It's been a rough few years for the denizens of the WildStorm Universe. After the skies above the Earth were scorched in the super-nuclear event that kick-started the "World's End" story cycle over a year ago, heroes from Stormwatch to The Authority scrambled to deal with falling debris, mutation-inducing viruses and scattered pockets of deadly would-be saviors. All the disparate elements of this dangerous post-apocalyptic world will finally come to a head this January as writer Adam Beechen and the art team of Tim Seeley and Ryan Wynn step onto Wildstorm's flagship "WildCats" with issue #19.
As Beechen explained to CBR, the story of "WildCats" won't just be a series in which all the dread and doom from the World's End explosion come together in a plot sense – the creators will be bringing out every possible character from WildStorm history to take part in the melee. "If audience members have a favorite character, our hope is to squeeze them into a panel somehow and let you know that they're there or let you know what happened to them after World's End," he said. "Not only did the civilian population take a real beating during Armageddon, but the law of averages would tell you that superhumans would have to take a beating too. So, not everybody made it, and we'll be exploring that as well.
"Our editor, Shannon Eric Denton, during the first run of the series, would literally e-mail me every day and say, 'We need to include these characters,' and, 'We need to find a way to include these guys,' and, 'Oh! What about these guys?' The list literally grew to be like five pages long. We built up a whole character grid as far as what everybody's status was, and went to a huge WildStorm fan named Chris Stryker, who knows everything about everything with these characters, to get his two cents on what we had and whether it was right. Then we mapped out how we could get some of these characters into the story. Some of them are more 'down the road' projects, just because we don't have space to include literally everyone, but we're going to try and account for everyone if we can."
Preview pages have already shown how much Seeley and Wynn have been working to jam-pack issue #19 with heroes and villains, but Beechen was quick to note that the book would add up to more than a listing of fan favorite characters. "That was the goal – to consolidate the universe into a couple of books and get an overall picture of what the world was like. And it wasn't just the world, but it was seeing what the whole WildStorm Universe was like in the wake of World's End. Consequently, we've got the Authority going out into space to deal with the interstellar ramifications of what's been going on on Earth [in their series], and you've got the WildCats and everybody else back on Earth trying to deal with the immediate question of how to rebuild the planet after literally everything has been destroyed."
To get the ball rolling, the new direction of the series launches with the threat of dual alien invasions hitting the broken WildStorm Earth, necessitating Spartan and the WildCats to call in reinforcements in a big way. "We don't want to give away too much of the surprise, because some of the fun is finding out who the invaders are and how they're dealt with – both of which we think the audience will get a big kick out of," Beechen teased. "I will say that both are existing alien forces we have met before, one of which we've been building up to for quite a while in terms of their invasion. The others are players that have been on the scene [in the past] and make a bit of a surprising return."
As for the leadership roles in the series, Beechen stated that, while he'll be including as many WildStorm regulars as possible at every turn, the monthly will tightly focus on its core cast of Kheran superheroes, from Grifter to Zealot. "There's definitely a core team because the book is called 'WildCats' after all, and the characters that you know and love as WildCats will be focused on because of that. But we're approaching this a lot like the TV series 'Hill Street Blues' where there are multiple storylines going on at multiple times, and each storyline has its own star character or characters. Those stories will interweave with each other."
In the long term, the writer sees the series as serving two goals: both bringing the Earth of the WildStorm Universe into focus and then looking at how that world can be saved...if at all. "We're devoting an entire issue to that question with issue #22 in which the heroes, having taken a break after the first storyline, sit down and say, 'We can't just keep doing triage on the crises that pop up here and there. We need a plan to make this planet work. How do we do that?'" he explained. "And then you run into themes that have been explored in comics for 20 or 25 years now – the whole 'Squadron Supreme' idea of 'Can superheroes declare martial law and fix the planet?' WildStorm even did that a few years ago to some extent with 'Coup D'état.' And I don't know that there's any better answer now than there was then. Someone's going to say, 'It's great for us to fix the world for normal humans, but when do we give it back, and under what circumstances do we give it back?' I don't know if anyone has the answer to that.
"But the immediate problems involve fixing the problems present in the world. There's no system of law. There's no system of government. There's no running water or communications between nations and governments. This is really basic stuff. There's radiation everywhere, so the food and water supplies are largely contaminated. There are big issues that need dealing with, and I think the outlook is, 'We're going to worry about the issue of handing this off to normal humans later, when we get the chance.' And how normal humans will respond to that attitude is something we'll be dealing with as well."
For an added promotion boost, issue #19 will feature a cover by comics legend George Perez, which will combine to create one image with January's similarly new-reader friendly "The Authority" #18 by Marc Bernardin, Adam Freeman and Al Barrionuevo. The shared covers continue in February with a piece from Mark Bagley, and Beechen teased that more big name artists are on tap to contribute covers throughout 2010, although the real stars of "WildCats" will be the interior art team.
"Tim [Seeley] has put in an astounding amount of work for this book," Beechen said. "He's been redesigning characters and coming up with new costumes and characters. His enthusiasm is so big for this book that I can't even begin to describe it. He's a nerd for the WildStorm Universe, so he knows things about characters and plot interactions that I don't know, and we really compliment each other well. We're forever bouncing ideas off each other, and I'm trying to give him as many double-page spreads and splash pages as possible to draw because he loves to do that kind of thing. He also loves to draw the pretty ladies, and WildStorm has plenty of them, so we're trying to give him plenty of opportunities to do that. And Ryan Wynn has matched his enthusiasm on every level. When I was in San Diego at Comic-Con over the summer, he showed me a double-page spread he had inked over Tim's pencils that literally took my breath away, it was so good."
The writer plans on riding that wave of enthusiasm throughout WildStorm for a long time to come. Outside of "WildCats," Beechen will be writing a two-issue arc of "Gen 13" starting with February's issue #34 help steer the line into its next major story phase. "We're tying the storylines closer and closer and closer together to build to the next major moment in the WildStorm Universe that's going to involve all the heroes," he concluded cryptically. "It's taking a while, because we want to give characters space to breath and have their own stories rather than going from big event to big event. We need the readers to catch their breath too. So what we're doing is laying groundwork for that next big thing, and I'm sitting down all this week with a giant box of reference material and 150 pages of notes I've made to come up with that. To give you an idea, the notes are grouped under headings like: Authority, Coda/Zealot, Future Team, Wetworks, Monarchy, Stormwatch/Hardcore, Gen 13/Wildcore, Union, Warguard and things like that. That's what's in my notes as we move forward. We're reaching into the wayback machine and trying to come up with some stuff that's really going to knock people's socks off."