Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Avengers/JLA #2 (2003)

Fight! Man of Steel and Manhunter from Mars land a double jab on the Odinson, possibly because on his own Superman was walloped by Thor's mystical hammer Mjolnir. The match ended swiftly though, as Scarlet Witch tapped into the magic of the DCU to teleport her team away. Once the dust settled, Atom and Batman were counted absent, prompting Superman's wish to give chase. He was refused by J'Onn J'Onzz. "No. We have little time, and it was in our minds that the Gamemaster implanted the knowledge of where the items of power are. We must go-- seek them out. Batman and the Atom are resourceful. They can wait. In the meantime, I'm sending out a telepathic message, contacting JLA reservists and other past members... warning them to protect the artifacts here in our universe." Aquaman then jumped in to specify who would do what, prompting ridicule from Plastic Man.

Manhunter joined an away team back to the Marvel Universe, specifically a desolate stretch of I-95 where Metropolis would have been located. While Superman and Wonder Woman considered this absence, Manhunter abruptly asserted, "None of this is important, not at the moment. There are five items left in this reality-plane. But we shouldn't spread ourselves too thin. Three teams." J'Onn then sighed over his usual misfit lot, paired with Plastic Man as a pack upon his back. "Yoicks-- and awaaaay..." to the African nation of Wakanda. Plas proved ineffective against the Wasp, while Manhunter intangibly evaded swats from a giant-sized Yellowjacket. "Enough. We have little time, Plastic Man. If you cannot stop your assailant-- then I will." The former husband & wife team were telepathically shut down. "Ooh, harsh! And that, boys and girls-- is why the Martian Manhunter stays home on date nights. What next, o master of the mental whammy?" The loss of the Medusa Mask to the stealth of the Black Panther, pulling victory from the jaws of defeat.

The Manhunter rejoined the assembled DCU heroes for the final match in the Savage Land. The Vision and the Martian Marvel flew into one another, employing variable density to mutually detrimental effect. Neither seemed inclined to explore these painful sensations further, as Vision joined She-Hulk in defeating Steel while Manhunter-- er... maybe he was the worse for wear? He was next seen three pages later in extreme close-up, expressing concern for Superman as the Marvel heroes piled on him. There was some sort of flame nearby, so make of that what you will. The Alien Atlas then laid another psychic assault on an off-panel victim (possibly Jack of Hearts.) Captain America aided Batman in attaining the Cosmic Cube, both of whom having learned the League needed to win the contest to prevent Krona from destroying both universes. Krona was a poor sportsman, however, forcing the Gamemaster to employ the items of power against him and reality in general. Everything went white.

Additional Notes:
  • The Marvel-published issues of the mini-series did not list a monthly cover date, but per DC's other issue, this one would fall between October & November.

  • As noted in the Avengers/JLA Compendium, page 70 (in the collected edition, 4 in the original mini-series volume) features a subway station sign listing "Broome" and "Certa," referring to the GL writer and original Martian Manhunter artist Joe Certa. I can't recall a time anyone ever threw such a tribute Joe's way prior to this, minor as it is.

  • Manhunter is featured on the back of the wraparound cover in combat with Wonder Man.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

JLA/Avengers #1 (9/03)

Keystone City, home of several Flashes, was terrorized by the gargantuan Marvel villain Terminus, and the Justice League of America stood in its path. Manhunter attempted a psychic probe, but "This being's mental shields are prodigious-- I can sense a mind within, but I cannot read it--!" Batman stood back, examining the bohemoth before determining its staff was its main power concern. The Dark Knight commanded Martian Manhunter to maintain the telepathic link amongst his team's members. Plastic Man covered Terminus' face shield with his body, forcing the gargantuan to unseal his helmet. This was just the opportunity the Manhunter needed. "I may not be able to sift through your thoughts, creature... but a full-strength telepathic bolt against your shields..." Meanwhile, Green Lantern Kyle Rayner redirected energy from Terminus' staff into its helm, seemingly slaying Goliath. It was swept away by the current bearer of the Spectre mantle, Hal Jordan. This of course unnerved Rayner, who succeeded Jordan as Green Lantern after he went mad and slew thousands, a sin for which he became the Spectre to atone. "We know how you feel, Kyle. Believe me, we know."

In the New York City of the Marvel Universe, the Avengers fought the classic JLA villain Starro. Meanwhile, Lobo visited the Sh'iar and Mongul the Brood.

At the Watchtower, J'Onn J'Onzz alerted, "Justice League. We have a visitor." This was the Watcher Uatu, who the Martian attempted to mentally contact in a variety of languages, but to no avail. Another intruder arrived, the Gamesmaster of the Elders of the Universe, who claimed the League would have to collect objects of power sprinkled through two universes in order to save them both. He was short on details, and when J'Onzz tried to scan him, he was dismayed. "For the third time today, my powers cannot reach into a mind that stands before me. It is beginning to grow annoying."

Though aggravated, Manhunter joined his team in following along with the premise and take a trip to Marvel Earth. J'Onn's party included Wonder Woman and the Atom, who sifted through the devastation of Genosha. "A scan of neighboring nations reveals these people were bombed for being genetic mutants. For the crime of being different." While Ray Palmer rested on a skull in his palm, Manhunter received the telepathic urging of the Batman, "Leave it, J'Onn. Move on." Batman failed to do the same in an off-panel confrontation with the Punisher, raising Plastic Man's ire (of all people.) Manhunter agreed, "...we can't let ourselves be distracted from our mission. People died in Keystone City. Our world is endangered, too." An assault by more giants, this time on Monster Island, were cause enough for further distraction. Manhunter took one off its feet with a blow, and the rest were handled in short order.

Atom located the first artifact, which was collected by Batman and presented to J'Onn J'Onzz for study. "Of course. I'll just probe... Great H'ronmeer! This-- this device, it-- the power it--" Manhunter's features began to distort as he tried to comprehend the scope of the Ultimate Nullifier. "--it alone could destroy... destroy entire universe..." The probe was fogging J'Onn's mind, which spread to the League, allowing Hawkeye the chance to grapple the device away with a custom arrow. Wonder Woman recovered it in time, while Iron Man blasted her team with an energy that forced her teammates' return to DC Earth.

Metron presented the Avengers with a Mother Box and the same mission as the League, whom they were confronted by upon travelling to DC Earth through a Boom Tube.

Additional Notes:

  • On the cover, Martian Manhunter and She-Hulk are set together. This could be a nod to their match-up in the unpublished JLA vs. Avengers script from the early 80's, but I think it's just another instance of assuming all green people know one another.

  • According to the Avengers/JLA Compendium: "The Martian Manhunter swears by H'ronmeer, a Martian deity (first mentioned in Justice League of America #256)."

Monday, April 28, 2008

JLA/Avengers ACTOR auction piece by George Pérez (2002)

Here's a recreation of Mike Sekowsky & Murphy Anderson's cover to Justice League of America #21, the first JLA/JSA crossover, but with a role reversal. Rather than conducting the "seance," the Justice League are the recalled spirits, while the Avengers have taken on their original role. Only Black Canary remained in her seat amidst the musical chairs. George Pérez produced this image for ACTOR, now called The HERO Initiative, a non-profit organization committed to providing financial aid to veteran comic book creators in need. I'm fond of it, and hope the link inspires someone to donate to the fund. It also made a nice kick-off for the Idol-Head's coverage of the Avengers/JLA mini-series, which will span much of this week. Folks wanting to get a head start who don't mind snark and course language can read my rambling review of the hardcover
at ...nurgh... You can also check out my review of the available material from the original version of this meeting from 1983, where I just posted a newly scanned page of Captain America vs. Batman (not the one you always see where the Dark Knight boots the Sentinel of Liberty in the head.)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Story of the Human Flame

I'd originally intended to append this selection of links to yesterday's post, to meaten it up. However, Scipio seemed to put more effort into his weeklong examination of the Human Flame's first appeatrance than any actual Martian Manhunter scripter since Gerard Jones. In fact, Scipio's synopsis, science, and humor are vastly superior to any of the Silver Age comics that inspire him to employ those assets at his blog, The Absorbascon. This is very funny stuff, and then he goes and turns in seemingly serious pseudo-thesis on the literary merits and subtextual concerns of the work. You'd need powers of levitation to hurdle the mound of bull he slopped, but it was convincing by sheer force of skill.

