26 Feb 2015

Cover Story: TOP TEN WILDSTORM COVERS

Tom P: Wildstorm was an independent comics publisher started by Jim Lee in 1992, which became an imprint of Image the following year, later being purchased by DC before they shut it down in 2010 and incorporated its characters into the New 52. As far as I'm concerned, it highly influenced the direction and modern tone of superhero comics since its inception as well as nurturing a vast amount of talent who would go on to produce some of the best work in the medium over the past two decades. It can even be argued its fingerprints extend as far as the wildly successful Marvel Cinematic Universe. After all, without out The Authority you wouldn't have had The Ultimates. So, as way of a tribute to the company that was deeply responsible for hooking me into this fantastic hobby, I proudly present my Top Ten Wildstorm covers.

10. STORMWATCH VOLUME 2 #9 (1998)

This was the final part of 'Bleed’ arc by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch. The Bleed is the interdimensional realm that exists in the Wildstorm Universe and it can be used as a shortcut to travel quickly between two points, later allowing the use of ‘doors’ that created a form of instant travel. It became a real feature of the Wildstorm Universe and this is where it all started. I've always liked this cover mostly because it features giant spaceships. It reminds me of Star Trek which is no bad thing and Hitch was on fire during this run. Just look at all the detail he puts into this spectacular sci-fi spectacle.
9. DESOLATION JONES #2 (2005)

Desolation Jones was an agent of MI6, and it was there that he took part in the Desolation Test that changed both him and his view of reality. J.H. Williams III blends the clash between Jones in his hazmat goggles, mask and orange trench coat and the blue/black noir of the femme fatale with ease. The transition between the two is the orange almost dripping from Jones coat onto the sofa below. A stunning cover.
8. PLANETARY #8 (2000)

A fantastic cover harking back to 1950s B-movie cinema. Robots, fire, people fleeing in panic, the army, aliens, giant women and ants! Cassady flings it all in to create a striking cover. I love the fact it stars the characters as if they were actors and credits the creative team with the appropriate movie related titles. 'Screenplay by Warren Ellis'. Planetary is a series that rewards a love of the genres it explores as each issue flips masterfully to a different era of 20th century pulp, cinema and sci-fi literature. A great example from a defining series.
7. PROMETHEA #3 (1999)

Americas Best Comics was Alan Moore's imprint at Wildstorm and arguably produced some of its best work. I love the way Promethea glides above the curved comic panels from one world to another. This graceful and electric image only confirms that J.H. Williams III is a master of his craft. Everything from the style of the books title to the positioning of the barcode and strong use of white space shows a real understanding of the medium and the importance of an eye-catching cover.
6. WILDCATS 3.0 #1 (2002)

Wildcats 3.0 was a glaring gap in my Wildstorm longbox. To put it in cinematic terms, like that person you know who's never seen The Godfather, Casablanca or The Wizard Of Oz. Last summer I finally found every issue at Melksham Comic Con at a bargain price. This unexpected treasure was rapidly devoured and it was every bit as good as everyone always told me. This cover is a minimalist’s dream in black and white with the only colour (if you exclude the main title) being a battery that will change the world, or, to steal a quote from The Avengers movie, “A warm light for all mankind to share”. The other nice touch on the cover is the progress bar for the next five issues. Another example of Wildstorm series that was truly ahead of the game, even a decade after its release.
5. THE AUTHORITY #1 (1999)

This is where "widescreen" comics began and a pivotal point in my personal reintroduction to comics. This was the same summer I blown away by The Matrix, and here was a book that didn't mess about and had the same blockbuster feel. All killer, no filler. I look at the cover now and admit it is a bit navel gazing. Michael Bay would be proud of that shot. It is said his films are for teenage boys but that's just what I was when I first read this. Bryan Hitch created a powerful image of the team assembling under its leader Jenny Sparks. It still ignites that excitement for graphic art and the sheer impossible scale that only a comic book and the right creative team can give you.
4. THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN #2 (1999)

Another entry for Americas Best Comics. I've always had a soft spot for Victoriana and I even have a collection of old cigarette cards just like this cover recreates. Yes, free cards to collect with your harmless cigarettes - those were the days! Each card depicts a character from the series mounted in a frame with the title on the rear of the Blue Dwarf Cigarettes centre card (British made, of course). It really evokes the time and shows what a talent Kevin O'Neill has for period detail.
3. TOM STRONG #15 (2002)

The ABC genre-spanning Hero of Science! You can't beat the old Marvel covers can you? Alan Moore must feel the same as Tom Strong referenced two Kirby Fantastic Four covers. Issue #15 was my first and remains my favourite. Chris Sprouse and Al Gorden's tribute to Fantastic Four #4 is terrific and matches its every beat. The typography, layout, character poses and word balloon all recreated with loving detail. It’s great how he switches the elements substituting water with fire. Bravo!
2. DV8: GODS AND MONSTERS #1 (2010)

This was in my opinion the last truly great story Wildstorm produced. It was certainly the last I purchased. Brian Wood’s tale of a bunch of superpowered teens stranded on a primitive planet made for a fascinating Lord Of The Flies morality tale where they were adopted into or worshipped by the indigenous tribes of this strange Earth-like land. Before she was snapped up by Brian K. Vaughan for Saga, Fiona Staples produced this stunning cover of a teenager falling to earth with two tribes fighting below her. It summarises and distils the initial setup of the plot in one terrific image. I always loved the redesigned logo and it also bears the words "A New Era Begins". It's a real shame Wood never got to continue with his plans for Wildstorm as far from a new era this proved to be its swan song.
1. PLANETARY #9 (2004)

I've got this one framed on my wall at home so it was always going to turn up and ultimately triumph. ‘70s science fiction cinema is a huge influence on me. Films like Alien, Star Wars, Star Trek: The Motion Picture and 2001: A Space Odyssey to name a few. I love the design and style of them and so I have a nostalgic longing for a future that never existed. It’s the old style computer displays, the textures, sounds and fashions. This cover just evokes that feeling in me with its icy blue and white tones. The ominous spacecraft looks cold and dead as it floats, damaged and ancient, surrounded by its own debris lit only by the frozen planet behind it. A haunting image from my all-time favourite series.

2 comments:

Ja D said...

Those are some very good covers from very good comics.

My fave is the first issue of Authority. Love the cover and so much nostalgia for the series.

Ian said...

I always enjoyed Wildstorm but never gave much thought to how inventive the covers were - especially for the time. None of them would look out of place at Image today.