by Russell Lissau
Taken from Comics Newsarama
Thanks to Kevin Sargeant & Ben Herman for submitting this article.

You can't blame Marvel's Associate Manager Retail Sales, Advertising and Promotion Bill Rosemann for having an eye geared towards marketing...and when he noticed what he thought was void in the comics marketplace...well...quick as you can say "Yo Joe", the part-time writer went about filling it. "Walking around New York City, I couldn't help but notice all of the G.I. Joe and Transformers t-shirts that pop culture hipsters have been wearing with pride," recalled Rosemann, in his own unmistakable style. "In fact, it appears that a raging Joe/Transformers comeback is upon us, with items being snapped up on eBay faster than you can say Cobra Commander. And after receiving many requests at Marvel central to bring back those two popular comics, I took upon myself, as resident marketing dude, to investigate the possibility. But alas, my search ended in a dead end when the whole topic of licensee fees made it apparent that a return to printed page just wouldn't work out.

"However, the idea nestled in my brain, demanding to be let free. Talking to our Assistant Editors, I've discovered that many of them were introduced to the Marvel Universe through these comics, specifically through G.I. JOE. In truth, a whole generation of readers can point to that title as their introduction to the wild and wonderful world of comic books. Wouldn't it be great, then, to bring back the spirit of Joe to the Marvel Universe? "Then it hit me... we have S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra (not to mention A.I.M.) just begging to be used! And if you know me, then you also know that I absolutely love S.H.I.E.L.D., Nick Fury and the Howling Commandos, World War II history... the whole ball of wax. In fact, my last piece of published work (which appeared as a back-up tale in Captain America #20 and #21) was a gorgeously painted (by Vince Evans) story starring Nick and the Howlers vs. Baron Blood during W.W.II!

"So I got to thinking, how could Marvel bring back S.H.I.E.L.D. in a way that hasn`t been done before? The way I see it, Nick and the entire superspy agency make excellent guest-stars, but historically haven't had lasting success as the main stars of their own book. I'm not sure why this is the case, but perhaps it`s due to the size of the agency. I mean, how do you tell a story about an entire organization? So I brought up some idea to my friend (and fellow comics lover) Eresh Schoeneweiss..."

The duo focused their attention and created a small squad within the larger S.H.I.E.L.D. structure, a select group of highly trained agents, each an expert in a particular field. "And to make things interesting, and in keeping with the Marvel Universe tradition, each would have interesting/flawed personalities, which would be reflected in their chosen area of combat. Basically, they would be the Howling Commandos for a new generation.

"Eresh thought the idea was cool and encouraged me to bounce it off some of the Assistant Editors. The following day I mentioned it to Brian Smith, assistant to Bobbie Chase and G.I. Joe enthusiast. He thought it sounded cool and we left it at that. Fast forward a month or so and Bobbie Chase asks me if I want to do a back-up story in the upcoming Captain America 2000 Annual with penciler Scot Eaton... which was funny since I've been showing his stuff in Creature Commandos to editors and saying 'Hey, this guy`s good!' As it turns out, he was just finishing up the X-Men 2000 Annual and was ready for more. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance... and then was blown away when Brian suggested I tell a story starring my new S.H.I.E.L.D. team! I couldn't believe they wanted me to introduce my own characters in the pages of a Cap story (especially one that would feature a main story written by Dan Jurgens)! So I fleshed out my idea and came up with the following:

"THE BIG PITCH: Meet the most highly trained strike force of them all! Meet the secret squad that takes on the jobs that no one else can handle! Meet the Elite Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.!

WHO ARE THE ELITE AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.?: Through the fires of modern warfare come the E.A.S., a small (but occasionally expanded) team of experts handpicked by S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Sharon Carter. As newly appointed head of the super-spy organization, the E.A.S. will be her personal weapon against the more subtle challenges presented by this post-Cold War world. But don't think that they are any less powerful than an all-out S.H.I.E.L.D. assault. If an entire platoon is a grenade that devastates whatever is in its radius, the E.A.S. is a strategically aimed laser that strikes exactly what they were intended to destroy!

ROLL CALL: Let`s meet our lean, mean fighting machine!

SGT. SKULL - Our battle-tested fearless leader. But is he fearless because he's already lost everything including his face? Picture a man with a bald, horribly scarred head and an intimidating steel, skull-shaped faceplate and you have our man. And of course the rumors swirl about him: How did he lose his face? Was it blown off in an accident? Did Baron Strucker himself do this? Did he do it himself in a fit of grief? It's obvious Skull is experienced, but what kind of twisted black-ops did he live through? And just how old is he anyway? His real name is Sgt. John Skulinowski, but behind his back, due to his eerie face, they call him Sgt. Skul!

NAILS -Our badass hand-to-hand fighting expert. But I thought I'd flip the "team`s strong guy" idea on its head by making Nails a woman. She grew up your typical teased fat girl. So Joanie Eaton turned her mass into muscle through blood, sweat and tears. Now she's a master of all fighting styles... and she's ready to make all those jerks that called her Joanie "Eaton Alot" open up and eat her fist!

THE KID - Our sharp shooter... and my nod to the gunslinger of the Wild who can hit anything that moves with his trusty pistols. He`s a charismatic bad boy who`s a braggart, a lover and a drinker. But you just know that underneath his bluff and swagger lies the tender heart of a child that`s just looking for love.

SILICON - Our resident tech head... but not a guy who sits behind a desk tapping into a keyboard. At a young age, E.B. Farrell lost both his arms in an accident on his family`s farm. But when his classmates shunned him due to his clunky prosthetic arms, he turned to science and technology in an effort to invent more attractive arms. But as I said, this hardware junkie isn`t one of those computer guys that makes for a boring visual... he`s out there in the field shooting nanobugs into your auditory canals to puncture your eardrums! He`s blasting neural-scrambling tasers out of his bionic arms! Like his name, he`s fast and slick as sand, and so I see him resembling Neo from The Matrix.

M-80 - Our demolitions expert. The last thing M-80`s enemies think before the bombs go off in addition to "uh-oh" is that they didn`t expect such explosive rage from such a delicate Asian woman. Sayuri Kyoto`s grandmother survived the bombing of Hiroshima, but eventually succumbed to cancer. So is M-80 now attempting to gain revenge on the world by blowing everything up?

"The combination of such different physical and psychological players will, I hope, prove to be both entertaining and explosive. And nothing could prepare me for the awesome character designs by Scot! As for the story... well, I don`t want to spoil any of the fun, but I will say that I took particular steps to make sure it had meaning to regular readers of Captain America. It features a redesigned Hydra, swirling desert sands and buckets o` bullets. Will we ever see the E.A.S. again? That depends upon how the readers react to the story. At the very least, it`s just a fun bonus story that introduces some new faces to the Marvel playground. And if some people yell out "Yo Joe" or "Wa-Hoo" when they read it (when it hits stands on September 27th), then everyone involved in the tale will be happy campers!"