Saturday, November 21, 2015

Discuss: Flame-outs

Doug: We have all seen moments of brilliance - zenith, even - followed by Poof! Gone! I'm thinking of the aforementioned Mike Ploog on Monster of Frankenstein. Obviously as moderator I don't want to take any more suggestions away from our conversational readers, but I'd lie if I didn't say Marshall Rogers' run on Detective Comics didn't fit into this category.

Doug: So here's the charge today -- who are those creators whose tenures on a given book were so short that it just left a hole in your reading enjoyment after their departure? And as we said last Tuesday, the following writer or artist (or combination) didn't have to be a step down -- I mean, John Buscema followed Ploog, for crying out loud! Not exactly a consolation prize. You might mention, if you know, who the succeeding creator was (hey, if you know the preceding creator that might be fun as well) and we can add that to our discussion. Should be fun!

PS: Karen's a lucky duck -- she and her husband have been at Disneyland the past few days. She hopes to bring you a report very soon on the Marvel and Star Wars influences in the park. I'm looking forward to it!


Graham said...

I had a couple that I remember. Back in the early 70's, when DC revived The Shadow, I just loved Mike Kaluta's art, especially the issue with Bernie Wrightson inking.....then I pick up issue #5 and there's Frank Robbins doing the pencils. Now, while I did appreciate his artwork on certain series, I did not like it on The Shadow. That was a big let-down for me.

One of the others was Power Man/Iron Fist in the early 80's. I really enjoyed Kerry Gammill's pencils. When Denys Cowan took over, I was disappointed. Later on, I grew to enjoy his art, but it was a big change from Gammill's at that moment in time.

One of the others was when George Perez left Justice League of America and Don Heck took over. What was really rough was that they alternated for a while, so you'd think maybe Heck was filling in for an issue or two.

It was an amazing coincidence, but about the time that I saved up enough to subscribe to several DC and Marvel comics, nearly all of them had creative team changes of some kind, and few of them were an improvement.

Anonymous said...

Ross Andru on the Fantastic Four - he only lasted for two issues (the Torch, Medusa and the Thing in the Himalayas up against Ternak) but then it was back to Rich Buckler's shameless copying of Jack Kirby :( Also George Tuska on the adaptation of Planet Of The Apes - I discovered Marvel because of POTA and Tuska was the first Marvel artist I ever laid eyes on but he never appeared again in the POTA magazine/UK comic.

david_b said...

Steranko on FOOM.. It looked soooo glorious and cool when it first arrived on his editorialship.

I loved the concept for the next half-dozen some issues, but missed his style.

Agreed with Colin on Andru.., I gave up FF on Buckler's tenure (missing Buscema/Sinnott too much), bur Ross did great on FF.

Graham, I didn't read those Heck JLA issues, but sheesh, it would have drove me nuts. He made me give up Batman Family.

Anonymous said...

Well, for me the early and mid-70s were the era of the flame out - pretty much all the really good runs were short lived.
Wrightson on Swamp Thing, Starlin's Warlock, Kirby's OMAC,that kind of thing.
Not to knock the kind of steady paced professionalism that characterized longer runs, but it often seemed that if it was exceptionally good a comic wouldn't last long.

As for changes that weren't necessarily a step down, I was disappointed by the end of the Jungle Action run of the Black Panther. The Kirby version was a real change, but also good in a different way (in retrospect, I thought it actually held up better than the McGregor stuff on a recent reread). But that was short lived too, alas.


Anonymous said...

A related subject would be the one-off, the dazzling single issue. Like that amazing Dr. Strange done-in-one drawn by Michael Golden. Would love to have seen him as regular artist on Doc.
That followed (I think) a short Marshall Rogers run that I remember enjoying too.
Mind you, I expect both of those guys maybe weren't cut out for the attrition of long term monthly deadlines.


William said...

The one that immediately comes to mind for me is Ron Frenz and Tom Defalco on Amazing Spider-Man. Admittedly they were on the book for about two years (or so), but they were by no means finished, and they didn't leave of their own accord. And after they were gone, my enjoyment of the book took a sharp downward turn.

