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CSBG Archive

The Abandoned An’ Forsaked #1

This is the first in a series (of indefinite length and regularity) of pieces examining comic book plot lines that were not only abandoned, but also had the stories specifically “overturned” (as if they were a legal precedent). Click here for an archive of all the previous editions of The Abandoned An’ Forsaked.

Today we examine the quick U-Turn Marvel took with Steve Englehart’s final group of Doctor Strange stories when Englehart left the title with issue #18.

Enjoy!

Steve Englehart and Gene Colan combined for a brilliant story in Doctor Strange #10-13 where Baron Mordo’s madness leads towards the Earth being destroyed!

At the end of the issue, the Ancient One convinces Eternity to save Earth, and he agrees, with one twist…

And that’s how Englehart had it – Earth was totally recreated and only Strange knows what REALLY happened.

In his last story before leaving the book (a story he never finished), Englehart (again with Colan on art) told a story of Strange and Clea traveling through time to study the occult history of America.

Well, in Englehart’s last issue, Strange and Clea meet Ben Franklin and Clea and Franklin hit it off…VERY well…

Okay, so Englehart leaves with #18.

#19 sees Marv Wolfman (the book’s editor) become its writer as well as editor (with Alfredo Alcala as #19’s artist) and very quickly, the whole Ben Franklin/Clea deal is explained away as an illusion (as Wolfman also draws the whole Occult History tour to a close, as well)…

At the end of #19, Strange gives up the title (and extra powers) of the Sorcerer Supreme

In #20, we learn that the destruction of Earth was ALSO an illusion/trick designed by an evil cabal of magicians to make Strange feel compelled to give up the role of Sorcerer Supreme…

And there you have it – two issues to rewrite the ending of Englehart’s run on Doctor Strange!

Regular blog commenter Sanctum Sanctorum Comix (who has an awesome site about Doctor Strange here) wrote about these ret-cons in the comments awhile back. I was already preparing this column at the time on this topic, so I held back his comment until now. You can read his comment here. Again, be sure to check out his Strange site here!

101 Comments

Well, that sucks! The Englehart story was amazing and these rewrites only serve to lose a lot of goodwill from the readers. I can’t imagine the fans that read the story as it was coming out being too happy with this.

By the way, I imagine that the Xorn storyline of Morrison’s New X-Men will be featured. That’s the first thing that came to my mind when I read what this series of posts was about.

Andrew Collins

June 24, 2010 at 7:35 am

I think you could make a whole series about Claremont’s abandoned X-Men subplots…

But this was great! Good idea for a column!

Great idea for a series. Can I suggest my favorite abandoned plotline: the “Sky-Walker” introduced by Marv Wolfman in Daredevil #128 (1975, predating Luke Skywalker in Star Wars). The cover of the issue practically hyperventilates: “Introducing the most startling character in the annals of Marveldom.” For most of the issue, Daredevil fights Death Stalker, while this new character is seen climbing into the sky by creating energy steps. Not much was revealed about who he was or what he was doing, but there were a number of thought balloons that suggested he would reappear and cause trouble for Daredevil. So far as I know, he was never seen again.

You gotta include Adam X in here also. And two runs of Hulk stories retconned as dreams or movies.

Ooh, what about UNabandoned sorylines? Like the who’s-the-Hobgoblin story, and Claremont’s Wovlerine-as-villain story that got told years after he set the wheels in motion.

Might be worth checking out the odd Joker comic of the mid 1970’s Issue #9 promised the Joker vs. the Justice League. Then the book was canceled. A “DC Currents” column, or whatever it was called, promised the story would appear in an upcoming JLA story, but it never did. Of course, the Joker mag at the time was not running issue-by-issue continuity; there was no lead-up to a confrontation, just the Joker kidnapping the artists of a comic strip that bore an uncanny resemblance to “Peanuts.”

But it’s always fun to remember that the Joker once had his own series.

Brian, how many Dylan quotes are you running as column titles now?

Brian: The text on the main page of the Blog (first 2 paragraphs here) mention the issue number but not which series it’s from. You need to click through to find out that it’s Doctor Strange.

I think Adam-X’s origin or whatever was dealt with in Captain Marvel.

Steven R. Stahl

June 24, 2010 at 8:39 am

Wolfman could have his villain, Xander, say whatever he wanted. That doesn’t mean that readers have to accept it or that other writers do, even. At the end of Stern’s DR. STRANGE #28, after Strange has defeated the In-Betweener, it’s evident that Strange is as powerful a sorcerer as he ever was. Clea asks, “Then. . . you are still the Sorcerer Supreme?” Strange shrugs off the question.

In Claremont’s short DR. STRANGE run — http://www.marvunapp.com/Appendix/phyffejulian.htm — Lord Phyffe became a villain,motivated by his death and recreation in Englehart’s storyline. I recall Claremont commenting that the recreation made someone the 13th with the name, instead of the 12th; activating a curse; he might have been referring to Phyffe. His issues are in Vol. 4 of ESSENTIAL DR. STRANGE.

So, in the end, Englehart’s death and recreation storyline stands, regardless of what Wolfman wrote. When situations such as Wolfman’s retcon come up, the material should be treated with all the respect it deserves, which is, frankly, none.

SRS

I too agree that this is a great idea for a column; comics history must be *littered* with unused plotlines for you to reveal. :)

Btw, I think you have a typo: at the start of the column, you say “Steve Englehart’s final group of stories when Englehart left the title with issue #18″ but you don’t state in WHICH title! Easily fixed, though.

