The end of the world is coming for the WildStorm Universe at DC - and the Authority are coming together to fight it. Again.
20 years after the seminal The Authority by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch, Ellis' final arc of the 24-part The Wild Storm series sets the stage in getting the band back together.
He'll be helped by series artist Jon Davis-Hunt, who in addition to drawing all 24 issues of The Wild Storm has also been re-designing classic WildStorm characters along the way - from Grifter and Zealot to the Engineer, Jenny (Mei) Sparks, and most recently the Midnighter and Apollo.
On the eve of his and Ellis' final arc, Davis-Hunt spoke with Newsarama about the impending culmination of series, what it's setting up, how the seeds were planted, and how as a classic WildStorm fan has been enjoying the ride.
Newsarama: Jon, what are you working on now? What's on your drawing broad?
Jon Davis-Hunt: So, right now, I’m working out an action sequence, between a group of characters and an incoming Skywatch force.
The action scenes in the book have probably been my most favourite element and I’ve tried to give each one a unique feel, primarily based on the kind of ‘combat style’ I felt each character should have.
In this one, it’s quite epic, so I’m playing around a lot with moving the camera out more, to really capture the sense of scale. There are some pretty big spaceships in this sequence, all of which are no doubt going to end up being trashed in ever more imaginative ways, so I want to make sure we have room for all of the explosions!
I thumbnail out the sequence first, but I also like to make a little ‘map’ of where everyone is in the scene and where all the major objects are, so I can then work out how to destroy more things, or throw characters around. I’ve tended to do this for all the fight sequences in the book.
Nrama: The Wild Storm's final arc begins March 20 with #21, and all the pieces seemingly coming together. From your perspective, what's going on?
Davis-Hunt: Basically, it's all been leading up to this. Warren has spent a great deal of time, not just world building, but patiently moving all our main players into positions where the resulting conflict becomes inevitable. And this final arc is where that finally happens.
People are going to make some extremely bad decisions, that are going to have some very dramatic consequences, but I think what’s been clever about Warren’s plotting is, he’s made those bad decisions perfectly understandable.
It’s also neat how you can trace back the inciting incidents that led to all this resulting chaos and mayhem. Basically, the storm has finally arrived and now it’s all going to go a bit crazy.
Nrama: Fans are buzzing about the seeming building to a modern-day Authority with Apollo, Midnighter, Jenny Mei Sparks, and more. What can you say about that?
Davis-Hunt: I’m not allowed to say anything. Other than as a fanboy myself, it is ridiculously exciting. I am ridiculously excited. And stuff happens. Lots of awesome stuff.
Nrama: How would you describe the modern-day Authority here? What sets them apart from teams of the past, and other superhero teams?
Davis-Hunt: There’s an obvious more contemporary and ‘real-world’ grounding to them, or at least as much as there can be with people who have machinery for blood and can teleport through mobile phones. There’s no trans-dimensional Bleed-ship base yet and they don’t have a defined manifesto as such.
And they are still an unknown force in the world. At the moment, they are basically operating out of a two-bedroom flat in south London and they spend a lot of time in the pub.
But what you are seeing is all this establishment actually occurring, as they start to figure out who and what they are. It’s like a band forming. They don’t really understand what impact they will have on the world, all they know is, they want to have some kind of impact. I think it’s a really neat concept to see a superhero team form in a world that doesn’t really have that as a concept. They are the first of their kind in their universe and we get to see how it all starts.
Nrama: For this series, you have been slowly redesigning all the major WildStorm characters. Can you explain your takes on Midnighter and Apollo, and perhaps share any turnaround sketches you've done for the characters?
Davis-Hunt: Yeah, designing Midnighter and Apollo was definitely the hardest redesigns of the series, mainly because I was such a fan of their original designs. However we still needed to change them to fit into our re-imagining.
Warren gave a clear idea of what he wanted in terms of tone and then I just ran with that. Initially, I went more military and more ‘costume’ orientated than I think fits into the book. We have made a conscious effort so far to not have any costumes (as such) so I had to make a real effort to dial it back a bit.
My big thing was to make them feel like they fit together but also contrasted against each other, so I kept the theme of ‘day and night’. I gave Midnighter a full mask this time (as, playing on the original characters nod to Batman, I wanted him to be more of a literal ‘urban knight’).
Initially, I went full ‘ninja’ with him, but after some comments from Warren, I moved away from that style and I think how he looks now is actually far better. It’s a simpler, more iconic design and I’m pleased it keeps elements of the original design too.
I think the mask also helps to differentiate him more from Bats (though I made sure I incorporated in the original masks detailing as well). My original thought for Apollo was to make him really tank-like. Literally, like a walking Abrams – the idea being that Midnighter was the stealthy operator, while Apollo was the heavy-duty support. But this look had no ‘everyday’ element to it…it was very ‘costume-y’. So I simply worked backwards, stripping him down until we had something that still felt distinguishable, but looked more like something you could actually buy in a shop. He does still have military padding under his jacket though which I think is cool.
Nrama: Were you a fan of the original WildStorm comics, and Warren's runs on Stormwatch and The Authority? How did you come into this series - what was your mindset?
Davis-Hunt: I was a huge fan of the original Stormwatch and The Authority. I was offered the book while I was working on Clean Room and at the time, I simply couldn’t believe it. It has been a real dream gig.
Nrama: This has become unequivocally your longest run, outpacing Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen several months back. How do you feel you've grown or changed since you began this project?
Davis-Hunt: Wow yes, that Transformers run was a looooong time ago now, it was one of my first comic gigs. I think I have changed a lot since then. I learned a lot working on 2000 AD and then even more coming onto Clean Room for Vertigo. I think Clean Room was the first time I felt truly comfortable with my ‘style’ and so since then I’ve just been trying to improve as much as possible.
It’s a continuous process. I realize now I still have so much to learn, but I’m not quite as constantly panicked as I was in those early days. Now I’m just mildly panicked. :)
Nrama: What are your big goals for these last four issues of The Wild Storm?
Davis-Hunt: Mainly, stick the landing. We’ve worked really hard to get here and I’ve been especially lucky to work with such talented and amazing creators.
Obviously, Warren for providing me with such incredible stuff to draw, but also Steve Buccellato, who is amazing and whose colors have done wonders for my inks and Simon Bowland who is a fantastic letterer. And of course editors Marie Javins and Rob Levin, who do such a great job offering helpful feedback and support.
So basically, my biggest goal is to not let them down, or any of the fans that came with us on this journey and seemed to have enjoyed the book so much. Just finish the book in a fashion that is worthy. And draw some crazy explosions on the way!
Nrama: Last question - anything you can tease fans with about what's to come?
Davis-Hunt: Well, I have something planned for after The Wild Storm – but I can’t say what it is yet. That’s a terrible tease isn’t it!