Monday, December 31, 2007

Crisis On Infinite Earths Hardcover (11/98)

Click for full image


George Perez was a favorite of young Alex Ross growing up, a primary influence alongside Neal Adams and Berni Wrightson on his art development in teenage years. “Crisis On Infinite Earths” was cited as a major inspiration for his much-heralded “Kingdom Come.” When the long-awaited collection of the former in a single hardbound volume of a type made popular by the latter came due, in only made sense to formally associate Perez and Ross on a new cover. A very large, very intricate cover drawn by Perez and painted over by Ross. According to Chip Kidd’s book “Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross,” the result made “the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel look minimalist.” Ross himself continued, “It was a total dream project for me—over five-hundred characters, it took over a month to do, working every day—by far the one piece I’ve ever spent the most time on. Every single character required a frisket mask in order to airbrush the background, a hugely laborious undertaking... I was fifteen when the original was published, and it was the culmination of everything I enjoyed about DC Comics... the most dramatic send-off ever.”

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Toyfare Magazine #90 (Dec 2004)

Click to Enlarge

Robert Pope, frequent contributor to the Cartoon Network/Johnny DC line, was commissioned by DC Comics to produce this Justice League animated series take on the classic Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 cover. I have to wonder if George Pérez gets a little twitch when he realizes that probably the most famous image he will ever draw was essentially a multi-generational swipe, most closely resembling a John Byrne "Uncanny X-Men" cover. I'm pretty confident Byrne's got that twitch.

Moving on, sorry for the last minute post this Sunday. It figures that during the Crisis series I'd run into technical difficulties (My roommate drowned our wireless router. You read that right. It only got better after I bought another.) As an added bonus, with the addition of this piece, the Twelve Days of Crisis now number either thirteen (if you count the two Christmas entries) or eleven. Vibrational frequencies are a pain, let me tell you.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Justice League of America Annual #3 (1985)



Taking an even worse beating than the Justice League was their old satellite. Besides being ravaged by Martians in the previous year, it was supposedly destroyed again during the Crisis, then here it was blown up by an overloaded Red Tornado and fell out of orbit. Good thing the team had vacated the property after the very first attack. Satellite pieces began falling into Earth's atmosphere, which was especially strange since the intact ruins of the satellite would soon pop up in yet another JLofA story featuring Despero. But hey, let's not get sidetracked by too may writers taking out their aggression on a defenseless piece of orbiting architecture. In the annual, Firestorm, Black Canary, and Green Arrow teamed up to stop the debris from destroying property in Detroit. They were soon joined by Superman, Batman and the Outsiders without fanfare or introductions. Red Tornado's consciousness popped up in electric machinery, which he used to contact his girlfriend, Kathy Sutton. Various weather catastrophes engineered by Reddy, or more likely the Tornado Tyrant, afforded him the energy necessary to re manifest in non-robotic form. The new Tornado wanted to use his Crisis augmented power to restart life on Earth from a clean slate, its old inhabitants be damned. “Perhaps his madness stems from his mind’s separation from the android brain that housed it!” Manhunter’s notion failed to impress, and even Kathy's plea for peace failed, but betrayal on her part did cause the Red Tornado to discontinue his attacks. Feeling totally alone in the world, R.T. disappeared from the comics scene for several years...his place in the League taken by the Manhunter from Mars.

Martian Manhunter: “My Martian Vision confirms our worst fears! That is the JLA satellite... and it is heading this way! How could this have happened?” Manhunter swooped down to pick up Steel and Vibe to carry into the fray. “Come, my friends, there is work for us to do!” Reached maximum flight speed to deflect through personal impact the largest burning mass of debris before the flames wiped out his powers. “The Martian Manhunter! He was willing to sacrifice himself to deflect that huge chunk... but it wasn’t good enough!” He missed his aim by a shade, but Firestorm recovered the ball prior to rebound. When Green Arrow and Vibe began playing rough, J’Onn chastised, “Paco! Oliver!” I imagine he had the same tone a years later when he’d scold, “Guy! Booster!” Firestorm, the “original hothead,” spoiled his one chance to play peacemaker when he got in Steel’s face for calling the missing Red Tornado “the robot guy?” Manhunter physically came between the two, explaining, “Hold, Firestorm! I’m certain no offense was meant! Steel is simply uninformed!” Um, who was offending whom again? As for Reddy, a scan of the area with Martian Vision revealed tiny bits that, “my friends-- is all that remains of him!” Later flew Steel to a dam the Detroit Leaguers fought to save. Deduced that lightning was striking a bit too precisely, and followed the bolts to their orbiting satellite origin. Teamed with the arriving Superman to overwhelm the satellite’s force field with their combined might. The twin titans then departed to tackle more of these satellites solo. Later, when the Red Tornado Tyrant was briefly frozen, Manhunter managed to contain him with his malleable form.

Vibe: Began throwing shade toward Black Canary and Green Arrow on sight. Punched and generally manhandled by Ollie Queen. Freed workers trapped at a hydroelectric plant. Blasted Red Tornado repeatedly.

Steel: Punched random bits of flying debris, which y’know, doesn’t make it stop being random bits of flying debris or anything. Somehow caught a dead falling Manhunter after his collision with the fiery mass, using the same fantastic speed and accuracy that allowed him to punch random bits of flying debris. Held together a collapsing dam. Manhunter thought, “Hank possesses a strong spirit! It’s probably never occurred to him to doubt that he will succeed...”

Vixen: Used the power of eels to absorb rampant electric while helping shut down the power plant.

Zatanna: Paired off with Ralph to investigate rogue weather controlling satellites S.T.A.R. Labs had launched and lost mastery of. Was then set upon by same.

Elongated Man: Ralph shouldn’t have hit the red button, as his attempt to cause the weather satellites to auto destruct just alerted them to his location. Held Kathy Sutton as she shed tears over her betrayal.

Gypsy: Ran around the power plant barefoot. Caught in a blast by Red Tornado. Went incongruously Mr. Wizard on us with, “Stopped the airflow, Zatanna? The cycle of heat exchange from the equator to the poles? But that would cause all the high- and low-pressure systems to just deepen... to keep building up without an outlet!” Did she study really hard for a science test right before running away, or was there more to that “drabardi” business that Englehart was selling?

Dale Gunn: Brushed off his lab coat, but failed to put Red Tornado back together again. Guided Vixen in shutting down power plant. Studied spacial warps and red skies tied into the Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Sue Dibney: Fretted over her husband while buying groceries for the Bunker, concerned for his safety after the death of Supergirl and the seeming demise of Red Tornado.

The Creators: Rick Hoberg always had a bit of early Starlin in his Bronze Age melange, while Mike Gustovich’s classicist style recalled elements of later Starlin, yet the end product was more of the Neal Adams school. Pretty nonetheless. The story by Dan Mishkin was somewhat shy of enthralling, but pleasant enough, and the mingling of Satellite and Detroit Leagues was intriguing, not to mention mildly meta.

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: “JJ” – Firestorm
“Greenie.” – Vibe.
“Green Guy.” – Vibe.

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: “Maybe if you old dudes took better care of your space junk... we wouldn’a had to mop up after you at all!”

Friday, December 28, 2007

Justice League of America # 244 (11/85)


Dale Gunn: Piloted a borrowed NASA space shuttle 22,300 miles above the Earth.

Sue Dibney: Called shotgun.

Vixen: Marginally more useful than Sue Dibney.

Elongated Man: Acted as a ladder in a telescoping spacesuit to allow the Detroit Leaguers access from their space shuttle to the remains the JLA Satellite. Tried to explain the Multiverse to a disbelieving Paco.

Vibe: Talked jive. Blinded. Tried to talk more smack to Infinity Inc., but told by Zatanna, “Choke it down, Vibe. Choke it down.”

Gypsy: Coddled Vibe, who’d beem inadvertently blinded. “Zatanna, what did you do? Haven’t you done enough?”

Zatanna: Channelled sunlight into the Satellite’s storage cells, providing power enough for a year, and presumably drawing the eventual attention of Red Tornado. Healed Vibe and defended Detroit against baseball-sized hail.

Steel: Abandoned by Manhunter when the Alien saved the rest of the team. Tortured by his grandfather and Mekanique to make him “strong, as I was strong.” That pair also turned on the Infinitors, who were themselves rescued. Steel Junior upon release beat his grandfather into a short coma, eyes filled with tears.

Martian Manhunter: As Gypsy chided the deluded Vibe, who was calling for a rematch with infinity Incorporated, J’Onzz stated, “Your opinion is noted, Vibe. However, as current leader of the League, I must trust my own judgement.” He later said of his birthplace, "Perhaps if we had "freaked" when there was a fight, my young friend, Mars might still be a living planet...instead of a barren wasteland. You must learn to choose your battles wisely--as have I, at great cost." Employed the reinvigorated satellite’s capabilities to travel to Earth-2. He then led the Justice Society of America against the rogue hero they’d believed dead and his mechanical assistant, a foe they’d anachronistically faced decades previously. Just as that matter was resolving, “The ears of my people evolved from the thin air of Mars. I... hear something, despite the layers of soundproofing that protect the Bunker... a storm... and human cries...”

The Creators: Gerry Conway sent Commander Steel well past the point of redemption, though there would be some equivocation to come. Joe Staton continued what was becoming a tradition of having entirely inappropriate artists stiffly render a team of supposedly cool young heroes.

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: “You think jus’ ‘cause I’m a kid from el barrio, I don’t know spit?”

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Infinity Inc. #19 (10/85)


After his terrible first outing as team leader against Amazo (nevermind the rampant deaths and his general impotence in the JLA Classified retcon “A Game of Chance,”) J’Onn J’Onzz and his team sorely needed to save face. This was not to be, as Hank Heywood Sr. had journeyed to his former home Earth-2 with the aid of the mysterious Mekanique to deceitfully enlist the services of Infinity Incorporated against his squatters at the Bunker. Before the League could explain away the original Commander Steel’s manufactured rational for conflict, the senior Heywod launched an offensive, dragging the offspring of the Justice Society of America into the thick of it. While it was clear the Detroit kids were pulling their punches, they were still punked in fast and furious fashion, proving once and for all they could in no way lay claim to being true to the legacy of the Justice League of America.

Steel: Tried to make peace in the midst of his grandfather’s spurious accusations, only to be sent flying by an unwarranted blow from Commander Steel. Well okay, Jr. did toss grandpa out a window in a previous appearance, but getting jabbed in the throat with an elbow more than evened that score. Finally downed by a girder to the face, the last Leaguer previously standing before being rescued by the Martian Manhunter.

Zatanna: Knocked out cold when Steel Jr. slammed backwards into her. Victim of a gratuitous heiny shot that is doubly offensive for its lack of arousing quality. Happenstance doomed Detroit League with her handicap.

Elongated Man: Thought Vibe’s breakin’ skillz were “terrific!” Busted a lame gag, then quizzed, “Aw, where’s that famous Martian sense of humor, J.J.?” Confronted accusers (and copped a feel off Zatanna’s tush,) demanding, “That’s enough from you and your teenage gang, Heywood!” Trussed the Fury with his durable elastic form, before being rendered comatose when the daughter of the Earth-2 Wonder Woman landed from a considerable leap skyward.

Vixen: Tried to tear a chunk out of Silver Scarab, son of the Earth-2 Hawkman, before falling to his energy blast while distracted.

Gypsy: Punched the Fury in the back of the head while invisible, but detected by Northwind and left dangling off the side of a building.

Vibe: Break-danced. Dealt both Green Lantern’s daughter and Northwind respectable blows before Jade recovered to pound him.

Martian Manhunter: When asked by Zee what he thought of Vibe’s busting a move, “Such antics are not to my tastes, Zatanna...” After their home invasion, Jade was shocked to find, “Huh? My God-- a green man!” Manter deadpanned, “You should talk, young lady!” There’s that famous Martian humor, Ralph. Once Commander Steel’s abuse turned from verbal to physical, Manhunter tried to intervene, but was blasted backward by Mekanique. He was then throttled by Nuklon, loose kin to the Golden Age Atom, who proved his command of variable density was at this time better than a Martian’s. Only stunned (as should be modern readers at this travesty,) Mekanique recognized the danger still posed by “the Alien,” and presented him with, “FIRE! My only-- nemesis--!” Sorry, Professor Hugo. “As for J’onn J’onzz, he has powers besides mere flight and super-speed. Powers to be carefully husbanded in adversity. And one of them-- is Martian Lungpower! The unconscious JLAers are blown away from the scene of their ignominious defeat-- as if they were but straws in a tornado. And a truly invisible Martian will soon join them-- so that they may fight another day.”

The Creators: Since Gerry Conway and Alan Gold were credited as consultants, one assumes the gave their blessing for writer/editor Roy Thomas’ pet team to completely own the Detroit League. Maybe they wanted to show their team’s human fallibility, but in truth this just proved their detractors right, that the characters they were writing were not what their fans wanted in a Justice League. This character mass assassination was abetted by new penciller Todd McFarlane, whose developing style made for characters that looked like they were inflated and storytelling made difficult by an overemphasis on design elements. J’Onn J’Onzz caught a nasty case of Spawn-Cape as well, looking like the drape over the sides of a parade float.

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: “J.J.” – Elongated Man.
“Greenie.” – Silver Scarab.
“Green Man.” – Jade & Fury.
“Alien.” – Commander Steel and Mekanique.

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: “You’ll be sorry for that, amigo! Very sorry!”

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Crisis on Infinite Earths: Beyond the Silent Night (1985)



The real J'Onn J'Onzz, in the original continuity, finally showed up in Crisis #5, as part of a massive two-page crowd scene aboard The Monitor's satellite. A couple of pages later, Jemm: Son of Saturn was shown standing directly behind J'Onn, so this can be considered their first meeting. After a battle with the Red Tornado, J'Onzz swore, "This universe is imperilled.The new Justice League joins the battle.”

The Crisis was really hard on satellites. In #6, J'Onn held up part of The Monitor's damaged base, while offering help to the Outsider Katana and the angelic Azrael. Unfortunately, the Monitor's satellite was destroyed despite Manhunter's effort, so J'Onn joined the pair (plus the Golden Age Flash and the Legionnaire Blok in escaping to a parallel Earth. They arrived on Earth-4, the world of the classic Charlton Comics heroes. Blue Beetle, disbelieving the Monitor's story about the destruction of parallel Earths, led Captain Atom, Peacemaker, Nightshade, Judomaster, Thunderbolt, and The Question in an attack on J'Onn's team. "I'll question the how of it after I dispose of this 'Captain Atom'," J'Onn said, while blasting the hero with powerful Martian Vision. Blok then joined Manhunter in capturing the Beetle's Bug. Eventually, the Earth-4 heroes' terrified assault was revealed to be the Psycho Pirate's doing.

In #7 (Oct.'85) a group of heavyweights were chosen to enter the Anti-Matter Universe. The group included the Martian Manhunter, the Supermen of Earths 1 & 2, Wonder Woman, Firestorm, Supergirl, Wildfire, Jade, Captain Marvel, The Ray, Lady Quark, Mon-El, Pariah, Dr. Light, Captain Atom and Green Lantern Alan Scott. It was imperative that they directly challenge the Anti-Monitor, who had been destroying whole universes, then absorbing the power released by the destruction. Manhunter and Marvel stood together against giant stone guards, until Supergirl's making the ultimate heroic sacrifice to severely handicap the Anti-Monitor brought the battle to a halt. The heroes returned home, believing the threat had been ended along with the life of Kara Zor-El.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

DCU Holiday Bash III (1999) & Ambush Bug Stocking Stuffer #1 (1986)



Martian Manhunter never got much play in the DC holiday specials, probably because H'ronmeer never came up any any terrestrial testament I know of. Barring some sort of Wookie Life Day nonsense, or maybe helping Bloodwynd celebrate Kwanzaa, you're looking at a pretty lousy fit. Sergio Aragonés came up with a nice workaround through the less committal caroling. Seemingly very poor caroling, as I imagine the voice of David Ogden Stiers bellowing into the night. Seems a shame DC had to bring in a heroine from the 30th Century to represent people of terrestrial color, though.

After raking Alex Ross over the coals yesterday for his 70's hang-ups, its now time for a piece of the inherently superior 80's nostalgia I lived through, seeing as the Detroit League should still have some focus as part of the 12 Days Of Christm-- er, CRISIS! Keith Giffen's madman creation Ambush Bug, after a sort of "Red Skies" moment involving Dead Hukkas (don't ask,) needed help finding his stuffed sidekick (I mean it,) who had become a cannibal doll eater (just let it roll over you, already.) It seems the Crisis on Infinite Earths body count had gotten so high poor Jonni DC, Continuity Cop was backed up into the new year. While digging up the fallen's graves to confirm death, Cheeks the Toy Wonder had become a sort of zombie through contact with an irradiated bulldozer from Three Mile Island. Panicked, daddy Ambush Bug began calling all the super-teams he knew, including the Titans, the Legion, the Outsiders, and a certain Detroit based breakdancing outfit...

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: "Jes? Jes, man. Thees eez the Justice League of America. No, he is not here. No, he is not here, either. No, she is not here. Hello? Hello?"

Don't feel bad, Paco. He hung up on Metamorpho as well. Wait, do feel bad.

Monday, December 24, 2007

2000 Warner Bros. Studio Store Alex Ross Batman Christmas Plate (featuring the JLA)

Click To Enlarge


So here we are again, burning through Alex Ross material from the book "Mythology" masquerading as Manhunter-related product I'd never buy. Don't get me wrong, the image in appealing and well thought out, but by God, is the man ever stuck in the 70's. I was too young for Shazam!, either animated or live action, but I certainly remember hating Plastic Man from an early age. Maybe it was Hula, perhaps the creeping domesticity, probably the lack of anything resembling a menace, and certainly the awful live action openings... lameness, thy name was Plastic Man. The Art Spiegelman book improved my opinion of the character, and I have no problem with Plastic Man as a JLA member from the Morrison period. What I take issue with is Ross's nostalgia reek, associating Plas and Shazam with the Satellite crew just because he could. I recognize that both characters are iconic outside of comics, though that is becoming increasingly less true beyond children of the 70's, since their original fans are pensioners at this point. Furthermore, comic fans don't really seem inclined to accept either of these two as true Leaguers, and DC frankly is still lacking in quality super-teams outside the JLA and Titans. Both characters got by for decades without DC, so they should be able to prop up their own blasted crew.

