Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 Michael Netzer "December of Despero" Pin-Up

Click To Enlarge


I must confess my disappointment in "December of Despero." After years of too little attention being paid to one of the few truly great and broadly recognized Martian Manhunter villains, the plan was to have his every appearance through 1990 written up for this blog. He was going to finally get his Vile Menagerie listing, an index of his own, and more. Instead, the holiday crunch, side projects, and my own inertia led to a spate of pin-ups, custom toys, and outright filler. As I've said before, this is hardly the last December Despero will claim as his own, and he'll be making waves well before then. Still, I wanted his first to be something special.

Thankfully, this final week has given the month some validation. Although I never get much in the way of comments for them, I'm happy to have gotten around to more fake Manhunter from Mars comic synopses, all offering stories from a parallel universe pitting our hero against the three-eyed despot. I've never featured so many in such a short span, as Manhunter from Mars Annual #2 will close out our week. It was planned for tonight, but a last minute submission I feel really puts the first "December of Despero" over the wall of winners had to take precedence.

Mike Nasser is probably the second most important artist to draw J'onn J'onzz after his co-creator, Joe Certa. It was Nasser who restored the beetle-brow from the character's earliest appearances, revived his belt symbol,  designed his 1970s logo and offered a dynamic new art style that exposed the character's potential for greatness to then-modern readers. Sadly, Nasser's run was much too brief, and saw him illustrate only a couple of new villains, N'or Cott and R’es Eda. In recent years though Nasser, now known as Michael Netzer, has done real solid by Martian Manhunter fandom. He drew the beloved Idol-Head of Diabolu banner in 2007, then followed that up with a campaign to save Martian Manhunter from Final Crisis with his Take Me... but don't kill J'Onn campaign in 2008. This was supported by pin-ups pairing Manhunter with the Atom (Ryan Choi), Aquaman and the Atom (Ray Palmer).

Netzer's kept a lower profile in 2009, presumably to afford him the opportunity to work on his upcoming 150 page original graphic novel, Wave. Still, he found time to contribute the above pin-up of Despero, which I hope you enjoy as much as I do. A Happy New Year's Eve to all you Idol-Heads out there, and especially to Mr. Netzer, whose New Online Portal demands your attention.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Manhunter from Mars #175 (February, 1979)



On Mars II, J'onn J'onzz was visited by a clearly distressed Saranna. She had lost contact with her father Jasonar, who had left her on Kalanor to take on Despero as his full responsibility and laboratory assistant. The pair had been working together in isolation on a distant satellite, though Saranna and Manhunter could reach it through her dimensional traveler. Since Kalanorian authorities had long since washed their hands of Despero and his benefactor, J'onn J'onzz was Saranna's best hope for protection and investigative aid. The Manhunter from Mars agreed, and the pair were off.

Aboard the satellite, they found Jasonar's body lying on an interior floor. He had been battered, but his exact cause of death wasn't readily apparent. Saranna cursed the mutant freak who had committed this heinous act. J'onzz began to check the satellite's logs, and discovered Despero had fled the scene in a spaceship altered by Jasonar and J'onzz to include Martian technology. The Manhunter could follow Despero's trail of ionized anti-matter, his ship's fuel source. J'onzz also loaded Jasonar's body and personal log into the dimensional traveler, for study on the way to Despero's present location, the nearby planet Sirkus.

From the logs, J'onzz learned that Despero had actually blossomed as Jasonar's sole associate in his studies. Much of the former despot's aggressive tendencies had subsided, and he showed a seemingly genuine appreciation for their work. Still, Jasonar wouldn't dare risk Saranna's life in Despero's presence again, and regularly subjected himself to a recreation of the radiation from the dimensional traveler that immunized a person against Despero's mental powers. Saranna shook her head in disgust at Despero's taking advantage of Jasonar's altruistic gullibility, knowing full well the monster had been plotting her father's demise the whole time.

On Sirkus, the Manhunter was pleased to find he had super powers near those he enjoyed on Earth, and that the Sirkian Governor Kwim was perfectly willing to offer any aid in tracking down the bandit gone to ground on her world. It wasn't long before Despero was found, although Saranna was shocked to discover his powerful third eye, the presumed murder weapon, was still rendered inactive. In fact, Despero was only lightly armed, and the Alien Atlas made short work of his offensive.

Saranna cursed at the hideous Despero for his lethal duplicity, to which Despero hurtfully protested that it was in fact Jasonar who had tried to kill him! Despero had only defended himself, and knocked Jasonar unconscious. Panicked, Despero took the rifle Jasonar had attempted to slay him with, and fled to the nearest inhabited world. Saranna slapped Despero, and demanded he stop lying.

The Sleuth from Outer Space took Saranna by the wrist, and mournfully explained Despero likely spoke the truth. J'onzz's inspection of Jasonar's body had uncovered cancerous growths throughout, most probably caused by his constant exposure to radiation. A further review of Jasonar's logs revealed that he knew he was terminally ill, with at best days to live. Although he felt Despero was sincerely improving as a sympathetic being, after being fooled so often before, he felt he couldn't risk allowing Despero to live on without his guidance.

Unbowed, Saranna continued to curse Despero for robbing her of time she should have spent with her father in his final years. Again, J'onzz interjected. Although it's true Jasonar felt safer with Saranna far from harm's way, the Manhunter had observed her consistent pattern of suspicious, judgmental and generally prejudiced attitude toward Despero. While her bias was understandable, Jasonar surely recognized there was no hope of redeeming Despero so long as Saranna was present to reenforce Despero's toxic self image. Fully breaking down at this observation, Saranna damned Manhunter and his cruel Martian logic.

The Manhunter extended his hand to Despero, in hopes the former tyrant would be willing to continue ascending the path of righteousness. Despero swatted it away, spitting out his assertion that any hope the universe had of quelling his burning hatred had been left to die on that satellite lab. However, the Sirkians were touched by all this, and insisted Despero be left in their hands for further rehabilitation.

The Manhunter agreed, with apprehension, and left the world with Saranna in the dimensional traveler. The Sirkians began discussing a course of treatment for Despero, and dismissed the barbaric practice of surgically disabling his third eye. His back to his would-be saviors, Despero allowed himself a small, nefarious grin...

Tony Isabella left the DC editorial staff midway through 1977, though stories he edited saw print throughout the year. Jack Harris took over all of Isabella's duties, and also edited his freelance writing on Black Lightning. After that title's last issue saw print late in '78, Harris moved its stunning artist, Trevor Von Eeden, to Manhunter from Mars. Although Harris had used a few Isabella scripts on the title in the past, the writer had left DC Comics some months prior, and the book struggled to find anything resembling a permanent creative team. Worse, just as Von Eeden was preparing for the assignment, the book shifted editorship to Ross Andru. Barely staving off cancellation during the infamous "DC Implosion," Andru had marching orders to burn off some inventory material as a cost-cutting measure before commissioning any new material. Von Eeden was left looking for fill-in work until his first issues shipped in the spring of '79.

In the meantime, this Martin "Marty" Pasko and Dick Dillin tale from the file drawer was extremely well received by readers, becoming an instant classic. It was made additionally poignant when Dillin himself passed on a year later. It was Dillin, after all, who drew many of the Martian Manhunter's guest appearances in the 60s and 70s that helped keep the character and his somewhat isolated solo series in the public consciousness. Dillin was also only the second artist to draw Despero, Jasonar, and Saranna (preceded of course by Mike Sekowsky.) While Dillin never again returned to the title, popular demand brought Pasko back for a number of stories. By the time Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn finally became the "regular" writing team in their first ongoing assignment, Len Wein had been handed the editorial reins, and would shuffle them off in less than a year. At least Von Eeden stuck around through #200...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

1981 The Comic Reader #197 Back Cover by Fred Hembeck

Click To Enormify


Damian Maffei of the long-on-hiatus The Atom: Tiny Titan blog posted this homage to an early Mike Sekowsky JLA/JSA meeting by Fred Hembeck and Bill Anderson for the comic industry fanzine The Comic Reader two years ago to this day. I was recently looking the old site over, and was reminded that I forgot to totally steal it! Done and done...

