Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Brightest Day #0 (June, 2010)

Following his resurrection, J'Onn J'Onzz returned to Mars, intent on reviving the planet of his birth. He had discovered a deep aquifer, and was intent on nurturing it. He also used his laser vision to claim a cabochon to wear on his chest piece, a symbol of his renewed connection to Mars. His pyramid home was visited by Green Lanterns Guy Garder and Hal Jordan, the former delivering a large stash of Chocos and milk. J'Onzz explained his plans to his comrades, who were surprised by his newfound optimism, and his continued commitment to Earth. While upset that his family had not returned with him, he was yet heartened by the revivals of Arthur Curry and Barry Allen.

"Carpe Diem" was by writers Geoff Johns & Peter J. Tomasi, with art by Fernando Pasarin & company.

Monday, May 29, 2023

2023 Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 Silver Age-style homage commission by Kerry Callen

I'm trying to wrap up podcasting business after having spent the holiday weekend driving to and from a convention, so I wasn't sure about the if & when of maintaining my scant return to weekly podcasting. Gathering social media for the podcast, I stumbled upon a tweet that would serve for today, a U.S. holiday devoted to the fallen in battle.
Here is a little-seen DC house ad from 1970. Created by an intern fired after only two months. However, his original concept endured and became an ACTUAL series in 1985. Or, maybe it's merely my latest commission. If so, I should have picked a specific artist and aped his style.
For more, check out Kerry Callen Does Stuff!

Monday, May 22, 2023

Blackest Night #8 (May, 2010)

White Lantern Thaal Sinestro wields significant power, but is not adept in playing host to the Life Entity, and is unable to fully reckon with what Nekron is capable of. The united Lantern Corps struggle to present a united front against the onslaught of the Black Lanterns. Larfleeze battered Lex Luthor and reclaimed his Orange Lantern. Martian Manhunter slugged Hal Jordan while seemingly leading the charge of the Black Lanterns. Hal ringed up a facsimile of the kinder, gentler J'Onn J'Onzz to find him... or rather it... off. Then Jordan makes a connection to the... er... White Power Battery, and uses it to sever the post-resurrected heroes' connection to Nekron, making of them a White Lantern Corps. Through this energy, they next resurrect William Hand, and then the Anti-Monitor, whose corpse had been serving as the Central Power Battery of the Black Lanterns.

White Lantern Power Rings began flying about, homing in on Nekron's lieutenants. "Let there be light." Twelve more were resurrected through its power: Osiris, Jade, Captain Boomerang, Firestorm, Hawk, Professor Zoom, Maxwell Lord, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Aquaman, and Deadman... and J'Onn J'Onzz of Mars! Lovers are reunited, while Superman's reaction is more subdued. "J'Onn! You're alive!"
"It appears so," he confirmed with a grin.

Nekron had disintegrated, and various players made moves before dispersing. There was still a great mystery as to why this particular dozen had been returned to life, but that would be answered another day. For now, at least the blackest of nights passed into a new dawn. "Blackest Night" was by Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, Oclair Albert, & Joe Prado. These poor guys had to draw so many crowd scenes of dozens, if not hundreds. That they finished on time and at this level of quality is a minor miracle. The mini-series definitely ran too long and went several turnabouts more than it should have, but I love mixing super-heroes with horror. To keep an event of this scale broadly readable and consistently entertaining marks it as one of the greatest crossover events of all time.

As an aside, Joe Prado referenced coming up with fourteen different costume designs for the revived Martian Manhunter, involving notes from the entire creative crew, in a "commentary track" for the book. As longtime readers of the site know, I've tried dozens of variations my own self, so I feel his frustration, and then his suit gets pitched after a year or so. Cannopt win.

Monday, May 15, 2023

Blackest Night #4-7 (December, 2009-April, 2010)

Despite being a Superman-level space zombie powerhouse, Black Lantern Martian Manhunter was mostly sidelined for the second half of the mini-series event. I believe that he is only in one panel of #4, and completely absent from #5-6. The story began to expand outward into the greater DC Universe, with more personal interactions between living characters and the undead who torment them. A gigantic central Black Lantern Power Battery manifested on Earth, followed by its representative entity, Nekron. Ringbearers from across the emotional/color spectrum banded together, including Green Lantern Hal Jordan, Sinestro, Star Sapphire, the Red Lantern Atrocitus, the Blue Lantern Saint Walker, Indigo-1 of the Indigo Tribe, and Larfleeze. Their energies combined into a white light that was the only clear method of destroying the Black Lanterns. Earth's heroes also banded together to combat the threat... to their peril. Black Lantern Batman rose, and with him a wave of contamination of currently living metahumans who had previously resurrected, making Black Lanterns of Wonder Woman, Superman, Superboy Conner Kent, Kid Flash Bart Allen, Green Arrow Oliver Queen, Troia, and Animal Man.

