Friday, February 29, 2008

Justice League of America #248 (3/86)

Gypsy: Adopted the baby tentacle monster, and having seen my share of hentai, it's a good thing Gypsy determined (?) it was a girl, which she called "Junior(?)"

Elongated Man: Unenthusiastic about keeping "Junior." Missed the now mummified remains of the possum family.

Vixen: Not at all comfortable about "Junior" or its mysterious origins. "I wish J'Onn J'Onzz were here. He knows every corner of the Secret Sanctuary." Continued to wonder about her roommate Gypsy's origins, as well. Talked about taking a skin sample from "Junior," which understood her and panicked. Vixen tried to pursue, but despite never being "sick a day" of her life, suddenly went weak. She then aged to infirmity in a matter of minutes.

Interlude: Kalanor was a peaceful, fertile world until, "the world and its inhabitants were his possessions... to do with as he pleased; to toy with... to mutilate... even to destroy, if the whim took him." While for a decade, things returned to normal, there were still some who worshipped him as a god. The escaped convict from last issue arrived there and set foot on Kalanor, flanked by white hammer-headed aliens garbed in purple robes. "It's good to be home."

Martian Manhunter: Private eye John Jones was on the trail of a seventeen year old runaway for his employer, but ended up framed for the murder of a woman closer to fifty. Eluded police through invisibility, though he insisted on continuing to talk to them while making off with the seemingly levitating smoking gun. Arrived with Steel and Vibe at the Secret Sanctuary in time to apprehend the escaping "Junior." J'Onzz exclaimed, "Gods of Mars" and the speed and strength of it, and tried to warn of Steel before the youth was blasted by its unknown energy. Took the form of a "Senior" to distract "Junior." Scolded three Leaguers for not contacting the rest of the group immediately upon "Junior's" discovery.

Steel: Managed to evade the casting couch by becoming a stuntman on a barbarian movie for Magma Studios of Astoria, Queens. When a rival stuntman pushed the offensive, Steel picked him up and threw him at the director. "I said, 'don't push!' ...nobody ever listens! Just like my grandfather! You think I say things just to hear myself talk? What are you, stupid?" Lost his job with the usual temper, but got a date with the continuity girl out of it. Punched out tentacle monster, but not before being zapped by the black fire.

Vibe: Blew all $500 of his savings on two months rent on a dive he won't live to make much use of. Hassled by local "protection" racket, and wrecked a city street showing them who's boss. Took the brunt of a second "black energy flare" to protect his good buddy Steel.

Sue Dibney: Westchester? Still?

Zatanna: Scooped up the ashes of her former roommate into an envelope, fearing one of her enemies may have killed the girl by mistake. Intended to take the dust and the girl's purse to investigators Dibney & Jones, but instead used her magic to follow a lead alone.

The Creators: So we're basically reading an anthology series at this point, right? Since the Crisis, there was the solo Steel issue, and then four straight issues of side stories featuring a divided JLDetroit.... except now they're in New York, so the unofficial title wasn't even valid anymore. As for foes created to battle this team-- well, General Maksai was really just for Vixen, so that leaves the Overmaster's Cadre and-- um-- is that it? That may be it, prior to the tentacle monster. Why didn't this direction pan out? Oh right, because it ate rocks, and I'm talking jagged, sun-scorched rocks.

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: "Somebody get me a barf bag. I'm gonna be sick.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Adventure Comics #451 (May-June, 1977)

Continued from Adventure Comics #450: "Return To Destiny"

As the Manhunter from Mars flew unaided just within Earth’s atmosphere, he thought, “I’ve eliminated Supergirl from my list of suspects... and I can’t believe Superman or Green Lantern would kill--- and only they knew the location of Mars II--- They and two others...”

Meanwhile, N’or Cott looked on from his spaceship’s monitor: “J’onzz must die! But perhaps I will be spared the chore of slaying him! He’s approaching a Thanagarian police ship! My duty as a peace officer is to eliminate J’onn... but I am perfectly willing to let the Thanagarians perform the task for me!”

Hawkman and his wife Shiera greeted the arriving Manhunter warmly, only for the former to be sucker punched and the latter needlessly battered. "...One or both of you murdered my friend! You're returning from Mars II, aren't you? Your ship is slower than mine! The journey took you longer!" Hawkgirl protested, No! We've been visiting Thanagar," but that didn't stop J'onzz's shoving her into a wall and her husband out an airlock. J'onzz and Katar Hol continued to verbally argue in a near vacuum, with Hawkman surprisingly passive, but the Martian kept striking him while shouting, “I’m sick of listening to you!” With Hawkman beaten unconscious, J’onzz planned to “wring the truth” from his wife before the whole “nearly in outer space” thing sucked the air out of him. So Hawkgirl held her breath (“I won’t last more than a few seconds in this vacuum!”) and flew out to drag the men back to her ship.

N'or Cott was displeased. “J’onzz has the luck of the ancients! I’ve got to use my final ploy. A Superman robot left on Mars I... and which I was clever enough to save... The robot... and a fire bomb in its chest-- these will finish off the cursed J'onzz!”

Back with the Thanagarians, whose Visiglobe ship’s log verified that they hadn’t been near Mars II, J’onzz acknowledged, “Yes... and sorry! Since Re's Eda’s death, I haven’t been thinking clearly!” The group was joined by the grinning, clearly evil phony Superman, about to detonate...

So what’s wrong with this story? Manhunter assuming on the least convincing hunch ever that one of his super friends murdered another Martian without the slightest hint of a motive? That of all the heroes, Manhunter was convinced Hawkman was that killer? That when confronted, Katar Hol would just roll over without taking a single swing? That Martian police are bloodthirsty fascists who would slay a respected leader for temporarily breaking ranks? Even the artist of the tale, Michael Netzer, had issues, which he discussed at his website and in a comment thread here:

"The 1970's were an innocent time indeed for the comics. Even with the advent of the Green Lantern/Green Arrow series at DC and the Spider-Man Comics Code Authority defiant drug issue controversy, it's safe to say that there seemed to be such little credence given to this form then, that even Denny O'Neil may have slipped into a creative slumber while handling the writing and editorial chores of the post GL/GA era, without anyone really noticing or saying anything about it."

"And how about the idea that Hawkwoman goes out of JL headquarters to bring Hawkman back, from space, while holding her breath so she can survive the no air conditions.

When Neal [Adams] saw me working on this at the studio, he called Denny imploring him to change it because holding one's breath doesn't help them not to explode in space because of lack of air pressure. Denny cordially declined.

Needless to say, I was too young and new to wage such editorial crusades on the work I did. I became caught in the middle of a historic conflict between Neal and Denny, that goes back to when Neal changed his ending to the Speedy heroin story.

You're right though, these stories must be seen in the context of their time where such inanity was perfectly normal and very few people seemed to notice."

Oh boy, just wait until I really dig into those Silver Age Justice League stories. Thanks again to Mr. Netzer, whose outstanding artistry with Terry Austin on these back-ups was essential to returning J'onn J'onzz to the public eye in a fashion that would attract the most positive attention.

Continued in World's Finest Comics #245: "Today Mars, Tomorrow... The Universe"

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

House of Mystery #163 (December, 1966)

After criminal Andre Rennay died in a gun battle with police, the Manhunter assumed his identity. Having deciphered the code to Rennay's notebook, J'Onzz learned the location of a French unit of Vulture. There he discovered the organization had created the Captive-Ray Gun, "capable of overcoming any force on Earth! It's basic component is a microscopic element so rare, it has taken 15 years to extract and refine it for use!"

Wandering alone to plot against Vulture, "Andre" spied a Mercurian spaceship landing. The beetle-browed, scaly, red-skinned Mercurian with a fin on his head looked somewhat like a scrawny version of the "mohawked" Post-Crisis Despero. Having taken Martian form, the Manhunter was greeted by a ray gun blast from the renegade Mercurian, who was bent on world domination. While unaffected by the blast, Manhunter was dismayed to learn, "Earth's atmosphere seems to have given the Mercurian super-powers, too!" A calculated second ray blast forced J'Onzz to save a runaway boxcar and lose the alien. "Ah! Eet ees Monsieur Le Manhunter! Leave it to heem to solve all zee problems!"

"Marco Xavier" later met with Cluzot, the leader of the local Vulture unit, and claimed to know all about the man from Andre Renney. Cluzot vowed to kill that "reckless fool," but still allowed Xavier to contact Mr. V. "Marco" baited Faceless into attempting to swipe the disintegrator ray gun from the Mercurian, pitting both his enemies against one another. Unfortunately, Manhunter outsmarted himself, trapped in a powerful bubble by the Captive-Ray, while Vulture bargained with the Mercurian for his services. Luckily, they fell for the oldest invisibility trick in the book: thinking J'onzz had escaped their bubble. Once the Vulture suits shut off the Captive-Ray to search for him, he snatched both theirs and the Mercurian's weapons. After smashing the devices for good, Manhunter smugly explained how he escaped. Dang it, J’onn! Don't blow the illusion! What happens when Vulture comes up with an Impriso-Ray or some such, and they know all about this little ruse?

J'Onn J'Onzz expressed his feelings about illegal immigration to the renegade:
"Please, Manhunter...Don't make me take off! I am hunted by the Mercurian police... and without a weapon..."
"Tough! On your way... Before I toss you off this planet without your space ship!"

And later, as Marco Xavier returned to the abandoned headquarters of the local Vulture unit...
"I promised you a bonus for your tip, Xavier...and you shall get it...even though my stupid agents bungled the job! But Manhunter will pay for this... I will get him yet, I promise!" "Xavier" thought to himself, "And I promise to get you, Faceless, somehow, someday!"

