Wednesday, February 3, 2016

2015 J'Onzz Family Portrait Artist Jam featuring H'ronmeer by Adrian Nelson

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While the Manhunter from Mars is often treated as a derivative and minor character in the pantheon of notable comic book heroes, one aspect of his backstory is fairly unique amidst the legions of super-heroes who are orphaned or have no family to speak of. While I had a number of art jams going to showcase for the 60th anniversary of the Sleuth from Outer Space featuring fellow heroes, villains, and supporting players, the most obvious way to honor J'Onn J'Onzz was to devote the most effort and resources to a family picture. In the earliest stories about the character, his whole and living parents were introduced, with a younger (relatively) teenage brother showing up a few years after. All three turned up occasionally throughout the Silver Age in a peaceful domestic setting. Until 1969, Mars was a vibrant, healthy environment, in sharp relief to the usual trauma and loss surrounding other long underwear types. Even after the destruction of Mars, J'onn J'onzz spent nearly two decades shepherding the survivors and foregoing the adventurer's life. Just a few years after returning to the Justice League, a new retroactive history was given to the Martian that made him a widower and father to a deceased daughter. This new status quo came to define J'Onn for the rest of his career, and more than virtually any other character excepting Mr. Fantastic, J'Onn J'Onzz is the consummate "family man" of comics... even in the absence of blood relatives, through his memories and human surrogates for those he's lost.

Younger brother T'omm was introduced in 1961, and was the character who initiated the jam in pencil form. An initially unnamed spouse eventually dubbed M'yri'ah came out of the 1988 Martian Manhunter mini-series, and was the first inked & colored figure in the piece. Our hero J'Onn was third and closest to the center, tasking the artist to heavily incorporate him into the previous two drawings (note the hand on his wife's shoulder & cape flowing behind bro.) Daughter K'hym shared publication history with her mother, is the only character in the jam who was fully colored, and the artist successfully integrates her into what had appeared to be a closed loop between the initial trio. This was the core of the family to me, so there was greater flexibility with the rest of the piece.

J'Onn's parents debuted in 1956, but had to wait until 2001 to get names in one of the last issues of the only pre-New 52 Martian Manhunter ongoing series. I wanted a large, strong figure to anchor the far right side of the piece, which the artist of father M'yrnn excellently provided. Unfortunately, I couldn't fit the entire 11" x 17" image space onto a Xerox, so I had to cut two copies together, and the far side of that figure took a quality hit in the scan above. I cleaned it up as best as I could. To my knowledge, J'Onn's grandmother wasn't referenced before 1986, and not since, so her artist did a great job mingling a minor character into the increasingly busy and cramped piece. With mother Sha'sheen, I preferred the Silver Age model of the character to the modern version that was basically just J'Onn in drag. I like that the parents are facing each other while appearing to be looking over their family. Finally, part of what made me so happy about how M'yri'ah was rendered is that she appeared to be looking at the upper left portion of the page, where her assailant Ma'alefa'ak was added, stealing her full attention away from her husband and this monster's twin brother (though a familal resemblance isn't a given among shapeshifters with polar opposite moral alignments.)

The J'Onzzes Besides blood relatives, I also wanted to add a religious aspect to the family portrait through the most famous Martian deity and the one with the greatest impact, H'ronmeer. This deity became associated by name with the plague that retroactively wiped out the Martian race from 1988 until relatively recently, though generally being treated as benevolent overall. I thought this being might show up around Malefic or J'Onn's grandmother, since they had closest ties. I also thought a painter might contrast well against the firmer lines of the other figures, but that angle didn't pan out. Instead, I went with Adrian Nelson, who I knew I could rely on to deliver quality work after his previous efforts on Bloodwynd, Malefic, and a third piece I haven't posted yet. He added graytones to fill in background areas and specifically to flesh out Sha'sheen so that she'd feel more of a piece with the rest of the figures. More importantly, his ominous and intricately crosshatched H'ronmeer(s) not only tie the entire jam together, but also allude to the duality of perception about the character (creative & destructive fire from the heart of the Red Planet.) Nelson did a fantastic job making this work feel complete!