As for the story itself… am I the only one who finds it… confusing? And I’m a long-time, continuity-obsessed fan! The dialogue between Strange, The Ancient One and Eternity is contradictory, with statements like “Time, though infinite, is finite” or Eternity saying it decided that it will not undo Earth’s destruction, except it did (?) I guess the writer was trying to sound all mystical, which befits the title, but that’s just TOO nebulous. And having Clea sleep with BENJAMIN FRANKLIN? WTH?? (To be fair, the REAL Franklin was quite the womanizer; it’s more having Doc’s love interest seduced so easily that baffles me.) Overall, I can see why Marvel decided to overturn both events, even if using illusions feels like a big cop-out (Some Sorcerer Supreme Strange is if he’s fooled so easily by illusions.)

But as I said I like the basic premise of the column, so keep it coming. :)

Steven R. Stahl

June 24, 2010 at 9:19 am

The Ancient One and Eternity is contradictory, with statements like “Time, though infinite, is finite” or Eternity saying it decided that it will not undo Earth’s destruction, except it did (?) I guess the writer was trying to sound all mystical, which befits the title, but that’s just TOO nebulous.

The point of that dialogue was to establish that Earth’s inhabitants died — were blown to bits — and their souls were without bodies for some period of time. Eternity’s recreation of the Earth gave their souls bodies and life again. The idea of time being both infinite and finite has spurred much discussion; see, for example, http://rogercostello.wordpress.com/2007/07/23/is-time-finite-or-infinite-time-before-the-big-bang/

SRS

What is with Marvel and Ben Franklin?

Mike Loughlin

June 24, 2010 at 9:51 am

The jump from Englehart & Colan to Wolfman & Alacala deflates the entire story. I would have loved to read the complete Occult History of America, but that’s comics for you. If a story contradicts another story by another writer, I’ll go with the better story in my personal continuity every time.

I can understand why this sort of thing happens, however. I doubt Wolfman could have continued in Englehart’s vein, and chose to go his own (boring) way instead. Bruce Jones had so many unworkable plotlines going on in Incredible Hulk that I actualoly don’t mind Peter David retconning them away.

What about the countless confused, accused, misused, strung-out stories? And worse?

Stephane Savoie

June 24, 2010 at 10:05 am

While I enjoyed this instalment, this column’s concept seems bit redundant, given the nature of mainstream superhero comics. Big changes are brought in, and then cancelled as necessary. This happens fairly constantly, doesn’t it?
Alecia Masters marrying Johnny Storm, Ben Grimm killing his own human form forever, Thor fulfilling the Ragnarok prophecy forever, everything about Sentry past his initial miniseries…

Brian: The text on the main page of the Blog (first 2 paragraphs here) mention the issue number but not which series it’s from. You need to click through to find out that it’s Doctor Strange.

Thanks! I fixed that.

I look forward to the many Legion v4 installments in this series…

And I’ll also suggest a look at Swamp Thing, especially at the Veitch/Wheeler boundary. (The “Arcane will be able to escape Hell when Matt dies” subplot, particularly, was one of the first to come to mind here.)

So that’s Dr. Strange #18 added to the ol’ want list. The Ben Franklin thing is too bizarre (and awesome) not to own.

So that’s Dr. Strange #18 added to the ol’ want list. The Ben Franklin thing is too bizarre (and awesome) not to own.

It really is.

I think the whole “Alec Holland became human” in the ending of the original Swamp Thing is a shoo-in for this feature, especially given that it was ust dismissed as an imaginary or an alternate earth story by editor Len Wein in a letter column when Swamp Thing came back in Saga of the Swamp Thing!

Will you be including John Byyrne’s time on West Coast Avengers, when he seemed determined to undo so much of what Englehart had written– Wanda’s twins, the Vision’s history as the original Torch, the death of Agatha Harkness, the soul of Master Pandemonium?
Poor Englehart gets no respect, it seems.

Steven R. Stahl

June 24, 2010 at 12:48 pm

Will you be including John Byyrne’s time on West Coast Avengers. . .

I’d be against that, because it gives Byrne’s material exposure it doesn’t deserve, and the issue now is the continuity break between Englehart’s maxiseries and Bendis’s material, not Englehart’s and Byrne’s. One could just post the panel from VISION & SCARLET WITCH #3, in which Wanda tells Vizh her power can’t create life and the sequence in V & SW #4, in which she discusses her use of magic with Dr. Strange and then contrast those panels with the stuff in AVENGERS #503, which was, of course, all her about her irrelevant power..

I question the point of highlighting retcons and continuity conflicts unless it’s accompanied by a discussion of how stories work and don’t work. I suspect that the writers who rely the most on formulas and retcons for their material would do badly on reading comprehension tests.

SRS

Well, i like the column!
DFTBA

Nobody was more royally stepped over than Keith Giffen on Legion of Super-Heroes v4.

The end of Grant Morrison’s New X-Men run which saw magneto going crazy, killing Jean and Wolverine chopping off his head was completely retconned by Marvel (except for the Jean actually being dead part). “Oh, that wasn’t really Magneto. That whole critically acclaimed run was irrelevant.”
Lame.

FanboyStranger

June 24, 2010 at 1:59 pm

I always wondered what happened with Englehart’s run on “Dr. Strange”. “The Occult History of America” was such an interesting idea, but it got dropped so quickly for that fairly incipid “Quadraverse” storyline. (Stegro, the chief villain of “The Occult History…” was revealed to be a sentient star or something, which did not jive at all with his depiction in Engelhart’s story. At least the “Quadraverse” had P. Craig Russell’s excellent annual sandwiched into it so it wasn’t a total waste.)

OH MY GOD I need to start reading ’70s Doctor Strange comics. Are there any collected editions available or must I back-issue hunt?

