This is a bit of a parting from the usual fare here at The Comic Archive. The focus has always been on saving and preserving the history of how comics are made so that ten, fifteen, twenty years from now you will have a place to go to saturate yourself in the crazy days of ink and paper comics. But I’m taking a moment out of our regularly scheduled programming to take a look back at one of my favorite comics, one that I almost missed.


Specifically I’m talking about Warren Ellis’ Stormwatch. I missed these issues when they came out. I bought Stormwatch #1 back when it came out in those crazy Image days when everyone was pumping out as many ideas as they could, and promptly wrote the book off.  I didn’t know that Ellis was taking over the book, and honestly I wouldn’t have known who he was at the time anyway.

Now if I am remembering correctly I came upon his work through Planetary and my friend Bruce who made me read it in college.  It was, and remains one of my favorite love letters to comics and pulp writing.  From Planetary, Bruce told me about The Authority, which I remember seeing advertising for, and promptly writing off as just another Wildstorm team.  Of course as soon as I relented and read it I was hooked.  Never before I read such unadulterated joy for action comics.  Never had I met a super hero team been made up of such distinct people who happened to have abilities to enact change.  You could see something going on in Ellis’ head, this idea of change.  This idea, just as the new millenia was approaching, that we could change the world into something better.

Some time went by and I continued to love The Authority, love Planetary.  And then I went on a long car trip to Florida.  And then I got home and a few weeks later found out I had a sizable blood clot in my right calf.  And rather abuptly found myself in the hospital on a steady cocktail of blood thinners as we waited for levels to even out.  For ten days I was stuck in a room in a hospital gown, hooked up to an IV just waiting.  And while I was waiting I read Stormwatch.

Stormwatch gave Ellis a lot of room.  He was able to try out his ideas of what an international team would do besides fight the villian du jour.  He got real team interplay.  These people hung up the suit at the end of the day and much like any other group of employees hung out with each other.  A little office romance, or in some cases friends with benefits.  All sorts of stuff that felt real to me, felt like what it was like working in an office or hanging out with friends.  But then they would rally together and face off against some great threat.

There was the classic paranoid power mad Ellis villian (the guy really doens’t trust authority figures).  And I tried counting the JLA analogues.  There were a lot.  One of my favorite story lines was when the High came down from the moutain to change the world.  That worked out well.  Then there was the secret team that Bendix put together which gave us Apollo and Midnighter.  Again, the worst place to be is on a JLA analog that Ellis is writing.  So added to the list of things Ellis has some mistrust for seems to be classic superhero teams, specifically the JLA.  He had them in Planetary as well.

You can see Ellis working out ideas on the page.  His relationship with the superhero comic.  With the idea of the noble team that bands together to protect which somehow leads to them either trying to rule or just plain ending up in disaster.  But something changed.  And I honestly don’t know what changed for Ellis.  But if you look at the Authority, and I’m talking specifically about Ellis’ Authority, it is the JLA analog that actually takes the real personal interplay that he was really getting down pat in Storwatch, the classic team lineup that could easily abuse their massive amounts of power and then adds the most crazy wonderful out there superhero concepts that he could think up.

They fight super powered terrorists, an invading parallel world populated by aliens and the British and finally they take on God.  He didn’t bring in any Joker analogs.  There is no Lex Luthor there.  Magneto is no where.  You could make the arguement that they are there, that Gamora has elements of Magneto.  But really I think he intentionally took a step sideways and tried to give the classic superhero lineup something new to face.  Something worthy of them.  A real challenge.  How many times can Apocalypse screw over the X-Men?  How many times can Spiderman fight Venom?  How many times can Batman cuff Mr Freeze?

My biggest complaint though, and the impetus for writing about these books that I love in the first place, is that none of these stories are in print.  I was able to find a set of Stormwatch on ebay and curiously Ellis’ run on Authority is available on comixology’s iPad app but not DC’s app.  But really these are truly great stories.  Truly great examples of the fun and wonder that comics can achieve.  Why are they so unavailable?

And now we sit a few months away from another Stormwatch #1.  I’ve seen the cover.  I know that I like having some of Wildstorm and DCU proper together.  But it remains to be seen if this is going to be just another team or if it will be the kind of stuff that Ellis and Wildstorm helped herald into the new millenia.

One Response to The Time Warren Ellis Took Over My World


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