Cancelled Comics Commentary for 1996

January 1996

Damage #20 (DC): starring the son of the Golden Age Atom, Al Pratt, whose name is Grant Emerson, this series and the introduction of its star had the misfortune of being launched with a connection to Zero Hour, the company wide crossover that saw the GA hero being killed off for nothing more than gratuitous shock value and the insulting notion that practically all superheroes no longer wanted by modern editors and publishers must be killed off by villains and even heroes turned villains, as Hank Hall was at the time, becoming Extant and forced by TPTB to do the dastardly deed to a couple of Justice Society heroes. To be fair, Emerson had his moments, but ultimately did not get put to good use, and later wound up in a time-wasting story by Geoff Johns in his renditions of the Justice League where his face got subjected to what makes his codename by the new Reverse-Flash Johns conceived (I hesitate to say created). It may have been repaired briefly, but even that was thrown away by pointlessness that followed with atrocities like Blackest Night, where he was slain.

Grant Emerson was a character with potential that was never realized properly, thanks in part to the father-son relationship that could've been, yet was trashed thanks to years of mismanagement at DC.

Darkstars #38 (DC): This was a series that spun off in part from the Green Lantern Corps, since they had their connections with the Guardians of the Galaxy, but split off from them after the betrayal of the Manhunters, the army that attempted to invade the earth in the Millenium crossover. They had begun with the Maltusian race, the Controllers, one of those movements whose job was to defend the universe, but were isolationists in nature. Rather, they wanted others to do the work in defending the galaxy for them, and, for reasons not given, to act as spokespersons for them as well.

The most interesting part of this series is that Donna Troy, whose main team title would end the month after this did, was a part of the team here, and took up the name Darkstar while she was with them. Unfortunately, the series just didn't work out in the end, and it was shelved after barely three years.

Still, I'll have to say that Donna's costume here was pretty sexy, that's for sure.

Judge Dredd #18 (DC): I've never been a fan of this UK-produced adventure set several decades into the future, not just because I found the would-be sense of humor and visuals extremely unappealing, but also because of how it depicted the USA as a quasi-totalitarian police state (if the residents of the mega-cities are all kept crowded in and unable to expand their living quarters, all because the rest of the country's become an uninhabitable desert wasteland, how is that supposed to be fair to them?). And aside from that, another annoying thing about Dredd is how he's depicted operating completely without balance, in contrast to vigilantes like Batman and Daredevil, and the violence in the stories seems played more for sensationalism (in the first issue of this series, he destroys a whole airship he suspects of carrying illegal weapons technology, wiping out everyone on board). There's practically no consequences to his MO, which lessens whatever interest it supposedly has.

I wonder if the unsuccessful movie starring Sylvester Stallone in the title role from 1995 precipitated the demise of this particular series? It's possible, and decidedly for the best. Such a pretentious premise is something best forgotten. And Diane Lane should not have bothered to co-star in it either.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine #32 (Malibu): It's kind of a sad thing for me now to have to talk about the Star Trek franchise, because, as I've discovered in recent years, Star Trek as a franchise is dying.

In the past years, the popularity has waned considerably, even for the movies, and even the comics, which began in 1967 with Gold Key's adaptation of the first series from back then, and which were taken over later in publication by DC, and following the now defunct Malibu's series of Trek comics, Marvel took control of the license for about two years, as part of their aquirement of Malibu's properties, which they not only shut down, contrary to what they "promised", but also don't seem to make any use out of today.

Though I'll have to admit that over the years, the producers of the TV shows did some pretty bizarre things that just didn't work, and that even undermined the quality of the shows to some extent, if not all. Lt. Tasha Yar, the character who was introduced in Next Generation's first season, and was then killed off because Denise Crosby was unsatisfied with her character's development, and wanted to pursue herself a career in movies (which failed, not too surprisingly), later made an illogical return as a Romulan officer said to be the daughter of the character she originally played, and even the non-development of Gates McFadden as Dr. Beverly Crusher undermined the show considerably.

The movies, while initially worthwhile, didn't cut it so well after awhile either. Star Trek 5: The Final Frontier, aside from taking its subtitle from the opening narration of the regular TV show, was an incredibly silly affair, and First Contact from 1996 was a major embarrassment, what with Lt. Geordi LaForge telling the would-be discoverer of connections with friendly alien diplomats from other planets (a hippie, presumably the filmmakers idea of a joke) some of the events that would come his way in the future, and then Cmdr. Riker quoting a line that the guy would be saying in the future too! Gah! It practically made them look like refugees from a traveling circus (or even a road-company version of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern from Hamlet).

The really appalling thing about the movies to say the least, is that, while in the TV shows, they usually take a properly serious approach to the material, with humorous stories done the right way too, the movies by contrast are surprisingly negligent in terms of loyalty to their TV based source material, and sometimes seem to be done more as an excuse for parody than a serious story. The lack of faithfulness to how the TV series are done is a noticable problem that sticks out like a sore thumb.

By contrast to that, the novels, some of which have been written by Peter David, and even the comic books in some cases, tend to be much more faithful and serious in their approach to the source material, and when it comes to having some really funny moments, even those are done in ways that suit the material properly, and not simply for the sake of it. Quite amazing, isn't it, as to how, when it comes to tinseltown, they go out of their way to dumb it down, yet when it comes to the novels and the comics, they're right on the money.

The former part of the above, sadly, could've been one of the reasons why this star is falling, and also why, sadly, even the comic books series, if not the novels, are failing, including this one that was based on the spinoff from ST: TNG. Oh yes, I know, it's also got what to do with the failing comics market, but even so, the above theory can also be just as explanatory.

February 1996

Black Lightning #13 Volume 2 (DC): It's a real shame that there had to be a creative fallout on the next tryout in giving Jeff Pierce his own solo series, when TPTB started an unfair dispute on how to handle the series development, which led creator/writer Tony Isabella to leave, and which in turn led to the cancellation of this newer series.

Jeff "Black Lightning" Pierce first debuted in 1977, and the powers he had were electricity based. While he wasn't the first black superhero in the DCU (John Stewart of the Green Lantern Corps and Mal Duncan, who'd been a member of the Teen Titans during the Bronze Age preceded him as the first ones), he was the first one to star in his own solo book. Unfortunately, due to the "DC implosion" of the late 1970's, which also cost Ronnie "Firestorm" Raymond his own first book after just five issues, BL's series was cancelled after 11 issues. He made some appearances in the Justice League of America afterwards, though he didn't join as a regular member of that series' team, and then, in 1983, when Batman was organizing his own team, he became a regular in the first series of the Outsiders, which began as Batman and the Outsiders and then was changed to Adventures of the Outsiders later on. And of course, there was also the sans-adjective spinoff title of the Outsiders that was launched in 1985, part of DC's deluxe line that lasted for almost a decade, and was written by one of DC's prominent editors, Mike W. Barr. Both series were pretty entertaining, and I'm proud to tell that I own a few issues of them myself. But then, after five years, both of these titles ended, and BL only had guest appearances to make for the next several years.

In 1995, Tony Isabella, as BL's creator, was hired to write a new series for the flamboyant black superhero, but creative differences led to Isabella's departure, and it was cancelled a year later.

It's a shame that things didn't work out, since it could've been a very delightful series. Since the late 1990's, things haven't gone so well, with Pierce joining president Lex Luthor's cabinet, and while like former GL Corps member Guy Gardner, he may not be so active as a crimefighter these days, the idea that he'd join the government of a man whom he knows is one of Superman's most menacing adversaries was just too hard to swallow. Then, in the second volume of Green Arrow, he ended up killing a criminal who'd murdered a niece of his, and that was decidedly just too forced, a very embarrassing example of introducing a relative just to be killed off, and a questionable attempt to heap some flaws upon the character for the sake of development. These days, just about anything of the sort is as forced as it sounds, and frankly, it's also become very, very tired and a cliche.

I do hope that Black Lightning eventually rediscovers the glory he once had and also the respect he deserves as a character, but until then, there's no telling how he'll end up faring in the DCU at the moment.

Blood Syndicate #35 (DC/Milestone): this was one of a few series launched as part of animator Dwayne McDuffie's line starring mainly heroes of African-American backgrounds. Beyond that, I know very little about this, other than that a team by the name of the Shadow Cabinet might've appeared in this as well.

Magnus, Robot Fighter #64 (Valiant): a new take on the Gold Key protagonist first introduced in the 1960s that was set in the 40th century at a time when human dependency on robots was going out of control, and while raised by a robot himself, Magnus was trained in his trade to protect humanity against both corrupt robots and even evil humans who used robots for their own corrupt purposes. Magnus' girlfriend and later wife was named Leeja Clane.

Star Trek #80 vol. 2 (DC): this was the second Trek-adapted series DC published, following their first one in 1984, which began its own storylines from where the second movie, The Wrath of Khan, left off (not to worry, if Mr. Spock wasn't in that first volume when it began, he most certainly was there by the time this one did!). And when this one was first launched, it was under the brief "New Format" label they'd used for more adult series during 1987-89, one more way to enable them to tell more mature stories not unlike whatever the TV shows could feature. It featured the original cast, and as you'll soon see, they had the sequel cast in mind too.

This ended pretty much because the license was not renewed by Paramount for DC to write and publish Trek stories, and it went to the aforementioned Malibu (one of the last series published under that imprint), and then to Marvel (who'd bought ownership of Malibu's properties) for a short amount of time.

Star Trek: The Next Generation #80 (DC): this was the first official comics adaptation of the followup series begun in 1987 that enjoyed an even longer run than the first series from the late 1960s. That, of course, was mostly because Gene Roddenberry was so disenfranchised with the major networks at the time due to all the problems they'd given him with the original, he decided to have the sequel marketed in syndication, which helped pave the way for various other TV series broadcast in the same system. It also began and ended the exact same time as the second DC adaptation of the series. Here, it began at a point during the show's second season, and when coming to a close, it took place in between the series finale and Generations, the movie that served to pass the baton from the older cast to the newer one. You can certainly tell that this began during the second season because it remains true to how Jonathan Frakes grew a beard from the second season onwards! I don't know if Dr. Pulaski remained here that long though, since she only appeared during that very year on the show because Dr. Beverly Crusher was absent (not Wesley Crusher though, since the producers couldn't afford to lose their key to drawing in the younger crowd at the time), and when Dr. Crusher came back, she left without a trace.

The New Titans #130 (DC): This ended the long run of one of the best team series of the past two decades, that being The New Teen Titans, as it first began in 1980, Marv Wolfman's excellent series that really made the teen-to-20-something crimefighters of the DCU rock.

Teen Titans, when it first began in the 1960's, (the first adventures had been in The Brave and the Bold anthology series) was a pretty fun romp, with four to five of the most notable sidekicks of major characters, Robin, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl (whose background was rewritten during Crisis), Aqualad and Speedy, now Tempest and Arsenal, teaming up to brave the odds against crooks in many fun adventures together, in a time when rock 'n roll was already getting underway. But it didn't do as well as it could have in sales, and so, after about 7 years, it went on hiatus, was revived for another year and a half, this time on a more monthly schedule in 1976 (it had been bi-monthly when it first began as a series of its own in 1966), and was then cancelled in 1978, during which time the team disbanded, and with the exception of one or two appearances in said anthology series TBOTB, which ran from 1955 to 1983, didn't regroup until 2 years later, when Marv Wolfman and artist/writer George Perez were given the task of making the teen crimefighters of the DCU really shine bright, and they did, in some of the best adventures written for DC until today. These included such gems as The Judas Contract story arc, and Dick Grayson changes his career from Robin to Nightwing during this time.

Two years after Crisis on Infinite Earths, which also reworked the background of Wonder Girl/Donna Troy, who later took up a new codename/career as Darkstar and such, it became The New Titans, and continued as such until 1996, with the former Kid Flash Wally West since then ascending to the role of the Flash following the death of his famous uncle in the Crisis, and becoming a member of Justice League International/Europe, the current Green Lantern Kyle Rayner joining up in the last two years of the series, after which he joined up with the newly reorganized JLA in 1996. (Since then, he's been replaced by veteran GL Corps member John Stewart). Not to mention that there was even a brief spinoff called Team Titans that came along in the early 90's, and, shortly after this series ended, a new Teen Titans series, which ran two years and can be read about in the 1998 files, came along as well, and was written by Dan Jurgens.

It's really a shame that since then, suceeding writers haven't exactly done the now-20-something protagonists true justice, what with the failed job that is The Titans that ran from 1999-2003. Some very bad character steps were taken, Donna Troy's background was messed up, possibly having something to do with John Byrne's own missteps in Wonder Woman at the time, and Jesse Quick, the fastest femme alive, wasn't exactly treated like a lady at the time.

Now, with some of the team members now becoming a new Outsiders team in a title that's like a new rendition of Batman and the Outsiders from the 80's, and the title of TT being handed over to the former Young Justice, well, I can't exactly say that I'm all that enthusiastic about trying it out, since it's being scripted by one of comicdom's flat-out overrated writers, Judd Winick, blatant writer that he is, and I might point out that I'd rather have a speargun at my head than read most of his heavy-handed material. Since his exclusive contract at DC may only last another year, from 2003 to 2004, maybe that'll be a good sign though, and then, if a good writer is brought on in his stead, then Nightwing's new team will mean something for real.

March 1996

Eternal Warrior #50 (Valiant): Gilad Anni-Padda was one of 3 immortal brothers, the others being Ivar the Timewalker, the star of the series seen below, and Aram the Other, who first appeared in Solar: Man of the Atom in its Valiant incarnation, who was born in 3268 BC and was said to have "leopard spirit" by his ancient people. He survived until modern times when he would battle against villains in modern times.

R.E.B.E.L.S #17 (DC): And what have we here, a futuristic adventure series that spun out of L.E.G.I.O.N, which in turn spun out of the Legion of Super-Heroes, around the time of Zero Hour. And the funny thing about this item is that, just like the other abreviated title above, they gave the subtitling of years during its almost 3-year run, namely '94, '95, and '96! It's almost like the mid-90's volume of Showcase, spoken about in the 1997 files, which did something similar, even though it wasn't exactly done as an ongoing the same way this was.

The plot centered around the resistance that was formed against Vril Dox's evil son Lyrl, who had taken over and corrupted the interplanetary police force of L.E.G.I.O.N, explaining where the 1989-94 series starring them got its name from, Vril and his loyalists broke off and formed the "Revolutionary Elite Brigade to Eradicate L.E.G.I.O.N. Supremacy". They waged a battle against Lyrl Dox and his own followers until the crooks could be brought down, and then the core members of R.E.B.E.L.S became the L.E.G.I.O.N once again.

So I guess you could say that it was meant to have been an allegory to some of the civil wars waged in places like South America and such, but eventually, it all came to an end, just a year and a half after it was worked on.

The Sandman #75 (DC): this was a most famous thriller fantasy, partly based on the ideas originally penned by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby in the mid-1970s, here featuring a protagonist named Dream, who rules over dreams in a dimension called the Endless. But I honestly find it overrated, and too excessive as a product of the horror/thriller genre. Neil Gaiman did it all for about 7 years, gaining quite an audience for it. It even featured some of the characters who'd begun as part of Infinity Inc. like Hector and Lyta Hall, who bore a son in this story named Daniel, and even Kirby and Simon's original Sandman from the Golden Age, Wesley Dodds, made at least one appearance here too. And it was one of the first series to be transferred to the Vertigo imprint in 1993 (with issue #47). It got plenty of awards and recommendations, which I think were unnecessary. Mostly because IMO, I believe Gaiman's use of Hector and Lyta was very poor. Morpheus acted cynically and otherwise unfairly to Lyta, and later on, although it wasn't him who abducted the child she bore with Hector in the Dreaming, she went insane and arranged to have him wiped out. How does that help her as a character if she commandeers the death of a guy who was anything but a criminal?

It all ended intentionally, as Gaiman felt it was time to end the tale while it was in good form, and I'd say it was for the best. Because it didn't help Lyta, let alone Hector, for that matter.

Timewalker #15 (Valiant): Ivar the Timewalker, the second of the brothers highlighted in Eternal Warrior, was the star of the show here, and had the ability to sense "time arcs" that could help him travel to different periods but had no control over where they'll take him. Sometimes innocent people ended up being taken with him. Boy, does that make me glad I'm living in the real world and not in a fictional one. The third brother, Aram, was said to originally be planned to appear in this, but probably didn't.

Incidentally, this may have actually ended with one of those "issue #0" gimmicks, most likely due to the premise, but because I find it more convenient to list larger numbers, that's why I made it #15 here.

April 1996

Fantastic Force #18 (Marvel): An attempt, I assume, to come up with a spinoff of the Four you-know-who's, but that's about all I know about this title, which was put to rest just a few months before the abortive Heroes Reborn, which can be read about below for starters.

Force Works #22 (Marvel): after the West Coast Avengers ended in 1993 (mostly due to the death of Mockingbird, which was uncalled for), this semi-spinoff title replaced it for a short time. Iron Man formed the team after disagreements with the aforementioned one after its disbanding, as a group that could try to both stop and prevent disasters before they began. It was comprised of members like Scarlet Witch, Spider-Woman, Wonder Man, US Agent, Century, Cybermancer and Moonraker. And unfortunately, the whole fascinating premise was ruined after they tied it in with terrible ideas like The Crossing crossover (I think there was also another one tied in called Brothers in Arms), where Tony Stark "died" and was replaced by a younger, time-displaced version of himself, an idea later thankfully done away with by the time the Heroes Reborn catastrophe had ended in 1997. Why, the Heroes Reborn mess is exactly why this title was cancelled! Jim Rhodes as War Machine also guest starred for a short time, but left the team too because of disagreements with Iron Man.

Oh, did I mention Wonder Man was killed almost immediately in the premiere issue after he worked to get a Kree spacecraft attacking the earth out of the atmosphere and it exploded, seemingly taking him with it? At least back then, they weren't so hell-bent on the kind of shock tactics they're willing to use now, and the door was left open for Simon Williams to return by 1998, though he'd eventually suffer similar mistreatment again. Practically the whole latter third of this series from issue 16 to the end was subject to The Crossing, and made a whole mockery out of whatever they were supposedly trying to do with the book. Too bad.

Mantra #7 vol. 2 (Malibu/Marvel): the relaunch of this mind-boggling concept was an early casualty in sales for the revamped Malibu line, and I figure it's now languishing in obscurity.

Rune #7 vol. 2 (Malibu/Marvel): the Marvel relaunch take on the character, which ran 2 about issues less than its predecessor, and as of today, is doubtlessly languishing in oblivion.

Saban's Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Ninja Rangers/VR Troopers #5 (Marvel): one of the last licensed products I know of that Marvel's ever produced at the time, something they didn't do again until the mid-2000s, and one of the shortest too. It's just as well, as I'm no fan of the Power Rangers, which Saban's company apparently edited from a Japanese live action series at the time. But it was just otherwise repellent nonsense aimed at the youngster crowd, and the only saving grace was the presence of a stunning Asian girl in the cast (which changed a few times). Haim Saban himself turned out to be someone I couldn't admire as much as I'd like to either (it's his foolish left-wing politics that really insulted my intellect), though he seems to have made an effort to repent of recent.

Solar: Man of the Atom #60 (Valiant): the scientist hero of this story first appeared in the late Gold Key Comics' publications during the 1960s, and his name then was Dr. Raymond Solar, who gained powers from exposure to radiation at a nuclear plant that was being sabotaged. Later on, when Jim Shooter obtained the rights as part of the Valiant line, he introduced another hero named Phil Seleski, who had read about the adventures of the original hero in a vague similarity to the in-joke from the first Flash story of the Silver Age where Barry Allen's reading a comic book of Jay Garrick's adventures as the original.

War Machine #25 (Marvel): Jim Rhodes, the Iron Man co-star who was Tony Stark's best ally in some of his battles, got his own solo spinoff book here, where he piloted his own armored suit that was silvery-gray colored. Unfortunately, it was mired in badly written guest stars like Cable from the X-Men, and wound up mired in crossovers too. As a result, it didn't really have its own direction. There were a few guests who'd been through better writing in the past like Hawkeye and Black Widow, but Marvel clearly wasn't putting much into this book, any more than various other series they've published starring third-tiers. And then, wouldn't you know it, the armor was changed to a very alien-looking design. That obviously didn't bode well for this series either. It's a definite pity the decline of Marvel's quality in the 90s cost Rhodey a chance to shine.

X #25 (Dark Horse): the lead of this series was given the very letter as his name; a ninja-clad vigilante who took on organized crime syndicates. He had a belief in law stating that one mark stands for a warning, and the second one means death. The character was co-created by Joe Phillips and Wade von Grawbadger.

May 1996

Captain Marvel #6 (Marvel): This appears to have been one of the first places where Genis-Vell, son of the late, great Mar-Vell of the Kree, made his debut, and before Peter David took to writing the solo book with him that at least ran longer per se than this volume here did.

Ghost Rider 2099 #25 (Marvel): See below on August for the 2099 line. To say the least, I really couldn't care less about a future version of the flaming skull than I could about the one in the present.

June 1996

Deathstroke the Terminator #60 (DC): Writer Marv Wolfman himself admitted years ago that mercenary Slade Wilson, who first appeared in The New Teen Titans #1 in 1980, and who is also the father of the mute Titans member Joe "Jericho" Wilson, was not exactly a character whom he was at ease with to write as the star of his own series, even if he was a popular character in that great series of the 1980's. And I'll have to admit that the attempt to imitate the Punisher over at Marvel is a very iffy step in its own way, even though Slade does seem to have acquired some very anti-heroic assets over the time since he'd first appeared.

Yet Slade eventually got his own series, following the success of the 70th issue of The New Titans (as the second volume of the series with the Titans became, as explained in the info above) in 1990, and while it was a success for awhile, it eventually waned, and was put to rest just a few months after the title that first spawned it.

It's kind of ironic, considering how, while even the Punisher's own first volume - and its spinoffs - eventually got discontinued, he's still around in new ones from Marvel Knights, whereas Deathstroke lay fallow as series fodder for a time. But that's about it, with DC not trying to back projects like these, perhaps for good reason, whereas Marvel will milk 'em for all they're worth.

Doctor Strange: Sorceror Supreme #90 volume 3 (Marvel): Stephen Strange, who, like me, originated in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, probably had one of the best and longest runs with this volume, which was probably the most adult book of its sort you could get from Marvel during the late-80's-early-90's. The Master of the Mystic Arts, who gained his powers by learning all about selflessness, while not the most major, is still one of Marvel's best leading characters, and here's his origins told right here.

In the mid-60's, Stephen Strange first began in Strange Tales, simply perfect for his name, as a self-centered physicist whose hands were badly injured in a car crash, and while he could still use them, the nerves inside were damaged too much for him to perform surgery with properly. He travelled to the Himalayas to visit a powerful mage who lived in that area to ask if he could help repair his hands. But the sorceror argued that Strange's moral flaws were a problem, and when taking him under his wing as a disciple in magic, what he did was to repair his soul rather than his hands. And so, Strange returned home a learned man, and a talented sorceror to boot, using his newfound knowledge to fight crime and evil wherever it may exist in the world of sorcery. He took up residence in Manhattan, and hired a butler named Wong, who served faithfully as a partner in crimesolving - if not crimefighting - as well. Stan Lee was the creator, and Steve Ditko, his artist on Spider-Man, collaborated in bringing the Sorceror Surpreme to life, with plenty of trans-dimensional doorways and other-worldly concepts of mysticism to accompany Stephen Strange on his adventures.

The series first got launched by continuing it from the numbering of Strange Tales in 1969. Then, it was relaunched in a volume of its own in 1974, that lasted until 1987. Then came this volume, which probably had the most issues, and was put under a category called Midnight Sons later in its run. And with this one, that's where they probably gave it the most adult storytelling methods in all of the Master Magician's career, just like Green Arrow's first volume did in its time too.

Having said that, it's a real shame it's never reached 100 issues, which would've been wonderful. But put together, the Master of the Mystic Arts certainly has a great body of work in storytelling to offer.

Another series of some sort was put together circa 1998, this time for the Marvel Knights line, but which may be a miniseries, since it's subtitled The Flight of Bones, I'm not sure.

July 1996

Extreme Justice #18 (DC): What was this title all about? Well, I guess you could say it was DC's attempt to enter the kind of "outside the law" concept that Marvel for one was often trying out during the early-90's with the Punisher, in example. And who should lead it other than Captain Atom, of all people, and even Blue Beetle and Booster Gold!