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

June 24, 2010 at 2:10 pm

I feel weird, in that I don’t think the retcon was handled well, but I also think that the later issues of Englehart’s Doctor Strange are nowhere nearly as good as his early ones. And I still dislike the more cosmic Strange and prefer the relatively down-to-Earth Ditko version, the one who used his wits and sometimes his fists.

Englehart’s Strange was great because it was a book where anything could happen, but it became weaker the longer it ran precisely because it was a book where anything could happen. Unlike Steve Gerber’s absurdist satires or the stock Jim Starlin plot in which liberatory Eastern holism overcomes totalitarian Western dualism, I feel that Englehart’s “cosmic” material frequently lacked the kind of unity of plot and theme that would let him get away with his mystobabble-fueled plot twists. What exactly are the bits above really getting at? Why is Clea sleeping with Ben Franklin, and why does it matter that the world blows up only to be re-created as if it hadn’t?

Yes, they’re surprising comic-book moments. I’m just wondering what makes them cohesive story moments.

Steven R. Stahl

June 24, 2010 at 2:14 pm

OH MY GOD I need to start reading ’70s Doctor Strange comics. Are there any collected editions available or must I back-issue hunt?

The B&W reprints of Dr. Strange stories in various places, including the Dr. STRANGE series, are up to volume 4, I believe.

SRS

OH MY GOD I need to start reading ’70s Doctor Strange comics. Are there any collected editions available or must I back-issue hunt?

All of Englehart’s run is available in Essentials format, and a large chunk of it (the earlier stuff) is available in an out of print trade.

Actually, I just recalled – I did an Englehart reading guide!

Check it out here – http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2010/05/10/2010-steve-englehart-reading-guide/

Will you be including John Byyrne’s time on West Coast Avengers. . .

I’d be against that, because it gives Byrne’s material exposure it doesn’t deserve,

I love Byrne’s WCA – please do it.

Steven R. Stahl

June 24, 2010 at 2:26 pm

Why is Clea sleeping with Ben Franklin, and why does it matter that the world blows up only to be re-created as if it hadn’t?

The material with Ben Franklin presumably referred to his reputation as a womanizer — http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2522/whats-the-true-story-on-benjamin-franklin — although his actual exploits seem to have been exaggerated.

The importance of death and recreation depends on one’s interest in metaphysics. Knowing that you’ve died and been recreated, without your knowledge, by superior beings raises the possibility that you could be manipulated by such beings as they choose, without being aware of it and without being able to do anything about it.

SRS

Damn, you could do sooooo many entries in this series!

One good one that instantly occurred to me for you to do would be how Chris Claremont revealed that Madame Hydra was the mother of Spider-Woman, something that was soon after retconned with little explanation to be a mystical illusion within the pages of Captain America.

As for the whole Magneto/Xorn mess… if you decide to do that, good luck untangling the whole thing. I still don’t understand it.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

June 24, 2010 at 3:09 pm

The material with Ben Franklin presumably referred to his reputation as a womanizer — http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2522/whats-the-true-story-on-benjamin-franklin — although his actual exploits seem to have been exaggerated.

The importance of death and recreation depends on one’s interest in metaphysics. Knowing that you’ve died and been recreated, without your knowledge, by superior beings raises the possibility that you could be manipulated by such beings as they choose, without being aware of it and without being able to do anything about it.

I suppose I should’ve been clearer: I understand that Ben Franklin has a reputation as a ladies’ man and that there’s a callback to Descartes’s “evil genius” in the “forgotten apocalypse” scenario.

Th problem is, I’m not sure where Englehart’s really going with such stuff, any more than I understand where he was going with the resolution of the Sise-Neg storyline turning out to be a stable time paradox. For example, in the Cartesian plot twist with Eternity reconstructing the world, the point seems to be that Doc *is* in the know, and *is* capable of sensing that superior beings have altered the numerical identities of all the world’s beings without necessarily changing their categorical identities.

The problem is that the thematic invocation of freshman-year philosophy doesn’t work terribly well as a plot. For one thing, Eternity’s not exactly a bad guy; it’s hard to be worried about a superior being whose major deception is undoing everyone’s arbitrary destruction.

But in story terms, it seems as i it doesn’t matter if Doctor Strange saves the world or not; if he’d stayed home that day, would Eternity have recreated it anyway? That’s nicely existentialist, I suppose, but not terribly good in a superhero adventure serial. It makes Doc a non-factor in his own story so that someone can go “Woooah, dude, what if?” for five or so seconds. Those affected by the metaphysical quandary are explicitly not Doctor Strange: he retains his numerical and categorical continuity. But then the next issue arrives and it doesn’t really matter all that much.

There’s a reason that Descartes’ “evil genius” a thought experiment in 17th -century metaphysics and not the plot of an adventure story; an adventure story using the premise needs to suggest that the protagonist matters anyway, as did the first Matrix film’s similar use of Baudrillard and Descartes.

Similarly, the fact that Ben Franklin is a ladies’ man doesn’t really mean that it’s a worthwhile plot development to have him sleep with Clea. I understand that bit a little better, as Englehart was attempting to show her (and perhaps Doc’s?) post-Sexual Revolution relationship. (IIRC, Doc is upset and Clea can’t work out why.) That’s what I meant when I said that the plots and themes of these issues strike me as very, very 1970s.

Can’t blame Mr. Franklin, it was Clea after all (rawrr!).

WRT Alec Holland becoming human….

I think the short-lived CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN revival (around 1977-78; issues 81-87 of CHALLENGERS v. 1; followed up on some new stories seen in SUPER-TEAM FAMILY) showed Alec’s reversion to Swamp Thing. It may not have been much more explained, but it was accomplished well before SAGA #1.

How do the Essentials collections read? It seems like the art would lose a lot of it’s painterly quality if stripped of color.

Great column. I love comic book history lessons. I vote for Byrne’s WCA to be the subject of a future installment. And anything about the Legion. And Superman. And Spider-Man. And… everything else. :)

Big thanks for the link-love and friendly commentary!

I appreciate it.
(hmmm… I was wondering why my comment from waaaay back then was in limbo… now I know you had a plan!)

Anyway, there are SEVERAL Doctor Strange themed “abandoned and forsaked” storylines… but since you just featured a biggun, I’ll let you rest from “Strange matters” for awhile.

~P~
PTOR

Chris Schillig

June 24, 2010 at 4:03 pm

I wondered what happened to the Clea/Franklin subplot. I remember reading that issue of Doctor Strange when it was first released (pretty mind blowing as a kid), but because Marvel’s distribution was so spotty (or because I traded for it with a friend), I never had a chance to read the next issue. Now I know.

I always thought the panel was a little ambiguous, with Clea perhaps turning her head to rebuff Ben’s advances, and her line about the words women don’t say in return meaning that actions speak louder than words — hence, she wasn’t above some innocent flirtation, but she wasn’t about to take things to the next level.

Joe Quesada did this Iron Man thing I read where he reveals that the guy who imprisoned Tony Stark in the first vietnam which led to him inventing the Iron Man suit was infact alive. Even though he seemed horribly scarred, he turned up at the end of the issue then alos revealed that the man who had helped Tony Stark invent the Iron man suit was infact alive and he ‘had him’.

Next issue comes around, I’m interested in what happens. It’s a different writer, different artist, different story. No mention of it. That’s bad…. in my opinion. I’ve heard it was resolved elsewhere, but why?

Speaking of Iron Man. The Tony Stark in Civil War is not the same Iron Man in comics before him. HEar me out. Sure, they portrayed him as like Tony Stark personality wise. But I never for once bought into it. Cap really didn’t seem like Cap at all, either. I read Avengers #1 they seem more like Cap and Iron Man in the 1990 something.

I say that here, because Civil War is (in some ways) a dropped story line. Marvel had begun this thing of just starting stories or concepts and not having anywhere to go with them. Was there any point of Civil War other than to act like the whole world was changed, yet all the main characters just did whatever the idea of the story was rather than what their characters would normally do. CW didn’t have a real plot and didn’t have an ending. ‘I Quit’ is not an ending and I think it was embarrassing for Marvel. But I submit that in addition to the Iron Man not resolved CLiffhanger.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

June 24, 2010 at 5:09 pm

You’re describing Iron Man v.3 #31, which was co-plotted by Frank Tieri and Joe Quesada, not solely written by Quesada. Tieri, a longtime associate of Quesada’s became the regular series writer with issue #32; Quesada has said in the years since that the story was as much Tieri’s idea as his own. The story was resolved in Iron Man Annual 2000, which came out in the same month as IM v.3 #32. It was written by Tieri, and revealed that Professor Yin-Sen, the good scientist fromt he origin story, was a brain-in-a-jar captive of Wong-Chu, the villain.

A cult that worshipped Yinsen, introduced in the issue you read, turned up, killed Wong-Chu, and rescued Yinsen’s brain with Iron Man’s help. At the end of Tieri’s run on Iron Man, it turned out that the Yinsenites were being manipulated by Ultron, who destroyed them before being defeated by Iron Man. The guy who co-plotted the issue you describe saw the story all the way through.

How do the Essentials collections read? It seems like the art would lose a lot of it’s painterly quality if stripped of color.

They read great. The color is the most dated thing about a lot of those old comics.

Sadly, Marvel does not seem to be as good at keeping their Essentials in print as DC is with their Showcase series.

How about Kurt Busiek/Rogers Stern’s retcon of the events during The Crossing in their Avengers Forever maxi-series.

It was a great loss when Englehart left Doctor Strange and the Avengers, and his dismissal from those books was the first step in Marvel’s decline from their creative high in the 60s and 70s.

Regarding the Ben Franklin/Clea sub-plot, we really have no idea where that was going, so it’s impossible to pass judgement on it now.

Avengers Forever un-did(?) alot.

How about the Hunger vampire storyline from the ’98 Amazing Spider-Man reboot by Howard Mackie and John Romita Jr? They introduced Hunger as some kind of super vampire, involved Blade and Kingpin, brought in Morbius who was found in a crate with a modified appearance after being experimented on and who revealed that Hunger was the Hydra creation Crown from a previous storyline…. then the whole thing was never followed upon as far as I know. (this recap is from memory btw so might be a bit off) And when Morbius next showed up in other Marvel stories he was back to his usual look. Anyone know if this was resolved or even mentioned anywhere else?
I enjoyed Mackie’s Spidey stuff but he sometimes started things that didnt have any payoff.

Add me to the people saying “I must read Englehart’s Dr. Strange someday”(right after Gerber’s Defenders and Man-Thing on my 70’s reading list).

Also add me to the people requesting future topics in this column: I’d love to see a write-up on Rick Veitch’s plans for Swamp Thing to meet Jesus as the climax of his amazing time travel story arc. Specifically any info about what was planned in the original ending (I heard Swampy was going to be the cross in the crucifixion?).

It’d be a good story to cover given the word “Forsaked” is in the title of the series (as in “why hast thou…”)

Enjoyable blog as always.

Didn’t Marvel have Ben Franklin sell his one night stand with Clea to Mephisto in exchange for not getting third degree burns from his kite experiment?

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

June 24, 2010 at 7:28 pm

A lot of stories get dropped, but this series seems to be about stories that weren’t just dropped, but were retroactively abolished in-story.

