Cancelled Comics Commentary for 2000

January 2000

Legionnaires #81 (DC): Both this and The Legion of Super-Heroes were cancelled at the time in order to revamp them for the umpteenth time. LOSH has been a cult favorite of DC’s for many years since writers and editors like Paul Levitz, Cary Bates, Jim Shooter, and artists like Curt Swan worked upon it back in the Silver Age, but since then, partially due to the Crisis, it underwent a couple of revamps, such as with the Tornado Twins, who were eventually established as the children of Barry Allen and Iris West Allen following Zero Hour in 1994. (And even before then, back in 1971, when it was first revealed that Iris was actually born in the 30th century, you could pretty much say that they did it to help give a present-day connection between the LOSH and the present-day DC crimefighters.)

In the case of this cancellation, I guess it was for the best, since, the characters were being written in an awfully Leave it to Beaver style manner, replete with manga-style drawing, which is becoming awfully superfluous nowadays in some comics, and was used too often a few years ago in Superman’s books as well.

The following series, The Legion, by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, is certainly a lot better and is easier to follow too.

Legion of Superheroes #125 (DC): Read above.

February 2000

Animaniacs Featuring Pinky & The Brain #59 (DC): Another comic for children goes down the drain. It’s sad. The industry is sorely in need of a way to reach the children’s market, and hopefully, the distribution of trades in libraries and CrossGen’s education program will prove to have some effect for the better.

Spider-Man Unlimited #5 (Marvel): A terrible comic based on a just as terrible Saturday cartoon series (that was thankfully canned by FOX Kids shortly before this was), this monstrosity put Peter Parker on one of those “counter-earths”, this one populated by doppelgangers of his real supporting cast in the real title and a whole bunch of man-beasties.

So in other words, not only did this one rip off Mutant X slightly, not to mention delete many of the elements that made the real Spidey so appealing for 40 years now, it also concocted yet another alternate continuity, just a short while before the Ultimate line was launched too. They just never learn, and by now, it’s just no use saying “do they?” either.

Better to try out the adventures of Adam Warlock if you ask me, which was similar in some ways, than a bummer like this.

March 2000

Ascension #22 (Image/Top Cow): drawing from the Chernobyl disaster of 1986 as a premise for this story, it told of how two alien races, the Mineans and the Dayaks, were able to enter our world through a dimensional rift in reality, and continue the war between them there. But it failed to catch on in sales and readership, and was sent into the cancellation portal pretty quickly.

Avengers: United They Stand #7 (Marvel): And united they fall. Since the cartoon series stunk, I guess there just wasn’t any point for them to continue publishing this TV spinoff. Even though Ty “the guy” Templeton managed to make it better than said TV cartoon.

Oh well, that seems to be the way of business in cases like these. If the show ain’t no good, then keeping on with the book based on it isn’t an option either. It may not be fair, but that’s apparently how the companies think. And at the expense of the kiddie audience too, sadly.

Mr. Majestyk #9 (DC/Wildstorm): An attempt “to do Superman right”, as writer Joe Casey said when he was writing this, in the ways that Kal-El was depicted during the Silver Age, with the ability to move whole planets around (and no, for anyone who began reading Superman in the post-Crisis era, that is NOT a joke), but with a lot of moral decisions that his power weighed upon him too. It was a pretty good title, and without the kind of excess baggage and editorial pressure that the Man of Steel is saddled with. And a real pity it lucked out. Just like Casey himself did in more recent times. But that’s another story.

April 2000

Deathlok #11 (Marvel): This was probably the best, in a manner of speaking, of the handful of M-Tech titles that Marvel was putting out at the time, except that it suffered from dreadful artwork. It told about S.H.I.E.L.D Agent 18, a man with such problems as not having any friends, co-workers who couldn’t care less that he was gone, and a family that despised him. It was having his humanity stripped from him and becoming a cyborg that prompted the character to appreciate his own innate humanity for the first time.

