Monday, April 19, 2021

2021 Zook Sketch Card by Fred Hembeck

I didn't post last week, despite The Irredeemable Shag sending this to me weeks ago. Hope to have something more substantial up later in the week to make it up to you.
Fred Hembeck Color Sketch Card: Zook

...This card is a fully finished, unique piece of art by cartoonist Fred Hembeck (Fantastic Four Roast, Fred Hembeck Destroys The Marvel Universe, The Nearly Complete Essential Hembeck Archives Omnibus, and the recent Marvel collection, House of Hem). It is one of a collection of sketch cards being offered by the artist.

The card is drawn on 2.5" by 3.5" smooth surface bristol paper that Strathmore produces under the "Artist Trading Cards" specialty designation. The back of the card has a hand-lettered declaration, reading "This is a genuine FRED HEMBECK SKETCH CARD!!" A "Fred Head" caricature as well as the name of the character depicted are also included on the opposite side.

The card will be slipped into a sleeve and then put in a top loader.
Please note that "1 of 1" refers to the specific illustration on each card, NOT the character depicted. Inevitably, some characters will appear on multiple cards in different poses. Each card is hand drawn, therefore unique.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Power of the Atom #5 (December, 1988)

I'm pretty confident that I covered this ground years ago, but while working on Power of the Atom Podcast #607, I got to thinking about relationships within the Justice League again. It's easy to think of the team as one big family, but the '90s hammered home that there are multiple groups within the sprawling League itself, and some folks seem to spend more time together than others.

As a side effect of Superman and Batman being held from early Justice League covers, they come off as being maybe just a little stuck up? I mean, the pair and Robin hung out on so many World's Finest Comics covers before the League was "born" that they had their preexisting clique. Obviously both the Man of Steel and the Caped Crusader would happily team-up with most anyone in the DC Comics Presents / Brave & the Bold days, but after the mission was over, they probably gave you the bum's rush. Batman has more tolerance for street level detectives like Black Canary and Green Arrow, and various retcons have had him spend quality time with Zatanna. Due to being fellow travelers in rarified cosmic circles, Superman and Green Lantern pair up more often than you might recall.

Martian Manhunter is in an interesting place because he doesn't have an especially deep connection to anyone in the classic Justice League. Like Batman and Superman, he's had enough one-off team-ups over the years to get credit for starting the practice that Batman later took over in TB&TB. That said, serving as Batman's back-up for over a decade allows him some special access, especially in the JLI years when they were basically co-leaders of the team. I mean, Captain Atom was running Justice League Europe, but it always seemed to come down to J'Onn and Batman pow-wowing with Maxwell Lord about the overall JLI. Outside of the League though, J'Onn has appeared in a ton of Superman comics, and was something of a mentor to Kal-El in the aughts. When Morrison and Porter took JLA to #1, you'd think they'd lean on the DC Trinity with Wonder Woman, but it was obvious Manhunter and Batman did most of the oversight while Superman was a contributing figurehead. Ultimately though, Manhunter's loyalties are to the lesser loved Leaguers of the '80s & '90s.

Wonder Woman gets along with everyone, but gravitates more toward Superman than anyone outside of her core supporting cast. I'd argue that she's been treated as tighter with the Man of Tomorrow than any of her fellow Wonder Women like Donna Troy, Cassie Sandsmark, Artemis, or Nubia. I'm thinking more Steve, Etta, the Kapetalises, a few key Amazons, Barbara Minerva in recent years, and her mom.

The first non-World's Finest clique begins with the Flash. Barry's one of those pivotal figures that everyone likes and wants to be friends with, and Allen is emotional available enough to be such. Elongated Man, Superman, Green Lantern, Black Canary, the Atom, and Zatanna are all close friends and romantic prospects of Barry Allen's. Part of why Barry works better than Wally West is that despite spanning two generations of heroes as a Titan, Barry's sphere of influence is still larger. It's easier to list people that Barry isn't tight with, and who within his circle are closer to each other.

Green Lantern, Green Arrow, and Black Canary are something of a typical trio where you've got two buddies and one of their girlfriends. I have zero recollection of Dinah having any kind of relationship with Carol Ferris, and I don't see her being particularly friendly with Hal, either. Speedy is in the mix as well, but that's still Ollie's family and also his best friend Hal.

The Atom can be a bit of a judgemental jerk at times, but Hawkman is defined by being aggressively unpleasant. They shared a book together, and always have team-ups on the occasions that they have solo series. Oliver Queen is also a bellicose partisan, so Carter Hall is a partner in pugnacious discourse, but Ray doesn't much mess with Green Arrow. The Mighty Mite will ride the odd arrowtip, but they're not drinking together.

Aquaman is another stand-offish one. He clearly wants to be friends with Wonder Woman and Superman, but they don't give him much ground. Martian Manhunter clearly cares about Arthur, but it's not really reciprocated. His social pool is shallow.

Zatanna is broadly well-liked with a surprisingly large network. She's also something of a guy's girl, not especially close with heroines beyond Vixen (and not even her once they quit being roommates.) Excepting her recently seeming to take over the role once held by Kendra Saunders going into the New 52, Shayera Hol remains fairly joined at the hip with her husband. I think many people prefer her, but hardly anybody will suffer through Hawkman to get to her.

Looking back, the League cliques are something of a cohort. The Satellite era members seem to be a tight pack. If they were a solar system with Superman as the sun, the rest of the system would likely play out as Barry Allen, Hal Jordan, Zatanna Zatara, Bruce Wayne, Dinah Lance/Drake, Oliver Queen, J'onn J'onzz, Diana Prince, Arthur Curry, Shayera Hol, Ralph Dibny, Katar Hol, and Ray Palmer. Firestorm and Red Tornado have the lowest Q-ratings. Ronnie was forced out of the League going into the Detroit era, and sat every other one out until Extreme Justice. His book wasn't exactly rife with guest appearances, and he was usually a youthful nuisance to the likes of Blue Devil and Captain Atom. Nobody liked John Smith much, and even in Young Justice he was like the one grown-up who would buy you beer.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Secret Origins #29 (August, 1988)

People forget that the impact of momentous events is not felt universally nor instantaneously. DC Comics' super-hero publishing from December 19, 1985 until August 31, 2011 is referred to as "Post-Crisis," theoretically a closed expanse of in-universe continuity. You would then assume that everything DC put out in 1986 would be "Post-Crisis," and if you mean "published after Crisis on Infinite Earths #12," you'd be right. But see, "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" wasn't out until June of that year. The supposed "New Adventures" of Batman began with a Legends tie-in that August. Wonder Woman was a mound of clay until her book relaunched in November. Wally West may have taken on the mantle of Flash during Crisis, but his solo book kept until March of 1987. Supposedly everyone was starting off more or less from scratch, but Green Lantern and Aquaman have arguably never had a proper reboot. Whether or not "Aquababy" is still in canon today, the Sea King picked up roughly where Brightest Day left him in 2011 as the "New 52" continuity was ushered in. Hell, DC was coy about whether the "New 52" launching after the Flashpoint event series was a line wide reboot, and in retrospect it's pretty clear that DC editorial hadn't fully committed to that as the titles were coming out.

I mention all this because my recent revival of the Power of the Atom Podcast, fueled by early April Fool's Day pranking and my guest appearance on Justice League International: Bwah-Ha-Ha Podcast, meant revisiting Secret Origins #29 for a second time in audio format. John Byrne and George Pérez had committed to full reboots of Superman and Wonder Woman that did not include their ever having been members of the Justice League of America. Batman's membership was firm, but not his foundership. Their single panel appearance in this Atom origin story includes Hawkman, who notoriously had his ground zero reboot in mid-1990, almost five full years after Crisis and including his own solo ongoing series and a slew of guest appearances. Suddenly, a character presented here as a co-founder had never even been a member. They had to create Thanagarian spies who had been members of the Post-Crisis Justice League international, who were emulating the Golden Age Hawkman Carter Hall, who years later would get retconned into an early Justice League member himself. It was quite a mess.

A few months later, a different issue of Secret Origins finally determined that the founding members were Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, and Black Canary, the latter not having joined the League until the seventy-fifth issue roughly a decade into the property's life. And technically, that was the mother of the character depicted in Secret Origins. From the very beginning, Wonder Woman was in that very first League story from 1960(ish,) part of the cover-featured quintet. It's more than a little off to see the sausage factory heptad depicted here, and presumably only here. We saw a variety of permutations of the founders before and even after Secret Origins #32, but Dinah Lance was pretty much a staple from 1988 until the New 52 (though things got fuzzy after Infinite Crisis.

Another constant? Martian Manhunter. Unlike pretty much any other hero picture, nobody cared enough to make spurious claims about J'onn J'onzz's status as a League founder. He just wasn't that popular, and his continuity didn't pose serious problems, plus his status had been romanticized by "lost" stories featuring this M.I.A. member in the 1970s. If anybody could confidently be named a founder, it was the Alien Atlas, and this morphed over years into his being the most resolute and reliable member. Yeah, in the actual publishing, he was gone from the late '60s until the mid '80s. In the Post-Crisis canon though, he became "the" Leaguer, who never left in this continuity, and that construct did as much to elevate the Martian Manhunter within the universe and outside media like cartoons and movies as anything else done with the character. Throwaway images like this helped to build the Martian Manhunter that I built this blog to serve. Just Imagine...

"The Secret Origin of the Atom" was by Roger Stern, Dwayne Turner & K.S. Wilson.

Monday, March 22, 2021

The Martian Manhunter in Zack Snyder's Justice League (2021)

So, I guess my first question would be, do the makers of modern super-hero movies all have Oedipal Complexes? I mean, I'm of the opinion that Rosemary Harris, aged 75 years in 2002, was the best cinematic Aunt May. Sure, she's sweeter and prettier than the sentient prune Steve Ditko drew, but this was still the same Hollywood that cast Arnold Schwarzenegger as the protagonist in Philip K. Dick's "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale". I thought Sally Field (65 in 2012) was too young and attractive for the role. Now we're at Marisa Tomei, barely 52 during filming, who has yet to have a picnic with Tina Fey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Patricia Arquette, and Amy Schumer. At least Hope Davis' Maria Stark was from a quarter-century flashback! But move over to the DCEU with Nicole Kidman as Aquamom and Diane Lane as Ma Kent? There's some serious kinks at play here. The age difference between Lane and her "son" Henry Cavill was the same total years of life as the teenager he was dating at 33 after Man of Steel wrapped.

Hopefully, that tangent was enough spoiler space ahead of discussing the reedited extended cut of a 2017 movie wherein the director already spoiled everything via social media and the trailer. There's a scene from Josstice League, written and directed by Joss Whedon, where Ma Kent visits Lois Lane in the Daily Planet break room to discuss mourning her dead son and her would-be daughter-in-law's doing "light duty" reporting since. In the original version, Lois had taken an extended leave of absence, and Ma visited her at the apartment she shared with her would-be fiance. Ma urges Lois to return to work, which Lane ultimately agrees with, but not before spending a final day visiting the Superman Memorial. At the end of this scene, it was revealed that Ma Kent was really a disguised Martian Manhunter. Because there's two similar scenes in twin edits of the movie, I want to head cannon one as the real Ma and the other as Manhunter, even though it is impossible within the circumstances of either film, but said hopeless attempt makes more sense than the actual Snyder scene. It accomplishes nothing for the plot, and betrays a scene some had found emotionally rewarding, all for a sad grasp at the gasp fans inhaled in an episode of Supergirl two years earlier.

Back in 2013's Man of Steel, somebody saw African American actor Harry Lennix wearing some sort of x-shaped harness, and perhaps recalling Phil Morris' gun holster on Smallville, theorized that he would be revealed as J'Onn J'Onzz. That didn't come to pass, and given that his character of General Swanwick let thousands die in the Kryptonian invasion, then agreed to nuke Superman in Dawn of Justice, I would hope that was never the plan. In a recent issue of Vanity Fair, Snyder revealed of the closing moments of the revised film that, "We shot a version of this scene with Green Lantern, but the studio really fought me and said, 'We really don't want you to do Green Lantern.' So I made a deal with them, and they let me do this..." Need I remind you of screenwriter David Goyer's take? My guess is that Snyder was well aware of the old fan theories, and exploited them. Otherwise, Goyer was trolling us, and Snyder just had terrible ideas and no continuity in deploying the 6′ 4″ Lennix as an Alien Atlas.

Setting aside that as written, the Martian Manhunter (ironically his only given name, given Goyer's insistence that it would never be used on screen) is a nonsensical coward, what are my thoughts on Snyder's take? It stinks. They gave him glowing red bobbing googly eyes that make them look like an old dashboard liquid compass with an LED light inside. Lennix's voice is fine, but there's too much of his face in J'Onn's, so that it looks more like cosplay bodypaint than an actual alien. All of the ritual scarring lines all over his body make him look like cherimoya. The iron cross cape clasps make him look like a Nazi, and the x-shape on his chest is crude and ugly, By the end of the movie, Manhunter is the third member of the Justice League in an all-black costume with a cape, which is hella drab. The whole Tars Tarkas vibe means he'd probably explode perps brains with his telepathy like in Scanners, and it's altogether inferior to what the CW have managed across six years of UHF television. Any comic design would improve upon this. I'm sorry that this happened, am thankful that it technically isn't Manhunter's cinematic debut, and wish that it never darken our screens again.

Monday, March 15, 2021

2020 New Zealand Mint 1oz Niue Justice League 60th Anniversary Martian Manhunter .999 Silver Proof Coin

This coin features a glorious green image of MARTIAN MANHUNTER alongside his logo. Additional engraving in the background, showing him in flight,completes the lively design. As a legal tender coin,the obverse features the Ian Rank-Broadley effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the year 2020-60 years exactly since the formation of the Justice League.

Key Selling Points:
Sixth release in the officially licensed JUSTICE LEAGUE 1oz Silver Coin Collection.
Celebrates the 60th anniversary of the original super hero team.
Features two images of MARTIAN MANHUNTERTM. In the forefront he is shown in colour with his logo and, in the background, engraved in flight.
Acrylic coin case allows easy access and display-arrives inside a complementary box.
Limited mintage of 1,960 for each coin reflects the year the JUSTICE LEAGUE was created.
Ideal for any collector, especially one of DC Comic memorabilia.
I got excited for a minute when I thought I'd missed a sixtieth anniversary coin for the Manhunter from Mars from six years ago. Read the fine print, and it's from last year, in celebration of the JLA's anniversary. On the one hand, DC really should do a better job of celebrating the world's greatest super-heroes as a team, given that most of us are quizzical over that Green Arrow 80th anniversary special when the dude hasn't supported an ongoing in a few years. On the other hand, J'Onn J'Onzz's entire existence continues to be bound up in the group he co-founded. Admittedly, as a solo character, he would rate neither a coin nor a special on his own, so I should be happy that he'll always be a Beatle, even if only Pete Best.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

The Best of DC #74 (July, 1986)

Picking up the numbering from the Firestorm and Aquaman Blue Ribbon Digests:

DC, 1979 Series Price: 1.75 USD; 2.25 CAD
Pages: 100
Indicia frequency: Monthly
On-sale date: 1986-07-03
Indicia / Colophon Publisher: DC Comics, Inc.
Brand: DC Blue Ribbon Digest
Editing: Barbara Randall

Martian Manhunter

cover / 1 page
Pencils: George Perez
Inks: George Perez
Colors: ?
Letters: Gaspar Saladino; typeset
Genre: science fiction; superhero

Martian Manhunter

Table of Contents / 1 page
Script: ?
Letters: Typeset
Indexer Notes: On inside front cover.

Menace of the Martian Weapons!

John Jones Manhunter from Mars / comic story / 5.67 pages
Script: Jack Miller
Pencils: Joe Certa
Inks: Joe Certa
Characters: Martian Manhunter [John Jones; J'onn J'onzz]; Captain Harding (supporting); The Buggsy Roach Gang (intro, villain)
Synopsis: A cache of Martian weapons falls to Earth and into Buggsy Roach's hands.
Reprints: Detective Comics (DC, 1937 series) #264 (February, 1959)

The Origin of the Justice League-- Minus One!

Justice League / comic story / 33 pages
Script: Steve Englehart
Pencils: Dick Dillin
Inks: Frank McLaughlin
Characters: Justice League of America [Green Arrow [Oliver Queen]; Green Lantern [Hal Jordan] (also in flashback as Hal Jordan); Superman [Clark Kent; Kal-El] (also in flashback); Martian Manhunter [J'onn J'onzz] (on tape and in flashback); The Flash [Barry Allen] (flashback); Batman [Bruce Wayne] (flashback); Aquaman (flashback); Wonder Woman [Diana Prince] (flashback)]; Robin [Dick Grayson] (flashback); Challengers of the Unknown [Ace Morgan; Prof. Haley; Red Ryan; Rocky Davis] (flashback); the Blackhawks [Blackhawk; Andre; Stanislaus; Hendrickson; Chop-Chop; Olaf; Chuck] (flashback); Dr. Saul Erdel (flashback); Commander Blanx (villain) (flashback); Roy Raymond (flashback); Karen Duncan (flashback) Lois Lane (flashback); Jimmy Olsen (flashback); Rex the Wonder Dog (flashback); Congo Bill (flashback); Congorilla (flashback); Robotman [Dr. Robert Crane] (flashback); The Vigilante [Greg Sanders] (flashback); Plastic Man (flashback); Rip Hunter (flashback); Jeff Smith (flashback); Adam Strange (flashback); Alanna (flashback)
Synopsis: Featuring the near-origin of the JLA told by the Martian Manhunter via tape to Green Arrow.
Reprints: Justice League of America (DC, 1960 series) #144 (July, 1977)

