Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Ben's Cancelled Comic Cavalcade part two

Continued from last time...

HOURMAN (1999-2001)
Unique case here as the entirety of the Hourman series actually took place during a time when I was not reading comics. I came back into the fold only months after the book's cancellation and one of my gateway books was JSA, so I quickly heard a lot of good buzz about Hourman and got to see firsthand the artistic talent of Rags Morales. It took me a few years, but I gradually tracked down the back issues and did get to read nearly the full run. Like pretty much everybody else, I could not believe they had cancelled this book. It's some of the smartest writing you'll find from Tom Peyer with equal parts wit and philosophy as he charts the hero's journey of the formerly omnipotent android, Tyler and masterfully sets up dominos only to knock them down way later. Great supporting cast with Rick Jones and his ex, Bethany, who are really more co-stars, and absolutely stunning art from Morales, who was clearly having fun. Ironically given the nature of the content and protagonist, it may just have been a book ahead of its time.

NEW WARRIORS (1990-1996)
A book near and dear to my heart as it was the title that more or less introduced me to comics beyond grabbing the occasional Archie digest. The thing was, by the end of 1994, Fabian Nicieza, the co-creator of the title and really its guiding force, had departed following 53 issues because he had run out of stories to tell. During the four years he was on the book, along with Mark Bagley and Darick Robertson, Fabian had compiled an impressive set of stories that, taken as a whole, comprised an epic super story that most fans could be satisfied with. His successor, Evan Skolnick, stumbled out the gate a bit and the book suffered greatly by being shoehorned into the Spider-Man editorial family, complete with Scarlet Spider randomly joining the team for a bit. However, Skolnick eventually found his footing, artist Patrick Zircher was coming along nicely, and most of the Spider-Man ties were dropped. When the book got cancelled with #75, I was upset mostly out of nostalgia and lingering fondness for the characters (upset enough to write a fan letter to Marvel Vision even), but also because the last story arc was probably the best since even before Fabe had left. It would have been nice to have seen New Warriors hit triple digits and become more o a Marvel mainstay, but alas.

NEW X-MEN (2004-2008)
This one is a bit of a cheat, since writers Craig Kyle and Chris Yost moved immediately over to X-Force, one of my current favorite titles, and carried many of their characters and themes with them, but I'm selfish and wish they were writing both books. New X-Men was just a really fun take on oft-attempted "next generation of heroes" trope and I dug what C&C did with it (as well as the base set up by Christina Weir and Nunzio DeFilippis).

SUICIDE SQUAD (1987-1992)
The aforementioned situation with Hourman to the extreme here, as I didn't read Suicide Squad until 12 years after it was cancelled on the recommendation of Geoff Johns, but quickly snatched up all 66 issues like candy and devoured them. It's unquestionably one of my favorite books ever and will certainly be the subject of an upcoming Essentials column. It's the only example I can readily think of where a long-running series starring villains worked without the protagonists having to lose the edge that made them appealing in the first place, and credit for that can be laid at the feet of the great John Ostrander and his wife and collaborator, the late Kim Yale. The plug and play premise of Suicide Squad was a great draw, but Ostrander and Yale's knack for getting the most out of their cast by pushing them to their limits as well as their ability to adapt and maintain that "anything can happen" feel for five years was even more impressive. This was the book that brought us Oracle, made Deadshot a badass, made Amanda Waller an even bigger badass and rehabilitated characters from Captain Boomernag to Vixen to Nemesis. The thing is, Suicide Squad was as good quality-wise at issue #66 as it was at issue #1 (with understandable peaks and valleys in between), but the market changed over five years and unfortunately it simply got edged out.

YOUNG JUSTICE (1998-2003)
For 55 issues, plus various specials, writer Peter David and artist Todd Nauck pulled off the impressive feat of an incredibly entertaining five-year run on an ongoing title with a grand total of like two fill-ins needed the entire ride. PAD and TAN worked some great coming of age drama, romance and action into YJ, but the big hook was always the fun and the clever ways they'd find to utilize the most ridiculous bits of DC trivia or break the fourth wall. The three-way discussion between Superboy, Impulse and the Ray about cancelled comics that Robin interupts to be glared at remains one of the funniest moments in comics to me. And don't get me started on Todd's array of DC-themed t-shirts for Snapper Carr! Ultimately, Young Justice gave way to the Teen Titans re-launch by Geoff Johns and Mike McKone, which proved a critical and commercial hit, so it's understandable why the move was made, but YJ was certainly a special kind of book.


JimmyGlenn711 said...

I totally agree about Young Justice and New X-Men. Both were amazing books that ended too soon.

Infinity13307 said...

I loved both Hourman and Suicide Squad. Just a quibble, but the supporting character in Hourman was Snapper Carr, not Hulk's friend Rick Jones

Smitty said...

New Warriors was the book that got me into comics also ... as you can see this very day at I bailed before the end but for the first three years it was pretty amazing. Read a roommate's run of Young Justice and had great fun ... still trying to put together the run of Hourman. So I guess this post really hit my sweet spot. Great job!

Ben Morse said...

Good lord, I mixed up Snapper Carr and Rick Jones.

I blame Peter David.

Scavenger said...

Ben, of course you know, that Snapper and Rick are friends who've been known to jamm together.

Ben Morse said...

There was actually another great bit towards the end of Young Justice when Peter David was also still writing Captain Marvel and had Snapper on the phone with his "friend Rick" talking about how they'd both lost limbs recently and spent the past couple years trying to teach godlike beings how to be human. Good stuff.

Anonymous said...

You hit the nail on the head with Suicide Squad and Hourman especially.
Suicide Squad 67 is out now, I can't wait to read it. It ties in to BN but also Gial Simone's excellent Secret Six.