Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Podcast- Dial H For Hero: Silver Age Part Two (1967-2000)

Episode #33

Look for us on iTunes, ShoutEngine or directly download an art-tagged MP3 from the Internet Archive

This episode wraps our belated coverage of JLMay2018 with the second halves of both the Silver Age event and Robby Reed's adventures in House of Mystery, as well as following the H-Dial across several additional decades of wielders. Writer Mark Waid makes a couple of cameo appearances, as well...
JLMay 2018-- Silver Age (2000) Podcast Crossover Event
Agamemno reaches Earth as the incredible event begins! Gathering some of the JLA's greatest foes --- Lex Luthor, Sinestro, the Penguin, Catwoman, Mr. Element, Dr. Light, Chronos, Black Manta, and Felix Faust --- to help him in his plan to conquer the Earth, Agamemno switches the minds of the villains with those of their nemeses! Can the heroes foil the plot before the would-be conqueror prevails? You asked for it-- and you got it! A STAGGERING SUPER STRUGGLE stretching across this month's DC COMICS! Dig what's Coming!
From here follow JLMay 2018 to these fantastic podcasts! Each will cover a different issue of SILVER AGE and each will come out in May! And don’t forget to use the hashtag #JLMay2018 when discussing on social media!

JLMay 2018
  1. Silver Age #1 [Justice’s First Dawn]
  2. Silver Age: Justice League of America [Coffee & Comics Podcast]
  3. Silver Age: Challengers of the Unknown [Relatively Geeky Presents]
  4. Silver Age: Teen Titans [Super Mates]
  5. Silver Age: Dial "H" for Hero [Idol Head of Diabolu]
  6. Silver Age: The Flash [The Longbox Crusade]
  7. Silver Age: Doom Patrol [Waiting for Doom]
  8. Silver Age: The Brave & The Bold [Comic Reflections]
  9. Silver Age: Green Lantern [The Lanterncast]
  10. Silver Age: Showcase [Batgirl to Oracle]
  11. Silver Age: Silver Age 80 Page Giant [Chris & Reggie’s Cosmic Treadmill]
  12. Silver Age: Silver Age Secret Files and Origins [Fire and Water]
Martian Manhunter in...

We enjoy dialogue on the red planet, so here are our non-telepathic contact options:

Monday, July 30, 2018

Silver Age 80-Page Giant #1 (July, 2000)

Since Green Lantern Hal Jordan had managed to restore the Justice League of America to their own bodies, the heroes now had to deal with the repercussions of Batman's plan to smear their name while villains possessed their forms. Worse, the crooks had disabled the entire Green Lantern Corps while employing the combined might of the Oan central power battery, the Absorbascon, and a prismatic jewel from Krypton. With this assortment, they knew everything that took place on Earth, including the secret identities of the super-heroes and the whereabouts of their loved ones. The heroes tried to gather their friends for safety, including Policewoman Diane Meade, at the hidden Gorilla City.

On the streets of Moscow, the Russian Army tried to capture Martian Manhunter and the Flash to prevent their presumed plot to conquer the planet. Within the Kremlin, the country's leaders had been de-aged to childhood by a newly empowered Chronos. J'Onn J'Onzz and other heroes burst in to combat the fiends, but Mr. Element doused him in napalm. Gardener Grayle and the Metal Men sacrificed the last of their power to rescue the Alien Atlas, who in turn saved the Scarlet Speedster from a temporal trap. Yet, the heroes lost more than they gained, down seven comrades to temporarily drive out two foes.

More heroes faltered, until only eight remained. An off-hand comment by Green Arrow made Martian Manhunter think of Robby Reed and his H-Dial, but he couldn't share his idea with his fellows. While J'Onn shielded his mind against the Absorbascon, the League went on a suicide mission to the lair of Lex Luthor in Metropolis. When they were on the verge of defeat, the Alien Atlas returned to attack the Injustice League. This was actually a distraction play, as Robby Reed quietly guided the fallen heroes' fingers to employ his H-Dial. Each JLAer became a temporary new hero unfamiliar to the villains, and between the element of surprise and teamwork, the day went to the good.

