Sunday, November 18, 2007

House of Mystery #154 (10/65)



Let’s look at our records with this issue: Circulation numbers for House of Mystery became available in 1960, at which point the title was selling an average of 208,000 copies, from which it would climb to a peak of 225K the following year. Sales plummeted the year following by 50,000, likely the cause for J’Onn J’Onzz being instated as a super-heroic lead feature to what had been a giant monster title. By the end of his first year as lead feature, the Manhunter from Mars was selling 196,677 copies an issue on average. However, the numbers dropped to 183,934 over the next year, leading to J’Onn’s being bumped from the covers permanently with this edition. Further, where his stories often took up two-thirds of a given issue with an unrelated back-up, his “lead” feature was now little more than nine pages. Maybe the face of the book was now a purple cookie monster who fired rays from his eyes, but the Martian delivered a nifty story, anyway.

The convicts in the yard at Elgin Prison laughed about blocky thug Orry Kane swearing revenge against the Manhunter who captured him in the week before his release from prison. “I’ll tell yuh exactly what I’m gonna do, wise guy! I’m gonna pull the biggest job of my life--right under the Manhunter’s nose!” The warden called in J’Onn J’Onzz after Orry’s “brazen boast courses through the mysterious channels of the underworld grapevine.” This prompts him to assume the role of “chubby guy with ridiculous pompadour,” as he followed parolee Kane to a warehouse break-in. It turned out to be a trap, with J'Onn staring into his reflection in a magical mirror. Kane recites an incantation, releasing a distorted Manhunter from the Mirror of Malador. “Siddifo--Saddifo-Ralvo... evil image--come forward and recognize me as your master!” An awesome six-figure judo move sent the evil Martian through a wall, but the futility of a fight between exact equals and the property damage they caused distracted J'Onn. “H-He is indestructible--like myself--which means, this contest could continue--to the end of time!”

Vibrations from thunderously concussive blows sent a rail car off the tracks toward cars under a bridge, before the Alien Atlas saved the day. “Whew, what a sight for sore eyes the Manhunter is at a time like this.” Yet, the Mirror Manhunter was responsible for just such a situation, as he peeled open a cargo plane to scoop out a measly million dollar shipment of gems at his master’s beckoning. The real Manhunter soldiered on, with a flame-thrower strapped to his back! J'Onn's daring plan proved a liability when the evil Manhunter turned out not to share his weakness, tossing a burning bush at our boy. Manhunter rolled a boulder at a plane just to blow out the little fire with propeller backwash. Seems like a tad much collateral damage for a hero who was using super Martian Breath in pretty much his every appearance in “Justice League of America.”

The police had meanwhile made their way to the warehouse, intent on smashing the Mirror of Malador. J’Onzz stopped them, instead presenting it to the Mirror Manhunter with the words, “Ovlar-Ofiddas-Ofiddis” while depressing the tiny trigger button on the upper right of the frame. Faux Manhunter and mirror were reintegrated, and both smashed to bits by a jade fist. The worked “by reversing the incantation you uttered to materialize the evil reflection...an old Black Magic ritual! ...Let’s go, Kane! The next time you see a mirror, you’ll see yourself dressed in a prison suit again!”

Believed to be by Jack Miller and Joe Certa.

2 comments:

Luke said...

If the Mirror Martian was not weak to fire, what was he weak to, I wonder? Besides falling for obvious (but certainly effective!) traps? I should write to DC's collections department and suggest a collection of these stories. They sound like goofball fun.

Frank Lee Delano said...

I don't know how well the first Martian Manhunter Showcase sold, but surely well enough for a second volume. I figure that would finish out the 'Tec run and collect all of the HoM material. I'd have to break out my calculator, but they might even have room for the Adventure Comics/World's Finest serial.