New threats emerge in the Hasbro Universe.
IDW’s crossover comic First Strike wrapped up last week by introducing the biggest threat yet to their shared Hasbro universe.
Warning: this article contains spoilers for First Strike #6!
First Strike chronicled a massive team-up between the heroes of G.I. Joe, Transformers, Rom, MASK, Action Man and Micronauts as they joined forces to stop the villain Baron Ironblood (secretly the original G.I. Joe himself, Joe Colton) from launching a devastating attack on Cybertron.
In the end, Colton was defeated, but not before he was betrayed by his partner Garrison Kreiger. Kreiger revealed himself to be an immortal wizard named Merklynn (a villain from the long-dormant Visionaries franchise). Merklynn harnessed the Energon of Cybertron to recreate the lost world of Prysmos and bring about “a new age of magic.” This act sets the stage for December’s Transformers vs. Visionaries miniseries.
But even that threat pales in comparison to what’s coming for the Hasbro-verse. As Merklynn stole the power of Cybertron, a signal was beamed from the planet deep into space. The message read simply “Welcome. Death.” Is recipient was none other than the massive, world-devouring villain known as Unicron. At long last, the villain made famous in 1986’s Transformers: The Movie is making his return.
In short, there are some big changes on the way for IDW’s entire Hasbro line. To get a better idea of what’s coming in 2018, we talked via email with IDW Editor-in-Chief David Hedgecock. Hedgecock shed light on what these big developments mean for the future of the line and why IDW waited so long to bring Unicron into play.
IGN: Unicron is a character who’s been off the table for a pretty long time now, much to the chagrin of his fans. What made now the right time to finally put Unicron back into play? Did Unicron’s “appearance” in Transformers: The Last Knight play a role in that decision?
Hedgecock: We’ve talked about Unicron for a few years now. Its taken that long to get all the players and storylines onto the table in a way that made sense to use him. We’re (almost) there now, and I’m freaking out!
Unicron’s appearance in the movie is entirely unrelated. We knew he was coming in the comics long before we knew anything about the movie. However, there is always synergy with Hasbro’s strategic vision for the Transformers brand.
IGN: Was there a long-term plan to unleash Unicron is this fashion, or did this just arise out of the early discussions about First Strike?
Hedgecock: Unicron is something we’ve been working on for what seems like ages. We’ve been having conversations about when, where, and how to use him going back SEVERAL years now.
IGN: The assumption when the Unicron teaser was revealed at SDCC is that his return would be fodder for a major Transformers crossover. Do you think he’s just too major a villain not to include the rest of the shared Hasbro universe in this conflict?
Hedgecock: Unicron is a planet-sized god that eats worlds. He’s going to shake up the TRANSFORMERS universe in a way that only a planet-sized being can. To be very clear, it’s going to be a TRANSFORMERS event.
IGN: How exactly do the Hasbro shared universe comic books move forward from this reveal? Will there be more Unicron-related teases over time as you set up the next big crossover?
Hedgecock: The TRANSFORMERS titles are definitely going to be affected by the awakening of Unicron. In December, we launch TRANSFORMERS vs. VISIONARIES. That story takes place on Cybertron and will carry the Unicron story forward more than any other for the first few months of 2018. In January, OPTIMUS PRIME and TRANSFORMERS: LOST LIGHT will both start new story arcs that literally begin to payoff years and years worth of stories that we’ve been telling in those respective books. Unicron certainly has a role in where those titles are headed as well, though not as significant… at least at first.
I just read a review of FIRST STRIKE #6 where the reviewer was disappointed by all the “spoilers” that came out in advance of the ending, so I’m reluctant to say more about what we are doing here for that reason. Unicron is going to be big. HUGE. Figuratively and literally. Did I say I’m freaking out? I’m freaking out!
IGN: Unicron’s arrival obviously wasn’t the only big development in First Strike #6. How will the fallout of this crossover impact the line going forward? What can readers expect from the new wave of Hasbro shared universe comic books?
Hedgecock: FIRST STRIKE was our chance to really explore what it meant for all these different properties to inhabit the same universe. Coming out of the event, the titles are all going to focus on their own stories for a while. The TRANSFORMERS titles in particular are going to focus on just TRANSFORMERS characters for a good, long time.
While we’ve created some interesting mash-ups for the new season of stories, those mash-ups in and of themselves are enough. In 2018, each book will be separate and distinct, and we won’t see much crossover.
IGN: This series offered a very compelling take on the relationship between Scarlett and Joe Colton. Is that something we’ll continue to see play out in the months to come?
Hedgecock: We’re going to see how Scarlett has been changed by the events of FIRST STRIKE but, in many ways, her book is going to be a fresh start for the character and her approach to leading a military team. I’m pretty excited about Scarlett in 2018. Mairghread Scott and David Rodriguez really pushed her into an interesting place during FIRST STRIKE and I can’t wait to read what Aubrey Sitterson does with her in SCARLETT’S STRIKE FORCE from there.
IGN: What are your thoughts on the seasonal model these books are following nowadays? Do you think that helps keep the energy level high? Is there any concern about readers not knowing where and when to jump on board?
Hedgecock: My hope is that any issue you pick up of one of our books is a good jumping-on point. We start every issue with an encapsulation of what has come before and a character “cheat sheet” of all the major players. In almost every case, it should be all you need to get on the ride.
If you are a reader who hasn’t tried one of our Hasbro books yet, December and January are great jumping-on points. December sees the launch of three new titles— TRANSFORMERS vs. VISIONARIES, SCARLETT’S STRIKE FORCE, and ROM & THE MICRONAUTS. Each new series is decidely different from what came before, featuring new stories, new creators, and fresh spins on some of the world’s most popular characters. For our existing readers, I hope we’ve done a good job of keeping each title distinct and easy to follow. We’re taking great care to make sure that we don’t start a new season of books without really strong, compelling reasons for doing it.