J'Onn became the teleporting Go-Go, very necessary when Agamemno suddenly returned, embodied in the artifacts. Although Thanagarian Hawkmen and a restored Green Lantern Corps played important roles, Go-Go ripping the Absorbascon and Kryptonian jewel out of Agamemno surely contributed mightily. The Corps used the Absorbascon to erase the heroes' secrets from the minds of their friends and foils. Agamemno was taken prisoner by the GLC, and Robby thanked J'Onn for letting him play in the leagues, at least once. However, it was hinted that Robby would get one more chance in an as yet untold story.

"S.O.S. to Nowhere!" was by Mark Waid & Eduardo Barreto.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Silver Age Secret Files & Origins #1 (July, 2000)

Prior to the events in the main crossover, Agamemno was depicted conquering a world by pitting its populations against one another. This was just another in a series, but among his victims was one who challenged him with legends of a Justice League mighty enough to defeat Agamemno. This peaked his interest, and though the League's home world was not known in this place, they knew of a past encounter with Kanjar Ro. Him, Agamemno knew of, and captured his enemies Hyathis, Kromm, and Sayarr as a token of appreciation for directions to the League. After his multiple defeats at their hands, Kanjar Ro was only too happy to help, and warns of the need to be especially careful with the three most powerful heroes: J'Onn J'Onzz, Green Lantern, and Superman!

Meanwhile, the Justice League of America were on another alien world, following up on a priority one alert that had been sent to them by Hal Jordan. The team split up to investigate, and J'Onn J'Onzz soon felt "something... familiar... a powerful psychic force." J'Onzz threw caution to the wind in pursuit of this force, and was swiftly captured alongside Superman, Aquaman, Batman and Green Lantern by Despero. "The ancient race that ruled this star cluster eons ago used this world to bury their countless dead. I think it will make a fitting tomb for all of you, as well. Don't worry, I'll be ensnaring the others shortly."

Green Arrow was still free as he gazed from what he thought was a safe perch, but he was detected by Despero, and prevented from firing on the Kalanorian by his hypnotic third eye. However, the Emerald Archer could fire a strobe arrow at his mesmerized teammates, freeing their minds so the rest could follow. Martian Manhunter, eye ablaze, angrily affirmed "No Despero, not a second time. You caught me off guard before, but now I've prepared a mental screen to protect us all from your trance. I think it's time to surrender!" Despero tried to escape, but his illusion powers failed him against Superman's x-ray vision, while the Atom delivered a knockout punch.

Disguised as a statue, Agamemno observed that this League was just what he needed for his plans of widespread conquest...

"The Silver Age" was by D. Curtis Johnson, Michael Collins & Vince Russell

Monday, July 9, 2018

2018 Gypsy Comicpalooza Commission by Janice Tauro

As has been the case for the last several years and doing no small harm to my stress levels or general well being, I approached convention season with an ambitious project in mind. Despite it's steadily "San Diegoing" its way out of showcasing actual comic book talent in a show call Comicpalooza, it's still my home town convention... and the place where I can most easily juggle crazy schemes like Aliens 30th Anniversary character commissions signed by the actors who portrayed them, or numerous jams, some still unfinished for three years and counting (though I've made progress.)

While gathering prospects for this year's (and almost certainly the next as well's) project, I stumbled upon the Journey Bunny booth. The artist had some lovely work available for a very reasonable price, plus she and her table mate were as friendly and welcoming as could be. I gave her a stack of reference for different projects I've been working on over the years, but ultimately her favorite subject was Cynthia "Cindy" Reynolds. Gypsy is of course late of the Detroit Justice League and Justice League Task Force, but more recently adapted to live action as a reoccurring character on CW's The Flash.

Tauro only had time for a bust, so she opted to having Gypsy turning invisible around the edges. However, what remains is a lovely watercolor on sturdy paper, with mysterious eyes and windswept hair. Tauro had a beaming smile every time I saw her, and I have one as I look at this great piece. My only regret is that I didn't have her take part in a jam I was working on instead, with another favorite heroine, because I paid a "name" artist an exorbitant amount of money for something I liked fractionally as much as this. Maybe I can talk her into painting over it next year?

