Friday, December 31, 2010

Justice League America #42 (September, 1990)

The fetal version of Despero floated in a tank of liquid mounted onto a high tech panel. The tank was flanked by Gypsy and the Martian Manhunter...

"...Disgusting little thing-- Why didn't you just destroy it, J'Onn?"
"It isn't our way-- or our right-- to take Despero's life."
"He killed my family... He killed Mister Miracle!"
"And to murder is the worst offense against the gods of this-- or any-- world."
"Right! And that's why--"
"That, Gypsy, is why I will not do to him... what he has done to us."
"I don't know if I agree with you, J'Onn-- but I guess it doesn't make a difference, does it? I mean, he's dead, isn't he?"
"No, Gypsy-- there's still a consciousness in there... however vague, however faint. Yet I can't say that he's truly alive... It's as if Despero has... devolved. Withdrawn into some protective, primitive state. What, if anything, grows from this new form I cannot say-- but the sooner we find a suitable place for this... thing, the happier I'll be..."

J'Onn asked if Gypsy had considered his proposal that she join the JLI, but despite her enthusiasm for the Detroit incarnation, she now had too many painful associations with the League. However, Gypsy still felt "As long as I have you-- I'll always have a family. I don't have to be a member of the League for that to stay true..." Gypsy had to sort through the jumble of emotions from her recent tragedies on her own. "I know loss, child. And I know pain. I won't stand in your way-- but I want you to know that I'm always here for you... always."

Maxwell Lord discussed this first of many refusals from prospective new members of the day, and recognized Gypsy meant a lot to J'Onn. "I intend to keep a careful eye on her... It's funny: When I first met Gypsy-- I knew nothing of my past life on Mars... of the wife, the child I'd left behind-- yet she touched something in me so deep-- now I see that despite the differences of worlds and time-- she's so like my daughter..." J'Onn preferred to change the subject, rather than continue. It was time to press on with the membership drive.

In Texas, Blue Beetle and Fire had a talk with El Diablo. Actually, Fire and El Diablo did all the talking, and flirting, for hours, in Spanish. By the end, Beetle didn't care if they got turned down, just so long as he could get the heck out of there.

In Arizona, Green Lantern Guy Gardner acted like Guy Gardner, and ended up trying to forcibly draft the Will Payton Starman. Both heroes acted rather infantile about the matter, and violence ensued. Guy turned back up at the New York Embassy with his costume in tatters, still proclaiming Starman a wimp.

Ice and the Huntress showed up wherever the Hawk and the Dove operated out of in '90 (Virginia?) Ice was disturbed by how rude the rejection was. Huntress offered "They're loners, Ice. I understand that." Bea countered, "Sure... but you're part of the team."
"I still don't understand that."

The Cluster, the intergalactic traders governed by Lord Manga Khan, returned to Earth the return Mr. Miracle... to Earth. Also, Oberon and Funky Flashman, responsible for bamboozling Scott Free into leaving him wife and teammates in the care of a twitchy robot duplicate. The one Despero blew up. Which explained Max Lord's shocked reaction to Mr. Miracle's "resurrection."

Batman was still working with the JLI part time, but refused to expand his role. J'Onn confessed, "The problem is-- I'm tired. These recent months, Batman-- I've changed. I know it sounds clichéd... but I've found myself... in a way few beings ever do. I've had much to absorb and understand. Just sorting through what's inside myself has been a full-time job. To have to lead the League on top of that... to have to play the great green martinet... hasn't been easy. And after this Despero fiasco-- So time alone... for retreat, for meditation... would--"

Batman cut him off. "Wouldn't change anything. Life is what it is, J'Onn... and what it is is hell. And sometimes it's far worse than that. You've handled more than most. You'll keep handling it."
"I don't share your world-view, Batman. On Mars we believed--"
"Mars is dead, J'Onn. You're alive... on Earth. Be a survivor. It's all you can be."
"No. I think we can all be-- far more."

Max Lord wanted to give the Despero fetus to Manga Khan, but the bartering lord refused, instead trading him L-Ron for it. As the Cluster departed for other destinations, Scott Free called his wife, Big Barda, to try and smooth over that whole presumed-dead-and-funeral snafu. Martian Manhunter half-jokingly offered up L-Ron as new team leader to Max, "I need some time to myself. Perhaps a month or two... maybe more. There are matters of selfgrowth... future lifepaths... that I must consider. Our experience with Despero has only underscored my--"

Now it was Max who cut J'Onn off, pleasing with J'Onn that the team needed manpower terribly, especially with all their rejections and Mr. Miracle's decision not to return to the fold. However, Orion and Lightray of the New Gods chose that opportune moment to demand membership on the team...

"Solicitations" was by Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis, Mike McKone & José Marzan, Jr. Man, Roger Stern must have really hated the JLI. He had the Atom refuse to join halfway through his short-lived series, only to have the poor selling Starman do the same thing a couple of years later. Neither El Diablo nor Hawk & Dove had any business on the team, so they felt more like ringers to sell a joke. Perhaps their editors begged for a cameo to maybe boost sales on their ongoing series.

Despite all the goofy business going on, this was actually a major issue for the Martian Manhunter's development. J'Onn's game changing solo mini-series initially had little impact on his JLI adventures, but its role in the Despero story arc brought important elements to the fore. This issue reestablished the break from J'Onn's Silver/Bronze Age continuity, reminded readers of J'Onn's dead family, further set up Gypsy as a surrogate daughter (redefining Gypsy through the relationship,) and laid the groundwork for J'Onn's eventual departure from the team. Mike McKone was still polishing his craft on this fill-in issue, but it was plenty good enough to keep folks from missing Adam Hughes. Too bad even under his pen, the redesigned New Gods could not be redeemed. Blech!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Super Friends #23 (March, 2010)

The Super Friends may have operated out of a satellite orbiting the Earth, but that wasn't stopping super-villains from raiding their headquarters. While enhancing their security system, an alarm went off, alerting the Super Friends to an extraterrestrial thief trying to steal a magical jar. This was part of the set of bell, wheel and jar used by Felix Faust against the heroes in an earlier adventure, since separated by different solar systems by Green Lantern John Stewart.

"So? Do you think I come from your solar system? I am mighty Despero from the planet Kalanor! If I can come here for the jar, what makes you think I cannot find the bell and wheel, too? Whoever owns those three objects can control all the magic in the universe! I usually put my faith in science, not magic. But for that much power, I will make an exception-- and travel anywhere to get it!" While speaking, Despero imagined himself onstage in an orange and blue tuxedo, pulling a rabbit out of his hat as Zatanna looked on adoringly.

"In fact, there are others who search for the jar, bell, and wheel, too. And they are far worse villains than I am!" Aquaman suggested that the Super Friends needed to travel to the two other solar systems to collect the artifacts ahead of the villains. To illustrate this, a full page activity maze allowed readers to collect the artifacts while avoiding the three alien villains (including a disco dancing leisure suit Despero. The Super Friends put on their space suits, and Green Lantern transported two teams instantly to alien worlds.

On a dark, cavernous planet, the Flash collected the bell. A booming voice then commanded Flash's next move: "You give the bell to me. NOW... Because I am Mongul, ruler of Warworld! Because I'm bigger than you! Because I'm stronger than you! And because I can squash you like bugs!" In the face of the jaundiced giant, Batman queried, "Mm. Do you have super-breath?" As Mongul paused to consider the question, he was swept away by Superman's hurricane force exhalation. "Mongul's just a big bully, isn't he" asked the Flash. "I don't like bullies," said Superman. "Neither do I," agreed Batman. The Man of Steel and Scarlet Speedster then tied up Mongul while the villain was off-balance. Wonder Woman and Aquaman enjoyed similar success against the Queen Bee on a world populated by creatures that resembled a cross between Zook and C'hp.

Back at the Super Friends' headquarters, Despero mocked his fellow aliens' inability to secure the artifacts. When Queen Bee snapped that Despero couldn't do any better, Despero smirked, "Appearances can be deceiving... The two of you thought you could get the jar, bell, and wheel through bullying or force. I knew the only way-- was to be sneaky!" A hypnotic blast from Despero's third eye allowed him to lay everybody present flat. However, the Flash's body could recover at super-speed in less than a minute, forcing Despero to keep blasting the Scarlet Speedster. This created a stalemate, which Aquaman broke by getting Despero to agree to leave Earth alone if the Super Friends did nothing to stop his collecting the magical artifacts. Despero knew the heroes would never break a promise, but the new security system made no such guarantee, caging and drugging the menace. Mongul and Queen Bee decided they would continue to sit quietly on the floor.

Later, Green Lantern shrunk the bell and wheel to microscopic size, then secreted them inside twin asteroids Superman threw into the sun. Finally, inspired by Mongul, the Super Friends took part in a PSA opposing bullying.

"Mystery in Space" was by Sholly Fisch, Stewart McKenny & Dan Davis.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Despero Cast in new "Smallville" Spin-off?

After making such a big deal about my made-up holiday Mayfairstivus, I felt bad when my Mexican girlfriend reminded me that as I type this, December 28th is "el Día de los Inocentes." The Day of the Innocents is a sober remembrance of the children massacred under order of Herod the Great, as recounted in the gospel of Matthew. My best wishes to all observant readers.

Curiously enough, this segues into a report  posted today at the noted movie site Latino Review, under the heading DC & WB Horribly Hiding Their Plans, involving a series of leaks related to an upcoming Smallville spin-off. Set to run on the CW, this is not the previously announced Raven TV series from writer/executive producer Diego Gutierrez. While I personally never cared for Smallville, its fans might be pleased to learn that the series' original writer/producer team of Alfred Gough and Miles Millar will be on board for the spin-off.

Details are sketchy, but what is known is that additional filming has been scheduled in the coming months involving the Smallville cast and crew for use in the new Fall 2011 series. Cast members who will take part in this filming include Justin "Green Arrow" Hartley, Alan "Aquaman" Ritchson, Alaina "Black Canary" Huffman, and Kyle "Impulse" Gallner. Superman himself, Tom Welling, and the motherlovin' Manhunter from Mars, Phil Morris, are also confirmed. However, to throw a wet blanket on speculation, sources have stated that this will definitely not be a Justice League show, but will instead use the team in a cameo fashion to help ground the new series as an extention of Smallville continuity.

The most fascinating element in these reports is the inclusion of one all new performer in the cast sheet currently circulating, character actor Andrew Robinson in the role of Despero! Robinson's big break came in 1971 as the "Scorpio Killer" in the original Dirty Harry film. Genre fans may remember him for guest starring turns in the 1970s The Incredible Hulk and The Amazing Spider-Man TV shows, not to mention The X-Files and the first Hellraiser film. Perhaps most memorably for the geeks, Robinson played Elim Garak for six seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Whether this would see the actor return to latex in the make-up chair (he seems a bit old for that at nearly 70) or CGI hasn't come up.

If these reports prove to be more than dubious rumor mongering, I'd be very happy to see Robinson in the role. As I noted, I think these shows are pretty crappy, but the Silver/Bronze Age Despero has often reminded me of wily Andrew Robinson, so at least the casting is inspired. It's probably too much to ask, but a live action face-off with J'Onn J'Onzz would be pretty awesome, wouldn't it?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Thunderbolts' Customs Despero Action Figure

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All Thunderbolt's customs are based on DC 9" figures unless otherwise stated.

I don't know if it's entirely appropriate or terribly inappropriate that the '90s Mego-esque Martian Manhunter figure was obviously the base for this Despero, but the pink makes me happy. I love the third eye and the fin, as well. Martian Manhunter was also the base for a Silver Age Brainiac, but as you might imagine, the conversion was considerably less work.

Monday, December 27, 2010

2010 Custom Despero Frog by IcarusMach9

Click To Enlarge

How scary-weird is this thing? It only gets more so if you see it in the enormous original picture, which sort of hops at you when enlarged...

"Yes, that's right a frog version of Despero.

This was part of my very short-lived conversion of little plastic frogs into comic characters. I stopped after two because Lego was just so much more fun."

Sunday, December 26, 2010

2008 HeroClix Arkham Asylum #054- Despero

I know two things about HeroClix's gameplay, and the first is "jack." However, I'm perfectly of cutting and pasting some stats for those who do, and offering a link to a comprehensive evaluation.

#AA054 U Despero
Team: No Affiliation
Range: 6
Points: 88
Speed - PSIONICS: Mind Control and Telekinesis
Attack - DANGEROUS GAME: Psychic Blast. Power Action, choose a target opposing figure, 6 or fewer swquares away, LOF required. Move that character to any unoccupied clear square 8 or fewer squares away, LOF required.
Damage - TYRANT: Leadership and Outwit

The short version is that the Silver/Bronze Age HeroClix is "super rare." He's much slower than Despero the Reborn, and his attacking power is obviously diminished. He's got the glass jaw one would expect of a villain once defeated by Snapper Carr, but his telekinesis can get nasty, and mind control doesn't hurt. Until recently, via time-travel, this incarnation of Despero routinely worked alone. In the game, he seems better suited as a supporting player than a point man, so I guess you might as well bring in Per Degaton and the Ultra-Humanite. Alternately, the review offered a combo of Py'tar Despero and old school flavor, which would make a pretty happening comic book story, as well.

The only thing that would make that chess board with the seven founding JLofA members as pieces cooler? The Atom lying in wait...

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Despero: The Greatest Stories Ever Told

Tom does these all nice and pretty with the exact right fonts and everything. I pull some crap off the internet and hack something out in an hour or so in MS Paint with default fonts.

As the Martian Manhunter's archenemy, Despero is the antithesis of the Alien Atlas. Fueled by hate, the Destroyer of Worlds must express his inner darkness, whether through lethal parlor games or grand spectacles of rampant destruction. In THE GREATEST DESPERO STORIES EVER TOLD, the tyrant takes center stage, including his 1960 debut and various stories through the '90s! Collecting tales from the last five decades, this book shows that from his earliest appearances to his most recent exploits, he has been a dynamic and deadly menace. Whether involved in classic campy stories or legendary dark tales, Despero's sadistic drive has been more than a match for even the combined might of the Justice League of America.

  • Justice League of America
  • 220pg.
  • Color
  • Softcover
  • $19.99 US
Justice League of America #1 26 pages
Justice League of America #26 25 pages
Justice League of America #133 17 pages
Justice League of America #134 17 pages
Justice League of America #247 2 1/2 pages
Justice League of America #248 1 page
Justice League of America #249 1 page
Justice League of America #250 2 pages
Justice League of America #251 5 pages
Justice League of America #252 19 pages
Justice League of America #253 22 pages
Justice League of America #254 22 pages
Justice League America #37 3 pages
Justice League America #38 14 pages
Justice League America #39 22 pages
Justice League America #40 12 pages
Justice League America #42 2 pages

Solicitation text taken from an out of print version of The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told , as well as BATGIRL: THE GREATEST STORIES EVER TOLD

Friday, December 24, 2010

2008 Despero Custom Figure by Kern

Even as a Despero fan, I have to wonder why someone would feel the need to make a custom figure after Total Justice, DC Direct and the DC Universe build-a-figure covered this ground so well. Sheer mass? Articulation? I guess I'll let the artist explain...

One of, if not the most, powerful and deadly foes the Justice League have ever faced...

Despero is a House of M Hulk with a severly dremeled down chin(Seriously - why it it so huge?). A Savage Dragon crest is sculpted onto his head, along with his third eye and fingernails. Belt is also milliputted. I went with his older orangeypink skin rather than the newer purple version that's cropped up since his appearance in the JL cartoon. His axe weapon is a repainted thing from my kibble boxes.

Kern has a detailed biography and a picture gallery here, so check it out!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Martian Sightings for March, 2011

1:10 Variant covers by IVAN REIS
As the end of BRIGHTEST DAY approaches, our returned heroes and villains begin converging in one area as the ultimate protector reveals itself against the ultimate menace!
Retailers please note: These issues will ship with two covers each. Please see the Previews Order Form for more information.
Issue #21 on sale MARCH 2
Issue #22 on sale MARCH 16
32 pg, FC, $2.99 US
I guess by this point J'Onn's pointless solo arc should have wrapped to make way for the big group brawl. D'Kay was just O'Kay, so proclamations of her being the Martian Manhunter's greatest menace came to a wet fart. At least Malefic was important enough to piss me off. This chick was a non-concern.

Reprinting tales of the dread being known as Doomsday just in time for the “Reign of Doomsday” storyline marching its way through the DCU! First, from DOOMSDAY ANNUAL #1, a host of writers and artists look at Doomsday’s early rampage through the cosmos before his fateful first encounter with The Man of Steel, guest-starring the Green Lantern Corps, Darkseid and more. Then, in a tale from SUPERMAN #175, the Red Hulk team of Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness present a disturbing vision of Doomsday, as the creature is “Jokerized” and reborn as Doomsday Rex!
On sale MARCH 2 • 96 pg, FC, $7.99 US
I don't really want to think of Doomsday as a member of the Vile Menagerie, and his upcoming company-wide tearing of ass should help dilute his ratio of general appearances to those where he beats on Martian Manhunter (or a reasonable facsimile.) However, this particularly collection features Doomsday beating on Martian Manhunter one-on-one, so there you go.

Art and cover by JERRY BINGHAM
The dramatic conclusion of the 5-part “Super-Powers” arc reveals the final outcome for Bruce Wayne’s revelatory journey from driven loner to the young Batman who would be able to work side-by-side with the other heroes of the DC Universe!
FINAL ISSUE • On sale MARCH 2 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US
Next month: Batman's Secret Diary begins, because there hasn't not been a Batman anthology series in what, twenty-two years?