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Detective Comics #229 (3/56)

Millionaire Drexel Mansfield was pushed from the cliffside of his shore estate saved only by a fortuitously located fishing net. He continued to explain to Lt. Saunders and Det. Jones that while his attacker was masked, the only person with motive to murder him was his business partner, Laurence Cowan. In the event either man dies, the property and cash reserves of Mansfield-Cowan Real Estate Company are left to the surviving partner. Saunders assigned “the earthbound master sleuth from Mars” to protect Manfield, firstly on a fishing trip. Being the Joe Friday of comics, Jones wore his full suit and fedora aboard the boat, his only complaint being the awful smell, presumably of the bait. Sadly, the whole get-up hit the drink when another vessel rammed the Super-Sleuth and his charge in shark-infested waters. While Mansfield went unnoticed, J’onzz shifted to Martian form to scare the predators of the deep away with his sheer ugliness. Mansfield shouted that he couldn’t swim, necessitating a quick change for Jones to rescue the millionaire.

Drexel Mansfield kept insisting Jones go after Laurence Cowan, but the evidence just wasn’t there. Back at Mansfield’s mansion, Jones used lungpower “1,000 times greater” than human for the first of a great many times to slow the descent of a falling chandelier above his charge. The “Martian Miracle Man” then decided it was time to have a long conversation with Laurence Cowan, before a swank affair Mansfield planned to host at his place that night. Shaken and less than confident in Jones, Mansfield was packing a pistol, which Master Earthbound Detective had to allow due to his permit. At the party, Cowan caught his partner alone with a revolver of his own in hand. “You won’t get away with this, Cowan! I’ve been rigging FAKE murder attempts on myself, so I’d have an excuse to kill you!” John Jones had heard enough, and having conspired with Cowan and sneakily removed the bullets from Mansfield’s automatic, knew there was no longer any threat present. The Secret Visitor from Mars explained that after he learned the awful smell from the boat was shark repellant with which Mansfield had treated his clothes, Jones knew who the mastermind behind the scenario really was. “We’re going to pick up your accomplice, the butler, and go down to headquarters!

"The Phantom Bodyguard" was written by Jack Miller and drawn by Joe Certa. Garish “pop art” coloring by Frank Lee Delano, without any reference. Original colored art can be found here.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Justice League Unlimited Jigsaw Puzzle (24 pc., aged 3-7)

I found this 24 piece jigsaw puzzle at a 99 Cent Only store a few months back, and figured at the price, why not? The puzzle was fairly easy to put together, as I'm nearly five times the upper age limit, but thankfully not yet so old as to be retrograde. I fit as much of my completed work as possible on the scanner, and the results can be seen by clicking the picture above. It sort of looks like J'Onn's about to lay his hands on John Stewart, perhaps still miffed about that business in "Cosmic Odyssey?"



Over at ...nurgh... I just posted scans of Justice League Detroit favorite Vixen's origin, as narrated by J'Onn J'Onzz, the Manhunter from Mars. Do check it out...

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Super Candy & Toy (1967)

The Phoenix Candy Company produced a series of boxes featuring DC and other characters packaging various types of gum and hard candy with a miniature plastic toy, ala Cracker Jacks. Finding these cardboard boxes in any condition is tough, and the sheer number of characters and variations makes set collection very difficult. How likely is it for a kid to have saved his Metamorpho candy box from forty years ago, right? As I understand it, other rarities include Aquaman, Hawkman, Green Arrow, and quite likely every other Justice Leaguer whose licensing fee wasn't too steep. Even Martian Manhunter received at least two boxes, so far as I can tell, but this is the only one I have a color image for. More would be welcome *hint*hint*

The art here is based on a panel by Mike Sekowsky with Bernard Sachs and/or Joe Giella from The Brave and the Bold #29 (1960), though its been pretty well butchered.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Justice League of America #0 (September, 2006)

Yesterday. Boy, do I hate when the role of Superman and Batman are played up as founders in the JLofA. They were part-timers whose editors were unwilling to allow use regularly in case it diluted the brand. Worse, everyone's into these secret cabals within super-hero circles these days. Beyond sounding like something off "Prison Planet," it's just so very Legion of Super-Heroes. Also, Wonder Woman was never one of the World's Finest. Her original comics were produced by what amounted to a separate company/studio, like the DC/Wildstorm relationship today. I know she's part of the "trinity" of DC greats, but does that mean we have to whitewash her history as a red-headed stepchild who wasn't even wholly DC's until recent years (see also: Alex Ross' Captain Marvel pimpage?)

Tomorrow: So they dumped J'Onn J'Onzz from the League, and then they killed him? Sounds about right.

Today: Finally read JLofA #0. About as bad as I heard. I'm currently reading "Slaughterhouse 5." Its story is told in similar fashion, but all the "future events," as well as a sort of literary retroactive continuity involving alien abduction, are really just the manifestations of the lead character's senility. At least I believe so. I have about another quarter of the book to go, just as there are seven more issues of JLofA before I know exactly how lousy Meltzer's run will be.

Yesterday: Just finished "Identity Crisis." This Meltzer guy is pretty good with the monologues and heart-string pulling, but this is all really just bad fan fiction. He shouldn't be allowed to play around in-continuity. God, the only thing worse than reading more scripts like this is if Michael Turner's rubber people continue to grace Meltzer's covers.

Today: It's like Turner is trying to do an Alex Ross cover, but instead of live models he employed Kenner action figures. I'm so glad I didn't pay for this.

Yesterday: Why would white jumpsuit Wonder Woman be on the satellite? Didn't they make a huge deal about her having to go through all those trials to rejoin the League after being one of, if not the, first members to bail on team? Plus, she stayed away again for most of the 80's and much of the 90's. If Meltzer can hold Martian Manhunter's 70's absence against him, why not Diana's? Even when she was on the team back then, she was a royal pain, not little miss team spirit.

Batman: "Martians and magic green rings to fight aliens whom turn into trees... That's not-- I don't think that's the fight I'm meant to fight." For a genius, wasn't Batman really lousy at articulating his thoughts there? Also, another retro image of Leaguers turning into trees, complete with bad coloring. Another cross Alan Moore must bear, after having also co-popularized "grim n' gritty."

Tomorrow: Who is responsible for the concept of vague allusions to potential futures? That guy needs to be thrown a beating as well. Also, Eddie Berganza, for allowing Meltzer to ramble on, and to allude to "future" stories some other writer will have to half-heartedly bring to some sort of fruition.

Yesterday: "Detroit? Whose idea was that?"
"Arthur and J'Onn. They said they've got it under control."
For the record, that was all Aquaman. J'Onn just joined after his people pretty much exiled his for exposing their hypocrisy and foiling their invasion plot. Batman continued to fume and predict doom for the League. Wonder Woman called him on his lack of actual intervention.

Tomorrow: Pa Kent will die. Garsh. I thought he was supposed to be dead before Superboy became Superman? And Ma yet lives? Maybe she'll move in with Clark and Lois, forcing them to eat wheatcakes until someone calls the whole thing off via Neron? Schedule the first of many heart attacks with no lasting consequences.

Today: Paul Neary inked Luke McDonnell within and inch of his life. Why bother hiring an original Detroit penciller if the intent is to render his work unrecognizable?

Tomorrow: At least we know Superman and Wonder Woman hopefully never marry. This is why God said brothers and sisters are not allowed to date, either.

Yesterday: One punch? Yeah, let's boil five years of great stories down to one punch. Also, let's not explain how Wonder Woman "joined" Justice League Europe for exactly one issue, quitting without notice.

Tommorrow: I just don't like the Kubert boys, outside of Wolverine and Hawkman. While Jim Lee should one day have a run on Aquaman, he continues to find new ways to draw Martian Manhunter badly. Where is his nose? Is that a double chin? He looks like a turtle! And does that picture mean the latest reboot of Earth-Two will just represent Meltzer's "perfect" League of the Bronze Age?

Yesterday: Howard Porter is the worst Wonder Woman artist ever. I like his JLA, despite the flaws, but Diana if consistently fugly under his pen. Make it stop!

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow: Continue to be done wrong by Melzer and Michael Turner. Always nice when Rags Morales shows up, though. Is the "zero" issue a dated notion or a value judgment?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

DC: The New Frontier #4, Part Two (2004)


When I discovered that there was a chance I could return home, I was surprised to find a pang of reluctance. I’ve come to care very deeply for my adopted home. However, the events of the evening have left me reeling. If Americans react violently to people for a difference of skin color, then I fear they'll never be ready to accept me. I sit there, torn between two worlds. If only I could see the opportunity for change, I believe I would stay here. And once again, the television gives me an answer.

“Uh... good evening. My name is the Flash. I won’t keep you but a minute... Yesterday, there was an attempt on my life made by a clandestine government agency. Fortunately, I was too fast for them... Now I’m being hunted like Public Enemy Number One. It makes me sad to think that my own country has no place for me. So I’m giving up.”

My decision is made. I will go home.

My desk carries several weeks’ research into the mass hysteria and related activity. There is just one thing left to do.
BATMAN- My investigation has revealed widespread mania based on vivid premonitions of the planet’s “impending doom.” Two threads emerge from the collected evidence:
(1) People are organizing to worship an entity they all loosely refer to as ‘THE CENTRE.’
(2) All documented cases involve subjects who experience horrific dreams involving prehistoric monsters and reptilian demons.

“I have to... go away. Sudden business has come up. I thought we should touch base... The book is some form of journal passed down through the ages. It describes a force powerful enough to consume the solar system... You’ll find hundreds of case files and related stories at my apartment. They’re all yo-- Batman?”
“He’s like that. It can be maddening. It’s been a real pleasure serving with you, John. How about we go meet Slam for one last round...”
“That would be tops, Jim. That would be tops.”

“Miss Ferris, this is Hal down in mission. We are ready for the final pre-launch check. Let’s launch this bird”
Home. I simply have to fly up through the hull and remain invisible. It takes all of my concentration to block the fact that I will be sitting atop gigantic cylinders of liquid flame. Steeling myself, I prepare to make my molecules intangible to gain entry to the ship. My focus split, I don’t sense the man named Faraday until he is upon me.

