Friday afternoon at Comic-Con International in San Diego, IDW Publishing and Hasbro hosted a panel discussing their current and upcoming slate of comic book projects together including “Transformers,” “G.I. Joe,” “My Little Pony” and more. The panel, moderated by senior editor and “Robots in Disguise” writer John Barber, included editor Bobby Curnow, “Dungeons and Dragons: Legends of Baldur’s Gate” and “Skullkickers” writer Jim Zub, “Windblade” writer Mairghread Scott, “Transformers: Primacy” artist Livio Ramondelli, “My Little Pony” artist Agnes Grabowska, “Transformers vs. G.I. Joe” writer/artist Tom Scioli and Hasbro’s Director of Global Publishing Michael Kelly.
The panel spent the first half of their time on stage running down IDW’s current Hasbro projects.
They began with upcoming “Transformers” comics. “Robots in Disguise” by Barber and artist Andrew Griffith has moved its setting to Earth, where Optimus Prime is once again leading the Transformers. Barber said they’ll search for a “mysterious object” over the next few issues.
Next, “More than Meets the Eye” by writer James Robert and artist Alex Milnes follows “the spectacular adventures of the [spaceship] Lost Light in outer space looking for the legendary Knights of Cybertron.” Barber hinted at a major character return soon.
Issue #4 of “Windblade” came out this week, written by Mairghread Scott with art by Sarah Stone. Barber said, “The response to ‘Windblade’ has just been incredible.” Windblade was created by having fans vote for what characteristics they wanted the character to have. Barber added, “’Windblade’ will be returning in the very near future.”
Next, Ramondelli discussed two of his current projects, “Transformers: Primacy,” written by Chris Metzen and Flint Dille, and “Transformers: Punishment,” written by Barber. Ramondelli praised how Metzen and Dille truly collaborated with him during the entire “Primacy” trilogy, saying, “I was able to add things to the story, which for an artist is great. You get to play to your strengths. It’s really rewarding to be part of the whole process, not just drawing the script.”
“Primacy” is a prequel saga, taking place eons before the current versions of the characters. It explores the origins of the Cybertronian Civil War. Ramondelli said, “This is when the war really heats up.”
Then Barber showed art from “Drift: Empire of Stone,” by writer Shane McCarthy with art by Guido Guidi. He said the book ties in closely with the ongoing “More than Meets the Eye.”
A slide that simply said “The war was over” came on-screen before Barber made the first big announcement of the panel: “Combiner Wars,” an event series written by Barber and Scott with art by Ramondelli and Stone. Barber said, “The war was over. It’s time for a new war to start. If you’ve been following the series, you know the Transformers have been searching for the Combiner for a while, and the key to that will make an appearance. Things will escalate very, very quickly.”
Calling it “the only hard sell I’m going to do here,” Barber informed the audience about the current “Transformers” Humble Bundle, allowing you to name your own price for a collection of digital “Transformers” comics, with part of the proceeds going to the charity Hasbro Children’s Fund. Barber said, “It went live on Wednesday afternoon, and we’re at about $100,000 right now.”
Barber then made the second big announcement of the panel, “Angry Birds: Transformers” written by Barber with art by Marcelo Ferreria. Barber set up the story saying, “After an adventure with the Transformers, the all-spark falls to Piggy Island and that’s when things get crazy. The ‘Angry Birds’ characters start gaining Cybertronian abilities to change mode.”
Barber and Scioli updated fans on “Transformers vs. G.I. Joe” next, which Barber revealed sold out before it even hit shelves. Scioli said, “There’s nothing faster than that. Immediately isn’t a good enough word for it.” Scioli added that making the series “basically changed my life.”
Scioli said he wrote a 100-page outline for the first four years of the book before he and Baber even started working on the first issue. He went on to call the #0 issue “the best comic book I have ever made in my life.”
Barber showed off the convention variant for the first issue, and Scioli revealed “that cover is the reason I’m here.” He explained that he wasn’t planning on going to the convention, but IDW asked him to draw a variant that literally showed the convention center. “I got so resentful that I called John up and let him have it. And here I am. You can thank that drawing.”
In September writer Karen Traviss and artist Steve Kurth launch “The Fall of G.I. Joe.” Barber called Kurth’s style for the series “almost like a European graphic novel style.”
Moving forward, Zub showed off artwork from his upcoming series “Dungeon and Dragons: Legends of Baldur’s Gate,” featuring art by Max Dunbar. Zub said, “It’s the 40th anniversary of 'Dungeons and Dragons,' which means I’m old and this is going to be awesome.” “Baldur’s Gate” will take place 100 years after the video game of the same name and will bring back fan-favorite character Minsc.
