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After almost 20 years, it looked like the first two issues of Big Numbers were the only issues we’d ever see. But last week the third issue miraculously surfaced on the internet.
Alan Moore and Bill Sienkiewicz’s aborted epic is one of those series that, even 20 years later, still gets people talking and wondering about what might have been. On his blog, Eddie Campbell remembers talking to Kevin Eastman about why the third issue was never published, even though it was finished: “I recall asking publisher Kevin Eastman at the time why, even though the 12-issue series was abandoned, he couldn’t put out the existing third issue,” Campbell writes. “He looked at me as though I was daft. Who would want a third issue if they knew there wouldn’t be any after that?”
Big Numbers is far from the only series that ever fell into comic limbo. In honor of Pádraig O Méalóid’s eBay purchase, here are six other comics that I’d like to see more of. Note that for the purpose of this list, I avoided titles that were officially canceled for sales reasons (like Blue Beetle, Aztek or Chase … that’s another list for another day) and instead focused on comics that we expected to see one day, but for some reason or another, they were never published (at least not yet, anyway). Books where I feel I could use some closure. Like last week, I received a little help from my fellow Robot 6 bloggers, so thanks to Kevin Melrose, Tim O’Shea and Michael May for their suggestions.
1. Miracleman: I would consider three comic titles the “holy trinity” of stories lost to comic book limbo — three books that were created but never saw print for one reason or another. One would be the previously mentioned Big Numbers #3, while another would be Miracleman #25. Written by Neil Gaiman and drawn by Mark Buckingham, the 25th issue of this epic series was never published.
The legal battles between Neil Gaiman and Todd McFarlane over the rights to the character have become legendary, and they’re only one piece of the legal maze that surrounds the rights to Miracleman/Marvelman (if you’d like to run that gauntlet, you can check out many of the referenced articles in the Miracleman Wikipedia entry, or find yourself a copy of Kimota! The Miracleman Companion by TwoMorrows, which details the property’s history). What I do know for sure is this — Moore, Gaiman, Buckingham, Alan Davis, John Totleben and the rest of the creators involved with the book created 25 monumental issues before the book’s publisher, Eclipse Comics, folded in the mid-1990s. Only 24 of those saw print, and Gaiman has said if they can ever unravel the legalities he wants to get the material back into print. Hopefully that day will come in my lifetime.
2. The end of Rick Veitch’s Swamp Thing run: And heres’ the third of the trinity I mentioned — Swamp Thing #88. As part of a time travel arc written by Veitch, Swamp Thing was going to meet Jesus in issue 88,. The cover for that issue would have featured an image of Swamp Thing as the cross where Jesus died. DC decided not to publish it, so Veitch left the title, and not only did fans miss out on that particular stories, but we never saw how Veitch would end his excellent run on the title.
This is another one that I’m hoping we haven’t heard the last of. As noted on the Swamp Thing Annotations site, back in 2004 Veitch said he’d be willing to finish his run on the book and even change parts of #88 deemed too offensive for publication. Heck, if Chris Claremont can pick up the X-Men where he left off, why not have Veitch finish his Swamp Thing run? It doesn’t look like DC is interested, which is too bad; I guess fans will once again have to turn to eBay.
3. Doc Frankenstein: Along with Shaolin Cowboy, Burlyman Entertainment‘s somewhat controversial Doc Frankenstein was written by the Wachowski brothers of The Matrix trilogy and Speed Racer fame. Drawn by Steve Skroce, it detailed the fabled monster’s journey through history, as the immortal being becomes a heroic figure plagued by his own origins. It was a great mix of philosophical ideas, satire and big explosions.
The book started out on a bi-monthly schedule in 2004, then moved to a, what, yearly schedule sometime during its run? As of the end of 2007, six issues have been published, but since then, nothing — we haven’t heard about anything comic-related out of Burlyman or the Wachowski brothers since.
4. Leave It To Chance: Back in the mid-1990s, Starman writer James Robinson and Uncanny X-Men artist Paul Smith created Leave it to Chance, a fun comic about the daughter of a city’s mystical protector. The book was initially part of Wildstorm’s Homage line (which also included Kurt Busiek’s Astro City), then moved to DC when they bought Wildstorm, then returned to Image for its 13th (and, it would turn out, last) issue. (For more on the series, I recommend reading this post from the Holy Heroes blog, which captures the spirit and energy of the comic).