Journey Bunny

Monday, July 2, 2018

2017 Roh Kar Jam Sketch Detail by Allen Bellman

Allen 'Al' Bellman was a staff artist at Timely during The Golden Age of Comics. The majority of his work was on Captain America Comics and Marvel Mystery Comics, and he drew characters like The Patriot, Cap, Sub-Mariner, The Whizzer and Human Torch. He's probably best known for his "Let's Play Detective" strip. He'd appeared several times at Houston's Space City Cons, and I tried to angle for a commission. At the time, he was only working on characters he'd been associated with back in the day (the same answer Jim Steranko always gives me, not to mention Frank Brunner,) and I have always made a point of not doing that very thing. Well, that and I get all this Martian Manhunter stuff that nobody living ever drew before I hit them up.

I was at the 2017 Charlotte Heroes Convention, and I was specializing in new and ongoing jam pieces at that show. I saw Bellman once again, as usual with his wife (decked out in a Captain America themed get-up.) They're adorable. Anyway, for whatever reason, Mr. Bellman was amenable to not only doing a "golden age" character from a company he'd refused to work for (DC,) but to do it as one of the finishing touches on a jam. I'd always wanted to see his take on Roh Kar, First Lawman of Mars, and he seemed genuinely honored and anxious about joining the artists who'd previously worked on the collaboration. I think he said something about being afraid of messing it up, but to me this was absolutely the capstone on two years of effort with a joyful, luminous take on the first Manhunter from Mars! It's the only part of the piece that is drawn solely in pencil, and I briefly considered having it inked, but it would be a travesty to alter Bellman's shading and linework. Personally, I think it's his best work, but I'm kinda biased!

If you'd like your own commission, click here!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Podcast- JLMay 2018: Silver Age Part One (2000)

Episode #32

Look for us on iTunes, ShoutEngine or directly download an art-tagged MP3 from the Internet Archive

JLMay 2018-- Silver Age (2000) Podcast Crossover Event
Agamemno reaches Earth as the incredible event begins! Gathering some of the JLA's greatest foes --- Lex Luthor, Sinestro, the Penguin, Catwoman, Mr. Element, Dr. Light, Chronos, Black Manta, and Felix Faust --- to help him in his plan to conquer the Earth, Agamemno switches the minds of the villains with those of their nemeses! Can the heroes foil the plot before the would-be conqueror prevails? You asked for it-- and you got it! A STAGGERING SUPER STRUGGLE stretching across this month's DC COMICS! Dig what's Coming!
From here follow JLMay 2017 to these fantastic podcasts! Each will cover a different issue of SILVER AGE and each will come out in May! And don’t forget to use the hashtag #JLMay2018 when discussing on social media!

JLMay 2018
  1. Silver Age #1 [Justice’s First Dawn]
  2. Silver Age: Justice League of America [Coffee & Comics Podcast]
  3. Silver Age: Challengers of the Unknown [Relatively Geeky Presents]
  4. Silver Age: Teen Titans [Super Mates]
  5. Silver Age: Dial "H" for Hero [Idol Head of Diabolu]
  6. Silver Age: The Flash [The Longbox Crusade]
  7. Silver Age: Doom Patrol [Waiting for Doom]
  8. Silver Age: The Brave & The Bold [Comic Reflections]
  9. Silver Age: Green Lantern [The Lanterncast]
  10. Silver Age: Showcase [Batgirl to Oracle]
  11. Silver Age: Silver Age 80 Page Giant [Chris & Reggie’s Cosmic Treadmill]
  12. Silver Age: Silver Age Secret Files and Origins [Fire and Water]
Martian Manhunter in...
JLMay 2017
JLMay 2016

We enjoy dialogue on the red planet, so here are our non-telepathic contact options:

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Silver Age: Dial H for Hero #1 (July, 2000)

"Imagine-- if you can-- that with the simple spin of an alien dial, you could transform yourself into a super-hero! Robby Reed possesses such a device and uses it to battle evil-- even though he never knows which hero he'll become or what powers he'll possess whenever he decides to--"

Dial H For Hero

Littleville, Colorado is established as the home of Robby & Gramps Reed, along with their housekeeper, Miss Millie. The small city had been plagued by the super-human hoodlums the Thunderbolt Gang, but Robby and his magical H-Dial hoped to stop them once and for all in his latest heroic form, the darkness generating Twilight (who strongly resembled the Marvel heroes Cloak and The Shroud, but with the powers of DC's Shadow Lass.)