Moving on, we see Martian Manhunter clinking glasses with Red Tornado, showing he's a bigger man than I am. I haven't had the time yet, but I'm planning on bringing back and expanding the old "Knock-offs" editorial material from the old "Rock of the JLA" site, so you just know I have plans to shine the light of my jaundiced truth upon "The Red Usurper." But hey, its Christmas time, so I'll lay off for now. Not that the alien, the android, or myself actual subscribe to the doctrine. Well, maybe Red Tornado. What a poseur...

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Retro-Crisis: Legends & Incarnations (1999 & 2001)



Manhunter's first major appearance during Crisis came twelve years after the series' release. With Legends of the DCU: Crisis on Infinite Earths #1 (Feb.'99), Wolfman returned to write a lost chapter of his epic, set after issue #4. The Barry Allen Flash found himself on a parallel Earth more innocent, and more culturally diverse, than or own. This world's Manhunter looked like a cross between ours and J'Onn in his natural Martian form. Some other Earth One heroes arrived, but they could not save their reality. The parallel Manhunter died with the rest of the Justice Alliance.

Retroactive continuity struck again, this time when the Detroit era League was revisited by John Ostrander and Val Semeiks in JLA: Incarnations #5 (Nov. 2001.) In this first Post-Crisis look at the team, the hypocrisy of Aquaman’s quitting a neophyte League he had himself forced into existence was highlighted by Zatanna. “I resign effective immediately. J’Onn, you should be chairman. You have the most seniority. Good luck.” Both as a good friend and “big picture” type, J’Onzz defended the position. “It’s probably for the best. He was in denial of his grief over the death of his child. It drove off his wife. Now, he’s facing up to what matters most to him. It’s a good sign.” In light of circumstances, Elongated Man (the only other member present) questioned whether there was a viable Justice League left, between the immaturity of its new membership and (as Zatanna pointed out) the recent proliferation of super-teams. Manhunter soundly rejected the notion. “Of course there is [a need for a Justice League]. I respect all the groups you’ve mentioned but none of them does what the League does. The League leads. When there is a crisis, the other heroes--and the world--look to us first to deal with it, to rally others. We set the example.”

Meanwhile, the newer Leaguers were arguing over an article in publisher Tully Reed’s popular super-human magazine, “Meta,” which lambasted the team. Steel quipped to Paco/Vibe, “How can they disrespect you, Taco, when they have no respect for you?” Manhunter condemned, “That was a slur, Steel. Don’t use it again.” Steel went on to question J’Onzz’s appointment as leader. “Your headquarters belongs to my grandfather.” J’Onzz retorted , “We leave and this place is just a large fallout shelter. We take a room and it becomes the headquarters of the Justice League of America. You are in the League. You are not the League itself.” Zatanna whispered to Ralph, “This isn’t the League! This isn’t even a team yet!” Elongated Man consoled, “Ah, J’Onn will whip ‘em into shape. We’ll be okay so long as we don’t go up against anything major!”

The Crisis On Infinite Earths struck, although there was no such thing as Infinite Earths in the Post-Crisis DCU. Ostrander’s explanation sounded more like Valiant’s “Unity” crossover than the seminal comic book event. As explained by suddenly scientific-minded Gypsy, “Our universe was under attack by the Anti-Matter universe of Qward, led by the Anti-Monitor. He seeks to destroy the vibrational walls between present and future. Some alternate futures have already been destroyed. By reducing everything to a single point in time, the Anti-Monitor then plans to blast it with an antimatter cannon, making his universe the only one. His opponent was The Monitor, who created...machines, like temporal tuning forks, to keep time aligned...” The new League members did an admirable job of defending the “forks” against Shadow Wraiths and defeating Fire-Eye unchaperoned. (Fire-Eye, for the many who wouldn’t recall, was the intelligent meta-dinosaur who had previously been encountered by founding Leaguers, but via temporal anomaly, was facing a JLA team for his first time here.) Vibe asserted, “Man, that’s sweet. I wish J’Onn was here to see what we done.” He was. “The crisis is far from over. There is still much to do...but I want you to know that I am proud of you all today...and I am honored to stand with you.”

Steel: Contrary and borderline racist this outing, but he did topple a dinosaur and watch over Vibe.

Zatanna: Virtually nothing. A remarkable duplication of her characterization from the period depicted.

Elongated Man: Fretted over Sue and questioned the usefulness of the Detroit League.

Vixen: Teamed-up with Hawkman to blind Fire-Eye. Effectively stood up to Batman. Took styling tips from Patti LaBelle.

Gypsy: So much it will require separate notation in her biography. Seriously. Stop laughing.

Vibe: Made to look stupid and irresponsible when he tuned out Harbinger’s constant pseudo-scientific droning during Crisis, as if the readership didn’t do the same exact thing. Tried to run game on Kole. Used vibrational powers as directed by Gypsy to repair damages to time.

Martian Manhunter: Separated from his team while trying to salvage the Monitor’s satellite. More on that later.

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: “This is muy weird, J’Onzz! I don’t do well with weird.”

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Universe: Crisis-Earth (1985)



Beginning in April of 1985, everything changed.

Clearing up the confusion surrounding these parallel universes was the mythical reasoning behind the Crisis On Infinite Earths mini-series. In truth, DC had been losing more and more of its market share every year to Marvel Comics since the 1960's. Marvel became the industry leader in the 70's, and many of DC's mainstay titles were on the verge of cancellation. Even Superman, following waves of popularity after two hit movies, found his sales in a dangerous downward spiral. The Crisis was an event to catch the attention of fans lost to Marvel, and presented a supposedly "streamlined," yet ultimately more complicated new continuity to parallel Marvel's. John Byrne was hired away from Fantastic Four to launch a new Superman series, in which he powered down and modernized the character. Frank Miller was wooed from Daredevil to eventually set the tone for the new Batman creative teams. The stodgy old Flash was replaced by an uncertain young Wally West, a "hero with hang-ups," as Stan Lee used to write them. This was accomplished with rising indie talent Mike Baron writing for former Marvel artist Jackson Guice, finally shedding his Michael Golden influence for a style all his own (lightbox issues aside.) Peter Davis, Jim Owsley, and Roger Stern, all late of Spider-Man titles, were recruited to write Green Lantern and the Atom. Even George Pérez was only a few years removed from Marvel before reworking Wonder Woman from the ground up. Tim Truman was recruited from the minors for "Hawkworld." Of the major DC Silver Age reworkings, only the successful Green Arrow by Mike Grell and multiple failed Aquaman attempts were delivered by talent mostly associated with DC.

It was a gamble, but Marv Wolfman, George Perez, Jerry Ordway and Dick Giordano delivered the goods in their twelve issue maxi-series. However, elements of their work was nearly impenetrable for new readers, more so a quarter century removed, though the sense of magnitude remains. The relaunched titles sold well. In most respects, the series was a raging success, until some poor historian had to explain the difference between the Pre- and Post-Crisis continuity to newer fans.

All of this occurred over a span of years, and surprisingly, J'Onn J'Onzz received his own revisionary mini-series in Crisis' wake well before many better known characters. During the Crisis itself, the Martian Manhunter played a relatively small role, but he certainly had his fair share of spotlight moments. Zook, not so much. The poor little guy somehow missed the slightest mention in the series, was passed over for inclusion in any edition of "Who's Who," and in fact didn't make a true appearance Post-Crisis until a year or so ago.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths (1956-1985)



In October of 1956, everything changed.

While some consider the Martian Manhunter's debut in November of 1955 the beginning of the Silver Age, the fact remains that he did not set the comics world on fire the way a new Flash did, nor did he represent the massive shift toward another continuity as Barry Allen had. You see, the Golden Age original Flash was a fellow named Jay Garrick, who had used his dubiously acquired super speed to battle the bad guys during World War Two. After the super hero craze died, only Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman continued to be published in their own titles for most of the 50's. The Flash concept was revisited by Gardner Fox, Bob Kanigher, and editor Julius Schwartz, with the ample aid of the sleek new Flash design of Carmine Infantino, in a one-off story for Showcase #4. This new bearer of the mantle was Barry Allen, who'd been inspired by his childhood reading the very same Flash comics Jay Garrick had appeared in throughout the 40's, and went on to considerable fame in his own right. Since Jay had already been established as only a fictional comic book character in Barry's world, it took some explaining to have the two characters actually meet in the flesh a few years later in 1961. The answer was a parallel universe, existing on a different vibratory frequency but similar to our own world, and close enough that comic book writers somehow tapped into its history for their fiction.

Soon after, all the Golden Age characters returned, on a world now called Earth Two. The Justice Society of America and the JLA began to have annual meetings between worlds. Later, ripping off an old Star Trek episode, a mirror universe with an evil version of the JLA was created and dubbed Earth 3. When DC licensed, then purchased the rights to the Fawcett characters, Earth S was born. DC also started using the old Quality characters, who lived on Earth X, where the Nazis won World War II. Even more worlds were added, and many characters had counterparts on several worlds.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Naked Artist: Comic Book Legends (2007)

READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED! COARSE LANGUAGE FOLLOWING...



I've been reading Bryan Talbot's collection of apocryphal tales concerning comic book creators' misadventures off-and-on at work for a month or so, but really picked up my pace earlier this week. Besides promising to kick my copy to a friend, I'd also found the above passage from "Chapter Four: The Damned," and wanted to get it posted here. So last night I got the reply from Mike Netzer, which torpedoed anything else I had in mind to post about. Today, I get back to reading, and open right up to Chapter Six: The Good, The Bad, The Frequently Inebriated. This would be the chapter that devotes a couple pages to... Mike Netzer, including mention of supernatural coincidences/occurrences surrounding the artist. Might be something to that.

The art above is by Hunt Emerson of Grant Morrison, clearly and I feel appropriately re-purposed (not to mention sloppily colored.)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Michael Netzer Makes My Day



Just so you know, I think my blog is lame. I enjoy doing it, and I'm glad other folks seem to as well, but I have no pretensions here. That said, I was shocked when Roger Stern, presumably surfing for news about his upcoming run with John Byrne on JLA: Classified, stopped by to correct my solicitation information regarding the new work. That was swell, but I figured it for a fluke and moved on.

Michael Nasser/Netzer has made about three appearances on this blog so far, always in a sideways manner. The first was when, seeing a 1986 DC Comics subscription ad consisting of found art and Martian Manhunter drawn in the Neal Adams school, I assumed the credit belong to Nasser. The second reference was in my fake Martian Manhunter #100 synopsis. The third-- well, why don't I let the artist himself explain, in this reprint of a comment posted today...

"That ad looks like it was penciled by Ross Andru. Though I did pencil the 3 installments of Martian Manhunter in World's Finest, inked by Terry Austin, where I also designed the logo at your blog heading... I wasn't involved with this particular advertisement at all. But thanks for the mention.

Best wishes,
Michael Netzer (Nasser)"

Now see, when you compare my actual usage of glorious "Mike Nasser" art above, it's readily apparant how misguided I was in thinking this was him...



Both, however, are lovely-- and my second guess would have been Jose Luis Garcia Lopez inked by someone unusual (like Klaus Janson in his prime.) Now I've got to figure out the where and why of Ross Andru drawing J'Onn J'Onzz, because unlike Netzer's three issues of Adventure Comics, this is not a thing I possess. Any help would be appreciated, and I'd like to take this opportunity to thank one of the Manhunter From Mars' greatest (if briefest) artists for taking the time to inform us all. That, and thanks for the snazzy logo, obviously a favorite of mine.

Check out Michael Netzer's blog at www.michaelnetzer.com

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

House of Mystery #159 (June, 1966)



"The Devil Men of Pluto," scourges of space, landed their flying saucer in the woods, then reduced it to pocket size with a shrink ray. A television documentary crew for WDCS just happened to be in the neighborhood, and filmed the satanic-looking aliens in jet-pack propelled flight. J’onn J’onzz caught the live program on a monitor in his secret lair, and recognized those Devil Men of the lawless B'ar Mountains from his “Martian days!” The Manhunter flew right to the trio to investigate their intentions on his adopted world. He was told a story by L'lex Xanadar (the leader, who resembled Adolph Hitler,) about the brilliant but evil Plutonian scientist Nar (yet another bald devil, this one stocky with a pointy goatee and bushy eyebrows.) One year after pulling a heist, the four Devils met to recover and divide the haul Nar had secreted on Earth. Spotting a treasure map near Nar, Xanadar decided to murder the scientist for a larger share of the loot. In the midst of the telling, Xanadar sneakily drew his pistol. "I trust you enjoyed the story, Martian--for it is the last one you will ever hear!"



The shot just bounced harmlessly off Manhunter, but the follow-up casting of Element X2 (a fiery powder) slowed our man down. With his last ounce of energy, the Martian Marvel turned invisible to escape the mercenaries. However, Xanadar had an ultra violet light ray which revealed the Manhunter, as another devil grazed the now vulnerable Martian with a head shot. The trio then turned their weapons toward a specific point in the hills nearby, uncovering a pair of robot legs. J'onn J’onzz regained consciousness minutes after they departed and continued his pursuit. The Manhunter followed the distinctive scent of Plutonian gas particles made by the space bandits' jet packs to their next excavation site, tunneling beneath their feet to catch them by surprise. Xanadar left his brothers to the Alien Atlas’ angry fists, the mechanical torso his brethren had recovered in tow. Having dissipated his jet particles, Xanadar vanished, leaving J'Onn to question his crew. “You’ll get no information out of us... even if Xanadar did double-cross us! After all, we would do it to him, or each other, if we got the chance!” Manhunter "accidentally" left one of their weapons close at hand and departed, allowing them to escape.

From the start, J'onzz had his suspicions about Nar’s overly complicated set-up. Leaving parts of a robot at various hidden points to eventually lead the Devil Men to their treasure seemed awfully roundabout. After Manhunter followed his former captives back to L'lex Xanadar, the pieces literally and figuratively fell into place. Held at bay with Element X2, MM tried to warn his foes, but with the attachment of the robot head it was too late... the booby trap "unleashed a strange force" that evaporated the Devil Men. The robot was Nar's ace in the hole, which avenged his seeming death. His treasure, J'Onn mused, would probably never be found. Then again, Manhunter himself survived multiple blasts from the same weapon Xanadar used against Nar, who J’onn noted, “was too tricky and smart to have been double-crossed so easily!” Maybe he snuck back to claim those million Mercurian heavy gold pieces all for himself?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Emperor Joker (Sep-Oct. '00)



During the Superman: Arkham and Emperor Joker story lines in the Man of Steel's titles, the JLA were transformed into cartoonish versions of themselves by a cosmically-empowered Clown Prince of Crime. Seems the Joker had taken control of Mr. Mxyzptlk's 5th Dimensional energies, and remade the universe in his own mad image. For J'Onn J'Onzz, Roman centurion garb ala the Looney Tune Marvin the Martian was deemed appropriate. With Mxyzptlk's help, Superman overcame the Joker's induced amnesia, and in turn helped restore Batman and Team Superman. Eventually, Joker caught up to Supes & co., transporting the lot to a coliseum where the JLA battled Joker's own team of new villains. After a brief stint as one of the Legion of Super-Pets, Superman returned his League cohorts to normal, though Batman and Team Superman remained behind (or dead.) Their combined might was insufficient to stop the Emperor, and the JLA fell in swift and violent fashion off-panel. Manhunter joined Plastic Man in being stretched thin and impaled onto wooden debris. Luckily, Mxy clued Supes into Joker's weakness, his inability to imagine a universe without Batman. Worse for him, once pointed out, Joker soon gave over his omnipotence to his unbeatable foe. Of course, that power and the circumstances surrounding it nearly drove Batman mad, forcing the Hal Jordan Spectre to wipe his memory of the affair (as was the case with virtually everyone but Supes and some of his foes.)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Vile Menagerie: THE PYRE



Thursday night, I caught Toadies live for the second time (not counting Vaden Todd Lewis regularly throwing a catalog bone while appearing in Burden Brothers.) Not a band that amounted to much beyond "Possum Kingdom" nationwide, but their album "Rubberneck" is a hallowed institution in our home state, still receiving AOR play a dozen years on. Like "the Osprey," Ostrander and Mandrake offered up a seemingly important new addition to the J'Onn J'Onzz Rogues Gallery in cameo, but never actually paid it off. I can take advantage of that to pay tribute to a favorite.

"I Burn"

Driftin' upward, Gently lifting
Lazy on the wind
Rollin' over, Turnin' slowly
Beginning and the end
Fire is bright, Fire is clean
Never so alive
Smoke is freedom, Flame is mercy
I am free tonight

And I burn... I burn

Stoke the embers, Cleanse the spirit
A prayer in every spark
Feel the lick of, Bad religion
The finish and the start
In the beginning, We were smarter
'n flame was heaven-sent
Through the ages, We got stupid
Now we must repent

And I burn... I burn

Save the ashes, For reminders
Stony things remain
Tooth and bone, unimpressive
I have left these things
Because fire is bright, Fire is clean
efficient and divine
Tooth and bone, Charms and dolls
I am free tonight

I BURN... THE AIR... YOU BREATHE
I BURN... THE AIR... YOU BREATHE
I BURN... THE AIR... YOU BREATHE


I burn
I burn
I burn

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Of Hook Hands and Idol Heads



I was reading rob!’s “Aquaman Shrine” today, as I try to on a regular basis, and saw that he’d begun to address the “Pirate Aquaman” days of the Peter David series he’s on record as loathing. I was inspired to reply to his post summarizing the first year of that series, and as I am wont to do, ran full speed into a tangent that couldn’t fit comfortably in context...