John Jones' Farewell to Earth

John Jones Manhunter from Mars / comic story / 6.67 pages
Script: Jack Miller
Pencils: Joe Certa
Inks: Joe Certa
Characters: Martian Manhunter [John Jones; J'onn J'onzz]; Captain Harding (supporting); S'vor (introduction, villain); Jovians (introduction)
Synopsis: Jovians come to Earth searching for a criminal but they need Manhunter's help because their weakness is water and it's raining. Jones agrees to help them in exchange for a ride home.
Reprints: Detective Comics (DC, 1937 series) #267 (May, 1959)

The Invaders from the Space Warp

John Jones Manhunter from Mars / comic story / 11.67 pages
Script: Jack Miller
Pencils: Joe Certa
Inks: Joe Certa
Characters: Zook (intro); Diane Meade; R'Ell; Martian Manhunter [John Jones; J'onn J'onzz]
Synopsis: When alien criminals from another dimension escape to Earth, Manhunter rounds them all up, but they accidentally leave their pet Zook behind.
Reprints: Detective Comics (DC, 1937 series) #311 (January, 1963)

The Devil Men of Pluto

J'onn J'onzz Manhunter from Mars / comic story / 8.67 pages
Script: Jack Miller
Pencils: Joe Certa
Inks: Joe Certa
Characters: Martian Manhunter [J'onn J'onzz]; The Devil Men of Pluto [Nar; Xanadar; L'Lex] (villains)
Synopsis: The Devil Men of Pluto come to Earth looking for a stolen treasure.
Reprints: House of Mystery (DC, 1951 series) #159 (June, 1966)

Thantos -- The 3-in-1 Man!

J'onn J'onzz Manhunter from Mars / comic story / 8.5 pages
Script: Jack Miller
Pencils: Joe Certa
Inks: Joe Certa
Characters: Martian Manhunter [J'onn J'onzz; Marco Xavier]; Zook; Thantos (villain)
Synopsis: Thantos, a being from another dimension, attempts to collect the materials that will allow him to return to earth at will, but Manhunter defeats him.
Reprints: House of Mystery (DC, 1951 series) #168 (July, 1967)

The Last Angry God!

Justice League / comic story / 20 pages
Script: Denny O'Neil
Pencils: Dick Dillin
Inks: Dick Giordano
Characters: Justice League of America [Batman [Bruce Wayne]; Superman [Clark Kent; Kal-El]; Green Lantern [Hal Jordan]; Martian Manhunter [J'onn J'onzz]; The Atom [Ray Palmer]; The Flash [Barry Allen]]; Korge (villain)
Synopsis: J'onn J'onzz enlists his former teammates to help the Martians against the evil giant Korge.
Reprints: Justice League of America (DC, 1960 series) #115 (January-February 1975)

Digest Forum

letters page / 1 page
Script: ?
Letters: typeset
Indexer Notes Inside back cover. Letter of comment from reader Diabolu Frank. No editorial response.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Doomsday Clock (2017-2019)

Watchmen does to '60s Marvel Comics what Fritz the Cat did to funny animals twenty years earlier, but with pretentious transitions and leuprolide acetate. I'm morally opposed to a corporation exploiting works against the creator & owner's wishes because of an unprecedentedly aggressive anti-reversion strategy. But also, I'm specifically opposed to a bunch of pale grimdark Charlton Action Heroes analogs being integrated into the DC Universe. I think a bunch of self-conscious fanboys elevated Watchmen to "art" status back in the '80s to validate their fixations, but it's never been a favorite of mine, and arguably did more harm than good for the medium. Where were all the 'gaters when Rorschach was cramming his politics into childhood morality plays/power fantasies? Oh yeah, it was okay because their politics are Rorschach's. You know, the weird crazy stinky ugly homicidal son of a dirty whore who commits suicide by super-hero. Their guy.

So, I didn't read Doomsday Clock, but I have skimmed the heck out of it for a thought experiment. Most online resources are less than clearly written, and I think we can be a bit more concise than a three hour explainer video. Most of the early issues are very grounded in the Watchmen continuity, which is one of my problems with the book. I don't want to spend a third of a series on a Watchmen sequel that then transitions into a typical DC event series, and I doubt people in the market for a Watchmen continuation want to spend a third of the series on an Ostrander-period Firestorm: The Nuclear Man arc. I'm going to really speed through the early stuff.

So the grand scheme that ends Watchmen fails, and about half a decade later (1992), Adrian Veidt is ruined. He was exposed by the Walter Kovacs diary, with his businesses overrun by angry mobs. I'd argue that unsubstantiated ramblings from a criminal nutjob wouldn't have that level of impact, but then 2020 happened. A new incarnation of Rorschach breaks into a prison to release grim n' gritty analogues of the old Charlton villains Punch and Jewelee. Marionette & The Mime have enhanced killing-people abilities, and a young son that was taken from them after being born behind bars. Ozymandias is supposedly dying from a brain tumor, which he uses to convince Rorschach II to help him with a new global salvation plan involving Earth DC, and the quartet escape Earth-Sad-Bastard just before the nuclear war starts.