The idea was that, after the Justice League, or at least the characters involved here, lost their connections with the UN, so they formed a special unit that struck at villains using the "hit 'em hard, hit 'em fast" strategy. It was around this time also that Ronnie Raymond, alias Firestorm, regained the powers he had mostly lost when his series ended its 8-year run a few years earlier, and he too joined the group along with Maxima and Amazing Man 2.

Not having ever had access to this title (and as of this writing, I am simply sad that all these years, I can never seem to spot any back issues of All-Star Squadron anywhere!), I have no idea if anyone here ever actually used deadly force to put an end to the villains, though I'm assuming they didn't, for the most part. But in any case, the team ended their operations after an abortive mission in the fictional country of Bialya, which led to the League asking them to end their operations.

If there's one thing I do have to question, it's the fact that Captain Atom and even Booster and Beetle were used in a concept like this, because they're second-to-third-string characters, and therefore easily overlooked by the fans? Oh yeah, right, now there's a good one.

Guy Gardner #44 (DC): While I canít say Iíve ever been the biggest fan of Guy Gardner, one of earthís most prominent co-starring Green Lanterns, whom Hal Jordan first met in 1968, I gotta admit that itís a shame that he lost his own title, yet itís nothing compared to the treatment he got a few years later following the lumpy Our Worlds at War crossover.

Thatís right, after being found alive, it was then discovered that heíd acquired a special shapeshifting power, wherein he could form his right hand into a sword, and his left hand into a gun. But even more ridiculous was the supposed revelation that he was descended from the alien Vuldarian race! Gah!

Can we please get some decency into whatís done at DC regarding even their supporting cast members? I seem to recall that something similar was initially done with the current Flash Wally Westís own father circa the time that the 2nd volume began in 1987, during the Millenium crossover, in which it was told that he was actually a member of an alien race called the Manhunters! Who, thankfully, if Iíve got my facts correct, are of no authentic connection to Jíonn Jíonnz, our one true Martian Manhunter.

Luckily, that whole notion concocted by Mike Baron was all repaired more or less some time after he left the book (during the Zero Hour crossover, IIRC), and it was told that Wallyís dad simply went off the deep end and took the enemyís side, because, in his words, he wanted ďto be on the winning side for a change.Ē Yeah, right. Believe me, itís better to be on the side thatís in the right than on the on the one thatís evil.

As for Guy, I ask myself, how could they repeat those mistakes of the yesteryear with him? Itís just so unfair.

Since OWAW, heís taken to becoming a resturanteur in New York, and only comes out to fight crime in case of a serious need. Some way to downplay his once more prominent role in the DCU and in the Justice League International/Europe years ago, where he worked very well under J.M. DeMatties and Keith Giffen.

Hawkman #33 Vol 3 (DC): And with this volume ended also the life of Katar Hol, the humanoid from planet Thanagar who was the second protagonist to take up the role of the Winged Warrior.

I'll admit that some of the series as first penned by John Ostrander was interesting and had its high points, but there were also some very low points in the latter day era of Katar Hol too. Namely, that much of the background in the 70s and 80s with the Justice League got thrown out the window in the beginning story published in late 1989, a huge source of complaint for anyone who feels the Hawks continuity history was ruined since that time, and there's also his becoming written as a drug addict, and it's a sad thing to have to point out that these kind of characterizations are now being seen as what it takes to make even a fitting anti-hero. For heaven's sake, this is exactly what got DC into trouble back in the late-80's-early-90's, and now, they're sliding back to it? Right, go figure.

Since then, Carter Hall, the original Hawkman, returned to the center stage, and so did his eternal paramour Sheira Sanders, now incarnated in the body of her own granddaughter Kendra Saunders, and for the record, any mishaps in continuity concerning the parts involving what Thanagar's connections with ancient Egypt's magical secrets that could make the Ninth Metal have been patched up in the JSA, where Carter mainly returned. But, in the years since, I've had to conclude even that wasn't done well enough, and not just because of the overtly nostalgic approach used in the series. Shayera Thal, the Silver Age Hawkwoman and Katar's erstwhile wife and partner, is still around, adorable redhead that she is, and still lives in the Chicago area today, wondering if Katar himself will ever be back.

But a far better question is, will a coherent take on the DCU ever be back? Not with Dan DiDio in charge.

August 1996

Bloodshot #51 vol. 1 (Valiant): Angelo Mortalli, the lead of this story, was a mafia assassin who was betrayed and framed for a crime by his own mafia family, and then by an FBI agent supposedly guarding him while he's in the witness protection program, allowing him to be abducted to an experiment at a laboratory where he undergoes "Project Rising Spirit" with nanotech injected into his system that were supposed to erase his memories and rebuild his body, but he recalled everything and escaped to take the name in the series title. I can't say this is the most appealing story I've ever heard of from Valiant, so it's cancellation doesn't concern me much.

Deathblow #29 (Wildstorm/Image): The hero of this book was a Navy Seal named Michael Cray, who joined the US Navy after his parents had been killed by terrorists, and worked as part of a special division called Team 7, which had been exposed to Gen Factor experiments not unlike Gen 13, the teen protagonists of the Wildstorm line, though his powers, which consisted of psionic waves, took longer to manifest. Cray left the official team after being diagnosed with a brain tumor, and wanted to atone for the deaths he may have led to of people during that experiment, but it turned out that it was merely a side effect of the Gen Factor results, and now he had restorative powers. He used his powers to help bring down a villain called Black Angel.

The protagonist here was killed off at the end of this series while fighting another supervillain called Damocles. However, in the Wildstorm universe reboot of 2005, he was revived for a little longer.

Doom 2099 #44 (Marvel): See below. As for this series, to be quite frank, I can't say I ever thought highly of the whole notion of casting a character like the Doomster as the main character in focus. Not to mention that I don't think that this Doom could measure up to today's Doom by a longshot. Nope, no way.

Fantastic Four 2099 #8 (Marvel): All of the titles in the now known as the House of Jokes' 2099 line were cancelled during this time, and were then replaced with one single title - 2099: World of Tomorrow - which ended just several months afterwards.

