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.


Adama said...

Frank, I've really been digging these analysis you've been doing. Have you ever read "Hero of a Thousand Faces" by Joseph Campbell? He discusses a lot of the same things you're talking about with the "D.C" but also puts it in the context of the epic journey.

PS: I agree with you on Ollie's generally cruddy rogues gallery. One of the reasons I started the dossier section of my blog with a really cool GA villain is to remind people that he does have a few...but only a few.

Scipio said...

Hello, Frank,

I might differ in how I'd fill some of the slots (for example, I'd reverse the Elder Statesman and Authority Figure), but I'm delighted you're applying the Dynastic Centerpiece Model to MM.

Using it to help but worthy and under-appreciated characters like JJ get back on the board has always been one of my hopes... .

Diabolu Frank said...

Adama, I've never read Campbell, but so many other people have and applied it to their work, it might have sunk in by osmosis. That, and I'm spitballing from the theory Scipio laid down at the Absorbascon, so maybe he has.

Scipio, now that you've read the MM Showcase and taken in my version on J'Onn's D.C., I wonder if you might reconsider your own. That said, I liked the general direction you took with yours. I believe J'Onn J'Onzz is the perfect character to explore all the nooks and crannies of the DCU... mingle with the forgotten heroes and indulge the discarded concepts...