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More Than Meets the Eye

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G.I. Joe and The Transformers were two of the most popular toy lines in the 1980s.  Considering that Hasbro and Marvel Comics were the creative forces behind the toys and comics (respectively), it was inevitable that the two properties eventually crossed over.  The initial pairing came in the form of the 1987 mini-series, G.I. Joe and the Transformers.  Set in-continuity with Marvel’s Transformers comics (and in a similar timeline to the Joe book), the series paired the Joes and Autobots (and later, Cobra) together in an effort to thwart the Decepticons from destroying Earth.  Much later—for a 5-issue stint beginning with 1993’s G.I. Joe #138, and in the short-lived Transformers: Generation 2 series—the two lines once again crossed-over, although by this point both franchises were waning in popularity.

With the resurgence of 80s nostalgia in the early years of the 21st century, both G.I. Joe and Transformers made their return to the printed pages. 

    

Championed by the best-selling work of Devil’s Due Publishing (G.I. Joe) and Dreamwave Productions (Transformers), new crossovers were quickly commissioned.  Rather than one crossover series, each studio independently created their own mini-series, both set outside the continuity of the regular titles.  In 2003, Dreamwave’s Transformers/G.I. Joe (six issues, 2003/2004) saw writer John Ney Reiber and artist Jae Lee recast the protagonists in a World War II era story.  In late 2004, Dreamwave began a second mini-series (Transformers/G.I. Joe: Divided Front), which continued 45 years later.  Unfortunately, due to the collapse of Dreamwave Productions, only the first issue (of the proposed 6-issue run) was released.

Devil’s Due Publishing has spawned a franchise in its own rights.  Their initial mini-series, G.I. Joe vs. The Transformers (6 issues, originally through Image Comics), also began in 2003, independent of any established continuity.  Occurring in the modern day, writer (and DDP founder) Josh Blaylock took a fun, action-packed approach to the series, which revolved around Cobra co-opting Transformer technology. 

Using the arrival of alien technology as the inciting action, the series detailed the formation of the G.I. Joe team and featured many of the Transformers re-designed to morph into vehicles based on the Cobra toys.  As the series developed, the Autobots had asserted their independence from Cobra control and formed an alliance with G.I. Joe.  Following the defeat of Cobra, the Autobots returned to Cybertron, leaving behind some of their technology to help the Joe team defend Earth.

In late 2004, Devil’s Due (now an independent publisher) revisited the property with the aptly named 4-issue series, G.I. Joe vs. The Transformers II.  Scripted by Dan Jolley, the new series was a direct continuation that saw the remnants of Cobra trying to recapture Transformer technology.  A four-way standoff on Cybertron resulted in several Transformers becoming lost in the time stream, forcing the Joes and Cobra to team-up to prevent the Earth’s destruction.  Continuing the light-hearted mood established by Blaylock, the series one again re-imagined many of the Transformers and introduced the Dinobots into this continuity.  Realizing the danger it posed to Earth, the Joes and Autobots agreed to dissolve their technology exchange at the end of the series. 

     

For all the fun of G.I. Joe vs. The Transformers II, it was the epilogue scene that resonated most with fans.  It was only after Dan Jolley completed his script that a third volume was approved.  Series artist (and DDP staff artist) Tim Seeley added a three page cliffhanger that saw the appearances of  Pythona, Nemesis Enforcer and the Cobra-La Royal Guards bearing icons of Unicron.  Seeley got the nod as writer for the third volume in the crossover series, but due to licensing issues, starring roles for the villains from G.I. Joe: The Movie and Transformers: The Movie were not to be.

“I don't remember the exact story,” explained Seeley, “but at some point, someone at Hasbro decided we shouldn't use Cobra-La since they were doing the [G.I. Joe] Valor vs. Venom toy line at the time, which had some similar sort of elements. I think they were just a bit concerned it'd be confusing. In any case, they turned down my Cobra-La/Unicron pitch.”

Despite this change in plans, G.I. Joe vs. The Transformers: The Art of War was an exciting project for Seeley.  “When the original Joe/TF crossover came out,” he related, “I ordered it… and stayed home ‘sick’ the day I figured it would ship so I could read it.”  Running with a suggestion by Blaylock, Seeley’s series continued the concept of meshing Joe and Transformers continuity, to create a new version of Serpentor as the antagonist.  Developed in secret by the US government, Serpent O.R. was a sentient mechanical weapon based on Megatron’s programming.  Further blurring the lines between the two franchises, Seeley once again included a tantalizing tease to a third sequel.

“[By this time], the Joe toy line has gone in a different direction,” an excited Seeley continued.  “I finally [get] my chance to write Cobra-La—a dream come true for a nerd like me!  I'm one of those weirdos that liked the Joe animated film better than the Transformer one. In fact, when I was a kid, the Joe movie was my favorite G.I. Joe related thing, period.”

Set for a January 2007 debut, the two-part G.I. Joe vs. The Transformers: Black Horizon, gives Seeley a chance to write several characters he has a great deal of affection for; “Nemesis Enforcer stands out in my mind. I also had a heck of a lot of fun writing Flint and Cosmos…two of the big stars this time around. Flint gets to crack wise, and say the kind of stuff I'd probably say in his situation if I wasn't so busy running and hiding.” 

The series pairs Seeley with another name well known by fans – artist Andrew Wildman. 

“You can also imagine that working with Andrew Wildman was pretty cool for me, since he drew a lot of the Marvel Transformers books towards the end of the run.”

And once Black Horizon wraps up in spring 2007, would Seeley consider returning for another go at these enduring properties?

“Haha! I would. I really would. But, I have a feeling that with the [live-action] Transformers movie and such coming out, the [Transformers] are gonna get all famous.  They'll be hanging out with big Hollywood stars, and not returning my calls anymore.  ‘Who? Oh, Tim Seeley?  No, we’re booked.  Mark Millar is writing us a crossover with the Ultimates.  Yeah… sorry… we don't need you anymore.’”

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