In a Post-Crisis revision of his origin story, it was revealed that Robby determined that his H-Dial had inscribed upon it Interlac characters from the 30th Century language used by the Legion of Super-Heroes. After weeks of study based on information from a future weapon once confiscated by Superman that made the news, Robby was able to figure out the rotary-style dial had ten letters on it that translated as A-D-E-H-I-L-N-O-R-V, but he only needed to concern himself with four of them to become a hero.

After busting some T-Bolts, Robby bolted to the school bus for a field trip. His friend Joey had a flier that he tried to hide from the orphan about a father-son "Olympic" event at Littleville High School. Robby didn't remember his father at all, and Joey was surprised that he seemingly wasn't even curious about the man. The class arrived at Fort Masterson, the military base that housed the latest technology, a "Computer Ordinance Macro-Accelerator." Unbeknownst to them, the form of the super-villain Dr. Light was also lurking outside its gates. In truth, this was J'onn J'onzz, trapped in the body of the Justice League of America's foe. J'onn was unaware of the extent of evil Dr. Light was getting up to in his Martian form, but was reluctantly following Batman's plan to smear "himself" and create resistance to the compromised League.

Using Arthur Light's various technological projectors, J'onn created a hologram to appear as the Martian Manhunter and attack the base. "Moons of Mars! I didn't expect children here! Now I must plan my 'rampage' with extra care!" Even more surprising was a figure among the school kids, "What? Can it be--? I know that boy! That's Robby Reed! I recognize him-- though it's been years! I haven't seen him since... since the funeral." More than a decade earlier, Jack Reed had served on the Middleton Police Department before he and his wife were murdered by gangsters. Robby's grandfather soon after moved to Littleville, where Robby eventually found the H-Dial he now used to become the Pyronic Man to defend the base.

Despite no longer physically being a Martian, J'onn J'onzz reacted poorly to a flaming cage. Recovering, the Manhunter created holograms of Superman, the Flash and Green Lantern to distract Pyronic Man and the military forces. Robby decided to dial up another hero, something he could not do so immediately in his earlier appearances in 1960s House of Mystery comics. Then he was oddly surprised to become a giant, even though his very first H-Dial transformation was into Giantboy. Unable to function safely in his unnamed giant form (another break from the old strips,) Robby quickly cycled through a quadruplet identity (also unnamed) before settling on an old form, Radar-Sonar Man. Finally, this form managed to destroy "Dr. Light's" equipment, forcing J'onn/Arthur to discreetly strip off his villain costume to escape in plain clothes. In the aftermath of the assault on the base, no one seemed to notice him simply walk away. The Manhunter had accomplished his goal, as the military sent out an alert that the Justice League had gone rogue.

J'onn remained proud of the son of Jack Reed, but wondered what motivated him to super-heroism. In an epilogue, we learn that Gramps Reed refused to ever speak of the man whose crusading had cost the life of his (unnamed, fridged) daughter, encouraging his grandson to focus on the present and his scientific pursuits. Miss Millie felt that Robby's constant disappearances of late were related to a quest to understand his father, and Scrabble tiles resting on a table in Robby's lab shack were shown to spell out "D-A-D."

"The One-Man Justice League" was by Mark Waid & Barry Kitson

Monday, April 30, 2018

Silver Age: Justice League of America #1 (July, 2000)

Agamemno's body-swapped villainous JLA get up to some especially nasty business. This includes vomiting on one another, causing schools of sea life to devour each other as a laugh, massacring an entire miniaturized Daxamite city under foot, stealing the Oan central power battery, and rendering dozens of Green Lantern Corpsmen corpses, man. At one point, Dr. Light as Martian Manhunter is sexually propositioned by Catwoman as Black Canary after he flew her back to her apartment to feed her cats. "You're wasting your time, my amorous companion. Physics ace Arthur Light has always been more interested in test tubes and Bunsen burners than the fairer sex!" Clearly Brad Meltzer never read this story, or maybe consent is just a turn-off for Dr. Light? Technically, Catwoman is suggesting the sexual assault of both their borrowed bodies, so maybe she just phrased her request ineffectively?

Martian/Light's other major contribution to the issue was using his ability to turn himself yellow to choke the decorated Green Lantern Ares Bandet of Xarda to death (while partially assuming an anachronistic Natural Martian form.) Also, Martian Vision is apparently capable of destroying a whole mound of GL power rings (stolen at super-speed by the Flash/Mr. Element.)

