Saturday, January 31, 2009

Eel-Creatures


During his campaign against planet Sirkus, Despero enlisted Eel-Creatures for an assault against its capitol city. One was shown in combat with an Aquaman impostor whose strength was amplified by an exterior robotic skeleton.

Friday, January 30, 2009

2007 Rittenhouse Archives DC Legacy Tone Rodriguez Sketch Card


Most of the folks who provided sketches for this set are unknown to me, but I recall Tone Rodriguez from his work on "Violent Messiahs" years back, and this piece is one of the best of the lot. It reminds me of the Byrne/Adams-mesh Thomas Derenick brought to his JLA Classified story a few years back, which I dug. You can visit Rodriguez's site here, though the navigation leaves much to be desired.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Flamebirds


Flamebirds are beings from the planet Sirkus with large wings that can fly and fire jets of flame from their hands. They were employed by Despero to attack an area of Sirkus they had been exiled from for centuries during the despot's campaign against the world. The Flamebirds were rebuffed by an ersatz Justice League of America created by Director Ergon, mostly through direct attacks, but not before they killed a Flash impersonator. It is unknown if these beings have any connection to the Kryptonian Flamebird, as Superman was unconscious during their sole appearance in Justice League of America #133 (8/76.)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

2000 Warner Bros. Studio Store Glen Orbik Justice League of America Plate

Click To Enlarge
Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern Kyle Rayner, Aquaman and the Martian Manhunter!

The Warner Brothers Studio Store had some really outstanding collectibles available, until its demise in 2001. The way I heard it, AOL didn't want physical stores around, and had the upper hand after the merger with Time/Warner to see to it they didn't. Why? Hey, it's a rumor. Go ask Rich Johnston or something.

Anyhow, I love me some Glen Orbik, and the 1960s aesthetic in general. Orbik seems to take his cues from the tawdry paperbacks of the era, which lends his work a passion and sophistication sometimes lacking in painted comic art. His outstanding web site can be found here. Lots of beauties to pass through, so block out some time to really dig in. I pulled the art for this page from there, which was featured at a much larger size. The plates were a limited edition of 2500.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Justice League America #65 (August, 1992)



Maxima was about to be executed by a vigilante. "I... acknowledge my guilt. Do what you will."
"Damn right I will, traitorous b--"

Just then, an explosion caused by the hastening destruction of Almerac afforded its queen a temporary stay. Of course, the heap of debris falling on her couldn't have improved her day. She was eventually pulled free by one of her more loyal subjects, and given a pep talk that turned her suicidal depression back toward hope. Maxima then summoned all of her remaining strength to close one of the three fissures opened by Starbreaker that were murdering her kingdom.

Ice was absolutely certain that her schoolgirl crush Superman had survived his dumping into another fissure. Sure enough, the Man of Steel's writer/artist soon enough had him healing the planet with a really big rock while aping Joe Quesada's art style. How did that work scientifically? What part of "really big rock" did you not understand?

Someone decided Starbreaker needed more motivation than "devourer of worlds," so he was now hung up on proving his superiority over the Guardians of the Universe who had jailed him. "--I'll tear their precious universe to shreds and ultimately-- do the same to them!" This would obviously tie into his downfall, as Booster Gold correctly surmised, "because bad guys are stupid idiots who usually manage to screw things up." Both Starbreaker and the Justice League members he had imprisoned in an energy cube failed to realize that one of their number, Bloodwynd, had vanished. Instead, they wondered where the Guardian of the Universe now inside the cube with them had come from, immediately after Starbreaker's confession. A place called contrivance, I'd imagine.



Starbreaker compelled the "Guardian" with eyebeams to "DIE YOU FREAK!" Not likely, as Starbreaker was firing on the energy cube prison, which he then shut down to get at the little blue man... I assume because someone decided the audience needed more motivation to figure Starbreaker totally deserved whatever came of his idiotic stupidity. Ice assumed Green Lantern Guy Gardner must also be nearby, because she, Booster and Fire were now being written as, like, sub-morons. Sure, Bloodwynd was the only one of their number to still have powers, as he restored himself to unnatural form, but you would think their math skills would remain intact. "What you saw was a result of my magic!"

Speaking of math: Flight + telepathy + eye beams + invisibility and/or teleportation + illusion and/or shape-shifting. Hmmm?

Bloodwynd disengaged from Starbreaker and flew off, leaving his comrades at the villain's absent mercy, and setting a lily-livered precedent that would become his hallmark. Blue Beetle observed, "I don't know where that weirdo Bloodwynd ran off to-- but we don't stand a chance without him!"
"Worms! Where is the one who deceived me? Where is he?"
Booster Gold was "kinda wonderin' that myself."

Blue Beetle hooked the "futuristic gizmos" in Booster's wristbands to a force field generator in the royal castle. "You two! What mischief are you dear boys plotting?" In seconds, Beetle had devised a means to syphon all of Starbreaker's power. In other news, Brainiac 5, Reed Richards, and Dr. Doom all just said "whoa!"

Oh yeah, so where was Bloodwynd again? In some equivalent to the Arctic. "Defeating Starbreaker is less important than saving Almerac. This frozen wasteland's destruction must cease. A formitable task."



Ice managed an ice shield to protect here teammates from the dissipating Starbreaker, of which nothing would soon be left but an empty costume. Superman arrived to declare, "I never thought I'd say this-- but I am impressed." I am too-- by your superdickery! Maxima arrived next, followed by Bloodwynd. Blue Beetle realized he must have closed the last fissure, but still argued, "We find out something new about you every second, mister! Who are you? Where did you come from-- and what are you all about? "
"I am... me. That is all you need to know."

Well... that was... existential?

Later, Maxima was put on trial for her crimes of neglect, and sentenced to permanent exile. Almerac would take on a democratic form of government in her absence. Superman felt, "Maxima has nowhere to go. --Except Earth. Hate to say it, but it looks like we're going to have her around for a while." Um... Superman? Wasn't this whole trip about extraditing Maxima to Metropolis for a murder trial anyway?

In closing: Booster Gold tried to mack on Maxima in her moment of vulnerability, and was shut down. Superman intended to have Green Lantern contact the real Guardians about restoring Almerac to its proper orbit. A Ray Palmer guest appearance continued to be foreshadowed without confirming his identity in any way. This book, by Dan Jurgens with Rick Burchett, continued to be entertaining mostly for its lack of craft.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Justice League #5 (9/87)



Dr. Fate located the Gray Man in Stone Ridge, Vermont, where he was stealing people's dreams to empower himself. The Gray Man's origin was told to Fate after the Lord of Order was captured.

Media critic Jack Ryder, still hot to discredit the new Justice League, followed a lead to Stone Ridge.

Green Lantern Guy Gardner once again waved his finger and hollered at the Batman. These "infantile confrontations" on both their parts caused Mr. Miracle to consider quitting the team. The completely innocent Captain Marvel was also drawn into the power struggle, as he grumbled about the Dark Knight's cruel words directed toward him, and began to feel he was too inexperienced to be a member of the team. After Guy hurled a "gutless pansy" and Batman a "mongrel," the situation came to blow. The mongrel in need of a kennel screamed "I BITE!!!" The Batman decked him with one infamous punch, knocking Guy Gardner "extremely unconscious" just as Martian Manhunter arrived with Black Canary...

"Good afternoon, everyone. Hope we haven't-- Is that Guy on the floor?" Blue Beetle couldn't stop laughing and crying "One punch!" Black Canary was in shock. Batman said simply, "I'm glad you're here, Manhunter. Now we can get this meeting under way. J'Onn replied, "Sorry we're late, Batman," and thought to himself "But not as sorry as Black Canary is."
"Batman belted him-- and I missed it? Oh. God, I'm so depressed."

