Cancelled Comics Commentary for 1997

January 1997

Showcase '96 #12 (DC): It's a little hard to determine if what I'm listing here was actually a series, since, to say the least, it looks more like what was intended to be a series of miniseries! But to say the least, it was an ongoing concept of some sort, and so, it's therefore all the more worth giving some attention to.

Showcase, as many of those familiar with DC publication history know, was the anthology series with which the company launched several of its classic crimefighters from the Silver Age, including the Silver Age Flash, Green Lantern, Adam Strange, the Atom, and a few others. It ran from 1956 to 1970 at first, and was then later revived in 1977 for two years, with Doom Patrol and the pre-Crisis Power Girl who, in that time, was the cousin of the Earth-2 Superman, taking the spotlight, and then, in 1993, it was tried out again as a number of miniserials featuring several notable characters, some from Batman's world, and others from other parts of the DCU.

Overall, it was an interesting experiment, which may have even been what served to launch the first Catwoman series, and the 1996-2003 Supergirl series. Trouble is, however, that these days, alas, anthology series, for the most part, are hard to market, and so, that was apparently the reason for the discontinuation of this new Showcase series. It's a pity it happened, since there were quite a few coloful and appealing characters who appeared in these books, but at the same time, they've got their own series to star in, so the concept as worked on here probably became unneccasary, as a result.

The Spectre #62 volume 3 (DC): This marked the end of the first Spectre, Jim Corrigan's, run as the ghostly guardian ever since he first appeared in the Golden Age in More Fun Comics in 1940, having been a creation of Jerry Siegal, one half of the dynamic duo of Superman fame (the other being Joe Shuster, of course), and who'd also been a member of the Justice Society when it first began in the Golden Age in All-Star Comics too.

Corrigan, in his previous life, was a police officer who'd been drowned by the syndicate and was appointed to the role of one of the Lord's most prominent representatives in the afterlife. He wore a ghostly green cloak, and his powers were certainly not a force to be reckoned with...which is probably why, even during the beginning, the writers found him one of the most difficult characters to write interesting stories around, one of the reasons why, after five years, he left the JSA and went into limbo for many years. And as a solo book, this is about the most successful run the protagonist's had. When he was tried out again in solo status in 1967, it only got as far as ten issues back then. Then, in 1987, they tried it out again, and it ran for about two years at best, though he did get to do some work alongside another superhero, this one more well known, that being Dr. Fate. It was when John Ostrander came onto the ghostly guardian's title in the mid-1990's that he was able to take it as far as he did before it finally got cancelled during this year.

Before that, Corrigan finally completed his work on earth, and was free to move on to heaven. Whereupon afterwards, who should fill his shoes but - Hal Jordan, the second Green Lantern of earth. Something that'll be discussed in the 2003 files for cancelled books, which are up ahead.

February 1997

Daily Bugle #3 (Marvel): A black and white book featuring some of the cast members from Spider-Man's world who worked at the Daily Bugle, the comic book/MCU version of real life propaganda newspapers, this was an idea that had some potential to it, whether the idea was to focus on how reporters deal with their trade, either informatively or distortively, but the non-color approach to the series may have been what led to its failure. And given that Ben Urich is one of the most interesting staff members at the Bugle, that's one more reason why I can't say I'm happy about it. 'Cause who knows, it could've been a most intriguing focus on how the media can ply their trade, in either the good or the bad sort of way.

Though of course, given that J. Jonah Jameson can be quite an annoyance due to his anti-superhero bias, that too could explain why this may not have worked, even if the ascribed personality given to him was deliberate.

Icon #42 (DC/Milestone): This concluded one of Milestone's notable series of the mid-1990's that starred, I think, an alien from another planet who could take the form of a black attorney on earth in California. He also had a female sidekick named Rocket.

I wish I knew more about this series, which might have been interesting at the time, but unfortunately, my knowledge of it is minimal.

Marvel Fanfare #6 Vol. 2 (Marvel): An attempt to revive the anthology series edited by Al Milgrom during the 1980s that began in 1982, and even after it got cut back a few years afterwards, it still continued up until a 60th issue in 1992 on an intermittent basis.

