THE TOP SEVEN WILDSTORM COMICS

So, DC announces their imprint, WILDSTORM COMICS, is pulling up stakes and going quietly into that good night.  That’s too bad.  We’re told it’s part of a streamlining of DC’s business machine as it moves into the west coast movie industry, but it’s still a failure if the books ain’t selling enough to keep ‘em going.

“So long, Wildstorm“.  We can’t say we hardly knew ye, as you were here for quite a while, and you left an impression.  Sure, you stole every character you had, some of it bordering on criminal, but happily quite a bit of what Wildstorm did was quite good.  And since I’m in a good mood, we’ll leave the mistakes behind for today and focus on…

THE TOP SEVEN WILDSTORM COMIC BOOKS OF ALL TIME

7. WildC.A.T.S.

Trust us, this is nothing like the X-Men. For instance, the dwarf is smoking, and the guy with claw hands is taller.

This is not on the list for the characters or the premise, certainly, as that all sucked.  And it’s not for the entire run, obviously, because most of it sucked, and that’s primarily because the characters and the premise sucked.  But there were moments in that series where the craft of its creators was so high, that you had to sit back and marvel at how GOOD and fun comics could be when done right.  During the Alan Moore run (illustrated by Travis Charest, amongst others), or during the Travis Charest run, (written by Alan Moore, amongst others), WildC.A.T.S. was big and sexy and delightful and the PERFECT little pocket of escape from the world.

I'll bet these comics are pretty good. Kind of like the X-Men, only with better writing.

Okay, it WAS the X-MEN with a dwarf where the bald cripple was supposed to be, but it had NONE of that eighty-five year back-story to remember while the leaping and punching went on.   And let’s never take it away from the Jim Lee-illustrated issues – consistently the best Jim Lee ever looked. I usually like Jim Lee art, but I LOVE Jim Lee WildCATS art.

All so pretty. And that's not the Hulk back there. Or Superman in a white cape.

-

6. Danger Girl

If you’re a boy, and you like naked chicks with guns, or if you’re a girl, and you like other girls to be naked, and carry guns, than this was your comic.  To be fair, there were times that the characters would hang-glide in a bikini with guns, or sneak into a museum wearing a leather cat-suit, while carrying guns, but I think you get the idea.

I imagine you can see the appeal of this title, no?

It was the comic book version of Charlie’s Angels, only with more naked girls, and probably more guns.  J. Scott Campbell’s delightful sequel to Gen13, and more innocently fun, somehow, even with all the bums and guns.  It’s says it’s for adults, but it’s really for the trapped teenager in all of us.

5.  Midnighter

Come on, you love him too! And he's nothing like Batman.

Without question, Wildstorm’s single best character.  He’s gay Dark Claw, and as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I couldn’t get enough of him.  Apparently, I’ve gotten all I’m gonna get.  He’d be on this list  just for his starring role in The Authority, but his solo series started strong, stayed strong, and even petered out strong.  I don’t want to give away the punch line to the time travel story arc that starts it, but it may be my favorite time travel comic story of the last twenty years.   Created by Warren Ellis and Brian Hitch in their stellar run on the otherwise not stellar Stormwatch, Midnighter is too good a character to lose.

4.  Ex Machina

In every way, shape and form, comics for adults, and by that I don’t mean that it was another parade of tits and swords like Danger Girl was.  Instead it was a mixture between a super-hero potboiler and a complex soap opera about municipal politics.  Something that only an adult would get, or be interested in, no matter how many jet packs or talking evil robots show up on the cover, it was just for us aging fanboys.  Indescribably odd, but entertaining as hell.
Written by Brian K. Vaughn, and drawn by the lovely Tony Harris.

3.Planetary

NOTE: Doc Savage is not on this cover. Nowhere on this cover.

The three step formula for this series was quite simple:  Every issue Warren Ellis and John Cassaday would
a)  Re-imagine a beloved old character (such as Doc Savage, Godzilla, The JLA, etc) and then…

b)   Beat them to death.

c)  Then the three weirdest “investigators” in the world would show up and do astoundingly weird things, and they would find out what happened.