The only member of the family I intentionally left out was J'ahrl J'onzz, an ancient ancestor who was never rendered in a definitive way who only played into one issue of one minor year 2000 story arc. The Justice League cartoon added a second child of J'Onn & M'yri'ah in the early 2000s, who was only just confirmed as another daughter named "Tanya" (spelling per closed captioning) this year on a recent episode of Supergirl, and for the first time his children's names were pronounced as "Kim" and "Tahn-yah." Unfortunately, in an exceptionally tone deaf move a few months prior in the comics, J'Onn J'Onzz's entire family and Martian life was retconned away as he was presented as a created weapon employed by White Martians with false memories. I find that angle hateful, but am confident it will ultimately be ignored, since J'Onn's family has already appeared in two cartoon series, two direct to video original animated movies, and now have been repeatedly referenced in a live action network television show (and rendered in CGI!)

More from Adrian Nelson

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Podcast: Martian Manhunter #5 & All-Star Section Eight #3 (2015)

Episode #19

Look for us on iTunes, ShoutEngine or directly download an art-tagged MP3 from the Internet Archive

Frank summarizes and critiques two comedic comics: the fifth issue of the New 52/DC You Martian Manhunter series by Rob Williams and Eddy Barrows, plus the Alien Atlas' cover-spotlighted appearance in All-Star Section Eight by Garth Ennis & John McCrea!

We enjoy dialogue on the red planet, so here are our non-telepathic contact options:

Thursday, January 14, 2016

2015 Ma'alefa'ak J'onzz Amazing Houston Comic Con Jam Sketch Detail by Rob Liefeld

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I've been a fan of Rob Liefeld since my brother passed me his copy of New Mutants #98 to read. I bought his X-Force run new, and worked after school to make money to buy back issues of New Mutants that cost then royal sums of $6-20 (obviously the debut of Cable was out of my price range, but I had the reprint with the gold ink at least.) Of all the Image artists, Liefeld's was the only style I could halfway achieve, so there's a bunch of yellowed typing paper in a box somewhere of my Robified versions of beloved action figures and original characters of mine.

Liefeld was at the first Houston comic convention I'd attended since the EXTREME!!! '90s, and the first time I sought commissions. Unfortunately, I was poor back in 2010, and my friends told me his quote was roughly the same as my entire budget for that first show. Still, it planted the desire to get a Martian Manhunter piece, but then Liefeld proceeded to blow off Houston shows for the next three years, and then I was out of the country when he did roll through in 2014.

I wasn't 100% on attending Amazing Con, and my friends who had attended previously did not have kind things to say. I'd started and mostly completed the J'Onzz Family jam piece at Space City Comic Con, but I saved Ma'alefa'ak just for Liefeld, and really only attended this show to get that done. I don't recall if I went Friday, but if I did, catching Rob was a bust. You know those enormous serpentine lines that "Zombie King" guy photoshopped into his con promotional pictures? That's what Liefeld's actually look like.

I didn't want to spend my entire time looking at some other fanboy's back and stealing glances at passing cosplayers, so I toured the con like I normally would, running through a number of single commissions and new jams. That said, I kept eyeing the line, looking for an opportunity. Saturday was Liefeld's last day, and after missing him during panels and other promotional efforts, I finally saw an opening that morning. After waiting on the sidelines while he took pictures with some kids, I made my approach.

Liefeld is famously upbeat and unflappable at these appearances, so I was surprised to hear him say to a handler "I'm salty today! I've never been so salty!" Something had clearly set him off, and he was in a sour mood. I had intended to gush a bit about my '90s fandom, but it seemed best to cut to the chase and hope he would be game to join the jam. He immediately stated that he was only doing head shots for a set price, and if I was fine with that, he'd do his part. I agreed, figuring maybe I could get another artist to ape him somewhere down the line to fill out the piece. I gave him my reference, which featured a variety of takes on the character, and he asked me which was the closest to what I wanted, Ed Barreto's. I paid the man and split, only for a new wave of fans to show up right behind me to keep Rob busy for hours.

While I still wanted a J'Onn J'Onzz someday, if a full figure wasn't in the cards, his evil twin brother Malefic was a close second. I'd already gotten Brett Booth to do J'Onn's Silver Age younger brother T'Omm J'Onzz, and part of my head canon was that instead of merely being consigned to the dust bin of history, T'Omm had become Ma'alefa'ak at some point. That way, I could chalk up the elements of the Ostrander/Mandrake series that berthed Malefic that I didn't like to the unreliable narration of a mad Martian. Also, Booth was one of the early Image studio artists who trained under its founders, so I liked the implied progression from his innocent T'Omm to Liefled's Sith-level Ma'alefa'ak.