TEN! “Don’t move, Martian.”
NINE! “Take any further action to sabotage this launch and I’ll kill you.”
EIGHT! “I don’t want to interfere. I just want to go home.”
SEVEN! “How did you-- YOU’RE IN MY MIND!”
SIX! “Can you outthink a bullet, monster?”
FIVE! I’m upon him with a speed he isn’t prepared for.
FOUR! It is starting. I must leave now!
THREE! But Faraday... he will be killed in the launch.
TWO! His thoughts... Such confusion. No time!

-By Darwyn Cooke. “For seven years, STAR SPANGLED WAR STORIES had featured a series called “The War That Time Forgot” about a mysterious island in the Pacific... prehistoric horrors lived there... When I was trying to create a menace large enough to challenge the DC Universe... the idea hit me. The island is alive. THE ISLAND IS THE VILLAIN.”

Back to DC: The New Frontier #4, Part One (2004)

Forward to DC: The New Frontier #5 (2004)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Justice League of America #247 (2/86)

Martian Manhunter: Took his charges to their new headquarters, being the abandoned mountain headquarters of the original Justice League of America, and formerly the Injustice Gang (as Zatanna noted for a Martian who skipped the 70’s.) “For one of them, this is a graveyard of silent ghosts and buried memories.” The place was mighty dusty from disuse, but the usually reliable J’Onn J’Onzz had to assume his new duties as John Jones, P.I. instead.

Zatanna: Lit the original Justice League of America headquarters with her magic, then bailed on clean-up to investigate her roommate’s disappearance. Found that mound of dust that used to be her. Time to “muucav,” or does she have another excuse up her considerable sleeve?

Steel: Flipped a rrreally big lightswitch. Bailed on cleaning to wear 80’s too shorts and get propositioned at his gym job by a movie producer. With glasses, and a moustache, who likes gladiator movies, and has his arm across Hank’s shoulder. Go-go Gadget Prostate?

Vibe: Continued to defame Latin Americans by bowing out of cleaning to not find an apartment which he would not pay for with the job he doesn’t have. Almost killed a gym rat for ridiculing Paco’s wardrobe, which of course could have happened to anyone.

Sue Dibney: Westchester?

Elongated Man: The only super-hero shown actually cleaning up. Know your role, Ralph!

Vixen: Plotted to uncover the mystery that is Gypsy. Played with a possum. Animal senses detected a potentially malevolent something that later attacked her with black fire type stuff. Stuck with cleaning crew, but never actually shown cleaning, because DC’s race relations hole was deep enough already.

Gypsy: Really dug the dank old headquarters, which Vibe couldn’t stop belittling, so she called his a “pheasant.” Even Vibe knew she meant “peasant,” so she made him see an illusion of hell before he made her look any worse. Adopted rodents she found nesting in the once abandoned headquarters. Defeated a gelatinous, tentacled baby monster that had also taken up residence by being harsh with it.

Dale Gunn: Written out. Lucky.

Interlude: On the prison planet of Takron-Galtos, home of the galaxy’s most dangerous arch-criminals, a fuschia fiend in a blue hoodie murdered a guard. This dastardly desperado then stole a rifle, with which he gunned down two more alien guardsmen with one blast. He jacked a ship, and used his telepathy, limited as it was by prison-drugs, to learn the pattern of the laser defense to escape. “My followers wait to greet me on Kalanor. I shall not disappoint them.”

The Creators: You know that whole “balance between the mundane and the fantastic” thing? Conway’s mundane just cracked the table and the fantastic is wrapped around the scale’s arm like a playground swing after Saturday night. Luke McDonnell sells it to the best of his ability.

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: So many to choose from this issue, but I’m going with "Any breakin’ I do is gonna be on a dance floor.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

2006 "MMM... OREOS" Convention Sketch by Darwin Cooke

Click To Enlarge

Cookie break! Must make up for verbiage surplus!

Thanks to the Martian Manhunter Fotolog!

Tomorrow: Detroit League!

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Idle-Head of Prescience?

Normally, I prefer not to use early solicitation material on this site, so I can read through the Diamond Previews and post a comprehensive, if not wholly reliable listing of Martian Manhunter related items. However, I got so much mileage out of Grant Morrison's comments about using an obscure J'Onn J'Onzz foe I'd never of in "Final Crisis," I fear I may have missed the forrest for the tree. I'll now indulge in a bit of Diabolu Idle-Speculation with the aid of the aforementioned material. The faint of heart may consider what follows to be potential spoiler material, and are duly warned...

Okay, Grant Morrison is writing the actual "Final Crisis" title, but he noted here that "DC Universe #0" and a multitude of other related books are being co-plotted with Geoff Johns. Obviously, there have been mini-events at play since the end of "52," which Morrison and Johns also plotted together. The rapidly dying New Gods, and specifically Darkseid are involved-- which is one connection to J'Onn J'Onzz, thanks to the Ostrander series. Now, another prime mover is this Libra character from the 70's era JLofA, of which Manhunter was not in fact a member. Yet, in the above cover, we see Libra consorting with, of all people, the Human Flame. When the subject of obscure characters in "FC" came up to Morrison, he replied, "Ah – in terms of obscurity, there’s so many." Further, the solicitation copy for the book notes, "The entire Multiverse is threatened as the mysterious Libra assembles an army of the DCU’s most terrifying super villains." Aren't most of DC's super-villains in the process of killing one another while imprisoned on an alien world? Does Libra rescue them to form his army, or has he instead rounded a mass of losers like Human Flame and used his now godlike powers to give them a Neron-style upsizing in threat level? Otherwise, why bring back someone like the Human Flame?

"Worlds will live and heroes will die in this epic tale spanning the beginning and end of the DC Universe!" Seems to me we heard much the same during Johns' "Infinite Crisis," which launched with the massacre of the Freedom Fighters. So here's ad copy for JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #21, shipping one week before FINAL CRISIS #1: "Meet Libra and the Human Flame, two central villains in the upcoming FINAL CRISIS! Where’d the Human Flame come from, and who does he hate more than anything in the universe?" Well see, he's made exactly one previous appearance, in which he and his pal Joey are sent to prison by J'Onn J'Onzz after failing to exploit rumors of the Martian's weakness to fire. That'd help bring up some hate, right? Oh, and FC#1 ships with two covers in 50/50 ratio, one of which isn't currently available to the public. Wouldn't it be interesting if, say the Martian Manhunter were on it in a spotlight, as Hal Jordan is on the solicited cover?

My prediction: Human Flame, the fannish poseur super-villain taken under Libra's wing, proves the revived villain's threat level by killing the Manhunter from Mars in Final Crisis #1. Sure, the fire weakness was written out recently, but we've been down that road before, and wasn't it Morrison who returned that very weakness to prominence in "New World Order?" Alternately, the Human Flame could just as easily batter fry Arthur Joseph Curry, the pretender Aquaman. Maybe both? That would actually be heartening, as an early bow for J'Onn J'Onzz could lead to the same late game resurrection Animal Man enjoyed in Morrison & Johns' "52," likely in a classic, non-Skrull form. Alternately, you could easily "avenge" the Manhunter in decidedly lethal fashion with regard to the Human Flame, and no one would be likely to undo the deed. I may just be playing with my mashed potatos here, but consarnit, this means something...

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Adventure Comics #450 (March-April, 1977)

Continued from Adventure Comics #449: "Mission: Catch A Killer"

N'or Cott fired missiles on J'onn J'onzz's vessel within Earth's atmosphere, from which the Manhunter barely escaped. The explosion attracted the attention of Supergirl, who kept debris from falling on Metropolis. From a distance, she spotted J'onzz's silhouette. "It appears that we're under alien attack-- and there's the alien! I'll return his junk to him-- and discourage him in the process!" Supergirl's toss clipped the dazed and near-blind Alien Atlas, who went on the defensive.

"He's... He's J'onn J'onzz-- an ex-Justice League member! He's always been a friend! I have a feeling I made a horrible mistake! But he is attacking me-- and his strength is nearly equal to mine, so... perhaps this will bring him to his senses!" Supergirl was the first to land a solid blow, and managed to stave off the Manhunter until he gathered his wits and relented. N'or Cott then fired ineffectual missiles that were deflected by the Maid of Steel's ample bosom. "Luckily, my hunch was right! These firecrackers don't even sting!"

After N'or Cott fled, the Maid of Might asked if the clearly still unstable J'onn was okay. "Physically-- yes! But I hung here like a helpless child while you did the work!"
"Should we chase your attacker?"
"No... N'or is merely doing his duty! Now I'll do mine! Somewhere there's the murderer of my closest friend-- somewhere down there, on that planet-- and I'll find him... or her! --Find the killer and wreck justice! I swear it-- on Re's grave!"

Beyond a Starlinesque recap on page one and mention of Michael Nasser/Netzer's bringing the hotness with regard to Supergirl, that's all there is to this installment. Writer Denny O'Neil collects a check for a lunch hour's worth of effort.

Adventure Comics #451: "The Suspects"

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Dynastic Centerpiece of Diabolu

Returning to my lecture subject from yesterday, Scipio's Theory of Dynastic Centerpiece as it applies to the Martian Manhunter, I feel we should first look to his examples of same in other hero "families." It seems to me that, ironic though it may be, the grandaddy of Dynastic Centerpiece wasn't a DC character until what, 1986? Later? Anyway, that would be the Marvel Family. Captain Marvel/Billy Batson is of course the "DC," Captain Marvel Jr. the "Junior Counterpart," "Mary Marvel the "Female Counterpart," Tawky Tawny the "Animal Companion," the wizard Shazam the "Elder Statesman," Beautia Sivana could stretch as "the Romantic Interest," Uncle Marvel the "Civilian Companion," Black Adam "the Black Sheep," Sterling Morris the "Authority Figure" and so on.

