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....

No comments: