Cancelled Comics Commentary for 1999

January 1999

Alpha Flight #20 Vol. 2 (Marvel): I remember the controversy that Marvel caused for the sake of it back in 1992 - a very early attempt of theirs at causing controversy - when they had the obnoxiously written Northstar/Jean-Paul Beubier, John Byrneís apparent lash at French Quebec (yes, heís a stereotype) reveal in the first volume of this series that he was a closet case to an equal nutcase named Major Maple Leaf in one of the most wretched stories ever. Not surprisingly, the just as politically correct mainstream media gave this all a whole lot of gushing attention, but the audience wasnít fooled. That very ludicrous act of political correctness had the effect of losing the book many readers who were rightfully insulted by Marvelís attempt to force such perversity down their throats. The book was cancelled within the next year and a half.

Just the year before, DC did something similar with the Pied Piper, the former villain whoíd been a member of the Flashís Roguesí Gallery, but they did it so innocuously and without ďsmacking the readers over the face with itĒ (as a poster on the forums at the now defunct Fandom website described the case with Northstar a few years ago). Marvel, on the other hand, in their overreaching attempts to be ďboldĒ and ďrevolutionaryĒ, just had to do it as violence-laden as they did. Go figure.

Later, in 1997, they revived the book, but while they didnít waste their time with the kind of shock value thatís been bringing (and dumbing) Marvel down for more than a decade now, it wasnít much better. Although some were resolved in the last issues, there were still some mystery stories in this volume that remained unresolved by the end, making it little more than a big tease, and it wasnít even worth the wait anyway. Who in the blazes was Man-Bot, and what was his whole connection to Madison Jefferies, the original Box? No answer. Or, how come Vindicator was still alive, and how did he become de-aged by 15 years? Still no answer. And whatís Radius got to do with Unus the Unstoppable and his daughter, Uniscione? Still no results, Iím sorry.

Most maddening however, was the use of second-person narrative, the kind of thing they often tell you to try not to use in writing classes for creativity. Far as Iím concerned, this is best forgotten.

Essential Vertigo: The Sandman #32 (DC/Vertigo): Several famous but unfortunately very expensive reprints of Ė are you ready for this? Ė the first 32 issues of the original Sandman were reprinted in this series, but how can one expect the fans to pass up anything new for this project when they cost the same price? DC shouldíve tried out a phone directory-like approach that Marvel was using for their Essential archives at the time, in which at least 24 issues or so of golden oldies were cheaply reprinted in B&W format for much less.

Heroes for Hire #19 (Marvel): This is an idea that I found intriguing when it was done at the time: take a bunch of street smart crime-fighters led by such cult favorites as Luke Cage/Power Man and Danny Rand/Iron Fist, and youíve got an inner city version of the A-Team to deal with all sorts of crooks running rampant around New York. You even had the Black Knight, the Black Widow, the Hulk, the She-Hulk, the Golden Age Human Torch, John Hammond, and even Ė wow! Ė Ant-Man! One unfortunate downside is that the Black Cat, another street smart member of MCUís crime-fighting division, wasnít in it, and couldíve been an ideal choice.

John Ostrander certainly deserves credit for having fleshed out these characters in ways not unlike how Roy Thomas was able to do with the Vision in the Avengers during the Bronze Age, IIRC. So while itís a shame that it flunked the test with the audience, it was a lot of funÖthat is, until the one, the only, Wolverine of the X-Men, tremendously overexposed character that he is, showed up in the last issue, dated January 1999. Cop-out.

Other than that, as mentioned already, John Ostrander certainly deserves credit for his stellar work in this book, and I hope that maybe it can be tried out again someday, this time with Felicia "Black Cat" Hardy included. She could be a cinch, trust me.

Incredible Hulk Vol. 1 #474 (Marvel): Another example of Marvelís maddening notion of relaunching their series in new volumes at number 1. When done, they did it sans-adjective during the first year or so, but restored said adjective later on. So until Fantastic Four got restored to its original numbering, the only titles with big numbers were the two flagship books of the X-Men! Oh well.

The Power of Shazam! #47 (DC): Jerry Ordway certainly put a lot of heart into this more recent volume, and while it was a noble effort, the question is, considering that when the teenaged Billy Batson first became Captain Marvel in the 1940ís, it bore a pleasantly lighthearted tone back then, so does this make him out of place in the saddeningly cynical 1990ís? I really wish it werenít so, but it would certainly seem as if heís become undeservingly anachronistic today. In fact, if you update him into a more modern superhero, does he even remain Captain Marvel? What a shame if the brighter qualities of the Big Red Cheese don't click with audiences today like they used to back in the Golden Age.

