Cancelled Comics Commentary for 1995

January 1995

Nothing found here so far, but maybe that's the best way to begin.

February 1995

Barb Wire #9 (Dark Horse): this series, starring a female bounty hunter in a future era of America, was sadly hampered by something that didn't happen so commonly in creator owned stories: it was plagued by too many connections to other stuff published by Dark Horse at the time too. However, where it really gained some infamy was when it was adapted to film starring Baywatch babe Pamela Anderson, and wasn't that a real clinker. Thanks to that appalling mishap, it sunk into obscurity and never really recovered for years. A real shame. However, in 2015, Dark Horse announced they'd be trying the series again, and may have their cards played right the second time around.

The Doom Patrol #87 (DC/Vertigo): This series first began starring a few of the people connected to the old Doom Patrol from the Silver Age, like Robotman. But this did not catch on immediately when it was launched in the late 80s by Paul Kupperberg, so instead, they brought in overrated UK writer Grant Morrison, who redid the book in his ludicrous fashion, and that's when it took off, unfortunately. Of course, it was all done at a time when the kind of lurid shock tactics Morrison used were considered super-duper. Today, that's all changed.

I think what annoyed me was if Kupperberg killed off some characters like Celsius and Scott Fischer just because Morrison didn't want to use them, something I honestly think is foolish, but also suggests the writer has little faith in his own creations.

Rachel Pollack's run on the remainder of the series after Morrison left did have a few good bits though, and is probably the best thing about it.

Prototype #18 (Malibu): there were two protagonists in this item who got surgical implants that could enable them to cybernetically control an armored suit. One of the leads, whose name was Bob Campbell, was ultimate replaced by the second, Jimmy Ruiz, during the Black September crossover when Marvel bought out Malibu and changed much of the concepts.

March 1995

Firearm #18 (Malibu): this ill-fated series was created by James Robinson, who long turned out to be one of the most pretentious scribes ever to litter comicdom. The star of the show was a British-born private eye who'd served in the UK special forces, and left because they wanted to sacrifice some agents on a mission to stop some superhuman antagonists. He moved to Pasadena, California, where he took up jobs involving the bizarre and ultra-human.

Freex #18 (Malibu): a variation on X-Men that suffered the misfortune of being co-created by Gerard Jones (turn to the 2004 files to understand why), this series concerned a group of teens injected with a combination of DNA and nanotechnology called Wetware, developed by an isolated society called Fire People. They went on adventures to find more like themselves, but the series went nowhere, and if you know today what Jones' personality is like, that's why it's for the best it sank into obscurity. Following the idiotic event/crossover called Black September, which was written up to serve as a lead-in to several series being relaunched, it may have ceased to exist in Malibu's Ultraverse because of the time-warping effects involved.

Marvel Comics Presents #175 (Marvel): one of the last truly successful anthology series Marvel ever published, it ran for nearly 7 years, usually on a twice-monthly or bi-weekly basis. It featured quite a few stand-alone stories dedicated to various protagonists in the MCU, including Black Panther, Colossus, Wolverine and so on. In today's editorially mandated environment a series like this has no chance of success on an artistic level.

The Secret Defenders #25 (Marvel): an attempt to revive the notable team usually led by Doctor Strange that ran during 1972-86, it began well enough with Roy Thomas as a writer, but after he left and dreadful scripters like Ron Marz came in, it lost its luster. Tom Brevoort, now known as one of the worst people Marvel could possibly employ, wrote the last third of the series, in one of his few writing efforts at the time. One of the reasons it collapsed was surely because Stephen Strange was removed from the cast when the brief Midnight Sons sub-line was published, and he was part of it. But truly, what ruined this book was the wretched incompetents who worked on the rest of the series.

April 1995

Conan Classic #11 (Marvel): reprints of Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith's famous series based on Robert E. Howard's sword and sorcery fantasy tales of a warrior living in the "Hyborian Age" that enjoyed a long run between 1970-93. Some of those stories, I can tell you, are great stuff for their genre. Trivia note: Thomas also created a somewhat similar hero when he was working at DC in the 80s called Arak: Son of Thunder, starring a warrior who was of a more Indian-style background that ran during 1981-85.

