DC/Wildstorm Series
ThunderCats Issue #0

From the collection of Chris (He-Fan)

ThunderCats #0
Publication Date: October 2002

Writer: Ford Lytle Gilmore & J. Scott Campbell
Artwork: Ford Lytle Gilmore & J. Scott Campbell
Digital Inks: Rhys Yorke
Letters: Rich ‘n’ Wes @ Comicraft
Colors: Studio XD
Editor: Scott Dunbier

“A Cat’s Tale”
In the forest, Lion-O practices battle manoeuvres whilst WilyKat and Snarf watch on. WilyKat is impressed, and asks Lion-O when he will get a weapon, stating that he is tired of being left out of battles and wants to fight. Lion-O reminds the Thunderkitten that he and his sister still have their bags of tricks, but WilyKat protests and insists that what he needs is a real weapon such as those used by the other ThunderCats.

WilyKat insists that the ThunderCats would be unable to defeat their enemies without their weaponry, and recounts the time that Panthro was ambushed by Jackalman and Monkian in the Forest of Silence, and successfully fended them off using both his martial arts ability and his skill with his weapon, the nunchukus. WilyKat then recounts the time when Tygra and Cheetara stole back the Bracelet of Power from Castle Plun-Darr, and were unable to outrun the pursuit of S-S-Slithe and Vultureman but were able to repel their attack with the use of Tygra’s bolo whip and Cheetara’s bo-staff. Lastly, WilyKat recounts the time that Lion-O faced Mumm-Ra in his pyramid during Lion-O’s Anointment Trials, and how Lion-O was able to backflip over Mumm-Ra’s head and use the Sword of Omens to run him through. WilyKat states that whilst Lion-O didn’t kill Mumm-Ra, he came close.

Lion-O tells the young Thunderkitten that none of those battles happened that way, and also explains that it is not the weapon that makes the warrior, but his spirit. Lion-O states that the ThunderCats’ power comes not from their weapons but from their hearts, and that their greatest strength is their ability to work as a team. WilyKat grudgingly concedes, but still wants to know when he can fight like the elder ThunderCats. The conversation is interrupted by the intervention of WilyKit, who wants to know what Lion-O and WilyKat are doing, stating that she has been looking for them. Lion-O explains that he was telling WilyKat what valuable members of the team the Thunderkittens are, and that, whilst when they are older they may be used differently in battle, for now he needs them to accept their roles. WilyKit states that that sounds good to her, and urges them to hurry up, telling them that Panthro needs them right away.

Watching over the ThunderCats in his Onyx Pyramid, Mumm-Ra observes their exchanges and thinks to himself that he may be able to make use of WilyKat’s impetuous nature some day…

* This issue represents the first ThunderCats comic to be published with new story material for almost 15 years, and the content within is intended as a “refresher” of sorts, to remind readers who the ThunderCats are, and also to provide a taste of forthcoming issues. The story in this issue is very short (only 13 pages), with the remainder of the issue fleshed out by pin-ups by various artists (about which more below), early layout work from J. Scott Campbell and Ed McGuinness (artist for most of the then-forthcoming ThunderCats: Reclaiming Thundera mini-series), early design sketches from artist Dan Norton for “the future Thundercats mini-series” which we now know as ThunderCats: The Return, a page of fact files for all of the ThunderCats complete with black & white Ed McGuinness illustrations, and insight and explanatory text from writer Ford Lytle Gilmore.

* The pin-ups featured in this issue are by Peter Vale with colours by Carrie Strachan, JJ Kirby with colours by Carrie Strachan, Aaron Lopresti with colours by Larry Molinar, and Francisco Herrera with colours by Leonardo Olea.

* In his explanatory text, writer Ford Lytle Gilmore talks about his plans for the future of the ThunderCats comic series, including a reference to another series in the planning stages that extends into the ThunderCats’ future, one that will be darker and more complex. As mentioned above, along with the early design sketches showcased in this issue, this would later be released as the mini-series ThunderCats: The Return.

* Again in his explanatory text, Gilmore also states that the forthcoming mini-series will be taking place immediately after the conclusion of the ThunderCats TV series. The story in this issue, however, would appear to take place sometime prior to that, as the ThunderCats appear to be based on Third Earth rather than New Thundera – as Lion-O and the Thunderkittens return home at WilyKit’s bidding, the top half of Third Earth’s Cats Lair is clearly visible.

* It is worth noting that WilyKat’s recollections in this story, in particular his recollection of Lion-O’s battle with Mumm-Ra, are very inaccurate, a fact that Lion-O points out to him!

This was the first new ThunderCats comic to be published in the US for almost 15 years, and as such it is very hard to review this comic objectively. It’s hard for two reasons – firstly, because the story and content within needs to serve the function of reintroducing readers to the concept and characters without going through the motions of retelling the ThunderCats’ origin, and secondly because, as a lifelong ThunderCats fan, seeing this issue come to fruition and finally holding it in my hands was a very special moment. There are very few comic books I’ve ever craved so badly as this one issue when it was first released!

If you view the story on its own merits, it is actually neither breathtakingly good nor horrifically bad. WilyKat’s behaviour seems rather out-of-character and immature – whilst it is true that in the TV series the Thunderkittens often hankered to be treated more like adults (and indeed, more than one episode was based around this theme), this issue showcases a bloodthirsty nature to WilyKat’s personality that has never been seen before. Ironically, this is rather indicative of what is to come with Wildstorm’s various future ThunderCats mini-series, with a gradual but increasing attempt to make the saga darker and more “adult”. Whilst this is not necessarily a bad thing, future issues show a lack of understanding of what the ThunderCats characters and concept are truly about, in contrast to Ford Lytle Gilmore’s insistence in this issue that he and the team working on these comics are longstanding fans of the concept. Indeed, perhaps the most telling phrase in this comic is when he praises the action quota in the ThunderCats cartoon and states “I knew whenever I’d come home from school and turn on the cartoon, I’d see tons of awesome action and fighting”. However, whilst in later issues the quota of violence and mature content would become too extreme for the majority of ThunderCats fans to take, this issue is not too bad – yes there is a lot of fighting and some blood, but it is explained away as emanating from the imagination of young WilyKat.

The artwork in this issue is something that you will either love or hate. Heavily stylised, and in stark contrast to any ThunderCats comic artwork that had come before, the artwork leaps out at you and demands your attention. I must confess that I personally prefer a more traditional style of comic book art, but being objective I cannot fault the highly detailed artwork in this issue, or indeed the gorgeous colours – never before in a comic book has the Eye of Thundera looked so realistic and close to the cartoon version!

I have to be honest and say that in the main I personally regard Wildstorm’s run of ThunderCats comics as one of the weakest points of the franchise – however, this issue works hard to try and grab the readers’ attention, and is brave and bold in the course it sets for the direction of the rest of the series. The artwork is inventive and unique, the writing clever, and the experience of acquiring this issue is something I will never forget! As a piece of ThunderCats history, this issue is worth obtaining.