Scioli & Barber Declare "There Has Never Been Anything Like" "Transformers vs. G.I. Joe"

Two of the '80s most popular franchises collide this May in IDW Publishing's "Transformers vs. G.I. Joe" #0 when Cybertronians descend during a conflict between G.I. Joe and COBRA. The ongoing series, which debuts as one of IDW's Free Comic Book Day 2014 offerings, features art by "Gødland" co-creator Tom Scioli, who is also co-writing the book with "Robots in Disguise" scribe John Barber.

RELATED: Tom Scioli's "American Barbarian" is Pretty Much the Best Thing Ever

Scioli and Barber spoke with CBR News about the metallic mash-up book, revealing what they have in store for fans and why Scioli believes it's the best book he's ever done. And if that wasn't enough, they tease a heel turn for one of the G.I. Joes, declare this the new, true reality for both franchises and share an exclusive look at some of Scioli's interior art.

CBR News: John and Tom, aside from the obvious implications of the title, what exactly is "Transformers vs. G.I. Joe" all about?

Tom Scioli: We're pretty close to figuring that out ourselves. So far it looks like each issue is going to be a complete "Transformers vs. G.I. Joe" epic that, when taken together, will add up to a multi-chapter mega epic. We've got a really good plot going. Figuring out the tone is the next big challenge. How serious, how funny, how topical.

I did a couple of passes, color thumbnail comics in a style similar to [Scioli's creator-owned series] "Satan's Soldier." In those tests, the tone ended up being in the neighborhood of [Scioli's other creator-owned series] "American Barbarian" and "Satan's Soldier." John is bringing a 21st century version of Classic '60s Marvel tone. I think we'll really nail it down when we find a tone that isn't "AmBarb," isn't '60s Marvel, isn't Alan Moore, isn't Frank Miller, but a tone that is "Transformers vs. G.I. Joe" -- a tone that is unique and specific to the demands of this particular story.

What's it about? Change or die. It's about a big universe where people build crazy, wild, awesome things and use them to kill each other. I'd like to shepherd the characters to a place where they don't want to kill each other anymore, but I don't know if they'll ever get there or not.

So far, the script for this first issue, which we're close to finishing, is the best thing I've ever worked on. I've spent more hours per page on this than anything I've done before, and the results are better than I could've imagined.

John Barber: Yeah, what Tom said. I came into this with a certain idea of where we were heading, and we've wound up somewhere way, way, way better.

The basic idea of the series is that the G.I. Joe team has been fighting COBRA for some time, but just when they think they've defeated their foe, everything blows up to the next level -- and the Cybertronians arrive.

We'll see the origins of our heroes; we'll see first meetings and secret pasts. This is the ground floor of an astounding new reality, here.

John, you've done tons of work with the "Transformers" as both a writer and editor at IDW, but what's your history with the property, Tom?

Scioli: Just a fan, a reader, a viewer, a child of the '80's. I've seen all the movies, thinking to myself: They shoulda done this, they shoulda done that. So here I am ready to put my money where my mouth is. I do know what you should do with these characters and I'm gonna do it.

Why is the book called "Transformers vs. G.I. Joe" and not "Transformers and G.I. Joe?"

Barber: Well, there's never actually been a series called "Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe" before, for one thing. There was a "G.I. Joe vs. The Transformers" and just about every other iteration of the two names. In all honesty, Tom suggested "vs." and it sounded really good and fit the story we were telling.

Which universe will these stories take place in?

Scioli: The best of all possible universes. Neither "G.I. Joe" nor "Transformers" has resolved itself into the kind of rigid universe that Marvel has. Even DC's Universe is incredibly fluid by comparison. To me, that makes this project more appealing. If there were a rigid universe readers were expecting to see, or to see a clearly explained break from, that wouldn't work for me. This is another iteration to these characters. Because there is not yet a definitive version of these characters (the way '60s Kirby comics are the definitive Marvel comics, the way the original "Star Wars" trilogy is definitive), I plan to make this the definitive version of both those universes. In my mind, at least. Any deviation from what has been established in the past will be in the service of making the best possible story.

Barber: We're taking the most iconic aspects of "Transformers" and "G.I. Joe" and building them into something interlocked and unique. I mean, this is not a sequel -- There has never been anything like "Transformers vs. G.I. Joe."

Why did you decide to create this as an ongoing and not an event or limited series?

