Saturday, January 2, 2010

New Year's Evil

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Happy New Year, everybody! Hopefully, you'll all be voting in this month's survey for which Martian Manhunter villains you would like to read about at the Idol-Head of Diabolu. I've neglected the popular Vile Menagerie, the "rogues gallery" page dating back to my late 90s Manhunter site, for far too long. I'll be sure to knock out several new biography pages, as well as filling in gaps in the story synopses for key villains. This is the month we'll be bringing on the bad guys!

As for the Vile Menagerie itself, the following art from Martian Manhunter #1,000,000 by Tom Mandrake has graced the main page online since about 1999:
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Every single one of these creeps was created by Mandrake and writer John Ostrander for the only Martian Manhunter ongoing series to ever see print. At the top left is Malefic, a creation I dislike greatly, but undeniably one of the most recognizable Manhunter villains of the last decade. I've avoided dealing with Malefic for almost 2 1/2 years worth of daily Idol-Head posts, but I feel I must bow to the pressure of expectation and finally give the guy his due here.

Next is "The Headman," which I guess someone realized was a name that conjured rather sordid imagery, so he was redubbed The Headmaster in his single full length appearance. Not a bad concept actually, and to my mind a fair sight better than Malefic, but he's so far been consigned to the scrapheap of history.

At bottom right is Bette Noir, one of the most prolific Manhunter from Mars femme fatales. She appeared in an early issue of the series, again at its end, and even wrangled a guest appearance elsewhere. I like her well enough, and its about time I gave Bette some attention here.

At center/left is The Pyre, who as I noted in their spurious Vile Menagerie entry, have yet to be paid off as anything more than an foreshadowing image.

Point being, a decade on, few of these characters came of much. They never represented the full breadth of the Vile Menagerie's history, and the image was long overdue to be retired. The Vile Menagerie returned to the internet after roughly a five year absence on Wednesday, September 5, 2007, the fifth day of this blog's existence. By Friday, July 18, 2008, I was ready to replace it with this:



As soon as I saw this Carlos Pacheco/Jesus Merino splash page from Justice League of America #21, I knew I wanted to repurpose it for the ongoing link button to the Vile Menagerie. However, I could never quite get it to work right in that capacity, and felt guilty about dumping the old Mandrake image. It has instead sat mothballed as the introductory post of a VM spotlight week, until today, when it finally assumed its destined position on the VM main page.

At top left is a Sal Velluto Despero image, him being probably my favorite artist of this contender for my favorite Martian Manhunter villain. I attempted the first ever Despero themed month recently, after two years of mere week spotlights and sporadic synopses. I'm so enamored of the three-eyed tyrant and so disappointed by my output to date, you can expect more of him this month, and an annual "December of Despero" event besides. Oh, Despero replaced Lex Luthor in the original image, a guy Manhunter has had little to do with outside the Justice League animated series.

The tiny figures at the center are Libra and the Human Flame. Libra was created as a JLofA villain in the 70s, when J'onn J'onzz was far from Earth and being published with any regularity. Libra was pretty much left alone until Grant Morrison dug him up for Final Crisis, where he orchestrated the murder of Martian Manhunter. It was purely business though, so Libra's inclusion in the Vile Menagerie remains a proposal in limbo.

The Human Flame was a lame bad guy from one random Silver Age Manhunter from Mars back-up story. Presumably, Morrison tossed through Showcase Presents: Martian Manhunter Volume One, assumed the Human Flame was the closest J'onn J'onzz had to a proper archfiend, and had him initiate the conspiracy to kill Manhunter. I resent the character, as his prominent revival only served to reinforce the presumption that there isn't a decent Martian Manhunter Rogues Gallery, an assumption I specifically created the Vile Menagerie to dispel. To date, the Human Flame has still only fought Manhunter once, to little effect, abd allowed others to do his dirty work since. He's as much a great Manhunter foe as Professor Arnold Hugo is a Batman nemesis.

At right is Super-Gorilla Grodd, one of my favorite villains in all of comics. I own his Art Adams-influenced action figure, and those DC Direct numbers aren't cheap. He's been consistently awesome for decades without becoming a parody of himself or adulterated by modern writers, no mean feat. It's a bit of a stretch to enter him into the Vile Menagerie, as he's more of a Flash or general DCU bad guy. However, he fought Martian Manhunter in JLA: Incarnations, and met his defeat by the Alien Atlas' hands at the end of the JLApe Annual Crossover. I hope writers will provide me with a bit more persuasion to let him into the club.

At bottom right was Ocean Master. While Aquaman is one of J'Onn's closer friends and a personal favorite of mine, I can't recall their ever sharing in delivering a beating to that guy. I replaced him with a Howard Porter/John Dell image from the JLA story arc "Crisis Times Five." Triumph was a mid-90s retcon who supposedly joined J'Onzz in co-founding the Justice League, only to be lost in time and forgotten. He returned during the Zero Hour event, and joined the revised Justice League Task Force. Triumph constantly fought with Manhunter over leadership of the team, before finally getting throttled and fired by the Manhunter from Mars. Triumph accidentally had his soul sold to the demon Neron, was restored in time, and lived out an even worse fate than being dismissed by the League. Through some complicated continuity, he still joined the JLTF, failed epically, was empowered by a Fifth Dimensional imp, and indefinitely sidelined as a JLA villain. Sadly, this was at a time Martian Manhunter was on leave, but their year of antagonism got Triumph into the Menagerie in a squeeker.

I added the crude Diabolu Idol-Head scan to the table, taken from a yellowed House of Mystery comic and itself in need of renovation. I wish I'd waited until Showcase Presents: Martian Manhunter Volume Two was released, as this sticks out like a sore thumb.

At center is the aforementioned Bette Noir as drawn by Tom Mandrake. She replaced the Batman babymama Talia-- mother to Damian, daughter to Rā's al Ghūl, and nothin' to Manhunter.

Finally, at bottom left is the immortal Vandal Savage, an early addition to the Menagerie. You see, Savage was a constant foe of the Justice League Task Force in the mid-to-late 90s, bringing him into direct, bloody conflict with the Martian Marvel. Retroactive continuity in the JLA Year One maxi-series held that Immortal and Martian had warred for a decade. Further, the pair were fated to be at odds for millennia according to the DC One Million event, where a fight between the pair cost Savage an eye. Unfortunately, the DC Universe is known for nothing if not impermanence. The eye was restored, the One Million continuity seems lost, and the foes have had something like one shared story since. He stays though, since that story had a evil Martian Manhunter persona called Fernus slaughtering Savage's minions in the hundreds.

Now, there's been disputes over time with who is and is not legitimately a Martian Manhunter foe. I decided that I not only wanted to focus on this question for a month, but offer up a new banner/button collage of generally indisputable John Jones-specific ne'er do wells:

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Once again, there's Bette Noir at far left by creator Tom Mandrake. She's been drawn by two other artists, but nowhere near as well. She rates as a repeat offender who is clearly Manhunter-specific, though she's also troubled Harley Quinn and D.E.O. Agent Cameron Chase.

Next is Professor Arnold Hugo, another of my very favorite Manhunter foes, as drawn by Joe Certa. It's true he was created as a Batman villain, but they only battled in one story. Hugo fought Manhunter in four Silver Age stories, a record exceeded only by the Diabolu Idol-Head and one other...

Commander Blanx is probably the single most important Martian Manhunter villain ever. Drawn here by Dick Dillin and Sid Greene, this Denny O'Neil c reation was made the reason why J'onzz came to Earth, and why he left for decades. His two appearances were both in issues of Justice League of America, but it was always clear that he was made for the Martian Marvel (unlike The Hyperclan/White Martians, who targeted the JLA as a whole.)

Following right behind is Bel Juz, another O'Neil/Dillin contribution. It can be argued Bel only physically battled Superman, and later engineered a plot against the Justice League. However, the first instance was in the context of a Manhunter team-up comic that directly related to the fate of Mars after Commander Blanx's rampage. The second story more clearly made J'onn J'onzz out to be Juz's most feared threat, in a story centering on our hero. I was trying to match Bel's head to Blanx's proportions, but she's half of the worst looking part of the banner.

At center is Mr. V, also known as Faceless, as drawn by co-creator Joe Certa. I've got all but one of this criminal mastermind's appearances covered on this blog, but little about the man, the myth, the mystery himself. Expect that to be corrected this month.

To the right is The Marshal, as drawn by Alan Kupperberg. The leader of the Red Brotherhood may have vexed the Justice League of America in a three-issue story arc, but it was all about the Alien Atlas, who was directly responsible for his defeat. Again, his head appears out of nowhere, but I wanted him included, and that's where I had the space.

Despero is arguably the least devoted of the potential Martian Manhunter rogues here. He's obviously a Justice League and general DCU villain, but fans know he reserves his most sincere hatred for the Sleuth from Outer Space. No other comic book character has interacted with Despero as much as J'Onn J'Onzz, and I'll scuffle with anyone who denies he's VM material. He's also gigantic, so the only way to realistically include this Sal Velluto image was as a somewhat distant headshot.

That tiny figure beside Despero is the Human Flame, by  Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Merino. He sucks, but he's there.

Cay'an masterminded the last Martian Manhunter mini-series, which doesn't explain her prominence here. You see, Mr. V is at the center of this banner, and he's a really stout fellow. He would obstruct anyone behind him, and therefore overwhelm the piece without another figure in the foreground. I needed a svelte character to stand in front of him that wouldn't completely dominate the remaining space. This shot by Al Barrionuevo and Bit fit the bill, even if it is PG-13 and undeserved by someone of her modest standing.

Finally, there's Tom Mandrake's Malefic, who to my chagrin, cannot be denied, In fact, I intended for him to stand next to Faceless and be more visible, but Mr. V's girth wouldn't allow it. Besides, Malefic belongs in the shadows.

So there's a pretty comprehensive overview of the Martian Manhunter Rogues Gallery I call the Vile Menagerie. Look for greater detail and a respectable showcase for the sadistic talents throughout the month...

15 comments:

LissBirds said...

I've missed a lot of these villains. Even though I read most of the Ostrander series I somehow missed Bette Noir's appearances. And I still haven't read either Final Crisis (though I know the gist) or the recent Martian Manhunter mini-series. And Commander Blanx's appearances. I've got some catching up to do.

Nice Photoshop skills, by the way.

"Presumably, Morrison tossed through Showcase Presents: Martian Manhunter Volume One, assumed the Human Flame was the closest J'onn J'onzz had to a proper archfiend."

It always seemed a little too on-the-nose for Morrison to pick The Human Flame as the one to kill J'onn. I expected a little more creativity and subtlety from Morrison in that regard. *shrugs* I guess he just figured "weakness to fire" = Human Flame as best villain?

Frank Lee Delano said...

Liss:

How could you miss Bette Noir? She was the one with the massive milky white bre-- um-- cheekbones. Anyway, she'll be appearing here this month.

I read all of the main Final Crisis series, plus Requiem and a few extras. If you've got the gist, you need to stop hoarding it, because it seems to have been in short supply.

I just bought the last MM mini, but haven't read anything past the first issue I bought when it came out.

Commander Blanx is in two relatively inexpensive JLofA back issues. I believe #71 is in a Showcase volume, but #144 may be a while, if ever. The latter is wonderful though, especially for continuity geeks.

No Photoshop was used in the production of this banner. That was straight up old school Microsoft Paint, though I used a tablet and had Nero Photosnap on hand to spruce up the scans.

I'd guess Morrison picked the Human Flame for some metaphoric/metatextual/methamphetamine reason. He said as much in interviews at the time, but didn't elaborate as much as I would have liked.

Tom said...

Best banner ever. (Despite the absence of Human Squirrel.)

Tom said...

And this month would be a good time to post my 5th and final imaginary Archive volume, which deals with Vulture.

LissBirds said...

Bwahahaha. I would've noticed her becuase of the purple eyeshadow, actually. I read her Harley Quinn appearances--which was actually a really good John Jones/Diane Meade story, IMHO. I'd rather like to see more stories along that line.

"If you've got the gist, you need to stop hoarding it, because it seems to have been in short supply."

It took me a while to get that. Ha! All I meant is I know J'onn dies, and somehow Libra and The Human Flame are involved. I don't have any transcendent understanding of Grant Morrison, unfortunately. (Or fortunately?)

This is sort of off-topic, but I clicked on the links you provided to the Martian Manhunter Fotolog. Over on the left they posted screen caps from the Robot Chicken episode that had a JLA spoof, which I then proceeded to watch. Did anyone happen to catch that? I can't believe J'onn had such a high profile on that skit. Usually when you see the JLA references in pop culture, he's either absent or somewhere in the background.

Frank Lee Delano said...

Tom-- bring it on.

Liss-- I haven't caught that Robot Chicken episode. I'll have to take a look at it. They're big 'ol comic geeks there, so J'Onn showing up isn't completely bewildering, but a nice surprise.

LissBirds said...

Can't wait, Tom! Though actually I can, because I have to hurry up and read those issues first!

Frank, here's the link:

http://video.adultswim.com/robot-chicken/bring-a-sidekick-to-work-day.html

Enjoy the juvenile antics.

Tom said...

Liss, your reading assignment for Vol. 5 is pp. 362-592 of the 2nd Showcase volume (House of Mystery #151-173).

mathematicscore said...

As I alluded to in the previous post, I rather like the Human Flame. Also, I rather like Grant's other reason for choosing him, that is 'extinguishing' the Human Flame is Darkseids ultimate goal.
Grodd, I could not agree more. Love him. also, he was MM's antagonist in J'onn's featured issue of Ross and Kruegers Justice Mini.

Triumph I would take issue with since he was never really a villian, at worst I consider him an jerk and eventually an unwitting pawn.
Cay'an would need some redoing before I fully approved, but hey, she's part of the family, so, what can you do?

In summation, LOVIN IT.

mathematicscore said...

Oh, and I almost forgot, on the subject of Martian Manhunter villains and Martian Manhunter in general, here is an intersting article about an ideal take on MM from some acedemic/Morrison devotees on http://mindlessones.com/2009/04/19/heroic-hype-martian-manhunter/

Some interesting ideas to say the least.

Frank Lee Delano said...

M.C., I picked up the back half of Justice for $.50-1 each, but was unaware of the latest Grodd match-up. This information pleases me. I might even let it sucker me into a trade.

The thing with Triumph is that he has serious potential as a villain, where he was less than notable as a hero. I'd love to see him accept an offer from Vandal Savage, or use his Doc Savage style agents in a more morally questionable manner. Of course, it's just as likely his mini-series never happened, since I recall Neron's spell wiped out his fortune. Then there's the whole "being dead" thing, but I won't buy that until he shows up as a Black Lantern. Seriously, when you lack enough regard to appear in a Blackest Night tie-in, you've just taken Professor Hugo's seat in comic book hell.

I still haven't read the last mini-series, but I read of Cay'an earlier today, and she seems promising. Kind of a reverse Commander Blanx, or maybe an even colder Marshal. Come to think of it, she's pretty much Fatality, replacing Green Lanterns with White Martians, and J'Onn's her John Stewart, it seems.

Thanks for the link! I'll read it a.s.a.p. Any blog referencing Dr. Strange rates further attention, plus they totally swiped that last image from this blog...

mathematicscore said...

Their writings on the Bat villians are also pretty interesting. Their take on Bane is appreciated, though not what I'd really highlight. On the other hand, the MM they suggest would be light years a head of most other things.

I've not read any of the satellite JLTF titles (Triumph, the Ray, extreme justice) but they're on my to do list. time will tell.

LissBirds said...

I just took a look at that article, Tom. I don't even know where to begin when it comes to analyzing it, though. If I had a dollar for ever allusion that guy makes...geez. Is he going for some kind of record or something? He has some interesting ideas, but on the whole I think he's over-intellectualizing his subject matter. Or maybe he's just trying to be funny. I can't tell which.

All I have to say is that one of my greatest pet peeves is the mis-application of philosophical terminology. People shouldn't use the word "teleological" unless they really know what it means. I've got no patience for people throwing around esoteric language just to make themselves sound like scholars. These were the kinds of people I would tear apart in my college days but I just can't be bothered now.

I also fail to see how Martian shapeshifting is a metaphorical respresentation of Cartesian Dualism. While I do think that shapeshifting is what should drive mankind's paranoia when it comes to Martians, I think this guy gets it wrong by assuming that shapeshifting scares us because it represents a primal Universal mirror of our souls. Eh. I don't know. Maybe I'm being too harsh on the guy.

mathematicscore said...

See, I rather have J'onn in pretentious overwrought hands than say, Jeph Loeb. Then again, JLI J'onn was probably the best balance, so who knows.

LissBirds said...

Nah. For the most part, I like my comics to be straightforward-hit-you-over-the-head-kind-of-obvious with only the occasional foray into the philosophical. Four years of studying philosophy and a few disgrunted semesters of grad school ate my brain...and my attention span is shrinking by the minute, to the point where eventually you'll just have to dangle a set of keys in front of me and I'll be happy. Scholars + comics = my brain hurts.