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Tiny Titans #1 Pin-Up (April 2008)

I had planned to post this on Monday, but saw the Aquaman Shrine had an original Aquaboy sketch by Art Baltazar up. It seems the artist of both pieces reads the Shrine, and I didn't want to hurt his feelings if he happened to follow a link there to my downright uncomfortable review of Tiny Titans #1. In fact, in the days since writing it, I've decided it wasn't appropriate material for the Idol-Head, and moved it to the far more tacky and adult-skewed ...nurgh... Suffice to say my reaction was unkind, and revisting the book outside of solicitations seems unlike. I figure I'm one of the only vocal haters, so heart can be taken that the problem is less the book's cuteness than the onyx cancer that is my soul.

Sside for a headshot in the credits, this is the only interior appearance of Miss Martian in the issue, the last I'll ever buy, thankyewveddymuch...

Friday, April 25, 2008

JLA: The World's Mightiest Mortals Martian Manhunter Pin (1997)

Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and Flash... all sold off by me when I busted up this $34.95 pin set at my shop. You'd think that losing Aquaman would have stung, but I've only grown to dislike the mullethead version of that character more over the years. No, I actually really enjoyed Kyle Rayner as drawn by the artists of the set, Howard Porter and John Dell. I can't say I've shed many tears for Rayner, but as presented in JLA he played very well in the awestruck rookie role vacated by Firestorm better than a decade prior. I think his pin was cut in the shape of his "GL" icon as well, which I still feel makes the generic Corps version look dull. I also retained possession of the hinged carrying case with velveteen liner and the Wonder Woman pin. I suppose it was one of the less awful drawings of the Amazing Amazon Porter did, and the red background and five-pointed star cut recalls her tiara and errings nicely.

Also, this is the first chance I've had to use my new digital camera, a Cannon PowerShot SD1000. I had considerable lighting issues, as the glossy pin loved to deflect the flash right back at me. Hopefully, I'll have better luck on some of the other accumulated Manhunter junk I've yet to post, though I'll have to put together some sort of diaramas for that type of thing...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Justice League of America #251 (6/86)

Steel: Finally took that continuity girl from his botched film shoot out on a date to the Met. She liked him because he wasn't a phony, but when she's almost killed by a taxi, Hank pulled a Christopher Reeve move, but without the guile. Staring down the mangled cab, Hank felt he had some explaining to do...

Batman: Taskmaster mode in full effect, the Dark Knight badgered his new team while putting them through their paces in the Secret Sanctuary's newly modified gymnasium. Still low rent, the only visible equipment in use was a pommel horse. With a straight face, stated, "Vibe has potential, Vixen, but he's undisciplined."

Vibe: Nearly crushed by falling debris released by his own vibratory power while in a training session. Was browbeat by and sneered at Batman before threatening to quit the team.

Vixen: Rescued Vibe and defended her team against Batman's criticism, noting "If that's how you handled the Outsiders, I'm not surprised you guys parted company." She may have actually hurt his feelings, as he continued brooding about being out of place on a hillside hours later. Mari found him and offered kind words. "You ask a lot... from yourself most of all. Trying to be the parents you lost long ago. I've been there. C'mon. You're probably hungry. So if you promise not to tell, just this once I'll cook dinner..."

Gypsy: "Say J'Onn J'Onzz, have you seen Zatanna lately?" Manhunter hadn't, but explained she was likely on a case, and that only past Leaguers picked up the old distress signal from the previous issue. Gypsy continued to press the Sleuth from Outer Space with questions, and despite his clear wishes, followed him on a case of his own. The bonding between these two characters had clearly begun in earnest at this point, as Gypsy was set on aiding Manhunter, whether he liked it or not.

Martian Manhunter: "Not at all, Gypsy. The Batman and I discussed it this morning... Zatanna's been worried about a young woman... who sublet her apartment... Undoubtedly, Zatanna is occupied looking for her. In addition to our League responsibilities, we have our own private concerns, after all. Such as my concern with this murder weapon..." Gypsy tried to look with her hands, to which J'Onzz simply admonished simply "no" while pulling it away. This was the instrument, lacking any discernable fingerprints, intended to frame private investigator John Jones. "Martians don't have fingerprints... At the Batman's recommendation, I've installed teleportation tubes at various locations in Metropolis, Gotham, and New York..." Gypsy didn't much care, until J'Onzz noted that he was stepping into one of them to abandon Gypsy's inquiry in favor of his own. John Jones next appeared to question his former employer, Burt Biloxi, while running bad Spillane monologue in his head. A file on the runaway Jones had been assigned to locate, Pamela Cross, was simultaneously lifted invisibly by Gypsy. Jones caught up to the Gypsy outside, revealing possibly for the first time in the Detroit run his power of telepathy. He had used it to locate his maverick teammate, and to scan Biloxi's mind, full of anxiety but short on information. That left only Cross' file...

"Hey, she's a kid. She can't be much older'n me. Why'd she run away?"
"Why did you, Gypsy?"
"I had a reason. Maybe she does, too... You check the parents. I'll find the kid."
"Gypsy, I cannot-- I will not allow-- Gypsy?"

Zatanna: Nude and bound to a hospital bed by advanced technology, Zee's sublet turned co-captor Sheri Stanley explained why she had set the heroine up for capture. A yuppie unable to handle her stresses, Sheri turned to self-help guru Adam and his cult of self-interest. Adam himself continued, explaining that he had in his genes the same elements of the mystical Homo Magi as Zatanna, but not to the same degree. His intention was to use Zatanna's blood to extract the power of her bloodline, mount it to a retrovirus, and infect himself. Adam also made it clear he did not respect Zatanna's personal space...

Elongated Man & Sue Dibney: No mention.

Despero: Destroyed the Justice League Satellite, for really reals this time.

The Creators: Why are the Caped Crusader and the Manhunter from Mars so much cozier than most? I say it's because J'Onn J'Onzz is one of the only fellow heroes to call him "THE Batman." Anyway, traction gained last issue through association with better characters was lost to the wealth of unresolved subplots that dominate this issue, and will in fact outlast this creative team. A shame, as the more serious turn the book took from the frivolity of the Detroit year really improved the title. That change can be traced back to the Amazo arc, but the revolving door of artists undercut the tension there, as did the slew of Crisis tie-ins and the underwhelming "Junior." Here, the twin menaces of Adam and Despero are quite frightful, although the latter's presentation was so over-the-top as to near camp. I'm certain, whether intentional or not, it influenced Keith Giffen's development of the Lobo character. Also, after letting things get a bit sketchy on the extra-length anniversary issue, Luke McDonnell and Bill Wray are back to fighting form. Rather than fighting back the darker aspects of Conway's work, they dive in headfirst, lending it weight it would otherwise lack.

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: “JJ” and "Big Green" -Gypsy.

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: "Ridin' me like your own personal donkey. I'm telling you, get off."

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

JLA Classified #49 (Late February, 2008)

Cue the solicitation copy...

Written by Andrew Kreisberg
Art and cover by Paulo Siqueira & Amilton Santos
"With the JLA away from Earth on a dire mission in space, the wives and loved ones of the heroes gather to support each other when at any moment any individual in the room could be left alone forever."

...okay, and that is Dianne Meade on the cover, right? Plus J'Onn J'Onzz featured prominently? Okay, so explain to me why this is essentially an Alfred Pennyworth/Lois Lane team-up over tea? Because I can't 14 pages and the majority of the dialogue between them, so this should be a fill-in for "Batman/Superman," right? I mean a really inane one, as there's nothing revelatory or insightful in their pairing. Alright, the Flash's wife Linda Park gets two pages and as many lines of dialogue. Wonder Woman's mother Hippolyta gets the exact same treatment. Green Lantern John Stewart doesn't seem to have anybody, so as the token negro, his "loved ones" are two pages of random black people in the hood, G. Word.