Speaking of their destination, the not-so-New 52 is living through its own retread of the immediate Post-Crisis deconstructionist "realism," especially John Ostrander-associated material like Legends. For the past six months, "The Supermen Theory" has plagued the popular consciousness, explaining the abundance of metahumans in the U.S.A. as the result of secret government experimentation inspired by the debut of Superman. It was first postulated by Dr. Helga Jace of the European nation Markovia from period The Outsiders comics. Metamorpho and Man-Bat were supposedly products of this Department of Metahuman Affairs project, which makes me groan because Rex Mason dates back to 1965, while the D.M.A. apparently was introduced 31 years later in a half-dozen The Power of Shazam! issues that barely anyone read. I realize we're nearly a quarter-century out from that, but the Department wasn't popularized until Allan Heinberg's brief Wonder Woman run in 2006, which to my old ass was five minutes ago. DC had given a big push to the D.E.O. back in the late '90s, and I vastly preferred them to the seemingly redundant D.M.A., if only for having better alphabet soup letters for my spoon. Anyway, who cares, Bendis probably bloweded them both up in his Leviathan story.

I think most people in the U.S. would be going "U!S!A!" over that, and the rest of the world would sigh and figure "that tracks," but instead its treated as a new "nuclear winter" type existential threat that casts a pall over all of increasingly panicky human life. Seeking metahuman research, LexCorp buys out Kord Industries (Blue Beetle,) Genetech (Mike Baron Flash comics) and the Sunderland Corporation (Swamp Thing,) while Wayne Enterprises muddles through ill-considered acquisitions of Dayton Labs (Mento) and Stagg Industries (Metamorpho.) Aside from filling out back matter to mirror that of Watchmen, these details don't amount to much. I guess it sets up that Lex Luthor has been tracking temporal anomalies for years, including a vast collection of duplicates of that picture of Jon Osterman and Janey Slater that Doctor Manhattan drops everywhere across space and time because he doesn't wear pants. He blue himself before becoming an always-nude.

Because layers, there's a side story where Johnny Thunder sneaks out of a retirement home, finds Alan Scott's original Green Lantern battery, and meets up with Rorschach and Saturn Girl. I'm going to assume at least a bachelors degree in DCology among my readership, because I'm not going to grind everything to a halt to explain what a Legionnaire is. They usually come in threes, though-- minimum. Dr. Manhattan brings The Comedian back from the dead for reasons, which include trying to kill anyone on DC Earth from Watchmen Earth that he can find. Batman and the Joker do stuff, while Lex Luthor stokes anti-metahuman fear, as he is wont to do. As part of a slavish devotion to the structure of Watchmen, the comic-within-a-comic Tales of the Black Freighter is now the mystery of the murder of golden age of Hollywood actor Carver Colman, who played Nathaniel Dusk. Spoiler, his success hinged on a friendship with Dr. Manhattan, and he was killed by his own estranged mother in the '50s after pushing back against her blackmail scheme regarding his sexual preferences. Which would be multiple-choice answer "D." No wonder he's so fond of Dr. Manhattan. His name starts with a capitol "D."

So the new Rorschach is the son of the chubby African-American psychiatrist that treated the original Rorschach in Watchmen. The kid either was manipulated into believing his dad and Rorschach were friends, and also he's a lifelong cray-cray who manages to develop the same vocal mannerisms as Walter Kovacs. With his parents dead, he's institutionalized, gets befriended inside by Mothman, and outside following Mothman's death by Ozymandias.

Issue #5 is where the DC stuff really starts to take over the narrative. Hawk & Dove get busted in Saint Petersburg after a hostage situation goes south. Russia closes its borders and forms a new version of the People's Heroes, led by their most powerful metahuman, Pozhar. The Russians also ally with Markovia. Firestorm denies rumors that he was created by the same secret program Lady Clayface and Killer Frost claim to be products of. King Kobra was making big moves in the Middle East. Black Adam pushes back against his terrorism, and declares Kahndaq a safe haven for all metahumans. The Creeper is an early recruit, maybe, since he's also a double agent created by the project. There's a multi-page mock Newsweek magazine article where the writer groups together various international teams from his own DK DC Comics Encyclopedia for his homebrew Mayfair RPG campaign or whatever. I resemble this remark. I have already pasted these pages into a single .jpg for ease of reference for my own fanboy crap.

There's a meeting of villainous entries from Who's Who in a Gotham City subway that serves as the backdrop for the Marionette & Mime origin story (don't care.) The Comedian shoots Typhoon in the face, and backmatter reveals that he and Moonbow were both undercover agents for the Department of Metahuman Affairs. You can really see the influence Steve Dillon had on Gary Frank's art here, both from the exploding face and that face's having resembled The Saint of Killers. Ozymandias cloned a new fantasy cat that was part Doctor Manhattan so that they could find Dr. Manhattan so that he could do a half-issue long exposition dump so that Geoff Johns could sub-divide the team and foreshadow a bleak conclusion. *Deep sucking recovery breath* Firestorm gets into a fight with the People's Heroes and supposedly accidentally turns a crowd of people into glass statues. Lois Lane gets a thumbnail drive featuring newsreel footage of the Justice Society of America, which you may have forgotten don't exist on Earth... 0? Prime? K.I.S.S., in the New 52/Rebirth continuity. In a secret location, with all his might, Firestorm manages to revert one boy to normal. Superman backs him up on a return to Russia to save the rest, but Vladimir Putin gets heavy-handed (redundant?) and the glass people all get shattered in the ensuing skirmish.

Martian Manhunter finally joins the narrative in issue #9, but there's time-jumping and tension-building that I'm just going to cut through. Plus, it's dumb, and we don't feed dumb. That's Facebook's job. Somehow, Ozymandias got his cloned Bubastis-Manhattan pet (lost me at "trained cat") to turn all those Russian people to glass and to blow them up and to leave an energy signature to implicate Dr. Manhattan (it's a double-frame-job with Firepatsy) . So all of the Silver Age DC heroes (Rebirth editions) take spaceships to Mars to confront Manhattan. 100% attendance. Even the Charlton Action Heroes, in pretty much their original costumes. Not contrived at all. At. All.

