November 22, 2009

Retroactive Continuity: Cancelled Comic Cavalcade #1

Cancelled Comic Cavalcade #1 - Page 1The aftermath of the “DC Implosion” in June, 1978 left piles of material stacked up around the DC Comics’ offices.  The sudden nature of the cancellation of some 26 titles in various stages of production meant that stories scheduled for publication just a few days before were now dead ends.  Rather than see their work go to waste and also to establish legal copyrights, some of the staff collected and self-published it on the office copy machine in two volumes titled Cancelled Comics Cavalcade, a tongue-in-cheek reference to DC’s Golden Age Comic Cavalcade series.

Only 35 copies were produced and none were actually distributed for sale, making it one of the rarest and most unusual mainstream comics of the late 1970s.  In its black and white Xeroxed pages are found the answers to life’s mysteries (okay, maybe not, but at least the resolution to a number of cliffhangers, a few new ones, and a sneak peak at what could have been).

Al Milgrom drew the cover to issue #1, portraying a hillside littered with the corpses of the axed characters (except for Deadman, who, of course is already dead!).  The rather satirical editorial that opens the book explains the rationale behind the compilation, lists the contents, and includes a humorous version of the legal notices.  Despite a cover price of ten cents, the indicia advertises: “Annual Subscription Rate: $10,000.00.  Outside U.S.A. $9,500.00 (’bout time they got a break).”  Beyond that are nearly 200 pages of story and art!

Cancelled Comic Cavalcade #1 - Page 5Leading off is Black Lightning #12, which was completed and ready to go before the title was canceled.  In the story, Black Lightning battles Doctor Polaris, who manages to get away.  Meanwhile, he’s also on the lookout for one of his alter ego’s students, who has run away from home.  As it turns out, the boy is staying with his uncle, who unbeknownst to him, is none other than Doctor Polaris!  When he finally discovers this fact, Polaris takes him prisoner until Black Lightning comes to the rescue.

One bone of contention with this story, though, is that Polaris’ name is given as Baxter Timmons instead of Neal Emerson.  While this could be an alias, how would his nephew know him by that name?  Anyway, all in all not a bad story by Denny O’Neill (with art by Michael Netzer), and it was finally published in World’s Finest Comics #260 two years later.

The backup story features the Ray and recaps his origin as it resolves the cliffhanger from the previous issue, and introduces a new villain, the Dark, on the last page.  Alas, he was never seen beyond his one appearance at the end of the story.

The cover to Black Lightning #13 is also included in the compilation.

Cancelled Comic Cavalcade #1 - Page 31Moving from super-heroes to sword and sorcery, the collection includes Claw the Unconquered #13-14.  Issue #13 was written by David Michelinie with art by Romeo Tanghal and Bob Smith.  Claw has lost the gauntlet that protects him from his demonic hand’s influence, and as the story opens, he’s recovering in a tavern after severing the appendage.  He meets Trysannda, a beautiful sorceress, who is seeking his aid to destroy an evil wizard.  Claw declines, citing his maimed state, but the two are forced to flee together.  After they finally reach relative safety and set up camp for the evening, Claw’s hand catches up to them and reattaches itself to his arm while he sleeps.  Realizing he cannot escape his curse, he must reclaim his stolen gauntlet to hold his hand in check.  It seems unlikely coincidences run through DC’s Bronze Age stories, because as it turns out, the thieves who stole the gauntlet sold it to Dalivar the Unethical, the very same wizard Trysannda wishes to kill!

Issue #14, written by Tom DeFalco and illustrated by Romeo Thangal and Bob Smith, opens with Claw and Trysannda arriving at Castle Ravenroost, Validarr’s stronghold (somehow, Dalivar has now renamed himself Validarr since the last issue!).  As Claw battles the elemental guardian of the gates, Trysannda is kidnapped by Validarr.  Claw defeats the monster and storms the castle.  Confronting Validarr, he comes almost withing reach of his gauntlet but is defeated and thrown into the dungeons.  Escaping, he finds Trysannda and saves her from a demon.  The two flee deeper into the catacombs but end up in a bizarre realm called the Lair of Lunacy.

Unfortunately, this is as far as Claw’s story goes; he wouldn’t resurface again until WildStorm’s 2006 miniseries in a wholly new tale.

Cancelled Comic Cavalcade #1 - Page 83Next up is issue #1 of The Deserter, a story written by Gerry Conway and drawn by Dick Ayers and Romeo Tanghal.  Initially planned for Showcase Comics #107, the feature was instead green-lit as its own series but canceled before publication.  The plot revolves around Aaron Hope, a mysterious stranger who arrives in Cooper’s Canyon, Arizona Territory in 1874. Hope reveals little about himself, not even his name, and raises the Sheriff’s suspicions (and the Sheriff’s daughter’s intrigue) due to his pacifistic views and lack of weaponry.  Refusing to carry a gun, the Deserter instead relies on his ingenuity and innate courage to outwit a group of thugs bent on overtaking a nearby town.  Meanwhile, a bounty hunter arrives in Cooper’s Canyon looking for Hope with a story about how he deserted the Union Army during the Civil War ten years before.

