All-Star Batman and Robin Issue 1
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Art: Jim Lee. Credit: DC Comics

Comic Book Cliffhangers: Three series that deserve a proper send-off

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Apr 1, 2021, 4:50 PM EDT (Updated)

The power of fandom is stronger than it has ever been.

This week's debut of Zack Snyder's Justice League after a relentless four-year fan campaign is all the proof you need of that. The drum-banging of the #ReleasetheSnyderCut true believers made a $70 million director's cut of a movie NOBODY liked a reality. And I'm willing to bet that soon we'll get evidence in terms of viewing numbers that HBO Max will be thrilled they cut that check. What does that all mean? It means that, when harnessed properly, a collective of fans can make miracles happen.

Comics history is littered with incomplete and abandoned projects that deserve a fitting ending, a proper denouement. Perhaps hashtag movements could hopefully/maybe/possibly/PRETTY PLEASE resuscitate some unfinished bit of comics business that were kicked to the curb for any number of reasons. Sometimes, titles, crossovers and ambitious, line-wide events are canceled for business reasons (see: DC Comics' much-discussed 5G reboot that died in the publishing womb after the company went through massive restructuring in 2020). Other times, however, it could be scheduling issues, talent conflicts, or even just bad timing that short-circuits a story and leaves fans hanging.

I'm sure every serious comic book fan has one series in mind that deserves a chance at saying goodbye. But since this is my column, I'm going to be greedy and pick a trio of books that I'd like a conclusion to at some point.

art: Jim Lee/Scott Williams    credit: DC Comics

ALL-STAR BATMAN AND ROBIN SEQUEL

Why not start with what is likely my biggest pipe dream?

Calling All-Star Batman and Robin a polarizing comics series is hilariously understating matters. The much-hyped book, a titanic team-up of comics superstars with writer Frank Miller and artist Jim Lee, debuted in 2005 to monster sales and some of the nastiest reviews imaginable. A lot of people hated Miller's take on Batman in this book, especially the sadistic streak he had and his abusive handling of Dick Grayson. There's one line in particular that might still be a trigger warning for traditional Batman fans.

"I'm the Goddamned Batman."

Whatever your thoughts of Miller's characterization of the Caped Crusader, there is no debating that the artwork Lee and his inking partner Scott Williams created was some of the best in his career. With incredible layouts and splash pages galore, the entire series was a visual feast for art nerds. The problem is, it was constantly delayed. Lee has always taken full responsibility for the irregular shipping patterns of the title. He was busy with the DC Universe Online game and insisted Miller had turned in the script in a timely fashion.

Despite the bad reviews and shipping delays, the series was a blockbuster hit. The first issue was the top-selling comic of 2005, outselling even major events like Infinite Crisis and House of M. Which was why a sequel was planned.

And never released.

Due to various reasons that have never been clear, the planned sequel, to be called Dark Knight: Boy Wonder, never happened. It was announced at WonderCon in 2010 as a six-issue series, and Lee himself said this: ""The first chapter of the story of how Batman and Robin came to be has been told in issues 1-10 of All-Star Batman and Robin," he told the audience. "Frank and I sat down just recently to have a long talk about how best to finish this very 'deadline challenged' project and give the loyal fans the second part of this epic storyline they have been patiently waiting for. Moreover, we wanted fans to know that this story is part of the overall Batman mythos and Dark Knight Returns universe which Frank started back in 1986."

Lee practically jinxed himself right there in that panel room. 11 years later, still no word on if this sequel will ever occur.

And it is a Godamned shame, because the world wants, nay, NEEDS another collaboration between Miller and Lee. Imagine a series in which the Dynamic Duo is portrayed closer in tone to Miller's Dark Knight Returns universe, scripted and drawn by a pair of legendary creators. Take our money, DC Comics, PLEASE!

art: Glenn Fabry   credit: Marvel Comics

DAREDEVIL/BULLSEYE: THE TARGET

Perhaps the most infamous unfinished series in recent comics history, The Target was Kevin Smith's follow-up to his Guardian Devil series that helped make the Marvel Knights imprint a smash hit. The limited series was also meant to piggyback on the 2003 Daredevil movie starring Smith's pal, Ben Affleck. Featuring some sweet art by Glenn Fabry, it took place three years after the death of Karen Page at the hands of Bullseye. Daredevil was hunting down his mortal enemy. Bullseye meanwhile, had a big job he was planning: a major-league assassination. The great premise, and a solid first issue, had fans excited for what was to come.

Except we're still waiting for that second issue, 19 years later!

It's no great mystery what happened. Smith was deep into production on his film Jersey Girl at the time, and he never found the time to get the book back on track. The other series he was doing at the time for Marvel, Spider-Man/Black Cat: The Evil That Men Do, was also delayed for several years, but fans of that six-issue title were finally rewarded with a conclusion. Not so for the poor fans still waiiting to find out who The Target of Bullseye's deadly campaign was.

(Spoiler Alert! Smith has said it was Captain America.)

The filmmaker and podcaster has refused to declare The Target officially and permanently dead, so there is hope he may one day get around to completing it. In 2019, he said plans to wrap up the story some day, and even joked that leaving it undone would ensure he'd have some work to do if his Hollywood stuff ever dried up. Given how much has changed in Daredevil's mythos since 2002, and the fact he's revealed the big twist in his story, it stands to reason Smith would have to basically start from scratch with his plans for issue #2. After nearly 20 years, the fans still waiting for closure on this book would probably be OK with that.

cover art: Bill Sienkiewicz   credit: Marvel Comics

THE LAST GALACTUS STORY

Now we get to the story I'd pay dumb money to see completed and reprinted in the highest possible quality.

I've waxed poetic about John Byrne's "The Last Galactus Story" before. I know I'm far from the only aging Bronze Age comics nerd who stil remembers the bitter disappointment that came with learning that EPIC Illustrated had been canceled due to slumping sales. That meant readers who had been enthralled by the nine published chapters of Byrne's cosmic mystery were stranded in limbo. Byrne's incomplete opus is the greatest unfinished story in Marvel history, IMHO. What makes it so maddening is that I, along with many others, know that having Byrne provide the conclusion to his story would be a financial windfall for Marvel. Or IDW, if it would be done as part one of their lavishly done, coffee-table Artists Edition books. For goodness sake, how has this not happened yet? It's like people hate money.

Why am I so sure this would be a smash? Because we know the ending he had planned, as well as a second and even darker finale if he wanted to break it that way. Byrne's discussed it on his ByrneRobotics.com message boards and he's told us about it. It's the focus of maybe the most gonzo Behind the Panel video essay we've ever done. You can view it below. Check out some of that unbelievable art in that story and then tell me that you wouldn't want to see Byrne put the finishing touches on that masterpiece.


What do you think is the greatest unfinished comic book storyline? Find me on Twitter/Instagram and let me know.

Don't forget that Behind the Panel is a multi-platform series that can help keep you entertained. Our video series is loaded with my in-depth interviews with amazing comic book creators. The Behind the Panel podcast is an audio documentary series that provides unique insight into your favorite creators and stories. Check 'em out, we think you'll enjoy them.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBCUniversal.