This got me thinking of ways Wildstorm could expand its line and broaden its focus. There are a number of different things I could see Wildstorm doing to increase interest in their brand while simultaneously tackling new areas and I've summarized them after the jump.
Another Cog In The Machine
This could be accomplished with ads and suggestions to check their website for more details or even promo codes for free online versions or discounts on trades. This also means they would need to rework the Wildstorm website a little. Have a link that leads to some trades to check out, similar to DC's recent After Watchmen promotion.
Some great books to introduce people to would include the likes of Warren Ellis' Authority and Planetary, Alan Moore's America's Best Comics imprint and more recent works, like Brian K Vaughn's Ex Machina.
More Creator Owned Properties
The next step towards fixing the Wildstorm Universe is to offer more creator owned work, similar to Jeff Parker's and Tom Fowler's Mysterious: The Unfathomable, which has been getting a lot of positive buzz recently. Another example of this is the critically acclaimed Ex Machina. Creator driven content is a great incentive to attract higher profile creators to the line and would help add more relevancy to the flagging line.
A recent initiative on Wildstorm's behalf saw the announcement of a new line of creator owned work that shows me Wildstorm has a firm grasp of this concept already. The only one that I'm a little worried about is the Garrison title, which looks to be a straight genre book right now, but that could change when more info comes out. The rest definitely look interesting and do have a chance to stand out from the crowd.
Another option is to go with similar ventures to the recent The Ferryman miniseries, which was written by Marc Andreyko, but was credited to Joel Silver, presumably with the intent to turn it into a movie at some point. This another way to go with creator owned properties - as a testing ground for possible movies. Not the most dignified thing to do and can possible lead to a stagnant line of comics imitating what people think would make good movies, but it doesn't mean there are no good ideas that could come out of it. Plus, if it does become a movie, the trade would be another way to attract more readers to other titles in the Wildstorm stable.
A drastic, but necessary change I'd implement is to have the line stick to doing miniseries over monthly ongoings. I feel that it would help prevent lackluster arcs that seem to crop up every so often in their line of titles that only serve to dilute the works in favour of keeping a steady stream of cash trickling in. Strengthen the line by cutting the fat and these mini- and maxiseries will pay for themselves and then some.
Just think back to how the original Authority series were, which the Ultimates later copied. Imagine filling in the gaps between Ultimates 1 and 2 with lackluster filler for the year or two gap between the two series as they built up to the next big arc.
Another major thing this would help alleviate is the current rut of delays affecting their titles, such as the Grant Morrison/Jim Lee WildC.A.T.S. series. Separate miniseries could come in earlier or during lengthy runs if need be without an outright stoppage in work or replacement writers and artists. Obviously, these series of miniseries could be supplemented by one-shots.
A huge problem with the Wildstorm recently is that their bread and butter Wildstorm Universe franchises, such as Authority, WildC.A.T.S., Gen 13 and Stormwatch, have been floundering because of too many failed relaunches and new directions. My solution, put them on hold for a year to two. Simply take them off the market completely. No minis, no one-shots, nothing. Make people miss the characters and, after a year or two, relaunch the universe with a complete restart, abandoning all previous continuity while you're at it. While I said too many failed relaunches were a problem, I think a complete fresh start would work since all of the other relaunches where basically new status quo changes, not new relaunches. You would relaunch with the four core titles listed above with some fresh talent given carte blanche to run wild, much like how Warren Ellis and Mark Millar did back around 2000.
The Authority and WildC.A.T.S. would form the core of the line with Stormwatch and Gen 13 as supporting titles. There would either be two miniseries per year that each get six to eight issues or a maxiseries to cover the year's worth of output. These would be titles that explore the edges of the universe or deal with tangential issues from the four ongoing books. As for writers, I'd get two mainstream, high profile names to write The Authority and WildC.A.T.S. and two up and coming writers for Gen 13 and Stormwatch.
A New Direction
As for what direction the new books should go in, I have a couple of basic ideas. The Authority should return to its roots as a widescreen superhero book supported by high concept ideas and real world political scenarios that originally made the book what is was while WildC.A.T.S. would be in the vein of a superhero strike force supported by the government. Stormwatch would be a covert super human, not hero, book and Gen13 would take up the rear as a teen hero book similar to something like Ultimate Spider-Man or Blue Beetle.
Choose Your Crossovers Wisely
Finally, avoid events like the plague since the line isn't big enough to support them. A crossover every now and then should be fine, but no more than once a year and no more than a simple six issue miniseries. Try to go with a Captain America-like bubble continuity for the line that reflects the events in other titles, but doesn't get mired in it either.
One option open to Wildstorm is to promote their books with crossovers with DC Universe titles. This can turn gimmicky really fast and dilute the strength of the Wildstorm titles quickly, especially when teaming analogues, such as the Authority, with their mainstream counterparts. To counter this, they should only crossover if there is good reason to do so (ie story driven) and a solid creative team behind them.
Having them be written by a writer working on the Wildstorm Universe titles would also go a long way to having the Wildstorm characters treated with the respect they deserve as opposed to the mainstream DC heroes' whipping boys.
How Would You Revamp The Wildstorm Universe?
The above reasons are what I think would be a good way for Wildstorm to get back on track and maybe even reach the heights they were at when Warren Ellis and Alan Moore were working there. However, that's all they are - my reasons. I want to hear what you guys think would be the best way to bring the failing line back to its former prominence and relevance.