Friday, September 30, 2011

The Brave and the Bold #152 letter column poll (July, 1979)



In case you couldn't read the scan above, readers were asked to write in their favorite characters to appear with Batman in his official team-up comic. The top candidate was The Usurper, beating out the Elongated Man by just three votes. Clearly, a young Doug Zawisza "helped" folks from the local graveyard offer their preference. Anyway, the Red Tomato appeared in the very next issue, while the Martian Manhunter, with no stated count, would not appear for the rest of the series run. To add salt to the wound, the only other characters mentioned as top choices to not receive spotlight appearances were the new Doom Patrol, Batgirl, The Human Target, and Captain Comet. Given the company, I'm guessing J'onn was at the Ralph Nader/Ron Paul end of the chad. Meanwhile, at least a quarter of the other selections appeared twice! The closest we ever got to a TB&TB Dark Knight/Alien Atlas pairing was a Jim Aparo cover to a DC digest.

Anyway, here's a transcript for the scan-impaired. "PL" is editor Paul Levitz, by the way...


Our big BRAVE & BOLD Readers' Poll is finally over, and the response was frightening! Some readers sent in lists of forty suggestions, bringing back heroes we had to look up in our worn guides to the forgotten Golden Age of comics. But surprisingly, a clear concensus also came out of the correspondence. Three characters got the largest pile of votes: Black Lightning, our much-promised and yet to be delivered Bat-partner, with 30 votes; The Elongated Man, who has never appeared in THE BRAVE & THE BOLD but did team up with Batman years ago in DETECTIVE COMICS, with 35 votes; and our winner, The Red Tornado, with 38 votes!

The Red Tornado will appear in these pages very shortly— probably in #153—in a special tale that we've already commissioned from Cary Burkett, who will be pinch-hitting once more to give Bob a chance to get ahead of schedule.

Other strong characters in the poll were (in no particular order): Metamorpho (who returns soon in a tale that takes Batman traveling), the Legion of Super-Heroes, the new Doom Patrol, The Atom, Firestorm, the Huntress, The Spectre, Man-Bat, Batgirl (who got her team-up shot in BATMAN magazine a few months back), Supergirl, Zatanna, Green Lantern, The Teen Titans, The Human Target, Captain Comet, the Manhunter From Mars, and The Flash.

Some of these super-stars have appeared since we started the poll, so it's our working assumption that your desire to see them has at least been temporarily taken care of. But the others are now all under serious consideration for future issues of THE BRAVE & THE BOLD, and we wouldn't be surprised if the next year or so saw most of them making appearances... with the probable exception of the Legion of Super-Heroes, which would probably drive both Bob and Jim bananas!

In closing the contest, we'd like to thank all our readers who participated in the poll for making it the most successful in our memory. You've spoken out about who you want to see in B&B, and we're going to make every effort to give you everything you want—and everything you deserve —PL.

*****

Thursday, September 29, 2011

2010 DC Universe Vol.4: Going Solo Lobo art by alexmax

Click To Enlarge and Expand


I really like alexmax multi-character showcases, as evidenced by their being featured spread across my blogs once or twice. Unfortunately without any Miss Martian or Gypsy or Roh Kar or anybody else related to the Martian Manhunter, I'm stuck turning to a fairly modest foe for inclusion in today's showpieces. He isn't even in the Vile Menagerie, and it isn't even October...

"This is the first time I include a couple of characters that aren't necessarily heroic, but they aren't exactly villians either, they just work on their own best interests...

Anyways, here is a rundown on what I was thinking when I was making them...


Lobo: This is one of those characters where it seems that no two artists draw him exactly the same way. I tried to do my own version, which to be honest is a pretty straightfoward version of Lobo :doh:."

alexmax

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Stormwatch #42 (November, 1996)



Multiple sets of Siamese triplets with energy powers were destroying Tokyo. The three Stormwatch teams were sent to dispatch them, whether by Flint punching their heads off two at a time, Rose Tattoo firing exploding bullets into their midst, or Jenny Sparks electrocuting them by emerging from a thrown fetish communicator. Fuji took a special interest in the case, confronting the leader of the Kodô death cult, Raifu Waaku. The man had been born without eyes to a mother who had seen Ko-Ji-Ki, the separation of heaven and earth, more specifically the bombing of Nagasaki. Like the murder-suicide of novelist Yukio Mishima, Fuji recognized that the terrorist's true, unstated goal was to use SPBs as a means of rearming Japan following their surrendering of a standing army after World War II. The triple creations of Kodô did not wish to live or see more of their kind produced, while Fuji unconvincingly talked Raifu Waaku into committing seppuku on a Japanese flag to restore honor or some such thing.

"Kodô" was by Warren Ellis, Tom Raney & Randy Elliott. Once again, Ellis must have decided that he was going to write a Fuji story, did lots of research about Japan, and then wrote a story about how his characters could spouted all that research that he had done almost verbatim like they were walking Wikipedia entries. Re-watching "Akira," I'll assume, led to the action sequences. At least the book was attractive to look at this month.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Redefining the Vile Menagerie Poll Results

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Late last month, I ran a lengthy post discussing how I came to coin the term "Vile Menagerie" with regard to the Martian Manhunter's rogues gallery, what I meant for it to be a decade back, and how that definition has changed over the years. I also asked readers to respond to a poll to help redefine the collective as they would like to see it. The results:

What is the Vile Menagerie?
  • 5 votes (27%): Everybody the Martian Manhunter has ever fought as a featured combatant. (Asmodel)
  • 3 votes (16%): Everybody the Martian Manhunter has ever fought, even as part of a team. (All in.)
  • 3 votes (16%):Only the villains J'onn J'onzz physically fights in his solo stories, like B'rett.
  • 3 votes (16%):Only his most dangerous common foes, like Despero.
  • 2 votes (11%): Only villains that are most closely associated with J'onn J'onzz, like Professor Hugo.
  • 2 votes (11%):Only his most dangerous solo foes, like Malefic.
  • 0 votes (0%): Only the adversaries J'onn J'onzz must face in his solo stories, like Mister V.
While the top vote getter got nearly twice the votes of any other option, five against a lot of threes hardly qualifies as a mandate. Let's see if I can play with these results to find more of a consensus:
  • 44%: All prominent Martian Manhunter combatants, whether solo or in a team scenario.
  • 28%: Exclusively villains from J'onn J'onzz's solo stories, such as B'rett and Professor Hugo.
  • 28%: Only the most dangerous foes of the Manhunter from Mars, like Despero and Malefic.

Revised under these terms, it looks like the Vile Menagerie is basically already doing what folks want it to, with perhaps the minor tweak of adding in a tiered showcase to separate the heavy-hitters from the bench warmers. Folks interested in such a construct should tell me so in the comments, because it would be pretty easy for me to blow that off indefinitely.

Finally, to make a pass at lighting a fire under the comments, which current or potential inclusion in the Vile Menagerie would you most like to have thrown out entirely?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Young Justice Miss Martian/Martian Manhunter 2-Pack Action Figure Set

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I have the best intentions when it comes to toy posts, but the truth is that they are an enormous pain that I routinely avoid. Shots of a figure in packaging, out of packaging, close-ups of body parts and accessories... all those reflective surfaces and angles... such a headache. Anyway, seeing as how it's unlikely I'll be buying any new figures soon, and I don't follow the Young Justice cartoon, maybe it's best I just direct some coverage to Action Figure Times.

It seems that beginning earlier this year, Mattel started putting out toys for the 'toon in two formats: six inch heavily articulated DC Universe Classics, and streamlined 4½" pieces more in line with the style of Justice League Unlimited. As far as I know, Miss Martian didn't make the cut for either line initially, marking her upcoming two-pack with uncle J'Onn J'Onzz the character's debut in action figure form (although I stand to be corrected as needed.) I'm not sure if this will be out in 2011, or where, but you can check out very high resolution pictures here

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Hyperclan: ARMEK



Alter Ego: Unknown
Occupation: Alien Invader
Known Relatives: None
Group Affiliation: The Hyperclan, White Martians
Base of Operations: Still Zone, formerly Gobi Desert
First Appearance: JLA #1 (January, 1997)
Height: Variable; appeared approx. 11'0"
Build: Variable; appeared in extremely bulky armor
Weight: Variable; appeared very heavy
Eyes: Variable; appeared red
Hair: None
Skin: Variable; appeared as green/brown camouflage

History:
Armek was part of a White Martian advance team masquerading as extraterrestrial super-heroes in a bid to conquer Earth. While stationed at the Hyperclan's Gobi Desert base, Armek joined Zenturion in attacking Green Lantern Kyle Rayner. Armek attempted to exploit the common Green Lantern Corp power ring's vulnerability to the color yellow by shifting the appearance of his armor. Unaware that Rayner was the last standing Green Lantern at the time, with an exceptional power ring immune to the once "necessary impurity," the hero beat Armek unconscious in short order. Afterward, Armek's identity was assumed by the Martian Manhunter and used to infiltrate the ancient White Martian base of Z'Onn Z'Orr. Both of these actions offended Armek greatly once he recovered. Armek partnered with Züm in storming toward Z'Onn Z'Orr to engage the JLA. He was again swiftly humiliated, this time by the Flash, who surrounded Armek with candles while Green Lantern dropped a "16 TON" anvil on him. Armek has not been seen since.