Just as Batman was calling the meeting to order, with Manhunter at his right hand, Oberon alerted the team to a call for help from Dr. Fate. Batman grimly acknowledged "Fifty-two hours to save the world." Martian Manhunter noted "We've done it before. On a tighter schedule." Booster Gold exclaimed "You have?!"

Captain Marvel was sent ahead to Stone Ridge, while the rest of the team followed in the Bug. J'Onn worried en route...
"I hope Marvel's all right--"
"If he's not... it's his own fault."
"You're too hard on him, Batman."
"I'm hard on everyone."

Upon landing, the Manhunter from Mars floated ahead of the group. "Batman... I feel a presence. Strange. Disturbed."
"The Gray Man?"
"I don't think so."

That presence turned out to be the Creeper, Jack Ryder's maniacal alter-ego. Once, that was an act on Ryder's part-- but now? Not so much. The Creeper presented a "remodeled" Stone Ridge to the team: bizarre, organic, and entirely alien...

This was an awkward story from Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis. This specific issue spends a good deal of time with the Kent Nelson/Nabu version of Dr. Fate, who those same creators were in the process of killing off in a separate four issue mini-series. Perhaps this was intended as the character's final hurrah with the team? Then there's the vague Jack Ryder/Creeper subplot, which as I recall was intended as a backdoor pilot for that character, but never amounted to anything. Next there's the origin sequence and major build up for the Gray Man, much ado about nothing by the end of the tale. Finally, there's little left for the actual team to do besides drown in foreshadowing for upcoming changes. It seems editors who had lent big name heroes to the new Justice League were becoming aware of its serio-comic tone, and were in the process of pulling or minimizing their presence in the book. Even letterer supreme Bob Lappan was off his game, with a hideously amateurish story title even the least talented underground artist would be embarrassed by.

On the plus side, the issue still reads well on its own, it features a well-remembered classic moment, while the art of Kevin Maguire under Al Gordon continued to improve.

Back to Justice League Annual #1 (1987)

Forward to Justice League #6 (10/1987)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Pierre Carré



An old friend of Marco Xavier, whose Carré Company developed "the ultimate weapon." The friendship likely ended when the Martian Manhunter, in the guise of Xavier, was found to have stolen a prototype from Pierre Carré to sell to the global crime syndicate VULTURE for $1,000,000. The real Xavier was believed to have been killed when the prototpe proved defective, and Pierre Carré made no further appearances beyond House of Mystery #173 (March/April, 1968.)

Friday, January 23, 2009

1997 Fleer/Skybox JLA Overpower Universe Ally "Metamorpho" Card



You thought we were done with the Overpower collectible card game? Not quite, my friends, though this may be the last draw!

As I recall, tactic cards were created for the first DC set, and appeared in every one thereafter. This here was an "Ally," which offered the opportunity to have a lesser-known super-person make a "cameo" appearance in your deck to help out you four member team. This one required you to have a Character with at least a 7 in Strength active to launch a 2 point Strength attack. If Martian Manhunter were to call in Metamorpho, another of his teammates would then have to play one of their Special cards. It couldn't be one of J'Onn's Specials (unless another 7 Strength Character on the team had called for Metamorpho,) and the Ally card couldn't be played without the follow-up. There were also 6/2 and 8/3 Ally cards, which saw the attack value increase with the risk of not having a high Rated Character left in the game to use it. I was never big on Ally cards, but I knew others who wielded them well.

The art is by Chuck Wojtkiewicz, an underrated artist that used to work on Justice League America and Europe/International. I met him years back at San Diego, and he was a nice guy. Shame he's pretty much left the industry behind.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Black Terror

Okay folks, the following will lead into spoilers that have been circulating for a while now, but I wanted to offer fair warning.

Click Image To Reveal SPOILER

The upcoming Green Lantern crossover "In Darkest Night" has been in the planning stages for years, and heavy leaks have been springing up since, what, San Diego? For those who don't know, in addition to the long-standing Green Lantern Corps' emerald "willpower" energy, there's also been Star Sapphires and Qwardian yellow power rings floating around for decades. More recently, we've seen a Sinestro Corps spring up around yellow "fear" energy, and now Red "rage," Blue "hope," Indigo "compassion" and Orange "avarice" Lanterns.

Next up are Black Lanterns, which are powered by a central body created from the body of the Anti-Monitor. While it is unknown what emotion controls their black energy, what is known is the "corpse" is made up of the reanimated dead.

Cue inviso-text:

Much of the Black Lantern Corps will consist of "zombie" super-heroes, including the Earth-2 Superman. Thanks to leaked solicitation images of the upcoming second series of DC Direct "Blackest Night" action figures, we can now confirm the existence of Black Lantern Martian Manhunter. Thanks to their black and silver color scheme, J'Onn now looks like Mister Bones, coincidentally a foe of Manhunter's from his '90s solo series. He's also quite similar to Bones' costume inspiration, the Black Terror, recently revived by frequent Martian Manhunter artist Alex Ross. Anyway, if Martian Manhunter is going to be the enemy of a super-team, I'd prefer the GLC over JLA, as referenced here.

How do I feel about this? Well, Ethan Van Sciver hinted about this months ago, so I've had plenty of time to brace for it. I think it's tacky and morbid in the DC manner under Dan DiDio, so what else is new? Pass...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Vile Menagerie: DOOMSDAY



Alter Ego: None
Occupation: Destroyer
Marital Status: Single
Known Relatives: None
Group Affiliation: None
Base of Operations: Mobile
First Appearance: Superman: The Man of Steel #17 (November, 1992)
Height: 7'0"
Weight: 615 lbs.
Eyes: Red
Hair: White

History:
The creature dubbed Doomsday was a biological creation of Kryptonian science. Over decades, bits of genetic material were grown into infants, tossed into a hostile environment to be ripped to shreds, cloned, and tossed again. After several decades, this case of forced evolution created an immortal, unstoppable, unloving killing machine with an inbred hatred of Kryptonians. Eventually, Doomsday made its way to Earth.

Justice League America intercepted the hulk en route to Metropolis, during the period when the Martian Manhunter had assumed the form of Bloodwynd. The third hero to engage Doomsday, Bloodwynd struck out with a mighty, yet ineffectual blow. Retaliation saw Bloodwynd tossed through an oil refinery, which sparked a blaze that caused him to revert to Martian form. Bloodwynd recovered and joined Superman, Green Lantern Guy Gardner, Maxima, Fire, and Booster Gold in a single prolonged energy attack against Doomsday. The exertion caused Fire to temporarily lose her powers, but didn't phase the monster. After continued attrition on the side of angels and his aiding in a rescue, Bloodwynd vanished to heal himself. Only Superman and Maxima remained, and then only the Man of Steel, who was left in a deathlike state after finally halting the rampage.

Martian Manhunter, now in full command of his mind and body, faced Doomsday again amongst the JLA. This time, the Superman foe Brainiac had usurped Doomsday's mind with his own-- an ironic turn, considering the circumstances of his prior battle with Bloodwynd. J'Onn J'Onzz proved no match for the combined might of the overwhelming mental and physical powers at the command of Doomsday/Brainiac, and was repeatedly brutalized, along with his fellow Leaguers. However, he and Orion were able to stall Doomsday long enough for Superman to sort out a solution that involved teleportation tubes.

After the original was finally eradicated, an evolved clone of Doomsday attempted to assassinate then-U.S. President Lex Luthor. The Commander-In-Chief was defended by the Manhunter from Mars, who had been secretly working out of the Oval Office in disguise. Though this Doomsday had developed sentience, it remained immune to telepathy, and could now breathe fire to boot. Suffice to say, this struggle ended as always, with J'Onn J'Onzz wrecked. Superman eventually defeated Doomsday again, through brute force.

Although the Martian Manhunter was again in the intelligent Doomsday's vicinity during an affair with Preus, there have been no further rematches.