I checked in on the piece for the rest of the afternoon, but Liefeld was constantly swamped, and didn't seem to make much headway there. Finally, he began to pack up, and asked me to wait in the lobby of his hotel while he took the piece to his room to finish. I waited patiently, anxious that I might be in the wrong part of the lobby, or even the wrong hotel! Finally, Rob showed, and he'd gone well beyond what he'd agreed to in drawing Malefic's full body incorporated into the jam! I was giddy over finally having the equivalent of a Liefeld Martian Manhunter, and gushed over it. Rob was noticeably happier than he was that salty morning, and the jam was nigh-complete without stress or incident! I only needed one more artist for the finishing touches...

More from Rob Liefeld

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

2015 K'hym J'onzz Space City Comic Con Jam Sketch Detail by Dietrich Smith

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I first heard of Dietrich Smith on mid-'90s EXTREME!!! books like The Night Man/Gambit and Chapel before he disappeared and reappeared on more eccentric, experimental fare like Tad Williams' The Next. Most recently, he's been working at Dynamite on licensed projects like Battlestar Galactica, Army of Darkness, and the upcoming Shaft: Imitation of Life with David F. Walker. His style has changed a lot over the years, but in researching him for commissions, I found that I really enjoyed his current output. He often foregoes solid blacks in favor of rendering figures in pure color via pencil, marker, or watercolor. It softens the focus and gives a greater impression of a moment of life rather than a crystallized image.

I wanted that kind of delicacy in the approach to K'hym, J'Onn J'Onzz's deceased daughter, whose spirit hangs over the series of superhuman teenage surrogates the Martian Manhunter has mentored since shortly before K'hym's existence was revealed in 1988 (Gypsy, Jenny Quantum, Stargirl, The Pearl... and in outside media, Miss Martian and Supergirl.) As much as I'm sure J'Onn mourns and misses his wife, J'Onn's role as the father of an older child (usually depicted as pre/early adolescent) who has passed not only twists the knife of tragedy that much more than is commonly seen in super-hero comics, but has had a stronger reflection in his ongoing narrative than his little seen and short-lived romantic interludes. The specter of K'hym cast a pall over J'Onn's continued existence to a greater degree than any other long and forever lost member of his family.

Like most of the other artists, Smith had to not only capture the nature of his subject, but do so within the confines of a collaborative project where numerous figures would be interacting with one another, all drawn by different artists in a sequence without direct communication with one another or an overarching layout. K'hym had one of the hardest "green screen" roles, since she's fourth in line after her father was looking at her mother was looking at her uncle who was himself looking at the audience, all in a diagonal line of sight that terminated with T'omm J'onzz, and with J'Onn slightly left of center.

Smith had K'hym believably interact with a presently distracted but not neglectful father while having her relate to a flame that was used to set up other artists and their characters. It was Smith's idea to add the fire, which ultimately reflected Grandmother J'onzz's comfort with/connection to her god H'ronmeer and his embers of destruction/creation. I love how accurately Smith was able to depict this young woman's body through the color-only anatomical/costume details, while also making feminine her bald alien head, sewn together by dark lines to better tie her into the overall piece. The look on her face and the trepidation in her body language while she steps away from a modest danger toward her protector, both figures connected but neither actually looking at the other. Even though she's an otherworldly green-skinned being, she's also your friend or your sister or your daughter.

For the record, the contrasts on the scan make it appear like K'hym has a harsh light source to her left, but that area is actually just more lightly colored than the copy was able to pick up. K'hym is the only character in the piece fully colored by their artist, with lovely shading besides, so she really stands out in the finished piece (though I hope to have the whole thing hand or digitally colored in the future.)

