Monday, March 31, 2008

Hembeck Strip Day Six

Back in early December, I began running a portion of Fred Hembeck's comic strip "Between The Panels," which was later expanded into 1980's "Abbott & Costello Meet The Bride of Hembeck (#3)" from Fantaco. I've had other business I wanted to present since then, but as circumstances prevented me from updating over a recent three day weekend, now seems like a perfect time to backdate a continuation of the strip. It would take me a full week to wrap the Martian Manhunter-related portion, so here's my promise of more to come sometime in the (hopefully distant) future.

For those coming in late, here are links to the original posts:

Hembeck #3 Cover & Backstory

Day/Strip One

Day/Strip Two

Day/Strip Three

And if you enjoy these, feel free to visit Fred Hembeck's Personal Website. The full strip and a great many more are available in print form within THE NEARLY COMPLETE ESSENTIAL HEMBECK ARCHIVES OMNIBUS TP, now available from Image Comics. Don't blame anyone else for the shabby coloring though, as that's all me.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Hembeck Strip Day Five

Back in early December, I began running a portion of Fred Hembeck's comic strip "Between The Panels," which was later expanded into 1980's "Abbott & Costello Meet The Bride of Hembeck (#3)" from Fantaco. I've had other business I wanted to present since then, but as circumstances prevented me from updating over a recent three day weekend, now seems like a perfect time to backdate a continuation of the strip. It would take me a full week to wrap the Martian Manhunter-related portion, so here's my promise of more to come sometime in the (hopefully distant) future. Don't blame anyone else for the shabby coloring though, as that's all me.

For those coming in late, here are links to the original posts:

Hembeck #3 Cover & Backstory

Day/Strip One

Day/Strip Two

Day/Strip Three

And if you enjoy these, feel free to visit Fred Hembeck's Personal Website. The full strip and a great many more are available in print form within THE NEARLY COMPLETE ESSENTIAL HEMBECK ARCHIVES OMNIBUS TP, now available from Image Comics.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Hembeck Strip Day 4

Back in early December, I began running a portion of Fred Hembeck's comic strip "Between The Panels," which was later expanded into 1980's "Abbott & Costello Meet The Bride of Hembeck (#3)" from Fantaco. I've had other business I wanted to present since then, but as circumstances prevented me from updating over a recent three day weekend, now seems like a perfect time to backdate a continuation of the strip. It would take me a full week to wrap the Martian Manhunter-related portion, so here's my promise of more to come sometime in the (hopefully distant) future.

For those coming in late, here are links to the original posts:

Hembeck #3 Cover & Backstory

Day/Strip One

Day/Strip Two

Day/Strip Three

And if you enjoy these, feel free to visit Fred Hembeck's Personal Website. The full strip and a great many more are available in print form within THE NEARLY COMPLETE ESSENTIAL HEMBECK ARCHIVES OMNIBUS TP, now available from Image Comics. Don't blame anyone else for the shabby coloring though, as that's all me.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Detective Comics #231 (May, 1956)

“A thief who walks through bank vaults... Stares down bullets.... Becomes invisible and runs on water! People must be suffering mass hysteria, sir!”

“It does sound incredible! What human being could possibly possess such powers? ...Powers that I brought with me from Mars... Of course, it’s impossible for this human thief to have such powers! But there must be some explanation... I’ve got it... The criminal must be a Earthling magician—A master in the art of deception! That would explain his incredible actions...”

By this point, “The Sleuth From Outer Space” had begun to stick as J’onn J’onzz’s unofficial tagline. With this logic, clearly the emphasis lie in the “outer space” portion, as it takes a real space cadet to bypass the obvious conclusion here. Don’t you hate comics where you’re so very much more smarter than stupid protagonist?

“Sir! An armored car’s been stolen in the downtown area. They say the thief is carrying it off!”

“It sounds like our magician-thief, Sergeant!” After awkwardly clearing the room, the Detective from Outer Space revealed another new Martian ability. “Through deep concentration, I can will my body to any part of the world! I want to be downtown... downtown... downtown! Things will be great when you’re downtown! Don’t wait a minute more! Downtown! Everything’s waiting for you...”

A woman shrieked as Detective John Jones appeared from nowhere. J’Onzz spied the super-thief with his incredible Martian eyesight, but missed the presumed wire holding up the massive, military grade armored car visibly touted through the streets by the crook. Now folks, at this point the only way Jack Miller could explain why Jones hasn’t figured out this was a disguised Martian was to ladle on a third new power for the species, perhaps hoping to confuse with sheer quantity what the tale lacked in the quality of horse sense. Jones heated the metal vehicle with “Atom Vision.” The thief then appeared to vanish, a power just established as Martian, though in this case a ruse. The hood from another world was actually invisible, and as “no two people sound exactly the same as they run,” Jones applied super hearing to track his quarry to a hotel room. In a puff of smoke, the criminal again vanished.

Just then, a conversation outside the door mentioned the word “fired,” which startled Jones. “We Martians are so fearful of fire that the very word shocks us!” Well, the super-crook had shrunk to about three inches, so I suppose that affected his hearing, as he squealed, “Fire... must get out of here!” This finally, finally, for the love of God finally hipped Jones to the true nature of the “magician-thief.” Shrinking himself, Jones tackled his prey, who exclaimed, “Huh? Only another Martian could have done that!” Why, let’s give the Magician-Thief a cookie, as he deduced in one panel what our hero was too dense to determine over five pages, about three after the dimmest reader. “Right... and I’ll wager you’re an escaped criminal from our planet! But... how did you get here?”

This being the last story page, it’s a blessing the five-finger Martian explained, “The ‘Guard Belt’, designed to keep me floating in space for my term, was defective—and for some strange reason, it whisked me to Earth! ...I’m an outlaw on Mars... I can’t go back!” Misty water-colored memories fill Amazing Martian’s mind “Mars... My home... Seeing my family again... The purple fields and orange plains... It would be wonderful! But if I go, this criminal will remain here and be allowed to rob and plunder Earth with his super-powers! It is my duty to remain here on Earth! Now to repair the belt with my Super-Vision...”

Okay, look, that last bit should constitute a fourth new power, but I can’t handle this story anymore. What the heck kind of power is super mechanic vision? I’m going to say John combined X-Ray vision with “Atom” heat vision, and maybe a little Martian Mind-Over-Matter as well. Thankfully, he’s a better scientist than he is a detective. I mean seriously, this is the only being with actual super powers the Manhunter had faced to date, and those powers, even the many new ones, were all possessed by Martians. Instead of spending the entire story in a state of denial, or sheer stupidity, wouldn’t we like to see some Mars-on-Mars fisticuffs? But no, the sissy thief rolled over with one tackle, and the guy wasn’t even named in the story. Throw me a bone here! “Outlaw of Mars?” “L’Aim L’Zer?” Why was the dude stealing all that stuff, anyway? Was he trying to buy a moniker? Should I title his eventual “Who’s Who” mock-up “Magician-Thief,” appropriate as it mocks the Martian Manhunter? Nuts, there’s still two panels left to synopsize...

“NO! Don’t will the buttons to be pushed! I’ll travel back automatically... You fool! Now I’ll spend my life in space-prison!”
“You should have thought of that before you took up a life of crime, countryman!”

The Martian Countryman? Might go well with that John Denveresque ode Jones waxed nostalgic on earlier. Long after the evil Martian drifted off into space without any equipment outside his belt (power #5?) and Jones recovered his stolen goods, our dumb hero considered, “By now, the Martian criminal is back at space prison, serving out his time! Justice has been done... I made the right decision!”

"The Thief Who Had Super Powers!" was poorly written by Jack Miller and nicely drawn by Joe Certa.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

House of Mystery #165 (3/67)

"Marco Xavier" learned "my old enemy, Prof. Hugo" had busted prison and stolen a vial of pure radium, all from the local newspaper. "Since Manhunter is known to be in this part of the world, I expect Hugo will show up here! Fighting that kookie villain again may be a pleasant diversion from battling Faceless and his VULTURE syndicate!" Days later, foreign hirelings used a Stall-Ray on the engines of airborne jets transporting large shipments of diamonds near Belois Woods. While Manhunter tackled them, Hugo blasted the Alien Atlas from behind with, "A penetrating secret radium spray, Manhunter--powerful enough to kill an ordinary man ultimately! It may not harm you, my Martian foe--but it has made you radioactive enough to infect anyone who ventures too close to you! I'm sure you wouldn't want to do that, Manhunter-- Even to me and my men! Ha! Ha! I've put the Martian Manhunter out of circulation for good!" See what a taunting little cretin Hugo, "the wily professor" is? Don't you just love it?

Blessedly, J'onzz wasn't radioactive in his Marco Xavier form, and he used that advantage to pick up chicks! And I mean he verbally called them chicks to their faces, as he bragged about his millionaire friends and personal fortune. Them sixties sure were the swingingest of times, right daddy? "Oh Marco... Sometimes, you act as if money was more important to you than love!" Of course, Xavier was really just using those beards while trying to lure Hugo's beach combing lackeys into arranging a meet. "Ha, ha! My men have chosen wisely, Mr. Xavier! Your reputation as a gentleman who can be trusted in performing--shall we say-- extra-legal chores, is well known in underworld circles!" Hugo wanted Xavier to smuggle a barometer onto Marco's buddy Spiros Lasser's yacht. Hugo wouldn't give details, but explained that he'd cut Xavier fifty grand out of his upcoming $250,000 payday.

The deed done, Lasser's barometer soon exploded in his face, splattering him with radioactive fluid. Hugo then extorted cash from Lasser in exchange for hasty treatment. Lasser arrived at Coleur Bend dressed in a lead-lined suit (to protect the money.) "Since you have kept your end of the bargain, I shall now keep mine! With the great Professor Hugo, a promise is a promise! Besides, a dead man would be bad advertisement for future customers!"

Once cured, "Lasser" was replaced by an angry Manhunter. He grabbed the barrel of the radioactive spray gun, spinning the thug wielding it over his head. "Round and round and round you go-- Where you get off, nobody knows-- Except me!" Hugo squealed at a second henchman, "Stop gaping, you prize idiot! Use the other weapon." Manhunter then tossed the first goon into the second, a brutal habit of his. Twisting the twin radioactive spray guns into one pretzel, he confided, "Funny thing! As a young Martian boy ranger, I could never get the hang of tying a square knot! And look how well I do it now!"

"I'm glad you think it's funny! Tell me Manhunter--for old time's sake-- what did I do wrong?"

When Manhunter explained his deception, "YEEOW! The irony of it all! I--I cured the Manhunter so he could conquer me! Oh, what will the criminal world think of me when they learn this?"
"I won't tell anyone, Professor Hugo--if you don't!"
"Thank you--but my gratitude won't stop me from trying to escape again! And one of these days, Manhunter-- I'll get you!"
"Odd--Exactly what I keep promising myself--about Mr. Vulture!"

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Atlas of the DC Universe (1990)

Paul Kupperberg wrote this directory of DC Comics locales in the past, present, and future as a supplement to the Mayfair Games roleplaying line. After discussing the various work spaces of J'Onn J'Onzz yesterday, I thought this spotlight on good ol' Middleton, Colorado would be an appropriate follow-up. It was retroactively made the Martian Manhunter's point of arrival and earliest terrestrial base of operations...

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Mancave? Cavehunter from Mars?

I haven't been a good blog buddy, so I wasn't aware Scipio at The Absorbascon had linked here, had not been linked to from here, and had a current poll involving the Martian Manhunter going. I corrected all three concerns, but was hung up on the poll. Scipio seems to like generating maps for that Heroclix toy/game thing I've steered well clear of. I'd expect the game to skew Superman/Batman, as those things always do, and Scipio was looking to expand the field of play with additional locations. The current top vote getter, as best as I can recall, was "wherever the heck Martian Manhunter lives." Let's see how many locations I can name off the top of my head for other Dynastic Centerpieces...

  • Superman: Fortess of Solitude, Metropolis, Daily Planet, Krypton
  • Batman: Batcave, Gotham City Police Department
  • Wonder Woman: Themyscira/Paradise Island, Gateway City, Boston
  • Flash: Keystone City, Central City, Flash Museum
  • Green Lantern: Coast City, Ferris Aircraft, Oa.
  • Aquaman: Poseidonis, Cerdia, Aquacave
  • Green Arrow & Black Canary: Star City, Seattle, Arrowcave
  • Hawkman & Hawkgirl/woman: Midway City, Chicago, St. Roch

All pretty easy and off the top of my head. I'm sure you all could do more. This brings us to the Martian Manhunter. Now, I'm trying with this blog to make this and other somewhat obscure questions available for answer with a few button clicks. Let's see how well I can do for J'Onn J'Onzz:

  • Middleton, CO: I don't believe the city Detective John Jones patrolled in Detective Comics was ever named, but by the 1988 mini-series, it was decided to be a suburb of Denver. Lots of strangeness passed through this burgh, though it was (as noted) fairly non-descript. Personally, I think Middleton is best left consigned to the history books.
  • Wherever The Heck: After John Jones was publically "outed" as a Martian, the Manhunter began travelling the United States with his pet/sidekick Zook in search of the Diabolu Idol Head. There towns were rarely named, and no more noteworthy than Middleton.
  • A Posh Meditteranean Villa: Where Marco Xavier hung his dapper duds, rarely outfitted with anything out of the ordinary.

Okay, even I must admit those are all pretty lame. Let's dig a bit deeper, shall we?

  • Secret Mountain Lair: Now we're talking! This hideaway's location was never revealed, and had no doors; just a "mail slot/doggie door" opening to allow Zook entry. This was information central, whether through its massive computer or the library of archaic lore like the Book of Diabolu. One assumes Zook got the house in the divorce, although my pet theory is that it eventually became the Secret Sanctuary.
  • VULTURE Base: These dotted Europe and North America, and were the sort of sub-Bond villain affairs one might expect Derek Flint or Matt Helm to crash.
  • Silver Age Mars: Your typical 50's comic book alien civilization, careful not to include extra-planetary craft.
  • Mars II: While desolate, still had its share of futuristic buildings and the odd giant robot tank.
  • Modern Age Mars: Mud huts. Meh.
  • Nearly any old Justice League base: The guy lives to work. Most specifically, there's the training island Professor Ivo donated to the Task Force lying fallow.
  • Z'Onn Z'Orr: The ancient White Martian settlement unearthed during the"New World Order" story intended by Grant Morrison to serve as part of the Manhunter's Dynastic Centerpiece trappings. Ruined when John Ostrander lobbed it and Malefic into the sun during the first year of his solo series. Replaced with nothing, a commentary on Ostrander's whole run.

So okay, we're still floundering here, but at least there's some locations to consider. More than you figured, right?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Justice League of America vs. The Avengers (1983)

While only twenty pages of a proposed team-up book between the greatest super-teams of the two longest-lived super-hero universes were drawn, recollections of Gerry Conway's plot (with contributions from Roy Thomas) have circulated within the fan community for decades. This is a Martian Manhunter-specific summation.

The original plot for this intended 1983 one shot special used a battle between Kang and The Lord of Time as a springboard for the crossover. Both had decided to remake history to their liking, and neither cared for the other's take. Each used their respective universe's heroes to stop the other from altering the timestream, sending them to collect an egg-shaped temporal anomaly in different time periods.

The first battle took place during World War I, with Batman, Hawkman and Zatanna representing the DCU. Starfox and the Scarlet Witch manage to beat their counterparts, while Batman made a dash for the egg, after psyching Captain America out with a gas grenade. Batman was then too late to reach the egg, only to face the three Avengers. In Zatanna's defense, she was beaten by the incoming Starfox's "love touch" more than anything the Witch had in store for her.

The Manhunter from Mars showed up with his team on an asteroid, where he trampled his supposed counterpart Avenger. Per the memory of artist George Pérez, "She-Hulk battled the Martian Manhunter (not the best pairing in my mind.) She loses since there can be no fire, J'onn J'onzz's only weakness, to stop her opponent." Fellow JLAer Firestorm dismantled Iron Man. What should have been an easy call, the Barry Allen Flash versus Quicksilver, ended up in Marvel's favor, thanks to a well-placed sucker punch.

Other matches involved... Wonder Woman nailing Hercules; Atom squashing Ant-Man; Vision phasing Red Tornado out; Wasp stinging Black Canary; and Beast bashing Elongating Man. The only draws involved Green Lantern Hal Jordan, Captain Mar-Vell, Superman, and Thor. According to Pérez, Roy Thomas added a match between Aquaman and the WWII-era Sub-Mariner, but those pages were of course never drawn. The story ended with Green Arrow and Hawkeye firing a decisive shot to foil the time warpers' plans.

The book, as discussed here, will never be printed. Former Marvel Comics Editor-In-Chief Jim Shooter had problems with the story. He became furious when he learned that DC's Dick Giordano had already green-lighted artist George Perez to begin drawing pages from the faulty script. After a series of political maneuvers, Marvel decided to cancel the project. No other DC/Marvel collaborations would take place that decade.

For a lengthier discussion on the project, including another George Pérez Manhunter image, check out the review on the ...nurgh... sister site.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

George Pérez Justice League/Avengers Headshot Commission (1996)

Since there are so many Alex Ross art books available, I often use his work here as filler. I'm not being a fawning fan, as I'm of two minds on his work in general. It's just easy, and usually possessed of enough eye appeal, so I run with it. I'm a much bigger fan of George Pérez, and since I picked-up some of his Avengers/JLA work from the library last week, it's fresh on my mind and available. However, this commission, "To Kirk," was swiped off the in-tar-webs. Hope no one objects...