Given the viciousness reflected in this synopsis, you probably shouldn't be surprised that "The League Without Justice!" is credited to Mark Millar, Scot Kolins and Dan Panosian, although this was before Millar built his career on that sort of cynical sadism. Personally, I can't take it seriously enough to be offended, since this story is a retcon that was only barely in continuity before being forgotten by a universe later rebooted anyway. It's a broadly satirical trifle, so you might as well roll with it, although the cutesy Ty Templeton cover smuggles a (literal) gut punch (of an old lady) underneath its deceptive retro presentation.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Silver Age #1 (July, 2000)

Agamemno was a yellow-skinned, symmetrically dysmorphic humanoid alien would-be conqueror created by Mark Waid to serve as the inciting antagonist for a retconned adventure set in the early days of the Justice League. You'd think he'd have learned his lesson with Triumph, but somehow Agamemno had even less staying power.

Supposedly, Agamemno's father was the first sentient being to spring from the "Big Bang," who was supposedly killed by other, lesser, jealous beings. At least, that's the story Agamemno told Lex Luthor, as he appeared before the corrupt businessman upon arriving on Earth. Agamemno lacked a physical form, and so would animate whatever matter was handy to create a simulacrum of himself for corporeal affairs of that type. Agamemno sought beings powerful enough to help him exact revenge for his father's death, and the terran Justice League of America appeared to be the perfect candidates. However, they didn't appear to be morally aligned for such a matter, so Agamemno offered to switch their essences out with terrestrial criminals, so long as they were willing to serve his ends. Small groupings of villains associated with the League or its individual members ganged up on our heroes to facilitate the body swaps. Black Manta and Dr. Light staged an attack on Atlantis, drawing the attention of Aquaman and the Martian Manhunter...
"Thanks for responding to my JLA signal, J'Onn. Under the circumstances, two on two seems fair!"

"My pleasure, Arthur! This shouldn't take long!"

Unbeknownst to them, Agamemno was waiting in the wings with a fourth fiend, Mr. Element. "According to Agamemno, fire is the Martian's weakness! He no doubt believes he's safe from flame on the ocean's floor-- but with my weapon, I can turn that nearby coral-- into pure sodium, which burns burns underwater!" The crook next extracted the oxygen from the water around the Sea King, suffocating him unconscious. Black Manta observed, "Make a note, Light. From this point on-- you might want to lay off the matches!" Similarly, Superman, Batman, Black Canary, Flash, Green Lantern, Atom, and Green Arrow body swapped with their corresponding adversaries Luthor, the Penguin, Catwoman, Element, Sinestro, Chronos, and Felix Faust. The displaced Leaguers were secured at their Secret Sanctuary with the help of a duped Snapper Carr. However, "Felix Faust" was able to create a bow with a spent umbrella of "The Penguin," then guide "Catwoman" in firing a trick arrow he's secured before the body swap (as Faust's eyesight was comparatively poor.) The resulting explosion helped the team gain access to Sinestro's power ring, and then freedom.

Batman/Penguin decided that the team's best course of action was to swiftly ruin the reputation of the Justice League, to put Earth on guard against its former protectors. J'Onn J'Onzz bemoaned that rolling back his and Superman's efforts at acceptance by the planet, but deferred to the Dark Knight. Meanwhile, Snapper Carr called in the reserves to help him recover the missing "villains," including the Teen Titans, the Challengers of the Unknown, Metamorpho, Elongated Man, the Doom Patrol, and the Blackhawk Squadron...

"Pawns of the Invincible Immortal!" was by Mark Waid, Terry and Rachael Dawson. Silver Age was a minor event running throughout a publication month involving one shots that helped re-secure trademarks for a bunch of old DC titles while piggybacking relatively moribund period properties onto the success of JLA. This story was fine, I guess. It was never my bag, obviously, and it still bums me out that three Leaguers got stuck with villains that were not from their rogues gallery. I'm sure that was a concern both commercially and for expediency, since it would have eaten up a lot of pages to explain who, say, the Human Squirrel, the Ape Archer, and Socks Slade were.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Supposing... The Samachson Estate Reclaimed John Jones?