It was a pretty satisfyingly realistic approach, and the character had quite a lot to deal with, but unfortunately, the artwork did it in. Some of the characters were indistinguishable from one another, a problem that the whole M-Tech line was hindered by, in fact. And not only that, but sometimes the story procedures were incomprehensible as a result too. Hence, the whole line turned out to be abortive.

Invisibles #1 (DC/Vertigo): You know, it’s almost funny now, I heard back then that writer Grant Morrison, overrated and pretentious that I consider most of his work, was going to be leaving comics, but that was little more than a mere joke, akin to one that I once heard a former basketball player make.

This series, such as it was, was meant to be counted backwards, and I almost wish then that it could’ve been reversed into not having been published either, or that it could’ve just stayed the same as its own title. For a supposedly anti-establishment book, it was little more than self-indulgent, juvenile prose. Next, please!

Marvel Selects: Fantastic Four #6 (Marvel): What was originally intended to be a 12-part miniseries got slashed halfway through.

On the one hand, it’s a pity that what could’ve been a good medium-cost compilation to go with their lower-cost Essentials in B&W and the higher-cost Masterworks didn’t make it. On the other hand, it’s kind of odd that they would choose issues like 107-118 from volume one (now resumed BTW, following the 500th issue in summer 2003), to reprint. Although they were pretty stellar efforts from John Buscema art-wise, Stan Lee, who was doing his last issues as a regular writer then, turned out some otherwise ordinary stuff, in this case being how the Thing quits/goes crazy kind of stuff which had been done several times before.

There are a whole lot of other interesting periods in the FF’s history that Marvel could’ve chosen to publish, and with any luck, that’ll be given a chance to be in the future. Maybe the resignation of Bill Jemas from chairmanship can lend a hand to the possibilities of that.

Marvel Selects: Spider-Man #6 (Marvel): Just like the above. With Marvel reprinting a very mediocre period in Spidey’s history, including, alas, the 100th issue where he grew six arms, a real embarrassment that was. The only real asset this had was that it sports some of Gil Kane’s best artwork from back when he was artist on the book.

Warlock #9 (Marvel): It looked like Marvel’s attempt to imitate DC’s Vertigo line. It was a big failure. All they did was to imitate the kind of nihilism (and punk subculture) you see in Vertigo, and it was so filthy it makes me want to take a shower. I have nothing more to say on the topic.

Webspinners: Untold Tales of Spider-Man #18 (Marvel): Simply dreadful. An attempt to tell certain tales from various periods in Spider-history, and probably also to mimic Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight, the problem in doing the latter is that unlike the Caped Crusader, Spidey’s status quo hasn’t stayed all that much the same over the years, and the first decade or so of his history is well known and under the correct management, is kept pretty stable. So all that happened was that they ended up retconning Spider-history every month practically, and this only served to distance the fanbase even more from the character they love so much.

For which reason, I’d say that what should be done with this is simply to forget it and write it off as non-existant.

May 2000

New Warriors #10 (Marvel): I know there are some fans of this on-and-off series out there, but while I would like to be one of them, it could take a long time till I can fully get the hang of it, even in back issues, because my first encounter with NW in the late 1990s, alas, was not a good one. I remember when I once came upon a back issue for the earlier volume from the mid-90’s in a used bookstore, and the artwork in there was so horrific, I just couldn’t get into it.

Since then, I've found some more back issues that were much better drawn, though I'll have to note that a character like Night Thrasher is so silly with a name like his, and I think they’d better change it while the getting is good.

The characters here who certainly appeal to me in NW, and hopefully, they appeared in this volume too, were Firestar/Angelica Jones and her paramour, Justice/Vance Astrovik. Mainly because of how Kurt Busiek and George Perez used them to excellent effect in the Avengers during 1998! They're a great, good looking couple in comics, and certainly deserve some good attention, and I thank Busiek and Perez very much for giving it to them.

X-51 #12 (Marvel): Another X-Men book, you say? Believe it or not, it was. And it was also another in the M-Tech line that Marvel had at the time, starring a character once known as Machine Man, who was supposed to have problems with Sentinel software, which of course led to guest appearances of more than enough X-characters every month. So there you have it. What else is new?

June 2000

Books of Magic #75 (DC/Vertigo): It didn’t actually end, from what I know, it just wrapped up star Timothy Hunter’s “pre-teen” years, and was to later get him into gear for when he would become more of a full-fledged teenager.

It’s interesting to note that this series in a way was a bit similar to J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter books, coming several years before they came to fame, what with having a young mage in the making, and if only I could get more of a chance to check it out in the future too. Mainly because Zatanna, the darling of female magicians and another queen of fishnet stockings besides the Black Canary, made some appearances in it! To put it this way, she's one of the few characters in the DCU who's been able to make appearance in both the regular DCU line and the Vertigo line seamlessly and without any continuity problems.

She sure is one lucky girl that Zatanna, isn't she? Zatara, her father, would be so proud, and I'm sure he is too, since, while he is dead as of today, he's reappeared as a ghost in some of the books with her in them.

July 2000

Stars & S.T.R.I.P.E #14 (DC): This was one of the first books that the now overrated writer Geoff Johns worked on (in cooperation with James Robinson, who also wrote one the late-90's volume of Starman, and co-wrote the 21st century volume of Hawkman with Johns as well, and whose own talents have since deteriorated to boot) when he got into comics. I never read it myself when it first debuted, so I didn't know enough about it, but, from what I did eventually find out via people on Chuck Dixon's site, it was nothing to write home about. The star of the show here was none other than the adorable Courtney Whitmore, the new Star-Spangled Kid (or Girl, whichever sounds the greatest) who became a replacement for the late Sylvester Pemberton, after she found his cosmic converter belt in her stepfather's attic (her stepdad was Stripesy/Pat Dugan, Pemberton's sidekick). It was a teen-humor series, and Courtney thought to use the costume and its accessories for a costume dance at school, but also of course found it a great way to skip school...and become a superheroine. Best part of course is that the costume design looks so much better on her than it did on Pemberton, who, while he was certainly a likable character in his time, looked just too silly in that getup of his. As for Pat Dugan, being an expert mechanic, he designed a special armor suit called S.T.R.I.P.E he could wear to join her on some missions to keep an eye on her.

Unfortunately, it was all flash, no substance. Johns saddled Courtney with an unappealing personality. At the beginning, she detested having Dugan as a stepdad (and took up the costumed role just to annoy him), acted very immaturely, and not in a very plausible manner at that. Her persona was surprisingly nasty and stilted, revealing one of Johns' biggest failings: he has no talent for making his cast of characters sympathetic. It should be no surprise this came to an end after 15 issues, including one of those superfluous #0 issues the big two's been wasting too many resources on since the mid 90s.

It was only after joining the JSA that she developed a better personality than her initial embarrassment, possibly because David Goyer took care of that part as co-writer, though even that series started coming unglued by the time Johns took over as solo writer.

August 2000

Preacher #66 (DC/Vertigo): Garth Ennis' work is increasingly down for me, and this series, quite frankly, ain't something I'm going to miss. About the best I can say about is - big deal. It was overrated in its time, and is nothing to crow over now either.

September 2000

Ghost #22 vol. 2 (Dark Horse): so goes the second volume of this supernatural thriller starring Elisa Cameron, who learns here that she's not really dead! Rather, she had been ousted from her body which was filled with a spirit from another dimension. One of the best highlights this time around was how the artists made an effort to make the artwork even sexier than the first volume.

Dark Horse Presents #157 (Dark Horse): Anthology series, as mentioned, are pretty hard to sell these days, and DH’s first title when they started in 1985 was a casualty of this fallout on the market. It featured takes on even licensed property such as Aliens and Tarzan, and there was plenty of interest here each month. So it’ll be missed allright.

October 2000

Danger Girl #7 (DC/Wildstorm): J. Scott Campbell, one of the leading good girl artists of today, came up with one of the best series with chick stars, but sadly, he just couldn’t keep up with the monthly schedule, probably because he was doing his best to make sure that the three hotties in this were as perfect as possible in every way.