Darkhawk #50 (Marvel): created by Tom deFalco and Mike Manley, it spotlighted Christopher Powell, who'd witnessed his policeman father accepting a bribe from a gangster much to his dismay when he was a teenager, and during that time, he also came upon an amulet that enabled him to switch places with a powerful android that he could control with his mind, and decided to use it for crimefighting. He was one of the first members of the New Warriors when they first banded together, and quite a few other heroes in the MCU, was a native of New York City. The premise was an interesting one, and managed to coast as far as it did for at least 4 years.

Rune #9 vol. 1 (Malibu): starring a vampire-like character who first appeared in another Malibu title called Sludge, which ended the prior year. And which would be relaunched to little success soon after with the Marvel buyout.

Silver Sable and the Wild Pack #35 (Marvel): the eponymous heroine of this series was created by Tom deFalco and Ron Frenz in the mid-80s in the pages of Spider-Man; a lady who ran a commando/mercenary outfit for hunting down neo-nazis and other dangerous criminals, partly to finance Sable's fictionalized home country of Symkaria. Her relations with Spidey could be all over the place, as they didn't always agree on how to handle some crimefighting details. She could be driven by anguish, due to her mother's murder by enemies of her father, Ernst Sablinov, from whom she acquired the job, and was at times emotionless in her approach to carry out her jobs as effectively as possible.

It was a pretty good idea that eventually led to this series, which did have its moments, but unfortunately couldn't sustain an audience for long. Which is too bad, of course, because Sable was one of those babes who could've made one of plenty of great sex symbols for Marvel, an idea they've long had a disturbing problem of trashing even before they had a chance.

May 1995

The Demon #59 Vol. 2 (DC): First created in 1972 by Jack Kirby, around the same time that Len Wein first created the Swamp Thing, its eponymous star Etrigan spoke in rhymes whenever possible, and dealt with crime involving the occult. His alter ego was Jason Blood, whom I think was not really the same person but rather a guy to whom he was magically bound. Although Kirby wasn't interested in developing horror comics per se, he did agree to create a protagonist for horror thrillers at DC editorial's request following the cancellation of the Fourth World titles he'd written at the time, and for a brief period, Etrigan did gain some attention, with his original series running for at least 16 issues (the first Swamp Thing volume ran longer). He continued to make occasional guest appearances in various other books over the years, including - but not limited to - Swamp Thing's second volume and Neil Gaiman's version of the Sandman. Then came along this newer series which lasted 5 years, written by Alan Grant and sporting quite a bit of black comedy.

I guess it can be said that with this, Etrigan certainly managed to make a mark on the comics landscape, but since then, it's back to business as usual, although there was another brief series that came along in 2005.

Namor, the Sub-Mariner #62 (Marvel): this may be the fourth time Marvel's very first superhero-style character, introduced in 1939, got his own series, although the first time in the Golden Age may have been in anthologies, while the second was in Tales to Astonish during the Silver Age, sharing space with the Hulk, and the third was the 1968-74 series. Then, there came this one, lasting about 5 years, where a guy who was portrayed as quite the anti-hero in the past took to crimefighting solo anew. It was probably one of the last really good takes on Subby, as come the turn of the century, things became really bad.

The Second Life of Dr. Mirage #18 (Valiant): co-created by Bob Layton, this was an odd series about a pair of parapsychologists named Hwen and Carmen Mirage who investigated the paranormal and the supernatural. One of their leading adversaries here was a supercrook named Master Darque who'd first appeared in Shadowman, which can be read about at the end of this page.

The Strangers #24 (Malibu): another team title featuring a bunch who get zapped by lightning on a San Francisco cable car that crashes and hits an automobile driven by Johnny Domino, giving him superpowers as well, and he himself becomes Night Man, with telepathy enabling him to read evil thoughts and such (see his own title below).

June 1995

Armorines #12 (Valiant): this told about a special team of armored military personnel who were initially formed to combat X-O Manowar, whose own series appears in the 1996 files, but after realizing he was innocent, went on to face real threats like the Spider-Aliens.