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Art Adams Martian Manhunter Head Sketch (7/06)

Click To Enlarge

This has been an interesting week at the Idol-Head, as the blog itself went from record high daily viewing to a constant sharp decline headed straight into Easter. As I'm killing myself at work and off to visit kin who just switched from dial-up to non-connectivity, I'm having a hard time justifying any heavy lifting here this weekend. So again, I give hearty thanks to the Martian Manhunter Fotolog, from which I borrow another headshot sketch filler bunny. Arthur Adams is one of my favorite Manhunter from Mars artists, and the regular first column image I had here was by him (before I switched to the full body avatars.) This piece is something of an exception, what with those weird Spock ears and all, though the downturned collar helps make up for them.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Justice League of America #249 (4/86)

Martian Manhunter: "...according to the medical lab's sensor... Vixen is dying... Her life in indeed slipping away, like water through the sands of the Martian desert... but we can find no indication of disease. It is as if some external force were draining the very life-energy from her body... leaving behind a dried, mummified shell of the young woman we know..." Found a bit of the creature "Junior's" dried skin, which he studied with an ever-clouding mind while ordering Vibe and Steel after the beast. Leaned on League computer to compensate for his failings. Learned from it that "Junior" was a semi-sentient plant that developed from a microscopic spore that clung to Superman's cape on an extra-terrestrial mission. Told spore lives of life energy rather than sunlight."Gods of Mars." Collapsed into a coma before he was able to activate J.L.A. emergency distress signal.

Vixen: Too sick to mind that "dried, mummified shell" line.

Elongated Man: Helped J'Onn J'Onzz run tests on Vixen. Got woozy. Got old.

Zatanna: Took "ashes" to Mama LaRue in Greenwich Village, who dispelled the notion it was from missing roommate Sheri Stanley. Proved to instead be graveyard dust, in use by a nefarious new magical mover and shaker about town. Zee followed up on a note left by Sheri to investigate the marina. Never acknowledged a painfully extraneous pair of numbskulls trying to pick her up as she walked down the street.

Gypsy: Argued with teammates over "Junior's" innocence, then ran off with it after the creature again attacked Vibe and Steel. Second Leaguer to age rapidly.

Vibe: Used his superior reason to convince Gypsy to reconsider the potential threat of "Junior." Yes, I just wrote a sentence combining "Vibe" and "superior reason." I can't believe it, either. Accidentally caused a small cave-in which using his powers against Junior, mostly to make me feel better about that "superior reason" business.

Steel: After both he and Vibe falter before Junior, deduces the creature has an effect on the quality of reason in person within its proximity. That helps explain Vibe's "superior wisdom," but created the whole new problem of Steel's displaying keen deductive reasoning. Everything I know is a terrible lie!

Interlude: On the planet Kalanor, servants tended to a blazing pit. "Behold the Flame of Py'tar. Those who are not destroyed by its purifying embrace achieve wisdom and power beyond imagination. Will you risk the flame, master?" A nude silhouette with a scalloped head answered, "For what I seek, I would risk eternity." This being then allowed the blaze to immolate him. "The pain is indescribable: It goes beyond agony to the far reaches of madness. He welcomes the pain, he embraces the madness. Soon he will have power enough to take vengeance on the Justice League. His wild laughter ends in a scream."

Sue Dibney: Ate pizza with Ralph last night. Returned home to the Secret Sanctuary with a new costume for her husband, this one her favored color of purple. Almost ran over Junior and Gypsy. Discovered Gypsy's serious ailment, then joined Steel and Vibe for a return trip to headquarters. Realized "Junior" was truly evil, enjoying his food at the expense of our heroes, who are all near death by issue's end. Finding J'Onn J'Onzz while on the run from an unknown being that emerged from the chrysalis of Junior, Sue activated the alarm before falling herself.

The Creators: Luke McDonnell and Bill Wray seriously brought their A-game in showing the Leaguers' terrible decline into infirmity. Gerry Conway follows suit, elevating the dread at the overwhelming horror the heroes face. Even colorist Gene D'Angelo was noteworthy for keeping up the mood and subtlety. Outstanding team effort.

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: “Big Green”-Vibe.

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: "Madre dios! A cave-in!"

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Showcase '96 #9 (October, 1996)

Thomas Lappas befriended poor lonely John Jones during his days on the Denver police force. Jones socialized with the Lappas family on many occasions, and even when Jones moved to New York, he still received greeting cards from them on holidays. "Opened presents and sang songs I didn't understand... Once he even got me to go skiing... Martians don't celebrate the same holidays, though." That's all well and good, but some Grinch went on a murder spree, collecting the eyeballs of cops, Lappas' included. J'Onn J'Onzz found the body of Lappas and his partner, having arrived on his old stomping ground after receiving a letter from his departed friend concerning the serial killer. Fairly ticked, Jones temporarily rejoined the force as a beat cop, beginning a one-man crusade against Denver crime. "I don't take a telepathic intrusion into someone's mind lightly," but Manhunter still took a sort of debriefing on the case from the sleeping mind of what I'll assume was the exhausted investigating officer, Sgt. Phillips. Instead of trading on that whole Super-Sleuth from Outer Space thing, J'Onzz maintained a mental link with Phillips while playing super cop about town for an indefinite period of time.

"The nights pass quickly, and still no sign of the killer. I need to rest." On his laurels, no doubt, as poor Sgt. Phillips got his peepers gouged out while the Martian Manhunter was getting his jollies playing piggy. The killer used the pre-recorded voice of a crime "victim" to lure cops into a trap, then hit them with a blinding light and beat them to death. Phillips survived, while J'Onzz gave chase, finding only his discarded eyeball. The Martian incredulously pulled a "latent image" of the killer from the disembodied orb. The no-good-nic wielded some bizarro sci-fi eyegougermabob, and dressed like Denver P.D.

Using the police computer, the Manhunter from Mars identified the perpetrator, a 200-year local legacy cop brought up on unspecified charges that cost his badge. "Only two more 'fellow' officers to go, and all the traitorous witnesses will have paid their just due for destroying the glorious blue line of the Duffy family..." He was also considering extending his rampage to jurors. Obviously a nutter, Duffy kept his confiscated ocular meat in a fish tank, within which Barreto made sure to draw all seventeen peepers in custody. Furious, J'Onn J'Onzz dunked the ex-cop in his own tank, then swore to make sure Duffy would spend his life in prison.

"Eye To Eye" was by Peter J. Tomasi and Eduardo Barreto. One year previous, they had teamed for a bittersweet Manhunter tale about a Titanic survivor reuniting with a lost love, in which the artist experimented with flashy "Image" techniques ill-suited to his style. In their second pairing on the character, Tomasi seemed set to restore the terrific inanity of Martian Manhunter appearances of yore melded with thoroughly modern sadism and ultra-violence. Barreto's classicist style worked similarly wretched necromancy, mingling with a weak riff off Frank Miller's "Sin City" work. Together, they made peanut butter and sardines. The story shows no evidence of research or logic. Why would a uniformed officer be assigned to investigate a dedicated case like a plainclothes detective? Why wouldn't he make the connection between the eight victims and Duffy, surely an infamous local black sheep? Why was Phillips left to his own devices while Jones played games? Speaking of devices, where did Duffy's come from, and how could he wield it with "surgical precision?" So much stupid in so little space.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

JLA: Liberty and Justice (2002)

In the prior "Secret Origins" tabloid, the Martian Manhunter was shown putting out a forest fire with part of a glacier. Here, J'Onn J'Onzz rescued a jet with a blown engine. "In a strange twist of fate, a refugee from a dead world became a protector of this one." J'Onzz would also narrate, when applicable, the only dialogue-driven installment of Paul Dini and Alex Ross' series of specials concerning DC heroes combating "real world" problems.

Upon setting the plane down safely, J'Onzz was greeted by Wonder Woman, with news of a spreading plague. J'Onzz telepathically contacted a classic League of Superman, Barry Allen Flash, Hal Jordan Green Lantern, Aquaman, and the Batman. All but Superman and Aquaman were able to convene at the Pentagon for a briefing. Batman expressed telepathic concern to J'Onn that the government may be hiding something, but Manhunter replied he sensed only their panic at a threat beyond their ability to contain.

The Manhunter from Mars flew to Africa to investigate the genesis of the plague. "Coming from the ruins of Mars, I looked upon Earth as a paradise, a treasure to be shared, not a prize to be conquered. It saddens me to think that many born here can see it no other way. I often wish it were within my power to touch every human mind at once and let them see their beautiful world through my eyes." Arriving, he was met by the Flash, who was wearing a containment suit. It seemed all the victims of the plague were still alive and conscious, but unable to speak or activate any motor function. Green Lantern soon joined the pair. "My ring beam is shielding me, and I can see Barry brought protection. How are you holding up, J'Onn?" J'Onzz replied, "My shape-shifting ability allows me to keep my molecules in flux. There's nothing tangible for the contaminants to infect." GL traced the plague's source to a meteorite, which Lantern sealed in an energy bubble and sent back to the states with Flash.

