Bucking all trends by actually starting their New York Comic Con panel a few minutes early, IDW Publishing editor John Barber, “My Little Pony” writer/artists Amy Mebberson and Katie Cook, the “Transformers: Windblade” team of writer Mairghread Scott artist Sarah Stone, and “Legends of Baldur’s Gate” writer Jim Zubkavich hosted a panel discussing the full range of the publisher’s Hasbro licenses. While “MLP” got the most love from the fans for an existing series, the announcement of a new “Jem and the Holograms” book aroused considerable interest both from the audience and the panelists.
Barber began by talking about the two “Transformers” ongoing series, “Robots in Disguise” and “More than Meets the Eye.” With the upcoming cartoon titled “Transformers: Robots in Disguise,” the Barber-written series will shorten to simply “Transformers” to avoid confusion. Trade dress aside, Barber said the upcoming “Days of Deception” arc will see “secrets from the past haunting the present day,” in which Prowl will pursue his vendetta against Spike Witwicky.
In “More than Meets the Eye,” written by James Roberts with art by Alex Milne, Barber fished for which issue had just been released and, when a fan answered #33, he joked, “right, the one where Ultra Magnus dies — or, no, that’s the one after.” For Roberts’ part of “Days of Deception,” Barber said, “there is literally nothing I can tell you without James Roberts killing me — every part ruins someone’s life.”
The upcoming miniseries “Transformers: Drift: Empire of Stone” by Shane McCarthy and Guido Guidi returns the popular character to the IDW universe from the creators who introduced him.
“Combiner Wars” by Scott, Barber, Stone, and Ramondelli, was next up, and will prominently feature Windblade. Though their initial discussion suggested this would be a miniseries unto itself, Barber clarified that it would a crossover between his “Transformers” title and and a new “Windblade” miniseries. Since the end of Windblade’s last story “hinted at a bigger world,” Scott said, “we thought, if we’re going to make the world bigger, why not make the robots bigger.” Barber added that the story will build off of what Starscream has been building up on Cybertron, without “a return to mustache-twirling villainy.”
Next came “Angry Birds/Transformers,” eliciting a laugh from the crowd. “This is the ‘Lego Movie’ of ‘Angry Birds/Transformers’ comics,” Barber, who writes the series, laughed. “It’s much better than it sounds,” he said as an image showing a Red Bird Optimus Prime riding a birdified Grimlock was shown.
“This came about after writing a Transformers comic that was all about war crimes,” Barber said. “Then, ‘Oh, something fun!'”
“Transformers vs. G.I. Joe.” came up next, which Barber co-writes with artist Tom Scioli. “It’s kind of a bonkers comic,” Barber said. “It isn’t just Transformers invading Earth; it’s G.I. Joe invading Cybertron.” Already in the series, the Joes have unleashed organic life on the Transformers’ homeworld.
“Things just get bigger in this comic,” Barber said, revealing an Optimus Prime cover.
Segue to “G.I. Joe,” the recently-rebooted series from Karen Traviss and artist Steve Kurth. “[Traviss] is an ex-journalist, so these stories really come in from the real world,” Barber said. The series explores political machinations in a world where Cobra has positioned itself as a global peacekeeping force.
“G.I. Joe: Real American Hero,” the long-running Larry Hama-written series that began at Marvel, came up next. “Larry’s really taken the characters he’s worked with for 30 years now and finding really exciting things to do with them.
Barber then announced the January debut of “Snake Eyes: Agent of Cobra,” written by Mike Costa with art by Paolo Villanelli. Costa joined the others on the stage, taking the place of honor at the podium. “Snake Eyes has been missing from the comics for about two years,” Costa said. Costa’s last Joe series, “Cobra Files,” ended about a year ago, and for his next project, “I wanted something with a really good hook.” Since “if you have two G.I. Joe books, you’re going to buy the one called ‘G.I. Joe,’ not the one called ‘Cobra,'” Costa said his former title was the lower selling. “How about ‘Snake Eyes: Agent of Cobra?’ People will buy that,” he joked. “It’s a 100% crass commercial decision.” Though Snake Eyes has been presumed dead, “clearly he’s not” — unless it’s someone else beneath the mask.
“Legends of Baldur’s Gate” came next, written by Zub with art by Max Dunbar. Zub began by describing the series as introducing the world of Dungeons and Dragons without requiring any prior knowledge of the game. The hero is Minsc, a character from the video game, who holds a pet hamster as his animal companion, and saves the day in a somewhat “brain addled” way. Zub showed the con-exclusive cover featuring the hamster and the words “Go For The Eyes.”
A slide showing “My Little Pony” got loud applause, with Barber describing the book as “an amazing juggernaut of quality and success.” Cook spoke briefly about the current MLP issue before previewing #25, which begins the next two part arc “The Good, the Bad, and the Pony.” “In case you didn’t catch it, it’s a Western,” Cook joked. She added that the bad guys “were a bunch of cattle rustlers and, get this, they’re cows.” “They all have names like Longhorn, Doc Holstein –”
She also promoted “Friends Forever” #11, featuring Rainbow Dash and Spitfire. The issue is written by Ted Anderson and illustrated by Jay Fosgitt, an artist whom Cook described as “a great addition to the stable” (bad pun intended). Mebberson said of the cover, that the baby pegasi downfront are all G1 models.
A teaser slide reading “Outrageous” came next before Barber formally announced “Jem and the Holograms.” No creative team was announced. Zub joked, “John, can I write the Misfits? I hear they’re better.”
“The first thing I wanted to do when I came to IDW was a Jem comic,” Barber said. “That is not a joke.”
Barber then opened the floor to questions.
Asked about a possible return to previous “Transformers” continuities, Barber said that there would be more “Beast Wars” characters showing up in the main continuity. Scott mentioned that Fuzors showed up in “Windblade,” as well.
As to when Luna will show up again, Mebberson said she would be appearing in “Friends Forever.” Cook said, “if you want to know about Luna in the main series, I can say yes but I can’t say when.”
On other crossovers, Cook said “I would write Jem/My Little Pony for free.” She also joked that there is a D&D game in the Pony universe, which got Zub pretty excited.
Scott said she’s “trying to fit as many Combiners as we can” into “Combiners War,” but “you’ve got to remember, that each one splits into five dudes — so you’ve got to write those five dudes, too.” So, even if there are only two joined Combiners in the series, “that’s still ten characters.”
A fan suggested an “MLP/Monster High” crossover, but Cook and Scott recoiled, noting that “Monster High” was from Mattel. “It’ll be like the Jets and the Sharks,” Scott said.
Asked about influence from Hasbro on “Transformers,” Barber said that “in 2014 ‘Transformers’ is more of a conceptual property, where they make toys out of it, they make movies out of it, they make books out of it, which is more true now than it would have been in 1984, when it really did all feed back into the toys.” He said that the licensor will occasionally suggest characters to appear, but “they also take stuff we do and make it into the movies.”
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