Scioli: No reason not to. If you have both of these things, why would you want it to end? This could be the birth of a new universe that rivals what DC or Marvel or Star Wars or whatever has, but way more immediate, because you're watching it being created now. I want this "Transformers vs. G.I. Joe" universe to be more important, more immediate than the universe we live in, at least while you're reading the story. That's the true capacity of great escapism.

Barber: The scope of this story is too big for one event, or one miniseries. I mean, as Tom says, the scope of this series is almost too big for our real-world universe.

With G.I. Joe and the Transformers working together, will we see a similar collusion between COBRA and the Decepticons?

Scioli: In "G.I. Joe," and "Transformers" to a lesser degree, there's a focus on shifting alliances and questions of loyalty, so it makes sense that there'd be COBRA working with Decepticons. Decepticons working with Autobots. COBRAS working with G.I. Joe members. The big question is, do we dare have a G.I. Joe that goes over to the dark side?

Tom, your style is very cosmic and Kirby-esque in nature, so is it safe to assume "Transformers vs. G.I. Joe" will be on a grand, cosmic scale?

Scioli: "Transformers" is a grand, cosmic thing to begin with. "G.I. Joe" is a heightened, sci-fi, 20 minutes into the future version of military adventure. Today's military technology is sci-fi by any reasonable definition, so it does kind of push things in that direction.

Early drafts were extremely serious, hard sci-fi, with absurdist touches and pitch black dark humor. John's brought a little more of a sense of adventure and fun to it. We're folding all of that stuff together and hammering it into what feels like a real, breathing universe from which we can pluck any story we need.

Barber: I think it's fair to say "grand and cosmic" yeah -- maybe "expanding" is another good word.

Merging two major properties like these is something IDW is clearly not taking lightly. How did this idea get started, and how long has it been in development?

Scioli: Months, it seems. When John first floated the idea, I started getting the wheels turning, even before it was confirmed as a thing. I can't help it. I used to fight that urge. Don't work on that, there's no point. I decided not to fight it. If your imagination goes somewhere you'd rather it not, don't fight it, let it happen and see where it goes. So I didn't fight it.

To make this as good as it needs to be, I couldn't wait to get the final okay before I start working. Doing this story one issue at a time just wasn't going to work, so even though I wouldn't advise working on a job you don't yet have, I don't think I'd have gotten the results I wanted if I figured the story out in issue-long chunks, one bit at a time. I knew from past experience, for best results I had to envision what I wanted my entire run to be and then figure out the story as a whole, before I even started work on Issue #1. It's foolishness, but the kind of foolishness you need to create great art.

Barber: At IDW, we'd been interested in doing a "Transformers"/"G.I. Joe" crossover series for a while, but it had to be the right thing. It had to be something really unique and interesting, not just some sort of a cash-grab. 2014 is the 30th Anniversary of "Transformers" and the 50th Anniversary of the original "G.I. Joe" line, so it seemed like we had to do something. But we've got existing comics universes that are pretty clearly not set in the same world. We were trying to figure out what would work and not just feel, well, inessential.

Then Tom emailed in out of the blue, and I'm a big fan of Tom. We started talking about another thing, about Tom doing a cover for another series -- and one day I just thought of Tom doing "Transformers" and "G.I. Joe." So I emailed him, and he was interested -- and I kinda inserted myself into the proceedings as co-writer, which is me kinda staying out of the way and then trying to steal the glory later.

What other major properties would you guys want to mash up if given the chance?

Scioli: It used to be my life's ambition to work on "Star Wars" in some capacity. "Legend of Zelda?" It would have to be something with a large enough fanbase, that I have a strong nostalgic attachment to, that's different enough from things I've done in the past, where I feel there's no definitive narrative. I'm hoping to follow this up with something creator-owned rather than another licensed property. I can't really think of another license that is as good a fit for me and my skills, has as big a following and would grant me the creative latitude I have here.

Barber: There aren't a lot of properties that make really good fits -- I feel like a lot of time things get shoehorned together -- I mean, IDW published a "Star Trek"/"Doctor Who" comic that was a lot of fun, but those are really rare. I'm sure I'll think something right after I finish the interview. And Tom's "Star Wars"/"Legend of Zelda" crossover sounds pretty great, but I'm not sure that's what he actually meant.

And, hey -- important note here: "Transformers vs. G.I. Joe" debuts on Free Comic Book Day, which is Saturday, May 3, 2014! So if you're at all interested -- pick up the issue for free, and let your friendly neighborhood comic book store owner know you want more!

"Transformers vs. G.I. Joe" #0 from IDW Publishing hits stores for Free Comic Book Day 2014 on May 3.

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