I normally don’t post things that overtly disagree with MGK, because he’s gracious enough to let me use his site and the much larger audience it provides, but after reading his post on DC and Wildstorm I felt that a different perspective might be warranted. Because while he thinks it’s yet another mistake in a DC relaunch that at this point couldn’t be much worse if they made Batman into a wisecracking dog, I actually feel like it’s the one sensible thing they’ve done in the entire mess and I wanted to offer my thoughts as to why.
The reasons are rooted in the basic concepts behind a shared universe: People want to see their favorite superheroes team up, and they will pay money for the privilege. Sure, it’s crass and mercenary and treats these characters as though they were nothing more than a commodity to be exploited…but it’s also true. When Character A teams up with Character B, it attracts the fans of both characters. As such, there is a strong incentive to make it as easy as possible for characters to bump into each other and have team-ups, fights, and generally interact.
MGK feels that there are limits to that concept; the DC Universe has a certain tone, he argues, that gets disrupted if you try to bring in heroes who are too disparate from the “core” DC characters. You can’t have a grim and gritty vigilante like Wild Dog or Vigilante, or a roguish hitman like Hitman… (a hitman named Hitman and a vigilante named Vigilante. Never let it be said that the heroes of DC don’t have a flair for evocative names…) because it’s difficult to believe that they could be part of the same universe as Batman and Superman.
The problem with this should be obvious: They are part of the same universe as Batman and Superman. So are the Secret Six, the Suicide Squad, Checkmate, the Doom Patrol…hell, it could be convincingly argued that the post-Year One Batman is so disparate in tone from the rest of the Justice League that it’s honestly harder to believe that Superman would team up with Batman than with Gen13. DC’s tone of light-hearted fantasy superheroic adventures has always had cracks in it that led to a seamy underbelly that somehow escaped Superman”s notice, even if you somehow forget that until 1993, John Constantine and Morpheus were considered part of the DC Universe.
This is because a superhero universe was never created as a single seamless entity by a single creative vision. It’s the slow, steady accretion of concepts at the hands of hundreds of different people, many of whom were under the impression that they weren’t even working in a shared universe when they wrote their series. Expecting consistency is like expecting your dreams to make logical sense, and trying to figure out why Superman never arrests Wild Dog is akin to that moment in the dream just before you wake up when you try to figure out why your Aunt Susan is married to a dog. It’s never going to make sense, and all it really does is throw you out of the dream.
In that light, the idea of folding Wildstorm into the DC Universe is, in principle, an excellent one. Alternate universes are a fun idea, but having to explain how Robin wound up flipping into Earth-50 every time you want him to team up with Fairchild and Static Shock is a right royal pain up the fucking arse and should be avoided. It’s better to just have a single “main” universe and branch off from there. It even works from a conceptual point of view; you can think of the Wildstorm characters as being part of the covert, espionage-oriented underworld that also produces Checkmate and the Suicide Squad. Organizations like International Operations stay under Superman’s radar, and guys like Grifter work at their level to stop them.
Of course, everyone seems to be ignoring how concepts like WildCATs, Gen13, the original Stormwatch and Welcome to Tranquility could actually work in the DC Universe in favor of complaining about how the Authority wouldn’t. Which illuminates a fairly basic point: The Authority didn’t really work that well in the Wildstorm Universe either. They’re not a good shared-universe team, because they tend to change the shape of the fictional universe they’re in. A universe with the Authority in it rapidly becomes filled with people who either agree with the Authority and do the same things they do, or disagree and try to stop them. No matter how you do things, you should spin the Authority off into another continuity entirely that they don’t have to share.
So yes, in principle it’s an excellent idea to merge the Wildstorm and DC Universes. In practice…these were the books they picked? No Gen13, no WildCATs, but they think a Voodoo solo book is going to be a big seller? Ohhh…kay. And the relaunched Stormwatch seems like it’s going to feel more like a watered-down Authority, although I reserve the right to change my mind about that based on the talent of Paul Cornell (who I’ve been a fan of since he was writing fucking awesome Doctor Who novels in the 1990s.) Looking at the lineup they’ve given us, rather than the options they had available, it’s pretty easy to see how “Christ no” could have been the response.