In the late 90s, in the wake of Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman, there was a second UK creator invasion within American comics. These artists and writers inevitably infiltrated The Big Two (Marvel and DC Comics, respectively) and totally augmented the landscape of the superhero and action genre. I’m talking about Garth Ennis, Paul Jenkins, Bryan Hitch, Mark Millar, Peter Milligan, Frank Quitely, Grant Morrison, and Warren Ellis.
These creators hit the post-9/11 era with blinding force. Using the superhero, spy, crime, sci-fi, and action comic book genres to pit conservative ideologies against liberal ideologies. At the forefront of that shift was Warren Ellis’ Wildstorm series, The Authority.
Then (and still) an imprint of DC Comics, the Wildstorm universe originally started with owner and superstar creator Jim Lee’s WildC.A.T.s. By the turn of the century, however, Ellis had reenvisioned the line into a monthly dig at geopolitics. As Stormwatch wound down, Ellis’ and artist Bryan Hitch’s The Authority not only took its place but reinvigorated the superhero comic for a whole new generation (including this writer). While Stormwatch had their hands tied by political red tape, The Authority answered to no government.
Writer Mark Millar and artist Frank Quitely would take up the reigns on The Authority shortly thereafter. Their run would continue the no holds barred take on the superhero genre. Meanwhile, Ellis was busy fertilizing other corners of the Wildstorm universe.
Planetary was he and artist John Cassaday’s love letter to every action/adventure comic book subgenre imaginable. That was followed up by Global Frequency (done with a host of artists), an interconnected emergency service where average citizens answer the call in an effort to stop any and all Earthly threats.
Ellis, Millar, and many other creators from that second UK invasion would go on to write and draw some of Marvel and DC’s most dynamic and daring arcs to date. As the industry went back to clamoring for mainstream acceptance (a mistake that nearly sunk it in the 1990s), The Wildstorm Universe slowly vanished from shelves. As part of their “New 52” effort, DC tried to fold Wildstorm into their larger DCU. There was one fundamental flaw to that decision, though: The Wildstorm characters aren’t the type of superheroes that follow a certain set of rules. Unlike Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman — characters that unquestionably defined superheroes — Wildstorm wasn’t interested in upholding traditions. They weren’t superheroes really. They probably wouldn’t even classify as vigilantes. No, these characters were the pen and ink embodiments of the disenfranchised.
During a time where creators, new fans, and old fans, constantly spar on Twitter about “representation”, the mad-as-hell world of Wildstorm gave the “voiceless” characters that could speak out for them. Under Warren Ellis’ watch, you had the gay power couple of Midnighter and Apollo. You had the pre-Obama paragon in Planetary’s Ambrose Chase. The Authority gave us The Engineer, a Brooklyn-born Latina who was the smartest person on the team. It gave us Muslim free-runners trying to save the planet from terrorism. It even had the mixed race, genetically enhanced powerhouse that is Jakita Wagner. Wildstorm had everything.
And now it’s back.
Starting in February, Warren Ellis returns to the comics line that made him a household name. The book is belligerently titled The Wild Storm and it already seems to embody the same forcefulness as its predecessor.
Preview pages and press release follow.
Following the success of DC’s Young Animal, this new imprint will debut mid-February 2017 with a regular monthly comic titled THE WILD STORM, written by Ellis with art by Jon Davis-Hunt (Vertigo’s CLEAN ROOM). This ongoing series will reset the known WildStorm universe and introduce new iterations of WildStorm characters such as Grifter, Voodoo, The Engineer, Jenny Sparks and others.
“After long reflection, I couldn’t turn down the invitation to renovate the house that Jim Lee built, and refit its unique combination of cosmic paranoia and paramilitary conspiracy for the post-political space madness of the twenty-teens,” said Ellis. “Looking back to look forward.”
THE WILD STORM will serve as a launching pad for several future series: MICHAEL CRAY, WILDC.A.T.S. and ZEALOT.
“There are precious few visionaries in our business and fewer still like Warren who can elevate mythos with both stylistic panache and idiosyncratic spectacle. His work at WildStorm remains the tone which best defines and reflects the WildStorm Universe,” said DC Publisher Jim Lee. “I know I speak for WildStorm fans the world over when I say I can’t wait to see what Warren and Jon have in store for fans in February!”
To say that I’m not a little excited for this — well, I’m definitely excited for this! It’s rare that Ellis disappoints me as a reader (by the way, still looking for that next chapter of Fell, Warren). But, more importantly, I think this is the type of diversity that this budding generation of comic readers missed out on.
In an attempt to play nice with mainstream opinions, there has been quite a bit of revisionist history in comics over the last few years. And I don’t mean retcons. I mean bare naked historical inaccuracies. The most common being this purveying attitude that comics are only now turning a corner when it comes to upholding progressive ideals. Not only is this false, but you don’t even need to go that far back in history to discover how wrong that is. At the height of George Bush’s administration in the U.S., The Authority, Stormwatch, and Global Frequency made it a point to stare down establishment thinking and demand it to blink. Given recent world events, the time is right for superheroes to put aside their identity politics, ditch their villain of the week, and once again go after the real bastards.