Looking back at the beginnings of Image Comics, one title that always had a fan favorite status was “Wetworks,” the brainchild of While Portacio, and the artist is bringing it back to DC/Wildstorm in 2004 with writer Mike Carey. But if you’re still scratching your head about the series or have questions beyond what Carey told CBR News recently, CBR caught up with the prolific writer to get some more details. The new series was officially announced at the Las Vegas Comic Con this weekend.
The most obvious question is of course, the most simple: what the heck is “Wetworks?”
“It’s about a world in which humanity shares the world it lives in with a number of much older races – the night tribes – who are based on the human template but have very different lives and cultures: we’re talking here about vampires, werewolves, and other beings that we don’t even have myths about,” explains Carey.
“And since these creatures are just stories to most people, inevitably the few who do know about their existence carry a heavy burden – the burden of monitoring their activities and protecting the rest of the unsuspecting human race from their depredations. The original Wetworks team existed at that interface: they knew about the night tribes and in some ways they were intimately involved with them, but a large part of their (unofficial) role was policing and containing them.”
With that premise propelling the series forward, Carey promises the series will feature an interesting line-up of characters, both new and old. “We’ve got a number of characters coming back from the book’s original run. Jackson Dane, the original team leader, returns from the shadows and from his own personal projects to head up this new Wetworks team. Two of the strongest female characters from the first run, the cyborg Mother One and the vampire Persephone, will also be along for the ride – beyond that, we’re keeping our mouths shut about the old team members. Then we’ve got some new characters. A guy named Ashe who’s a werewolf with a very bizarre twist – and a very scary bugger, Ab-Death, who’s very hard to describe. Let’s just say that he’s an amphibian – only it’s not air and water that he’s equally able to cope with, it’s life and death.”
Those who know Carey well will likely say this series fits him well not because of his epic storytelling in “Lucifer” or the horror series “Hellblazer,” but because of his love of “Buffy: The Vampire Slayer,” a television series that helped bring vampires and werewolves to the forefront of pop culture. Just don’t ask him if “Buffy” influenced his take on this series. “Well, it was Bu… Oh. Sorry,” laughs Carey. “I think Whilce was always going to come back to the Wetworks universe and mine some more of the potential of those concepts. What I brought to the table was a twisted little story about another world where the relationship between humanity and the night tribes has developed along different lines. Jim Lee realized at some point that this story could be told really effectively from within the Wetworks framework – so he hooked Whilce and me up, and we realized that we were very much on the same wavelength.”
That all said, don’t worry about Carey changing things too much from went on before- he’s a fan of the original series and it had a flavor that he’d like to retain. “The original ‘Wetworks’ was at its best when it stayed true to its own core concepts – and that’s what we’re returning to. That’s not to say that we’re going to be entangled in existing continuity – we’re not. We’re starting from square one, assuming no prior knowledge, taking a new team through new storylines in a new context. But we’re going back to the unique fusion of horror, sci-fi and mainstream superhero stuff that made ‘Wetworks’ such a blast when it started. It’s a territory that’s not much used for storytelling – I think because horror depends on what’s undefined, shadowy, formless, while superheroics have tended to be done in primary colours under the big spotlights. We’re operating in the twilight world in between, and looking both ways.
“Old-time fans will recognise some of these characters, and will pick up on a lot of grace notes in the early story arcs. But we’re writing with a view to making everything work perfectly for first-time readers. You won’t even have needed to read the ‘Coup D’Etat’ miniseries that we spin out of: we’ll be standing on our own two (four?) feet from the start.”
Considering that “Wetworks” is often regarded as the While Portacio series, it might not be so easy to tackle someone else’s baby and Carey admits some trepidation in approaching the project. “A little, yeah. But I’m used to rummaging around in other people’s toyboxes. Apart from the ‘Frankie’ miniseries, all the stuff I’m known for is stuff where I’ve come in and worked with characters and ideas that other great creators have set up. So I’m obviously concerned to make sure that everything I do fits in with the way Whilce sees his characters and their development – but I think I’ve got a good track record with that kind of operation [smiles].”
But Carey’s not only a fan of “Wetworks”- he’s a fan of Portacio himself. “Whilce is great at creating character, and at striking out sideways from the cliches and the safe options of the genres he works in. His work is always individual, never generic. And I love the way he’s always prepared to experiment with visual storytelling – to adapt his style to the demands of the story, rather than bending everything to fit a pre-existing model.”
Without going into too much detail and spoiling too much, Carey reveals cryptically what to expect from the first arc of the series and what not to expect. “There’ll be little or no recapping. This is about the new team being formed to deal with a very specific crisis, and then realizing that there’s a much bigger crisis behind it that could render them completely powerless and obsolete.
“I don’t want to go into too much detail about what’s at stake – but one of the main plot threads concerns the discovery that there’s another world in which vampires, werewolves and humans have been obliged to co-exist. But none of the races of this world are quite the same as their Earthly counterparts – and when the two worlds touch, and a few individuals cross over, there’s the potential for a bloody, cataclysmic, ultimately fatal culture clash.
“Against this backdrop, Dane tries to forge a group of very individually-minded warriors into something resembling a team. He’s got reasons of his own for wanting them to succeed, which aren’t at all the same as the motives of the people who brought the team together – but unlike the original Wetworks team, these aren’t people who’ve lived together and trained together and learned to trust each other. In many ways, trust is impossible between them. So what do you use instead of trust to bind the team together?”
Maybe you like the pitch and you’re thinking, “Oh, I’ll wait for the tradepaperback,” because some of your favorite comics feel “padded,” as though they’re being prepped for trade paperback. Well, one look at Carey’s comic work and you’ll know why fans flock to his work and critics rave about his work, with Carey himself adding, “I don’t pad. Look at anything I’ve ever written. The one thing I never do is write with one eye on the trade collection, thinking ‘okay, now how do we get to *that* sort of page count?’
“I can promise a bang/buck ratio of at least seven point eight three.”
Being that this is a mature readers series and deals with horror, one might be curious as to how graphic the series will be visually. “I’m going to let Whilce field that one. But I will say that we’re going to use all of the latitude that being a ‘mature readers’ title gives us.”
If you’re already a Mike Carey readers, perhaps you’re asking “How is this different from ‘Lucifer’ or his proposed ‘Firestorm’ series?” and Carey, as usual with the friendly writer across the river, is happy to answer. “I guess it’s not like ‘Lucifer’ or ‘Firestorm’ because one of the basic premises of the book is kind of ‘what if ‘Lucifer’ *met* ‘Firestorm?” Okay, let me back off from that statement at warp nine. What I mean is that this series exploits the tensions between different genres – between the expectations that we have of horror and the expectations that we have of superhero books. It’s going to be more plot-driven than my Vertigo stuff, and a lot darker and edgier than Firestorm would have been.”
In the end, Carey has one word to define what readers should expect from the series:
“Surprises,” he says, disappearing into thin air with a spunky redhead.