Monday, December 28, 2009

Manhunter from Mars #125 (February 1973)



Reed Crandall had left Manhunter from Mars to work on Warren Publishing's black and white horror and war magazines, before leaving the field altogether in 1974. Writer Len Brown had himself exited for greener pastures. John Giunta had done a bit of work on the title, but passed on in 1970. By 1971, in a declining industry, editor Mike Sekowsky took on the extra workload of writing and drawing the bi-monthly adventures of J'onn J'onzz. This proved a smart move, as Sekowsky was relieved of his editorial duties at DC later that year, but the incoming Murray Boltinoff allowed him to continue on as a freelancer. With sales less than stellar, Sekowsky had planned to dump the Alien Atlas from the series, just as he'd ditched the "John Jones" portion of the title. He would instead shift the backdrop to the year 2070, and feature the bounty hunter Starker in the Manhunter role. Boltinoff was skeptical of the move, and insisted J'onn J'onzz remain in the title, leaving the three Starker stories Sekowsky had prepared to be printed in the anthology series Showcase. There would be yet another Manhunter before 1973 was out, this one a 1940s revival by Archie Goodwin and Walt Simonsion, featured in Detective Comics.

Anyhow, our concern here is with J'onn J'onzz, who under Sekowsky became a more rough and tumble character, not unlike his own Starker. However, long time fans constantly wrote in requesting the Manhunter from Mars face off against established super-villains. Sekowsky probably figured he could use the good will, and brought back a baddie he'd designed for the very first issue of Justice League of America, Despero.

The exiled survivors of Mars had been breaking their backs for months, trying to make a go of it on their newly adopted world, Vonn. The planet was far from hospitable, which left time for frustrated idleness. Some youths spotted a flash in the sky. Science (and now agricultural) leader J'onn J'onzz was alerted, as the elders recognized the flash as a spaceship making entry into the atmosphere. J'onzz and a security force followed the ship to its landing, where out stepped Jasonar, an other dimensional scientist from the world Kalanor. Jasonar explained that he and his daughter Saranna had been performing experiments on a space station in this solar system. Along with them was Despero, a mutant with psychic powers who had repeatedly battled the Justice League of America. Jasonar steadfastly believed that rehabilitation was possible, but after Despero's second attempted to conquer Kalanor, its populace refused to allow the villain to remain on their world. It fell to Jasonar to guide Despero to redemption, as he and his daughter surgically removed Despero's third eye, the source of his power, and insured it did not regenerate from his skull.

Unbeknownst to the pair, Despero had used his own scientific genius to maintain his severed eye in a small secreted fish tank, until it had developed sufficiently to be reattached. Despero attacked Saranna, leaving her in a sealed time release air lock, and extorting Jasonar's assistance in his surgery. Once it proved a success, Despero exited the station in a spacecraft with Saranna in tow, forcing Jasonar's continued silence about Despero's recovery to Kalanorian authorities. Jasonar discovered in the nick of time that he'd been left on a space station set to self destruct. Jasonar escaped in a spare starcraft, but with limited fuel and few resources, compliments of Despero. He was relieved that providence had led him to Vonn, and a former ally in J'onn J'onzz.

Shame then, that the Martian authorites demanded Jasonar's immediate departure. Life on Vonn was only just bearable, and they lacked more than the most basic sustenance. This left them too lethargic to power their only defensive weaponry, the robo-chargers they had inherited from their former masters, the Thythen. The Martian Council was unwilling to risk the safety of their people for the benefit of any one man, no matter his straits. Further, they would not bring down the wrath of his pursuer by offering any aid whatsoever. J'onn J'onzz reluctantly agreed with their decision, and saw Jasonar's ship off. Imagine the Martians' surprise, when J'onzz didn't return.

Despero had picked up the trail of Jasonar's craft, and forced it to land almost as soon as it had risen. Setting down roughly in the desert, the Martian Marvel made his way to cover before Despero could follow. On Vonn, J'onzz was a bit stronger than a human, and could engage in limited flight, but had no other super-powers. Although Despero wasn't fully recovered from his surgery, he could still easily track J'onzz through the desert, and offer up a series of stinging bolts of energy from his third eye. Despero demanded to know Jasonar's whereabouts, but at a distance, could not force the Manhunter to reveal the location through his telepathy. Still, keeping his confidence was a struggle for J'onzz.  Using his wits, the Manhunter managed to lead Despero on a false trail, then doubled back to free Saranna. Unfortunately, Despero had her under his mental thrall since his surgery, and had forced her to set the space station's self destruct. Further, she had been armed, and fired a paralyzing ray at the Alien Atlas. Finally in Despero's clutches, the Manhunter was powerless against the villain's mental prowess in close quarters. Through cold sweat, J'onn J'onzz revealed that he had left Jasonar behind at the Martian camp, in order that he may construct a weapon from parts of a robo-charger.

Just then, a shot rang out from the distance, striking Despero square on the brow. With little time to lose, Jasonar had followed J'onzz's plan to the letter, sneaking off to construct an energy rifle while the Martians were unsettled by their leader's unannounced departure. A penitent Saranna tended to J'onzz's injuries, as the unconscious Despero was dragged back to his stolen spaceship, and the party lifted off.

The Manhunter from Mars expressed his disappointment in his people, who had used the "greater good" as an excuse for cowardice. It was increasingly apparent that Vonn could never sustain the Martian survivors, no matter how hard they tried to till its soil. J'onzz wondered which they were more afraid of-- confronting a villain like Despero, or the uncertainty of continuing their quest for a new home planet. Jasonar offered Kalinor to J'onn J'onzz alone, but the Martian Manhunter could never abandon his people in their time of need, as they were willing to do to Jasonar and Saranna. Pleased that J'onzz had refused his tempting offer, Jasonar instead committed his keen mind to helping the Martians, whether in finding a way to bring Vonn to life, or to continue their exodus amongst the stars...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Saranna



Alter Ego: Saranna
Occupation: Scientist
Marital Status: Single
Known Relatives: Jasonar (father)
Group Affiliation: None known.
Base of Operations: Kalanor
First Appearance: Justice League of America #1 (October/November 1960)
Height: Approx. 5' 4"
Build: Average
Weight: Approximately
Eyes: Gray
Hair: Pale Green

History:
Saranna and her father Jasonar fled their alien home world after it came under the control of the mutant Despero. Hoping to find asylum on Earth, the pair worked for several days to perfect an anti-weapon against Despero's super-energy arsenal within an abandoned farmhouse. While testing the device, the pair inadvertently disabled the automobile of police scientist Barry Allen as he was driving past their shelter. Secretly the Flash, Allen donned his costume to investigate. Saranna was initially frightened of the super-hero when the Flash discovered them, believing him to be one of Despero's hunters, but her father assured her the Flash's thoughts were altruistic. While Jasonar explained their circumstances, Saranna was struck by a teleportation ray directed by Despero, and whisked away. Back on Kalanor, Despero read Saranna's mind, and used its information to launch a preemptive psychic assault against Flash's friends in the Justice League of America. Through the efforts of her father, the Justice League of America, and their associate Snapper Carr, Despero was eventually captured and Saranna freed.

Later, Saranna joined her father in further scientific study, as well as overseeing the rehabilitation of Despero, which included the surgical removal of his third eye. However, Despero recovered his powers in secret, faked his own death, and escaped supervision. Saranna and Jasonar were unaware that Despero had instead made his way to Earth, where he again battled and was defeated by the Justice League.

Powers:
Jasonar can communicate through telepathy.

Distinguishing Features:
Green hair. Pointed ears. Inhumanly high arched eyebrows.

Personality:
Articulate. Distrustful.

Weapons and Vehicles:
Saranna used her scientific knowledge to work on the construction of the anti-weapon, and presumably was familiar with the dimensional traveler craft, but was not shown operating either.

Quote: "We come from a dimensional world called Kalanor! There a three-eyed tyrant called Despero-- has seized control and made slaves of our people!"

Created by Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky

Friday, December 25, 2009

2006 Despero New York Comic Con Sketch by Chris Batista

Click to Enlarge


Scowly!

Him and his gf were very nice even though I was pretty much hounding him all day Sunday for a sketch... I eventually asked for either Zatanna or Despero due to his recent run on JLA: Crisis of Conscience arc. He said he had already done way too many Zatanna's throughout that show.
-Steve Lee

Thursday, December 24, 2009

DC Holiday Special '09 #1 (February 2010)



Less than week into his career as a member of the Middleton City Homicide Squad, Detective John Jones already faced a chilly reception from fellow officers at a murder scene. "Manhunting was my vocation back home. Since I must walk concealed among these creatures, I reasoned a familiar guise would be best." However, the human police instinctively knew that he was "something alien," and reacted accordingly. Only his partner Diane Meade offered any warmth, as she explained Tony Valdez of Evergreen Alley had taken three slugs to the chest and been relieved of his cash box. He had been left to die bleeding in the snow, surrounded by his Christmas trees. John Jones zeroed in on one of Valdez's employees as the primary suspect. Thanks to telepathy, Jones knew young Kenny was the culprit, but was required to substantiate that truth with evidence.