More from Dietrich Smith

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Vile Menagerie: BETTE NOIR

Alter Ego: Bette Noir
Occupation: Psychic parasite
Marital Status: Single
Known Relatives: None
Group Affiliation: D. N. Aliens
Base of Operations: Cadmus
First Appearance: Martian Manhunter #1,000,000 (November, 1998)
Height: Variable
Eyes: Violet
Hair: Black

An unidentified party was known to have created D. N. Aliens outside the aegis of Project Cadmus, the genetic engineering outfit most associated with these types of scientifically manufactured beings. As these rogue, mostly inhuman looking D. N. Aliens would appear in public, often discovered during some form of "rampage," they would be captured and placed in Cadmus' high tech holding facility dubbed "Monster Alley." A subset of these beings were in a vegetative state, and held is a segment reserved for "the sleeping monsters." One of these beings was a large mass of Caucasian flesh covered with various protrusions, some identifiably human extremities and others more foreign, such as tentacles. This being was not truly in a coma, but was instead active on the psychic plane, and in fact contributed to the unconscious states of other "monsters" by sapping their psychic energy to further empower the subject's non-corporeal form.

Self-identifying as "Bette Noir" and composing the form of a seductive pale-skinned woman from pure psionic energy, the "vampire" went undiscovered until she victimized one of Cadmus' most prominent figures, the telepathic D. N. Alien Dubbilex. At this time, the clone Superboy had been working closely with Cadmus, but was unavailable to help due to his commitment to the teen metahumans Young Justice. Further, the crime seemed to require investigation involving a different set of skills and powers, so Superman recommended the Martian Manhunter to assist.

J'Onn J'Onzz attempted a mind meld with Dubbilex, and was nearly sucked into a "psionic black hole within him" where all of his considerable mental power had been drained by an unknown nearby source. J'Onzz oversaw the construction of a cage around Dubbilex's physical form that would disrupt his draining, while the Martian set down a telepathic net to detect the assailant when they investigated the disruption. Even still, Bette Noir arrived without setting off this web of psionic energy, then offered a demonstration of her powers that temporarily bested the Manhunter, the cloned Guardian, and other members of Project Cadmus. However, the Martian Manhunter recovered quickly, traced Bette back to her physical body, and telepathically crafted psionic restraints that trapped Bette within her own mind. J'Onzz expressed regret at this harsh but necessary sentence, and vowed to work toward improving the living conditions on Monster Alley.

Some time later, the serial killer of metahumans Dr. Trap learned of the existence of the highly developed D. N. Alien telepath, and used connections cultivated over the years to make contact. Trap offered to free Bette Noir from her body while allowing her a place within his own mind, but failed to elaborate that he would have her physical body killed while subjecting Bette to conditioning that allowed him to subjugate her. Bette was then used to mentally manipulate J'Onn J'Onzz into confronting the captive Dr. Trap, who unleashed the full force of Noir's power to cause J'Onzz to relive his every painful memory at the same time on a continuous loop. J'Onzz was only very briefly incapacitated, and his powers were temporarily muted, but he ultimately reached a mutually beneficial agreement with Bette Noir to reside within and torment Dr. Trap instead.

When last seen, Bette Noir was revisited by J'Onn J'Onzz as a suspect in crimes actually being committed by the disembodied spirit of Harley Quinn. However, he did find that Bette's continuous punishment of Dr. Trap had become sadistic, so the Martian Manhunter collaborated with Trap to press Bette Noir into becoming a more conscionable warden over his psyche.

Powers & Weapons:
Although the D. N. Alien's physical form was static, her psychometric manifestation as Bette Noir was largely unhindered by corporeal restrictions. She could fly and pass through solid objects. Her powers are telepathic, telekinetic, and pyrokinetic, which allowed her to interact with J'Onn J'Onzz's body even when he would otherwise have been intangible, lighting his molecules on fire and threatening to similarly burn out his mind. Bette Noir can enter a person's mind and alter their perceptions, at one point taking the form of J'Onzz's deceased wife M'yri'ah in a bid to seduce him, and monstrous forms to inspire fear. Since losing her physical body, Bette Noir has needed to be hosted in the minds of others.

Quote: "My physical body-- is just misshapen flesh. This is the only life-- the only freedom-- I'll ever know. And there's so much I could do for you, J'Onny. I sneaked a peek in your mind. I know what you need."

