Wildstorm Productions, or simply WildStorm, is an American publisher of comic books. It began as Jim Lee's personal company under Image Comics, but it is currently an imprint of DC Comics with Jim Lee as the imprint's editor.
The Image years
WildStorm was one of the founding studios that joined together in 1992 to form Image Comics. It grew out of Homage Studios which was founded by artists Scott Williams, Whilce Portacio, Jim Lee, and Joe Chiodo in San Diego, California. Lee, Williams, and Portacio had gained notoriety from their work on various X-Men titles at Marvel Comics.
In late 1992 penciler Marc Silvestri joined the studio to work on the first issue of Cyberforce. Although he worked at the studio, his projects were to debut as a new Image imprint named Top Cow. Silvestri continued to work out of WildStorm's studio for about two years, then moved his staff up to Santa Monica so that he could be closer to Hollywood. Although there was some thought of grabbing talent from the Big Two, (Marvel and DC) such as John Romita Jr., Lee decided instead to find new talent.
Lee's talent search yielded Brett Booth in 1992, and then J. Scott Campbell in 1993. Apart from McFarlane's Spawn, Wildstorm produced the most consistently commercially successful comics from Image, including Lee's own titles WildC.A.T.s and the teen hero title Gen13, illustrated by J. Scott Campbell. Like many other Image titles, some of the WildStorm titles were plagued with inconsistent completion and shipping, resulting in monthly comics coming out every few months. This era, however, produced a number of titles of varying popularity including the afformentioned Gen13 and WildC.A.T.s, Stormwatch, Deathblow, Cybernary, and Whilce Portacio's Wetworks.
Attempts to get his studio's characters into other media were disappointing. A Saturday morning cartoon series of the WildC.A.T.s suffered from poor production values, and lasted only a single season, while a full-length animated version of Gen13 was produced but never released. Disney, who had acquired the distribution rights, later released the film only in a few foreign markets, leaving Jim Lee frustrated. Toys from both titles were less successful than those made by Todd McFarlane, partly due to bad marketing and partly due to the fact that the McFarlane toys were targeted for a more mature audience. However, they had a big success copying Wizards of the Coast's Magic: The Gathering with their introduction of the Superhero card game, Wildstorms, which later spun off into a crossover set of cards with Marvel.
In 1995, WildStorm created an imprint named Homage Comics, centered around more writer-driven books. The imprint was started with Kurt Busiek's Astro City and The Wizard's Tale, James Robinson's Leave it to Chance (with Paul Smith) and Jeff Mariotte's Desperadoes (with John Cassaday). More recently, the imprint has featured works by Sam Kieth, including Zero Girl and Four Women, and three of Warren Ellis' pop-comics mini-series, Mek, Red and Reload.
1997 debuted the Cliffhanger imprint - a line of creator-owned comic books which included to this day such popular works as J. Scott Campbell's Danger Girl, Joe Madureira's Battle Chasers, Humberto Ramos' Crimson and Out There, Joe Kelly & Chris Bachalo's Steampunk, Kurt Busiek & Carlos Pacheco's Arrowsmith and Warren Ellis's Two-Step and Tokyo Storm Warning.
This year also saw a huge revamp of all the Wildstorm universe titles, including such prominent comic book names as Alan Moore, Warren Ellis, Adam Warren, Sean Phillips and Joe Casey. After this revamp the new Wildcats series, Stormwatch and DV8 took the places of the most popular and most commercially sucessfull comics of the Wildstorm Universe.
The DC Years
The upsurge in popularity of the Wildstorm titles resulted in the 1998 acquisition of Wildstorm by DC Comics (effective January 1999). According to DC this was to ...strengthen both WildStorm's ability to expand its editorial goals and diversifying DC's output. Jim Lee said that he was lucky that it was DC, and not Marvel that bought him out considering Marvel's bankruptcy of the same period.
1999 was a hallmark year for Wildstorm. They launched The Authority, a dark, violent, superhero comic with heroes who didn't care about such things as honorable battle or not killing their opponents - only making the world a better place. Warren Ellis created the comic from the ashes of Stormwatch, writing its first 12 issues before handing the series over to Mark Millar. The Authority fused the hope and strivings of the Silver Age superheroes with a cynical look at humanity. The fight between the heroes and the corrupt parts of the humanity would lead the series into the 2004 Wildstorm crossover, Coup d'Etat, where the Authority would take control of the United States of America. Ellis, along with the artist John Cassaday, created Planetary, a story about explorers of the strange, intermeshing a look at pop culture, comic book history and literature with the unique artwork of John Cassaday.
Around this time WildStorm also launched a new imprint, America's Best Comics, specifically to allow Alan Moore to create a number of comics based on his own ideas. The line has been widely lauded and awarded, and has created such titles as Promethea, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Tomorrow Stories, Tom Strong and Top 10.
2001 marked the start of Ed Brubaker's critically acclaimed Sleeper, set in the Wildstorm universe, and Warren Ellis's Global Frequency. Global Frequency. The rights for Global Frequency were bought by Warner Brothers in 2004, and a pilot for a TV series for the WB network was made but the show was not picked up. The pilot however was later leaked to the internet.  (http://www.silverbulletcomicbooks.com/rage/111863094537167.htm)
To this day, WildStorm has been varying its publishing with licensed properties, such as Thundercats, Robotech and Speed Racer, and with original graphical novels from the pens of such famous SF writers as Kevin J. Anderson and David Brin.
Wildstorm latest reviews
Comic Reviews: Stormwatch (1997) Vol. 5: Final Orbit trade paperback (Wildstorm/DC C...
15 May 2013 at 3:02pm
[Review by Doug Glassman, who Tumblrs at Hell Yeah '80s Marvel!]
