NYCC: "Infestation" Unites IDW's Licensed Titles

During its Friday evening panel at New York Comic-Con, IDW Publishing introduced an extraordinarily ambitious crossover event that will tie together some of its most popular licensed titles. Running from January to April, "Infestation" will see one major threat from the IDW-native "Zombies vs. Robots" universe overwhelm the worlds of "Transformers," "G.I. Joe," "Star Trek" and "Ghostbusters." "Infestation" #1-2, bookending the event, will be written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (the writing team known collectively as DnA) and illustrated by "True Blood" artist David Messina. Abnett and Lanning will also write the February-shipping "Transformers: Infestation" #1-2 with artist Nick Roche, while "Star Trek: Infestation" #1-2, alternating weeks in February with "Transformers," are penned by Scott and David Tipton with art by Casey Maloney. March's "G.I. Joe: Infestation" #1-2 are by the creative team of Mike Raicht and Giovanni Timpano, and Erik Burnham and Kyle Hotz team up for "Ghostbusters: Infestation" #1-2. CBR News spoke with editors Tom Waltz and Andy Schmidt about the crossover's story, origins and the challenges of bringing it all together.

"Without giving too much away, I can say that we start in the IDW universe with a zombie outbreak of epic proportions. The threat is contained (or is it?), but not before it infests other realities - the realities of our licensed books," Waltz told CBR. "The individual series will show just how our intrepid heroes - folks like Optimus Prime, Dr. Peter Venkman, Mr. Spock, Baroness, and so many others - face down this new and obviously shocking threat, and their desperate efforts to stop it before it can completely consume - both literally and figuratively - their realities."

The first bookend issue takes place in the "Zombies vs. Robots" world, a universe created by IDW Chief Creative Officer Chris Ryall and artist Ashley Wood. Waltz confirmed that the zombies seen in "Infestation" would be of the sorts seen in "ZVR," including infected robots. "The flavor of zombies we prefer at IDW are chocolate with a vanilla twist (and just a sprinkle of chopped peanuts on top)," Waltz said of the "ZVR" undead, adding that there may be another new twist for them in the crossover. "These are definitely the 'ZVR' zombies we all know and love (and what's not to love when they're so cuddly and brain-hungry?), but Abnett and Lanning have something new in store for readers that we feel is an awesome addition to the zombie mythos. And, let's not forget, 'ZVR' features zombie-infected robots, too, and 'Infestation' will be no different. Plus, tons of cool incentives for this event, folks - patches, ash-cans, zombie sketchbooks and more!"

In addition to "Zombies vs. Robots," characters from early IDW series "CVO: Covert Vampiric Operations" will also play a major role in "Infestation," Waltz told CBR. "Abnett and Lanning have done with CVO what they've done with other lesser-known characters at Marvel and elsewhere - they've made them super cool and must reads," Waltz said. "I never thought a space-adventuring, gun-toting raccoon could be awesome, but DnA made one that is, so can you imagine what they could do with kick-ass vampire commandos? Well, you'll know when you read 'Infestation' #1, I promise you that."

Other than the direct threat of zombie infestation itself, there will not be any crossover between the licensed titles, but "there is a surprise licensed-based crossover into the IDW universe in 'Infestation' #2," Waltz said. "But, that, as they say, is top secret."

The tones of the several series involved - "Transformers," "G.I. Joe," "Ghostbusters," and "Star Trek" - are quite different, suggesting that the heroes of each may have their own distinct ways of dealing with the zombie outbreak. "With 'Transformers,' an inter-dimensional threat doesn't seem out of place. They handle the threat in stride - I mean, until all hell breaks loose, anyway," Schmidt said. "With 'G.I. Joe,' it's a bit trickier. We don't have aliens and extra dimensions in the 'G.I. Joe' comics and (you'll have to read it to see what I mean) we still don't. 'Joe' was the toughest nut to crack here, but I think DnA, along with 'G.I. JOE: Infestation' writer Mike Raicht, really did figure out how to make this work, make it accessible, and make it one heck of a story."

"To me, that's the true beauty of this event, because the methods of counteracting the threat are as diverse as the licenses and the creators involved," Waltz added. "I don't want to give anything away, but rest assured, each book will be fresh and exciting and different - each license facing down the same dangers, but no two in the same way. Success and survival are not guaranteed. Our creators have surprises up their sleeves and things will never be the same for any of these titles when all is said and done."

Most of the licenses involved have multiple incarnations at IDW, with "Transformers" and "G.I. Joe" both having titles set in the movie universes in addition to the ongoing comics and "Star Trek" miniseries set in all of the television series plus J.J. Abrams' recent film reboot universe. Waltz confirmed, though, that "Transformers: Infestation" and "G.I. Joe: Infestation" are set in the core comic book universes and that "Star Trek: Infestation" takes place during the "Motion Picture" era and will star Spock, Kirk, and Dr. McCoy. "And the 'Ghostbusters: Infestation' books take place in the ongoing 'Ghostbusters' continuity (in which the movies, cartoons, and comics basically co-exist)," Waltz said.

With both editors suggesting that there would be ramifications beyond the "Infestation" event, CBR asked Schmidt, who oversees the ongoing "Transformers" and "G.I. Joe" titles, whether this means that the miniseries would tie back into the core books. "Yes to one, and maybe to the other... Ha ha! I love being evil!" he said.

Abnett and Lanning are writing the two bookend issues of "Infestation," as well as the two "Transformers" issues. "They've got a lot of work under their belts with big casts, big ideas, and big action. And somehow, they always manage to stay focused on characters," Schmidt said of how the writers' talents come into play for this project. "Their work on 'Annihilation' at Marvel and 'Legion of Super-Heroes' was outstanding and they're just as excited about 'Infestation' as we are. That's a winning combination."

Waltz joked that there were a few other factors that made these writers perfect for "Infestation." "The English accents," Waltz said, were first and foremost. "That, and you can combine their names into a three-letter acronym. I mean, c'mon: DnA do 'ZVR' and 'CVO' for IDW is press release gold, baby!

"Truth is, DnA are the cream of the crop right now, especially when it comes to big, cosmos-spanning event books," Waltz continued, more seriously. "They continue to hit homerun after homerun with the projects they are involved in, and we absolutely jumped at the opportunity to work with them when we knew we had the chance. And, man, from the start they've proven to all of us why they are in demand the way they are. Cool ideas pour out of these guys like smooth Earl Grey from a hot kettle at teatime (couldn't resist that one, fellas), and they are extremely open to suggestions from their editors and ultimately find ways to compile everything into sweet pitches and even sweeter scripts. They bring true professionalism and motivation to the event and it's better for it.

"Plus, c'mon - English accents! It's like being on conference calls with two James Bonds whenever we discuss 'Infestation.' Or two Hugh Grants."

While line-wide crossovers are far from unusual, "Infestation" is quite different in that it draws in several IDW licenses, which adds a few hurdles from the business side of publishing. Waltz joked that IDW was able to overcome these obstacles with "bribes, blackmail, and booze" before confessing that, "seriously, when we first considered doing this, none of us at IDW really believed it would truly happen."

"Initially, the thought process was that we wanted to do something cool that would draw attention to our own intellectual properties - 'Zombies Vs. Robots,' 'Covert Vampiric Operations (CVO),' etc. - but we knew that was an uphill battle from the get-go, as non-licensed properties aren't exactly being embraced by the Direct Market these days, despite the fact that many of them deserve the same kind of audience the licensed properties possess," Waltz said of "Infestation's" origins. "The obvious solution, then, was to try and find a way to tie our I.P. into the broader audience our licensed books would provide, but how to get all those licenses on-board was the catch - we just didn't see all the licensors going for such a crazy idea. But crazy never, ever stops us at IDW (I actually think crazy is part of the company credo. If not, it's certainly part of the job description in IDW editorial). So, we all pulled together to come up with a plan that we eventually dubbed 'Infestation' - an insane mission that brings our IDW Universe and our licensed universes of 'Transformers,' 'G.I. Joe,' 'Star Trek' and 'Ghostbusters' together into one massive event, one where they all face a common foe - a true and dangerous threat that contains future ramifications for all the titles beyond just this initial event. We crossed our fingers (and toes and, in Andy Schmidt's case, our Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow swords) and presented the plan to our licensors and, from the very start, have been absolutely flabbergasted by how supportive and excited they've been to be a part of our efforts from A to Z. To put it bluntly, without the licensors being as cool as hell and helpful as they've been, there's no way 'Infestation' happens at all."

Schmidt added that the key to getting licensors on board was a matter of having the right conversations. "It's all about conversation. And a lot of conversations with a lot of creators, between the editors internally, and with each licensor separately," Schmidt said. "This isn't the kind of thing you pull together over night. It's a logistical nightmare, but hopefully also a lot of fun for everyone."

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