Created by John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

2015 M'yrnn J'onzz Space City Comic Con Jam Sketch Detail by Scott Kolins

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J'onn J'onzz's unnamed parents appeared in one of the hero's earliest stories as carbon copies of the basic Martian with a color flipped costume and/or a barely noticeable gender swap. They appeared once or twice more during the Silver Age Detective Comics run, and then nothing for 3½-4 decades. If I recall correctly, they didn't turn up again until the last story arc of the 1998 Martian Manhunter series, where John Ostrander finally named the father "M'yrnn" and Eduardo Barreto redesigned the character... as still pretty much J'Onn J'Onzz in essentially the same costume, but with less red and a Jemm-y gem on his brow. I wasn't at all a fan of Ostrander's exploration of J'Onn J'Onzz's childhood through the dark lens of his then-newly invented evil twin brother, but I did like that he bucked a common comic book crutch by having his mother Sha'sheen being the dominant and defining parent while the father was a comparatively minor entity.

With this in mind, I looked at the brand name talents available to work on this jam piece and thought "who would I like to draw the Martian Manhunter besides Carlo Barberi?" Costume variations aside, M'yrnn was a second opportunity to get a proxy J'Onn into the piece, and you know which long time DC artist specializing in their iconic characters who rarely/never got around to the Alien Atlas was in Houston this year?

Scott Kolins is of course most famous for his three year run on The Flash with Geoff Johns, but he's been on my radar since he got his start on the Ultraverse line and my favorite of his runs was a brief stint on The Avengers (I especially dug his Captain America!) Saturday in Space City was tense due to the demands of getting so many parts of the jam completed before several of the intended artists left early, so I was in a bit of a rush when I raced to Kolins to ask him to join in. He was approachable and friendly, not to mention quoting a very amenable price for a full figure that would occupy one of the largest spaces available in the jam.

Look, this project is a collaborative effort, and virtually everybody involved brought their A-game, so it's not fair to call out favorites. It's just that M'yrnn J'onzz looks so much better than he has a right to, by far the best he's ever looked anywhere, that it's hard to love all these commission "children" 100% equally. I'm all about this guy's expression, the brawny curve of his arms, those wicked cut legs, and especially his adorable, lovingly rendered little footsies and toes! Plus, Kolins added those sick graytones that give so much depth and pop... and speaking of pop, it's hard not to assume J'Onn was conceived in an earthly, earthy fashion with the Alex Rossian attention to certain prominent details. Jeebus! Finally, M'yrnn J'onzz is not only appropriately in scale compared to his son and the other characters, but also delightfully larger than life!*

*Not talking about the package anymore. C'mon, guys!

More from Scott Kolins

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

2015 Grandmother J'onzz Space City Comic Con Jam Sketch Detail by Marat Mychaels

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Unlike the several other art jams I've been engineering, I wanted the "family photo" to be completely done within the summer of 2015 to insure it could unfurl early and often into J'Onn J'Onzz's sixtieth anniversary year. I also wanted to stick with recognized professionals in the industry, I wanted to maintain the high standard set by Brett Booth, and I tried to approach people I'd never gotten work from before. That was a pretty tall order, and ultimately, those demands had to give in a few places.

As I juggled the various artists and subjects in a premeditated but necessarily flexible sequence across two short weekend shows, I ended up with a narrow gap between a pair of full-sized standing figures where two characters had to fit. Further, I had used green Post-Its to establish not only each character's general location, but also their relative height to maintain scale. Since the as-yet-not-drawn Sha'sheen J'onzz had to be slightly below the eyelines of the already fully rendered J'onn & M'yrnn, that meant the other character had to squeeze in below her dedicated space, no higher than waist up on anyone, and did I mention she also had to interact with the finished K'hym piece?

That was a list of severe demands, and I frankly needed to call on someone I had a history with who I could trust without reservation to pull off this challenge. I needed the maestro behind one of my first commissions who as a result became my ideal figure artist for Commander Blanx, none other than Marat Mychaels! He's worked on hundreds of comics since the early '90s, most notably Brigade, Deadpool Corps, Army of Darkness, & Grifter, plus he's closely associated with another superstar artist I was angling to include in the jam!

"Grandmother" J'onzz was to my knowledge never named, and her even appearing in a comic book is debatable, since not even her creator J.M. DeMatteis could confirm whether the being drawn in Justice League of America #256 was intended to be her or the Martian deity H'ronmeer. Since H'ronmeer looked completely different when he appeared in the 1988 Martian Manhunter mini-series and has been consistently depicted through Mark Badger's version of the design, I basically appropriated this image for the matriarch in J'Onn's thoughts while burning alive in that story. Since the figure was depicted in that tale surrounded by flames, and J'Onn's visions were connected to H'ronmeer and his grandmother, I thought perhaps coupling the two through a fascination with fire typically shunned by Martians would be a nice wrinkle (plus the K'hym artist had already drawn a flame of his own accord.)

