WildStorm Productions, or simply WildStorm or Wildstorm, is a publishing imprint and studio of American comic book publisher DC Comics. WildStorm originated in 1992 as comics creator Jim Lee's personal company in the partnership making up Image Comics. After the sale to DC in 1999, Lee remained as Wildstorm's Editorial Director, a position he continues to hold. The Executive Editor is Scott Dunbier. The WildStorm imprint is editorially separate from its DC parent, with its main studio located on the West Coast of the United States.
Throughout most of its history the studio has published many comic book titles in continuity with each other -- the WildStorm Universe -- as well as a wide variety of non-universe titles such as Kurt Busiek's Astro City and Alan Moore's America's Best Comics line.
Beginning in September 2006, WildStorm will relaunch its Universe in light of the events of the Captain Atom: Armageddon miniseries (see below for more details).
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. The crossover was the swan song for the Wildstorms game though, as Marvel's merchandising clout was able to push Wildstorms out of the spotlight. Although the timing was right with their card game, they were too early by a year with a Pog game which used the Wildcats characters that they released in 1993.
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 The Maxx, Zero Girl and Four Women, and three of Warren Ellis' pop-comics mini-series, Mek, Red and Reload.
In 1997, Cliffhanger debuted a line of creator-owned comic books which included 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 successful comics of the Wildstorm Universe.
The DC years
Sales of comic books had been declining since 1993, and a few years after this Jim Lee started to look for a buyer which 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. DC's acquisition of WildStorm allowed the two universes to interact with each other, and characters from each would soon make appearances in each other's universe and books.
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 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 Cassaday's unique artwork.
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. 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.
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.
In 2004, Wildstorm revamped its system of sub-imprints. The company properties fell under Wildstorm Universe imprint, the creator-owned properties fell under Wildstorm Signature Series imprint and all the licensed properties fell under Wildstorm imprint.
In August 2006, the Wildstorm consolidated all its output under a single "Wildstorm" label without explanation, effectively abolishing the sub-imprint system altogether.
Captain Atom: Armageddon and the WorldStorm relaunch
In the spring and summer of 2006 WildStorm brought essentially all of its in-continuity titles to a close, with the exception of the Captain Atom: Armageddon miniseries. In this title, Captain Atom, a transplant from the DC Universe encounters most of the important characters in the WildStorm Universe. They determine that Atom's incursion into the WildStorm Universe has destabilized it and that he will eventually begin a chain reaction which will eventually destroy everyone and everything. But in issue #9, this process is subverted by Nikola Hanssen, the new host for the Void entity introduced in WildC.A.T.s #1. Although the universe is destroyed, Nikola/Void engineers a new Big Bang, and restarts/reboots the WildStorm Universe anew in a somewhat different form.
It is unclear exactly in what ways Nikola's new universe differs from the old (for example, in WildCATS #1, we're shown John Cumberland, The High, as a member of The Authority). So far, the most identifiable change is the resurrection of several WildStorm characters such as Deathblow, Grifter, and The Midnighter (the last two having met their demise in the Armageddon series itself). It is safe to assume, however, that the revamped universe is not as dark and arbitrary as its predecessor. Nikola explained to the original Jack Hawksmoor that in that universe, with The Authority established as a benevolent but nonetheless totalitarian regime and super-powered beings ignorant of the effects of their actions, it was impossible to live as a normal person -- too many terrible, uncontrollable things could happen at any moment.
Beginning in September 2006, WildStorm is relaunching its line of in-continuity comics from scratch with eight titles and a one-shot sourcebook under the WorldStorm banner. (The exceptions are the final issues of the ongoing Planetary title and the A Man Called Kev miniseries which can be assumed to apply to the pre-Armageddon continuity absent evidence to the contrary.) The WorldStorm refers to Nikola/Void's act of remaking the Universe, and does not appear to be an additional "event"; rather, the early WorldStorm issues are expected to establish the new status quo for each title.
WorldStorm relaunch publications
The new titles are listed below. Dates are subject to change.
- The Authority by Grant Morrison and Gene Ha, bimonthly.
- Gen¹³ by Gail Simone and Talent Caldwell.
- Deathblow by Brian Azzarello and Carlos D'Anda.
- WorldStorm #1, a one-shot with preview stories of the upcoming Tranquility and Stormwatch PHD plus source information on the relaunched Universe.
- Stormwatch: PHD (Post-Human Division), by Christos Gage and Doug Mahnke, about a group of mostly-new characters with the goal of allowing humans to take down superpowered threats.
- The Midnighter, by Garth Ennis and Chris Sprouse.
- Welcome to Tranquility, by Gail Simone and Neil Googe, an all-new title about a superhero retirement community.
- Captain Atom: Armageddon (by Will Pfeifer and Giuseppe Camuncoli, 192 pages, November 2006, ISBN 1-4012-1106-2)
2011 and the New 52
As of September 2011, with the New 52 relaunch event of the DC Universe, the DC Universe's New Earth, the Vertigo Universe and the Wildstorm universe have been merged into one single reality unoficially called the DCnU. Characters from the Wildstorm universe like Grifter, Midnighter and Apollo are now part of the DCnU.
Notable "Wildstorm Universe" publications
- WildC.A.T.s: Compendium TPB - Written by Brandon Choi and Jim Lee; art by Jim Lee and Scott Williams. Collecting issues #1-4 of WildC.A.T.s (volume 1).
- WildC.A.T.s.: A Gathering of Eagles TPB - Written by Chris Claremont; art by Jim Lee and Scott Williams. The classic story from WildC.A.T.s (volume 1) #10-12 that introduced Chris Claremont's Huntsman! When a Raksha spaceship crashes on Earth, it sets off a chain of events that involves the WildC.A.T.s, Alabaster Wu, the Troika, the beautiful and murderous Tapestry, Soldier, Savant, Majestic and the charismatic and dangerous Huntsman!