The shocking events of JUSTICE LEAGUE: GENERATION LOST leave Booster Gold bloody and beaten in these tales from issues #32-38. The only way for him to put right what went wrong and save the people he loves is to travel back into the past. But what happens when Booster comes face-to-face with himself and Justice League International?
On sale APRIL 13 • 168 pg, FC, $17.99 US
Giffen & DeMatteis on Martian Manhunter again is good, but sadly, not especially plentiful.

Once dead, twelve heroes and villains were resurrected by a white light expelled from deep within the center of the earth. Now, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, Firestorm, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Deadman, Jade, Osiris, Hawk, Captain Boomerang and Zoom must discover the mysterious reason behind their return and uncover the secret that binds them all.
In this second volumes, which issues #8-16 of the series, find out whether Deadman is truly destined to wield the White Lantern and who the new Aqualad is. Plus, Firestorm’s dueling alter egos take a bizarre journey, while Martian Manhunter returns to Mars to learn about the strange creature that’s stalking him.
On sale MAY 4 • 240 pg, FC, $29.99 US
The second hardcover collection of meandering, repetitive story snippets by artists that don't compliment each other drawing characters seemingly drawn from out of a hat.

Miss Martian
Nick Spencer (Morning Glories) assembles the cream of the crop of the next generation of DCU super-heroes in this issue – Robin, Static, Miss Martian, Blue Beetle, Batgirl, the new Impulse – to team up with Supergirl and take on a new villain who promises to define this generation as much as Darkseid, Lex Luthor and The Joker did prior ones. Good luck, kids!
On sale MARCH 23 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US
This sounds cool! Shame the new writer has already bailed on this book, and for all I know, this "generation definer" is a throwaway done-in-one.

Art and cover by MIKE NORTON
Based on the highly anticipated, all-new hit animated show from Warner Bros. debuting in January on Cartoon Network!
Superboy discovers that an unwanted guest in the team’s cave is not really what he appears to be! Is the threat deadly to only The Boy of Steel – or is the enture Justice League in danger, as well? Superboy struggles to find the balance between fighting for himself and for the sake of others!
On sale MARCH 16 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Justice League of America #178 (May, 1980)

The Atom, Aquaman, Zatanna, Batman, Green Arrow, Black Canary and Superman all met aboard the Justice League Satellite to consider the various attacks by anthropomorphic chess pieces they'd faced, individually or in pairs. The group was then attacked by another, more powerful chessman, which came up through the League's transporter tube system. It was defeated, but not before smashing the group's computer system, eradicating most of their records on active and inactive team members. However, careful study of the remains led the Atom to conclude that the piece was capable of beating the entire team, and only allowed itself to be destroyed.

In a spaceship hovering over Mars II, Despero chided, “Ah, how unfortunate. You’ve lost another piece… and this time, one of your most powerful! You disappoint me, my friend… Can it be that J’onn J’onzz, the famed Martian Manhunter himself, just doesn’t have his heart in the game?” The acrimonious aliens sat at a chessboard, the Alien Atlas shackled to his chair, replicas of the Justice League on the wrong side of the game. “Curse you, Despero! Making me play to the death against my friends…” The alternative was for Despero to fire his ship’s turbo-lasers at “the planet you so quaintly call Mars II,” killing his fellow Martian survivors, and “the relatively peaceful natives of this barren world.” It amused Despero to offer the choice of J’onzz killing his friends or his people, with the Manhunter likely to lose his life either way. With an uncharacteristic fury, J’onzz jerked at his bonds and stated his intention to kill a Kalanorian. “No, I don’t think you will. A Martian’s greatest enemy… fire!” Jets of flame ignited from turrents atop J’onzz’s chair, emphasizing his powerlessness. “Stop it! Stop it! I’ll play your filthy game!”

“I knew you could see reason, J’onn! That’s why I chose you for this little enterprise, after I finally managed to escape from the Krill… Now… shall we begin again? Just pick your piece, and I’ll use my third eye to teleport its larger counterpart into the Justice League’s presence… Ah! A knight! A bold choice… and I hope, for your planet’s sake, an effective one…” Billions of miles away, the knight roamed the League satellite, finding it bereft of life. “There… must be something wrong with the mind-link you’ve set up, Despero. As before, I can see everything the knight sees… but the satellite is… empty! The Justice Leaguers are-- gone!” Despero’s telepathic scans couldn’t find the seven heroes on the satellite, or even the Earth. With a grin, J’onn pronounced “Then, by the terms of our game-- if you can’t field your players… I WIN!”

Despero began swatting at his heroic chess pieces like a child. “No! I have other pieces, J’onzz-- Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern… some even more powerful than the ones I’ve already played!” Hawkman and Hawkwoman were also represented, but J’onzz asked what would happen if they all disappeared, just as they did. That is, all save the Atom. “Haven’t you guessed fish-face? In chess terms, this is what they call the endgame!” The Tiny Titan sprang from the board to knock Despero back out of his chair. “You… startled me… gained a momentary advantage! But only momentary! I still control this ship! And these animates, these chess pieces, will answer to my commands! However you came to be here-- you came here to die!”

As it turned out, the Justice League had arrived through the magic of Zatanna, who had disguised the heroes as Despero’s gameplay replicas. The Martian Manhunter explained, “I hoped you’d notice-- I had my ‘bishop’ destroy the memory bank record for every Justice League member-- active or inactive-- except my own!” The League got the message, then began fighting all of Despero’s pieces en masse, without the benefit of J’onzz’s benevolent guiding hand. The heroes began to falter, until the Atom worked out a plan to attack the pieces at the atomic level, with Superman's help. The chessmen explode, causing Despero to call out no’s while Atom recited yeses. “Face facts, Despero, you’ve just been hustled-- courtesy of the master chessman of Mars!”

Under the moons of Mars II, Despero was escorted away in chains by two Martians in heavy blue robes. “I-- and my people-- owe much to your sensitivity, Zatanna,” as well as the League’s might. Zee had caught the Martian Manhunter’s clue, which prompted Superman to scan Mars II with his telescopic vision, and the Heiress of Magic did the rest. “Simple matter or not, the deed deserves a reward, and you all shall have it… a celebration at the palace of heroes… as my ever-honored guests!”

This story involved a lot of players, so rather than write one gigantic post, I decided to do "customs" across several blogs. The finer details of the Atom's participation can be found here, and most of the rest are covered at Justice League Detroit.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

1997 JLA Gallery: Don Hillsman

Probably my favorite piece from the really swell JLA Gallery was this number by inker Don Hillsman II, who helped popularize J'Onn J'Onzz in the early days of the JLA through work like "A Day In The Life: Martian Manhunter," and is still at it today. DH2 is really good at drawing beefy characters, so he was a natural choice to depict Despero's destructive path during his 1990 reunion tour.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Justice League America #40 (July, 1990)

In space, Despero had floated, "unliving, but not dead... My heart cried out for peace, rest, non-existence-- but my dreams sang of vengeance-- against those who hurt me, thwarted me, ruined me." Despero could not rest until he had "annihilated the Justice League." As he tightened his grip around Blue Beetle's throat, J'Onn J'Onzz arrived to demand the hero's release.

"The Martian. The most powerful, the most troublesome of them all. And perhaps I hate him most of all: an alien like myself, alone on this world and yet he has, somehow, made a home for himself within this wretched race. Despite his tragedy-scarred past, he has found some measure of peace within himself... (H)is heart is filled with compassion... and that most appalling of emotions called love. I learned, long ago, that compassion is useless, love is a lie. It's time he learned as well."

"Go to hell, Martian." Despero crushed Blue Beetle's head to a bloody mass. The Alien Atlas tackled the in human animal. "Inhuman? Of course I'm inhuman. To despise compassion, laugh at love, revel in hate-- to be utterly, unrepentantly inhuman-- is the only sane response in a universe as brutal and senseless as this one." Despero used his third eye to share his worldview directly into Manhunter's brain, until it exploded. "Farewell, Martian. You, at least, know peace now." Despero would continue to know only pain, until he had visited his brand of justice on the League.

Fire dared to avenge the two good men dead before her. Despero felt something special about her, "that reminds of someone I knew long ago... in the Days of Foolishness when I allowed myself to feel... Just an echo of a man I was: an after-image of an ancient life of hope and longing..." Perhaps the Green Flame evoked evoked the emerald-haired Saranna? Despero offered her a quick death should Fire surrender, and she still got one without losing face, when Despero flew up to disperse her immaterial flaming form with a clap of his monstrous hands.

"Heroes, they call themselves; risking their lives for ideas and ideals. Risking their lives for illusions. These humans attach so much importance to their illusions. Lip-service: but their hearts are rank, vile. Like the people of my homeworld... they claimed to be peaceful and loving; idealists of the first order. Till I was born among them: a mutant, feared and shunned. Spat upon. Laughed at. Locked away. The woman who birthed me showed me tenderness; fed my dreams of hope... and they murdered her for it. Just as they sought to murder me. But I murdered their world instead. Rose up and claimed it for my own... And now I claim this planet."

Despero caused a geyser of flame to erupt from the street, and it progressed to claim the entire city. "I learned at an early age that hate is the only power in this chaotic universe." Despero had decided to "bless" the Earth with the ultimate expression of his hate, its non-existence, ending by fire. "No more false ideals, fragile dreams, shattered hopes. No more clinging to the lie of love. In the name of hate I consume your world. I set you free. All of you... and myself, as well..."

Despero flew up into outer space, extending his arms as if to embrace his own redundancy, then curdled into a fetal position.

Blue Beetle asked, "Uh-- somebody care t'tell me what just happened here? One minute Despero's crushing my windpipe, the next he's just standing there staring into space like some acid casualty-- and then he flies off happy as a clam..." The Martian Manhunter explained that he had used the once in a lifetime telepathic gift of the Mayavana, to fulfill Despero's finest wish, and finally allow him peace of mind. "And you used this... this gift of love-- on Despero?" J'Onn replied that he had bestowed this most gratifying psychic fantasy "for my friends. For my adopted world. And perhaps for Despero, as well. At the very end, I thought I felt--"

The thought was interrupted by Guy Gardner shouting for a piece of "that three-eyed jerk... An' where's Ice? Uh... not that I really care." Ice was located, and found to be all right. Mr. Miracle, on the other hand, was presumed dead. Despero had literally reverted to an unconscious fetal form, and fallen back to back to Earth.

J'Onn saw to informing Big Barda of her husband's seeming demise. Mr. Miracle's sidekick Oberon was of course incommunicado. Despero was in a JLI lab. "He might... be... devolved. Or perhaps in some state of biological suspension. There's a consciousness there... unformed... but it's there, and I swear... it's happy."

The funeral was presided over by a priest who strongly resembled Jack Kirby. Besides the JLI; Highfather, Green Arrow, the New Titans, Superman, Green Lantern Hal Jordan, Dr. Fate, Wonder Woman, and Gypsy attended. Barda blamed Max Lord for Scott Free's death, and socked him. Booster Gold had the gall to show up and try to recruit Gypsy for a new team he was forming, so Beetle socked him. Booster hated himself afterward, but Gypsy still took his card. What else did she have going for her?

Later, Superman met with Batman, concerned that the League was "under-powered. If they keep facing entities like Despero... I'm afraid there are going to be more deaths... I admire the League. I want to see it continue to function-- and function well..."

Booster returned to Claire Montgomery, who confirmed Praxis for her new team. Gold wasn't interested.

Guy Gardner was hurting, but wouldn't admit it, playing off his time alone with Ice as a consolation to her.

Despite his hostility toward Superman's overtures, Batman passed along his concerns to Maxwell Lord. Martian Manhunter argued that there should be a brief period of mourning before pursuing new members, but Max insisted that a delay could cost more lives. "I swear to you, I'll disband this team rather than see another of my friends die."

At Scott Free's grave, Orion expressed his belief that there was a potential brotherly bond between them. It would lead him to talk with the JLI...

"Hell On Earth" was by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, Adam Hughes and José Marzan, Jr.

Number of times Despero used the word "hate" this issue: 13

I didn't have time to fully read and digest this story before writing Despero: The Fifth Most Important Martian Manhunter Adversary, but looking at it now only strengthens my argument about the pair being complimentary opposites. J'Onn was born into a loving, communal environment that sustains him even after its plague death. Despero was born a mutant and ostracized from his earliest days, birthing a rage that was only fueled by the many documented indignities visited upon him (like Jasonar surgically removing his third eye.) J'Onn is the alien who quietly integrated into society as a productive member. Despero shows up to bring the hellacious spectacle and raise a body count, destroying or dominating all in his sight. Despero longs for the peace J'Onzz espouses, but the troubles J'Onn carries on his back seem to reveal the untruth of his granola philosophy. Both could just go off and enjoy their lives, but are compelled to burden themselves with unattainable and taxing personal missions. They're such fantastic foils.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Justice League America #39 (June, 1990)

The Martian Manhunter's back was to the reader as he brushed aside his cape, gunslinger style. "Get away from her, Despero. Right now." The menace turned gleefully away from the wounded Gypsy, who was hysterically relieved at the intervention. "Come to watch Gypsy die, have you, Martian?"

"There'll be no more deaths today... except perhaps-- yours."

"You killed me once, J'Onzz! You will not do it again! But I intend to pay you-- and your damnable League-- back for what was done to me! For I am Despero-- and I am hate itself! Despero's colossal form pounced like a jungle cat, only to lose fangs at the taste of the Alien Atlas' fist. "You are a tiresome-- and dangerous-- lunatic-- and I had my fill of you years ago!"

Despero retaliated with a blow so fierce, it sent J'Onn face first into the dirt. Seeing spots, J'Onzz was hoisted back up by his collar while Despero close-talked a rundown of his list of grievances: how the League cost him his reign over Kalanor, how the Detroit era team disintegrated him, and how "I will have no satisfaction till I have destroyed you, Gypsy, Vibe, and all your pathetic teammates!" Manhunter tried to explain that Ivo had pretty much already dealt out those deaths, but he was to busy being tossed a quarter mile and bouncing off a few houses. "Damn. I forgot how powerful he is! The others must be on their way... but I can't wait. Gypsy means more to me than almost anyone in the world... that maniac's brought enough pain down on her head-- and I won't see her hurt any more!"

A tad late for that, as Despero had gripped Gypsy's frail arm in his thick clawed hand. "...Now, little one, I think I'll snap your neck as I did your father's! Or perhaps I'll shatter your body as I did your mother's. But they both died quickly-- and I want your death to be slow... and horrible." Despero was surprised when J'Onn came back so soon. "I had a wife once. She was beautiful. Delicate. Like Gypsy. And she was taken from me far too young. I won't see that happen again."

"It's going to happen now, Martian-- and there's nothing you can do to stop it. Your memories of Mars are deep, bright and clear, J'Onzz-- like an ocean-- I think I'll drown you in them." J'Onn, now depicted in his "natural" form, was psychically returned to "Mars: in the final days... the days of plague and lunacy." The Martian city was plagued and dealt with intermittent untended fires. Atop a dome, a vision of Despero held J'Onzz's wife by the throat. Despero confirmed the daughter was already dead. "Bloated, difigured... consumed by disease." Despero had brought them back in the subjective reality of J'Onn's mind so that he could torture them and make the Martian watch.

However, J'Onn was suddenly transported to a second illusion, in which he embraced the love of his life yet again. "But how can this be? How can-- Of course: Mayavana! The Sacred Treasure! The Great Gift. The power to reach into another's consciousness-- and create a reality more powerful than that which we take to be reality! But the strain on the mind and soul, the effort to use the Mayavana, is so tremendous that it can be employed only once in a lifetime. And my beloved wife has used it now-- so that our love may seem far more real... than Despero's twisted hatred. It is an illusion I must put aside..."

J'Onn J'Onzz again faced Despero during H'ronmeer's plague, and tried to explain the internal destruction hate causes and the transformative power of love. Despero snickered at the "lovely sentiments" as he obliterated J'Onn's wife with a blast from his third eye. J'Onn screamed in pain, then collapsed into a drooling, shuddering lump in the real world. "Enjoy the memories, Martian? Good. But I'm not finished yet. I want to play with you a while longer. But I'm done playing with you, Gypsy. Still, I hope you take some comfort in knowing that your death will be as utterly meaningless as your worthless life."

Before Despero could blast Gypsy, his head was contained in a green energy field, redirecting the energy projection back into Despero's face. Fallen and struggling to stand, Despero demanded to know the responsible party "WHO DARES?!?!" Green Lantern Guy Gardner mocked the destroyer, then sent him flying with another ring projection. Guy then proceeded to begin hitting on the clearly underage Gypsy, as she crawled to a tree to help herself up, nearly hysterical from the horrors of the evening. After a moment of collecting herself, she remembered J'Onn's predicament, and asked Guy to help him. "Looks okay t'me. I mean, he's a pretty sickly shade o' green-- but he always looks like that!" J'Onn strained against his mental trauma to speak coherently, explaining Despero's crimes of the evening and the desperate need to halt his rampage. "You ain't foolin', either J.J.? This dude really wiped you out? ...Yeah, he wasn't messin' around, was he? I mean, wreckin' a train is one thing-- killin' the kid's mom 'n' dad... Man, that's low." Guy swore he'd get payback, but Gypsy shouted, "I don't care about revenge-- I just want him stopped!" As Gardner flew off, Gypst still couldn't believe this guy was in the League. "Believe me-- I didn't recruit him."

