Top Ten Cancelled Comic Book MiniseriesA column article, Top Ten by: Danny Djeljosevic, Nick Hanover
We were pretty bummed when Marvel ended up announcing their cancellation of the Thanos: Son of a Titan miniseries the other day. But then we distracted from the pain by breaking our pinkies to re-direct the pain. Figuratively speaking.
By which I mean we looked at ten other examples of miniseries that were cancelled before completing their run. Some are depressing, some are missed opportunities and some of them are shitty, but they're all worth talking about.
10. Questprobe (1985)
What It Was: Questprobe was a series of graphical adventure games by PC gaming pioneer Scott Adams where you'd play by typing actions like LOOK or OPEN DOOR -- kind of like Zork but with pictures to break up the monotony, and a juicy Marvel Comics license that resulted in a Hulk game, a Spider-Man game and a Human Torch/Thing team-up game. By many accounts the games are pretty terrible -- a lot of commands just straight up wouldn't work -- but Marvel also published tie-in comics that corresponded with the games themselves. So there's a Hulk issue, a Spider-Man issue and Human Torch/Thing issue.
Why It Went Away: The publisher of the Questprobe games, Adventure International, went Bankrupt in 1985, and with it went the Questprobe comic, which was meant to run 12 issues but was cut off at #3. The fourth issue was supposed to feature the X-Men, stars of the now-incomplete fourth game, and eventually saw the light of day in Marvel Fanfare #33. Also, Questprobe himself ended up showing up in Quasar #37-38, where this happened to our fishbowl-headed villain:
9. Sylvia Faust (2004)
What It Was: Sylvia Faust was basically some bizarre mishmash of Lovecraftian cult horror, urban shenanigans and quirky romantic comedies set around a comic book version of the Alamo Drafthouse that the eponymous Sylvia Faust winds up waitressing at. Yes, you read that correctly.
Why It Went Away: Originally intended as a four issue-miniseries, Sylvia Faust only made it to issue two before disappearing. Our own Daniel Elkin is partially responsible for resolving the mystery of its demise, since an installment of his Cheap Thrills column managed to attract the attention of writer Jason Henderson, who was flattered and explained on his blog that "schedules got the best of the team." But if it hadn't, we could all be watching a Showtime adaptation of Sylvia Faust right this very instant, probably starring a lesser known Deschanel sister and Jeff Daniels, who would have been saved the humility of becoming the world's most obnoxious moderate ever over on The Newsroom. Okay, maybe I'm projecting.
8. Sonic Disruptors (1987-1988)
What It Was: I've already written about Sonic Disruptors before, but this image should tell you everything:
Why It Went Away: After seven issues, DC cancelled this Mike Baron/Barry Crain comic due to low sales. It's gained a bit of notoriety for this very fact, which is hilarious because you know nobody would ever talk about Sonic Disruptors ever again if it actually ran its course all the way to 12 issues.
7. Victor Von Doom (2011)
What It Was: Only one of the best collaborations that didn't happen. Originally announced as a four issue team-up between up-and-comer and newly Marvel exclusive creator Nick Spencer and indie superstar Becky Cloonan, Victor Von Doom would have told the story of a teenage Dr. Doom and his journey to hell as he attempted to save his mother's soul.
Why It Went Away: Your guess is as good as ours. Plenty of rumors were flying around at the time the title was cancelled, especially since Spencer's exclusivity deal didn't appear to be going too well, with his Iron Man 2.0 ongoing getting scrapped around the same time. To some, this was an indication that Spencer was struggling to fit in at Marvel. For others, it was more about the then recently laid off editor Alejandro Arbona, who oversaw both Iron Man 2.0 and Victor von Doom as well as another cancelled miniseries you will be reading out very, very soon. Still others blamed Becky Cloonan, believing that she was having a difficult job juggling both Victor Von Doom and her upcoming Conan ongoing with Brian Wood; that particular rumor perhaps attracted the most attention due to the shitstorm that resulted from a Bleeding Cool article (long since scrubbed) that claimed no interior art for the series had been delivered, a claim Cloonan herself (and others associated with the book) vehemently denied. All that we know, really, is that we were robbed of a potentially incredible mini. I mean, seriously, have you seen Cloonan's work on Conan? That's the shit.
6. All-Winners Squad: Band of Heroes (2011)
What It Was: Written by Paul Jenkins and illustrated by Carmine DiGiandomenico, All-Winners Squad: Band of Heroes was an eight-issue miniseries surrounding Captain America leading a top-secret mission in World War II -- at least, it was supposed to, had it not been cancelled five issues early, and on a cliffhanger:
Why It Went Away: Probably a combination of low sales and the layoff of editor Alejandro Arbona. Seriously, I have no idea -- the cancellation was pretty unceremonious and nobody read the book anyway.
5. America's Best Comics: A to Z (2005-2006)
What It Was: Alan Moore planned for America's Best Comics: A to Z to be the swan song of his personal imprint, a six issue miniseries that would offer some answers about the characters the line was built around, written by Peter Hogan and Steve Moore and featuring a revolving cast of artists. Each issue focused on two characters, or in the case of the last published issue, two teams. But the miniseries only made it to issue four before it Moore called it off.
Why It Went Away: Chances are, it went away because Moore's frustrations with the comic book industry had reached a crescendo. That arguably happened because Jim Lee had sold his division of Image, Wildstorm, to DC and as a subsidiary of Wildstorm, ABC had been swept up as well. Pretty much every comic fan is well aware of Moore's hatred for DC at this point and in the time sense, things certainly haven't improved. Moore kept ABC going for a few years after the purchase out of loyalty to the creators he had brought to the imprint, but by the time A to Z was announced and scheduled, Moore was becoming almost entirely withdrawn from the industry and superhero titles especially.