The first volume, I'd like to say, was a very interesting concept published in the days of the Baxter paper that served as a showcase for all sorts of new talents, featuring stories that Marvel couldn't fit into their regular schedule. And as such, it was pretty good stuff, featuring even a Black Widow suspense story that may have been illustrated by the great Carmine Infantino. But, as Milgrom himself once pointed out, these were bold projects that often fell short of their intended goals, sadly. Problems with payments to freelancers, plus Milgrom's own difficulties in balancing his assignments on that book with his own career as a freelancer and even his own family matters, ultimately ended up leading to lower sales and the cancellation of the first volume years later.

Still, it was very good stuff when first produced in its time, and it's a shame that this new volume couldn't hold a candle to it just as well. It was part of Marvel's mercifully brief 99 cent line of books from the mid-90s, but while there were some interesting ideas in store here, you could say that in the end, lightning simply couldn't strike twice in the same place.

New Gods #15 Volume 3 (DC): Jack Kirby's near-classic creations of the Bronze Age are some of the finest things he's done over at DC, but as a series of their own, alas, they just haven't ever done as well as they deserve to. Beginning in 1971, they (and also the Forever People, another creation of Kirby's) made their appearances, and Kirby also introduced in this title one of DC's most menacing warlords, Darkseid, the ruthless ruler of Apokolips, whom I wouldn't advise to underestimate. They had one more series that ran from 1989-91, probably the longest running and of which I own some of the issues, and then this series, with the talented Tom Peyer working on the writing here.

They really should think to do stuff like this as miniserials, and it's a pity that all too often, the ongoing series is what ends up getting the green light. Too many rushes at an ongoing are what end up damaging these kind of things in the long term.

Starlord #3 (Marvel): This looked almost like a semi-parody series to me. And who knows, maybe it was, but other than that, I have no idea.

March 1997

The Adventures of Spider-Man #12 (Marvel): One of those TV-tie-ins that gets canned when the series it's based on does. It may not be a healthy step to take, but that's what they do.

The Adventures of the X-Men #12 (Marvel): Same as the above. But given that the Man-Thing, of all characters, was written in here as a guest star, that's probably why here, I just couldn't care less!

Static #45 (DC/Milestone): this series starred a young African-American hero with electromagnetic powers. But this too is something I know very little about, other than the fact that Milestone was at the time an indie line meant to star black heroes, written by mainly black writers.

April 1997

Avengelyne #14 (Maximum Press/Image): This was supposedly a series starring a bad-girl of the type seen during the decade, the kind of image that Image all but chose to move away from in their latter years. The problem is that it was co-created by the awful artist Rob Liefeld, and if he did the artwork, chances are it wasn't worth squat. It's hilarious to learn it may have once been optioned for a movie screenplay with one of the Batman screenwriters of the 90s serving as producer. Which doesn't make for a very good combination, IMO.

Punisher #18 vol. 2 (Marvel): If memory serves, this was the first (or an early example) in Marvel’s ludicrous trend for relaunching. After issue #105 of the first volume in 1995, they ended that particular volume (and with it two other spinoffs that were being published until then) and started all over again with another one, in which the Punisher was depicted as a some kind of a living dead superhero (yeah, it's that silly), and got cancelled about a year and a half later. And since then, Frank Castle’s returned in yet another volume, that being in Marvel Knights following the release of Garth Ennis’ undeservedly successful miniseries that focused on Marvel’s most exceptional anti-hero from a black humor point of view.

Heh. They just don't give up on things like this, do they? Certainly not if it's something like Wolverine, though, seeing how they're not only keeping on with it, but have also relaunched even that in a new volume following issue #190 of the last volume in 2003.

Seekers Into the Mystery #15 (DC/Vertigo): This appears to be a mystery/suspense series, written by J. M. DeMatties, but other than that, I have little knowledge of either the series or its characters, which include two by the names of Lucas Hart and Charlie Limbo. (Does this in any ways hint that the book bore a connection to DC's own Sandman?)

I'll grant them this much though: the second character name is certainly very odd.

2099: World of Tomorrow #8 (Marvel): As the cover for the last issue says, "To all things - an ending!" And with this very unpopular attempt to shoehorn the entire remnants of the 2099 line into one book, they got just that.