Fire, Ice, Blue Beetle and the Mr. Miracle robot were en route in a jet when they spotted Despero flying through the air, followed by Guy Gardner. "Miracle" stated "I was under the impression that the Martian Manhunter could handle anything," but the robot was defective, so I don't think that's a reliable testimonial.

Despero landed in the Long Island Sound, where he waited underwater until he saw Guy distracted by his teammate's craft, then attacked. The pair flew into midtown Manhattan, "smack in the middle of Rockefeller Center!" The JLI was unaware Mr. Miracle had left an automaton to replace himself while on a world tour, but despite its glitches, Blue Beetle was happy to let "Miracle" pilot their aircraft while he finally got to see some action outside. However, no sooner had Beetle and Ice grappled to the ground than Ice was knocked unconscious by debris from the brawl.

Despero teased Guy: "I must thank you, Green Lantern. I have found this sparring most... amusing. If you are an example of what the Justice League has become-- then my task will be even easier than I imagined." Fire then joined the attack, letting loose some green flames in retaliation for Despero's having harmed her dearest friend. Guy was also emotionally attached to Ice. "That's it, Maggot-- YOU'RE DEAD!" Despero took a laser beam to the belly, then retailated with a devastating third eye blast. "I think I've had more than enough of you." Guy was laid out.

Fire managed to do damage to Despero through her flames, and the destroyer had difficulty engaging her as a being of pure flame. However, Bea's "bravado cannot mask the terror I feel in your mind. The terror I now turn against you." With a shriek, Bea reverted to her human form and fell from the sky. She was caught by Blue Beetle, who complained about how he was getting out of shape, before being seized by the neck. "Interesting. Though you are physically the weakest link, your mind is second in strength only to the Martian's... I shall enjoy breaking you." Before that could happen, "Mr. Miracle" began strafing the ground near Despero with fire from his jet, until the destroyer blew it out of the sky. Believing the real Mister Miracle to be dead, Beetle called out his real name. "This... Scott has gone straight to hell. But take heart-- you'll be joining him there-- just as soon as I rip your limbs off, one by one-- and grind your bones to dust."

The Martian Manhunter held Gypsy in his arms as he observed that local authorities seemed to have complications from the train wreck under control. "I wish I could offer you words of solace, child-- but for a tragedy of this magnitude... there are none. What I can offer is my friendship... and all the love in my heart. I won't desert you child: that I swear." Of Despero, he said, "He is evil. Insanity. Pure hate given form. And we are the focus of that hate. Despero has only one purpose, one driving need: He simply will not rest until he's fulfilled it. Which means I have only one option open to me if I hope to stop him... I must help him fulfill his purpose. I must help him destroy the Justice League."

"Blow Up" by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, Adam Hughes and Joe Rubinstein.

Number of times Despero used the word "hate" this issue: 3, although Martian Manhunter uses it in reference to Despero's feelings another six times.

As I previously discussed in detail here, this was another pivotal story for the Martian Manhunter, even if he was only in part of the issue. The closeness of his relationship with former Leaguers, especially Gypsy, was established last issue. This issue set-up the now orphaned Gypsy becoming J'Onn's surrogate daughter, despite that unfortunate line relating the kid more to his wife. This story was also important for offering the majority of JLI readers who chose not to follow his 1988 solo mini-series a glimpse of the plague that took Mars, a concept that finally stuck with the character in fans' minds, and remains to the present. This
was also the first JLI story since the initial Gray Man arc where there was real tension over whether everyone would make it through the end of the tale, and the defeat-by-numbers technique Despero employed is awfully similar to Doomsday's course toward the Death of Superman a few years later. A watershed moment for the book, and especially for the Alien Atlas.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

1997 Wizard's JLA Special: Monitor Duty

Morrison & Porter's JLA broke big and fast, so within the first year, Wizard Magazine hopped on the bandwagon with a team-focused special. Among the many sections was one titled "Monitor Duty..."

"Our readers were let in on the JLA action to find out their thoughts on DC's #1 superteam. The following questions were posted to our America Online forum (keyword: Wizard). The response to these questions was overwhelming and broke a Wizard record for the most responses to an AOL poll ever!"

The questions were:

1. Who is your favorite member?
Martian Manhunter took 6% of the vote, ahead of Wonder Woman (3%) and Aquaman (2%.) Batman was in the lead at 32%, and the rest were a roughly even split.

2. Who is your least favorite Leaguer?
Aquaman (41%) and Martian Manhunter (39%) took the lion's share with the remaining 20% divided between Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and Superman. Flash and Batman combined were only 3%. Emphasis was placed on a Aquaman's being a weak link, whereas J'Onn just seemed hit by unfamiliarity.

5. Who was the Best JLA Supervillain(s) of all Time?
Despero (30%) placed second, with the Injustice Gang only 2% ahead. The Hyperclan and Lobo split the other third, with the Extremists only rating 6%. Even with a poor sense of history, Despero was well remembered.

6. Who'd Win in a Battle Royal?
61% went to the World's Finest, with GL (14%,) Flash (11%) and Martian Manhunter (9%) splitting most of the remainder. Wonder Woman was at a meager 4%, while Aquaman was favored by just 1%.

7. Who has the know-how to make the best JLA Leader?
This was the Martian Manhunter's best showing of the lot, at third place with 19%. J'Onn combined with the World's Finest for 82% of the vote. Green Lantern Kyle Rayner did not receive a single vote.

8. Who is the Very Last Person you'd want to see join the League?
Guy Gardner, a write-in, took 24%. That's some serious hate. Gypsy was only at 5%.

9. Could the JLA Defeat the following teams?
JLA was favored in every match-up, 73% against the Avengers, 94% vs. Gen13, 90% WildC.A.T.s, and the toughest match, 64% X-Men.

Questions 3 & 4 weren't Martian Manhunter related, although 14% of respondents wanted a Lobo rematch. It should be remembered that Wizard Magazine has always sucked, and that they have always attracted the dregs of comic fandom as their base. Further, these poll results were largely based on the first story arc or two of JLA, the previous four decades of stories given only token consideration. That said, man did people hate Aquaman and Wonder Woman in this book.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

2010 Despero versus the Justice League Personal Sketch Card by Don Hillsman II

Click To Enlarge

Howdy folks! I'm having one of those "I can't get it up for blogging" days. Maybe it's the hours I spent writing last night's post? Maybe it's the sparse comments and general malaise of this time of year. Personally, I think I'm still traumatized by the discovery this month that Despero porn exists, and he's got a second fin where his short hairs should be. *Shudder*

Anyhow, Tom Hartley emailed me a nifty painted piece a few weeks ago by Don Hillsman II, who you may remember as an inker at DC in the '90s. If that doesn't ring a bell, he also stepped up to pencil several Martian Manhunter related features from the 1997 JLA Secret Files and Origins #1, including a once ubiquitous piece Tom used for his Martian Manhunter Archives Volume 8 Fan Mock-Up Cover.

Here, Hillsman paints an as of yet undocumented battle involving Gypsy, Metamorpho, and Captain Atom (plus this blog's two featured aliens.) As I understand it, these were commissioned specifically as the type of sketch cards popular as chase items in overpriced card sets these days. Check out "DH2's" blog for more, including preliminaries on another piece with the same characters.

Oh, and yes Virginia, there's been Martian Manhunter porn on the internet for several years now. May God have mercy on our souls...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Justice League America #38 (May, 1990)

The sleazebag who stole the JLI's garbage turned out to be Wally Tortolini, a reporter for Spy magazine. With the help of Simon Stringfellow, Doctor of Urban Anthropology at Gotham State University, Tortolini managed to work up quite the expose. It was determined that ruined industrialist Ted Kord was the Blue Beetle, that Oberon had been hiding love letters from Big Barda in order to maneuver Scott "Mr. Miracle" Free into a world tour, and that the mentally unstable Guy Gardner owed $50,000 for "Seven years catatonic maintenance." Tortolini believed out Fire's hair to be naturally brown, and soliciting information with a color corrected picture led to the revelation that she was former Brazilian Secret Service agent Beatriz DaCosta. She was wanted for questioning after fleeing her country following a confrontation at an enemy agent's apartment that saw the whole city block set ablaze. Most of the rest of Tortolini's mocked-up article was made up of catty commentary. "As for the Martian Manhunter, what can we say? He's big. He's green. And he looks like Gumby. Let's leave the poor guy alone."

On orders from Spys European distributor, Vivian D'Aramis, the magazine's editor killed the story. Tortolini was incensed...

