Friday, August 19, 2005

The best "failed" comic books

What's this? I'm posting two days in a row? Who am I, Cronin?

I was thinking about this when I read that The Intimates was dying as of issue #12, and then, of course, when I ranted about Joe Casey and how he's cursed. There are a lot of good series that die quick and painful deaths, and I wonder, "Why?" Not why they get canceled - sales figures - but why they don't catch on. Why did something like Sandman catch on? Was it THAT much better than some other stuff? Did DC promote it more? Did some influential Goth person laud it to all his/her Goth buddies? Did it just capture the zeitgeist at the right time? Did Gaiman sleep with the right person?

I'm not saying it's not a great book. But there are a lot of great books, and it's interesting that not all of them survive. I'm too stupid to understand the business of publishing comic books, but I do wonder how something like, say, any X-book outside the core survives while many worthy books fade into oblivion. But that's not the point. The point is: a lot of these series are excellent reading, easy to find, and cheap! Go buy them! My favorite "failed" series:

Automatic Kafka. Nine issues, no waiting. Joe Casey writes, Ashley Wood draws, and together they blow your mind. Sex, drugs, violence, social commentary, political satire - neat-o keen-o.

The Minx. Seven issues. Peter Milligan, post-Shade but pre-X-Force, and Sean Phillips. More blowing of the mind, with religious fanaticism, terrorism, psychological drama, and a monkey. Monkeys are awesome.

Aztek the Ultimate Man. Ten issues. Morrison, Millar, Steven Harris, Keith Champagne. I mentioned that I am proud that I own this, and bought it when it came out. If Morrison's name didn't get people to buy this, what could?

What are your favorites? The run must be TEN ISSUES OR LESS. I know some comics are failures at 12, or 15 issues (Major Bummer, where are you?), but 10 issues or less means you really failed. Anyway, if you happen to read these three titles, you definitely will not be disappointed. Unless you're disappointed that they didn't last longer.

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Blogger Mark Fossen said...

Aztek's a good choice.

None of my other "failed favorites" are quite failed enough, it seems.

8/19/2005 06:31:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

I was trying to think of what was a good cut-off. It seems if you survive a year, you can't have failed THAT badly. There are a lot of good titles that lasted between a year or two, but only a few gems got the axe before they reached double digits.

8/19/2005 07:03:00 PM  
Blogger Nik said...

Mmm, 10 issues certainly crams it up. I'll go old-school and bring up OMEGA THE UNKNOWN from the halcyon 1970s, which I rather liked, and BLACK GOLIATH, which I barely remember but c'mon, with a title like "Black Goliath" it should've been GOLD, man, GOLD!

More recently, I thought about THE CREW from Marvel but really I didn't care for it that much, Priest's labyrinthine plotting haven gotten out of control; but by the time I figured out I didn't like it it was cancelled.

8/19/2005 07:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Larry McQuaide said...


8/19/2005 07:18:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

I was going to mention Chase in the post. I forgot. I need to track it down, because everyone seems to like it. I enjoyed the Batman issues when she was introduced.

Black Goliath. Jeez, Nik, now I have to dig through the back issue boxes.

8/19/2005 07:23:00 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Warlock. Was that only last year?

8/19/2005 07:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd offer up SKULL The Slayer - a very nice contemporary of Omega the Unknown. This was a Marv Wolfman offering with solid art by Steve Gan.

8/19/2005 07:44:00 PM  
Anonymous ArizonaTeach said...

Vext, and curse all of you who never read it. I used to pull it out and reread the six issues all the time. Now, it makes me too sad.

8/19/2005 09:06:00 PM  
Blogger Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

Man, 10 issues is tough! Leaves out Black Lightning and Crystar, both of which got axed after 11 issues. The former was solid for its time, while I'm just now rereading the latter, so I can't say.

The two recent Micronauts series were both short-lived, with the Image series lasting 11 issues, and the Devil's Due relaunch only mkaing it to its 3rd issue before getting the axe. The former was pretty good, while the latter was a total mess.

Last year's Warlock was a six-issue mini that got cut to 4 issues, so it doesn't really count.