Through my long-winded explanation and the various leaps to this point, it was a minor miracle Mychaels managed such a fine specimen! I love the Kirbyesque quality to the hands, feet, and the solid blacks. Note his ability to skew the androgynous subject more feminine through subtle use of feathered pseudo-eyelashes, as well as a general softening of the harsh Luke McDonnell reference art. It's a lovely little piece packed with fine detail, and he even gave it to me at a discount, despite the amount of effort needed to make the piece work within the confines of the jam. As ever, I'm a fan of Marat Mychaels, one of my commission all-stars, who is a class act and has never let me down!

More from Marat Mychaels

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

2015 Sha'sheen J'onzz Space City Comic Con Jam Sketch Detail by Ryan Benjamin

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Thanks to the constant distraction of podcasting, and the specific demands of getting new Martian Manhunter podcasts onto this blog every few weeks, I've managed to go over a month without a new member of the J'Onzz Family Portrait appearing. Who better to set the T'hanksgiving D'inner than “Mother” J'onzz, the Silver Age domestic later rendered as "Sha'sheen?" The post-Zero Hour, pre-Flashpoint incarnation of J'onn's mom was herself a Manhunter from Mars who wore an outfit near identical to her son's, which struck me as boring and lacking individuality. The unnamed materfamilias appeared thrice in the old Detective Comics strip, once in the early days with a bald head in a sort of formalized muumuu, and years later in the version you see here. I prefer this sort of austere pilgrim look to the Groening overbite original version, especially the lavender hair, which would also turn up on Bel Juz.

I had considered Wildstorm and DC artist Ryan Benjamin for several members of the J'onzzes, including M'yri'ah and M'yrnn, but as other artists took precedence the selection was made by default. I'd previously enjoyed Benjamin's work on WildC.A.T.s and Grifter, plus his more recent cover work, and figured he'd be a good fit for any of the alien Martians, but especially a female. I actually caught the artist toward the end of his stint at the convention (can't recall if it was Saturday or Sunday) and he was drawing a large, very detailed Bane on his table mat as a going away present (after having already done an attractive Harley Quinn.) I stood around for a long while, watching the artist work. Once I finally attracted his attention, he offered to do a ten minute sketch of Sha'sheen for $80.

As he settled into the drawing using my waist up reference, Benjamin asked me a lot of questions about the character's costume details, especially those left unseen. I frankly didn't have many answers for him, since to my recollection Mother J'onzz was never drawn below the waist in this costume, and I ultimately regretted frustrating the artist by not asking for one of the character's other two designs. Truth to tell, I have no great interest in Sha'sheen, which played into her late, obligatory, and cramped inclusion in the jam piece. I think the artist sensed my lack of enthusiasm and inability to articulate much of interest about the character. Obviously, there's a lot missing from view in this scan, as Sha'sheen is interacting with two other members of the family I'm saving for later. Also, I had another artist add graytones to this figure to better integrate it into the overall piece.

More from Ryan Benjamin

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Podcast: John Jones in Smallville, Part 1

Episode #18

Look for us on iTunes, ShoutEngine or directly download an art-tagged MP3 from the Internet Archive

Beginning this episode: an irregular series of shows covering appearances by the Sleuth from Outer Space on the WB/CW's long-lived Superboy Clark Kent developing into Superman TV show Smallville. This initial installment looks briefly at the show's formative development, then summarizes John Jones' cameo debut in the sixth season episode "Static," followed by the launch of the Martian-less not quite a "Justice" League, and finally the full debut of the Manhunter as portrayed by Phil Morris in "Labyrinth."

Episode Art Tumblr

We enjoy dialogue on the red planet, so here are our non-telepathic contact options:

Monday, November 2, 2015

Podcast: Martian Manhunter #4 (2015)

Episode #17

Look for us on iTunes, ShoutEngine or directly download an art-tagged MP3 from the Internet Archive

Frank summarizes and critiques the fourth issue of the New 52/DC You Martian Manhunter series by Rob Williams and Eddy Barrows! Also, a deeper, angrier critique of the series and look at sales, plus a brief look at the Supergirl pilot.