Over the better than four billion kilometer distance from Neptune to Earth flown under his own power, the increasingly recognizable alien figure had developed to hulking maturity. The universe seemed to sing with him in hate throughout the journey. A graceless landing in Detroit saw the alien unintentionally snag a United Nations flag off a pole on his way through the wall of a Heywood Defense Industries plant. He decided to tie it around his neck as a makeshift cape. He might have tied it around his waist instead, but he did not appear to have genitals, which might explain all that hatred.

"These humans... they have a name for me. A name that embodies their fears... their terror of my very presence. They call me... Despero. As good a name as any other... No doubt they will call me far worse when I have had my way with them."

Despero sought out the version of the Justice League that had most recently defeated him, unaware they had long since disbanded. Despero found the remains of Hank Heywood III, formerly known as Steel, and killed his way toward the containment unit that sustained the vegetative former hero. "What's wrong with you? Respond! Respond, damn you-- so I can have the pleasure of killing you!!" Despero had suffered impotently for too long, contemplating the darkest means of expressing his anger, and ripping off the head of a brain dead cyborg would not do. "Steel may have had the good fortune to die while I was gone... but the others, I trust, haven't been so lucky. My hate must have expression. And it will. It will."

In New York, Booster Gold recruited an enthusiastic Maxi-Man to work with Claire Montgomery.

Somewhere in suburbia, Edward Reynolds was enjoying his Ozzie and Harriet, and his wife with June was chiding him for his "white, male protestant" fantasy. Gypsy was at the library doing research for a school paper, and her parents were glad she'd left "that super-hero nonsense" behind her. June was killed instantly upon Despero's impact with their house. Edward was allowed a moment to take in the horror of it before his neck was snapped. "In his heart: the most baffling feeling in all Creation. Love. Illogical. Insane. Why do they cling to it so? It has no charge to it... no power. My hate fuels me. Gives me purpose. His love... is a joke. I feel her coming. I feel the lightness of her spirit. She, too, is filled with this ridiculous love. I think I can change that. But first... some minor repairs to the dwelling. After all-- I wouldn't want her to think there was anything wrong."

Gypsy had been working hard, studying, grateful for school being easy compared to her former life on the streets and with a super team. "Sometimes those J.L.A. days seem like a dream... If I didn't get a letter from J'Onn every couple of weeks, I'd swear they never happened. I like the quiet life... the family life... 'Sides, from what J'Onn's told me, the League isn't exactly what it used to be. He says it's more like some kinda super-hero sitcom than-- speaking of sitcoms..."

Gypsy's father was seated in his lounge chair in front of the television. She assumed he had fallen asleep, until she spotted the blood soaking into his sweater and the blank expression in his eyes. From behind, Despero simply stated, "Daddy is dead, child. And so are you." Gypsy evaded the third eye blast that ripped her father's body to pieces, then dove through a nearby window. Her home exploded behind her. Gypsy ran to hide behind a nearby house. "Oh God... please tell me this is all a dream... My mother... my father... my brother... they can't be--"

"I'm calling you, child: Come. Now. Or there will be hell to pay." Unanswered, Despero blew up another house with his third eye. Gypsy ran out into the street to hail a commuter bus, but a series of energy blasts scared the driver off. Invisibly, Gypsy still managed to steal a ride on the back bumper. Gypsy still couldn't believe her family was gone, but she still had the power to escape.

At the New York embassy, Kilowog couldn't figure out why people like him still had to pull monitor duty when the system was now fully automated. However, an alert of widespread damage and death about a hundred miles north meant the former Green Lantern needed to talk "t'the top dog... the big green guy..."

Hiding on a train rolling near Rahway State Prison*, Gypsy continued to cry for her whole town as it was being torn apart by Despero. "Everyone I know... everyone I love... Mom... Dad... Evan-- oh, God--" Gypsy started to lose it, but caught herself. "If I can just get down to the city. Find J'Onn! He's the only one-- the only one I've-- Oh... no."

Despero stood in front of the train tracks and laughed as the conveyance toppled down a hillside at his whim. Gypsy's leg was broken in the wreck, but she maintained her invisibility. "I know you're here, girl. I can feel your presence. I can smell your essence. How long do you think you can hide from me? I've enjoyed the game till now. The destruction. The death. But I'm tired of playing." Despero threatened to kill other survivors of the train crash if Gypsy did not reveal herself, and she complied. Flat on the ground, Gypsy resigned herself to death, but Despero hesitated. "Well-- what are you standing there for? Do it! DO IT!"

Despero's head was turned over his shoulder, away from the girl, as he had become aware of an old threat returned...
"Get away from her. Right now."
"Come to watch the girl die, have you, Martian?"
"There'll be no more deaths today, Despero-- except perhaps-- yours."

"Secret Lives of the Justice League!" by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, Adam Hughes and Joe Rubinstein.

As I previously discussed in detail here, the JLI was all fun and games until somebody poked their eye out. Part of being the "funny" super-hero book was that you could shoot for poignancy of pathos through a tonal change-up, but there was always the potential for readers to miss the beat and wonder what kind of laugh was being built. Hell, this issue started out with not only a parody of Spy magazine, but also that type of detailed ancillary material popularized in serious works like Watchmen. Ten pages in, there's a girl with her head shoved through a monitor screen, a technician's twisted body on the floor, Despero's ripping the head off Steel, and there's a knot in your gut telling you there's nothing funny coming out of this. Despero has never been more vile, nor Gypsy more tragically sympathetic. Just when you've had all you can stand and are waiting for a young heroine to die, the Manhunter from Mars appears. J'Onn J'Onzz intends not only to end the suffering, but with his outstretch arm pointing out the evil in their midst,
he threatens biblical justice. Clearly, one of the finest moments in the Martian Manhunter cannon, and an instant classic.

Number of times Despero used the word "hate" this issue: 15

(*Which had been renamed East Jersey State Prison two years prior, and was actually well south of New York in Rahway, New Jersey)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Justice League America #37 (April, 1990)

Ted and Booster were still on KP duty, and Gold blamed everyone but himself for it as he whined endlessly. The Martian Manhunter took exception to his bellyaching. "I don't understand your resentment, Booster. You and Beetle stole League funds--"
"Who stole? We borrowed it! We were gonna pay it back with interest!"
"Until your little paradise fell apart around you-- and the League had to come rescue you."

Booster seemed to think two weeks of "scrubbing, buffing, scraping and washing" had made up for the crime of embezzling untold millions of dollars from Maxwell Lord, something I as a reader never quite forgave him for, although maybe later tragedies could be used to excuse elements of the offense.

"As I see it, you humiliated the League with your ridiculous scheme."
"Y'know, you are the most arrogant Martian I've ever met!"
"I'm also the only Martian you've ever met... Just do your job, Booster. And, when you're done-- perhaps you can grow up."

Despite his unquestionable culpability, Booster continued his tantrum in J'Onn's absence, then stormed off in search of respect, money, and other options.

"Neptune... where a satellite-probe begins behaving somewhat... erratically. Where a spark become a fire... and the fire takes form:" A being long disintegrated and dispersed developed from a fetal state to a horrid caricature of fanged and clawed infancy. "At last... I am free: free to hate. Free to murder." NASA couldn't figure out what had happened to a camera on their satellite, but an image of the red/pink-skinned alien flickered on just long enough to warn, "Tell them-- I am coming."

It would have been easy for the creature to simply allow itself to continue to discorporate into cosmic nothingness, and so very difficult to claw its way back to physical existence, but its hate was too strong to do otherwise. It melded with the satellite and impatiently waited for a flicker to reignite the flame of his old existence. "How long? Long enough to be broken and humiliated. Long enough for a hate as wide as creation, as deep as god, to grow still wider. Still deeper. Hate is the life-force that fuels me. Hate is what gives me purpose, meaning. So I ride my hate across space, toward earth; toward hate's expression... toward the Justice League."

A paparazzi disguised as a derelict skulked in the alley behind the New York JLI embassy so that he could steal the trash of the heroic team. Guy Gardner had previously warned the bum to stay away, but the creep made off with a refuse can before being detected. However, a mangy yellow alley cat managed to access the embassy when Guy peeked outside.

Booster Gold met with Claire Montgomery at a posh restaurant, to discuss an offer she had made previously off-panel, as this was her debut appearance.

Guy Gardner was pleased that Beetle and Booster were the ones getting dumped on instead of him, wished the League would "boot that Martian moron" and make him "top dog," thought Ice had a great bod but the wrong attitude and considered playing a prank on Max. The embassy sprinkler system was set off when Fire was startled by the mangy cat, and a damp Martian Manhunter was annoyed Beatriz hadn't yet developed better control over her enhanced powers since Invasion! Guy ended up in a wrestling match with the tenacious feline, and when Ted protested missing the spectacle on orders to shut off the water, J'Onn deadpanned, "My heart bleeds."