Powers:
Doomsday has most consistently been portrayed as having fantastically high degrees of strength, and invulnerability to nearly any force directed at it. This includes most forms of physical, telepathic or energy attack. Further, should a type of attack "kill" Doomsday, it will eventually resurrect with a new found resistance to that type of assault. Doomsday's body can also spontaneously adapt to a foe, offering new powers without warning. His sole inhibitions appear to be unaided flight and limited intellect, though even the latter has shown increasing improvement.

Weaknesses:
The original Doomsday could only be overwhelmed by the most fantastic of forces. THe clone, having been created through DNA spliced with Superman's, is vulnerable to Kryptonite.

Distinguishing Features/Weapons:
Doomsday's body is covered in incredibly strong bony protrusions that can rend most materials.

Created by: Dan Jurgens

Further Reading:
Superman: The Doomsday Wars (1998)
Our Worlds At War In A Nutshell (2001)
Action Comics #821-824 (1-4/05)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Firestorm: The Nuclear Man & the Manhunter From Mars



When I first started The Idol-Head of Diabolu, I was inspired by Rob over at the The Aquaman Shrine, and we in turn inspired Damian Maffei's The Atom: Tiny Titan daily blog. I miss those times, as we often worked together like musketeers, promoting one another and benefiting from art by Michael Netzer during his crusade to save J'Onn J'Onzz from Final Crisis. Well, Rob and I got busy on our own projects, and Damian hasn't posted anything in ten months, with Netzer little more visible.

Well, the fires began to be stoked again by Adama's Dispatches From The Green Arrowcave and Luke's Being Carter Hall Hawkman blog. Then Dixon returned to his Crimson Lightning Flash blog, and now we seem on the cusp of a proper Justice League of Bloggage.

Joining the fight is the Irredeemable Shag of Once Upon A Geek, who's launching Firestorm Fan, dedicated to his love for the Nuclear Man. We're already talking crossovers, so get to reading his "back issues," folks!

As for J'Onn J'Onzz and the various Firestorms-- they've had a sort of strained relationship. Original Firestorm Ronnie Raymond joined the Justice League of America right after a Martian Manhunter guest appearance, but the two didn't meet for another couple years. J'Onn was being mind-controlled into fighting the neophyte hero, and the kid held a grudge two years later. The Manhunter warned his former teammates of an invasion from his fellow Martians, but Firestorm remained suspicious to the last. It all ended well enough when Firestorm helped save J'Onn from being shot in the back by Bel Juz.

J'Onzz and Raymond met again during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, where each expressed discomfort with one another's presence. The pair were on much friendlier terms in toy tie-in comics like Super Powers Collection #14: Martian Manhunter (1984)

After the Legends crossover, where Firestorm enlisted the aid of a less-than-effective Detroit-era League against Brimstone, the two heroes had little contact for years. When they served on the JLA at the same time, it was on separate versions (Extreme Justice and the Justice League Task Force.)

When Ronnie Raymond was "killed" during Identity Crisis, he was replaced by a young man named Jason Rusch. The new Firestorm and his best friend were both big fans of the Manhunter from Mars, but J'Onn J'Onzz treated this new Nuclear Man with suspicion. While the Martian Manhunter did help fill Jason in on the origins of his powers, he intended follow-up investigations into this new bearer. Also, Rusch was beaten unconscious by a bad guy masquerading as Manhunter during Villains United! Hard feelings? We may never know...

Here's a link list of Firestorm's major appearances at the Idol-Head to date:

Ronnie Raymond:
Justice League Detroit Introduction
Justice League of America Annual #2 (1984)

Crisis on Infinite Earths:
Beyond the Silent Night (1985)
Justice League of America Annual #3 (1985)
Crisis On Infinite Earths #8-12 (11/85-3/86)

Legends:
Justice League of America #257 (12/86)
Legends #1
Legends #2
Justice League of America #258 (1/87)

Secret Files & Origins Guide To The DC Universe 2000 Part One, Part Two

The Flash #208-209 (May-June ’04)
Identity Crisis #2-5 (Sep-Dec. 2004)

Jason Rusch:
Firestorm #4 (10/04)
Firestorm #6 (12/04)

Additional:
Firestorm was set to beat Iron Man in the aborted Justice League of America vs. The Avengers (1983)

Here's the fan fiction piece Firestorm: Cold Fusion, which for some reason featured an old Martian Manhunter foe that's featured in the Vile Menagerie.

Vixen compared Despero to Firestorm in Justice League of America #254 (9/86)

Medley/Adams Action Comics #600 Pin-Up (5/88)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Justice League America #64 (July, 1992)



To summarize: Starbreaker first appeared in Justice League of America #96 (February, 1972). Bloodwynd didn't have a copy, so he used otherworldly means to glean the basics. "Silence, Blue Beetle. I am using my magics to probe Starbreaker's mind-- in hopes of finding his weakness. Spirits of the dead-- grant me strength. Strength enough to pierce this creature's mind-- and soul, that I might defeat him. Contact.

Superman was correct. Starbreaker embodies evil. His power is potentially beyond description. His is the ability to absorb limitless amounts of energy and release it in a variety of ways. He begins by conquering a planet, terrorizing it, actually feeding on the fear he generates in the populace. Once the emotions have empowered him, he actually moves the planet into the gravitational pull of the nearest sun-- and absorbs the explosive energy that results from the ensuing collision. He is, in effect, a cosmic vampire feeding off the energy of others."

Starbreaker got really upset about, "An intruder-- in my... mind? NOOO! I said... OUT!" Bloodwynd went all "ARRRGH!" and "Can't... can't..." I guess this meant he had a headache, and can't... finish... exposition...!?!

Starbreaker could, though he had clearly changed since the '70s. He'd lost a little weight, grew out his hair, and started talking like Gil Kane. Perhaps he had a touch of amnesia, as he couldn't immediately recall the hero in the "scarlet cape," or perhaps he was just being coy. "You're the Kryptonian! The Superman! You were one of those who imprisoned me all those years ago..." The Satellite Era League had to join forces with the Guardians of the Universe, who then sealed Starbreaker in stasis to float in the void of space forever and ever and ever... until some random space freighter picked him up. Didn't they have Sciencells in the Bronze Age?!? That infinite void of space crud never pans out.

Starbreaker just happened to be released near Almerac when Warworld was passing by, sucked up ambient energy, and started making with the ballyhoo. In one of the most depressing nine panel grids in comic book history, Dan Jurgens depicted hanging suicides, mothers burying stillborn babies, sewage plants running over with human waste, and more of that lighthearted action folks expect from super-heroes. Whatta spectacle of misery, and I'm just talking about the dialogue. For instance, Booster Gold drops such groaners as "Star-Booger" and "Starboner." Maybe the real reason Green Lantern Guy Gardner ran off was he read his dialogue for this issue, and left it to Booster, always hungry for face time? As falls Almerac, so falls our writing proficiency.

So anyway, Starbreaker kept calling people "dear boy," and similarly dandy expressions, then split into three and beat everyone up. Bloodwynd tried to be all "I understand only the necessity of rendering you helpless," but got socked out for being so lame. Starbreaker ate all of Fire's fire, which is pretty much the story of her life. Quick-- name a story where Fire ever saved the day?!? Okay, how about one where she's doused with water, suffocated, blown out, absorbed, etc. etc. etc? A lot quicker answering that second question, dear soul!



The defeated heroes were picked up by Mechanix, which used to look like insects, but were now inexplicably Starriors. Where the heck did those come from, anyway? eBay? I thought Starbreaker just got loose? Does he blow his nose and Mechanix come out? Is that where that awful "Star-Booger" line came from? So yeah, the Mechanix walked off with the Justice League, but conveniently forgot Maxima. You remember, she's the queen of this planet, the first hero Starbreaker defeated today, and the one that set upon him solo? I guess if Superman slips your mind, even though he was directly responsible for your decades long imprisonment, Maxima's no big deal. Psst-- Bloodwynd? Starbreaker's weakness is early onset Alzheimer's. Pass it along to your friends.