Diane Meade invited Jones to the officers' Christmas party at Fagan's, on Broadway; but Jones blew her off to focus on his work. Meade's fellow officers wondered aloud why she bothered, believing Jones to be at least stuck-up, and possibly even working undercover for Internal Affairs. Meanwhile, Jones was too concerned with potential exposure to get close to any humans, and instead confronted Kenny with his guilt. Kenny bolted, and as Jones pursued, the clandestine alien was made to recall Mars at the sight of holiday colors.

"Red: Here they call Mars a 'desert planet,' but her dunes are not coarse sand but delicate dust." A storm could turn the visible landscape red, "rendering ground below and heaven above the same rusty color."

"Green: The Martian race, merged as one telepathic serenity." Martians took "comity" for granted, so that observance of holidays were unnecessary. "Quite the opposite with the natives here. Unlike Mars, this world teems with life... all of it so isolated and alone."

Moving transparent and invisibly, the Manhunter from Mars made his way to the road, before materializing in the path of Kenny's speeding getaway car. The young man went through the windshield, and lay still on the road, the cash box resting square on his chest. The Martian Manhunter performed a rudimentary scan of Kenny's surface thoughts, and found him an alienated soul with few prospects, absent parents, and dismissed by his former girlfriend. "Little wonder he felt driven to grab onto whatever was close at hand that he could claim his own."

Having recognized the vulnerability of solitude, John Jones entered Fagan's with a grin and a carton. As Meade gave her "pardner" a hug, he asked "I brought... 'eggnog.' That is traditional, yes?" Another plainclothes officer wondered, "'Course... where you from?"
"... Canada?"
"Explains a lot, actually..."

Diane gave John a cookie. "Mmmm! What are these?"
"They don't have Double-Stuffed Chocos in Canada?"
"They're wonderful!"
"I know they have booze there! I'm setting you up!"

Other officers began chatting Jones up about his "usual fast work" solving the murder case, and urged him to "tell us how you do it? That can be your present to us!"

"I close my eyes. And I feel the Red Wind of the Olympus Mons on my face. And the oneness of a people all around me. And I know what I have been missing."

"Reason for the Season" wears the influence of Mark Waid, Gerard Jones and John Ostrander on its sleeve. I've made no bones about my dislike for one of those three on J'Onn J'Onzz, but despite playing similarly loose with continuity, Fred Van Lente wrote a love letter that echoed the much favored writing of the other two. As was noted in a Comics Related interview...
Eric Ratcliffe:  Do you ever see yourself writing for the distinguished competition? Any favorite characters over there that you'd really like to get your hands on?

FVL: Sure, I think Martian Manhunter could be a huge hit in the right hands. (Cough - mine.)

Eric: So being a Martian Manhunter fan...your reaction to the first issue of final crisis?

FVL: I trust Morrison and am certain he knows what he's doing. God knows I have enough issues with my own comics to go criticizing other creator's...

Artist Nick Dragotta recalls the criminally neglected American Secrets, both Eduardo Barreto's evocative illustrations and Steve Oliff's lovely color work. Definitely an ocular feast for a Manhunter fan.

Thanks to mathematicscore for the interview link, and happy holidays to you all. As an extra present, I'll choke down my hatred of the usurper Red Tornado, and offer up both a synopsis of his own solo story and a sneak peek at a super-hero blog revival.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

2004 Art Adams Justice League Art

CLICK TO ENLARGE! DO IT!!! YOU MUST!!!


I've searched the internet for a simple checklist of 2007 Upper Deck VS System playing cards to find out exactly where this art was printed, and I've plumb given up. As its owner noted, three years after its conception, "This magnificent illustration was actually reduced to a barely 2x2 inch image!" So screw it, we're going to just relish the magnificence of Zatanna (in top hat & tails,) Superman, Martian Manhunter, and Wonder Woman by the modern master himself!

Update: A big "thank you" to LissBirds for identifying the card as DC Legends Card DCL-058: Stalwart Defense

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

1999 Despero Convention Sketch by Franchesco!

Click to Enlarge


Oh, hey lookie-- art by Franchesco!

Ah, December... Whatever pleasure I've taken from this chore of a month has been mine by right. Unlike The March of Mongul, I haven't grown disenchanted with Despero through weeks of contemptuous familiarity. Truth to tell, I feel awful that the murderous despot has gotten such a raw deal, especially by comparison. Despero is truly an unimpeachable Martian Manhunter foe well deserving of a lengthy spotlight, and into our third year, he doesn't even have a Vile Menagerie page. All my grand plans lie in dust, but I swear, 2010 will see another December of Despero. As for January, well, that door remains open as well...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Martian Sightings for March, 2010



BLACKEST NIGHT
BLACKEST NIGHT #8
On sale MARCH 31 • 8 of 8 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US
Written by GEOFF JOHNS
Art and cover by IVAN REIS, OCLAIR ALBERT & JOE PRADO
1:25 Variant cover by RODOLFO MIGLIARI • 1:100 Sketch variant cover by IVAN REIS
The extra-sized conclusion to the most talked-about event in comics is here, and the results will change the course of the DC Universe for years to come. Earth has become the final battleground for life versus death, but how will our heroes fight back against the darkness of sentient space itself? And what does the future hold for Green Lantern, The Flash and the rest of the world’s greatest heroes and villains? Find out here as the stage is set for the next epic era of DC Comics!

GREEN LANTERN #52
On sale MARCH 24 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US
Written by GEOFF JOHNS
Art and cover by DOUG MAHNKE & CHRISTIAN ALAMY
1:25 Variant cover by SHANE DAVIS & SANDRA HOPE
BLACKEST NIGHT’S penultimate chapter is here, and you do not want to miss this issue. Trust us on this one.
Retailers please note: This issue will ship with two covers. Please see the Previews Order Form for more information.

GREEN LANTERN CORPS #46
On sale MARCH 17 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US
Written by PETER J. TOMASI
Art and cover by PATRICK GLEASON & REBECCA BUCHMAN
1:25 Variant cover by RODOLFO MIGLIARI
Blackest Night comes to its epic and stunning conclusion in this over-sized issue as the Green Lantern Corps descends on Earth to make their final stand against Nekron and the Black Lanterns!
Retailers please note: This issue will ship with two covers. Please see the Previews Order Form for more information.
So, yeah, that'll be it then.

BLACKEST NIGHT SINESTRO CORPS MEMBER MONGUL DELUXE ACTION FIGURE
First facing off against Arkillo and then against Sinestro himself, the evil Mongul, onetime leader of the Sinestro Corps, plays a pivotal role in the events of BLACKEST NIGHT.
Be sure to add this monstrous deluxe action figure to your collection of characters from the soon-to-be legendary storyline. Packaged in a deluxe clamshell.
Sinestro Corps Member Mongul • 9” h
Advance-solicited; on sale August 4, 2010 * Action Figure * PI
Whew, that's a long name for what looks like a Final Crisis Mongul action figure with some alterations. Oh, and still no rematch with Martian Manhunter after nearly thirty years. Why do I bother?

BLACKEST NIGHT SERIES 5 ACTION FIGURES
Behold the Power of the Black Lanterns!
This fifth series of action figures based on the hugely popular BLACKEST NIGHT event includes Nekron, the Lord of the Unliving; Hawkman, the winged warrior who joins the Black Lanterns after falling victim to them; Deadman, the ghost hero who’s tormented by voices of the dead; and Batman, who, in death, is as susceptible to the Black Lantern Corps as anyone.
All four figures feature multiple points of articulation and include a display base. Character-appropriate accessories are also included.
Includes:
Black Lantern Batman • 6.75” h
Black Lantern Nekron • 7.25” h
Black Lantern Hawkman • 7” h
Black Lantern Deadman • 6.75” h
4-color clamshell blister card packaging. Advance-solicited; on sale August 4, 2010 * Action Figures * PI
Perfunctory!

BLACKEST NIGHT #2 POSTER
Art by Ivan Reis and Oclair Albert
One of the most popular covers from the thrilling BLACKEST NIGHT storyline is now available in poster size! Don’t miss out on this limited-edition 24” x 36” piece of art to decorate your wall!
Advance-solicited; on sale March 24, 2010 * Poster * $8.99 US
So hey, one guaranteed Black Lantern J'Onn J'Onzz appearance this month...


The Vile Menagerie

Despero
R.E.B.E.L.S. #14
On sale MARCH 10 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US
Written by TONY BEDARD
Art by CLAUDE ST. AUBIN & SCOTT HANNA
Cover by KALMAN ANDRASOFSZKY
The finale in the war against the new Starro the Conqueror! Can super-genius Vril Dox, Adam Strange and their grizzled band of rebels possibly gain victory against a mega-army from nine galaxies?
The final adventures of Despero's severed head?

