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Inside Look: WildC.A.T.S. #19

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Adam Beechen handles this Inside Look on last week's WildC.A.T.S. #19. Along with artist Tim Seeley, the scribe is taking Wildstorm's flagship series in a bold new direction.


Jim Lee.  James Robinson.  Alan Moore. Chris Claremont.  Joe Casey.  Christos Gage.

No pressure, right?

Actually, no, not much.  Just an overwhelming sense of pride in being asked to walk the same path as some of comics’ greatest creators and uphold the traditions of some of the best superhero characters to emerge since the 1990s.  And with penciler Tim Seeley and inker Ryan Winn on board, I know I have two of the best possible partners with whom to take on this challenge.

From the get-go, we wanted our run on WILDC.A.T.S. to be about all the things we love about Wildstorm comics – big action, big personalities, and a real sense of the history and continuity of the Wildstorm Universe.  So, to start things off with a bang, we (along with new AUTHORITY scribes Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman) concocted a story that would, out of necessity, bring almost all of the Wildstorm characters together to face a common threat.  You can’t get much more “big action” than that.

The first six pages of the book kick us off with a bang…a lot of them, actually.  And they’re loud.  Step through the panel borders with me, and I’ll show you around a little.

PAGE 1

Up top, we have what’s going to be a feature of Wildstorm books for the foreseeable future – a four-panel quick-recap of what’s gone before, just the basics to remind veteran readers what happened previously, and give new readers enough information that they don’t totally feel like they’ve been dropped into a war zone…which is exactly what this issue is.  We didn’t want to go the full text-page recap like some other books, because we only have 22 pages per month to play with, and we want to make the most of them.

And in the big bottom splash on this page, Tim and Ryan definitely make the most of what they have.  The heroes and villains lining up on opposite sides and charging at each other is a tried-and-true comics staple…for a few good reasons:  One is that it tells you who the principals are right up front and another is that it looks darn cool.

PAGES 2 AND 3

  

Here’s where Tim and Ryan started plotting to kill me in my sleep.  We wanted to announce ourselves as quickly as possible with some of the intense, widescreen action that has made Wildstorm so famous and popular over the years, and there’s no wider than a double-spread of all-out action between our two warring factions.  I wanted the scene to be brutal and chaotic, which was a trick, since we also needed to be sure a reader could track it.

Tim and Ryan did an incredible job here, particularly of leading the reader’s eye across the spread so that they can see every character participating in the skirmish.  All I had to do was get out of the way, putting in as little dialogue as possible.  Unsung, heroic, letterer Wes Abbott helped us out immeasurably by labeling all of the characters in an unobtrusive way, not only identifying them, but subtly clueing us in to which sides they’re on.

PAGE 4

On this page, we have the chance to show why the Red Bladers are such bad-asses, something much-discussed in previous issues, but not really in a whole lot of depth.  We still couldn’t give their complete history, for reasons of space, but this did allow us to dig a bit deeper, as well as to reveal a tantalizing tidbit – a much younger Majestic actually served on Sebastian’s crew millennia ago as sort of an apprentice.

In the last panel, Tim and Ryan show their design chops by giving us incredible details on the Red Blade mother ship.  It’s lovingly rendered, and reminds me of when John Byrne and Terry Austin would really go to town during their X-Men run  to show us a hi-tech Savage Land fortress or alien battle cruiser.

PAGE 5

Just your basic, six-panel battle page, right?  I love how Tim and Ryan keep the sense of chaos alive, never skimping on detail, and even give readers “Easter eggs” here and there by having characters, well-known or long-forgotten, in the background taking part in the fight.

Sebastian’s expression in panel 4 is just the right mix of commanding and crazy, and it sets up my first opportunity to write a punch (okay, kick) line for the Midnighter, one of my favorite characters.  He’s a man of few words…and he doesn’t appreciate his enemies being very talky, either, apparently.

PAGE 6

I’m a big Apollo fan, too, and Tim and Ryan demonstrate perfectly here the impact (pun intended) he can have on a situation.  He is a Big Gun, and when you unleash him, circumstances are going to change quickly and dramatically.

The second panel tells us a couple things:  Most apparent, it shows us Apollo’s new haircut.  In previous issues, he’d gone through a lot, including having his formerly flowing mane reduced to stringy strands.  I figure that, rather than go for the retirement community, early-bird-special comb-over, he’d just shave it down to a buzz-cut and start over.  So, for those of you who miss Apollo’s long hair, have patience.  He misses it too, and will be growing it out.

Second, this panel, in two dialogue balloons, four words, and two facial expressions, says almost everything I feel about the Apollo/Midnighter relationship.  They’ve been a couple for years.  Therefore, they should have that easy, bantering kind of dialogue that sounds casual but gets across how well they know each other, like real couples.  They don’t need to fall all over themselves with public displays of affection every other panel, nor does their sexuality need to be referenced every third word balloon…They know who they are and how they feel about each other, and that’s enough – the rest can come through in the things they don’t feel the need to say.  Writing scenes for these guys is a lot of fun, made more so by how well Tim and Ryan draw them.

*         *        *

So let’s leave our heroes here for now.  Hopefully, this gives you a taste of how fast-paced, taut and spectacular we’re trying to do things, all while juggling a zillion characters and their agendas and personalities.  It’s a challenge, but a fun one, and we’re having a great time doing it.    And if we want role models for inspiration, all we have to do is look in our Wildstorm back-issues.  We’re not trying to fill anyone’s shoes…we’re just happy for the chance to stand alongside them!

 

 

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