"Is there a plan, J'Onn?" "We make initial contact, Ralph. We see what he wants. Hello. My name is J'Onn J'Onzz. Who are you? Where do you come from? What are you doing on Mars?" Guy Gardner goes full Guy Gardner on the naked blue guy, aided by the Mature Readers advisory that allows him to use for-real foul language, and J'Onn also reverts to the JLI days by barking, "Guy, that's enough. From your mind, I can see that you're confused." Yeah, the cat-astrophe in Russia sent all these tachyons from Earth to Mars, screwing with weather patterns and Manhattan's Memento-vision and stuff. Then Johns folds Secret Wars II into a single issue with the heroes seemingly eradicating Manhattan but he brushes them off and does a Japanese freeze-time porno with them for reasons. Oh, and in the absence of Silk Spectre, rapes Ronnie Raymond's childhood by revealing Dr. Martin Stein had founded the Department of Metahuman Affairs and in the absence of his own metagene, intentionally triggered his surrogate son's in the nuclear incident that created Firestorm. Plus an off-screen but unmistakably petty President Trump throws Superman to the wolves/Russians/outraged public. That will age painfully.

The big reveal is that Doctor Manhattan stumbled upon the DC Universe, became intrigued by its intrinsic optimism, and recognized that the central figure in the entire continuum is Superman. Besides the DC Multiverse, there's also "The Metaverse," which is basically the core continuity of the comics line that influences all of the offshoots. When people like the Anti-Monitor and Extant/Parallax muck with the space-time continuum, it moves up Superman's debut from 1938 to 1950-something to 1986 and so on. Superman's perpetual displacement in time has a butterfly effect that ripples throughout the multiverse so that all realities reflect the changing circumstances of the Superman in the current continuity on the Earth. So Doctor Manhattan tests this cascade effect by screwing with the circumstances surrounding Superman in each era, for instance moving Alan Scott's power battery out of reach so that he dies in the train wreck that was his origin story (literally, not figuratively.) Dominoes fall and typically the universe gets darker, until Superman resurfaces and pushes things back to the good. Even as this story's Saturn Girl and Johnny Thunder dry up and blow away, representing the collapse of Superman's past and future, they shall return in new incarnations once Superman is restored later in the timeline.

Last two issues folks-- almost done. Because of the tachyon smog caused by the Russian explosion, Doctor Manhattan has a final lingering vision of meeting and getting punched out by Superman. This event supposedly either kills Manhattan or the universe itself. Ozymandias' master b-plan is that Superman won't kill Manhattan, but instead inspire him to also be a "Man of Action" who will go back and save the Watchmen-Earth instead of just letting his wiener float in the breeze of human nuclear extinction. Johns doesn't know what to do with Wonder Woman, so she's mostly M.I.A. before being kidnapped by Themyscira so that she doesn't get killed by Black Adam and the metahuman army of Kahndaq once they march against the U.N. Assembly and White House. Batman is running around trying to stop the DC U.S. from launching nukes. All of the other major DC heroes are still on Mars or wiped from continuity. Superman stands alone against the greater world's metahumans looking to arrest him for the Russia debacle. Manhattan shows up. Superman winds up the punch...

...and hits Pozhar, who was coming up from Manhattan's exposed rear. No single image better exemplifies the cognitive dissonance/wrongheadedness of this entire event than Superman brushing past Doctor Dingaling to pop a minor Cold War-era alternate Firestorm. Johns is so on-the-nose as to have a Black Rorschach in the midst of an existential crisis over the collapse of his paranoid far-right fantasies against the backdrop of riots threatening a new Civil War getting battered by a red-capped MAGA cracker. It's entirely possible that this was a one image refutation of everything Watchmen represented, or a summation of Johns' cluelessness that he built his entire DC career on the Alan Moore deconstructionist aesthetic. Choose Your Own Adventure.

The insufferably smug Ozymandias gets his wish, Doctor Manhattan declares his fandom, and restores the Pre-Flashpoint paradigm. The Post-Crisis Justice Society of America returns, while the rebooted Bendis/Sook Legion of Super-Heroes also show up, both backing Superman against... international heroes? Yay xenophobia? Also, the Multiverse realigns again to better match the Pre-Crisis conception, so I guess the Earth-One JSA is back to being the Earth-Two one, and the New 52 Earth-2 one never was? Gen-X gets an Earth-1985, and there's even an Earth-52, so the Earth-2 JSA and priest collar battlesuit Superman are saved! Johns does that thing where he turns the closing pages of a book into a teaser trailer for future storylines, except DC just had another major round of layoffs and 5G isn't happening and Johns & Frank have bolted for a creator-owned project at Image and there's a really good chance AT&T is planning to shutter the comics line entirely.

In the more gooder post-Rebirth revised continuity, Nathaniel Dusk actor Carver Colman was not murdered, and instead became a trailblazing "out" gay performer and LGBTQ+ activist. It's all very Ryan Murphy. Lex Luthor "kills" The Comedian by restoring him to the point in time he was snatched from-- mid-fall in Watchmen #1. I think Mime & Marionette stay on DC Earth to raise their newborn daughter. Doctor Manhattan "dies" to restore Watchmen-Earth, but he invests his remaining essence into Mime & Marionette's son and sets him up to be adopted by Night Owl and Silk Spectre. Both Ozymandias and Martin Stein go to prison on their respective Earths. A new Global Guardians line-up is teased.

I thought this would be shorter. You?

Friday, November 13, 2020

2019 A-Mortal convention jam sketch by Robert Henry

Click To Enlarge

I thought this A-Mortal piece would be a perfect Halloween post, but couldn't find a scan until after the holiday. Oh well. I guess Friday the 13th will do as a theme in a pinch. At least this one hasn't been sitting in a queue for half a decade-- just for long enough that I can't remember whether this was from Comicpalooza, North Texas Comic Book Show, or Other. I'm not familar with Robert Henry, but he was sitting next to Tim Vigil at a con while I was getting one of my personal character creations drawn. I liked Mr. Henry's book and offered him a selection of references to contribute to one of my unfinished jams. As such, his layout was dictated by available space, but I think he did a good job working within those restrictions. It's one of if not the first of the jams I started back in 2014, but I think I can maybe squeeze one more piece in before finally putting the whole thing up here. Won't happen this year, obviously...