Powers & Weapons:
While presumably possessed of the innate abilities seen in most Martians of all colors, the White Martians held for millenia in the otherdimensional "Still Zone" displayed a tendency toward heavily favoring only certain of these abilities. For example, Armek would burrow under the earth with his great strength to emerge for an ambush, rather than becoming immaterial. Armek could change his armor's color at will, but at no point ever freely shape-shifted, and even fixated on the effort expended designing his form. Armek could fly at great speed, but demonstrated no telepathy. Finally, Armek could generate pulsed electrical charges, a power unseen in other Martians.

Weaknesses:
Armek has a catastrophic vulnerability to fire, causing immediate loss of his abilities, and eventually death.

Quote: "This is what happens when you deal with a Green Martian! They're all the same! What makes him think he can just steal a form I designed? ...I'll kill him!"

Created by: Grant Morrison & Howard Porter

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Stormwatch #41 (Late October, 1996)



In the years since a comet's passing radiation awarded latent super powers to people called Seedlings, schoolchildren had been secretly screened for abilities. Synergy, now a field operative, was sent to Shadwell, Washington to investigate whether she should activate the powers of Samuel John Fleisig, a grungy loser who beat his mom for beer money. After building up the possibility that he was also into child porn, Christine Trelane discovered that Fleisig was instead a serial killer who got off on photographing his victims post-mortem. Trelane traced Fleisig to a night club, where he was explosively activated by a mysterious brunette with only a kiss. A more muscular and savage Fleisig wanted to paint Synergy in her own blood, but she kicked his ass and temporarily deactivated his powers. Trelane was pleased that despite the battering she'd received, deep interrogation would surely offer a lead to the rogue activator.

"Activator" was by Warren Ellis, Michael Ryan & Randy Elliott. As has been mentioned, Ellis had a nasty habit of dumping character flashbacks inappropriately into a narrative, and instead began offering more organic character-centric narratives. Unfortunately, the first page announces his intention to write a Christine Trelane story, and he surely did, but it seemed like he made that decision without actually coming up with a story. You pretty much immediately know the antagonist is a creep, so the only mystery is where his deprivations flow. A good artist could have sold that cinematically with mood, but the art is cartoonish amateur hour crap, so no salvation there. I don't usually go for the t&a shot in article scans, but Trelane's interracial sex with Jackson King was the only visual I could be bothered with. Also, Trelane took up smoking again as a plot point of the issue, because I needed another reason to confuse her with Jenny Sparks. Finally, if Synergy is believed to be the only activator, or at least the only one working for Stormwatch, why would they send her out to nearly die in the field alone? She should be like that kid from X-Men: The Last Stand, under armed guard in a secure compound to preserve her as a resource.

Friday, September 23, 2011

2011 THE JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA Print by Rogan Josh

Click To Enlarge


"GeeksOUT is excited to offer a new incentive gift for donations at the $50 mark: A limited-edition print featuring the Justice League of America, courtesy of modHero!

The print is 13"x19" on high-gloss paper, ready to frame with a thin white border, signed and numbered on the back."

Yay, America. Hmm.
The JLA represented “American” justice, but they certainly ended up in a variety of places where that didn’t mean much. Just how well were they suited to dish out a universal definition of justice?

Justice is defined as “the concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, religion, fairness, or equity along with the punishment of the breach of said ethics.” Those seven principals correspond nicely to the original 7 members of the Justice League of America. Look!

Ethics - addressing questions about morality, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong
Superman, with his superhuman morals and Kansasian sense of right and wrong, is the poster boy for ethics. Let’s not mention how he’s an illegal alien, OK?

Rationality - the exercise of reason, the way humans come to conclusions when considering things most deliberately
Batman, the cold calculating detective. He’s a little bit creepy, but he gets to the point and doesn’t let Superman’s “ethical” stuff fog up his goggles.

Law - a system of rules, usually enforced through a set of institutions
Green Lantern, the ultimate space cop, can lay down the law on a cosmic scale.

Natural Law - a law whose content is set by nature and that therefore holds everywhere
Aquaman talks to fishes and octopi, so he has this one covered.

Religion - a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of life and the universe
Martian Manhunter, the spooky, spectral outsider from a lost civilization has an enlightened perspective that borders on the transcendent.

Fairness - understanding what is fair within a society
Wonder Woman can see the big picture after coming from a tightly orchestrated and refined society herself.

Equity - to have discretion in administering justice in order to rule fairly and without cruelty
Flash is the everyman, so he’s not about to throw the book at anyone.

There you go! They might not have gone “International” yet, but the original JLA was ready to dole out some serious justice, wherever they ended up.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Manhunter in Detective Comics #438 (December, 1973/January, 1974)



HE STALKS THE WORLD'S MOST DANGEROUS GAME
MANHUNTER


In Zurich, Christine St. Clair reported to her superior at Interpol's Information Center, Damon Nostrand. Justification had to be found for keeping St. Clair on a single case, so she supplied it. Her Manhunter file offered news of a battle with a tiger on a boat out of Calcutta, ended by a bundi dagger. Before that, at the beginning of the file, was the reappearance of one Paul Kirk after thirty years presumed dead. Kirk had tried to withdraw money right there in Zurich out of a personal account left moribund since 1946. His identity confirmed, Kirk had to fight off thugs in the bank to collect his cash.

The Manhunter's first reappearance was in the Middle East, where he deflected a grenade fired at Sheik Rashid Ben Turhan with a simple throwing star. A second Japanese shuriken killed the assassin. Curiously, the body found later appeared to be that of Paul Kirk, although it was stolen before positive identification could be made with the medical examiner.

A week later in Brasilia, genetic scientist Dr. Raoul Salazano was abducted by masked men in a blue and white costume. Manhunter caught up with them, and displayed ninjutsu mastery unseen since the death of Asano Nitobe at Nagasaki in 1945. He then shot down their helicopter with a customized 1916 model Mauser employing plainly enhanced ammunition. Manhunter vanished thereafter, but once again, one of his opponents appeared to have been Paul Kirk before the body was snatched.

The mystery only grew thicker, and Christine St. Clair had a lead in Marrakech. Damon Nostrand ordered her to pursue it, but from then on, she would only report to him. After St. Clair left, Nostrand burned her files...

"The Manhunter File Chapter Two (2)" was by Archie Goodwin & Walter Simonson.

The Bronze Age

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Roh'Kar



Roh'Kar was a White Martian made to believe that he was a Green Martian. He was presumably named after the Martian lawman Roh Kar, and that spelling of the name was used interchangeably with Roh'Kar.

Roh'Kar was the last of a group of brainwashed Whites captured by Cay'an and turned over to the U.S. government for unscrupulous research. As the newest and strongest of the group, it was decided that the five other prisoners would channel their available strength into Roh'Kar. This would provide him with power enough to escape from a top secret laboratory under New York City, killing a guard before vanishing into thin air.

For the previous month, Roh'Kar had managed to make vague, sporadic telepathic contact with J'Onn J'Onzz. Weak and disoriented, Roh'Kar finally made a firm psychic connection, calling on the Manhunter from Mars for help against the forces seeking to recapture him. Roh'Kar had an implanted device that signaled his location, and while the Martian Manhunter was distracted by a conversation with Roh'Kar's former captor, a bead was drawn on the fugitive. Making amends, the Manhunter dove in front of a psychic pulse blast, which pushed J'Onzz out of the building they were in to the street below. Roh'Kar continued to run, and locating his implant, tore it free from his right shoulder.

Reunited, the Manhunter promised to keep Roh'Kar safe, but a second pulse from a human sniper rifle tore through Roh'Kar's chest. The Martian burst into flames, never recalling his true nature. His dying words warned, "D--do not... trust... o-others... There... are... others... like... us..."

Quote: "Are you there...? Are you there...? Are you there...?"

First Appearance: Martian Manhunter #1 (October, 2006)

Internet of Diabolu: Fire, Water, Storm



A fair amount of Idolatry on the web today, so we'll take a moment to process it.

First off, friends of the blog Rob Kelly and Shag Matthews have started a co-op podcast for their blogs, Firestorm Fan and The Aquaman Shrine. The Fire and Water Podcast offered The Idol-Head of Diabolu a shout-out in its very first episode from Shag, who credited it as partially inspiring his own single character blogging. He also inspired me to do a bit of very belated research on our very own title. The guys that created the I-HoD concept are all dead, but the name is presumably derived from the Latin “diabolus” meaning “devil.” It is usually used in conjunction with “diabolus ex machina” (a dark twist ending) or “diabolus in musica” (meaning the tritonus, “the main interval of dissonance in Western harmony.”) Dropping the “s,” that yields “DEE-ah-BOO-Lou.” Of course, being from Texas, I say “DIE-ah-ball-ew.” Whatevs.

I mention this here because it's relevant, but also because even after offering the handy phonetic pronunciation guide above, Shag proceeded to render it boring old "diablo" in their third podcast. Beginning at 1:16:25, the guys plug my blogs (the NSFWish onomatopoeiatastic ...nurgh... pronounced perfectly, of course) while questioning my soul/sanity until 1:17:54. I'd be hurt if, y'know, it wasn't two men at the 1¼ hour mark of a weekly podcast recorded from a seedy hotel. "It rubs the lotion on its skin, or else it gets the hose again..."

The Fire and Water Podcast
  1. Episode 1
  2. Episode 2: New Justice League/Dragon*Con 2011!
  3. Episode 3: Mission Statement/Favorite Runs/News/Borders Requiem/Listener Feedback



Moving on, Paul Cornell Dissects "Stormwatch" #1 at Comic Book Resources, which I'll dissect here, which isn't at all creepy after segueing from a Silence of the Lambs reference. Maybe I should trade out for "The Idol-Head of Dexter?"

"There's a WildStorm atmosphere, and I think honestly you could view this book as a distillation of "Stormwatch," "The Authority" and "Planetary." It's a love letter to Warren Ellis, basically. To some extent, the mainstream superhero universes have caught up to where WildStorm was and have copied WildStorm a lot. And so it wasn't that big a hop from one place to another, but at the same time we needed to find a schtick to hang that WildStorm atmosphere on. And what it ended up being was that the whole Authority arrogance is still in place for this Stormwatch – the sense of being better than and indifferent to the world, especially being better than superheroes. That's what we've mutated that idea into."

Ohhhh, so that's why I've been covering the Warren Ellis Stormwatch issues. I get no votes of confidence when I do this stuff.

Cornell went on to discuss writing each issue with enough exposition so that new readers can jump on at any given time, as well as finding "big cosmic alien stuff" to run up against the team. Next he discussed his new characters, and how the hard edged Wildstorm types mesh with Justice Leaguer J'Onn J'Onzz...

"Well, I like that rubbing. I like the fact that being a shape changer he can be what he likes when he likes. It's nice to be able to say, "He's not always the same thing, you know." I think that being the last of a warrior race, he'd like to express his warrior-ness every now and then. And what I think is the best thing we've done is that before the book came out, everybody was going "How on earth could he possibly fit into that?" and once the first issue was out, they were saying, "Well, of course he fits into that. Job well done." [Laughs] We always knew that was going to work because he does fit into the book.

He's a very interesting character. I really loved the whole Giffen and DeMatteis "Justice League" run, and what people forget from that run is that J'onn J'onzz is only gradually revealed to have a soft heart. He was on that team to be the bad ass! He's meant to be the one other people feel. You only eventually reveal that he loves Oreos and find that soft center to him. It took many, many issues, and we're just bringing the bad ass back here. It's obvious that he's one of the most powerful character in the DC Universe, and we want to reflect that."

I find it interesting that the Martians are characterized as a "warrior race," which jibes a lot more with Conway, Morrison and Ostrander than it does with DeMatteis and Jones. I see a lot of potential dividing of loyalties here, myself included. I recognize that it's very hard to write a Martian Manhunter effectively when he's secretly Gumby from a race of tribal pacifists, but I hope it doesn't swing so far as poor Wonder Woman going from an ambassador of peace to the only Amazon you don't have to restrain from castrating all men on sight. I'd also like to point out that Martians, especially without a completely paralyzing vulnerability to fire, qualify as "big cosmic alien stuff."

Aside from relishing the opportunity to show the Apollo/Midnighter romance from its beginning unimpeded, Cornell closed by describing the book thusly...

"With where our heroes end up, the reason this title is called what it is will be very clear by the end of the fist six issues. There's quite a few reveals to come, and one of the lovely things about "Stormwatch" is how many surprises you can pull. There isn't a status quo, really. Let's just say that... One of my favorite comics of all time is Peter Milligan's "Shade, The Changing Man" where the entire idea of who Shade was, what he did and the format changed every few issues. We're a little bit like that."

I do indeed hope so!

One final thought, for the first joker who suggests an Idol-Head podcast. If you've been reading any of my blogs for any length of time, you should know by now that my opinion of 95% of everything under the sun can be summarized in just four seconds, so what's the point?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Martian Sightings for December, 2011



STORMWATCH #4
Written by PAUL CORNELL
Art and cover by MIGUEL SEPULVEDA
On sale DECEMBER 7 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
The earth is being eaten alive! As the unstoppable alien antibody continues consuming everything in its path, Stormwatch awakens a slumbering [information redacted] buried deep within the earth. But has the team found an ally or a threat greater than the antibody? However it plays out, the DC landscape literally will be changed forever! Plus: Don’t miss a major change to the Stormwatch roster!

Even "redacted," I kind of wish this solicit was tighter lipped. I was pleased to see that the long-advertised Sepulveda to cover #1 actually shipped, but what happened to the Chris Burnham version? As much as I griped about the switch, I still liked the art, even if it is tonally on another planet from the interiors. I also dig his (clearly miscredited) work here. It's just outrageous and vulgar enough to sell the satirical undercurrent of the best Authority stories, as evidenced by the swell ridiculousness of Midnighter and EC quality exuberant gore.

DC UNIVERSE: SECRET ORIGINS HC
Written by VARIOUS
Art by VARIOUS
Montage cover
On sale FEBRUARY 22 • 320 pg, FC, $39.99 US
The classic Silver Age titles are collected in hardcover for the first time, including SECRET ORIGINS #1, MORE SECRET ORIGINS #1, EVEN MORE SECRET ORIGINS #1 and WEIRD SECRET ORIGINS #1! Don’t miss the origins of Wonder Woman, the Superman/Batman team, The Challengers of the Unknown, Martian Manhunter, the Justice League of America, Aquaman, The Flash, The Atom, Bizarro and more!
I was going to make a joke about this being the closest we're likely to get to a Martian Manhunter archives anytime soon, but I feel that would be an overstatement by the most liberal measure. This collection only reprints the first Manhunter from Mars story in Detective Comics #225, leaving out the second half from the following issue. J'Onn only gets to Earth and decides to become a cop, without actually doing much of anything.

THE DC UNIVERSE BY ALAN MOORE HC

Written by ALAN MOORE
Art by JIM APARO, BRIAN BOLLAND, PARIS CULLINS, GEORGE FREEMAN, DAVE GIBBONS, KLAUS JANSON, KEVIN O’NEILL, JOE ORLANDO, GEORGE PÉREZ, KURT SCHAFFENBERGER, CURT SWAN, RICK VEITCH, AL WILLIAMSON, BILL WILLINGHAM, JIM BAIKIE and MICHAEL LOPEZ
Cover by BRIAN BOLLAND
On sale FEBRUARY 8 • 304 pg, FC, $39.99 US

The work of Alan Moore (WATCHMEN, V FOR VENDETTA, THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN) during the 1980s is a benchmark for great stories with fresh approaches to iconic characters. Collected in this volume are all of Moore’s Superman and Batman stories, including ACTION COMICS #583, BATMAN ANNUAL #11, BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE, DC COMICS PRESENTS #85, DETECTIVE COMICS #549-550, GREEN LANTERN #188, THE OMEGA MEN #26-27, SECRET ORIGINS #10, SUPERMAN #423, TALES OF THE GREEN LANTERN CORPS ANNUAL #2 & 3, SUPERMAN ANNUAL #11 and VIGILANTE #17-18, plus VOODOO #1-4, DEATHBLOW: BY BLOWS #1-3 and more!
The Martian Manhunter content is so miniscule that you could play W'arezz W'alldo, but the greatest(?) Mongul story is in here.

Miss Martian
YOUNG JUSTICE #11
Written by GREG WEISMAN and KEVIN HOPPS
Art and cover by CHRISTOPHER JONES
On sale DECEMBER 21 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED E
The spotlight turns to Robin, who must leave his teammates to fight alongside his crimefighting mentor, Batman. And the stakes couldn’t be higher for the Dynamic Duo as they face off against the Demon’s Head himself: Ra’s al Ghul!

YOUNG JUSTICE VOL. 1 TP
Written by KEVIN HOPPS, GREG WEISMAN, ART BALTAZAR and FRANCO Art by MIKE NORTON, CHRISTOPHER JONES and DAN DAVIS
Cover by MIKE NORTON
On sale JANUARY 11 • 160 pg, FC, $12.99 US
In these stories from YOUNG JUSTICE #0-6, the team takes on The Joker, meets Snapper Carr and trades campfire tales of past battles alongside their crimefighter mentors.

TINY TITANS #47
Written by ART BALTAZAR and FRANCO
Art and cover by ART BALTAZAR
On sale DECEMBER 21 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED E
It’s Mrs. Atom’s turn to babysit the Baby Titans – Damien, Arthur Jr., Smidgen, Kid Devil and Jason Toddler. Can she do it alone? Maybe Miss Martian can help! What happens when our heroes get…lost in Metropolis?! Find out in this awesome baby-packed issue!

Stormwatch
STORMWATCH VOL. 1 HC
Written by WARREN ELLIS
Art by TOM RANEY, PETE WOODS, MICHAEL RYAN, JIM LEE, RANDY ELLIOT, SALEEM CRAWFORD and RICHARD BENNETT
Cover by TOM RANEY and RANDY ELLIOTT
On sale FEBRUARY 8 • 296 pg, FC, $39.99 US
Don’t miss this new collection of Warren Ellis’s STORMWATCH epics from issues #37-47, as The Weatherman transforms the team into a proactive, take-no-prisoners strike force. Starring Jack Hawksmoor, Battalion, Jenny Sparks, Apollo, Midnighter, Rose Tattoo and more!
If despite my grousing the blog's recent coverage of these issues has piqued your interest, let me just say that they do get better as they go along.

