When he left Marvel to help found Image Comics, Jim Lee created an interesting batch of characters. Sadly, after being merged into the DCU with the New 52, the stable of Wildstorm characters have fallen into non-use/barely any use. It’s time to bring them to the forefront again and there is a way to do it that still keeps them part of the DCU.
The Wildstorm characters are near and dear to my heart. Two of my favorite artists worked on them, Jim Lee and Brett Booth, and for whatever reason I always enjoyed the concepts. Back in the mid-90s I attended SDCC twice and had the honor of meeting Jim Lee, Brandon Choi, Brett Booth, Jessica Ruffner and other Homage studios artists and creators. On one of those trips, I even got a tour of Homage Studios. I ran an e-mail Wildstorm fan club on AOL for a couple of years and even got a Wildstorm character named after me. Poor Doctor Shock, who died in his first and only appearance (n the pages of Jeff Mariotte’s Hazard).
So yeah, Wildstorm has always been something I’ve been deeply invested in. I was very curious to see what the merging of the Wildstorm universe into the DCU with the New 52 would result in. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement.
The Wildstorm characters debuted with an impressive three books out of the fifty-two, with a fourth added in the second wave. But the problem was that Grifter, Voodoo and Stormwatch all felt like they were in their own little corner, one that wasn’t connected to the DCU or to eachother. Even the addition of the Martian Manhunter in Stormwatch didn’t help any. Team 7, which came in the second wave, did a better job of integrating WS and DCU, but it wasn’t a good book and was quickly canceled. Other characters made appearances, but never amounted to much. And don’t even get me going on the Ravagers and the useless appearances of all those characters in the background.
Sadly, it appeared that the Wildstorm characters and concepts would be cast aside. Sure Grifter is central to the weekly Future’s End series, but that’s one character and wasn’t totally true to the Wildstorm concept.
This shouldn’t have happened. These can be strong concepts and characters. It seemed like the editors behind the New 52 really didn’t know how to integrate them into the DCU.
I started brainstorming how to save the Wildstorm characters before DC announced the Convergence event and released the teaser image that had the original Gen 13 featured. What I came up was interesting and could work with the structure of the DCU well keeping what made Wildstorm it’s own thing, just took awhile to get it written down.
One of the DCU’s unique and interesting characteristics, at least prior to the New 52 (and it seems to be coming back), was the existence of multiple Earths that really didn’t look alike. Not all these Earths had versions of the same characters. Earth-S had Captain Marvel (now Shazam!) and his family. Earth-X gave us the Freedom Fighters. Earth-2 was the home of the Justice Society. Earth-3 was the Crime Syndicate. There was an Earth that featured the Charlton characters; Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, Nightshade, Peacemaker and others.
With all these varied Earths, why couldn’t there be one for the Wildstorm characters. But unlike say the Charlton Earth, there are a lot of parallels between WS and DCU that can be made. Kherans can be Kryptonians. Durlans can be Daemonites. The Coda can be Amazons.
Keeping that in mind I started coming up with a way to integrate the DCU into the Wildstorm Universe, with WS being dominate, in a way that could be interesting and not just have throw away appearances by Bruce Wayne. This would be a world without Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman (along with others). Why do you need them when you have Majestic, Zealot and whoever fills the Batman role?
Not that those roles need to be filled. The Wildstorm universe has to stand on it’s own without the DCU Trinity lending support.
One of my biggest pet peeves in the industry is when a publisher starts a line and then rapidly increases the line. Valiant started with three or four very solid books. Now they are around ten or so and the books just aren’t as good. Quick expansion can be bad. It’s been proven time and again. Adding more and more books creates a strain on a reader’s budget and they have to start sacrificing books.
With this Wildstorm relaunch I’d start small and slow. Let the universe grow it’s fanbase, develop over time. I’d start with two books, a third to join the line after six to nine months and then a fourth which would be mini-series published whenever there was a good story to tell. Wildstorm was never huge in quantity to begin with, so I would keep that philosophy and keep the total number of books low. Quality over quantity. And there would be no events for at least the first two years (or ever if I really had my way).
There would be no Superman, Wonder Woman or Batman in this universe. But there could be a Bruce Wayne. The directive would be to keep such appearances few and far between and not important. If Bruce Wayne was to show up, it would be as a competitor to HALO Industries and not a focus of any stories. At least not for awhile, and never as the main character, Batman wouldn’t suddenly show up but Wayne could get involved in his business dealings. Clark Kent wouldn’t exist in this new world, and neither would Wonder Woman. Would want the Wildstorm universe to be able to stand on it’s own without guest appearances. That’s not to say that DCU elements wouldn’t be involved.
