Monday, March 1, 2010

The Life and Undeath of J'Onn J'Onzz

On Monday, January 14th, 2008, Rich Johnston's CBR gossip column "Lying in the Gutters" broke the news that Martian Manhunter would likely be killed in Final Crisis. Even though my Idol-Head blog had only just begun a few months prior, I was fairly nonchalant about the news, feeling J'Onn was better dead than mangled by modern DC Comics editorial.

Within days, 1970s Manhunter from Mars artist Michael Netzer launched his popular internet campaign "Take Me... But Don't Kill J'Onn", in hopes of saving the fictional life of the super-hero he was most identified with (or at least getting to draw his send-off.) I was very happy to see Netzer produce new digital art for the effort, but ultimately, nothing more came of it. Again, outside of wanting Netzer to get work, I felt it was for the best (as evidenced by my take on how new stories would read by modern DC creators like Judd Winick and Frank Miller, repurposing their own crappy dialogue. A shame I never completed the Garth Ennis entry in the series.)

After months of speculation, J'Onn J'Onzz was murdered by Libra with the help of Effigy and Dr. Light at the request of the Human Flame on Wednesday, May 28, 2008. The J'Onn J'Onzz Memorial Service was held here that Friday.

Thanks to the soon to be completed Blackest Night mini-series, the corpse of J'Onn J'Onzz has been reanimated by a Black Lantern ring. Accessing J'Onzz's memories and powers, the deceased now serves as a soldier in a corps of the undead under the command of the Green Lantern foe Nekron. It's been generally assumed by fandom that Blackest Night's resolution will involve the true resurrection of a number of fan favorite characters, most prominently Aquaman in his classic form. There's a good probability the Martian Manhunter will also rejoin the living.

This blog has had its ups and downs over the last two years, but whether May marks the observance of the second anniversary of J'Onn's passing, or continues the celebration of his return, I hope it will more stable and entertaining by then. So many of my hopes and plans have been dashed in recent months, but I've worked throughout February and will continue in March to improve the performance of all my blogs. Here, until the outcome of Blackest Night is covered, we'll be continuing current features, looking at the path that led to J'Onn's death, and hopefully closing the book on this Black Lantern business. You may have noticed a distinct absence of Martian Manhunter material on this blog recently, and that's partially intentional. I wanted folks to miss J'Onn J'Onzz just a little bit more in this closing stretch. Either his absence will make the end of Blackest Night that much sweeter, or I'll be prepared to fill the void if things turn out tragically. Whatever the case, the Idol-Head of Diabolu will remain to remember the greatness of the Manhunter from Mars, and March will give us a chance to consider where things went wrong...


The Irredeemable Shag said...

Frank - Keep your spirits up. Your blogs are always entertaining! I'm in the same boat with Firestorm that you're in with for Martian Manhunter. It's a wait and see game right now.

I guess we'll know soon!

The Irredeemable Shag

LissBirds said...

My one secret wish for Brightest Day characters to return to their roots. Call it Silver Age sans silliness, if that's possible. That classic Aquaman image is perhaps giving me too much hope.

I'm imagining myself cracking open Brightest Day in May or whenever...there's J'onn, back to his secret identity days...he's a detective again....he's wearing a hat...everyone's happy....and there's rainbows, oh you should see the rainbows...and unicorns!'s so beautiful!

At least, that's how I picture it. That sounds pretty realistic, right?

Seriously, though. I think if DC wanted to be really smart about this they should reboot all their dead heroes back to the Silver Age. There's a reason characters were created a certain way. Any gross deviation from the original concept (in my humble opinion) is spitting on the creators who came up with those chracters. Not only that, but going back to basics provides a better entry for new readers. And comics should be fun, again, too.

Diabolu Frank said...

I mentioned this in my reply to Men In Hats Part 1, only to find mathematics core beat me to it in a comment elsewhere, but we share similar sentiments. John Jones, Manhunter of Integrity got into applying my theory of Seminal Integrity to John Jones, and I feel adherence to that formula is a big part of Geoff Johns appeal. That's why I was so hot to see an Atom blog relaunched (even if I had to do it myself): because Johns was finally getting the Tiny Titan right again. Same should hopefully be true of Aquaman, and God willing, J'Onn and the Firestorm matrix. We just won't know until we know.

LissBirds said...

Ah, just saw your comment over my way.

I've been so thrilled with the Atom lately. I've got to go searching the internet to see if I can find any interviews to see what Geoff Johns has to say about J'onn, if anything. I was reading your "Memorial Service" entry and it was interesting to see what various creators had to say. Now I need to find out Johns's view. (And I can't believe DeMatteis loves polar opposites Beetle and J'onn...I thought I was the only one out there.)

I also can't help but notice that the "Brightest Day" symbol has seven lines on it. Original JLA members, I hope?

Anj said...

I'm ready for him to come back as well. I felt he got a raw deal in Final Crisis.

Keep up the great blogging!

Diabolu Frank said...

Liss, you do recall I have an Atom blog now, so you know I'm a'diggin'.

Thanks, Anj!

Tom said...

Certain characters stay popular by changing with the times. Superman wouldn't have lasted all this time, nearly three quarters of a century, if he had remained stuck in the late 1930s. But some characters are less adaptive than others, and work best as period characters. We don't need a modern day version of Sherlock Holmes. J'Onn, despite his shape-shifting ability, is one of the less adaptive characters. The only time he had his own identity, when he wasn't a poor man's Superman, was in his early Det. John Jones stories, which were very much of their time, the late '50s. If there were any justice in this world, American Secrets would have gotten the sales it deserved and would have been followed by an ongoing series by Gerard Jones and Eduardo Barreto.

Diabolu Frank said...

Tom, I think J'Onn is a more adaptive character than you give him credit for. His time on Mars II was distinct from Superman's many tragic time-twisting returns to Krypton, and I doubt anyone would confuse him as employed in Justice League International or the Task Force with the Man of Steel. In more recent years, J'Onn's just fallen victim to bad writing and vague motivations.

LissBirds said...

I finally found your Atom blog...I kept on looking at the old URL. D'oh.

I'm gonna go kinda down the middle, leaning more towards Tom on this. I think J'onn needs to go back to his roots, and he's much better as a detective. That doesn't preclude his being adaptable, or being distinct from Superman, though, or his role as the straight man in JLI. I don't see the two as mutually exclusive: he can be a detective and spend some time superheroing. I mean, Batman does it.

Tom, I can't agree more with you about American Secrets. If that became an ongoing series, all my dreams would come true.

mathematicscore said...

I'd second that notion, as the JLA "Magnificent Seven" era showed him to be (for the most part)equal in power but distinct in personality from Superman as well. Like Captain's Marvel and Atom, he's only a Superman knockoff if you're not trying hard enough. moving up the line...
@Tom: I totally agree that characters must adapt (Superman especially) to remain relevant and entertaining. That said, I think we're going through a cycle similar to the times that spawned the golden and silver ages. Recession, uncertainty, and calls to service and greatness from our leaders. A silver agey modern DCU would be right in line. That said, with the Martian Manhunter's huge spike in popularity, a second series chronicling his 50's, 60's and 70's adventures would have to follow. The public will simply demand it! :)
@Lissbirds: Seven Lines! It seems just ridiculous enough to be exactly what Johns is going for. Really, all of them have died and been resurrected now, so I will be lamed out if that direction is not at least explored.

Diabolu Frank said...

Liss, I have Damian's consent and encouragement, but not his URL. The point is intentionally obscured for now, but as I told Shag, I'll eventually make mine distinct.

I see you're working on the "How to Write Martian Manhunter" material on your blog that I never got around to here. Between trying desperately to stick to the game plan and the inspiration of bouncing off your blog, I'll soon be on it.

"Legends of the Alien Atlas?" I'd buy that!