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Skybound, the imprint run by The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman, is in negotiations with Hasbro to acquire the publishing license to the two properties.
The potential deal would be a big loss for IDW, which has been making G.I. Joe and Transformer comics since the mid-2000s.
Kirkman, who is known to be a major fan of the toy brands and is said to have personally gotten involved in chasing the rights, is not expected to write any of the new comics. Additionally, if a deal does go through, new books would not be expected to hit shelves until 2023.
Skybound had no comment.
Comics have been instrumental in the success of both brands, particularly G.I. Joe. When Hasbro relaunched the toy line in 1982 as “G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero,” it partnered with Marvel for a comic tie-in as well as a Saturday morning cartoon. Each was a massive success, helping establish the popularity of characters such as Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow. The original Marvel-produced show ran from 1983-86 (another version ran from 1989-92), but the comic stuck around until 1994. (The title was a nice boost for Marvel, whose Star Wars comic, which had helped keep the company afloat in the late 1970s, wound down as the ’80s wore on.) Devil’s Due secured the publishing license in 2001 and revived the series from 2001 to 2008, with IDW nabbing it at that point.
Marvel also started off publishing the Transformers comics, launching the main title in 1984. Defunct entity Dreamwave Productions briefly had the license in the early 2000s before IDW snagged it in 2005.
Licensed properties are a major part of the business plan for IDW, but in a troubling trend, it has been losing rights of late. IDW also reportedly lost rights this year to an all-ages Star Wars comic and an all-ages Marvel comic. Sources say that Hasbro has not been happy with the publisher’s output in recent years.
Skybound, which is also a film and television production entity that oversees the massive Walking Dead screen franchise, releases its books through Image Comics. The imprint is known for its long-running hits such as Invincible, adapted as a hit animated series for Amazon; Fire Power; Birthright; and Manifest Destiny.
Joe and Transformers would be part of the expanding push into licensing for the company, which this year published comics based on video games Summoners War and Trover Saves the Universe. A title centered on brick-building brand Lego will debut next year.
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