Maxima may disagree about the convenience of her being left behind, since she seemed to be starving, thirsty, and nigh powerless. Her brutalized people took that as an opportunity to smack their queen up for letting her biological clock doom their entire civilization. Is it just me, or does that sound like the plot for a Sex and the City sequel?

In a completely unwarranted one page digression, Maxwell Lord IV griped to Oberon about the team's unauthorized away mission, and Superman's uppity attitude. Obie had other concerns. "Speakin' of problems, take a hard look at Bloodwynd! There's somethin'... weird about him, Max! I'm still tryin' to figure out how he got to be a member! I mean-- I hope it wasn't a mistake lettin' him join!" Seriously, can anything good come from anything referred to as "Bloodwynd?" A hard look? Something weird? Y'think? Oh, and someone you're not supposed to know is the Atom yet talked about "penetrating the defenses" of the League's new pad, which I hear can also lead to Bloodwynd if you don't lubricate properly first. "Hang on to your hats, boys and girls-- I'm comin' in."

Because we haven't done enough Bloodwynd foreshadowing yet, let's see what happened when Starbreaker tried to siphon some of Bloodwynd's energies: "BY THE GREAT NEBULA! I can sense the enormous power you embody! It exceeds even Superman's! What manner of creature are you? The energy I steal from you-- will more than account for your insectoid comrade's lack of such." He was referring to Blue Beetle, who thought, "Wow! I never realized Bloodwynd packed such a punch!" *snort!* "Then again, it's not like he's ever told us anything about himself! If we ever get out of this fix-- I'm going to solve the Bloodwynd question once and for all!" Full disclosure: No he didn't. Ted Kord will instead get shot in the face, while the Bloodwynd question is still up in the air over *choke* fifteen years later. The Max Lord question, on the other hand...

In closing: The three Starbreakers absorbed all the League's power, then fired it into Almerac's planetary core, starting a chain reaction that could destroy the world. Maxima looked like she was going to be executed by her own people for letting this happen. The now powerless Superman got tossed into a pit leading to Almerac's molten core. Ice contributed nothing but licking Superman's boots. You now feel very old, because this comic came out before Miley Cyrus was born. We've all lost something this day.

"The Revenge of Starbreaker" was by Dan Jurgens and Rick Burchett. Dan was on quite a rip this issue. I don't know if he or the inker are to blame, but the art was as simultaneously sketchy yet overwrought as the script. Lots of cheap Image shortcuts were used to cover dubious anatomy and unreferenced faces. Worse, Jurgens still tried to be funny at times, to remind people just how awful his book was when compared to the previous Giffen/DeMatteis run.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

1997 Fleer/Skybox JLA Overpower Universe Ally "Zauriel" Card



Here's another card from the DC Overpower collectible card game, this one being of the Ally type. Where Marvel produced so many sets of Overpower that Characters no one has ever heard of were playable, powerhouse DC fixtures like Black Adam, Cheetah, Firestorm, Gorilla Grodd, Guy Gardner, Ocean Master, Lady Shiva, Mr. Mxyzptlk and more were relegated to these lousy nuisance cards. Seriously, Marvel used Ally cards for supporting characters like Mary Jane Watson-Parker, and gave Character cards with Specials to Crux, Grey King, Landslide, Mercury, Rapture, and Xaos. Who, who, and who again? Further, the lion's share of Marvel cards looked like they were drawn by interns on their lunch break, possibly reproduced directly from a cocktail napkin. This one is by Howard Porter, the talent who turned JLA into a hit title. Maybe there's something to be said for quality over quantity?

Also note that even though Zauriel has allied himself with Martian Manhunter on this card, J'Onn J'Onzz's Energy Rating of 4 on his Power Grid prohibits his using it. Guess other then-current JLA members like Superman, Green Lantern, or Flash* would have to join them. Tricky to pull off, and not worth the trouble when you figure I never had a use for Zauriel, in or outside the game.

(* ...and Dixon, though none of Wally's stats are above a 6, his selection of specials makes him one of the best DC characters to play in Overpower.)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Starman #28 (3/97)



The Mikaal Tomas "Starman" was from a thirty-nine million strong race of blue-skinned alien conquerors. From their base on the dark side of the moon, their invasion force was set to launch against Earth in the 1970s. Mikaal Tomas was possessed of a unique physiology that allowed him to wield a Sonic Crystal device of great power, intended to be exploited on raids to weaken our defenses. Tomas' lover Lyysa had no stomach for the matter, and was executed for trying to warn us of the threat her people posed. This action set Mikaal against his fellows, as he joined the heroes of the world his people had dubbed Meridian to fend off the invasion.

One member, Komak, later reflected for Mikaal, "From the position of Curate you rose to the honored level of Elite Warrior. You were trained and schooled in the art of the fight. Oh, and you learned it well. Too well, in fact, for when you came to Meridian, the troops we sent to reclaim you failed badly... For six months you kept our advance guard at bay... protected an alien world... for whatever reason."

Komak continued, as his attention focused on heroes active during the era, like the Golden Age Green Lantern Alan Scott, and the Manhunter from Mars J'Onn J'Onzz. "Reports that came back to me on the moon base talk of extremely surreal encounters with these champions and others. You met an old hero of this world too. And a new one. Wildtime it sounded. We would have defeated you... finally... eventually. Six months you fought us, but by the seventh you would have died. If our people had had a seventh month..."

It seems Starman's people had bitten off more than they could chew against the planet Daxam, and intended to destroy the world rather than face defeat. However, they had already wiped out a planet dear to the heart of the young Darkstar Chaser Bron, and his resulting retaliation caused the genocide device intended for Daxam to annihilate most of Tomas and Komak's people.

In 1976, Komak found Mikaal Tomas in a disco, compromised by drug addiction and hedonistic excess. Komak also had a weakness for Earth women, and contracted herpes, deadly to his people. His final wish was to engage Starman in battle. Tomas got to Komak before the disease could, though Komak left his mark by somehow melding Starman to his Sonic Crystal. The change did Mikaal Tomas little good when he was drugged afterward by an unknown figure, and lost years of his life being sold from party to deviant party for whatever purposes they deigned.

The luscious art on this story was provided by Craig Hamilton, best known for the 1980s Aquaman mini-series that introduced that hero's short-lived blue "camouflage" costume. The combat-as-sex subtext was played out magnificently in some serious man-on-man action that would have done Jack Miller proud.

In fact, writer James Robinson eventually outed Mikaal Tomas as a bisexual, which would have been cooler if he hadn't lifted this entire retcon from Nicholas Roeg's "The Man Who Fell To Earth." In that movie, the bisexual David Bowie plays an alien who comes to Earth in hopes of saving his dying world, but instead gets lost in drugs and hedonistic excess. Yes children, British writers are overrated, and directly referencing Bowie doesn't turn plagiarism into homage. It also poos all over The Delano Theory of Seminal Integrity in Super-Heroic Fiction. Then again, that belief throws my lot in with right-wingers like Bill Willingham, so maybe I'm just loco on that front. Besides, I really want Robinson to follow-up on that Martian Manhunter teaser in his new Justice League book, and I do generally like his writing, so I best shut my face...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Medley/Adams Action Comics #600 Pin-Up (5/88)



Here's a nice piece by Linda Medley and Art Adams, from the Man of Steel's "Golden Anniversary Issue!" It's basically the JLI, but in full includes Mr. Miracle, Wonder Woman, Dr. Fate, Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Firestorm, Green Lantern Guy Gardner, Captain Marvel, the Flash, Black Canary, the Creeper, Batman, Robin, and of course, the Manhunter from Mars.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Vile Menagerie: THE THYTHEN



The Thythen were warmongers, "engaged in a cosmic struggle with their neighbors." According to writing found on a tablet and translated by J'onn J'onzz within the Alien Arsenal, the Thythen invaded the planet Vonn, and preyed upon the native people there. In order to escape the Thythen, this people abandoned their world and "broadcast" themselves to a distant solar system. Three members of the Thythen, an "unholy trinity," remained on Vonn to "charge their Robo-Chargers" off living beings. These victims included the Desert Dwellers, who had survived Mars' devastation and found their way to Vonn.

The Thythen camp was located in the west, where their domed headquarters and the girders that held the Robo-Chargers' "batteries" could be seen from well off. The Thythen seemed to have no compunctions about exploiting the life energies of their prisoners while treating them inhumanely. They also encouraged the traitorous Bel Juz to lure others into a trap to expand their herd.

Of the three Thythen on Vonn, two were disintegrated by their own Robo-Chargers after they were taken over by the minds of the Desert Dwellers. The third traveled from Vonn in the Alien Arsenal before being defeated by Superman. How that Thythen was managed afterward is unknown.

The Thythen appeared once, in World's Finest Comics #212 (June, 1972)

Quote: "Robo-Chargers-- Attention! Attack the foreigners-- grind them to dust! --TO DUST!"

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Martian Sightings for March, 2009



LEVEL-GREEN CONFIRMED:
JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED: HEROES TP
Written by Adam Beechen, Mike McAvennie & Bill Williams
Art by Carlo Barberi, Rick Burchett, Leigh Gallagher,
Sanford Green and others
JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED #23-29 are collected in this new title starring The World’s Greatest Super Heroes!
Advance-solicited; on sale April 8 • 144 pg, FC, $12.99 US

Johnny DC makes some solid comics.

DC/WILDSTORM: DREAMWAR TP
Written by Keith Giffen
Art by Lee Garbett & Trevor Scott
Cover by Mike McKone
The six-issue miniseries that pits the heroes of two universes against each other is collected! The WildStorm Universe is being torn apart — and when heroes from the DCU begin crossing over into their world, things go from bad to worse!
Advance solicited; on sale April 1 • 144 pg, FC, $19.99 US

Truly, deeply terrible, but Martian Manhunter is in every tainted issue.

TOMART ACTION FIGURE DIGEST KENNER LEGACY #2 (OF 3)
The story of Kenner Products is told in 18 chapters tracing the company from its formation in 1947 until it was completely absorbed into Hasbro shortly after the turn of the century. The Star Wars story continues in the second six chapters as the Kenner empire grows with Star Wars: The Power of the Force, Droids, Ewoks, Super Powers, MASK, Bone Age, Silverhawks, and The Real Ghostbusters. Interviews with key Kenner players illuminate the company's growth during the 1980's, and photographs reveal prototypes and unproduced figures.
$19.96

Super Powers! Woo-woo!

JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL SERIES 2 ACTION FIGURES
From the pages of the much-loved ’80s series from Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire, these four characters round out the original
incarnation of the Justice League International!
Each figure features multiple points of articulation and a base.
4-color clamshell blister card packaging.
Advance-solicited; on sale August 26, 2009 Action Figures * PI

INCLUDES:
Fire • 6.75” h
Blue Beetle • 6.75” h
Martian Manhunter • 7” h
Booster Gold • 6.75” h

Blue Beetle and especially Fire/Green Flame look good-- but not especially like Maguire. Booster Gold and J'Onn look like somebody's overblown misremembrance of JLI rather than the actual book. J'Onn vaguely resembles that awful, swollen Manhunter Maguire has occasionally drawn since "JLA," but nothing like what he, Adam Hughes and company produced back in the day. Pass.

WANTED: FORMER MARTIAN MANHUNTER VILLAINS!

DESPERO WATCH: TRINITY #40-43
Not following, but isn't Despero all over this series?

MONGUL WATCH:
GREEN LANTERN CORPS #34
Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Art by Pat Gleason & Rebecca Buchman
Cover by Pat Gleason
Variant cover by Rodolfo Migliari
The prelude to “Blackest Night” continues as the “War of Light” heats up. Mongul commands Daxam and their Superman-like citizens plus the entire Sinestro Corps. Can Arisia and a small resistance of Daxamites defeat the fear-bearing Corps with Sodam Yat out of the picture?
Retailers please note: This issue will ship with two covers. For every 25 copies of the Standard Edition (with a cover by Pat Gleason), retailers may order one copy of the Variant Edition (with a cover by Rodolfo Migliari). Please see the Previews Order Form for more information.
On sale March 11 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Monday, January 12, 2009

Surf and Turf #4 (9/08)



The Lord of Time has faced his ultimate defeat at the hands of the Justice League-- his power and very essence divided into parts and sent by our heroes to lands far, yet familiar. The Lord of Time directs the last flickering of his consciousness backward through the timestream, hoping to alter the events leading to his end. So far it has failed to halt the inevitable, merely supplying the heroes an opportunity to frustrate it in entirely new ways.

J'Onn J'Onzz is pulling his portion of Time through space to the graveyard that is his homeworld, Mars. Suddenly, the sands of Mars run ever backward, revealing an epoch when the world and the Martian people yet lived. J'Onzz is aware of what Time is up to, so he telepathically contacts his friend, and the hero at the flashpoint of this mess, Aquaman.

Even in reverse time, Aquaman has already dealt with the Lord enough over this first Surf & Turf story arc to be wary of his ways, but is unable to halt the chronal backlash that comes with J'Onzz's contact. Like J'Onn, Arthur too is transported to his own past, his own family, on the eve of its destruction at the hands of Black Manta. In Atlantis and upon Mars, both our heroes are faced with a decision-- can they alter their own tragic pasts, and if so, is it worth the horrors that may be visited on others by their absence?

Imbued with chronal energy, these questions are answered, in a sense. Aquaman's son Arthur Jr. lives, as his mother Mera twists him with her own growing madness, thanks to the pollution of Earth's waters. Artie becomes a "Mordu" to his father's "King Arthur," placing the Sea King in a position where he must slay his own son to defend Atlantis... a thing which he cannot do.

J'Onn gathers his wife and child, fleeing their home before H'Ronmeer's Plague can be visited upon them. While they hide, Mars yet burns. Further, with no one to halt the onslaught of J'Onzz evil brother, Malefic accesses the Phantom Zone to lead an army of White Martians in sadistic conquest of the Sol System.

In an instant, the visions leave our heroes, both resolved to allow time to progress as they know it. However, neither has faith in the other's ability to stay the course, and the pair reverse roles. Now, Aquaman wanders through the ruins of Mars, surrounded by death, while the Manhunter looks on invisibly as an innocent child slowly suffocates.

On Mars, Arthur rips into the red sands with his gloved hands and all the power behind them, burying his portion of Time deep into this alien planet. With grim resolve, so too does the immaterial Manhunter stow the heart of Time in the labyrinthine depths of Marianas Trench. J'Onzz must then guide Arthur in the use of his Martian starship for Aquaman's return to Earth, allowing the pair time to console one another, while the Lord of Time continues to plot and dissipate...


As it turned out, I never did put together a "Manhunter from Mars #450" anniversary post, and will pass on #500 as well. I reserve the right to explore that territory on some future date, but after the holidays and an "overpowering" week under the weather, it won't be anytime soon. Instead, I offer a sort of repost at this five-hundred mark, though this is its first appearance at the Idol-Head of Diabolu.

Since the "first issue" on May 10, 2007, Rob at the Aquaman Shrine has produced an occasional series of fan fiction team-up art pieces. In the vein of the Brave and the Bold or Marvel Team-Up, Surf and Turf allows Aquaman to join other heroes in a variety of adventures yet to be published here on Earth-Prime. From his first pairing with the Flash to a collection of the entire JLA for the final battle, Aquaman staved off a "Crisis In Atlantis."

