In 1992, comic creators Whilce Portacio, Jim Lee, Erik Larsen, Rob Liefeld, Todd McFarlane, Marc Silvestri and Jim Valentino decided to break away from the Big Two—Marvel and DC—and form their own comicbook publishing company: Image Comics. It was during this period that Lee and writer Brandon Choi would introduce their superhero team WildC.A.T.s (Wild Covert Action Teams).
|The first issue of WildC.A.T.s.|
Debuting during the speculator-fueled comic boom, where speculators would hungrily snatch up any comics figuring they would jump in value like their Golden and Silver Age counterparts, WildC.A.T.s became incredibly popular and sold a million copies of each issue to comic shops in its first few months. The comic centered on a centuries-long war between two alien races: the Kherubim, who resembled humans but had longer life-spans, incredible strength and durability, and the Daemonites, a reptilian-like race that can possess a host body and gain access to that host’s memories and skills. The Kherubim and Daemonites came to Earth when an orbital battle caused two of their ships to crash on the planet thousands of years in the past. The Kherubim integrated themselves amongst humanity, resulting in the births of human-Kherubim hybrids, while still engaging in a secret war with the Daemonites who wanted to conquer their new world.
|Lord Emp (top) and Void.|
Lord Emp was amongst the Kherubim and for centuries led various efforts against the Daemonites until a battle against his arch-nemesis Helspont, a Daemonite that managed to acquire the body of a member of the Acurian alien race, caused him to lose his memory in the 1970s. Emp would spend his time as a wandering vagrant named Jacob Marlowe. Meanwhile, a soviet cosmonaut named Adrianna Tereshkova had been sent into space where she collided with a silver sphere that was once part of a being known as Omnia, Mistress of Light. It bonded with Adrianna, turning her into Void with the abilities to teleport and to see fragmented visions of the future. Void encountered Marlowe in the 1990s and helped him build a financial empire in order to fund a resistance effort against the Daemonite threat.
The WildC.A.T.s consisted of several members of varying backgrounds. Their leader, Spartan, was an android constructed by Emp possessing the suppressed memories of Kherubim Yohn Kohl. He possessed super strength, energy projection and the ability to fly, though he used it sparingly as it drained too much energy. He could also transport his memories into a new body if his was destroyed. Initially emotionless, he began to develop feelings for teammate Voodoo.
Voodoo, aka Priscilla Kitaen, was an exotic dancer that was rescued from Daemonites by the WildC.A.T.s. Voodoo possessed an ability called the “Sight” which allowed her to see through a Daemonite’s host body to the alien within, making her a valuable asset to the team and a target to the Daemonites. She also possessed telepathy and the ability to develop animal-like traits, such as claws. It would be later discovered that one of her ancestors was a Kherubim possessed by a Daemonite, making her part Daemonite.
Zealot was a Kherubim warrior originally known as Lady Zannah. She was amongst the stranded Kherubim along with her daughter, Kenesha who would become known as Savant. On her home planet of Kherum, she was a member of The Coda: a caste of female warriors devoted to the honor of combat. After she was stranded, she took on the name Zealot and formed The Coda, or what mythology would come to know as the Amazons, to battle the Daemonites. During the battle of Troy, Zealot decided killing unarmed women and children was wrong and saved the royal family, leading to her banishment from The Coda. In the 20th Century, she took on the name Lucy Blaize and worked for the United States government, becoming a member of Emp’s team before Emp lost his memory.
Grifter, aka Cole Cash was a member of the United States Army’s Special Forces, having a natural talent for combat that saw him become part of the black ops squad Team 7. Team 7 was exposed to the experimental chemical Gen Factor, which activated a variety of ultimately temporary powers in them—in Cole’s case, strong telekinesis and telepathy—as well as life-threatening insanity. Believing the exposure was deliberately orchestrated by their superiors, International Operations, Cole led a revolt against them but ultimately the team returned to work for them. While serving as an assassin for I.O., Cole met and fell for Zealot, who trained him in the ways of the Coda warrior order; allowing him to maintain his sanity and locking away what remained of his psionic powers. Grifter’s suppression of them only allows him to give his enemies a nose bleed under certain circumstances.
Maul, aka Jeremy Stone, had spent most of his life unaware that he was actually half-human and half-Titanthrope (a subspecies of Kherubim). In fact, he had gone one to become a Nobel Prize-winning scientist. However, that changed when he discovered that he could change his size and mass at will, becoming an incredible powerhouse. Unfortunately, his size would also determine how much intellect he would retain: the bigger he grew, the less he had. Conversely, if he diminished his size his intellect would grow.
WarBlade, aka Reno Bryce, was an artist whose parents were killed by Daemonites when he was younger. He would spend his life learning martial arts in order to avenge them, but that quest was interrupted when he was abducted by the organization Cyberdata and brainwashed to become a member of their strike team. WarBlade managed to escape and was found by Marlowe, bringing him into the WildC.A.T.s where he learned he was in fact half Kherubim. WarBlade could alter his molecular structure to turn parts of his body into organic steel.
|The animated WildC.A.T.s|
With the debut of Batman: The Animated Series and X-Men: The Animated Series, comicbook-based cartoons had been propelled to new heights and the networks were looking towards comics for their next big hit. At the height of its success, the comic was optioned for an animated series by CBS as a means to complement their still-popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon. Developed by David Wise, who also served as story editor and wrote the first two episodes, the series showcased a more simplified and family-friendly version of the WildC.A.T.s’ fight against the Daemonites and the pursuit for a mystical Orb.
