Hey, humanity. Like the title of today's post? Thank my son, Ian Thompson. I had wanted to call this feature "Canceled Comics Cavalcade" and then remembered that was SO already taken.
Anyway, from all that chatter, you may have gleaned that the Coulda-Been Quarter Bin is about cancelled comic books. Like many other funnybook droids, I've had a few titles canceled right out from under me. I came in as a hired gun to send off X-Factor (#149, 1998), just before it metatasized into Mutant X. Then a few years later, I drew the 2001 Mutant X Annual, just a couple of months before that title also went down for the big Lumber Slumber.
But these are both fairly normal cancellations. Each of these books ran for years before finally giving up the ghost. Today, we're concerned with cancellations that were a little more abrupt, a little less "Final Season of M*A*S*H" and a lot more Pearl Fucking Harbor (the real-life attack, not the movie, which was a different type of disaster altogether).
'Cause it happens that way, sometimes. You're drawing a comic, minding your own business, all's right with the world, and suddenly all your effort is blotted out by the shadow of Darkseid's descending fist. It happened to me recently, on a highly-publicized project (trust me, any of you with even the most miniscule pop-culture awareness have heard of this thing). My colleagues and I put in an awful lot of hard work on the first issue of this disaster. There were many long nights, frenzied trips to the local FedEx office, anxious calls from a desperate, put-upon editor,and what seemed like thousands of unpaid-for alterations/corrections/what-have-you's from unknowing, uncaring Comics Gods. And, what the hell, before the first issue could be released ---or even finished---we were dead in the water.
When I can, I'll be happy to share the name of this project with you, along with what art was actually finished on the title. For the moment, though, I thought I'd bring up the Other Three Times this had happened to me: comics cancelled as of issue number one. The comic book below represents the second time it happened, back in late 1996. I know, I should start with the first time, but we're starting here instead. Deal with it!
A then-unknown Dan Slott called me with an idea for a hero who was a costumed, super-powered gorilla, a throwback to the sillier, more fun comics of our youth. I was totally up for that. We traded sketches until the character's look was working for both of us, after which a plot was deliriously devised. Dan then somehow managed to trick Fabian Nicieza, who was editor-in-chief at Valiant/Acclaim at the time, into agreeing to publish this four-color fever dream. Inker Andrew Pepoy, with whom I'd happily worked on several projects prior to this one, became the next member of our Wrecking Crew, and creating the first-ever appearance of Big Max was a good time for us all. That is until, shortly after the completion of that first issue, Fabian informed us that the company couldn't convince ANYONE to actually order the book. NOBODY. Seems that the earlier, pre-Fabian management at Acclaim had done so much stuff that left a Bad Taste in the mouths of distributors and retailers that the New Acclaim sometimes took some Very Undeserved hits. And hey, let's face it: the approach to comics was undergoing a rather pointed shift into darker territory. These guys seemed to feel that they couldn't sell their customers a whimsical comic book about a fun-loving, crime-fighting, high-flying ape. Who's to say they were wrong?
One way or another. we had no say in the thing. Big Max sat gathering dust in a drawer, and the creative team all went on to other projects. A couple of years later, Acclaim went toes-up. Fortunately, as Dan mentions in one of the text pages below, some years later, along came Mr Comics, a publisher who thought our power-punching primate was just what Doctor Zaius ordered. BigMax finally saw the light of day. Did anyone actually buy it?
Well, not as such. But in the intervening years, Dan had gone on to become something of a Big Shot at Marvel Comics, so by dint of having his name on it, the project did garner some media attention. And most of those reviews were pretty favorable. And Good Reviews are better than Fantastic Sales any day of the week, right?
Screw it. We had our fun. Here's BIG MAX: