Saturday, May 12, 2007

Wild Wild Days Pt 4: The Storm Passes

Things were changing at WildStorm. People were leaving, moving on, and new people came on board. My workload shifted, as I was reassigned from WETWORKS and BACKLASH to STORMWATCH and then as assistant editor on GRIFTER and SPAWN/WILDCATS. I'd done more card backs for a bunch of sets, as well as contributing to the WILDSTORMS! expansion sets, but that sideline was winding down.

STORMWATCH was troubling. I made a few decisions that, in retrospect, probably weren't the best for the book, even though they were supported by the higher-ups at the time. The storyline was the build-up to SW #25, which was published first in 1993 as "Images of Tomorrow"-- a preview of the book that would actually be sold in 1995. The book showed the team in ruins, beaten by a monstrously powerful foe named Despot, who was opposed by only a single shadowy figure (unrevealed at the issue's end, too).

It takes time to mesh things like this and we were running out fast. A lot of story was pushed into issues 22 through 24, as our writer labored to make the foregoing fit with the already-known. Then we moved through 25 (with new ads only) to issue 26. Our writer, HK Proger, had a finish in mind for the story: he wanted Henry Bendix to kill Despot with a shot to the head, execution style. We felt it was too low-key an ending, so editorial (basically me) pushed for a huge ending, smashing up NYC, with the mangled Spartan robot frying Despot after Battalion (c'mon, everyone saw that coming) took him down.

It might've been best to let HK have his way. I don't know. What I do know is that we shouldn't have launched the two-part STORMFORCE story right after the events of #26. Readers were ticked off that we cut away from the broken team's mourning period to show a new batch of StormWatch trainees and the human military group formed to suppor them. Oddly enough, lots of these elements have since been used (especially Swift in AUTHORITY and Flint in STORMWATCH: TEAM ACHILLES), so I suppose they were at least interesting to someone.

Summer of '95 also saw us launching FIRE FROM HEAVEN, our super-crossover epic, which revealed (in no particular order):

  • the location of a Daemonite warship (the original one that crashed on Earth about 10,000 years ago), which was the immediate flashpoint of the battle;
  • a traitor inside StormWatch;
  • Kaizen Gamorra's resurgence as a world-class villain (and owner of seemingly endless robot armies);
  • Helspont and the Cabal's last major undertaking;
  • the surprise history of Spartan (Yon Kohl, anyone?);
  • Backlash finding out something of his own history (he's a Gen-Active Kherubim!);
  • the secret behind the Gen-Actives and the launch of Sigma;
  • and too much more to list here.

FIRE launched the GRIFTER and SIGMA series as well.

The thing that pleased me most about this crossover was that I got to write STORMWATCH 34 and 35, the crossover issues, which featured a battle between Jackson Dane and Jackson King, one villain getting his hand blown off while another (the traitor mentioned above) lost his head, and so on.

Jonathan Peterson's role was recast from editor-in-chief to publishing consultant (as far as I remember), and he had projects with which he was rolling. Mike Heisler, creator of UNION, was brought on as the new EIC. A couple new assistant editors were hired and Mike Rockwitz was brought on as editor (and my new boss).

Mike R and I got along okay but it was clearer by the day that things were not working out. It'd be easy for me to blame Mike H for all of it (heck, it's my blog, I can write what I like) but there's no point; my time at WildStorm was getting worse almost by the day. I didn't like Mike Heisler and he didn't like me. My dissatisfaction was growing, especially after being effectively demoted to "assistant" when I'd been editing books on my own for over a year by then. I think they were trying to "straighten me out" but I wasn't on board with that program. When you don't have much respect for those doing the straightening, it's hard to go along, you know?

Among things that happened around then, I...

  • got yelled at for going to lunch with a writer on a new book, because it wasn't my project
  • helped a writer/artist on a GEN13 book by providing some background he thought was very useful
  • had dinner with Humberto Ramos (great guy), along with lots of other WS staffers
  • went to a bachelor party, moved (twice) and got absolutely nowhere in my social life
  • figured the writing was on the wall in early 1996.

And it was. Mike H gave me an evaluation that was sharply critical and negative; given the opportunity to respond, I really unloaded-- and had a sit-down with John Nee about an hour later. He said he was giving me a short while to clear up my business at WildStorm, then I'd get severance and a polite farewell. (Actually, I got more than that; Jeff Mariotte got me a pass on WildStorm's dime to that year's Comic-Con, which was a huge favor to me.)

Given the situation, it was remarkably generous: I could have been simply let go. There was no salvaging a working relationship between Heisler and me, so the decision was a simple one. Mike H was replaced as EIC a few months afterward by Scott Dunbier, a nice guy who's had the job ever since; Mike Rockwitz left within a couple of years and returned to NY (I believe). I went back to WildStorm once before heading to LA, where I spent about half a year as a game tester for Activision (thanks to Joyce Chin, artist on WYNONNA EARP, who gave me a lead on that job), but it was awkward; nobody wants to pal around with a guy who got fired.

I caught up with a few WS co-workers a year or so later, when I went to San Diego Comic Con as part of the Chaos! Comics contingent (which is a couple of posts in itself). They were all friendly and it was great seeing them.

Do I miss anything about WildStorm? Once in awhile, but it's mostly people that I miss. I miss folks like Tom Harrington (office mate extraordinaire), Jeff Mariotte, Whilce Portacio and Scott Williams (both among the very nicest guys in the business), Jeff Rebner, Mat Broome and Wendy Fouts, John Tighe and Tom McWeeny, Joe Chiodo and Martin Jimenez, Jeromy Cox and Ben Dimagmaliw and Laura Martin, Joe Dunn, Bill Kaplan and JP, Nicole Hunting (perhaps the nicest person at WildStorm), Sandra Hope and Trevor Scott (tireless professionals both), and a whole bunch more I'm probably leaving out by accident. And John Nee, which probably surprises both of us. (If more names occur to me, I'll edit this post.)

Nowadays, I can pick up a WildStorm book and flip through it with a sense of nostalgia, even amusement when a writer or artist picks up on things I worked on back when. I have my favorite anecdotes, opinions and insider stuff (a lot of which is NOT in these posts) and tell a bunch of stories about "back when" at my local comic shop. It was a wild time in my life, and I wouldn't trade those memories for anything... but I think I'm a lot happier now.


DrewB said...

05/01/2007 07:02:31 PM


I remember that whole crossover with much love and affection (Hey, I was 20! :)), and reading the behind-the-scenes of how it all came about from your perspective just adds more richness and depth to what was definitely an--ahem--wild time in comics history. That I have the geek honor of calling the guy who did so much of this "friend" is all the sweeter. :)

Someday you'll have to tell the story of how it was you ended up here in the District. ;)

DrewB said...

05/01/2007 07:24:07 PM

Thanks for the kind words!
FIRE FROM HEAVEN was an interesting thing to see from the inside. It started with a day-long meeting where JP literally whiteboarded the entire thing, start to finish, and we tried to fit every book into the framework. Some of them were easy fits, some were not.
I feel like we tried to accomplish too many things in one crossover, succeeding with some but not all. Lots of change in the space of two months. But... it was what it was and my name's in there somewhere.
see you Wednesday!

PS, I'm glad we're friends, too. Where else would I learn that emo is a choice?