8/19/2005 09:22:00 PM  
Blogger Ken Robinson said...

Alan Moore's Youngblood. I love this series. It only lasted two issues, though. Even if you count the various tie-ins (the Awesome Holiday Special, a convention special, the Judgement Day Aftermath and the one issue of Awesome Adventures), it still comes in under 10.

8/19/2005 10:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Bailey said...

The 1992 JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA comic. I loved that series and had some great art from Mike Parobeck.

8/19/2005 10:34:00 PM  
Blogger Ecto said...

All-time best failed comic book?

For me, Jack Kirby's OMAC, hands-down. Eight measly issues and it was gone, but thankfully, not forgotten.

8/19/2005 11:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Giffen's 'The Heckler.'

8/19/2005 11:50:00 PM  
Blogger Bill Reed said...

I didn't think I'd be able to remember any, but, yeah! Parobeck JSA! Kirby OMAC! God, OMAC = brilliance.

I'm dying to track down the Heckler.

8/20/2005 12:11:00 AM  
Blogger Bill Reed said...

And I thought Prez was suitably wacky. They should bring that back... I imagine Garry Trudeau would have a ball with it...

8/20/2005 12:13:00 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

Oh man, The Heckler. I really need to find that.

8/20/2005 12:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Dan Coyle said...

Giffen's Vext, which lasted six very funny, charming issues. The series was about the god of bad luck, demoted to walk the earth as a normal human. I loved the cover of the final issue:


The J.M. DeMatteis/Liam Sharp Man-Thing was cut down when it was just getting good, as was the Strange Tales anthology that replaced it, to resolve the storyline.

Kirby's 2001: A Space Odyssey was freakin' mindblowing and very entertaining. Didn't make it past issue #10, though it was replaced by Machine Man.

8/20/2005 12:25:00 AM  
Anonymous bostonpenguincat said...

How many issues did DC's "The Hacker Files" run. And I Loved this one sereis that ran in the 80's. I think it was "Codename: Danger". It lasted 3 or 4 issues with one having Paul Smith art.. IF I remember correctly...

8/20/2005 01:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I almost wish that OMAC had been forgotten. Then they'd have at least left it the hell alone.

8/20/2005 02:22:00 AM  
Anonymous HMM said...

Bloodhound by Dan Jolley and Leonard Kirk fits the bill: smart writing, great art, likable characters, accessible plots, no promotion whatsoever and down right pitiful, miserable sales of 6-8k.

Not only was the title an ill fit for the "cape book" side of the DC (it would have felt right at home at Vertigo), but DC just shoved the book out of the door with no fanfare. It was practically predestined to die quick.

8/20/2005 04:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wait, The Intimates has been cancelled at 12?


8/20/2005 07:15:00 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

Yes, it's true, Anonymous. It's okay. Take deep breaths.

8/20/2005 10:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Kelson said...

10-issue cut-off? I was going to suggest Chronos, but it managed 11.

I'll second Chase, though!

8/20/2005 12:48:00 PM  
Anonymous David C said...

Definitely the Parobeck JSA title.

8/20/2005 04:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Codename: Danger, and all of Deluxe Comcis' books were pretty good, including their revival of THUNDER Agents, and the March Hare.

I liked Future Comics' stuff too.

Dr. Wunder was a cool Silver age retro series only made it to #5.

And the never completed 1963.

8/20/2005 05:16:00 PM  
Blogger Shawn said...

MICRA, a 1980s b&w. Terrific art by Ted Boonthanakit.

8/20/2005 05:52:00 PM  
Blogger Bill Reed said...

You're kidding me. Someone enjoyed Future Comics? that you, Bob Layton?

*is evil, yes*

8/20/2005 09:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Dave Carter said...

The Hacker Files ran for 12 issues, and I'm pretty sure that it was always intended to be a limited series from the outset.

8/20/2005 10:42:00 PM  
Anonymous bostonpenguincat said...

Thanks for the info on the "Hacker Files". I really like that series. My favorite issue was the Barbara Gordon story. I wonder if that was the first story to deal with her new life in the wheelchair after she got shot by the Joker? It seemed to be the only story I read with her really dealing with the handicap.

