21st Century Superhero Comics Are Back with Wildstorm Comics

Originally published October 4th, 2016

Original link to work: http://comicsbulletin.com/21st-century-superheroes-back-wildstorm-comics/

In an announcement from DC Comics at Comicbook.com, the defunct Wildstorm Productions imprint will return in 2017 with visionary writer Warren Ellis at the helm. Ellis wrote notable series such as Stormwatch, The Authority, Planetary and Global Frequency for the imprint in the 90s and early 2000s. Many of these series, particularly The Authority and Planetary, are still cited by critics as revolutionary, continuing influences on comics published in the direct market.

Originally started by Jim Lee under the Image Comics umbrella in 1992, with the launch of WildC.A.T.S #1 in August of that year, Wildstorm was sold to DC Comics in 1999. Best known for superhero teams The Authority, Wildcats, and Gen13, the imprint also published subversive superhero series such as Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris’ Ex Machina as well as the first few issues of Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson’s The Boys. DC closed the imprint in 2010 due to poor sales.

The revelation that Ellis will head the new imprint has recognizable similarities to Gerard Way’s editorial leadership for DC’s new imprint Young Animal, which saw the launch of its first comic Doom Patrol #1 in September. With Young Animal’s intentional similarities to early Vertigo Comics superhero publications, we can expect an interesting form of vintage 90s comics with Wildstorm’s relaunch. Both imprints also feature a focus on inclusivity that their main publisher has demonstrated to varying results recently. While Young Animal has several female-written and female-led series planned, the Wildstorm relaunch includes a Zealot title as well as reintroductions of women like Voodoo, The Engineer, and Jenny Sparks.

In addition to bringing yours truly into comics criticism, Wildstorm Comics made superhero comics that are still read today. WildC.A.T.S was one of several superhero teams that influenced the industry’s aesthetic, as well as introduced lasting characters like Zealot and Voodoo. The Authority’s co-creator, Bryan Hitch, brought his widescreen style into the mainstream and many DC and Marvel comics you read today are indebted to him for it. The Authority (and its predecessor, Stormwatch) is also known for important female superheroes such as the aforementioned Jenny Sparks and The Engineer as well as Swift, along with two very important gay characters you have returned to popularity recently: Apollo and Midnighter.

Since it published comics in the 90s, Wildstorm benefitted from previous eras’ attempts at diversity as well as a world that had just begun to globalize. WildC.A.T.S. had not one, but two female characters that showed that women could have more than one personality and motivations as well as play different roles. By the end of its run, The Authority’s white characters were outnumbered 3 to 4 with The Doctor (Palestinian), Swift (Tibetan), The Engineer (Mexican-American), and Jenny Quantum (Singaporean). The straight characters might have been outnumbered too, with suggestions that Swift and Jenny were bisexual.

Although it’s unconfirmed whether all of these characters’ heritages and sexualities will be acknowledged (here’s hoping), Wildstorm’s return can be seen as not only a win for the superhero genre, but for diverse audiences as well. When first reading comics, I never saw myself in a Marvel book, but I sure as hell found myself in Zealot and The Authority. Also, unlike the black and white morality DC and Marvel’s universes tend to lean toward, the Wildstorm Universe allowed its characters to have display amoral attitudes and flaws. You don’t have to be white or male to be recognized as a full person with strength in a Wildstorm book.

With this announcement, DC signifies that it’s ready to take the next step to meet current and potential readership in 2017. Buckle up; it’s going to be quite a ride.

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