Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Do You Know The Way To Middletown?
As I've noted many times, I started the precursor to the Idol-Head, "Martian Manhunter: The Rock of the JLA," to fill a void on the internet for J'onn J'onzz fandom information. What I quickly learned, and this continues to be true, is that these sites of mine educate me as much as anyone else.
Back in March, Scipio of The Absorbascon began looking into "Where In The World Is Martian Manhunter?" He asked me about J'Onn's various bases of operation, since his home city went unnamed in Showcase Presents: Martian Manhunter, Vol. 1, and also what I knew about Middleton, CO. Since my Silver Age reading was limited to "Justice League of America" and most of the "House of Mystery" run, I honestly said, "J'onn J'onzz was mobile by that point... Considering the strip's writers had a hard time keeping the character's name and powers straight, I seriously doubt a bothersome detail like a consistent locale was ever a priority. However, since they did make a point of naming various towns during the HoM run, it's possible they identified his base city in the later 'Tec stories."
Applying deductive reasoning, Scipio determined that Martian Manhunter worked Apex City, Florida. I initially embraced the notion, but as I read Scipio's criteria for this theory, it occurred to me that much of it would apply just as easily to an East Texas city like Houston or Galveston. Next I read Detective Comics #232, where it got so cold in John Jones' town he felt the need to give a dog his sweater to stay warm. Now admittedly, there was no sign of snow, and J'onn J'onzz was a recently arrived alien being, but still. I knew I was on to something when I went through my old "Rock of the JLA" files, and found "Commander Steel's Notebook." This was an overview of Silver Age Manhunter stories I'd compiled from posts made by my DC Message Board guru on the matter, Commander Benson, in which he referred to "Middletown," with a "w." Sure enough, when I recently bought Detective Comics#322, the city was repeatedly referred to as such. In fact, they seemed to be making up for lost time, as everything was "Middletown Bank" this and "Downtown Middletown" that. I suspect Mort Weisinger must have made one of his "suggestions" that no one could refuse to prompt such a turnaround.
Now, I'm a fan of compromise, so while we now know John Jones was a detective in Middletown, U.S.A., there's no reason it can't also be "Apex City" in the same sense as New York is "Gotham," Chicago "Chi-Town," and so on. Besides, Manhunter ditched Middletown for the Mediterranean over forty years ago, and Middleton, CO for wherever the Justice League set up shop thereafter. Thing is though, while largely rewriting and vastly expanding my years old synopsis for House of Mystery #168 yesterday, there was such a mass of geographic information provided, I had to follow up on it.
In the Marco Xavier stories, the Manhunter confronts the VULTURE crime syndicate throughout the Mediterranean, with France, Greece, and Turkey directly visited. However, Spain seems to be the nearest country in the Mediterranean to the United States. House of Mystery #168 says Marco Xavier's posh Mediterranean villa was 3,000 miles away from the inner-mountain hideaway where Zook and Manhunter lived together, beginning in Detective Comics #312. The distance from Florida to Spain is about 4,400 miles, a bit too far off the mark. New York to Spain is 3,591 miles, closer but still a bit high. Maine to Spain by plane is 3,275 miles.
Taking this into account and looking at the various towns Manhunter visited in his pursuit of the Diabolu Idol-Head, it seems very likely all those adventures took place in New England coastal towns. It helps explains all those shoreline adventures, fishing boats, woods, and a progressive police department with active woman officers. Blueshark, porbeagle, mako and thresher sharks are all present in New England. It fits.
Gotham City, Professor Arnold Hugo's hometown, is in New Jersey. Hugo served time in Bayville Prison, likely referring to Bayville, NJ. In that same story, a giant Hugo rampaged through Mayville City, and there happens to be a Mayville (sans "City") in Jersey. Hugo once forced Manhunter to rob Centerville Bank. There's a Centreville Bank located in Rhode Island, and Centreville National Bank of Maryland. One of the museums Thantos raided was also in Centerville. In Scipio's defense, Hugo also escaped from Grayton Prison, which directs to Grayton Beach, FL.
Now, Orry Kane from House of Mystery #154 escaped from Elgin Prison, which ties to Scotland in my search. That's possible, as the story was a standalone with no reference to Zook or the U.S., but unlikely. More likely it's Elgin, Illinois, with the same rules applying as in Scotland.
House of Mystery #168 offered up no less than four new towns near Middletown as a means of triangulating where the city is. I fed all five to Google, and it spit out Gerrus Complete Building Maintenance which services such tri-state area cities as Woodsville, Midvale, Centerville, Fair Lawn, and Middletown. Admittedly, it's "Fairlawn" in the comic, but that's mighty good accuracy. The only Midvale Museum I could find was in Utah, and Fairlawn Museum is in Wisconsin, but there's a Centerville Museum in Cape Cod.
Here's the kicker: Scipio's smoking gun for Florida was the name of Middletown's baseball team, "the Flamingos." You must be asking, what could that possibly have to do with New England? Don Featherstone sculpted the first pink flamingo lawn ornament for a New England Plastics Company, Union Products of Leominster, Mass., which began producing them in 1957. That's a couple of years after the baseball team's first appearance, but I'm sticking with it.
I've long held the pet theory that the Justice League's original base in a cave near Happy Harbor, Rhode Island was an expansion of Manhunter's mountain hideout. Black Canary still operated out of Gotham, the Atom's Ivy Town was just down the way, and Metropolis isn't too far out. Certainly Flash and Green Lantern could cover the distance, while Green Arrow and Hawkman had vessels to carry them to the area. New England seems like the place to be, curious though that may be.