I wasn't yet reading the Aquaman Shrine when Surf and Turf began, but had hopped on board for the second and third "issue" posting. There, Rob explained,
"Back when I was putting the first one together, the imagined storyline for the book was that each of the first six issues would feature the Sea King teaming up with each original member of the JLA, culminating in the seventh issue where he officially rejoins the team.

So I continued in this vein with the covers for issues 2 and 3, in a story that could only be called "Crisis in Atlantis." Also, I came up with a retroactive explanation for why I have different DC Comics "bullet" logos in the background--in some way, the storyline involves Aquaman and the others to travel through time to different eras in DC's publishing history, graphically represented by the logos DC was using at the time.
"


As it happened, I'd launched the Idol-Head of Diabolu just three days prior to that post, on September 1, 2007. I commented, "Looking forward to the Martian Manhunter "issue," seeing as I finally started a blog (largely inspired by this one) to replace my old website... Might I suggest Kevin Maguire for that crossover, as he draws both characters fantastically and is almost famous enough to rate the company? If not, George Perez seems an obvious choice..."

Rob gifted me a link and traffic from the Shrine, then graced everybody with the Martian Manhunter and Superman "issues" on November 19, 2007...
"We continue our storyline involving the Lord of Time or something, and Aquaman and various original JLAers have to go to various different eras to stop him from messing with the time stream."


Rob didn't offer more story than that, allowing the images to speak for themselves. Feeling inspired, a whipped up my own fanboy plot and left it as a comment. Nothing came of it, and the Crisis ended with a seventh issue on New Year's Eve 2007. It wasn't until nearly a year later, when Rob restarted the series, that I thought to ask his permission to spotlight his work on Surf and Turf #4 with my piece here at the Idol-Head. Also, my 100th post was on December 7, 2007, which was celebrated with the thrown together John Jones: Manhunter From Mars #100 (Sept.-Oct. 1968). I don't believe my Manhunter from Mars posts were directly inspired by Surf & Turf, but that team-up plot was the first Martian Manhunter fan fiction I've ever written/published to my recollection.

And so, 500 posts into the Idol-Head of Diabolu, and 100 posts since my last Manhunter from Mars, this was the slightly edited "reprint" of my first J'Onn J'Onzz fan fiction. You can have your own virtual Surf and Turf Trade Paperback Collection by following this link to all the tagged editions to date.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Justice League #4 (8/87)



Batman was upset by how Maxwell Lord IV had breached the League's headquarters with Booster Gold in tow, as well as replicating their signal devices, and representing the team without their authorization. Mr. Miracle was tasked with installing a new security system, but the Manhunter from Mars insisted, "Our security system isn't the issue. Maxwell Lord is the issue. A very disturbing issue." Batman emphasized, "The Manhunter is right. There's more to our millionaire entrepreneur than meets the eye-- and we'd better get to the truth if this League is to continue."

Lord was sequestered with Booster Gold and Doctor Light II (Kimiyo Hoshi,) both of whom he'd duped into believing were members of the new Justice League. Kimiyo expressed her disdain. "You're very smug, Mr. Lord. You're also a fraud and a liar... I QUIT!!!" The League confronted the remaining pair, and feeling Max was "begging" for him to be let on the team, a prideful Booster Gold also walked... just not very far.

While speaking with the media waiting outside, another security breach occurred, attracting Booster Gold to the culprit Royal Flush Gang. Cameras were catching their conflict outside the headquarters, so Batman decided the team should just observe for now. The Martian Manhunter felt it would be a better choice with one less audience member...

"If you'll follow me, Mr. Lord...?"
"But, I want to--"
"This is not for your eyes."
"But--"
"Don't provoke me, Mr. Lord."
"I wouldn't dream of it."

Booster Gold managed to bring down most of the Royal Flush Gang, and was literally applauded by the Justice League. Batman even cracked a smile.Then an extraordinarily powerful robotic Ace (in the hole) appeared. "Manhunter-- you and Captain Marvel are our first wave!"

"I don't think Captain Marvel will be needed, Batman. I can-- YARRGH!"

Ace's mechanical voice spoke as a flame thrower was unsheathed from within its forearm: "Fire. The one earthly element that can terminate a Martian." Manhunter was swept away by an eruption that engulfed his head and torso, though Captain Marvel immediately placed himself in the line of fire. Ace had capabilities that exploited the League's vulnerabilities, so that none fared well before it. Immolating itself like an inhuman torch, Ace claimed, "It is child's play to defeat you, just as it will be child's play-- to incinerate you all!"

Since Ace was clearly programmed to address the League's powers, it would take a non-member to handle him. The first ever teaming of the Blue (Beetle) and the Gold finally folded Ace, prompting much excitation for Booster. "Did you see that, world?! Did you see what Booster Gold and the Justice League did?!"

The recovered Manhunter joked, "He'd be a fine addition to the team, Batman-- if only he wasn't so lacking in energy and enthusiasm." The Dark Knight concurred, and welcomed the young hero back into HQ as their newest team member. Still, the place was hard won, as Gold discussed with the Martian.

"...Oh, man-- I'm aching all over."
"And every ache was earned, Mr. Gold."
"Call me Booster-- and thanks!"


Back to Justice League #3 (July 1987)

Forward to Justice League Annual #1 (1987)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Justice League America #63 (June, 1992)



Maxwell Lord IV introduced Oberon and most of Justice League America to their new home base, a complex leased from the United Nations in New York. The starstruck Ice was too concerned about how the absent Superman felt about this move to join her teammates in being inexplicably impressed with the lame design. The exterior was a squat gray rectangle with large windows. Woo. At least Kilowog had installed numerous technological improvements.

In space, having evaded gun ships and hunter squadrons, a messenger piloted his wounded ship from Almerac to Earth. Sh'kirry, captain of Maxima's personal guard, splashed down in a hard ocean landing. Maxima was pained by his psychic signal, and in his death throes warned his queen of the conqueror who was laying waste to her world. Maxima soon announced her leave from the League and left Earth. Green Lantern Guy Gardner was hot to follow, while Booster Gold felt, "It's her planet-- not ours! Let her majesty take care of her own problems!"

Guy noted the reappearance of "that loner Breakwynd" amongst his teammates, and rebuffed Max's offer to customize his apartment space. "Please leave it empty, Mister Lord. I'd prefer to supply my own furnishings." This did nothing to diminish Blue Beetle's suspicions. "What's the big secret, Bloodwynd? Don't want to tip us off as to who you are by telling us what you need? Look, we don't know a thing about you! Where you come from, who you are-- All we know is that you can whip up some pretty good magic tricks!"

"I will tell you only that which you need to know. My life-- is my own."



The inquisition was interrupted by one of Superman's own, directed at Max. Ticked about the digs, complete with receptionist, he warned "We'll talk about this later, Lord. Believe me, we'll talk. Right now I want Maxima. I have a warrant for her arrest! ...She allegedly killed a man during her first visit to Metropolis." Superman ordered the retrieval of the downed Almeracian ship, both to follow-up on Maxima's whereabouts, and to insure no toxic contaminants were leaking from it. Bloodwynd surprised Beetle with his telepathy, and by proving familiar with the ship. "I delved into your mind that I might see what your eyes see. I am also acquainted with alien technology."

"You're trouble, Bloodwynd!"

The League learned of the threat posed to Almerac by Warworld when it was under Brainiac's control during "Panic in the Sky", which first caused Maxima to abandon her homeworld for Earth. Even after that matter was resolved, Maxima remained away, leaving an exhausted Almerac easy prey when another tyrant appeared. Superman announced, "I've heard enough. We're going to Almerac." Booster protested, and the Man of Steel took it personal with low blows like "all you've ever stood for-- is a quick buck!" Blue Beetle was also unconvinced, leaving Guy the only enthusiastic supporter of the plan, until Superman tried to boss him around, as well.

