7 Aug 2014

Thought Balloon: Where Are They Now? AWOL Comics Vol. 2

Matt C: It’s been a while since I took a proper look at those books that I was thoroughly enjoying when all of a sudden they completely dropped off the radar (over five years in fact!) so another article along the same lines was long overdue, particularly as I’m almost perpetually in a position where a number of books I’ve loved have disappeared, with no solid information to lead me to believe they’ll be arriving anytime soon.

On the flipside of that, if you go to back to the original article linked above, half of the series highlighted actually returned and received a conclusion (the other half I doubt we’ll ever see again) so hopefully something similar may be on the cards for the choices listed below. This time around I’ve invited a couple of my PCG colleagues to come up with their picks of the books they really, really want to see return…


James R: Fell is undoubtedly one of my favourite books over the last ten years, and is Warren Ellis at his best - dark, clever and inventive. But after nine issues (and an increasingly erratic release schedule) we've had nothing since 2008! Ellis originally said that artist Ben Templesmith was far too busy promoting 30 Days Of Night around the world... an excuse which was then replaced by the death of Ellis' computer and the loss of Ellis' scripts. He claimed that the script for issue #10 had been sent to Templesmith in 2011, but still we wait. With Templesmith now heavily involved in his Kickstarter project The Squidder, it doesn't look like we'll be returning to Snowtown anytime soon. It seems to be that Southend's finest son always falls into a familiar pattern: he has an amazing idea for a book, which will launch with a number of brilliant issues, at which point he seems to get bored of the idea and focus his creative energies on another project (which may or may not get finished!). Indeed, it seems that endings are often Ellis' problem. When he does them right, they are something to behold (and I will forever doff my chapeau at the genius of Planetary here) but more often than not, there's a sense of "Well...that's it!" Both No Hero and Captain Swing tended to stop rather than come to a satisfactory conclusion. I'm quite aware that the abrupt, anti-ending might be seen as a literary device, but taken into account with his frequently curtailed titles, it doesn't look too great.


Matt C: Jason Latour is currently making his mark on the crime genre illustrating Jason Aaron’s great new crime series, Southern Bastards, but rewind back just three short years and you’d find Latour in the writer’s seat, penning a very different slab of Southern Fried noir called Loose Ends. With art from Chris Brunner, the series really sizzled, but it only delivered three issues, with the fourth and final part yet to be seen. I’ve kept an eye out for mentions of an arrival date for that last issue but although there were online rumblings up until the end of last year, I’ve not been able to find any mention of it so far in 2014. Which is not to say it’s still in the pipeline (and those rumblings did indicate that was the case), but it does feel like the further we move away from 2011, the less likely it is to appear.


Stewart R: From the late ‘90s and the confusing world of new comic publishers, imprints and creator-owned works sprang one of the most popular comic series of the decade, Joe Madureira's Battle Chasers. This fantasy adventure story, containing elements of steampunk sentiment within Madureira's own manga-inspired visuals, rolled off the presses in 1998 and took three years to deliver us the nine issues that have been released to date. The first arc was completed, but it was clear that there was so much more planned to come with the disappearance of Gully's father and Garrison's mentor, the unsolved mystery at the beating heart of this invigorating comic book world. Madureira's sojourn into the world of video game development took him away from the comic book industry for years at a time, putting the likelihood of Battle Chasers being revisited on the furthest back burner imaginable. In the past decade the writer/artist has mentioned the possibility of handing the reigns over to other creators to allow the series to continue, but each time it was evident that Madureira never sounded determined about that painful prospect for a creator-owned labour of love. The positive news has come these past few years with Madureira's return to fairly regular pencil gigs for Marvel projects and the odd tweet dropped around here and there, the last one in 2013 stating his desire to have a Battle Chasers animated at some stage! We're still waiting though and we can never be sure how long we'd have to wait for each issue if it ever does return!


James R: This was another typical Ellis idea - a strong heroine, involved in leaping across to alternate Earths in order to keep this one safe. It was a great concept, and the writer successfully completed the book's first arc. However, the second series then fell into an abyss with the last issue coming out in 2009. Scripts could have been lost in the Great Ellis PC Tragedy, but he seems to be in no rush to reconstitute or revisit this one. A quick nose at the FAQ on his website reads thus: "When will ANNA MERCURY 2 and DOKTOR SLEEPLESS be completed?" "I’m halfway through the double-sized final issue of ANNA MERCURY 2, so, I expect you’ll see that by summer. DOKTOR SLEEPLESS will, I hope, reach the same kind of conclusion by the end of 2012. Maybe December, for the hell of it. {2013 edit: all this got bumped by a year}"...Aaaand bumped by another year it seems, as of 2014. I'm not mad at Ellis - the man is a genius in my eyes, and has produced so many brilliant comics that it seems harsh to take umbrage. Added to this, he's clearly not had the best of luck either with technology or the even more fallible humans he works with. The problem is that the serial nature of comics means that these unfinished symphonies only happen in our beloved medium. Can you imagine a TV series ending halfway through a run? Or a living author abandoning a novel, but giving the okay to publish the work?