Not only did Crown/Hunger vanish completely, but so did SHOC, who only turned up again as one of the killed-and-zombified cannon-fodder characters in Mark Millar’s Wolverine run.

Speaking of Spider-man incomplete stories, what ever happened to SHOC? Oh wait, Wolverine killed him. Never mind.:)

I feel sorry for Spider-man writers these days. I truley believe they could of ‘unmarried’ him and not do in such a horrible (written) way. I read Civil War #2 was the unforgivable sin. I knew it was just hokum and there would hardly any real story to it, it was all about empty promises and getting Spider-man unmarried. They had just hyped a ‘Spider-man dies’ thing and that was hokum, too. Who killed him? Doc Ock or Electro? No, it was the Morlum Spider-magic… thing guy. Those Spider-man writers today are probably writing their guts out trying to get Spider-man’s vibe back, but I don’t see it happening. I hear they just did some shocking thing with that Ezekiel character and it had something to do with Kraven the Hunter. I bet five years ago it would of been big.

DId that guy in the negative zone ever come back for his Dusk outfit? Who was that guy?

Spider-Man: The Other… ’nuff said!

nice comics i love reading all comics thanks for sharing..

Suggestions:
The Rampaging Hulk “It was all a movie” retcon.
Dr. Strange V1#184 “The Searchers” and what was to follow…
Silver Surfer V1#19 “The Savage Silver Surfer” and what was to follow…
Clearing up the whole Jessica Drew/Spider-Woman “who the hell IS she?” plotline.
And, did they ever clear up the mystery of “the Trikon” from the Inhumans’ 1970 Amazing Adventure run?

As for DC…anything from Canceled Comics Cavalcade.

I really liked the stuff with Ben Franklin when I first stumbled across it, and it made me sad when it was just cast aside as an illusion and forgotten. That was one story line that deserved better than being Abandoned and Forsaken.

Great idea for a column, can’t wait to read more!

Steven R. Stahl

June 24, 2010 at 9:10 pm

The problem is that the thematic invocation of freshman-year philosophy doesn’t work terribly well as a plot. For one thing, Eternity’s not exactly a bad guy; it’s hard to be worried about a superior being whose major deception is undoing everyone’s arbitrary destruction.

The “Earth’s destruction” storyline had Eternity imprisoned and rendered inactive by Nightmare, so if Strange hadn’t done anything, Nightmare would have ruled the universe indefinitely.

Englehart was writing for adults, but his primary concern was still entertaining readers. Philosophical content was secondary, and anything that went over the heads of college freshmen would probably, and rightly, have been rejected by his editor. You might also be exaggerating the philosophical density of novels. Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, for instance, features dualism, which is only freshman philosophy, right? Combine that with comments that his early novels had two-dimensional, comic book-type characters — one can argue that Pynchon’s early novels are no more sophisticated than Englehart’s stories.

I vote for Byrne’s WCA to be the subject of a future installment.

The biggest practical reason not to do Byrne’s WCA material is that his material was, in effect, rejected by Marvel Editorial at the time. AVENGERS WEST COAST #62, written by Roy and Dann Thomas, undid the basis for Byrne’s storyline by saying that Immortus artificially amplified Wanda’s power. So, no retroactive time alteration, no reality alteration — just her basic “causing weird things to happen” hex power. Bendis ignored that issue when he did “Avengers Disassembled.”

SRS

How about Steve Rogers never really fought Commies in the 1950s, actually he was trapped in ice? Or Don Blake was never a real person turning to a god-like form, actually he had been Thor the whole time?

It always seems ridiculous to me when comic book fans get outraged at retcons and abandoned ideas, when so many “sacred facts” about our favorite characters are retcons themselves. They’re just universally accepted because most people aren’t old enough to have become attached to the pre-retcon versions.

A lot of stories get dropped, but this series seems to be about stories that weren’t just dropped, but were retroactively abolished in-story.

Basically, yeah (although maybe not necessarily as blatantly “in-the-middle-of-the-storyline” as this one, but along the same lines).

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

June 24, 2010 at 9:29 pm

Gravity’s Rainbow features dualism, but it clearly does a whole lot more than just that, and in a whole ,lot more disciplines than just philosophy. In any case, I don’t think I criticized Dr. Strange for being “just dualism,” but for being “just a single thought experiment in the very long history of dualism.

For that matter, I criticized Englehart more for not really wedding the invocation of the dualist thought experiment with the narrative momentum of the story. Again, Pynchon’s much better at making his metaphysical play into the meat of the story, at letting theme and plot move together.

I gave examples of comics writers int he same period I think did a better job than Englehart did on Doctor Strange’s title: Gerber on most of his titles, and Starlin on Captain Mar-Vell and Warlock. I’d add Englehart himself for his work with the Captain America, the Avengers and Justice League, all of which are great stories about the relationship between man and law, power and right, and gender and society. I really only have problems with Englehart playing with “cosmic” stuff; when he tackles the metaphysical stuff directly, I think he tends to get in his own way as a writer.

good article for always wondered how Eaglehart would have ended his doctor strange even though the ben franklin and clea story was kind of strange. even if Marv soon changed it to be a test. and a trap. for doctor strange. and would agree to include chris clairmonts abanded x-plots. plus would through in steve gerber never finishing Omega the unknown the way he planned too.

