You thought you were too old to think about Hasbro, the ubiquitous toy and game maker? Think again! The owner of Magic The Gathering, Peppa Pig, and just about every board game you have ever played is also the owner of the two franchises at issue today – Transformers and G.I. Joe. Which is the better franchise and comic? Bloggers Ryan and Alan square off today to convince you which is the best.
Which Franchise is Best?
Alan: Transformers came to the west in 1984, the rebranding of the popular Japanese toys. These innovative toys were cheaper than Legos and more fun than an action figure. Marvel was brought in to create a backstory for the toys and launch a comic book, Transformers #1.
Creeping up on 40 years of popularity and fun times, Transformers is clearly the better franchise. If Ryan offered my kids a Transformer or a G.I. Joe doll, there is no doubt which one they would choose.
Ryan: No doubt, huh? Well, it’s also no doubt that the G.I. Joe franchise sold around $2 billion worth of products in their first 25 years in existence, which culminated in 1989. Plus, when you really get down to it, all Transformer toys are essentially the same. A vehicle turns into a robot. Copy and paste that a few dozen times and you have a toy line.
G.I. Joe, on the other hand, had more than 230 types of action figures at their peak. Everything from the popular Snake Eyes, Duke, and Snow Job, to the underrated Bazooka, Barbecue, and Sgt. Slaughter. G.I. Joe had everything you needed for your fantasy battle playtime dreams. In fact, G.I. Joe was so popular that when Hasbro ceased production of the toy in 1978 due to rising shipping costs, there was such an outcry that the company eventually relented and rereleased them again in 1982, setting off a firestorm of sales.
First Swing – Popularity equals Value
Alan: Popularity equals demand and demand equals value. There are lots of ways to measure popularity and Transformers crushes it. Let’s just take a quick look at the movie run of Transformers – it is the 13th highest-grossing film series of all time. There are 7 movies (if you include the Bumblebee spin-off) and they have grossed a total of $4.8 billion, behind only a handful of movies with close to that number of films – Jurassic Park (5 films), Avengers (4), and Middle-Earth (7). G.I. Joe is, sadly, nowhere to be found in this area but there does continue to be chatter about a Transformers / G.I. Joe cross-over film. Why, to help the sagging military franchise, of course. Ryan, that is ‘billion’ with a ‘B’!
Ryan: Alan, I will gladly give you your Shia LeBeouf and your Megan Fox and your Josh Duhamel movies. That’s the level of “actors” we are talking about for the Transformers series. Meanwhile, G.I. Joe was able to attract the Joseph Gordon-Levitts, Channing Tatums, Dwayne Johnsons, and Bruce Willises of the world. And G.I. Joe is nowhere to be found? The only two G.I. Joe-branded movies grossed $678 million worldwide. Both grossed over $300 million each. I would hardly call that “struggling.”
Second Swing – Which Comics Should You Own
Alan: My friend, I’m sorry G.I. Joe just isn’t a stand-out in the military comic genre like some other classics, such as Sgt. Rock. The Transformers books stand out because they are unique in their concept and stories. There is no doubt that the evolution of the storyline, too painful to get into here, can make collecting the entire series challenging.
While both franchises had runs in the 1980s and into the 90s, it is the difference in the quality of the storyline, interior art, and cover art today that makes Transformers the winner. The FMV of Transformers #1 and G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #1, at a 9.0 grade, is nearly the same (basically the same $15 spread in value there has been since the last price guide I bought in 2007.
Ryan: Both of these comics did have runs in the 1980s into the 1990s, Alan. But, you see, the G.I. Joe run lasted almost twice as long. (155 issues) as the Transformers run (80 issues). Plus, you could argue that G.I. Joe actually has two major keys in its run. (G.I. Joe #1 and G.I. Joe #21, the first appearance of Storm Shadow).
Transformers #1 is the only issue that could truly be called a “key issue” from that run. Both of these G.I. Joe keys sell for well over $1,500 in the highest of grades. As you stated, the inaugural issues are very similar in value at the high grades, but an additional key tip the scales in favor of G.I. Joe for me.
Alan: Keys? Please! Let us know when a Storm Shadow movie is scheduled then we can talk about G.I. Joe #21. Publisher IDW (the fifth largest comic publishing house) is clearly making an investment in the Transformers franchise and future movie potential.
This obviously makes Transformers the best place for both the fan and the collector. Transformers are clearly seen as the better cross-over. The epic Transformers / New Avengers series gave us the combination of the best rallying cries in all comics, “Assemble and Roll On!”
Ryan: We can talk until we are blue in the face about comics and movies and toy sales, knowing both were unbelievably popular in the 1980s and early 1990s. Their popularity fits right in with today’s nostalgia generation, which is why the reboots by way of comics, movies, and action figures all do so well. But for me and my son, give us the toys and comics grounded more in reality. The ones that look and act like me. All we need is a carpet, some pillows, and a few dozen G.I. figures, and we’ve got a full-on battlefield.
Wouldn’t it be fun if Ryan and Alan could both win – like when we were kids and we could each get a most-improved trophy? In this case, it is possible because it seems only a matter of time before these franchises come together again.
In 1987, there was a four-book series of G.I. Joe & Transformers and the original run of G.I. Joe comics ended in 1993 with five books featuring the Transformers. But remember dear readers, even when everyone gets to be a “winner,” someone wins more than the others.
If G.I. Joe and Transformers can come together successfully, these books (and yes, Ryan, specifically the key books) will have a good value return for a modest investment but the actual big winner is Hasbro.
Vote with your comments below and tell us if you ever owned one or both of the toys!
Be sure to check out more of both authors’ work!