WildStorm Heroes

WildStorm Heroes

(pop culture)

What if a coup were staged and everyone left? That was the question asked and answered in the comics medium in early 1992, when a sextet of extremely popular artists left their books at Marvel Comics en masse, and formed their own independent comic-book company, a collective known as Image Comics. One of the most popular of the group was Jim Lee, exartist of Alpha Flight, Wolverine, Punisher, and X-Men. Although his initial offerings did not have a sub-imprint name, and were copyrighted to Aegis Entertainment, Inc., the line of books Lee and his crew oversaw eventually became WildStorm Productions. Unlike some others of the Image group, WildStorm Productions would be incredibly prolific, pumping out dozens of series and spin-offs, all in an increasingly Byzantine and interconnected universe.

Lee’s first book, WildC.A.T.S, debuted in August 1992, and it set the backdrop of the whole WildStorm universe to come. Millennia ago, the warring Kherubim and Daemonites crashed on Earth, and their battle continues to this day. Kherubim are essentially good warriors, while the Daemonites are reptilian creatures that can take over human host bodies for their nefarious plans. Almost every character that appeared in Wild-Storm books was somehow related to Kherubim or Daemonites. Those that weren’t outright aliens themselves were often half-human crossbreeds, or they were created to fight them or join them. The other cohesive factor of the WildStorm universe was a vaguely sinister secret United States government organization, known as International Operations ( I/O), which dabbled in covert special operative teams, bioengineering superhumans with the Gen Factor; and the study of psionics and quantum mechanics.

Besides WildC.A.T.S and its various spinoffs—Voodoo, Zealot, Grifter, Warblade, and others—WildStorm had special operative books that combined crime, war, and superheroes in one package. These included Deathblow, about an elite gun-wielding anti-hero; Team 7, about the special ops team that does the government’s dirty work; and Wetworks, about a group of symbiotically armored operatives who combat the vampire nation. Gen 13 was originally one of the most popular WildStorm titles, detailing the adventures of a group of Gen-Active teenagers, who escaped from I/O’s control, and fought villains while still trying to fit into the world as semi-normal adolescents.

Union told the adventures of an alien Protectorate member from the planet Aegena who is tricked into going through an astral gate, and is now stranded on Earth. Using his plasma energy staff and powers of flight and strength, he sometimes aids StormWatch. Cosmic radiation from a comet that passed near Earth years ago has imbued many people with unusual powers. A number of them have banded together as the United Nations peace-keeping force known as StormWatch. A later incarnation of StormWatch led to the realignment of the team for a book known as The Authority.

Periodically, imprint-wide crossovers in the WildStorm universe—”WildStorm Rising,” “Fire from Heaven”—shook up the status quo of the various books, resulting in cast changes, power changes, and deaths. The company tried to change with the times as well. Though it had been an early instigator of multiple covers and variant editions, it slacked off those marketing gimmicks by the end of the century. It also tried new ideas editorially, resulting in such experimental series as Planetary, with its intricate storylines about “mystery archeologists” who uncover the secrets of the world, many of them involving familiar superhumans of the twentieth century. WildStorm also partnered with superstar writer Alan Moore to create a new sub-imprint known as America’s Best Comics (ABC), an ironic sobriquet given that they were created by an Englishman.

In early 1999, DC Comics bought WildStorm and all of its properties. Over the following year, several of the superhero series ended, then were relaunched with new directions and new creative teams. Although the WildStorm offices stayed in California, the imprint now had the selling power of DC Comics, and by extension, the Time-Warner media conglomerate.

However, in 2009, DC Comics became a subsidiary of DC Entertainment, Inc., leading to changes in the organization. In 2010, Lee became DC Comics’ co-publisher, and DC announced that it was putting an end to the WildStorm imprint. Instead, DC decided to integrate various WildStorm characters into the main DC universe. Hence, with the relaunch of its entire comics line in September 2011, DC introduced two new series based on WildStorm characters: Grifter (the hero from WildC.A.T.S), written by Nathan Edmondson and illustrated by artist CAFU, and Stormwatch, written by Paul Cornell with art by Miguel Sepulveda. The new Stormwatch series includes Apollo and Midnighter from The Authority, and even a longtime DC universe hero, the Martian Manhunter. —AM

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