As said before in the previous files, this ranged all over the board. But with this, it appears that they ran out of steam in the end, and so, the whole concept was finally put to rest. Even as an anthology, to say the least, it just didn't work.

If there's anything I decidedly won't be missing from the whole line, it's Ravage and Doom of that future era, while as for the Punisher, well, I think we've already got more than enough of that to worry about in our present time. The rest was mostly okay, but for now, it's over.

May 1997

Aztek: The Ultimate Man #10 (DC): This was supposed to have been the story of a champion of an ancient (Incan?) society called Quetzalcoatl, trained from birth for the job, and whose main enemy was supposed to have been a dark god called Tezatlipoca, and other gibberish I'm hard pressed to comprehend. However, as far as I can tell, it does appear that DC and then writers Grant Morrison and Mark Millar were attempting to create their own distaff version of Thor, right down to where the protagonist assumed the identity of a deceased doctor, even though the character had no actual superhuman powers, although the mysterious Q-society that trained him (why does that part remind me so much of those Q-Tips?), did show him how to reach high levels of mental/physical potential. What special powers he did have came courtesy of a special suit, a product of occult engineering (oooohhh, more of that kind of stuff, eh?) that needed to be recharged via special rituals (wow, it's quasi-religious elements in the making! Ole, ole!).

It's the kind of thing that simply never caught on with anybody, and after a short stint in the JLA, whom he joined in a special crossover from his own title immediately after its cancellation, for about three years, he was sent to the Great Reward after having defeated the foe he was trained to deal with in the first place. And given that he never seemed to have had much of an impact in the first place, that's just why, for a character presented in such a contemporary time, he won't be missed.

June 1997

Cyberforce #35 (Image/Top Cow): what else but a whole story about robots and cyborgs. It was notorious for the level of violence it contained, and I honestly hope more people were concerned with that than with the hyper-sexualized female cast members, which is peanuts by comparison. It was also yet another on the list of countless X-Men clones turning up during the 1990s.

Spider-Man Team-Up #7 (Marvel): an attempt to revive the famous semi-anthology series Marvel Team-Up that first ran during 1972-85, here on a quarterly basis, this had the misfortune of debuting at the time of the very infamous Clone Saga, and the first issue starred Ben Reilly, not Peter Parker. I think by the time it ended, Peter was back in his rightful position though, and they did get a chance to publish a story that guest-starred Howard the Duck! It would be replaced by a new volume of MTU afterwards.

July 1997

Freak Force #3 (Image): A second attempt at a series that was first turned out by Image in 1993, featuring a couple of bizarre looking goofballs, this just didn't do so well at all, the presence of Erik Larsen as writer notwithstanding. It's one of those things that got canned pretty quickly, not unlike some short-lived television series of yore.

Stormwatch #50 (Wildstorm/Image): at one time, the idea of a superhero team managed by the United Nations might've been seen as a great idea. But in this day and age when the UN has been exposed as a corrupt, autocracy appeasing madhouse with one of its biggest atrocities being the Oil-For-Food Scandal, that's why it most definitely is not. And that's why this series, possibly the most politicized of all Wildstorm series out there, is most definitely not my cup of tea.

A funny thing about the publication chronology of this series: the 25th issue was published between issues 9 and 10! Pretty strange, eh?

August 1997

Nothing discontinued to be recorded on this month.

September 1997

Heroes Reborn (Marvel): All four* of these incredibly stupid attempts to amputate Captain America, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man and the Avengers from the regular MCU (which also led to the cancellation of The Mighty Thor the year before, and reversion to its original title, Journey Into Mystery, spoken about in the files for 1996 here) were thankfully concluded and were relaunched in January 1998 following a special series called Heroes Return in new volumes, all of them more jazzed up, certainly the Avengers, thanks to the stellar writing talents of Kurt Busiek. But before I elaborate on all of those sort of things more in depth, let us take a look at what lay behind this needless notion Marvel had at the time, at least from what I can decipher.

