In many ways, the comic book industry benefits from being able to fly under the radar slightly. Oh sure, recent comic book movies have certainly put popular superheroes in a brighter public light, but not everyone who goes to watch Wonder Woman is going to pick up the latest weekly Wonder Woman release or dive into the publication history of the character. Because of this fascinating injection of anonymity, sometimes, even well-known comic publishers, writers, and artists are able to toss around various ideas in public that may or may not actually come to fruition.
However, if you dig into the pages of comic book history, you’ll find that there are quite a few notable stories that were either officially hyped or unofficially uncovered which just never actually made it onto the shelves of your local comic book store. The fascinating thing about the greatest lost comics is that many of them weren’t just some idea tossed around during the editor’s meeting one day that ended up being dropped. Instead, many of these comics were widely-hyped, and had the potential to be significant stories for the both the industry and the creative talents involved in their production -- if only someone had actually sent them to the printers.
These are 15 Comics Cancelled Before They Were Published.
15 JLA/Avengers Crossover (1980s)
Actually, this one did technically come to pass. In 2003 and 2004, DC and Marvel collaborated on a much-anticipated crossover between the Avengers and the Justice League. This series was based on a plotline involving the multiverse destroying Krona and the Grandmaster playing a little game that would decide the fate of Grandmaster’s universe. The Justice League and Avengers are brought in to represent both parties.
However, this crossover was supposed to happen in the early ‘80s as kind of a capper to a few other crossovers that Marvel and DC had published at that time. Unfortunately, Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter began to send writers Gerry Conway and George Pérez an elongated series of criticisms that called everything from the crossover’s basic plot to whether or not Quicksilver would be able to help The Flash energize a cosmic treadmill. Eventually, the two sides grew hostile and the deal fell apart.
14 The Uncanny X-Men and The New Teen Titans #2
This one is actually directly linked to the canceled JLA/Avengers crossover. In 1982, DC and Marvel published "The Uncanny X-Men and The New Teen Titans." The plot saw Darkseid break through the legendary source wall by recreating the powers of the Dark Phoenix. The Teen Titans become aware of this power grab and team up with the X-Men to do the whole “beat up Darkseid” thing. Many fans of that era considered this story to be the best crossover of all-time and looked forward to a sequel.
Unfortunately, the fallout from the JLA/Avengers cancellation meant that DC and Marvel were in no mood to cooperate on what figured to be a promising and lucrative follow-up. Not much is known regarding this follow-up's proposed plot, but all indications suggest that the X-Men and Teen Titans creative teams actually got along very well and looked forward to furthering this series.
13 The K-Metal from Krypton (A Revolutionary Lost Superman Story)
As you might imagine, it’s quite common for comic book ideas to be pitched but never accepted. Actually, it’s not that uncommon for ideas to be accepted but never published. What is uncommon is for a revolutionary idea to be pitched, accepted, seemingly worked on for some time, but then mysteriously fade away. This is why "Superman: The K-Metal From Krypton" is such a historically significant unpublished comic.
"K-Metal from Krypton" was a story written by Jerry Siegel in which Superman first encountered Kryptonite - then known as K-metal - and revealed his secret identity to Louis Lane so that she could help him on his adventures. Mind you, this was written in 1940. Had this come to pass, the entire history of Superman as we know it today might have been changed. The only reason we know that this story once existed is because someone found the story script and some other design documents in DC’s Comic’s storage library. Fans are still working to restore this story, and it remains unknown why this issue was never published.
12 Punisher/Nick Fury: Rules of the Game
This is certainly one of the great “what could have been” unpublished comics. Late in the ‘80s, Punisher editor Don Daley was told by editor in chief Tom DeFalco that Daley needed to create some more “special projects” involving the character. Daley brought in Carl Potts, Gregory Wright, and a young Jim Lee to work on a special large-scale story involving The Punisher and Nick Fury. According to Wright, Jim Lee’s artwork for the series looked incredible, and everyone involved felt that the project was going to be a hit.
However, Jim Lee was quite the hot commodity at this time, and Marvel had a habit of assigning him numerous tasks at once. One of these tasks was to start doing the illustrations for Uncanny X-Men. When Lee’s take on the X-Men became hugely successful and arguably the definitive look for that world, Lee was gradually taken off most other projects that he was working on. Without Lee, all progress on this story came to a complete halt.
11 Doctor Strange - A Frank Miller and Roger Stern Story
There are certainly a few Frank Miller comics on this list but this is - at least so far as we know - Miller’s most normal idea that never made it to the printers. In 1981, Marvel advertised an upcoming Doctor Strange story written by the legendary Roger Stern and drawn by Frank Miller. Neither man was quite as well-known at this time as they would later become, but this was still a relatively high-profile collaboration.
