They used to be a big deal, right? I’m not missremembering. If that’s the case, then why is it that it took this review to reminded me they still published comics under that banner, much less tell me they’d blown up the world?
Wildstorm’s had a rough patch of it since– hell, the bottom fell out of the Image Revolution, you could probably argue successfully. But at least since the Eye of the Storm line of Mature Reader’s superhero books failed so miserably. That seems to be when the slide started.
It had the unintended consequence of being Ed Brubaker’s stepping stone to mainstream superhero comics (i.e. Marvel) stardom and gave he and Sean Phillips a vehicle in Sleeper to develop the chemistry that makes Criminal such a great comic, but the actual line went down in flames completely. Hell, Sleeper at least got an ending; Joe Casey’s WildCATs (which is completely overrated by the 12 people who liked it and were really vociferous about it on the ‘net, from the small sample size I’ve read), Micah Ian Wright’s Stormwatch (which died off right around the same time Wright’s career did, due to phoniness), and even the tits and innards relaunch of Wildstorm’s flagship book, the Authroity, all died off in around two years.
After they stopped trying to be the Vertigo of superhero publishers (which was really just an extension of having guys like Warren Ellis and Alan Moore act as their architects after Jim Lee put down his pen and ink to become management and ocassionally draw Batman), there was the most recent failed revamp. That amounted to putting the biggest name writers they could rope in to it on their franchise books and letting them do whatever they wanted.
Admirable idea, but the execution fell apart, and a lot of the blame at least involves the Scottish Godhead this site blindly adores. Morrison’s “runs” on WildCATs and the Authority, both went exactly two issues, if I remember correctly. I think I may be overestimating his WildCATs run, even. Of course, some of that has to be because they paired him with Gene Ha and Jim Lee, two guys not known for speedy output, but I have to imagine that Morrison being involved in more important projects like 52, Batman and Final Crisis had as much if not more to do with the fact they decided it was better to bomb their biggest series to the Stone Age instead of waiting for Ol’ Scotty McTrippypants to come back.
That’s the rub, though. It’s very obvious that Wildstorm’s not a priority anymore, including the comics reading public. I think the main reason for that, beyond superhero fandom more or less rejecting anything not involving icons, is that the edgy, forward thinking superhero comics that Wildstorm used to represent have become commonplace. When Marvel and DC are trying so hard to shake up their status quos that things like Civil War happen and beloved franchise characters like the Martain Manhunter die so often it ceases to draw a reaction (no matter what Morrison intended for us to read in to his dispassionate murder in FC), who needs Wildstorm?
Also, Wildstorm was really the first superhero publisher I can think of that caught on to the fact that creators are often bigger draws than chracters, especially when your roster consists of analogues like Midnighter and Apollo and ill defined characters like Zealot (she’s hot and has swords!) and Grifter (he has two guns and an really uncomfortable mask!) A lot of the guys that brought people in to the Wildstorm Universe based on their work, from Millar to Brubaker to Ellis, have moved on to the mainstream superbooks. The guys writing the books now are all solid genre writers, and Christos Gage is someone whose name I see come up a lot on the ‘net, but none of them will sell books on name value. Of course, neither did Brubaker when Sleeper was the Arrested Development of noir superhero hybrid comics.
In that review I linked to up top, Paul O’Brian said he doesn’t think the WSU will recover from this, citing other dead superverses that tried to use the apocalypse to reinvigorate their lines and realized that there’s not any particular place to go after the end of the world. I can see why he’d say that, but I’m not entirely sure this is it for these generic, derivative characters. I have a feeling that as long as Jim Lee’s in editorial at DC, the Wildstorm characters will keep being relaunched. Whether they’ll ever be able to break out of this cycle of reluanch, failure, and slash and burn in to another relaunch, I have no idea.
Signs point towards no, from what I can see, but maybe they’ll be able to find the next Warren Ellis or two and use them to boost their profile, making them the thinking man’s superhero line again. or maybe even go way back to their roots and go back to churning out artist driven comics scripted by the coffee boy that sell a ton but are terrible. Or hell, maybe they’ll let Bryan Lee O’Malley and Adam Warren team up to do the best Gen13 ever and make me happy (and I guess Chris Butcher, too), even if it would mean nothing in the grand scheme of things. Well, nothing except a ton of awesomeness, but still.
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