Let us relate:

I've liked the Martian Manhunter since this lad bought the Kenner Super Powers action figure. However, as a comic book character, he was a curiosity for a couple more years. Mark Badger unfortunately torpedoed my interest in him as a soloist until well into the 90's. A specific case in point: much as I liked the guy throughout JLI, I bought the early issues of Justice League Task Force not for him, nor even Aquaman (who was a jerk in those issues,) and I didn't even know who Gypsy was at the time. I bought them for a painfully mis-characterized Nightwing (Michelinie, BTW.)

So anyway, I finally realized how much I'd under appreciated the character with "A Midsummer's Nightmare." My true Martian Manhunter fandom blossomed from then on, and led to my building the old "Rock of the JLA" site. It was only then I began to look past the Modern Era appearances of the character, the type of stuff I grew up on, toward his Silver Age origins... and I hated them. They seemed so garish and stupid, even for the times. This was neither the introspective stoic of DeMatteis nor the intense veteran of Morrison, but a simplistic dork in hacked out adventures clearly intended for the least discerning children. The Bronze Age wasn't much better, such as it was, with the violent reactionary take of Denny O'Neil. Thing is though, anyone or anything you come to truly love is an all-in proposition. That pretty young girl you married develops lines on her face and droops on you. You put on weight and hair disappears and reappears where it may. The love sees past that, not just to the person loved underneath, but into the "flaws" that become additional points of affection. It's not that Jack Miller scripts suddenly become literate, but you can't help but develop an affection toward even the lousy bits as a part of the tapestry.

I mean, I clearly came around to Diabolu’s opening up at regular intervals to spit out a new menace, as I altered the blue moon updating masses of the old site in favor of daily chunks of sometimes inanity. I always thought Marco Xavier was cool, and I do love both Zook and Professor Hugo. Reading Gardner Fox’s Justice League reminded me that J’onn J’onzz stories needn’t be singled out for exceptional disdain, as I broadly hate all DC Silver Age comics, and the Martian actually fares well (after a fashion) by comparison. Its like how you can cast Kyle MacLachlan in anything and it's automatically better for the inherent surreality of his presence. I'm even cautiously optimistic I can one day read Ostrander's run on the Martian Manhunter solo series and develop a "Fried Green Tomatoes" appreciation for the positive aspects of the days he threw the character a proverbial beating. I do clearly take some pleasure in a bit of backward glancing passive-aggressive ribbing. “Gosh, your face used to get so red when you got angry with me! Like a beet! Hah, beat! How’s Annie?” Okay, I may be a bit abusive myself, but I’m trying to own it, as opposed to disavowing aspects of the history I don’t whole-heartedly take to. I’m trying to bring the love, even if just the slap of love that keeps you coming around...

Friday, December 14, 2007

JLA Classified #25 (9/06)


Vixen: Ran recon in the caves, ‘cuz she’s stealthy. Revealed she hated bears, but used their power and tried to save one that plunged to its death. “We’re still family!” Punched and kicked various bad people.

Gypsy: Powned everyone. Retroactively revealed to be some sort of minor vagabond goddess with a slew of powers and secret knowledge previously unknown to readers. Psychically guided all the Leaguers to where they needed to be to be while making them think they were just following intuition. Personally defeated Amos Fortune with a hook to the guy so severe it lifted him off the ground. Precognitive to boot. I can and likely will devote whole blogs to the impact this one issue would have on her history, if it were actually canonical. For instance, she’s way powerful enough to wander the streets of Detroit barefoot now, so that finally makes sense. Why didn’t I figure it out before?!? It was right in front of us the whole time!

Vibe: When not placed on the stealth squad, repeatedly protested “I’m very sneaky!” Fended off a fake lion. Zapped a Royal Flush Gangster. Thought of Gypsy, “Man, that chica digs me!” Instead, had his destiny secretly read. “Vibe--dead, in the future! The vision never changes!”

Steel: “And Steel, too!” D’oh! Beat up one old man, and contributed to the fatal coronary of another.

Martian Manhunter: “I’ll be fine, now that we’re away from the fire. To a Martian, fire’s like throwing an off switch. You’re completely helpless. Failed to deduce that Gypsy mentally manipulated him into position, unsure if she’d verbally called out to him, despite her protestation. Fought a faux she-demon. Outsmarted the bad lack powers directed against him. “I’m just walking-- putting one foot in front of the other. Luck has nothing to do with it.” Capitalized on the psychic feedback which struck the Royal Flush Gang after one of their members died. Hit a woman. “Something’s going on with Gypsy. But I still can’t read it.

Aquaman: Survived the fire with blood smeared on his person, but still collapsed from dehydration. Revived by a freak shower. Busts into the cave hideout just after the case was wrapped, shouting, “Thank Neptune! ...I would have been here sooner but I walked into the one thing I can’t handle--fire--” Manhunter replied, “Join the club.”

Dale Gunn: ...

The Creators: Steve Englehart digs on the Wiccan-Pagan-Devil-Worship-Jungle-Music, and his resume reflects it, so he clearly enjoyed writing Gypsy WAY beyond hr previously established perimeters as a Madonna/Cyndi Lauper wannabe with illusion powers. Tom Derenick also enjoyed drawing Gypsy’s physical development WAY beyond her years at this point in her history. Goddess or no, fifteen year olds shouldn’t look like that, nor astral project all nekkid like. At no point do either of them take Vibe remotely seriously, as illustrated by the turning of the severe downer reveal at the end of this fairly brutal arc into a jab at his complete cluelessness.

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: “What, man! Whatchu talkin’ about?”

Thursday, December 13, 2007

JLA Classified #24 (8/06)


Vixen: Absolutely took charge, using her powers to sense changes in the fire’s path and repeatedly guide her teammates away from immolation. She’s so impressive she rated a two-page origin recap and...

Steel: Admired Vixen. Carried J’Onn’s limp body all over the blazin’ forest.

Gypsy: Ran enough that she should start thinking really hard about investing in some kind of footwear. Flip-flops? Clogs? Something?

Vibe: Still doesn’t get what the big deal with the Taco Bell chihuahua was. Partly because he was dead by then. Also admired Gypsy, if by admire you mean wanted to sex up.

Martian Manhunter: Made Professor Xavier look like a physical dynamo by comparison. “You’re the only member I don’t worry about, Vixen. My body’s gone inert, but my mind hasn’t. I still hear your secret thoughts. For all of you to survive the JLA, I have to train you—and to train you, I have to know you, better than you know yourselves. I have no doubts about you, Mari. You’ve applied yourself to your gift. If there’s a way to succeed, you’ll find it. But Steel has become almost artificial, inside his artificial body -- he deadens the pain of his life -- Vibe thinks life is a wide-screen movie. He’s careless, cocky... and Gypsy -- I can’t get a handle on yet. She thinks in her Gypsy language -- “

Dale Gunn: Clearly not even piloting the L.O.S.T, because...

Aquaman: Piloted a L.O.S.T. over the inferno, then dove off into a nearby stream. “This is the glory of the Justice League—that a man with only water powers flies through the air to a fire! The team makes all of us more than we are alone! And that’s why I wanted to be its leader! I could have settled for King of the Sea, three-fourths of the planet—but leader of the Justice League means more!” Later, Arthur commanded a local trout to bob its head out of the water and discuss the sweep of the blaze. I swear, Jack Miller had nothing to do with this. Aquaman made his way to the team’s abandoned campsite. “Damn J’Onn for breaking all contact!” Feeling like stir fry, Aquaman dumped a pot of leftover--and quite hot-- water over his head. No, Dave Wood didn’t have a hand in it, either, regardless of Manhunter’s utter impotence to fire, lame theme villains, and the left-of-center circumstances. Trapped and parched, Aquaman found the burial mound of the Royal Flush members, noting blood has almost the same composition as sea water and smearing himself in it.

The Creators: See, no clear Silver Age analogue for that, nor even Steve Englehart’s old Bronze Age scripts. Meanwhile, perhaps pained as I was by Jerry Ordway’s over-embellishing on the covers, Tom Derenick channelled his inner Zeck to look more like the real thing than Mike himself did. On Aquaman, it took especially well.

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: “You don’ haveta be so elusive wit’ us, chica!”

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

JLA Classified #23 (Late July, 2006)


Vibe: Caused the telepathically eavesdropping Martian pain with his mental mangling of the English language and delusions of competency, much less grandeur. “’Course, we ain’ got Superman or the Batman—but who needs ‘em. We got me. Throw in J’Onn J’Onzz, an’ Aquaman, an’ that’s plenty. The others... hey, a gang can always use numbers.” Meanwhile, in their time of need, Professor Amos Fortune returned to his Royal Flush Gang as a rather pudgy Ace of Spades, a spare Queen and Ten in tow to replaced the recently departed. While that may not sound like much of a challenge, Superman and Batman could have come in handy, as Fortune’s luck-altering device sent the Detroit League to seeming doom.

Martian Manhunter: “I’ve seen too many dead men, on too many worlds, to take any death lightly.” However, as this was the pre-new age Natural Martian, when Vibe asked if the League should uncover the squashed villains or let them stink, he replied, “We’ll take the bodies to the authorities when we go. We haven’t finished what we came here for. Just pile more boulders over the bodies to keep the animals away.” When his team was attacked again though, J’Onzz again failed to step up and actually lead his charges. He instead focused on a fistfight with the Ten of Spades, until an errant lighter and bad luck set the forest ablaze. J’Onn fell in to a burnin’ ring of fire. He went down as the flames went higher. It burns.