We enjoy dialogue on the red planet, so here are our non-telepathic contact options:

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

2015 J'onn J'onzz Space City Comic Con Jam Sketch Detail by Carlo Barberi

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If I recall correctly, my enjoyment of Carlo Barberi's work predated his professional career, when I first noted his fan art. From there, he continued a legacy of high quality cartooning begun by Humberto Ramos on Impulse, facing the unenviable task of replacing Ethan Van Sciver and staying with the book for the rest of its run. He went on to notable stints on Deadpool, Gen13 (with Gail Simone,) and Ultimate Comics X-Men (with Nick Spencer & Brian Wood,) as well as various brief spots with Spider-Man and my personal favorite, the Batman: Orphans micro-series. Barberi first drew the Martian Manhunter in adorable form for Sins of Youth, then in the animated "Timmverse" fashion as regular artist on the Justice League Unlimited comic adaptation.

After Brett Booth established the scale and quality bar with T'omm J'onzz (still only penciled at this stage of the project) and Ken Lashley maintained it with M'yri'ah J'onzz, it was time to form the centerpiece character, J'onn J'onzz. I wanted this take to be as close to ideal as possible, capturing a contented Alien Atlas in the midst of his family. I was confident Carlo Barberi was the best choice for the joyful J'Onn of my heart and in my head for this jam effort.

The main figure stands nearly 11" on the page, so he's quite a bit grander in scale than this scan represents. I'm afraid the small scale of this scan reduces your ability to spot the finer details of Barberi's work, and also adulteration in the scan causes it to be overly contrasted and appear rougher in the tones than on the physical art. However, Barberi did such a great job of incorporating J'Onn into the presence of the previous pieces of his wife and kid brother that I wanted to focus on that. I love the slightly cocked beetle-brow, the soft smile, the curve of the collar and drape of the cape. Barberi is wonderfully on model for the Martian Marvel of my childhood with his body posture and specifics like the "pie" symbol belt buckle. J'onn holds M'yri'ah's shoulder, and his expression is both loving and slightly curious about his bride's distracted glance away toward T'omm. That's an element we got to build upon further down the line.

For the record, Barberi had a very limited color palette at his disposal to produce the tones, and while the scan gives the appearances of bright green skin and clear reds on his straps & eyes, the actual piece is all shades of gray that merely give the impression of color. Barberi's J'Onn J'Onzz is rich with subtle style and dimension, and he proved the perfect choice for my favorite subject on this "grail" piece. Of course, with J'Onn in the middle, there's a lot more of this portrait to reveal in due time...

More from Carlo Barberi

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Podcast: Martian Manhunter #3 (2015)

Episode #16

Look for us on iTunes, ShoutEngine or directly download an art-tagged MP3 from the Internet Archive

Frank summarizes and critiques the third issue of the New 52/DC You Martian Manhunter series by Rob Williams and Eddy Barrows! Plus, Martian Mail covering the 60th Anniversary Special (Part 1.)

We enjoy dialogue on the red planet, so here are our non-telepathic contact options:

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

2014 New 52 Martian Manhunter Comicpalooza Commission by Pat Broderick

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Did I say that I was going to run a J'Onn J'Onzz commission every day late last week, one from each year leading up to the anniversary? What I meant to say was that I'm very, very tired from working on the 60th podcast and it'll be a week from the day of my last post.

Pat Broderick was one of the first comic book artists that I was exposed to, thanks to my uncle having been a fan and having left and/or given me a bunch of 1970s comics associated with a mutual favorite, Jim Starlin. For instance, I at least got to read Starlin's Captain Marvel issues, and I recall having some copies of his successors' issues around the house, including some by Broderick and Al Milgrom. However, unlike with Starlin, there was a huge gap in time between inheriting those comics and having access to any more work by Broderick, which meant waiting until 1987 for my next major fix. The title was Captain Atom, which I totally bought into from the first issue I could get my hands on until I stopped finding it on the newsstand a few months later. Regardless, I loved Broderick's style and was always happy to see him turn up on later books. I finally got to meet him and his wife last year, found them to be pleasant folks, and picked up three sketches. I'd recommend anyone do the same, since they're quality, affordable, and quickly turned around, exactly what you want from a convention commission.

