Comics can be a fickle mistress. Companies like Marvel, DC Comics, Image, and Dark Horse have all been publishing stellar comics for decades, with visionary creators doing work fans love. The hottest books are loved by fans and critics alike, but that doesn’t mean they’re the only major comics to come out at some point. In fact, more often than not they suck the air out of the room for lesser-known books.
Over the years, there have been some fantastic comics that never had a chance to be huge due to competition. Although not all failures, they are certainly not as important as they deserved.
ten Leave it to chance was the first brush in the picture was maturity
1990s Image was not the prestige publisher it is today. It was known as the place where the greatest artists in the industry worked, and while the books were beautiful, the writing wasn’t always the best. It was in this environment that writer James Robinson and artist Paul Smith leave to chance debuted in. The story followed Chance Falconer and his pet dragon, St. George.
leave to chance was not the typical Image fare of the time. A paranormal series when Image was all about superheroes, it had a respectable run and was a critical favorite, but it wasn’t the blockbuster it should have been. The book attempted to make a comeback in 2002, but nothing came of it.
9 Wildstar never got noticed like other picture books
Al Gordon and Jerry Ordway were longtime artists in the comics industry, doing quality work for DC for years. They brought their expertise to Image with wild star. Wildstar received his symbiotic super suit from his future self and was trapped in a time loop, a loop that always ended in the enslavement of Earth.
The first miniseries did well, and an ongoing version was released that only lasted three issues. This is another case where Image fans aren’t really into the book and the general glut of mid-’90s superhero titles burying some really good ones. wild star failing has always been mystifying given the talent involved.
8 The red star was ambitious
red star, by writer/artist Christian Gossett, was a picture book that premiered in 2001. The book was essentially an alternate universe about the Soviet Union, focusing on a fictional communist country called “Lands of The Red Star” which combined high technology and magic. The book ran through several volumes, all chronicling the country’s histories and wars.
The red star was always on the cutting edge of greatness, using state-of-the-art 3D imagery. It was cast in video games and movies, but the book itself never really caught on. The early 2000s had so many other choices for readers that The red star never had the chance to become as big as he deserved.
seven The Maxx was too surreal for the public to picture
When most people think of writer/artist Sam Keith The Maxx, they think of the MTV cartoon series. The comic, which was co-written by Bill Messner-Loebs for most of its run (as well as Alan Moore for one issue), was a surreal masterpiece, however, and that was part of the problem. Picture readers weren’t ready for the story of a social worker dealing with abuse from her past while trying to help a delusional homeless man who may not be so delusional.
The Maxx is now considered a cult classic, but it just couldn’t compare to the big picture books, as well as Marvel and DC’s release. If he came out today, The Maxx would almost certainly be a huge hit. Even with the cartoon, however, he didn’t have a chance in the 90s.
6 The Paybacks was a great idea that debuted too soon
Donny Cates is a big wig in the comics industry, but it wasn’t always that way. The writer’s new fans reading his and artist Geoff Shaw’s crossing met a team of heroes called The Paybacks, which was one of their previous creations, with co-writer Eliot Rathal. Refunds followed a team whose entire job was to make sure the superhumans repaid their loans.
It’s a fun idea, but there were two things against it: it fell before Cates and Shaw. country of god captured everyone’s attention, and the first issue came out in September 2015, when Marvel was taking all the oxygen by relaunching its entire line during the All-New, All-Different Marvel era.
5 Distant Soil is brilliant sci-fi that never got as big as it should have
There have been some brilliant sci-fi comics, but not all of them are smash hits. A distant land, by writer/artist Colleen Doran, is a prime example. Combining science fiction and Arthurian themes, Doran had been toying with the idea of comics since the age of twelve. The story is a cross-generational epic, touching on politics, religion, gender identity and more.
Doran has been publishing the book for over thirty years in various societies. Over the years it has been consistently overshadowed, although it has a cult following that swears by it, and is still published today.
4 The Invisibles were on the chopping block early on and never reached the heights they should have
The Invisibles is a cult classic and considered the opus of writer Grant Morrison. However, unlike many of their works, it was never a blockbuster. Morrison worked with brilliant artists like Steve Yeowell, Jill Thompson, Steve Parkhouse, Phil Jimenez and Chris Weston throughout The Invisibles‘ run to Vertigo. However, the book debuted in 1994, when The sand man was the king of imprint.
The book suffered from poor sales and barely avoided cancellation. Even after The sand man completed, The Invisibles never reached the top spot at Vertigo, with Preacher and hellblazer surpassing him in sales. The book has a devoted following among diehard Morrison fans, but it couldn’t beat its competitors.
3 The nightly news never got the sales it deserved
Jonathan Hickman is a fan favorite these days, with fans speculating what he’ll do next. However, he built his fandom in the mid to late 2000s with some stellar Image miniseries. The evening news is easily the brightest of them all. Using infographics about the news industry, Hickman tells the story of The Voice, a secret society dedicated to telling the “truth” to the American people.
The evening news is an amazing comic, but it came out at a time when Image had a game in town, and it eclipsed everything else at the publisher: The Walking Dead. While the right people might have seen the 2006 book, the fact that it wasn’t a huge hit at the time says a lot.
2 Discontinued phonogram before the start of the picture revival
Phonogram, by writer Kieron Gillen and artist Jamie McKelvie, follows the adventures of British phonomancers, a type of magician who uses music to create his spells. Over three volumes, it followed a rotating cast of London phonomancers as they dealt with sins of the past, nostalgia and more. It helped get Gillen and McKelvie noticed, but it suffered from the same things as The evening news did.
Phonogram abandoned in 2007, so it was one of the many books ignored for The Walking Dead. It sold well enough to continue for the next two volumes over the years, but it came before the big picture revival of the 10s, although Gillen and McKelvie were able to turn it into The Wicked + The Divine.
1 The Skrull Kill Krew is a strange failure
When most people think of Grant Morrison’s time at Marvel, they think of his career from 2000 to 2004 at the company. However, Morrison tried his luck at Marvel much earlier, alongside their protege and future superstar Mark Millar and artist Steve Yeowell. The Skrull kills Krew featured a group of humans eating hamburger meat made from the three Skrulls who were turned into cows in The Fantastic Four #2.
This prompts them to start hunting shifters. The Skrull kills Krew came out in 1995, when Marvel was more about pushing the X-Men and Spider-Man than a C-list book by DC guys. Between this and Aztec At DC, it’s weird that Morrison and Millar have two brilliant but overlooked collaborations.
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