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"CAT" Scanning

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Since word got out that I’d be taking over the writing reins of Wildstorm’s venerable WildCATS series, I’ve been asked many times (usually with a grimace, or with a queasy, dreading smile attached) if this was "another re-boot, or re-launch, or re-something."

If I were Grifter, I would answer such questions with a hail of bullets.

But I’m not Grifter, and I’m not the guy who’s about to "re" anything for the WildCATS. When Wildstorm’s editors came to me and asked me if I’d like the assignment, it came with the caveat that we’d be continuing the excellent stories that had been spun out of the monumental "Number of the Beast" storyline, in which much of the Earth was laid waste, ninety percent of the population was killed, and a host of new heroes were introduced. That caveat was fine with me. I’d loved the tales writers like Christos Gage, Ian Edgington, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, and Scott Beatty were telling and, if anything, they’d made me ask questions about this brave, shattered new world that I badly wanted to explore. Practical questions. Character questions. Ethical questions.

I jumped at the chance to write WildCATS. Talking over storylines to come with the editors, as well as with Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman, the scarily talented new writers of The Authority, we planned out the coming year for our characters, and all of us left the discussions with pulse rates twice as fast as when we went in.

But I’d be coming aboard just as several long-simmering storylines would be coming to a head, and the resolution of those storylines (specifically not one, but two alien invasions…as if Earth hasn’t been through enough!) would, out of necessity, incorporate just about every hero in the Wildstorm Universe (I say "just about" because Bernardin and Freeman have plans for a few of them…awesome plans…and you’re going to be amazed). And while I knew a lot about some characters, like the Authority, having followed that book from the start, and while I knew some about other characters, like the WildCATS and Stormwatch, having followed them intermittently over the years, there were characters I admit I knew only the basics, or nothing, about, like Gen 13, the Monarchy, and Team 7.

That, of course, is why we have editors.

Now, my editor on WildCATS, the redoubtable Shannon Eric Denton, happens to be a mean man with a postage meter. In no time at all, I was literally deluged with trade paperbacks and individual floppies that carried me through the entire history of the Wildstorm Universe. You may think I’m kidding. I’m not. I have boxes filled with these books under my desk. Not small boxes. Not light boxes. Big, heavy ones, loaded with big heavy books. I had to read them all.

It was a bit like having to watch twenty years of a big, sprawling, engrossing, crazy, wonderful soap opera. This character is really that character’s mother, who is possessed by this demon, who was married to this character, then divorced, then remarried, only to fall into a coma, from which she was woken by a robot knight from a parallel Earth filled with exiled clones from another timestream. It was fantastic stuff, and I chewed my way through it like candy, my head spinning all the while. I took notes, to keep everything straight. Lots of notes. At one point, I considered converting one of my apartment walls into a giant erasable board so I could chart everything. I may yet.

                       

As I worked my way through the books, I "discovered" incredible storylines I never knew existed, and they opened my mind to even more possibilities: Abnett and Lanning’s Majestic run, Joe Casey’s stint on WildCATS. Brilliant stuff. Over the years, Wildstorm has employed a who’s who of comics talent, and each has brought something special to the mythos, something that has deeply enriched the tradition.

Where I had holes in my research, I turned to this fascinating creation called the "Internet." Ever heard of it? If not, you really should get one, because it’s filled with great stuff. Using it, I picked up more details. For example, I now know the shape of the mole pattern on Zealot’s left buttock. But no, I won’t tell.

Finally, I found myself literally in danger of drowning in notes – legal pads, scrap paper, the backs of receipts. I had to organize everything and drafted a five-page chart of as many Wildstorm characters as I could find, their powers, their team affiliation if they had any and, most importantly, their current status. It features several hundred characters. I showed it to Shannon to get his input, and he showed it to WildCATS super-fan Chris Stryker for corrections, clarifications and (damn him) more characters I’d missed. We’re up to six pages.

With all that before me, I set to writing scripts for my first arc, in WildCATS 19-21. They’re unwieldy, rude beasts, filled with descriptions like, "Here we see everyone fighting, all three hundred characters. Small panel." It’s a wildly unfair kind of document to pass on to artists Tim Seeley and Ryan Winn. Luckily, they’re insanely talented, and the pages they’ve been delivering have, if anything, included more characters than I’ve asked for. George Perez better watch his back (Just kidding, George!). Tim and Ryan haven’t complained at all, at least not to me, but I have imagined them buying used Adam Beechen voodoo dolls from disgruntled Batgirl fans on eBay. Maybe that explains the pains in my side I’ve been having…

So, assuming Tim and Ryan don’t kill me in my sleep first, you’re in for quite a treat. Over the next year, you’re going to see just about all of your favorite characters turn up in WildCATS, and I’m not talking just old horses like Midnighter, Zealot and Fuji. No one in the Wildstorm Universe is off-limits…even Dingo. Some characters will be sticking around longer than others. Some won’t be sticking around at all (if you know what I mean). Some will be showing up in drastically different circumstances than you remember.

And, I promise you, even if you don’t have big, heavy boxes of Wildstorm comics lying all over your apartment, you’ll understand what’s going on, and you’ll have a great time. Tim, Ryan, Shannon and I will make sure of it.

This is not a re-boot or a re-launch. It’s just the latest chapter in a long and treasured history of some amazing characters. We want it to be a chapter that can stand proudly next to the work of the incredible creators who have come before us and, maybe, just maybe, be the best chapter yet.

I hope you’ll dig it. The last thing I want to see are more Adam Beechen voodoo dolls on the market.

WildCATS #19 goes on sale this January from DC/WildStorm...

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Comments

  • Bart Croonenborghs

    Bart Croonenborghs Nov 2, 2009 at 10:56am

    I'm quite curious about this but I'm also sad to see the demise of yet another incarnation of Stormwatch ...

  • Andy Oliver

    Andy Oliver Nov 2, 2009 at 5:49pm

    What comes across to me most here is Adam's sheer infectious enthusiasm for the book and the characters. Based on that I'll definitely be picking it up.

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