CCI: All Hail Transformers! (and G.I. Joe, Too!)

An excited audience packed a room Friday evening at the All Hail Transformers! panel to, indeed, hail IDW's Transformers comics. The enthusiastic crowd even included a guy fully dressed as the animated Starscream.

Over a dozen of the Transformers creators were present, including those working on the current-continuity Transformers books as well as the "Animated" series. These creators included editor Denton Tipton, editor-in-chief Chris Ryall, colorist Josh Perez, writers Shane McCarthy and Chris Mowry, artists Alex Milne, Marcleo Matere, and Casey Coller, and Marty Isenberg, who is also the head writer of the "Transformers Animated" television show.

A series of slides were shown, each one highlighting a current or upcoming Transformers series, and eliciting enthusiastic cries from the audience, most of which was apparently female. Series shown included:

"Transformers: All Hail Megatron," IDW's main "Transformers" series by McCarthy -- "the most hated man in Transformers lore" -- and artist Guido Guidi. Art from the upcoming issues was shown, giving away that Ravage will make his first appearance in issue #2. Frenzy will also appear in an upcoming issue and will be blue, because Hasbro said he had to be. #4 will feature old characters, including Ironsides, who is featured on the cover. Issue #5 will debut a new character called Drift, whose ultimate mode is that of a Japanese drift-car and will also be the first IDW-created character to be made into a toy. McCarthy said he welcomed positive feedback as well as passionate criticism and was excited about the heated debates on the message boards, as long as people are excited about the series and that it gets some kind of reaction. Issue #2 of the series is out in two weeks and #1 is almost sold-out but they are considering doing a second printing.

"Transformers: Revelation - Sideswipe," written by Simon Furman with art by E.J. Su, will be a culmination of the "Revelation" storyline.

"Transformers: Animated - The Arrival," written by Isenberg, is a 5-issue mini-series taking place in the continuity of the first season of the "Transformers Animated" show, featuring two 11-page stories in each issue, though #2 has a longer primary story so the second story in the issue will be more of a back-up. The series will feature Oilslick, who was originally intended to be a toy-only character but the creators found a place to fit him into the comic. Issue #1 is a recap of the pilot episode but told from different points of view.

"Transformers: The Reign of Starscream," by Mowry, Milne, and colorist Josh Perez, received the most thunderous applause of all the projects. In this series the characters return to Cybertron as Starscream creates a replica of the All-Spark Cube. Soundwave was originally planned to appear in #2 and even appeared on the cover of that issue, but the appearance conflicted with the character in the movie so had to be pulled from the story. It will also continue the story of the fall of Sector 7. #4 will be out August 13 (as will "Tranformers Animated" #1).

"Transformers: Destiny" will be a series by Mowry, Milne, and Perez and will serve as a bridge from "The Reign of Starscream" and a prequel to the second "Transformers" movie, to keep all the stories in continuity, and will begin in December 2008.

"Maximus Dinobots," by Furman, Matere, and artist Nick Roche, will pick up story-threads from the "Headmasters" story. That story will begin in November 2008.

At this point a slide was shown that was an homage to the cover of "Batman: The Killing Joke," with Megatron as the Joker, saying "Smile" while taking a picture with Reflector, which will be the only appearance of Reflector in the "All Hail Megatron" series. This cover will be featured as a retailer exclusive.

"Transformers Spotlight: Blurr," by McCarthy, Coller, and colorist Joana LaFuente, will keep the essence of the character, as will all the "Spotlight" books, but making them more relevant to the current continuity. Most notably in this series, Blurr will go from the comic relief he was in the movie and become his own, important character in a story that takes place before the Great War. This series begins in December 2008.

"Transformers: The Thirteen" is a series written by Furman which is in the early stages now but will feature the original 13 Transformers and will act like an origin story. This series currently has no artist attached but should being in 2009.

The slide for "Transformers: Cosmos" got as many groans as it got cheers and laughs. The idea for this series began as a joke on the message boards, but when Mowry began thinking about it, he realized that it could be a great story, tied in to current continuity but outside of current events. The art will be by Andrew Griffith and will be published in 2009.

At this point, the panel transformed into a focus on the G.I.Joe comic, which had as many fans in the room as Transformers. "G.I.Joe: A New Beginning" will be written by Larry Hama, the original writer of the Marvel comics series as well as creator of many of the characters' backgrounds, with art by Robert Atkins. Editor Andy Schmidt impressed that, much like the Transformers, there will be two separate continuities, one continuing the "classic" versions of the characters and one stemming from the versions in the upcoming movie. To this end, there will be a four-issue prequel leading up to the movie and also a four-issue adaptation.

Hama noted that in the IDW series, as Hasbro isn't telling him what new toys to feature in every third issue since all the toys have already been released, he is finally able to do the things with the stories and characters that he always wanted to do but never could, and will take the series in a more gritty direction.

Slides of some of Atkins' character designs appeared and he, being a long-time 'Joe fan, said he was making the look of the characters more like their original, classic versions since many of those elements worked the first time and there was no reason to fix them. Schmidt also took a vote from the audience if they should go with Destro's furry, red collar - the audience's overwhelming response was in the affirmative.

The creators stayed on stage for a G.I.Joe Q&A. The first question was if Cobra Commander was going to be the silly character he was in the animated series. Hama said that the current version of the character would be "a bad-ass" exploring a new depth of evil and would be a balance with Destro, who has some kind of code of honor.

The next was the standard question of favorite characters: Atkins said he was a big fan of the vehicles, which would be prominently featured; Schmidt has always liked Stalker, who, since he didn't have a specialty like the other characters, could probably take any of them in a fight; and Hama said, as a writer, he always liked writing Snake-Eyes (who is mute).

A fan then asked if the ninjas would be prominently featured in the series, but Hama said this new series would be about the whole team overall and not particularly focusing on only the popular characters who, like Wolverine, sometimes take over a series to the detriment of the rest of the cast.

The answer to the next question pointed out that the new series would indeed be a relaunch with a clean slate, though respected what had happened in the Devil's Due series. It will also be an ongoing series but with story-arcs. The creators playfully stonewalled the question about whether Storm Shadow would be on the Joes' side or COBRA's.

A Transformers Q&A was planned, but as the audience and panelists were being shuffled out of the room, the questions and answers came quickly: IDW doesn't have any other characters planned to be made into toys; there's no date for the new animated series to start but should be in the Spring; the current version of Grimlock should be the dumb one because he's more fun to write.

As planned, the Transformers had been hailed.

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