Expanding to the rest of the DCU (sans the too obvious,) we can get an even better understanding of the iconic DC family...

Dynastic Centerpiece: Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green Arrow, Hawkman
Kid Sidekick: Wonder Girl III, Aqualad, Speedy, Golden Eagle.
Junior Counterpart: Troia, Tempest, Connor Hawke, Northwind
Black Sheep: Artemis, Koryak, Shado, Fel Andar
Elder Statesman: Phillipus, Atlan, Wildcat, Carter Hall/Prince Khufu
Female Counterpart: Champion, Dolphin/Aquagirl, Black Canary, Howkgirl/woman
Animal Companion: Kangas, Tusky
Romantic Interest: Steve Trevor, Mera
Civilian Companion: Etta Candy, Vulko,
Authority Figure: Hippolyta
Contextualizing City: Themyscira, Poseidonis, Star, Midway

Next there's the concept of the Anti-Dynasty of supervillainy...
Arch Enemy: Cheetah, Black Manta, Hath-Set
Lunatic: Dr. Cyber, Piranha Man, Byth
Hero-worshipping Villain: Silver Swan, Golden Eagle
Civilian Enemy: Veronica Cale, Kristopher Roderic
Untouchable Crime Lord: Ares, Kanjar Ro
Magician: Circe, Gentleman Ghost
Evil Opposite: Artemis, Ocean Master, Merlyn
Femme Fatale: The White Magician, Hercules, Mera
Mental Challenger: Dr. Psycho, Shadow Thief
Physical Challenger: Giganta, Lion-Mane

Now, you'll note that four heroes enter each category, but as few as one actually enjoy a relevant slot. Green Arrow has developed a pretty solid positive DC, but his anti-DC is about as bad as it gets. Merlyn? For serious? This is why the Idol-Head Blog is so important to me: Martian Manhunter has got this, man. I filled every slot with relative ease, usually turning back equally worthy candidates. In fact, I specifically avoided as many upcoming Vile Menagerie entries as possible, and look who I have to work with! Really look, especially if you have the opportunity to write the Martian Marvel. All your work has been done for you if you'll just take advantage...

Junior Counterpart: Jemm, Son of Saturn
Since Morrison connected the character to Mars in "Rock of Ages," and especially with Ostrander's follow-up in J'Onn's own title, this was an early lock.

Female Version: Ms. Martian
Not so long ago, this would have either been a reach or just a token slot for the next candidate up. Now, simplicity itself.

Kid Sidekick: Gypsy
Cindy had to get in here. Ever since her reappearance in JLI, Gypsy and J'Onn have been closely linked as surrogate daughter/father.

Black Sheep: Glenn Gammeron
Never heard of Gammeron, the bounty hunting frienemy with history dating back to before J'Onn lost his family? Speak up now if you're hot for an entry on ol' Glenn. I dig this cat a lot, and the JLTF synopsis are likely years away...

Civilian Companion: Cameron Chase
Damned if this DC thing isn't vindicating many of Ostrander's choices, but linking his run to D.C. Johnson's late, lamented series was a great idea.

Elder Statesman: King Faraday
Darwyn Cooke didn't see this team-up coming, and it was his own notion, and wouldn't you know J'Onn & King grew to be among his favorite "New Frontier" characters? Mine too.

Animal Companion: Zook
Junior counterpart, kid sidekick... you just knew Zook would get in here, as well. I'm still not comfortable referring to Zook as a sentient "pet," but that was how the character was usually described.

Authority Figure: H'ronmeer
Don't get much more authoritative than your own personal Jesus.

Arch Enemy: Despero
No. I'm sorry, I thought you were trying to correct this choice with anyone else. I'm glad we see eye to eye on this.

Lunatic: Malefic
Like someone might claim Malefic as an archenemy. Malefic does my heart good by insuring Ostrander is also villified here. One a lousy, one-note, derivative waste of multiple story arcs Malefic was. But he's assuredly nuts and someone was bound to chime in if I left him out.

Hero-worshipping Villain: Triumph
Potentially a controversial choice, but if anyone delivered fan service to the haters of this continuity implant, it was Big J'Onn and his left arm of iron. That's also either the second or third point for Christopher Priest's efforts. Shame he never developed the Osprey...

Civilian Enemy: Director Bones
Another no-brainer, although I understand Amanda Waller could have served just as well.

Untouchable Crime Lord: Vandal Savage
This was a tough call, as Savage is a greater DCU villain and Flash has some degree of ownership. The Faceless Mr. V could have gone here, but he was ultimately touchable. Savage, while not typically associated with J'Onn J'Onzz, was probably his second most common foe of the 90's. I look forward to providing greater detail, and only regret the trend didn't continue into the oughts.

Magician: Lord Asmodel
This was the only tricky one for me, as J'Onn tends not to deal with magic types. There was that one fight with Etrigan, and the witch he teamed-up with the Spectre to fight, but those were pretty weak reaches. Asmodel meanwhile has a history of kicking Martian Manhunter's ass, so he seemed a solid choice.

Evil Opposite: The Marshal
One of the greatest Manhunter covers of all time was by Chuck Patton, and the only way you could tell J'Onn from the Marshal was their costumes. Let's not forget, it was the Marshal and his brotherhood forces who were responsible for permanently evicting the JLofA from their satellite.

Femme Fatale: Bel Juz
I had more options here than I expected, but since no one else can really claim Bel Juz as one of their own, she seemed appropriate.

Mental Challenger: Professor Arnold Hugo
The man! The myth! The melon!

Physical Challenger: Brimstone
He's big, he's strong, he's made of fire, he has ties to Darkseid, and several fights with the Alien Atlas under his considerable belt.

Contextualizing City: None. I don't know when it was decided John Jones was a detective in Middleton, but his generic beat was almost never identified in the Silver Age. After he quit the force, whatever city he happened to be in was also rarely named, and pretty near never the same. Marco Xavier was all over Eurasia. There's just no good reason to pin J'Onn down to one burg, unless maybe Haven: The Broken City is still around somewhere. I do think J'Onn should have a cool base, whether it be a new Z'onn Z'orr, a repurposed Satellite/Watchtower, or what have you.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Grant Morrison and the Absorbascon

I was at Newsarama today, where I found an article where GRANT MORRISON doesn't discuss killing Martian Manhunter in "FINAL CRISIS." Instead, there was a tidbot about "the return of a very obscure Martian Manhunter villain." Per Mr. Morrison:

"There’s a really obscure character I like in Final Crisis, a guy called the Human Flame. He’s this really goofy character we found in an old Martian Manhunter story. He’s this dumb supervillain who just sits around with his cell phone taking pictures of all the other villains and driving them crazy. But he’s got a really big role to play. The name was just so great, “the Human Flame,” in a story about evil coming to Earth…and snuffing out “the Human Flame.”

How obscure is this cat? Seeing as I haven't read that deep into his presumably sole appearance in the Martian Manhunter Showcase Edition, even I had to employ the intarwebbingski. I've visited The Absorbascon a time or two, but never with a mission to uncover a piece of Manhunter lore. Scipio pretty much derails any dreams I have of expanding the Vile Menagerie with 50's foes with his take on "The Martian Manhunter's Rogues Gallery!" There's the ever-lovin' B&W Human Flame in his entire lack of glory, and he's far from the worst of the lot.

I decided to linger at the blog, and offer up these gems from their "Martian Manhunter Week..."

The Hobbies of the Martian Manhunter

In "Argonauts of...JUSTICE!" Scipio equates heroes of the DCU to the Greek myths. He writes: "Autolycus (yeah, like the guy on Xena, *sigh*) was a master thief and infiltrator. So to me that's got to be the quiet and sneaky MARTIAN MANHUNTER."

Scipio believes he recognizes the Silver Age J'onn J'onzz as a "sister" in I'm Not Saying He's GAY, exactly... (... but, have you ever seen the Martian Manhunter dance?)

Is there sucj a thing as too many powers. Mmm, yeah. See "Never Enough."

There were some bones of contention, however:

A vote for rounding out the Martian Manhunter's social circle in "Support Your Local Martian!"

One of the few, and I mean very few, things I liked about the 1998 Martian Manhunter series was his decision to use fellow heroes as J'Onn J'Onzz's supporting cast. While he briefly brought a heavily revised Diane Meade to the series early on, she exited in much the same fashion as in the Silver Age. Shortly before making the leap to starring in House of Mystery, John Jones was revealed to the world as the Manhunter from Mars. His longtime secret identity rendered useless, J'onn J'onzz abandoned the premise entirely and began travelling the country with his pet/sidekick Zook, mostly in search of the dreaded Diabolu Idol-Head. Once that matter was resolved, he began his crusade against VULTURE in the new identity of Marco Xavier, muchly sans Zook, and this time was internationally mobile. Gerry Conway forgot that important fact when he resurrected the John Jones identity in JLofA #246 in '86, and everyone else followed suit. The 1998 series took elements of the origins of both the Jones and Xavier identities for an amalgamated Detective Jones in Martian Manhunter #0 from '98. Again though, the series had all of Manhunter's secret identities publicly exposed, so there's no point in returning to that well for what was always a fairly crumby supporting cast.

Since J'Onn J'Onzz is such a workaholic and so rarely has his own title anyway, it makes sense he spends most of his time with other super-heroes. I realize supporting casts have always been a comic book staple, but so too has the general apathty among fans and public alike regarding those types. For every Alfred Pennyworth or Mary Jane Watson, there are dozens of examples of Dulla McLovintrest, Guy Bestpal, Dr. Arther Tayfigure, and the rest. Regardless of whether or not Jimmy Olsen must die, does anyone really care either way? Rather than surround John Jones with expendable, forgettable cop buddies, why not get the exact same mileage with far greater levels of interest and reasonance out of middling-to-obscure super-heroes? Also, the 1998 series brought great characters like DEO Agent Cameron Chase into the mix, who is still a mostly non-powered supporting character type, but makes more sense in the context of the Martian Manhunter's modern life. I'm still annoyed the 1998 series didn't also use important support from J'Onn's past like Gypsy, Max Lord, or Dale Gun in a similar fashion.