The recently revived Jordan and Barry Allen Flash managed to evade this compromise, although when a group of Earth heroes took on spectrum rings, Allen became a Blue Lantern. Wonder Woman was restored by a Star Sapphire, Lex Luthor went orange, Mera saw red, the Atom turned into a shrinking violet, and The Scarecrow turned yellow. Luthor soon came to covet the other rings, but was fought off, then the majority of the actual ring corps made landfall. It was finally revealed that what had drawn everyone to Earth was a Life Entity buried within it, representing the ultimate combined energies, and the target of Nekron. In the face of mortal peril, it briefly conscripted Thaal Sinestro to be its White Lantern.

"Blackest Night" was by Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis and Oclair Albert with Joe Prado.

Monday, April 10, 2023

Green Lantern #51 (April, 2010)

Another gross guest spot for Black Lantern Martian Manhunter, this time on the final page of a Blackest Night tie-in where Parallax takes back control of Hal Jordan. The Spectre teams-up with a bunch of emotional spectrum ringbearers to deal with that, but absence a soul, he's handwaved away by Nekron. After months of absence, J'Onn J'Onzz's reanimate corpse joins other front end Black Lanterns in standing by their master as the final battle commences. "Parallax Rebirth Part Two" was by Geoff Johns & Doug Mahnke.

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Podcast- War of the Worlds, 1984

Episode #37

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

Martian Manhunter in...

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

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Justice League of America #230 (September, 1984)

The breathable air was sucked out of the environment within the JLA Satellite. Bel Juz convinced The Marshal to have his warships destroy the space vessel that caused the explosive decompression aboard the satellite before it could get too close... and Martian Manhunter could be positively identified, to prevent his potential martyrdom. Hunter Commander J'en overheard their conversation while eavesdropping aboard the command ship "The Vengeance," but could only look on in horror as her former lover seemingly died a second time before her eyes. The Hawks' Thanagarian Star Cruiser had been completely obliterated by laser fire, leaving no trace. The Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, Konstantin Chernenko, swayed President of the United States Ronald Reagan to deploy their combined nuclear capabilities against the Martian armada. Nine key international military bases had already been leveled by the invaders. All was lost.

Well, about that. As demonstrated by J'onn J'onzz before his departure, the League had specialized space suits aboard the satellite that allowed the heroes to use their powers while protected from the ravages of space. The League ambushed Martian troops that explored the disabled satellite. Hawkgirl and Hawkman had maneuvered their ships' warp drive to evade fire and retaliate. J'en wielded her credentials and the stun setting on her pistol to take out three members of the Soldiers of the Red Brotherhood. Stealing a scout craft, she found that J'onn J'onzz had once again been miraculously thrown clear of his ship before its destruction.

When roused, the Sleuth from Outer Space was relieved to learn that the full attack upon Earth had not yet begun, and that there was yet time to stop The Marshal. J'en still believed in her leader and their mission, drawing her pistol on J'onn, who despite no outward resistance insisted that she would have to kill him. Tearfully, J'en let go of her quest for Martian glory, as well as the grip on her laser. Just as the Hawks prepared for their final stand, The Marshal placed his order. "This day, we will write in fire on the pages of Martian history. Technician, open a channel to the entire fleet-- I wish to speak to all my warriors."

This was the moment the Manhunter from Mars, having made his way aboard The Vengeance, had been waiting for. The challenge of a duel, before the entire Martian force, who could already plainly see that J'onn J'onzz had not fled like a coward, as their commander had claimed. Bel whispered, "The eyes of the fleet are upon you, my leader! Kill him now, prove him a weakling, and you are untouchable!" The Marshal literally ripped off his shirt and assailed the man he'd framed as a traitor. Despite his genetic enhancements, the Marshal struggled against his foe, and used an invisibility technique outlawed for a millennium in duels of honor. Bel insisted, "What matter? The Marshal is above the law!" After more blows were traded, the Marshal tried to two-handed choke J'onzz to death, but the Alien Atlas picked him up by the midsection and smashed the militant head-first into equipment, leaving the Marshal out cold. Bel Juz defied this result, grabbing a pistol from a soldier with the intent to kill J'onzz herself. However, Firestorm had recovered from his last brush with Martian muscle and pursued the Manhunter, only to use his powers to save J'onn from Bel's blast.

J'onzz ordered the armada back to Mars II. The Soviets and the U.S. stepped back from probable nuclear winter. All seemed to be right, except the fleet would be leaving short one Martian Marvel. As Aquaman observed, "His people don't want him... His presence would be a constant reminder of their humiliation... J'onzz showed them that they'd sold their hearts to a madman and coward. The Marshal betrayed their faith in him... but J'onn J'onzz forced them to face reality... and that's something a nation can never forgive...

"The Concluding Chapter: War of the Worlds 1984: Part Three: Blessed Is the Peacemaker" was by Gerry Conway & Alan Kupperberg. While not as embarrassing as to be defeated by the slighest hint of a flamable, the Martians regardless proved pushovers when faced with non-powered heroines in fetish gear kicking them really hard in weightless space. I still like this story, and love the Patton/Giordano covers, but the illogic and mere lip service paid to stakes make it fold before the slightest critical analysis. None of this material makes it into Post-Crisis continuity, so my buzz over the observance for Bronze Age Martian continuity is further harshed by none of this having "happened" in canon going further than a year out.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Justice League of America #229 (August, 1984)

Probably more sore about being manhandled on the Martian Marvel's previous visit to Earth during his JLofA tenure than because of legitimate concerns, Firestorm let J'onn J'onzz know he would be keeping an eye on him in the event of a double-cross. "If you believe that, we have nothing more to say." The Martian invaders had destroyed most of a space shuttle orbiting the planet, and the pair of heroes were dispatch to address the remains. Too weak to control the nose cone where three surviving astronauts hid, the Nuclear Man cursed the Martian for imperiling them, but managed to salvage the attempt with his matter restructuring abilities. Upon return, Firestorm was still finger-pointing, and Zatanna chastised him for it. The Thanagarians vowed to stand by Earth until the end, and when military police showed up to round up all "ETTIES," Firestorm's defense showed that his prejudice didn't extend past J'onzz.

Then-President Ronald Reagan apologized to Aquaman for the incident, and explained that world leaders were intent on pushing back against the Martians. Both men bemoaned the unexplained absence of Green Lantern, The Flash, Wonder Woman, and Superman, a too-common recent trend. Elongated Man reported that one silver lining was that he was seeing people around the world unite as one against the extra-terrestrial threat.

Aboard his warship, The Marshal expressed his confidence to his lover and confidant, Bel Juz, in her first appearance in a dozen years (and second overall.) She expressed doubts... that the Marshal should have slain J'onzz already, and whether his bravado masked insecurity. When the U.N. Secretary* announced the world's rejection of the Marshal's terms of surrender via satellite television broadcast, the furious fascist admitted as much. The overall resistance was not a concern so much as the rival in their midst. "I had to send my personal guard after him... because too many of our warriors are still loyal to the J'onzz mystique... You know the man, Bel Juz. You recognize his charisma." Indeed, she feared her own betrayal of the Martian people would eventually be uncovered by the Sleuth from Outer Space, taking on the Marshal and encouraging his coup as a means of protecting herself... even if it meant worlds at war.

The Martian strike was swift and unprecedented. They had somehow managed to accumulate hundreds if not thousands of interstellar attack craft with invisibility, allowing them to ambush the Hawks' Thanagarian Star Cruiser, the JLA Satellite, and numerous key cities around the world simultaneously. Terrestrial weapons were useless, and the League's base was left shattered. Challenger, in golden battle gear, boarded the remains in search of survivors. There were in fact no casualties, and though the robotic Challenger battered Aquaman, its was taken out by a single "wall-smasher arrow." Firestorm still distrusted the Manhunter, and took out a trio of actual Martian invaders while searching for him. Finding J'onzz donning a spacesuit, the Nuclear Man assumed the Alien Atlas was abandoning his allies. Silently swatting the nuisance aside, the Manhunter climbed into a League spacecraft, fired upon an exterior wall, and flew off. Firestorm was left to fend for himself in the ensuing explosive decompression.

"War of the Worlds, 1984: Part Two: Bitter Ashes" was by Gerry Conway, Alan Kupperberg, & Pablo Marcos. Going back to his underappreciated Blue Devil run, Alan's been my favorite Kupp-brother, and a welcome relief from Tuska. It's still jarring how completely Challenger was redesigned from one issue to the next, but I'd assume the second pass was closer to the desired vision. Maybe The Marshal had a point about needing to take over, since the last time we were on Mars II, his people were still living in tents waving swords, and now they have an entire armada? As for J'onn's pronounced charisma... I wish that had been present enough in any of his solo series to have kept any of them going for longer than a few years. I do like this story, especially its rare care for Mars II continuity, but it needed more room to actually demonstrate the Martians as the threat they're spoken as. Plus, all those Marshal monologues undermine the attempt to create any doubt in the reader's mind about the Manhunter's loyalties.

* Technically it should be the Secretary-General, who in 1984 was Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, although perhaps they got confused and thought it was his eventual successor, Kofi Annan?

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Justice League of America #228 (July, 1984)

In 1961, Vostok 1 orbited the Earth. A dying Mars took no notice.
In 1963, Project Gemini yielded the first Terran spacewalk. "On Mars, a grim decision is taken... and a once-great race prepares for a strange exodus..."
In 1969, Apollo 11 landed on Earth's moon. "On Mars, as before, no notice is taken... for now, no one is there."
In 1976, Viking 1 lands on the Red Planet... "conforming some scientists' fear that Mars is, indeed, a dead world."
In 1984, an abandoned and neglected Viking 2 found new life on Mars, or rather was found by it.

After an effective two-page build up, the action began, as J'onn J'onzz piloted a wounded spacecraft toward the blue world that was once his home away from home. Two of The Marshal's Hunters were in pursuit, but by seeming sheer will, J'onzz managed to maintain his lead. Hunter Commander demanded that the traitor be stopped before reaching his allies, and despite the love they once shared, Hunter Two privately vowed to kill J'onzz to this end. Aboard the Justice League of America Satellite, Aquaman was the first to detect the approaching vessels. Black Canary, Green Arrow, Red Tornado, Elongated Man, Firestorm, Zatanna, Hawkman, & Hawkgirl were swiftly called into action. Barely missing collision, the JLA followed the invaders down to terra not-so-firma. His ship destroyed by Air Force missiles, J'onn J'onzz splashed down in the waters near the Statue of Liberty.

Aquaman dove in to investigate, but was brushed off by an escaping figure from the wreckage that he was able to recognize through telepathy and a scant vision before it turned invisible. "...an old friend... who seems to have turned into an enemy..." The Leaguers had presumed that he was still with his fellow survivors in another star system, resettled on "Mars II." Speeding away on some unknown mission, an overzealous Nuclear Man tried to steam the Martian out of the water, only to be chastised by the fairer Winged Wonder. "J'onn's our friend, Firestorm. Something's driven him to act desperately-- but he's still our friend!" Hawkman surmised that he had been running for days without food or sleep, and even without the hotfoot, J'onzz soon collapsed into Shayera Hol's arms.

Jones was taken to the United Nations to recover, where the disbelieving U.N. Secretary heard the League's tales of Commander Blanx causing the Blue Flame of Mars to rage into an inferno that rendered the world uninhabitable. J'onzz explained that three Terran weeks earlier, he had determined the true fervor of the Red Brotherhood, a nativist, fascist collective of mostly young militiamen seeking to abandon their subsistence existence on Mars II to return to their home planet. Months earlier, a masked ally named Challenger had found an destroyed the Viking 2 rover on a pilgrimage to Mars, and the charismatic genetically-engineered militant leader The Marshal would use its intrusion as pretext for an invasion of Earth. So convincing was he that even J'onn's lover J'en had her simmering anger weaponized towards a successful takeover big against the current government within the week. Forewarned by his investigation, the Sleuth from Outer Space evaded the imprisonment and death that befell resistors, and managed to escape in a scout ship.

Shortly after recounting these events, a warship appeared outside United Nations Plaza, and Challenger emerged. This being offered to accept humanity's surrender, so that they could be interned in camps for a single generation, as a sign of Martian mercy. The Manhunter from Mars called out this plot of slow genocide, but was in no condition to resist at this time, as Earth was afforded one day to answer to the Marshal's terms...

"War -- of the World?" was by Gerry Conway, George Tuska, & Alex Nino. I've often written that DC Comics house ads featuring the covers to this debut and the final issues of this arc were among my first, in not the first, exposures to the Alien Atlas. You should have no doubt that I wish the interiors matched those glorious Martian images rendered by Chuck Patton and Dick Giordano, but I was still happy with the initial chapter of the tale that, as announced on the cover, brought the Manhunter back to comics!

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Martian Manhunter in Lazarus Planet (2023)

While there was a part of me that wanted to continue with Bloodwynd material after Black History Month, just to finally close that long dangling thread, at a rate of one post per week, it would still take up another few months... maybe even the rest of the year. That would rather strain the parameters of this blog, not to mention my interest in the concept. Reader dissapointemnet (don't ask me to spell or pronounce that Ctrl+C/+V) asked last week about covering a recent Martian Manhunter story which felt like a nice pivot point, but I lacked context. I pretty much gave up on the DC Universe during the New 52, aside from a tiny blip following Rebirth, and didn't even bother to collect or fully read the 2018/2019 Martian Manhunter maxi-series (bought the trade only.) When I became estranged from Marvel Comics in the early '90s, I continued to read all of their monthly solicitations as an informed retailer into the next century, but finally gave up on that sometime before the 2010s. With DC, the estrangement began in earnest sometime after Infinite Crisis/One Year Later (I quit 52 halfway through,) but I think we were well into the Rebirth period before I finally opted out of reading the DC solicits, or as Grandpa from The Lost Boys might have put it, my TV Guide. I just stopped caring about the ebb and flow of that universe, and even a stab at creative writing that saw me try to catch up was abandoned more than a year ago. Lazarus Planet has been well reviewed, but it's also a weird mash-up of super-heroes, Vertigo, and Chinese lore that's daunting to wrap my brain around.

As I understand it, current Robin Damian Wayne has been mucking around with his mother's side's resurrection apparatus, some monstrous entities got involved, Batman got possessed by one, and a volcanic eruption of the Lazarus Pits caused alien parasites to gene bomb an underworld. Or as less of a geek test, a plot device gave DC editorial an excuse to muck around with people's powers on a grand scale to mine crossovers and spin-offs. And because a good chunk of the readership hate anything magic or related to China, the Batman Family get shoehorned in to force feed it to that lot. Also, they continue to push the entire discipline of inking over a cliff by shooting directly from the pencils to turn everything into a washed out muddle, and inflict a bunch of excess text on the audience by crediting nine different artists for variant covers that they (hopefully) only bought one of. But I'm not bitter.

Where Dark Crisis (I'm already exhausted by the title alone) seems to have been the more classical (if perhaps largely irrelevant in the excessively grand scheme of things) crossover, Lazarus Planet feels like an old Marvel Age Annual on steroids, cocaine, and PCP at the same time. Aside from the Batman vs. Robin tedium and a two(ish)-part bookend series, this event is mostly a collection of short stories by a vast number of creative teams setting-up/previewing new directions for the DC line. I guess this is where Jon Kent gets his dad's (and Strange Visitor's) old electric blue look/powers, and where the decision to make Renee Montoya the Question that got reverse years ago de-reversed (can I quit yet?) There's a lot of the Maryest of Sues, Black Alice (trigger warning, come @ me,) and a mountain of ah-spaghetti hits-ah alla the walls (best/worst Chris Pratt Mario voice?)

In a huge, very 21st Century tell, a mash-up of Martian Manhunter and Doomsday that might as well have been generated by an art AI program (did Dream get a credit with all the variant cover guys) was used to promote the event, even though J'Onn J'Onzz barely appears in any of these books. In the core story, the Alien Atlas is simply adjunct to the Superman Family, showing up as part of a cavalry straight outta Metropolis.

In the March cover-dated, January-shipping one-shot Lazarus Planet: We Once Were Gods #1, Dan Watters and Max Dunbar had the thankless task of validating the gimmick image in a ten page story. A person of color (but indeterminate race,) Raphael Arce gained the ability to absorb people's pain from the Lazarus rains. Arce selflessly visits hospices to relieve all the terminal (exclusively white male?) patients at a Metropolis hospital. In a big reach, his proximity to the city has him absorbing the residual pain of the time Doomsday "killed" Superman, and that memory is enough for Doomsday to begin regenerating within the dude's body. Martian Manhunter tried to relieve the reliever by taking the Doomsday seed into himself, becoming the advertised hybrid for barely two pages. Arce then takes the Doomsday back from him, seemingly immolating into a hyperdense red crystal. "Crushed down into a psychic gem of blood and pain. He allowed his flesh to become this. Dense enough to absorb the living memory of Doomsday."

There's a bookend where Martian Manhunter likes to fly way up into the something-sphere (he still needs to breathe, I assume, but can also see the whole Earth from wherever he stops) and partake of a symphony of pain and pleasure down below that's supposedly better than music. In the end, he's explaining all this to Superman, his seeming immediate superior in the DCU these days. For all his powers, Superman can't pick up "The patternless patterns of emotion rippling on the surface of the Earth?" I'm right there with you, pal, and since when did J'Onn switch from Chocos to pot brownies? Anyway, the pseudo-poignant denouement offered by J'Onzz is, "There are no songs among them today."

The intent is unclear, but we can choose the yarnwall this as a set-up for a post-Infinite Flashpoint 52 Convergence Rebirth Infinite Metal Dark Crisis reboot of Bloodwynd, even though the exact phrase is never uttered. I'm not sure if Raphael Arce is Black/Hispanic/Both/Neither, though that was definitely some "Magical Negro" s---, and I have exactly zero (hour) faith that this will ever be follow-up in any way. YMMV.

Monday, March 6, 2023

Justice League Quarterly #9 (Winter, 1992)

So this is your basic temporal paradox. Booster Gold meets a homeless kid who he recognizes as a huge celebrity and Samaritan from his past in the far future. She died tragically in the 21st Century, so Booster helps her avoid an unscrupulous Hollywood type and reunite with her family. Her twin sister survives what was once an early death, and together they forge a brighter future. As a result, Booster mostly forgets both the runaway and her erased infamous fate.

That wasn't the temporal paradox that I was referring to, though.

The girl shines up real good for someone previously routinely mistaken for a boy, blossoming like a made-over nerd in a teen comedy. Everyone's jaw is on the floor when she *gasp* applies make-up and raids Fire's closet. Booster. Max. Beetle. Bloodwynd... who even requests an introduction. "Geralyn, this is J'Onn... Ted... Max. Send them your autograph--"

This story came out roughly the same month as Justice League America #69, the Doomsday tie-in where Blue Beetle is beaten into a coma right before seeing Bloodwynd transform into someone else while exposed to flames. Five months before Justice League America #74, where that form was revealed to be the Martian Manhunter. Maybe it was an accident, or at least written off as one, but Booster still outed Bloodwynd as J'Onn J'Onzz way ahead of it being anything but a Feudian slip...

"Tomorrow Belongs to Geralyn" was by Elliot S. Maggin, Dave Cockrum, & Jose F. Marzan, Jr. Quite the hoary lot in the '90s, and this was Cockrum's second story in the issue, so I'm sure the little fanboys were just thrilled.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Eclipso: The Darkness Within #2 (October, 1992)

One of the more popular posts in this blog's history was an April Fool's joke in 2009 regarding the announcement of a Bloodwynd mini-series by Bart Sears. I crudely cobbled together some art from the short-lived Ominous Press, and yet somehow, not only did the post get some traction, but I've even seen the featured art turn up elsewhere. Could have saved myself some time and just used some of Sears' Bloodynd art from the Eclipso event, but I guess it was worth it for the attention.

