WC13: IDW's Hasbro Spotlight

IDW Publishing's Hasbro panel at WonderCon in Anaheim was a whirlwind tour through the company's titles licensed from the iconic toy manufacturer. Editor (and writer of "Transformers: Robots in Disguise") John Barber headed up the panel, joined by "Transformers Prime: Beast Hunters" co-writer Mairghread Scott, incoming "My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic" writer Heather Nuhfer and artist Amy Mebberson, plus "Transformers: Monstrosity" artist Livio Ramondelli. "G.I. Joe: The Cobra Files" writer Mike Costa was a late arrival, so Barber started the panel without him.

Barber ran through a series of slides introducing IDW's various Hasbro-licensed comics, starting with the "G.I. Joe" titles. He asked the audience who had seen the new "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" movie, to scattered applause, and noted the comic book line had recently been relaunched, continuing the continuity of the past IDW series. The main "G.I. Joe" title, written by Fred Van Lente with art by Steve Kurth, features a special issue focusing on the origin of Cover Girl in #6 with guest art by Jamal Igle. With the Joes outed by Cobra, this series focuses on "the team they use to present their public face."

"G.I. Joe: Special Missions," written by Chuck Dixon with art by Paul Gulacy, stars the team that goes on "'Mission: Impossible'-style" covert missions. In #5, with guest art by Will Rosado, Zartan returns and features his first team-up with the Dreadnoks in IDW's "G.I. Joe" continuity.

The new volume of "G.I. Joe: The Cobra Files," written by the absent Mike Costa and drawn by Antonio Fuso, launches in April with what Barber billed as "the perfect place to come on and try it out," possibly for viewers of the new movie looking for more.

Lastly, "G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero" is the continuation of the classic Marvel continuity, from original writer Larry Hama and artist S.L. Gallant.

Next up were the Transformers titles, starting with another continuation of classic Marvel continuity, "Transformers: Regeneration One," from the original creative team of writer Simon Furman and artist Andrew Wildman. Barber announced Wildman is leaving the title to pursue another opportunity, but will return in time for the 100th issue. He'll be replaced in the meantime by Guido Guidi, and Barber showed a small preview of Guidi's upcoming interior art. Stephen Baskerville continues to ink the book.

Scott talked a bit about "Transformers Prime: Beast Hunters" launching in May. She's co-writing with Mike Johnson, with art by Agustin Padilla. Since Energon is running scarce, the Dinobots are forced underground and Grimlock and his team have a city they're trying to run. "They're really good soldiers but they're not necessarily good leaders," Scott said.

Moving on to "Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye" by James Roberts and Alex Milne, Barber said #16 would "tear the internet in half" with its carnage. "It made our intern cry," he said. Following that is the "Remain in Light" storyline in issues #17-22, which Barber said would be "pretty much nonstop mind-blowing event after mind-blowing event."

In Barber's own "Transformers: Robots in Disguise," with art by Andrew Griffith, "things get worse before they get better." Issue #16 wraps up the story Barber has been telling since the first issue, then #17 features the origin of Shockwave with art by Ramondelli.

Ramondelli talked about his work on the digital first series "Transformers: Monstrosity," dealing with Optimus Prime trying to unite the planet and the origin of the Autobot and the Decepticon war. The series features 8 page installments for 99 cents each, and a print version follows later with three digital installments per issue.

"Transformers Spotlight" is winding down with two issues to go, both written by James Roberts. The "Trailcutter" issue is illustrated by Matt Frank and the "Hoist" issue by Agustin Padilla.

Barber saved the big "Transformers" reveal for last, unveiling a slide promoting something called "Dark Cybertron" coming this fall, with the tagline "the purple reign begins." Barber called it "the biggest event in Transformers comics history."

Moving on to "My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic," Barber noted the first issue was the best selling single issue in IDW's history. He introduced the creative team of Nuhfer and Mebberson, who are taking over for four issues starting in #5. This arc is "a little darker than the first arc," Nuhfer said. It deals with the ponies having nightmares and turning to Luna for help. "It's very much Luna's story," Mebberson said.

The upcoming "My Little Pony" micro-series issues feature Rainbow Dash and a Rarity story by the original "Friendship Is Magic" creative team of Katie Cook and Andy Price.

Speaking on the Wizards of the Coast comics, Barber teased "Dungeons & Dragons Forgotten Realms: Cutter," written by Geno and R.A. Salvatore with art by David Baldeon. It ties in to Salvatores' latest "Forgotten Realms" novel. The "Magic: The Gathering" series is coming to an end with the upcoming final issue of the "Path of Vengeance" miniseries.

Costa finally showed up and offered extra information on "The Cobra Files," which features as its main character Chameleon, a former Cobra operative now working for the Joes. She uses her extensive knowledge of Cobra's plans to help the Joes stop threats before they even happen.

Barber then opened the floor to fan questions, the first of which set the panel riffing on a number of possibilities -- the prospect of an all-Hasbro mega-crossover. "I always worry about going too far with some of the crossovers," Barber said, citing the Transformers/Avengers crossover as "maybe not the best comic we've ever put out." Still, Scott latched onto the idea of "cute Dinobots," and Mebberson said that "ponies versus G.I. Joe sounds awesome."

Asked about the prospect of comics featuring another Hasbro property, Jem and the Holograms, Barber joked "it might be too outrageous," and on a more serious note Mebberson said licensors are often reluctant to license out dormant properties like Jem, because they don't want those stories to conflict with possible upcoming plans of their own. Still, she said "there's definitely a very heavy cult retro fanbase for Jem," and Barber suggested interested fans should write to Hasbro.

When asked why IDW didn't create an adaptation of the new "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" movie, Barber explained there was a prequel comic but it was released in advance of the movie's original release date last summer. "I don't think we're going to be doing many adaptations going forward," he said, noting that with quick release dates for home video, movie adaptations are very soon redundant and the company would prefer to do prequel or sequel stories set in the world of the films.

Pressed for more details on "Dark Cybertron," Barber wouldn't reveal whether it would be its own standalone miniseries or a storyline within existing books, saying only, "It's not brief." It involves all the Transformers comics aside from the "Prime" and "Regeneration One" series, and centers around Shockwave.

A distraught fan asked, "How long will we have to live in a world without Wheeljack?" and Barber responded, "Sorry about that." Scott reminded the fan that "Wheeljack's still in 'Prime.' Just come on over."

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