Friday, November 30, 2007

1998 Warner Bros. Studio Store Justice League Plate by Alex Ross


In the post-bust mid-90's, I was running a rinky-dink comic shop in a rinky dink town. One of my customers was an aspiring animator, whereas I always wanted to write. His two great passions were Star Wars and Disney Studios, where I was a DC fan who dug Warner Brothers in general, Daffy Duck in particular. I got talked into playing the Star Wars collectible card game, in part because CCGs were all the rage. I also thought it best I have some idea of how these things worked, if I was going to sell the stuff. I made pretty decent money off them, though my spending good money for a personal collection of SW cards on my Ramen noodle budget was decidedly ill-considered. They're still in a binder and box in the garage, presumably worthless, and don't even get me started on Overpower. That's the way it tends to go in this business.

This whole thing is a tangent, so bear with me as I work my way around in a decaying orbit toward the subject. I'd play cards with my friend with benefits (as in capital, not carnal, creep) and we'd good-naturedly rib one another about our respective corporate allegiances. He went so far as to work at the rather lame Disney store at the mall, where I only browsed the comparatively awe-inspiring WB Store. A great many of the novelties from those outlets will make their way to this blog, but I intend to center on just the one, for now. Eventually.

It so happens that the rinky-dink shop had seen its spirit mostly die with the premature passing of the owner's wife and comic czar. I was brought in to replace her. Of course I never did, which explains why her husband sold the shop less than a year later. Worse, I was pretty much sold into bondage to a drug-addled arrested development case who conned his mother into sinking five figures into a comic shop in the aforementioned post-bust mid-90's. I kept the doors open for a year with my developing social skills and business savvy for comics, cards, and toys. The idiot son managed to tank the place trying to sell tennis shoes signed by local ballplayers he'd overpaid for at an impossible mark-up in the aforementioned rinky-dink town. Busting open cases of froo-froo $10 card packs in the post-collapse sports memorabilia market to keep the choicest cards for himself when not skimming the till for booger sugar didn't help, either. After I'd quit and returned out of guilt about a half dozen times, the jerk finally fired me, though they kept me coming in once a week to sort the subscriptions, until they heard a rival shop hired me.

No really, I'm getting there. See, the Disney guy happened to call for me on the phone within minutes of my less-than-final termination, and I brushed him off with a cracking voice. Never saw him again, but somewhere down the line, some other customer I carted over from the rinky-dink shop to the better-run-pissant-small-town-shop bought me this plate from the WB store. I just don't recall the who or when. I'm kind of lousy when it comes to attaching memories to objects, unless there's a specific story involved. Now see, it was a darned nice plate, bought at a time when I was much more of a Wonder Woman fan than one to jones for J'Onzz. It's just, plates are, y'know, delicate. I'm sort of hard-travelled, if you missed it before, so I was pretty much waiting for the day this sucker ended up in pieces. Plus, I just can't see owning a plate that I can't eat pizza off of. Despite my roommate's annoying assertions to the contrary, function is essential, where form is not. I haven't had a working refrigerator in over a month because she hasn't found one her "style" yet.

Wait, I'm almost there. Once I loved this plate, but I very shortly after lost it. Got sold at the second shop to some other customer, for money that surely never went into my pocket. See, I invested that money in the second shop, which lasted another six years before I and my partner burned out on the industry and decided to close it, by mutual choice rather than by force. More importantly, we didn't feel the need to scam some other idiot, or sell-out our customers. Judging from internet resources and my own memory, the plate always caught enough of the light to never be properly visible as a whole anyway, so I just scanned a reproduction of the original painting. I got my shop and the art, too. That's good business sense. Plus, I never was a commemorative plate guy.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go drink some tea from my Silver Age Wonder Woman tumbler, thankful that I never smeared the oil from a Pizza Hut Meat Lover's all over those nipples Alex Ross insisted on painting upon the Manhunter. I expect emerald boy-breasts from the Incredible Hulk, but here it just skeeves me out. There's such a thing as too realistic, sir! Oh, and note that he's position next to his best frienemy, Aquaman. It's a thing, I tells ya...

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Lois & Clark & J'Onn & Jones (Mid-2000)


Clark Kent had gone without hot money rutting with his Earther couplemate Lois Lane for months, as she suddenly grew cold, critical, and distant in the new millenium. So basically, she was suddenly consistant with Lois’ original and longest-lived characterization. Superman tried working out some marital frustration by thrashing the moon in Action Comics #764 (April ‘00). Other folks live there...
“I hope you feel better. Another fifteen minutes and you’d have knocked us out of orbit. Want to talk about it?”
“No. Thank you, J’Onn... “
“Might help, and a lot less painful. You might not make yourself bleed on moonrock, but I’m sure that did not tickle.”
Superman began to cough violently, troubling Manhunter. “Kal-El--?”
“I--KAFF--I think maybe...Maybe I’m not okay after all.”

In an attempt to solve his matrimonial woes, Clark returned to the Watchtower with his bride, intent on having an extra-terrestrial getaway with Lois. Writer J.M. DeMatteis had the couple’s bickering continue into The Adventures of Superman #578(May ’00), before J’Onn J’Onzz...
Manhunter: “Uh... If you two would rather be alone...?”
Both: “NO!”

Superman wanted to borrow J’Onn J’Onzz’s Martian spaceship (acquired from Z’Onn Z’Orr,) but needed to learn how to fly it. While explaining this, another coughing fit kicked in. J’Onn expressed his continuing concern, but was told, “It’s nothing.” Reaching into a clearly marked bag of Oreos in the age of an editorially-forced brand switch to Chocos, “Perhaps a cookie...?”
“I thought you kicked that habit?”
”I control it now... It does not control me.”
“Of course. Now about the ship...?”
“The ship is psionic in nature... Adjusting itself to the pilot’s psyche. The actual physical demands are limited. The more you surrender to the vessel, the more it will surrender to you... Most humans would not be able to find the psychic balance required for the task.” After assuring Supes of his abilities, J’Onn let Kal-El jump into his ride...
Superman: “Swell!”
Lois: “Did he just say ‘swell?’”
J’Onn: “I believe so.”
Lois: “Sigh. You mind if I have one of those [Oreos]?”
J’Onn: Just. One.
As Superman departed, he said, “Goodbye J’Onn--and thanks!” Likely out of even the Man of Tomorrow’s earshot, J’Onzz replied, “Good luck, old friend, I think you’re going to need it.” Perhaps he sensed to some degree what readers had yet to discover, that “Lois Lane” was in fact the nefarious Rudy Jones (no relation), the Parasite in disguise, helping to poison “her husband” physically and emotionally. Superman did indeed catch on, beginning to unravel a plot against him that would guide him to foreign lands. Oh, and Parasite died, but you know as well as I do that never takes with super-villains.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Aquaman #65-69 (March-July 2000)


Dan Jurgens must have really been trying to boost sales on Aquaman with a five issues stay for the JLA, aided by pencil artists Steve Epting and Paul Ryan.

King Arthur had been drawn into conflict with the island nation of Cerdia in the mid-Atlantic, a war which supposedly leveled "Atlantis" (more likely just the city-state of Poseidonis, but writers push it sometimes.) Further, the former Aqualad Tempest's infant son had been kidnapped. When Aquaman attempted to apprehend Queen Charlanda of Cerdia for these misdeeds, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and the Manhunter from Mars interceded on her behalf. Superman in particular noted, "...the JLA is not now--nor has it ever been--in the business of choosing a country's political leaders!" This of course forgets Superman's own "relations" with the terrorist nation of Qurac, and Arthur reminded Supes of his own sovereignty.

Supes ignored Aquaman's status as a regent by ordering GL to intercept Poseidonian bombs headed for Cerdia. Wonder Woman urged Arthur to discuss the matter peacefully, so the king pulled his forces back temporarily. Viewing the wreckage of Aquaman's nation, Superman found no evidence that Cerdia was responsible, a sentiment echoed by Diana and J'Onn. Batman had analyzed the two bombs that helped provoke the hostilities, and they both contained Atlantean technology.

Suddenly, Atlantean Shriek Fighters began attacking Cerdia, with all communications jammed. The JLA flew into action, disabling both Atlantean and Cerdian forces. Manhunter was shown lifting a Cerdian submarine out of the ocean, before telepathically discovering the code needed to call off the Atlantean forces.

Meanwhile, Aquaman and Tempest broke away to chase down Queen Charlanda, only to uncover longtime foe Ocean Master as being behind the plot. After a brief skirmish, Arthur found himself lying in a ruined section of Cerdia, faced with a mob of its angry citizens. The League eventually arrived, but found that Arthur had already talked the aggressors into simmering down. To reinforce Arthur's command, J'Onn J'Onzz projected Aquaman's thoughts into the minds of everyone within Cerdia, especially his still attacking Atlantean forces. As Tempest noted, "The Martian Manhunter's telepathic link did more than simply convey Arthur's message. For a moment, every soul for miles around touched the mind of Aquaman..."

A second run-in with Ocean Master led to the release of Tempest's son, eventually to be named “Cerdian.” Inexplicably, the JLA then joined together to rebuild Poseidonis without any kind of breathing apparatuses. Soon, that same League were shocked to learn that Aquaman had claimed Cerdia as his spoils of war before the U.N.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Superman Y2K


After Jimmy Olsen snapped a picture of Superman wearing a wedding ring, reporters all over town became desperate to find the bride of the Last Son of Krypton. In order to safeguard Kal-El's privacy, the JLA called a press conferance at the United Nations building in New York. Wonder Woman accepted the role of spokesperson for Plastic Man, the "Dark Flash," Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern, Steel, and Aquaman. "Yes, Superman is married...as are all on this stage...to the Justice League of America." The present members then presented a row of adorned ring fingers. "Regardless of that, these gold bands are in actuality highly sophisticated experimental signal devices recently issued to all members...You may see them again in the future." (Superman: The Man of Steel #96; Jan. 2000)

A more robotic (and Superman” The Animated Series-style) “Brainiac 2. 5” had fought the Man of Steel on a prior occasion before making the scene in Superman Y2K #1 (Feb. 2000). This Brainac infested the year 2000 problem-solving Lexcorp Y2Kompliance computer program, using it to take control of the entire electronic world. Trying to save bulletcars in Japan, Superman was telepathically contacted by J’Onn J’Onzz. Sporting ten arms, Manhunter was trying to cybernetically and telepathically coordinate Earth’s heroic response.
“J’Onn. What took you so long?”
“I had to reroute the teleporter targeting source before I could get up here...According to the Watchtower’s scans, ninety-six percent of the world’s computers have gone down. That accounts for approximately eighty percent of power, water, heat, transportation, etc. I’d be more specific--but this isn’t typical number crunching .”
“Where can I be of the most use?”
”That’s why I contacted you. Metropolis is clearly the epicenter of the problem, I’m investigating why--but you skills are required elsewhere...on a larger scale.” Nuclear missiles were launching across the globe by the thousand, as Green Lantern looked on. “Gee...good thing you threw all those nukes into the sun, and made them promise not to make any more, huh?” referring to the “King of the World” story. GL and Superman managed to stop the threat, as a multi-eyed Manhunter watched another drama unfold. Brainiac 2.5 began an involuntary upgrade, becoming the monolithic Braniac-13, a greater threat to the future...

