daniel warren johnson transformers
Transformers cover by Daniel Warren Johnson

The Transformers and GI Joe have a new comic book home: Skybound Comics, the Image imprint founded by Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman. The news was revealed in a surprising way: a Transformer shows up in Void Rivals #1, a new series by Kirkman, artist Lorenzo De Felici (Kroma), colorist Matheus Lopes (Step By Bloody Step) and letterer Rus Wooton, that hits shops today. 

When Void Rivals was announced, it promised the debut of a mysterious shared universe. Now we know it’s actually the “stealth launch” of the “Energon Universe,” a relaunch of the GI Joe and Transformers franchises that includes both classic stories and new elements. It will unfurl in four series from Skybound, including an ongoing Transformers series by Daniel Warren Johnson, launching in October, and four interconnected GI Joe four-issue series. Duke #1 from Joshua Williamson (DC’s Superman, Dark Ride) and Tom Reilly (The Thing) launches in December; Cobra Commander #1 from Williamson and Andrea Milana (Impact Winter: Rook) lands in January. Two more minis and one more secret ongoing will be announced at a later date.

Ever since it was announced that the Hasbro license was leaving IDW, speculation roiled about where they would land. It turns out Skybound’s Energon Universe has been in the works for over a year – and was even announced to retailers about a month ago so that they could order Void Rivals in the proper numbers (reportedly more than 100,000 copies.) Incredibly, the secret was kept right up until last week, when a website reported the Void Rivals Transformer cameo. Hopefully a few people were able to pick up the comic and experience the surprise as intended.

“It’s a tremendous honor to be able to reintroduce this world to a new audience under the Skybound banner,” said Kirkman in a statement. “I’ve loved these characters for most of my life and to have the opportunity to add to the already rich tapestry Hasbro has built with the all-new Void Rivals is an unbelievable opportunity. If you look at everything done with Transformers and G.I. Joe, you can see the inkling of a vast universe with tremendous potential for crossovers and interaction that will enhance the fan experience while staying true to the individual identities of both concepts. I look forward to exploring that potential for years to come.”

“When we first discussed plan for the surprise reveal in Void Rivals #1, I never expected it would be a secret we could keep for over a year,” said Michael Kelly, Hasbro’s VP of Global Publishing. “Now that it is finally here, we are all excited to finally be able to talk about all the amazing stories to come from our great new partners at Skybound.”

Daniel Warren Johnson on anything is exciting, and in Transformers #1 he gets to draw characters he has loved since the first grade. “This is a dream project for me, and I’m so glad to be adding a new chapter to the decades long celebration of robots turning into cars. Also, cab-over trucks are so fun to draw!”

The storyline: Optimus Prime was supposed to have led the Autobots to victory. Instead, the fate of Cybertron is unknown, and his allies have crash-landed far from home, alongside their enemies—the Decepticons. As these titanic forces renew their war on Earth, one thing is immediately clear: the planet will never be the same. New alliances are struck. Battle lines are redrawn. And humanity’s only hope of survival is Optimus Prime. 

Duke #1 tells “the origins of G.I. Joe and Cobra in a world grappling with the arrival of the Autobots and Decepticons. When Conrad S. Hauser (codename DUKE) investigates the mysteries behind The Transformers, the answers will lead to the birth of forces for good and evil that the world never imagined.”

This is also a childhood dream come true for Williamson. “Get hyped! Tom and I are bringing you a new take on Duke and the formation of G.I. Joe that honors all that we love about the characters but takes it into a new and exciting direction. For the last few years, I’ve been picking up all of the new G.I. Classified figures, so I am pumped to contribute to this new world of G.I. Joe and Transformers!”

“I’m super excited to be working with Josh and the team at Skybound to usher in a new beginning for these iconic characters,” said Tom Reilly. “The Joes have a rich history in comics, one that we look forward to adding something new and exciting to. It’s going to be a fun ride!”

January’s Cobra Commander #1 takes place in a world where Cobra doesn’t exist, but a sinister figure is trying to use the alien element Energon for nefarious purposes. Sounds like a job for Joe!

Like others, Skybound Sean Mackiewicz, SVP, Publisher was Joe from go. “My first comic was G.I. JOE, and I couldn’t be more excited to unite the Transformers and G.I. Joe into one universe,” he said.

We’ll have more details on the launch of the Energon Universe in a chat with Robert Kirkman later today.