That's also not Doc Savage in the logo, upper left.

Eventually it turned out, it was all part of one big weird plot featuring the “fourth man” and the “secret history” of the world, and it was all cool as hell while it was going on, especially Elijah Snow.

The series itself died and was resurrected years later, more alive than before.  And though it wasn’t his very first gig, it was the gig that gave the world a semi-regular visit with John Cassaday, for which we all owe Wildstorm a thank-you.

2. Authority

This is where All-Star Superman grew its balls. And that's not Batman, or Superman or anyone like the Justice League anywhere in this image.

An exploration of the theme of the benign, but fascist super-hero, first played with in Alan Moore’s Marvelman – I mean Miracleman – no, I mean Marvelman.  But rather than feeling like a re-hash, AUTHORITY featured such a line-up of top flight creators for so much of its run (Warren Ellis, Brian Hitch, Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, Glen Fabry, Gene Ha, Mark Millar and more) that it had no choice but to be interesting.  My favorite characters were Midnighter and Apollo, but Hawksmoor, Jenny Sparks, The Doctor, maybe even Kev…all running a tight, close second…..  I understand the series started welcoming members of the WildCATS and GEN13 on board as sales lagged, but the first decade of the AUTHORITY was, as we said back then…da bomb!

1.  Astro City

That's not Superman on the sign, and he's not talking to Wonder Woman. What IS it with you people, seeing things that aren't there?

Kurt Busiek’s and Brent Anderson’s love letter to everything we live and breathe about comic book heroes.  I think this is the series that started the trend of “sampling” characters from other companies with a boldness that bordered on plagiarism.

The Thing, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, Superman...none of those characters are in this drawing, seriously. You'll never find them.

It wasn’t hard to figure out the disguises that Kurt and Brent, and cover artist Alex Ross, put on Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and The Fantastic Four, but that was entirely the point of the fun.  This was ALL one crazy What-if-Elsworlds-Imaginary story that we got to play in, and it was always, always, always a treat to visit.

ASTRO CITY started as an Image Comic, then it became part of the Homage Comics line, which was absorbed into the Wildstorm line, which is now being cancelled.  Astro City will survive this.   There will always be a place for this book with fans, no matter how many publishers it leaves in a smoking ruin.

Honorable mentions:

Sleeper: Too tied into Wildstorm Universe continuity to be truly compelling, but Ed Brubaker’s scripts and Sean Phillips’ art were too good to dismiss.  I read them in spite of myself.

Arrowsmith: World War One fought with Harry Potter magic, with doughboys riding dragons, fighting goblins, and getting covered in mud in a trench.  Like Fables with way more explosions.  By Kurt Busiek and Carlos Pacheco.

GEN 13: The Horny X-Men.  J. Scott Campbell, Adam Hughes…all so pretty and meaningless, but fun and silly when you just want a snack.

TY THE GUY OUT!

Here now, your comic book moment of zen:

17 responses to “THE TOP SEVEN WILDSTORM COMICS

  1. Gen13 was one of those mainstream released series that really went into new territory with the storyline. It was not earth-shattering in any way, but still a big deal that any “large-ish” publishing house would release a comic book with such storylines to the general public.

    Wildstorm will be missed.

    Cheers!

    Steven G. Willis
    XOWComics.com

  2. Mr. Templeton, the entire existence of the Wildstorm Univers would’ve been justified just for the chance of reading this list – The “beat them to death” line in the Planetary entry made laugh out loud here at the office. Thank you not only for a throughly entertaining read, but for reminding us of such great comics!

    Alan Moore’s run on Wild Cats was truly astounding (who’d thought a book about a bunch of X-Men knock-offs would delve into discrimination issues so much better than the X-Men themselves?); Planetary and Ex Machina are BRILLIANT, and the first arc on the Midnighter book would’ve been worth the price of admission for the beautiful Chris Srouse art alone.

    Best,
    J.

    P.S.: OMG, I still own that Wild C.A.T.S. Adventures book! I’m kinda embarassed now.