One of the biggest appeals of the Aliens vs. Predator franchise is that to use the Xenomorphs, you don?t have to explain what they?ve been up to since their last appearance. There are millions (if not billions) of them spread out throughout the universe, and their motive is simple: they want to breed. They just happen to require the bodies of living creatures to do so. As a result, you can take the Xenomorphs and cross them over with other characters without requiring a lot of backstory. They?ve met Batman, Superman, Green Lantern Kyle Rayner, Judge Dredd, Witchblade, and even the Terminator (although, surprisingly, not Robocop, despite that franchise crossing over with The Terminator).
Because of the inter-company crossover nature of those stories, they aren?t canon. Few stories of that stripe can be, apart from JLA/Avengers. The Stormwatch: Final Orbit trade contains another exception: the infamous WildC.A.T.S./Aliens, which will unfortunately not be reprinted in the upcoming Stormwatch: Vol. 2. But publishing rights aren?t the only reason why it won?t be in that volume. As it turns out, the Stormwatch team doesn?t really appear in WildC.A.T.S./Aliens at all. Only a few living members factor into it; the majority of the Stormwatch cast are slaughtered before the WildC.A.T.S. even arrive on Stormwatch?s orbital headquarters.
Warren Ellis famously used WildC.A.T.S./Aliens to change the entire Wildstorm status quo so that he could introduce The Authority. Under the aegis of Jackson King, the Weatherman, Stormwatch protected the Earth and beyond in a fairly standard superheroic manner. This kind of guardianship wouldn?t be conducive to the Authority?s antics, so they had to go; why not do it in the most gruesome and publicity-grabbing way possible? It helps that they got Chris Sprouse and Kevin Nowlan to draw the crossover. As much as I like Jim Lee, his slick style of art wouldn?t have worked for a mass-slaughtering horror story.
As for the WildC.A.T.S. themselves, I know about them mostly from their appearances in the New 52 titles and -- just to show my age -- their short-lived animated series. Mind you, I can?t really name any of them off-hand apart from Grifter and Maul. The WildC.A.T.S. may be the only team with two warriors wearing their hair in high-off-the-head ponytails. Zealot and Warblade are sometimes indistinguishable due to the dark coloring; I?m happy that they identified Zealot in this book very quickly, because otherwise I would have pegged her as Glory. The team was going through rough times during this story?s publication, so there?s a lot of arguing, with ex-lovers Grifter and Zealot doing the bulk of the sniping. They also have a manager patterned after Justice League International?s Oberon, which I didn?t remember the team having on the cartoon.
So if Stormwatch isn?t the focus of WildC.A.T.S./Aliens, then why is this a Stormwatch trade? Well, the trade includes issues #10 and 11 of Ellis? tenure on the title, which take place before and after the crossover one-shot. Wisely, the trade was designed to sandwich the one-shot between these two issues, so that you can read them in the proper order. I decided to do a little test: could I understand what happened to Stormwatch by reading just those issues without WildC.A.T.S./Aliens? You can certainly do that, but the end result is anti-climactic. The Xenomorphs aren?t shown in the Stormwatch issues; when their asteroid ship appears in issue #10, it?s at the end, so there?s a cliffhanger about what will happen with the heroes. In issue #11, the Stormwatch members are already dead and buried, and we?re not told the details of how; the WildC.A.T.S. aren?t even shown!
Going into this, I knew a little more about Stormwatch than I did about WildC.A.T.S., mostly because of The Authority and DC?s current Stormwatch ongoing. None of the killed-off members have made appearances in the New 52 as far as I can tell, since DC?s Stormwatch is essentially The Authority plus Jackson King and the Martian Manhunter. Honestly, reading these issues after reading The Authority really does feel like I?m taking a step backwards. The Stormwatch heroes are visually rather bland, and King?s struggles with funding just aren?t that interesting of a story. When the UN decommissions Stormwatch, it feels like what would have happened even if the Xenomorphs didn?t attack.
At the very end of Stormwatch: Final Orbit, Jenny Sparks, Swift, and Jack Hawksmoor come out of hiding and brutally attack recurring villain Henry Bendix. This is the true start of The Authority, especially because the art is by Bryan Hitch and Paul Neary. Parts of both issues were drawn by Michael Ryan, and his art is a little less detailed but still high-quality, but the final pages were by Hitch and Neary specifically to flow right from Stormwatch into The Authority.
There are many ways to clear out a comic book?s status quo, from dismissing members in conversation (like in Avengers: Avengers World) to just rebooting the universe entirely (like in Justice League: Origin). Warren Ellis would have likely killed off most of Stormwatch anyway, so the fact that he was able to use the Xenomorphs to do so is just a bonus. The presence of the WildC.A.T.S. is intrusive, and if it had been Stormwatch fighting for their lives against such a powerful threat versus just dying off-panel, then I think this would have been a much better story.
If you?re just a fan of Aliens, there?s not much here for you. That said, Ellis puts some good work into this crossover, aided by Sprouse and Hitch?s artwork. Since it might not be reprinted any time soon, if you?re a fan of The Authority, you can just pick up the one-shot if you can get it at your LCS. Alternately, since comiXology hosts most issues of WildC.A.T.S., there?s a possibility that WildC.A.T.S./Aliens might one day be put up there. Otherwise, Stormwatch: Final Orbit is a decent buy, cataloging the fall of early 1990s extreme comic books and the rise of the more mature era of the late '90s.
This post was syndicated from Collected Editions, the chronicles of a "wait-for-trade-er" -- the new breed of comic book book fans who forgo monthly "floppies" for trade paperbacks and collected editions -- reviews, commentaries, low price alerts, news, and the occasional scoop. Visit collectededitions.blogspot.com.
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