Monday, April 13, 2009

Ben's Cancelled Comic Cavalcade part one

Here's a harsh reality, my friends: If you are a comic book fan, odds are not great that a decade from now your personal favorite title will still be published. It's sad but true. Sure, there are those precious few books that have hit triple digits and others that have been started from near scratch countless times but maintained a presence seemingly forever, but the vast majority of ongoing comics, even the really good ones, are lucky to 50 issues, let alone 100.

Now in many cases this is not a bad thing. Some books like Sandman or Y: The Last Man get to end on their own terms at the time of their creators' choosing. For others, cancellation can be a mercy killing (even perhaps my favorite comic ever, New Teen Titans, ran out of steam long before it got put out to pasture). And in still other instances, your favorite book may have been so transformed by the time it gets axed that you really don't mind (X-Force, I'm looking at you).

But unfortunately, a lot of good series get cut down in their creative primes or as they seem to be turning a corner or when you are still personally enjoying them. Why do they get cancelled? Who knows. Sometimes it's a sales thing, sometimes it's a creative thing--the workings of the comics industry can be mysterious even to those of us who work in it.

Here are some comics I was sorry to see go over the years.

BLUE BEETLE (2006-2009)
I have spoken on my love for this title on this blog before. Without question it is one of my top five favorite books of the last few years. It was always more or less on the verge of cancellation from the moment the sales figures for the first issue came in, but the nice thing was we got more or less a complete 25-issue epic from John Rogers (with Keith Giffen) that can be set aside and read on its own. On the other hand, I felt like after a few shaky issues, Matt Struges was finding some good footing when the cancellation was announced. Jaime Reyes is also just such a different kind of teenage character with an awesome supporting cast and unique world. Fortunately, Jaime has kept in the public eye thank to Teen Titans and will soon be getting a back-up feature by Sturges in a book I already buy, Booster Gold, so it's about as happy an ending as a cancelled comic can get.

CABLE & DEADPOOL (2004-2008)
The spiritual successor to Joe Kelly's Deadpool, this series written by both characters' co-creator, Fabian Nicieza, was one of the funniest comics around for its full run. Both characters now have solo titles of their own which I enjoy (and which are more commercially successful), but the "buddy" genre is one so rarely well-done in comics (past Power Man & Iron Fist, it's a short list), that done right it is lightning in a bottle and something to behold. Cable & Deadpool was also blessed with some great underrated artists who did excellent work during their tenures, from Mark Brooks to Patrick Zircher to Reilly Brown. There were some dry spells and I'm sure Fabian would be among the first to admit Cable was a lot tougher to make fit than Deadpool, but this was 50 issues of fun that I'm grateful for (and I got to contribute to final issue!).

CATWOMAN (2002-2008)
Will Pfeifer had the rough task of following the character-redefining run of Ed Brubaker as writer on this book, but he ended up putting together a solid and entertaining sort of old school super hero adventure that happened to star not-really-a-super hero. I guess Pfeifer's Catwoman wasn't groundbreaking, but I never felt like it had to be; there wasn't much flashy about it, which may have ultimately led to its demise, but you could count on getting a smart book with good art where the writer definitely had a good handle on his lead and a plan on where to take her. I also admire the way Pfeifer deftly weaved in and out of line-wide crossovers without the main story ever veering too far off-track. Definitely a missed monthly pleasure.

FIRESTORM (2004-2007)
I admittedly did not give the Jason Rusch incarnation much of a chance at first, but when Stuart Moore took over with issue #14, I figured the jumping on point made it worth a look and then ended up spending the next year and a half singing the book's praises alongside Andy Serwin in the pages of Wizard as the most underrated and entertaining comic around. Part of the book's appeal was the straight up stripped down good guys vs bad guys approach Moore infused with science tidbits and great characterization. Another part was, like Blue Beetle, that Firestorm showcased both a unique lead and an appealing supporting cast. Still another part was that the book really utilized the DC Universe toybox, both in terms of guest stars and easter eggs. And a key piece of the equation was Jamal Igle breaking out as a really incredible artist. Like with Catwoman, Firestorm was never a book that felt like it was changing the world, but it was comfort food and guaranteed quality.

HARD TIME (2004-2006)
I joined the part late with Hard Time, picking up with the start of "Season Two" and then having to catch what I missed via trade. All in all, Hard Time only ran 19 issues over two volumes, but it was unlike anything else that was coming out at the time, and honestly unlike probably anything in comics ever. I mean, it was a supernatural prison drama--was there ever another one of those? The premise was bold and there's no denying the talent of the late Steve Gerber, who made sure there was never a dull issue.When reviewing the final issue for Wizard, I noted that it really seemed to go out on its own terms and did a nice job tying up pretty much every loose end, but there was such a vast mythology Gerber seemed only on the verge of tapping into, and I'm sorry we never got to see that.

HAWKEYE (2003-2004)
This series was a strange case study. For years, Hawkeye had been a popular character who fans clamored to see more of, so it made sense to give his own solo book. What didn't make so much sense from a marketing standpoint was to make it a book about Clint Barton, out of costume, having "on the road" adventures like he was in "Kung Fu" or "Renegade." In retrospect, it's not that shocking this book only lasted eight issues. That said, I loved it. Again, it was a Fabian Nicieza joint, so I'm always a sucker for that. In a way, it felt like Fabian was trying to re-create his old Nomad book with a more popular character, but also, having written Clint for years on Thunderbolts, he definitely had him down. I dug the very genre tone and the way Hawkeye was played as the handsome stranger who breezes into town, beds the hottest chick, gets in trouble, fights his way out, then moves on. It fit who I thought he was. It appealed to me the same way Wolverine one-shots do when Logan is out of costume and having random adventures. Unfortunately, Hawkeye is not Wolverine when it comes to marketability. I think judged on its own merits, this was a good book, but unfortunately, not the book Hawkeye fans were waiting for. It also had some truly rad covers.

More to come...


Marky said...

Definately agree on Catwoman, I really enjoyed Pfeifer and Lopez's run on the book. Brubaker and co (particularly Stewart) knocked it out of the park with giving Selina and her supporting cast great character.

Hopefully with Dini writing her in Sirens she will get to develope and hopefully not fall back into one note T&A villainy.

I'd also add Peter David's Supergirl to the list, great stories and coupled with Ed Benes on pencils that book coulda been huge if DC had giving it just a little more time and attention.

Jesse T. said...

Surprised you didn't stick one of the two '90s Nova series on this list, B-Mo. But I guess we finally got the series we were clamoring for, right?
And am I the only one who was sad to see 'Slingers' go?

Ben Morse said...

I can't speak for Slingers, but yeah, I wasn't high enough on either of the 90's Nova books to see 'em go. It all worked out right.

Jesse T. said...

Is the Nova comic still coming out? It would break my heart if it wasn't ... even though I'm far behind on my reading, obviously.

Ben Morse said...

It's still alive and kicking and coming up on issue #25! :-)