There certainly isn't much for Bloodwynd to do in the actual story, besides mill about in the background with a host of other non-essential heroes. His eyes peer over the throne on the cover. You can see him looking over Nightwing's shoulder in one of the splash pages where the remaining heroes confront the eclipsed ones before they're teleported by their master/possessor to the moon. He's standing around while the dust literally settles, mostly on Bloodwynd's cape. There's a nice overhead shot of his standing with the heroes as they reconvene to plan strategy. It was nice to see Sears draw members of the Suicide Squad Bronze Tiger and Nightshade, as well as my boy Blue Devil in the same splash. With Ben Turner, you can play the world's worst variation of Where's Waldo with "spot the Black guy." Looking over the Will Payton Starman's shoulder. Wearing a spacesuit in a craft with Booster Gold and the Element Man, the latter treated to Bloodwynd's first line of dialogue. "Each of us must follow his own concience on the matter, Metamorpho... wherever that may lead!" That ship is later grounded by an eclipsed Mon-El, reinforcing Metamorpho's stated desire to outright kill Eclipso.

Quoth Jamiroquai, "Everybody's Going to the Moon" (what, you don't own the Titan A.E. soundtrack? Your loss.) The heroic force walks into Eclipso's lunar palace like chumps, where he's powerful enough to immediately eclipse everybody when they get ticked at the eclipsed Starman for using his shapeshifting powers to conceal his condition until now. Once again, Bloodwynd's blue-tinged possessed head is seen over Nightwing's shoulder. I'll have to incorporate that pairing into my slashfic on Reddit*. Along similar lines, Eclipso got all Brian Yuzna with the meat sacks under his sway, until Superman and all the light-based/sun-tech characters break down the door. Eventually, they zap all the heroes until they're liberated, and Bloodwynd is seen standing in front(!!!) of Metamorpho (I ship it!) Bronze Tiger continues to stand behind a lower class of character who have to be way further in the foreground, because he's pretty tall. Pantha's head makes a cameo appearance, along with the rest of her still-attached body, which is my preference for Pantha. She's not a Highlander.

Starman made the ultimate sacrifice of having his trademark passed to the next legacy while seeming to be dead before inevitably being resurrected. I didn't see Bloodwynd standing behind anyone else, probably because they focus on injured people on cots and tables. Bloodwynd isn't one of those, so I'll take it as a win. Brought to you by Keith Giffen, Robert Loren Fleming, Bart Sears, and a bunch of inkers.

*Please don't tell me that Reddit is not a preferred avenue for slash fiction. I don't know or want to know to what degree my joke is reflected in reality.

Monday, February 13, 2023

The Adventures of Superman Annual #4 (1992)

In one of his annuals, Superman became possessed by Eclipso, known as being "eclipsed". During the night, Eclipso could force the Man of Steel to do whatever he pleased (like putting Captain Marvel in the hospital,) but had to hide him from sunlight, or else Eclipso would lose his hold. Booster Gold, Fire, and Ice acted as Justice League America during this period, with Bloodwynd's whereabouts unexplained. The necromancer simply reappeared mid-story among the rest of League America at their headquarters as they gathered with Baby Wildebeest to determine the current location of the compromised Man of Steel... living inside an active volcano?

Aquaman, Metamorpho, Black Canary, Justice League Europe, Hawkman, Nightwing and L.E.G.I.O.N. all convened onto Kīlauea to plan their confrontation with the Man of Tomorrow. They were soon joined by Guy Gardner, who in his first solo Reborn mini-series tricked Lobo into helping his acquire Sinestro's Qwardian power ring to replace the Oan one he'd surrendered to Hal Jordan. Lobo's L.E.G.I.O.N. boss Vril Dox kept him from exacting his revenge until the more pressing matter at hand was addressed.

Dox & Hawkman chose Bloodwynd, Guy, Fire, Lobo, Strata, Booster, Metamorpho, and Phase as being best suited to withstand the volcano to reach Superman. "...The mystical nature of my powers serves to repel the molten lava from my body!" Boy, Martian Manhunter sure would benefit from a power like that! Reaching the Kryptonian, sans conscience and reserve, Lobo is swiftly felled by super-speed, full strength punches. Gardner fares a bit better, but is still bounced right out of the volcano. Bloodwynd and company try to rush Superman, but he repells them, in part by using Strata's crystaline body to repel powers like Fire's back at her teammmates like Bloodwynd. Not sure why plain fore would have an impact when freakin' lava didn't, though.

Bloodwynd exclaimed, "The sun is sinking beyond the horizon!" I hope he pronounces "horizon" like Ludacris. Anyway, without solar energy, the heroes would be unable to exorcise Eclipso from Superman's body. The heroes, led by a revived Lobo, continued to contain Superman in the dusky night after they're all blown out of the volcano by an eruption. All those lesser powered heroes focused on evacuating villagers, while Bloodwynd was felled by a freezing blast from a black diamond. "Allow me to show you the darkness of the human heart, 'hero'."

