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Unfinished Comics: The April 2013 Version

The unfinished comics list is one that needs to be refreshed every few years. Once-abandoned projects are frequently picked up and started over again, rescued from the limbo of a protracted hiatus to land unexpectedly in fans’ laps. Over the last couple of years, a few of these famously unfinished books have actually been dusted off — John Byrne’s Next Men is back on-track after a fifteen-year break, J. Michael Stracynski and Chris Weston’s The Twelve finally got its conclusion, and now there’s word that the great Quantum and Woody is slated for a comeback. So who still has an incomplete on their report card? Well…

Rick Veitch’s Swamp Thing

It’s an old story now, and a pretty infamous one. After Alan Moore left Swamp Thing in 1987, Rick Veitch took over as writer, split the art duties with Alfredo Alcala, and guided the title for two years. And even though he followed the most acclaimed writer comics had ever produced, Veitch successfully lived up to the high standard of ingenuity that Moore had set. Though his prose wasn’t as exquisite, Veitch expanded the weird sub-universe that Moore founded, and pushed boundaries just as forcefully as his predecessor. He’s the guy who used a Swamp Thing-possessed John Constantine to knock up Abigail Arcane, after all. That’s good stuff. But when a time-travel storyline was supposed to conclude with Swamp Thing meeting Jesus on the cross, DC yanked the title out from under Veitch, even though the story had already approved. Veitch resigned three issues before what was to be his finale, swearing never to work for the company again unless the story was published. After a very long absence, he eventually returned to DC, but Swamp Thing #88 has never seen print, not even when it seemed like an obvious choice for Vertigo Resurrected. And in an additional comics history f-you, this unfinished comic led to one that was never started. Neil Gaiman and Jamie Delano were slated to follow Veitch as co-writers, but turned down the gig in support of their fellow creator. Way to go, circa-1989 DC.

Mage

Don’t be fooled: even though Matt Wagner is best-known for creating Grendel, his greatest contribution to comics is actually Mage. The first volume, “The Hero Discovered,” was a witty, energetic, and imaginative superhero comic that combined Arthurian legend, Joseph Campbell, and autobiography with beautiful art and tense plotting. The series ran at Comico from 1984 to 1986, ending with a full page ad that read “Follow the further adventures of Kevin Matchstick in Mage II: The Hero Defined” and “watch these pages for more for more details!” Which was pretty difficult considering it showed up 11 years later and with a different publisher. Volume two, “The Hero Defined” ran from 1997 to 1999, this time at Image, and was also pretty great. People clambered for the next installment; oh, how they clambered! Then they blinked their eyes and realized they’ve been waiting 14 years for “The Hero Denied.” Maybe that’s part of the message Wagner plans to send with “The Hero Denied” – getting old sucks.

Stray Bullets

The pain, oh, the pain. David Lapham’s incredible noir masterpiece started in 1995 and ran forty issues until 2005, when he could no longer self-publish. Though the writer-artist has created some genuinely fantastic comics in the interim (including Young Liars, cancelled far too soon), hardcore Lapham fans would cut off their own big toes and present them to him if they thought it would bring back Stray Bullets. It’s probably the question Lapham probably hears more than any other – “When is Stray Bullets coming back?” As it should be. Please, David Lapham, God, Satan, Cthulhu, whoever is listening – when is Stray Bullets coming back? Come, truest of believers! Hand up your loved ones and pets to the dark ones if it will hasten the return! Strike up the fires til they bleach the void of night! Rise, Virginia Applejack, rise!

Big Numbers

En Vogue were probably referring to Big Numbers when they sang “Never Gonna Get It.” They had to have been, right? Big Numbers is a book that will never, ever, evveerrrr see completion. You’ll see the final issue of 1963 before you ever see Big Numbers. After Bill Sienkiewicz produced two issues of Alan Moore’s series for Tundra, he and Moore had a falling out, leaving Sienkiewicz’s assistant to pick up the pieces, the talented young Al Columbia. As the legend goes, Columbia actually finished the third and fourth issues, had something of a breakdown, ripped up the artwork, and disappeared. That’s the legend, anyway – see Eddie Campbell’s brilliant How to be an Artist for the fascinating complete story.

All-Star Batman and Robin The Boy Wonder

Say what you will about train wrecks, they’re entertaining, and All-Star Batman and Robin was like a Bridezillas marathon we hoped would never end. Sadly, the last we saw of Frank Miller and Jim Lee’s catastrophe was issue #10 back in 2008, and it was such an insane mess, it had to be recalled because both an f-bomb and a c-bomb made it through to the first printing. If All-Star Batman and Robin ever does come back, what’s the over-under on the Dynamic Duo blowing rails of meth off Catwoman’s rack? Yeah, probably about fifty-fifty.

War Heroes

Mark Millar and Tony Harris’s take on super-soldiers was supposed to be a six-issue series, but since 2008, only three issues have seen the light of day. Last year, Image solicitations marked the long-awaited fourth and fifth issues for Summer release, but artist Harris never received scripts, there are no plans to publish finish the title, and fans of ridiculous penis shots have had to get their fix elsewhere.

A bunch of Warren Ellis stuff

Desolation Jones, Anna Mercury, Fell, and Doktor Sleepless have all fallen by the wayside, the result of lots of other projects, a computer that quit, a backup that both failed, and a PC repair man who died on the operating table. This is all according to Ellis’s FAQ. Also according to his FAQ: some books are returning, some are not, and you’re a worm.

Batman: The Widening Gyre

Kevin Smith’s record in comics is spotty at best. Notoriously slow to finish scripts in-between his film, podcasting, and speaking careers, he currently has two unfinished projects with his name on them – one that’s long been abandoned, and another that is supposedly slated to wrap up later this year. Daredevil/Bullseye: The Target – with artist Glenn Fabry – had only one issue in 2002 before a delay that became a hiatus that became abandonment. For Batman: The Widening Gyre, Smith and artist Walter Flanagan planned a twelve-issue story that was to cover two six-issue mini-series. The first six issues came out irregularly over the span of about a year, and it’s already been three years since the first arc concluded. Now there’s word that the final six issues should be coming out around the end of this year. So don’t worry, everyone has plenty of negative reviews to look forward to.

Marvelman

Or Miracleman, depending which side of the pond you’re on. After taking over the title from Alan Moore and John Totleben, Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham finished their amazing first arc, “The Golden Age,” and had plans for two more – “The Silver Age” and “The Dark Age.” Unfortunately, they only got two issues into “The Silver Age” before publisher Eclipse went bankrupt in 1994. Since then, the ownership of the character has seriously been in question, with Todd McFarlane, Gaiman, Moore and others each claiming rights – McFarlane even used the character in an issue of Hellspawn. Then in 2009, completely out of the blue, Marvel acquired the rights to Mick Anglo’s work on the character, but as of yet, no reprints of the Moore or Gaiman stories have appeared, and no new stories have been announced. Hopes get raised every now and then, especially with the announcement that Angela is appearing in Age of Ultron and Gaiman is co-writing an issue of Guardians of the Galaxy. Well, hopes are stupid. Quit having them.

Battle Chasers

Who cares?

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