Barber then showed off a gallery of upcoming covers from the various “My Little Pony” series, including “Friendship is Magic,” “Friends Forever” and the upcoming “Power Ponies.” Curnow said that “Friendship is Magic” #23 is a stand-alone story that would focus on the Ponies’ pets and features dialogue only on the first two pages. He said, “People are going to remember this issue just because it’s so weird.”
The panel then opened up to questions from the floor.
A “My Little Pony” enthusiast asked how much interaction the “My Little Pony” writers have with the production team on the show. Kelly said, “We work really closely with the studio team to make sure we are weaving in and out of their stories.”
When asked about a possible “My Little Pony vs. Transformers” series, Scioli said he’d been asked that very question at every signing and panel he’s done for “Transformers vs. G.I. Joe.” He added that he wasn’t a fan of “My Little Pony” growing up, so he wouldn’t have the “understanding” he has of the “Transformers” and “G.I. Joe” properties.
“I imagine something even larger,” added Scioli. “The ultimate Hasbro crossover. Transformers vs. G.I. Joe vs. My Little Pony vs. Rom Spaceknight vs. M.A.S.K. vs. … Does Hasbro own Barrel of Monkeys?”
A fan asked about Grimlock, and Barber reassured the fan the character would definitely be returning soon in one of the “Transformers” books. Ramondelli added that Grimlock and the Dinobots are featuring in both “Primacy” and “Punishment.” Scioli said that he planned to put Grimlock in “Transformers vs. G.I. Joe” #2, but after seeing the robot show up in the “Transformers 4” film trailer, he nixed the idea. Instead, he wrote “an even bigger, badder, scarier robot” into the second issue: Trypticon.
A woman in a blue “Star Trek” uniform asked whether Barber had any plans to bring Shockwave back, who he and Roberts seemingly killed off in “Dark Cybertron.” Barber replied that “More than Meets the Eye” #33 will hint as to what’s really happened to Shockwave and the Crystal City.
Asked if they’re ever told by Hasbro which “Transformers” characters from which iteration of the property to use, Scioli said, “[’Transformers vs. G.I. Joe’] was a story that I was able to originate and execute perfectly to my vision. What you’re talking about probably originated in the ‘80s when Hasbro approached Marvel and said, ‘Hey we have these toys we’d like to promote.’”
Kelly added Hasbro’s point of view, saying, “These are living characters. They have their own stories to tell. We have these brilliant creators bringing these characters to life. We don’t force the issue. These stories go in the direction they’re going to go organically. Does that mean I might step in once in a while and maybe guide things a little bit if need be? Of course. The reason we have brands that are strong and powerful … is because we take care of them. But within reason and within the creative structure, my feeling is these stories need to go the way they’re going to organically go and I’m not going to interfere with that… These are the people who bring them to life and we need to let them do that.”
Someone pointed out that since Transformers live for thousands of years, wouldn’t the younger Transformers stop caring about the struggles of their ancestors that they never personally experienced? Scott said, “That’s definitely something that we start to expand upon in ‘Windblade.’ Windblade is part of an ancient colony that left Cybertron before the war started. She had no prior knowledge of what it means to be an Autobot and Decipticon until they showed up on her doorstep.”
A “Transformers vs. G.I. Joe” fan asked Scioli what his plans are for the series. Scioli replied, “Well it’s an ongoing series, so it’s going to be a comic that you’re going to read, your kids are going to read, your grandchildren are going to read, your great-grandchildren are going to read. Pretty much everything you can expect is going to happen in this series, so yes.”
A younger fan wanted to know why they’re making an “Angry Birds: Transformers” comic. Scioli said, “There are just certain economic realities. When you have something as big as ‘Angry Birds’ and as massive as ‘Transformers,’ it’s inevitable that they’ll combine into something that will transcend all.” Barber added he wanted to write a comic his young daughter could read that wasn’t about millions of years of war.
A military enthusiast wanted to know how Scioli does research for comics like “G.I. Joe.” Scioli said he’s constantly looking for any military information he can find. The weekend of the convention, in fact, he jogged down to take photos of an aircraft carrier sitting in the San Diego bay. He said, “Any opportunity that presents itself in my life where I can learn something about military history or the people who served [I’m interested in.] There was even a Veteran’s memorial nearby that I checked out, too."
Finally, someone asked Scioli if the G.I. Joe’s were secretly planning to take over the Transformers. He replied, “You’ll have to read the final issue of ‘Transformers vs. G.I. Joe, which I imagine will come out in [the year] 3028, maybe.”