"Y'know, I'm not so sure I like your tone! Nobody ordained you to charge around here barkin' out orders! I got news for you, pal-- we do fine on our own! Maybe you're sore at Lord for buildin' this dump without gettin' your express written permission-- but the rest of us like it!" This degenerated into a spat between Guy and Ice, before Fire showed up and a Power Ring carted everyone to Almerac. Almost immediately, hostilities reignited. "This League ain't big enough for the both of us, Blue! Somebody's gotta go! Who's it gonna be, gang? Me? Or the big blue umpire over there?"



No one stood for Guy-- not even his girlfriend-- so he flew off back to Earth. The team was stranded with no clear means of return, and Superman's assumption Guy would return proved false. Gardner instead fought Hal Jordan for the right to wear a Power Ring in another book, and lost. Bloodwynd, at least, still backed Superman-- even if he was among the worst team leaders ever. Besides, the Man of Steel had a strong hunch who they were about to fight. "If I'm right, it's someone the League and I faced long ago..."

A dark-clad, lanky figure appeared behind the Justice League, grinning, with a beaten Maxima lying unconscious in his arms. "Superman, I am truly touched that you remember me! That you remember the awesome killing force of-- STARBREAKER!"

What, you don't? Then check out my synopsis of Justice League of America #96 (February, 1972) at DC Bloodlines?

Dan Jurgens continued to bring the mediocre, this time without the benefit of Jackson Guice, though Rick Burchett did nice work on the finished inks. Fire starts 4 sentences with the word "like." She, like, totally only spoke like, 13. Gag me with 31% of all lines spoken. She also changes from her awful '80s hair band groupie outfit that was several years out of date to an awful jazzercise outfit that was a decade out of date. Her perfect body language was stayin' alive like a physical flashdance. Vibe looked down from heaven, and pop-locked his approval.

Friday, January 9, 2009

1997 Fleer/Skybox JLA Overpower Martian Manhunter "Martian Vision" Special Card



Here is the final Sal Velluto-drawn Overpower Special card, and it's a One Per Deck doozy. Successful hits against a character go on the Permanent Record until they are somehow removed, or else the Character is knocked out of the game. This happens when the total Value of hits on record reach 20, or if three Power types strike them. Let's say Martian Manhunter hit someone with the Any-Power "Martian Strength" combined with an Intellect Power card. Let's also say the Alien Atlas struck with a Fighting attack, unlikely given his modest 4 Ranking in that Power type, but maybe one of his teammates scored it instead. Point being, the opponent's character has taken damage from two Power types. Now hit them with "Martian Vision," and "Martian Strength" becomes an Energy card, scoring a Spectrum KO.

The great thing about this card is that it works for the remainder of the game. People will often take an Any-Power hit, especially one of low point Value, because they're not afraid of a Spectrum KO. If your team is otherwise lacking in Energy, no one will see this coming until it's too late. You can lay the card on an opponent's character in battle, and that new found Energy hit will just sit there until you can finish the Character off with other Power types. Lethal!

As for Sal Velluto and the arm hair-- I don't know. That's how Sal drew him throughout his JLTF run. I don't want to think about why J'Onn has no hair anywhere else on his body, and I especially don't want to consider his "bikini area," that other Velluto quirk...

Thursday, January 8, 2009

1997 Fleer/Skybox JLA Overpower Martian Manhunter "Martian Strength" Special Card



Clearly not Silver Age fans, the Overpower game makers bypassed "Alien Atlas" for the more generic "Martian Strength." This card acts as a level 4 Any-Power attack, which would be lame in and of itself, but could be combined with a Power card. Given Martian Manhunter's Power Grid, that could mean an 8 Value Energy or Fighting attack, 9 Intellect, or 11 Strength. That meant a successful Strength hit could halve its target's life and offer serious points toward a Venture win. It also potentially meant a serious assault in a Power type J'Onn was weaker in, enabling an easier Spectrum KO. Finally, since this Special was unlimited, the Martian Marvel could routinely ramp-up any given attack throughout his time in the game, of just offer an additional attack unhindered by a Power type, a major asset. The Character doesn't draw attention to himself with any 8 Ratings, has a bunch of defensive cards, delivers massive attack points, and helps his entire team score Spectrum attacks. The only drawback is those humongous thigh muscles Sal Velluto drew so provocatively. At least that Silver Age homo-eroticism remained intact.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

1997 Fleer/Skybox JLA Overpower Martian Manhunter "Telepathic Probe" Special Card



Here's another Overpower Special Card, this one acting as a 5 Value Energy attack. Since Martian Manhunter's Energy Rating was only a 4, this made for a nice attack in pursuit of a Spectrum KO. As with "Alien Physique" and "Malleable Form," the card also has a unique defensive aspect tied into it that could protect the Martian Marvel from any future attacks that battle should it prove successful. Personal defense was a defining attribute of the Character in the game, though his intangibility was never referenced, and he wasn't much use in protecting others. Odd choices, I think.

As you can see, this is an excellent Sal Velluto profile shot, and another image I cropped and blew up to display the Alien Atlas' super powers on my old "Martian Manhunter: The Rock of the JLA" web site.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

1997 Fleer/Skybox JLA Overpower Martian Manhunter "Alien Physique" Special Card



Unlike "Malleable Form," this Overpower Special card is extremely useful in the game. Not only is it a get-out-of-jail-free card for any single attack against the Martian Marvel, but it protects him for the rest of the battle, regardless of whether the Alien Atlas does some attacking of his own. Since Martian Manhunter has quality offensive Specials, having this card in play can win a game. Say J'Onn is the last Character standing on your team and "Alien Physique" is available to you. Venture as many cards as you can, and regardless of how many additional cards your opponent may draw, you have potentially neutralized them for the entire battle. Either they Concede beforehand and you secure a slew of Mission cards, or you need only score damage to win them outright. Of course, J'Onn has to be directly attacked first, the Special could be neutralized by another Special, and a stalemate likely leaves your opponent stronger for the next battle. Still, "Alien Physique" is boss, and limited to one per deck because of it.

Artist Sal Velluto seemed to like bringing out the "alienness" of the Martian with awkward body language, and helped get the big upturned collar look going before JLA blew up. His abuse of the Banana Hammock From Mars endeared him to few Overpower players, though.

Monday, January 5, 2009

1997 Fleer/Skybox JLA Overpower Martian Manhunter "Malleable Form" Special Card



Besides Power Grid Ratings, another reason to choose a Character for an Overpower game team is their Special cards. Only the specific character identified on a Special card can use that card, and only so long as they are active in the game. Another good thing about Special cards is that they are so specific, unless you overload your deck with one single card, the odds favor your not having to discard duplicates. You can hold as many Special cards as you like, so long as they are not the exact same card. Also, you can place a Special open face on the table for later use to free up your hand.

"Malleable Form" is not so great. You have to waste an action to preemptively insure nothing happens with the Martian Manhunter for the rest of the battle. I guess if he's the endangered lynch pin of your team or something, it could be useful.

Though uncredited, the art on all the Martian Manhunter Special cards is clearly by Sal Velluto, making his among the best looking in the set. Back when I had my "Martian Manhunter: The Rock of the JLA" site, I cropped most of these Specials for use in a section devoted to the super powers of the Alien Atlas. Also, secret identities rarely came into play on Overpower cards, so it was a nice surprise for Detective John Jones to make an appearance.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

1997 Fleer/Skybox JLA Overpower Tactic Double Shot Card



After my lengthy tutorial on the basics of the Overpower collectible card game, this number should be fairly self explanatory. You would use this card if one of the Characters on your team had a Fighting Power Grid Rating of 6 or higher, while a Teammate had a Strength Rating of 6 or higher. For instance, if you were using the pictured duo of Batman and Martian Manhunter, it would work with the Dark Knight's 7 Fighting Rating and the Alien Atlas' 7 Strength Rating. So the Caped Crusader could use this as a 4 Value Fighting attack or defense, which the Martian Marvel would have to elevate higher by combining it with a Intellect Power card. Since J'Onn J'Onzz is one of the smartest strong men in Overpower, his Intellect Rating of 5 could boost the action to as high a Value as 9. Pretty awesome.

