A ’90s Image Comics icon has joined the newest incarnation of the WildC.A.T.s, but there’s one big difference about her DC Universe return.
WARNING: The following contains spoilers from Batman: Urban Legends #5, on sale now.
Jim Lee and Brandon Choi’s WildC.A.T.s were one of the most important superhero teams of the ’90s, helping launch Image Comics and Lee’s imprint, WildStorm Productions. Although their presence has lessened considerably since their heyday on TV and in video games, the team recently made its way into the DC Universe proper in Batman: Urban Legends’ Grifter story.
Grifter reunited WildStorm’s iconic team to help him deal with Leviathan’s attack on Lucius Fox. The new team included veteran team members like Zealot, Void and Ladytron, along with a new recruit, Batman villain Nora Fries. In Batman: Urban Legends #5 by Matthew Rosenberg, Ryan Benjamin, Antonio Fabela and Saida Temofonte, some other classic WildStorm characters were also added to the team, including a new version of the once-iconic Gen13 hero Caitlin Fairchild.
Fairchild was a member of the teen superhero group Gen13, created by Jim Lee, Brandon Choi, and J. Scott Campbell. After making their first appearance in the Image Comics/Valiant Comics crossover Deathmate, the team was given their own mini-series. The combination of Campbell’s art and X-Men-style teen superheroes was a hit. It launched Campbell’s career as a superstar artist, a long-running ongoing series for the team, and multiple spin-offs and crossovers, even spawning a famously scarce animated movie.
Fairchild was a central part of Gen-13’s appeal. She was a central character in Gen-13’s ongoing and many of its spin-offs, serving as its powerhouse member and its highly marketed, hyper-sexualized bombshell.
Despite that presentation, Fairchild wasn’t cut from the same cloth as ’90s “bad girl” characters like Angela or Witchblade. Fairchild’s origin story made her closer to a character like She-Hulk. Before her powers were activated, she was a brilliant young woman. A double major in computer science and electrical engineering at Princeton, Fairchild was also something of a stereotypical nerd with a dowdy fashion sense, complete with gigantic glasses.
While still drawn as a conventionally attractive woman, she wasn’t a typical ’90s Image Comics heroine. That all changed when Fairchild’s powers activated. Beyond giving her super-strength and invulnerability, Fairchild’s powers turned her into a woman of Amazon proportions. Campbell rendered this by shredding her clothes when she transformed.
Fairchild retained her personality when she transformed. Her intelligence and maturity made her a natural choice for the team’s leader, a status she maintained throughout the team’s many incarnations. When legendary X-Men writer Chris Claremont masterminded a reboot for the series after the team’s apparent death at the end of their first ongoing series, he brought Fairchild back to mentor his new Gen-13 team.
Fairchild remained the most enduring Gen-13 character after the WildStorm Universe merged with DC’s following Flashpoint. While she wasn’t as prominent during the New 52 as she was in the ’90s, she wasn’t left in limbo like the rest of her teammates. Dr. Caitlin Fairchild was a supporting character in Scott Lobdell and Brett Booth’s Superboy, where she helped to create the half-human/half Kryptonian clone version of the character. She also appeared in the short-lived spin-off series The Ravagers by Howard Mackie and Ian Churchill.
While the New 52 version of Fairchild had the same look as her WildStorm predecessor, the version that appeared in Urban Legend is radically different in one way. She’s significantly younger and shorter than the classic Fairchild was ever portrayed as. She retains her red hair, super strength and even sports a jumpsuit similar to her Gen-13 one piece, but appears to be an actual teenager.
The WildC.A.T.s return is promised in the final panel of Grifter’s story. Hopefully, that will begin to clear up the new Fairchild’s status. Whether she’s a younger version of the Gen13 character or a clone, only time will tell how this ’90s icon translates to the modern DC Universe.
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