Meanwhile, Scipio also explains his theory that "DC" really stands for:

"what I'll call the "Dynastic Centerpiece" model to its icons. In the Dynastic Centerpiece model, a hero is not a single character but the centerpiece of his/her own array of good and evil forces. Using basic concepts (such the Kid Sidekick, the Junior Counterpart, the Black Sheep, the Elder Statesman, the Female Counterpart, the Animal Companion, the Romantic Interest, the Civilian Companion, the Authority Figure, etc.) a constellation of characters is clustered around the central figure, which helps make him/her seem even more important. Against them is arrayed an "anti-dynasty" of villains similarly created according to familiar archtypes (The Arch Enemy, The Lunatic, the Heroworshipping Villain, the Civilian Enemy, the Untouchable Crime Lord, the Magician, the Evil Opposite, the Femme Fatale, the Mental Challenger, The Physical Challenger, etc)."

Scipio details his own notion of what the Manhunter's "DC" could be in the article, Are You Sleeping, Brother J'onn? In his defense, he drew more from a "Who's Who" and "DC Encyclopedia" wishlist because a)the Showcase volume wasn't yet available to him and b)casual MM fans will gain little-to-nothing from standard DC reference materials. Tomorrow, I'll formulate my own take on the concept, and we'll really dig in....

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Vile Menagerie: BEL JUZ

For Valentine's Day, I felt it was about time for the first lady of the Vile Menagerie to make an appearance, the femme fatale Bel Juz. She's the unlucky seventh inductee of the Idol-Head era, and the first in about six weeks. I'll try not to go that long without a spotlight again. Since she never received a Who's Who entry, I hope ya'll like my facsimile.

UPDATED 10/7/08: I was unhappy with how I had written Bel Juz's "Who's Who" entry, and was unwilling to recreate the whole image. The trimmed artwork and revised text is now below...

Art by Dick Dillin & Joe Giella; Alan Kupperberg & Pablo Marcos.

Alter Ego: Bel Juz
Occupation: Conspirator
Marital Status: Single
Known Relatives: None
Group Affiliation: Soldiers of the Red Brotherhood
Base of Operations: Mars II
First Appearance: WORLD'S FINEST COMICS #212 (June, 1972)
Height: Well above average (5'10"+, variable)
Build: Shapely (variable)
Eyes: Yellow (variable)
Hair: Lilac, later blond (variable)

After her home world of Mars was rendered uninhabitable, Bel Juz fled to the planet Vonn with the remnants of her fellow Desert Dwellers. Bel betrayed her people to the Thythen, invaders who had driven out all the known natives of Vonn. The Thythen employed cybernetics to enslave the Martians, then used their life-force to drive Robo-Chargers. Only Bel Juz remained free among her group.

J'onn J'onzz, the Manhunter from Mars, discovered his nomadic people's fate, after having searched them out following Mars' devastation. Manhunter was joined in confronting the Thythen by Superman, who was temporarily displaced on Vonn. Bel Juz was dispatched to greet the heroic pair, and lead them into a trap. Superman detected duplicity in Bel's words, and ordered Manhunter away in order to confront the Jezebel alone. Superman managed to wrestle Bel Juz unconscious, then piloted a spacecraft in a kamikaze run on the Thythen stronghold. Martian Manhunter, believing Superman dead, went on to liberate his people. Bel Juz rejoined the Desert Dwellers, with no one aware of her treachery, so long as Superman remained out of contact on Earth.

Fearing the Manhunter would eventually uncover her true nature, Bel Juz left his company to become the lover of the enigmatic Marshal of the Red Brotherhood. To protect herself, Bel encouraged the Marshal's coup against the New Martian government. Bel Juz counseled the Marshal throughout his campaign to conquer Earth, including his conflicts with the Justice League of America. Finally confronted by Martian Manhunter, Bel pressed the Marshal into one-on-one combat with their mutual nemesis. The duel ended in dishonor and defeat, as Bel Juz attempted to gun Martian Manhunter down, before being stopped by Firestorm. Both Bel Juz and her Marshal were taken into Martian custody, and have not been seen since.

Powers & Weapons: Bel Juz was presumably born with all the innate Martian powers and vulnerabilities. She has only been shown employing limited flight and a degree of super-strength to date. It is likely that she would lose all powers, and eventually her life, through exposure to flames. Bel Juz has made use of laser guns in the past, as well.

Quote: "To protect myself, I started a war..."

Created by: Denny O'Neil & Dick Dillin.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

House of Mystery #162 (10/66)

Let me just get this out of the way now: We’re in a new era of Silver Age Martian Manhunter stories here. This is a brand new creative team consisting of fresh faces made up of the same men who’ve been doing the strip for about eleven straight years by this point. This is a very serious and thoroughly modern take on the silly, derivative, bandwagon-hopping schtick—completely different from when they tried riding the science fiction, crime story, giant monster, kid sidekick and super-hero trends. The story synopsis you’re about to read is as completely different as it ever was!

From their secret Athens headquarters, members of the international crime syndicate known as VULTURE engaged in video conference with their enigmatic, faceless leader concerning a priceless statue they’d stolen. Mr. V assured his charges the statue’s original owner was willing to pony up the kingly sum of one quarter of a million dollars for its safe return. Why Miklos Agar would pay in Yankee dollars, and why such care went into a lousy $250,000 gig, we can only speculate. What we know to be important however is that VULTURE should take such great care in this matter of extortion that their bagman must be someone they can absolutely trust, like a freelance occasional operative slash international man about town who’s actually deceased and who has in fact had his identity compromised by one Manhunter from Mars. VULTURE would pay this bagman his usual “ten per cent” commission, despite his having no more investment in the matter than passing the “merchandise” back to its owner. So the next time you hear about the Pentagon paying $600 for a toilet seat, just be glad you’re not being governed by members of VULTURE... or are you?

“My word! Look who blew into town-- surrounded by a bevy of beauties, as usual-- Marco Xavier, the playboy!” A vender greeted the arriving group of five. “Yes, yes-- bouquets for the lovely girls-- and for you, sir, a special one!” Xavier thought to himself, “Hmm-- a special flower for me? Odd...”

“Sensitive fingers probe until they find secreted behind the petals, a note...”
Xavier thought, “Not as much as I want him, mister!”

“Sorry, chicks-- but I just remembered-- I’ve got a heavy date!”
“Oh-h-h, Marco darling-- we have hardly seen you!”
Sorry skirts-- but in my rarified circles, you broads are what are known as ‘beards.’ I’m afraid I’m off to catch a private plane on loan from one John Travolta to indulge in the amor which dare not speak its name in a Code Approved comic book. Ciao, babies.”

“That twin-engine plane outside the hangar-- go inside!”
“I see... transportation to take me to Mr. V! Very good! Very good indeed!”

Likely burning more fuel than the whole operation was worth on a plane converted into a flying headquarters, Xavier was dismayed to see Mr. V on the gigantic video monitor. “Blast! And I’d hoped to see Faceless in person-- so I could get my hands on him! And then-- other things!” Mr. V once again tried to “recruit” Marco into the “organization,” to which Xavier replied, “Thanks again-- but free-lancing gives me more independence-- and plenty of time for pretty girls!” Ah, so cocksure is the playboy, oui? “A word of warning, Xavier! Do you see this man? He is known as the Manhunter-- and he has been hounding us of late!” Faceless tapped on a black and white image of the Alien Atlas. “Sacre bleu! He’s a frightening looking character, isn’t he?” Ah, Manhunter, don’t hate who you truly are, on the inside. The Martian Marvel considered to himself, “The real Marco Xavier-- whose place I took after he was killed-- was palsy-walsy with Agar-- so I shouldn’t have any trouble with him.” This assumption was correct, as the statue’s rightful owner pressed the piece to his cheek and gently caressed its ivory shaft. “Ah, my lovely statuette how I have missed you! Marco... my eternal thanks to you! I would have paid twice as much for her return!” Marco remarked, “I’m glad you feel you got a bargain, Miklos!”

Xavier buried the suitcase with the pay-off, transformed into the Manhunter from Mars, and stormed the airplane. The hoods opened fire with meer conventional firearms. “Are you kidding?” Without another word, Manhunter tossed the first crook he reached into the rest, toppling them like bowling pins. The thieves assumed Xavier must have tipped the hero off, until Marco arrived in time to free them before the police arrived. “Mon dieu! What goes on? This place looks like it was hit by a hurricane!” Xavier gave the relieved bandits the bread, as they went scurrying back to their master. Manhunter swam after the larcenists, as they made their way to a deserted island by speedboat. J’onzz watched the purloiners take a hidden elevator down into an underground base, then flexed “mighty Martian muscles” to burrow his own route. The defalcators went straight to Mr. V, who chastised, “Fools! How many times have I warned you against coming here... If-- if the Manhunter found you-- he could follow you here!” A huge crash rang out as the Alien Atlas smashed through the wall, tersely confirming, “Right!”

While the pilferers again fell before the Martian onslaught, Mr. V’s readily apparent lardassery did not impede him as he ran to retrieve a rifle that fired lightning bolts. Their charge set the room afire, forcing Manhunter to burst nearby aquarium glass with the last of his might. “That’ll put out the fire you started--- on the floor if not within my bare, heaving breast--- now to put you out, Mr. V!” His naked arms outstretched, Manhunter ran to the object of his attentions! “Faceless--- I’ve been waiting a long time for this moment! So--- you’re the notorious Mr. V!” A tubby brown-haired man with a semi-Hitler mustache that resembled two bushels of nose hair growing out of his nostrils? Hardly! Another giant monitor lit up to reveal the true Mr. V! “Not quite, Manhunter! Zoltar is only a deputy Mr. V--- one of my regional lieutenants!”

