As I have said before I am excited about the relaunch of the Wildstorm universe, though I do have some concerns. Those concerns do not reside with Warren Ellis, whose breakdowns of the key players and organizations of the Wildstorm universe have only intrigued me. No, rather it is Ellis’ views regarding the art direction for the upcoming The Wild Storm and other untitled tie-in works he plans to launch that have raised warning flares.
I often compare Wildstorm to Milestone. I have an extremely high opinion of the two imprints and I believe the diversity contained within both had a huge impact on the quality and type of work released. Wildstorm and Milestone were clearly multicultural in nature. They made comics about everyone for everyone. However, the story direction at Milestone was led by African American men. The art direction at Wildstorm was led by Asian American men. And it—no pun intended—colored the work. If one is to relaunch Milestone (as Lion Forge has done in spirit with Catalyst Prime) or Wildstorm effectively, I believe this must be duplicated. The heart of both imprints reside with men of color. It is that simple.
Lion Forge has risen to the challenge. Though its selection of writers for Catalyst Prime is diverse, Christopher Priest and Joseph Illidge, both black men present during either the creation of Milestone or its flourishing, are at the helm. Lion Forge is poised to replicate what made Milestone unique in the marketplace—a multicultural band of talented creators building a world envisioned by black men.
Given the dominating presence of skilled writers such as Warren Ellis, Alan Moore, James Robinson, and Mark Millar, it is clear that Wildstorm’s story direction was overwhelmingly Anglophilic in nature even though the imprint’s roots reside with writer Brandon Choi. This is certainly not a negative, but a positive—the works produced were wonderful—and this setup has been reproduced with Warren Ellis’ return. What has not yet been duplicated, and something I think should be duplicated if this imprint is to successfully recapture the “heart” of Wildstorm, is to have Asian American men at the helm in regards to art direction.
Now just as Milestone hired writers of myriad backgrounds, so should Wildstorm have a diverse selection of artists. After all, men like J. Scott Campbell, Matt Broome, and Lee Bermejo all thrived there. But they did so under the watchful eye of Jim Lee. Wildstorm’s artists had multiple influences, of course, but one can clearly see that Asian and Asian American artists were not only among them, but in the early days those influences perhaps dominated.
“When Jim launched WildStorm, the look was best-in-class for commercial superhero comics—computer-assisted colour, pinsharp printing, great paper. We can’t replicate that, and, frankly, I can’t think of a technological way to top it. So let’s try something else. Stripped-down, stark and authentic.”Warren Ellis
Looking at the preview art released it appears as though Jon Davis-Hunt wears the UK on his sleeve. His work is lovely, and in the panel layouts and body language depicted one can see strains of Dave Gibbons and Steve Dillon. But an Anglophilic writer paired with an Anglophilic artist leaves one with an imprint highly reminiscent of Vertigo, not Wildstorm. And to follow in the footsteps of Vertigo does a clear disservice to what Wildstorm was and could be again—a marriage of the UK and Asia nestled in a multicultural American setting.
I will paraphrase what I’ve said elsewhere in conversations with friends in regards to the stripped-down, desaturated, and spot-color approach to art and design in the new Wildstorm universe: I am not a fan though I understand its presence. It is my hope that the art and color in The Wild Storm apes multiple styles as a nod to the design wars taking place within the story—Academi (formerly Blackwater) versus Apple versus rogue street tech. I want to see heavy black mecha, sleek white tools, and the inventions of children of color who are working with the vibrant branded refuse discarded by our society.
“By the end of it I’d want an explosion of color as the universe drills down to the street. Renzi on Loose Ends. Or Bellaire brightness.”Cheryl Lynn Eaton
I think that vivid kinetic faction is where Asian and American artistic influences should make their presence felt. And if or when they do, Wildstorm will have truly become Wildstorm.