Tactic cards emphasized team work, but in order to be effective required careful consideration of which characters were to be used. For instance, if Martian Manhunter were to be KO'd, and no one else on your team had at least a 6 Rating in Strength, the card would be rendered worthless. On the other hand, someone like Orion with a Strength Power Grid Rating of 7 could use the card, but his low Intellect Rating of 2 maxed the action's Value at a middling 6. Better to have the evil Neron on the team, whose Strength Rating of 6 could do the heavy lifting, and Intellect Rating of 8 offered the potential for a devastating 12 Value action. Of course, you're now breaking the optional rule against mixing good and evil on a team, and it will already be at 61 combined Rating points before the addition of a fourth Character.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

1997 Fleer/Skybox Justice League (JLA) Overpower "The Brave And The Bold" Mission Card 6 of 7



Each Overpower player must have a set of 7 Mission cards. These cards tell a short story involving a set of heroes and villains. They blessedly need not be the same Characters you're playing, since there was only one Mission set produced for the JLA expansion, and then there's mixing Marvel Characters in to consider.

Mission cards serve two purposes. The first is to determine which Event cards can be played. Events are optional cards that can be placed in a deck. If an Event card is drawn, it immediately effects both players, rather than being played as part of a hand. Events are directly tied to Missions, and can only appear once per deck. It should be noted that Event cards are printed like most any other, on pliable matte stock with rounded corners. Mission cards are separate from the deck, and are printed on more rigid glossy stock with square corners.

Another way to win a game of Overpower is through Venture, the second and primary purpose of Mission cards. At the start of each Battle, meaning one turn for each player, one or more Mission cards are "bet" on the outcome of the battle. It's up to each player to decide how many Mission cards they choose to Venture per battle, and they need not Venture the same number. One card minimum must be Ventured, and for every card over two Ventured, your opponent gets to draw a card from their deck. The first player with all their Mission cards "Completed," as in accumulated winning bets, takes the game. The first player with all their Mission cards "Defeated," accumulated lost bets, is out of the game. The victor of each battle is determined by who deals the highest number of Value points of damage to their opponent(s.)

The "The Brave And The Bold" Mission's story involves Darkseid trying to take over the Earth after the destruction of his home planet, Apokolips. The New Gods Orion and Mr. Miracle warn the Justice League, who battle Darkseid's forces on our moon. "--Having beaten the Female Furies, the League now clashes with a squadron of Parademons, led by the brutal Kalibak. With strength like Superman's and an unquenchable lust for battle, Kalibak is a terrifying enemy... Yet the heroic Martian Manhunter battles him alone and unaided, buying time for the other heroes to smash Darkseid's forces and invade his fortress!" There were 5 Event cards tied to this Mission, but none mentioned Martian Manhunter, so we won't bother with them.

As usual, there are no art credits on this card. I strongly suspect it was drawn by Mike Collins, based almost entirely on how much it looks like his work on Martian Manhunter Special #1. Do note the Ray, one of J'Onn's charges from the Justice League Task Force, in the background.

Friday, January 2, 2009

1997 Fleer/Skybox Justice League Overpower 6 Value Any-Power Card



"Power cards are the basic unit of attack and defense in Overpower" As Poker has suits, Overpower has Power types. Instead of hearts, diamonds, spades and clubs, it has Energy, Fighting, Strength and Intellect. If you look at the Martian Manhunter Character card, you can see he has a Rating in each of these suits. Power cards have values of 1-8, but since Martian Manhunter only has a Rating of 4 in Energy, he can only use Energy Power cards with values of 1-4 to attack or defend himself.

You might wonder why anyone would bother with Power cards of low Value. Well you see, unlike Poker, you build your own deck of cards to play with, and pit it against your opponents' deck. At the start of the game, each of you draws an eight card hand. Any duplications must be discarded immediately, and you can't keep more than one Power card of the same Value. That means if you draw an Energy Power card and an Intellect Power card with a Value of 4 each, you can only keep one. Martian Manhunter can use either, so you have to determine which will be most useful to his teammates or your strategy, and keep that one.

Each player takes a turn performing an action, which may include using a Power card to attack their opponent. Your opponent will usually have to target one of your characters, in this case Martian Manhunter. If your opponent attacks J'Onn with a Power card valued at 7, Martian Manhunter can use a Strength Power card with a Value of 7 to defend himself. If you decided to hold a 7 Intellect Power card for one of J'Onn's teammates (since he can't use an Intellect Power card over 5,) and have no other means to defend the Martian Manhunter, our hero will be hit by the attack. Since most characters can only take 20 points of damage, that leaves J'Onn with only 13 points of injury he can sustain before being knocked out. Also, if J'Onn takes hits from two other Power card suits, regardless of their point value, he will become the victim of a Spectrum KO. That's where even low Value Power cards are useful. One a character is knocked out, they are removed from the game. You start out with four characters, three active, and one safely in reserve. If Martian Manhunter is knocked out, the reserve character takes his place. One way to end the game is if all four of a player's characters are knocked out.

There are two types of Power cards that are not part of the four basic suits. MultiPower cards are wild, and can assume the properties of any Power card type. Any-Power cards, like the one spotlighted here, have no Power type. Since this one has a Value of 6, any character with a Ranking of 6 or more in any Power type can use it to attack or defend. While its Value of 6 and versatility can be useful, its useless in effecting a Spectrum KO. You'll also note this card is limited to one per deck.

Though the card has no art credit, this one was obviously drawn by Howard Porter, likely with John Dell inking. The same image was used on the display box and in advertising.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

1997 Fleer/Skybox Martian Manhunter Overpower Character Card



Alright, to explain the Overpower Collectible Card Game, we begin with Characters. Every player puts together a team of four Character Cards. Depending on an optional rule, all these characters may have to be either heroes or villains. J'Onn here is a Hero, as indicated by the "H" symbol at the bottom left of the card. Every character has a Power Grid of either 3 or 4 Power types, depending on what version of Overpower you are playing. All DC Characters have four Power types: Energy, Fighting, Strength and Intellect. They are then assigned a Rating in each Power type, roughly based on their abilities in the comics, and ranked from 1-8. As you can see, Manhunter is a versatile Character, with solid Ratings across the Power Grid, and the penultimate limit on Strength.

Martian Manhunter also has an Inherent Ability, a special power he can use just by being present on a team. His is "Teammates Training card bonus' are an additional +1." Training cards allow characters with a Rating of less than 5 to increase the impact of an attack in a Power type they're normally weaker in. As you can see, J'Onn can not only get the most out of his own Training cards based on his Power Grid, but also enhance his fellows'. You can best use Martian Manhunter in decks emphasizing Strength and/or the full spectrum of Powers. However, especially in tournaments, the total point value for all the characters' Ratings on your team matter. Since J'Onn is a 20 point character, you have to bring in a much lower point character for, say, a 60 point team. Your team will be disqualified if they run over an allotted point value. Also, if you play Manhunter against an 80+ point team, they will most likely have characters with 8 Ratings, where the Martian's highest Rating is a 7, limiting his offensive and defensive abilities against them.

While there are no artist credits on the cards, it's obvious Sal Velluto drew this one. Because of a uniform flatness in the coloring of the DC character cards, the rare instances of more vibrant tones like those found here really stand out. The combination of detailed rendering and hue makes this one of the best looking cards in Overpower, as far as I'm concerned.