Comrades of Mars

Miss Martian
TINY TITANS #26
On sale MARCH 24 • 32 pg, FC, $2.50 US
Written by ART BALTAZAR & FRANCO
Art and cover by Art Baltazar
It’s the time of year for an all-green, never-mean issue of TINY TITANS! Miss Martian chases after Gizmo! Beast Boy chases after Miss Martian! Kroc eats things! Hmm, that last one doesn’t quite fit… But wait – some of the things he eats are green! That’s better.
Oh good! Something cute! I could use that.

TEEN TITANS: CHILD’S PLAY TP
Advance-solicited • On sale APRIL 7 • 208 pg, FC, $14.99 US
Written by SEAN MCKEEVER, BRYAN Q. MILLER & FELICIA D. HENDERSON Art and cover by JOE BENNETT & JACK JADSON
The team faces the new Fearsome Five in these tales from TEEN TITANS #71-78. Plus, the Calculator seeks vengeance after the teen heroes failed to protect his children.
So, yeah, there's that.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

2009 The Martian Manhunter Archives Volume 4 Introduction by Tom Hartley

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This is a very lengthy and informative introduction, with some funny bits, so I'll keep my comments brief. You may prefer to witness the page in it's full glory, by downloading it in PDF format...

The Idol-Head is the color of jade, but it cannot be jade because jade does not float. We are never told what it is made of. It has been floating for a month now, since the last full moon. Tonight is another full moon, so it drifts ashore, landing on the coast of another unnamed city. The top of the Idol-Head flips open, emitting black smoke, or spitting out a bolt of blue lightning, or ejecting a tiny seed-pod. The seed-pod is carried by the wind to a farmer’s garden, where it buries itself in the soil. The next morning something has grown from the seed, an armless moss-covered giant with vague facial features. From the giant’s eyes shoot rays that turn smaller beings——a farmer, Zook, anybody who gets in its way——into fellow giants. Or it is black smoke that emerges from the Idol-Head. The black smoke is taken by the wind to the nearby city, and along the way the smoke devours everything in its path. Or the smoke solidifies, taking the form of a giant who is guardian of an enormous spotted egg, and from that egg hatches another giant, who casts a “doom shadow”, and everything that falls under the “doom shadow” turns into what appears to be petrified wood. Or the Idol-Head hatches an orchestra of malevolent flying musical instruments, whose compositions can lull an audience to sleep, provoke hysterical laughter, or drive the hearers into a violent rage. Or how about the purple-skinned Venomee, who turn our hero, the Martian Manhunter, into a fish? Or the color-devouring color rings, or the man-thing that unearthed secrets, or the supernatural masterpieces? And so on, every full moon, all from the head of what looks like something you’d find at your neighbor’s yard sale. Maybe you’d pay him five bucks for it.

    Jack Schiff has been fired from DETECTIVE COMICS. Sales are lousy. Apparently readers don’t like Batman as a science-fiction-fantasy hero, battling the robot beasts of Skyland and Alpha, the Experimental Man, or taken captive by alien zookeepers, or being transformed into a Bat-Genie. Readers are wondering why the book is called DETECTIVE COMICS, since there isn’t much detective work involved in defeating Dr. Double-X or the Polka-Dot Man. Some readers may be old enough to remember when the Manhunter from Mars back-up feature was about a detective named John Jones, but nowadays the Martian super-hero, J’Onn J’Onzz, and his extradimensional sidekick, Zook, are battling pretty much the same alien robots, cosmic creatures and mad scientists that crop up in the Batman stories. (And on one occasion it’s not just pretty much the same, but the exact same mad scientist. But we’ll get to him later.) The Martian Manhunter still has his John Jones identity, but Detective Jones barely functions as a secret identity anymore, usually only appearing on the first page, to receive an assignment from Captain Harding that is more suited for the Martian Manhunter than for Earthman Jones. “Er——Did you say alien robot bandits, Chief? I’ll check it out at once!” (“But not as an ordinary human being,” our hero adds in a parenthetical thought balloon.) Even when the criminals are ordinary human beings, who were not lucky enough to find a space-capsule that crash-landed on Earth, containing alien robots and complete operating instructions in English, but instead just your average Joes with guns, a plan, and one of the many abandoned shacks one might find in the woods near Middletown, it is not Det. Jones who arrives bursting through the door, his own gun drawn, but rather the Martian Manhunter who crashes through the roof of their shack, and Zook who glows red and makes the inside of their getaway copter hotter than a furnace. In most stories Det. Jones doesn’t even make a return appearance on page 12; by page 2 he’s forgotten. Can readers be blamed for wanting DETECTIVE COMICS to have some detectives in it, and for being disappointed when they find Martians, extradimensional imps, and Bat-Genies instead? Sales are so low DC even considers cancelling DETECTIVE COMICS. Instead, they fire the editor. And when Julius Schwartz takes over as editor he fires the Martian Manhunter, replacing him with a new back-up feature, the Elongated Man.

    The Martian Manhunter’s last story in DETECTIVE COMICS, from issue #326, could have ended up being his last story ever. It’s even called “The Death of John Jones, Detective”. In his final case Det. Jones investigates the theft of a Babylonian idol called Diabolu. As its owner, an art collector, explains, “According to legend, all the evils of mankind were locked up inside it! This book tells all about it!” Det. Jones opens The Book of Diabolu and reads, “Once opened by the secret key, Diabolu will release one of its evils...and henceforth, each time the full moon appears, the idol will automatically open, to release another of its evils!” Collins warns Jones that he must get Diabolu back, before the Idol-Head is opened. But it’s too late. The thief, a fellow with a scar on his left cheek and a Hitler mustache named Vince Durskin, has the key to Diabolu. He inserts the key in the Idol-Head’s mouth and turns it. The head’s top flips open, and instead of the rare jewels Durskin was hoping he would find inside, a bolt of pale blue lightning bursts forth and strikes Durskin in the eyes. Now Durskin’s eyes project destructive beams, and the only thing that can stop the beams is a pair of sunglasses Durskin has in his pocket. But the Idol-Head isn’t through yet. Before it closes a black cloud emerges and pursues Durskin. The thief is able to outrun the cloud, so it seeks prey elsewhere, absorbing everything in its path: railroad cars, airplanes, scraps of paper, a steel tower, even Det. John Jones. You can go to page 115 and read about Jones’ apparent death, about how the Martian Manhunter was able to survive the black cloud but was unable to “rescue” his secret identity, and about how he was able to defeat both Durskin and the black cloud but was unable to find the Idol-Head.

    The story ends with a tearful gathering of the late Det. Jones’ closest friends, Diane Mead, Captain Harding, Zook and the Martian Manhunter. This is the last time we’ll see Diane Mead and Captain Harding in a Martian Manhunter story. By “killing” Jones, writer Jack Miller also eliminates most of the supporting cast...a move that seems inevitable by this point. Captian Harding was never a fully realized character but was merely a plot device. His role was to give Det. Jones his assignment, which, of course, would turn out to be another job for the Martian Manhunter. Now it would be the Idol-Head of Diabolu that would be giving the Martian Manhunter his assignments. Diane Mead’s fate was sealed when Zook was introduced as the Martian Manhunter’s new partner. Only in two of this volume’s stories, “The Challenge of the Alien Robots” from DETECTIVE COMICS #317, and issue #324’s “The Beast Who Was J’Onn J’Onzz”, does she have more than a cameo role. The monsters summoned by the Idol-Head take no prisoners, so she wouldn’t even serve as a damsel in distress, waiting for our hero to rescue her.

    But it’s not the end of the Martian Manhunter and Zook. In the last panel J’Onn vows to avenge Det. Jones’ death by hunting day and night for the Idol-Head of Diabolu until he has found and destroyed it. Below him a caption reads, “And so we say farewell to the detective career of John Jones! The Manhunter from Mars will now be featured in HOUSE OF MYSTERY! Look forward to the next full moon——and the next evil released!” Fired from DETECTIVE COMICS, Schiff still has another title, HOUSE OF MYSTERY, and the Martian Manhunter has a new home.

    And, at last, his own covers. J’Onn never had a cover appearance during his 102-issue, 81/2 year run in DETECTIVE COMICS, not even one of those headshots in one of the upper or lower corners (which is why, until this volume, we haven’t reprinted any covers). HOUSE OF MYSTERY would give him 9 covers, in issues #143-148 and 151-153. The covers of issues #149, 150, 154 and 155 featured the kind of sci-fi/fantasy stories that had been appearing in the title up to this point, and which continued to appear as back-ups during the early part of Martian Manhunter’s run. “I Was Tried by an Insect Jury” (#149) and “Prisoner of the Purple Demon” (#154) are typical titles. A new super-hero feature, Dial H for Hero, would debut in issue #156 and would take over as cover feature, putting an end to the brief run of Martian Manhunter covers (and to the sci-fi/fantasy back-up stories; for a time HOUSE OF MYSTERY would be taken over by super-heroes).

