CCI: WildStorm

A panel that started with WildStorm founder Jim Lee 's traditional cookie distribution ended after several announcements about new creative teams on the WildStorm Universe books, as well as some news on the creator-owned front from writer Kurt Busiek.

WildStorm, based just outside San Diego in La Jolla, CA, played the home court advantage at Comic-Con International last Saturday when they packed the stage with writers, artists and editors. WildStorm VP Hank Kanalz kicked off the panel by answering a question he was no doubt asked dozens of times at the convention - and no doubt thousands of times over the last few years - "Planetary #27" will arrive in stores in October, wrapping up the popular series by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday.

"Years and years in the making, it is worth the wait," Kanalz said, adding that WildStorm will follow up the comic with collected editions and Absolute editions as well. He encouraged fans who want WildStorm to go back to press on the first "Absolute Planetary" to tell their retailers or email WS directly.

Kanalz also announced a new "Welcome to Tranquility" miniseries. Gail Simone will return to the title, which is set in the WildStorm Universe, with artist Horacio Domingues. The miniseries is subtitled "One Foot In The Grave" and picks up immediately after the last series. Neil Googe, who drew the first series, will produce the cover artwork.

Speaking of the WildStorm Universe, the panel included the official announcements of several creative team changes on their core books. With issue #13, "WildCats" writer Christos Gage said he plans to feature a six-issue storyline where Team 7 and the WildCats team-up against a cosmic-powered Tao, the villain from "Sleeper." He said to also look for the return of Max Faraday from the "Divine Right" series.

Beginning with issue #19, writer Adam Beechen and artist Tim Seeley will take over "WildCats." "As soon as I take over, there's going to be gigantic battles that are going to be happening as result of storylines coming out of several books in the WildStorm Universe," Beechen said. "We have splash pages of utter chaos galore happening. Basically this is the biggest team-up book you've ever seen." The writer said that about 60 characters from the WildStorm Universe will appear in the title during his first year, as they try to put the Earth back together after the events of "Number of the Beast" and "World's End."

"The Highwaymen" writing team of Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman will write "The Authority" beginning with issue #17, with artist Al Barrionuevo joining them the next month. "I think lots of comic fans go through what we did, in that we had this transitional period between when we fell out of comics for a little bit, when they got too expensive and the X-Men went fucknuts and they got all crazy," Bernardin said. "The first book that we read, or at least that I read, when we came back was 'Stormwatch,' and we fell in love with the stuff that Warren [Ellis] was doing on the book."

He added, "The fact that we get to play with his toys makes me giddy with excitement."

Freeman went on to describe their first story arc, which involves the Carrier being recalled by whomever created it. "All the heroes, the 60-plus or so in the universe, have a mere hour or two to decide, 'Am I going to get onto this life raft that's leaving and hopefully find the salvation of the Earth elsewhere, or am I going to stay behind and try to salvage what's here?' So all the heroes in the WildStorm Universe have a very difficult decisions to make."

"Basically what happened was that these guys got to cherry pick who they wanted," Beechen joked. "Everybody else is in 'WildCats.' We had a draft. I got the ninth pick."

Writer Phil Hester and artist Cruddie Torian will chronicle the adventures of "Gen13" starting with issue #33. "Much like The Authority and WildCats, it's a combination of the classic characters and some new characters from well-know teams not normally associated with Gen13," Peterson said.

Fans wondering what would have happened in Grant Morrison and Gene Ha's aborted 2006 run on "The Authority" will get the chance to see that story wrapped up. Kanalz said writer Keith Giffen and editor Scott Peterson "went dumpster diving" for Morrison's original outline for the rest of the series and will wrap up the story Morrison had planned. The first two issues will be re-released, and each of Giffen's issues will feature a different artist, starting with Darick Robertson and Trevor Scott. Ha will provide covers.

"Since Grant and Keith had work together so well on '52' and really formed a good working relationship that way, Grant was very happy that Keith was going to be able to bring this to fruition," said Peterson. He added that the story would revolve around the Authority trying to get back home as they drift from reality to reality while lost in the Bleed.