Since then, there have been a few miniseries for one of the best spy spoofs in comics today, but other than that, we just can’t expect an ongoing series, I guess. Still, what has been produced since then has been very yummy indeed!

Spider-Woman #18 (Marvel): Y’know, I can’t say I’m all that familiar with this particular concept, not even the original Jessica Drew incarnation, so I can’t really comment on this, other than knowing that it may have used a semi-horror story approach. At least Spider-Girl on the other hand is still going, thanks mainly to the fact that they’ve been reaching out to fans as their way of cutting it some slack.

Xena: Warrior Princess #14 (Dark Horse): based on the spinoff TV series from Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (which got its own brief shot at comics and is noted in the 1996 files) starring a lady fighter who's a reformed former gang leader, it does have the significance of lasting longer than the series based on the first series.

November 2000

Aquaman #75 (DC): Although it’s been revived in another volume since then, it was still a pity if you ask me that this run was cancelled when it was. Then again, was it? In the 2nd issue, Arthur Curry fell victim to a villain who paralyzed his ability to communicate with sea creatures, and led to a school of piranhas mauling off his left hand, so it would have to be replaced by a prosthetic one. Needless to say, that was very nasty, but maybe not a surprise given it was edited by Kevin Dooley, responsible at the time for turning Green Lantern Hal Jordan into a lethal villain called Parallax.

When Peter David took on the Sea King in the early 90’s, it was by far one of the best takes on Aquaman, with plenty of tongue-in-cheek humor, something that benefits many things in the DCU many times. But then he was taken off, to be replaced by Erik Larsen, who was then made to walk the plank as well, and Dan Jurgens came in for the last year, and guess what? It was announced later as cancelled six months in advance!

It’s a real shame that the Aquatic Avenger hasn’t been able to sustain a series the way some of the other leading members of the Justice Teams in the DCU have in modern times.

Batman Chronicles #23 (DC): A year earlier, and I already mentioned this in the 1999 files, Superman: The Man of Tomorrow was cancelled, and then, the next year, Batman’s own quarterly title was too.

It’s really odd as to how this, of all quarterly titles published back then, was able to run as long as it did, but I guess that’s what it’s like when the Bat-line is apparently the hottest thing on the market.

Now with that out of the way, maybe they’ll think to give the Man of Steel some better promotion, for a change? ‘Course though, with the cancellation of Superman: The Man of Steel, in early 2003, who knows?

Bishop: The Last X-Man #16 (Marvel): Lucas Bishop, as he's since been known as, first appeared in Uncanny X-Men #282 in 1991 and was created by John Byrne with artists Whilce Portacio and Jim Lee (Chris Claremont was still involved with the X-books at the time, but he'd moved over to writing the newly launched sans-adjective series while other writers such as Byrne took over the main one). He was a mutant from a future era not unlike that seen in Days of Future Past where the X-Men, among other mutants had been wiped out or were being hunted, and had known Gambit as an old man. A nemesis of his in this future time named Trevor Fitzroy, who had the power to travel in time, led to Bishop's travelling back to the era of his heroes where he hoped to prevent the dystopian future from happening. Bishop's own power is to absorb radiant energies and use it as lightbeam weapons and stuff like that. He's also got a sister named Shard who's turned up a few times in the past years in series like X-Factor.

Bishop's characterization was more tolerable than that of fellow X-Man Gambit, whom I’ll get to later down the line here, but he one of those kind of characters who couldn’t carry his own title, not to mention that there was simply no heart and soul to be found in the writing here, which made it simply boring. He went back to the future timeline he originally came from in this series, but with its ending, he came back. And as of this writing, eight years afterwards, that may have been really bad luck, as following a storyline called Messiah Complex, co-written by Ed Brubaker, he was turned into a bad guy. If that's how cheap they're going to be, I'd say he would've been better off staying in the future after all. I've had to consider in all this time that the X-Men has been one of the most abused franchises ever from Marvel. No wonder it seems to have lost much of its popularity.

