Wildstorm world-building.

The early Image universes were often accused of cribbing from Marvel and DC lore. However, while one could compare characters such as the Coda to DC’s Amazons, Wildstorm truly had a unique voice—even in its infancy. With the announcement of the revival of the Wildstorm universe, I’d like to rummage through previous incarnations to discuss what I believe to be not only salvageable, but vital to the success of the upcoming imprint.

International Operations. Don’t let the name fool you, this organization dealt exclusively with protecting American interests. It was also a cornerstone of the Wildstorm universe. While not entirely villainous, the hats worn here were a very dark gray. Perhaps that I in IO should now stand for intelligence, no? For IO dabbled in everything—reconnaissance, robotics, genetic testing, and more. What would I like to see from a new Wildstorm imprint?

  • Team 7—a highly-skilled IO death squad that went AWOL in ‘98 after being subjected to genetic experiments its members didn’t sign up for.
  • Gen 13/DV8—the gifted children Team 7 sired.
  • Black Razors—IO’s mech-assisted military squad.
  • TAO—an IO experiment gone horribly awry, TAO is a tactical genius and has manipulated his way to the head of a major criminal organization called the Syndicate.

The United Nations. In the Wildstorm universe this organization had teeth. Most nations were eager to comply with the UN publicly, sending military personnel and funds; how nations behaved privately was another matter. With the new Wildstorm imprint the UN should possess one heroic crew assigned to deal with global threats and international disputes:

  • Stormwatch—an international selection of genetically gifted peacekeepers.

The Authority. I’d argue that the most powerful group in the new Wildstorm universe should be virtually unknown. IO’s interests? National. The UN’s interests? Global. The Authority? They should ensure not only the health of the universe, but the multiverse. In fact, it would be beneficial to allow these characters to exist simultaneously in the DC and Wildstorm universes.

Kaizen Gamorra. This character was one of the leading antagonists of the previous Wildstorm universe, so it is my hope that he returns sans stereotypical “yellow peril” references. Kaizen should be a paranoid despot driven to distraction by the machinations of the UN and IO. And yet, the best villains do not know that they are villains. After all, what could be more righteous than a desire to protect the sovereignty of one’s country from global interference? Gamorra should be responsible for:

Aliens. Earth should be home to quite a few galactic expats who use the glittering blue sphere as a luxury resort and trading post.

  • Wildcats—a group of multi-racial soldiers who abandoned the war the Kherubim launched against the Daemonites to become a dysfunctional family of jet-setters and rabble-rousers.
  • Coda—a small band of Kherubim warriors aided by a mercenary organization of women altered by Kheran blood.
  • The Cabal—a loose federation of stranded Daemonite warlords resigned to ruling Earth if they cannot escape it.

Vigilantes. The Wildstorm universe did not have “houses” as Marvel does; it had institutions. Where Marvel can be neatly divided into five realms (superheroic, cosmic, mutated, magical, vigilante), the Wildstorm universe unapologetically stressed science over magic to its benefit and focused on the corruption of military, political, and economic systems. However, while corruption flowers in the upper echelons, its roots are in the streets. In the past, Wildstorm ignored that region. It did not have the equivalent of a Punisher or Luke Cage. Given that a new Wildstorm would not be hamstrung by decades of continuity or tethered to IP devoted to children, it could now provide vigilantes who not only defend the streets, but are actually from them. The idea of inventing a “Wildstorm street” from whole cloth? Delicious.

Comics is obviously a marriage of words and pictures, so concept art is equally as important as a story bible when world-building. I’ve listed what I would like to see in the Wildstorm universe, but it is just as important to note who I would like to see design it.

Sophie Campbell. Her concept art for Voodoo and Zealot is absolutely stunning. Campbell’s ability to both think outside of the box and incorporate a wide range of physical forms are skills that are imperative when designing teams comprised of a variety of species and races such as the Wildcats and victims of Kaizen Gamorra’s experiments such as the Hunter-Killers and Cybernary.

Jamie McKelvie. McKelvie’s work on Young Avengers and The Wicked + The Divine provide proof of his knack for designing youthful characters who are an accurate reflection of the young men and women in our world today. His concept art for a 2017 Gen 13 and DV8 would be magical. Plus, he’s already down to play.

Oskar Vega. Vega is yet another wonder who should be assigned the task of redesigning Gen 13 and DV8. His concept art for the Teen Titans is a clear indication of that.

Adam Warren. Warren is best known for his “good girl” art, but longtime fans of the Dirty Pair are well aware of his talent when it comes to designing military hardware. I would love to see concept art from Warren for the Black Razors and the Engineer.

Jon Davis-Hunt. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Davis-Hunt has already been tapped by DC to work on the new Wildstorm imprint and his clean, simple designs would lend themselves well to a crop of no-nonsense vigilantes more concerned with performance over flashy displays.


Wildstorm rebirth.

Wildstorm is my Marvel.

It’s the only way to explain it. I’m a casual fan of a handful of Marvel characters, but that obsession with minutiae? The nostalgic reverence? It only rises to the surface when I see that Wildstorm logo. When I write about Marvel I write to connect with my peers—men and women who grew up playing X-Men vs. Street Fighter and listening to Iron Man references in rap albums. When I write about DC and Image my goal is to connect with comics professionals in order to examine industry trends. But when I write about Wildstorm? I write for me.

Warren Ellis, the comics industry’s fairy godmother, has been tapped to shepherd the rebirth of the Wildstorm universe. I am cautiously excited. Ellis is renowned for slipping in to bolster a flagging brand. He revitalizes a character, writes a stellar arc, and vanishes—leaving a capable protégé in his place along with an extra 10,000 or more readers. Ellis has a great eye for underlings and a keen sense of how to set a moody and ethereal scene or carefully craft layers for a tangled conspiracy.

Concept art for Wildstorm characters

However, I do have concerns—mainly due to the accompanying art. Where Stormwatch, Team 7, and the Authority are a fit for the darker and desaturated looks shown (given past subject matter), to align sleek and colorful projects like Wildcats and Gen 13 with these designs would be a mistake.

“After long reflection, I couldn’t turn down the invitation to renovate the house that Jim Lee built, and refit its unique combination of cosmic paranoia and paramilitary conspiracy for the post-political space madness of the twenty-teens.”Warren Ellis

Again, cautiously excited. For Ellis perfectly describes a good 65 percent of the Wildstorm universe with the above quote. But 65 percent is not all. Eddie Chang, a teen whose entire persona would likely be casually constructed from Gareth Evans movies, 4chan memes, and a Lil Yachty mixtape, would wither in the bleak weaponized world in which Michael Cray exists. Stormwatch, essentially hired guns for the United Nations, would not operate in the same manner as the Wildcats, a dysfunctional “found family” of jet set superheroes.

It is my hope that the diversity found in the different “houses” of the DC universe carries over to Wildstorm. And it is also my hope that those constructing the new Wildstorm universe do not base it on canon established when the imprint struggled to stay afloat. Few people remember those final incarnations and even fewer people have a fondness for them. It would be best to weave a new tapestry from threads pulled from the imprint’s glory days.

Next up: The major organizations of the Wildstorm universe and who I’d like to see make the cut for the new and improved world.