Saturday, September 10, 2016

Whiz Bang #5: Brilliant, But Canceled

I've read a lot of comic book series. Not as many as some people but quite a few. I have my favorites, as everyone does, but a lot of my favorites seem to be canceled fairly early on in their run. The same tends to happen with TV shows but that happens much less frequently now. Here is a list of decent comic book runs, some a bit obscure but mostly not. The only guideline was that they had to last less than 24 issues. So what are some of my favorites?

Honorable Mentions

Amazing Fantasy (1962), 1 issue
Amazing Fantasy was renamed from Amazing Adult Fantasy which was renamed from Amazing Adventures. The series was going to be canceled anyway so Marvel allowed Stan Lee to put in a character named Spider-Man among its monster stories. The issue tricks you into thinking it will continue but it doesn't. When data on the issue finally reaches Marvel, they learn that Spider-Man was really popular so they gave him his own series The Amazing Spider-Man in 1963, a series that continues to this day. But one wonders what would've happened if Amazing Fantasy continued past issue 15. Would the monster comics give way to more superheros thus making the series a superhero anthology? r would Spider-Man just push the monsters out ultimately becoming Spider-Man in Amazing Fantasy? Or would Amazing Fantasy last a few more issues before coming to an end and being replaced with The Amazing Spider-Man anyway? We will never know.

Superman: The Man of Tomorrow (1995-1999), 15 issues
Superman: The Man of Tomorrow was established to put an end to those pesky "skip weeks" where there were no Superman comics coming out thus making MOT a quarterly series. The series was created by popular Action Comics scribe Roger Stern, popular Adventures of Superman penciller Tom Grummett, and popular Superman inker Brett Breeder who had all left those series a year or so before in order to get some rest. Initially, the comic offered great stories, amazing art, and grew the characters well because Stern, Grummett, and Breeding had more time to produce great work but the wagon began falling apart with issue 3. DC began doing fifth-week event crossovers. The comic that brought back Lex Luthor and got him married to the Contessa, saw issues bounced around, postponed, and used as filler. Grummett left the book with issue 5 replaced with Paul Ryan, and Stern and Breeding left with issue 11 to be replaced with Louise Simonson and a rotating stable of inkers. The series soon became just filler, the best issue of this period being issue 9. Ironically, the best issue was also the last issue which wasn't even written by the regular Superman creative team but by J.M. DeMatteis, Ryan Sook, and Jeff Gan.

The List

No. 7: The Disney Afternoon (1994-1995), 10 issues
Disney and comics go together like other things that go well together. In the late-1980s to mid-1990s, Disney created several syndicated programs that typically aired after school on weekdays in a block known as The Disney Afternoon. The humorous, normally action-filled series were perfect for comics as evidenced in Disney's own Disney Adventures which lasted from 1990 until 2007. When Marvel began publishing Disney comics in 1994, they only had access to the more recent characters. The Disney Afternoon was an anthology series featuring three or four stories. The main story was usually Darkwing Duck and that was it's downfall. Darkwing Duck would've been great in his own title but instead, he was used to prop up another title. The Disney Afternoon was canceled when Marvel lost the Disney comics contract but probably would've been canceled sooner rather than later anyway.

No. 6: Gross Point (1997-1998), 14 issues
In the 1990s, DC Comics was not one to shy away from a comic book idea no matter how odd. The concept was simple--a comedic horror series about a family who moves to the odd town of Gross Point, not to be confused with the one in Michigan. They are a family of normal humans living in a town full of freaks. The teenage twins seem to adapt fairly well and even solve the mystery of why a landlocked city such as Gross Point has a lighthouse in it. The first issue was written by Brian Augustyn and Mark Waid with Joe Staton doing art. Roger Landridge did all 14 covers but writers changed with every issue and there was no rhyme or reason to any issue. As the series went on, I found it more and more difficult finding comic stores that stocked the issues, ultimately having to buy the last three issues from newsstands.

No. 5: Aztek: The Ultimate Man (1996-1997), 10 issues
One of the few things Grant Morrison wrote that I have no problem with, Aztek was an interesting concept poking at fun at standard comic book tropes while still being a comic book. While many would consider Aztek one of Morrison's few failures, Aztek continued to be around as a member of Morrison's JLA. Although, it's clear that only Morrison had eyes for Aztek, that he was able to get ten issues out and become a member of DC's premier superhero team is a noble feat.

No. 4: Gargoyles (1995), 11 issues
One of the best things about Disney comics is that they always further expand the stories of their characters and Gargoyles, from Marvel Comics, is no exception. Considered in-universe, this series continued where the TV show left off (the ABC spin-off series is not considered canon), but, like The Disney Afternoon, ended when Marvel lost the Disney contract. Gargoyles featured great writing, beautiful interiors, and striking covers typically done by the great Amanda Conner.

No. 3: Plastic Man (2004-2006), 20 issues
Written and drawn by Kyle Baker, except for two issues, this Plastic Man was seemingly an out-of-continuity jokester that poked fun at the conventional DC stories going around at this time. Along with his sidekick, Woozy, Plas also had Agent Morgan and adoptive goth daughter Edwina to help with whatever supervillain crisis that happened their way. The series was canceled because DC did a terrible job promoting the series but not before the series killed off Billy Batson in a humorous send-up of the serious, world-changing stories DC was doing at the time.

No. 2: Prime (1995-1996), 15 issues
Bought by Marvel only for their state-of-the-art coloring division, the Ultraverse characters were terribly integrated into the Marvel Universe in late 1995 and quickly forgotten roughly fifteen months later. The All New Exiles and Prime were two series that Marvel should've done well with. The Exiles were an X-team and Prime was a young boy who was granted unimaginable power and put into situations he can't handle and doesn't understand. Marvel always does well doing stories about heroes who also have realistic problems but Marvel didn't do well with this series both embracing it while also pushing it away. After the cancelation of the Ultraverse titles, Marvel hasn't used them since.

No. 1: Green Lantern: Mosaic (1992-1993), 18 issues
In this beautiful series, Green Lantern John Stewart is put in charge of a planet called Mosaic which houses thousands of species from other planets. The series tackled serious moral subjects while questioning what it means to be a hero. DC initially wanted to cancel the series earlier, with issue 12, but writer Gerard Jones convinced them to keep it going a few more issues to wrap up loose ends. In the end, Stewart becomes the first human Guardian, something completely erased when Hal Jordan would go insane after the Reign of the Supermen.