Black Orchid #22 (DC/Vertigo): the eponymous heroine of this series, Susan Linden-Thorne, had originally debuted in 1973 in Adventure Comics #428. She had superpowers like strength, invulnerability, but her best talent was actually being a disguise master. Not only that, it wasn't clear for awhile who she really was. She would make more appearances in books like the Phantom Stranger series published in the mid-70s among other various comics of the times, and even in Blue Devil and Suicide Squad in later years.

In 1988, there was a prestige format miniseries that served as the starting base for this series. The Orchid this time was Suzy Black, and Neil Gaiman worked out the origin for her in the mini, eventually resulting in this series, where the background depicted her as part of a hybrid engineering experiment. Dick Foreman served as the writer for the ongoing. It may have had potential, but never caught on in the end.

Since that time, the new Black Orchid's turned up on occasion, but unfortunately had to make do with some very bad misuse, like in an abortive series called Shadowpact.

Geomancer #8 (Valiant): the title was also the name given to a number of other characters in the Valiant line, a society of men and women with psionic powers who existed as early as 3500 BC. It's probably the shortest-lived of the Valiant line, but was still an interesting premise.

Harbinger #41 (Valiant): one of the first series from Jim Shooter's Valiant line, which he co-wrote himself with David Lapham doing the drawing. It spotlighted a group of teen outcasts, some with superpowers, others without, called the Harbingers, who formed themselves after the machinations of a crooked tycoon called Toyo Harada who's plotting to conquer the world out of misguided intentions, and a young teen named Peter Stanchek, a former disciple of Harada's who's developed psionic abilities and after discovering the truth about Harada's plans following the murder of his best friend, Peter forms the title group to stop him. His ladyfriend here was Kris Hathaway, who, while not possessing serious superpowers herself, was quite intelligent and this is what provided her with a formidable advantage. One could say these type of stories were inspired to a degree by the X-Men, and it figures since Shooter was Marvel's editor-in-chief at the time that franchise was just gaining momentum. Interesting note: the first 6 issues came with a special coupon (rather awkwardly published as the "pink mail away variant") you could use to order the prequel story that told how Peter Stanchek got involved with the Harada company and came to oppose his operations, and these coupons even came with special panels from a mini-strip Shooter conceived that told the origins of Toyo Harada.

Valiant Comics was later bought by video game developer Acclaim who also made some computer games out of some of the creations of the comics company, and Harbinger was one of them.

H.A.R.D Corps #30 (Valiant): first appearing in the 10th Harbinger issue, the name of the strike force featured in this book is acronym for Harbinger Active Resistance Division, and appears to have focused on the crooked syndicate led by Toyo Harada. Their goal was to try and control all the Harbingers using normal humans who'd been comatose as the members and reviving them with a special brain implant that gave them some special artificial superpowers via an operator called "softcore". The implants would explode when the members of the strike team were captured or killed. I can't say I can see much mileage to get out of a story like this though, unlike the main book which has better advantages.

Nova #18 vol. 2 (Marvel): star Richard Rider was introduced to the MCU by Marv Wolfman in 1976 (he may have first featured the idea in the Super Adventures fanzine a decade earlier), as a teenage protagonist who was recruited to a galactic police force called the Nova Corps. He acquired superhuman strength, flight, and better physical endurance. Rider was intended to evoke some of the Spider-Man dynamic combined with a premise that was vaguely reminiscent of the Green Lantern Corps. His first series ran about 3 years, and there were some unfinished plotlines that Wolfman completed in Fantastic Four and even ROM: Spaceknight. Since that time, while he didn't appear much after the first series, he did gain more notability after he became a member of The New Warriors in 1990, and there was one more series that was run during 1999, a note of which appears here.

Psi-Lords #10 (Valiant): they first appeared in the Rai series featured below, and were a team of super-beings living in the 41st century who were descended from H.A.R.D Corps in the present.

Rai #33 (Valiant): the first original hero created for the Valiant line, it was set in the 41st century and featured several protagonists serving as spirit guardians for Japan under the title role. It was initially published as Rai and the Future Force.

