Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Rock of the JLA

We're still in the early stages of his blog, so I'm still trying to line up ducks and wade into the undertaking. As part of this process, I'm looking to expand on the number of links and interesting topics by taking a gander at the world wide web. In this pursuit, I stumbled upon Michael Kooiman's excellent DC Cosmic Teams site, presumably named for the early '90s card set and acting as an in-depth reference source for related characters. This in itself would be noteworthy, especially between the cute super-deformed versions of DC heroes and their synopsis of the most recent Manhunter mini-series I bailed on after one issue. What really left me thunderstruck though was that while skimming J'Onn's page, I spied the header "Rock of the Justice League."

Now see, around the same time I was working on my website, I was also beginning my rather slow and presently lapsed conversion to Judaism. In the Tanakh (Jewish Bible) are references to our God being a "rock" that supports us throughout time. After moving away from the site's original "Z'Onn Z'Orr" title, I wanted a phrase that would showcase J'Onn in my favorite role, as the "heart and soul" of his super-team (but without the mushy long-windedness.) Also, I though I might pull a few hits from WWF fans googling Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. I didn't expect much Sean Connery/Nic Cage traffic. Anyway, after I collapsed the site and canceled my WebTV subscription, I figured there'd be no memory of the joint beyond the odd dead link on webrings. I contacted Michael, and while neither of us are unquestionably certain where the term originated, I still enjoyed knowing it has some life in these Meltzer/revamp/Didio years.

It also occurred to me that while I've often droned on nostalgically, I haven't posted much information about why anyone should care about a J'Onn J'Onzz blog, specifically mine, in the first place. With that in mind, I'd like to re-present the "sales pitch" from the old homepage to help explain the matter, after the pic...

J'Onn J'Onzz is the rock upon which the Justice League of America was founded. Trapped on Earth thirty-seven years ago, The Manhunter was one of our planet's few protectors before the coming of Superman heralded a new age of super-heroes one dozen years ago. A detective, leader, teacher, and friend, J'Onzz has left an indelible mark upon the DC Universe. Any history of the Martian Manhunter is a history of the Justice League, and vice versa. The two are forever intertwined. In the Martian's own words...

"...In the solitude and beauty of this place, I could lose myself in meditation...find my center again.

For so long I've wanted to get away from the League...From the pressures and pretenses of my life as the so-called Martian Manhunter. And yet--now that I'm here...I can't stop thinking about the others. Nor, it seems, can I avoid assuming this beetle-browed shape the world has come to know me by. I've been with the Justice League so long... Before I even knew my true heritage...My true identity...I knew the League.

From the triumphs of the first League...through the tragedies of the second...and the wild absurdities of [the third] incarnation--the Justice League has been my home... Her members, my family. There's so much I want to do...Need to do...for myself. So many questions about my personal destiny that need to be answered...but I can't leave my family... Not until I help it back to it's feet... Not until it's healthy and strong and alive again."

...and so he did...

Why a Martian?

Why in God's name should anyone care about a second stringer like The Manhunter from Mars? Well, he's a favorite of writers, because of his versatility. If you need a Superman-level powerhouse, with a new ability to match any situation. you can use J'Onn. If you need a somber detective with the presence of The Batman, J'Onn's available. If you want to capture the stranger in a strange land feel of Wonder Woman, commentating on the new world around them while bringing the traditions from the old, call J'Onn. Want to get Green Lantern-style cosmic, with aliens and space stations? J'Onn can do that. Straight forward super-heroics with a Silver Age hero featuring a Rogue's Gallery as recognizable as The Flash's? Oh yeah, I think MM can do it. Got a vacancy for a skilled tactician and leader who can handle a team as well as a sovereign like Aquaman? Martian calling!

J'Onn really is a one-man JLA, since he can fill in for nearly any character type needed. He can be the gruff stiff with a dry sense of humor in a funny-book. He can be morose and obsessive. He can be determined and strong. He can be believably vulnerable. For most of his existence, he's been the main character that a writer fully "owned" in JLA, giving him the most character development of any "big gun" in that series. In a book that can be editorially stifling, he's a breath of fresh air.

The same is true with artists. All eyes are on them when they draw Superman, and it had better be just perfect. It has to meet with fan expectations, and match all the important licensing and stay in line with all his other comic appearances. With J'Onn, you can cut loose. He's been reinterpreted by nearly every artist who's ever drawn him. Besides, how can you not have fun drawing a freaky green giant dressed like Conan?

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