Matt C: Back in April 2011 (over four years ago!) Nonplayer #1 arrived to huge fanfare and rave reviews (resulting in it going for exorbitant prices on ebay) but the second issue of the story that sees an online fantasy game blend with reality is still missing in action. Writer/artist Nate Simpson has had an injury and the start of a new family to deal with - as well as holding down a full time job – so we’ll cut him some slack for that, but the last update towards the tail end of last year suggested that issue #2 was imminent. Nothing’s been heard of since then (at least, nothing I can find) which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, and the closer we get to the five year anniversary of the debut instalment, the harder it is to muster enthusiasm for its return. But, having said that, the strength of that opener is why we’re still talking about it now, so it’d be a damn shame if it were never to get a chance to return and offer some sort of closure.


James R: Sometimes it seems titles become victims of their own success; this is definitely the case with Jonathan Hickman's S.H.I.E.L.D. One of the first books that Hickman produced for Marvel, it is utterly superb. Using all of history as his tableau, and reimagining history's great figures as agents in a clandestine conflict that fed into the history of the Marvel Universe, the series also looked beautiful, with great art from Dustin Weaver. It was put on hiatus in February 2012, and it seems that Hickman simply had bigger fish to fry. He was (rightfully) promoted to one of Marvel's 'Architects', and given control of Avengers and New Avengers following his stint on Fantastic Four. In the meantime, the S.H.IE.L.D. concept itself has become big business for Marvel, with the eponymous TV series now something of a hit for the comapny. With Hickman's hands very full for the conceivable future, and Marvel wary to bring out a book which has absolutely nothing to do with the TV show, I can see that S.H.I.E.L.D. may just fade into obscurity. In the meantime, I'll continue to fly the flag for the only book to ever feature Leonardo Da Vinci at war with Isaac Newton in a secret underground city!


Stewart R: In 2008, the Man of Action studio partners, Joe Kelly, Steven T Seagle and Duncan Rouleau all flocked to Image comics with new, creator-owned miniseries that, possibly, could be seen as the precursor to the creator-owned boom that washed over the publisher just a year later and is still going strong today. Seagle got through his five-issue series Soul Kiss in good time, and, after something of a prolonged hiatus, Kelly gave a conclusion to Bad Dog this very year. Unfortunately, the series with the most promise, Rouleau's The Great Unknown, about its near-genius inventor trapped in the malaise of a slacker lifestyle thanks to all of his ideas being stolen the moment he thinks of them, has been missing its concluding chapter since 2009. Rouleau has been incredibly busy with his MoA duties, acting as producer and occasional character designer for several of their projects; in that time he's been involved in Generator Rex, Ultimate Spider-Man, Marvel's Avengers Assemble and the upcoming Big Hero 6. I got the chance to speak to him at NYCC back in 2012 and he stated that he was looking to seal the end of The Great Unknown, but hinted that time and schedule were the biggest problems of all. Two years on and the greatest unknown of all is whether we'll ever get a finale to this intriguing story!


Matt C: Warren Ellis’ absent comics have been mentioned a couple of times above (as you may well have noticed!) so lingering on the reasons or rumours behind the delays again is a bit pointless as that ground has already been covered. Why add another Ellis book to the mix then? Well, personally I think this was quickly developing into one of the finest works the writer had ever produced before it disappeared from view. From an impactful beginning with the titular ‘mad scientist’ provocateur rambling rhetoric across the airwaves, connecting with a generation disenfranchised with their future (“Where’s my fucking jeptpack?” was a slogan graffitied across the walls of Heavenside), it begin to encompass larger, unexpected themes, wandering into metaphysical territory with a side helping of Lovecraftian horror to ease things along. It was utterly brilliant. And then it was gone. The next instalment has been promised but has failed to materialise. Where’s my fucking jetpack? Where’s my fucking next issue of Doktor Sleepless, more like!!

1 comment:

Badger said...

All I can say is a lot of today's writers/artists do not have the staying power of yesteryears writers/artists,how often did Jack Kirby,Stan Lee or Curt Swan miss an issue and I loved Fell but Warren Ellis seems to disappear for awhile doing God knows what then comes back doing 3 or 4 titles that may or may not end up being finished,a comic book is supposed to be a monthly thing not heres issue 1,2,3, and then wait 4 to 6 months or years for the next issue.