July 1995

Guardians of the Galaxy #62 (Marvel): this notable group of galactic heroes originally debuted in 1969, and similar to the Legion of Super-Heroes at DC, it was set in the 30th to 31st century. Some of the cast members were survivors of the 20th century and there were some new characters featured as well. This series later served as the basis for a movie around 2011, and it's probably one of the last really great uses of a notable futuristic creation at the House of Ideas.

Mortal Kombat: Battlewave #6 (Malibu): one of the most disgustingly gory video games I've ever seen in my life was turned into an equally worthless comic book. I don't know how bloody this could've been compared to the "fatality" techniques seen in the one-on-one fighting games Midway was producing at the time with digitized graphics, but if that's what they think qualifies as "creativity" that's why I'll have nothing to do with this failed item.

Interestingly, Midway's fortunes actually began declining when they came up with the Mortal Kombat series, and one of the live models who played Johnny Cage/Sub-Zero for them did an advertisement for another vulgar game creation called Time Killers/Blood Storm by Incredible Technologies while wearing the Cage outfit, and it led to his being fired by Midway. When the Mortal series switched to more animated graphics, gaming interest dropped even more, and in 2009, they went out of business and sold their properties to Time Warner Interactive. A very disturbing side note: Geoff Johns, one of the most pretentious comics writers today, once told how he was an avid player of the game series, one more clue to just how awful his writing ended up being.

The Punisher #104 Vol. 1 (Marvel): Back in 1974, Gerry Conway created Frank Castle, a Vietnam vet whose family had been murdered by mobsters after witnessing one of their assassination attacks. Frank survived, and swore to get even with violent criminals by becoming a vigilante. He would wipe out some of the deadliest of mafia operatives, and even confiscate and use petty cash they had to help bankroll any extra ammunition and other weapons he'd need for his crimefighting career. His main supplier was an old friend who went by the nickname Microchip. Frank debuted in Amazing Spider-Man in 1974, at which time he was just warming up to become the really formidable fighter he'd be known as later on. He'd be famous for wearing a jumpsuit with a skull on it.

The Punisher made several appearances over the course of a decade since his debut, later leading to a miniseries in 1985 and finally this ongoing in 1987, written for starters by Mike Baron, and later by Chuck Dixon. It was often very stand-alone from the rest of the Marvel universe, but did get to feature occasional guest appearances and team-ups with other superheroes who were more of the street level variety like Daredevil, Wolverine, and sometimes Spider-Man's series too. And he even got at least 2 more spinoff series featured below.

But eventually, this apparently became too much, and so they were all canceled and a new series volume would take their place. It's a shame it all had to end, but with the way Marvel's going disastrous in quality these days, it may have been for the best.

Punisher War Journal #80 (Marvel): this spinoff could feature Frank travelling to foreign countries, mostly fictionalized, outside the US, and combatting more criminals there like drug barons. And the writer here was Carl Potts, who created Alien Legion in the mid-80s. Overall, it was pretty entertaining too.

The Punisher: War Zone #41 (Marvel): this series came along a bit late, but had some good moments, and I think Dixon wrote some of this series as well.

Savage Sword of Conan #235 (Marvel): this was a black and white spinoff of the official series that Marvel published between 1970-93. I think their license for publishing Conan tales expired around this time. Dark Horse would take up the rights to publication later (similarly, Dynamite Entertainment took up publication rights for Red Sonja).

Ultraforce #10 vol. 1 (Malibu): another superhero team co-created by Gerard Jones for the Malibu brand along with George Perez as artist, its whole premise was about a group tasked with protecting the public and keeping other, presumably bad Ultras from committing evil. And as noted above and below, there's a reason why this book is unlikely to age well. It sounded awfully dull as a story anyway; a total waste of Perez's talents. It'd be relaunched in a secondary volume that ran another year, as noted in the 1996 files, following the "event" called Black September. This may have been adapted as an animated cartoon series, which no doubt gathers dust on the shelves today, mainly because of how Jones tainted the whole creation.

