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Comics 411: Comic Books Cancelled Too Soon

September 7, 2022 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
The Defenders Image Credit: Marvel Comics

Welcome back! I’m Steve Gustafson and if you enjoy discussing anything comic book related, you’ve come to the right place. Each week we cover something in the industry and I always enjoy your input in the comment section below.

Previously on…

Last time we discussed our Favorite X-Men Stories. Here’s what some of you had to say:

Erick Rowan’s Beard: “it was initially the Fatal Attractions event that got me into the comics. I still have all the issues, including X-Men #25, where Wolverine had the adamantium ripped from his bones by Magneto, and Wolverine #75 that saw the aftermath of that, which included Wolverine’s healing factor, and most of his other powers, being heavily burned out, that he was born with bone claws rather than the claws being adamantium implants, and saw him officially leave the X-Men for a good while.

From there, I went back and found older storylines like the Brood Saga and the Mutant Massacre, all of which happened while Chris Claremont was the writer for the X-Men comics. One thing that I especially liked about these older stories, and something I think is sorely lacking in comics today, is that the characters weren’t overpowered and actually had limits. It’s simply more interesting when a character doesn’t have unlimited strength, or is invulnerable to everything, or can move faster than a bolt of lightning, etc.”

Gold Any Ranger: “Scavenger Hunt from Uncanny X-Men Volume 1 Annual #7. The X-Men meet a character usually associated with the FF, the Impossible Man, when he steals the mansion as part of a scavenger hunt. They then follow him to other Marvel locations. A good light hearted story.

Kitty’s Fairy Tale from Uncanny 153. Kitty is telling the still a child Illyana (before she was taken to Limbo) a bedtime story, with fantasy versions of the X-Men. Cyclops a cursed prince, Xavier his wizard, the then believed dead Jean a Princess cursed with the form of Dark Phoenix, Kitty and Colossus were pirates, Storm a genie, Wolverine a creature with no name, and Nightcrawler as a race of imps called Bamfs. Also notable for the Blackbird.s equivalent; a giant dragon named Lockheed. ( Before Kitty met her space dragon and named him Lockheed.)”

Ken Wood: “Obviously, everything you’ve listed is great. I’ll add a few of my own choices:

Messiah Complex and Second Coming: The aftermath of House of M. Two great graphic novels that introduce the first new mutant since M Day and the war over what to do with her. The stakes are crazy and they’re both very fun reads.

New Mutants Back to Schol, New X-Men Academy X, Childhood’s End, and the Quest for Magik: A series of books surrounding the Xavier Institute. These stories introduce a ton of great new mutants, show the older mutants in leadership and teaching roles, put Emma Frost and Cyclops as leaders of the school, and tell a ton of amazing stories.

House/Powers of X. Hickman brought the entire X-world together in an amazingly delightful way. I love Moira MacTaggert’s powers, and how they tell the story of her many lives. I honestly could see them make this into a TV show one day.”
BBQBeerandPops: “I’m looking forward to the Marvel Halloween special.
1. Man Thing
2. Werewolf by Night
3. Elsa Bloodstone

Those three are all in it.”

Kung Fu Panda: “My memory is a little fuzzy but I recall an issue (maybe a double issue) of the X-men vs Dracula. I think he was after Storm if I remember correctly. I think he also made another appearance at a later date but I’m probably wrong about that.

There was a story involving the Morlocks that I also enjoyed.”

RAWmachine: “I think pretty much everyone here listed the biggest and best stories. For me, the one that always gets overlooked and could translate well onto the silver screen is the story of Proteus.”

David Martin: “The first two sentinels stories always stand out for me in X-Men 14-16 and 57-59”
Special Agent Filthy: “Mutant Massacre is probably my all time favorite. X-men vs FF was really good too. I’d be hard pressed to name just one.

Rise and Fall Of The Shiar Empire
Age of Apocalypse
Phoenix Saga

New X-men stories have been fun too but I’m kind of over the whole resurrection thing. The new Inferno story was really good.”

Too many great comments to list! Thank you to everyone who commented last week!
This week we discuss…

Comic Books Cancelled Too Soon
With so many TV shows out today, it’s tough picking one because you just don’t know if they’ll pull it if it doesn’t perform BIG right off the bat. Same with comic books. 

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. Ah, Malibu. 

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. Perhaps the most deserving title on this list that should still be going today! 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 superheroes 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.

In another universe this book would be on season six of its HBO show. 

This is something ALL comic fans have to deal with. Finding a comic book that they love and then lose it for 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)

But seriously, think about that…a future of no more mutants…

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. None have managed to capture the spirit of the team and don’t get me started about the comic book version that was based on the Netflix series and featured Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist.

I’m talking about the one that was published back in 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.

You either love or hate Erik Larsen but his Nova series should still be going on today. It really captured everything that’s cool about the character but I don’t think enough was done to get it in the hands of fans who would appreciate it. 

The Incredible Hercules was 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. IDW did a four issue mini series back in 2015 but it’s 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. Whenever I stop by Barnes & Noble, I scan the rack to see if there’s anything but I’m always disappointed. 
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. See you next week!