Fire wondered if they shouldn't help the Green Lantern in his cat fight. "Guy is constantly reminding us that he's America's greatest super-hero. I'm sure he can handle something as simple as a cat."
"He doesn't seem to be handling it very well."
"No, he doesn't-- does he? ...I assure you, Fire-- if I think that cat is in even the slightest danger-- I'll intervene immediately."

Things only got worse from there, as J'Onn griped about Beetle's initial inability to perform simple task of shutting off the water, a defective robot duplicate of Mr. Miracle kept trying to introduce itself to people, Bea started another fire when Guy hit on her, and in the end the debacle afforded Max Lord a big laugh. J'Onn accidentally stole one of Ted's jokes, apologizing by explaining, "sometimes when I'm weary... and a day like this makes a Martian very weary... I'm telepathically wide open..."

Max had decided to take Beetle and Booster off K.P., but teased Gold when he arrived that he would have to clean up the mess made that day. It was all the excuse Booster Gold needed to angrily resign from the League.

"Furballs!" by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, Adam Hughes and Art Nichols.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sunday, December 12, 2010

2010 Martian Manhunter Sketch Card by Peter Simeti

This sketch card is from artist Peter Simeti. Peter's art has been on the covers of independent comics and graphic novels and his renditions of characters from comics, cartoons, film, and books are always a crowd-pleaser at conventions. Don't miss out on your chance to own an original painted sketch card from this up and coming artist!

All of Peter's sketch cards are first drawn in pencil and then colored and/or shaded in markers, inks, paints or a combination of all three. Each card is a unique piece of original art and will not be re-printed or re-created.

Visit his site, Painted Heroes.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

2010 Justice League & Super-Hero Custom Ceramic Dresser Knobs by 2cute2miss

Create your own awesome set of dresser knobs! Choose from Spiderman, Batman, Flash, Superman, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, Hawk Girl, Wonder Woman, Hulk and Superman Logos! Perfect to use on dressers, cabinets, desks and more!

Handcrafted/decoupaged* with licensed materials. Sealed with layers of thick acrylic for superior strength and lasting durability. Scratch and water resistant, guaranteed! We use only the best quality ceramic knobs. Each measures 1 & 1/2" in diameter. Mounting screws are also included.

Friday, December 10, 2010

1990 Mayfair Games DC Heroes The Justice League Sourcebook: Gypsy

I managed to cover every major Motor City Leaguer except Zatanna, who was absent from the 1989 box set's cards, and I figure can wait until next year. That only leaves Gypsy below, who fits nicely in the December of Despero scheme, seeing as he murdered her family and lusted after Gypsy while merged with L-Ron. The art is from a Thomas Derenick panel, and clearly too polished to be convincing as anything other than another of my mocked-up character cards...

Dex: 6
Str: 3
Body: 4
Int: 6
Will: 5
Mind: 6
Infl: 6
Aura: 4
Spirit: 5

Initiative: 20
Hero Points: 35

Illusion: 10, Invisibility: 7

Martial Artist: 4, Thief: 6
• Limitations:
Minor Power Burnout on Illu­sion
Area Knowledge (Detroit streets); Connections: Justice League of America (High), Street (Low)
Age (Gypsy is only 15)
JLA Signal Ring (see page 121)

•Alter Ego: Cindy Reynolds
•Height: 5'6"
•Weight: 110 lbs.
•Eyes: Blue
•Hair: Black
Thrill of Adventure
•Wealth: 1
•Occupation: Street Urchin
•Quote: "I'll show you a dump, you... you... pheasantl" (Justice League of America #247)

Gypsy was a young street urchin who inhabited the sector of Detroit in which the Justice League took up residence shortly after Aquaman disbanded the original League in the wake of the alien invasion.1 Shortly after the JLAers moved into their new inner city HQ, Gypsy began using her camouflage powers to penetrate the League's defensive measures, in order to check out her new neighbors first hand. Out of curiosity, Gypsy began following the Justice Leaguers around, eventually stepping forward to aid the heroes against the menace of the Cadre, an act which netted her an offer to become a full-time Justice Leaguer herself.2 Gypsy later participated in the League's struggles against the power-mad Anton Allegro3 and a reactivated Amazo.4

The origin of Gypsy's powers and her true background remain a mystery. Just after the JLA broke up for good, Gypsy revealed that she was a runaway and returned to her family.5 In his bid to wipe out the new JLA, Professor Ivo sent an android to destroy Gypsy, but she managed to find the conscience that was lurking deep within the android's programming and convinced it not to kill her. The android then saw her safely returned to her parents' keeping.

Gypsy's happiness was to be short-lived, however. One day while she was at school, several months after leaving the JLA, a vengeful Despero arrived at Gypsy's home and callously murdered her parents.6 Gypsy would have been Despero's next victim, if it had not been for the timely intervention of J'Onn J'Onzz and the rest of Justice League America, who managed to halt Despero's insane rampage.7 Devastated by the loss of her family, Gypsy returned to heroing as a member of Booster Gold's corporate-sponsored team of heroes, known as the Conglomerate, whom she views as her new family.8

Gypsy's most dominant personality trait is her curiosity. It led her to sneak into the JLA headquarters on several occasions, and she even went so far as to surreptitiously follow them on several cases. She seemed to be somewhat shy and reserved, because she never wanted to talk about herself or her background, and she never told anyone the true origin of her camouflage and illusion powers.

  1. Justice League of America Annual #2
  2. Justice League of America #236
  3. Justice League of America #237-239
  4. Justice League of America #241-243
  5. Justice League of America #259
  6. Justice League America #38
  7. Justice League America #39
  8. Justice League International Quarterly #1

Belated thanks to Tom Hartley, whose offering of a batch of about 30 character card scans was the taste I needed to seek more. He then sold his box set for a very reasonable price to a poor student to facilitate this crossover, because I just had to scan them all for myself.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

1995 Skybox DC Power Chrome Legends '95 #53: Despero

I've intended to do posts on this card set in the past (most memorably during the long abandoned Bloodwynd coverage,) but by its very nature, it defies scanning and flash photography. Those of us who lived through the '90s should well remember "chromium," the fad in which art was transposed onto flexible silver foil, rendering the entire image shiny like an old American muscle bumper. The benefit was that it was a much more impressive and durable effect than the more limited and already passé regular foil covers (now commonly employed on toothpaste and some cereal boxes.) The down side was that the "chromium" was very light sensitive, so that from the wrong angle a cover could turn completely black, and you could almost never correctly light the whole surface without glare/fade. Also, chrome cards like these were chemically unstable, so that when placed in a binder page a tacky, foggy residue develops. It's pretty gross, actually.

Further on, card companies were keen to charge more for less in these post boom years. As I recall, the chromium came with an inflated price per pack in the neighborhood of a 50%+ mark-up over standard cards, although that was a lot more value than those stupid Marvel sets that charged a whopping premium for thicker cardboard. Also, as became increasingly common, these cards merely recycled previously published comic art, so you were basically being asked to pony up to get random panels juiced up like premium covers. This piece was taken from an issue of Justice League Task Force drawn by Sal Velluto

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

1989 Mayfair Games DC Heroes Martian Manhunter Character Card

As you may have noticed over the past few days, the art on these Mayfair cards is somewhat short of professional caliber. Certainly far better than those early Dungeons & Dragons ads, but not quite up to snuff for the business, and heavy on the swipes. I'm pretty confident this was an original composition because, well, it belongs in a high schooler's notebook. I appreciate that J'Onn's junk was abstract to near cubism, but why is he resting his fey wrists within the dimples of his ass?

Between this card and the 1993 3rd Edition Sourcebook, J'Onn gained 7 Initiative points and the powers of Invulnerability (16) and Superspeed (5.) I'm not sure those powers were covered in '89. Also, they added a limitation to his invisibility that claimed it so strained his concentration that he couldn't use any other powers while it was in effect. It was a weird choice, since that limitation hadn't been present in comics for decades, and when it was relevant, it was actually due to the effects of Formula Z6. Of course, by this point, all those Detective Comics stories were rendered a fever dream, and Middletown U.S.A. had given way to Middleton, Colorado, which received an entry in the 1990 Atlas of the DC Universe sourcebook.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Who's Who in the DC Universe #2: Despero (September 1990)

The problem with publishing a reference book in the standard comic format was that there was never enough space to include everyone, and there was a constant need for updates. Marvel and DC came to the same conclusion with their '90s attempts: offer them in a looseleaf format so that readers could organize them and their updates as they pleased. Since entries were limited to one page (illustration on front, biographical data on back,) it was also a lot easier to sneak in obscurities among the names. However, the format proved expensive and unpopular, especially among collectors who wanted to keep their buys sealed and pristine. Further, Marvel used boring style guides for their art, and chopped their bios to pieces in favor of lists of key issues to buy. Alternately, DC offered for more attractive art here than on their original much loved Who's Who comics, and while name characters were sometimes chafed by the space restrictions, lesser lights were gifted far more room for information than usual.