After his fellows departed, Manhunter remained to assume the form of an African male and give comfort to the stricken. However, jet fighters from a nearby nation soon arrived in a bid to "cleanse" the area by fire. J'Onzz flew up to snatch incendiary missiles out of the air and disable the jets, but not before a village was set ablaze. "I break through the dwelling to face a double assault. The fire swiftly drains my strength as cries for help rip through my brain. I've always found it ironic that humans cite the creation of fire as the seminal moment of their species' advancement. On Mars, fire was a chaotic element that weakened my people... In the end, I am just as helpless as the souls I tried to save. And then, salvation is there for me." Superman was sorry for running late. The Man of Steel handled the situation swiftly, then shared with Manhunter the unease felt by the world in the face of both the alien virus and other "visitors" such as themselves.

After a series of complications, Ray Palmer, better known as the Atom, found the cause of the debilitation and aided Batman with formulating a cure for the virus. Ultimately, it only affected the human mind, feeding off energy specific to our brain. Despite this breakthrough, the League not only had to distribute the cure, but settle civil unrest brought on by the plague. The combination of the League's miracle cure and the need to handle rioters less than delicately cast a pall over the team's reputation.

The group felt compelled to address these concerns before the United Nations. Initially, Superman appeared to be the speaker before this collective, until Martian Manhunter shook off the disguise to confront the world's xenophobia directly with honest words. "We cherish your trust, and hope you will always find us worthy of it. That trust will allow us to preserve liberty for all people, and bring justice to those who would deny it. My partners symbolize the salvation my planet never received. Please accept us as part of your world, not apart from you." Superman and Martian Manhunter then flew the contaminated meteorite into space, destroying the last shred of the super-plague.

By Paul Dini and Alex Ross.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Manhunter from Mars #200 (March 1981)

Sitting inside one of Mongul's Cube-Traps, J'Onn J'Onzz considered how he had come to this point. Entrusted by the last of the Largas with the Crystal Key which allowed access to the Warworld created by the extinct Warzoon, the Martian Marvel secured his charge in a crypt one planet removed from Mars II. The massive starcraft of Mongul set off his alarm system, leading the Sleuth from Outer Space to set up a sting alongside Adam Strange and Hawkgirl. J'Onn briefly piloted Warworld to fend off Mongul and a Thanagarian attack force led by Yuddha Bechane. Having hidden Warworld as best as possible, J'Onzz returned to the crypt, where he began setting up precautions against further theft attempts.

J'Onn J'Onzz was interrupted by a request for immediate audience with Z'vi Z'har, the Martian spiritual leader who succeeded J'Onzz as bearer of the Scepter of State. Z'har was proclaimed by many to be the Martian Messiah, fated to lead his people in final victory against all adversity within his lifetime. Z'vi Z'har saw Warworld as the destined means for him to fulfill this role, and was aghast when J'Onzz refused to turn the Crystal Key over to his "divine" hand. The Manhunter from Mars yet had influence enough to walk out of the audience without immediate repercussions, but knew forces from his own planet would soon align to oppose him.

Having already had several of his allies used against him, the Manhunter determined to put together his best defense of the crypt against powers rivaling the Justice League of America. Far from paranoid, the Alien Atlas was soon firing Kryptonite missiles at Superman, after the Man of Steel was driven to attack by extortion. Thanks to the reckless, arrogant Kryptonian, Mongul succeeded in acquiring the Crystal Key and escaping.

As the Manhunter prepared to pursue Mongul, he was remotely contacted by his lady-love J'en, who moaned that Z'vi Z'har was gathering everyone close to J'Onn by force for interrogation. Just then, J'en's door was beaten down, and her communication relay smashed. Though shaken by psychic feedback from piloting Warworld and his beating at the hands of Superman, J'Onn J'Onzz raced to rescue J'en. The Manhunter had no sooner crossed her threshold than he was ambushed by Mongul. While this fallow fiend already held the Crystal Key, the despot still needed J'Onzz to locate Warworld. Shrunk and trapped in an energy cube, J'Onzz cursed his hypocrisy at lecturing Superman while sacrificing the universe's well-being for his own selfish interests. The Martian's diminutive size compromised all of his powers, and with Mongul's limited psychic abilities, it was a simple matter to rip the information from J'Onn's mind. Mongul would be taking his cubed Martian along as insurance, with J'Onzz's last sight of Mars II a battered J'en lying lifeless on her floor.

Having previously perfected his use of the Rannian Zeta-Beamer, Mongul and his captive teleported to the menace's ship, where the flaxen foe assured his cube's energy inversion technology would prevent any unwanted shedding of zee-rads in J'Onn. The Manhunter was then left alone to sit in his prison indefinitely. J'Onzz's mind wandered, as he recalled an overview of his publishing career; from his earliest appearances in Detective Comics, through to Justice League of America and House of Mystery, settling on his long-running solo title.

The Martian slept, and in his dreams saw visions of Mongul's time as ruler of his homeworld, until the theological coup of the ancient mystic Arkymandryte overthrew him in haste. Mongul fled with his imperial space vessel and a small crew, until he realized a staff of his traitorous people could not be trusted, and slew them all. His ship's computers filled to the brim with confidential intelligence, Mongul chose to begin following leads toward the power he would need to inevitably confront the Arkymandryte. Mongul looked first to the inversion cube technology of his own people, which could contain nearly anything, but was too unstable to wield over an area much larger than a square foot. Mongul pillaged a Coluan science vessel, and purloined a small shrink ray that acted with a fraction of the effectiveness Brainiac employed against cities like Kandor, but enough to create his cube-trap. Mongul progressed to the Rannian Zeta-Beamer, with the added wrinkle of a method to expel its radiation from his body at will. As J'Onzz "saw" Mongul's defeat and Warworld's destruction, as well as the zee-radiation's wearing off and returning the unconscious Mongul to his vessel, J'Onzz realized he was peering into the currently unprotected mind of his captor.

J'Onzz awoke, his line of thought recalling the Largas, and why they had taken an interest in his people as protectors of the crystal key in the first place. Again, the Sleuth from Outer Space's mind flashed back to his first cases as a detective on Earth-- a time when he had powers unseen in years, like the telepathy he had just subconsciously employed! With the long forgotten power of Martian Mind-Over-Matter, even at his puny size with faded powers, Manhunter could concentrate enough to telekinetically deactivate his cube-trap. Freed from imprisonment, the Alien Atlas wondered how his entire race could "forget" the full extent of their abilities. However, he set aside that mystery for now, as he was aboard Mongul's craft, and had hunting to do...

Len Wein continued to steward a new direction for Manhunter from Mars, this time with the aid of co-writers Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway (who would later collaborate on the screenplay to Fire and Ice.) The art would be contributed as a jam session by the likes of cover artist Jim Starlin, current interim penciler Steve Ditko, and greats like Gil Kane, Carmine Infantino, Jim Aparo, Don Heck, George Tuska, Jack Kirby, Michael Nasser, Trevor von Eeden and a previously unpublished pin-up by co-creator Joe Certa. All this, and still room for the return of the great Ragman back-ups by Michael Fleisher and Dan Spiegel!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Alex Ross "World's Greatest Super-Heroes" & "Liberty & Justice" Cover Concept Sketch (2001)

"Preliminary pencils for cover of proposed omnibus collection of previous four tabloid books, completing a spread design put next to the cover of the proposed JLA book."


Also, there's a review of the complete book at my sister blog, ...nurgh...

Finally, my readership seems to have double in the last few days. Is "New Frontier" generating renewed interest in J'Onn J'Onzz, or what?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Detective Comics #230 (4/56)

The issue opened with a multi-panel review of the Martian Manhunter's origin, mission statement, and super powers. "So... Earthlings have evil beings in their world, too! Then I shall devote my time here fighting these forces, until I learn the secret of returning to my planet!" Why, that is a clear motivation, but this is a Jack Miller script. Surely there is some bit of ridiculous nonsense around here somewhere. Transforming to human--check. X-Ray Vision-- check. Martian Hearing-- check. Bullets pass through his translucent form-- heeey, I think I found the Miller Script Gremlin!

trans·lu·cent /trænsˈlusənt, trænz-/ –adjective
1. permitting light to pass through but diffusing it so that persons, objects, etc., on the opposite side are not clearly visible: Frosted window glass is translucent but not transparent.
2. easily understandable; lucid: a translucent explication.
3. clear; transparent: translucent seawater.

I think perhaps Jack meant "intangible," as when Jones passed through a solid wall like a ghost. But hey, that's probably pedantic of me. It's just that super-powers will be of importance this time out. You see, even with those amazing Martian abilities, John Jones cannot stomp the crime spree of the Farrow Gang! Worse, the chief's only got twenty-four hours to nab the crooks, or the District Attorney is going to ask for his badge! John Jones will do everything "humanly possible" to save his boss' job. "You're my best detective, John, and I know if there's a lead to be had, you'll come up with it!"

During his tense investigation, Jones' super-hearing detected Farrow Gang member Barney Bennet's voice while questioning a pawn broker. Unfortunately, Jones' ability to pass through solid matter inexplicably failed him, as he bounced gracelessly against a wall. On confronting Bennet outside, Jones took a bullet nick on the shoulder when his "translecent" form faltered. Super-Vision was unavailable to read Bennet's license plate number as he sped from the scene.

"Of course... it is the year of the Blazer Comet, which travels between Earth and Mars, once every century, for a full 24 hours! It's blocking off the rays that emanate from Mars... the rays responsible for my super-powers!" If what you're saying is true, how come the super-hearing still worked, Jones was trapped in his unnatural human form, and all those 70's adventures on Mars II allowed for super-Martians? Doesn't J'onn J'onzz actually lose power when on Mars? No-- look I'm stopping this right now. That way leads to madness. In years to come, Miller will write inanities far, far worse than this. We're going to just accept this story contrivance and move on.

Using only his detective mind, John Jones learned that Bennet was stocking up on non-perishables, and that his car's tires trailed red sand, which could only have come from Rainbow Beach! The trail led to a derelict freighter, where the Farrow Gang got the drop on Jones. "What a fix! I've depended so much on my super-powers, I'm not even armed!"

Det. Jones was bound by rope to a pole inside the vessel, while the Farrow Gang escaped. Jones managed to reach a car battery, and carefully poured acid from it onto his bonds. He then called for back-up, and caught up with the crooks. The men were back at the precinct with five minutes to spare before the D.A. was to accept the chief's resignation. "Amazing, Jones! You know, the way you operate, I sometimes think you must have super-powers!" With a wink to the audience, the reply came. "Believe me, chief-- this is one case I wish I did have a super-power or two to see me through!"

"The Sleuth Without A Clue" 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.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

May '08 Martian Sightings

Sorry these are so late, but I had to have a replacement copy of my Previews catalog shipped to me...

With the release of the new DVD, together with the action figures, the TPB and Absolute editions, it seems only natural that shirts get added to the mediums conquered by Darwyn Cooke`s New Frontier. Featured this month are the new JLA: New Frontier and Flash: New Frontier T-Shirts. Both are based on art by Darwin and are screenprinted in full-color on a black and a deep red heavyweight 100% cotton shirts respectively. Also available are the Classic Superman Symbol and New Frontier: Flash Symbol T-Shirts. Darwyn is on fire! NOW AVAILABLE for sale in Canada and UK. M-XL $17.95 XXL $20.95

Written by Geoff Johns & Jeff Katz
Art and cover by Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund
"Blue and Gold" continues as the Justice League International returns! In a desperate attempt to correct time, Booster Gold and Blue Beetle are forced to rebuild the team that defined them so long ago! But can what's left of the JLI stop Max Lord and save the world from his O.M.A.C.s?
On sale May 14 o 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Written by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and John Ostrander
Art by Kevin Maguire, Bill Willingham, Luke McDonnell, Al Gordon, Bob Lewis and others
Cover by Maguire
The second hardcover volume collecting the classic JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL comics of the late 1980s, co-written by 52 mastermind Keith Giffen! Included here are JUSTICE LEAGUE ANNUAL #1, JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL #8-13, SUICIDE SQUAD #13, featuring Batman, Blue Beetle, Martian Manhunter, Guy Gardner, Black Canary, Mister Miracle, Dr. Fate, Booster Gold, Doctor Light, and the power of Shazam!
Rediscover the book that redefined the term "super-hero team" for a generation.
Advance-solicited; on sale August 6 o 208 pg, FC, $24.99 US

Written by Roger Stern, Mark Waid, Michael Jan Friedman and Peter J. Tomasi
Art by Oscar Jimenez, José Marzán Jr, Kerry Gammill, Dennis Janke and others
Cover by Ryan Sook
Witness Mongul's greatest moments in this 80-page Special collecting stories from THE FLASH #102, SUPERMAN #32 and SHOWCASE '95 #7-8!
On sale May 21 o 80 pg, FC, $4.99 US

Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Art by Patrick Gleason & Prentis Rollins
As their quest to track down Sinestro Corps rings continues, the Green Lantern Corps discover to their horror that fellow Lanterns Sodam and Arisia have been captured by Mongul and subjected to the dreaded Black Mercy, causing their deadliest fears to be dragged into the light.
On sale May 14 o 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Written by Dwayne McDuffie
Art and cover by Carlos Pacheco & Jesus Merine
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? As Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman assess the future of the Justice League, their days
may be numbered.
On sale May 21 o 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Written by Sean McKeever
Art by Eddy Barrows & Ruy Jose
Cover by Barrows & Julio Ferreira
It's Teen Titan versus Teen Titan when Clock King's plan reaches its final, twisted stage. With teammates missing or presumed dead, can Robin and Wonder Girl put the pieces together before Clock King's Terror Titans finish them off?
On sale May 28 o 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Written by Baltazar & Franco
Art and cover by Baltazar
Find out what happens when Robin's life goes to the birds! Meet the Little Tiny Titans as they show Wonder Girl just how tough babysitting can be! See why being Beast Boy's dentist isn't all it's cracked up to be! All this and more Tiny fun than you can shake a stick at!
On sale May 14 o 32 pg, FC, $2.25 US

Written by Grant Morrison & Geoff Johns
Art by George Pérez, Tony Daniel,
J.G. Jones, Aaron Lopresti, Ivan Reis, Philip Tan and Carlos Pacheco
Cover by various
This is it! The greatest DC characters! Your favorite writers and artists! Everything leading to Final Crisis and beyond starts here for just 50¢! Take a journey through the past and present of the DCU, and witness the emergence of the greatest evil in the universe - and the stunning return of a force for good! You dare not miss DC Universe: Zero!
Retro-solicited; on sale April 30 o 32 pg, FC, $0.50 US

Written by Grant Morrison
Art and covers by J.G. Jones
Witness the historic start of the final chapter in the Crisis trilogy that could only spring from the mind of Grant Morrison - Final Crisis, featuring stunning art by J.G. Jones (52 Covers)! Worlds will live and heroes will die in this epic tale spanning the beginning and end of the DC Universe!
The entire Multiverse is threatened as the mysterious Libra assembles an army of the DCU's most terrifying super villains. But what is the ultimate plan, and who will live to find out?
Retailers please note: This issue will ship with two covers by J.G. Jones that will ship in approximately 50/50 ratio. Please see the Previews Order Form for more information.
On sale May 28 o 1 of 7 o 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US

Written by Grant Morrison
Art and cover by J.G. Jones
Take a behind-the-scenes look at the process of creating Final Crisis! Featuring sketches and character designs by J.G. Jones and script notes and designs by Grant Morrison, this special issue will give readers a sneak preview of what to expect in Final Crisis.
On sale May 14 o 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Written by Alex Gradet
Art by Scott Cohn
Cover by Zach Howard
Metropolis is under attack thanks to some serious monkey business! And somehow, the League is powerless to stop the threat. How will Mary Marvel and Booster Gold save the day?
On sale May 7
32 pg, FC, $2.25 US

Friday, March 14, 2008

2005 San Diego Comic-Con International "Natural Martian" Sketch by Darwyn Cooke

Click To Enlarge

Sorry. I'm working way too much. I had my best day for hits ever this week, and recently surpassed the total hits I received for my old site "Martian Manhunter: The Rock of the JLA," which was up for over two years. The thanks you get? Filler from another site and advertisements. I am not worthy.

Things you've missed if you haven't been visiting my sister-blog, ...nurgh...

  1. Cursing. Lots of cursing. It's uncouth.
  2. A review of Dwayne McDuffie's work on Martian Manhunter's former team who now hate and spit upon him, the Justice League of America (featuring Human Flame and members of the Cadre.)
  3. A review of Garth Ennis' earliest work on the Demon Etrigan, an occasional MM foe.
  4. Reviews of both the book and film versions of "Slaughterhouse-Five"
  5. A brief lament about the new Incredible Hulk trailer.
  6. A new feature called Audio Neurotic Fixation, reviewing albums track-by-track. First up: Prince's "Love Symbol"
  7. More crossovers in the future, like that review I have planned for the Ross/Dini DC tabloid editions.
  8. The only place you'll be getting heavy text from me tonight, as I'm tired and out of pre-packed material for the week. Tomorrow night, we'll do 50's day...

Thursday, March 13, 2008

House of Mystery #164 (1/67)

VULTURE --world-wide crime syndicate-- stole a case containing ten million dollars in jewels from a charity bazaar in the wealthy resort town of Deauville, France. Its owner, Aldo Szuzi, took many precautions, going outside of Inspector Marchal's police forces. Szuzi had contacted the Manhunter, repeatedly described as an old friend of his, and the "Alien Ace" quickly recovered the loot the from thieves. As automatic rounds bounced harmlessly off his chest, Manhunter once again chided, "You must be kidding!" Previously borne aloft by a helicopter with a crane attachment, its propeller now wrenched terrifically, the VULTURE hoods were turned over to French authorities. "Next week-- for the ball in your honor, I shall invite the most 'in' people..."

"Marco Xavier" returned to his "posh villa overlooking the gentle Mediterranean," but was contacted on arrival by Mr. V's people. Xavier was also an old friend of Signor Szuzi, so "Faceless" wanted "Marco" to smuggle in a gun to Aldo's party capable of killing the Manhunter. Testing the gun in a secluded area, "Xavier" determined the weapon was indeed as potentially lethal as advertised, as it fired a concentrated burst of flame. Xavier couldn't figure out how Mr. V learned his weakness, but had a way around getting blasted with it all worked out. Xavier was never a gunman, so his only order was to deliver the weapon to the scarred waiter-hitman at the party. By keeping an eye on the waiter, Manhunter figured he could keep his cover and stay alive to benefit from it.

Manhunter "arrived" as the guest of honor at the party after Marco, not noticing the gun to be used against him had changed hands to another triggerman named Darvin. J'onzz barely missed being singed, then masqueraded as Szuzi for cover. Once Darvin passed "Szuzi," Manhunter was able to take the assassin by surprise. "Szuzi" tossed Darvin into the waiter, making the real Szuzi look like a hero as a result. Once Manhunter resumed his heroic form off-panel, he shared a wink with his old pal. "With such a powerhouse around to protect your guests, Szuzi-- you don't need me around any longer!"

Later, "Xavier" spoke with Mr. V... "I do not blame you for the failure, Xavier! It was the fault of those stupid fools! Surely, you must realize my agents gave you the wrong weapon-- Nothing but an ordinary portable flame thrower! They should have given you our new laser-ray--"

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

World's Finest Comics #245 (June-July, 1977)

Continued from Adventure Comics #451: "The Suspects"

The stunning conclusion to the 1970's Martian Manhunter mini-series! Well, Michael Netzer calls it a mini-series. I see three back-up features and a book length. Denny O'Neil continues the story that revitalized the Manhunter from Mars! Well, as an editor, since for some reason he couldn't write this issue's story, not that the same problem didn't stop his cashing a check on the previous installments. 20 more pages of glorious artwork by Mike Nasser and Terry Austin, joined by superstar writer Gerry Conway! Well, on two interconnected spotlight stories for Green Arrow and Black Canary (seemingly pitting them against ManBearPig.) An instant classic too big for one book, so we made it an 80-Page Giant! Well, I'm not sure anyone remembers the actual story so much as Nasser's art, which again isn't seen on the concluding chapter, bounced from Adventure Comics to World's Finest Comics. Also, it only takes up a standard 20 pages, although that is over three times the length of any of the individual back-ups. I'll also note the issue was all new material, instead of the usual Golden Age reprints.

We returned to the action aboard the Thanagarian patrol ship of Hawkman and Hawkgirl...

"You've seen proof of our innocence in the Visiglobe, J'onn J'onzz! Are you convinced now?"
"Yes... Shiera... Hawkman! I've been acting like a madman!"

No doubt, as we were treated to yet another, but this time very necessary, flashback to recent events. As remembered in this edition, J'onn J'onzz was at an indoor ceremony with a host of other Martians, more reminiscent of the Mars seen in the early Silver Age than the near-barbarism characterized by Denny O'Neil stories. Re's Eda, Keeper of the Sacred Martian Symbols, was now a virile, hairless and fully clothed soldier, rather than the balding and mustachioed take from the back-ups. Before R'es Eda could pass along the Sacred Sceptre of State for J'ozz's "inspired leadership," he was again struck by a ray blast from an unknown assassin. "That decent, wise Martian's killer had to be an Earthling!" His mind clouded by grief and rage, J'onzz went AWOL for Earth, prompting military chief N'or Cott to blow him out of the sky over Metropolis. Two poorly motivated fights with Supergirl and the Hawks later, Manhunter had finally come to his senses. This mattered not a wit to N'or Cott, who sent a booby-trapped Superman robot after his former commander.

"Superman" boarded the Hawk's Thanagarian spaceship, though Katar Hol was made suspicious when his craft's sensors detected a "powerful servo-grid" motor nearby. Hawkman hipped the suddenly savvy Manhunter to Cott's ruse with "gibbering" alluding to a Trojan Horse, and after scanning "Superman" with Martian Vision, J'onzz tossed the robot into space, where it exploded. A happy side effect was the temporary disabling of N'or Cott's ship, forcing his landing on Earth. The "unholy fuss" caused by all this brought the attention of the totally legitimate World's Finest duo. Batman deduced there was something rotten on Mars II, and sent J'onn J'onzz and Superman there. "I and the Man of Steel a team? Fantastic!" Yeah, well, Batman later noted, "Old Greenskin is all heart and guts... but he blundered!" Why was N'or Cott so keen to kill, after all? The Dark Knight had Hawkman return him to Earth in pursuit of N'or Cott to investigate, since the Hawks themselves needed to "tend our own garden!"

Having traveled billions of miles through a space warp, the Last Son of Krypton and the Alien Atlas arrived on the tiny surrogate for Mars' former glory. The Martian's city was completely abandoned, with all weapons and military supplies gone as well. The Martian Marvel couldn't fly on Mars II, so Superman had to carry him while following tracks into the desolate "Primitive Zone." The pair found J'onzz's fellows encamped in the desert, preparing to invade the underground city of Baltaz, previously discovered by N'or Cott. More curiously, the Martian forces were being led by a very much living R'es Eda-- the only person N'or Cott had revealed his find to. "I knew conquering it was our colony's one hope of survival! But I knew you, J'onn, would never approve such a conquest... so I devised a grand plan to get rid of you! The Martians would revolt if you were killed... their hero! So before you could accept the Sceptre of State... I had N'or Cott shoot me instead-- Of course, I'd taken a bio-serum to counteract the ray blast's effects..." Manhunter's hotheaded crusade allowed R'es to usurp his position, "And N'or Cott follows so he can eliminate me 'legally'-- as a traitor abandoning my people! Very clever! What a fool I've been--!"

Superman protested, "Wait! Baltaz? I have heard of it... A legendary city of peaceful, highly civilized beings... not corrupt and evil??" Re's replied, "Yes, I had to feed the other Martians that lie so they'd eagerly follow me to conquer the city..." J'onn J'onzz cursed, "You rotten schemer, R'es! You're leading our people into evil! We have no right to invade the city!" Re's snorted, "Would you rather they sweat and starve in our colony... with no future?" J'onzz tried to confront his people outside with the truth, but the combination of their own wants and the incredulity of recent events turned them hostile. The soldiers attacked our heroes with their swords, prompting the Martian Miracle Man to declare, "You forget... I can be bruised-- but not cut-- by Martian steel." As Manhunter had a blade of his own, it can be assumed this was true for all Martians, their steel effective only against other beings. Otherwise, it would mean that Manhunter had powers not inherent in other Martians, and a willingness to turn a potentially lethal weapon against fellows he'd just expressed horror at having to combat at all.

While he was "just not as super" on this planet, the Man of Steel still soundly walloped the Martian troops. They then turn their ray blasters on Manhunter. "ENOUGH, YOU MARTIAN MURDERERS!" Superman cradled J'onn in his arms and flew him to safety. Maybe J'onzz did have powers beyond those of normal Martians, after all?

Back on Earth, it took the Caped Crusader two days to follow N'or Cott's slowing tracks from his desert landing. Despite the Martian's still superior strength, the Darknight Detective managed to take him by force. Cott's green flesh was mottled with large pink spots, and he was visibly ill. "Yes... Earthling... I'm dying... The results of my own greed and lust for power--! When I alone... entered the city of Baltaz... on Mars II... marveling at its wonders..." N'or Cott revealed that after he murdered a citizen of Baltaz to keep his arrival in the city secret, he was told by his victim the "very air shall avenge my death." Martians are severely allergic to it, causing their cells to slowly die. "I realized it... after my Superman robot failed to kill J'onn J'onzz...! Now all the Martians... including J'onn are in mortal danger!" Batman couldn't reach Superman because the space warp stopped all radio transmission, so the pair made their way to an old mine in search of material to repair Cott's ship.

