Brainiac On Banjo: Cancel, Uncancel, Cancel, Repeat

“I blow thru here. The music goes ’round and around (whoa-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho) and it comes out here.” From The Music Goes ‘Round and ‘Round, written by Edward Farley and Mike Riley

It’s not that I have a long memory. I’ve simply lived through a lotta stuff and the goofy has a tendency to stick inside my brainpan.

For example, I remember when Marvel cancelled both Doctor Strange and She-Hulk. I also remember when Marvel cancelled both Doctor Strange and She-Hulk again. Indeed, I can remember a great many times Marvel cancelled both Doctor Strange and She-Hulk.

In fact, I could tell whenever Marvel felt competitive pressure from other publishers — and, yes, I was an “other publisher” so I have a few decades of skin in that game. The idea is, most readers will buy new Marvel titles before they would buy those of “the other outfits,” and they’d be sucking up all the consumer dollars like a cocaine freak at a new record release party.

It still isn’t bad logic, it’s just kinda dated and not as on-the-money as it used to be. Many readers have discovered there are a lot more comics out there that deserve both staples and their attention, and some of those books are absolutely great. Of course, your mileage may vary.

The big red flag on that operation had been Robert E. Howard’s Kull. Marvel would relaunch Kull every time they wanted more rack space. Think of Oreo releasing a Kull cookie; Mondelēz International’s lust for shelf space is gargantuan. But, hell, I dunno the rights situation regarding Kull these days. I know Conan the Character is up for grabs and I look forward to the day Erik Larsen teams the Savage Dragon with Captain Tootsie, the real Daredevil, and Conan the Axe-Dude.

But there’s been a sea change that makes such comics surfing possible. Ever since it finally dawned on publishers that they can boost sales every time they shitcan a book and replace it, often the very next month, with a brand-new #1. Not always with a new talent team, but often. Oh, sure, they sometimes print the “legacy” number but if you haven’t aced your latest eye exam, it might take you a while to find it. I’m not as concerned about the death of cursive writing (I won’t miss it; those young’uns will never need to sign or endorse a check and even morons can draw an “X”) as I am about the seeming inability of modern publishers to count higher than two dozen. A one, anna two, anna that’s all folks!

Right now Marvel’s September 2024 solicitations are wafting through the ether, and one thing sharp eyed reporters noticed — along with us jaded old farts — is both Doctor Strange and She-Hulk are not there. Missing in inaction. Have they been cancelled? Are they skipping a month because they’re not getting any younger and they simply forgot? Will these two get themselves new first issues later in the fall?

Of course DC used to do that as well, but they found a different way to conduct a turf war: every couple hours they trash their continuity and start over, attaching the word “Crisis” to whatever they can think of. Crisises, too, goes ‘round and ‘round and they come out all the time.

There are mysterious ways Marvel can bring these two back. They could try a Jack of Hearts series starring She-Hulk, they could do a Wong and/or Clea series that stars Doctor Strange, they could bring back The Defenders starring Doctor Strange, She-Hulk, Clea, Wong and Jack of Hearts (I’d probably read that), or just do What If? stories featuring these characters teamed up with Cousin Goofy and the real, white-gloved Mickey Mouse. Slap a number one on the cover and you’ve got all those fan-tastic first issue sales!

Well, at least you might rack up sales that beat the previous short-lived series. To paraphrase Howard Chaykin, trust me because I’m the guy who knows. I’m the guy who named one of my companies “First Comics.”