Earlier this week, ComicBook.com reported that DC was teaming with Warren Ellis to bring back WildStorm, the former Image Comics imprint founded in 1992 by Jim Lee and ultimately sold to DC when Lee came to work for the company.
In its heyday, WildStorm sold millions of comics and helped Image Comics to become a powerhouse in the '90s. It's also sometimes blamed for helping to egg on destructive speculator habits with things like the Gen 13 #1 variant covers ("We had thirteen of them," Lee reminded us, at a time where such a things was more or less unheard-of). It introduced series like StormWatch, Gen 13, and characters like Grifter and Voodoo, who were a big part of DC's The New 52 relaunch in 2011. And, of course, Ellis himself had a memorable run on StormWatch and The Authority that would redfine the line and what it meant at DC, before a series of attempts to integrate the characters into the DC Universe proper started around 2005.
When we sat down with the DC publishers this weekend at New York Comic Con, we asked the obvious question: how much did Lee have to pay DiDio to get WildStorm back up and running?
After a few jokes about "trading one WildStorm for two DC Young Animal" and the value of spots on the publishing lineup, the pair had answers.
“We share enthusiasm for a lot more than just superheroes,” Lee told ComicBook.com. “When done well, the DC Universe is awesome, but I have a special place in my heart for the WildStorm characters. Obviously they’re superheroes but they’ve always had this conspiratorial bent to them — this on the fringes feel. I think some of that was lost when they were part of the DCU so being able to extract them out of the main line and give them their own space to be done differently and properly by the likes of a guy named Warren Ellis, that’s the best you can hope for. He’s a heavy hitter, he’s a visionary, and he’s a guy that to my mind best defined a lot of the concepts that Brandon Choi and I first created when we launched WildStorm back in 1992.”
It's that notion -- the idea of returning to the definitive, recognizable versions of characters and concepts -- that arguably ties the WildStorm pop-up imprint to DC's Rebirth initiative, even while the publisher's other big, recent push -- the aforementioned Young Animal -- takes properties like Doom Patrol and Cave Carson into entirely new territory.
“It was really going back to the core conceits of who the characters were,” DiDio said of Rebirth, echoing a sentiment that he's said over and over again since the wildly successful initiative launched back in May. “We sat down with Geoff Johns, and one of the things that Geoff Johns in his role working in film and TV is that he has to distill down the core essence of who these characters are for the filmmakers, to explain how they work so that they an build the characters up from there. And what he did for those producers and directors, he actually did for our writers so they can really understand what the characters are about. What we really wanted to do is get back to the core, know who they are. A lighter aspect works well for Superman but might not work as well for Batman. We wanted to get everything back to the foundation that’s recognizable, and then from there we’re able to build stories out of it.”
WildStorm will launch in February, with Ellis writing a new series titled The Wild Storm. That series will serve as a launching pad for several future comics: Michael Cray, WildC.A.T.S. and Zealot. No creative team announcements have yet been made for those titles.
Look for video coverage of our full interview with DiDio and Lee later this week.