WildC.A.T.s #1 cover by Jim Lee, Scott Williams

Image @ 25: Jim Lee’s WildC.A.T.s

This week at ComicBook.com, I took a fresh look at WildC.A.T.s #1 from the first year of Image Comics.

What I learned is simple: WildC.A.T.s is Jim Lee and Brandon Choi attempting to write like Chris Claremont, and stumbling over it.

As usual, I had to cut a good chunk of the column out for space, but I’m publishing that here. It begins with a big rant that’s off-topic for WildC.A.T.s, which is why it got cut first.

From there, we’ll talk about the series’ life, near-rebirth, and collection status.  Read on!

 

In the Beginning…

Curiously, one of the criticisms of the Image Founders is that they left Marvel to do more of the same at Image. Nobody did a romance book or a kids book or a horror book.

I never understood that criticism. The kind of creative freedom the original founding fathers struck out for was composed of two parts:

  1. Profiting from their creations, themselves, instead of the publisher
  2. Drawing and writing whatever they wanted to, without oversight and the limiting restrictions working with someone else’s intellectual properties put on you.

I recognize now that anyone who started reading comics in the last ten years or so are smacking their heads and wondering why anyone would think that’s such a strange concept. It’s always been there, hasn’t it?

Yeah, in a world where Image Comics has existed as a high profile big name entity for 25 years, it doesn’t seem so crazy a concept, does it?

In a world where creators get none of the benefits from billion dollar movies, who’s going to blame them for striking out on their own?

In a world where writing for Marvel or DC means following editorial’s dictate to squeeze some original through between company-wide events so sprawling that there is no time inbetween them anymore, personal creative freedom of any sort seems like a basic concept.

The Image Founding Fathers all left Marvel Comics together to start comics at Image. Many of those comics were done in similar styles and SO FRIGGIN’ WHAT? They got to do the books they wanted to do that they couldn’t do at the big publisher, AND keep all of the profits from it.

Who doesn’t want that?

Jim Lee left a legendary run on “X-Men” only to create a title about a group of superpowered people who worked in the shadows despite having loud colorful costumes. They fought in a world that probably feared and hated them. There’s government secrets and an alien war and squabbling amongst the team.

Yes, it’s another superpowered team fighting the good fight.

So what? That’s what Jim Lee’s fans wanted. And you can’t argue against their purchasing power.

 

The Unique Thing About WildC.A.T.s

The WildCATs team

It’s the only Image series that I can think of that got better when its creator left it.

In fact, it got way better.

After Chris Claremont and James Robinson dropped in for a few issues, the Alan Moore run began. You won’t hear too many complaints about that one, particularly with the featured art by Dave Johnson and Travis Charest, neither of whom ever did interiors in America again after that.

But then the book really soared when Joe Casey took over, first with Sean Phillips and then with Dustin Nguyen. That completely revamped the book into commercial and critical acclaim. Spartan became the head of Halo and produced the world’s most perfect battery, and then nearly took over the world with it. It was brilliant stuff.

I wrote a lot of reviews of that material that I’ll have to port over to this website someday…

 

Prelude to WildC.A.T.s #1

I don’t think I’ve read this comic since the dawn of the current millennium. I don’t even own it in trade. Near as I can tell, the last collected edition of this material came in 1999 through Image Comics. DC solicited a deluxe edition reprint in 2012, and then cancelled it for reasons unknown.

Is it because negotiating for the “CyberForce” issues would have been too hard? Was the original film lost? Did they not want to sow market confusion for the umpteen other attempts to revitalize the WildStorm Universe that DC has attempted since buying the studios?

 

The Gag I Didn’t Do

I did briefly consider writing the column about the Grant Morrison/Jim Lee “Wildcats” #1.  I chickened out.  But it might have been funny.

Wildcats #1 (second volume by Grant Morrison and Jim Lee)

For all the guff Image got for timeliness in its earliest years, at least the issues did eventually come out.  Morrison’s Wildcats didn’t make it past that first issue.  Amazing.

On the bright side, it wasn’t a total reboot. It picked up (from a distance of time) from the Joe Casey era of the title.

There was one character update in the first issue that horrified me, but I’m saving that for a future very long-form post. Stay tuned…

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