Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A Fistful of Comic Books Cancelled (or Announced) Too Soon

Conceived and used with the permission of Matthew Constantine and Brad Gullickson, the original dorks.

Everyone has a “Top 5.”  But Brad and Matt, choosing to walk a different path, amended that to “A Fistful…” over at their blog, In the Mouth of Dorkness.  A film-centric blog where they also discuss comics and books and TV, these two regularly share their top 5, ranging from “Heroic Kids” to “Spies” to “Summer Movies” to “Punches” to all things in between.  Always fun, often insightful, and something I hope to regularly pilfer for Warrior27.  As they say:  If you’re going to steal, steal from those you know relatively well, who will not sue you.

Recent years have been a boon to comic book readers.  Classic series that were out of their price range, in back issues, are now available in affordable collections or digitally, while ones that incurred publication delays—or were thought to have been abandoned—due to publishers going bankrupt (in the case of Moore & Gebbie’s Lost Girls) or the rights of publication expiring (which seems to have been a contributor to Mumy & Dutkiewicz’s Lost in Space: Voyage to the Bottom of the Soul being unfinished for many years) have risen again, like the Phoenix ß check out that sweet cliché.  This has afforded me, and others, the opportunities to read the conclusions to stories we may have thought forever lost to us.  This, as much as anything, is why many fans see this as a golden age for comic books.  

Despite that, there are still a number of series that were cancelled well before they should have been—in my opinion—and there is little that would lead me to believe they will ever see the light of day, at this point, for a variety of reasons.  Here are five comic series that ended far too soon, if they even ever got onto the comic racks. 

5. Everest: Facing the Goddess, written by Greg Rucka, art by Scott Morse (Oni Press)

Greg Rucka has written some of my all-time favorite comics and novels.  Scott Morse is an artist and writer who is on my personal Mt. Rushmore of comic creators.  To have these two working on an adventure series set on Mt. Everest—that just sounds awesome.  Set to be published in late 2004 by Oni Press, all we ever got was the FCBD preview that year.  It was as good as you would hope.  Too bad we never saw anything else.  *sigh*

4. Semper Fi, written by Michael Palladino, art by John Severin, Sam Glanzman, et al. (Marvel Comics)

Following the surprise popularity of their hit series, The ‘Nam, Marvel launched a second military comic book.  Semper Fi followed various generations of a single family, all of which had members who served in the United States Marine Corps.  The stories were engaging and fit nicely next to Marvel’s ‘Nam, but the real draw of this book was the art by John Severin.  This was my introduction to Severin, who was a seasoned veteran when he got this assignment, and he killed it—sometimes penciling and inking, sometimes providing inks over Andy Kubert’s work.  Severin was a revelation to my young eyes.  His figure work and the detail within the backgrounds was astounding and beautiful, some of the best work coming out of Marvel at that time.  It’s curious this series didn’t last past issue #9, but sales were so poor there was nothing to be done about it.  But at least I still have those issues to re-read, whenever I want.

3. BWS Storyteller, by Barry Windsor-Smith, with help from Alex Bialy-additional inks and Joon Kostar-lettering (Dark Horse Comics; Fantagraphics Books)

One of the most beautiful, and most fun and engaging comics I ever read.  Barry Windsor-Smith created a one-man anthology, with three stories all created by Windsor-Smith—The Young Gods, a Fourth World homage, The Freebooters, a Conan homage, and The Paradoxman, his science fiction epic.  The art was lush, gorgeous, and the stories captivated my imagination like very few comics have.  You could tell BWS was having fun, and it translated directly onto the page.  Sadly, the oversized dimensions of the book, which added much to its, and a lack of marketing and advertising on the part of Dark Horse (according to Windsor-Smith) led to its quick demise.  BWS did return to the stories for two Fantagraphics collections that included extra essays and comic pages (Paradoxman never did get this treatment, for reasons unknown) from Windsor-Smith, but, though these were beautiful and illuminating, they were merely a tease of what was to come.  An unfinished masterpiece. 

2. Harlan Ellison’s Dream Corridor, comic adaptations of Harlan Ellison’s short stories by a collection of writers and artists (Dark Horse Comics & Edgeworks Abbey)

Harlan Ellison is my favorite author.  Period.  And when he was afforded the chance to marry two of his loves—comic books and short stories—it was amazing.  With the likes of Paul Chadwick, Jan Strnad, David Lapham, Steve Rude, Peter David, Diana Schutz, Teddy Krisiansen, and myriad others working from Ellison’s own words, this was my favorite comic, at the time.  And every issue included a new short story by Ellison, based on the cover image for that issue.  It was great!  But, notorious for being demanding, something happened between Dark Horse and Ellison that led to the early cancellation of the series, after attempting two different formats.  A second collection, years later, published many of the then-completed stories that had not made it into print, but the promise of however many more could have been published is still a great loss for Ellison fans, and comic fans, in general. 

1. Big Numbers, written by Alan Moore, art by Bill Sienkiewicz (Mad Love Publishing)

Set to be Moore’s magnum opus, after he was coming off the star-making publications of Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and The Killing Joke, collaborating with one of the most experimental and dynamic artists in comics, Bill Sienkiewicz, this was going to be amazing.  A comic that revolved around real life, around the building of a large shopping mall by an American corporation, in a small English town, it was to be a twelve-issue examination of number theory, the economic policies of Margaret Thatcher, and the consequences such socioeconomic upheaval has on real people.  Only two issues were ever published, with a third available online, if you know where to look.  After Ellison, Moore is my favorite author, and the fact that this will remain unfinished is just sad. 

Honorable Mentions: 

--- Lost in Space: Voyage to the Bottom of the Soul, written by Bill Mumy, art by Michael Dutkiewicz. (Innovation Publishing)
A serious take on the classic sci-fi series.  This book delved deeply into the characters and created an engaging and thoughtful look at these characters and the turmoil they endured in space.  It was completed a number of years back, by a small publisher, but was so under-ordered, I missed out on getting a copy, and now they go for hundreds of dollars online—too rich for my blood.

--- Borrowed Time, written by Neal Shaffer, art by Joe Infurnari (Oni Press)
A wonderfully eerie alternate-dimension tale revolving around the Bermuda Triangle.  The art is lovely and the story had me hooked from the outset.  Sadly, only two volumes were ever published. 

--- Vox, written by Angela Harris, art by Aaron McClellan (Apple Comics)
A science fiction tale, slated to run seven issues, the first six were only ever published, leaving me waiting for over a quarter century for that final, climactic issue.  I guess I won’t be finding out how it ends, now.

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