When we last left off, my guide THE WILD STORM was building traction. It had just finished explaining who the WildC.A.T.s were, and how Skywatch and the Authority connect to Stormwatch. Now, onto the third big faction in the WildStorm universe: International Operations.

International Operations and All the Rest

International Operations in both the original WildStorm comics and THE WILD STORM have the same core concept. They’re shady government agencies with way too much power. In THE WILD STORM, IO is a clean-cut yet ruthless bureaucracy that secretly rules the world. Most of the named IO employees we see in the series are human office workers. Even IO’s leader, Miles Craven, even looks and acts like a normal person. He also secretly runs the world and is perfectly comfortable with doing things like ordering assassinations.

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THE WILD STORM vs. the original. Images courtesy of DC Entertainment.

In the original comics, Miles Craven is more of an obvious supervillain. He’s a war vet who looks rather similar to Henry Bendix. He also obsesses over the idea of gaining superpowers, resulting in a bunch of shady human experiments.

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The Curse of Team 7

One of those aforementioned shady human experiments was when Bendix deliberately exposed a highly trained military squad called Team 7 to experimental “Gen-Factor” radiation; killing some of them, but giving the rest psychic powers.

Team 7 had about eleven members. For the sake of simplicity, we’re only going to bring up the ones who are relevant to THE WILD STORM. They are: Alex Fairchild, Cole Cash, John Lynch, Marc Slayton, Michael Cray, Stephen Callahan, and Phillip Chang.

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All those folks I mentioned are in there, somewhere. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Luckily, we already know Cole Cash as Grifter, a member of the WildC.A.T.s. Yet the other folks might take a bit of explaining.

The Origins of Gen13

Alex Fairchild, Phillip Chang, Stephen Callahan, and John Lynch are most prevalent in regards to Gen13. As it turns out, Miles Craven and his head scientist cyborg Ivanna Baiul made multiple attempts to create superhuman soldiers of their own. Team 7, after being exposed to Gen-Factor radiation, was dubbed Gen12, since that was Craven and company’s 12th official attempt at making superhumans.

So, after Gen12 came Gen13. IO recruited teens who were the kids of Team 7 members. However, the teens rebelled when they found out the truth about Team 7 and how IO experimented on their parents. Alex Fairchild was the father of half-sisters Caitlin Fairchild and Roxanne Spaulding. Caitlin goes by the admittedly unimaginative codename Fairchild, and has superhuman strength and invulnerability. Roxanne (AKA Freefall) has the power to manipulate gravity.

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Top row, from left to right: John Lynch, Caitlin Fairchild, Burnout. Bottom row: Rainmaker, Grunge, Freefall. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Phillip Chang’s son is Percival Chang (AKA Grunge). He can adopt the physical properties of anything he touches. Stephen Callahan is the father of Sarah Rainmaker, a Native American superheroine who can control the weather. Bobby Lane has fire powers and the codename Burnout. His father turns out to be John Lynch, a psychic secret agent who also serves as the team’s mentor, and is trying to save them all from the clutches of Craven and IO.

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Project Thunderbook

Now, most of those characters I mentioned haven’t even appeared in THE WILD STORM. Yet you do need to know about them to fully understand a recent subplot in the series. In THE WILD STORM, John Lynch was the leader of International Operations before Miles Craven. Before the series started, Lynch faked his death. In the past couple of issues, Lynch comes out of hiding to track down those who were involved in “Project Thunderbook”. It seems to have been an experimental program that gave soldiers superpowers at the cost of their mental well-being.

As you may have guessed by now, the Thunderbook subjects are almost all Team 7 characters. Alex Fairchild, Philip Chang, and Roxanne’s mother Gloria Spaulding all appear as super-powered freaks in hiding, and they all mention their children by name. Alex and Gloria even now have powers that are similar to Caitlin and Roxanne, respectively.

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The Fairchilds and the Spauldings, respectively. Images courtesy of DC Entertainment.

As seen above, Alex is now a woman in this continuity and looks exactly like Caitlin. The only Thunderbook candidate who doesn’t have kids at this point is Marc Slayton.

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Backlash

In the original comics, Slayton is Backlash, a half-Kherubim immortal superhero. He joined all sorts of teams ranging from Team 7 to Stormwatch. Backlash’s main power was his ability to generate psychic energy whips. In THE WILD STORM, Slayton doesn’t seem to be a long-lived immortal with any natural-born alien heritage. However, he is a mass murdering psychopath whose main weapon seems to be Xenomorph-esque tentacle talons.

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Original and THE WILD STORM Backlash. Images courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Another interesting thing to note is that Gen-Factor radiation doesn’t appear in THE WILD STORM. Instead, the Project Thunderbook subjects’ powers derive from Kheribum DNA implants. They seem to have a mind of their own and actively encourage murderous behaviors. The prime example of this is Slayton himself. He calls his Kheribum implant the “Carer,” and believes that it’s the voice of God.

