Return of the Go-Bots by Jerry Whitworth
In 1991, the transforming robot wars were officially over. Hasbro acquired Tonka and, by extension, the GoBots. While often criticized for the general cheap quality of its toys’ design as well as the cheap animation quality of its ongoing Hanna-Barbera animated series, GoBots nonetheless had some potential as part of the Transformers (at least for the more well known characters of the line). Leader-1, Cy-Kill, Turbo, Scooter, Crasher, Cop-Tur, Fitor, Path Finder… these characters were known quantities to the audience that could do well in the Transformers universe. There was just one problem: while Hasbro acquired their names and stories, they did not get their likenesses. Just as Transformers was generally an American adaptation of the Takara Diaclone and Microman toylines, GoBots founds its roots in Popy’s Machine Robo toyline (owned by Bandai). Tonka’s hastily assembled agreement with Popy saw that while they could reproduce the toys, they were only licensing the likeness which reverted back to the Japanese manufacturer. However, Hasbro has tried to capitalize on owning the GoBots property but it just didn’t work without those iconic images of the classic series. It seemed the brand would simply fade away… that is, until the latest San Diego Comic-Con International.
IDW Publishing has announced a five issue mini-series from Tom Scioli (Transformers vs G.I. Joe, Gødland) featuring the classic GoBots this October. Celebrating the line’s 35th anniversary, Go-Bots will feature a re-imagining of the series centered around the helpful nature of the Go-Bots and how their intentions may not be as noble as they contend. While no doubt Scioli’s series will be thought provoking and subversive while exhaustively delving into the history of the brand, its existence poses the question if Hasbro or IDW has acquired the license or the rights to the characters’ likenesses. Could this mean toys featuring the likenesses of the classic characters? Could the classic characters be joining the Transformers? Could there be a new animated series? At a San Diego Comic-Con where little in the way of comic news emerged, IDW dropped a bomb that only poses more questions than it answers.