Comics' Most Notorious No-Shows, Part 2

Tue, December 27th, 2011 at 7:30am PST | Updated: December 27th, 2011 at 9:38am

Comic Books
Chris Arrant, Contributing Writer

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Jim Lee's Nick Fury/Punisher graphic novel is unlikely to ever see the light of day

It seems like every weekday, a new comic book is announced by Marvel or DC Comics or the plethora of other publishers in the business today. But in the rush to announce new projects, it's inevitable that some end up cancelled before they even debut. Recent examples, such as Marvel's "Victor Von Doom" series highlight how things can change between the conception and announcement of a comic and when it comes time to publish the comic. To that end, CBR has created a list of the 30 intriguing titles that never made it past that initial announcement.

Many of the projects listed were prematurely announced, before the creators, and in some cases the publisher, had anything beyond the initial idea. Some were cancelled in favor of other works by the creators, while others simply remain on the back burner waiting for the right time to be scheduled. More than one series has complete issues, gathering dust in an editor's desk, while others exist only as short pitch documents that were never developed beyond the initial few paragraphs, and some have even seen updates since our first half was published, with Adam Hughes revealing via Twitter that All Star Wonder Woman" is not entirely dead and is merely "in a coma on a high, dark shelf."

The first half of our list involved heavily hyped titles that will likely never see the light of day, projects that were eventually reworked into other concepts and books which are still set to be published -- eventually. Today, we dive into the latter 15 titles, including the reportedly finished, never to be published Lobo project from Alan Grant and Frank Quitely, a Jim Lee-illustrated Nick Fury/Punisher hardcover graphic novel and more.

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"Morning Dragons" (Image)
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Steve Lieber
Announced: 2000
Status: Dead
Then-Image Publisher Jim Valentino called Warren Ellis and Steve Lieber's "Morning Dragons" one of the best pitches he ever read. On his website, Ellis described it simply: "Japan, 1180AD. Kiyimori, expelled priest turned samurai, walks on the coast by his village. Through the morning mist, backlit by the rising sun, he sees two dragons abroad on the water; the sculpted prows of Viking longships…" Originally planned for release as a graphic novel in 2001, the project was pushed back for several years until Ellis revealed in 2004 that he had withdrawn the project from Image, explaining that he wanted to write the project but at the time he couldn't afford to write the 100-page comic under the standard Image contract of back-end payment.

When asked by a reader about the series on his Whitechapel forum, Ellis confirmed that the project was "completely dead."

Untitled Nick Fury miniseries by Brian Michael Bendis & Howard Chaykin (Marvel)
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Howard Chaykin
Status: Dead/Morphed into "Avengers: 1959"
Years before Chaykin joined Bendis on "New Avengers," the creators were planning another Nick Fury adventure set in the 1950s. The duo went so far to mention the project in a "Wizard" magazine interview, but the title never reached fruition. Fast-forward to 2009 when Marvel saw the pair revisit their idea within the context of Bendis' "New Avengers" run as the "Avengers: 1959" arc, which spawned a separate, limited series written and drawn by Chaykin in 2011.

"Amazing Spider-Man" by Kevin Smith & Terry Dodson (Marvel)
Writer: Kevin Smith
Artist: Terry Dodson
Announced: August 2002
Status: Dead
Chalk this one up to wishful thinking, on both Kevin Smith and Marvel's part. In the August 2002 issue of "Cinescape" magazine, Joe Quesada spoke about revamping the Spider-Man line, with Smith and Dodson doing "Amazing Spider-Man," J. Michael Straczynski and John Romita Jr. on "Spider-Man" and long-time collaborators Paul Jenkins and Humberto Ramos on a third, untitled Spidey title. At the time, Smith and Dodson were working on a limited series set to act as a prequel to their ongoing run. Titled "Spider-Man/Black Cat: The Evil That Men Do," the mini was delayed by Smith's Hollywood schedule, plans were changed and Straczynski and Romita Jr. took over "Amazing Spider-Man." Although the final issues of the Smith/Dodson miniseries were eventually released in 2005 and 2006, the potential storylines Smith may have had planned for "Amazing Spider-Man" were never revealed.