At least since then, heís become a regular member of the JSA, the revival of the first team of crimefighters in the DCU, and heís also become the boyfriend of Courtney Whitmore, the all-new, all-female Star-Spangled Kid, for whom the costume looks much better on than on the original male Kid, Sylvester Pemberton Jr. Now, theyíve done even better by giving it to a girl to wear. Hooray!

The Rampaging Hulk #6 (Marvel): A title that examined the early adventures of the green goliath, all of which Iím sure we read already in previous issues. In other words, nothing new here, and the only other thing that can be said is that this is the next title next to the main one featuring the jade giant to be cancelled that month of January 1999.

(In fact, the title of Rampaging had already been used before, in the late 1970's.)

Walt Disneyís Comics and Stories #633 (Gladstone): Oh boy, hereís one other thing that Iím certainly sad went down the drain, because it's symbolic of the Disney corporation's decline as an entertainment company.

From what Iíve heard, Disney doesnít even sell comics in their theme parks anymore. No kidding! That's hardly the best way to run a business, and if they really don't want to make money on comics, they shouldn't even bother publishing them, because it's pretty obvious their modern executives have no respect for the art form.

February 1999

Chronos #11 (DC): When the title character first appeared in the Silver Age, he was David Clinton, a crook with time-shifting technologies at his disposal, who first started out as a notable Atom villain, although the protagonist here, while he may have had similar tricks of the trade, wasnít the same one. Rather, he was Gabriel Walker, another technologist and a protege of the original Chronos, who used time travel for frivolous ends, but the difference is that he showed some more moral centering to his character than the first Chronos did. If anything, you could certainly say that Walker was an anti-hero.

With the setup as seen here, you could say that there was an interesting premise in how they were introducing a new character. Unfortunately, this turned out to be a rather pedestrian adventure, with the lead character wandering aimlessly from time period to time period, and did almost practically nothing.

In short, there was probably some potential in the series, but if so, then it was never realized.

On a side note, the first Chronos died in this series, after his manipulations with the fabric of time over the years ended up badly damaging his own personal timeline, and in the end, David Clinton ended up getting vaporized out of existance. His funeral was held in the 9th issue of this series. It's possible that this will be undone in the future, but for now, there's no telling, given how adamant DC's editorial can be with stuff like this.

March 1999

Flintstones & The Jetsons #21 (DC): Iím glad if people didnít take to this so warmly. Such cartoons as those from Hanna-Barbera were pretty crummy if you ask me, not because of the cheap animation technique they used during the 50's and 60ís, but because of the low-intelligence level! Just call this one a yabba-dabba-dud!

April 1999

Apparently, nothing got cancelled during that month, or at least not announced as such. Which is a good thing, unless itís something like the post-2003 dreck weíre talking about.

May 1999

Lobo #64 (DC): Iím not sorry this book went. If it was meant to be a satire, it was truly awful. But what really made this such a megabomb was that Lobo not only met the Justice League, but that Superman and just about everyone else acted out of character! Seriously now, if the Man of Steel knew that Loboís first criminal act was to terminate his own home planet (as was established at the time Zero Hour was going to press), he would never have rested until heíd been brought to justice. After all, isnít that what the Big Blue Boy Scout is all about? You can say that again!

Itís not Loboís lack of credibility as a character that bothers me, but rather, that he destroyed Superman and companyís. Frankly, as far as Iím concerned, heís as poorly developed as Marvelís own Wolverine was badly scripted after Larry Hama left that book. He originally began as a villain in the 1983-86 Omega Men series, and then was later transformed into a supposed good guy, but they obviously didn't think things over well. No wonder this series finally crash landed.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #23 (Image): I know that Kevin Eastman and Peter Lairdís TMNT was said to be the start of the independent press in comics, but that doesnít mean itís the end of it, as some people at the time were mourning.

Of course not. Since then, not only has Peter David been writing a new series for Dream Wave that began in 2003, but thereís still been more than enough indies out there to fill a canyon (not that I really care, since most of them are, in brutal honesty, banal).

Oh yes, its initial success back in the mid-80ís was courtesy of kids, and as such, it was pretty wacky in its own way, even if it ended up being an otherwise limited concept. But then, as competition built up from FOX TV and Spielberg, so they drifted away from it. Itís a shame that the movie, game, and TV industry are so many miles ahead of the comics industry, but thatís the main problem permeating the ability of comics to be truly successful nowadays.

June 1999

Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty #12 (Marvel): Like Sandman and the mid-90ís take on the Spectre, this was cancelled concurrently with its writer, that being Mark Waid in this case, leaving it. Itís a reason for which even All-Flash may have been cancelled too just a year before the regular series was towards the end of the Golden Age. I canít say Iím all that happy about titles like these being cancelled for reasons like that, as it furthers the idea that the book was only launched as a showcase for the writers own talents, not in order to come up with a series that could run for as long as possible and entertain plenty of people everywhere, but, in fairness, maybe it is for the best that it end on a great note rather than to stumble on the road if it goes any further. For new writers, itís best to learn the ropes of writing with the smaller characters and then to move up and deal with the big time folks like good olí Cap.

Cartoon Network Presents #24 (DC): I canít say Iím happy whenever a title aimed at the younger crowd falters, but what can one expect when things are becoming so difficult to market to children these days? Pity.

Resurrection Man #27 (DC): An obligatory amnesiac-trying-to-research-his-mysterious-past plot, it tried to gain some legs for awhile, but in the end, it stumbled. Frankly, itís something thatís already been done with Wolverine over at Marvel, and which has ended up becoming something of a clichť by now. After RM dealt with that though, things actually did start to pick up. The lead, Mitch Shelley, was written as having a connection to Vandal Savage in an eternal struggle between the two of them, and then it really started to get some great plotting in order.

But it was too late. So just as they were going to start telling us about the Secret Files of Forgotten Heroes, now itís just ended up becoming forgotten again! Darn it.

Vext #6 (DC): Keith Giffen is a great writer and artist with a really quirky style, but this series about a pagan deity from the Jejune Realm, alas, didnít make it. Iím glad though that he manages to keep going in the business, mainly since, in 2003, he and J. M. DeMatties were able to team up to write and draw the fabulous reunion of several great members of Justice League International/Europe, in a memorable miniseries called Formerly Known as the Justice League. And Iíll look forward to plenty more of their works for as long as comics are around.

To be honest, I'm not entirely disappointed this series was a flop. It was edited by Kevin Dooley, notorious in the day for the debacle he caused with Green Lantern (and to some extent, Aquaman). If the failure of this book serves as a punishment of sorts for him, he was asking for it after all the trouble he caused that was completely avoidable.

A funny thing about this book is that, even though all the characters are ownership of DC, Giffen retained the rights to the story and artwork.

July 1999

A-Next #12 (Marvel/MC2): Yeah, the lighthearted approach to the material in this book was actually pretty good (which reminds me that Larry Hama may have used an almost similar approach back in the early 1990ís when he was writing the regular Avengers), ditto that of some of the other books in the MC2 line, but it was no go in sales. Since then, the only survivor of this line has been Spider-Girl, and the rest went to the scrapyard.

J2 #12 (Marvel/MC2): The ďfuture sonĒ of Cain Marko, better known as Juggernaut the Unstoppable, like the above, ground to a halt with the 12th issue.

August 1999

Nothing was announced as cancelled this month either. Phew! (Unless of courseÖyou get the idea.)

September 1999

Divine Right: Adventures of Max Faraday #12 (DC/Wildstorm): Youíve heard this one before: Typical schlub comes upon a ďMacGuffinĒ, here referred to as the Creation Equation, and this gets him caught in the middle of a heretofore unknown pair of powerful opposing forces fighting each other. Itís been done already in Jack Kirbyís The New Gods, except that there, the four earthmen in possession of the Anti-Life Equation had more varied personas and were more interesting than any of the characters here, individually or combined.

One novelty here is that the ordinary schlub actually took possession of the power, which had the unsurprising effect of running the whole story into the ground. And, likewise, the series.

DV8 #32 (DC/Wildstorm): Q: What would happen if the kids in Gen13 or the X-Men were trained by a villian?

A: Youíd get a whole bunch of throughly unlikable characters whom nobodyís interested in reading about.

Besides, itís been done before, with the Hellions in Marvel, who, quite conincidentally, were featured in the X-world, but did not get their own book (although given their lack of morale these days and the introduction of throughly questionable series like the Brotherhood, a series thatís NOT about Magnetoís bunch, FYI, I canít help but wonder if they would), even though thatís something that almost every character/group in the X-books eventually ends up with a title of their own.

At least at the time, Marvel had the sense to understand that this wasnít a good idea. Wildstorm and Image, on the other hand, didnít.

So long to this loser, and may it be eternally forgotten.

Nova #7 vol. 3 (Marvel): Richard Rider's third solo series (the second can be read about here), and alas, the least successful take on him to date.

Oni Double Press #13 (Oni Press): Anthology books havenít done well for years now, one of the reasons why series like even DCís Showcase, The Brave and the Bold, and Marvelís What IfÖ? ultimately went down. At least they finished it up well, with an issue written by writer/animator Paul Dini.

Slingers #12 (Marvel): Cliches, cliches, and still more cliches! And not very good ones at that. The worst of the lot in this limp vehicle starring teenagers (what else?), was Ricochet. What an incredible waste of trees! Mind you, none of this is saying that I donít want books with teens as the stars around, and there are some very good ones out there too for that matter, but this one really drained the fun out of the whole notion of such items. I am SO GLAD it got the axe when it did.