“I’ll get you yet, Faceless--- I’ll get you if it’s the last thing I do on Earth!” And it very nearly was, but that’s a tale for another time. “The Lair of Mr. V!” was by Jack Miller and Joe Certa, except for my flourishes in itallics.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Neither Here Nor There

A little while back, I announced my intention to place this blog on a more rigid schedule. It went a little something like this:

  • Sunday = 50's story synopsis (Detective Comics back-up)
  • Monday = 60's story synopsis (House of Mystery, followed by JLofA)
  • Tuesday = 70's story synopsis (We'll get back to this one.)
  • Wednesday = 80's story synopsis (Justice League Detroit)
  • Thursday = 90's story synopsis (random to date, but leading to Morrison JLA)
  • Friday = 2000 story synopsis (mostly that exact year, to date)
  • Saturday = Everything Else

    Now, you might see a problem there. Six straight days of story synopsis can get mighty dry, really wears out your host, and causes my traffic to dwindle. I understand this, because whenever I go to other daily super-hero blogs like The Aquaman Shrine or The Tiny Titan and they do a synopsis, I groan. Why?

  • If I've read the issue, who needs the synopsis?
  • If I haven't read the issue, it's often because I didn't want to, so why do Cliff's Notes?
  • Otherwise, I do want to read the story, so why spoil it?
  • They're usually long.
  • They're usually boring.
  • Even my own.
  • Hell, especially my own.
  • Because toys are shinier and cereal boxes are coo-el.

These considerations caused me to set the Wayback Machine to the year, oh, 1997 or so. I still did not have a computer, but got a kick out of surfing the internet on a friend's WebTV. We would check out lots of awesome super-hero fan sites, until we got to the Martian Manhunter's, which were mostly lame, brief, and uninformative. When I got a WebTV of my own, I set out to remedy that situation, although some better J'Onn J'Onzz sites had sprung up by then. The thing is though, while I've liked the character since the mid-80's, I was pretty ignorant about my subject. At that point, I had barely read any comics he'd appeared in before 1986, and none of those were solo adventures. That means no Detective Comics beyond his origin story, no House of Mystery, absolutely nothing from the 70's, and not a single Justice League Detroit tale. My old site, "Martian Manhunter: The Rock of the JLA" became the motivation for my pursuing a greater understanding of the character. I searched for back issues, read other sites, and became an apostle to the gospel of knowledgable message board hacks like "Commander Steel." Hell, my site's pre-HoM section was based almost solely on a collection of "Steel" posts I was given permission to edit into a text on the subject.

My point is that my primary goal with this blog, as with the original site, is to expand the common understanding of the history and value of J'Onn J'Onzz, the Manhunter from Mars, for the benefit of myself and others. Zook does not have a Wikipedia page. Professor Hugo Strange will never be featured on a Who's Who page. Captain Harding and the rest of the police force of whatever town it was John Jones patrolled are almost entirely forgotten. Did you know Vandal Savage is one of the Manhunter's most frequently occurring foes? Did you know the Martian Manhunter appeared on a series of candy boxes in the late 60's? Were you aware that Keith Giffen originally intended J'Onn J'Onzz to be literally addicted to Oreos, which were to have had the same effect on him as heroin does on humans? If not, I have so much I want to tell you, and I feel the internet itelf needs a resource for all of this and more.

My point with this post is that I know the synopsis are a drag. I try to write them in a variety of flavors, but both you and I need more variety than that. Last week was the only time I've managed to date to follow the exact course plotted out above, and will likely remain the only example of same. This week is already being broken up by this editorial, and I'm planning a new Vile Menagerie entry for Valentine's Day (guess who?) After I finish covering the O'Neil/Netzer 70's series, I'm going to abandon that decade for a while. There's very little material to mine there to begin with, and I have several major gaps in my personal collection there besides. While I'll continue to cover the 50's, 60's, and 80's in sequence, I'll try not to burden the blog overmuch with heavy continuity relating to the other decades. Instead, I'll try to skip around more to better cover the great many bases that continue to be neglected. If ya'll want more or less of anything, or just generally have comments and suggestions, please send them along. I take a great deal of pleasure out of this blog, and I want to make a sincere effort to insure anyone who reads it feels the same.

Finally, I've also dedicated myself to a second daily blog, ...nurgh.... I hope to cover my interests in everything else under the sun there, so if you enjoy the Idol-Head, it may be worthwhile to give it a try, as well. I spent a lot of time decorating what was intended to be a garage, but I plan to convert into a rumpus room. Again, I hope you get a kick out of it, and thank everyone for stopping by.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Detective Comics #228 (February, 1956)

“...Anger whips Captain Harding’s voice as he briefs his men at headquarters...”

“I want everyone in the department to drop his other duties and concentrate on nothing but the apprehension of Alex Dunster! He evidently is selling scientific and technical items of great value, at tremendous profit! We know he’s got a cunning scientific mind... and we also know he’s dangerous!”

Sure enough, even John Jones silently agreed, “The captain’s not exaggerating... Even with my Martian skills, I can’t get a lead on Dunster!” For the Secret Visitor from Mars, who “possessed 100 skills that ‘Earthlings’ could not cope with,” that’s high praise. Jones covered “every chemical, scientific and technical plant in the area” until his “tremendously sensitive hearing” picked up Dunster on a heist. Jones then spied the thief with his ability to see through solid matter. If you’re keeping score, that’s two new powers by the second page of the first ever Dave Wood Manhunter script*. Neither served justice here, as by the time Jones circled around the room Dunster was in to covertly materialize through a wall, the crook had made his getaway. Well okay, he was within Martian earshot, taunting “Ha, ha, I heard you coming as if you were an elephant, my friend!”

“Great Falling Meteors!” Dunster had a giant hearing aid strapped to his chest! Plus, the electronic ray gun he fired at Jones before driving off in his boss convertible. “Powerful enough to kill any earthman... but not strong enough to penetrate my Martian body!” Ding! New power #3, which works even while he’s in human form. Winded, Jones used new power #4, super-vision, to follow the bandit’s tire tracks. Jones Martian eyesight would lead the way. “Trailing him will be tedious... time consuming... but it can be done!” Far into the night Jones traveled along the tracks, to a farm house hideout. Seems Dunster had previously made the richest strike of his criminal career by uncovering a machine that could “materialize objects from space.” It had been created by the late “Professor Urdle,” a phonetic rendering of the name of a very famous non-doctor responsible for a certain strange experiment. In the same story, our hero was even misnamed, again, this time as “J’on J’onz.” Man, was editor Jack Schiff asleep at the wheel when it came to details, or what? “J’on” even removed any No-Prize option by flashing back to his origin, name dropping “Urdle” twice.

Continuing to pick nits, Jones contemplated allowing Dunster to escape using Erdel’s devices, then employing it to return him home. This assumes there was anything at all wrong with Erdel’s device in the first place, when the issue was in fact how to direct it to a specific point in space and time. Since Dunster only managed to navigate the return trip of an object he sent to an unnamed point in space, there’s no evidence his modifications to the device could return the Manhunter safely or permanently to his starting point on Mars. Besides, “That would mean Dunster would go free... I’d be letting Earth down... Releasing a criminal whom no one but myself could apprehend! No... NO! I can’t do that to the planet that has befriended me!” Jones tried to arrest Dunster, who tossed the space machine at the cop, shattering it. “You fool, Dunster! With your mind you could have done worlds of good with it!” Instead, Dunster would be trotted off to jail, while Jones remained in another form of confinement.

"Escape To The Stars" was written by Dave Wood and drawn by Joe Certa.

*To be fair, John Jones used a power that resembled x-ray vision as drawn in his second adventure, but what he was doing exactly was never made clear in text. It could have been an artistic shortcut for telepathy, or either of the “new” abilities from this issue.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

April '08 Martian Sightings

Feast or famine, as it seems J'Onn J'Onzz is already dead to the DCU just one month after a double Sightings post. The Martian Manhunter makes definate appearances in only trade paperbacks, and his only cover squeezes 2/3rds of his body off into the spine gutter. At least Miss Martian is getting some interesting looking play, not that I'm reading Teen Titans or anything. Of these books I'm buying, maybe, the Checkmate trade. Don't make mine DC anymore, y'see. But hey, at least I'm giving independent super-hero titles a try again. Captain Action from Moonstone and The Perhapanauts both sound fun.

Written by Greg Rucka & Eric S. Trautmann
Art by Joe Bennett, Joe Prado, Chris Samnee and others
Cover by Kalman Andrasofszky
The saga of Checkmate continues in this volume collecting issues #16-22! The espionage and intrigue continue as Amanda Waller - Checkmate's White Queen - resorts to blackmail to protect her own covert op interests.
Advance-solicited; on sale May 7 o 168 pg, FC, $14.99 US

Written by Jim Krueger & Alex Ross
Art by Doug Braithwaite & Ross
Cover by Ross
A softcover edition collecting the first 4 issues of the acclaimed maxiseries by Jim Krueger (Earth X) and Alex Ross! The greatest criminal masterminds of our time appear to be acting in concert - but with a surprising plan that seeks to achieve more good than the JLA ever could!
Advance-solicited; on sale May 14 o 160 pg, FC, $14.99 US

Written by Sean McKeever Cover by Barrows
Art by Eddy Barrows & Jimmy Palmiotti
Welcome to the mind of M'gann M'orzz, Miss Martian! It's bad enough when the world you live in is alien to you, but when you have something inside you clawing to get out and destroying everything you stand for, that's at least a little bit worse, right? Also: more of Clock King's malefic machinations!
On sale April 30 o 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Written by Art Baltazar & Franco
Art and cover by Baltazar & Franco
More zany Tiny Titans adventures! Alfred lets the boys spend an afternoon in the Batcave, a high-spirited debate occurs when the Tiny Titans try to figure out the difference between a superhero and a sidekick, Show and Tell day at Sidekick Elementary has hilarious results, and see how Beast Boy tackles science class. This plus even more fun as the Tiny Titans virtually leap off the pages!
On sale April 9 o 32 pg, FC, $2.25 US

Story by Paul Dini
Story consulting by Keith Giffen
4 script by Adam Beechen; art by Carlos Magno & Rodney Ramos
3 script by Sean McKeever; art by Ron Lim & Mark McKenna
2 script by Sean McKeever; art by Jesus Saiz & Jimmy Palmiotti
1 script by Paul Dini; art by Scott Kolins
Covers by Adam Kubert
The Great Disaster has occurred, and all hell breaks loose as all the storylines in COUNTDOWN TO FINAL CRISIS come to a climax, threatening Darkseid and Jimmy Olsen and Mary Marvel and the future of their Earth!