2016 Martian Manhunter - John Jones detective sketch card art by Brendon & Brian Fraim

I had an odd and very minor dream last night wherein I was flipping through the Diamond Previews comic book ordering catalog. In the IDW section, there was a tiny image of J'Onn J'Onzz flying at the reader, and I vaguely recall it being connected to an Artist's Edition reproducing original pages from Justice League of America. When I woke up, I got to thinking that it might be a fun thought experience to consider whether Martian Manhunter had the sort of mobility to appear in such an ad. I'll try not to take too long, because he really doesn't, and the legal weeds are awfully tall in even considering it.

Beginning in the latter half of the 20th Century, a lot of Golden Age creators began challenging “work made for hire” contracts with early comics publishers based on their independent contractor status, and the general tendencies of everyone involved in the industry for having a poor understanding of copyright law. Basically, everybody was racing to cash in on a hot fad, paperwork was sloppy, and no one was taking a long view at the longevity and value of comic creations. Bob Kane has arguably been the most successful at these renegotiation encounters by quietly and cunningly making it worth National Periodical Publications wile to pay him off and afford him broad creative credit for the Batman franchise. Kane's rights claims provided DC Comics with a shield against other involved talents, since they would first have to go through Kane to get to DC, significantly muddying the legal waters. Considerably less successful have been the creators of Superman, who waged very public war against National for full ownership of the property quite early on, and have been met with numerous devastating defeats in the courtroom. However, there have been successes in that respect, as when Pete Morisi secured copyright on Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt, which was sold by Charlton to DC Comics in the 1980s without his consent or involvement. The two parties negotiated an amicable divorce of intellectual property, and Thunderbolt was most recently published by Dynamite Entertainment under a licensing agreement.

The creation and ongoing rights to J'onn J'onzz are unlike any of those cases, though. The concept of a Manhunter from Mars had already been developed a year before his creation by an entirely different creative team in another National title. The only individual involved with both incarnations was Jack Schiff, a National editor, and the premise appeared in a Batman comic story dutifully credited to the aforementioned Bob Kane. The Samachson Estate would have to overcome the burden of proof that J'onn J'onzz was not a derivative work of another National property developed by one of their employees and the studio of a listed creator they had a firm contract with. The best case scenario would be the estate securing credit to Joe Samachson for co-creation and some sort of royalty or stipend. Given that just such a credit began appearing in the 1990s contemporaneous to a bunch of these reversion/termination filings, it's possible a settlement of that sort already occurred.

Having established the realities and reasonable assumptions on the matter, I can now delve into wild, ridiculous speculation. Suppose, against all odds, at least some of the rights to J'onn J'onzz were wrested from DC Entertainment? Again, I have to stress that despite multimedia adaptations and a degree of name recognition, Martian Manhunter is of extremely modest value in general and especially when separated from the DC Universe. Most of his stories were unambiguously written by hired hands and have inextricable ties to DC property. There's a very good chance that DC would simultaneously control their version of J'onn J'onzz and jealously guard against any of their concepts turning up in a competing incarnation. Even if Joe Certa's estate were to piggyback onto copyright claims, there would be a whole other conflict over National employee Jack Miller's role in the overwhelming majority of solo J'onn J'onzz stories published before 1968. Ironically, National's ownership of Martian Manhunter is more solidly bedrock than over any of their big three trinity of iconic heroes. What would either of J'onn J'onzz's established creators gain from a separation?

Joe Samachson is the credited writer of "The Strange Experiment of Dr. Erdel," "The Case Of The Magic Baseball" and "The Man With 20 Lives." What do those stories give you to work with?
  1. The character of John Jones/J'onn J'onzz, though likely not the name "Manhunter from Mars" due to the earlier Batman story.

  2. A much more binary White Male John Jones / Green Male J'onn J'onzz, since variations on that model could be argued as derivative of DC stories, and you'd want the most recognizable version of the concept to exploit.
  3. Most of J'onn J'onzz's long established look and powers. In the Silver and Bronze Ages, J'onzz was much more limited in his abilities than the version we know today, which hews closer to the original conception.

  4. A strip likely called "J'onn J'onzz," since Edgar Rice Burroughs' people would probably take issue with "John Jones of Mars" being too similar to their more famous John Carter.

