the whole nine yards. Ever since then I’ve felt compelled to keep my collection as complete as humanly possible.
MW: Your new novella “Welcome to Wolf Squad” showcases a new sub-team just introduced as action figures this Fall – what compelled you to write about this new squad and how did you get it finished so quickly?
Justin: You know, the minute I heard designer John Violette mention the “Wolf Squad” during a Q & A for ComicCon, my ears perked up. When it comes to G.I. Joe, or any toy line for that matter, story is very important to me. It’s much more than just a bunch of plastic action figures, I want to know what motivates them and why certain characters belong together. In truth, the mention of Wolf Squad started my gears moving, but the entire 2015 assortment was just so interesting and diverse that it made me think of how they might all work together. As far as how quickly it was written, when I get the kernel of a story in my head, I don’t tend to rest until it’s down on paper (either physical or digital) somewhere. Throughout that week I spent nearly every lunch hour at work writing and stayed up far later than I probably should have working on it at night. The fact is, I love G.I. Joe, and I love telling G.I. Joe stories, so when even the smallest nugget of an interesting new detail gets in my head, I can’t help but dive into it with both feet.
MW: There are a lot of diverse characters in Wolf Squad (including Hit & Run, a major hero from your dio-stories). Do you have any favorites from the new team?
Justin: You are certainly right, I’m a huge fan of Hit & Run, and was thrilled to see him included in both the 50th Anniversary line as well as Wolf Squad itself. But in this case, I have to give the “favorite” honor to Sightline. Not only does the figure look excellent, but as a close friend of the late Gary Head, I can’t help but form a bond with that character, and I’m so pleased that Hasbro was able to make that happen. For that reason alone, he stands out. His affiliation with Wolf Squad and the terrific looking figure are both layers of icing on the proverbial cake.
MW: Kindle Worlds is a unique opportunity for fans of the brand to own their favorite characters’ stories like never before. How has your experience been as a Kindle Worlds author?
Justin: It has been truly fantastic. I’ve been writing fanfiction of some form or another since I was 12 years old. The fact that there is a way to tell these stories publicly and help expand the profile of G.I. Joe is amazing to me…add on Hasbro’s blessing and support for it? It’s almost like a dream come true. The process for publishing the books is extremely straight forward, and it’s been a pleasure for me every step of the way. It certainly doesn’t hurt that I’ve had a lifelong dream to be a published author, and the fact that I even have an Amazon Author Page at this point is something that makes me smile. It’s been a great experience that I hope many other G.I. Joe fans try and take advantage of.
MW: You’ve recently joined the crew of G.I. Joe: Declassified – what’s it like to work with this group of G.I. Joe historians?
Justin: Amazing. The folks behind G.I. Joe: Declassified are some of the most knowledgeable and devoted fans I’ve had the pleasure to be around. They put so much hard work into uncovering the mysteries of our favorite brand and sharing those mysteries with the public at large. It’s really commendable. I am so excited to be a part of this great team of fans, and can’t wait until everyone sees what new things we have in store!
MW: With the new line of G.I. Joe toys arriving at Toys R Us right now, what are your most recommended pickups for the G.I. Joe collectors?
Justin: There’s a lot of good stuff coming. I love Zartan as well as Hit & Run, so certainly the Vanishing Act 3-Pack with Hit & Run, Torpedo, and Zartan is looking very cool. I was fortunate enough to get the Toys R Us Desert Duel set from San Diego as well, and the FOE Striker is a fantastic new take on a great classic G.I. Joe vehicle, so I highly recommend that set, either the expanded version or the retail version. Of course, there’s also Silent Strike with Sightline, Capt. Ace, the new Skystriker as well as the HISS with the first ever HISS Gunner. That looks like a very exciting set too.
MW: Do you have plans for a new G.I. Joe writing project for Kindle Worlds?
Justin: I certainly do. I’m trying to think outside the box a little bit and explore some pieces of G.I. Joe history that may not have received quite as much exposure recently. I have a lot of ideas rolling around in my head, and hope to be able to get some of those down on paper very soon. I’m thrilled with how excited folks appear to be about “Welcome to Wolf Squad”, and that’s certainly motivating me to keep on digging. Hopefully I’ll have more information about my next project soon!