Monday, November 26, 2007

Secret Files & Origins Guide To The DC Universe 2000 Vol.1, Part 2 (3/00)


The former creative team behind the Chase series, D. Curtis Johnson, J.H. Williams III, and Mick Gray, were next up with “Standard Operating Procedure.” Created six years previously (DC time) under the supervision of the presidentially-appointed Secretary of Metahuman Affairs, the D.E.O. became a branch of law enforcement and investigation for matters of an extraordinary nature that fall outside the pervue of other agencies. The D.E.O. absorbed several previous agencies in pursuit of this mission, including the Checkmate Knightwatch, Amanda Waller’s Task Force Delta/X (prompting her position as Southeast Regional Director;) and the Central Bureau of Intelligence, from which it took “King” Faraday as its Senior Director. Elements of these operations allowed the creation of new divisions like the Orphanage (education and training of exceptional youth) and the WABE (analysis and containment of exotic nonhuman terrestrial life.) Finally, the D.E.O. wholly or in part subsidizes a collective of super-scientific organizations that it utilizes under the heading of the National Metahuman Resource Foundation. This includes the Cadmus Project, S.T.A.R. Labs, and the Institute for Metahuman Studies.

A D.E.O. listening post in Colorado Springs intercepted a coded message sent in the direction of the planet Mars. It’s broadcast was triangulated back to a Rocky Mountain Fortress “consistent with a style favored” by the DCU and specifically Martian Manhunter foe Vandal Savage. A meteor strike on Pasadena, CA followed the message’s invitation to a hostile invasion force against Earth, our seeming first contact with an alien race amounting to ant-like creatures firing green laser beams from their “mouths” at us. A Suicide Squad, Knightwatch, and members of the JLA met this threat head-on. The Squad suffered “acceptable” casualties, the Squad destroyed Savage’s base (though he escaped capture/termination,) and the League routed the rest of the approaching alien fleet.

Later in the same issue, Director Bones discussed with an extraterrestrial advisor to the D.E.O. “Aliens in the DCU,” as told by Scott Beatty and Cully Hamner. Among those considered? “The Kryptonian is merely the tip of the iceberg. I’m afraid the planet Mars poses an even greater risk with refugees of all shapes, sizes... and colors. Green Martians. White Martians. They’re all changelings, Director... with powers that rival Superman’s. We suspect J’Onn J’Onzz alone maintains a half-dozen covert human identities around the globe.”

Finally, Atom Ray Palmer held sway over an unruly and unmotivated class on problem-solving techniques among super-heroes at Ivy University’s Science Building. Booster Gold made out with Firehawk while her old flame Firestorm pouted. Atom caught the Ray literally napping. “Dude, I’m only coming to this class so I can keep my JLA reserve status. I need to get back on their good side, after letting that freak, Triumph, turn me into his henchman. Heck, back in the day, I was Martian Manhunter’s number one student, when the Justice League Task Force was the JLA’s farm team.” Well, he still failed the test, as did John Henry Irons, who over thought the question. An exasperated Atom was pleased when Power Girl realized sometimes the simplest answer in best. Presented by Jay Faerber and issue cover artist Darick Robertson.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Secret Files & Origins Guide To The DC Universe 2000 Vol.1, Part 1 (3/00)


I love it when major companies publish a book like this, intent on giving a snapshot of their entire universe at a specific point in time. Much less so on specific titles, like the nigh-yearly Superman-related Secret Files that would merely recap the previous year’s overheated storylines. Here though, you’re treated to a brief overview of the entire line without getting lost in boring minutiae. You see who the company’s priorities were: who kept steady on, who was hot, and who was being pushing to no effect, entirely forgotten by the next snapshot. Also, artist Scott Eaton is one of those guys who still hasn’t received his proper respect for a classy, mainstream base look for characters married to a distinctive personal style that in a more just world would have landed him on crossover merchandising, or at least steady work on a title to call his own. Instead, we’re treated to his great takes on a wide range of characters, most of whom he (and ofttimes others) would never touch again.

Speaking of underused concepts from bygone days, the United States Department of Extra-Normal Operations, the government’s F.B.I. for super-people, asked Green Lantern Kyle Rayner to scour the DCU for the presence of Badlam. They believed the wraith, capable of possessing metahumans, had escaped their custody to infiltrate the super-hero community as one of their own. This premise allowed writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning license to explore the newly reformed Justice Society of America, a collection of World War II-era heroes and the legacy characters that followed in their footsteps. Next were the still-powerless Black Canary and Jade, the Ted Kord Blue Beetle, Guy Gardner in his days as a half-alien Warrior tending his own bar with meta-human associates, the Ronald Raymond Firestorm and Firehawk (largely unused at that point,) John Henry Irons Steel in his bulky second armor, the female Strange Visitor who inherited Superman’s lame electrical look and powers, “the Captains Marvel,” Resurrection Man, a still-living Max Mercury, Project Cadmus, Superman, harpoon-handed Aquaman, the Hitman Tommy Monaghan (to whom GL owed a bar tab,) Huntress, the Cassandra Cain Batgirl, Azrael in his silly “angel” costume before his death, and the Batman.

Kyle spent extra time with the reformed founding Titans, an incarnation which his girlfriend Donna Troy was a part of while he’d left a couple sets back. The Linda Danvers Supergirl, part-human/part-earthborn angel/part-other-dimensional construct, was grazed here. Green Lantern tracked the then-fugitive Young Justice by their Supercycle, as their cave base had previously been destroyed. At that time, the Wally West Flash was faced by a Dark Flash version of himself from an alternate future. Wonder Woman and Artemis trained in her flying Wonder Dome made from a shape shifting alien material. Kyle Rayner flew to the JLA’s lunar Watchtower, where he found his teammate, the Manhunter from Mars, overseeing events on Earth from his Monitor Womb.
“Anybody home?”
“Green Lantern. A pleasant surprise. I was not expecting you.”
“I just stopped by to say hi. Um...how’s it going?”
“Everything is fine. Was there something on your mind?”
“Nope. Not at all. Nothing. Honestly.”
J’Onn J’Onzz moaned to himself, “Hmmm.”

Further into the base, Kyle found an amused Plastic Man ringside as an indignant Orion demanded of Zauriel, “Angel, how dare you question my Godhood?!” Big Barda played peacemaker. Eventually, night turned to dawn, and the still fruitless search for Bedlam came to an end. As Kyle Rayner headed for home, the DEO’s Dr. Charles and Major Lutwidge of the Special Sanctions Division congratulated themselves on having duped the hero into collecting a wealth of information for them. Using his data and blueprints salvaged from Professor Ivo, they had constructed a giant “Amazo 2000” as their ultimate sanction against any metahumans gone rogue. However, light shined on marble head, as Green Lantern arrived to revealed, “...when I got urgent messages from Batman and Martian Manhunter [who’d deduced the scheme,] I decided to double back and check up on you. You used me. You made me betray my friends. You’re going to pay... I know you’re operating without D.E.O. authority! Batman confirmed with Agent Chase that this is all a black ops setup. Bedlam is still locked up tight.” The rogue pair unleashed Amazo 2000, but Kyle similarly used all the data on super-heroes he’d obtained to create a legion of them with his power ring, his virtual Martian Manhunter among the constructs to destroy this ersatz Amazo. Agent Cameron Chase, D.E.O. Northeastern Regional Director Bones, and a special missions force then arrived to collect their strays. Though Chase protested, the Director allowed Green Lantern to erase any files he’d collected and fly off into the sunrise.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Justice League Unlimited #37 (11/07)

HARD SPIRITS
Written by Matt Wayne
Pencilled by Min S. Ru
Inked by Jeff Albrecht Lettered by Mike Sellers
Colored by Heroic Age Edited by Rachael Gluckstern



Tattooed convicts run screaming about the yard of Blackgate Prison. From out of the night sky, a green-gloved hand grasps two of the prisoners before swinging back its ghostly arm toward a guard tower. It topples with a mighty crack, as beams erupt from ghostly eyes and ignite bonfires. Superman, Martian Manhunter, and Wonder Woman fly in overhead, survelling the damage caused by the spiritual manifestation of the Christian God's wrath given ethereal form.

"Sometimes I wonder if the Spectre's really on our side."
"Jim Corrigan is his earthly vessel. Where is he?"
"First things first. We have to stop the big ghost--or it's Pandora's Box all over again!"

The Spectre too is a fisher of men, or rather felons he turns into fish, then snares on the hook. "Thus the spirit of vengeance exacts payment for his crimes!"

Wonder Woman jams both her feet into the back of the Spectre. "They are paying for their crimes." Martian Manhunter seizes a plainly stunned spirit by the collar, then tosses him toward the Man of Steel's left cross. "Enough, Spectre. I may have a glass jaw when it comes to magic-- but I can't just let you go off on these men!" The Spectre was inspired by Superman's words, but not so much their substance as the turn of phrase. "You, who defend the wicked... will share their fate! The spirit first converts the Kryptonian into Man of Glass, then shatters his face with a right cross of his own. Both his cohorts cry, "Superman!" Manhunter grabs the wraith from behind, locking his arms around his head. Diana draws back for a blow, demanding, "Where's Corrigan, and how do we put you both in your body?"

With a grin, Spectre asks, "You want enlightenment?" Both heroes begin melting away in the presence of merciless retribution. "Diana! I can't change shape!"
"He's *NGGH* turning us into candles..."
Especially ironic in the case of J'Onn J'Onzz, all that remains of the two heroes is a pair of lit sticks: one green, one gold surrounded by red.

Cue Title Sequence and commercial break. A mother mutters about this all being a bit gruesome for youngsters, and turns the channel to Disney. Her brother complains about Vanessa Hudgens not being nearly as interesting with her clothes on. He also pedantically notes that he'd seen that episode of JLU already, and found it to be more premise than story. He began to drone on about the implications of Rama Kushna's ability to empower a vaguely Hindu spirit to possess a clearly Christian spirit, but mom was sick of listening, and switched the channel back. By this point, Deadman had relinquished control of the Spectre back to Jim Corrigan, who undid all the wrongs committed under the influence of Tala (as revealed in an obtrusive cameo by Dr. Fate.)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

MARTIAN MANHUNTER: The Motion Picture, Part 2 (2000)


Billy Drago as Malefic
Drago is one of those character actors you've probably seen in a dozen movies. You might know the face, but can't quite place it. That is unless you were one of the dozens of people who followed Fox's sci-fi western"The Adventures of Brisco County Jr", where he played the murderous John Bly. He's also made his fair share of B-movies, with the likes of Chuck Norris, Cynthia Rothrock, and others. Questionable pedigree aside, you can't find a better actor to play a slithery, sleazy, devious type like Malefic.

Armand Assante as Vandal Savage
Okay, we want a guy who's vaguely foreign, middle-aged, and calmly evil as all hell. Assante can fill all three roles, plus he has experience in period pieces and genre roles. Who could ask for anything more?

FILM:
Judge Dredd
The Mambo Kings
Scandel

TELEVISION:
The Odyssey

Alec Baldwin in a cameo as Batman
Don't give me that Michael Keaton jive. Just because Kilmer and Clooney stank, everyone's gotten nostalgic for the robotic Batman of '89. Well, Alec has the dapper playboy down, but he's also done a great job at playing grim, obsessive types. Check out his sinister side in "Mercury Rising".

Billy Campbell in a cameo as Superman
Square-jawed, and mild-mannered, he's got the right look, voice, and attitude to make people forget Christopher Reeve. That's one tall order. but Bill can fill those shoes. Besides, he's got experience pretending to fly while suspended from wires. How many guys have that on their resumé?

FILMS:
The Rocketeer

TELEVISION:
Once & Again

Madeline Stowe in a cameo as Wonder Woman
Besides the great body and chisled features, Stowe can pull off the warrior side of Diana. She often plays strong and determined women, and I'd love for her to portray the amazing amazon. People keep telling me she's too old to play the part. You're looking at the picture...Does it say "too old" to you?

FILMS:
Revenge
The General's Daughter
The Two Jakes

Sam Neill as Maxwell Lord
He's got to be smooth and sophisticated, light-hearted yet slightly nefarious. Sam Neill has certainly proven his range over his twenty years in film. I'm also positive Adam Hughes used Neill as his model for Max when he drew Justice League America in the late 80's!

FILMS:
Dead Calm
Event Horizon
The Final Conflict: The Omen III
The Hunt for Red October
Jurassic Park

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Frank, J'Onn, and Ray

...and if you're the proprietor of a Manhunter blog, you can post the occasional picture of yourself with your main man by your homeboy. Dave did an outstanding job taking digital photos of Martian Manhunter merchandise during a poorly planned and speedily executed photo op in a Houston parking lot. He also took the time to manipulate several photos for added effect. These will act as filler bunnies when the need arises or circumstances, like a national holiday halving my daily traffic, warrant. Pictured: "Frank Lee Delano*," "J'Onn J'Onzz," and "the Atom."


*I kept seeing my ugly mug pop up during searches for Martian Manhunter pictures, so I opted to lop my fool head off.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

MARTIAN MANHUNTER: The Motion Picture Part 1 (2000)

Back when I had the "Rock of the JLA" site, I did a fan casting of higher-profile friends, enemies, and associates for a theoretical movie. In those days, I was stuck on WebTV, meaning almost all the pictures on the site were low-res found images off other sites. I wanted to preserve that project as it stood, so mistakes and lapses in quality are all intact. I think it holds up pretty well, though many of the actors are now too old, and Jennifer Jason Leigh wasn't in "Fried Green Tomatos. If we had IMDB back then, I didn't know it. Resized for space, part one of two, rolling...

MARTIAN MANHUNTER
The Motion Picture

WARNER BROTHERS does not Present
"MARTIAN MANHUNTER" AVERY BROOKS CLANCY BROWN with CHARLES FLEISHER as the voice of 'L-Ron' Music Composed by JEAN-MICHEL JARRE Character Animation and Visual Effects by INDUSTRIAL LIGHT & MAGIC Executive Produced by NOBODY & This is a joke Produced by JOEL SILVER Written by J.M. DeMATTEIS and KEITH GIFFEN and MARK WAID and GRANT MORRISON THIS IS NOT A REAL MOVIE. I'M JUST PLAYING DON'T SUE ME Directed by JOE DANTE

Let's just be up front about this...There will never, ever be a Martian Manhunter movie. Even if one were ever produced, it would undoubtedly suck. If abominations like "Batman & Robin", "Superman 4:The Quest for Peace", and "Captain America" could happen, what chance has MM got?

On the other hand, most of these actors could potentially provide their voices to an animated show. Unlikly as that may be, I can tell you from experience that hearing Avery Brooks' voice while reading J'Onn in JLA just enrices a person's reading experience. Give it a shot...




Avery Brooks as The Manhunter from Mars
J'Onn shouldn't just be a tall guy with a deep voice. The actor has to be able to emote, even when he isn't speaking. When he does speak, the words should have weight, but he shouldn't come off as cold. I've always imagined a little cracking in J'Onn's voice, especially during his many heartfelt speeches. Brooks captures all of these things, plus he's fairly tall, to boot!

FILMS:
American History X
The Big Hit

TELEVISION:
Spencer for Hire (Hawk)
Star Trek:Deep Space Nine (Capt.Ben Sisko)


Clancy Brown as Despero
Anyone who saw the only good "Highlander" movie knows Clancy Brown can play a balls-to-the-walls destructive madman. If you caught "Stephen King's Pet Sematary", you know he can pull off the creepy serial killer part. What you may not know is that the same guy also provides the golden throat for Lex Luthor on the WB's Superman cartoon. He'll need a little bit of all three to play a sadist like Despero.

OTHER FILMS:
Blue Steel


Alyssa Milano as Gypsy
She's perky! She's tough in a cute way! She's Tony's daughter! How could they not be the boss of Judith Light? Who am I trying to kid? I'm not a huge fan of Gypsy to begin with, and all the actresses that came to mind are too old for the role. I do like Ms.Milano, and it's not like it's a demanding part. Bonus-She'll make anyone who plays MM look even taller!

MOVIES:
Embrace of the Vampire
Poison Ivy 2

TELEVISION:
Charmed
Melrose Place
Who's the Boss

Jennifer Jason Leigh as Cameron Chase
For this role, you need someone who's attractive without looking "Hollywood". She has to appear immediatly formitable, and noticably intelligent. In roles from Dorothy Parker to the "Single White Female" psycho, Leigh has proven that she's right for DEO Agent Chase. I think she can hold her own against a seven foot Martian, and still make it all believable.

OTHER FILMS;
Dorothy Parker and the Viscious Circle
Fried Green Tomatos
Rush

Don Cheadle as DEO Director Bones
Right off the bat, for those who don't know, Mister Bones was African-American. Second, Bones is a reformed who, who still believes he's doing the right thing by safeguarding the United States from the metahuman community.

Now, you've got to get the sense that this is a good man doing bad things, and you've got to get it across through nothing but a computer generated talking skeleton...and voice acting. Bones doesn't have one of those James Earl Jones reverb voices, so he's got to sound normal, yet sympathetic and devoted, even borderline fanatical and conniving. It would take a stunning talent to pull all that off, and his name is Don Cheadle. He's one hell of an actor, with roles ranging from an impassioned small town prosecutor to a drug-dealing hood caught up in a political race. He's even got the right build for the role, should the latex route be taken.

FILMS:
Boogie Nights
Bullworth
Devil in a Blue Dress
Hamburger Hill
Rosewood
Volcano

TELEVISION:
Picket Fences


James Van Der Beek as Triumph
Have you ever read one of Wizard Magazine's comic book Casting Calls? I know I gag at some of their God-awful choices to play heroes that people actual care about. They just love picturing wrestlers, Baywatch babes, and soap stars as their favorite heroes. I usually don't, but visions of teen idols dance in my head when I think about Triumph. No one on Earth liked this egotistical pretty boy, who always whined about how he should have been one of the greats of the DCU. So, you need someone young and blond with that forced pseudo-depth required to deliver lines like, "I love Monica, but I can't betray Susan to my passion." Or maybe, "That's yer dream Daddy, not mahne!" Here's your guy!

FILMS:
Varsity Blues

TELEVISION:
Dawson's Creek

Monday, November 19, 2007

House of Mystery #155 (12/65)


"On a remote beach illuminated by the light of the full moon, the dread Idol-Head of Diabolu opens..." From the smoke that issued forth formed a colossal man in red bikini swim trunks, a turban, plate earrings, and nothing else but a moustache measured in feet. Why must he be, “The Giant Genie of Gensu” instead of just a Robin Williams-sized wish granter? Because it’s a J’onn J’onzz story, and every other villain has to be a giant. It was federal law. By what authority may we judge them?
He appeared before petty criminal "Mousy" Mulloy, saying, "As you are first man to lay eyes upon me--The Genie of Gensu--I am yours to command, master!" My first command would be, "Don't touch me in that bad way," but I digress. As a test command, Mousy had his genie snatch a ship out of the water and shake its passengers loose. Next, he hit the Eastside garage hideout of the Duke Durgon Gang, and used Dijin muscle to take charge of those bums. They'd need capital, so the genie was sent to swipe the entire vault out of a bank. This was where he ran afoul of the Manhunter. This pleased onlookers: “’More powerful than bullets’ is right! You mean the Manhunter from Mars!”

"The Martian Marvel moves with lightning speed," to snag the vault for a safe landing. The genie tossed a fire hydrant at J'onn J’onzz, completely getting his weakness wrong as it bounced off the alien’s chest. As a matter of fact, I took this as an in-joke, since this is just about the only HoM story to not exploit fire. Even though J'Onn considered, "This character is as indestructible as I am," he still flipped the giant around with a judo toss. Ex-gang leader Duke thought, "Yipes...He hasn't a chance against the Martian!" When power beams exploded from the genie's eyes, J'Onn figured he'd, "...tear apart the whole town trying to defeat me," so he turned invisible (for once!) Duke assumed the genie annihilated Manhunter, and proceeded to lead “The Amazing Martian” straight to his hideout.

J'Onn gave Duke Durgon a rough tap on the noggin, then assumed his identity. "Duke" learned the genie's Diabolu origins, then tricked Mousy into sending his servant to an abandoned mine. Manhunter then fantastically transformed into the Genie of Gensu with his shapeshifting abilities. “The Genie” next went on a rampage against the former Duke Durgon Gang. Using his amazing hearing, J'Onn tracked the real genie's return to his master, and split just before it arrived. Fearing for his life, Mousy commanded the genie to return to where it came from. With the Genie of Gensu out of the way, J'Onn easily packed the gangsters off to the pokey. “From now on, Mousy--you’ll be taking commands--in prison--instead of giving them!” Could J’Onzz be any less delicate without referencing shower stalls and broom handles? Buh-roo-tal! Please not also the lack of illogic leaps and versatile use of Martian abilities? Could this really be by Jack Miller and Joe Certa?

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.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

House of Mystery #153 (September, 1965)



“From out of the past emerges Professor Arnold Hugo, sinister scientific genius, with a fantastic new plot to unloose his evil on the world!” This month, J'Onn was on his own against his irregular adversary. “How could I ever forget Professor Hugo-- Batman's old enemy who tried to gain my powers! He is as evil and dangerous as anything that can emerge from the Idol-Head of Diabolu!” I really like that bulbous-headed geek. There's just a palpable sense of malice whenever he appears, even though he's never much of a threat. Maybe that's his problem, an impotent fury that will never be satisfied. “It’s still a week away from a full moon, when the Diabolu Idol-Head opens--time enough to find Hugo and clap him back behind bars!” Afterthought and diversion--thy name is Hugo!

The story began with an “innocuous little” J’onzz identity (looked a bit like Floyd the Barber) searching a seacoast curio store for the Idol-Head. Cool continuity, huh? Very Stan Lee, and I mean that with the utmost respect. A nearby radio announced that the notorious evil scientist had escaped from Bayville Prison, and was seen headed toward nearby Seaside. “Too bad Zook is ailing-- he'd like to be in on this case with me!” An airborne search led the Manhunter to Hugo, who used a special gun on his foe. “Great cosmic clouds! He’s firing--fireballs!” J'Onn used super speed to dodge while he ripped iron "spears" from a gate to burst the flaming orbs before they set Seaside ablaze.



Hugo escaped to a secret mountain region, where he unearthed a trio of titanic-sized frozen cavemen. “Hee, hee! So--it’s true! These are the pre-historic giants--the last of a race of evolutionary freaks that lived eons ago--These few, being indestructible, ruled the Earth once--and were overcome only by the ice age...” With his fingers trembling excitedly as he worked his device, the Professor tapped into the giants' power, growing to fifty feet... as did his suit and tie, to hilarious effect. Hugo smashed the device which enabled his transformation, to insure its finality.

While mighty Martian Vision led the Alien Atlas to the towering Hugo, he proved unable to harm his foe. Hugo taunted J'onzz with sadistic glee. "Don’t you know that a Super Big Man has got it all over a Super Little Man, Manhunter? ...Ha! Ha! You can't hurt me, little man! I'm as indestructible as you are, Manhunter! Don't bother me any more, little man!" He seized J'Onn J'Onzz, then flung him like a rag doll with all his might. Through a cruel, slight grin, Arnold noted, "If you try and stop me again--I'll hurl you to the moon next time!"



“Panic grips Mayville City at the appearance of the giant figure of Professor Arnold Hugo...”
“Yikes! Look what’s hitting town!”
“Yes--I, Professor Hugo--future master of the whole world! You should feel honored that I have chosen Mayville as my base of operations!”
Really, Mayville City as the new capital of the Earth? Well, alright. At least Mayville’s Finest managed to irk "The Mental Wizard" with their pesky gunfire to the point that he stomped some poor soul’s hardtop in with the heel of his now-invulnerable Oxford. “Fools! Must I smash you all before you recognize me as your leader! Now, hear this! You shall all assist me in the building of certain machines only my great genius can devise! Don’t try to leave town! Anyone caught trying to leave will be destroyed!” Certain machines? So the first step to enslaving the world is forcing an entire city to become your lab techs? Something tells me this all comes from the days when Mrs. Hugo couldn’t bribe the other mothers in town to keep their play dates with little Arnie.



While Hugo rampaged through Mayville to gloat and flaunt his new found power, the prehistoric giants thawed out. MM was unable to stop them with a cave-in, although it was nice to see J'Onn smash through a crude but massive magnifying glass(?!?) one caveman used to start a fire. He did slow their progress by breaking a water main to soak the ground, with the great weight of the cavemen forcing them deep into the mud. Arriving ahead in town, J'Onn distracted Hugo while the city was evacuated. "Well, well--If it isn't the little man again! Still think you're big enough to challenge me?"
“I can do one thing you can’t, Professor—FLY!”



J'onzz briefly wrapped Hugo in cable, giving the citizens of Mayville time to flee the colossal conflict to come. Once the cavemen made the scene, they showed Arnold big from BIG. Hugo hoped for "king-sized henchmen," but instead found brutal savages on the attack. The Martian Marvel initially joked about their failure to recognize Hugo's leadership, but as things got hairy, "They've got him badly outnumbered! I must help him--So he can help me!" J'Onzz took some serious punishment while Hugo prepared the equipment Mayville had been working on, but the pair managed to see the cavemen re-frozen. Too bad Zook was out sick, or he could have saved a lot of trouble. In a move that could get his Mensa card revoked, Hugo fell for the old, "There's another one behind you!" trick. It lost him his equipment to the Manhunter, who used it to shrink Hugo down to normal. How, seeing as it was supposed to be a freeze ray built from another machine Mayville supplied equipment for? Maybe after “Plan 9 From Outer Space” Ed Wood moonlighted in comics as “Dave Wood?” J'Onn planned to lug the entire Neandersickle trio back to their cave, but had to first deal with Arnold. "You--you Martian pest! If--if not for you, I would've become master of the world!" With a big grin, J'Onn replied, "Oh, don't blame me, Professor-- Actually, it was your own machine that defeated you!"

“The Giants Who Slept 1,000,000 Years” was by Jack Miller and Joe Certa. It's an all-time Alien Atlas favorite of mine!

Friday, November 16, 2007

DC Outburst: Firepower, card #75 (1996)



Since we posted the first of two cards featuring J'Onn J'Onzz last Friday, might as well finish 'er off this 'un.

Glancing over the set again for the first time in some time, I noticed artists were assigned to certain characters throughout the set. Famed Detective Comics artist Norm Breyfogle got to employ his Prime chops on the Man of Steel, while Manhunter artist Eduardo Barreto took on the Dark Knight, and Darryl Banks worked the pen over his own Emerald Gladiator, getting three cards each. Martian Manhunter of course got Chris Renaud for his two, while Flash got Chris Renaud for his three, as did Wonder Woman. I'm sensing a pattern here, not unlike what occurred with the artist on Metamorpho and Impulse, Chris Renaud. But I swear, Chris Renaud looked a lot like Kevin West on some of his cards, so the middling nature of the set can't be blamed entirely on him. Why, Aquaman's pair of cards were by Joe St. Pierre, best known for not being a superstar Valiant Comics artist, even by Valiant Comics standards. I could make a crack about the usually workmanlike Mike Collins' submissions, but the guy did his fair share of work on the Martian Manhunter, presumably willingly, and he was really turning in above par pieces here. Inked by Scott Hanna and benefiting from quality printing and colors for once, Collins depicts a ponytail-period Nightwing better than anyone that comes to mind but designer Brian Stelfreeze himself.

Text from the card, supposedly authored by Oracle: "He has a great mind for planning tactics and scheming to beat the villains he faces. But when it comes to the crunch, Martian Manhunter loves the rough and tumble of a good fight."

Huh? J'Onn? Uhm... inked by Barb Kaalberg. That's all I got. Well okay, how about "that makes about as much sense as having the Martian Manhunter in a set that has a blazing DC Bullet with the word 'Firepower' on every single card."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Justice League of America #243 (11/85)



Aquaman: Returned with his wife to an empty Bunker. Took another L.O.S.T. up north to find his team. “Believe me, Mari... I’m sorry. I’ve no excuse for what I did, leaving the League.” Joined Vixen and Martian Manhunter against Amazo. “I failed the League, J’Onn... but I found the woman I love. And in finding her I found myself. I weighed duty and love in the balance. Love won. Under the circumstances, when we return to Detroit... I think there’s nothing else I can do but resign from the Justice League. Maybe then I can rediscover my life... with Mera by my side.”

Vixen: Freed herself from bonds, then shattered the boulder and rescued her friends. Mistook the Aquaman-piloted L.O.S.T. for Dale and J’Onn, only to complain about the Sea King’s tardiness. Met Mera. “Arthur said you were the one who convinced him to seek me. We owe you a debt of thanks I can never repay.” Possibly because she would soon be driven insane by Earth’s polluted oceans, get impaled while trying to murder her husband, and kiss this world goodbye back to her own other-dimensional home. Sucks to be an Aquaman supporting character. Still, Mari was pleased. “Well, how do you like that? Old Arthur’s got a heart after all.” Less pleasing: getting beat on by Amazo some more. But as Vixen noted, “Back when I was a fashion model, I spent a week in Vancouver--lovely town. Let’s keep this creep from flattening it.”

Elongated Man: Limp body used as a rope by Vixen.

Zatanna, Vibe, & Gypsy: Got saved by Vixen.

Steel: Tore up enough that Mera freaked out over the exposed artificial musculature of his right hand. Woke up hot over Amazo and screamed at Mera, “Where is he?” Caught Vixen before she could be smooshed against the side of the L.O.S.T.

Dale Gunn: Mistook a giant key for “that old-fashioned airplane marker.”