Vixen: Aside from razzing Vibe, took this mess in her usual stride. “J’Onn put Ten down for the count... of ten! With the viciousness of a wolverine, I should be able to get at least a five.” For the rest of us, that was more a count of three bad puns and another wink at the fourth wall. Got kind of bossy once J’Onn went down. Fell into a burnin’ ring of fire.

Steel: Whined. Buried. Fought. Trapped.

Gypsy: Whined. Eulogized. “...and we know nothing of their hopes for the afterlife, but we pray by Mary the gypsy that their best dreams will be realized...” Fought Amos Fortune, thanks to a brief reversal of fortune allowed by the Professor’s rivals, Jack and King. Trapped.

Aquaman: Must have gotten a sense of deja vu, as once again his team is getting it’s head handed to them in the Canadian wilderness and left for dead while he’s just now getting back to the Bunker. The snow’s melted into spring though, so I’ll just blame it on the Crisis.

Zatanna: According to the JLA status monitor, “beyond the pale.”

Elongated Man: According to the JLA status monitor, “Flash birthday party.” So definitely before the Crisis?

Sue Dibney: Barry’s party? Nope. “Boys only. Sexist macho piglets!” Questioned if Arthur valued her husband, to which he answered, “He’s proved himself time and again.” Arthur doesn’t call Ralph back because it would take too long, though, but insists he’s more concerned about the Manhunter. “J’Onn, in his infinite wisdom, shut off communications. He said something about getting to know the kids without interruption... Not that I don’t have faith in them-- but they haven’t proven themselves like Ralph.” I don’t care how sincere he sounds, that’s a backhanded comment for all concerned.

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: “Ya know, this game is jus’ too easy! Th’ Jay-El-Lay roolz!”

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

JLA Classified #22 (Early July, 2006)



Martian Manhunter:”This team has a long way to go before it achieves the coherence it needs. [The elder Leaguers] and I can provide guidance--but only if you hear us. To that end, I’ve brought you four here [Biskotasi Peak in Ontario,] to train together on unfamiliar tasks, far from the Detroit streets you usually inhabit. It’s my intent to improve your trust in each other, and in yourselves.” Well, not just that, “...as my telepathy allows me to listen secretly—to your innermost thoughts... It’s up to me to make sure you all get better.” Also, to fix burgers, though Vixen asserted that using a portable, flameless electric stove is neither camping nor cooking. Anyway, thank retroactive continuity for explaining the lack of Martian mental powers for most of Conway’s run and those ugly JLA signal rings.

Steel: Had a nightmare his now mustachioed grandfather and Dale Gunn held him down fully conscious before ripping into him for the operations that turned him into a cyborg. He awakened from his revere en route to a hike into the Canadian woods, presumably after the mission against Amazo. The peace and quiet made Steel inconsolable, as his body was in constant pain from its modifications. He smiled and put up a false front for his teammates, though for readers, the angst was endless. Like his grandfather, he secretly acknowledged to himself “Second-stringers, third-stringers, and rookies. The Justice League has gone to hell.” Also, he thought of J’Onn J’Onzz, “He learned English pretending to be a cop... but he was pretending. Who knows what a Martian feels inside?” Henshaw was raised to be a hero like his grandpa, so he ran maneuvers with his team, despite his loathing of their status and his own. Later in the evening, members of the Royal Flush Gang tracked the team down and used mood-altering playing cards to cause the Martian Manhunter to attack Hank. Though Henshaw never landed a single blow in his brief row with the Manhunter, he was clever enough to deduce the cause of the attack and rush the Gang with an uprooted tree trunk. In the melee, he accidentally crushed Queenie and Ten of Clubs with rolling boulders. Hank was only too happy to gloat to himself over his decisive move, showing no remorse other than being part of a League characterized as losers by, of all people, the Royal Flush Gang.

Dale Gunn: Only up for a dream sequence this time out.

Vixen: Hopped around tirelessly for most of the issue. Came on to Vibe due to a mood-altering card, only to be backhanded by a close-fisted Paco.

Gypsy: Joined Vixen and Vibe against Steel in maneuvers, but the only panty shot was hers. Nearly asphyxiated by a playing card.

Vibe: You already read it, except the part where he got decked by Queenie before her untimely smooshing.

Zatanna, Elongated Man & Sue Dibney: Absent. They knew what was good for them.

Aquaman: The main continuity sticking point, as Vibe and Steel are in their second uniforms, both donned after Arthur quit the team. So let’s just pretend that after Aquaman and Mera returned with the League to Michigan, the couple decided to stick around a bit longer to see if they could settle in there. Arthur remained team leader after J’Onn’s disastrous first outing, but suggested the return trip to Canada to encourage team building, including much needed management experience for J’Onn. Oh, and Steel decided to test-drive his new suit, but it got all sweaty with grass stains here, so it was at the dry cleaners throughout Crisis on Infinite Earths. Did I mention a random walleye happened to overhear the Royal Flush Gang plotting to ambush the League, found the Scion of the Seven Seas swimming laps in Lake Erie, and warned him? Also, did I mention Jack Miller didn’t write that?

The Creators: ...It was actually Steve Englehart, clearly having a ball with the type of oddball super-heroes that made him famous. Tom Derenick supplied the gratuitous panty shot, though it’s really always been Gypsy’s fault for wearing a skirt to a knife fight. Derenick recalled Ron Lim and Chuck Patton in equal measure.

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: Still using the full name at times, but Steel, Gypsy and Vixen all drop just "J'Onn" most of the time.

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: “C’mon, Jay-El-Lay! Le’s get ‘em!”

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Vile Menagerie: THE GETAWAY KING



Alter Ego: Monty Moran
AKA: The Getaway Mastermind
Occupation: Criminal Inventor
Marital Status: Unknown
Group Affiliation: Various
Base of Operations:
First Appearance: Detective Comics #259

Little is known about the life and origins of Monty Moran before his rise to power as a crime boss in Colorado. The criminal mastermind was proud of his bizarre getaway gimmicks, such as a six-wheeled, cigar-shaped rocket car that could divide into three separate mini-cars, each capable of being remote-controlled. Moran amassed a slew of such contraptions, which his henchmen would employ in heists. The Manhunter from Mars, operating clandestinely as police detective John Jones before his super-heroic existence became public knowledge, eventually began thwarting Moran’s various plans. Moran was surprisingly nonchalant about his multiple defeats, fully expecting ultimate conquest with a super-weapon he had been developing. Once Detective Jones traced Moran to his secret laboratory hideout, the device was revealed as a fantastic force field, which would have caused the deaths of numerous policemen from their own ricocheting bullets, but for the invisible intervention of the Martian Manhunter. Before the Getaway King could make off in a hidden submarine, the Manhunter telekinetically directed the massive lot of bullets he’d retrieved against the crooks. Their “sting” drove Moran and his men from the lab into the hands of waiting police.

While serving his time, Monty Moran became a prison trustee, giving him access to another laboratory. From odds and ends, Moran invented a shrink-ray, allowing himself and five of his fellows arch-criminals to escape the pen in nothing more than a matchbox tied to a helium balloon. The sextet put the Justice League of America through their paces, but their accomplishment was eclipsed by an overlapping case involving Dr. Destiny and the fact Moran and his fellows were eventually captured by Green Arrow on his own. The encounter served as both validation of the archer’s initiation into the League, and the final appearance of the Getaway Mastermind.


While the Getaway King showed neither particular athletic prowess nor combat facility, his technological prowess was clearly exceptional. Besides those devices previously mentioned, Moran also invented a vehicle with a built-in boring machine that could penetrate a stone wall in seconds, and a small jet plane that could disguise itself as a fully functional automobile. He likely was also responsible for the spacecraft and remote monitors used against the JLA by the one-time collective of himself, Electric Man, Puppet Master, Captain Cold, Professor Menace, and King Clock. It’s possible he also aided Dr. Destiny in his earliest adventures, as that villain went from a general inventor to a dream specialist almost immediately after their association ended.

----------------------------------------------------------
While it remains galling to me that the Martian Manhunter's pet/sidekick Zook and other important supporting characters/foes/etc. have never received any variation on a Who's Who page, I can deal with Monty Moran. Truth is, the guy's a scrub, and I only created this replica entry because he happend to be treated as an archenemy in an early issue of Justice League. However, so were Professor Menace and Electric Man, who'd also only ever appeared in a story each. While there was no excuse not to use a better Wonder Woman villain, we all know Aquaman only has two foes worth noting, and neither had even been created yet. Sad to say John Jones' Nuisance Gallery was at least as bad, so a criminal inventor who never once imperiled Manhunter in his one six page adventure was just going to have to do. Better still, not only did Gardner Fox have to ramp up Moran's scientific abilities for that second appearance, but he even renamed him "the Getaway Mastermind." The only time the characrer's sole story called him by a name other than Monty Moran was in the title, "The Getaway King." This was possibly due to Fox's having also used "King Clock" in the same tale, but y'know, he didn't become the Clock Mastermind, so there.