While his friend recovered on Mars II, the Strange Visitor from Another Planet met with Baltaz's Council. The azure-skinned race spent their wealth on their people, rather than weapons, because they were guaranteed protection by the Old One 4,000 years ago in their holy text, the Tablet of Tal. Actually reading it was no longer an option, written as it was in a dead language, though Superman could! As in their previous team-up, Manhunter mostly stood by while Superman used his might to reach the Old One, a Baltazian of advanced years who would activate a gyrometer to destroy his people before they should be conquered. Surprisingly, when the Man of Steel smashed the Old One's crystal palace, he seemed to have inadvertently killed the Old One (referred to by Manhunter in the past tense as he lay unmoving amidst rubble.)

As R'es Eda's force marched toward Baltaz, their path was blocked by the arriving ship of Batman and N'or Cott. "R'es Eda! As its rightful commander, I order the army to halt!" N'or Cott's wretched visage and final words convicted R'es Eda and swayed the Martian army from its path toward certain doom. "Yes... I die, comrades! But hear my last words... R'es Eda is a traitor... He plotted to kill J'onn J'onzz, our true leader!" Restored as leader of his people, J'onn J'onzz declared, "Haven't you heard enough? Seize R'es Eda? I order it!"

Later, back at the Spacefort, J'onn J'onzz congratulated Superman and, "with you and Batman helping, we Martians have learned a powerful lesson! Revenge... violence... aggression... all become the enemies of whoever uses them!"

Writer Bob Haney then concurred, "Amen to that, old greenskin! Goodby to the Martian Manhunter for now..." from this adventure, and from print for most of the next seven years. Haney handled this finale in a far more appealing fashion than Denny O'Neil could have mustered. You can judge from the length of this synopsis how much more plot Haney had to contribute. Haney had been a DC standby throughout the Silver Age, joined here by the artist that defined Superman for a good quarter century, Curt Swan. As inked by Murphy Anderson, this crew kicked it old school in direct contrast to the shorts that preceded it. I've never really warmed to Swan, but Anderson's Lou Fine-influenced inks make the work very palatable. His Hawks were, of course, especially tasty. One or both men had a problem with drawing J'onn J'onzz with gloves like the other Martians, but thankfully Jerry Serpe colored over the errors. All this action was under a cover by Neal Adams, just to turn the screw that much harder on fans expecting Nasser goodness.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Who's Who Vol.V: Commander Steel (7/85)

Just to keep things from getting too heavy with text, and to post something before it's too far removed from relevancy, here's the bio page for right-wing nutjob and former Detroit benefactor/frienemy Commander Steel. Click the pic for full information.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Showcase '95 #9 (10/95)

Two men in a small submersible were being chased by Navy ships near the resting place of the U.S.S. Titanic, when they ran straight into the red cross hairs of a green alien. "Even down here they find something to fight about... Where's Arthur when I need him most?" Forcing the craft back to the surface, the Navy and a businessman with salvage rights wanted to arrest the pair, but J'Onn took off with them to learn the answers to his own questions. At their launch ship, he found a withered old man watching the scene from a monitor bank. "J'Onn J'Onzz. JL Task Force. We have a situation here, sir." Harold Jean Thomas survived the sinking of that infamous ship, but did so without his beloved wife Georgia. This prompted memories of Manhunter's own loss. "Some of us never get a chance to say goodbye. I can still feel them both in my arms."

"I understand your pain all too well." With the man's permission, J'Onn telepathically probed his memories, and watched the last terrifying hours aboard the Titanic unfold. Now, before he dies, Harold wanted to see his love again. Carrying a pressure resistant camera, J'Onn explored the ship, until he found Georgia's body in her room. Too far down to return in time, J'Onn "hears" Harold turn the valve on his oxygen tank, and found his lifeless body upon emerging. Again ignoring the military's demands not to place any new objects within the Titanic, J'Onn took Harold down to rejoin his wife, leaving their hands locked in an eternal embrace as per his final wishes. "Eighty-three years... is a long wait... to be with the one you love."

"Deep Down" was a well-meaning if sometimes morbid script by Peter J. Tomasi. Sadly rushed art with some affected "Image" touches by one of the artists most closely associated with Martian Manhunter in the modern era, Eduardo Barreto.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

DC: The New Frontier #6 (2004)

“What has happened to this country of ours? ...This country was founded on the notion that a person should be free to follow their destiny... I will no longer be party to any form of oppression or persecution... It is my destiny... my goal, to tak part in reclaiming this country. For free men and women everywhere. And I know in your hearts that you all want this too.”
“...certainly... I think we... back your play. By the way, Superman, allow me to introduce America’s newest “landed” immigrant. This is John Jones. He’s from Mars.”
“Er... a pleasure Mr... Jones.”
“Likewise sir. I greatly enjoy your animated adventures at the cinema.”
His handshake is like a balm for my troubled mind. So calm and confident. So proud of these people he’s with. Seeing Superman and King together on this... they’re ready now. He turns to address them again, his voice charged with emotion.
“It’s up to us to stop it, whatever it takes. WHO’S WITH ME?!!”
They answer him as one. And with a smile and a wave, he’s gone. My Martian mind is oddly cross-connected between the two of them. The Centre’s prsence percolates in my conscious mind now, but I can see Superman as well, a bright blue arrow knifing through the murk. Several of the creatures detach and attack him. He gauges their strength and then dispatches them with due speed. A split second before it happens, he knows the attack was simply a distraction. It is like using an atomic bomb to snuff out a candle. My mind explodes into Alizarin Flowers of Pain. Shared pain.. confusion... then nothing... Nothing but darkness.

“I appreciate the help, June. John is very susceptible to telepathic attack, but his link to the Centre could be valuable.”

“Now let me get really crazy. For the last few weeks, I’ve been in contact with an alien whose telepathic abilities are very sensitive. He calls himself John Jones. Some of you met him yesterday. Before he collapsed, he was getting very strong mental waves from the Centre. The reason it’s appeared here is simple. It wants the rich store of exotic fuels we use for the rockets. It wants this fuel to aid its journey into space... Make no mistake. This thing intends to exterminate us. It has decided that mankind poses a threat to its home. So it wants to do a little housecleaning before it goes on holiday... JUDAS PRIEST! What the hell is that?”
“No. Oh, no.”
“This is way too hot. We have to get you somewhere safe.”
“Please, King, you must get me away from its pull! I fear--- I--- IIIIAAARRGH! I can fight it no longer! King! You must kill me! Kill me before—IIIIAAAARRGH! Ants! Warm-blooded vermin.”
“Jesus, John—“
“You should have killed him, King Vermin. I have the alien’s mind now.”
“John! Listen-- Give it to me. Let me take it from you.”
I feel King’s consciousness knife into my mindscape. With a will I wouldn’t have thought possible, he locks onto the Centre’s essence and draws it out of me, like poison from a wound. For the first time in weeks, I am clear. I awaken like a curtain has been drawn away from my mind. The Centre’s hold had been greater than I thought. But so was the cost of my freedom. My last rational thought is to shift into a “kinder” shape to avoid friendly fire. During my time here on Earth, I have done my best to repress my abilities and live as much like the men around me as possible. I feared if mankind knew of my power, they would seek to destroy me. But the time has come for J’Onn J’Onzz to join the fight. As I tear the last monster in half, I utter an oath of rememberance. My friend King Faraday will not have died in vain. Today we will triumph.

-By Darwyn Cooke. “When KING FARADAY gets behind SUPERMAN’s leadership, our American heroes are able to see past their differences and act as a group. For this moment at least, all the lines are redrawn, and everyone’s on the same side... King pays the price, and J’ONN “comes out” with all his awesome power.”

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

Check out more Imaginary Stories

Saturday, March 8, 2008

2005 Humberto Ramos Head Sketch

Click For Full Enlarged Image

I managed to get home early today with the full intent on getting down to serious bloggy business, when a knock came upon the door. One of my best friends was all "where've you been, man? We've got to hang out." I have been absent, and I did run the streets. Good friend... lousy keeper of the Martian Manhunter fandom flame. Er, bad turn of phrase there. Hey, ...nurgh... didn't get a post at all last night, so it's not like the Idol-Head isn't still my priority.

Anyway, I'm given another opportunity to show off a sketch from the Comic Art Fans, this time by Humberto Ramos. For a brief moment, around the type of "DV8," Ramos was my favorite new artist. I loved his heavily detailed manga-centric style, which unfortunately became increasingly haphazard and free from complexity with time. However, I think I could come around again if he went to the other extreme, as he does with this sketch. One of the criteria I've heard for great, iconic heroes is the ability to recognize them in silhouette, or at least with the most impressionistic simplicity. Ramos proves J'Onn J'Onzz's potential for that status here, defined by his brow, dark eyes, and large folded collar.

I encourage artists to never allow Martian Manhunter to fall into the trap of being represented in the fashion of a style guide, as his looks are custom made to allow for maximum individual interpretation. However, I hate when artists give Manhunter a high scalloped collar, like every fifth arch-villain since Ming the Merciless. I find it terribly derivative and unimaginative. If there should be a collar, it should be as depicted here, folded and high in a manner dissimilar from anyone I can think of off-hand.