Friday, November 6, 2020

2016 Tybalt Bak'sar Amazing Houston Comic Con Commission by Brad Garneau

Click To Enlarge

I've often mentioned my regrets over holding artists' work "hostage" to my severe downturn in blogging from daily to, in some cases, not even annually. I've stepped up a bit since this blog's thirteenth anniversary in September, though noticeably drifting from a weekdaily schedule that month to weekly-ish in October. This has been one of the longest weeks in the longest year in recorded human history, so I wanted to go out on a high note by releasing a piece I've saved far too long for a special occasion.

If I recall correctly, Brad Garneau started out in gaming before going into commissioned art with a specialty in painting. I really liked his work when I first saw it in 2015, but I'm not in a painting patron price bracket. Thankfully, he also does line art commissions, with a style recalling the likes of Angel Medina and Sam Kieth. He contributed The Vixen to a jam that was completed in 2017 (one of the few, in fact) that I'm only just now realizing as I type this that I've yet to publish. God, I suck.

Anyway, I don't get a lot of color pieces, and I wanted this one to get showcased at a time when it would get a lot of eyes... so instead I sit on it for four years after my traffic has dwindled to double digits from inactivity. Sigh. The toothpaste is out of the tube. Nothing to do now but brush. If you're interested in the subject, Tybalt Bak'sar, he has a profile page in the Vile Menagerie (now free of Photobucket branding), as well as a battle against The Cheetah...

Brad Garneau

Monday, October 26, 2020

JLA Martian Manhunter head sketch by Neal Adams

So my thing is that I hate stock head shots. I rarely commission head shots anymore because I always want for a fuller image, and even when I do, it's a custom of an obscure character so that it feels like it's "mine" in some respect. I once knew a fellow who got a head sketch of Jesse Custer from Steve Dillon that said "Cheers," only to learn soon after that it was entirely his default piece, with probably hundreds or even thousands of that same "cheers" drawing out there in the world. Why would I pay for an original photocopy, y'know?

That said, Neal Adams is one of the greatest artists in comic book history, and his style informed Michael Nasser's on the '70s solo serial. I didn't get to see Adams on J'onn J'onzz very many times, and while Adams does a little bit of sketching at shows, time and expense are admittedly both major factors in getting one of those. If I was going to own an Adams original, especially one involving the Manhunter from Mars, my best opportunity was going to be one of his many pre-worked sketches available for sale at his sprawling con set-up.

This particular piece isn't dated, but it was on yellowed paper with the Morrison-era "JLA" logo that may very well have dated back to that brand's heyday in the late 1990s. Frankly, that was a motivating factor in my finally picking up one of the pieces, since I'm very nostalgic for the Magnificent Seven period that represents "my" Justice League. At the time, I think it was the only J'onn J'onzz in his book, but I've found others when I've visited his table since. I did make a point of comparing them, and while similarly positioned, they vary enough in size and style that you're still getting something of a one-of-a-kind, plus I like mine best.

I'll also confess, I was hoping that buying a piece would butter Adams up for a very brief interview for a specific project that I had in mind, and somewhat to my surprise, he actually agreed. That was a funny experience, but perhaps one for another time...

Monday, October 19, 2020

2014 Justice League of America commission by Rodney Buchemi

Very rough day at work and a heavily distracted weekend bode ill for my podcasting ambitions, and means we'll at least start the week with a mere image post. I like this piece, but for some reason the artist doesn't seem to want to let go of a scan with any serious resolution. I'd normally link out for an enlargement, but why bother for 720px? Anyway, the timing of the piece (at least with regards to Martian Manhunter) is clearly Brightest Day despite being produced a few years into the New 52.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Atari Force #15 (March, 1985)

You may recall that J'onn J'onzz only returned to mainstream comics in 1984, so it's curious that less than a year later, he was offered a cameo in a licensed comic copyrighted by the gaming company Atari. It was a DC license, at least, in the brief time period that Warner Communications also owned Atari.

Atari Force started as a series of relatively self-contained episodes in the adventures of near-future space explorers featured in "mini" comics packaged with certain Atari game cartridges. The comics were closer to digests than what we generally consider mini-comics today, running 48 pages on high quality paper with dimensions similar to a thin TV Guide. The ongoing Atari Force standard edition comic book series launched a couple of years later, set a couple decades later. It featured a ragtag second generation team drawn together by circumstance and the original team leader's obsession with the mini-comics' main villain, the Dark Destroyer. It was a fun book by talented creators who bailed after about a year and whose overarching story was carried meekly across the finish line by lesser hands. The book limped along less than a year before getting the ax, and most of that second year was handicapped by truncated lead stories and filler back-ups of varying degrees of amusement value.

For instance, a three-parter was dedicated to a prequel story for Pakrat, a reluctant Atari Force member that was a cross between Rocket Raccoon and... actually, pretty much just a toned down and cowardly Rocket, as depicted by Marvel Studios. Pakrat is arguably cuter, with more mouse and monkey-like features (he's an alien, not Splinter.) Pakrat's whole species likes to steal, which is how he ends up pulling a high stakes burglary of one world's crown jewels with the rodent equivalent of Paris Hilton. This occurs at a sort of royal ball, and Martian Manhunter can be seen in one panel, hobnobbing at the party.

"To Catch a Pakrat" was by Andrew Helfer, Mike Chen, & Joe DelBeato. I'm not familiar with the art team, but I was amazed by their similarity to early Longshot period Arthur Adams as inked by Whilce Portacio. Most of the inker's other credits was over Herb Trimpe on G.I. Joe Order of Battle, which was... nah. So I assume the spark came from Chen, but he didn't have much of a career beyond some Robotech and Elementals material. A shame, based on the effort put into this three-parter.