I wouldn't normally make note of that blight upon humanity, fan fiction, but it seems the me the fact that Monty Moran ever entered another soul's brain is itself noteworthy. The website focuses on tales of a reality where the five most used worlds in the DC Multiverse remained seperate after Crisis On Infinite Earths, and the story on what might have happened had Firestorm not been marred by John Ostrander's becoming a tad too enamored of Alan Moore's "Swamp Thing." Feel free to enjoy Firestorm: Cold Fusion.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

February '08 Martian Sightings



CONFIRMED EYEWITNESS TESTIMONY:
THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES IN THE 31st CENTURY #11
Written by Matt Manning
Art and cover by Alexander Serra
With the Man of Steel a thousand years away, Brainiac 5 takes the time to complete his records of Superman's time with the Legion, including a never-before-seen adventure on Mars. One of Superman's future allies has a legacy at stake - can the Legion help Superman set it right?
On sale February 13 o 32 pg, FC, $2.25 US

THE NEARLY COMPLETE ESSENTIAL HEMBECK ARCHIVES OMNIBUS TP story FRED HEMBECK
art & cover FRED HEMBECK
Finally: a single massive collection, covering cartoonist Fred Hembeck's past three decades of work! All seven of his early '80s collections - Bah, Hembeck!; The Hembeck Files, et al - are included, as well as rarely seen strips, personal commissions, online pieces, holiday cards, assorted oddities, and over a dozen stories ranging up to ten pages in length! A massive collection featuring the superhero industry's most revered humorist! Foreword by industry legend and creator of Spider-Man and The Fantastic Four, STAN LEE!
FEBRUARY 13 - 900 PAGES - BW - $24.99

JLA CLASSIFIED #52-53
Written by Roger Stern
Art by John Byrne & Mark Farmer
Covers by Joshua Middleton
"That was Now, This is Then" continues as the legendary team of writer Roger Stern & artist John Byrne depict two separate battles with the same villain years apart in the JLA's long and storied history! Roger Stern: "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."
Issue #52 on sale February 13;
issue #53 on sale February 27 o 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

OUTSIDERS: FIVE OF A KIND TP
Written by G. Willow Wilson, Marc Andreyko and others
Art by Freddie Williams II, Koi Turnbull, Joshua Middleton and others
Cover by Matthew Clark & Karl Story
In this volume collecting OUTSIDERS: FIVE OF A KIND #1-5 and OUTSIDERS #50, Batman has once again assumed the leadership role of the Outsiders. And to take control of his former team, the Dark Knight is using five adventures to pick his new lineup! Find out who makes the cut!
Advance-solicited; on sale March 19 o 160 pg, FC, $14.99 US

ACTUAL VIDEO:
Justice League - The New Frontier (2008)
Starring: Miguel Ferrer, Phil Morris, Lucy Lawless, Neil Patrick Harris, Kyle MacLachlan, Brooke Shields, Jeremy Sisto
Director: Dave Bullock, Rated PG-13
(Single-Disc Edition) Run Time: 75 minutes, List Price: $19.98, Amazon.com:$17.99
(Two-Disc Special Edition)
This title will be released on February 26, 2008. List Price: $24.98, Amazon.com: $16.99

MISS MARTIAN:
TINY TITANS #1
Written by Art Baltazar & Franco
Art and cover by Baltazar & Franco
Awwww yeah, Titans! Join us for the exciting first issue of Tiny Titans written and drawn by the amazing Art Baltazar and Franco! See what life is like at Sidekick Elementary and meet the new staff! Follow the madness that ensues when Beast Boy gets a puppy friend! Witness what happens when the girls meet a pink stranger with a melted ice cream cone! Find out what makes Cassie such a trendsetter!
All your favorite Titans, in their cutest possible form, are here and waiting for you!
On sale February 13 o 32 pg, FC, $2.25 US

TEEN TITANS #56
Written by Sean McKeever
Art by Eddy Barrows
The new and deadly Bolt descends upon Titans Tower! When your soul is due to become forfeit in just a few short years, what do you do? If you're Kid Devil, you throw a super hero party! One Teen Titan will fight to stop it, and another consider a life of crime because of it!
On sale February 27 o 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

DUBIOUS EVIDENCE:
Booster Gold #0 (Official Zero Hour tie-in)
DC Heroclix Crisis Booster Packs

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Freedom Force: Martian Manhunter Adventure (2007)

I was tempted to treat this with the same "mockumentary" flare of yesterday's post, but this one was too well done to risk actually misinforming people. Reader Benton Grey submitted the follow video from YouTube of his creation. I'll let him explain it.

"This is a teaser trailer for the first level (or issue) of my campaign for DC's JLA. The first few missions are solo issues of the individual characters, and this one stars J'Onn J'Onnz. This is part of a mod I'm making for a game called Freedom Force. If you're interested, check out the site, here:
http://bentongrey.wordpress.com/mods/
This mod endeavors to produce the DC Universe in the greatest superhero game of all time, Freedom Force. It will include missions for many DC characters, including the Martian Manhunter, Superman, Batman, Aquaman, and many of other heroes and villains.

Note: None of the art elements shown here were produced by me. They are the work of those much more talented."

Personally, turn-based role-playing games remind me of each second ticking toward the ultimate demise of my very being, but this seems pretty cool for this type of thing. "Final Fantasy 7" broke something inside me that never healed, y'know?

Friday, December 7, 2007

John Jones: Manhunter From Mars #100 (Sept.-Oct. 1968)

For the 100th post emitted from the Idol-Head blog, it only makes sense to spotlight the 100th issue of our star's solo comic! Sort of.


The Making of "John Jones: Manhunter From Mars #100"


Tumultuous times had wide reaching and generally adverse effects on the creators behind the J'onn J'onzz comics. Longtime editor Jack Schiff retired to political activism. His replacement, George Kashdan, was let go ostensibly for under performing books, but more likely company politics that looked poorly on his support for the failed writers union. One of its members, Manhunter scribe Jack Miller, developed cancer. Dell/Western was still enough of a force to lure dedicated artist Joe Certa to greener pastures. DC's fortunes as a company were foundering as well, thanks to the rise of Marvel Comics. The winds of change were blowing, and they whispered the name of artist-turned-editorial director Carmine Infantino. While fellow artist Joe Orlando was assigned to renovate the House of Mystery back to its former glory as an EC imitator, thereby evicting tenant J'onn J'onzz, it was still felt the old boy had better days ahead of him. Seeing as the character had already passed as an "action hero" in his police and more recent super-spy days, it only made sense to toss him toward former Charlton Comics editor Dick Giordano.

Like Marvel's "Captain America #100," the new series would start at a fictional anniversary point (never mind his "decade" milestone ran nearly as late as Image Comics'.) Leaning on crudely re-edited milestone stories was less a sentimental nod than a necessity, as the book was rushed into production to insure the Manhunter from Mars wouldn't be forgotten in the months following his HoM run. A new short story was a bit of a Charlton reunion, as Giordano turned to old pals Denny O'Neil and Jim Aparo for the eight-pager. The tale was a forgettable return for Starro, who in a scant few years had gone from the first Justice League threat to solo Manhunter fodder before Aquaman took him by his lonesome in the 70s. You could tell O'Neil wasn't feeling it, and likely regretted not using his old Sergius O’Shaugnessy nom de plume while moonlighting in-house on his usual editor, Julie Schwartz. Aparo fared better, although the story was essentially a paycheck until he took over the art chores on Aquaman, his first issue ironically seeing print a month or so prior to this. Even Giordano proved only a placeholder, as his time at DC was short on the first go-around after being wooed by Continuity Studios (though the connection paid off years later with Neal Adams protege Mike Netzer's run on our book.)

Within a few months things were about the same as they ever were. Giordano and O'Neil had been working with Mike Sekowsky on Wonder Woman, an artist himself turned editor, eventually on the Manhunter feature. Mutual friendships had already yielded this issue's Wally Wood cover centerpiece (clearly swiping from Joe Certa, but Woody never was one to let a perfectly good pose go to waste.) Following Giordano's example, Sekowsky took advantage of his position to kick old Tower Comics associates work. Sadly, no Gil Kane or Steve Ditko runs came out of the deal, but Reed Crandall’s issues and the tragically brief John Giunta period made up for that plenty well. Also, just compare my upcoming glowing reviews for Len Brown’s scripts to Jack Miller’s, and it becomes clear what a major turning point #100 was for the Manhunter!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Hembeck Strip: Day Three (1980)

Today's the last part of this portion of the strip. I'll continue it at a future time, as these things take up a lot of space, and I could probably do another week at this rate. The full strip will be available in THE NEARLY COMPLETE ESSENTIAL HEMBECK ARCHIVES OMNIBUS TP available from Image Comics on FEBRUARY 13, 2008. The colors are all mine, though.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Hembeck Strip: Day Two (1980)

Strip available in THE NEARLY COMPLETE ESSENTIAL HEMBECK ARCHIVES OMNIBUS TP available from Image Comics on FEBRUARY 13, 2008. The colors are all mine, though.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Hembeck Strip: Day One (1980)



Strip available in THE NEARLY COMPLETE ESSENTIAL HEMBECK ARCHIVES OMNIBUS TP available from Image Comics on FEBRUARY 13, 2008. The colors are all mine, though.

