Michael Cray, Wildstorm, and the 6.

Michael Cray #1I have discussed the new Ellis-helmed Wildstorm line before and my concerns regarding an art direction that has veered so sharply from its predecessor. Gone are the cinematic layouts, unique fonts, lush colors, and perhaps overly rendered figures giving the work a three-dimensional pop. The art in early Wildstorm was busy and complicated and I truly miss it. It was representative of an eager creative class that wanted to make its mark on the world by bringing in new influences not shared by the men who came before them—a perfect blend of classic American cartooning and dynamic East Asian visual storytelling. A collection of men who cherished Neal Adams, Walt Disney, Ryouichi Ikegami, and John Woo.

But Wildstorm has had various maestros over the years and the art direction shifts to match their preferences. Jim Lee is no longer at the helm. Warren Ellis is.

I am frustrated…but also understanding? Today’s audiences do not have any nostalgic reverence for Wildstorm’s early incarnations. Given the line’s meager sales during the World’s End era, those early fans are long gone. And so Ellis leans on what he and his fans have nostalgic reverence for when selecting creative partners. The stamp of Watchmen is clearly evident in the first issue of The Wild Storm, as I have stated in other short pieces. And in his personal newsletters Ellis reminisces on the British illustrators of his youth and their impact on his creative partner Jon Davis-Hunt.

“From #7 to #12 we are to expect covers reminiscent of 1970s science fiction paperback covers, or basically, my father’s bookshelf when I was about six, naming the likes of Peter Elson, Jim Burns and Angus McKie.”Warren Ellis

The new Wildstorm is wholly British now, in both its literary and visual expressions. I think the sweeping aside of the line’s Asian and Asian American roots does Wildstorm a great disservice—akin to a removal of Milestone’s African American foundation. And if you replace a publishing house’s cultural lynchpin, what remains? Can it really be a continuation of what came before?

Michael Cray #1And so enters Michael Cray to further cloud these murky waters. Ellis has tapped black creators Bryan Hill, N. Steven Harris, and Dexter Vines to work on the next Wildstorm series (along with Milestone founder Denys Cowan on covers). The series features a new iteration of Deathblow, now black and more intelligent and successful than his white predecessor. The work perhaps lampoons that fact in its early pages; we see Cray given a speech all too familiar to black children—Bryan Hill’s version of “twice as good for half as much.” The new Wildstorm universe will blame Michael Cray for more and give him less.

It is a bitterly hilarious comment on a black man’s place in the new Wildstorm, in the comics industry, and in American society. Hill is a black screenwriter, not a comics-industry alum, and is yet another instance of the mainstream’s preference for recruiting established black writers from other mediums for minor projects instead of allowing black comic writers to work their way through the ranks as scribes from other racial groups do. I also predict sales of this work will be a fraction of the original Deathblow series even though the creators involved are phenomenally talented and the character is already more intriguing than his alternate-reality predecessor. Twice as good for half as much.

I have questions! (I always have questions.) I have repeatedly praised Wildstorm and Milestone for their ability to successfully build truly multi-cultural publishing houses instead of using members of marginalized groups as “seasoning” for primarily white institutions. But are founders who are men of color necessary for that success? Can you create a multi-cultural line from a world envisioned and rebuilt by a British white man? Can fans put their trust in a new imprint when its first public act was to jettison its Asian artistic roots? I’m wary.

But let’s drill down. I have discussed the lionized nine-panel grid and its current prominence in the universes beneath the DC umbrella. I have noted how it is linked in the collective memory of the industry to European works. The number nine has significance, but I am a writer, not an artist. And so it eludes me. It is a mystery within the new Wildstorm universe (and DC as a whole) that my brain doggedly pursues. And it has been made worse with the addition of the six-panel grid repeated throughout Michael Cray. Six and nine.

Nice.

Six-panel grids are as American as apple pie and their presence in a wholly black work for a line recreated by a British white man is odd, subversive, and delightful. What is it doing here?! What is the message being conveyed? I’m stumped.

Jughead #193When I think of a six-panel grid I immediately think of Archie. I consumed Archie’s Double Digest at an absurd rate in my youth and the layout of the first page of Michael Cray instantly brought that comic to mind. And while the Archie line is currently a rainbow coalition of characters it was initially very straight, very Christian, and very white. So what in the world is this layout—known for its overwhelming presence in historical humorous comics for and about while children—doing in a work about a black assassin working within a technologically advanced dystopia? That is weird. And fascinating. For, Lord knows, blackness is as American as apple pie too, but America is loath to admit it. And so inserting blackness into American comics in this manner, reweaving it and us back into its cherished patterns, feels like the righting of a great wrong started long ago as the industry built itself upon racist black caricatures and chased black men such as Orrin C. Evans out of publishing.