I still get bummed out when I think of what could have been if Defalco and Frenz had gotten to stick around for a couple of more years. And it was even a bigger blow when I heard the story of how they were let go, (they were unceremoniously fired from the book), and afterwards it turned out that it was something of a misunderstanding to boot. Like a said. Total bummer.

As a result, (IMO) Spider-Man was never the same, or never as good after that. And soon afterward, Peter Parker was married off, and we entered the 90's era, where good storytelling was replaced by flashy, over-the-top artwork, and gimmick covers, etc.

William said...

Sorry to post twice in a row, but another early departure that always bums me out when I think of it is Roger Stern and John Byrne on Captain America. They still had at least one good epic story in them when they felt forced to quit the book in protest over a new "one-issue story" policy.

The 3-part Cap vs. Red Skull tale they were planning to tell would probably have been one of the greatest Captain America stories of all time, and we'll never get to experience it. -sigh-

Redartz said...

Colin and david_b- agree on liking those couple of Andru FF's. However, I actually rather liked Buckler's run. Yes, it was obviously aping Kirby, but I thought it still looked pretty good ( and some of the similarity is no doubt due to Sinnott's strong inks).

William: you nailed it on Defalco/ Frenz. Once their run ended, so did mine.

As for flameouts: Mike Ploog again, but on Man-Thing. He and Gerber were a perfect match on that book, Ploog was ideal for depicting the offbeat cast of the title. And while subsequent issues were pretty good, they never quite reached the same level.

Pat Henry said...

Worst flameouts: Everything leading up to Doctor Strange v2#19: Dracula, Eternity, Atlantis, New America... OMG Satan!!...Gene Colan’s fabulous goodness... then poof! new EIC, new editorial direction described, irregular artists, meh.

Anonymous said...

Englehart's runs on JLA and Detective were quite short--although I've read that it was planned that way from the start because Englehart was moving to Europe. Still, it would've ben nice to see where he went if he'd kept going.

In that same vein, I kinda wish Gulacy had lasted all the way to the end of MOKF; nothing against Zeck or Day, but Gulacy was perfect on that title, so it would've been nice to see more from him.

Mike Wilson

Anonymous said...

David Kraft, Keith Giffen, and Klaus Janson on the DEFENDERS. Of course, Steve Gerber and Sal Buscema were brilliant on it before, but something about the Kraft period just blew me away. Some real ground-breaking comic book writing, there.
A four-issue character study of a second-rate supervillain, Scorpio, and his descent into madness, was one of the most moving things I've read in a comic.

pfgavigan said...


After getting into comics during the Sixties, a period of incredibly long runs on titles for artists and writers, it always seemed that most of what followed were increasingly abbreviated stays on titles by the various creators.

The artist who I always wanted to hang around on a title was Paul Smith, who had wonderful runs on X-Men and Doctor Strange. Wonderful artwork and wonderfully brief stays on both titles.

Track down his currently unfinished and will probably never be completed 'Leave it to Chance'. Rewarding and frustrating go together with this book like chocolate and peanut butter.



Doug said...

A whole lotta great suggestions today, friends.

One of the first I thought of but chose not to mention was Dave Cockrum -- and you can say that for both the X-Men and the Legion of Super-Heroes. It's really hard to believe that Cockrum's initial X-Men run lasted only 15 issues. While that may have been closer to two years due to the bi-monthly publishing schedule, it's still just a flash in the whole scheme of things. And those first stories, with the Sentinels, Phoenix, Juggernaut, and Magneto were great. Obviously the book went on to new heights, but I've always treasured those early tales.


Martinex1 said...

It's funny because I was thinking about Cockrum and the X-Men. It went both ways in response to his work for me. I was sorry to see him go, but after Byrne I was sorry to see Byrne leave and Cockrum return... And by no means did I think Cockrum was not a supreme artist.

I also was so used to Colan on early Daredevil that it seemed strange when more conventional artists followed him.

I know this a bit off topic (but related) in the middle of the Korvac Saga in Avengers, there was an artist David Wenzel between Perez, and Sal Buscema and other greats. I thought he did a decent job so it wasn't quite a flame out, but I never saw him again. I assume the Avengers at the time was a plum assignment. So I've always been curious who he was and what other work he did.

pfgavigan said...


