Yesterday’s New

Thinking about comics again, after more time spent revisiting things I’d never read the first time around. This time, it was Jim Lee’s WildC.A.T.s, a title that was wildly successful back in the day — one that sold hundreds of thousands of copies and convinced a generation of fans that this was as good as comics could be.

I wasn’t one of them; I was just a handful of years too old to be in that target audience, and instead I was left looking on, confused by what everyone was into and why it worked for them and not for me. Those initial Image Comics titles left me cold even as I paid attention to their rise to fame, bypassing DC to become the second biggest publisher in the U.S. despite only putting out a handful of books. This was the future, or so it looked at the time, and I was standing on the sidelines, feeling old and past it even as I wasn’t even out of my teens yet.

Looking back at WildC.A.T.s. now, I’m struck by how straightforward and traditional it all feels, despite the bombastic, stylized artwork that honestly doesn’t really stand up to the test of time. (Some of those costume designs in particular, woof.)

The basic concept of the series’ mythology is familiar enough to be easily understood and manipulated in any number of ways in later issues, and you can see how old-school writers like Alan Moore and Steve Gerber felt like they could step into the space and make it work. What really stuck out was how open-ended it all was: it’s clear that Lee et al were thinking about something that could continue publishing indefinitely, something that feels particularly rare now, when new comics are telling A Story with a beginning, middle, and end, even if those three things happen to be spaced pretty far apart.

Is it too old-fashioned to come up with a concept that can be folded up indefinitely and used in perpetuity, I wonder? Have comic readers en masse become too sophisticated for such a thing, and instead need to know when an end is near? Sometimes, I find myself wanting something old-fashioned and endless in my comics. No wonder I’m looking back in the past so often.

One Reply to “Yesterday’s New”

  1. I feel like WildCATS hit me at the perfect age – an X-Men-obsessed pre-teen who just LOVED Jim Lee’s art. Of the Image launches, I think it was the strongest – at least in terms of balancing mythos and story with art, and it ran for a good while, with really great runs by Alan Moore and James Robinson, not to mention the excellent Joe Casey/Dustin Nguyen run. But I see what you’re saying!

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