    • Glad you liked it.
      PS: Just so you know, I DREW that issue of WildCATS Adventures, and a few others. Don’t be embarrassed that you still own it, be embarrassed that you’re embarrassed about it. :) Just kidding.
      Love Ty

      • Oh, man, that sounded awful, didn’t it?! Sorry, didn’t mean to come off as such an ass-hole.
        And, yeah, I knew you drew it, Mr. Templeton – It’s that I remember the actual cartoon being really bad, but at the time I was 17 and buying anything Image, so the embarassment has a lot to do with that.

        Anyway, I’ll be sitting in the corner now, trying to get my foot outta my mouth. ;)

        Best,
        J.

  3. Thanks for the very kind words, sir!

    And hey, I still own that WildCATS Adventures book, too.

    kdb

    • When I first conceived of this list, lo, some forty minutes before I posted it, I started by typing “#1- ASTRO CITY” and then began thinking of who would by vying for the next six spots. That position was never in doubt. I’ve been a fan since Samaritan first started having trouble sleeping. FULL DISCLOSURE: Kurt was gracious enough to let me play in Astro City once, illustrating a Who’s Who entry for the All American. It was an honor to visit.

      • I don’t think I’m the only one who read this and thought that it would be awesome if Kurt wrote an Astro City special where it focuses on the development of an Honor Guard animated series, and Ty draws the animated sequences. I can’t be.

      • >> FULL DISCLOSURE: Kurt was gracious enough to let me play in Astro City once, illustrating a Who’s Who entry for the All American.>>

        And Slugger!

        kdb

  4. I agree re: ASTRO CITY. It’s still one of my favorite books and I anxiously await news of it’s future. I am, understandably, optimistic.

    I came in late to the EX MACHINA party. I have a complete set of the trades and am eager to snap up the last one. What a great comic! Can’t wait to see how it ends (even though I don’t want it to).

  5. A great list, although I think I might have taken Gen13 over Danger Girl, if only because the former came out when I was in high school and, thus, it’s target audience, and the latter came out well after.
    As much as I enjoyed Moore’s run on Wildcats, I might actually prefer the Casey/Phillips stretch (and the Casey/Nguyen run after that).

    • I found the Casey/Phillips stuff (when it was very very moody and spy-like and tense) tasted wrong. You may have dug it, but it was far enough away from “my” version of the Wildcats that I had trouble liking it. I’ve still got all the issues, and I’ll give it another try some day, but I kinda liked the big colourful clearly-trying-to-be-the-X-Men versions of the characters, where stuff blows up and aliens are everywhere. The 3.0 Wildcats seemed odd.

  6. Generally agree (like you care!), but thought SLEEPER eschewed the Wildstorm continuity enough while using the Wildstorm characters in roles so familiar to fans of the intermingled genres that you didn’t need to know anything about their past.

    I’d probably bump Midnighter for it — I liked how that started, but got disinterested quickly.

    • Ah, I threw Sleeper a bone, that’s all it’s getting. Ed Brubaker gets enough love from this and every other internet columnist from here to Olympus, and he deserves it, but I found the continuity slogging a little hard going in the first few issues of Sleeper. Your mileage may vary. And, you’re right, Midnighter petered out, as I mentioned. But I stuck it out til the end. The journey through America stuff was wrong headed, but the issues still read fun. And Midnighter’s general run through Wildstorm over the last sixteen years was what was in question, so he ain’t budging from that list, my friend.

  7. You know, when I was younger, I really liked Gen13. Then I got older and got embarrassed that I liked Gen13. Then I got older still and you know what, screw it, I liked Gen13. Sure, it was cheesecakey adolescent pandering, but it was really really fun cheesecakey adolescent pandering.

    • Oooh, you ALMOST quoted Wildstorm’s motto…which actually was “really fun cheesecakey adolescent pandering, with brains”. What MORE do ya want from a comics company?

  8. Pingback: Speed Reading « Speed Force

  9. Sounds like 75% plagiarism! Basically why I liked the pretty pitchers in Astro City but not the characters or backstories.

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