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Comic Books Cancelled Before Their Time

January 22, 2020 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Defenders 2011

I’m Steve Gustafson and thanks for stopping by. If you enjoy reading or discussing anything comic book related, you’ve come to the right place. I throw out a subject, you comment below. Easy. Let’s get started. 

Previously on…

Last time we held the 2019 411mania Comic Book Awards. Here’s what some of you had to say:

Ken Wood: “I look forward to reading many of these when I can buy the graphic novels, used.”

Phenomenal: “Can’t believe you went there with Tom King. He become such a divisive figure,Mr.Miracle is a masterpiece and first 49 issues of his Batman run are genuinely great. But Heroes in Crisis was bad and Batman run dragged on and on for lot of people. I definitely think lot of people deserved nomination,even if only from DC. People like Venditti,Tynion and even Synder is over King for me.

So happy that someone else enjoyed YotV. People dismiss it as boring but try to look them as 1 issue runs and you will discover amazing gems. Sinestro one was my issue of the year for 2019.”

“Filthy” Jake Fury: “I’m not going to say King was the best writer of the year, I honestly haven’t read enough of others to even place a remotely valid vote. But his Batman run has been really good IMO. I just got through vol 11 and I’ve enjoyed it.

Gonna read The Batman Who Laughs mini soon, its on my book shelf.”
Too many great comments to share. Go back and see for yourself. Also, as always, thanks for the input!

This week we discuss…

Comic Books Cancelled Before Their Time

We all have those comic books in our past that we committed to only to have them disappear from the rack, never to be seen again. This week we’ll dip into a few standouts and be focusing on titles, not publishers because I could do a whole column on Malibu Comics. 

The current state of comic books is an endless cycle of relaunches, cancellations, and new #1’s. Creative teams come with big ideas and then jump ship without rhyme or reason. It can be difficult to get comfortable with a book knowing it might not be around in 6 months. Or even a book like FOOM, which was a really fun fan magazine from Marvel.

Each of us has a book (or 20), that we can talk about. I’m going to go down a few that stick out to me, in no order of importance. 

“When all the heroes are gone, who will fill their shoes?”

That was the tagline for a long forgotten and overlooked book called The Foot Soldiers. It started as a Dark Horse mini series in 1996, written by Jim Krueger and with art by Mike Oeming, it takes place in a world where traditional super-heroes once existed, but have since been killed by oppressive robotic beings who rule what’s now a totalitarian society. We’re introduced to some teenage troublemakers who find a superhero graveyard one day and an old man with a crutch chooses them and gives them a new destiny, one with superpowers. It got my interest pretty fast and I was hooked. The book moved over to Image and then…vanished. I’ve been able to piece together what’s out there and even read a few years ago that they were going to bring it back but have yet to see anything. Alas, it became another title on my list of books that I loved but were no more.

Which is something ALL comic fans have to deal with. Finding a comic book that they love and then lose it to a number of reasons. Poor sales, trouble with the creative team, poor distribution, and even fickle publishers. Sometimes we don’t get an explanation. Before the internet, titles would just disappear, with nary a second thought given to what happened. Back in the 1960s. the X-Men lagged in sales behind Marvel’s other comic franchises and Marvel stopped producing new stories with issue #66, later reprinting a number of the older comics as issues #67–93. Just imagine what could have been if that title was given another chance. It’s not a stretch to say that Marvel would be a very different line. That would be a pretty cool “What if?” to explore. (This is a joke and I have to mark it as such because some of you would take it serious and leave a comment questioning my sanity)

When I think of comics that are launched and fizzled, Marvel’s The Defenders is a title that seems to get a relaunch every few years but they never seem to take. The most recent one that came out last year was based on the Netflix series and featured Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist.

There was a 2011-2012 book that was helmed by Matt Fraction and Terry Dodson. The good part? It was really, really good. The bad part? No one bought it. Or talked about it. Going back in the team’s history, the team’s original incarnation was intriguing. You had Doctor Strange, the Hulk, Namor, and, eventually, the Silver Surfer. What a group and it led to some “out there” stories. The group had a rotating line-up from 1972 until 1986 but the team never had lasting popularity when compared to The Avengers, Fantastic Four, and the X-Men. Still, any team that can boast Valkyrie, Nighthawk, Hellcat, the Gargoyle, Beast, the Son of Satan and Luke Cage is fine by me and should still be around.

Do you remember DC’s Resurrection Man? AMAZING concept! The character has the power of self-resurrection, and with each resurrection he gains a different superpower that correlates with his death. He’s been given a few tries but never found the sales to stick around. I’ll avoid any “resurrection” jokes. 

The Incredible Hercules was a just a really fun and humorous read for me. It garnered tons of praise from fans and critics but somehow got lost in the mix. The same could be said for Agents of Atlas and S.W.O.R.D.. Both were mis-marketed and overshadowed by the core Marvel line and crossovers. It’s a shame because they both were creative and would have been a nice expansion to the Marvel universe. Grant Morrison’s Aztek: The Ultimate Man. I’m pretty sure I own all 10 issues of this ridiculously awesome series. Why did it get cancelled? I believe it was low sales from fan apathy. Shame, as Aztek could have been a fresh addition to the DC.

I’ll end with Empire. Originally published in 2000 by Gorilla Comics, a company formed by Mark Waid, Kurt Busiek and several others, but the company folded after only two issues were produced. Empire jumped over to DC Comics in 2003–2004, the already published two comic books were collected in a #0 and then the rest of the story was told over six issues. Back in April, it was reported that the rights to the series had reverted back to Waid and the series would return under Waid’s Thrillbent comics platform. This is another book that could have been huge IF it found a consistent publishing schedule. Supervillain Golgoth, who has defeated all superheroes and conquered the world, but must now contend with internal power struggles. The comic whet your whistle enough that you saw the potential but never found it’s stride. Every so often you’ll see rumors of its return but it feels like a missed opportunity.

One related thing of note. I miss going to a bookstore and being able to pick up a magazine that covers comic books. I know the whole “print it dead” thing but I really would like something of quality to hit the stands. 

We all have that comic that “could have been…”. Cancelled, forgotten, or never pursued, we miss them the same. What’s yours?

That’s all the time I have. Check out our Comic Book Reviews tomorrow and see you next week!