"Deathlok: Detour" (Marvel)
Writer: Daniel Way
Artist: Darick Robertson
Announced: Fall 2003
Status: On Hold
Originally announced in 2003 as a five-issue series for Marvel's MAX line, "Deathlok: Detour" was just weeks away from publication when it was pulled from the publisher's schedule. Described as Farrelly Brothers meets "Road Warrior," at least two issues of the book were reportedly completed before it was cancelled. In the past, Marvel, Daniel Way and Darick Robertson have all declined to answer inquiries about the series' future, but when CBR approached Marvel about the series for this article, the publisher said it is waiting for the right time to launch the title.

"The Operation" (Oni Press)
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Phil Hester, Ande Parks
Announced: 2002
Status: Presumed Dead
In the early 2000s, Warren Ellis was on a roll, setting up a number of creator-owned projects through various publishers. One of these was titled "The Operation" with artists Phil Hester and Ande Parks. Oni Press premiered a prequel to the intended series in the "Oni Press Color Special 2002," showcasing a group of secret agents investigating the bizarre and the humorous. At the time, Hester described the series as "'West Wing" meets "X-Files," but the series ultimately fell to the wayside.

"Night Radio" Anthology (Avatar)
Writers: Warren Ellis, Matt Fraction, Antony Johnston and Micaela Petersen
Announced: December 2001
Status: Presumed Dead
Originally announced as a summer 2002 limited series comprised of four 48-page anthology issues, "Night Radio" was intended by Ellis to introduce new writers to the comics world at large. While "Night Radio" participants Matt Fraction and Antony Johnston would become industry professionals, the series intended to launch their career failed to get beyond the announcement stage.

"Herobear And The Kid" Vol. 2
Writer/Artist: Mike Kunkel
Announced: 2000
Status: Active
The creator-owned series "Herobear And The Kid" launched Mike Kunkel's comic career in a big way. While he worked as a Disney feature animator by day, Kunkel self-published this series in the late 90s and early 00s under his own Astonish Factory imprint, paving the way for several follow-ups like "Flipped" and "The Land of Sokmunster." Marvel and DC Comics hired Kunkel for several projects, culminating in Kunkel launching the DC Kids comic series "Billy Batson & The Magic of Shazam!" in 2008. Delays on Kunkel's part led to him leaving the project, but according to Kunkel, fans can expect a number of new creator-owned projects in 2012. Kunkel's website showcases a "Herobear And The Kid" spin-off book entitled "The ABC's Of Childhood," as well a storybook called "Timmy And The Moon Piece."

When CBR reached the artist for comment, Kunkel replied, "Nothing on the website is official, but 2012 should be a very fun year for "Herobear" stuff and other fun projects."

"Doctor Strange" (Marvel)
Writer: Roger Stern
Artist: Frank Miller
Announced: Spring 1981
Status: Dead
One of the most memorable comics that was never published is the planned "Doctor Strange" series by Roger Stern and Frank Miller. Originally promised in a house advertisement in Marvel Comics cover-dated February 1981, a pin-up by Miller was accompanied by text saying, "Watch for the new adventures of Earth's Sorcerer Supreme -- as mystically conjured by Roger Stern and Frank Miller!"

"Frank and I had planned to work together on "Doctor Strange" -- and in fact had several long conversations about what we wanted to do on the book -- but, unfortunately, that one house ad was as far as our collaboration got," Stern told CBR. In the end, Miller only contributed a single cover to the "Doctor Strange" series, with Stern instead taking on the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoxth with artist Marshall Rogers.


It was widely believed that Miller left the project due to his then-new commitment writing and drawing "Daredevil," but when CBR asked Stern about the long-fabled series, he chalks Miller's departure up to yet another series that could've been.

"As I recall, Marvel had gotten the rights to adapt some James Bond material, and Frank decided that he wanted to clear time to work on that project -- that, alas, never quite came together," Stern said. "The only story we got to work on together was a Captain America story that saw print in 'Marvel Fanfare.' So for us, Doc was the one that got away; well, that and a 'Nick Fury' miniseries Frank and I had discussed. But that project never got past the talking stage."

Untitled "J.U.D.G.E." Sequel by Warren Ellis & Greg Horn (Image)
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Greg Horn
Announced: September 2000
Status: Missing In Action
Artist Greg Horn came to the attention of comic fans with his 2000 series "J.U.D.G.E." from Image, and quickly became an in-demand cover artist for Marvel and others. Horn's plan, however, was to balance work-for-hire projects with a return to his original series in a sequel written by Warren Ellis. "Yes, the adventures of Victoria Grace and her merry band of psychopaths will continue in the near future," Horn said in an interview with CBR in 2000. "I am currently collaborating on the next chapter with writer Warren Ellis. I'm a huge fan of 'Planetary' and when I asked him if he would consider writing a chapter of 'J.U.D.G.E.,' imagine my surprise when he said 'yes.' I sent Warren the back story behind 'J.U.D.G.E.' (which gave him a stabbing migraine by the way) and he produced the incredible, yet despicable plot titled 'December.' I don't want to give away anything at this point, but I will tell you that this story violates many of God's laws -- I believe we will be sent directly to jail upon its completion. I can't wait to get started on it -- it's going to be a special book!"

CBR reached out Horn for comment but received no response.

Frank Miller's "Jesus!" (Dark Horse)
Writer/Artist: Frank Miller
Announced: August 2000
Status: Missing In Action
Originally announced as Frank Miller's follow-up to the 2001 "The Dark Knight Strikes Again,""Jesus!" was to present Miller's take on the life of the religious figure in what a Dark Horse spokesman called a "respectful, history inspired" look at the life of Jesus. In a late 2010 interview with the comic book legend, the project is mentioned as one of several "up his black sleeve" but nothing further has been said about the project.

CBR inquired about the project with both Miller and Dark Horse but received no response.

"Lobo: The Hand-To-Hand Job" (DC Comics)
Writer: Alan Grant
Artist: Frank Quitely
Status: Presumed Dead
By far, the project on our list with the least amount of information released, "Lobo: The Hand-To-Hand Job" it's notable for who drew it: Frank Quitely. Fresh off his work on "Flex Mentallo," Quitely was tapped to illustrate Alan Grant's one-shot Lobo script. Described as a parody of Hugh Hefner's life, Grant says the complete script was penciled by Quitely and then shelved by DC. Although the publisher has never commented publicly on the comic, the disappearance of the project could be chalked up to the reported nakedness of Lobo for at least half the issue, as well as a scene involving sexual self-gratification by a league of asteroid miners.

Untitled Doctor Strange Series by Harlan Ellison & John Romita Jr. (Marvel)
Writer: Harlan Ellison
Artist: John Romita Jr.
Announced: April 2000
Status: Dead
When Joe Quesada took over as Marvel's Editor-In-Chief, he opened the doors to a number of new creators outside of Marvel and, in some cases, outside of comics entirely. One of the biggest potential hires for the then-new Editor-In-Chief was Harlan Ellison. During a panel at the 2000 WonderCon, artist John Romita Jr. announced that he was going to work on a "Doctor Strange" series with Ellison, an "evolved" version of a "Silver Surfer" story the writer had talked with Quesada about years ago. The series was to be about the ill health of Doctor Strange's long-time foe, Dormammu. The supernatural villain's death would throw the universe into a tailspin, so the Sorcerer Supreme was to travel inside Dormammu to save his nemesis.

Soon after the announcement, Marvel editor Tom Brevoort commented online that Romita's announcement was premature as the pitch hadn't yet been approved by Marvel. A year later, Romita said in an interview that the project was never greenlit, and that he had moved on to other things.

"Century" (Awesome)
Writers: Rob Liefeld, Eric Stephenson
Artist: Keron Grant
Status: Missing In Action
At its height, Rob Liefeld's Awesome Entertainment became home for up-and-coming creators like Jeph Loeb and Chris Sprouse as well as comics legends like Alan Moore. Liefeld launched a number of original series during that time, with many announced but never published. Chief amongst those was "Century," a project by Liefeld, future Image publisher Eric Stephenson and a popular new artist named Keron Grant. Grant told CBR he had completed two full issues of the series before it was put on hold due to financial difficulties at the publisher. Over the years, several pages of unfinished art from the series have popped up online, but there's been no word about finishing or publishing the title.

CBR reached out to Rob Liefeld about "Century," but received no response.

"Punisher/Nick Fury: Rules of the Game" (Marvel)
Writer: Gregory Wright, Jim Lee & Brandon Choi
Artist: Jim Lee
Announced: Spring 1990
Status: Dead
Originally announced via an in-house advertisement in early 1990, "Punisher/Nick Fury: Rules of the Game" was to pair then-up-and-comer "Alpha Flight" artist Jim Lee with writer/colorist Gregory Wright. Promised for Fall 1991 as a hardcover graphic novel, it quickly fell by the wayside as Lee joined "Uncanny X-Men" and rode that book to superstardom. Although Jim Lee was unavailable for comment for this article, Gregory Wright, now a colorist for "Elephantmen," spoke with CBR at length about the comic.

"The Punisher/Nick Fury project with Jim Lee had a very strange origin," Wright told CBR. "Don Daley was the Punisher editor at the time, and Tom DeFalco was the editor in chief. Tom came down to Don's office one day and said he wanted to see some Punisher special projects. Don decided he wanted Carl Potts, myself and Jim Lee to plot and script it, and do the art. Carl was not thrilled with having two co-plotters (and no writer would be). He had his own idea for a story, and Jim and I had a different idea. Jim solved the problem by saying he would draw both projects. Don thought that was great, went to Tom, and two separate projects were set."

Wright explained that he met with Lee to plot out their story, with Lee's future Wildstorm collaborator Brandon Choi also contributing to the story. Carl Potts' project eventually employed Marc Silvestri as an artist, but that, too, was left uncompleted when Silvestri left Marvel for Image.

"Jim began doing finished inked pages while I scripted it," Wright said. "Stuff really looked amazing. But, Jim was staying in New York. Everyone in the office had access to him, and they all kept throwing really cool things at him to do. Our project had no deadline, so he took on several things. But he kept working on this project. And then they gave Jim 'Uncanny X-Men.' That took over almost all of his time, and work on the project ground to a halt. The intent was always to finish it, but then Jim and crew formed Image, and Jim later wound up as staff at DC. The project was never officially cancelled as far as I know, just never completed."

Wright estimates there to be "probably a good 10 finished pages" and several more half-drawn. He says there have been at least two attempts to revive the series with different artists finishing Lee's work, but those fell through due to him not wanting to finish it without his original collaborator.

"[Jim] and I started it, and if we couldn't finish it, then it would just be one of those thing that never was," Wright said. "If Jim ever wanted to finish it, I'd love to."

"Mage: The Hero Denied"
Writer/Artist: Matt Wagner
Status: Missing In Action
Launched in the mid-80s as a modern update of the "Arthurian Legend" with Excaliber replaced with a green, glowing baseball bat, Matt Wagner planned the story as a trilogy of 15-issue limited series. The first, "The Hero Discovered," was released in the mid-80s with the second, "The Hero Defined" coming in the late 90s. The eleven year gap between volumes was a stretch for fans of Wagner's work, but as readers come to the thirteenth year waiting for the third and final volume, they might be waiting a while longer. In a 2005 interview with Wagner, he explained "'Mage' is kind of an odd thing for me, because I can't, in any logical sense, decide when I want to work on it. I just get this overwhelming, 'Oh, no it's time to work on "Mage."' That even plays into how I work on it. I don't write out a story. I don't have any script or plot or anything. I don't even have any thumbnails. I just sit down with blank pages and start drawing it. It really is a journey of discovery as I'm creating. There is no conscious decision."

CBR reached out to Matt Wagner for comment, but received no response.

TAGS:  comic book no-shows, frank miller, roger stern, doctor strange, lobo, alan grant, frank quitely, rob liefeld, century, warren ellis, mage, matt wagner, jim lee, harlan ellison, john romita jr

 
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