There was a recent Dollar Bin episode on the cancellation of Thor, The Mighty Avenger and I remembered Heather saying how this was her first experience with a cancelled series. This got me thinking about all of the series I have loved or have found over the years that were cancelled before their time. I decided to try my hand at a top 5 list of comics that are no longer with us that need to be brought back. See Heather, you’re not the only one to suffer the loss of a loved title.
Adventures of Barry Ween: Boy Genius
Before he started working for the big boys churning out mostly mediocre stories and giving AIDS to characters for no particular reason; Judd Winick had some serious indy cred as the writer and artist on such titles as Pedro & Me, Frumpy the Clown, and his best creation, Barry Ween Boy Genius. We’re not going to mention his stint on the Real World since that is pretty much unforgivable.
Barry Ween has best been described as Calvin and Hobbes meets South Park (with a pinch of Dexter’s Laboratory thrown in for good measure) and I can think of no better description. This all-too-short series of only 12 issues follows Barry, your typical 10 year-old with a 350 IQ, and his best friend Jeremy Ramirez in a series of adventures which usually involve an experiment of Barry’s that goes wrong.
Make no mistake, this title is not for kids. Barry and Jeremy use curse words with a frequency that Tarantino could appreciate, but it’s funny. And when I say funny I mean laugh out loud until your sides hurt and you have to check to see if you wet yourself funny.
There have been rumors of a new series being worked on and I can only hope that is true. In the meantime I suggest everyone pick up a copy of The Big Book of Barry Ween and see what I am talking about.
Imagine Hunter S Thompson in his prime without the constraints of our society and you would get a fairly good feel for what Transmetropolitan is like. Transmet (as its fans call it) is the brain child of Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson and was one of the first titles not only to launch DC’s Vertigo line but also one of the first to have a planned ending; which is a trend that Vertigo still follows today. This title follows the adventures of gonzo journalist Spider Jerusalem and his two female assistants (aka Filthy Assistants) in an undetermined point in the future as he uses all of his resources in his pursuit of bringing the truth to his readers.
Even though Ellis and Robertson reached the conclusion they planned from the beginning I wanted more. SPOILER A new series following the exploits of “Filthy Assistant” Yelena Rossini as she takes Spider’s place at the paper is a natural. She already has the same type spider tattoo that Spider does by the end of the run, she writes a column for her boss when he is incapacitated at one point, and she is even referred to as “The New Spider” at the end of the book. Show me how she takes what she learned as an assistant and how she grows into her role as the heir apparent to Spider. END SPOILER
OK fine, you don’t like that idea? How about a series that showcases the early life of Spider as HE learns the ropes as a young writer? Throughout the series the reader is shown snippets of critical junctions in his early life and I want to know what happened. And if I remember correctly Darick Robertson in our interview with him (cheap plug) was up for the idea. Do I have to get my “Chair Leg of Truth” out and make this happen?
Quantum and Woody
OK, everyone by now knows that I am a Christopher Priest geek. His name on the cover to me means quality. I also love a good comedy book and with the exception for the Giffen and DeMatties Justice League run and the above mentioned Barry Ween there is precious little in comics that makes me laugh. However, in that same category is Quantum and Woody.
The high concept is two guys, one black and one white have an accident that lock these bands on their arms that they have to slam together once every 24 hours to keep themselves alive. They are long-time friends who really love each other but cannot stand to be together for any length of time so it’s kind of like The Odd Couple meets Power Man and Iron Fist.
The best part of this book is that for the most part the humor is character driven and not just sight gags and puns; although those are also in abundance (listen to the second part of the Dollar Bin’s Christopher Priest interview to understand how a goat sidekick can be screamingly funny). Take for example this page where Quantum and Woody have switched bodies and they need to go to the restroom. The humor comes from how they interact with each other in that situation and not necessarily the situation itself. They act just like I would probably act in the same circumstances.
In the interest of full disclosure I have to mention that because of the scarceness of the back issues I have only read about half of them. However, there are several issues that were completed that never saw the light of day and that is just wrong. The rights are currently in legal hell at the moment but whoever is tying this thing up and keeping new issues from coming out should be dipped in Gravy Train and fed to a pack of rabid chihuahuas.
Queen and Country
Anyone who doesn’t know how good Greg Rucka is at writing nasty, dirty, gritty comics about characters who are more grounded in reality needs to put down their capes and tights books and try something different. Whether he’s writing books such as Whiteout, Gotham Central, or in this case Queen and Country his strong, independent female characters are always top notch and very well rounded.
This series from Oni Press ran only 32 issues (plus a couple of novels) before being retired in 2007. Queen and Country is about a secret agent for the British government named Tara Chase. She is a flawed hero who smokes too much, drinks too much, and has a seeming death wish (at least initially). But Rucka keeps adding and taking away layers with each issue and allows her to grow and change as the series progresses and the character she is at the end is not the character you start with.
Unlike another British secret agent *cough cough James Bond cough cough* who is totally unbelievable, her missions are grounded in reality. She fights Muslim terrorists, black mailers, and others who would threaten the British government and best of all what she does may not always be the right thing. I cannot recommend this series enough and if anyone sees Rucka at a convention beg him for more Queen and Country.
Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe
In the 1980’s Marvel EIC Jim Shooter had a brilliant idea that would be every comic geek’s wet dream. He tapped Marvel writer Mark Gruenwald to write a fairly comprehensive listing of as many of Marvel’s characters as possible (which was still only a fraction of the total characters). We got great art by a variety of artists of a lot of Marvel’s major and minor characters, detailed back stories, a rundown of powers, and my personal favorite detailed drawings of any hardware that was used by that character. Gruenwald put a lot of time and thought into how all of the technical gadgets in Marvel comics would have really worked. How cool is it to see technical diagrams of the Green Goblin’s pumpkin bombs, Spider-Man’s web shooters, or the Wizard’s antigravity discs? Take a look at this sweet entry of Jack O’Lantern and the cut away of his powered pogo platform. Pretty damn cool, right? Did you ever wonder how Hawkeye can just know which trick arrow to grab during a fight? The ends of each arrow all have different notches so he can tell by feel which is which. Betcha didn’t know that but I did cause I’ve read the book.
Marvel has gone back to the well a few times since then but it’s always been updates and nothing has been as far-reaching as their initial attempt. Wouldn’t it be great to have a current set of trades sitting on your shelf for easy reference? Or how about Marvel having something like this on their website and assigning some poor guy (or girl) to constantly update the entries when Marvel uses magic to erase Spider-man’s marriage or shoot Captain America with a time bullet?