Thursday, February 18, 2016

Entry 280: Blast From The Past- Part 20

In my next Blast from the Past entry I'm going to finally talk about my first Star Wars comic. It'll be the start a of a whole new phase in my professional progress. But for now, I've got one last thing to talk about from my days at Wildstorm.

So, once again we go back to 2003 when I was interning at Wildstorm studios. I've done a bunch of entries about this time period so I wont rehash, but when I was there I learn that Wildcats Volume 3 was coming to an end. As a long time fan of Wildcats, I get it in my head that I should pitch a relaunch. That's right, I thought there was some possibility that they would let me write and draw a new Wildcats series. It's only their flagship title and I was the intern, but I thought, "why not try?" I figured if I present something that is good enough, my lack of experience and career status wouldn't get in my way. It just had to be real good.

I talked to my friend and collaborator on many ideas since 7th grade, DJ Bryant, about the idea of tackling this. DJ has a fantastically creative mind and I knew, I've always known, that having his creative powers in on a project is an advantage. Also, both DJ and I were fans of Wildcats when we were young and just getting into comics. This collaboration would be a lot of fun for us. So, I asked him to develop something with me and we both got pretty pumped on it.

(DJ is currently working on a book to be published by Fantagraphics. You can see his work here )

The image I've posted above is from early on in this ambition. I did this while working on The Tenth Circle. It looks a lot like Tenth Circle stuff to me. So that means it was probably done in early 2004. I eventually used this image for the cover of our pitch. Most pitches don't come with covers but, then again, most pitches aren't nearly as long as what we ended up producing. We wen't way overboard.

(I can't find a better version of this file) That's a wrap-around cover.

So what was in this pitch/booklet?

We wrote an in depth outline for a twelve issue arc entitled "The Orbs of Power" and it brought the idea of the Orbs, which hadn't really been addressed much since the first mini series, back as a focus. The story followed 4 interwoven story lines that all came together in the end.

The springboard for the whole story originated from a brief story told by Void in issue 8 of the original series. In that story she describes where the Orbs came from, that they were fragments of a cosmic being called Omnia who fights and apparently dies in the ultimate battle of good and evil at the end of time.

We started there. The opening scene in our story was the climax of that battle. We had to create what Omnia looks like and create whatever it is she is fighting. So we create Necronos.

Here's some concept art. (All of the art is by me.)
The 4 story lines focused of specific characters. I'm going off memory here and there are a lot of details about the story that I can't recall, but I figure most of those details I'm forgetting would be meaningless to most of my readers. So, bear with my rough recounting of this stuff.

The central story followed Emp, who returns from the realm he had ascended to, with Void, who has been separated from the Orb that she had been bonded with. He returns with a mission. That mission involves reforming the Wildcats, attaining the Meta-Orb, and ultimately facing the massive robotic embodiment of evil, Necronos.  (Side note-- Through the fist 13 issues of the original Wildcats, Emp is the main character. He's like the "chosen one" he's the hero. He and Void are the heart and soul of the comic. Every writer, other than Allen Moore, has completely missed that. Favoring the sexier characters and brushing Emp to the side is something that continually hurt the series and kept it feeling directionless.)

Another of the stories was about Voodoo going undercover into the Daemonite. She ends up discovering that Helspont lives when she takes station on his massive submarine base. The Daemonites are also after the Meta-Orb. Voodoo, struggles with loyalties.

My favorite story thread was Zealot and Grifter's. After having wiped out the Coda, Zealot is in a suicidal state. As if her destruction of the Coda was her erasing all evidence of her existence. In her final mission of self destruction she goes after her mother figure, Tapestry. I used elements of her story much later in the short western story I did with Jeremy Barlow called "They'll Bury You Where You Stand!"

The fourth story was about Jack Marlowe (Spartan) and was a continuation of his story in Vol 3 to it's ultimate conclusion.
In the fist of these two drawing there are two new characters. The guy with the sword was a character that actually appeared in one of the James Robinson & Travis Charest issues as an ancient relative to Voodoo. He's a hybrid Human/Daemonite. We brought him back as an actual character. The other new character in this image, the big guy, ultimately didn't play a big part in this story but might have in a follow up story. He's a Titanthrope like Maul.

We created a back story for Helspont that we wanted to dedicate an issue to telling. He're some of the concept art for that.

In the fist image we see Helspont in a human form, before he acquires his now decaying Acurian host. In the second image, the guy with the cables all over is a new Daemonite character.

Here are some character designs.

I have so many more of these. I'm debating scanning them all... The first one is one of my faves. It's Void except not Void anymore. She's Adrianna Tereshkova. She's bound to the Orb, but no longer physically. The third is Daemonite Voodoo. 

Some more Daemonite stuff.

We created a lot of new characters, Most of them had only small parts to play. 

That second image is Tapestry, who in the story is using a kind of high class psychic prostitution ring to gain control of political and influential figures.

In the end, in addition to the extensive booklet outlining our story that included loads of art, we also wrote the first two issues. Our thinking was that we really needed to prove that we could pull it off. But, to be honest, we were enjoying ourselves. It was the first time we had taken our ideas to this level of development. We put a lot of work into this, and ultimately, of course, we weren't going to create this book. Maybe that's why we put so much into it. It, in it's self, was great experience. I feel like I came away with more confidence in my ability to craft story and write. I also learned a lot about true collaboration. I say "true" because most comics don't have "true collaboration".