In mid-1996, it was decided to start the volumes of some of the aforementioned titles over again at number one, during an early phase in their appalling “fad” for reboots. Not only that, but they also came up – if memory serves me correctly, it’s a bit hazy just now – with the notion to put these folks here into an alternate world formed by Franklin Richards, the FF’s lovable little son. Rob Liefeld, that terrible hack writer and artist who’s since rarely been seen on the comics scene, was in charge of two titles to undergo the whole Heroes Reborn balderdash, Captain America and the Avengers, and despite steady sales, was fired from the books after just six or seven issues. Which is just as well.

The next year, they were all brought back to the regular MCU after coming to realize that they were in an alternate universe, and with some special tweakings done to their backgrounds (any Cold War related details relating to the FF and Iron Man in the yesteryear were updated), and continued with their lives and careers, much improved. Even Thor's own title was relaunched under a new volume following the cancellation of the title from which it originally got spawned, JIM, which I talk about in the 1998 files up ahead.

It is a real pity that since then, things have sadly plummeted again (and 'tis also a pity that the talented Jim Lee's artwork was put to waste when drawing the FF version of this unsuccessful venture), as the Bill Jemas/Joe Quesada regime has taken to sabotaging many of these titles artistically. It can only be hoped, as of this writing, that things can be repaired, and after the June 2003 fiasco with the FF, that the company realizes the trouble they’ve gotten themselves into.

* Well, not neccasarily just four (or five, if you include Thor). Peter David, who'd been writing The Incredible Hulk at the time was forced to put aside a story he was working on to insert the green goliath into this mess as well. Not very aritistically friendly, eh? In fact, the Philadelphia Daily News later published an interview on June 20, 2003 which mentioned a bit about how he'd been pushed off the title after 11 years of helming it because of disagreements he'd been having with the editors at the time. And yet, that was probably nothing compared to how no creative freedom exists during the Quemas regime.

October 1997

Nothing to find for this month.

November 1997

Night Force #12 volume 2 (DC): This was the second try at a horror series concept DC first published back in 1982-83, written by Marv Wolfman and drawn by Gene Colan (who also worked with Wolfman earlier on Tomb of Dracula over at Marvel during the mid-70's), featuring a loose-knit team of crimefighters first intro'd in a special 15-page preview in The New Teen Titans #21 Vol. 1, assembled by the enigmatic Baron Winters to fight sinister unknown forces of the occult vein that threatened the earth.

If you think the above description sounds a little bit like the Challengers of the Unknown with more of a thriller angle to it, you're right, but it also included a wee bit of Doom Patrol formula as well, such as Vanessa Van Helsing, the psychic wife of reporter Jack Gold, also a team member, and even a time-displaced woman from the 1930's named Alice Jones!

Anyway, it was a well regarded series when first published, and what was unique about it in terms of horror wasn't just the demons-from-hell the team had to deal with, but also some of the decisions they had to make. And what made the series work was not that it dealt in blood and gore; in fact, it was far from being as grim in tone as that. Rather, it was that it mastered the art of gripping psychological drama that did. And, it was character driven, in a genuine way. It also didn't look like a typical comic story in how the panels were laid out, since what was done by Colan was to have the page look like one big panel for starters, and then to have some insets included around it next, with lots of carefully crafted black shadows to accompany the cast, at every opportunity, also giving them dramatic lighting, and all without appearing sloppy or amaterish.

Night Force was also in many ways the comic that laid out the template for many modern comic books, for the reasons I gave above, coming just shortly before Alan Moore reworked the rules of horror comics, and while the original run only ran 14 issues, it still managed a good job within just that amount at working out lengthier storylines in a time when self-contained ones were still the norm. Unfortunately, as with a lot of ideas that were ahead of their time, it was cancelled after a little over a year of publication.

Wolfman, as the one who introduced the characters and the series that first starred them back in the early 80's, wrote the revival as well, with Baron Winters once again leading several characters into battle with the unknown. But it didn't take off, and was put to bed after 12 issues.

Still, it must certainly be lauded for being groundbreaking for its time, and Wolfman and company too must be applauded for their bold ideas and approach to storytelling.

December 1997

Weird Science #14 (Gemstone): apparently, this was a reprinting of old EC Comics sci-fi stories from the 50s. Not that I've ever really cared for their stuff though.

Copyright Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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