Will GI Joe and Transformers return to Marvel next?
Has hell frozen over? One might think so, given Marvel Comics' recent back-to-back announcements of long-sought reprints of the publisher's cult classic Rom: Space Knight and Micronauts titles of the '70s and '80s. That unexpected development has raised the question of whether Marvel might also soon be able to reprint its beloved GI Joe and Transformers comics of the '80s and '90s.
Like Rom and Micronauts, both GI Joe and Transformers are licensed from toy maker Hasbro who had exclusively licensed the comic book rights for those properties to IDW Publishing for decades.
At the end of 2022 however, IDW lost the comic book licenses for GI Joe and Transformers, with no new licensee having yet been named. And in early 2023, IDW Publishing also underwent significant layoffs and restructuring, which, combined with the timing of Marvel's announcements, could mean that Marvel and Hasbro are back in business on a larger scale.
Now that Marvel is doing what before seemed all but impossible by reprinting classic Rom and Micronauts comics, it seems that the publisher is rekindling its previous relationship with Hasbro which ended decades ago. This has also sparked a glimmer of hope for fans who have been asking for reprints of Marvel's original GI Joe and Transformers comics, which actually established the original mythos and characters of both franchises.
Back in the '80s, when Hasbro relaunched GI Joe as a line of small, highly articulated action figures, Marvel was enlisted to create comic books to go along with the toy line and intended cartoon. Then-editor Larry Hama took on the task of writing the story and creating backstories for the characters, working alongside several other Marvel editors and artist Herb Trimpe.
Hama went on to write the bulk of the series' 155 issue run from 1982-1994, forging a legendary career along the way - and even returned to his original GI Joe continuity in a long-running IDW Publishing title which took the series to 300 issues, ending with IDW's publishing license.
As for Transformers, Hasbro similarly partnered with Marvel again, this time with editor-in-chief Jim Shooter and writer Bob Budiansky, along with writer Bill Mantlo (of Micronauts fame) who wrote the original four-issue Transformers limited series.
Marvel went on to launch an 80-issue ongoing title that ran from 1984-1991. The series established numerous aspects of the Transformers mythos and the characterization of dozens of characters which stick to this day throughout Transformers media.
The fate of the GI Joe and Transformers comic licenses have been in question since they left IDW, and with other Hasbro properties which were previously licensed by IDW returning to Marvel, it seems there could be a possibility that the franchises could return home to their original comic book publisher - at least for reprints.
That said, beloved GI Joe writer Larry Hama hinted that he could potentially continue work on GI Joe on some level when the comic franchise's new home is finally announced, and Hama still has a current working relationship with Marvel. So it's not impossible that there could be new Marvel GI Joe stories on the way, if not Transformers, Micronauts, and Rom.
"Somehow...I suspect the story doesn't completely end here, that the story will go on...See you in the next incarnation!" Hama stated at the time of his IDW GI Joe run's conclusion.
Nothing official has been said about where Transformers and GI Joe comics will land next, or what the fate of reprints of the comics published by IDW may be, meaning both franchises could be moving from one lost era of comics to another.
Fans will continue to hope for reprints of classic Marvel Transformers and GI Joe comics until it becomes clear whether or not that's possible, and the question of whether Marvel will publish any new comics based on Hasbro licenses will also linger until a new publisher is announced.