Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Final Panels from Canceled Comic Books: #2 - Dakota North

For the second entry into the sometimes confusing, hastily-drawn and odd swan songs of canceled comic books I have invited a guest-blogger. That was something I once thought I would never entertain because 1) Who would want to post here? And 2) The very real ego-crippling danger that anyone who does an entry will be funnier, wittier and far more clever than I can manage on my best day.

So braving the possible destruction of my sense of self-worth I present Marionette, guesting from the Wonder Woman-centric and troll-target website the Dance of the Puppets.

In other words, "I'm looking for work tomorrow, so screw it."

When I offered to send Sleestak my favourite last panel from a canceled comic book for his collection he mentioned he'd knew nothing about the title and invited me to do a guest entry, and here we are.

Dakota North ran for 5 issues from 1986 to 87 and featured the adventures of jet setting, glamorous private eye Dakota North. Superficially she looked a bit like a sexed up version of Max Allen Collins and Terry Beatty's Ms. Tree, a non-jetting, unglamorous private eye, such that an advert Marvel ran to promote Dakota featuring the tag "Style" in large type was parodied by the Ms. Tree team, featuring their heroine and changing the tag to "Substance".

The problem with Dakota North was that although the story tried to be a lot like a big action movie with James Bond-like chases across well known foreign landmarks, the dialogue was turgid, the plots banal, and the art was appalling. A lot of the time Tony Salmons' art looks unfinished, often leaving the rather dull and unimaginative colouring to define objects that appear only half drawn.

It's anything but stylish.

Its cancellation at issue #5 must have been very last minute. The immediate maguffin is dealt with, but the overall plot line is just starting to build, and even the letters column refers to subsequent issues. The only indication that this is the last issue is the final caption.

But apparently that wasn't the end of Dakota North. While looking stuff up I found this page, Thrilling Detective, which lists her subsequent adventures and adjustment into quite a different character.

Just shows nobody ever stays dead or forgotten in comics.

Thanks, Mari! You read it so we didn't have to!

Published bi-monthly, the title seems to have suffered from at least partly a lack of support from Marvel. Way back in the 80s before the writers and artists dictated how the company was run it was often that good editorial attention turned around many faltering titles. Imagine how differently the initial Dakota North story arc would have been accepted if someone as stylized as Bill Sienkiewicz or Kevin Nowlan handled the art chores. The book was probably doomed creatively from the start since it was placed on the schedule during a particularly difficult period for professional and corporate Marvel.

I recall the "Style" ad but never picked the title up. My quota of strong female detectives was ably satisfied by Jeanne DeWolff at the time and I had little interest in a hotter version who fought crimes of fashion. New readers may recognize the character of Dakota North from her recent supporting role in the Ed Brubaker run of Daredevil.

Next in the series: Surviving Cancellation!



  1. I entirely forgot to mention that the last panel features Dakota's dad, Sam North and evil villainess (and Sam's ex-girlfriend) Cleo I'veforgottenhernamealready. The tiny ugly hand in the foreground is a sample of the bad art and the fact that I didn't notice the gun it was holding until at least the second time I looked at it, a sample of the bad colouring.

  2. I remember trying to read Dakota North when it came out and I just couldn't get past the first issue or so. The art and writing was so blah it just wasn't worth it to me and I was a huge Marvel zombie at the time.

  3. I wanted so badly to like Dakota North, which seemed like a great new direction for Marvel to strike off in. Bought every issue, and I guess I was the only one. I've reread it a few times over the years and I always wonder "Have I actually read this before? I can't recall this at all."

    It COULD have been good, it SHOULD have been good, but it wasn't, and Marvel wasn't committed to making it better. I guess it exceeded my expectations that Marvel would even TRY something like this, so I forgot that it was doomed from the outset. Four more issues and Dakota would have been bitten by a radioactive badger or something and wound up in a cape. It was a mercy killing to stop at #5.


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