Saturday, June 2, 2012
SurVILEvor Island: Despero
When I started my first Martian Manhunter fan page back in the '90s, I wanted to have a rogues gallery section without using the generic "rogues gallery" handle. Thus: Vile Menagerie. I stocked it up with the villains I knew of that had fought the Manhunter, which is to say a bunch of Justice League adversaries from the '80s & '90s. As I became better informed about the Alien Atlas' history as a solo hero, I was embarrassed by the more tenuous inclusions, not to mention keeping out villains I had personal biases against. While the results will not necessarily be binding, I wanted to open up a series of polls to get reader responses to which individuals popular opinion favors keeping or ditching as representative of the evils devoted to bringing down the Sleuth from Outer Space. While comments are welcome, the main concern is, if you put all the guys who ever fought J'Onn J'Onzz on a Survivor style island, who would you cast out as not belonging to the group? Who is too much of a [BLANK] villain? Who is the weakest link? That sort of thing.
Our first candidate is a fellow who would likely enjoy such a game, Despero. The alien tyrant was created to battle the Justice League of America in their first eponymous comic book. While the Martian Manhunter was on that team in their first two battles against Despero, he was in no way a "spotlight" member, with the Flash specifically being the primary hero of their first encounter. J'Onn J'Onzz wasn't around at all for Despero's third appearance, either. However, Despero next kidnapped J'Onzz and forced him to play a game imperiling his former teammates, threatening the lives of everyone on Mars II to extort cooperation. One might take that personally. His fourth defeat and imprisonment (by Martians!) led Despero to cast himself into the Flame of Py'tar, disintegrating and reintegrating into a new, more deadly form. The Martian Manhunter was one of three members present who had faced Despero before, and was the only member still around during Despero's most famous rampage against the JLI in 1990. The Alien Atlas and the JLI fought Despero again a couple of years later, enslaving him to the will of the robot L-Ron, and forced Despero to physically serve as a member of the Justice League Task Force for two years. Following that group's dissolution, L-Ron struggled to contain the psyche of Despero, who fought Supergirl and Young Justice. Despero actually possessed Martian Manhunter briefly during one of those episodes.
Most of Despero's appearances in the new millennium have not involved the Manhunter. J'Onn J'Onzz was tied up in a story arc in Superman/Batman that involved a Despero scheme, and the Kalanorian seemed particularly intent on lashing out at the Alien Atlas during one of the last JLA arcs. That said, the Martian Manhunter has only ever beaten Despero once through his own power, has otherwise tended to be a punching bag for the Kalanorian, and hasn't faced the despot in six years. It has been argued that Despero is a Justice League villain who just happens to face Martian Manhunter as part of that unit, and it is true that J'Onzz has never faced Despero outside of the direct influence of the League. Given his increased visibility in recent years, Despero could also be argued as being a greater DCU villain, popping in books as diverse as Booster Gold and Trinity.
Cast your own vote on the matter in the sidebar. Results will be noted in the comments, and perhaps mentioned when the next candidate comes up on... SurVILEvor Island!