October 1999

Anarky #8 (DC): To some, this character couldíve looked like a breakout hit of some sort. To others, he was dullsville and awfully smug. Hence, the series ended almost as quickly as it came.

Superman: Man of Tomorrow #15 (DC): Like the Batman Chronicles, this quarterly title was also originally created to fill in the ďskip weekĒ that occurs every 3 months when 5 Wednesdays are in one month. DC said that the reason they cancelled it was because other projects like Tangent, New Yearís Evil and Day of Judgement, among others, made it superfluous. Well in that case, how come Batman Chronicles stuck around for a bit longer? DC certainly has been doing their darndest to capitalize on the Bat-books and far less on the Super-books, and I suspect that thatís the actual reason why they did so at the time.

Iíll say this though: If this had been an 80-page giant, something that DC used to excel in during the yesteryear, then it would certainly have been a loss. Other than that, itís not much of one (and even Batman Chronicles was eventually cancelled as well), although with the cancellation of Superman: Man of Steel and Superboy in 2002, and of Supergirl the year after, one could wonder now if it was. Thank good then that they've been giving some more attention since then to Supes in some miniseries, such as Mark Waid's Birthright mini of recent, though I must say that the way it's said to be structured is an odd one, if you ask me. (To look like Marvel's Ultimate line somehow, as the editors were said to have wanted it done? That's weird, and certainly not what I would've asked for.)

November 1999

Cy-Gor #5 (Image): A boring book involving a half-ape, half-machine. Move along folks, nothing to see, nothing to see.

December 1999

Batman: Shadow of the Bat #94 (DC): I donít think I ever read this book, although I most certainly do read the one that replaced it, Batman: Gotham Knights. I did hear though that it didnít sport much of a personality, whether or not it was a title focusing on Gothamís other crimefighters and vigilantes like GK is, so I guess thatís why it was eventually cancelled, and replaced with GK, which has what this title lacked, thanks in part to the stellar writing efforts of talented writing pros like Scott Beatty. And considering that the Dark Knight already has more than enough of his share of Bat-titles, I figure we can always stand to see him lose a book, far more than for Superman.

Fantastic Five #5 (Marvel/MC2): Cancelled at exactly the same number that the title of the book contains, how about that. Mighty quick, too. Canít say Iím surprised either. Letís take a look at the reasons why.

The Thing with a mechanical arm? Euh! What may have worked for the Six Million Dollar Man unfortunately does not extend to something like this. Mainly because in the case of Col. Steve Austin in the 1970ís TV show, itís likely that he wouldíve had a rod of some sort extending from his arm down through to his leg. Here, itís just the arm, and so anything the Thing lifted with it would be more than likely to smash his body like an accordion. It also stacks against what a character like the Thing is like Ė heís much too earthy for such prosthetics to look in place for him. But worst of all, it looked truly stupid on him. (And why is it that whenever I see an arm getting busted in stories like this, it appears to be the left one in many cases? Can't they handle the right arm just as well? Really.)

Franklin Richards can be a very tricky character to work with age-wise, since sometimes heís older and sometimes heís younger, so that too makes this a very iffy venture when it comes to him.

Last, but not least Ė are you ready for this? Ė was the howler of casting Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic as Herbie the Robot! Despite how hilarious it mustíve sounded when scripting it in the first place, that godforsaken robot was something most people would rather never have to see again. It was an older attempt to mimic, in this case, an idea used in one of the Fantastic Fourís earlier cartoons, but letís be clear: some things just arenít worth doing in that manner, as even the X-Men movie has already proven, theyíre just best forgotten. As much of the MC2 line is, for that matter.

The idea has already been mined before, in the Fantastic Four Annual from 1998, and was done much better there too. As for this MC2 attempt, it almost makes me wish theyíd do a series based on the Frightful Four, which, come to think of it, is exactly what this series could pass for.

Wild Thing #5 (Marvel/MC2): Nope, Wolverine and Elektraís daughter didnít fare any better than, say, Juggernautís son in J2.

In fact, it is unlikely that sheíd be able to attend a public high school or have any kind of a normal life at home in a regular neighborhood, mostly because Elektra was an assassin, and the whole family would most likely be on the lam from both hers and even Wolverineís own enemies, whether it be the Hand or Hydra or the authorities. And if she did attend high school, itís likely that sheíd be kidnapped/arrested/killed even before the second semester began. (Note of the weird: Marvel at times seems to like spelling the word ďkidnappedĒ with just one P. Which means what, exactly? That they like to make it sound like theyíre grabbing someone by the scruff of the neck? Ludicrous).

Copyright Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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