Silver Surfer V1#19 “The Savage Silver Surfer” and what was to follow…

This long-dangling plotline was finally resolved some 25 or so years later in Webspinners: Tales of Spider-Man #s 4-6. It was revealed that the Surfer was being manipulated by the Psycho-Man…

http://www.comics.org/issue/95268/

Wasn’t there an earlier Dr. Strange story where pretty much the exact same thing happened? Not sure about the details, but some guy named Sise-Neg (“Genesis” read backwards, natch) gains immense cosmic power and time-travels back to the dawn of the universe with the intention to recreate the universe in his own image but ultimately decides to “re-create” it exactly as it was? This was also written by Englehart.

How about the Blade miniseries which never finished, even though the events in the issue that never came out were later made part of continuity? Also, in the same mini, from around ’98-’00, I think, Blade doesn’t recognize Morbius, who he’d been hanging around just a few years earlier in all those Midnight Sons issues.

Speaking of x-Men, I was an intern at Marvel during the build-up to the whole ‘X-Traitor’ storyline in the 90’s and I can vouch for how many times the identity of THAT individual changed over time…

Wasn’t there an earlier Dr. Strange story where pretty much the exact same thing happened? Not sure about the details, but some guy named Sise-Neg (“Genesis” read backwards, natch) gains immense cosmic power and time-travels back to the dawn of the universe with the intention to recreate the universe in his own image but ultimately decides to “re-create” it exactly as it was? This was also written by Englehart.

Similar, but there, it was Strange seeing the ACTUAL creation of the world, not a re-creation where Strange knows that he is the only “real” person and everyone else is an exact duplicate of them self.

Titans Tower has a great list of stories that were abandoned, and many of them were overturned to raise even MORE questions…
http://www.titanstower.com/source/libhistory/dangling.html

dirigibledave@gmail.com

June 25, 2010 at 8:23 am

returning to the ‘how does it look in b/w’ issue:
us older Brit-type people are used to seeing Marvel comics from 1961-1990ish in b/w as that’s how our weekly anthology reprints came.
Personal opinion – most of the early stuff looks wonderful in b/w – kinda like looking at the original art. Ditko, KIrby, Romita, John Buscema, Adams, Brunner all. Interesting how Kirby’s SHIELD is magnificent, and if anything clearer than the colored versions, while Steranko’s doesn’t work in b/w because of the subtle washes, and simpler, blocky work like Trimpe and early Sal Buscema just look clumsy.

If we may suggest other examples. DeFalco’s run on Fantastic Four undid some of Byrne’s changes (e.g., Alicia Masters falling for Johnny) .

The changes to Xorn/Magneto post Morrison’s run.

Here’s another weird one. Not sure if it was abandoned as I am not sure if Gerber ever had a plan in place, but he had elves or whatever they were that popped up in some early issues of the Defenders (one eventually being hit by a vehicle). A reappearance and explanation appeared some 80 issues or more later by a different creative team.

Personally, I’d prefer it if this column focused more on plotlines that were never addressed again- after all, if it turns out they that were explained (or at least handwaved away) later then they’re not really Abandoned and Forsaken, are they?

Following up on Sijo’s comments, I remember a Superman storyline from the Millennium Giants crossover where a giant steps int he water and makes a tidal wave. Dan Jurgens’s comments read that 25,000 sailors die int he choas it creates. You’d think if that really happened there’s be some sort of mention of it on another page of the issue, or maybe in another issue.

Ben Herman wrote…
Silver Surfer V1#19 “The Savage Silver Surfer” and what was to follow…
This long-dangling plotline was finally resolved some 25 or so years later in Webspinners: Tales of Spider-Man #s 4-6. It was revealed that the Surfer was being manipulated by the Psycho-Man…

Many thanks, Ben!
Must hit back-issue bins this weekend…

By the way I’ve never been a big Gene Colan fan, but these pages look OUTSTANDING!

That last panel is the most thinly veiled drug reference Ive seen in mainstream comic.

After a big trippy episode ( the earth exploding, and conversing with a “cosmic” being), he sits alone for a long while “coming down”.

Pretty radical in context of the media and time period really.

Jax, Englehart once said that his reference in AVENGERS to the Beast reading Castenada was meant to have a subtext of “yeah, and he took hallucinogens too.”

Abandoned plotlines go back a long time. I remember the Lee/Kirby FF had a subplot in which the coach at Johnny’s college is desperate to get Wyatt Wingfoot playing for him because the coach can only keep his job because the dickhead quarterback keeps winning games and so the QB treats the coach like dirt knowing he can’t be benched. But nothing was ever done with it.

Yes, Alec Holland’s “cure” for Swamp Thing wore off in the Challs’ seventies run. Which I reread a few years ago and it has a very Forgotten Heroes aspect–not only Swampie turning up but Deadman and Rip Hunter. It was fun, though.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

June 26, 2010 at 9:51 am

Gerber has said that his Elf was never supposed to be explained or resolved; it was a symbol of the random, causeless violence in the world. He termed it “the beast in the jungle” that you could spend a lifetime preparing for only to be surprised anyway…or never run into it at all. (It helps to remember some of the truly scary, seemingly random violent crimes making national headlines in the 1970s.) Fittingly, Gerber’s successors on the comic had the Elf himself killed by a similarly random violent event without ever encountering the Defenders.

A few years later, J. Marc DeMatteis “revealed” that the Elf was an agent of some or other cosmic Tribune. This story was essentially a device to force the original Defenders disband. The Tribune expained that in all timelines, the grouping of the original Defenders provoked a destructive cosmic war. Compelled by the prediction and some time travel to see it first-hand, they disbanded and DeMatteis was free to create his New Defenders roster. (He’d already killed off Defenders mainstay Nighthawk; I guess he just plain didn’t like the old Defenders.)