I can't recall if this was the first or second piece I got that year, but the idea was to have the modern New 52 version of the Manhunter from Mars strike the earliest pose anyone would consider "iconic" for a relatively minor super-hero property. All the way in the beginning, Detective Comics #225, Joe Certa drew a couple of shots of the Alien Atlas that were memorable enough to be homaged by later artists and even repurposed for a cover element on 1961's giant Secret Origins #1 which was later redrawn by Jerry Ordway for a 1998 replica edition. I didn't communicate the intention to carry on that tradition well enough though, so the result was closer to other pieces I've had done that were more akin to Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe entries of full figure reference shots. I still dig the piece though, especially the contemporary Manhunter design reinterpreted in the Bronze Age style I and many of my generation tend to favor as the flavor we were reared under.

As I've said repeatedly, I'm a fan and defender of Jim Lee's New 52 redesign, and feel the Sleuth from Outer Space has long needed a visual overhaul. That said, I still very much wish DC would allow the color scheme to revert back to shades of dark blue, as was seen in several of Martian Manhunter's early appearances in the current continuity. Once you color the suit purple, he starts to look rather derivative, and when you do it in old school flat colors by a period artist, it becomes really obvious that the Martian Marvel is in fact nigh identical to the version of Drax the Destroyer created by Starlin and later drawn by Broderick. Still, purple is a complimentary color, and Drax decided to become Riddick before making the leap to a highly lucrative major motion picture debut, so I can live with fly hand-me-downs no one else is using. Heck, even Hulk stopped sporting eggplant jeans ages ago.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

2013 Martian Manhunter Comicpalooza Commission by David Mack

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A couple of years ago, I started thinking seriously about what I wanted to do for the 60th anniversary celebration, and one thing I tried to do was save back a few pieces from each summer convention commission season for the occasion. This was of course before 2014, when I a) started a bunch of jam pieces that are muchly still unfinished, halting their post progress and b) was still producing a daily blog of reasonably freshly produced content. I could probably post a new illustration every day for the rest of the year and still not completely exhaust the stockpile thanks to hoarding, other projects and procrastination. I was also still concerned about "debuting" pieces based on whether they had shown up on the internet outside my control (usually on the artist's social media/art galleries/et cetera.) This work by David Mack was threefold perfection, as it was a name artist who to the best of my knowledge never circulated the piece and actually spotlighted J'Onn J'Onzz instead of another obscurity from his circles. Niftily enough, it also allows me to offer a new bit of Alien Atlas art for the rest of the workweek, from 2013, 2014 & 2015, each from creators of some profile.

I first became acquainted with Mack from reading a few issues of the 1995 Caliber Press series Kabuki: Circle Of Blood when it passed through the comic shop I was working at that year. It reminded me a lot of early Frank Miller, and was strong enough that I followed his career from indie books to the majors on Marvel titles like Daredevil and Alias, which was easy to do since he mostly just did covers and pin-ups outside of Kabuki (who by the way turned 20 last year.) The man works wonders with watercolors, but I'm not sure that's an option on commissions. Doesn't matter, because he does produce work for fans in the 水墨画 (suiboku-ga/suibokuga) realm, a Japanese technique of ink wash painting that produces very iconic (in the literal sense of the word) images. It may sound esoteric, but they used that technique on the movie posters for 2013's The Wolverine, and it sure made the home video boxes pop on the shelf.

Among my friends, the piece is divisive, with folks having an art background digging it and those without "not getting it," and though I lack for formal education, I know quality when I see it. I love the Martian's distinctiveness in semi-silhouette, with the oblong celestial body in the background and the slight anatomical distortions evoking the subject's shapeshifting alien otherness. At the same time, it isn't remotely minimalist, with the features of the neck up resembling a film negative of a precisely shot but high contrast living being. The folds of the cape, its circular clasps with rope bridge, the rib cage, chest straps and even the beloved "pie symbol" belt buckle-- there's a wealth of detail in what appears to be a simple drawing from a ways out. The actual piece is roughly 11" x 16" on heavy stock board that holds rich, dark inks still slightly tacky after all this time, with lots of scribbly pencil layout artifacts that didn't come through on the scan. It's a lovely piece, and when the Photobucket account offered prices for matted/frame/metal reproductions, I confess that it gave me pause (even as I hold the original!)