Thursday, July 15, 2010

B'rett: The Seventh Most Important Martian Manhunter Adversary

Forensic Psychiatrist Dr. Michael Stone's Scale of Evil Rank
10) Non-psychopathic killers who murder people who are “in the way”.

Why B’rett has been selected for 7th Place:
  • B’rett was the first evil Martian
When J’onn J’onzz debuted, he spoke of Mars as an idyllic society that hadn’t known war in a millennium. Almost immediately, this was disproved, as Mars had raiders and fugitive criminals for the Manhunter to contend with. Still, there was a gray area as to how far any of them went in their illegal activities. Then B’rett arrived on Earth to rob and terrorize anyone unfortunate enough to cross his path. Finally confronted by the capable opposition of the Manhunter from Mars, B’rett drew his ray gun and shot to kill. B’rett clearly had murder on his mind, and was therefore the first truly evil Martian.

  • B’rett was the first evil duplicate Martian Manhunter.
While fire may have been common enough to imperil John Jones as a story needed, the Alien Atlas just had so very many incredible powers at his disposal. At a time when J’onzz existed in a continuity all his own, there was next to nothing on Earth that could provide a true head-to-head challenge. Along came B’rett, sharing nearly every Martian power with J’onzz, and a deadly ray gun besides. Further, B’rett was virtually identical to J’onn J’onzz in costume and appearance. Without coloring, you likely couldn’t tell one from another. From B’enn B’urnzz to Malefic, B’rett set the standard for Black Manhunters.
  • B’rett was the first “colored” Martian.
It was a simple truth in the early going that all Martians had green skin, and that none of them were all that bad. J’onn J’onzz was surprised to find his first one causing trouble on Earth, and was almost apologetic about returning his “countryman” to cavity. Meanwhile, the yellow-skinned B’rett was immediately met with distrust and anger. B’rett validated J’onzz’s concerns, but he did so as the first off-color Martian of the strip, and one now clearly in the minority. I doubt Denny O’Neil was influenced by this story, but it stands as an early indicator of the racial tensions that would define later Martian lore.
  • B’rett is the only yellow-skinned Martian.
There’s white ‘uns and green ‘uns and red ‘uns and even mandrill ‘uns, but B’rett is the only yellow ‘un in history to date.
  • B’rett “permanently” removed one of Martian Manhunter’s powers.
As a convicted criminal on Mars, B’rett had been exposed to a chemical that made it impossible for him to use and other powers while invisible. B’rett escaped with a batch of the stuff, and exposed J’onn J’onzz to Formula Z6 to level the playing field. The Manhunter from Mars didn’t fully recover from this compromising element until after he returned to Earth for good in 1984.
  • B’rett publically “outed” J’onn J’onzz, and Martians in general.
John Jones had patrolled Middletown with his secret Martian abilities for four years with none the wiser, thanks to one of his primary powers, invisibility. Because of B’rett’s actions, J’onn J’onzz could no longer operate in clandestine fashion. In order to capture B’rett, protect endangered police officers, and prove that Martians weren’t all evil invaders, the Manhunter revealed his existence to the world he’d chosen to protect indefinitely.
  • B’rett “introduced” J’onn J’onzz to John Jones’ supporting cast.
John Jones’ professional life had always been kept separate from J’onn J’onzz, who more often than not solved the cases and allowed his Earthly guise to assume all the credit. No longer able to maintain the secret of the Martian Manhunter’s existence, J’onn became almost as chummy with Captain Harding and Patrolwoman Diane Meade as Jones himself.
  • B’rett turned J’onn J’onzz into a super-hero.
Where John Jones had once been the resident super-cop, the increasingly unusual cases on the Middletown docket were typically forwarded to the Manhunter, leaving Detective Jones on the sidelines with his fellow humans. Outlandish super-villains began turning up, and it wasn’t long before the Martian Manhunter was co-founding the Justice League of America. All of this acceptance and added responsibility was born from J’onn J’onzz’s inability to conceal his presence on Earth any longer.

The Counter Argument:
  • Who? B’rett appeared in one story over fifty years ago, and there’s no clear indication he’s even in continuity anymore.
  • Why? B’rett is the Martian Manhunter with less powers and a ray gun. There’s no personal animosity, and no background information, so where’s the story? What’s the point of another evil Manhunter doppelganger, aside from a super easy customizable action figure with a J’onn toy as the base?