Martian Manhunter: J'Onn entered Superman's Fortress of Solitude by using its giant key. Why an intangible wraith would need to do so, I don't know, but at least MM was one of the few characters who could actually lift the key and use it. “Long ago Superman programmed safe passage into the Fortress computers for all members of the original League--“ While J’Onzz was investigating, an innocent trucker (and his truck) was slain by Amazo. J'Onn redeemed himself slightly by using the information he uncovered at the Fortress to defeat the android. “He was created by Professor Ivo solely to obey commands. No sadder, lonelier creature has ever existed. When not driven by outside programming, Amazo has but one desire. Oblivion... Left to his own devices, Amazo would shut himself down instantly. Obviously, the fact that he has not done so indicates he is under the command of a human intelligence." A stray meteor had pierced the Fortress’ defenses, inadvertently reactivating the android and sending it to wander cluelessly until its program absorbed the malevolent consciousness of Slick Jake MacGregor. A constable had found a picture of MacGregor in the wreckage of St. Jude, which was all Manhunter needed to assume his form. This logic trap worked well against the artificial intelligence of Amazo/MacGregor, allowing Aquaman the chance to deliver a knockout blow.

The Creators: Especially under Manhunter’s “leadership,” the character Gerry Conway created to star in her own aborted series continued to prove herself one of, if not the, most effective current Leaguers. I like Vixen though, so I won’t hold that or her Storm-lite bout with claustrophobia in the pit against her. Steel also continued to perform well for his age and status, though maybe getting five issues of “Steel: The Indestructible Man” out before the implosion got some of the excess paternal love out of Conway’s system. George Tuska continued to be graced by Mike Machlan’s inks.

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: “Big Green.” -Dale Gunn
“JJ” –Dale Gunn, who also just called him "J'Onzz," because he's cool like that.

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: Not a word. Just blissful, accent-free silence.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Justice League of America #242 (9/85)



Aquaman: “For the past six weeks he’s lived for duty and honor. But now he knows duty and honor are not enough. A man must have love in his life... Six weeks ago, his wife left him. For six weeks he tried to bury her memory. He could not. He is determined to find her, or die in the trying.” Checks the sunken city of New Venice off the Florida coast where he used to live, but fishies redirect him to the Place of Dark Currents. There he’s reunited with Mera, and it feels so good. Reunited! Now--it’s understood! “After our son’s death... I thought, if I ever truly acknowledged that I was suffering... that it would destroy me... When I cut off the grief, I cut off the love.” Also, the “do not telepathically manipulate your charges” light.

Zatanna: Left under a rock. No, not figuratively, but I can see how you might take it that way. No, she was literally beaten by Amazo’s use of invisibility, heat vision and super-speed, tied up, dumped in a pit, and covered by a boulder. Oh, and foiled by her one weakness, a gag. You thought fire was lame...

Steel: Same as above, but with elasticity, super-strength, and especially the Canary Cry.

Vibe, Vixen: As above, but just plain beat.

Gypsy: Fended off attacking grizzly bear with her powers of illusion, seeing as it could still smell through her invisibility.

Elongated Man: The master detective failed to notice the above, but was on hand to help Gypsy fall to Amazo.

Dale Gunn: Woke up before J’Onn, complaining of a ringing in his ears and a feeling of helplessness that was worse than his time in ‘Nam. “J’Onzz... you don’t look too good, Big Green.” Dale helped J’Onn to a nearby watering hole, where the Martian uttered Golden Turkey dialogue, “Dale... Water... So much water...Water. Drink. So much water, so rich a land." I still can't figure whether Gerry was writing Hulk or Super Chief there, but I digress. While his team was buried alive in a big ol' hole, J'Onn flew off with Dale in search of the Fortress of Solitude. Dale questioned the move, but J’Onn brushed his concerns aside. “Have no fear for them, Dale Gunn. My orders were clear—they will not engage Amazo in combat, without first consulting me,” who was absentee and incommunicado. Ouch.

Martian Manhunter: Steel ignored Manhunter’s order not to engage Amazo, as the android was in the midst of clobbering Steel and Gypsy. Zatanna held back, followed orders, and tried to contact J’Onn, who was still sleeping off the effects of his attack. So who was in the right, Steel or Zee? There was a half-assed explanation in that J’Onn’s signal ring was busted, but Dale’s worked fine, and scouting the area (especially with night having fallen) should have been first priority. Let's just say J'Onn's not a natural leader, or else he was pulling his “tough love” shtick, and move on. If not, I’m bound to make a pun about J’Onn being green in his role. Oh, dag.

Introduced this issue: Martian Manhunter’s leadership ineptitude. No wait, that was last issue. It was introduced that the signal rings aren’t a good idea, but we knew that already, as well.

The Creators: Gerry Conway & George Tuska w/Mike Machlan.

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: “J.J.” –Dale Gunn
“Big Green.” Dale & Vibe.

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: While tripping and falling down a slope, “S-serious? AHH-KHEWW! I’ll tell you serious, señora! KHEWWWW! I jus’ figured out... I got... ahahaaa--ahhh----KHEEWWWW----hayfever!”

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Justice League of America #241 (8/85)


Vixen: Goaded Aquaman into considering reconciliation with his estranged wife, despite his protesting her “asinine pop psychology.” Hung out with her fellow Leaguers as they cooked lunch. When Aquaman came up missing just as the team was alerted to the return of an old threat, she kept her knowledge of his likely whereabouts to herself.

Aquaman: Marriage to Mera established at seven years to this point. Aquaman was prideful, evasive, and passive-aggressive in Vixen’s presence, but equivocated in solitude. Arthur questioned the true motivation behind all his recent decisions, and owned up to his transferring his tumultuous emotional state onto the new team he brought into existence. Finally, he jumped off a pier in search of his lost love.

Steel: After dominating most of the previous issues with his presence, Steel backed off a bit here. Had a macho mini-brawl with Vibe over dating his sister; a conflict resolved with Vibe’s blessing the courtship. Beyond that, he coasted this issue.

Zatanna: Continued to be as much, and most likely more, of a non-entity on the team than Sue Dibney this outing. She paired-off on the mission with Steel, and spoke exactly one line of dialogue.

Vibe: Turned his powers against Steel until his old-school protectiveness was sated by Steel’s formally asking permission to date Paco’s sister. Vibe then debuted his new costume. This move advanced his people five years—up from the ten Vibe’s very existence set them back. Sure it was mostly black and red, but with studded belts, a plunging neckline, fingerless gloves, and chunky ankle boots. He might as well have thrown in a sombrero and fringe. He paired-off with Vixen on the mission.

Dale Gunn: Cooked up some Texas-style chili. Flew the L.O.S.T. to the mission site. Pulled a Bones McCoy with his “I’m just a glorified engineer doubling as a pilot... but...” riff. Got knocked out.

Gypsy: Helped Dale make the chili, but slipped and lost her grip on the bowl. Made pointed comments about Ralph and Sue’s sitcom couple marriage, then even less tactfully blew J’Onn J’Onzz off when he questioned her bitter stance. Thought Vibe’s new outfit was “cute,” prompting him to puff-up and rant. Threw Manhunter shade about it being Aquaman’s job to brief the team on missions, not his.

Elongated Man & Sue Dibney: Ralph used his incredible powers to save a bowl of chili and quoted Emily Post. Sue had eighteen times as much dialogue as Zatanna, as she kidded her husband and helped make peace between Vibe and Steel. Ralph paired-off with Gypsy on the mission.

Martian Manhunter: Wearing an apron around his waist as he diced onions for the chili, Manhunter noted “After three decades on your world, I thought I was beyond the possibility of new experiences. It would appear I was mistaken.” When Gypsy almost nullified his culinary effort, J’Onn actually exclaimed “--Gods of Mars--!” Meanwhile Amazo, the android “one-man Justice League,” escaped confinement at the Fortress of Solitude and absorbed the life force/personality of drunken lout Slick Jake MacGregor. The repurposed Amazo then slaughtered the town of St. Jude in the Canadian Yukon, population 200, as revenge for its treatment of MacGregor. This tragedy prompted the Manhunter to call the League together, both to address Amazo and their being short one leader. J’Onzz called the shots, but not without question, and rightly so. When evidence suggested Amazo could have headed off in any of three directions, he splintered the group to follow each lead, quartering their effectiveness. J’Onzz one-upped Gunn’s Bones with his own take off Phil Hartman’s Caveman Lawyer. “I ask myself...Dale Gunn. What would Aquaman have done, I wonder? On Mars, I was thrust into a position of command, but I too am a scientist by nature. Command does not come naturally to...me...?” Up from under the ground sprang Amazo, who swiftly used his super-breath to blow Dale and the Martian Manhunter up against consciousness-depriving rocks.

Introduced this issue: Justice League signal rings-- gold bands with a gigantic red light/gem that beeped team members and acted as a verbal communicator. Conway was still ignoring J’Onn’s mental powers, and the Legion of Super-Heroes thought we weren’t just cavemen, but tacky cavemen.

The Creators: Gerry Conway, still struggling to balance the mundance with the fantastic, forced poor George Tuska to spend 2 ½ pages on the chili skit. Thanks largely to the rich inks of Mike Machlan, the grizzled old veteran managed to make the rampant inanities of the issue reasonably appealing to the eye. At times, he even invoked Alex Toth and Bob Oksner instead of the usual “Don Heck of DC.”

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: “The Big Green Guy.”-Gypsy.
“Big Green”-Vibe.

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: “Cute? You call me cute? Do people call the Batman cute? Do people call Superman... cute? With this suit, I’m making a statement. I’m saying, ‘you’d better give me your respect, or I’m gonna bust your head.’”

Monday, November 12, 2007

Justice League of America #37-38 (Aug.-Sep. '65)


Earth-Two was the home of the Justice Society of America, the 1940's predecessors of the JLA in reality, or comic book inspirations for the JL of A existing on the Pre-Crisis Earth-One. The powerful genie Thunderbolt of Earth-Two was commanded by its master, Johnny Thunder, to visit Johnny's Earth-One counterpart. That Johnny turned out to be evil, slugged Earth-Two Johnny, and took control of his Thunderbolt. The next time a Silver Age nerd claims this sort of thing wasn't confusing, they ought to try describing a story like this in plain terms for the uninitiated. Simplifying things, Thunderbolt was sent back in time to stop the Justice League members from coming to power. In Manhunter's case, Dr. Erdel's robot brain invention was short circuited. Learning of the changes to Earth-One, the JS of A traversed dimensions to put things right. After being defeated by the Thunderbolt, the JS of Aers disguised themselves as the JL of A, with Hawkman assuming the role of Manhunter. Not only didn't that plan work, but it also gave evil Johnny the idea to empower his convict buddies with the abilities of the JL of A. Eddie "Martian Manhunter" Orson was defeated after ripping off Hawkman's wings, learning that even a “powerless” Carter Hall could start a garbage fire.

Orson was at the forefront of the ultimate humiliation of the Lawless League of Earth-A (since Earth-One was altered by Thunderbolt going back in time before the Earth-Two heroes arrived. Forget it Jake, it's Silver Age.) The JSA continued to thwart evil Johnny Thunder, until the guy became so frustrated, he wished the story never happened. So it didn't. No one remembered but Thunderbolt, who broke the fourth wall by explaining that he would share the secret with the readers. "Will you keep the secret?" Like I could explain it to someone else...

This one was from the usual team of Gardner Fox, Mike Sekowsky, and Bernard Sachs. Curiously enough, Sekowsky’s take on a “lawless” Martian Manhunter wasn’t far removed from the stocky, pug-nosed, thuggish look Joe Certa gave the character for most of his Detectice Comics run, from late 1957 through 1961. This was in contrast to the rarely-seen scrawny melonhead of the “Detective John Jones” years and the sleek, handsome Manhunter that starred in House of Mystery.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

House of Mystery #152 (July '65)


“Hmm... There was a full moon last night—and the expected evil from the Idol-Head of Diabolu didn’t appear!” Not to worry, as a giant simian statue came to life up on a hilltop the morning after thanks to contact with sunlight, so you figure there might be a connection. Manhunter tried to confront the yellow-furred beast, who taunted, “Be off, puny one! I am the indestructable Iwangis!” However, his first shot to the mammoth's brow occurred simultaneously with an explosion and rock slide. “Great cosmic clouds!” J'onzz used his own body to shield hikers, which gave Iwangis time to beat feet into town. Police fired on the monster, causing more explosions, until Manhunter stopped them. “Hold your fire! Each bullet hitting that creature sets off a blast that might injure other people!” Iwangis earned the name Creature King when he brought a stone lion statue to life. "Great suns! I--I recall a verse from The Diablou Book of Legends--'From stone to indestructible life, to lead a mighty army in strife'!" J'onn grabbed the tiger by the tail, then chucked that kitty. It began reverting back to stone once out of the range of Iwangis' power, but the Creature King arrived to resurrect it. “There--now stay close to me--and I will protect you...” Another batch of cops fired on Iwangis, causing another explosion, which set a pool of gasoline on the road (?!?) afire. A fine Rube Goldbergian means to force readers never to forget J'onzz's greatest weakness...cheesy writing! While Manhunter lay in a ditch recovering, Iwangis hit The Museum of Mythology and Natural History. Stone statues everywhere meant "instant army" to the Creature King.

The monsters started attacking a crowd, but Manhunter had a bitchin' plan for the griffon..."If you're so anxious to become a kamikaze plane, I'll give you a hand--!" The Martian Marvel rode that puppy straight down into the unicorn and minotaur! Too bad Iwangis still had a slew of dinosaurs behind him, with more to come. The creature crew headed out for the next town, giving J'onn time to form a plan. Hitting a metal factory, Manhunter pounded steel to pulp, forming a trojan were-horse statue. J'onzz then used his Martian might to embed sand into the surface of the steel, making the statue appear to be stone. Iwangis tried to bring it to life, but ended up instead held fast by the electro-magnet tied to the figure. I don't know how that worked on flesh either. Anyway, feedback from his own power returned the Creature King to stone, which Manhunter promptly shattered. “...It won’t ever get a chance to renew its ‘life’ with the sun’s rays.” The army also returned to stone, leaving J'onn with the burden of lugging them back where they belong.

While this issue has been credited to the usual Jack Miller and Joe Certa, I have my doubts. The story is only a bit above par, but the art was much stronger here than Certa’s workmanlike norm. A variety of unusual effects were used to realize Iwangis, and the anatomical detail on the Creature King and his legion recalled a refinement of Gil Kane the master himself hadn’t quite reached yet. More shadow was used on Manhunter’s features than ever before, setting a mood incongruous with the rest of the House of Mystery run to date. Taken together, the story became exceptional, but at the least the inking credit seems suspect.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

January '08 Martian Sightings

UPDATED 11/11/07:
Famed comic writer Roger Stern his own bad self corrected an error I made on this post regarding his run on Justice League Classified:

"J'onn plays a major role in this story arc, which covers two generations of the JLA -- the (just) pre-satellite period and the lunar Watchtower era. As a matter of fact, he narrates quite a bit of it."

...Which of course makes me glad I've never had cause to say anything bad about his writing. In fact, my friend Dave is a huge Avengers fan, Stern's run being his all-time favorite. In my Marvel days, I dug on his Captain America & Dr. Strange runs, plus Hobgoblin was a favorite villain from when I followed Spider-Man. I lost contact when I switched to DC though, outside of the odd Superman family material. Glad I've got an opportunity to catch up in the coming months. Check out the preview pages at Byrne Robotics, though I saw no Martians there at present.


JLA CLASSIFIED #50-51
Written by Roger Stern
Art by John Byrne & Mark Farmer
Covers by Joshua Middleton
The first two parts of a 5-part epic reuniting the legendary Roger Stern/John Byrne team! The Justice League faces a new foe who seems to remember them well enough to want revenge. But when have they faced off before? Meet a mysterious new foe again…for the first time!
Issue #50 on sale January 9; issue #51 on sale January 23
32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Confirmed Presence:
After an embarrassment of riches in recent months, J'Onn J'Onzz seems to have gone into hiding. No definite appearances in new DC Comics this month...

JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL HC
Written by Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis
Art by Kevin Maguire, Terry Austin and Al Gordon
Cover by Maguire & Austin
A new hardcover collecting the classic JUSTICE LEAGUE #1-6 and JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL #7 from the late 1980s! Can an unlikely new Justice League line-up work as a unit to stop terrorists at the U.N., a brigade of Rocket Reds, the Royal Flush Gang, and other threats - or will they succumb to in-fighting and bad jokes?
Advance-solicited; in stores March 12 o FC, 192 pg, $24.99 US

It's understandable with the growing popularity of comics in public libraries that the company would want to get catalogue highlights into hardcover, but seeing as how most of the JLI have been raped and killed in the last few years, what's the point? Couldn't they have turned this into a more desirable Omnibus/Absolute edition, getting the long out-of-print "Secret Diary of Maxwell Lord" second volume in there as well? Not for me.

Toys:

DC Fighting Figure 2-pack Action Figures
Sculpted by the Four Horsemen, these mini-figures 2-packs features figures with a signature, projectile, punch or flying attack. Featuring some of the greatest battles ever fought on a desktop, each DC Fighting Figure set pairs one spectacular hero with one evil villain in the ultimate showdown! Every 2'-3' figure comes with multiple points of articulation, a unique action feature and highly detailed sculpts!"

Not one, but two Martian Manhunter figures in this assortment. Oh, yeah! Sure, only Batgirl, Green Arrow and the villains only got a figure each, but for once J'Onn isn't among them, and them's props. Shame he's grounded on both figures with similar poses and powers employed.

Ms. Martian:
J'Onn J'Onzz has a girl analogue now. I still can't get used to that. Have they even met?

TEEN TITANS #55
Written by Sean McKeever
Art by Eddy Barrows & Rob Hunter
Following up the epic "Titans of Tomorrow" storyline, we catch the Titans in a moment of quiet before the next storm. As one Titan leaves forever, Wonder Girl and Robin explore their newfound feelings for each other as Ravager enjoys herself by pitting Blue Beetle against Kid Devil.
And watch out for the introduction of the new Clock King, a modern-day Fagin out to create a villainous team of his own. Fan-favorite writer Sean McKeever continues to deliver his own special blend of excitement and angst sure to keep this book on the top of your must-read pile!
On sale January 23 o 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

BLUE BEETLE VOL. 3: REACH FOR THE STARS TP
Written by John Rogers
Art by Rafael Albuquerque
Cover by Cully Hamner
In this volume collecting issues #13-18 of the hot series, Jaime has his hands full when he learns the scarab's alien owners are invading Earth - and no one will believe him! Plus, more adventures guest-starring popular Green Lantern Guy Gardner, the Teen Titans, the villainous Eclipso, Typhoon, Giganta and more!
Advance-solicited; on sale February 27 o 168 pg, FC, $14.99 US

Friday, November 9, 2007

DC Outburst: Firepower, card #04 (1996)

This was one of the last DC card sets I bothered to collect, in the waning days of that industry. The previous sets had all featured some really nice art, informative text, or at least interesting gimmicks. Here, the art was largely blah, typically overwhelmed by flashy computer coloring and effects. The main draw was that each card was embossed with the word "Outburst" (get it?) and the figures in the drawing. Eleven years later, all that means to me is a card that is difficult to center on a scanner and a set that sits all poofy in its box. I expect that colon in the title expresses either indecision of the part of manufacturers Fleer/Skybox or an intent to produce more Outburst, which was not meant to be.

Artist Chris Renaud seems to be taking his cues from Joe Quesada and perhaps a bit of Sal Velluto, the last major influence on the character's look before Howard Porter really got people talking. Those Martian saliva streaks weren't really called for, were they? But hey, check that numbering! Fourth card after the holy DC Trinity of Superman, Batman... and Azrael? Oh. Um, followed by Wonder Woman and Flash...

Text from the card, supposedly authored by Oracle: "His Martian birthright gives J'onn J'onzz superior strength, telepathic abilities and the power of invisibility. A great tactician and strategic thinker, the Martian Manhunter's single weakness is psychological vulnerability to fire."

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Justice League Unlimited #34 (8/07)

PHANTOMS
Written by James Peaty
Pencilled by Gordon Purcell
Inked by Bob Petrecca Lettered by Mike Sellers
Colored by Heroic Age Edited by Rachael Gluckstern



Smoke drifts out from within a newly formed crater on the face of the bleak, rocky terrain of an alien world. The Man of Steel grits his teeth in pain, covered with bruises and dirt as he tried to rise again from his stooped position. A green gauntlet appears to seize Superman by his collar, a voice bellowing, “...It is time you learned your place, Son of Jor-El. And that place is on your knees... before Zod!”

Floating in the inky reaches of space orbits the Justice League Satellite, proud monument and headquarters to our world’s greatest assembled heroes, within which one asks, “The Phantom... what?”

Why are you all looking at me? You don’t know something, you ask a question.

Or is it just me?”