For me, this whole futuristic spin on characters in the present-day MCU was a mixed bag at best. Some series, such as this one and even X-Men 2099 were okay. But others, such as the utter monstrosity known - or, better still, unknown - as Ravage 2099, which dealt with - are you ready for this? - a futuristic garbageman as a crimefighter(!), were simply bottom of the barrel, and the sooner they got canned, the better. Hulk of that era only lasted 10 issues, in example, Punisher of that era probably lasted just as long, ditto Ghost Rider and 2099 Unlimited (ever noticed that almost all of these titles are takoffs on the most popular books in the present-day?).

In retrospective, it's a pretty innovative idea that just didn't hold up for long, which Marvel found out when they tried to launch the M2 line a few years later. And some of the characters, if not all, were appealing to some extent.

Could it work again someday? Maybe, but for now, as they say...only time will tell.

As for this series, which was one of the last in the line to get launched, it ended just as quickly and without that much fanfare either.

Justice League America #113 (DC): Relax, everybody, the JLA is still going on, just that now it's being published under the aforementioned acronym, as it has been since early 1997!

Overall, I want to say that while it's a bit of a shame that this volume ended back then, this was one of the most entertaining runs of the Justice teams in the DCU since the post-Crisis era began, especially when Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatties were at the helm, having begun there in 1987, when the first of the new volumes, simply titled Justice League, was first launched. It then became Justice League International, and in 1989, Justice League America split off from the numbering of that series.

And under Giffen's and DeMatties's guidance, they were some of the most entertaining series and spinoffs you could find from DC back then, with some of the best humor, both campy and sophisticated, to go around. Elongated Man was a notable comedy relief character in the JLI and in the series that in turn spun off from that, Justice League Europe, while as for this series, this is where such stalwarts as Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman mainly hung out.

I really wish we could get more of this kind of fun travelling again from folks like Giffen and DeMatties, and I'm glad to say that recently, we most certainly did get a reunion of some of the earlier members of such teams, including both Elongated Man and Captain Atom, and also Sue Dibny, EM's loving wife and sometimes a great partner to him on the team as well as on solo jobs together, as they went on during the Silver Age when they had a backup feature of their own in Detective Comics with Batman. And what might that reunion be? Formerly Known as the Justice League, a miniseries that reunited the talents of the two great writers of the late-80's-early-90's. I'd strongly recommend it.

The next year, after a miniseries called JLA: A Midsummer's Nightmare, it was launched anew in a new volume, as mentioned, using simply the acronym this time, and has undergone a couple of writers since then. First, there's Grant Morrison, who did good enough work on some of the things he wrote for DC, ditto Mark Millar, but has since let me down with whatever he did for their subsidiary, Vertigo, and also, for Marvel under the Bill Jemas-Joe Quesada reign (as of this writing, the former was removed from his position as COO and took on smaller jobs for them instead), having turned out some of the laziest and crudest storylines in the inappropriately titled New X-Men. (I say inappropriate because of what "new" can really mean, including Newspeak.) I frankly enjoyed JLA much more when Mark Waid took over as he did for 3 years, while as for Joe Kelly, his was a fairly mixed bag.

But if real escapism and entertainment is what you want, you should check out JSA, which brought Golden Age Flash Jay Garrick and Golden Age Green Lantern Alan Scott out of retirement to head a new roster for the team they originally were part of way back in All-Star Comics in the Golden-to-early-Shadow Age. It's amazing as to how they get it even more right there, what can I say.

Justice League Task Force #37 (DC): Another spinoff of the other League-liners, this one had Mark Waid for one as a writer, but it looks like it was cancelled due to the rebooting of all that is Justice related in the DCU. Some of the members here included Flash and Martian Manhunter, at least during its first issues, but alas, when Justice League America, already spoken above, went, so did this, and I'll have to admit that it's kind of a pity, though to be honest, if several books in a franchise are too many, as has been proven already with the Marvel X-line, then it's probably for the best that this come to an end.

Spider-Man 2099 #46
(Marvel): The series that launched the line, and was one of the first to end too. Oh well. One interesting thing about this series though, is that in a special issue published around 1995, the wall-crawler of this era actually met the one from the futuristic era told about in this series! Well at least there's one definite landmark for this particular line.

X-Men 2099 #35 (Marvel): See above. Some of the characters, as I said, were interesting, but the line as a whole just didn't hold up for long.

X-Nation #6 (Marvel): Ended same time as the title it spun off from, how about that.

September 1996

Avengers #402 Vol. 1 (Marvel): See below with Thor, but, not to worry, everything's been fixed since then (well, almost).

Captain America #454 Vol. 2 (Marvel): Same here, but with one note to provide: when Cap got his own title again in 1968, the book continued its numbering from that of Tales of Suspense, one of a handful of anthology titles that Marvel published at the time. As a result, I'm not sure just what volume numbering its meant to be.

Fantastic Four #416 Vol. 1 (Marvel): Not to worry, not only have things been fixed since then, but also, ta-da! It's reached its 500 issue! Only because it's a good marketing gimmick, of course.

Fate #22 (DC): This take on the mage created in the Golden Age by Gardner Fox named Doctor Fate starred Jared Stevens in the role previously filled by Kent Nelson and subsequently even his wife Inza. (Roy Thomas did a special retcon in the early 1980s telling that both Kent and Inza could merge together as one entity to become the figure with the gold helmet and cape.) In the late 80s, as Kent retired from old age and Inza retired, another couple named Eric and Linda Strauss took up the role in their place.

Jared himself was a grave robber who went to Egypt where he found the tools used to make Fate. He was then teleported to the Nelson tower since they wanted to reclaim the helmet and other stuff, but here's where I think the series decidedly fumbled the ball: Kent and Inza not only found the helmet rejecting them, they were killed by two demons. Honestly, I really think this was one of the leading mistakes of the 1990s. Stevens managed to defeat the two demons and Nabu, the ancient wizard who'd created the helmet, subsequently gave him the ownership, and Jared would go on to a few adventures as Fate.

But the series did not catch on, and it was decidedly a mistake to wipe out the Nelsons as happened here, even if they did turn up in the JSA when it first began, at the time auspicuously enough (as Geoff Johns took over more by himself sans James Robinson, that's when it really went off the rails). It would be continued in The Book of Fate the following year, with little success there either.