What B'rett Represents:
Despite the obvious physical similarities, B’rett is in no real way the evil opposite of J’Onn J’Onzz, especially as the character later developed. Instead, B’rett stands as an archetypal foe in the Martian Manhunter’s rogues gallery: The Gunslinger. A bandit on the run finds himself in a backwater town that can offer no serious opposition to be seen. The outlaw runs roughshod over the locals, doing as he pleases until a white hat finally shows up. The scoundrel tries to lie his way out of a showdown, but once his bluff is called, he comes out shooting. Dirty tricks are the name of the game, as the desperado threatens innocents and plays every underhanded card at his disposal. In the end though, the sheriff gets his man, to the applause of the once terrorized townsfolk. Anyone who ever watched a western from the golden age of television knows B’rett’s story. His last name might as well have been B’artt. Amongst a vile menagerie of serial killers, mind rapists and genocidal maniacs, it’s almost refreshing to see a good old fashioned thug.

  • B'rett is to the Martian Manhunter as Killer Croc/Crossbones/Parasite/Sandman/Cheetah are to Batman/Captain America/Superman/Spider-Man/Wonder Woman
B'rett is a capable mercenary with his own agenda. He's not the kind of guy you expect to mastermind a conspiracy, or to dedicate his life to some cause. He's just powerful enough to take on his opposing hero, with enough animosity to make for a good throwdown.

Who isn't ranked because of B'rett:
  • The Magician-Thief/Countryman: The first Martian criminal of the strip’s history, but an easily captured wimp and simple robber who had no lasting impact on the series.
  • B'enn B'urnzz: The first truly exact duplicate Martian Manhunter of villainy, but one that wouldn’t arrive for another three years. Despite being from decades in the future, B’urnzz couldn’t do anything special, and was never mentioned again.

In Closing:
B'rett is a scoundrel who presents a fair challenge and a bad attitude suited for tangling with J'Onn J'Onzz. He's the classic mid-range foe who you'd expect to find in rogues' gallery groupings like the Superman Revenge Squad or Sinister Six.


will_in_chicago said...

Frank, it seems that parts of other entries got into this post. The negatives on B'rett include stuff on the Idol-Head of Diabolu.

Also, did you man to have the word no in this sentence: "A bandit on the run finds himself in a backwater town that can offer serious opposition to be seen."

I also thought that you might have meant B'rett when you wrote the following: Who isn't ranked because of Professor Arnold Hugo:

I did enjoy the entry, and I think that B'rett was mostly a pattern setter for much that later followed.

Diabolu Frank said...

Will, I was on the run and under the gun myself while writing/posting, so thanks for the spotting. Hopefully I cleaned up all the spills.

will_in_chicago said...

Frank, I was a print reporter for ten years. So, I may have the super power to spot typos. Don't worry. I loved what you had earlier.

As for B'rett, I think what is interesting is that he forced J'Onn to go public. J'Onn was accepted by his new community. It was not something that he expected, but it showed good sides of the human character. (A side NOT on display in the New Krypton War series, where I would expect a decent Kryptonian other than Kal-El to consider bringing some people before the Hague on genocide charges. Sorry, but some people at DC seem to be falling back on the Humans Are Bastards trope -- one that J'Onn would object to despite decades of experience with our species. Rant off.)

LissBirds said...

B'rett is an 11 on the Scale of Evilness? I'm gonna have to re-read this issue...!

I really liked the idea of a yellow Martian...although I didn't realize he was yellow when I first read the story. It was only until I saw the picture of him over on the sidebar.

Diabolu Frank said...

Liss, the B'rett icon/Who's Who page was scanned from the Showcase Presents and colored by myself. The first time was based on accounts from folks who had read the color version, then I recolored it a few months later to reflect scans, and I think I need to give it a third go.

In the story, B'rett is sometimes pale green, often varying shades of yellow, and in one panel partially uncolored/white. A continuity geek would go nuts over that.

B'rett's evil score comes from his sociopathic swath of destruction through Middletown without real objective, and his ease in trying to kill Martian Manhunter.