August 1995

Mantra #24 vol. 1 (Malibu): created by Mike W. Barr, this ludicrous series oscillated around an eternal warrior named Lukasz and his compatriots who'd been fighting a villain called Boneyard for centuries. And the weird premise was that, whenever an individual soldier dies, his soul would be placed in a new body, and take up the fight once more. In the 1990s, Lukasz' leader Archmage was betrayed and captured, leading to the permanent death of most of the warriors and a final reincarnation for one, Lukasz himself, who was put into the body of a woman, Eden Blake, much to his shock. Yes, it was apparently some bizarre gender-bender tale, though if memory serves, Barr was the writer of Camelot 3000 in the early 1980s, so maybe it's not that strange he'd work on something like this too. This was another Malibu concept rebooted after Marvel bought them out, and ended after a shorter run.

The Night Man #23 (Malibu): the solo series starring one of the main characters from The Strangers, Johnny Domino (see above), who had the usual superhuman abilities like telepathy, and it was later adapted into a TV show that ran for 2 seasons, developed by the late producer Glen A. Larson, known for his roles in creating Knight Rider, and co-creating Magnum PI. But from what I can tell, it was nothing special, and come to think of it, neither was the TV show, whose producers just had to write in a guest starring role for the abortive, embarrassing Manimal series' own lead from 1983.

Prime #26 vol. 1 (Malibu): If you'll check the data now available on the 2004 files, you'll see why this series written by Gerard Jones won't age well, and there's no telling if it'll ever be reprinted, if at all. It was a Captain Marvel clone (the Fawcett creation, if that matters), featuring a young teen who gained the powers to turn into an adult superhero, and some of his first adventures in crimefighting included going after child rapists. But, as noted, after what Jones was discovered doing years later in 2017, that's why this series is not only tainted badly now, it loses all impact it might've once had to boot. I never read the Malibu line save for a few excerpts on the internet, and after what Jones did, I'm just too discouraged to care. It was followed soon after cancellation by a secondary volume, since Marvel made the unlucky choice of buying the Malibu properties in 1994.

Ravage 2099 #33 (Marvel): one of the weaker entries in the 2099 line of titles from the mid-90s, it chronicled the adventures of a futuristic garbageman, if you can believe it. And the writer was Stan Lee; one of his not too many writing efforts after the early 70s. His scripting talents, alas, really declined by the time this was thought up.

X-Men Classic #110 (Marvel): this may have been a reprint title, but it earns a special mention here for the fact that, in the first half of its run, there were newer stories published as backups along with the older material! Well, up until issue 44 in 1990, but they certainly did have a flattering, clever idea in mind when they thought of that, during the tail end of Jim Shooter's tenure as EIC. So then, for newcomers, it could serve as an interesting way to draw them in to check out brand new short stories along with the reprinted tales. Nearly all of which have been reprinted in paperbacks, so now there may be an even better way to check them all out.

September 1995

ClanDestine #8 (Marvel): a creation of Alan Davis, best known for some of his work on Batman, the Outsiders, Uncanny X-Men and Excalibur, it starred a family of British superhumans who'd first appeared in Marvel Comics Presents in 1994. They would later appear again in a 5-issue miniseries in 1998.

October 1995

Web of Spider-Man #129 (Marvel): when first launched in late 1985, this served as a replacement for Marvel Team-Up, the semi-anthology series where Spider-Man would join forces with various other heroes from around the MCU (there were a few issues though, where he didn't appear, but rather, the Thing from the Fantastic Four did, his own semi-anthology title Marvel Two-In-One notwithstanding!). The reason for this replacement was probably because Mary Jane Watson had come back into Peter's life after an absence prompted by the late crooked scientist Spencer Smythe giving our wall-crawler a hard time by chaining him along with J. Jonah Jameson to a bomb in 1979 before he committed suicide. When MJ did come back, she also let Peter know she'd figured out his identity as Spidey, and this helped them to smooth over some of the roadbumps in their relationship.

An interesting aside, this also came at the time when Peter was wearing the black costume he'd acquired during the original Secret Wars crossover, which fortunately didn't hurt as badly as later attempts to change costume designs for publicity stunt's sake did. The black costume was wisely dropped altogether by 1988, and things went back to normal for a while.