Monday, September 19, 2011

2009 Miss Martian art by Chris Faccone

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"I loved her when she first came out. I think that's when I did this."

After a totally inadvertent month off, M'gann M'orzz Miss Martian Monday returns. While I'm thinking about it, anybody want to suggest fan casting a movie role for the character, or speculate as to her yet unrevealed role in the DCnÜ? Comment away...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Stormwatch #40 (October, 1996)



A plane crashed over Middle England which was downed by a dirty bomb that released an adulterated version of Gen-Factor, the same mutagen responsible for Team 7, Gen13 and "God knows who else." The difference being that this muck killed while it mutated, and was airborne headed for the small town of Little Brook. Stormwatch Prime was sent to investigate, Fuji and Hellstrike being energy beings, and Winter vaccinated against all known mutagens. On reaching the town, they were treated to a variety of body horrors to make David Cronenberg proud. An unholy roar drew them to a church, the insides of which were coated in fleshy mass and animated hands.

Only two places on Earth had access to Gen-Factor, the United States and the outlaw island of Gamorra. The latter had been run by Kaizen Gamorra, a latter day Yellow Peril creation who in an amusing twist had been revealed to be the occidental John Colt (Team One founder and the basis for the robotic hero Spartan.) Colt/Gamorra had been killed off in the Fire from Heaven crossover, so it was unfortunate that it was here revealed that there was an actual Kaizen Gamorra held captive throughout Colt's thirty years of using the identity now liberated and out to strut his terroristic stuff. Gamorra had purchased the Gen-Factor from the U.S., and his connection to the States afforded him immunity from prosecution by Stormwatch.



Stormwatch Prime learned the roar was a beacon, and Fuji ripped away a mound of church flesh that had formed an airtight seal around a few unaffected survivors. Before being mutated, some victims had managed a final act of heroism. "We seek to pull hope from terror-- life from death. If we arrive too late, we assume that the horror has won. We forget that we do not hold the monopoly on hope."

Weatherman-One initiated the "Quiet Storm Protocol," sending Stormwatch Red to Gamorra Island under utmost secrecy. Rose Tattoo was to murder exactly 233 people, while the hesitant but eventually compliant Fahrenheit and Flint would cause widespread property damage. As a product of the one party political system in Kenya, Flint's mother had lost an eye in student protests, so she liked teaching another callous country that some rules apply to everyone. She was no killer, but she could bring herself to smash up government works to send a message.

"Mutagen" was by Warren Ellis, Tom Raney & Randy Elliott. Stormwatch Red didn't appear until page 18, so if Flint's launching into a flashback and the story's hard brake of a conclusion seemed to come out of nowhere, yup. Nice grisly art, though.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Stormwatch #39 (August, 1996)



Monday. Jack Hawksmoor was aboard the SkyWatch satellite, and therefore treated by medics while being debriefed. The Lincoln City Police Force on the U.S. east coast had a recent history of human rights violations to rival New York's, a parallel mightily belabored. The exception was that Lincoln was employing superhumans to do their dirty work. Stormwatch Black would be sent to investigate, Jack slightly ahead of the rest, since he retched up black goo and needed to return to city life.

Wednesday. Jenny Sparks and Swift checked into a local hotel. Jack Hawksmoor made the trip via a spherical "Transit Womb" that allowed the living city of New York to contact Lincoln and transfer Jack within hours. That night, the trio went into action. Swift unveiled her full activation as a Seedling, large wings on her back and talons on her feet. A Tibetan expatriate, Shen Li-Min hoped to stop the oppression in Lincoln that she couldn't where she grew up. Jenny converted to pure electricity and traveled by television. Jack ran loose, savoring an unfamiliar new city he instantly fell in love with. Individually, they found and beat the bloody hell out of the super-cops before turning them over to Stormwatch. Weatherman's masters were aware of the media attention these SPB police were getting, and warned him a final time to leave America alone. Bendix imprisoned twenty Super Powered Beings cryogenically on SkyWatch without trial. He was also now aware that there was another activator besides his own Christine Trelane making these SPBs possible.

"Black" was by Warren Ellis, Pete Woods, Tom Raney & Randy Elliott. A major problem I have with these stories is that they aren't stories, just premises. This tale, for instance, was played up using a timeframe jumping scheme that attempted to mask the information dumping needed to convey the premise. Without the device, one would be more likely to notice that beyond the exposition, the heroes simply battered the one dimensional evil cops and jailed them, with no serious attempt at characterization or complication. The politics are hamfisted in the same way as a Judd Winick script, and most of the art is by a severely unripened Woods.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Idle-Head of Diabolu, Vol. IV: Martian Detectionary



No later than the second year of this blog, I started work on an "encyclopedia" page for all the major subjects covered here. It was so long ago, I was still using auto-HTML "strong"s to boldface and each entry redirected instead of popping up. These are things I hate. I mocked up art that was so hideous, even by my forgiving standards, that I think I actually eradicated all traces from existence. I tried to find the dang thing on two different computers, but nothing doing. Anyway, I'm finally at a point where I have the time and reference to try again and put together something that, while still clearly imperfect, is so vastly superior to my first try that it traveled back in time and eradicated all trace of the original from my computer. So that's what happened!

Below are newly drafted entries that will go into the reformatted master page, which I'll unveil sooner or later. As a whole, it'll be pretty overwhelming in scale, so I figured even a Vile Menagerie heavy taste would be easier on the textual stomach...

A
The Arkymandryte was an early enemy of Mongul.

B
Bak'sar, Tybalt: see "Tybalt Bak'sar"

B'rett is a yellow-skinned Martian convict who escaped captivity to Earth before being recaptured by Martian Manhunter. He was responsible for altering J'Onn J'Onzz's powers and revealing his existence on Earth.

Blanx, Commander: see "Commander Blanx"

C
Cay'an is a Natural Martian who holds J'Onn J'Onzz responsible for H'ronmeer's Plague due to his unwillingness to kill his brother Ma'alefa'ak before his initiating the genocide. She developed an intricate plan for revenge involving brainwashed White Martians and the Department of Homeland Security that ultimately failed.

Certa, Joe: see "Joe Certa"

Commander Blanx was the Pale Martian leader who saw to J'Onn J'Onzz's exile from Martian society for thirteen years, as well as an assassination attempt on Earth. During this time, Blanx sold the planet Mars to aliens under the condition that he would exterminate all other life on the planet. Blanx rendered Mars uninhabitable, the only survivors fleeing on a spaceship to find a new world. Blanx was apparently killed by the Martian Manhunter for his crimes.

Cott, N'or: see "N'or Cott"

The Crystal Key was entrusted in J'onn J'onzz by the Largas to prevent it from making the Warworld operational.

The Cube-Trap was a devious device employed by Mongul throughout the Bronze Age.

D
Despero's jetboat was used on the planet Sirkus.

Despero's Super-Ship was used to slaughter an ersatz Justice League on the planet Sirkus.

Diabolu was an ancient Babylonia wizard who so loathed mankind that he created an Idol-Head full of monstrous evils to be unleashed at his pleasure. Diabolu died, but centuries later his Idol-Head was activated, wrecking havoc at monthly intervals.

Doctor Samedi is a villainous voodoun active in Central America who ran afoul of the Martian Manhunter and the heroine Fire.

Doomsday is an alien creature who through experimentation became an extremely proficient berserk killing machine. He has a special enmity toward Kryptonians, drawing him repeatedly into conflict with Superman and his friend J'Onn J'Onzz.

E
The Mars-Earth Comet passes each planet once a year over a two hour period.

Eda, Re's: see "Re's Eda"

F
Faceless: see "Mister V"

The Falcon, A.K.A. "The Human Falcon," is an elaborate thief with a fixation on birds who was captured after a heist in Middletown by J'Onn J'Onzz.

Ferdinand, Rio: see "Rio Ferdinand"

H
Haven: The Broken City is a prison colony which political dissidents managed to convert into a spacecraft that crash landed near Coast City, California. The survivors within sought asylum, and interacted with many Earth heroes before the city's flight capabilities were restored and they departed.

The Headman: see "The Headmaster"

The Headmaster is a mad scientist who implanted his brain into a cyborg body. Believing Earth to be doomed, Headmaster began harvesting other human minds to outlive the planet in his spaceship, which was destroyed by J'Onn J'Onzz.

J
Jasonar is the Kalanorian scientist who fled to Earth with his daughter Saranna to enlist the aid of the Justice League of America in overthrowing Despero.

Joe Certa was the co-creator of the Manhunter from Mars and the artist on the strip from 1955-1968.

L
The Largas were a peaceful race who discovered the abandoned Warworld and entrusted its key to J'onn J'onzz for the safety of the universe.

M
Mr. Moth is a bug-themed thief who was netted by the Manhunter from Mars.

Mister V, A.K.A. "Faceless," was the mastermind behind the international crime organization Vulture. J'onn J'onzz assumed the new identity of Marco Xavier to bring down the operation. The masked manipulator's identity was repeatedly "revealed" as one proxy after another until he was presumably uncovered and killed in an explosion.

Moth, Mister: see "Mr. Moth"

N
N'or Cott was the Commander of the Martian Army on Mars II who became embroiled in a plot to frame J'onn J'onzz for murder and treason. He revealed his part in the scheme before dying from exposure to the poisonous atmosphere of Baltaz.