The Daemonites would be different from the Durlans in that the Dominators experimented on them thousands of years ago and that resulted in their different form of shape shifting. Krypton’s culture evolved differently and the people of that world named it Khera and themselves, the Kherans.
The rich and connected history of the Wildstorm universe would still exist. Team 7 first encountered the Gen Factor bomb which granted them their powers. Team 1 existed years prior. The Kherans and Daemonites crash landed on Earth thousands of years ago and their halfbreeds exist all over the place. Then there are the long lived Kherans and Daemonties themselves.
Which books and what characters would get the relaunch treatment:
The C.A.T.S. part always stood for Covert Action Teams, but the only one ever really seen was Jacob Marlowe’s team. As much as I liked those stories, I always wanted to see more of other teams. In a world of super powers, it would make sense for corporations to have their own super powered security teams. Years ago, 2002, Kurt Busiek introduced Josiah Power and the Power Company into the DCU. I’ve always thought they would make good foils/allies for the WildC.A.T.S. and would introduce them into the WS universe, with different membership. The WildC.A.T.S. series would focus on Marlowe’s team and their missions/operations for HALO and the Kherans, as Marlow would remain the Lord Emp and use his corporate status to promote the Kheran agenda and protect his people.
The series would focus on the Kheran/Daemonite war and introduce more Covert Action Teams. Stories would follow the team members, Emp’s Kheran agenda, the team’s conflicts with that agenda, the infiltration of society by the Daemonites and introduce Helspont and other Daemonite agents.
The team would consist of Lord Emp, Void, Spartan, Skyrocket (see Power Company link above) and Maul with Voodoo, Grifter and Zealot joining in the first arc (mirroring the original WildC.A.T.S.) arc.
The original Stormwatch was the United Nations super human response team that was housed in a giant space station called Skywatch. The team members, most of them, got their powers from the “comet effect” (a comet passing too close to earth that released radiation and mutated people) and needed to be activated. The relaunced title would stay mostly the same, as the UN’s super human response team, but would lose the comet effect aspects.
The team would consist of Stormwatch Prime, Red and Black. Prime would be Battalion, Winter, Diva, Fuji and Lamplighter. Red would be Cannon, Farenheit, Flint and Swift. Black would be Hawksmoor, Backlash and Savant. Prime would be the heavy hitters. Red would be the rapid deployment force and Black would be the black ops team.
International Operations; led by Miles Craven, John Lynch and Amanda Waller; would feature heavily in the series with their special operations units, including a possible WS-version of the Suicide Squad.
The series would follow the teams as they engaged with super human operatives from other countries, terrorists, Henry Bendix (Weatherman)’s manipulations, I/O, Kherans and Daemonites, politics and the various stories around the cast members.
This book would spin out of Stormwatch and be the third book. The Gen 13 kids would be the sons and daughters (and others) of those exposed to the Gen Factor through the years. They would be developed by International Operations and an agent that would turn eventually turn rogue and run off with her own operatives, the DV8. The book would focus on the kids, with John Lynch, who are now hunted by IO and Waller’s Task Force X. They would run across DV8 and other aspects of the Wildstorm universe.
Other books would be solo series for the various characters, a Team 7 book (featuring the team that first encountered the Gen Factor with team members: John Lynch, Cole Cash, Michael Cray, King Faraday and others). Sadly, Wetworks couldn’t make an appearance, but there is so much material to mine with the Wildstorm characters alone and the aspects of the DCU that could be handpicked.
How would these characters/this world work with the Green Lanterns? Would the Lanterns be changed? Lamplighter (introduced in Warren Ellis’ 2nd volume of Stormwatch) seemed to be connected with his powers coming from the alien lantern grafted to his body. The full extent of the integration between the WS and DCU could develop over time. The two universe are pretty similar to begin with.
If this ever came to be, I would love to serve as editor of the WS line, and writing at least the Stormwatch book (with Brett Booth on art). There is so much potential in the characters and concepts even without getting into others aspects like Union, Brass, Phantom Guard, Wildcore and so on. Having the connected DCU element opens up so many other possibilities as well. What about magic, that was something that wasn’t fully touched upon with the old Wildstorm books, that would be something else to explore. Would Constantine exist? Amethyst? Zatanna?
And I would love to bring back Chris Claremont’s The Huntsman, who appeared in 3 issues of WildC.A.T.S. and then 3 issues of Cyberforce and was never seen again. Such a great character and concept that deserves to be brought back.
These are too good of characters and concepts to remain languishing in limbo. Selling Wildstorm to DC might have been a good business move for Jim Lee but I don’t think it was a good creative move. DC editorial seems lost with how to work with these characters. If that is true, maybe it’s time to spin them off into their own imprint/line?