WonderCon '09 - IDW Movie/Comics Panel

Sunday afternoon at IDW held a panel devoted solely to their Star Trek, G.I. Joe, and Transformers movie prequels to a crowded room at WonderCon. The panelists were IDW editor Denton J Tipton (Transformers, G.I. Joe, Dr. Who), writer and staffer Chris Mowry (Transformers: The Reign of Starscream), artist Andrew Griffin, and Star Trek prequel comic writers Tim Jones and Mike Johnson. As with many panels at this convention, most of the information was previously announced elsewhere.

A slideshow of upcoming titles was presented, starting with Transformers. There are two four-issue prequel miniseries to the upcoming Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen film, Alliance and Defiance. The prequel project was originally to be titled "Destiny", but was later divided into the two mini-series. The film is set to be released June 26th.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Prequel – Alliance is written by Chris Mowry, with art by Alex Milne and covers by film concept artist Josh Nizzi. The miniseries deals with the fallout from the Reign of Starscream mini which served as a sequel to events in the first film, and focuses on the alliance between humans and Autobots versus the Decepticons. It follows the characters from the first film and sets them up for the second. The intent with Alliance, which began release in December and ends in two weeks, was to have something that fans could read while waiting in line for a midnight showing of the film.

The second prequel, Defiance, is more of a prequel to the film franchise in general, being set before the events of the first Transformers film. Dealing almost entirely with the great war of the two robotic factions years ago and the origins of the Decepticons and Autobots, the series is also written by Chris Mowry, with art by Andrew Griffith and Dan Khanna. Fan favorite Transformers artist Dan Figueroa will be filling in on issue three. Issue one is currently available.

The film itself will be adapted by long time Transformers writer Simon Furman, with art by Jon Davis-Hunt and Alex Milne, and be released weekly before the theatrical release date. Josh Nizzi will be doing covers to both the adaptation and Defiance as well. A cover gallery of his work for the various Transformers prequel miniseries and his concept art from the film will be made available to comics retailers as an incentive.

Tipton then announced Transformers Spotlight: Cliffjumper, a one-shot set in the standard Transformers continuity rather than that of the films. The issue will be written by Shane McCarthy (Transformers: All Hail Megatron, Star Wars Tales) and Tipton and illustrated by Robby Russo. The issue will focus on the titular Transformer and deal with loose ends of the current All Hail Megatron story arc. Don Figueroa will be doing an alternate cover.

Moving over to G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra, which is set to hit theaters August 7th, a four issue movie prequel miniseries was discussed. Current G.I. Joe comic writer Chuck Dixon will be writing, with SL Gallant on art. Joe Corroney will be the cover artist. Each issue will be a solo story dealing with one of the characters in the film, giving their backstories. Duke, Destro, Baroness, and Snake Eyes are featured in issues one through four respectively. It is set to be released March through June.

Tipton is also adapting the film, with Casey Maloney as artist. The book will be colored from Maloney's pencils. After the film, a follow-up focusing on Snake Eyes is being scheduled, co-written by actor Ray Park who portrays the character in the film along with writer Kevin Van Hook (Superman and Batman versus Vampires and Werewolves). SL Gallant will be providing art to this project as well, which is set for a fall 2009 release.

Star Trek: Countdown, the prequel miniseries to the May film was then the topic of discussion. The miniseries was plotted by film writers J.J Abrams, Roberto Orci, and Alex Kurtzman, and scripted by Mike Johnson and Tim Jones. David Messina is providing the art, which has been coordinated with Cryptic Studios, producers of the Star Trek MMORPG to ensure continuity of design. The first two issues are currently sold out at the distributor level.

Writers Johnson and Jones described themselves as major Star Trek: The Next Generation fanboys, and with their employers Orci and Kurtzman found a way to honor the Next Generation while tying it into the story being told in the film. The final issue of Star Trek: Countdown will end in a cliffhanger that gets resolved in the beginning of the film.

Part of the miniseries will occur in the setting of The Next Generation and feature the characters from that series. It's not a big weepy farewell to the Next Generation cast. "They're very much involved. They're responsible and important for things played out in the movie," said Johnson, who reiterated that this wasn't intended as a means of retiring those characters. Data and Captain Picard were specifically mentioned as featuring in the prequel comic.

The floor was then opened to questions.

Johnson and Jones said that they couldn't reveal any information about Star Trek's plot or if Next Generation cast members would be making surprise appearances in the film or else Paramount's ninja would descend and kill them. Mowry followed up that Hasbro would do the same for G.I. Joe and Transformers.

IDW will be doing more Next Generation comics, no matter what the events in the film might hold. They currently do not have the license to do Star Trek: Voyager comics, though that may change if they perceive enough demand. There is discussion with Peter David about doing more Star Trek comics that are in line with the current series of novels being published by Pocket Books.

A young fan was told that issue four of Transformers: Alliance will debut the line-up of Transformers featuring in the film, though no specifics were allowed to be leaked for fear of Hasbro's ninja. A fan was told that while there would be no Xbox monster appearing in the comics, but the Ybox that appeared in the film will make an appearance.

IDW has no plans to do any more comic continuations of canceled TV series.

A fan asked about colloquial language in the Star Trek prequel comic, and whether it was fitting for the setting. Johnson spoke about the incident in question, mentioning that he felt workers in a Romulan mine would speak differently than officers on a starship. We wanted to show some of the deeper darker corners of the Trek Universe. Felt it was important to make the characters come alive. Especially Nero and his crew. He goes on a pretty dramatic journey from the first page of the book to the last.

The prequel is being aimed both at the hardcore Trek fans, and because it features a new character in the film's villain Nero, is accessible for people who have never read science fiction before.

The question of how actor likenesses work were brought up. The answer was that it varies from license to license. IDW does not have likeness rights to Transformers stars Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox, so they don't have to worry about precisely matching their looks, but when doing Doctor Who comics, they have a long approval process with the BBC to go through.

How canonical these prequels are came up, with Star Trek: Countdown being considered completely canon, and the G.I. Joe and Transformers comics being less so. The lead times of comics versus that of films, and potential changes from script to finished product means that occasionally the prequel comics don't end up meshing with the film perfectly, but comics released after the film can explain the differences away.

Trade paperback collections of the film prequel comics are scheduled to be released before the films open, so that fans may have them ahead of time.

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