Iron Man #332 Vol. 1 (Marvel): Yeah, this too has been repaired. And, even more thankfully, Tony Stark is an adult again (don't ask).

The Mighty Thor #502 (Marvel): Due to the crummy Heroes Reborn stint, this was cancelled after about 30 years of being published under the name of its protagonist, the Norse god of thunder, after having begun as Journey Into Mystery back in the Shadow Age, the precursor to the Silver Age (It was as early as June 1952 that JIM began), and then changing its name following issue #125 in 1966. Guess what happened after that? It reverted back to JIM again! Yep, that's right, it did just that, serving as a vehicle for such characters as the Black Widow, and lasting up until June 1998, officially ending after 46 years of publication and 521 issues if we were to look at things the way they began back in the day. I'll have some more to say on that in the files for cancelled books from 1998, also available in this section.

I will make this quite clear on this matter that I am not happy with what was done at the time, (already spoken about in the files for 1997 in this section) and frankly, I'd be much happier if Marvel, who revived this during 1998 a few months after Heroes Return, hadn't done it at all. But at least since then, Thor's back in the regular world, and his title's been revived under a new volume.

The New Warriors #75 vol. 1 (Marvel): the stars of this series were a couple of protagonists, including mutants, who didn't think they fit in with other teams like the X-Men and Avengers who decided to form their own super-team. Among the members were Vance Astrovik and Firestar, who'd become lovers as they grew older. It worked out pretty well in the time, and for the most part was a worthy team series effort when published, certainly better than the disaster the X-Men was becoming by that time.

X-O Manowar #68 Vol. 1 (Valiant): the hero of this story was Aric of Dacia, a Visigoth born in the 5th century AD who'd witnessed his parents' death at the hands of the Romans, and dedicated himself to battling the Romans with the help of his uncle. He was later abducted by aliens and came into acquisition of the title armor on board as he made his escape and was transported to the 20th century, where he readjusted to modern life. This may have also been the series where Shadowman first officially appeared, and when Acclaim acquired the rights to the Valient properties later on, they redid it as a different premise.

October 1996

Firebrand #9 (DC): This was probably the third protagonist in the DCU to bear the name (the first ones had been Rod Reilly, who first appeared in Police Comics #1 in 1941, and later his sister Danette, who first appeared in All-Star Squadron #5 in 1982), in this case being a special police investigator named Alejandro Sanchez, who'd been haunted by the memory of when his sister was killed in a fire years ago, and who'd been gravely injured by a bomb planted in his apartment by an evil syndicate who wanted to prevent him from exposing their activities in kidnapping children across New York. Fortunately, he survived the blast, and was visited by the spirit of his sister, who told him he still had much to accomplish, and encouraged him to keep on trying.

Emerging from the coma he'd been in for three months, he found his body had been badly damaged by the blast, and to restore full mobility, the NY philanthropist Noah Hightower funded his healing for him, providing him with experimental surgery and implants that could restore 80 percent of his mobility for starters. Upon visiting Hightower to learn more later on, Sanchez found out that his benefactor had an even bigger offer for him, to try out an even more advanced form of armor and become a superhero, no strings attached. Which Sanchez certainly agreed to after his police partner was attacked outside the hospital while investigating the case of the kidnappers further. Together, they tracked down the kidnappers and saved all their victims, and then continued to work on more similar cases in and around New York, and got an extra job with Hightower at the Childfind Agency under administrator Eve Tanner.

It was an intriguing idea unfortunately botched by going too far as a potential horror thriller (which is why I'll be happy if nobody gets me started on the case of Max the Knife), and it's usually a bad sign when the writers start to get ideas from the serial killer-thrillers in the movie theaters, as writer Brian Augustyn must've gotten here. Which could explain why this, to say the least, didn't last very long.

As for Sanchez, it's sad to say, but, while I don't think was killed, he certainly did get badly injured in JSA Secret Files from 2001, when Roulette took him to her headquarters and put him in a clash against a Checkmate agent, and hasn't been seen since.

Overall, this was an interesting idea for a superhero, despite its flaws in plotting, but one that apparently got canned very quickly.

Hercules: The Legendary Journeys #5 (Topps): based on Christian Williams' then popular TV fantasy series starring Kevin Sorbo as the Greek god of strength, it was intended to run at least 10 issues but got slashed down to just half the amount because of low sales.

The Ray #28 (DC): The character here was a guy who'd been part of the Justice League during the Giffen/DeMatties era, and here was getting his own series, written, I think, by Christopher Priest. Alas, it just didn't do as well as it could've, and after two years, it was discontinued.

Swamp Thing #171 volume 2 (DC/Vertigo): This ended the long running second series that ran for an impressive 14 years, and was one of the first books from DC to become part of the Vertigo line.

The Swamp Thing is quite an amazing character in the world of the occult, though the quality of his adventures - and likewise, his daughter, who became the main focus of a later series which'll be discussed in the 2001 files - has gone either this way or that.

The character first appeared in 1971 in the thriller series House of Secrets in issue #92, a murdered scientist from Louisiana, Alec Holland, who'd dived into a swamp to escape from the burning caused by the chemicals he'd been working on when a bomb left by gangsters who'd been trying to get a hold of a formula he'd been working on exploded and sent said chemicals raining upon him, who'd been transformed into a creature that was almost like walking vegetation, and rose from his muck-ridden grave to take vengance upon the criminals who'd tried to bump him off, and who'd murdered his wife as well. It was quite a success at first, continuing as an ongoing series in 1972, but creators Len Wein and Berni Wrightson were unable to stay on for more than eleven issues (Wein had gone over to work for Marvel on the relaunch of the X-Men, which took up some of his time), and the succeeding writers were unable to rematch the same talents they'd brought to the book, so it ended up stumbling after their departure, and was cancelled in 1976.

Then, in 1982, DC tried it out again, first with Martin Pasko (who also wrote a few backup stories with Doctor Fate in the Flash in its latter days around the same time too) doing the writing, then when Alan Moore took over a year later, that's when it really took off. The plant-like protagonist discovered that Alec Holland had died, and that he himself was the conglomeration of vegetable matter, spawned, I believe, by the chemicals that Holland himself had been dealing with that got spilled upon him when he was murdered, and that Holland's memories had been absorbed into him when rotting away in the bog. And that's not all - he later discovered that he was the latest incarnation of a "plant elemental" creature with wide-ranging powers over the kingdom of vegetables. So in other words, you could say that, like Vision and Hourman of today, this too became something like a focus on a character who was other than human who was trying to understand humanity while doing what he could to defend it.

