Friday, September 14, 2007

Idol-Head in the House (of Mystery!)

"While it may be hard to imagine today, in the early 1960s there was talk about canceling Batman. After an amazing run of popularity in the 1940s, interest in the character seemed to dwindle with each passing year. Editor Jack Schiff tried to vary the formula, sending Batman to other worlds and other times, and introducing new threats. Following the model established by Superman editor Mort Weisinger, Batman was soon joined by Batwoman, Bat-Girl, Ace the Bathound, and even Bat-Mite, a magical imp who worshipped the Caped Crusader."-Robert Greenberger; Millennium Edition: Detective Comics #327.

Attempting to salvage the book, favored son Julius Schwartz was handed the reigns of the Bat-Family. After starting the Silver Age of super-hero comics with his revamping/co-creation of Flash, Green Lantern, and Justice League of America, who better was there to edit Batman back to greatness. Schwartz brought along GL writer John Broome and Flash artist Carmine Infantino to work on Detective. The outgoing Schiff didn't leave empty-handed, however. As Shwartz himself said in Detective Comics #327, "Gone is the Martian Manhunter, J'onn J'onzz ( gone--but not forgotten, for JJ's new stamping ground is another DC magazine, House of Mystery) and in his stead is the Elongated Man--the sensational stretching sleuth whose highly acclaimed appearances in The Flash have earned him a solo series of his own." Notice the proprietary nature of old school editors, their talent, and their characters? In this case, it made the difference in Manhunter moving on to his own title.

The end of Manhunter's run in Detective, issue #326, launched the ongoing gimmick that was the Idol-Head of Diabolu, and saw the Martian abandon his identity as John Jones. Elongated Man moved into MM's Detective Comics back-up spot, while J'onzz took on the role of cover featured star in The House of Mystery, beginning with #143 (June 1964).

Who would have thought so much evil could be found within a square foot ancient novelty head? The medieval sorcerer Diabolu created the Idol-Head as a prison for a plethora of evil creatures. When the Idol-Head was discovered and opened by a hood named Vince Durskin in the present era, it activated a cycle wherein a new threat would be unleashed upon the world...or at least a bunch of small towns in the New England area, unless stopped. Once aroused, the Idol-Head plagued J'onn J'onzz for most of his first two years in HoM, spewing out bizarre monsters from it's "skull" on the full moon(s) of every month. From growing the Martian Manhunter's kid sidekick Zook into a rampaging monster to producing the "Doom From Two Worlds," that little bugger was trouble.

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