The series ended with several dangling plotlines, not the least of which was the question of whether or not Chance’s father, Lucas Falconer, was really dead or not. There was also a cadre of villains from the previous 12 issues forming a pact to take Chance down. But while issue 13 promises a “next time,” it never came … perhaps Robinson’s Hollywood work prevented him from doing further issues, or maybe sales were low. Dunno. What we do know, however, are two things Robinson revealed at WonderCon: Lucas wasn’t dead, and further issues of this fun series aren’t planned. “We’re never going to publish this, so I can tell you, her father isn’t dead. He was going to be the next falconer,” he said.
5. Aqua Leung: Created by Mark Andrew Smith and Paul Maybury, Aqua Leung was intended to be a series of graphic novels about the forgotten son of the king of Atlantis, a coming-of-age tale about his rise to the throne. Blogger Dick Hyacinth was a fan of the book and sums up his feelings on it nicely:
As for the book itself, it wasn’t without it problems, but there were a number of really terrific moments. I’m not really a fan of mid-brow, ground level type comics, mostly because they seem to lack the energy of the trashier stuff and the sophistication of the artsier stuff. The worst examples end up being uptight but not especially deep (the vast majority of Vertigo’s output springs to mind). However, a strong, art-emphasized approach can yield some very commendable results–I’m thinking Mike Mignola and Eric Powell here. I thought Aqua Leung was in this territory, with the promise of even better things to come.
Unfortunately, there was a disagreement between the two creators over who did what on the book, as was detailed in the comments section of Maybury’s LiveJournal (the specific post appears to no longer be available, but you can find the comments toward the end of this Lying in the Gutters column). It’s a shame not only that their partnership ended, but that it ended in such an unpleasant manner.
6. Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E.: You might be wondering why I included Nextwave on this list. Didn’t it have an ending? Wasn’t it a 12-issue limited series, and all 12 issues were published? Or wasn’t it canceled, so doesn’t including it on this list violate my rule about not including comics that were officially canceled?
Well, maybe, on that last one. But no, Nextwave wasn’t a mini-series, as writer Warren Ellis noted on his blog a couple of years ago. “To clear up a common misconception: NEXTWAVE was always pitched as an ongoing series. However, my original intent was to do 12 and then pass it on to someone else. This got garbled, somewhere down the chain of communication, and so the first issue or two got solicited as ‘part xxx of 12,'” he wrote.
But did it have an ending? Sure. But let’s go back to the beginning. Nextwave was a brilliant, satirical series from Marvel, written by Ellis, wonderfully drawn by Stuart Immonen and immaculately colored by Dave McCaig. It featured a cast of B- and C-grade Marvel characters, like Machine Man, Monica Rambeau (the former Captain Marvel) and Boom Boom from X-Force fighting a guerrilla war against the Beyond Corporation and their “Unusual Weapons of Mass Destruction.”
Ellis said that the book was doing okay as a monthly, while sales of the first trade were “terrific.” And he was up for doing a second year on the title, but Marvel found that at its current sales levels they could afford to keep Ellis on as writer, but not Immonen as the artist (he went on to draw the higher-profile Ultimate Spider-Man after Nextwave). So yes, I was hesitant to put Nextwave on this list, as I feel like we did get some closure with that last issue. But Ellis also promised we would, indeed, one day have more of Monica, Boom Boom and the rest. “NEXTWAVE #12 will be the last issue of the ongoing series: but there will be more NEXTWAVE to come, presented as a sequence of limited series,” Ellis wrote on his blog.
So sure, closure, but also the promise of more Nextwave. And thus I wait, patiently, for more of this insane and delightful comic.
So there you have it, six titles we were expecting to see more of but for a variety of reasons didn’t. As we saw last week, anything can happen with an old, aborted project, so maybe the final blog posts on all of these comics have yet to be written. No doubt I’ve overlooked some other ones (like Chester Brown’s Underwater, as Chris Mautner suggested, or DC’s Thriller, as Tom Bondurant threw out), so I’d love to hear from the rest of you on other projects you’d like to see finished.