The world is full of great comic books, plenty of which some of us will never find the time to get around to reading. That’s a bummer but not, y’know, a tragedy. At least someone out there is going to have the opportunity to read Our Love is Real or Black Heart Billy. No, the real tragedy are those books that no one is going to be able to read. Those poor lost souls that never made it past the pitching phase to publication. This post is dedicated
Gerard Way’s Batman: Kingdom of the Mad
When the former My Chemical Romance frontman isn’t busy being a gigantic rock star, Gerard Way is quite the accomplished comic book creator. His credits include the Eisner Award winning Umbrella Academy and an upcoming issue of Edge of Spider-Verse. As you can tell, Way isn’t one to do a cookie cutter superhero book which is what makes his Batman: Kingdom of the Mad pitch so exciting. His Batman would be one that “only eats rats” and “has ESP, can turn into a bat, and can see into the future, but only he knows about these powers” (source). It’s totally out there! Even crazier, Way’s pitch was approved and he was all set to have a limited series published by Vertigo but the project sat on the shelf and never came to fruition.
Jack Kirby’s The Prisoner
The Prisoner was a television show that ran for 17 episodes from 1967 to 1968 and centered on a former secret agent that awakes in a mysterious village stripped of his identity and immediately tries to leave. It is the great television show of the 20th century. With its surreal quality and strong themes of individualism, the show became a cult hit. So of course Marvel Comics announced in 1976 that Steve Englehart and Gil Kane were going to be adapting The Prisoner for comics (source). And then, strangely, the title was handed over to Jack Kirby who would be adapting the similarly heady 2001: A Space Odyssey. Kirby produced a 17-page “test issue” but the project never made it to print, probably due to Kirby moving on to adapting 2001.
Ramon Perez’s Mister Miracle and Big Barda
This one is heartbreaking. Ramon Perez is a real treasure in the comics community with his work on Tale of Sand standing out as a triumph. This last July, Perez revealed via Twitter that he had been pitching a digital comic revival of the beloved Jack Kirby characters Mister Miracle and Big Barda. The focus would have been on high romance and grand adventure. Sounds perfect, right? Well, the book was being developed around the time of the New 52’s planning and became an unfortunate casualty of the line-wide relaunch (source).
Patton Oswalt’s J
Actor/Comedian Patton Oswalt is a bonafide geek icon. The guy’s got opinions on Moon Knight, he’s one of us. Of course he would want to do a comic book. Kevin Smith gets to play around with Batman, why shouldn’t Patton Oswalt? Patton had two big pitches that DC rejected but the better of the two by far is J. The book would have been a hard-boiled, noir flavored story about what happens when “[t]he Joker once again breaks out of Arkham Asylum, and Batman – along with the Justice League – tears apart Gotham to find him” (source). This serious crackdown on crime would inspire a gang of minor supervillains led by the Cluemaster to hunt down the Joker themselves before they’re hauled off to prison. That actually sounds like something Greg Rucka would write, doesn’t it?
Faith Erin Hicks’ Afterlife, Inc.
There literally isn’t a single thing not to like about Canadian cartoonist Faith Erin Hicks. She is one of the most talented creators working outside of the Big Two publisher (and certainly stands up well against their best, too) with the Eisner Award for The Adventures of Superhero Girl to prove it. However, all of her success doesn’t mean she can get a publisher like First Second (where the majority of her work is published) to accept a pitch. Hicks’ Afterlife, Inc. is what she describes as an oft-rejected book about “an office that is a way station for dead people” (source). Realizing that her proposal might not be best served as a graphic novel, Hicks has indicated a willingness to explore serializing it online or through a publisher like Image.
Bruce Timm’s Star Wars
How to put this delicately… Star Wars is a property that sells itself just based off of the name. It doesn’t necessarily matter who writes or draws it, if you put the name Star Wars on a comic then it will sell. This has been known to lead to somewhat subpar output and created a class of readers that might prefer to avoid a Star Wars comic. To really grab everyone, you’ve got to put a superstar on the property. Bruce Timm is one such superstar with a veritable legion of fans thanks to his work in DC animation. Around the time of The Phantom Menace, Timm was approached to “audition” for a comic book adaptation of the upcoming film and he created a handful of amazing pages featuring the cast of the Original Trilogy (source). Timm didn’t get the job for whatever reason but he’s grateful because, in his own words, “[I]t would have killed me!”
Mark Waid, Grant Morrison, Mark Miller, and Tom Peyer’s Superman 2000
Perhaps the grandest of these failed pitches, Superman 2000 stands as perhaps one of the most notable misses in the world of comics. A veritable brain trust of writers consisting of Mark Waid, Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, and Tom Peyer (arguably some of the greatest living Superman writers) gathered together to pitch a line-wide relaunch of the Superman books to send the character off into the 21st century. Superman was set to undergo an evolution of his powers and physiology and the Lois and Clark relationship was going to be redefined in a major way. And the project was actually given the go-ahead! Only to be shot down by an editor that objected to the changes (source). You can read the pitch online and see how different elements of it found their way into books like All-Star Superman and Superman: Birthright.
Chris Sims’ Batman 3000
Chris Sims is one the greatest comic book culture commentators on the Internet and stands as one of the foremost experts on the character of Batman. Seriously, you guys. He loves Batman more than you’ve ever loved anything in your miserable lives. But, Sims also loves the sillier aspects of the DC Universe like the Legion of Superheroes in the 31st century. When Sims noticed that the 31st century of the DC Universe lacked a clear Batman legacy character, he created a pitch with his friend and artist J. Gonzo for a book explaining why that was and using it as a launchpad. His pitch involved a retrofitted Silver Age character Brane Taylor discovering the hidden legacy of Batman that an immortal Talia al Ghul and the League of Assassins had attempted to wipe from history (source). Brane would take on the identity of Batman with an alien sidekick as his Robin to battle the League of Assassins. Sims hasn’t pitched the book in an official capacity but DC is foolish if they don’t have any plans on pursuing this.
Alan Moore’s Twilight of the Superheroes
Okay, this one actually sounds kind of terrible. Alan Moore is known for his superhero deconstruction stories like Watchmen but they’re just not any fun. So in the late 80’s way before Moore recommitted himself to smart yet fun superhero stories, he pitched a massive crossover called Twilight of the Superheroes. His story would have seen various factions of superheroes fighting each other for control of the planet. Thankfully, DC realized that this sort of story was a little darker than they wanted to take their characters and they rejected the proposal (source).
Dean Trippe’s Lois Lane, Girl Reporter
Forget Superman, Lois Lane is the best character to debut in Action Comics #1. Her integrity and tenacious attitude make her a better journalist than a guy that can go anywhere, see anything, and hear anything. She’s kind of a big deal and more than ready for another dedicated series. Dean Trippe (Something Terrible) pitched a series of young adult novels to DC, even working with an editor over there, that would have given Lois Lane the Nancy Drew treatment by reimagining her as an eleven year old with a flair for investigative journalism. Lois Lane, Girl Reporter would have seen Lois solving mysteries, interacting with younger versions of DC characters, and no doubt inspiring a generation of children to become journalists (source). For whatever reason, DC hasn’t shown interest in actually publishing the book.