Monday, December 3, 2007

House of Mystery #157 (3/66)



"In the mess hall of Grayton Prison, Convict #16526 (better known as Professor Hugo) gets a sudden inspiration..." He'd figured out how to remote activate one of his inventions to escape from is cell! He revealed the gist of his plan to incredulous fellow cons, thanks to his constant defeats at the Manhunter's hands making him the "laughing stock of every criminal from coast to coast.” This only fueled his desire for revenge. Once his jail break became known, the Manhunt began. "Stand by, Zook! I'm going to find that swell-headed hoodlum--and clap him back in jail where he belongs! I may be gone a day or two!” Having left his other-dimensional pet at home, J'onn alone spied a circus clown attempting to wave him down. It was a trap, as the grease painted Hugo zapped MM with a hidden thought control machine. I realize exaggeration is a clown’s stock in trade, but really, did the Martian Martian think a mortal merchant of merriment could maintain such a massive melon? All Arnold had to say was, “Manhunter--You're a ballet dancer," and J'onn's toes started to twinkle in midair. "I--I want to disobey you--b-but I can't--!" J'onn's got happy feet! "...The fact that you're aware of you predicament is all the more fun for me!" What did I tell you? Hugo's into bondage, too! That sick little Easter Island freak daddy!

Hugo made the Manhunter the unwilling star of the circus, of which one anxious spectator opined “Wow! They’ll need a place 10 times bigger than the stadium to hold everybody who’ll want to see that show!” First, Hugo forced J'onn J’onzz to juggle a dozen mammoth balls that weighed a ton each. Then Hugo made MM drop the balls on himself. "Ha, ha! Listen to them...They're all laughing at you... The way you made every criminal in the country laugh at me!" Second, Hugo directed the Martian Marvel to turn his fist intangible, then alter his density to trap his hand within a brick wall. The crowd roared as MM struggled to free himself, before smashing the wall with his free hand and tumbling through the fresh hole. “From now on, Manhunter, you will be known as the Martian Clown! ...Let’s go, you Martian Goof-Up!” Hugo dictated the Alien Atlas burrow his way into the Earth, until he burst a high-pressure water line, which launched J'Onn into the air, "...making him look like the biggest idiot ever!" Too bad Hugo's plans “boomeranged,” with the audience gaining a new found respect for J'Onn's versatility and self-effacing slapstick. "No, no, no! Th-they're not laughing at Manhunter--They're laughing with him! ...Shut up, Shut up!"

Meanwhile, Zook visited the circus to find out why “Manhunter go out to look for Professor Hugo... and next I know, he the star of corny show! ...What it all about?” Hugo instructed Manhunter to make Zook scram, then had him steal the entire Centerville Bank and “destroy his reputation for good!” As the police questioned Manhunter's sudden turn, Zook deduced that the clown with the gigantic freakin’ head just might be Hugo. “My directional antennae find Manhunter--wherever he be! Emanations in antennae getting stronger! Must be getting closer! I right! That Professor Hugo! But how he controlling Manhunter? How? That truck---it same size and shape as circus wagon he use in stadium! Maybe I find answer inside! Tee-hee! I right again! This machine must be what Professor Big Head using to control Manhunter!” Zook had flattened his form to enter the van, then dropped the temperature of his body 1,000 degrees, flash freezing the equipment in his proximity to the shattering point. "You free Manhunter! You got your own mind back!" Manhunter grabbed Arnold by the collar, exclaiming, "You’re telling me! Good work, Zook! As for you, Hugo-- there’re some people waiting to give you orders... back in jail!" Better yet, a meteorite happened to hit the former site of the bank, leaving arriving officers to believe MM was simply moving the building out of harm's way. "Good old Manhunter! He can not only make people split their sides laughing--but he's the greatest one-man rescue squad on Earth!" J'Onn whispered, "Hear that Hugo? And to think--I owe my new fame all to you!" Seemed the screw had another turn left, as onlookers chuckled, “Hey, look at Professor Hugo! How funny he looks! Ha, ha, ha!” A cackling crowd gathered to gape. Zook observed, “Poor Professor! Sounds like last laugh is on you!”

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Sins of Youth Part Two: JLA Jr. (May 2000)


Carlo Barberi pencilled not only a short story by writers Geoff Johns and Ben Raab for the Sins of Youth Secret Files & Origins, but “chased” it with a one-shot JLA Jr. special, from a script by Dan Curtis Johnson. See, D.C. co-created the “Chase” series. See, that was an example of the level of humor in this “Fifth Week” event, y’see? Is this keyboard on? Did I mention poor Agent Cameron Chase and Director Bones were kidified by Klarion as he literally unleashed a rather lanky Black Adam Junior? Which has nothing to do with J’Onn J’Unyr and Wonder “Girl” having to pull a suddenly more rowdy kid Kal-El back from attacking the Point Men before one of the two team was saved by, get this, teen vigilante Anarky. J’Onzz continued to seem his normal self, working with the precocious Steel and Batboy to override security in the JLA Watchtower, though he was put off by the Justice League’s willingness to arm their automated flame-throwers against children. Once there, Little J’Onn used the calm to telepathically search the planet for the whereabouts of their pursuers and Klarion. “The D.E.O. can’t intercept psychic communication as easily as electronic... I’ve found some traces of the Witch Boy... Eerie child... He leaves a strong psychic trail in his wake.” Klarion was in the process of creating more young versions of villains to keep things fair and interesting, and upon sensing the Martians presence threw his a creepy whammy. J’Onzz didn’t glean one other fact beforehand, though. “He’s working with someone else.” The League tried to petition the wizard Shazam for help (J’Onn one of the only party members not to have youthful hubris aligned with the Seven Deadly Sins of Man,) but were denied. In fact, when Kid Flash and Batboy turned on one another, he was the voice of reason, if also defeat. “Cool it! Both of you! You’re acting like a couple of... like a couple of kids! Awww, nuts! We’re never going to solve this problem at this rate. We’ve been crippled!” However, J’Onzz smirked as his despair galvanized the team toward success, the same sort of reverse-psychology he’d employed with other young heroes in the past.

Shades of the JLI-era den mother could be seen when the unruly junior teams were collected at the Secret Sanctuary, where J’Onn came to the aid of Sandy by demanding, “Excuse me! Plastic Man! Do we have to have another wedgie discussion? Don’t make me come over there!” He rightly proclaimed young Kyle Rayner a “yutz” before joining him in combat with Li’l Amazo. Thank goodness no one uttered the name Martian Boyhunter” before the Contessa’s cloned Klarion the Witch Man (it hurts!) reduced a gap-tooted J’Onn and select other heroes to infancy. I’m not sure if J’Onn-boy was still in on the action for the Witch Man’s defeat, or just crawling into the line of fire. I’m just thankful everyone but Lil’ Lobo put the whole mess behind them a few pages later. The “Top Tot” actually joined Young Justice for a time, something the eventually restored “Main Man” will never fully live down. Never mind an underage genetic duplicate called Slobo (argh!) continued with the team before going blind and dying twice over (not in that order.)

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Sins of Youth Part One: Young Justice (May 2000)



Young Justice were having a bad few weeks. Member Arrowette nearly executed the murderer of a young woman, then decided to abandon super-heroics entirely. The Secret, a ghostly pre-teen teammate, was captured by the All Purpose Espionage Squad. YJ’s rescue of her from A.P.E.S.’ secret base within Mount Rushmore inadvertently ended with George Washington’s face being blown off. A group of villainous young agents called the Point Men destroyed YJ’s own headquarters. Superboy was replaced by his genetic duplicate Match, who arranged for the media to catch most of the team’s troubles and smear their name in the public eye. Super-hero-turned-politician Neptune Perkins sought to legislate neophyte heroes out of existence. Finally, a group of former kid sidekicks from the 1940’s dubbed “Old Justice” attempted to force their far younger counterparts into early retirement. All of these events were masterminded by the Contessa, who was employing adults’ millenia old fear and distrust of their young as indirect harassment of the senior heroes who’d thwarted some of her previous schemes. The coup de gras came when Wonder Girl took back the media to announce a march on Washington. The JLA, JSA, Titans, Marvel Family, and various others appeared to show their support. However, Contessa had enlisted the sorcerous Klarion the Witchboy to cast a spell that turned America’s young heroes into adults, and their counterparts into adolescents. This then was the Sins of Youth crossover, initiated by Peter David, Todd Nauck and Larry Strucker.

It was J’Onn J’Onzz who finally confirmed which Superboy was the true Metropolis Kid, and it was he who summed up the entire event when confronted with his fellow de-aged heroes: “You all look ridiculous.” J’Onzz didn’t seem to actively participate in a brawl between his team and the Junior Society over some rocket fuel (don’t ask,) despite Hawkbaby’s verbal and physical aggression. “Ooh, look at me! I’m an alien and I’m so scared or fire!” Perhaps she was just finally expressing her sublimated rage from the beating the Manhunter threw her Bronze Age counterpart in the 70’s as she cast an “L” across her forehead and proclaimed J’Onn “Geek.”