‘So here we are now… A world where corporations dominate the global economy. And they have more rights… more freedoms… more powers than we do.’ – Joe Casey, Wildcats 3.0
In among the other fictional businesses I mentioned yesterday was the Halo corporation, as featured in Joe Casey’s Wildcats 3.0. It’s such a good example, and such a favourite comic of mine, that I want to take a moment today to talk about one of the best comic books you’ve probably never read.
Somewhere around the turn of the century the folks running Wildstorm Comics suddenly got all adventurous. A brand previously devoted to superheroes who were supposedly edgy but actually about the eye candy, for a few years they turned into something more unusual. Warren Ellis shook up the world of superhero teams with the brutal and politicised Authority, as well as beginning his archaeological tour of modern culture in Planetary. Brubaker and Phillips proved the slickly malevolent power of superpowered noir with Sleeper. And Joe Casey cranked his long-running work on Wildcats up a notch with the relaunch as Wildcats 3.0.
Wildcats 3.0 was a superhero team book, and like many superheroes that team used a corporation as their cover. But unlike those other books, Wildcats 3.0 turned the corporation into a central feature of the book. This was superhero comics reflecting on the age of global corporate power, and still telling an exciting story along the way.
Big issues, big action
Wildcats 3.0 looked the growing power of corporations straight in the eye. It was the first place I read about the disturbing precedent set by Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad, giving corporations many of the rights of people. It showed the terrifying reach and potential of these entities.
But it didn’t get preachy. This was no anti-globalisation rant. The Wildcats took the power of the corporation and ran with it, using it as a way to transform the world, spreading technology and ideas through this most modern of institutions.
The concept was mind-blowing to me and gave the comic a whole different edge. That isn’t to say that Wildcats 3.0 was a one trick pony. There was corporate espionage, superhero action, and some wonderfully messy inter-character conflicts, as the interests of big business, benevolent world domination, crime and personal satisfaction all came into conflict. It was a book that said ‘look what corporations could do’, but also one that reflected the costs of their impersonal power.
It helps that the art was also great. Bold and dynamic throughout, Dustin Nguyen and Richard Friend’s early issues in particular showed that a scene of talking heads could be visually exciting.
Alas, poor Wildcats
Of course it was too good to last. The comic was cancelled after 24 issues, and the Wildcats went back to their old action adventures. But if you want to see what a fictional corporation can really be like then try to hunt out the first volume, entitled Brand Building. It really is a superior slice of superhero comic.