These days, fans of superhero comics have gotten used to what could be called “cancellations in name only” — that is, publishers “ending” a series in order to relaunch them with a new issue #1 shortly thereafter. Of course, sometimes dead really is dead, and only a set of very favorable circumstances can bring a book back.Â
Such is the case with DC Comics‘s “Omega Men,” an acclaimed series from writer Tom King and artist Barnaby Bagenda. Last week, the publisher announced the title would conclude in December with issue #7; five days later, it was made official that the series would instead last until at least issue #12, thanks in part to online fan response. And while it’s unusual for this sort of situation to occur, it’s not the first time one of the publisher’s superhero titles has been granted a reprieve. In fact, DC’s history is full of titles that have been cancelled due to sluggish or poor sales, only to return for long, sometimes legendary, runs. Below, CBR looks at perhaps the five biggest titles to face the cancellation ax only to come back, stronger than before.
The 2004-09 “Manhunter” series, written by Marc Andreyko and illustrated by various artists, was actually brought back twice, though we’ll only give it one spot on this list.Â Debuting in October 2004 (all dates listed are cover dates), “Manhunter” was given an early push with a tie-in to the event miniseries “Identity Crisis.”Â Like many of DC’s heroes, attorney Kate Spencer was a legacy character in the Manhunter role. While the book explored that aspect of the character, it also fielded a diverse supporting cast which proved popular with fans.Â “Manhunter” initially ran for 25 issues, until October 2006.
Appropriately enough, its return involved the fallout from another event miniseries, the continuity-altering “Infinite Crisis,” as Kate defended Wonder Woman for killing Maxwell Lord. Though spurred by an outpouring of support from fans and comics pros alike, this run spanned only five issues (#26-30), from February-June 2007.
After a year’s hiatus, “Manhunter” picked itself back up off the mat for one last eight-issue burst (#31-38) from August 2008-March 2009.Â (This interview with Andreyko doesn’t explain why the book came back, but Manhunter’s induction into the Birds Of Prey probably helped.)Â Even after her book’s third cancellation, Kate Spencer got one more shot, as a backup feature in “Batman: Streets Of Gotham” issues #1-13 (August 2009-August 2010).Â Kate then joined the Justice Society just before the New 52 relaunch, and recently made her current DC Universe debut in the pages of “Gotham by Midnight.”
“Green Lantern” is a series most fans no doubt believe to be cancellation-proof, particularly when it’s at the height of a critical and creative renaissance. Even so, it got the axe with issue #89 (April-May 1972), the 13th to feature the talents of legendary writer Denny O’Neil and penciller Neal Adams.Â While O’Neil had been writing “GL” for a few issues already, Adams and inker Dick Giordano came aboard with issue #76 (April 1970).Â Teaming GL with his fellow Justice Leaguer Green Arrow for a groundbreaking set of socially conscious stories, O’Neil and Adams helped redefine both characters for decades to come.
It didn’t help sales, though, and the final O’Neil/Adams GL/GA story was serialized as a three-part backup feature in “The Flash” (issues #217-219, August-September 1972 to December 1972-January 1973).Â GL stayed on as a frequent “Flash” backup, appearing in most issues through August 1976’s issue #243.Â The stories were written by O’Neil, and drawn by various artists including Dick Dillin and Mike Grell.Â
When “Green Lantern” was revived with issue #90 (August-September 1976), O’Neil and Grell were the regular creative team (although Grell gave way to Alex Saviuk and various other artists, including Joe Staton).Â Green Arrow was back as well, with DC apparently intent on recaptuinge some of the early ’70s magic.Â The partnership lasted another three years, until November 1979’s issue #122, and O’Neil wrote the book through June 1980’s issue #129.Â “Green Lantern” continued for almost a hundred more issues, found itself retitled “Green Lantern Corps” with issue #201, and was cancelled for good with May 1988’s issue #224.Â That means the bulk of its run (135 issues) came after its first cancellation in 1972 — a pretty successful revival!
For what it’s worth, DC brought back a number of its earlier titles in the mid-1970s, including “All Star Comics,” “Showcase,” “Teen Titans,” “Blackhawk” and “Challengers of the Unknown.” Each kept its original numbering, but none were especially long-lived; “Green Lantern” certainly proved to be the most durable of these ’70s revivals.
BIRDS OF PREY
Speaking of durability, “Birds Of Prey” started out as a 1996 one-shot, became a series of miniseries, and earned its way to ongoing status where it spent much of the next 15 years as one of DC’s most consistently successful series. Regardless, “BOP” was cancelled as part of the fallout from Bruce Wayne’s apparent death in “Final Crisis,” and the reshaping of the Bat-line via “Battle for the Cowl.”Â The final issue was April 2009’s #127, with longtime “BOP” writer Gail Simone already having departed with September 2007’s #108.Â
A Big Event (this time, “Blackest Night”) allowed Simone and artist Ed Benes to revive the series with a new first issue in July 2010.Â This one lasted 15 issues (although Marc Andreyko, who went through a similar experience with “Manhunter,” wrote the final two) before being relaunched with a new creative team for the New 52.Â That volume ran until issue #34 arrived in 2014.
One of the stranger “uncancellation” stories has to do with the third and fourth Flashes.Â In 2005-06, Wally West was the Flash — the Fastest Man Alive, as his internal monologue reminded readers on each issue’s opening splash page — and battled the renegade Superboy of Earth-Prime alongside fellow speedsters Jay Garrick (the Golden Age Flash) and Bart “Kid Flash” Allen.Â Together, they tried to defeat Superboy-Prime by trapping him in the extradimensional Speed Force. But only Bart returned, now a young adult and wearing the uniform of the Flash.Â The disappearance of Wally, his wife Linda, and their infant twins was a mystery, and “Flash” Vol. 2 ended with March 2006’s issue #230.Â Bart then starred in the new “Flash: The Fastest Man Alive” series, which ran for 13 issues (August 2006-August 2007), and ended with his death.
Yes, not only had Wally West disappeared (and Jay Garrick was underpowered thanks to Speed Force shenanigans), but Bart — introduced as a more lighthearted character in “Flash” before starring in his own “Impulse” series — was killed by the Flash’s lifelong enemies, the previously non-lethal Rogues.Â The way DC told it in the summer of 2007, it was all part of the plan to bring back Wally, which ended up happening at the end of the Justice League/Justice Society/Legion of Super-Heroes crossover “The Lightning Saga.” (Bart himself returned in similar fashion a couple of years later, in the “Legion of Three Worlds” miniseries.)
Readers got an “All-Flash Special” reintroducing Wally and family, followed by October 2007’s “Flash” Vol. 2 issue #231, picking up the old numbering. Wally’s series ended for good with February 2009’s issue #247, and “Final Crisis” brought back Barry Allen, star of the “Flash: Rebirth” miniseries that kicked off in June 2009.Â “Rebirth” facilitated a whole speedster squad, including Wally, Bart, and Wally’s daughter Iris, but those plans didn’t survive Sept. 2011’s New 52 relaunch.
Finally, we come to another iconic DC series, Detective Comics.Â The “DC Implosion” of the mid-’70s threatened to take down DC’s namesake series ( more details here). But the intervention of PR director Mike Gold (who later headed up First Comics before returning to DC in the mid-’80s) basically transferred the features and giant-sized format from the better-selling “Batman Family” anthology — which was itself then cancelled — into the long-running “Detective Comics.”
The latter reverted to a standard-length comic within a few years, and continues today (albeit in a renumbered incarnation, with the rest of DC’s line, at the dawn of the New 52.)
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