But while Asian men such as Kevin Tsujihara and Jim Lee hold the highest positions one can achieve at both Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment, I cannot help but lament the lack of their presence at Wildstorm. And I do not think Wildstorm can be Wildstorm sans the presence of Asian men within the imprint’s new foundation.


My 9ine.

After page four, the whole thing goes into a 9-panel grid, and it’s to give you a sense of that claustrophobia. To give you a sense of what it is to be trapped, not only in the themes and the words, but in the actual panel structure. He’s trapped behind those bars we had in Omega Men, and how does he break out?Tom King

Okay.

The Wild Storm #1

All right.

Hrm.

Are…are Moore and Gibbons secretly on deck for the ultimate Crisis story? Is this foreshadowing? Or is this just a shared love-letter to the nine-panel grid? Looking at this I can’t help but lament the lack of Milestone in this DC revival of worlds. Its absence is notable and, by God, I would love to write a story set in that universe with an artist who is absolutely committed to ruining the nine-panel grid! I’d purposely have a black character on every single page of said story just jacking the layout up and knocking panels out-of-place. I’d gleefully be the fly in the buttermilk. The dark speck marring one’s pristine nostalgic vision.

For that is what we are, no? The group here to remind you that the good old days weren’t so good? That we haven’t lost a way we never had? That returning to the nine-panel grid isn’t an indication that the walls are closing in because we’ve been hemmed in. Y’all just got here. And still refuse to acknowledge our presence a majority of the time. To hell with a nine. It’s the sequential art version of clapping on the one and three.

It’s not that I hate the shared art direction above. I love-to-hate it. There’s a big difference. It’s like relishing the presence of a cherished villain. Like setting a glass of perfectly chilled water on a ledge. Near a cat.

(I’m the cat.)

I see a nine-panel grid and within those gutters I see perfect order and a wallowing in nostalgic longing for a creative era that would have resulted in my ostracization had I been present. And I think to myself, I would love to create complete chaos and discomfort here. I see pacifiers for middle-aged, middle-class men in those grids, not bars. They are in our present day as creatively restrictive as a gimp mask. A familiar binding one seeks out and derives pleasure from.

But I’d be lying if I said the repetition wasn’t intriguing. It is highly intriguing! Here we have the nine-panel grid in four out of the six major DC worlds—Detective, Wildstorm, Charlton/Watchmen, and Kirby’s Fourth World. Only Milestone and Quality are missing. This cannot be a coincidence. I believe Mitch Gerads, Jon Davis-Hunt, Gary Frank and more are collectively up to something. I want to know what it is.


Review: The Wild Storm #1.

Let’s talk The Wild Storm #1.

If you’re here I’ll assume that you are somewhat acquainted with the former Wildstorm universe, as well as with my previous post detailing my concerns regarding the art direction for The Wild Storm, the initial series that now serves as the lynchpin of the new pop-up imprint. If not, feel free to click here to catch up!

The Wild Storm #1Color: I stated that I wanted a war between colors in this series—the soothing pastels of modern technology, the vibrant hues of rogue agents and inventors, and the heavy blacks and deep grays of IO hardware. Ivan Plascencia does an incredible job providing readers with the first of the three. The mundane world that Halo dominates looks to be an absolute pleasure to reside in. Unlike the overwhelming and highly saturated colors you’d find in the real Times Square, the Midtown of Wildstorm is filled with baby blues, soft browns, and muted greens. It is relaxing—as deceptively nonthreatening as the company Marlowe has built. Unfortunately, those pastels persist in the underground bunkers of IO, which I think is a poor choice for what should be a grim and off-putting military environment. The struggle between Marlowe and Craven should play out via brightness. Halo hides in not only plain but illuminated sight; IO operates in the shadows.

But both IO and Halo are in different ways the establishment. And that should be shown via color—via a lack of vibrancy. Plascencia capably achieves that, and perhaps also leaves clues as to who our rogue agents will be via saturation. Angela’s independence is marked by color—her bright red blood and the vibrant blue of her transformation. Zealot’s eyes are a vivid blue. Voodoo’s? Green. And of course there is the crimson that bleeds from Cray. All four of these characters wear gray, making the flashes of red, blue, and green seem much more important.

Lettering: Normally you notice lettering only if it is bad. But I noticed Simon Bowland’s excellent lettering because the chosen font is terrible. It’s too narrow and reminds me of Comic Sans. Straight up. A nice nostalgic nod would have been to use the unique fonts found in the first Wildcats (not WildC.A.T.S.) series. And if I can remember a font from 1999 you know it must be good (or else I have an absolutely insane attention to detail).