As one of the most notable spinoffs of the flagship series, this stood out as one of the better, but towards the end, thanks to the infamous Clone Saga, it probably fumbled big time, though when canceled, it was replaced with the Sensational Spider-Man, so it's not clear if it was ended just because the Clone Saga hurt sales.

November 1995

Animal Man #89 (DC/Vertigo): when the title protagonist first appeared in the mid-60s in Strange Adventures #180, it was in a short story by Dave Wood and Carmine Infantino about a guy who achieved the power to communicate with animals and even mimic some of their moves. Later on, in 1988, Grant Morrison reworked the concept into an ongoing starring Bernard "Buddy" Baker, who bore this power and used it as a crimefighter. He was a family man too, and that's the good news. The bad news is that he was also characterized absurdly as a vegetarian advocate and even ran the gauntlet of upholding animal rights at the expense of human rights.

After Morrison left, Peter Milligan took over the writing, and it got a bit better. This series, it should be noted, was where Morrison also introduced the new Mirror Master, Evan McCullough, who came from a Scottish background just like he did. Sadly, this new master of mirrors wasn't well utilized over the years, culminating in Geoff Johns' overboarding attempt to provide an origin for him in the pages of the Flash #113 in 2004, where it was revealed that in his youth, McCullough had almost been sodomized by some thugs at the orphanage where he grew up. (Even more unfortunately, Morrison had no problem with this kind of origin being provided either. But then, considering just how poor and excessive his own approach to storytelling really is over the years, it shouldn't come as any surprise.)

Ninjak #26 vol. 1 (Valiant): a spy series about a British playboy named Colin King who moonlights as a ninja, this was a co-creation of Mark Moretti and Joe Quesada, and because of the latter's awful track record as EIC of Marvel, that's one more reason why I'd rather skip this particular series. The 2012 remake from the revived Valiant, however, might be more worth the ticket, but will still need some caution.

Outsiders #24 vol. 2 (DC): this ended the notable team series which first began in 1983 as a replacement for The Brave and the Bold, which Batman had pretty much taken over halfway through its run and served as a semi-anthology where the Masked Manhunter could appear in more sci-fi oriented stories that his own flagship series didn't typically run. Batman had formed the team after the evil Baron Bedlam took over the fictionalized Balkan country of Markovia (which was where Terra in the New Teen Titans came from), and one of his company employees, Lucius Fox, was taken hostage by the enemy forces there. The Justice League, already in disarray at the time, wouldn't help him, so he broke off and rounded up his own partners in crimefighting and together they succeeded in destroying the evil Baron and restoring some order to the war-torn country. Batman's teammates included Geo-Force, Black Lightning, Metamorpho, Katana, and Halo. Later on, Looker would be added to the cast. It was a series that featured allusions to the Cold War in its waning days, and their adversaries included the Masters of Disaster, the Bad Samaritan and to a lesser extent, the Force of July. During the first 5 years in which the original series and the Baxter spinoff ran, former adversary Windfall also joined the team. Even former Soviet premier Mikhal Gorbechev turned up in the pages of book!

In this later series however, creator Mike W. Barr all but took apart the team, as in the case where Looker ended up being turned into a semi-vampire. But it did have a decent ending, with the team managing to free Looker from the control of the vampire king who was influencing her, though Halo was cast into a different body. The ending also saw the marriage of Geo-Force and a girlfriend of his. Interestingly enough, the son of Felix Faust was a cast member here too. The material published up to this point was certainly a lot better than what would follow in the next century, which can be read about in the 2007 files and the 2011 files.

December 1995

Shadowman #43 Vol. 1 (Valiant): one of the most notable series in the universe Jim Shooter helped to form when he founded the company, it was about a lineage of heroes who went by the name of Shadowman, the main one being a jazz musician named Jack Boniface, who, following an attack by a vampire, found he could see better in the dark, and decided to go out and fight violent crime. He actually first debuted in X-O Manowar, another of Valiant's notable publications from the time, and went on to acquire his own solo book.

It was one of the most successful of the Valiant line, and even got some video game adaptations made. Another series would be produced a short time later by Acclaim, the maker of the games, and is mentioned in the 1998 files.

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