Written by Ken Pontac
Art by John Delaney & Ty Templeton
Cover by Dario Brizuela
Untold tales of the Justice League! Mirror Master's son knows his dad's a real hero, while the League knows Mirror Master is a real villain. You won't believe who's right!
On sale April 2 o 32 pg, FC, $2.25 US

Saturday, February 9, 2008

fotolog highlights for march/april 2007

Not long after starting this blog, I received a message from a fellow under the alias "Zoiber," a Spanish "Detective Marciano" fan. Zoiber seems intent on collecting every Martian Manhunter image on the internet, and he was hoping it was okay with me if he started taking mine. I explained my belief that no one has the right to withhold a scan of a copyrighted image, so of course any of mine he cared for were fair game. Of course, a link is always nice, and bandwidth theft is just that, but you figure that goes without saying.

So anyway, Zoiber's been running an online catalog of these images since the start of 2007, and it just might be a bit of a task to get through them all, though I'm sure the process would be rewarding. Since I've been wanting to start spotlighting J'Onn J'Onzz-related internet happenings, It seems appropriate to start here.

Also, since there's so much chatter about the upcoming "New Frontier" DVD, I wanted to direct everyone to Zoiber's collection of Manhunter-related screengrabs here, here, and here.

March 2007 highlights:
Eclipso, and one of my favorite MM pages ever!
At least Bloodwynd hung with the Atom!
The oft-confused relationship between J'Onn & Bloodwynd.
The proprietor at play.
J'Onn in Smallville show & comics.
American Secrets advertisement
Mike Mignola "Cosmic Odyssey" pages here and here.
MM in Eclipso comics.
by Ariel Olivetti.
Various JL Manhunter figures on Mars here, here, and here.

April 2007 highlights:
Manhunter Babiez!
More Manhunter Babiez!
Creepy H'ronmeer baby?
Super Powers Martian Manhunter Prototype
Complete Super Powers MM comic (shown actual size.)
...continues here.
Familiar Jack Kirby SP page.
A slew of interesting interiors.

For more, visit Martian Manhunter Fotolog

Friday, February 8, 2008

DC: The New Frontier #4, Part One (2004)

It takes me several hours to track the book down in evidence. My old report noted the book’s metal case and lock and suggested finding a means to open it. 18 months later and it’s under a pile of illegal fireworks, still locked. The metal cover has a concave motif carved into its center. Had either the Batman or I both pieces of the puzzle, the purpose of the medallion would have been obvious. I feel the uneasiness crowding back in. It’s as if the book itself is alive. A vessel of some sort. The text is varied and for the most part, unreadable to me. But the images are clear enough. Something about an ominous, omnipotent presence and great suffering... Death and then endless suffering. Fire. Extinction.

Civil right. It has become quite an issue in America, and for obvious reasons, I try to follow the issue closely. This John Henry, for example. A true American hero, like the fathers of the Revolution. He fights alone for the oppressed, against an evil the rest of the country ignores. If only there were more material available, but it is a subject covered somewhat poorly, considering iys importants. My interest in subjects like racism and UFO sightings have made me something of an eccentric to my fellow officers. They kid me quite a bit... but I’ve become the precinct’s resident expert on craziness.

“Hey John, have we got one for you!”
“No doubt, Johnny Boy, this guy is one for your wall. A real yo-yo. He’s sein’ Little Green Men.”

Harry Lieter’s story is fantastic. It has all the earmarks of a classic paranoid fantasy... My job has allowed me access to some of the more... colorful minds on Gotham City. With delusionals, it has taken me a while to distinguish between what is true and what they believe is true.
“So the last five years have been spent developing a rocket to reach Mars. The government is scared to thin--“
“Harry! So wonderful to see you.”
“John, this is Faraday, a federal agant. It would seem that they have jurisdiction.”
“Well, look at that. Interesting hobby you have there, Jones. All the clippings. The UFO stories. Wacky stuff... Prefer a good game of chess, myself... It’s been a pleasure, Detective Jones. Thanks again for you help.”

It’s true. IT’S ALL TRUE. It flooded from him as he gripped my hand. The government knows I’m here. And they are building a rocket. A rocket to Mars.

“Good evening and welcome to another edition of ‘The Big Picture.’ Tonight, we bring you a shocking story of murderous persecution and one man’s struggle against the foreces of tyranny... Three nights ago... terrorists caught up with a man they had been hunting for months... He was beaten and humiliated, then hung from a post in the town square and burned alive... The man they killed was named John Wilson. The reason you’ve never heard about it is because Wilson is black... “John Henry,” the vigilante... scourge of the Ku Klux Klan...”

“Holy moley, that is pure rugged. Can you imagine being burned to death?”
“Sweet mercy, that can’t be true! That man was a hero... a freedom fighter!”
“Jesus, you’re maudlin. But you’re tight. That John Henry was one hell of a man...”
“Tell me Slam, what do you think they’d do if they ever found one of those aliens they always talk about?”
“Jeez, John... what am I, a mind reader?”

-By Darwyn Cooke. “The scene with JOHN AND THE BOOK was meant to build suspense and offer tidbits about the coming menace... The death of John Henry is a brutal blow that breaks the MARTIAN MANHUNTER’s heart. It is the act that causes him to turn his back on his adopted world and risk death to get back home.”

Back to DC: The New Frontier #3 (2004)

Forward to DC: The New Frontier #4, Part Two (2004)

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Martian Manhunter Special #1 (1996)

This book was produced by writer Paul Kupperberg, penciller Mike Collins, and four inkers. It also featured ten pages of pin-ups, of which only one depicts the Manhunter, and in a group shot no less! Everything about this comic, down to the vague setting, fairly screams "inventory story." Each chapter even featured a recap, as though it were intended to be serialized. The creators were regular contributors to Justice League Quarterly, so I believe this material may have just been repurposed when that series was cancelled. All in all, an inauspicious outing, though much can be read from it in hindsight.

As revealed in expository bricks surrounding the first page, J'Onn J'Onzz just up and decided to fly to the planet Naftali in search of an ancient wandering holy man named K'rkzar. He hoped the traveler had perhaps run across other surviving Martians, and just happened to arrive just as K'rkzar was planning to announce the all-encompassing religion he has formulated over centuries spent in seclusion. Holy war was brewing, drawing the attention of the Darkstar Chaser Bron to quiet things down. After J'Onzz helped Bron stop bloodshed when one religious sect attacked another, the Darkstar was authorize by his Controllers to deputize the Martian in this matter. Together, they tracked down one of K'rkzar's priests, Bruaka, the only being who knew the holy man’s whereabouts. The trio was soon joined by other, humanoid deputies sent by Naftali law enforcement to protect Bruaka from armies of assassins. They included Trypper, a brunette who could open time/space warps; Shadowdance, another female who could manipulate darkness; and Ambush, a male who could decipher the workings of weapons and other machinery at a touch. The group took to outer space in their ship to search for K'rkzar, but were hounded by attacking vessels and the powerhouse called “The Prophet.” MM held off that dogma-spouting superman while his fellows appeared to make their escape, until their turned kamakazi on a pursuing battleship. "You're a killer who does the bidding of beings who cloak their evil and political manipulation under a blanket of false righteousness. You would have killed the people on that ship without a second thought--so keep your hypocrisy to yourself, Prophet...And pray whatever divine being does exist chooses to show mercy for your life and deeds."

J'Onn's comrades turned up alive, having piloted the ship to its explosive end by remote control. The alien detective figured out that Bruaka had been using the group under his command to act as a decoy, drawing the enemy away from K'rkzar, who was still playing possum on Naftali. Removing the guise of a simple derelict, the holy man gave a simple speech about how everyone should feel good and love one another. Big revelation there. J'Onzz flew off without ever asking the priest about his fellow Martians, nodding about the candy-coated truth in N'aftali's "message."

As you may have noted from my synopsis, the story is a mind-numbingly dull 48-page exercise along the lines of, well, any other 48 pages ever written by Kupperberg. Collins’ art is as consistent, and approximates the banality of the script, as best as possible with all the additional hands. Just in case you managed to keep your eyes open through, Lee Loughridge provides so few color variations within a muddy, limited pallet that at times its like reading a yellowed copy of a black and white comic. This “effort” should be a source of pride for no one. On the other hand, the Prophet was created as a Superman caliber potential nemesis with an interesting hook. The religious leader Paral is fairly well designed, for what amounts to a reptilian take of the Lord High Papal. This first Martian Manhunter Special featured a much reprinted cover by Howard Porter in the style he would soon employ on the Morrison “JLA” relaunch. Finally, J’Onn J’Onzz just happened to go off in search of missing Martians just before a whole mess of them turned up in the aforementioned and extremely well received Morrison/Porter “JLA.” Is there a hidden connection here to that series? I’ll have to reread “New World Order” to find out, though probably not, but I need some justification for having read this tripe more than once...