|Grifter, Zealot and WarBlade on a mission.|
Marlowe (Sean McCann) was depicted as an ordinary human who threw his fortune into the WildC.A.T.s in order to protect the planet once he learned about the secret war between the Kherubim and the Daemonites. Void’s (Janet-Laine Green) human aspect was removed and instead became the artificial intelligence of the Kherubim supercomputer from the ship that crashed on Earth and joined with Marlowe to carry on the war. Grifter (Colin O’Meara), while retaining his weaponry skill and Coda training, was depicted as a powerless reformed criminal who wanted to save his world. Maul’s (Paul Mota) was studying archaeology like his father (Bob Zidel) until his transformation and inability to revert back to normal caused them to lose touch. He also grew more enraged as he changed size, rather than losing his intelligence. Spartan (Rod Wilson) was a Kherubim who tired of the conflict and was ready to settle down with a human woman until a Daemonite killed him. Marlowe and Void placed his mind into a robotic body, turning him into a cyborg. Voodoo’s (Ruth Marhsall) past as an exotic dancer was changed to depict her as an adolescent with an interest in studying dance. WarBlade (Dean McDermott) was made a computer programmer and was recruited at the start of the series when the Daemonites attempted to abduct him to serve as Helspont’s (Maurice Dean Wint) host body. Zealot (Roscoe Handford) remained largely unchanged, however her banishment from The Coda came when The Coda wanted to become mercenaries-for-hire rather than fight Zealot’s war.
Other characters included Karillion (Lorne Kennedy), a one-eyed, four-armed Daemonite that served as Helspont’s right-hand man; Drockwell (Dennis Akiyama) and his army of drones that wear special suits to survive in Earth’s atmosphere; Pike (Colin Fox), a Kherubim who abandoned his race to work for the Daemonites willingly (although the show depicted him as a pure Daemonite); Troika, a trio of super-powered mercenaries who work for the Daemonites comprised of the volcanic Slag (Addison Bell), cybernetically-enhanced Attica (Dave Nichols) and cyborg H.A.R.M. (Dan Hennessy, who also served as voice director); Taboo was a thief with an organic exo-skeleton that worked with the Daemonites; Providence, an oracle originally empowered by the other Orb that created Void, was a mysterious figure that served as Helspont’s advisor although her advice came in the form of riddles; Artemis (Kristina Nicoll), Zealot’s rival in The Coda and their leader; and Mr. Majestic (Wilson), a Superman-like Kherubim who, unlike the comics where he served as a hero in the 1960s, was locked in a stasis pod until the team found him.
|Zealot laid low by poor ratings.|
WildC.A.T.s: Covert Action Teams debuted on CBS on October 1, 1994 and was produced by Nelvana Limited. It was aired as part of the Action Zone programming block along with Ninja Turtles and Skeleton Warriors. Other writers included Brooks Wachtel, Len Uhley, Bob Forward, Rich Fogel, Mark Seidenberg and Sean Catherine Derek. The series’ theme was composed by Sheree Jeacocke and Gerry Mosby, with the score handled by Ray Parker and Tom Szczesniak of Parker Szczmith Music, Inc. Although the comic remained popular, the show suffered from poor ratings as it was scheduled opposite both Bump in the Night and fellow comic property Batman. It was cancelled after its single season of 13 episodes, as was the Action Zone block (although Turtles retained the Action Zone intro until its conclusion two years later). The show’s final three episodes aired the following June.
In anticipation of the show following the comic’s success, Playmates entered into a marketing arrangement with the producers to create a toy line based on the characters. All of the principal WildC.A.T.s were released with the exception of Marlowe, along with Grifter’s brother Max as Black Razor, Mr. Majestic, Pike, Slag, Helspont and a generic Deamonite. Playmates Interactive Entertainment also released a video game for the Super NES in 1995 with only Spartan, WarBlade and Maul as playable characters. Image would publish a tie-in comic called WildC.A.T.s Adventures adapting the episodes, as well as a Sourcebook that gave background on the characters and how they differed from their comic counterparts. Sony Wonder released four VHS tapes with two episodes each. In 2005, Funimation released the complete series to DVD. While the DVD has fallen out of print and is typically only available for reasonable prices on the bootleg market, the episodes were made available for streaming through Amazon Prime Video and on the iTunes store.
|Ad for the DVD.|
The cartoon was parodied as MadD.O.G.s during Alan Moore’s run in the comics. While the series was being published, several of the characters received their own spin-off titles including Grifter, Zealot, Spartan and Voodoo. After running for 50 issues, the first volume of WildC.A.T.s was cancelled and Jim Lee sold his studio, Wildstorm (named after Wild.C.A.T.s and Lee’s other title, Stormwatch), and all his characters to DC Comics. Wildstorm became an imprint of DC under which a new volume of WildC.A.T.s began. The series would be revived and rebooted for three more volumes until it received its final cancellation in 2010. Various members of the team were integrated into the main DC Comics universe for the publisher’s New 52 line-wide reboot in 2011: Grifter retained his mission against the Daemonites and was given his third ongoing series; WarBlade appeared in The Ravagers as a member of the team that tested and killed abducted powerful children for his master, Harvest; Voodoo gained a second series and became a Daemonite from the outside with new shape-shifting abilities, limited telepathy and extensive combat training; Zealot became a space-travelling hunter of shape-shifting aliens; and Helspont became a foe of Superman. In 2017, the entire Wildstorm stable was reimagined in the maxi-series The Wild Storm.