8/20/2005 10:50:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Suicide Squad (and John Ostrander) was the first appearance of Babs as Oracle.

Ostrander went out of his way to remake her, as he was none too thrilled with how her shooting was handled.

8/21/2005 02:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Jim Kosmicki said...

Omega is a good one, but remember that they had bimonthly series back then, including Omega -- it did last more than a year.

and the Parobeck JSA is a special case in that it was apparently selling well enough, but was cancelled because some high up editor at DC didn't like the idea of senior citizen superheroes.

For the best truly "failed" comics, you have to go back to DC's attempt to update itself in the late 60's. Secret Six, Hawk and Dove, Bat Lash, Beware the Creeper, the last two issues of Blackhawk's original run, Captain Action,Hot Wheels, and ANTHRO!! -- all of these were really well done books that died because people who liked DC's 60s stuff didn't like the different attitude and people who didn't like DC's 60s stuff wouldn't buy because it was DC!!

8/21/2005 08:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Barry Windsor-Smith's "Storyteller" came to an abrupt halt after issue 9 I think. OK, it was oversized and all, but it was one of the most entertaining reads I can recall...

And what about "World below" by Paul Chadwick. I think there were only 3 issues of that promising title.

8/22/2005 07:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Dan Coyle said...

Storyteller was originally supposed to come back after the hiatus from issue #9 and finish up with #12, but Windsor-Smith's conflicts with Dark Horse led to him being so blocked he couldn't even finish issue #12. At least, according to Young Gods and Friends; as I understand it there may be more than one side to the story of Storyteller.

8/22/2005 09:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Giffen/Doran's Reign of the Zodiac, which only lasted for 8 issues. Wonderful, if not entirely original, premise of a fantasy world based on the zodiac, with alliances based on the elemental nature of the signs. A lot of excellent world-building went on, with clothing, mannerisms and so on defined for each of the 12 signs. Interesting plot lines were laid down, great potential for intruige. It was an RPG-player's wet dream of a setting.

Unfortunately, the first few issues were too dense, with the needed exposition mired in witty dialogue, and I guess that really didn't help keep it alive. It was improving exponentially until the end, however, and the art was never less than beautiful.

8/22/2005 10:34:00 AM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Remember, though, Anonymous, that Reign of the Zodiac had one big thing against it - Giffen scripted it, not just plotted it!

See "Cronin Theory of Comics: Giffen as Plotting God - Scripting Devil" for more...

8/22/2005 11:49:00 AM  
Blogger Sean Maher said...

I really enjoyed Bloodhound, Dan Jolley's cancelled DCU series that only involved the DCU when Jolley crossed it over with another book he was writing.

Nice noirish characterization with some fun action.

I also really dug Kinetic from the failed Focus line, but the ending was such an obvious "uh oh, we got cancelled, what do I do?" move that it kinda soured it for me. First seven issues were great.

8/22/2005 04:30:00 PM  
Blogger Brad Curran said...

I just finished reading Omega last night. The worst part of the whole thing is that the original creative team didn't get to wrap the story up in Defenders, since the plot really started moving in the last two issues. Of course, part of the problem could very well have been that it didn't move very much in the first 6. 7 and were essentially fill in issues, which were really odd, given how much Gerber and Skernes's writing had defined the series.

8/23/2005 05:53:00 PM  
Anonymous red_Ricky said...

The one series that I remember being quite good and not knowing how in heavens name they got canceled (specially after a measly 10 issues) was 1997's The Creeper.

Every issue was solid; told a story and at the time, I felt it ran circles around Morrison's Aztek (remember, Aztek was half Morrison, half Millar, and you never knew which one you were getting).

Hell, if Morrison had those Creeper issues, they would've been hailed as his masterpiece.


It was fun. It was deep, and maybe even educational (believe it or not).

And did I say crazy good?

8/24/2005 02:57:00 PM  
Anonymous red_ricky said...


If Morrison had done those Creeper issues, they would've been hailed as his masterpiece.

8/24/2005 02:59:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

I should get those Creeper issues. Martinborough on art is good enough for me.

8/24/2005 06:42:00 PM  
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