Then, in the 1990s, Gerber introduced the nephew of *his* Elf with a Gun in a Howard the Duck story in Spider-Man Team-Up #5. That Elf, named Relf (and his uncle revealed as Melph), was a parody of roleplaying game conventions, going on about how hard it was to calculate “manna recovery to time ratios” as an excuse for not casting spells. That story also crossed over unofficially with Image’s Savage Dragon/Destroyer Duck one-shot, and the Image end of it had the “real” Howard going to the Image universe with Marvel’s universe getting stuck with a cheap cloned copy. (Yes, Gerber was still angry about creators’ rights regarding Howard.)

Even more forsaking of DeMatteis’s Elf story occurred when the cosmic Tribune was offhandedly revealed to be a “cosmic hoax” by Peter David, whose example in another Hulk story also kicked off this series. The “hoax” retcon was mainly so that PAD could reunite the original Defenders by disposing of the reason for their breakup, and thanks to writers’ affection for the original roster, it’s stayed in place.

As far as I can tell, not one bit of the arc setting up the “New” Defenders has evaded being retconned away.

Eternity’s explanation of how the Earth was recreated makes no sense- if all he did was recreate the Earth, and speed up evolution, then Clea shouldn’t be there! She’s not native to our Earth.
I don’t blame Wolfman for undoing Englehart’s “Clea slept with Ben Franklin” story. Englehart has a habit of turning female characters promiscuous even if it makes no sense. To this day, Tigra and Crystal are thought of as sluts because of Englehart. It’s a good thing Clea escaped.

“Speaking of x-Men, I was an intern at Marvel during the build-up to the whole ‘X-Traitor’ storyline in the 90’s and I can vouch for how many times the identity of THAT individual changed over time…”
Zenbird, can you tell us it was originally supposed to be and who some of the later candidates were?

The death of Spider-Woman in her final issue was overturned within a matter of months in Avengers, along with the WTF-moment where all memory of her existence was erased *by her own request.*

Sometime between the two issues, Mark Gruenwald wrote a blurb in one of his letter page announcement sections where he pretty much admitted that noone liked the story, and that they were already taking steps to “fix” it.

Ben Herman beat me to the other part of my suggestion: Chris Claremont revealed the Viper to be Spider-Woman’s mother, which was undone rather randomly in an issue of Captain America that came out at the same time as the last issue of SW. I never really understood a) what problem anyone had with that revelation, or b) why it mattered enough to undo, if SW was going to be dead anyway.

Re: Doc / Franklin / Clea / Stygyro: Englehart revisited this story briefly in his “Lost in Space-Time” storyline in West Coast Avengers, when the characters made a cameo. The issue isn’t handy for me to check, so I may be wrong, but I believe Englehart pretty much ignores Wolfman’s retcon; I think the dialogue is something like “Well, now that we’ve gotten rid of Stygyro, it’s back to our own time. Bye!” (with Doc noticing the attraction between Clea and Ben), but Wolfman’s story does not leave a gap in the action for such a scene to take place…

Re: Swamp Thing & the Challengers: Yes, ST’s cure was reversed in Challengers and the classic ST status quo pretty much restored, but the point is that Len Wein (in the letters column) threw those stories out *anyway*. (IIRC, he threw out all ST stories after he stepped down as writer.) ST’s Who’s Who entry even has a parenthetical note stressing that the “cure” never actually happened…

Travis Pelkie

June 27, 2010 at 1:41 am

Thanks to Omar for that cool info about Elf with a Gun.

Because I said I would, let me suggest that Englehart’s Dr Strange may be part of what Sonia Harris termed “the Psychedelic Age” or the “Groovy Age”. I said I’d keep using that term.

I don’t mind if Brian’s using Dylan references for column titles (mostly because I didn’t catch them…). However, I just hope he doesn’t start a column including stories about when the Atom got de-aged in Zero Hour, or how Tony Stark became a teenager again after, I believe, the Crossing.

Because if he does, he’ll have to call it “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.”

And that’s too long a title.

All my Dylan refs are from that 30th anniversary concert, man.

Thanks for the clarification about the cure. While I liked David Michelinie’s turn on the title after Wein left (at least I think it was him), the cure story (David Anthony Kraft?) was dreadful.
Still enjoyed that Chals period though.

The problem with everyone’s memories of Jessica Drew being erased was that Jessica saved Carol after Rogue’s attack. Everyone clearly remembered Rogue’s attack on Carol and that Carol survived in stories published right after Spider-Woman 50, so what did they remember about how Carol survived? Honestly, why Gruenwald approved a story that would complicate future retellings of Rogue’s and Carol’s histories is beyond me.

I think there are *many* problems with erasing everyone’s memories of someone :)

I was wondering if similar thinking was behind the Viper-undo, i.e. to avoid the issue of the Viper not remembering, you know, giving birth to someone. But that would imply that Marvel was interested in *keeping* the erasure…

Yeah, Gruenwald was the editor on Nocenti’s Spider-Woman, and should have had the power to say “no.” I don’t know why he didn’t. Maybe just bad judgment; I can’t find that “Special Announcement” I mentioned, but I recall it being fairly candid about it being a bad decision. (Although I think Denny O’Neil was editor during Claremont, and approved the Viper thing, which editor Gruenwald had DeMatteis write out in Cap.)

I really like most of Nocenti’s other work, even her other issues of Spider-Woman. But that series closing is still just stunningly bizarre to me…

Oh, I like those Challengers issues too! That Rip Hunter storyline had a great apocalyptic feel to it, and you cannot go wrong with M’Nagalah; it’s a scientific fact!

At Progressive Ruin, ST super-fan Mike Sterling talks a little bit about the (original) last days of Swamp Thing and their out-of-canonness here…

http://progressiveruin.com/2004_05_16_archive.html#108503308229797636

… and even discusses how these stories could be re-worked into continuity. If, y’know, you wanted to.

Re: Elf with a Gun:

I think that David A Kraft’s “resolution” of the plotline had as much to do with Michael O’Donoghue as Steve Gerber. O’Donoghue’s “How to Write Good” article in National Lampoon had the advice: “if you ever don’t know how to end a story, just write ‘suddenly they were hit by a truck.'” But the absurdity and brutality of that does dovetail quite nicely with Gerber’s vision as well; neat trick.

“I was wondering if similar thinking was behind the Viper-undo, i.e. to avoid the issue of the Viper not remembering, you know, giving birth to someone. But that would imply that Marvel was interested in *keeping* the erasure…”
The other issue with the Viper-as-Jessica’s-mom story was that Viper claimed to have ordered Hydra to recruit Jessica but if you read the stories in the time period in question, she seemed to be on the outs with Hydra since she’d failed them.

Chris, thanks for the link.

Gallifreyan Buccaneer

October 17, 2010 at 7:48 pm

…whoa. Being a loyal Dr. Who fan, I was a bit amazed looking at this. The plot line basically mirrors the (new) Season Five plot. Right down to both Doctors being erased from history. Ha!

It’s a shame that this category was also Abandoned An’ Forsaked after only one entry.

I’ll renew my pitch for an article about early Spider-Woman stories.

Spider-Woman was a very experimental character early on.

When introduced she was supposed to be an actual spider mutated by the High Evolutionary (much like Wolverine’s origin that did not quite become canon), but word has it that Stan Lee rejected the idea. So Modred the Mystic, in a couple of MTO stories that would make John Byrne proud, revealed that Everything Spider-Woman Knew About Herself Was Wrong and that she was human after all.

When she finally starred in her own book, her costume had a brunete wig that hid her red hair. Only that it was soon forgotten; ever since after Spider-Woman #1, she is a natural brunete. As far as I know, no further comment ever made it into canon. Truth be told, Spider-Woman seemed quite hastily done.

Since Steve has never revealed his original plans for the story’s end, I posited my own here:

http://fanfix.wordpress.com/2010/02/07/the-ending-of-steve-englehart%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%9Cthe-occult-history-of-america%E2%80%9D-storyline/

which Steve dropped by to comment on as cool nonetheless.

Not sure if it was intentional, but I like Ben’s shocked reaction to the Doc-Clea relationship in the context of “the morals of this time”. Ben was a hound of the very first degree, with numerous out-of-wedlock children. But since Ben immediately began to put the moves on Clea right after that comment, I’ve always interpreted his reaction as completely feigned as part of his attempt to make an impression on Clea as a sincere, upstanding guy.

Hi Brian,

I’ve got some further Abandoned/ Forsaken plots later turned into something unintended by the writers that introduced them:

>Gerber & Skrenes’ Omega the Unknown plot later dealt with by Steven Grant in Defenders (you could link to my theory which Mary herself comments on here: http://fanfix.wordpress.com/2011/07/02/%E2%80%A6the-connection-between-omega-the-unknown-and-james-michael-starling/
>The Fenris/ Hand alliance from Uncanny X-Men #268, revealed in X-Men #4 being due to Omega Red but not what Claremont intended;
>Who was Mr Sinister and what was he after? Particularly started in Uncanny X-Men #239 but now an alternate reveal by Gillen in Uncanny X-Men #2. My own theory here: http://fanfix.wordpress.com/2009/10/02/%E2%80%A6the-third-summers-brother-plot/ suggests Claremont intended to reveal him as the illegitimate son of someone important (since Sinister/ Lefty is the mark of bastardry in heraldry);
>Why did Mojo and Spiral show up during Psylocke’s brainwashing fantasy in UX 256? Nicieza went on to later resolve it by creating the Japanese mutant Kwannon but Claremont has stated online he meant this version of Psylocke to actually be Anglo-Chinese;
>What Gambit’s secret was? UXM 350 later revealed it was that he led the Marauders to the Morlocks but that doesn’t make sense when you consider the team had their own trackers, Scalphunter and Sabretooth;
>What was Widget? Davis later revealed Kitty Pryde merged with a Sentinel but it was obvious Claremont intended something else. What was the link with Tweedledope?
>Who were the Twelve, and what was Apocalypse’s connection to them? Davis and Co revealed in the Twelve saga but obviously not Louise Simonson’s plan which might have been revealed had another X-Factor Forever been greenlit;
>Who gave Wolverine his adamantium? Revealed in Weapon X as the Professor working through the project named Experiment X, Windsor-Smith wanted to reveal it as Apocalypse and Walt Simonson followed up on this through Wolverine’s Jungle Adventure. However, after editorial nixed the original idea that Logan was a wolverine cub mutated by the High Evolutionary, Claremont intended to reveal that he had been given his adamantium by a major Marvel supervillain (never revealed who though).

I need to buy those Englehart issues where Earth exploded…it looks trippy as heck! I don’t see why they changed all of that, especially the bit with Ben Franklin–he was a notorious ladies man in his day.

Yeah, in Marvel now deadpool #3, that came out 12/5/2012, the writer/editor acknowledges ben and cleo’s tryst. Because doc strange tells ghost ben f to f off when ben asks for a ride to zombie richard’s nixon location. So its a storyline that’s been unabandoned.

i was going to bring that up too teddy

theres a difference between saying its abandoned and it not being talked about… ie: abandoned is when they change something with no retcon… as for this, they just never talked about it until deadpool #3.

[…] even more, click here! There are seriously a TON of other things that I’d love to mention here but I just […]

Continuity fail in Deadpool #3 Marvel Now! Clea never sleeps with the fatty Ben.

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