Storm warning: Wildstorm wanes in DC’s New 52 era
When DC Comics relaunched its superhero titles in 2011 with the New 52, one of the effects was the integration of characters from the former Wildstorm imprint into the DC Universe. Those Wildstorm heroes had a good showing in Flashpoint and in the New 52’s debut titles, but by way of attrition, their presence soon dwindled.
After already seeing series like Voodoo, Grifter,Team 7 and the Wildstorm-esque Ravagers canceled, today we learned that Stormwatch will end in April with Issue 30. It gives a little bit of time for recently hired series writer Jim Starlin to wrap up, but its cancellation is another bad sign for fans of Wildstorm.
The question worth asking — and one DC has probably mulled internally numerous times — is whether there remains any interest in those Wildstorm characters. The long-running fan blog Wildstorm Addiction went silent this summer after years of discussing the heroes, even after the imprint itself was shuttered. It’s been three years since the Wildstorm line ended, and much longer — 12 years, in fact — since its critical and commercial highpoint during the glory days of Warren Ellis’ and Mark Millar’s The Authority runs. When a new series is launched at DC or Marvel, the publishers typically rely on existing fan interest in a character; for these Wildstorm heroes, that’s been on a decline for a decade.
That brings up an additional question: Why weren’t the better-known Wildstorm titles, namely Wildcats and The Authority, launched as part of the New 52? Instead, DC went for two characters thoroughly untested to work on a solo basis in Grifter and Voodoo. Stormwatch roped in some of the characters from The Authority, inserted a non-Wildstorm hero as the title’s lead, and then put the secondary name of Stormwatch on the cover.
DC has an uneven track record of integrating characters from outside its superhero universe — from Captain Marvel (now Shazam!) to the Charlton heroes like Blue Beetle, they’ve never seemed to rise to the upper echelon of DC characters. But given that Wildstorm co-founder Jim Lee, who also created many of the Wildstorm characters, is now co-publisher of DC, some assumed there’d be more attention paid to “his” heroes. But even prior to the New 52 we’ve seen a general disinterest in the Wildstorm heroes, most notably in 2006, when Grant Morrison was pulled off of simultaneous relaunches of Wildcats and The Authority after one issue of each had been released, in favor of his work on Batman and the then-upcoming Final Crisis.
This could, however, all be changed with the right creative team and backing from the publisher. It was 15 years ago that Wildstorm canceled Stormwatch the first time, and used that team’s death to usher in the imprint’s high point with The Authority. Could it happen again now?