Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Comic Book Memories: FIRE FROM HEAVEN

The other day at Ye Olde Local Comics Shop (aka the LCS), someone asked me about FIRE FROM HEAVEN, the WildStorm mega-crossover event of 1996. Their fundamental point was: "I have no idea what happened in that story."

Well, I was there...

We had an offsite editorial meeting in early 1996, led by Jonathan Peterson. JP was our editor-in-chief about then and had it in mind to do a really big story to tie up some loose ends. Such as:

  • whatever happened to the Kherubim and Daemonite spaceships that brought these two races (and their millennia-long war) to Earth?
  • what was the source of the Gen-Factor, the biochemical that turned Team 7 (and their kids) Gen-Active?
  • who were the parents of the Gen13 kids?

And we had a few other things we wanted to "reveal" or accomplish as well...

  • Spartan's origin
  • Backlash's origin
  • a traitor in the StormWatch ranks (which was a story I got to write, btw, with one of the bloodiest on-panel deaths the company had had to date)
  • who's stronger: Dane or Battalion? (another story I got to write)
  • killing off Cyberjack from BACKLASH and Miles Craven from WETWORKS
  • who is Kaizen Gamorra really? And what connection did he have to Spartan (as alluded to by Emp in an early issue of WildCATS)?
  • launching DV8, Warren Ellis' "dark Gen13"
  • and probably some other stuff I'm forgetting. If you care to know the answers to the above, you can follow the first link to the Wikipedia entry and find out all the dirt.

Anyway, we covered two or three white boards in a hotel conference room with character names, notes and arrows linking them together. It seemed exciting at the time, this feeling of "okay, that guy is REALLY this other guy and he's doing this because..." and so on.

Needless to say, it was a struggle from the beginning. We were supposed to release the books on a set schedule, but WildStorm had never been a particularly punctual outfit--so delays meant that a) momentum and b) coherence were sacrificed as chapters were told out of order. Don't get me wrong, it had the elements and did have a lasting impact on WildStorm's titles--there were concepts introduced and back story laid out--but it did suffer from shipping and scheduling problems. For example, we didn't even tell the end of the story in the second bookend; it was in Deathblow #28.

As I said above, I got to write the StormWatch issue wherein Flashpoint is revealed as a traitor. Why Flashpoint? He was a jerk, he had a history of clashing with Battalion, and nobody in our office had any trouble imagining he was secretly working with Kaizen Gamorra. We hadn't laid any real groundwork for it--heck, he blows a hand off the four-armed Brutus in the same issue wherein he's outed, which is kind of weird if he's working for Brutus's sponsor (Gamorra)--but we liked the idea of having an "enemy within" as StormWatch gets into the fray. There are a lot of things I would have done differently in retrospect but that final Battalion/Flashpoint fight was a good one and helped establish Battalion as a ruthless enemy.

Apart from that, and the Battalion-Dane throwdown in #36 (which was fun, since I was editing StormWatch and WetWorks both, so I knew the characters pretty well AND got to use the joke "Your name is Jackson? Mine too!" for the first time [Steven Grant used it later, when he was writing WetWorks]), those two issues of StormWatch weren't all that good.

If I had it to do over again, I would have framed my two issues as a history lesson taught to a group of posthuman kids by the last surviving member of that era's StormWatch. We see the highlights of what goes on, the back-and-forth in flashback, a couple more heroic deaths (we could've sacrificed a couple more characters at that point)... and end with the reveal that Fuji was the one teaching the lesson and he's the only one left of that group, some 200+ years later. But that's what I would have done, or maybe should have done, not what I did. Oh well.

We did do a real nice job on the FFH trade paperback-- it was pretty much the last thing at WildStorm I ever touched, and my name was removed from the credits (kind of a vindictive little stroke from Mike Heisler, I'm guessing, the two-bit rat bastard), but I did get the book through production and up to print before I got canned. If you ever have an interest in reading the story in one shot, give the collection a glance.

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