Stormwatch #1 & 2
Back in the early days of the 21st Century, there was a massive revival in comic books that centered around specific individual creators such as Warren Ellis. A science fiction fan and a frequenter of less than savory establishments he concocted a new line of comics that were hip, lewd and brilliant all at once, using concepts that were laying around for ages and giving them new life. One of his best accomplishments was the Authority, a series that grew out of Stormwatch, a longstanding Wildstorm series about a secret group safeguarding humanity against insanely dangerous threats. The Authority was the evolution of this concept as a super-powered elite ruled over the planet and called the shots. It’s a good series, go buy it in bright shiny collections.
When the New 52 was announced, it soon came to be public knowledge that Paul Cornell would be steering Stormwatch into the DC Universe proper, bridging the mad inventive world that Ellis had crafted with the longest standing comic book characters ever. It’s all very exciting. A novelist and screenwriter from Doctor Who, Cornell is also well loved for his comic book contributions such as the astounding Captain Britain and MI-5 which was sadly canceled all too quickly. Cornell has a knack for humor, brilliance and action and this series seems to be the comic that he was always meant to write.
If everyone reading this buys a few copies, we can all reap the benefits and continue to read the most innovative and entertaining superhero adventure series ever.
That may be over-stepping a mark, but the unbridled joy in each of the issues currently on the stands is unmistakable. In a world populated by mad gods, super-powered aliens and rich playboy vigilantes, the entire operation is overseen by a man who meditates back to the dawn of creation and yearns for a pint… whatever that is. Both Stormwatch and Authority had a counter-culture theme to them that challenged the bored fanboys still buying the same material churned out by the big two by nature of habit. The Wildstorm series were rather garish at times, depicted their heroes being flawed in new ways and easily relateable in others. The characters were complex but never fully explained, leading to an inferred understanding of the roster. This in turn made them seem more real in a way and the dangers that they faced ranked higher.
Cornell spoke about infusing the ‘Wildstorm feel’ into the DCU with CBR.com:
To some extent, the mainstream superhero universes have caught up to where WildStorm was and have copied WildStorm a lot. And so it wasn’t that big a hop from one place to another, but at the same time we needed to find a schtick to hang that WildStorm atmosphere on. And what it ended up being was that the whole Authority arrogance is still in place for this Stormwatch – the sense of being better than and indifferent to the world, especially being better than superheroes. That’s what we’ve mutated that idea into. I think people were expecting it to be an awkward fit, but that lasted about a second upon contact with the issue. That’s great, and that’s #1 job done.
But I’m mainly interested in talking to new readers. I think that old readers will hopefully be satisfied naturally through the progression of the story, but new readers need a little attending to. So really it’s a question of “Are we telling a story in a very interesting way? What makes this different from all the other books?” I think we’ve got a different speed. We go hyper fast. There’s going to be – and people have noticed this, and it’s not going to change – regular catch-up captions at the top of each issue. There’s going to be people as unobtrusively as possible – but still pretty obtrusive because we’re not writing for the trade anymore but for single issues – saying “I am so-and-so, and this is what I do.” We’re making once again a comic that people can join at any issue. We expect people to join in on issue #3, and this is what it takes to find the mainstream audience again. You can buy issue #5 of “Stormwatch,” and it should be easy enough to just go from there, or you can buy the back issues if you like.
It’s an interesting brew all-in-all. It’s a very interesting time to be a comics writer. We’re changing everything very, very fast, and there’s a lot of people out there who haven’t read a comic in decades or at all who are reacting to this. Some of them don’t know how to read comics, or they aren’t used to the speed of the stories or just what’s going on. We’re here to make sure we catch those people as well, and that we come to suit them.
In the new Stormwatch series, readers will be reunited with old familiar characters such as the Engineer, Apollo, Midnighter and Jack Hawksmnoor, but there are some new faces in the mix. In addition to recreating the distinctive Warren Ellis folk, Cornell created a few new ones… and they familiar at once.
There’s a particular kind of character in the Warren Ellis universe. Warren Ellis superheroes in the WildStorm mold, I always say are kind of based in a Medieval cosmology. But that sort of takes a bit of unpacking. They come from what feels like a pre-scientific background. Jack Hawksmoor is the god of cities. But the way Warren plays it and with his SF background, it feels like we’re dealing with a science that we don’t understand at all. We can only understand it intuitively. There is some way in which Jack talks to and interacts with cities that we can’t understand, and the reader isn’t asked to understand it. So I wanted to create new characters who felt like that.
The Projectionist has an intimate relationship with all media, and she’s proving surprisingly popular. I ran a poll on my blog where she came in as the most popular of all the new characters, which was pretty surprising. Harry has much the same thing when it comes to swords and the business of blades. He is all about the blades in a conceptual way, and we’ll see more of that later on. So it was a bit about finding new characters who felt like Warren created them.
The pace of the series is intense to say the least and very catching as well. In the first issue alone the reader is introduced to the concept of a clandestine association of superheroes presiding over creation with members representing abstract concepts of reality dating back to the dawn of time. Then they deal with an attack from the moon while the most powerful being alive is recruited by Stormwatch and another character, the mysterious Midnighter.
We move very fast. The situation changes hugely in #2, 3, 4 and 5. These could almost be single-issue stories of a continued serial [rather than parts of an arc.] There’s an enormous, extreme science fiction menace straightaway, and the nature of that changes on the run very fast. With where our heroes end up, the reason this title is called what it is will be very clear by the end of the fist six issues. There’s quite a few reveals to come, and one of the lovely things about “Stormwatch” is how many surprises you can pull. There isn’t a status quo, really. Let’s just say that.
One of my favorite comics of all time is Peter Milligan’s “Shade, The Changing Man” where the entire idea of who Shade was, what he did and the format changed every few issues. We’re a little bit like that. The team largely and its feeling will be intact, but there are surprises every issue, and I’m very pleased with that. You’ll see what I mean when we get to issue #2. The experience you expect will be back every single issue, but every issue will be quite different.
Of course not all of the heroes of Stormwatch are from the Wildstorm universe as readers quickly realized. One member of the team is JLA/JLI regular the Martian Manhunter, behaving very differently to how we have seen him previously.
I like the fact that being a shape changer he can be what he likes when he likes. It’s nice to be able to say, “He’s not always the same thing, you know.” I think that being the last of a warrior race, he’d like to express his warrior-ness every now and then. And what I think is the best thing we’ve done is that before the book came out, everybody was going “How on earth could he possibly fit into that?” and once the first issue was out, they were saying, “Well, of course he fits into that. Job well done.” [Laughs] We always knew that was going to work because he does fit into the book.
Stormwatch was the first series of the new 52 that I picked up on recommendation and the first that really surprised me. Witty, urbane and always surprising, it should shape up to be the most unpredictable DC comic in the shelves.
Stormwatch #1 is sold out, but has gone into a second print (available at your local comic shop). It can also be downloaded at ComiXology.