I will add that I think the removal of bold to indicate speech patterns flattens out the work. It’s used less often now—probably a push back against its previous overuse (and also nonsensical use). American dialects and accents are so rhythmic, musical, and varied. Bolding is a great way to visually emphasize (no pun intended) that sonic uniqueness—that Voodoo doesn’t sound like Angela and Angela doesn’t sound like Zealot, etc.

The Wild Storm #1Pencils: I’d be lying if I stated that my previous concerns regarding the art direction had been alleviated. Jon Davis-Hunt is a talented artist, but the work here in no way presents itself as what one would typically want and expect from a Wildstorm book. The layout is, quite frankly, dull and devoid of dynamic movement. Nine-, six-, and three-panel grids dominate the pages.

I do understand their presence. Opening with a nine-panel grid harkens back to the era of Watchmena work that deals with a slowly unravelling conspiracy. I do not, however, want to go back to that era artistically. Watchmen is not a part of my comics canon (or Wildstorm’s canon) and I do not have an iota of the Anglophilic and nostalgic adoration others have for the work. I grew up on Jim Lee and grew out with Travis Charest and Dustin Nguyen. If I grew up on Ashanti and you give me The Amazons instead of Kehlani we’re going to have a problem.

We have a problem.

It is my hope that as there is a war between colors there is also one in regards to art. That the further removed Angela is from IO the closer we get to the innovative and cinematic layouts that define the glory days of the Wildstorm universe, via artists who not only pay homage to Wildstorm’s past, but push boundaries as well. In comics the marriage of art and script tell a story. A successful reboot must provide the essence of both halves. The art here is quite pretty. But it is in no way the essence of Wildstorm. Readers unfamiliar with the Wildstorm universe will likely not care. For a former reader like myself the change is jarring.

Script: Oh, we’re good. I’ve loved Ellis’ work since Stormwatch and that hasn’t changed in the slightest. It is my hope that the characters involved maintain distinct ways of speaking that feel natural and authentic. A challenging task given the wide variety of ethnicities, classes, and cultures these characters spring from!

All in all, I am pleased with The Wild Storm #1 and am curious to see where this new world leads.


Wildstorm designs.

The Wild Storm #1As 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.

Academi GRS OperatorsI 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.


Catalyst: Prime cuts from Marvel Entertainment.

Catalyst Prime: The EventAfter years of lamenting the loss of Wildstorm and Milestone I am blessed to have both back.

When Valiant spearheaded the 1990s resurgence in 2012 I jokingly said that they were going to “do DC comics better than DC Comics.” The joke was a truthful one. DC was faltering by the time Valiant had geared up for its major creative push and the young upstart had amassed an amazing selection of talent with a familiar approach cribbed from DC’s classic style of storytelling.

With Catalyst Prime—a Milestone in spirit though not name—history is poised to repeat itself. I predict the imprint may just do Marvel comics better than Marvel. For Marvel Entertainment, though blessed with beloved brands and solid creative teams, seems to be floundering. The company is besieged by lackluster events such as Civil War II and Monsters Unleashed and its new directions (ex: Captain America’s current stint as a brainwashed Hydra agent) seemingly irritate long-term fans. While the company is equipped to turn things around, charting a new course for an industry behemoth takes time. And in that time fans can easily be wooed away by the competition.

While DC has claimed a few of those wayward Marvel fans (and will likely capture even more with The Wild Storm), the company cannot easily ape Marvel’s approach. Marvel capitalized on its universe being “the world outside your window.” If your apartment is in New York City, that is. The Marvel universe is akin to the world we live in—messy, diverse, flawed, and fragile—with a generous dollop of fantasy. DC, however, provides its readers with idealized Americana—a true melting pot where the bad guys are supervillains, not the intuitions that guide us.

Enter Lion Forge’s Catalyst Prime (as well as Wildstorm, but that is a topic for another post).

Catalyst Prime is poised to give us the world outside our window—and started on said path by hiring the people we could see through that window. The project is helmed by senior editor Joseph Illidge, a man who earned his stripes at DC and Milestone. He in turn has brought on another notable Milestone alum in Christopher Priest and a diverse selection of talent from Marvel, Image, and DC. Surely taking note of the inroads Marvel has made in regards to diversity from the Blaxploitation era on, the project is also peppered with a multi-cultural and visually interesting band of characters. The premise, however, while intriguing, is reminiscent of the launch of the original Wildstorm universe in which a mysterious asteroid hastened the proliferation of super-powered beings. Hopefully Catalyst Prime will discover its own unique direction from that common starting point. If the industry can handle a dozen Superman pastiches it can certainly weather two asteroids!

Yet how will Marvel weather two new imprints infiltrating the arenas it once dominated? The answer likely lies within the Secret Empire.


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.


There’s no place like home.