P
Professor Ivo is a scientist obsessed with immortality whose mind and body have been twisted by its pursuit.

R
Re's Eda is the former best friend of J'onn J'onzz, whom he betrayed as part of a scheme to take over leadership of his people on Mars II. As part of Re's Eda's warmongering, he nearly lead his army into a city with a lethal atmosphere before being stopped and exposed by a team of super-heroes.

Rio Ferdinand performed black ops for the Department of Homeland Security until being sold out by her supervisor, Keane. Turnabout being fair play, she turned over incriminating evidence on Keane, including his involvement in torturous experiments on captured Martians uncovered by J'Onn J'Onzz.

The Robo-Chargers were weapons of the Thythen powered by the minds of Martian slaves.

S
Samedi, Dr.: see "Doctor Samedi"

Saranna is the daughter of Jasonar who fled with him to Earth to seek aid against the tyrant who had conquered their world, Kalanor.

The Scepter of State is a sacred staff bestowed upon the leader of Mars II.

The Spacefort was the colony created from salvaged technology to house the survivors on Mars II.

T
Telok'Telar is a White Martian who was captured by Cay'an, brainwashed into believing that he was a green-skinned Natural Martian, and sold to a government research lab. His normal form eventually reasserted itself, but not his mind, and he was institutionalized by J'Onn J'Onzz.

TOR was a nigh indestructible robot built on Mars who was accidentally programmed for crime. TOR was eventually tricked into boarding a rocket ship bound for a planet whose atmosphere could destroy TOR. The robot briefly managed to project its mind into an Earthling host body, but eroded to nothing before he could kill the Manhunter from Mars.

Tybalt Bak'sar is a genocidal alien outfitted by the Weaponers of Qward who swore to kill his enemies J'Onn J'Onzz and Green Lantern Abin Sur.

V
V, Mr.: see "Mister V"

W
Warworld was in the Bronze Age a mobile Death Star which J'onn J'onzz fought to keep out of the hands of Mongul, no thanks to Superman.

The Warzoon were the warrior race who created Warworld, only to be killed by it one by one.

Z
Züm was a White Martian who pretended to be a humanoid with super-speed while attempting to conquer Earth with the Hyperclan.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dragon*Con 2011 Martian Manhunter Cosplay by KalEl NC Sean

Click To Enlarge
Copyright © Brent Allen Thale

Last year, cosplayer "KalEl NC Sean" proved himself the greatest live action Martian Manhunter yet, established by photo sets here and here. The fellow returned to Dragon*Con to ably defend his crown, although I suppose he did such a fine job last year, nobody showed up to compete. It's not like the Manhunter from Mars received two distinct new costumes/looks in the last year alone or anything, right? Regardless, so long as this guy keeps hitting the gym and the body paint, he should remain the one to beat.

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My father tapes broadcast television, and by that I mean he has multiple VCRs with which he tapes a sizable percentage of all primetime network broadcasting to watch during the day. Ah, to be retired without cable. Anyway, he suckered me into watching NCIS for the first time with the lure of a girl he said was just my type. My father is prone to broad overstatements, but every now and again, he nails it. Above is J'Onn J'Onzz with Abby Sciuto, the only fortysomething to ever pull off a goth pixie look, as portrayed by Beth Dolgner.

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With Zack Santiago as Green Lantern Kyle Rayner.

I resented the hell out of Kyle Rayner for replacing Hal Jordan after something like 35 years as Green Lantern. Yet another Caucasian christian male heterosexual, the only difference being Kyle was the younger, more "artistic" model? JLA taught me otherwise; that Kyle could be the wide-eyed newby, reflecting the reader's wonder at seeing the first all-star League in decades. Plus, I read more Hal comics, and that guy was such a creep. Anyway, Kyle's in an extant GL team book and hasn't served in a League since Infinite Crisis, so I find I miss both of these characters enough to not buy a second consecutive Justice League volume.

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On that note, let's close out with the "J'J'LA," my preferred Post-Crisis incarnations of the Flash, Wonder Woman, Superman, and Aquaman, plus Green Lantern Rayner and a perfect Plastic Man (nice touch with the elongated rabbit ears.) If you must have your Man of Steel front-loaded Satellite League (complete with the Usurper,) click here.

Actually, I missed a couple of studio shots with this cosplayer in 2010, so how about some links before bidding adieu?

Dragon*Con 2011 CosPlay

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Others: TELOK'TELAR



History:
Telok'Telar was one of a group of Martians subjected to torturous experiments in a clandestine government experiment. Once the Martian Manhunter learned of the operation, he broke into its underground New York location and began freeing its prisoners. Regardless of this, Telok'Telar addressed J'Onn J'Onzz with great suspicion, interrogating him harshly and explicitly stating his lack of trust. As the group of escapees continued to be hounded, Telok'Telar's suspicious nature persisted.

Telok'Telar, J'Onn J'Onzz and Mica'kel swiftly defeated a Justice League group consisting of the Vixen, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Zatanna and Green Lantern Hal Jordan. However, Telok'Telar's antagonism toward J'Onn J'Onzz extended to matters as simple as supplying a blood sample for testing, which J'Onzz had to extract by force.

Telok'Telar stuck close to his cohort Dal'en, who had become the first of the Others to return to his natural White Marian form. Telok'Telar's own transformation went more poorly, as his conditioning held to such a degree that he was left virtually defenseless by his inability to comprehend that he was not in fact a Green Martian. Still considered a threat, Telok'Telar's mind was telepathically plunged into a comatose state by the Martian Manhunter, his last reported condition. Telok'Telar was placed by J'Onn J'Onzz "in a secure location," and has not been heard from since.



First Appearance: Martian Manhunter #2 (November, 2006)

Group Affiliation: The Others

Powers:
Telok'Telar has displayed superhuman strength, speed, and durability, as well as the power of flight, telepathic assumption of multiple humans' motor control, and limited shapeshifting. Whether Telok'Telar possesses other Martian abilities is unknown.

Weaknesses:
Telok'Telar was vulnerable to fire and ordinance from a modified AR-8 sniper rifle. He was also particularly susceptible to the brainwashing techniques of Cay'an, which appeared to produce mental instability after his reversion back to a White Martian.

Distinguishing Features: While in his Green Martian form, Telok'Telar wore a uniform that was nearly identical to the Manhunter's then-recently acquired "One Year Later" suit. Telok'Telar's cape and accents were forest green, his bodysuit was brown, and his hands were not gloved. Telok'Telar also had twin symmetrically sagittal parietal regions protruding roughly a foot from his skull in a forked shape. During his brief stints in human guise, Telok'Telar preferred the appearance of a muscular, casually dressed African-American man with a bald head and sunglasses. Jornell once said, "You must remember, Telok'Telar is a warrior, in constant search for a fight." As such, he resented masquerading as a human in order to hide on Earth.

Quote: "...You weren't in here with us. How is that? Why should we believe anything you say?"

Created by A.J. Lieberman & Al Barrionuevo

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Monday, September 12, 2011

Stormwatch #38 (August, 1996)



Both Hellstrike and Jack Hawksmoor had experience as detectives, one with Scotland Yard, the other... not. Jack's rough edges had already peeved Nigel, but Keane would have to work with the New Yorker and Fahrenheit to investigate the murder of Undertow under Weatherman's orders. Unbeknownst to Nigel, Jack could not survive long away from a city, and had gone into convulsions aboard SkyWatch, which might have made him testy with Keane.

Leaping across buildings thanks to the city easing her gravitational pull on his body, and biologically nourished by New York's air pollution, Jack was doing much better. The trio met at the scene of the crime, using their individual powers and collective knowledge to deduce that an explosive murder in a U.N. secured building was the work of professionals. The group compared notes at Clark's Bar, a superhero hangout run by an aged Superman analog and featuring a clientele of cameos. Nautika and Sunburst called the trio with word that the explosive used was C-4, exclusive to U.S. Special Forces. Recognizing that it must have been an inside job, the trio physically forced building security to play video recordings that they found to be poorly doctored.

Extraordinary rendition of the tainted security chief led to a murderous pair of U.S. agents out to send the message that the U.N. couldn't "steal" America from its citizens. Fahrenheit offered one a third degree burn to his gun hand, then beat him heartily for making her ashamed to be an American. The pair were left squarely on the president's desk. Weatherman One (Henry Bendix) confronted (Bill Clinton?) with the fact that he either had no knowledge of the assassination or would play dumb, but either way, Stormwatch intended a reprisal for "an act of war against Stormwatch, and therefore the United Nations... We have received your message that we are not wanted or safe in your country. Stand ready for ours."



Meanwhile, Battalion (Jackson King) was assigned to train Jenny Sparks, who suggested he and Bendix shove it up their "combined arse" while she continued to get her drink on. King shot the bottle out of her hand with "psychokinetic" bullets, and made her dance for a moment. The 96 year old Sparks decided King needed a lesson in respecting his elders, and electrocuted him. "In 1955, I was sleeping with a poet from America. He used to call me 'the Spirit of the 20th Century.' He was a pratt, too, sunbeam. Just like you. I'm electric, sunbeam. I own electricity... everywhere... It runs your suit. It runs this station. Therefore, I have a foothold in everything... Because I'm a nice old lady, I won't subtract the electricity from your brain. But I could. Don't ever touch my beer again." With a smack to King's bald head, she was off.