    Eventually the Martian Manhunter would track down the Idol-Head of Diabolu and learn its origin, but that will have to wait until the next volume.

    Before we conclude this Foreword, we need to say a few words about two stories. One of them, included in this volume, is “The Man Who Destroyed J’Onn J’Onzz” from DETECTIVE COMICS #322, in which the Martian Manhunter is introduced to his first recurring foe, Professor Arnold Hugo. The particulars of this battle can be found on pages 67-78, so we needn’t describe them here. What is worth mentioning here is that this is the only Martian Manhunter solo-story in either DETECTIVE COMICS or HOUSE OF MYSTERY to include an appearance by another DC hero. The guest is Batman, who only appears in the last panel. Batman had previously battled Prof. Hugo 16 issues ago, in the Batman story in DETECTIVE COMICS #306. Yes, J’Onn’s first ever arch-enemy is another super-hero’s sloppy seconds. The story in issue #322 ends with the Martian Manhunter handing Hugo over to Batman, and with the grateful Caped Crusader promising to return the favor if any of the Martian Manhunter’s foes should ever visit Gotham City.

    Any battles Batman may have had with Mr. Moth or the Human Squirrel remain unrecorded, but there is a record of Batman’s own encounter with Prof. Hugo, which brings us to the second story we have to discuss, which, since it is a Batman story and not a Martian Manhunter story, does not appear in this volume. This volume’s Martian Manhunter story includes a two-panel flashback which hardly does justice to the earlier Batman story. Yes, it tells us how the Professor’s brain-stimulator gave him advanced scientific knowledge (that is, even more advanced than the scientific knowledge required to build a brain-stimulator) and an abnormally large head (to accomodate his abnormally large stimulated brain), but it leaves unanswered the most important question, not how the Professor was able become a master criminal, but why. Why did this troubled genius embark on a life of crime, you ask? As we learn in “The Wizard of 1,000 Menaces”, it is because he was snubbed by the Gotham City Historical Society. To promote the construction of its new museum, the Historical Society stages a series of reenactments, selecting cetain prominent citizens of Gotham City to each take on the role of a famous ancestor and to recreate the event that earned the ancestor his fame. Prof. Hugo thinks his scientific genius should earn him a place of prominence among Gothamites, and he has an ancestor whom he claims was a famous warrior. But Arnold has another think coming, so he unleashes his rage upon the Historical Society for rejecting him. The first two historical reenactments are disrupted by a giant tiger, injected with a growth serum Hugo concocted, and another Hugo invention, a lightning cannon. Both menaces are defeated by Batman and Robin, so to prevent further interference from the Dynamic Duo, Hugo sends his invisible flying robots to capture them. (It’s the little propellers on the robots’ heads that allow them to fly.) The Historical Society has suspended its reenactments, so Hugo moves on to the main event. He will turn an orbiting satellite into an artificial moon that will rival the size of Earth’s natural moon. “...And all the world will see a moon I created——Hugo’s Moon! My name will live through eternity!” But so warped has Hugo become that he doesn’t realize the havok that having two moons will cause on Earth. Massive tidal waves are just the beginning of a series of catastrophies that could exterminate all life on Earth. If DC eventually reprints this tale, you can read for yourself how Batman and Robin escape Hugo’s trap so that they can save the Earth from moon-doom.

    Hugo is imprisoned, but 16 issues later he escapes, hoping he’ll have better luck defeating DETECTIVE COMICS’ back-up feature. He will have further battles with the Martian Manhunter in HOUSE OF MYSTERY, which you can read in our next volume.

    For now, enjoy the stories we have to offer in this book.
——Wade Greenberg

Friday, December 18, 2009

Model and Toy Collector #24 (Spring 1993)

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I hate models. I used to have a customer who would spend hours telling me about his process in crafting model kits, and I would spend those hours fighting back the tears and anger at time I'd never get back. I also hate "B. Clarke," who painted a JLofA cover for this issue involving the team playing their '60s Hasbro Flash board game. Those all featured J'onn J'onzz, but Clarke bypassed authenticity and screwed Manhunter alone by turning him into the Atom. Of course, that helped lead Damian Maffei of the late The Atom: Tiny Titan blog to cover this magazine back on January 6, 2008. Inside was a shoddy photo of a custom model of "Jonah Jones" by David E. Dennis built from an Aurora Superman kit. This was based on concept art by Jerry Somethingorother, or the fake concept art drawn around the model. I don't really care all that much. Visit the link to see this travesty in rather large scans, including other custom models for the Atom, Green Lantern and Aquaman.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

1967 Justice League of America Aquaman Game by Hasbro



We've had the 1967 Hasbro Wonder Woman Game, and the Flash Game, so it's probably about time to finish the set with Aquaman. There's no miscolored Martian Manhunter fighting crudely drawn dragons or aliens this time, just the same box cover headshot from previous editions. In fact, and I'm ashamed as a die hard fan to have to point this out, but the Sea King was too selfish to share his game board with anybody. Aquaman battles a school of sharks alone. Aquaman battles giant crustaceans alone. Aquaman battles divers armed with harpoons alone. Aquaman even battles his own crudely drawn dragon alone. When he gets back to the Aquacave, the only living thing with him is the pink mutant porpoise he's astride.

I think it should be noted Aquaman got married and had a baby around this time. I guess even the Scion of the Seven Seas needs to blow off some steam lone seawolf sometimes. Maybe if Aqualad were more of a man, he could have come along for some "guy time."

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

JLA Classified #21 (Late June 2006)



China:

Superman held Soldat at bay, as the soldier's energy blades could slice through even his skin of steel. At Soldat's command, Ghost Lion redirected his attacks toward the Man of Tomorrow, siccing manifestations of Phantom Zone Criminals on him. Green Lantern John Stewart confronted Dybbuk, Wonder Woman focused on Marieke, and the rest continued their dances of death with the previous issue's partners.

The Manhunter from Mars knelt before the body of the soldier he had just shot dead for being infected with the Starro virus. "Forgive me. If there had been another way... I'm calling to you now. Peace is within me. Come to me. A flood of tiny Starros flew out of the corpse's mouth...

Recognizing their stalemates, the Wally West Flash helped Wonder Woman beat Marieke. The Amazing Amazon then took out Dybbuk, freeing Green Lantern to pursue Velocista with ring-generated missiles. Flash followed up by rescuing Batman from Jin Si, and though bloodied, the Dark Knight handled Soldat and aided Superman against Ghost Lion.

The battle won, Martian Manhunter returned all smiles, having pursued Batman's gambit to a successful outcome. "I used my mental powers to cause a soldier to believe I'd shot him. Being semi-intelligent brain parasites, the miniature Starros also were deceived. As hoped, they left the now seemingly useless host body, and entered the nearest living thing. Myself. Fortunately, China is one of the largest producers of the very thing we first used to defeat Starro; lime." John Stewart asked how J'Onn had avoided succumbing to the Conqueror Strain himself. "Just because they prey on the mind doesn't make them smart, Green Lantern. I simply kept moving my brain. I believe it was in my right calf when I immersed myself in the mineral powder."

Manhunter repeated this process to free the Hypothetical Army from the Strain, using his telepathy to learn from them the location of General Dvory Tuzik's headquarters. Soldat explained that his group had been freedom fighters, and wanted to help bring Tuzik to justice. That would not be a simple matter, as Tuzik had ingested his remaining potions, armored himself, and in so doing become a walking monstrosity. Swollen into a hulking figure, with elements of power clearly derived from Amazo, the Metal Men, Ocean Master, Prometheus and more, the General resisted. However, the various attributes of Tuzik's new powers were not compatible, leaving Tuzik struggling to move and to think. A Chinese loyalist tried to rescue the Hypothetical Woman during the melee, but Tuzik struck out at her from a distance. Without her, the Hypothetical Army would soon die, while Tuzik had doomed himself to a swift death through his power cocktail. Finally, Green Lantern had convinced Tuzik's son Azir to face his father, and assume command of his nation.

In her final moments, the Hypothetical Woman "forgave" General Tuzik, sending his mind to a simulation of the Hell, while taking the Army back with her into an astral Heaven."