Despero didn't seem to need the space, though. Mark Waid offered a solid summary of his adventures from 1986-1990, the only years "officially" in continuity at that time, in just over two of three columns. Powers & Weapons only took up a brief paragraph. I feel this was unfair, but indicative more of the times than the talent. Last time Despero received surprisingly good art drawn by a writer, but this time he got Adam Hughes and Joe Rubinstein, so no complaints were to be filed.

Mayfair Games Inc. complimented this series with one of the own as part of the DC Heroes line. The Who's Who in the DC Universe Role-Playing Supplement 1 came out around 1992, and offered about 120 characters an additional two pages of informational text related to game play. Despero's included updated stats, another paragraph describing his powers, coverage of his Pre-Py'tar form, a bit over a paragraph on his personality, and a background update.

Mayfair Games even offered a checklist of his referenced comic book appearances (all Post-Crisis) and previous uses in Mayfair supplements (which had only amounted to the Justice League handbook.) The back page was mostly devoted to a superficial schematic of the control collar used to download L-Ron's consciousness into Despero's mind.

A lot of the information is still dubious ("incapable of coherent thought?") but the power levels sure shot up in this incarnation.+2 Dexterity meant he could finally connect with all but the most agile human opponents, and he added more Strength than most characters ever get. That 20 eclipsed the strongest mortal heroes, comparable with New Gods and Captain Marvel (although Shazam underperformed Mayfair's perception of Superman to a criminal degree.)  A body of 16 placed him just below the likes of Superman, Darkseid and Ares. Of course, Despero also lost more in intellect than most characters ever have (-9,) and he lost 7 in Initiative. Let's not forget that impossibly high Invulnerability, which is downright unbeatable without the help of some powerhouses.

Monday, December 6, 2010

1989 Mayfair Games DC Heroes The Sandman Character Card

Referencing H'ronmeer has been the Manhunter's "Suffering Sappho" since the most famous Martian deity was created by J.M. DeMatteis in 1986, but he was neither the first nor the last. Bel Juz thanked the unheard from since Vrom in 1972, the Faustian Neron was known on Mars in Underworld Unleashed, and there's always the Lovecraftian Scary Monsters.

The alluded to but never paid off mention I always found the most interesting was made by Neil Gaiman in an early issue of The Sandman. It seemed Morpheus' influence stretched beyond the Earth, as he was presumably worshiped on Mars as Lord L'Zoril. Even if Morpheus was only assuming the appearance of L'Zoril, this moment established a power beyond H'ronmeer amongst J'Onn's people. Seeing as J'Onzz has never referenced L'Zoril again, one assumes J'Onn isn't as devout a follower as he is of H'ronmeer (whom he's also "met,") so I guess his response was along the lines of the same respect I'd show Ganesh if he showed up at my doorstep. It wouldn't instantly convert me to Hinduism, especially as a citizen of the DC Universe, but it would certainly take the wind out of me.

At one time, Lobo was theorized as potentially being the "lost" member of The Endless, the seemingly omnipotent clan of Morpheus. It turned out that Destruction was a red-headed dude who was more interested in creating art than wrecking nations. Curiously, H'ronmeer is usually depicted as a vaguely anthropomorphic reddish energy entity often composed of smoke and fire who also deals in destruction and creation. I always thought it would be cool if the Endless were the primary deities of Mars, and teased the notion in my The Martian Manhunter #150 fanfic. Any such thing seemed unlikely for years due to DC wanting to keep Gaiman happier than they did Alan Moore, but with Vertigo partially reintegrating into DC proper and the company becoming cavalier enough to throw Death into a Lex Luthor story, who knows?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

1993 Skybox DC Cosmic Teams Card #124: Despero

Returning to the "first" DC Skybox trading card set and its "Foes of the Justice League" subsection, here's the second Despero appearance. The back focuses on Despero's transformation in the incorrectly spelled Flames of Py'tar (note apostrophe, and please people try to remember that Spider-Man is a hyphenate!) Judging by Lobo's being batted a quarter mile and the appropriately outsized art of Bart Series, the front reflects the Breakdowns rampage during the final days of Giffen & DeMatteis on JLI.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

1989 Mayfair Games DC Heroes Manhunter Character Card

This may come as a surprise, but in the late 80s/early 90s, I was more of a fan of Mark Shaw than John Jones. I only made it about halfway through Millenium in 1988, but enjoyed several tie-in comics like Suicide Squad, which led to my buying the spin-off Manhunter series. I enjoyed the premise of a super-heroic bounty hunter very much, but I never saw a second issue on the newsstand, so it was another couple of years before I bought a good chunk of the run through a comic shop. The opening Dumas arc was a very satisfying thriller with a highly effective antagonist, but the book never quite found its stride once Manhunter Mark Shaw settled back into his normal life. In fact, I long operated under the assumption it was intended to be a strong mini-series that was extended into a weak ongoing with fill-ins on both the writing and art fronts, entirely too many tepid crossovers, and no clear direction. Manhunter was canceled after two years, and the character seemingly killed off in the great Eclipso massacre. He had enough fans to turn up alive at the end of the Chase Lawler Manhunter series in the mid-90s, and last I saw he was a mentally unstable supporting character in the Kate Spencer Manhunter series. Have I mentioned there are too many f'n Manhunters in the DC Universe?

As far as early protomanga super-heroics goes, you couldn't beat Doug Rice's winning designs. In fact, I had an action figure in the late '80s that looked suspiciously similar to Rice's Manhunter. Unfortunately, nobody else seemed to draw it near as well (see also: the Manhunters of Jack Kirby and Walt Simonson,) and John Ostrander seemed so incapable of reclaiming his groove that he actually resurrected Dumas after a rather final finale.

Anyhow, here's the first serious look at Mark Shaw here after the Manhunters Around The World section quickly fell into disuse. I hope to revisit him again...

Friday, December 3, 2010

1993 Skybox DC Cosmic Teams Card #30

According to Wikipedia, Impel Marketing was a southern U.S. company founded in 1989, which changed its name to SkyBox International in 1990. Unsurprisingly, I have to wonder about the accuracy of the site, since it was under the Impel label that the hideously designed 1991/1992 DC Cosmic Cards were put out. I guess by 1993 they wanted to turn over a new leaf (no relation,) so the debut DC set as Skybox offered a really nice '90s design that still holds up today.

Unlike the anachronistic first set, Cosmic Teams was as cutting edge and modern as DC would ever get. For instance, while the triptych series returned, rather than having three different artists rendering the same classic character across eras (and inconsistent backgrounds,) these were all about hot up n' comers. Travis Charest, the most technically accomplished of the Jim Lee clones, was introduced to fans through his too short stint on Darkstars. Here he drew the rarely seen Bloodwynd and Superman foe Weapons Master II, the blue moon threat Starbreaker, the rarely cool Royal Flush Gang, the rightly forgotten JLE nuisance Deconstructo, and Despero. Charest became quite a respected name before falling off a few years back, but only Despero seems to have really prospered out of this class of '93.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

1989 Mayfair Games DC Heroes Darkseid the Destroyer Character Card

Darkseid rages an ongoing war to prevent Santa Claus from reaching Apokolips, so you know there's no Festival of Lights for Jack Kirby's fantastic look at a world where super-scientific fascistic quasi-Nazi deities rule. However, I've decided to use this year's Hanukkah celebration as an excuse to run a series of posts related to character cards and other items from Mayfair Games' long-running DC Heroes line. I've also invited other blogs to participate, so check the links below for more "Mayfairstivus" activities (with apologies to the Costanza family.)

While Darkseid was only established as the adopted god of J'Onn J'Onzz's brother Ma'alefa'ak a decade back, Mayfair helped strengthen the bond between Darkseid and the Martian Manhunter begun through their both being released (and introduced to the general public) in the second series of the Super Powers Collection. That toy line and its tie-ins (including the Legends mini-series co-written by John Ostrander) mired the Martian Manhunter in the Fourth World for much of the late '80s. Mayfair hopped onto the bandwagon, commissioning the 1985 Grenadier Models Justice League of America & Adversaries Miniatures Set for use with their role-playing maps. Batman would naturally fight the Joker, Superman against Brainiac, leaving Hawkman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, the Flash and Martian Manhunter all ganging up on Darkseid. Since most of those heroes had their own villains elsewhere, and J'Onn kept running into Darkseid throughput the '80s, there was some natural association to be made. It didn't hurt that their stats and origins were somewhat more compatible than humanoid guys wielding medieval weapons.

I'm not even going to try to break down Darkseid's obscene stats. Human heroes peak at an 8 in most respects, and metahumans are lucky to have abilities in the low teens. Your upper echelon might break 15 in something or other. 20s are reserved for gods and Superman. The Lord of Apokolips has a 30 and a 65. Get out of here!