So again, kudos to Ramos for invoking all you need to "get" the Martian Manhunter in a headshot, and a mighty pretty one at that. Sometimes, less is so much more.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Ajax (Martian Manhunter) Tattoo by Fernando Shimizu

As I was saying yesterday, when I'm grossly overworked and underpaid, I have to get creative to fill this (or any) blog with regularity in the sparse time remaining. That includes riffing on other blog's posts, as I'd hoped to do regarding the Tiny Titan's "Hombre Atomico" Argentine McDonald's Happy Meal card. I failed to find the Detective Marciano card of same, but upon locating another Martian Manhunter temporary tattoo (this one animated series related,) I thought, "Hey, has anyone ever cared enough to get a honest-to-god permanant tattoo of J'Onn J'Onzz?" Sure enough, I found one on an image search, inked by the Brazilian artist Fernando Shimizu at Floripa Tattoo Fest 2007 (July, to be exact.) In Brazil, the Manhunter is known simply as "Ajax," and first appeared in "Homem no Espaço nº 12, Ano 2" (Man in Space #12, Year/Vol. 2.) I don't recognize the specific image, but I'd assume Alex Ross was referenced in some way here. I'm not geek enough to go down the same road myself, but I'm mighty proud of the fellow who took this wicked sweet image upon his flesh.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Justice League Switchplates

One of the things I like to do when I have free time while visiting other super-hero blogs is to say to myself, "Hey, some entrepreneur, likely without an official licence, made a Ray Palmer Atom lightswitch plate. I wonder if perhaps there's something on eBay involving my boy as well? Perhaps I should run a similar term on Google or Yahoo?" This is the sort of thing I find when the idea pans out. When not, well, I'm thankful the various safesurf options keep the more heinous images of men who enjoy gladiator movies at bay...

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Houston Press Vol.20 #9 DC: New Frontier Review

  1. I haven't seen it, and won't for a little while yet.
  2. Synopsis? Review? Beats me. We'll see.
  3. Luke's Review at El Jacone's Comic Book Bunker.
  4. Adama's review at Dispatches from The Arrowcave
  5. I rarely get to link from here to those guys, so very nice.
  6. Ticked to hear "John Henry" got shafted.
  7. Hopefully back on track next week. Working lots. Go read ...nurgh...
  8. No mention of Martian Manhunter in my hometown alternative weekly newspaper's review, but lookit tha pitcher! A star is born? Considering said paper crops him out of said picture in the online version, not so much...

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Superhero Book: Martian Manhunter Entry, Part 1

I just checked out "The Superhero Book" (2004, Visible Ink Press) from the library, and I was immediately impressed by the depth and candor of the book. I suppose I'm so used to the white-washed official history given by publishers for this type of book, that entries so knowledgable and free of agenda are tremendously refreshing. The Martian Manhunter's entry by Michael A. Martin is surprisingly long (spanning three pages,) and informative, so my scans will run for several days. It gives a solid impression of what you can expect from this 725 page tome.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

DC: The New Frontier #5 (2004)

“Evening. You were pretty banged up by the blast. The MP’s found us, and we rigged firethrowers before you came to. No point. You were out for over a day.”
“What is this place... some kind of zoo?”
“Never mind that. Tell me... You were free to leave. Why did you save me?”
“I am not a murderer. It would have... diminished me to let another creature die unnecessarily. But I also saw into your mind, and by extension, your heart. I could see that you are a man on conviction and I know you believe you are doing the right thing. You are not... evil. Within your mind, I can see that your struggle is in the name of good. You believe it is a struggle that will end. In your heart, you honestly believe there will be a better day, when all of this won’t be needed. To find that within you, King Faraday... it has filled my heart with hope.”

“Now, I may be wrong, John, but I get the impression you have the ability to escape this cell any time you please. Why is it you stay?”
“I enjoy this game we play. This chess.”
“Now really, John, what is your plan?”
“It is we that need to plan, King. I feel the menace grow louder every hour now. It busies itself in the back of my mind, like a creature preparing to strike. “
“You don’t have to convince me, John. The reports are coming in nonstop.”
“This thing in the most powerful creature on Earth... It can’t be avoided. It may take the combined efforts of all Americans to meet this challenge. Is your government... are you... ready to accept that? It is your move, King.”

*signal... broadcast... the only word I can find to describe the scale of this situation is... biblical. What we’re seeing is what looks to be a giant reptilian creature.... it has to be at least 25 miles across... transmitting... mental interference... entire surface of this monstrocity is bristling with smaller life forms that attack... vacuum-like ports... discharge intense blasts of energy... oh Jesus... or they can pull everything in its path up in itself...pull an aircraft carrier like an for this horror...OUT OF HERE NOW...COWARDS...CCLLLLIKKK! Kzzzt*

It has become impossible to mask the mental images this leviathan is transmitting. Its power, its magnitude has a vastness that bends my ability to comprehend. I sense King’s approach far later than normal.
“John--- I’m going to take my flyboys out to the cape, see if we can’t help mount some kind of counterattack. I thought you might like to come along for the ride.”
“Faraday, don’t be a dimwitted fool. I too am receiving premonitions. I HAVE BEEN TO THIS ISLAND! FARADAY!”
“Do I look retarded to you, Savage? Shut up or I’ll tell them to gas you twice an hour from now on.”
“King, it occurs to me... the last time I appeared in front of someone suddenly, they died of fright. I thought I should alter my appearance, but I don’t want to pretend I’m human anymore.”
“This is fascinating, John, but if you could get to the point--“
“Perhaps I could take a friendlier appearance, and be more like the hero, Superman.”
“Suit yourself, John. But real men wear pants, y’know?”
“How about this?”
“Now you’re talking! Give me a sec, here. Airman Stone... prep our Betty... Oh, and have them gas Savage twice an hour ‘til we get back.”
“King, I fear this monster has a deep hold on my mind. It would be best to watch me carefully.”
“That’s what I do, John. Anyway, cheer up. I don’t figure either of us will be alive this time tomorrow.”

-By Darwyn Cooke. “This wing of FARADAY’s menagerie houses VANDAL SAVAGE, CAPTAIN COLD, AL PRATT (THE GOLDEN AGE ATOM), HOURMAN, AND J’ONN J’ONZZ... In a drama such as this, the character’s actions tend to define them in the reader’s mind as “good” or “bad...” The most obvious “bad” guy is KING FARADAY, but... Right or wrong, his intentions were sincere...”

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

Forward to DC: The New Frontier #6 (2004)

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Showcase '93 #10 (October 1993)

J'Onn J'Onzz, former philosopher and poet, now a Martian Manhunter who'd faced "countless villains who still rue the day they first crossed his path," was on a mission of incomperable importance: Must. Find. Oreos!

Struck with a case of the midnight munchies, J'Onzz couldn't find a single bag after hitting countless all-night markets in Manhatten. Martian Manhunter stumbled upon a robbery in progress, and invisibly snatched bullets in midair before they struck the store's owner. "Hey, I know this dude! He's that Martian Manhandler guy from the Justice League--!" Manhunter clasped the barrel of a pistol, which the idiot young punk then backfired on himself. J'Onzz then assumed the turk's visage to confuse his multicultural partners (black-white-Asian) before stuffing them in a cooler. Instead of gratitude, the owner gave the Martian flack about making a mess. J'Onzz threatened to mop the floor with the ingrate. All he wanted was some damned Oreos!Unfortunately, an elderly woman had swiped the last bag in the confusion, so J'Onn followed her home.

Revealing his presence in her living room, the Super-Sleuth with a sweet tooth learned that she had to steal groceries to survive while her stock broker son was living large. Her husband was long dead, and at least in jail she would receive three square meals a day. J'Onn couldn't bring himself to take her in, and was touched by her loneliness, which he understood only too well. Reliving all of her heartbreaks gave the poor woman a massive coronary, as seen through Martian Vision. Before she died, J'Onn granted the woman's wish to see her son one last time...even if it was only MM assuming his shape. "Gone. Sleep long, sweet lady. Sleep well. You know...sometimes being a telepathic shapeshifter...can be a first-class pain!" He left without his cookies.

Len Wein's script was cute, even though it seemed like colorist Calvin Armstrong went out of his way to make a painfully stereotypical Korean vender look occidental. Maybe to keep the Asian American Justice Center from calling? Not only do we have broken English and the media's distinctly Korean brand of antagonistic consumer relations, but he even screamed "AIIIEEE!" when fired upon. I think he maybe had a Coolie hat under the counter somewhere.

The ten page "Help Me Make It Through the Night!" was Stuart Immonen's first mainstream professional work, and it would appear that the artist has an affection for the character. This may also stem from Adam Hughes' run drawing the character in Justice League, which was an obvious influence on the artist. Immonen has drawn a great many Martian Manhunter appearances over the years since-- more than just about anyone not directly associated with the character.