Among Swampy's powers were the abilities to regrow a limb if he lost one, to project his conciousness into other plant matter, which he could use to revitalize himself, and also to help provide him with a new body if he needed it. He also developed a touching love affair with Abigail Arcane, the neice of the sorceror Anton Arcane, whom Swampy had crossed paths with a few times at the beginning, a human woman from the Balkans in eastern Europe and a doctor by trade, with whom he bore a daughter, Tefe Holland, during the middle of this series' run (and which, like I said, will come into focus a few files ahead). And among his adversaries, there were the Floronic Man and Patchwork Man, the former who'd been an adversary for the Atom and Green Lantern years ago as well, but it was when Moore took to dealing with him that he really began to gain some depth in character.

After Moore stepped down as the writer in 1987, Rick Veitch took over for another two years, but quit after DC pulled the plug on a storyline they felt was too controversial. The series continued with a few other writers, eventually being moved under the Vertigo label, until it ended during this year.

Overall, this was certainly quite an amazing series alright, going quite a long time, and who knows future takes will ever make as far this one did.

Xenozoic Tales #14 (Kitchen Sink Press): by far one of the most well regarded indie comics, which grew out of a short story creator Mark Schultz published in the Death Rattle anthology around 1986, it focused on a post-pollution Earth in the 26th century, when humans have emerged from underground dwelling to discover that once again, dinosaurs and other large reptiles now roam the earth along with humans. Its main focus was Jack Tenrec, who became a shaman-type leader for a tribe and more notably a mechanic operating a garage where he specialized in repairing cars like Cadillacs (that's why the Marvel reprints were titled Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, ditto some of the spinoff merchandise). His ladyfriend was Hannah Dundee, an adventurous diplomat who came from a tribe living in the former Washington DC, now called Wassoon. Tenrec lived on the shores of the former New York City, where Manhattan Island, which had been flooded over the centuries, was now called City in the Sea (and the inland area was doubtlessly set on what in modern times is the Bronx). Together they tripped around the futuristic landscape of the east coast of the USA to see if they could learn how these dinosaurs and other amazing things about this future time came to be. They also matched wits with plenty of crooks, corrupt politicians, mad scientists and other monsters. These didn't usually involve the dinosaurs themselves, which were depicted as vegetarian types who didn't care for human flesh.

The artwork was inspired by some EC publications of the 1950s, and was drawn in black and white, which worked well for the story. Topps may have put together a brief series of their own under the C&D banner written by Roy Thomas in 1994, but it didn't get very far and was canceled after 9 issues.

Being an indie comic, it's not like you could expect it to come out that frequently, and indeed, Schultz only put together the latter stories on a sporadic basis. The 14th issue was the last to date, as he may not have decided how to come up with an ideal ending yet, or he got too busy as a writer on other comics like Superman, and even newspaper comic strips like Prince Valiant. I do hope there'll be an official ending to it one day, and most importantly, that it'll be worth the wait. For now, since Kitchen Sink went out of business by the end of the century, Dark Horse republished the older material in 2 trade paperbacks.

November 1996

Heroes #6 (DC/Milestone): This was one of the Milestone publishing company's tryouts with teamup books, but it didn't make it, unfortunately.

December 1996

Prime #15 vol. 2 (Malibu/Marvel): I've noted in the 1995 files already why I don't feel sorry this title ultimately lost out, and you can read ahead to the 2004 files and the commentary about Green Lantern vol. 3 to learn further why.

Takion #7 (DC): I'm not entirely sure what this series was about, other than the fact that it was related to Jack Kirby's famed New Gods, whom he introduced in the Bronze Age. What I do know about it is that its protagonist, blind earthman Joshua Sanders, was transformed into the hero Takion by the Highfather of the New Gods, a living embodiment of the Source. Josh became the new Highfather after his mentor and appointer was killed in the Genesis event, overseeing the formation of New Genesis in the process.

He also made appearances in Jack Kirby's Fourth World and Orion's solo book as well. Unfortunately, the story made the mistake of tying in with the badly developed Kyle Rayner, the Green Lantern during 1994-2004 (he was a guest star in the premiere). And more's the pity that erstwhile DC editor Paul Kupperberg, who wrote this series, and the talented Alan Lopestri, one of the best pencilers of the modern age, had to botch things up on the direction DC was taking at the time.

And the most sad part is, all three of these New Gods-connected series produced around that time were failures. The hero of this book may have been later wiped out, all because they thought that was the only way to deal with characters from failed series.

Ultraforce #16 vol. 2 (Malibu/Marvel): the reboot of the previous take on the team, this was simply no better, and certainly no more successful than its predecessor.

Youngblood #10 vol. 2 (Image): the flagship launch of Image Comics when they first began their venture in 1991-92 is also one of the worst things they've ever bothered to publish. Written and drawn by the one and only Rob Liefeld, the master of horrific artwork for many years, it was a superhero team book and surely the biggest embarrassment to the superhero genre. A group of superdoers who were managed by the US government was the focus and the cast included Shaft, a former FBI agent turned archer, Vogue, a Russian fashion model with chalk-white and purple skin, Badrock, a teen protagonist who turned into blocks of rock, and a government assassin named Chapel.

And besides the horrible artwork that reached the point of hilarity for all the wrong reasons, the first volume and this one were famous for their lateness at some points, which just goes to show that, even as a bad artist, Liefeld couldn't get things completed soon enough. It practically led to a fallout between Liefeld and the main company staff, and he ended up taking his would-be masterpiece elsewhere. He even farmed it out to Alan Moore and Kurt Busiek for writing jobs, but even their jobs were nothing to write home about. Some scripts never even saw the light of day and were scrapped, making Youngblood one of the biggest jokes of the entire comics publishing business.

Since the 1990s, it's turned up once in a while, and sometimes with different casts and other characters, but with Liefeld being the main one in charge, that's why I wouldn't come within an entire galaxy of this simply wretched train wreck.

Copyright Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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