4. Void Indigo (1984-1985)
What It Was: Created by an ever-experimenting Steve Gerber and artist Val Mayerik, Void Indigo follows an alien who used to be an Earthling in a previous life and returns to Earth to exact revenge on the demons who killed him back when he was a human. Also, apparently Void Indigo was originally a rejected Hawkman pitch that Gerber reworked for Marvel/Epic. There was a graphic novel in 1983, followed by a six-issue miniseries that only ran two issues.
Why It Went Away: Shit's pretty violent, which was still kind of a big deal in the mid '80s, and so Void Indigo the miniseries debuted to quite a bit of controversy and negative reviews -- so much that Epic Editor-in-Chief Archie Goodwin decided that it wasn't really worth finishing up the story. But if you want to know what could have been, the synopsis for Void Indigo #3-6 is online.
3. Kirbyverse (1993-1994)
What It Was: During the speculator boom, there was no shortage of companies trying to infiltrate the comics market to make some of that sweet holofoil cash. Primarily known for their sports cards, Topps was perhaps situated better than most to exploit the boom, picking up dozens of titles to license and even recruiting comics legend Jack Kirby. Kirby was brought on to create his own universe for Topps, utilizing leftover ideas and unrealized concepts he had lying around. Topps agreed to eight titles, most of which wound up one shots while the others were set to be four issue miniseries to be written and drawn by an impressive roster of comic vets, all part of what would be called Kirby's Secret City Saga.
Why It Went Away: Perhaps the biggest reason is that they just weren't very good. It's unclear whether the plan from the beginning was to make so many of the titles one shots, while two of the planned four issue miniseries, Victory and Silver Star, didn't even make it past one issue. It's important to remember that at this point, while Kirby was undoubtedly a legend, he was in many ways considered washed up and irrelevant to contemporary comic fans and since he was only creating the characters and concepts, the Secret City Saga wasn't quite The Fourth World Saga. It didn't help that at the same time the comics boom was becoming a bust and investors were leaving the market in droves.
2. Big Numbers (1990)
What It Was: Alan Moore. Bill Sienkiewicz. A million dollars. You feel me?
F'real, though -- Moore was touting Big Numbers as his big masterpiece -- an epic 12-issue series that would unite this group of characters through the wonders of chaos theory and the construction of a mall in Moore's favorite place to write about, Northampton. It's incredible stuff, but after Big Numbers #2 wheels pretty much fell off and the project crashed and burned in a most depressing fashion.
Why It Went Away: Oh, Jesus. Here we go. After publishing two issues, Moore stopped being able to self-publish Big Numbers through his own company Mad Love, and received help from Tundra, Kevin Eastman's Titanic of comics companies. After drawing three issues, Sienkiewicz apparently stopped being able to work on the series for a wide variety of reasons -- art models aging, dying or just moving on, lives falling apart -- so Tundra paid Sienkiewicz's teenage assistant Al Columbia lots of money to draw the rest of it in his mentor's style, only to come up with nothing in the end. Recently, it was revealed that Columbia hated the project and got sick of working on it, so he took the original art and chopped it up to create an album cover for his roommates -- the (pretty awesome) indie rock band Sebadoh.
A few years ago, Pádraig Ó Méalóid actually bought a collection Xeroxes of fully complete pages from Big Numbers #3 and posted them online. Which will be the closest we get to more Big Numbers unless Bill Sienkiewicz decides to give Alan Moore a phone call.
1. 1963 (1993)
What It Was: Essentially an attempt by Alan Moore and collaborators to remake the Marvel Universe of the early '60s in their image, 1963 was a gonzo reimagining of characters like the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man. The six published issues were impressive homages to the original Marvel era, including fake ads and a dead-on imitation of the Stan Lee style of hype, with Moore giving his collaborators Marvel-style nicknames, all while the legendary creator inserted layers and layers of sly digs at the questionable business practices that built Mighty Marvel.
Why It Went Away: 1963 was developed as a six-issue miniseries culminating in an 80-page giant that would close the series, but that finale never appeared. The initial reason for the lack of an ending was Jim Lee's decision to take a hiatus from comics. The superstar artist was set to draw the 80-page giant, which would have moved the series 30 years into the future, to then present time, as Moore's pseudo-Marvel creations time travel to the grim and gritty era and confront Image's own heroes. Even when Lee returned, though, problems arose, including Rob Liefeld's departure from Image and internal strife at the company. To compound matters, Moore soon began his practice of mysteriously and abruptly cutting off all ties with longtime collaborators, including 1963 artist Steve Bissette. All of which has led Erik Larsen to publicly declare "that ship has sailed."
Danny Djeljosevic is a comic book creator, award-winning filmmaker (assuming you have absolutely no follow-up questions), film/music critic for Spectrum Culture and Co-Managing Editor of Comics Bulletin. Follow him on Twitter at @djeljosevic or find him somewhere in San Diego, often wearing a hat. Read his comic with Mike Prezzato, "Sgt. Death and his Metachromatic Men," over at Champion City Comics and check out his other comics at his Tumblr, Sequential Fuckery. His webcomic The Ghost Engine, with artist Eric Zawadzki, updates twice a week.
When he's not writing about the cape and spandex set and functioning as the Co-Managing Editor of Comics Bulletin, Nick Hanover is a book, film and music critic for Spectrum Culture and has contributed to No Tofu Magazine, Performer Magazine, Port City Lights and various other international publications. By which he means Canadian rags you have no reason to know anything about. He also translates for "Partytime" Lukash's Panel Panopticon.