Friday, April 2, 2010

Brightest Day, Newest Suit

Sorry to have passed over posting the last couple days. I lapsed due to my being called away from what was intended to be an all-encompassing post-BN #8 opinion piece, but ended up as just a 2010 Brightest Day #1 Promo Ad by David Finch. I never made it back to do more than approve other folks' unread comments, so I'll have to do some reading and replying later tonight.

Due to my being wiped out, I failed to detect an html error that twice converted a paragraph I'd written about the new Martian Manhunter costume into gobbledygook. Since I doubt I'll have many readers here until after the holiday weekend, I'll break my intended post (third rewrite) in two and indulge in some R&R afterward.

To start things off, let me make I direct comparison...

Brightest Day Martian Manhunter
Steve Epting's 1990s The Vision design

So, head-to-toe, we're all happy to see the Conehead bite the dust, right? That sort of thing is fine in Natural Martian form, but looks silly on a super-hero. Worse, artists often gave J'Onn a Skrull chin, making him look like that most homogeneous of evil Marvel alien races (not to mention their direct alternate dimension parallel to J'Onn is the "Skrullian Skymaster.") Never let your knock-offs dictate your style, y'know?

Now, J'Onn J'Onzz and... what's that rarely used alias again... Victor Shade have long drawn comparisons as two characters with similar dispositions and powers who serve similar roles in their respective universes. It stands to reason they might have comparable feelings on fashion, but aside from a shared love for collared capes, it's really Red Tornado who has usually been Vision's clothing doppelganger (not to mention in far too many other areas.) I've always loved the folded down collar (of the 1980s-early 90s and the Mandrake take from the ongoing series.)  This is especially true as opposed to the goofy Dracula collar of the late '90s, which sometimes blew up like it was auditioning for a Spawn comic. You'll note that in the Vision design, the pointed collar is a lot more reserved, but it also distinctly belonging to the Vision. I love when a character can be identified even in silhouette, which can be done with Vision's popped collar & Manhunter's folded one, so I hate to invite confusion by swiping from the synthezoid. You may also notice that instead of the heavy, thick cape Manhunter has worn off-and-on since Adam Hughes drew him, his drapery now looks more like thin sculpted vinyl, not unlike a Joel Schumacher Batman movie outfit. The Vision rocked that look in the golden age of Chromium, so coupled with a pointy collar, J'Onn threatened a real fashion faux pas. Point being, J'Onn owns the folded collar, it's back, and that makes me happy.

The cape clasps are pretty cool, and while at first I thought I'd prefer their having the old Manhunter belt buckle "pie slices," I now think that would be too busty. I don't love the red eyes, but I don't hate them either. Like the pointy "popped" collar, it's an established and reasonable artistic choice, and I'll gladly let one slide in favor of the other. Meanwhile, thank you Lord, for not allowing another artist to slap freakin' gauntlets on J'Onn J'Onzz. This weird anomalous addition has cropped up from time to time since the '90s, and I fail to see why a shapeshifter with strength levels rivaling most any comic character would be desperate for wrist support like a pro bowler, ancient gladiator, or stocker at Wall*Mart. I assume some artists find J'Onn's arms a bit bare, but just as with the Wonder Thong, I shouldn't thinking of girlie bracelets in association with the Alien Atlas. Similarly, gloves make me think J'Onn is going to do horrible, unspeakable things from, again, out of a Joel Schumacher production. Keep the gloves and the gerbils far away from my hero, please.

The clasp between the chest straps is dubious ornamentation for a no-frills character. If you look at the Hawks, especially in the dual gatefold from Blackest Night #8, you'll notice the designs are virtually identical. J'Onn & Katar have long had similar costumes, so I kind of wish J'Onn would set the straps aside, but that isn't the case here. The Vision also typically has a big red or yellow diamond right in the center of his chest, which invites unkind comparison. While I think Bloodwynd will be looking into suing to get his Blood Gem back, I like the Alan Davis style integration of the straps into the belt. That buckle is a total bore though, so let's put a nice round "pie slice" or representation of Mars there, please.