"Reprisal" was by Warren Ellis, Tom Raney & Randy Elliott. It was a fairly bland, half-hearted police procedural with convenient deux ex machina tarted up in ultraviolence and anti-American banner waving. That last part doesn't bother me a bit, but isn't any more sophisticated than Red State nationalism.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Martian Manhunter #8 (May, 2007)



After scanning Keane's mind, the Manhunter learned that he was not only human, but an entirely willing participant in the Martian experiments. Once again, J'Onn J'Onzz had never felt such an "urge to hurt" in all his time on Earth and blah, blah, blah. Keane cited duty to his country, and J'Onzz countered that "Your job is to protect this country-- not torture beings for some personal war. The Martian Detective lacked the evidence to convict Keane for his crimes, but Rio Ferdinand conveniently showed up with proof. "We both know he deserves to die. And we both know you're not going to do it, and you're not about to let me... You want him held accountable? I'm the only person on this planet with the means to do that... Signed action orders, wiretaps on his cell and home lines-- authorization memos, recorded conversations, e-mails..." While J'Onzz insisted this act did not absolve her own crimes, he did allow her to leave a fugitive with the knowledge that she had made Keane suffer. Keane tried to negotiate with first Rio, then J'Onn, to no avail. He attempted suicide, but was prevented by the Manhunter, who turned him over to authorities.



Three days later, the Alien Atlas met with the Man of Steel over the Daily Planet building. "I-- Clark, I was wrong, about almost everything. I didn't listen, I followed my desires instead of my logic... I fear I may have injured our friendship." Superman was a real sport about it, given his own numerous outrageous heel turns. In his first instance of being right about something in this mini-series, the Sleuth from Outer Space now knew "that there is a second Martian-- a Green Martian-- here on Earth... behind it all. I'm sure of it... a Green." In a New Earth revision that stuck about as well as the concept of New Earth, J'Onn J'Onzz was only supposed to have been on Earth "months" before Superman became aware of his presence. Also, not all Martians could accurately shape-shift, as it was a skill to be practiced and mastered. Meanwhile, this second Green had decades to infiltrate Earth.

The Manhunter from Mars next visited Sara Moore, explaining that he was off in search of Till'all and the other among them. "Among my people, there were those who spoke of a Martian whose evil was so deep it allowed him to swallow whole stars. To me it was only a story. I never believed it... If it's more than a story, then I'm the only one who can do anything about it. And I'll need all the help I can get." Moore kissed J'Onn goodbye on the cheek. "You know, we're a lot more alike than you realize... We've both lost things we hold dear. But if I've learned anything while being here, it's that clarity only comes with time and distance. I hope you find what you're looking for, J'Onn J'Onzz."



J'Onn J'Onzz called out for Till'all telepathically, and after a scuffle, convinced the youth that they were both after the responsible third party. "Listen to me! Do you want to know why your father died? Who brought him, you-- the others-- to this world? Why some being took control of your mind? ...I'm stronger, faster and quicker than you. If I meant you harm, you would know already. Till'all, I want to find out who did this." Till'all consented for J'Onzz to "mindsweep" his consciousness, allowing "me to see what he saw. Remember what he remembered. Experience what he experienced... Both of his hearts start beating erratically." Till'all was seen in a Martian city, along with other Whites, attacked by a shadowy clawed figure. The memory caused Till'all to go into shock, from which he struggled to survive. "He--he knows... I can still see him. He knows what we're doing." J'Onzz left Till'all alone in the remains of the apartment they once shared with the clan, while he sought help.



The Martian Manhunter flew off, allowing the villain to descend upon Till'all, but invisibly doubling back. J'Onzz revealed himself from behind by saying, "I was beginning to worry that we'd never meet." Sara Moore, her lab coat flapping like a cape in the breeze, a Kuru pendant dangling from her neck, replied "What makes you think we haven't already?" Like a proper villainess, Cay'an introduced herself, then revealed her true appearance and nefarious plot. Cay'an belted J'Onzz, blaming him for the death of all of Mars thanks to the leniency he had shown his brother. "I did everything I could to stop Ma'alefa'ak... Because he was my brother, I knew he was not himself, yet he was the only one capable of reversing--" what, we don't know. Cay'an wasn't interested in the family and culture J'Onzz had also lost, and especially not his excuses, so she blasted him into a pool on a nearby rooftop.

J'Onzz again recalled the story of Cain and Abel, and found himself relating to the emotions of Cain. "Which means I was wrong-- humans and Martians are far more alike than I ever thought possible. Except perhaps for this; I am my brother's keeper. All my brothers, be they Green or White. Even this one." The Alien Atlas tried to reason with Cay'an, and come to a peaceful resolution. Cay'an branded him a race traitor turned weakling by his time on Earth. "Being a traitor must run in your bloodline." J'Onzz recognized that Till'all was an innocent, and unlike Cay'an, had committed no crime. Also, as much as he longed for other Greens, to see his race survive, Cay'an's hatred and intolerance were a betrayal of all his people held dear. After a brief row, Cay'an disappeared in the aftermath of a psychic pulse duel.



Leaving court during Keane's trial, J'Onn J'Onzz was met in the lobby by the elderly father of a truck driver saved from the mine explosion during the attack of "those white things up on the bridge..." The man shook J'Onn's hand, thanking him for his son's life, and putting a smile back on his face. Till'all walked up to join J'Onn after the man departed. Till'all wondered why J'Onzz stayed among a people so determined to hate others. "Because one day they'll learn what it means to be free of all that hate-- to understand that they can survive without having so much animosity or anger or fear. And when that day comes-- I want to be here... Until then, I'll try and save them from themselves. If you're interested, I could use some help."

"Maybe... for now." If a Green and White Martian could overcome their hate, why not humanity? Till'all still wanted to find and kill Cay'an, but J'Onzz felt the death would solve nothing, and it would serve Mica'kel's memory better to try and redeem her. J'Onn J'Onzz introduced Till'all to the JLA (specifically Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman) behind wooden doors with outdated branding. On the way in, J'Onn figured Till'all must be hungry, and gave him something new to eat. "They're called Chocos."



"The Others Among Us Part 8" was by A.J. Lieberman, Al Barrionuevo and Bit. As you might have already determined without my going into the details here, Cay'an's plot was Rube Goldbergian nonsense with some obvious pieces missing. How did one Green Martian capture at least six White Martians on her own, and where, and when? Why didn't she "trigger" the brainwashed "Greens" into becoming White again as a group instead of easily managed individuals? If they awakened on their own, why did Cay'an screw around long enough for that to happen, nor adapt to take better advantage of the chaos? Why would she bother playing Rat Trap, when she could have just assassinated J'Onn J'Onzz from hiding with her nifty sniper rifles? Or instead of all that brainwashing, leave the Whites a little treasure map with a big pie symbol for J'Onn's secret hideout? This was kind of like Lost, in that it answered the wrong questions, left the right ones dangling, and all of the pieces of the puzzle did not fit together.

Still, this final installment had some fun twists, far less of J'Onn as a whining idiot, far more of him as a heroic peacemaker, plus a bit of heart and humor. Till'all reminded me of Zook, even though he towered over J'Onn with a bad case of Venom mouth through which he spoke in complete sentences. Till'all was still an innocent unfamiliar with our world, and J'Onn the parent is far sweeter and deeper than the Manhater from Mars.

I thought Cay'an was cooler when she was the Green Lantern villainess Fatality, but now that the predecessor is Star Sapphire Yrra Cynril, the personality/motivation is out of use. I like Cay'an a lot more than the very similar D'Kay, and in fact the Martian Manhunter's response to both was almost word-for-word, making Brightest Day that much more unnecessary. While I wouldn't want to read anything by Lieberman ever again, this wrap-up went a long ways toward turning slop into soup, and left a lot of pieces for other creators to play with (which of course will never actually happen.)

Brave New World

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Stormwatch #37 (July, 1996)



Following the funeral of the traitor Flashpoint, for whom seemingly no tears were shed, the Stormwatch team returned to their satellite headquarters, SkyWatch. Each member was presented with a "fetish," a stylized necklace that served as a communication device, teleportation beacon, and all-points alarm signal.

Stormwatch appeared to be under new management. The United Nations Special Security Council was replaced by anonymous men fond of smoking, guns, and being menacing from a shadowy judicial bench. The council gave their Weatherman leave to do his own thing, and would offer no further communication unless he made a mistake. This suited designs Henry Bendix already had begun to effect.

In London, Weatherman One found an old acquaintance in a bar for superhuman/natural elements. Tank Girl was among the more obvious patrons winking at the fourth wall, but Bendix was there to invite Jenny Sparks to take part in his new conception of Stormwatch. The long-lived Sparks had passed ten years earlier on the first Stormwatch, having been in a '60s super-group that took part in an alternate universe version of Altamont, and another poor turn in the '80s. Sparks had been drinking ever since, but part of her still wanted to change the world. Bendix agreed, wishing to stop putting band-aids over cancers, and his conviction won Sparks over. "The first time you lose your backbone over a problem, I'll kill you, Henry. I won't wear one of those damnfool spandex body-condom things. I don't have the bust for it."



Bendix continued to New York City for Jack Hawksmoor. A series of childhood alien abductions had seen Hawksmoor altered to become the perfect neohuman creature for urban environments. Having started out helping his city fend off the parasites of crime, Hawkmoor had worked his way up to politicians and corporations, the sort of targets Bendix now eyed. Bendix closed his tour in Sicily, collecting the silent assassin Rose Tattoo as his final addition.

Returning to SkyWatch, the cuts began. Union, a sort of Green Lantern by way of Thor, was ridiculed and barred from any further association with Stormwatch. Due to his relationship with Synapse, Battalion was removed from field duty to serve as a trainer, while his lover went into the field. Nautika and Sunburst were removed from active duty entirely as an "anniversary present," serving instead as analysts from their suburban home. The team would be broken up into three vaguely defined sections, with Winter commanding the superhuman specialists Fuji and Hellstrike as Stormwatch Prime. Stormwatch Red, the overpowered "nukes" of the team, would be led by Fahrenheit with Flint and Rose Tattoo. Jenny Sparks would be the unwilling head of Stormwatch Black covert insertions with Swift and Jack Hawksmoor. All other team members were due a severance package.



Synapse explained to Swift that her powers were not fully activated, and with the Tibetan's permission, completed her mutation to mysterious result. Former team member Undertow was killed in an explosion when his apartment was booby-trapped by persons unknown. Immediately rendering the team separation moot, all active members not in Stormwatch Black were sent to Germany to kill a mass murdering super powered being (SPB) called "Father" who enjoyed misquoting Nietzsche. Bendix thawed Father's creator out of SkyWatch's cryogenic prison for information, then appeared to shoot the man before returning him to suspended animation.

"New World Order" was by Warren Ellis, Tom Raney & Randy Elliott. Alan Moore was leaving WildC.A.T.s around this time, taking a good deal of Wildstorm's cache with him. In the absence of another acclaimed British writer to take over that book, I suppose someone decided to at least give an up and coming limey carte blanche with that book's ugly sister. After years of daring work on bottom rung Marvel titles, Ellis would finally begin building his name in the industry with this title. Similarly, Tom Raney had several short stints on various Marvel and DC team books without any real impact, but would make a cult hit out of this title. For myself, I thought it was okay when it first came out, and I knew which customers it would appeal to, but it wasn't something I felt any compulsion to follow regularly.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Reviews of Diabolu: Stormwatch #1 vs The Outsider #3

I had 1,600 posts in my queue before starting this entry, of which only about 1,442 had been published. Vaguely auspicious, seeing as how I'm looking to review the last Martian Manhunter story of the old order and the first of the DCnÜ. Best make sure this is #1,443 then, post-haste, rather than working toward unpublished #200. Besides, it's all terribly exciting, and I really wanted to get in on the ground floor for once. I suppose that's why I went into an actual comic shop and bought Stormwatch #1 on its first day of sale, rather than wait for my copy to come by mail order. This is especially true since a change in ownership/management has seen my payments for USPS delivery transferred to hated UPS. Please support the United States Postal Service, since the new comic order I should have received on Saturday arrived midday Wednesday instead. Hell, my girlfriend placed an order with Amazon on Saturday that arrived Tuesday thanks to USPS. Finally, I heard the Irredeemable Shag and Rob Kelly's podcast The Fire & the Water, in which they go on and on about how Firestorm and Aquaman are getting solo series by choice creative teams. Martian Manhunter is not, so at least I can rub their noses in his team book coming out first. Nyah-nyah!

First the last, and there will be spoilers here:



Flashpoint: The Outsider #3 (DC, 2011, $2.99)
I started reading comics years before Crisis On Infinite Earths, but by 1986 I had largely abandoned DC Comics not just as kid's stuff, but plain old bad more often than not. Knowing the mediocrity that came before, I was an easy convert to the Post-Crisis continuity, as some of the finest comic books every made came out of those years. However, if you go back and read Crisis, you'll find it an almost unbearable chore to slog through, with its dense-yet-haphazard storyline, flat characters vomiting exposition by the bucketful, and overabundance of melodrama. Looked at objectively, Flashpoint was the better story, since it was comparatively tight and self-contained, with real shocks and some thrills. A shame then that it felt irrelevant coming out of the gate, and its readability is at least in part down to the baneful decompressed storytelling of the modern era. Basically, it's easier to read because there's not much to it. For the most part, it was like one of those old double-sized Marvel Comics fantasies from the '80s: "What If... The Super Friends were Stupid Murderous A-Holes?"

We will never live in a Post-Flashpoint world, because nobody cared about Flashpoint as anything more than a means to an end. It's not like they killed the Flash, or Supergirl, or it was the first time DC rebooted its entire universe. This is the fourth by my count, and when was the last time anybody referenced Zero Hour? That said, The Outsider was a spin-off of a story that doesn't matter, although if anyone could make it slightly relevant, it would be the Outsider. A more successful Lex Luthor of India with overwhelming invulnerability and Metamorpho's complexion, the Outsider is so smart as to know that there are 52 worlds in the DC Universe and have access to them. If anyone was going to survive the brief flash in the pan that was Flashpoint continuity, it would be him. It wouldn't even contradict Dan Didio's decree that no one remember the "old" universe. Also, it makes me totally expect that in a future issue of Stormwatch, the Outsider will casually tell Nu-Manhunter "I killed one of you once already, so what's another?"

From what I can tell, most of the Flashpoint spin-offs were tasked with making use of all the stuff from the main series' story bible that wouldn't fit into the primary mini-series. That meant a lot of these books were heavy on flashbacks, with The Outsider being the flashbackiest. Much of the story takes place in 1985, which would be all well and good except J'Onn J'Onzz arrived on Earth in 1955. As a big fan of the character, I could go on for paragraphs about that alone, but suffice to say the thirty years left stewing on a plague-ridden Mars hopefully accounts for the Manhunter now being remarkably dumb. The Martian Manhunter is pretty routinely a jobber in DC stories, so taking him out is no big deal. It's just that this whole comic is about various people taking him out and keeping him captive over a span of decades with rudimentary tools. As the Outsider had already jobbed Black Adam, giving J'Onn J'Onzz the business seems quite a letdown comparatively, especially when their final battle comes down to pure muscle over brains, of which the Outsider has all of one and a good deal of the other besides. Essentially, the entire comic book is a build-up of continuity that is irrelevant and a fight that is one-sided to the point of being a foregone conclusion. Hitting par, James Robinson phones in the same purely work-made-for-hire story he's been telling since Rafferty stalked the Ultraverse in 1995. The art by Javi Fernandez is nice though, which when coupled by the coloring of the Hories reminds me of Al Barrionuevo.



Stormwatch #1 (DC, 2011, $2.99)
The first review of this book I read was Rich Johnston's scathing indictment at Bleeding Cool. It was a bit too rough, especially as I read through the rest of his seemingly very forgiving round-up of the first full week of DCnÜ releases. Johnston pushes back Alan Moore's old gray beard to suckle at his teet, and his employer serves at the pleasure of Warren Ellis and Garth Ennis, so I found it all rather suspect. Plus, I'm currently rereading the so-called glory days of Stormwatch, and like most things, it's reputation exceeds it.

The relaunched Stormwatch is thoroughly decent. If you don't have a prior emotional investment in at least some of these characters, you're liable to be confused and disinterested. Imagine reading JLA #1 without Wonder Woman, the Flash, Green Lantern, or Aquaman. Continue with an inexperienced violent Superman, a diminished role for Batman, and an enhanced role for Martian Manhunter. That's pretty much this book. The Wildstorm initiated will likely be peeved with the slightness of their characters' initial representation and the tweaks, especially to Apollo. Like Ellis' debut on the first volume of Stormwatch, writer Paul Cornell seems most interested in his own new creations, who get the best lines and moments of a very busy book. DC readers are "treated" to forced tie-ins to a Superman book that won't come out for two weeks and some arbitrary one panel guest cameos. As has been mentioned elsewhere, there is virtually no subtext at play here, but simply an effort to make previously successful counterculture super-humans function in the shinier corporate DC Universe.

On the plus side, I enjoyed all of the dialogue, and the new characters are fun in this initial outing. The slow burn of the plot seems to be establishing an epic scale to the first arc, and potentially the series as a whole. Taking a page chapter from Hickman's S.H.I.E.L.D., Stormwatch in some form now represents a centuries old order traced back to at least medieval times, which should hopefull open the door for lots of retro-adventures for Detective John Jones, Team One, and so forth. The book really does seem poised to be the gateway for Wildstorm's integration into the DC sphere. I enjoyed Martian Manhunter's role in the book, established as the bridge between his teammates in the super-heroic Justice League (who wants to bet he turns up in that book's opening arc after all?) and the nitty-gritty soldier/warriors of Stormwatch. Again, having reread the early Ellis issues, I think folks have forgotten how inconsistent Tom Raney's art was, not to mention the many not-read-for-primetime fill-ins on that book. Miguel Sepulveda continues to remind me of a young Mike McKone crossed with guys like David Roach and Barry Kitson. Unlike Johnston, I think Sepulveda is good at differentiating faces and allowing them to "act" without overacting. His figures are a bit stiff, but it's a fair trade for his ability to ground some fantastic visuals in a tangible realty, making them feel that much bigger. I like the book's look and tone very much, and plan to stick with it for the foreseeable future.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

2011 DC Fifty-TOO! House of Mystery starring Martian Manhunter #1 by Matt Kaufenberg

Click To Enlarge


What?! Doctor Erdel is alive! NO! Dr. Erdel died of a heart attack in the very first Manhunter from Mars story! The New 52 is already ruined for me from that cover alone! But seriously, isn't that electrical arc provocatively placed? Salacious! There's a pie belt buckle, there's Zook, there's no weird dented seashell things on the side of J'onn's head... where do I send in my subscription form? Nice work by Matt Kaufenberg for the DC Fifty-TOO! blog, which I discuss at these other fine spotlight posts of the day...

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Stormwatch Sourcebook #1 (January, 1994)



The original Stormwatch series was begun in 1993 by schoolmates Jim Lee and Brandon Choi, joined by artist Scott Clark in his major debut. Since they were all the children of X-titles and other spin-offs, the series began at a point when the titular team was already an established entity with reams of unrevealed continuity. Five months into the series, a #0 issue filled in some gaps, followed by the Stormwatch Sourcebook less than a year into the run. It took Marvel and DC Comics decades to accumulate enough information to warrant their own encyclopedic handbooks, so these Image editions tended to be long on pin-ups and "story bible" information they often failed to convey in the actual comics. I thought I might skim this first sourcebook to touch on background going into the new Stormwatch series, although the relaunch is clearly far closer to the spin-off title The Authority, so I doubt this will prove immediately relevant. However, since I plan to start coverage of the series with Warren Ellis' run on the book in 1996, one feeds into another.

Team One was the original retroactive Wildstorm super-team. Members included Regiment, Marc Slayton, John Colt, Lord Emp, Henry Bendix, Lucy Blaize, Mr. Majestic, and the mysterious Mason.

"The United Nations first orbital space station, Monitor One, was staffed by an international crew of scientists, technicians, and military personnel. Shortly after the station's completion, it was caught in the tail of a previously uncharted comet. Strange radiation from the comet's tail penetrated the station's defense shields and caused the majority on board to die a grisly death." Those who survived became inhuman, power mad beings who collectively tried to conquer the Earth as the Warguard.



"The radiation penetrated the earth's atmosphere in weakened form, touching others with the same rare genetic makeup as the WarGuard. Those affected in this way came to be known as Seedlings. They carry within them special powers which require an additional activating agent before they manifest." Or, in DC Comics terms, these people had a metagene.



SkyWatch was a satellite successor to Monitor One, "tasked with the observation of the Earth's surface and some of its sub-surface to detect early indicators of acts of terrorism, counter societal activities and technical ill-use (primarily nuclear). Skywatch is empowered with aggressive self-protection and limited but decisive ground-directed precision intervention."



Weatherman One (Henry Bendix) worked with Team One and for the N.S.A. before becoming the Stormwatch Control Officer. Living on SkyWatch and cybernetically enhanced, the Weatherman monitored the plethora of information collected as part of the program and dictated the activities of the Stormwatch teams. Stormwatch Prime was the first active Stormwatch group, "a crisis intervention team assembled under the auspices of the United Nations SkyWatch program. They are on constant alert to take any action SkyWatch deems necessary to maintain world peace and to enforce international law." Stormwatch Prime consisted of:



Backlash (Mark Slayton) of the United States was a member of Team One and the top secret Team 7 commando squad before transferring to Stormwatch. Trained the members of Stormwatch Prime. The sourcebook contradicts itself as to whether Backlash was team leader or mission adviser during the final Stormwatch Prime mission of their original iteration. Regardless, Backlash chose to step down to act solely as trainer to incoming members. A martial artist who "can generate an energy coil which he uses like a super-charged lasso."



Battalion (Jackson King) of the U.S.A. was known for his cool head. The son of Team One and WarGuard member Isaiah King, Battalion had psionic powers which enabled him to energize and control his armor/weapons, as well as generate a shield. Fronted Stormwatch Prime until a disastrous mission in the closing days of Desert Storm in Kuwait, from which only Battalion and Backlash managed to escape.



Flashpoint (Foster McClane) of South-Central Australia was a racist/sexist/etcetera with optic blasts, who lost out on leading Stormwatch Prime because of his anger issues. Believed dead by Skywatch after a disastrous mission, but actually held captive with his teammates.



Nautika (Maya Royko) was an original Stormwatch member with aquatic and electrical powers. She kept the peace between Battalion and Flashpoint until becoming a prisoner of war.



Sunburst (Karl Hansen) of Sweden wielded solar powers as the final member of Stormwatch Prime, added as an additional buffer between Battalion and Flashpoint. Hansen soon fell in love with Nautika, and they married shortly before their capture in Desert Storm.



The Mercs were the villainous soldiers for hire who defeated Stormwatch Prime and continued to plague the subsequent incarnation of the team. Consist of Brutus, Deathtrap, Kilgore, Razer, & Slayer.



Stormwatch One replaced Stormwatch Prime, and consisted of the returned Battalion as field leader, along with:



Diva (Alessandra Firmi) of Italy, second-in-command with sonic powers that enable her to vibrate, manipulate, and destroy objects, as well as fly.



Winter (Nikolas Kamarov) was motivated by familial shame and a wish to escape his frigid homeland of Siberia to train for the Soviet Olympic team. A failed attempt to defect while on an exhibition trip to Florida ended with his forced induction into the military. Honed by years of service in hostile regions like Afghanistan, Winter's powers were activated by SkyWatch after he was acquired by the program after the fall of the U.S.S.R. Winter absorbs energy in one form (positive/negative) and utilizes it in its opposite form. Known for bouts of depression and a fatalistic worldview.



Fuji (Toshiro Misawa) of Japan was the son of an extraordinarily wealthy industrialist whose abnormal growth led his to sumo wrestling as a teenager. Upon being activated by SkyWatch, Fuji became a lethally radioactive plasma being. Now contained in special armor, Fuji "is a being of immense size and strength" who could control his density within the suit.



Hellstrike (Nigel Keane) of Ireland worked for Scotland Yard before having his powers activated as part of Stormwatch. Deathtrap, leader of the Mercs, caused Hellstrike's body to slowly loose cohesion until it broke down into a pure energy form. Hellstrike managed to reconstitute himself, and is now a living weapon.

There was also Stormwatch Two, a B-team led by Cannon (who could fire himself like a cannonball) with Fahrenheit (who could create heat and fly,) Ion & Lancer (both killed at Chernobyl by the alien menace Regent.)



Synergy (Christine Trelane) of the U.S. was a SkyWatch regular who helped form the various Stormwatch teams and could activate the powers of Seedlings. She had a love-hate relationship with Battalion.

In the early issues of the series, the Mercs' clash with Stormwatch One caused the death of Jackson King's friend, United Nations delegate John Windsor. Battalion's troubled brother Malcolm King was introduced, and the Seedling was activated by Synergy, eventually codenamed Strafe. Regent made short work of Stormwatch Two before his defeat by a combined force. The WarGuard were released from their cryogenic prison on Skywatch by evil Daemonite aliens, and defeated with the assistance of Backlash. Over the first six issues, only the artists received cover credits, a backhand to writers in general, but not entirely unwarranted by the writing quality across the line.



The book used a guest appearance from Ripclaw of Cyberforce as an excuse for a backdoor pilot to Gen13. It was learned that the members of Stormwatch Prime were alive, held captive and tortured by Deathtrap and the Mercs in the outlaw island nation of Gamorra. Rescued, the original members were asked to prove themselves as a unit again. Taking a cue from Valiant Comics' Rai #0, Image jumped a batch of their second tier titles to their twenty-fifth issues as part of "Images of Tomorrow," previewing future events while locking in over a years worth of obligatory lead-in. The story by Steven Seagal saw the Battalion of the present fight his own brother and WarGuard member father, Despot, before returning home.



Ron Marz and Mat Broome took over the book, in which Battalion struggled with his awareness of the future. Battalion contemplated killing his father before the events to come, but eventually appeared to due himself in an explosion. The team under new leader Diva visited Rwanda, Synapse replaced an embattled Henry Bendix as Weatherman, Undertow and Pagan joined the team, and Stormwatch were manipulated into a conflict with the WildC.A.T.s. that ended with that team's seeming demise. Believing Stormwatch to lack the power to defeat the Daemonite Lord Helspont, SkyWatch released the WarGuard, who of course turned on everyone. Spartan joined Stormwatch, Despot killed Diva, Battalion turned up alive, and Despot was shot in the head by the returned Henry Bendix.



Various writers (was H.K. Proger an Alan Smithee?) and the consistently awful artwork of Renato Arlem saw the book became a poor man's Alpha Flight. A push to gather up droves of Seedlings as potential resources following the casualties against Despot saw the creation of one of the largest casts of characters absolutely no one cared about in comic book history. Notables who remained with the team included the winged Swift of Tibet, invulnerable Flint of Kenya, shapeshifting Comanche and Blademaster. Stormwatch was one of nine books that took part in the 21 part "Fire From Heaven" crossover, Image Comics' closest attempt to recreate the widespread pointlessness of DC's Millennium.

Prior to Warren Ellis' run, Battalion and Synapse finally became romantically involved. Henry Bendix was restored as Weatherman One. Flashpoint was revealed to be a longtime mole for Deathtrap and killed by Battalion. That should be everything you need to know before we get started looking at the run here...