Azir Tuzik assumed the presidency, and honored the JLA for their help. Batman, his right arm in a sling, promised Azir that he'd meet his father's fate if he didn't continue walking a different path.

"After the Fire!" was scripted by Gail Simone, penciled by José Luis García-López, and inked by Sean Phillips.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

2009 Dave Grote Jr. Despero Headshot

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Here's a perfect example of why artists rarely want to draw the Silver/Bronze Age Despero-- all those scales! One day, George Pérez will draw this guy battling Aquaman and Captain America, but until then, weep for Dave Grote Junior's attention to detail.

Monday, December 14, 2009

2005 Justice League "Heart and Minds" Despero Custom Figure

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Sad to say, not only haven't I seen the 2003 (Season 2, 9th & 10th) episodes of the animated Justice League series that featured Despero, but I only just learned tonight that he also starred in an episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold earlier this year. So after you check out Victor Kraven's custom Despero page, which has a second image and explains how he made it, try the clips from B:TB&TB out. They feature a script by blog favorite J.M. DeMatteis. For the record, I'm down with both redesigns...



Sunday, December 13, 2009

JLA Classified #20 (Early June 2006)



China:

Batman was, by his own admission, "being beaten to a bloody pulp" by Jin Si, while escaping into his own mind to consider evidence in this case.

The Flash, still recovering from the Conqueror Strain, struggled to evade being cut to ribbons by Velocista.

Wonder Woman was doing her best not to harm the mind-controlled army, while fending off Dybbuk, who was commanding her own lasso to choke her.

Martian Manhunter was doing much the same, under added stress from Dr. "Kitty" Faulkner, who passed along electronically the news that Starro had become immune to Green Lantern's stasis field. The Conqueror Strain carriers in Three Sisters, Oregon had begun killing medical staff, and Faulkner had learned the government planned on bombing the region off the map. The Martian Marvel telepathically communicated this development to Batman, who was in the process of being kicked in the face. The Alien Atlas next reconnected mentally with Starro from afar. "It remembers our... our mental... link..." The Starro-virus screamed painfully into J'Onn's brain, "NO TRUCE"

Meanwhile, in Metropolis, Green Lantern John Stewart found the son of General Dvory Tuzik, Azir, working as a dishwasher. Stewart could relate to such lousy jobs from when he was paying his way through college, and acknowledge Azir had been among those who petitioned the U.N. to remove his father from power. At seventeen, Azir could walk away from a life of luxury to uphold his principles, but still lacked the courage to face his father. Still, Green Lantern left him a ring construct that would allow the junior Tuzik to contact him, if needed.

The Manhunter from Mars wished to help his comrades, but Batman said plain that they were expendable, and the pursuit of an alternate plan was paramount. "I understand what I have do. There's no choice, now. The Martian snatched an infected soldier by his collar, and flew off the battlefield.

Marieke swallowed Wonder Woman up in a sea of her own making, while Ghost Lion told the tale of the Titanic, and set a recreation of the infamous ship upon Diana.

Superman saw the worsening conflict at a distance with his vision powers, and extorted permission to operate within China from the obstinate official. While the Dark Knight bled and the Amazon Princess fell, the Man of Steel and Emerald Architect joined the fight.

In an isolated room, J'Onn J'Onzz expressed his deepest regrets to his bound captive. "...This is war, and every moment's delay will mean innocent lives." The Manhunter from Mars then cocked an automatic pistol, placed it to the soldier's brow, and shot him dead...

"Conduct Unbecoming" was scripted by Gail Simone, penciled by José Luis García-López, and inked by Sean Phillips.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Despero's jetboat


During his assault on the capitol city of the planet Sirkus, Despero navigated the waters of the world with a jet-powered airboat. Though Despero commanded a force of Eel-Creatures and his own considerable powers from the jetboat, the craft itself seemed to be unarmed.

First Appearance: Justice League of America #133 (8/76)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Jasonar



Alter Ego: Jasonar
Occupation: Scientist, Revolutionary
Marital Status: Unknown
Known Relatives: Saranna (daughter)
Group Affiliation: None
Base of Operations: Kalanor
First Appearance: Justice League of America #1 (October/November 1960)
Height: Approx. 5'0"
Build: Paunchy
Eyes: Gray
Hair: Pale Green

History:
After the three-eyed tyrant Despero took control of their home world and enslaved their people, Jasonar and his daughter Saranna fled from Kalanor in a dimensional traveler. Arriving on Earth, the pair worked for several days out of an abandoned farmhouse to complete Jasonar's anti-weapon against Despero's energy-based arsenal. While testing the device, the pair inadvertently disabled the automobile of police scientist Barry Allen as he was driving past their shelter. As the speeding super-hero the Flash, Allen discovered the aliens, and learned of their plight. The Flash signaled his teammates in the Justice League of America for help, and while they waited for a response, Jasonar explained how his devices worked.

Suddenly, Saranna was struck by a teleportation beam, but Jasonar and Flash were immune due to a blue glowing radiation given off by the dimensional traveler. The Flash raced to secure Jasonar, his anti-weapon, and the dimensional traveler in a hidden cave. The men agreed to periodically expose themselves to the traveler's radiation to protect themselves against Despero. While the Flash was confronted by Despero at the Justice League's headquarters, Jasonar remained in hiding to concentrate on his anti-weapon.

After Despero cheated in a game of supposed chance and dispatched the Justice League to other dimensional worlds, he used his sonoscillator to crisscross Earth and locate Jasonar. At that moment, in his cave hideout, Jasonar perfected his energy-absorber. However, Despero captured Jasonar before the anti-weapon could be used against him, and stated his intention to instead direct the energy-absorber toward conquering Earth. Through the intervention of Snapper Carr, a young associate of the Justice League, the anti-weapon was employed against the dimensional tyrant that was its original target.

Defeated, Despero returned as Jasonar's captive to Kalinor, where the scientist surgically removed the third eye from which the despot derived his powers. Jasonar enrolled Despero in a rehabilitation program, and believing him to be reformed, saw Despero assigned to a scientific research laboratory. Unbeknownst to Jasonar, Despero's third eye regenerated, allowing him to fake his own death and escape Kalinor. Despero was soon recaptured by the Justice League of America, and has not been known to trouble Jasonar or his daughter since.

Powers:
Jasonar could communicate through telepathy.

Personality:
Friendly, overly trusting, and idealistic.

Weapons:
Jasonar's anti-weapon could absorb "energy as a sponge does water." The anti-weapon rifle could rob its target of all motion and strength, including living beings.

Vehicles:
Jasonar possessed a dimensional traveler craft, which allowed him to visit any dimension he so chose. A blue aura of unknown radiation emitted by the traveler could temporarily render Jasonar and others in its presence immune to Despero's powers and weapons.

Quote: "Now Despero will be as other men on Kalanor, honest and good! He has reformed completely!"

Created by Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky

Thursday, December 10, 2009

JLA Classified #19 (Late May 2006)



The first six members of General Dvory Tuzik's mind-controlled Hypothetical Army, created from a resurrected dissident group, spread the Conqueror Strain through China. Their members included:
  • Soldat: Former rebel leader Erich Cross, turned into the ultimate soldier, who could manifest energy blades capable of cutting through anything.
  • Marieke: Cross' former lover, turned cold-blooded water elemental.
  • Dybbuk: Mischievous manipulator of matter.
  • Velocista: A super-speedster who left razor shards of frozen Speed Force energy in her wake.
  • Ghost Lion: Who could create ectoplasmic manifestations of the subjects of fairy tales he would relate.
  • Jin Si: Mistress of martial arts.


Meanwhile, in Three Sisters, Oregon, the Manhunter from Mars condensed his mass to microscopic size and embarked on a fantastic voyage into the body of a Conqueror Strain carrier. For those keeping score, this is the second time the Martian Marvel has replicated the powers of an absent Leaguer in this arc, now subbing for the Atom.

"Starro, conqueror of worlds... we need to talk... Creature... I am not here to fight. I wish to know who it is who has imposed his will upon you. Who is using you, Starro? What has made you their slave? ...I open my mind to you, regardless of the consequences... It's trying... It's adapting. Virus-like, it's attempting to mutate. It wants to be heard. It shouts." Eventually, through a wave of information, J'Onzz gleaned the key term, "'General.' He said, "general.'" Before departing the carrier, the Manhunter made his position clear, emphasized through fangs, "One last thing, creature. I won't see another world die. Our truce ends once I leave this body. And the League goes back to being your species' only natural predator."