The Man Formerly Known as Deathblow

Last but not least we have the most prominent Team 7 associated character in THE WILD STORM: Michael Cray. By most prominent, I mean that the character literally got his own spin-off miniseries titled WILDSTORM: MICHAEL CRAY. Before we get into that though, we have to know who this guy was originally.

At this point, it should be clear that the original WildStorm universe really was Jim Lee and friends throwing everything at the wall to see what stuck. Which brings us to the WildStorm comic series DEATHBLOW. This was really a double feature comic featuring both Michael “Deathblow” Cray and a dystopian sci-fi series called Cybernary, which might be one of the most over-the-top comics ever made.

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Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

However, Cybernary doesn’t really factor into THE WILD STORM, so let’s get on with it. Cray is a military assassin working for IO when gets the diagnosis that he has a brain tumor. After recieving this news, Cray decides he wants to be a better person. He leaves IO, and ends up fighting against demons and the occult as a member of the Order of the Holy Cross.

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Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Though he looks and acts like he’s made of steroids, Cray doesn’t seem to have any superpowers at first. However, due to being exposed to the Gen-Factor as a member of Team 7, Cray later developed psychokinetic abilities and a super-regenerative healing factor. Now, one thing you might have noticed by now at this point is that THE WILD STORM tends to be more down to earth than the original WildStorm-verse. However, while that’s certainly true for THE WILD STORM’s version of Michael Cray, Cray’s story in the ongoing series is similar to his original counterpart’s.

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Michael Cray Vs. THE WILD STORM

Hey, remember when I said in Part 1 that Angie Spica saved Jacob Marlowe from an IO-related assassination attempt? I know it’s been a while since then, but you should remember that now. After all, Michael Cray was the assassin that IO sent to kill Jacob Marlowe.

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Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

In this iteration, Cray isn’t a muscle-bound, borderline psychotic like his original counterpart. He also has an extra personality quirk of sorts in that he seems to be convinced that every person he’s been assigned to kill is a genuine threat to humanity. Yet he’s still an ultra-violent hitman for IO who ends up leaving them once he finds out that he’s been diagnosed with a brain tumor.

Michael Cray vs. DC Entertainment

Instead of joining up with the Order of the Holy Cross and fighting demons though; Cray begins, surprisingly enough, in an even more bizarre situation. First off, Cray joins “Executive Protection Services,” a front for Skywatch managed by their agent Christine Trelane. As a part of Executive Protection Services, Cray’s targets are now THE WILD STORM’s version of DC superheroes like Green Arrow and the Flash, who in this continuity are mentally unstable supervillains with access to technology that Skywatch wants for themselves.

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Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Now, one thing I should point out is that Cray fighting against the evil versions of DC superheroes is the main focus of the aforementioned spin-off comic WILDSTORM: MICHAEL CRAY. Yet the other main subplot that shows up in both the main and spin-off series is Cray’s newfound powers. It turns out that Cray’s brain tumor is giving him the ability to disintegrate people by touching them. Considering that “Project Thunderbook” is THE WILD STORM’s version of Team 7, it shouldn’t be hard to guess what the true nature of Cray’s brain tumor turns out to be.

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Even More Cameos

Another thing to note is that, as a member of “Executive Protection Services,” Skywatch teams Cray up with three fellow assassins: Victoria, Leon, and Hector. Cray’s not much of a team player, however, so the three haven’t really had a chance to truly show off their stuff yet. While they might seem like throwaway characters at first, it should be pointed out that Victoria, Leon, and Hector do exist in the original WildStorm-verse.

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Leon, Victoria, and Hector, respectively. Images courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Victoria Ngengi was a Stormwatch member named Flint, who had superhuman strength and durability. Leon Carver and Hector Morales were Frostbite and Powerhaus, respectively. Frostbite had ice powers, and Powerhaus had the ability to grow based on his emotional state. Both were former supervillains, and they joined an organization called DV8. It consisted of a bunch of Gen-Factor affected young people who were pushed into crime by their leader, International Operations cyborg mad scientist Ivana Baiul.

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Original vs THE WILDSTORM Baiul. Images courtesy of DC Entertainment.

In THE WILD STORM, Baiul is now Craven’s jealous second-in-command. She hasn’t had an opportunity to do much of anything thus far. However, as of now, Victoria, Leon, and Hector are all still alive. Elements of their past incarnations may end up having a role to play.

Bringing it All Together

So, that’s everything you need to know about the prior WildStorm-verse that connects to THE WILD STORM. Like I said earlier, you don’t need to know all this to follow THE WILD STORM. Yet if you want to pick up on the cameos and the certain ways characters and concepts have been reimagined, you should at least familiarize yourself with the WildC.A.T.s, the Authority, Henry Bendix, and Gen13.

Anyways, when the next issue comes out, I’m sure it’ll introduce ten more characters I forgot to account for here. If you’re interested in seeing that happen, or if anything else here has piqued your interest, then make sure to catch up on the series before it’s too late! Issue #17 of THE WILD STORM and issue #11 for THE WILD STORM: MICHAEL CRAY are coming out soon this September.

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