Abrams Children’s Books is launching a middle-grade trilogy starring G.I. Joe, under license from Hasbro, with a completely new storyline featuring junior and senior high school versions of the classic characters, along with new characters. G.I. Joe Classified Book One, from Amulet, publishes on July 26; the second title will follow in summer 2023 and the third in 2024.

“It’s a brand that has a lot of resonance with fans,” said Michael Kelly, v-p global publishing at Hasbro. “It has been more for adults lately, and this is a way to bring it down to kids again.”

“Parents have so much nostalgia for the property,” said Anne Heltzel, editorial director, entertainment publishing and content development for Abrams Children’s Books. “But we try to acquire properties that would stand on their own, regardless, and this isn’t a story that needs familiarity. It lends itself to the action-adventure format for the modern reader. It’s about heart, empathy, and advocacy, which are perennial themes. Kids are advocating in their communities for causes they care about, personal or political, so it’s almost more relatable now.” The story is written for the upper edge of the middle-grade spectrum, but the publisher believes it is accessible for younger middle-grade readers as well.

Earlier iterations of G.I. Joe have generally skewed toward male fans, but this story has characters who are diverse in gender and background, and one of the female characters, Scarlett, is the narrator of the second book in the series. “Girls are raised to be advocates for what they believe in,” Heltzel said. “The market is there.”

The trilogy is authored by Kelley Skovron, who also writes as J.S. Kelley and formerly as Jon Skovron. They have experience writing for licensed franchises as well as creating their own original books. “They’re very passionate about G.I. Joe,” Heltzel said. “The stories are funny and lively and true to the brand.”

San Diego Comic-Con will include a behind-the-scenes panel on July 23 featuring the G.I. Joe Classified brand team discussing the toy line, which launched in 2020, and other goings-on surrounding the property.