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Justice League of America #246 (1/86)

Steel: Returned from his adventure at the end of time to learn grandpa had evicted him and his teammates from the Bunker. Slapped an armored Dale Gunn around before reaching his still bedridden kin. Commander Steel apologized for his great many wrongs, and explained his tossed the League out to get a fresh start elsewhere. Hugs. Said goodbye to Vibe's sister. Moved to New York. Got a job as a gym instructor.

Dale Gunn: Threw "fight" with Steel, but still stayed behind in Detroit to look after Hank Sr.

Vibe: Goodbye to family. Beat up rival gangs with powers one more time. Moved. Spilled chocolate shake on self as non-comic anti-relief. Jobless and essentially homeless.

Elongated Man & Sue Dibney: Stuck living in Westchester while housesitting for vacationing friends.

Zatanna: Flirted with Dale one last time. Chatted with J'Onn on the flight. Moved back into her sublet earlier, unaware of the ashen fate of her leasee.

Vixen: Explained on the flight to New York how her years of modeling were just a facade before realizing her true purpose through the Tantu Totem. Showed off her lavish apartment, and took in a roommate.

Gypsy: Talked Vixen into letting her move in.

Martian Manhunter: This being a Conway tale, even the heart & soul of the JLA questioned the League's future after leaving the Bunker and relocating to New York. Showed his sense of humor by boarding his team on a commercial flight in full costume. Chatted with Zee...
"I was not aware you gave credence to dreams, Zatanna."
"Mystics live part of their lives in dreams, J'Onn. The dreamworld is a pathway to past and future."
"On Mars we had few mystics. We put our faith in science... a faith that was our undoing, in the end."

Later explained to his charges that jobs were now in order. "When I first came to Earth years ago, I took a job as a police detective in Metropolis. With my Martian powers, I was quite successful. It is a small matter to recreate the credentials I used then..." Perhaps, but the elapsed time made "John Jones" retirement age, so that he was forced to take up with Burt Biloxi's Special Investigations, a low rent operation.

The Creators: The aforementioned Conway shot past character development into full-bore British soap opera tedium. Luke McDonnell sells the "realism" in a way Chuck Patton couldn't possibly. Bill Wray should have continued inking him for the rest of his career.

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: "Hank... mi hermano... you feelin' all right? Your abuelo, he didn't jump on you?"

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Adventure Comics #449 (January-February, 1977)

1977 should have been the year the Manhunter from Mars finally blew up. “Star Wars” was right around the corner, popularizing all things science-fantasy. DC was fighting for dominance of the newsstand by force of numbers, allowing for the greenlight of a new J’onn J’onzz’s strip. The character would not just retain, but augment the merciless edge he’d been given in the Marco Xavier stories, and also see his more alien look from the earliest Manhunter tales restored. Denny O’Neil, one of the most popular writers in the industry, was on tap. A slew of guest stars had been approved. So too was Terry Austin, one of the only inkers in history to become a superstar. In the wake of Neal Adams, revolutionary new coloring and printing processes were available to the strip. Finally, rising star penciller Mike Nasser would take full advantage of the opportunities Adams had opened up, with dynamic coloring, stylish realism combined with new wave flourishes, and even his own lettering. The new Manhunter from Mars feature looked set to take advantage of the type of perfect storm that led to the comic book boom of the 1990’s. Sadly, the feature truly was a precursor to Image Comics-- a very pretty book for which hardly any pages were produced, those that were featured cringe-inducing scripts for a nonsensical story that had to be completed by entirely different hands, and it even preceded an horrendous publishing collapse to boot!

The plot, such as it was, revolved around the Manhunter avenging the assassination of one of his dearest friends. You know, the kind never before seen, and gunned down on the very first page. J’onn J’onzz was about to be re-appointed leader of Mars II, the planet colonized by the survivors of a holocaust on J’onn’s homeworld, for a second term by popular vote. The victim, Re's Eda, claimed to see his killer, and with his dying breath bypassed identifying the culprit beyond the cryptic “Sol.” Manhunter flew into a deeply illogical fury. “He’s dead! This decent, wise Martian is gone forever! But I have a clue to his killer’s identity ---- His last word was Sol---- and that’s the Earthlings’ word for their sun! Therefore, I believe the murderer is an Earthman! And more---- the only Earth people who know where we are—and who are capable of traveling to this world are my former colleagues in the Justice League!” Yes, that’s right, the absolute flimsiest pretext for a series of meet-and-fight misunderstandings with other super-heroes had finally seen print. With that sort of flawless deductive reasoning, it’s no wonder J’onn J’onzz was ousted from Detective Comics!

The Manhunter was so fixated on reaching Earth to avenge Re's Eda, he fought through the Martian peace officers present, who tried to stop him from reaching The Spacefort. "That's my destination-- the two spacecraft left intact for emergencies after we stripped the rest-- Hated to ruin such fine ships, but we needed the raw materials for the colony..." Commander of the Martian Army N'or Cott led a chase, but not before J'onzz beat up the guard of one of the spacecraft. J'onzz then stole the guard's blaster, laid down cover fire against the sword-wielding police he'd battered earlier, and made off into space.

N'or Cott branded J'onzz a traitor for abandoning his people in shortsighted pursuit of vengeance, only to then abandon his people in a shortsighted pursuit of J’onn J’onzz. So much for those emergency vessels being available, eh? Both parties made their way to Earth. "Thus it began-- a chase with the Martian Manhunter as both the hunter and the hunted-- for, though he does not know it, he too is being pursued!"

Argh! Rampant inanity make brain hurt! And somehow, it only gets worse! But it was so darn nice looking! Nasser’s layouts were fantastic, and even more than the brow, I loved his cape effects! The way that it draped over Manhunter’s shoulders or swirled with motion looks stunning. The work in general recalled period efforts from no lesser lights than Walt Simonson, Marshall Rogers, and George Pérez! You can see how thirty years on, the feature is still looked on kindly, in much the same way Robert Kirkman still adores Sleepwalker and Youngblood. I suppose its ultimately no less terribly written than most DC Silver Age fare—just much more violent and strung out over multiple parts...

Continued in Adventure Comics #450: "Return To Destiny"

Monday, February 4, 2008

House of Mystery #161 (9/66)

In yet another clear indication that the status quo was to be forever altered, rather than acting out of some unnamed or non-recurring American town, the Manhunter was instead active in two identified foreign locales-- the first being the Taurus Mountains in Turkey. Manhunter was there following a tip about two missing scientists, but when it didn’t pan out, he was off on the trail of Marie Foucher-- “a pretty French chick whom the late Marco Xavier dated from time to time, according to his files!” Why yes, that was a J’Onn J’Onzz thought balloon, proving what a hep cat he was on the current derogatory terms for women. Mrrr-rowr-- behave!

“Shortly, near a rented cottage fronting the Gulf of Adalia, the Martian Marvel transforms to his new identity... Marco Xavier, internationally famous playboy and mystery man of the jet set!” Xavier literally gasped in surprise on running straight into Marie. “Marco-- mon amour! How handsome you look! How terribly I have missed you! How desperately I need you! ... You weel help me, mon cher?!” What the—is the true secret origin of the mutant Gambit that he was the spawn of a Martian and Lady Marmalade here? But hey, false identity aside, this was the most attention “Marco” had been given since Mars, which might explain why he allowed Foucher to lure him back to the Taurus Mountains to spring a trap. Abba Sulkar and his ambiguously “butch” servant duo had no intention of allowing Xavier to ever leave their secret lair. Xavier hoped to play along in order to learn more about the missing scientists and “the Faceless Mr. V,” but a special ray transferred the entirety of his mind onto a reel-to-reel tape, leaving him a vegetable!

“I trust you are pleased with my mind-duplicator, Mr. V!” Sulkar bellowed to a video monitor of his master, “Besides the two scientists, I also have Marco Xavier.” The leader of the nefarious organization VULTURE was not, in fact, a happy camper. “WHAT?? FOOL!! Do you not realize that Xavier has collaborated with VULTURE many times-- and that we trust him?” Mr. V demanded Xavier’s tape be set aside for his exclusive viewing, but Sulkar was not to be trusted. “A pudgy finger presses a button,” and Sulkar learns that Xavier is in truth the Manhunter from Mars! As Abba Sulkar raced to find his disintegrator weapon, another figure acted under cover and in whispers... “Queeckly! Follow me... but do not utter a single word or make the tiniest sound!” Ah, a faux pas, Madame Foucher, as it should have read “ze tiniest sound” to really sell the frogginess. “Shhh! I’m not only returning your mind to you, Marco--- but erasing the tape, so that Sulkar does not have a duplicate copy of it! I will do the same to these scientists!”

Xavier broke away from Marie to transform into Manhunter, allowing Sulkar time to get the drop on Foucher and the scientists. “Screaming aloud his vengeance, Sulkar presses the trigger...” to no effect against Manhunter’s emerald pecs! The man-servants Shtarker and Grosse fare no better, beyond the impact of one being tossed across the room into Sulkar! “Manhunter! Sulkar’s weapon went off! Sacre bleu! Sulkar accidentally turned his weapon on himself!” Still not sure this is no longer the gentle green giant of old? “Tough, but that’s what happens to nasty villains who play with disintegrator weapons!” The scientists were returned and the secret headquarters was sealed off, allowing Marie and Marco some time alone that evening on Xavier’s “moon-drenched terrace.” Faucher explained, “I was a double agent! My real chief is the head of the French Secret Service!” Both parties were disappointed at not having gotten closer to Mr. V, but perhaps they allowed themselves some... consolation...

As I bounce between rereading these Marco Xavier stories and his earliest Detective John Jones scripts, I’m really coming to appreciate Joe Certa’s incredible range of style and story-telling techniques. Had I not known otherwise, I would not think both works were by the same artist, as I’ve questioned on this blog a time or two. Certa was extremely open to new approaches to his art, without ever actually aping anyone, and he deserves more credit than he’s received (not unlike—you know...) I’ve only read one or two of the original Jack Miller scripts, and I might eventually admit I’ve been too hard on him. Not yet, but maybe...