  5. Professor Mark Erdel and the Robot Brain. One of these concepts has been killed off before the end of the initial story, but a story engine could be developed around John Jones bringing things to Earth or transporting himself to other spheres through the power of the Robot Brain. More importantly was the notion of its reaching "other dimensions," a premise never explored in the later strips that opens up enormous options for classic sci-fi/fantasy "looking glass" scenarios across "space-- time-- or the fourth dimension!" Erdel could also serve a similar role as Professor Emil Jennings in T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, leaving behind a treasure trove of gadgets that could fuel stories. He was after all a "world-famous scientist." For what, exactly?

  6. Emphasis on J'onn J'onzz as a scientist, an element almost immediately dropped in the Jack Miller stories. Proper deductive reason and the scientific method could be applied to stories in place of the logic leaps that came to define the DC strips.

  7. A greater sense of exploration. Reflecting Samachson's body of work outside comics, Jones could be more of a globetrotter and connoisseur of cultures. Why would he police one U.S. city indefinitely? Would he perhaps be more of an interventionist, stamping out corruption wherever he found it to aid his adoptive world toward its own Great Evolution? Unimpeded by a shared universe, he could topple governments and openly conflict with the mores of the western world? Or perhaps follow some variation on the Prime Directive, and vow only to work anonymously within the established framework of terrestrial customs?

  8. The de-emphasis of Mars itself, as the world was little explored in the early strips, and scientific progress has rendered assertions from those strips unlikely. Perhaps J'onzz comes from a far future Mars, or one from a parallel dimension? It may be best to stress his role as an extraterrestrial visitor over an implausible and trademark impacting Martian. Regardless, Mars is treated like a utopia in the first strip, which is a difficult thing to explore, and all paths to dystopia are well trod at DC.

  9. Lt. Saunders as an ongoing adversary. Saunders was John Jones' boss in the earliest stories, but was never well defined and swiftly replaced by Captain Harding. Jones needs a Lex Luthor more than he does a Perry White, plus Saunders comes off as rather oily in his debut. Maybe he finds some of Erdel's devices or gets exposed to some alien energy, or perhaps he's just a corrupt cop that stymies Jones' pursuit of justice without actually breaking the law himself?
It's all just idle speculation, given the aforementioned rationals for why this would never happen, but I thought you might join me down this particular rabbit hole on an April Fool's Day/Easter combination holiday...

Monday, March 26, 2018

Justice League: Mortal Leaked Cast Costume Test Photo

Half a decade ago, I pulled together a Martian Manhunter-specific look at what would have been the first JLA movie, featuring 6'2", sixty year old Australian Hugh Keays-Byrne as J'Onn J'Onzz. A couple of years later, when a picture of a latex mask produced for the film was finally released, I did an awkward, halting podcast adaptation of my earlier piece. That photo was part of a wealth of new information offered about the film in anticipation of the production of a documentary on it, George Miller’s Justice League: Mortal. They were even canny enough to create character posters for the doc, including the one seen in the header image above.

Unfortunately, it appears that Warner Brothers did not sign off on allowing any of this material to be used ahead of their actually completing a Justice League flick that wasn't as bad as you heard, but still landed with a thud on screens last year. I haven't heard of any movement on the project for a couple of years now and its official Twitter account went cold in September of 2016.

Don't ask me how toy photographer James Garcia got a very low definition picture of a full cast costume test (possibly here or here?), but such a thing apparently got tweeted out with the condemnation Yeah, can’t say I’m disappointed JUSTICE LEAGUE: MORTAL didn’t happen, then continues later in the thread with "I honestly thought it was from that old failed 1997 Justice League TV show when I first saw it. These look like cheap Halloween costumes". Also, the since-Golden-Globe-winning actor Armie Hammer, who would have played the Dark Knight, noted Not quite.... The bat suit isn’t right and also The Green Lantern was black. (@common was going to nail that role). The consensus of the thread was that the suits were bad, but Martian Manhunter looked the best, and the suits on the Justice League porn parody were better. (Note to self: why haven't you seen the Justice League porno yet?)