Monday, October 5, 2020

2020 Martian Manhunter Movie Fan Casting: William Jackson Harper as Commander Blanx

So here's the deal-- Jason Isaacs is still my guy. Like Avery Brooks, his is the voice that I hear when I read Commander Blanx's dialogue. Despite being 57, he's still in pretty good shape, as evidenced by his turn on Star Trek: Discovery a few seasons ago. That said, it's been just under seven years since that initial casting post, and if I want to hold out again until 2030, I should probably recast with an eye toward longevity.

The best thing for me to do, if I'm not going with a literal representation of the comic book imagery for the villain, is to think outside that box. Cast backwards both from the actors that I've already selected and by finding a character for performers I'd like to see in any production of this sort. For instance, I enjoyed watching the full series of The Good Place over the last year or so. Chidi Anagonye was my favorite character on a show that plays heavily with themes of philosophy and existentialism. Chidi is the moral center of the show, thoughtful and concerned to the point of near total inaction. William Jackson Harper was excellent in that role, but he was also a rare point of interest in the mostly interminable Midsommar, playing a duplicitous toxic academic douchebro. It wasn't a complete departure from Chidi, as both characters are academics focused on observation, but it did demonstrate range and Harper's ability to make me turn on him while playing an unsympathetic character.

Parker also has elven, slight otherworldly features, including a severely arched brow-line and intensely puckish smile. In a better world, he could have been a perfect Captain Marvel/Shazam with those Howard Porter eyebrows of his. When he smiles, he radiates joy, goodness and warmth. Unfortunately, we're on Earth-Zachary Levi, one of the really crappy Earths, and so I'm instead casting for subversion. What if you took the expectations that come from this guy's presence and prior roles, and employ those qualities for the charismatic demagogue Commander Blanx? Though both men are in great shape, Jonathan Majors has nearly half a foot on Harper, but Blanx was never played as a major physical threat. His whole thing was that he was a charming fascist who bullies and connives his way into a position to commit global genocide for his sole personal gain. I think Harper could act the hell out of that, and I'd love to see his malevolent glee played against J'Onn's quiet virtue.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

2020 Justice League International COVID-19 PSA by Kevin Maguire

Click To Enlarge

Super-heroes wear masks. But I wouldn't be me if I didn't point out that this is a coronavirus safety message that explicitly notes the year is 2020 despite the JLI being on-model for 1987. I do like that all of the masks are branded, especally Bat-Mask 'natch, but it's a bummer than Martian Manhunter's is the most "there." I guess it's a view of Mars from space, and it's better than that man-symbol they floated in the Morrison JLA, but it's easily the worst of the lot (and Max Lord just has a green mask with a dollar sign.) I wish my mask had an atom symbol on it, though I'll admit the best one is Blue Beetle's.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

2020 Martian Manhunter Movie Fan Casting-- Patrick Fischler as Professor Arnold Hugo

I can tell you the exact moment that I lost the thread on the 1968 movie casting. It was the abortive spotlight entry for Anthony Perkins as Prof. Hugo. At some point, Hugo was going to or already had kidnapped Diane Meade. I had recently read Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five for the first time, and was tring to come up with some way to paraphrase the passage "She was a dull person, but a sensational invitation to make babies. Men looked at her and wanted to fill her up with babies right away." Beyond wanting a tall, lanky performer and not having the strongest command of obscure 1960s character actors, I thought casting a bisexual performer would help to take a bit of the edge off a line intended to show the attitudes Meade faced as a period policewoman (and the menace Hugo represented.) That said, neither the actor or the character of Hugo really suggested that was an appropriate interpretation, and I felt skeevy about it without ever quite being able to let the impulse go. I also couldn't connect the dots between where I was and where I wanted the story to end up. Point being, I like Perkins and didn't want to besmirch his memory with ill-considered shenanigans. I also appreciate Hugo too much to hand him a mentality better suited to Dr. Psycho.

And this is a bone of contention with me, because the proportions of Hugo were a bit wonky in his debut Batman story. This led J. Bone to render Hugo a midget in his first comic book story in over forty years. So there's a Dr. Psycho comparison. And of course he's a super-scientist with a violent aggression directed at an extraordinarily powerful alien super-hero, a hydrocephalic Lex Luthor to go with Superman Green. It's easy to dismiss Hugo as a derivative goof.

The Joe Certa drawn Hugo appearances in the Manhunter from Mars strip, easily the largest body of work representing the character, demonstrates that "The Wizard of 1000 Menaces" is built more like Jack Pumpkinhead. His first campaign of terror on Gotham City was his most audacious, and he got beat by two non-powered vigilantes, one of whom couldn't legally drive yet. Given that his origin was so tied up in Gotham itself, it's weird that he never had another story set there. Also, he traded Batman & Robin for the Martian Manhunter, and I imagine whether you see that as punching up or down from the Dynamic Duo will shape your view of Hugo. My take is that Lex Luthor is a mad science would-be Caesar-- a De Niro or a Pacino or a Brando-- perhaps a Hackman would be most apropos? Hugo's a Joe Pesci. He's never going to be a Don, but he's a viscous bastard who demands a measure of respect or he will put some kind of hurt on you. When I was going to do the fake Smallville spin-off "Middletown," I really wanted Joe Pantoliano for the part, and he's still sort of my ideal in the way Avery Brooks is for J'Onn.

For a while there, I had Sam Rockwell in mind, but he's too darned endearing and really just plain too famous at this point. His comic book character is Justin Hammer forever, anyway. Then I saw Jimmy Barrett on Mad Men, and was reminded of Hugo. Barrett was a Rickles-style insult comic who was an even bigger jerk off-stage. Barrett had the swagger (and powerful connections) of a Rat Packer, but y'know, more Joey Bishop than Frank Sinatra. The actor Patrick Fischler even looked a lot like the Certa Hugo with those big blocky eyebrows of his. When he turned up years later as a very different character on Twin Peaks: The Return, I still recognized him as my Arnold Hugo guy. He's got the right look, accent, build, and makes me think of Hugo whenever I see him.