Superman had dismembered The Element Man and was poised to slay Ice when Guy Gardner returned to the scene. He had been ordered by Dox to collect actual solar matter, and though he protested at great length and volume, the ex-Green Lantern finally came through. It still took a while to drive Eclipso out, including a fall back into the volano, but ultimately Big Blue emerged restored. While most of the heroes next traveled to the moon to spy on Eclipso's lunar castle and get rooked by an eclipsed Starman masking his possession, Superman stayed behind to do science stuff, as you do. Well not you. Nobody would want Superman to hang back in that situation, but they had to pad out another annual and set up his disappearing before the grand finale in Eclipso: The Darkness Within #2. "In Blackest Night" was by Robert Loren Fleming & Bob McLeod.

I started covering Bloodwynd appearances in 2008, the second year of the blog, and about 16 years after his debut. It's been nearly that long since I started the posts, and I more or less abandoned them the following year. Part of it was a misguided plan to cover a bunch of the Eclipso annuals simultaneously and link between the posts. Part of it was also trying to cover the main Justice League America series at the same time on my Atom blog. Also, "The Death of Superman" was coming up, and I've never owned or read the whole thing (although I think I now have the cheapie trade collection on my bookcase.) I didn't even read all of the Superman annuals from the Eclipso event. I just found a partially completed draft of the first paragraph of this post sitting in a queue since 2012 and added this coda with the intent to fill in the middle. I think maybe I got tired of linking out to all the referenced characters. Mike Kooiman's old Cosmic Teams site apparently 404'd last year, but at least he wrote The Quality Companion for TwoMorrows in the meantime. Nobody ever asked me to write The Martian Manhunter Companion. I've clearly wasted my life.

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Conjurors #1-3 (April-June, 1999)

There's a popular assumption that conservatives are bad at comedy, because you can't punch down from a position of authority without working against most of the populace's interests. I don't entirely buy into that, as evidenced by both sides having traction for laying claim to George Carlin, still one of the greatest and most prescient comedians to ever live. Comedy thrives in finding lines and then crossing them, and lines divide two ways. Most of my favorite funny people of the '80s landed on the wrong side of my personal line, but they're as much a product of their time as anything, and changing times change the context of the humor. If you don't adapt, and social norms have definitely trended leftward since peak neoliberalism, you get left behind and easily treated as though you never were funny to begin with. Carlin's dancing back and fourth across that line is where his immortality lies. Based on comedy routines alone, Bill Cosby wouldn't have been cancelled today, but Pryor and Murphy would have.

I think a similar if much less well reasoned or researched argument could be made that conservatives can't do high fantasy. You can point out plenty of regressive politics in the genre, which is why I'll put most of my weight on the "high" part of the claim. A lot of fantasy is just historical fiction married to a romanticized vision of feudal existence, when the men were men and the women were chattel. Bill Willingham capped his career and popularized unto cottage industry taking fairy tales and forcing them into a hard reality modern world. Chuck Dixon & Eduardo Barreto's Elseworlds mini-series Conjurors mini-series tracks similarly. It posits a world reliant and fidelitous to magic in the same way ours is to technology. It gets muddy from there, because I suppose medicine overlaps with mysticism, so they seem to have all the same stuff we have. Actually, they have all the same buildings and clothing and everything else we associate with mid-to-late 20th century life, emphasized by increasing globe-trotting toward the end, and flashes of cosmic consequences at various points in the world. One of the defining principles of conservatism is a belief that we pretty much got everything right, so the status quo should be defended. Conjurors is more like Harry Potter, wherein a micro-community practices magic in secret, except here it's the broad public default. A boy might get busted reading Popular Science during school hours, but he's still dressed like Beaver Cleaver in a classroom lined with individual desks and a marm at the helm. But with wands, see? At the end of the book, all the magic users deprived of their sorcery have ready access to airplanes and helicopters to meet at Machu Picchu. Despite the shift from our world to a magical one taking place in pre-history, it is still recognizably our world, only mildly stunted in its stigmatized technology by a few decades at most.

I remember the mini-series arriving with a bit of a stink on it. It debuted outside the top 100, outsold by the $5.95 Doctor Midnite prestige format mini-series that would have typically been used for an Elseworlds. This was a $2.95 double-length floppy, and there's no break point in any of the issues to indicate that it was ever a six issue mini-series, not that it wouldn't have also been a telling format change. DC Comics simply did not produce books like Conjurors the way it actually came out. Also, Chuck Dixon was still a draw, but with mainstream audiences, mostly on books involving well armed, non-powered urban vigilantes, not the Vertigo crowd. Dixon is a justifiably well regarded scripter, but this isn't his wheelhouse, and it shows.

The book co-stars Zatanna, except it's Jennifer Morgan from The Warlord instead. A stage magician who is part of the 10% of the population naturally gifted with real magic, who spends much of her free time playing detective within the mystical community. There's a guy who vaguely resembles the Jared Stevens Fate with his rad long hair and eye tattoo... but he's a stage magician called Brother Power. It feels like people never gave or revoked approval for the familiar character types, maybe because Paul Dini had dibs on Zee, and Fate was getting aced to launch JSA? And wouldn't stage magicians be like paying to watch mathematicians or engineers at a blackboard? Could 10% of the population even support the magic needs of the other 90%, and does that mean the kid was in a classroom of only the 10% adepts? That's the initial pleasure but overall frustration of this mini-series. You spend the first issue trying to figure out which established IP have been shoehorned into a generic, often inappropriate role in a world where you're constantly second-guessing the premise. But then in the second part, Dixon gives up and just goes back to his comfort zone with the Challengers of the Unknown running around in a bi-plane on an rugged adventure. That schoolboy ends up offering a big information dump, and then just lingers on the periphery to react to stuff until the whimper of a finale. Why even?