J’Onn J’Onzz, the Manhunter from Mars, assured, “It’s okay Booster. The Phantom Zone is an extradimensional prison that was created by Krypton’s finest scientists to house its worst criminals. Existing outside of time and space—no one can enter or leave unless they’re ‘beamed’ in or out. However, counter to all known scientific fact... three days ago the Phantom Zone began to bleed through into our world. “

Flashback: Superman stands resolute, fist clenched in defiance. Martian Manhunter’s brow is furrowed with mouth agape, “It’s too dangerous!” Batman clutches the Man of Steel by his upper arm, “You can’t go in without backup.” Superman insists, “I’m sorry, but this is my burden to bear... and mine alone.”

Return to present: Martian Manhunter preps his group of Booster Gold, Green Lantern John Stewart, and the former Hawkgirl. “Ignoring our advise, Superman entered the Phantom Zone. Twelve hours later, we lost contact with Superman’s signal. In light of this, we have decided to send a rescue team into the zone to retrieve him. We’re aware that this is a risky mission, but I think you would all agree... Superman is worth the risk.” Blue Beetle works the controls as Batman cradles the Phantom Zone projector that sends the Leaguers to the beyond. Each Leaguer has been fitted with a retrieval device on their arm, of which Superman’s in no longer functional. He is curious how the League’s return will be affected by two additional passengers.

Green Lantern detects residual energy from Superman’s recall device, as the Martian Manhunter telepathically scans ahead. “They’re both in there. Superman is weakening fast, so I’ve told our ‘passenger’ to make his presen—“ The thought is interrupted by the armed assault of former Kryptonian soldiers turned criminal, led by Jax-Ur and Mala. J’Onn J’Onzz immediately goes into command mode, leaving him vulnerable to a painfully energy blast. Booster Gold shields him as Green Lantern and Hawkgirl go on the offensive. Meanwhile, the Atom appears to explain the secret plan, as Superman realizes Batman had planted the Tiny Titan on his arm while protesting his mission before it had begun.

J’Onn J’Onzz continues to ail as the League appears to do its best to fend off their attackers before finally surrendering. They are taken before General Zod and Superman, the former demanding their recall devices. Green Lantern gives the order for the Atom to grow to normal size, the large chunk or Kryptonite on his person also expanding. Green Lantern projects its radiation throughout the camp, as the soldiers collapse under its effects. The Leaguers are recalled to the Satellite, as Superman demands the source of the rifts from the Phantom Zone show himself. Mr. Mxyzptlk was the cause of the disturbances, continuing his history of pranks against our third dimensional reality. Blue Beetle shoots him with the Phantom Zone Projector, sending him into the angry clutches of Zod and his forces.

Later, Superman stands with the Martian Manhunter on the satellite’s observation deck.
“I was a fool.”
“Everyone has an Achilles Heel. Yours just happens to be anything Kryptonian.”
“Perhaps. But ignoring you like I did, I deserved to be left in the Phantom Zone.”
J’Onn J’Onzz leads the Man of Steel into a darkened room.
“You’re too hard on yourself, Kal-El. Its our enemies who try to hurt us when we stumble. But its our friends—who catch us when we fall.”
The lights come up, and a swell of Justice Leaguers shout surprise as a banner heralds their “Welcome Back” party.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Hembeck #3 (1980)


You don’t hear much about Fred Hembeck anymore, but there was a time he was an omnipresent cartoonist in fanboy circles. Silver Age baby boomers likely recognized him as one of their own when his strips began popping up in places like The Buyer’s Guide To Comic Fandom (a tabloid precursor to today’s CBG & Newsarama.) Folks a tad older than me would have been familiar with his little narrow strips at the bottom of DC’s editorial pages in the 70’s. As a child of the 80’s, I knew him best from his sometimes multi-page features in Marvel Age, and of course the infamous and long-delayed “Fred Hembeck Destroys The Marvel Universe.” Jim Shooter was originally the titular destroyer, and it seems allowing editorial cartoons were an option specific to his regime as Editor-In-Chief, to the chagrin of guys like Archie Goodwin and Al Milgrom. I can’t honestly say I ever found Hembeck to be funny so much as informative, as he would go off for paragraphs on some of the more shameful corridors of comics history (Hello, Brother Voodoo!)

Fantaco published collections of his newspaper strips in magazine format with reams of new material added to pad them out. The basic premise was to have characters from all companies interact in humorous fashion, with pop culture icons like Orson Welles thrown in for good measure. Originally called “Between the Panels and into the Omni Worse,” sixteen pages and a rarely cover-featured Manhunter from Mars were added for this edition. I suspect nostalgia may have been at play there, seeing as these were the days when our hero was considered downright obscure. Luke Cage had just walked off-panel, after taking a beating from Power Girl when he questioned her infringing on his “Power Man” identity. Johnny Storm had been consoling the former Fantastic Four quarter when the Alien Atlas entered the scene. “Hello there, young fellow! You probably don’t recognize me! I’m J’onn J’onzz, Manhunter from Mars, a DC character who, sad to say, hasn’t had a regular series in years. A shabby way to treat a charter member of the Justice League of America, wouldn’t you say? Ah, but I’ve had my days of glory!” J’onzz went on to claim he started the Silver Age, plus recap his origin and publishing history (plainly breaking the number one rule of film and usually comics: show, don’t tell.) I’d continued to write a summery of the appearance, but suddenly realized I myself was guilty of the same crime, plus ruining the jokes. For now, enjoy the cover, and I’ll eventually post the 3 1/3 pages J’onn appears on.

If you can’t wait, feel free to visit Hembeck

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

JLA: Riddle of the Beast (2001)



The basis to every issue of “What If...?”: Ray Bradbury’s short story “A Sound of Thunder.” For the kids that Ashton Kutcher movie “The Butterfly Effect.” One little alteration of history sets a new course for all that follows, usually involving someone who died living and a whole bunch of the living picked off in violent fashion.

The basis for every DC Elseworlds: The time the “Facts of Life” girls went to Paris. Also, the episode where the Brady Bunch work a dude ranch. Also, the “Moonlighting” with David and Maddie recast in “The Taming of the Shrew.”

See, I hate Elseworlds. More often than not, they just retell the same tired origin and “first meeting” stories in slightly different dress or under a mild variation on the typical circumstances. To me, it’s a hackneyed cash grab based on name value and artistic bankruptcy. The only thing worse are stories like Alan Grant’s here, joined by no less than sixteen artists to insure no consistency, personal investment, or difficulty in churning out a painted hardcover on the quick. What we have here is a Tolkien fantasy story that couldn’t get published on its own slim merit, so vague allusions are made to DC characters in order to sell it to an editor. The boy adventurer is called Robin. His blond girlfriend, swiftly the victim of rampaging monsters without ever showing any exceptional abilities or a distinct personality, is “Dinah.” His other girlfriend is “Zatanna.” A callous but ultimately noble queen is “Diana.” A feline bounty hunter is “Green Arrow,” and so on. It’s dreck, and as such the details are irrelevant beyond a name-only appearance by J’Onn J’Onzz. After the main antagonist of the piece was initially defeated a decade or so before this story began (it’s Grant, so of course the demon is Etrigan, with Lobo popping up elsewhere,) he wandered into a hidden cave.

“Within its shade a mystery the master did behold. An unknown form crouched, quivering, as if from fear, or cold. ‘How came you here? The Beast would know. ‘Why is it you’re not dead?’ A voice replied, in alien words, inside the Demon’s head--“
“Greetings. I am...J’onzz. I... fell from... the sky, a thousand suns... ago.”
“You lie! How could you survive..?”

J’onzz’s slimy tentacle “ate” and then restored to life a rat whole. Hoping for aid from the Beast, J’onzz was instead scorched to ooze that the Demon used to raise an army of the undead... for over a decade, I suppose, before employing them. That cave must have gotten awful stinky. I suddenly long to see the Manhunter perish in another Superman-themed Elseworlds, at least if that’s the other choice to reading this flotsam.

Above piece by Michael Wm. Kaluta

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Vile Menagerie: THE PROPHET


The ancient holy man K'rkzar travelled the known universe, to sit with instructors of every religion in his pursuit of the one spiritual truth. Long ago, he paid a visit to Mars, learning of their gods, such as H'ronmeer. Eventually, K'rkzar went into a centuries long seclusion to process all he'd absorbed from his quest. When his intended emergence to discuss his findings was announced, it should be fairly predictable that the leaders of most every organized religion would scream for his head or his hand. As luck would have it, J'Onn J'Onzz decided on that very moment in time to seek out K'rkzar in hopes he might have information about other survivors from Mars. He instead found himself one of K'rkzar's few defenders in the midst of a holy war.

It was widely believed that K'rkzar's trusted disciple, fellow priest Bruaka, was the only being aware of K'rkzar whereabouts. The Martian Manhunter joined a small group of agents in taking Bruaka into protective custody, with legions of bloodthirsty zealots in pursuit. The reptilian church head Paral was a central figure in organizing "an unprecedented alliance of faiths... All for the sole purpose of destroying K'rkzar before he can spread his blasphemy across the universe!" As the Manhunter and his group consistently evaded these forces, Paral to unleash the power-- and the wrath-- of the Prophet!

The Prophet spoke almost entirely in the scripture of his deity, Grud, as he matched the Martian Manhunter blow for blow in battle upon asteroids in the vacuum of deep space. The Prophet was distracted when the ship he'd been pursuing exploded in a kamikaze-style collision with the vessel of the fundamentalist's aides. This gave J'Onn J'Onzz both the hostility and the opportunity needed to overtake the Prophet, busting his sceptre and throttling him unconscious. K'rkzar delivered his simple message of peace, and the Prophet has yet to reemerge.

Real Name: Unknown
Occupation: Religious zealot
Group Affiliation: Followers of the deity Grud
Base of Operations: Mobile
First Appearance: Martian Manhunter Special #1 (1996)
Height: Approx. 6'6"
Weight: Unknown
Eyes: Unknown. Eyes glow red when using the sceptre.
Hair: Bald with brown goatee

Powers: Able to fly and survive the vacuum of space. Strength was a near equal to the Manhunter's. Carried a long-handled ax/sceptre that could emit blasts of energy.

Quote: "I am going after them...And Grud preserve any on whom I have set my sights for divine retribution!"