- WildC.A.T.s: Homecoming/Gang War - These two trade paperbacks feature the complete work of Alan Moore on WildC.A.T.s as well as much of Travis Charest's art. When the original WildC.A.T.s are lost and presumed dead, Zealot's sister, Savant, forms a new team with disastrous results. Meanwhile, the original team returns to their home planet of Khera and finds that it isn't what they thought it was. Homecoming collects issues #21-27 and Gang War reprints issues #28-34 of WildC.A.T.s (volume 1).
- StormWatch TPB Vol. 1-5 - These volumes feature Warren Ellis' original groundbreaking work on the series depicting a complex international peacekeeping force. It laid the groundwork, both thematically and intellectually, for the Authority.
- The Authority (Vol. 1) #1-29 - Written by Warren Ellis with art by Bryan Hitch (issues #1-12) then Mark Millar and Frank Quitely, et. al (with a brief subplot by Tom Peyer and Dustin Nguyen). The Authority told the stories of a small group of superheroes who took a proactive stance on saving the world.
- Wildcats 3.0 #1-24 - Written by Joe Casey with art by Dustin Nguyen, et al. Featured Spartan trying to better the world using benevolent business tactics.
- Coup D'etat TPB - Written by Ed Brubaker, Joe Casey, Robbie Morrison and Micah Wright; Art by Jim Lee, Carlos D'Anda, Alé Garza, Whilce Portacio, and various. Tao has tricked the U.S. government into committing an interdimensional atrocity, and only the Authority can save the planet! The crossover event that brought the WildStorm Universe to its knees is now available as a trade paperback that collects Coup D'état: The Authority, Coup D'état: Stormwatch, Coup D'état: Wildcats and Coup D'état: Sleeper. When The Authority decides to take control of the situation - and the world - their actions send out shock waves that shake the foundation of the WildStorm Universe. Can Stormwatch: Team Achilles and the Wildcats co-exist with the Authority under the new status quo?
- The Authority: Revolution Books 1-2 - Written by Ed Brubaker with art by Dustin Nguyen. After the events of the linewide crossover Coup D'etat, the Authority must deal with the political ramifications of ruling the United States of America. Collects The Authority: Revolution #1-6 (Book 1) and #7-12 (Book 2).
- Sleeper TPB Vol. 1-4 - Written by Ed Brubaker with art by Sean Phillips. Exploring the ramifications of a superpowered soldier becoming a sleeper agent infiltrating an international crime syndicate run by the world's most manipulative man.
- Team 7 #1-4 - Written by Chuck Dixon and Aaron Wiesenfeld. Team 7 are the nation's most elite soldiers. So what happens when they become a lab experiment intended to create psychic soldiers?
- Gen¹³ Collected Edition TPB - Written by Brandon Choi, Jim Lee, and J. Scott Campbell; art by J. Scott Campbell and Alex Garner. Collecting the entire 5-issue Gen¹³ mini-series. Aided by former Team Seven leader John Lynch, five teenagers with remarkable power must make their escape from the clutches of Ivana Baiul's array of killers from Internal Operations. NOTE: this volume is now available as Gen¹³: Who They Are and How They Came to Be TPB released in 2006.
- Gen¹³: Starting Over TPB - Written by Brandon Choi, J. Scott Campbell and Jim Lee; Art by J. Scott Campbell, Alex Garner, Jim Lee, and Scott Williams. Collecting issues #1-7 of Gen¹³ (volume 2). Under the leadership of their mentor Lynch, the super-powered teenagers of Gen¹³ live a life of fighting evil, saving the world, and partying hard. From the sunny shores of California to the exotic jungles of Coda Island, these five super-powered teenagers (Fairchild, Burnout, Freefall, Grunge, and Rainmaker) tour the world as they stay one step ahead of the covert organization that's out to get them. Even in the cobbled streets of Italy, the Gen-Active gang finds starting over isn't as easy as they thought! Employing strong characterization and wacky humor, this trade paperback presents the offbeat adventures of Gen¹³.
- Planetary TPB Vol. 1-3 - Written by Warren Ellis with art by John Cassaday. The secret history of the world which featured a Warren Ellis take on classic comic book superheroes and classic literary heroes.
- Deathblow: Sinners and Saints TPB - Written by Jim Lee and Brandon Choi; Art by Jim Lee and Tim Sale (artist). Collects Deathblow (volume 1) #1-12. While on a top-secret mission as part of an elite Cold War black ops team, Navy Seal Michael Cray was betrayed and exposed to a hazardous mutagen. Twenty years later with the exposure finally manifesting itself, the world's deadliest mercenary suddenly became a living weapon with extraordinary powers. Changing his ways and taking on the guise of Deathblow, Cray now looks to save his soul by becoming mankind's last hope of survival in an epic battle between good and evil. Standing alone against the Dark Angel and his four horsemen, Deathblow must find a way to protect the Holy Grail and the child of Light or bear witness to Armageddon.
- Wetworks: Rebirth TPB - Written by Brandon Choi & Whilce Portacio with art by Whilce Portacio & Scott Williams. Collecting issues #1-3 of the original Wetworks series. Dispatched on what was believed to be a mission to stop a group of nationalists from gaining access to a powerful biological warfare agent---members of Team 7 discover that they have been betrayed by their superiors at International Operations. After surviving the suicide mission and subsequent merging with a powerful symbiotic armor, the team goes rogue. Now pledging allegiance to industrialist Armand Waering, WetWorks uses their new-found powers to wage a secret battle against the Vampire Nation and other supernatural threats.