For my own taste, with the exceptions of Wonder Woman and Superman, I definitely prefer the looks and character selection of Mortal over the Snyder/Whedon jam. The Alien Atlas is clearly based on his short-lived Brightest Day costume, and is obviously made of rubber muscles in the old school 1990s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Corman Fantastic Four Thing mold that I'm iffy on. It's a very classic look for J'Onn that I'm not confident would have been well received by general audiences, who may have dubbed him a cheapjack Hulk. I'm a defender of the New 52 redesign, which I think would look fantastic and distinctive on the silver screen, and we now have a proof of concept via the television show Supergirl's excellent but too little seen One Year Later rendition. I've never been wild about the comics used as source material for the screenplay (save "Tower of Babel," which is a sequel story, not a launching pad) or the word that it would have played like an excessively violent Injustice: Gods Among Us grimdark interpretation of children's heroes. All that having been said though, I still kinda wish Mortal had come out. I feel it would have been lambasted and underperformed in a manner not dissimilar from the 2017 attempt, but could have taught Warner Brothers lessons that may have provided positive guidance on Man of Steel and averted Dawn of Justice entirely.

All in all, J'Onn J'Onzz making his "cinematic debut" eleven years after the fact in a sketchy behind the scenes photo from an aborted film featuring the entire "true" Justice League of America in an untold proto-formation story is just about the most Martian Manhunter way this could have played out. Mortal is like a real life "The Origin of the Justice League-- Minus One!"

Friday, March 16, 2018

Justice League Vol. 1 (2018) Solicitation

Justice League Vol. 1
Written by Scott Snyder, Jorge Jimenez
Illustrated by Jim Cheung
$16.99 US
DC Comics
On sale Nov 13, 2018 | 144 Pages | 978-1-4012-8499-2

Visionary author Scott Snyder makes his mark on DC's most legendary team in Justice League Vol. 1!

Spinning out of the cataclysmic events of Dark Nights: Metal and the universe-defining No Justice, the core members of the Justice League--Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash and more--are finally reunited!

The cosmos suddenly opens up to new threats that the Justice League could not imagine! As Lex Luthor and Batman race to solve a mystery going back to the beginning of the DCU, the rest of the League dive deep into new corners of their own mythologies!

One of the most critically acclaimed authors of his generation finally scribes DC's flagship title in Justice League Vol. 1! Collects Justice League #1-6.
It's been nearly half a year since my last post, due to both general burnout and my reading very little mainstream DC/Marvel output in recent years. Truth to tell, there were many years there where I kept buying Martian Manhunter and Wonder Woman product out of devotion to the characters and blogs without ever bothering to read them. They're still sitting in boxes. For this reason, I can't tell you a) a first person perspective on how the New 52 Martian Manhunter series ended; b) where he's turned up in the year or two since, or c) what he's been up to since his return in the most recent issue of Dark Nights: Metal. Well, okay, he rescued Green Lantern Hal Jordan and Mr. Terrific from imprisonment, they all fought Starro off-panel, and then they got ambushed by those parallel universe lowercase "b" bizarro Batman/Justice Leaguer mash-ups. That story is about to spin-off into an event mini-series called Justice League: No Justice where everybody including J'Onn J'Onzz gets a sucky group-themed new costume and a bunch of relaunches get set up.

Speaking of which, here's the sorta-not-really "leaked" solicitation for a collection of the 2018 relaunch of Justice League. They're folding all the current JLA series back into one, putting on notable talent, and giving us virtually all of the actual League founders on the same team again. Only Hal Jordan is excluded, but the Green Lantern Corps is still represented by John Stewart, who is the superior character anyway. Even the Black Canary of the '10s, Cyborg, is sticking around. But most importantly, the Manhunter from Mars is finally on the core team again for the first time since Infinite Crisis twelve years ago. Again, this blog is now a decade old, and that has never been the case across its entire existence. And they're keeping the New 52 redesign I really like, even if you guys all seem to have more mixed feelings about it.

Is this enough to get me to buy monthly floppies again? I've been doing that for a while, but they're of the more economical Alterna Comics variety, not this $4 nonsense. Christopher Priest taking over was a much greater temptation, if only for the new adventures of Glenn Gammeron, but we all knew the minute they put a black man in charge of the book that the countdown clock was ticking on that run. Barring some sort of J'Onnaissance, I won't even be picking up the trades. I'm just happy to see the Alien Atlas afforded some respect and acknowledgement again, plus I didn't want to have a reason to hold resentment towards Victor Stone.