Created by Paul Kupperberg and Mike Collins

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The New Teen Titans #4 (1/85)


"...or George Pérez was pulling full art chores at his peak along with Marv Wolfman on the highest quality paper in the industry, and all I got was this lousy panel." But hey, by this point Pérez's immaculate inks and experimental wash techniques had made the flagship book in DC's new direct market-only deluxe line very late, imperiling a bold direction that eventually proved ill-fated, and requiring old NTT inker Romeo Tanghal to step in. All things considered, Justice League Detroit were lucky to look this good on a book that saw print while they were still together.

The prophesy of the even more ill-conceived Raven turning evil and drawing her demonic absentee father into our world had come to pass. Think "The Coming of Galactus," but in a 50 foot loincloth and white leather hip boots instead of an armored purple tunic. So basically, Armageddon had never been quite so threatening to irresolute heterosexuality below the Bible Belt... not that there's anything wrong with that. The Titans themselves were "pawns whose minds Trigon had tapped, whose secrets spilled forth, who possessed knowledge of others like themselves with abilities far greater than any ordinary man... Others whose mighty powers can disrupt the course of raging rivers, or fight injustice in this country, and others... Those who live throughout the known world, and in lands beyond mortal ken... those others whose steely determination stands for all that is right and good. Those others... who must be dealt with before this earth can become Trigon's own."

Superman, Batman, and the Justice League were clearly depicted in this sequence, but one featured fantastic figures who could as easily be Amazons as the Norse, or some little known Global Guardians types. I assume they were intentionally vague one-offs (unless they were from another of the mostly under performing deluxe format line, or short series I never read myself. Amethyst?) Through knowledge gleaned from Raven, Trigon sent earth's mightiest heroes through a dark night of the soul. Unlike when the X-Men began trumping A-listers like the Avengers based on sales in the 80's though, the Titans were both responsible for Trigon's success at remaking their world into a fresh flesh hell, and they defeated him through their own weakness. You see, each Titan, like presumably J'Onn J'Onzz and the other heroes, were confronted with a cruel doppelganger of themselves responsible for realizing their worst fears (Nightwing's failure as a soloist leading to Batman's demise, Wonder Girl slaying her unpowered husband, and so on.) One imagines the Manhunter from Mars abandoning both his own people and the neophyte Leaguers to their mutual dooms due to his divided loyalties, though no such thing was depicted here. Eventually, the individual Titans forsook their heroic ideals to murder their grey-toned tormentors, taking on first their glowing red eyes (a masterful effect that resembled spot varnish) and then becoming negative images of themselves ensconced in nefarious crimson. Finally, these wicked Titans were made to kill their own possessed teammate Raven to free themselves. One might guess most of the world's heroes were continuing to fight this slippery slope, though the Titans were additionally influenced by both Raven and Lilith.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Aquaman Secret Files & Origins #1 (12/98)


After the voluminous text relating to the Chris Claremont "Scary Monsters" mini-series, I'd hoped a description of one panel of a comic featuring Justice League Detroit would give everyone a break. Not so much it seems, though that's probably one of my favorite synopsises I've ever written, and no tears were shed. In an attempt to make up, here's a clipped together sequence relating to Aquaman's time in the League by Erik Larsen, Mike Miller, and Saleem Crawford.

As an aside, several artists in this time period were drawing the Martian Manhunter with gold bracelets. I don't believe their appearances nor disappearance was ever explained. They looked terrible, and I don't know how exactly J'Onn became an honorary Amazon, specifically with cuffs to match his cape pins...

Friday, November 2, 2007

Scary Monsters #6 (10/03)


With the other heroes attentions elsewhere, Batman was convinced that Lewis’ powers needed a means of ignition, and departed the fortress with Kishana and Plastic Man in tow. While Lewis wore Plastic Man as a suit for protection in her trek to the lake, Batman stayed behind to stall the now entirely possessed Wonder Woman. In the forest, Kishana and P.M. came across a white elk, “…in a valley where as far back as anyone can recall... no animal, not even an insect, has ever been seen… The white buffalo is a spirit totem. It imparts wisdom. The great elk is a warrior totem. It imparts the strength to use the wisdom. We’ll make way better time with a ride!” The elk was slain by a spear tossed by Diana, who had overcome the Batman.

As the extraterrestrial duo fought off flying demons, Manhunter analyzed the situation. "Batman is down, Superman. And Wonder Woman has been turned! She's one of them now!" Plastic Man and Kishana are on their own. We have to help." Superman acknowledged that regardless of the cost to her and the probable loss of the Leaguers’ lives, the salvation of Earth was in Kishana Lewis' hands, much to J’Onn’s chagrin. “You don’t understand. I-- care for her! More than you know. More than I ever imagined possible! I know you’re right-- but in my heart the price is too high!”

Kishana’s powers began to surface in conflict with "Dark Diana," and as she grew nearer to a tower in the middle of Black Spirit Lake. Once the reanimated elk preoccupied Plastic Man, Lewis recognized, “It’s all on me now! It’s up to me to succeed where the Justice League failed! The world is so screwed! NO! I won’t accept that! Those heroes had faith in me!” Lewis was then lynched by Plastic Man’s twisted form, as Diana noted that while Kishana’s touch was anathema to her, Plas’ fallen form allowed Wonder Woman to end Lewis' threat.

Kishana was given a breather by the kamikaze flight of the Manhunter from Mars, in a form similar to the prophetic Thunderbird, but was then gutted by Diana. “Why, J’Onn, what a surprise! Whatever could have possessed you?! To take an action so passionate, so utterly uncharacteristically human! And so ultimately futile!! Has Cupid’s arrow found your alien heart?”

“She is the hope of the world, Diana! ...Your kind are in my memory as well. From a battle so fierce it laid waste to the souls of my entire race. You are one of the reasons we cannot abide fire. Not because of what it may do to us—but because of the monsters we used it to destroy! After all, why would a species who live in mortal fear of fire... breed its generation into our very genome?”

With that J’Onn J’Onzz fired his laser vision into Kishana’s eyes, and she was converted into an energy being. The explosion that followed eradicated all trace of the demons from the valley, as well as washing over J'Onzz himself. "My life for Earth? A nothing sacrifice."

Fallen heroes were restored to grace, though the inferno eradicated all plant life in the area. Kishana Lewis resuscitated J’Onzz with a kiss, while appearing to briefly become a Martian herself. “”This is but an illusion, painted by a merging or your power with my telepathy. It’s not meant to last.” Truer words... as energy shot between the lovers, painfully tearing them apart. Batman explained, “Apparently, you’ve become an avatar of fire, channeling the molten heart of not only the earth, but the sun as well. You may still look human, but the change is total and irrevocable. Given the Manhunter’s inherent Martian vulnerability to flame, even the most casual physical contact will be painful. Anything prolonged is guaranteed fatal.” Kishana couldn't believe the unfairness of it all.

Green Lantern was almost converted to a demon just before the cleansing, and while he didn’t see his attacker was William Hume, he knew a human was in league with the scary monsters. Kishana concluded, “If the demons have an agent loose among us, and there are other gates--! Then this isn’t over. We’ve won a battle… but the war has only just begun. Fine. If this is the job I was born to do, I’m game. But that doesn’t let you off the hook, Mister! We’re not done.”

Lewis and J'Onzz stared into one another's eyes...
“Kishana--!”
“Hush! I’m a romantic. I believe in true love. In the end, against all odds, it will triumph.”
“In the face of such passion, who am I to argue? I speak for the League. You have done well this day, Kishana. Your grandfather and grandmother would be proud. And should the need arise for us to fight once more by your side, it will be our privilege.”

By Chris Claremont, Joshua Hood and Sean Parsons.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Scary Monsters #5 (9/03)


J'Onn J'Onzz and Kishana Lewis shared a bed, and a dream, beginning with the events that led to the death of Lewis’ fellows, Gerry, Rudy, and Simeon. With a tear rolling down her cheek, Kishana said, "They deserved so much better."
"Sometimes, Kishana, we choose the battle. Sometimes the battle chooses us. Fate is not fair."
"Part of me wishes I'd died with them."
"As I wish I had on Mars, with my own wife and family. But I was chosen for another purpose. And so, it seems, were you."

Kishana gasped at the sight of a white buffalo, until she was distracted by a white bird overhead, which landed on the shoulder of the newly revealed White Buffalo Woman. "She brought the awareness of life to the people of the plains. In a way, without her, we wouldn’t even be human. And that bird on her shoulder, that can only be--! With a clap that sent Kishana and J'Onn reeling, Thunderbird created sonic force waves with its wings. These visions, including the return of her possessed friends, were intended to help Lewis come to terms with her mission as the descendant of Abel Carmody and the shaman's granddaughter.

William Hume, the resort manager and longtime possessed pawn, opened the doors of the fortress to allow his masters entry. Diana, still struggling with her condition, was the first on defensive. Superman, Batman, and the Martian Manhunter were called next, just after J'Onn had presented the World's Finest pair with his lover's true nature. "I am not of this world, Kishana. I play at being human, but I am not. By nature and by choice, I have stood apart from your passions. I have observed the emotion you call love... but rarely experienced its passion! It is hard for me to leave you. Yet to save you, I must." Lewis replied, “Come back quick, J’Onn. Come back safe. I’ll be waiting.”

While the Kryptonian and the Martian flew off, the Batman tried to drag Kishana down to the catacombs. "I'm staying! ...I saved J'Onn, doesn't that count for something? The monsters believe I'm important, even if you don't! Can you really afford to throw away any potential asset?" Batman appreciated the American Indian lore regarding the demons and a fabled guardian, though going too deep into metaphysics bothered him. Kishana agreed to the Caped Crusader's tutelage in accessing her abilities. "Twice now, with J'Onn on the astral plane, I transformed into an avatar of pure flame. He said it was like looking at the spark of creation that brought the universe to life. If there were beings who existed before that moment... maybe they want revenge for being evicted."

Just after Jade arrived to support the Amazing Amazon on defense, Wonder Woman’s adulteration was completed, and she downed the emerald heroine. Seeking a final resolution, Superman and the Martian Manhunter decided to attempt to activate a dormant volcano under Black Spirit Lake with their heat vision. "This will trigger an eruption on a scale that hasn't been seen since this world was born. The ecological consequences will be devastating, Superman." It would be Green Lantern's job to contain their scope. "If he fails, my friend, our actions will leave this world as barren as its moon." Much ado about nothing, as the Scary Monsters immediately froze the site and relaunched hostilities against the heroes.

By Chris Claremont, Joshua Hood and Sean Parsons.