December 2000

Cartoon Network Presents #18 (DC): Not to worry, what they did, believe it or not, was to replace this series with rotating features with another such book, Cartoon Cartoons. And yet, this is symbolic of how the comics industry seems to have a trend to replace one thing with another, can you believe it?

Gambit #25 (Marvel): Like Bishop, this too was put to rest as part of [supposed] efforts to clean up the X-franchise, and with this having ended, I can't say I'll be missing it much. It's not that I don’t like the character, but rather, the incredibly dreadful way he's been written and characterized over the years, which I'll discuss below.

Of all the bizarre characterizations to stretch suspension of disbelief, Gambit/Remy LeBeau's tops them all. He’s a professional thief, whose success and survival requires not drawing too much attention to himself. So what does he do? He dresses in a heavy duster coat, made all but implausible due to the fact that he’s a southerner from New Orleans in Louisiana, by far one of the hottest areas in the US, as even my sister, who’s been to there and back, can attest. And he’s portrayed as quite a ladies man at times, this in spite of the fact that he’s got reddish-black eyes that give him an almost vampirical look.

Nor is his depiction/characterization my idea of how a hero - or even an anti-hero - should be portrayed. He’s lied to and betrayed practically everyone he’s ever met. In 1996, for lack of a better idea, they wrote that he was indirectly involved in the Morlock Massacre, a "plot development" that was a major embarrassment. He’s a member of an organized crime syndicate called the Theives Guild, whose specialty is – what else? – robbery. And he’s de-facto married into (and blandly tolerates) another syndicate called the Assassins Guild – and I don’t need to point out that what they specialize in is as bad as it sounds.

When he first appeared in 1990, it was noted then that he also had a power to mentally influence people into liking him and such, which could explain his success with the ladies, even Rogue, whom, it should be noted, was victimized by bad characterization at the time by making her into more of a hang-on instead of a more independent character. Strangely enough, Gambit's mental power was almost virtually forgotten some time later, and writers since then have limped along with the character to no avail. Not to mention that the connection given between him and Bishop is tacky at best.

One could argue that the cast members introduced by Chris Claremont in his last 3 years as writer of X-Men at the time - there are at least 2 of them - were among those who went on to suffer the worst characterization, as succeeding writers either didn't know what to do with them, or weren't allowed to. Which figures, considering that Bob Harras, the EIC at the time, was responsible for some of the worst X-Men stories to come down the pike in the 90s. Word has it he even ghostwrote a few of the big bummers, which could include this series too.

In fairness, it would seem as if they’ve taken steps to redeem him since then, by having him grow up in his relations with Rogue, and showing some remorse over the Morlock Massacre, though if you ask me, to have that part actually remain is only leaving a bad stain on him as a character. Unfortunately, these redemption steps have been very wobbly and not very well handled within that time: he still specializes in deception since then, having returned to thievery in X-Treme X-Men, which continues to make it hard to credit the idea that they're actually trying to fix Gambit.

Plus, he was even the head of the Assassins Guild as well as his own at the time this series was published, and does nothing to curb their crooked activities. How’s that for supposed character development?

One of the most maddening things about him is when the writers try to portray him as something like Rhett Butler, the charming southern rogue who escapes responsibility with a wink and a grin. Given just how badly he’s written, is it any wonder that such “charm” doesn’t work?

Despite all that, I think it is possible to fix Remy LeBeau as a character if Marvel and the audience would actually allow it to happen, and to stick with whatever repair job they make without tossing it out the window later on. But who knows when that's going to happen? If they do try to fix him, however, here's what they need to do: they need to exonerate him, if anything, of any involvement in the Morlock Massacre, and to have him dismantle the Thieves Guild once and for all, and shun the Assassins Guild altogether (or better yet, dismantle and abolish that too).

Only if things like that are done will it be possible to redeem Gambit as a character, and perhaps to portray him convincingly as an anti-hero.

Marvel: The Lost Generation #1 (Marvel): Well waddaya know, another series where the idea is to number it backwards! Which makes it possible to say that it was cancelled at its first issue.

Ha, ha, isn’t that such fun?

Copyright Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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