Hasbro’s ending of a comic book partnership leads to questions.
There is a major announcement that was made in the comic book industry — a major label is losing the rights to not one but two major intellectual properties. IDW Comics, the Number-five comics publishing house, has announced that at the end of 2022, they will no longer have the publishing rights to the Transformers, and the G.I. Joe series.
No direct reason was cited in the announcement, and the company will continue to produce content under both titles for the balance of the calendar year. Meanwhile, the official word from IDW in response to the decision is a rather boilerplate response:
IDW will bid a fond farewell to the publication of G.I. Joe and Transformers comic books and graphic novels. We’re exceedingly proud of our stewardship of these titles – and thank the legion of fans for their unwavering support, month in and month out.
This is a major blow to a comics outlet, especially considering that IDW has been in possession of the properties for some time: G.I. Joe has been held for 14 years, and Transformers has been in house for 17 years. In trying to determine the reasoning behind this major decision it becomes reasonable to ask – was this move a result of IDW consistently injecting the storylines with woke, activist agendas?
There are clues to suggest as much. First, this decision is not rooted in Hasbro retaining the rights to use them for its own purpose. Both of the titles will be picked up by the imprint Skybound Comics, which releases its titles through Image Comics. Skybound is run by Robert Kirkman, creator of television’s long-running series “The Walking Dead”.
Secondly, IDW has recently lost rights to other big-name properties. Last year came the news that a right for all-ages versions of Star Wars and Marvel characters were both coming to an end. This followed moves made during the summer of 2020 when pandemic conditions forced furloughs and then ultimately the layoffs of major staffers. Money appeared to be tightening on the company.
Next, it seems Kirkman has been in talks with Hasbro for some time regarding the two properties. It was announced late last year that these negotiations had been in the works, a sign that the toymaker might have been looking for a different direction, or a different voice for its two banner character lines. In that report, THR mentioned that the content IDW was producing has been looked at critically by the parent company. “Sources say that Hasbro has not been happy with the publisher’s output in recent years.”
That output has taken on some curious decisions with the plotlines and characters. As has been the case with many comic book publishers in recent years, woke agendas and socio-political plotlines have become more prevalent. And also, the comics-buying public has shown resistance to these moves. Years ago, I covered how a Marvel VP of marketing reported that comic book store owners were telling him directly these woke stories and characters were not moving units. A look over some of the recent books published by IDW shows this very type of content has been put out.
Identity politics and ret-conning characters have become a regular feature in both of the series. In one G.I. Joe storyline, a female character bemoans the organization had become “far too American,” and happily welcomes the long-running character Salvo, who was made to be a female, from Samoa. In the case of Transformers, it gets even more ridiculous.
In one story there is now a same-sex robotic couple. In another, they saw a need to literally transform a favorite female character. The robot named Arcee was displayed to become an automaton that was made of the wrong gender; they actually gave us a Transformer who was transitioning. Said the character in one issue:
I was forged male, which did not match my spark. Someone named Jhiaxus claimed he could help, but he…altered my CNA and set me loose.
Not too hard to imagine how this could lead to diminished interest and sales. Also not hard to envision why the parent company might want to wrest control of its property and see if another creator might guide things back to the more traditional presentation.