Hey Martinex 1!!

I do remember a scattering of David Wenzel's art around the Marvelverse, but I think, and I'm not really certain, that the gentleman found a career in illustration. Primarily in children's books and, I think, something with the Tolkien properties. An adaptation of something, maybe someone else might know.

Seeya . . . while I nurse a failing memory, I guess.


Rip Jagger said...

The biggest mark on my psyche when an artist abruptly left a series was when Neal Adams ditched the Kree-Skrull War in mid-battle during that epic Avengers run. Sal Buscema started the storyline, Neal Adams came on board the book like a bomburst with his best Marvel work and then just before the finale he vanished leaving the always capable John Buscema to clean things up before Barry Smith jumped on the title for a few issues. How that ended is somewhat in mild dispute between Roy and Neal, but I know I felt the loss at the time and clearly still do.

Rip Off

Edo Bosnar said...

One of the first that came to mind for me is when George Perez returned to do about a half-year's worth of Avengers (in the mid 190s and up to #202), and then this was followed by that period of rotating artists and mainly bleak and/or lackluster stories.

And I agree with those above who mentioned both Michael Golden and Paul Smith - they always did such wonderful work on various titles, but then left or were replaced too soon. The classic example for Golden is Micronauts: sure, he did that stunningly beautiful initial 12-issue run, but then left the title, to be replaced by Howard Chaykin (which shouldn't have been a bad thing) being inked by Al Milgrom - who did the finishes with such a heavy hand that very little of those typical Chaykin qualities came to the fore. Even though the stories were still pretty good, I stopped reading about 2-3 issues into that, and so missed out when Broderick took over the art chores.

Anonymous said...

The first title that came to my mind was the aforementioned Englehart/ Brunner/ Colan run on Dr. Strange being followed by uninspired crap. The second title I thought of was the aforementioned Paul Smith X-Men run being followed by John Romita Jr.'s lesser run. I finally came up with a couple no one's mentioned yet:

- John Byrne's Hulk wasn't brilliant, but it was action-packed and entertaining. Al Milgrom's Hulk run followed and it was ugly-looking and bland. The great news was Milgrom's run ended as a new writer named Peter David came on board and made Incredible Hulk a great comic.

- Steve Gerber's run on Marvel Two-In-One was imaginative and fun. Bill Mantlo's run may not have been terrible but it was merely functional. Seriously, the Thing and Ghost Rider help bring about the Second Coming! After that, random team-ups just can't cut it.

- Mike Loughlin

ColinBray said...

Starlin on Captain Marvel #25-#34 - for such a relatively short run it's influence and reach has been profound.

Especially when you think how pedestrian the CM title was both pre-and-post Starlin (even if it is a guilty pleasure of mine)

Incidentally, have we had a 'guilty pleasures' discussion here before?

ColinBray said...

PS I guess we can bookend the CM Starlin run with Iron Man #54, #55 plus MTIO Annual #2, and Avengers Annual #2. They were even more abrupt flame-outs!

ColinBray said...

PPS Sorry, I meant Avengers Annual #7 of course.

Humanbelly said...

I would definitely nominate Jeff Purves, the artist who took over on The Incredible Hulk after Todd McFarlane's hugely-popular, ground-breaking run. Peter David took the storyline in a wildly different direction at that point as well with the truly enjoyable Joe Fixit arc. And Jeff's pencils were wonderfully appropriate for the rather seedy Vegas pseudo-noir atmosphere. He seemed to carry a bit of a Ploog influence himself, but definitely more refined and a bit more accessible to a "mainstream" audience, I think. He did a lot to help me very much accept and enjoy a character that I was COMPLETELY predisposed to despise--!

And as I understand it, he pretty much dropped out of comics after this run-- such a darned shame, says I.


ColinBray said...

PS I guess we can bookend the CM Starlin run with Iron Man #54, #55 plus MTIO Annual #2, and Avengers Annual #2. They were even more abrupt flame-outs!

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