New York City has often been referred to as its own major character in the series Sex and the City. While I don’t agree, the importance of New York to the series cannot be denied. New York—any city—has an impact on its denizens, shaping them to fit the existing culture within its borders. To move to a new area, not as a tourist or transient figure, but as a settler, is to assume the customs and lifestyle of one’s neighbors that are necessary to survive and maneuver efficiently. If not, problems quickly occur. For example, Brooklyn-born, the excessive socialization required amongst strangers while in Atlanta is still disconcerting. Privacy and solitude are at a premium in New York and are not to be relinquished without great reluctance.

Good fiction requires cities to have their own cultures as well. The character of a region is shown by how the landscape and structures are depicted. It is also reflected in the temperament and appearance of its citizens. For these reasons, team-ups and crossovers must be created with care. Unless the “hook” of a tale is to show a “fish out of water,” a mish-mash of incompatible worlds and characters is confusing and distasteful to the reader. One cannot build the foundation of a good story on earth that is not firm.

Seemingly rebroadcast at least once yearly, the crossover between Homicide: Life on the Street and Law and Order is fantastic. Both worlds are clearly defined, and characters from both series find themselves as strangers in a strange land. Another tactic that works is to simply create a new world for all the characters in question. This has been successfully executed repeatedly in comics, the Amalgam universe (depicting blended versions of Marvel and DC characters) likely being the most lucrative example.

With DC Entertainment’s New 52 initiative, the DC, Wildstorm, and Milestone universes have been folded into one world. As a former fan of Wildstorm and Milestone characters, the development is frustrating. It is frustrating because I do not feel that a new world was developed that was hospitable to all characters; Milestone and Wildstorm characters were simply plugged into the DC universe. The number of Milestone characters appearing has been minimal, so a fish-out-of-water approach could have been successfully taken with Static and Xombi. However, given the sheer volume of Wildstorm characters inserted and the incompatibility of the former DC and Wildstorm universes—one an idealistic place with nearly black and white depictions of good and evil, the other a more sinister place with various shades of gray—results have been dreadful. DC fans have largely ignored Wildstorm characters. Wildstorm fans, given a strange world that in no way exploited already weakened nostalgic ties, had no reason to stay. I am apprehensive about what will occur should more Milestone characters make an appearance.

DC’s recreation of Earth 2, a world that could have easily been shaped to fit Wildstorm and Milestone characters, is essentially the existing DC universe with different characters plugged in. The culture remains the same—charmingly idealistic. In contrast, Marvel’s Ultimate universe began as a world that was much darker and cynical in nature compared to the existing Marvel universe. As of now, the two Marvel worlds are largely similar, and a large event featuring a rebooted world containing the most popular characters and concepts from both would work fabulously—though given fan resistance to change, it would probably be best to test the waters with a temporary revision akin to Age of Apocalypse.

But, uh, back to the lecture at hand: how does DC solve the problem of compatibility? There are three options: remove the Wildstorm characters from the DC universe; alter the Wildstorm characters to fit the DC universe; present the Wildstorm characters as part of DC’s underground, an off-the-grid assemblage of cynical characters largely not in contact with DC’s icons.

I’m curious to see which path DC decides to choose.


To the max.

I would love for DC Comics to launch a very small line (five titles maximum) for mature readers. No, I don’t feel that the “Edge” or “Dark” lines are suitable for older readers seeking adult themes. I would like to see a line akin to Marvel’s MAX imprint. Honestly, I was an avid reader of the Wildstorm line of comic books and I feel like those properties have been watered down and mishandled since the recent DC revision. I think introducing alternate “MAX” versions of these characters in a mature line would satisfy readers like me.

In DC’s mature line, superheroics would shift to the background. The focus would be on smart crime, spy, war, humor, and adventure stories. The line would focus on cult favorites such as Wildcats, Lobo, Hitman, The Authority, Xombi, Team 7, and Checkmate. It would not be a place where children’s icons ran amok. Batman would be nothing more than an urban legend in this universe—akin to the Jersey Devil. There’d be no Diana or Amazons, only Coda. And, of course, Kal-El would happily spend his days as a lead scientist on Krypton. And would never be mentioned or seen.

Think about the modest success of the Extreme line. Think about a Waller war hawk gunning for old Team 7 members who have gone off the grid. Think about a Wildcats book exploring superhero decadence. Think about “bang babies” and urban blight. Think about a satirical space adventure or “buddy cop” comic featuring Guy Gardner dragging his prisoner Lobo across the galaxy to stand trial.

I’d have two ongoings—Wildcats and The Authority. Rotating miniseries would account for the remaining three books.

Why not give it a shot? You’ll need something in that vein once Before Watchmen is no longer shiny and new, properties for the cable companies to salivate over. Remember, there are some places the trinity simply cannot tread.