Prior to the Epting redesign, John Byrne reworked the Vision to appear entirely white, his costume consisting only of the cape and briefs. Epting retained that blankness in his chest area, making it seem like the bare chest of old, and adding full tights with a v-shaped dip in place of the briefs. The Martian Manhunter has always been among the nakedest male heroes in comics, and like Wonder Woman going from a full skirt to a thong, J'Onn's former boxers had at times been trimmed down to an unnervingly skimpy bikini brief. Rather that "treat" us to a Martian Wedgie in the near future, Reis also offers v-trimmed tights. I'm comfortable with male nudity when it comes to a Sub-Mariner, but it seems to me the descriptive "Martian Detective" demands at least pants, if not a full suit, so I applaud this cover up. As the Manhunter from Mars began his career in longish black trunks, I think the ebon tights are appropriate.

Finally, I'm pleased to see the cavalier boots, though that's based more on the warmth of familiarity than their working well with the design. In light of a flashier design, their antiquity seems out of place. We haven't gotten a good look at them yet though, so maybe they're heavier than they look, and run long, like the aforementioned Adam Hughes take. Regardless though, this is a very solid redesign, I like it, and I think it will serve the Manhunter from Mars a lot better than any other revamp we've seen to date.


LissBirds said...

I have a feeling that somewhere down the line, that keystone-shaped part of his belt might turn into a buckle of a contrasting color, probably back to gold.

Yep, the gem thingy is way too generic. And becuase it's identical to Hawkman's, and because J'onn is now wearing pants, isn't J'onn just Hawkman without wings and with a cape?

That v-shaped waistline is all over the place...I mean, who would've thought Booster Gold and the Martian Manhunter would now share a costume similarity?

"but it seems to me the descriptive "Martian Detective" demands at least pants, if not a full suit" I always figured part of the reason for his being so scantily-clad was that being a shapeshifter, his "clothes" are really an extension of his body. (I'm ignoring the Ostrander cape-creature-pet thing for the moment.) So, less clothes means less mental effort on his part. *shrugs* Really, though I'm okay with the leggings, even though everyone else wears them. In that Finch cover, though, they look navy blue, not black, which I like better.

It's really that darned jewel thing that's driving me up the subtracts visually from the two medallions, and it's probably the reason they took the little connecting chain and the pie buckle away. He needs a better symbol than an imitation ruby cabachon.

But no conehead anymore, so beggars shouldn't be choosers, right? I should just shut my trap and be happy he's back.

Diabolu Frank said...

Today children, our vocabulary word to learn will be "cabachon."

"A cabochon or cabachon, from the Middle French caboche (head), is a gemstone which has been shaped and polished as opposed to faceted. The resulting form is usually a convex top with a flat bottom."

Liss, I'd expect that kind of book learnin'... from a girl!

Now then, let's all promise to forget about this silly zo'ok business, and recognize that as a shapeshifter, J'Onn J'Onzz is butt nekkid all the dang time. Therefore, pants or no pants, his "clothing" might as well be body paint.

mathematicscore said...

EXACTLY... I'm down with a lot of Ostranders larger ideas: The Martian Saturn connection, the Apokalips and Guardian historical connections, the multiple identities and the much maligned Malefic. Zook-as-clothing... does not compute.

Both as a misuse of a wonderful Silver Age character and a stupid idea for clothing shapeshifter.

The more I think about the center clasp the less comfortable I am with it. Ah, well.

Ryan said...

I'm really happy with this costume redesign. I love his classic look, and I never minded the full-body uniform (just not the cone head), but I think this integrates the best of both of them fairly well.

I like the red gem in the center as it resembles the red planet he hails from. The simplicity of it feels very iconic to me.

I'm thrilled he's back and hopefully he'll be a major part of Brightest Day and beyond.

LissBirds said...

