WildC.A.T.S. Artist: Ty Templeton.


Original medium: Comic books
Published by: Image Comics
First Appeared: 1992
Creator: Jim Lee
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Image Comics was founded in 1992, as a federation of studios run by comic book cartoonists convinced that the only way they were going to get a fair deal for their creations was to cut out the middle man, i.e., the publisher, and market their works directly to the public. There followed a sudden proliferation of highly lucrative properties …

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… such as Savage Dragon, Youngblood and Cyberforce. Among Image's initial slate of titles was Jim Lee's WildC.A.T.S.

Lee had formerly worked on Marvel's series X-Men and The Punisher before striking out on his own.WildC.A.T.S. was the first series he actually created from scratch, and owned from the very beginning (tho later, he launched related works like Gen-13 and Wetworks). WildC.A.T.S.: Covert Action Teams #1 came out from Lee's Image company, Wildstorm Studios, with a cover date of August, 1992. Lee enlisted script writer Brandon Choi (Deathblow, Stormwatch) and inker Scott Williams (Deathlok, Strikeforce: Morituri) to help bring his creation to life.

Tho the focus shifted several times over the years, WildC.A.T.S., started with a war between alien species that had been going on since about forever. The good guys were the Kherubim, and the bad guys were the Daemonites. (Their orientations were alluded to in their names — in the Bible, Cherubim were an order of angels, whereas it's obvious where the other name came from.) A group of Kherubim got stranded on Earth centuries ago and have been living among us ever since (they're very long-lived). A bunch of the earthbound Kherubim formed WildC.A.T.S. so they could take covert action against infiltrating Daemonites.

Predictably, since this took place in a '90s comic book, each individual member of the team looked and acted like a superhero. They included a human/Kherubim hybrid named Maul, huge, super-strong guy like The Hulk or Alpha Flight's Sasquach; an emotionless android named Spartan; Lord Emp, a Kherubim plutocrat, who bankrolls them; and perhaps a half-dozen others.

The comic book market at the time was swollen with speculators, who would buy and stash away multiple copies of hot new comics, heedless of the fact that anything preserved in such numbers will never get rare. For that reason, nobody knows how many people actually read any given Image release. Nonetheless, the fact that a million copies of the first issue were sold attracted a certain amount of media interest. Nelvana (Eek! the Cat, Berenstain Bears) snapped it up as an animated property almost right away, and it was on TV by 1994. It was even re-adapted in the other direction as WildC.A.T.S. Adventures for ten issues between 1994 and '95. But it didn't garner the same interest as it did in the original comic books, and lasted only 13 episodes in animation. It was later released on DVD by Funimation (Dragon Ball Z, Kiddy Grade).

Meanwhile, the comic book ran 50 issues plus an annual, with a couple of collected editions and several sourcebooks for a role playing game version, before ending with its June, 1998 issue. Along the way it had crossovers with Spawn, The Justice League of America and others. Wildstorm Studios was purchased by DC Comics, where it continued as a separate imprint. WildC.A.T.S. continued as a series of oneshots starring separate members, and as a revamped series veering off in new directions. Major new characters starred during this period, as well as revised versions of old ones.

Several splinter WildC.A.T.S. groups were published over the years, including Savant's Team (Savant was a re-named original member), a time travel team, and WildC.A.T.S. Version 3.0, which had a 24-issue series starting in 2002. But the mainstream team continues to prosper in comic books, well into the 21st century.


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Text ©2008 Donald D. Markstein. Art © DC Comics/Wildstorm.