I actually handed our booklet to Jim Lee. He told me they were already working on a relaunch and it's very likely that after that he never read any of it, which doesn't really bother me. Like I said, we had our fun. In a way, we did make our version. And looking back at what we did and comparing it to everything Wildstorm and DC did after that, I objectively think our version was way better. I have no embarrassment about the ambition and foolishness of this project.

Blogged and blogged


  1. Totally hypothetically - if Jim Lee gave you the green light to do this series today how tempted would you be to jump from your Marvel commitments to it?

    1. I actually have no Marvel commitments right now and this has actually come up. Sort of. There was a moment where I was talking to the editor at DC in charge of the Wildstorm properties and I realized that if I really wanted to I could pitch a series and I'd have a good chance at getting to do it.

      If I believed that I could do a Wildcats story the way I think it should be done, I would be REALLY tempted. I think I'd do it. But, DC has this idea in their heads that fans aren't interested in anything that isn't in the DC universe. They've tried to introduce some of these characters in their universe and they've failed.

      I'm not interested in the DC version of Wildcats that exist in the same world as Batman and everybody. It doesn't make much sense to me and I don't think it would work as well as having it be in a separate universe.

      If they said that they'd let me relaunch Wildcats in it's own universe, like a new Wildstorm universe. I think I'd have to do it. It wouldn't be what was in this pitch from 2004. I could use parts of this old pitch, but it would have to accomplish certain things this old pitch didn't.

    2. It's wild looking at this old stuff, what a couple crazy C.A.T.s we were! My first thought revisiting old pitches like this is how much better it would be knowing what we know now. My second thought is - "Gee, there was a lot of cool ideas in there". We were clearly fans of the old series. It's amazing how much work you put into this- I don't think either one of us realized how much work was going into this pitch- we were having too much fun.

      I don't think DC realizes what a feather they have in their cap with these Image properties- a whole generation was weened on this stuff. The two things that appeal to me about WildC.A.T.s is that it doesn't have the decades of baggage of something like Superman and second that they've got these characters that don't age by design. You'd have the same Emp in 2016 that existed 25 years ago. It's the world around him that's changed. That's be a cool thing to show that you never get to see in comics.

    3. Absolutely. It is a feather in their cap. I think the right relaunch of Wildcats today could be really successful.

  2. Dustin, do you think you would ever address who Emp's parents are? Has it ever crossed your mind that Helspont is actually Emp's son? What if all the WildC.A.T.s team and Helspont turned out to be Emp's sons?

    I think that could be the foundation of the new relaunch right there.

    1. Actually, what if it turns out that all the comics before hand were just in Emp's head? The first time we meet him his a bum in some garbage, what if he never left that garbage. He has, like, split personalities and stuff. He's really just a normal crazy dude and none of the WildC.A.T.s stuff exists.

    2. Here we go! Really Ben? You're obsessed with getting to know who characters' parents are or if they have a brother or sister. You really would love it if we could learn that all the Wildcats were related like they were all good baby palls living in some kind of muppet-baby nursery at some point but were then separated and don't remember now. STAR WARS! I blame Star Wars and muppet-babies... and Sonic the Hedgehog.
      I mean what's the appeal?
      ...Okay so, suddenly this grizzled old man shows up and it turns out that it's Grifter's dad. Grifter is not happy to see his dad of course... Well I guess there's some good drama right there... But why's the dad there?...Somethings going on with his sister! Oh boy! Maybe I'm wrong about this. I do like this direction no.

    3. Oh. I like the dream thing. That's good. Issue 1-- Emp wakes up in the alley. Everything is normal. Still just a bum. In the end of the issue he finds like a totally perfect untouched sandwich and he's happy.

    4. Writers have told me its called "character development". Ideally, Emp would be directly responsible for erasing all of his WildK.I.D.s memories. I can see a scene where they learn Emp is really there dad and that he made all of their lives a lie and Voodoo starts crying. Then she runs away from home, and the WildC.A.T.s have to go look for her. I mean that's probably 2 or 3 issues right there.

    5. I could hardly read the rest of this comment after you threw out "WildK.I.D.s" I was laughing to much. Okay. New pitch!

  3. I was a big fan of the early wildstorm universe. I enjoyed the tight continuity between the books. It was the same for me with Marvel's ultimate line for a while. I would love for DC/Wildsorm to put some thought into a small relaunch of 3 or 4 books. It's a cash and grab industry now a days. Make the most money in the beginning and cancel after 6 or so issues. Then reboot again. I love your story pitch. Maybe if you animate it and put it on YouTube like Deadpool they'll take notice. Lol.

    1. Oh I don't need them to take notice.
      I don't want to do it.
      It would have to be a pretty sweet deal, where I could do it my way, for me to consider it. Back in 2004 it was a different story. I hadn't spent the last 13 years of my life working on other peoples properties. Comic drawing is a lot of work. I have other fish to fry and my own house to build and I'm not going to live forever.