We know Hasbro has big plans for a cinematic universe featuring multiple toy-based properties—and I even think I know when and how that might kick off—but on June 1st, IDW Publishing announced they’d be doing it in comics first, as part of a multiple-title crossover called Revolution. Beginning with ROM, the event will effect permanent changes on the IDW-verse, wherein moving forward, all those properties will exist in the same reality: G.I. Joe, Transformers, Micronauts, ROM, Action Man, and M.A.S.K.
I had a chance to speak to IDW’s Chris Ryall and Christos Gage, and in addition to giving us nine pages of ROM #1—available in July right before Comic-Con—to preview (see our gallery below), they had a lot more information for us. Perhaps the most surprising thing to learn is that their plans were initially unrelated to Hasbro’s movie plans.
Says Ryall: “Christos and I talked about, in ROM #1—which, by the way, that one won’t be out until July, so I’ll maintain some secrecy there—but we had talked about potentially seeding the idea of other Hasbro Universe characters existing in the same world as ROM, and then in some discussions here and then with Hasbro, it quickly went from this stealth plan that we would develop over time to let’s do a big event this summer, and really get everybody all in the same Universe in a big way, and then go on from there. And in the midst of planning all that is when the Hasbro Movie Universe news came out. So I was aware that these—there were talks going on, but I didn’t know the exact plan and timing of it at that time. Our thing will certainly launch ahead of any sort of cohesive movie universe, and so I would expect them to be different—similar, but different.”
Fortunately for them, nothing changed once the news broke. “We are free to establish things as we want,” Ryall says. “I mean, you never know, once the movies come out, if a character steps up. Suddenly, Black Widow is a much bigger player in the comic Marvel Universe than maybe she was before the Avengers movies. So there are occasional pivots and adjustments that you make once you see how things roll out on a bigger scale in the movies, but yeah—we are completely unfettered and left alone at this point.”
For one thing, they won’t (at least yet) be including the Visionaries, who are set to be part of the onscreen universe.
Also unlikely to appear are Jem and the Holograms, whose IDW comic is frequently hailed as a reboot done right. “I think our plan is to treat it like Jem exists in the overall bigger universe, but I wouldn’t say that Rom and the Micronauts exist in Jem‘s universe,” clarifies Ryall. “What I mean is, you could hear—you might see a character singing the lyrics to a Jem song, or something like that—or wearing a Jem t-shirt, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to have Transformers and Snake Eyes show up in the Jem comic. I think that would just betray everything that the fans like about that book.”
And My Little Pony? Ryall likes the idea of having a humorous side to the universe, but only hints that “I certainly see the idea of somebody showing up in pony form, or vice versa–whether it’s just a one-off story, or just a fun thing.”
Talking about how the characters from different brands will interact, Gage describes it thusly: “It’s sort of like in—for example, with Spider Man, if he’s taking on Mysterio or the Vulture, it’s like, well, why doesn’t he just call his friend Thor to kick this guy’s ass? There’s some degree of willing suspension of disbelief, but by the same token, if you think back to the early Marvel universe, there were these superheroes, but they didn’t necessarily know each other. Spider Man didn’t know how to get a hold of Thor. What I thought was cool about the early Marvel universe was that whenever they would meet each other, there would be this distrust. It’s like, ‘Who the hell is this guy?’ They weren’t necessarily friends. I don’t know. I have nothing to do with the movies or anything like that, but that’s what I’d like to see.”
But Autobots and M.A.S.K. both have transforming technology—is there already a connection there? Ryall responds, “That’s an excellent question that I’m going to say will be answered within the pages of the Revolution event series.”
Naturally I had to ask if they were aware of my theory, as seen on Nerdist News, that the marketing for the new Transformers movie is hinting at ROM. The answers were…interesting.
“I got a lot of e-mails after that article got out there,” says Gage. “I think it’s pretty close to the original ROM logo.”
“It worried me,” says Ryall. “I want there to be a ROM movie, but I would like it to just sort of be a new continuity, not something that’s tacked on.”
For their take on ROM, they’re allowed to use anything that was described on the box of the original toy, but not anything Marvel created for the original comics, including the specific look of the evil Dire Wraiths. Gage describes the tone as “a feel of classic movies like They Live or Invasion of the Body Snatchers, you know—I would say the difference from Transformers, which as you pointed out also has other part-alien beings–that’s like giant robots coming to Earth. The Dire Wraith is something much more insidious. They could be your neighbor, your brother, your wife. If we’re going for that sort of Invasion of the Body Snatchers feel, really creepy, and then Rom comes down into the middle of this situation, and, you know, there again—he appears to be blowing away and disintegrating human beings, and that will lead to complications.”
Adds Ryall, “Certainly in comics, we want to play up the real comic book-y aspects. The Dire Wraiths are a black-magic powered race of aliens, so I think the idea of magic in our universe certainly makes easy sense, especially because comic fans are pretty well used to reading magic-based characters and heroes. If and when we do get to Visionaries, that will make perfect sense with what we’re developing.”
Early reviews of the Free Comic Day preview issue of ROM have, at times, been very nit-picky about him not looking exactly like the original toy—for one thing, he now had fingers. I wondered if any of that had bothered them. “I thought man, as far as design updates go from a 30 year old toy, these are pretty minor!” says Ryall. “But there’s always a certain vocal segment that thinks that means you don’t understand the character.”
He continues: “They were [also] upset that we only had Rom and not the Marvel universe around it. There were people skeptical that it could work without a universe around it. Whether we actually had a universe around Rom anyway, we were going to have fun creating this whole thing, and creating a universe, but now that we do have all these different types of characters, potentially able to interact with Rom at different times, it even sort of circumvents people’s concerns in that regard, that there’s not other big, colorful, powerful characters that we can surround Rom with at various points.”
“So yeah, I think it’s all going to be a blast.”
Are you pumped for ROM and Revolution? What other properties would you like to see added to the mix? (I’m a C.O.P.S. and Crooks guy, myself.) Check out the ROM gallery below, then leave us your thoughts in comments.
Images: IDW Publishing