Since its early days as Jim Lee's art-driven wing of the Image Comics brand to its reinvention as a cutting edge superhero/sci-fi imprint of DC Comics, WildStorm Productions has made a name for itself by marrying mainstream sensibilities to big ideas that are uncommon in the superhero mainstream. And although the current economic climate has stung some of WildStorm's classic comics in the sales department, the publisher continues to introduce new and varied projects, from a growing line of successful TV and video game adaptations to a just-announced initiative into creator-owned titles.
At the center of the 'Storm stands the latest entrant into CBR's ongoing FROM THE EDITOR'S DESK series, Shannon Eric Denton, who describes his role in the company the same way many would describe the publishing line: "the best of both worlds."
Known throughout the industry for his long connection between the worlds of comics and animation, Denton joined WildStorm just over a year ago after stints on TV series like FOX's '90s run of Marvel Comics adaptations, freelance comics writing gigs at companies including IDW Publishing, and most recently a run as co-founder and publisher of the comics collective Komikwerks, which led to the creation of acclaimed animated series "World of Quest" on Kids' WB.
With so much independent work in his past, Denton looked forward to the environment provided by a major comics publisher like WildStorm. "It was just one of those things that happened at the right time. I've always been willing to give new things a stab, and this is something that I'd been interested in for a long time," the editor told CBR News, noting that an initial factor in his work with WildStorm was his ability to handle major media properties like NBC's "Chuck" and the classic sci-fi series "The X-Files."
"I would say I definitely have an aptitude for it because my day job in animation for years was where you're taking somebody else's project - a comic book or whatever - and you're adapting into the medium of animation and for TV," Denton explained. "When we worked on [Nickelodeon's] 'Jimmy Neutron,' the way we approached the feature had to be changed up from the way the TV show was done. So this is a whole new set of rules, but it's not a world I'm unfamiliar with, comics. I just apply those sorts of things into a 22-page format.
"When we started working with the FOX guys, one of the first things we did was go to the FOX lot. Having worked up there, I knew my way around and in talking with the licensor actually realized that we had worked together years before and had all these mutual friends. And in game stuff as well, a lot of what I've worked on has been L.A.-based, so a lot of the video game comics we're doing are with L.A.-based game companies."
Game license comics grew to be a big part of WildStorm over 2008, and this year Denton heads up two of the higher profile entries in the imprint's crossover efforts with "Prototype" by Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray and Darick Robertson -- which launched this week and is based on the upcoming Activision sandbox-style actioner -- and "Resident Evil," the best-selling CAPCOM zombie epic whose fifth installment gets expanded upon by comics newcomers Rick Sanchez and Kevin Sharpe.
"That's a creative team who may not be as established in terms of name recognition, but these guys are really good, and I'm really looking forward to getting them known," Denton said of the "Resident Evil" pair.
In outlining his goals for his corner of WildSstorm, Denton expressed intent to keep that recognition of new talent and new ideas in the forefront, especially when it comes to WildStorm's renewed focus on creator-owned comics. "I'm a big believer in creators getting to do their own thing, so I've been actively pursuing and getting projects set up with guys I've wanted to work with," Denton said.
His first round of said projects includes the tough guy sci-fi miniseries "Garrison" by Jeff Mariotte and Francesco Francavilla. "I think for most of us who work in this business where you get paid to work on somebody else's stuff, the sweetest gig is to get paid to work on your own stuff," Denton said. "That's one of those things that are fewer and far between so it's fun to be able to make that happen. I'm trying to make sure that the guys we're working with who are doing a great job working on stuff that they don't own have an opportunity to work with WildStorm where they do have a piece of it and it is a personal thing to get involved with. With the company stuff, everybody takes it pretty seriously and puts 100% effort into it, but it's always going to be different when it's your baby versus taking somebody else's project and trying to find a way to make it cool.
WildStorm's popularity exploded with work by writers like Alan Moore, Mark Millar, and Warren Ellis. The publisher's tradition of working with such luminary talents hasn't changed, as demonstrated by the success of "Ex Machina" by the team of Brian K. Vaughan ("Y: The Last man") and Tony Harris ("Starman"). "That's a great book and more so it's the kind of relationship we're good at fostering with creators that are allowed to do stuff that's quality," Denton explained
"And sometimes that creator-driven book works within the WildStorm Universe, and sometimes it doesn't. In the case of 'The Authority' and 'Planetary,' those characters may feel a bit more like you could see those guys crossing over with Gen13 or something, and then we've got stuff like 'Mysterius,' which is completely its own thing.
"On my end, I'm trying to make sure that the stuff I'm bringing in covers all those aspects I like whether they be horror comics or comedies or whatever. If you've got an idea and it's original, we can find a way to help the creator get it out there. We're going to pursue it."
While the majority of the new creator-owned WildStorm books hitting in 2009 will begin their lives as miniseries, Shannon Eric Denton hopes success will lead to longer stories for some of these genre-breaking passion projects. "I'd like to get to the point where I've got basically an 'Ex Machina' under my belt - to get a project off the ground that resonates with an audience and allows us to go to a long format, doing a monthly book," he said. "Obviously, in this economy it makes no sense to do a monthly book from the beginning if there's no audience there, but if there is an audience, I'd be very happy to find a way to develop a book that moves along those lines."
Rounding out Denton's multi-pronged take on WildStorm's line, the editor recently took the reins for two of the WildStorm Universe's cornerstone titles: "Stormwatch P.H.D." and "Gen13." Both series are hotly embroiled in the earth-shattering **World's End** narrative, which recast the WildStorm U as a post-apocalyptic wasteland, but while those story points have set each comic book on a definite course, Denton plans on helping series writers Ian Edginton and Scott Beatty bring their books back into a more unified WildStorm U.
"I'm a big WildStorm fan. I was reading the books before coming over here, so it's fun for me to go, 'Okay, how can we hurry up and get these guys talking to those guys and seeing a little bit more cohesiveness,'" Denton explained. "I think since the world blew up, each team respectively has been pursuing its own agenda, so we've been really focused on how they're dealing with the world they're in right now. We wanted the audience to be able to see their perspective on things. Now that the audience has gotten a little bit more familiar with the fact that the universe is the way it is and will be for the foreseeable future, we'll be able to have them starting interacting and expanding - moving around this world more and crossing over, if you want to call it that, with the other core titles. We'll be getting back to plot cohesion versus character development cohesion, which is where we're at right now."
With so many titles on his editorial plate, Denton could easily excuse the use of any and all free time for sleeping, but since his tenure with the WildStorm offices crossed over heavily with his previous solo gigs, the editor spends his nights overseeing the last bits and pieces of a multitude of projects. "I've been working 100% on WildStorm stuff, although I think I've got books coming out from other publishers throughout 2009," he admitted, noting the recently released "Graveslinger," which he co-wrote for IDW. "And I'm still attached to the 'World of Quest' animated series we set up as a producer. That's something that comes with selling a show and overseeing it for five years to get it to this point. So there are still other projects I'm involved with like movies I've set up at various studios, but my primary focus has beenis WildStorm and where it's going."
For more on Denton's work both inside and outside the WildStorm line, visit his website at and be sure to check back to CBR News for future installments of FROM THE EDITOR'S DESK!