Well...at least it should have been. Years after this Doctor Strange story just kind of disappeared, Roger Stern stated that the problem was that Miller got sidetracked with another piece of work. Specifically, Miller decided he wanted to work on the James Bond comic book series that Marvel was developing around that time. Shortly thereafter, Miller went on to work on his legendary Daredevil run. Apparently, the duo got as far as completing the comic’s cover before it was indefinitely postponed.
10 Morning Dragons
By virtue of his contributions to several famous comic universes and his wonderfully weird original creations such as Transmetropolitan, people tend to pay attention to what Warren Ellis plans to work on next. Around the year 2000, Ellis’ next project seemed to be an original graphic novel named Morning Dragons. This novel would have followed the adventures of a former priest turned samurai in feudal Japan who encounters an army of Vikings invading on ships sculpted to resemble dragons. The full pitch has been described by Image Publisher executives as one of the greatest that they’ve ever heard.
Unfortunately for lovers of alternate history battles featuring great warriors, the comic was initially pushed back because Ellis decided he wanted to publish it independently away from Image. His decision was reportedly based on payment issues. Years later, Ellis commented that he considers the project to be completely dead.
9 Rogue One: Cassian & K-2SO (A Rogue One prequel)
This is the most recent and certainly one of the most high-profile comic cancellations on this list. Early into the production of the Rogue One film, it was decided that Marvel was going to publish a one-shot comic that would serve as a prequel to the movie. The comic would have covered how Cassian Andor and Imperial droid K-2SO formed their unlikely partnership.
Then, sometime around May of 2016, it was revealed that the comic was either delayed or canceled, as Amazon and other retailers began to cancel pre-orders and no longer take additional orders. Soon thereafter, everyone learned that the comic was indeed canceled. According to reports, its cancellation is directly related to the numerous reshoots the film required months after principal photography had wrapped. Marvel said that it was no longer realistic for the team behind the comic to keep changing their work based on the many plot changes these reshoots resulted in.
8 All-Star Batgirl
It’s no exaggeration to say that Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman is on the shortlist for the greatest Superman story ever told. Morrison cut through the cloud of darkness that surrounds many modern comic book stories and told a comparatively light hearted Superman story that got back in touch with the characters’ roots. DC fans soon became thrilled at the prospect of further comics within DC’s All-Star print universe, and were especially happy to hear about DC’s plans to produce All-Star Batgirl.
So what happened to that high-profile All-Star story? Well, it was announced in 2006 that Geoff Johns and J.G. Jones had begun work on the six issue series. Around that time, Johns stated that he intended for the story to be a mystery that helps explain how Barbara became Batgirl. To be honest, it’s not clear what happened to this one. Johns has stated that he has the first issue's completed script on his computer and we’ve even seen some of the completed artwork. It’s just one of those stories that never ended up seeing the light of day for some reason.
7 All-Star Wonder Woman
Ah, we bet you thought that we were done breaking your All-Star loving hearts. Sadly, that’s just not the case. Around the same time that All-Star Batgirl was announced, DC revealed that they intended to publish an All-Star Wonder Woman series as well. The book was to be written and illustrated by Adam Hughes, who is best known for crafting some of the most beautiful Wonder Woman comic covers in DC history.
The story regarding this still missing comic is actually pretty strange. Hughes has stated that he was chugging along on its production until life and work just kind of got in the way. When progress on the comic essentially came to a complete stop, DC and Hughes agreed that it just wasn’t worth it for Hughes to simply work on the series in his spare time. According to Hughes, there’s still a possibility that it could be released one day. Given the success of the recent Wonder Woman film, we hope that possibility grows greater every day.
6 Wonder Woman: Bondage
Not to make this a collection of Frank Miller’s unpublished stories, but the man has been involved in some truly fascinating canceled projects over the years. This particular Miller project was uncovered when a fan posted an image from something called Wonder Woman: Bondage that was apparently written by Frank Miller. The nature of the image and the curious title led many to wonder just what the story behind this curious picture was.
Comic artist Bill Sienkiewicz happened to know that story, as he intended to work on Bondage with Miller. According to Sienkiewicz, the idea was to explore the bondage origins of the character and rework her official origin story in order to officially incorporate more of those elements. Apparently, the project never made it beyond the conceptualization phase. DC had minimal input on it, and Sienkiewicz only did some initial drawings in order to get a feel for how comfortable everyone was with different takes on this subject matter.