The League thought the general could be Zod, or the Shaggy Man that was once Wade Eiling, but Batman knew better. "Tuzik." The Dark Knight Detective determined that most of their foes target Superman first, not Flash or Wonder Woman. "Of all of us, you were the two who put your hands on him." Placed in a politically awkward position, Superman petitioned the deaf ears of a Chinese official, while Wonder Woman challenged the entire Starro-infected army to battle. Other Leaguers followed her lead, to their peril. The Hypothetical Army made the scene, and though Soldat was struggling against his mind control, still ordered his team to kill the JLA.

"The Politics of Heaven" was scripted by Gail Simone, penciled by José Luis García-López, and inked by Sean Phillips. Continuing a trend from the previous installment, the emphasis on the Hypothetical Army gives the strong feeling of a "backdoor pilot." Sean Phillips maintained the incongruously raw inking over the usually smooth García-López that had begun under Klaus Janson, but did so in a more subtle fashion. Not my favorite way to handle the art chores, but at least it was a more palatable course.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Despero's Super-Ship


A large robotic Super-Ship was used by Despero during his war against the planet Sirkus. Its metallic hide could resist super-human blows, though not indefinitely. The robot's groping "hands" could move with force enough to stun the Man of Steel. The dome from which Despero piloted the ship proved ineffectual in fending off a laser beam, however, and was shattered. From there, the Super-Ship was slowly dismantled, before crash-landing into oblivion.

First Appearance: Justice League of America #133 (August 1976).

Monday, December 7, 2009

JLA Classified #18 (Early May 2006)



For years, after superhuman battles, governments and private industry cleaned up the messes and studied the artifacts. Today, our heroes would face the consequences of their lack of oversight with regard to these alien biological weapons, futuristic technologies and so forth. General Dvory Tuzik had sent the reverse-engineered "contingency plans" of his benefactor nations to Santa Prisca as a fleet. The Martian Manhunter noted, "Tamaranean ships, yes, or at least, for the most part. They carry some components that seem to mimic those in the ship that crashed in Metropolis during the Final Night affair." More fearsome, the other threat appeared to be "Three Chemos. Perhaps it is time to call in the reservists." Superman felt there were no reservists he'd position against such a toxic threat, indicating this was a job suited for just two of the most powerful heroes on Earth.
"Forgive my sudden change of appearance. A sheddable layer of dermal armor seemed prudent. And I understand, Kal-El. Completely."
"As always... it's my honor to fight with you, J'Onn."

In China, the small dissident band against General Dvory Tuzik were executed, but their essence visited the Hypothetical Woman on some ethereal plane. "I'm an accidental detour for those who die in my presence." She could restore the group to life, with the gift of metahuman powers, but "Tuzik... he waits for your return, with the means to control your minds." The crew would take their chances, hoping to inevitably free themselves and the world from the despot. At the same time, Tuzik's hosts began to object to his gambit, but were informed "I have your country... Inform the Politiburo... China belongs to me-- and my Hypothetical Army!"

As night fell over Santa Prisca, Batman recovered, and forced the pilot of a Tamaranean ship to eject so that he could take it for himself. Superman asked, "You... read that, J'Onn?"
"Yes. That's... very comforting."

At the Watchtower, Wonder Woman caught the Flash in her Lasso of Truth, forcing him to see through the Starro-virus' control to the "vibrational frequency that would burn them out of my cells." Wally West then abducted the remaining Tamaranean ship pilots from their vehicles, sending them crashing into the ocean. Meanwhile, the Amazing Amazon helped Superman and Martian Manhunter drag the Chemos off-world by her lasso. The Man of Steel confided, "Chemo wasn't a sentient being... We felt no guilt ripping it into pieces... and burning the remains. We don't get to cut loose like that, as a group, very often. God help me, it was actually fun. For a group formed at least partially for want of companionship, this feels like a rare moment."

The team, including the revived Green Lantern, took a breather at the Watchtower to compare notes. They enjoyed a drink and "a Themysciran confection, sweetened with pomegranate. My mother's recipe." John Stewart and Wally West were shocked and frightened by Wonder Woman's baking, but J'Onn J'Onzz dove right in. He also confirmed through telepathic scan that the captured pilots were "infected by the Conqueror Strain." Batman broke up the meeting so the team could get to work, but made clear, "Diana, Alfred will need that recipe."

"Salvage The Steel Heart" was scripted by Gail Simone, who allows the reader and story a halfway mark break. The beginnings of her distinct take on Wonder Woman can be found here, and would reappear when she took over that character's title. Her Flash seems to have been strongly informed by the hothead of Marv Wolfman's New Teen Titans and Mike Baron's solo relaunch. I believe she was already working on a Superman title by that point, so he's as one would expect. Batman here is a second-guessing bossy ass, but with a welcome sense of humor, recalling Mike W. Barr's work. Her Green Lantern John Stewart's dialogue makes it clear he's not just a miscolored Hal Jordan, most in line with his animated series incarnation, but given less to do. Finally, her Martian Manhunter is fine, if a bit of an aggressive Mister Spock.

José Luis García-López, the beloved illustrated of countless pieces of DC Comics merchandise and entirely too few comics, is at less than his iconic best here. I believe this was due to the choice to pair him with raw, gritty inkers, represented by Klaus Janson in the first half, which concluded this issue.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

JLA Classified #17 (April 2006)



While the Starro-infested Flash continued acting like "a super-speed addict going through detox," the Martian Manhunter suggested, "Perhaps if Green Lantern enclosed him in a stasis field...?"
"That's the bad news, J'Onn. I did already. This is what the Flash looks like slowed down as much as the ring can make him."

Though the Starro-virus had been quarantined, the situation and the League were found suspect by media and world leaders. Many of those same officials had lent their metahuman contingency plans to General Tuzik, who proceeded to blackmail them with their own innovations. Santa Prisca refused, and then found its population in the grip of terrible seizures. Wonder Woman volunteered to stay with the Flash while the rest of the team investigated.
"Diana, if you'd prefer that I stay..."
"This task is appointed to me, J'Onn. Go."
After all, should worse come to worst, an Amazon was better prepared to end Wally West's suffering, if it came to that.

Outside the capitol city, the divided JLA began experience serious discomfort, requiring them to maintain contact electronically. "Whatever it is, it's affecting me, as well, despite my Martian cellular structure. My vision and telepathy seem particularly impaired. Whatever's doing this, it's fatal to wildlife. Superman, be cautious."
"There are two million people in this city, J'Onn-- caution be damned."

While the Man of Steel and the Emerald Architect surveyed the city, the Sleuth from Outer Space inspected the local waters. "At depths of ten meters, the fish are swimming in irregular patterns, but they're alive. At twenty, they're unaffected. Doesn't take Aquaman to figure these fish out... the effect is coming from above." Green Lantern John Stewart fought to concentrate enough to track the broadcast source, while Superman compelled Batman and Martian Manhunter to stay outside the effect field. J'Onn J'Onzz regretfully declined.

At the Watchtower, Flash broke loose from stasis and was influenced to attack Wonder Woman. Thinking like an echinoderm, the Amazing Amazon was able to predict how the mind-controlling space starfish would maneuver the Scarlet Speedster, and struck him down.

Batman and Manhunter continued arguing their continued intervention against Superman's protests. The Dark Knight Detective linked the effect to the Key, recognizing a second instance of "past... enemies. Coming to haunt us somehow." However, the Caped Crusader succumbed to the satellite transmissions, which Green Lantern just managed to demolish from space before Stewart himself fell victim. The Martian Marvel struggled to lift a bus off crushed innocents, while the Last Son of Krypton fought to safely water land a falling jet plane.

In China, a team of well-equipped dissidents assaulted General Dvory Tuzik's headquarters, but were swiftly captured.

"Blood Is Not Enough" was scripted by Gail Simone, penciled by José Luis García-López, and unfortunately inked Klaus Janson.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

DesperCameo: Justice League of America #239 (June, 1985)



After the Detroit-era Justice League rescued Superman, Wonder Woman and the Flash (Barry Allen) from the U.S.S.R., the representatives of two JLofA incarnations had a pow-wow at the Bunker. Aquaman was forced by Superman to justify his disbanding the original Justice League of America.

...You weren't here. Neither was Green Lantern. During the Earth-Mars War, the League fought at half strength... and it was only through the aid of J'Onn J'Onzz that the Martian attack was eventually turned back...

There was a time when the League stood as a symbol... 'the World's Greatest Heroes,' the press called us, gathered to stand in common cause against injustice. Do you remember how it was back then? The seven of us... the original League...

We faced each threat as a team, together, and the League was our highest priority. In those early days, none of us missed a crisis. We depended on each other, and we were always there.

As time passed, the League grew... adding more and more members to our roll call-- and yes, losing members as well. J'Onn J'Onzz was the first to resign; the Batman, the last. And somewhere along the way, that original sense of purpose and commitment was lost as well. For some of us, the League was no longer our first priority... sometimes, not even our second.

What happened during the Earth-Mars War was only the most recent, most obvious example of a continuing trend. Isn't it obvious? The League was already dead, at least in the original sense. I simply signed the death certificate.

Friday, December 4, 2009

JLA Classified #16 (March 2006)



Every now and again, some no good writer will take the greatest super-hero team of all time, and pit them against some penny-ante third world dictator to make some labored political point, or just because they have the imagination of a goldfish. General Dvory Tuzik was not the product of such a limited mind.

At the unanimous request of the United Nations Security Council, the JLA was allowed entry into a sovereign nation to engage its army and apprehend its leader. Wally West, ever right leaning, cursed General Tuzik at length for his many atrocities. J'Onn J'Onzz helped cool his overheated head. "Not to worry, Flash. With thousands of his subjects willing to testify, General Tuzik here will be adding another title to his name-- 'convicted war criminal.'" However, "While you were planning your illegal assault on my rule... my ambassador brokered a deal for clemency and peaceful exile in my choice of eight nations on three continents. Once there, I shall enjoy a retirement of wealth, liquor, very young women, and fine cigars, morning 'til night." Not only that, but a Leaguer would have to serve as his escort to insure his safe passage. Wonder Woman volunteered to fly the General to his new home in China.

Back at the Watchtower, the Flash continued to argue for interventionism, while the League observed heavy media criticism of their politically-charged mission. Meanwhile, via teleconference, General Tuzik used the fears of world leaders to his advantage. "Each country has at least a rudimentary counter-meta contingency... If your plan fails, then you bring down a wrath no human army can stay... Let me take the risk. I have no country. I am already in exile... Give me your doomsday measures, and I promise... I will again make this a world of men!"

Three months later in Three Sisters, Oregon, the entire town began acting in a strange concert. Investigating, the Flash got close enough to be kissed, and soon fell victim to a virus that threw his powers into overdrive. The JLA took measures to quarantine the town and take care of their own. Under Batman's guidance, Green Lantern John Stewart constructed a microscope with his ring to investigate the cause of the Scarlet Speedster's feverish state. "My God... he's full of Starro!" Countless microscopic reproductions of the mind conquering alien starfish were swimming through the hero's body.

In China, General Dvory Tuzik saw to the continued maintenance of his greatest asset, the Hypothetical Woman. "In short-- she gives birth to gods!"

"Never Brought To Mind" was expertly scripted by Gail Simone, daringly penciled by José Luis García-López, and butchered by inker Klaus Janson.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

2007 Despero Convention Sketch by Danielle Corsetto

Click To Enlarge


All day, I'd been planning a substantial post for tonight. It was either going to be the first chapter of "The Hypothetical Woman," or a retrospective of Despero's earliest appearances with extensive commentary. Instead, everything went to heck once I got home, and I just want to throw something at the wall. So, here's a cute sketch by Danielle Corsetto of girls with slingshots webcomic fame. She's also got a great big gallery of comic art here.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

2009 The Martian Manhunter Archives Volume 4 Biographies Page by Tom Hartley

Click to Download PDF


"I know this is overkill and of course you don't have to post it, but here it is anyway:"

Tom wasn't confident the Idol-Head would be interested in another biography page, this one detailed enough to address cover artists. I figure, he put in the work, it relieves a repetition in the links menu for his mock Archive Editions, I could use a day off, and who wouldn't benefit from learning more about the underrated Dick Dillin? You can download the PDF here.

BIOGRAPHIES

JOE CERTA
Artist Joe Certa began his comics career in the mid-1940s. He worked for DC throughout the 1950s and 1960s, drawing the Robotman and Captain Compass back-up features in DETECTIVE COMICS, and every one of the John Jones, Manhunter from Mars stories, which ran in issues #225-326 and continued in HOUSE OF MYSTERY #143-173. Much of his later work was for Gold Key on various horror and mystery titles, including the comics adaptation of the TV show, Dark Shadows. Certa died in 1986.

DICK DILLIN
Soon after graduation from high school, Dick Dillin enlisted in the army, serving overseas for a year and a half with 8th Army Headquarters in Tokyo and Yokohama. He began his professional career doing portraits and magazine illustrations and eventually turned to comics. He worked for DC Comics on BLACKHAWK, JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA and WORLD’S FINEST COMICS, among other titles. Dillin died in 1980.

JACK MILLER
Jack Miller was a DC editor from 1964-1969, handling such titles as STRANGE ADVENTURES, INFERIOR FIVE, MANIAKS, WONDER WOMAN and various romance titles. From the 1940s through much of the 1960s he also wrote comics, especially for DC, including such features as Deadman, Blackhawk, Aquaman, Batman, Jimmy Olsen, Congo Bill, and John Jones, Manhunter from Mars. He also wrote novels and nonfiction works, and some TV animation. Miller died in 1970.

SHELDON MOLDOFF
Sheldon Moldoff sold his first cartoon at age 17 and soon afterward became an assistant to Batman creator Bob Kane, a working relationship which lasted nearly 30 years. He was one of the main Batman artists in the 1950s and 1960s. He also did non-Batman work for DC Comics, including the Hawkman and Black Pirate features in the 1940s, and many other features throughout his lengthy comics career. After leaving comics in 1967 he went into film production, working on numerous animated projects. He also produced comic books for chain restaurants such as Burger King and Red Lobster.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Who's Who Vol.VI: Despero (August, 1985)



By 1985, I'd already been collecting comics for a number of years, though the closest I'd come to a comic shop was booths at flea markets. Most of my purchases were from the Marvel Comics Group, and typically off the newsstand at 7-11. I was and remain a huge fan of reference books like The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe (Deluxe Edition, 'natch,) but I only ever saw Who's Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe at bookstores like B.Dalton and Waldenbooks. My first issue was the sixth, and it was a whole different world from the Marvels I adored... a lame, weird, stupid world.

The first page of your average Marvel Handbook would feature a super hero or villain with a slick, modern design. They would be drawn by the creme of the contemporary crop in a style guide approved pose, with the glorious embellishment of Joe Rubenstein to provide a uniform standard of quality. There would be a brick of well organized text to inform you of all the basics of the character. At the bottom would be a spotlight panel taken from a previous comic, or if it was a Handbook of the Dead issue, the character's death blow. Repeat formula for something like 48-64 pages, and put a wide smile on a young geek's face.

My first issue of Who's Who opened to a boring feature on the Daily Planet offices, as drawn by that master of the bland, Curt Swan. Next, six pages of interesting futuristic characters from various sci-fi and fantasy series, all canceled before the end of the decade. Here were pin-up shots, with monochromatic backgrounds that took up too much space for there to be detailed biographical information. Deadman looked okay, but the next page was divided by two villains, a sign of disrespect that Marvel only showed to alien races and the very least distinguished members of super-teams. The Deep Six were ridiculous looking fish-insects, Deimos wore a skirt, the Demolition Team were laughable, the Demon was neutered by Kirby... when Demonia of the Omega Men is a sudden bright spot, your universe is in serious trouble. Right after DeSaad, a.k.a. old pervert in a bathrobe, was the finny idiot you see above. That's right, the pink guy with a third eye, on a page facing Destiny and Detective Chimp. Repeat for 32 pages, and prepare to be mocked by even the least sophisticated audiences. I didn't buy another issue until years later.

Despero was drawn in a rare outing by writer Len Wein, who I don't recall ever producing a script for the Kalanorian ruler. I assume inker Dick Giordano had a hand in making Despero unusually decent, while still a joke on two legs. Note that his gloves, which are normally of identical color to his outfit, are mistaken for blue. R.E. S. P. E. C. T. After a showing like this, I remained almost exclusively a New Teen Titans follower until Byrne took over Superman.

Nearly a quarter century later, and I'm still getting over all those years where I bought almost nothing but DC Comics, obsessing over Post-Crisis minutia. I now run a blog devoted to one of their B-List characters, and will spend a good chunk of a month covering one of my first examples for why I rarely bothered reading DC in my early years. I learned much later that Despero has always been a pretty solid villain, and for a long while there, quite the nemesis to the Martian Manhunter. Far more than Malefic, I see Despero as a mirror reflection of how J'onn J'onzz could have gone very wrong, and certainly more worthy of the spotlight. Don't worry though-- I couldn't fit all my Despero coverage into one month if I tried, so the blog should be pretty evenly split with Martian Manhunter. There's always next year, and the year after that, and the year after that. In truth, I need at least a half month just to keep up with my ever expanding catalog of Despero stuff to cover...