I bring all this up because I only bought Conjurors second-hand as a discounted set to eventually cover it here for its novel inclusion of Bloodwynd, who appears in costume on a square inch in the background of the first cover. In the actual story, he's a bald black guy in a business suit who captures a spirit in a bottle. Eventually, the spirit escapes, and sends Bloodwynd out a skyscraper window to fall head first to his death. He was basically JLI-era Dr. Mist, but I guess Bloodwynd had more *snicker* commercial cache? Or more simply, THIS IS THE REMIX, so the entirely gettable Mist uses somebody else's moniker. And then is disposed of off-panel, because the status quo dictates that the best kind of inclusion is tokenism.

Monday, January 30, 2023

RBA #1 Veraldarvíg (March 2019)

When I first saw Pulp Fiction in 1994, a good fifteen years before I ever left the country, I fell in love with the "Royale With Cheese" discussion. I mean, the whole movie, but also, I still put mayonnaise on my waffle fries (but not french fries. I'm not a total heathen.) Now that I get to travel abroad with some regularity, I like to enjoy "the little differences" between countries. And being a lifelong comics geek, I always try to find some venue for a foreign four-color fix. Too often, I just muddle through imported copies of the same western comic book editions that I can find anywhere, or newsstand magazines that collect several modern comics, sometimes translated to local tongue. I find that more than a bit boring, because the older editions are much quirkier pieces of pop art, and I also like to find vintage material from the land I'm visiting. Ideally, I'll locate some hole in the wall on a back street that's the impure, adulterated experience. Like this multi-fandom spot in a quasi-strip mall in Reykjavík that looked more like a duplex, guided by a crude sandwich board sign from the sidewalk.
From visiting a local flea market and some book stores, it was pretty clear that Iceland wasn't historically big on super-heroes. There's a lot of Disney comics, adventure heroes like Tarzan, and of course the European staples Tintin and Asterix. This shop was no exception, plus a lot of fantasy, viking stuff, and some very quaint softcore behind a curtain that barely showed more than ankles and mid-drifts. Most of the stock were on wooden bookshelves, and as per usual, most of the western heroes were imports. I think I scored a hardcover annual a piece for my best friends-- I belive one was a British Hulk and the other a French Iron Man, or vice versa. I found a few oddball floppies stored in some sort of plastic clothing hampers for myself.
We eventually made our way to Nexus, the biggest comic/fan chain on the island. This particular location was in the basement of a multi-story mall, exactly where I would want it to be. You had to take a staircase that was flanked on one side by life-size statues of the Gal Gadot Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, and Deadpool. The view from the entry is deceptive, because the store snakes around to the left with expansive areas for more comics, gaming, and LARPing gear. They also had lit columns with stock images of Wonder Woman, Batman, Sailor Moon, Hellboy, MCU heroes, Darth Vader, and more. It was no Forbidden Planet, but London has nearly 9 million people to Reykjavík's 325K, so proportionately much grander, if taken on a per capita basis.
Most appealing to me was a small selection of trade paperback made specifically for Nexus stores featuring western comics translated into Icelandic. I texted Fryhole to see if he wanted Þór Bok 1, a trade collecting Thor: Son of Asgard, but he preferred a local Viking hardcover edition, Vargöld fyrsta bók.
For myself, I got a real treat, the first collection of the 1997 reboot of Réttlætisbandalag Ameríku, or as translated from Icelandic, "American Justice Alliance." We of course know it better as the start of Grant Morrison and Howard Porter's run on JLA from 1997. It collects the trades we know as "New World Order" and "American Dreams," as well as most of JLA Secret Files & Origins #1, under the title "Veraldarvíg," or "World Slaying." Period covers are reprinted for each chapter, and it appears Iceland was getting their monthlies more or less at the same time as us. Secret Files entries for the JLA members are used as interstitials to help with pagination.
After the first arc, there's the bio page for Superman Blue, followed by his short story "trial" for reentry into the JLA, so more or less in chronological order ahead of the membership drive in #5. Marian Manhunter's secret file by Don Hillsman III is ahead of the Neron/Asmodel two-parter. We continue on through #9, then the Starro lead story from Secret Files, and then the 3-issue Paradise Lost mini-series starring Zauriel by Mark Millar and Ariel Olivetti is also reprinted. My copy had a folded insert tucked into the back cover with the Multiversity map and advertising blurbs for other DC collections, which came standard for the edition based on copyright information in the trade's indicia. The package cost me 3,999 Krona or so, which would currently be about $28, though I think I paid more. Everything is pricier on an island. Anyway, a swell collection and souvenir. I wish there was an English language edition on glossy stock I liked as much as this one.