5 Frank Miller’s Jesus
While we’re on the subject of Frank Miller, let’s talk a little more about the comic legend's seemingly infinite well of unpublished ideas. In case you’ve never noticed, Miller has a tendancy to incorporate religious subject matter in his stories. This is most obvious in his Daredevil stories, where the Devil of Hell's Kitchen's religious past plays a direct role in the character’s progression. Despite this, Miller has insisted that he’s not particularly religious and didn’t have a religious upbringing.
This makes it that much more surprising that Miller once planned to create a series that revolved entirely around Jesus Christ. As easy as it is to imagine some dark alternate take on Jesus, Miller has long insisted that he intended for this comic to be a respectful and serious take on historical events involving Jesus. Initially, Miller admitted that 9/11 postponed all progress on the story. In the years that followed, it seems that publishers - and perhaps Miller - just kind of lost interest in the idea.
4 Victor Von Doom (A Dr. Doom Teenage Origin Story)
Some of you might remember this particular story making headlines a few years back, but for those who don’t, the concept behind this story is well worth a brief explanation. It begins when Nick Spencer and Becky Cloonan announced that Marvel had greenlit their idea for a Doctor Doom origin story that focuses on his teenage years. That sounds simple enough until you realize that the duo’s story would have seen a teenage Doom's journey into Hell (yes, the literal Hell) in order to save the spirit of his mom.
Victor Von Doom was actually widely publicized before it was shockingly canceled just weeks before the first issue was set to debut. Shortly after the cancellation, Marvel editor Tom Brevoort stated that he ultimately decided to cancel the project because work wasn’t getting completed on time and it wasn’t feasible for Marvel to devote more resources towards the idea. What’s especially sad about this one is that Spencer and Cloonan have both described the idea as their dream project.
3 Thanos: Son of Titan
When Thanos appeared during one of The Avengers' post-credit sequences, Marvel fans everywhere lost their collective minds as they envisioned the legendary Infinity Gauntlet story playing out on the big screen sometime in the near future. Thanos’ appearance created a very lucrative level of hype for Marvel, who immediately announced several stories starring the character. The headline story of the bunch was a Thanos origin story helmed by Joe Keatinge and Richard Elson called Thanos: Son of Titan.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Marvel canned the project. Marvel remained quiet regarding the decision which led some to speculate that Thanos creator Jim Starlin was actively suing Marvel over the recent usage of his character and a supposed lack of compensation on Marvel’s part. Truth be told, nobody on Marvel’s end ever really gave a full explanation behind the cancellation beyond editor Stephen Wacker's tweet on the matter, which simply stated they had “jumped the gun a bit” and that Joe Keatinge and Richard Elson were going to be working on different projects. Interestingly, Marvel did eventually release a Thanos origin miniseries that was completely separate from the original idea.
2 Alan Moore’s Twilight of the Superheroes
When Alan Moore was on something of an unprecedented creative hot streak back in the late ‘80s, he proposed a very ambitious idea to DC Comics. Moore wanted permission to tell a tale set twenty years into the then-present continuum of the DC universe. This story would have seen generations of remaining superheroes and supervillains engaging in a final battle for the fate of Earth. The series would have reportedly told a morally complex tale about various factions and would have revived the DC multiverse following the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths.
The reason that we know so much about this story is because Moore outlined a great deal of the tale in notes that have since been leaked online. While DC passed on the idea for reasons that have never been made clear - some suspect it had something to do with the tale’s incredibly twisted take on major DC characters - the publisher did end up using many of the concepts Moore intended to base Twilight of the Superheroes around. In fact, the great Kingdom Come is a shockingly similar story about generations of superheroes doing battle.
1 Holy Terror, Batman!
The last Frank Miller story on this list (we swear) involves quite a bit of clarification. First off, this is not a reference to the 1991 Elseworlds story called Batman: Holy Terror which saw the Dark Knight battle a religious group that runs the country. Instead, this is a reference to the idea that Frank Miller revealed to a very confused crowd during 2006’s WonderCon. According to Miller, Holy Terror, Batman! would have been a throwback piece of comic book propaganda in the same style of ‘40s comics that featured Superman fighting Nazis. This story, however, would have seen Batman defend Gotham from Al-Qaeda.
Miller promoted the story as a tale that was meant to be offensive and further stated that it was motivated by a burst of post-9/11 patriotism that he felt. As time went on, though, Miller decided to drop Batman’s involvement by stating that he needed a character that wasn’t afraid of using extreme - even deadly - methods. However, some suspect that DC strictly forbid Batman’s involvement. Miller eventually published the standalone Holy Terror, and it was widely criticized for its morality and overall quality.
What other great (or potentially great) comics were canned before they got their chance to shine? Let us know in the comics.