While a fairly good story, it uses the “gimmick” type of character that typifies comic book Westerns; a standard Western tale is enhanced by giving the protagonist a distinctive quality.  In this case, the Deserter refuses to use firearms out of an aversion to killing.  The subplot with the bounty hunter tracking him as part of a personal vendetta over the war is also an interesting angle, and had the series at least completed its planned trilogy, we might have seen how it would all turn out.

Cancelled Comic Cavalcade #1 - Page 109Following The Deserter is Doorway to Nightmare #6, a supernatural tale by Cary Burkett, Juan Ortiz, and Vince Colletta that was eventually published in Unexpected #190.  Madame Xanadu comes to the aid of Stephen Prince, a man whose girlfriend Laurel’s dreams are among those that have been co-oped by an incubus named Mis-Ter Hazel (later revealed to be Azazel).  Mis-Ter Hazel is stealing his victim’s dreams and using them to weave a tapestry, a piece of which he gives to Madame Xanadu for reasons of his own.  Xanadu uses it to enable Stephen to enter Laurel’s dreams, where their love allows them to work together to defeat the demon and restore her to wakefulness.

Also included is the letter column intended for the issue which details three uncanny accounts of dreams coming true in real life.  Were they true premonitions, coincidence, or simply made up by the writers to add an aura of creepiness to the book?

Cancelled Comic Cavalcade #1 - Page 136The first volume of Firestorm only lasted five issues before cancellation.  Unpublished issue #6 by Gerry Conway, Al Milgrom, and Bob McLeod featured the intended introduction of  Typhoon, one of Firestorm’s major nemeses.  Jonathan Shine, the son of notorious mob boss “Shoe” Shine, is an oceanographer trying to distance himself from his criminal family.  On a solo dive in a submersible during a storm, the sub’s reactor is breached and he becomes immersed in radioactive water, transforming him into the living embodiment of a typhoon.

Using his new-found powers, he flies back to New York to take revenge on his family.  Firestorm manages to overload his power and defeat him.  Typhoon’s official introduction in Fury of Firestorm #8 in 1983 revamped the character somewhat, giving him a new alter ego and backstory, but preserving Typhoon’s origin and powers.

The story also features a sequence where Firestorm explores the source and limitations of his powers, including a possible explanation as to why he cannot affect organic matter.

Cancelled Comic Cavalcade #1 - Page 160Finishing off Cancelled Comic Cavalcade #1 are The Green Team #2 and #3 by Joe Simon, Jerry Grandenetti, and Creig Flessel.  Apparently their only other appearance in First Issue Special #2 was counted as their first issue, because there was no “official” issue #1.  The Green Team was a group of boy millionaires who used their wealth and love of adventure to defeat such menaces as giant lobsters and the Deadly Paperhanger.

The boys also have an arsenal of gadgets like teletype watches that allow them to communicate.  Of course, after thirty years, they’re pretty dated by today’s standards, but the intent was to show how they could put their wealth to good use.

While not some of Joe Simon’s best work, the stories are fun and entertaining pieces of camp humor.  The characters fit in with Simon’s other “empowered teen” creations like Prez and Brother Power, the Geek.

While none of the stories included in Cancelled Comic Cavalcade #1 are essential reading, they do give an interesting peek at where DC was taking their characters when reality intruded and indicate a good-natured way of dealing with a bad situation.

Next up: Cancelled Comic Cavalcade #2: Shade, the Changing Man!  Steel!  The Secret Society of Super-Villains! Kamandi!  OMAC!  Vixen!  Prez! And more!

Tom McNeely



  1. Seeing as how few copies of this book were printed, how’d you get one Tom?

    … and given how The Green Team fights giant lobsters and other weird stuff, I would have thought they were called ‘The Green Team’ for reasons other than money…

  2. infinite speech

    ugh! this should be redone and sold to US the comic fans!!!! lol

  3. […] the sell-out success of Cancelled Comic Cavalcade #1 (an easy call, given that all 35 copies were earmarked for the creators, copyright office, and […]

  4. Michael

    Claw the Unconquered had a 2-issue backup strip in “Warlord” #48-49 in 1981, with great art by Tom Yeates. Wikipedia says that “Alternate versions of Claw have had cameo appearances in titles such as Sandman #52 (1993), Swamp Thing #163 (1996) and Starman (vol.2) #55 (1999)” before he appeared with Red Sonja in 2006.

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