Mapping the Wildstorm Universe: Gen13

Throughout December, CBR has been taking a look at the various titles that make up the modern Wildstorm Universe -- or at least what's left of it. The events of Scott Beatty and Chris Sprouse's "Number of the Beast" miniseries wrapped with Wildstorm Golden Age stand-in hero The High exploding a number of government-created clones of himself above earth's atmosphere. The resulting nuclear fallout decimated the earth's population, scorched the planet's surface and threw the planet off its rotation. Needless to say, things won't be going back to how they were before.

CBR News spoke previously with writers Dan Abmnett & Andy Lanning about "The Authority," and we now turn our attentions to "Gen13."

So the world is over. That's no reason to lose your sense of humor, is it?

Such is the lesson taught by Scott Beatty and Mike Huddleston in the pages of Wildstorm's "Gen13." Since the devastating events of the publisher's "Number of the Beast," Caitlin Fairchild and the superpowered kids of I/O have been exercising their trademark goofball attitudes in the face of a nuked New York, legions of powers-hating cultists and, most recently, a team of mall hanging monsters.

If the mix of "Escape From New York"-style trappings and "Superbad"-inspired characters doesn't serve as hook enough for the monthly series whose 25th issue just hit comic shops last week, consider the fact that series writer Beatty served as authorial mastermind for the event that placed Grunge, Freefall and the rest of the misfit crew in an end-of-times scenario -- whether they wanted it or not.

"I think what appealed to me most about taking on 'Gen13' is that even though I have a fairly intimate knowledge of how the world 'ended,' I would now be experiencing it through a group of characters who actually missed out on all the fireworks," Beatty told CBR of the cast, who spent the world-ending events of "Number of the Beast" trapped in between teleportation jumps. "The kids couldn't beless prepared for what happened, and they're forced to hit the ground running six months after the finale of 'NOTB,' so their views of this post-apocalyptic world are defined by a great deal of shock and awe, not to mention a measure of disbelief, all rendered perfectly by my artistic collaborator Mike Huddleston."

But just because Gen13 didn't know about (and haven't quite come to grips with) the world ending doesn't mean they're unprepared for the apocalypse, as the opening issues of the World's End iteration have proven. "The Gen-Factor has a latent 'survival' protocol, otherwise they'd all be dead already. Twice," Beatty explained. "But they've been the victims of altered realities also. Their own personal lives, prior to discovering their powers, was a carefully-constructed sham. So it's not too much of a stretch for any of them to doubt what they're experiencing now is real, though they do have a dawning realization that nobody could have concocted a virtual reality as terrible as what's happened to the world. The 'bigger picture' comes slowly as they make their way across America on a quest to find the one place (so far) where they truly felt like they belonged."

That quest contains more roadside obstacles. Aside from the aforementioned mall walkers whom Beatty promised would leave the group "significantly changed," there's an an infant-aged clone of the I/O spook Dr. Cross and his toddler assistant Megan who stalk the Gen13 crew with things coming to a head in March's issue #28.

"Obviously, Dr. Cross has a bone to pick with the Gens, and he certainly has a proprietary interest in what he considers his 'creations.' What he wants from them and what he gets might not be the same thing, however," Beatty said, adding that the crusaders against the post-human take up a quicker role in the lives of the teens. "The anti-superhero agenda will return. Basically, after the events of 'NOTB,' more than a few people blame the supers for destroying the world. We caught a glimpse of that with the deranged 'Judge' and his anti-spandex militia the kids encountered in what's left of New York City.

"A more formalized approach to ridding the world of genetically superior beings unfolds [next month] in issue #26, which was drawn by the amazing Dan Hipp."

Readers may recognize Hipp's work from the Image Comics hit "The Amazing Joy Buzzards," but in the pages of "Gen13," the artist brings to life an unexpected set of foes for Caitlin, Roxy and the rest: the 14th Generation of I/O post-humans - a.k.a. Gen 14.

"[Wildstorm editor and World's End mastermind] Ben Abernathy was keen on working with Dan and sent me samples of his work. I was sold based on those submissions and his wonderful website. Dan brings a look and feel to the book that we haven't seen before--and this is speaking of a franchise that went Manga to great effect--which gives Gen 14 a stylistic life of their own.

"What if I said that Gen 14 was in the prototype stage just before the world ended?" Beatty teased. "If I/O designed the Gens to be life-sized action figures for the personal pleasure of sick, rich hedonists, then you might think of Gen 14 as designed to have greater articulation and poseability than their predecessors."

Beatty promised that mish-mash of high fashion, low standards and bizarre powers would be unlike even the funkiest, flashiest characters in the franchise kick-started by J. Scott Campbell in the early 1990s.

Of course, the real attraction in "Gen13" remains the classic cast from Sarah Rainmaker to the now blind Bobby "Burnout" Lane, and since taking over the series, Beatty has made it his goal to throw a wrench in some already clicking gears by pushing forward doomed romances between the likes of Grunge and Roxy. "Some of these complications were intentional. Some grew out of the moment and where I see these characters going knowing that they really can't count on tomorrow. I think there's an inherent optimism when you're a teenager. Except now, there's really little to be optimistic about, and the personal editors are switching off. Impulses are being acted upon. Some are fueled by desire. Others are defense mechanisms. Things are just beginning to get complicated, especially when Holly joins the team. Holly?! Keep reading..."

Even with a new member on the way, plenty of antics await the Gen13 crew, and next up in February's issue #27, readers will witness Grunge's greatest challenge and possibly greatest joy: the world's last remaining skate park. "Oh, SK8-GRA-LA is perhaps the most awesome place on Earth --if you like soup," Beatty remarked. "That will make more sense when you read the story. By this point, the kids are on their way West and have decided to indulge themselves by sharing 'wish lists' as in, if you could do just one more thing before the world ended, what would it be? For Eddie, it's a chance to skate the world's largest half-pipe. Unfortunately, he's not the only teenager trying to check that dream off his to-do list."

More than anything, Scott Beatty expressed a desire for his run with the series to recall the goofball glory days of "Gen13" while building on the most dangerous elements of the Wildstorm Universe. "It may sound trite, but I just want to tell good, fun stories. I fell in love with the characters after Gail Simone re-imagined them, and my goal is to take them on a journey through World's End and see what becomes of them. World's End is an enormous crucible," Beatty said. "It's their literal trial-by-fire. If they can survive this, they can survive anything. They might be better for it, or worse. As you'll see, for Gen13 it's the journey, not necessarily the destination."

Check in with CBR later this week for word on Wildstorm's "Stormwatch P.H.D." and its upcoming crossover with "The Authority."

"Gen13" #25 is on sale now from Wildstorm.

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