As announced on CBR earlier this month, Brian Wood and Rebekah Isaacs will bring DV8 back to WildStorm with a new eight-issue miniseries tentatively set to start next April. "If you already read my work, this will fit in very, very well with everything else I've done, even though I don't usually write superhero books," Wood said.

Isaacs said she got the job through Will Dennis, Wood's editor at Vertigo for "DMZ" and "Northlanders." "From what Brian tells me, he went in looking for a relatively new female artist to work with, and will had some of my work laying around, and he really liked it. I got a Facebook friend request, and that was it."

While the WildStorm Universe books are receiving a bit of a creative team makeover, the company also had news from their creator-driven line. About "Ex Machina," Kanalz said, "I weep every time I think that this is going to be ending with issue #50 next year." Kanalz confirmed WS will continue with the deluxe "Ex Machina" editions, and the next one will be out in December.

Writer Kurt Busiek had two announcements at the panel - first, "Astro City" is not only back, but it's going to be on a monthly schedule next year. "We were monthly for the first five issues in 1995," Busiek said. "We've been monthly for as many as four issues in a row at times after that, but the series kind of went off the rails when I got sick."

He said his experience with the weekly DC series "Trinity" taught him that his health is back to a point where he can handle a book like "Astro City" again on a monthly basis. "Not weekly, he joked. "Sorry."

Once the third "The Dark Age" series wraps up, WildStorm will publish a two-issue series focused on the character Astra, of the First Family, as she graduates from high school. After that, WS plans to publish book four of "The Dark Age," followed by a character special on The Silver Agent. Issue #23 of the monthly series will come out after that. Expect stories about the Honor Guard, Winged Victory, the N-forcer program and something involving a talking gorilla, Busiek said.

Brent Anderson will continue to draw the interiors, noting that he recently discovered the computer. "I'm going digital this summer," he said. "I think that's the way to keep the high quality of 'Astro City's' art up and enable me to produce a monthly book. I'm really looking forward to it." Alex Ross will continue to provide the covers.

Busiek will also be writing a new series called "Kurt Busiek's American Gothic," with art by Connor Willumsen. "We were going to call it 'Bill Willingham's American Gothic,' but there were some trademark problems," he joked. Busiek said the book was hard to describe, noting he had a hard time describing 'Marvels' and 'Astro City' as well, "so we're in good company to start with."

The writer continued, "It's a fantasy series set in the United States. It's contemporary fantasy, urban fantasy, historical fantasy." Some of the possible stories Busiek described included the tale of a long-haul trucker, who was on the road when his wife died, getting the chance to drive her on to her final reward; the story of a girl in Rhode Island who discovers Thor is living in exile on a nearby island; and the story of a washed up cooking host searching for the perfect burger, who ends up in the borderlands of hell. "You can understand why it's a little difficult to describe."

Busiek said "American Gothic" will have some reoccurring characters, but like in "Astro City," none of them are the lead characters.

Other creator-driven titles mentioned at the WildStorm panel included:

  • "Garrison" by Jeff Mariotte and Francesco Francavilla, announced earlier this year. "'Garrison' is a semi-futuristic, very near future crazy, crazy action adventure series," Mariotte said. "It will be good looking, and it will come out on time," Francavilla added.
  • "Killapalooza," which Beechen described as "Behind the Music with super powers."
  • "North 40," the six-issue series by Fiona Staples and Aaron Williams, a Lovercraftian horror mini-series set in a Midwest small town.
  • "Red Herring," a humor conspiracy book by David Tischman and artist Phillip Bond. Tischman described it as "'X-Files' meets 'The Daily Show.'"
  • "Sparta U.S.A." by David Lapham and Johnny Timmons, a "magical mystery story" of a small town where "football, family and assassination are practiced and taught with great enthusiasm," Kanalz said. The series will run six issues.

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