The comic with the worst ending of all time is THE MEAN TEAM, which ran in 2000AD in the 1980s.

This story started as a future gladiator sports story and was alright if you squinted. The Mean Team were the fiercest fighters in a killer capture-the-flag variant, probably called ‘Deathbowl’, and they had been promised their freedom if they won a championship. But oh no! their owner reneged on the deal so the Mean Team went on the run to Earth…which had become overrun with GIANTS and CENTAURS and magic and where no technology worked.

Fairly obviously this much-hyped future sports story had not pulled in the readers, so a switch of direction into swords-and-sorcery was rushed in. When the Mean Team returned the story was even more clearly being made up week-by-week, unfortunately this pressure did not result in amazing leaps of imagination but instead a directionless romp through stock fantasy situations punctuated with stiffly drawn fights. The preconditions to thrill-power do not always generate thrill-power.

Everybody wanted the end to come, but when it did come we were still appalled. In one episode the Team met a big demon, killed it by saying magic words – which turned out to be “MEAN TEAM”! – and then Earth was free. The last two panels had the Mean Team standing in a row, and then the same shot from behind with them all being executed by a police spaceship! To round things off the final caption was, naturally, “THE END…?”

This worst of endings was also of course a good ending. It was memorable. It was aesthetically apt – reflecting the contempt in which creators and readers held the series. It was funny. It was barely thought out. The world of comics is a precarious one and stories and series are cancelled all the time so when a genuine rushed ending appears it’s a moment for the connoisseur.