"Liss, I'd expect that kind of book learnin'... from a girl!"

Bwahahaha!! Now if I get you to think jewelry! every time you see the Martian Manhunter, I've accomplished Part One of my evil girl plan. Oh, and kid you not, I had a dream last night that J'onn was on "Dancing with the Stars" and I was a judge, and I kept on trying to give him extra points even though everyone else scored him as the loser. Yep. This is what happens when estrogen mixes with comics.

"Therefore, pants or no pants, his "clothing" might as well be body paint." Which is why the "painted on" straps always made more sense to me. While it looks nice, it bugs me when some artists draw actual straps on him.

Diabolu Frank said...

M.C., I agree that Ostrander got some things right, especially the Mars-Saturn connection. While that reunification began with Morrison, Ostrander ran with it in a way that positively expanded the Martian Manhunter universe. Then he had J'Onn sleep with Jemm's fiance, but we'll sidestep that indiscretion for now.

As for "the much maligned Malefic," I think that's just me and five other guys on the internet. Everybody else either likes Malefic or doesn't care either way.

Ryan, I'm also in the minority who was generally okay with the One Year Later costume, just not the cone head. How would you feel about turning the cabachon into a representation of Mars, and moving it to his belt?

So Liss, isn't combining the painted on straps with the jewel something akin to a piercing?

mathematicscore said...

I'll add my voice to the not minding OYL costume. The cone head just wasn't working. Plus, in my mind, the conehead (ala JLI/gumbi) is effective for telepathy/communing with the universe, and should be kept private/situational.

LissBirds said...

"I think that's just me and five other guys on the internet." You can count me in that group, too. He really grates on me.

"So Liss, isn't combining the painted on straps with the jewel something akin to a piercing?" Hmm. No, I don't think so. Er...well, it is attached to his body. But a piercing right through the sternum? Owie. Let's just consider it an appliqué. (You might have to look that word up, too.)

Ryan said...

- I think the cabochon/Mars circle on his belt would work, too. I don't really mind it on his chest, but since you pointed it out, it is very similar to Hawkman's design.

More than the Vision, his new look reminds me a lot of the strange, supernatural characters of Marvel from the 70's, like Daimon Hellstrom and Doctor Voodoo.

Diabolu Frank said...

Ryan, I just looked at the splash page from Brother Voodoo's first appearance, and you called it.

Sphinx Magoo said...

I wonder if this new look is part of the design/market branding being done for the DC Universe Online game that Jim Lee is taking a huge part in. There have been some designs which have appeared recently, like Metallo in the Superman books, which struck me as not coming from the creative teams on the books. Perhaps it's a way to rebrand the current heroes so that a consistent and unified look is presented to help identify the characters.

Or I could be looking for conspiracies where there aren't any.

One more thing on the MM/Vision connection... One thing I'd noticed on the Bruce Timm JL cartoons was how MM filled the Vision role for the series, often using his powers of invisibility and (I believe) intangibility so that he'd enact "the spooky Mr. Spock" role for the JL that the Vision did for the Avengers...

Diabolu Frank said...

Sphinx, I suspect Didio's DC has been desperate to redesign Martian Manhunter the whole time. Coneheadhunter did a faceplant, so they were quick to work out a compromise that didn't involve bare legs. I doubt Jim Lee's involvement in the design though, as it lacks a headband, buckles, knee guards and a brown leather bomber jacket.

As for Timm, man oh man, from the debut "film" they were having J'Onn swipe Vision's trademark "variable density" attack. Priest borrowed shamelessly from the Vision on his Task Force issues, and Timm either picked up on that or was on the same wavelength.

mathematicscore said...

I just reread that Underworld Unleashed issue and he totally threatens to cut of the loser-who-isn't-Brimstone-or-Shrapnel's arm with his molecules. I accept it as scientifically sound, given his previous silver aged abilities.

Diabolu Frank said...

Sledge, an enemy of Guy Gardner: Warrior and Steel. I knew that from memory. God help me.