Say, when does this story take place again-- because the Queen of the Amazons was dead two years before Stewart joined the League, and Lois and Alfred act like they don't know one another. Wow, this thing doesn't seem to work as a stand alone, a JLA story, a World's Finest tale, or even a continuity patch. It's just not much use to anyone-- Especially J'Onn J'Onzz's partner in the police force, long forgotten by the era this story theoretically takes place, and absent from the interiors entirely.

Well, at least there's some direct relevance to the Martian Manhunter. The League faced an invading race of anthropomorphic space crabs calling themselves the Locusta on Mars. Their numbers were legion, which made for quite the mostly off-panel brawl, with Manhunter seen blasting one of their tanks with Martian Vision. He later took a nasty hit from what appeared to be a king crab, which had already downed Flash and had Wonder Woman by the neck. However, this also led the Alien Atlas to discover some sort of scepter/trident thingee. This seemed to turn the tide of battle, with a weakened Martian Marvel still bearing his new found weapon while slumped over Diana's shoulder, standing amongst his team in triumph. While his fellows return to their dear hearts, no one loves J'Onn J'Onzz, so he flew through space unaided to secure the weapon in parts unknown.

That's it. Very pretty art. Total waste of space script.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

News You Can Lose!

Okay, today's post was going to deal with the Tiny Titans, until I saw the Aquaman Shrine was covering similar territory, so I've pushed the back to Friday. In its stead, news for the New York Comic Con and elsewhere...

A fan asked Morrison to eulogize the Martian Manhunter: "He was a good man. He was a kind man. He was a green man."

There is a tragic event that takes place in the very first issue. Because of that, there is a special called Final Crisis: Requiem by Peter Tomasi and Doug Mankhe, and it explores the life and times of that character, who DiDio said was a staple of the DCU.

Death toll in Final Crisis? "I don't like killing characters, but I like to mess with them. It's a fate worse than death. If you do something unusual or unexpected with them, so they're still around to come back in some form. Death is easy, what happens in Final Crisis can be much worse and much stranger."

DiDio then discussed the Final Crisis tie-in titles, hinting that “a tragic event that occurs in the very first issue” will lead into Final Crisis: Requiem (a truncated title - presumably the full one would spoil that tragic event) by Peter Tomasi and Doug Mahnke.

“It involves one of the cornerstones of the DC Universe, and how his life has changed as a result of Final Crisis #1,” said DiDio

“If you don’t kill the Martian Manhunter, could you write an ongoing with him,” a fan asked. “Oops,” Morrison replied, perhaps in jest, or perhaps ominously

I'm in Long Beach at the Speed Racer junket and I briefly cornered producer Joel Silver to ask him how the Justice League movie would affect Wonder Woman. The answer: it won't. According to Silver, who would be in the know, Justice League has been 'tabled.'

That means a lot of you can breathe a sigh of relief; while 'tabled' doesn't mean the film is officially canceled, it's likely that it won't be happening any time soon, and likely without that cast.

As for Wonder Woman, Silver said it takes time to get these films made - he had Speed Racer in development for twenty years. He's still trying to get DC's Amazon on the screen but doesn't have much else to report right now.

ITEM! As LITG'd a while back, yes J'onn J'onnz dies in the first issue of “Final Crisis.” But in the last issue, Barry Allen comes back. So everybody's happy. But remember how we LITG'd as of early March that #2 of "Final Crisis" was mid way being drawn? I further understand that as of the weekend #3 is still to be completed.

ITEM! Coming up from the NYCC floor... look for Paul Dini writing a new "Zatanna" comic. With the announced Vixen, Power Girl, Terra (and unannounced Batwoman), that's quite a few new DCU solo female books… worth pointing out. Anyone got as many?

SPECIAL NOTICE: Two articles on the internet of note to Idol-Heads:
Comic Book Resources has a headline interview with Peter Tomasi today titled "Martian Manhunter R.I.P." covering his love of the character, his writing on the upcoming special “Final Crisis: Requiem for Martian Manhunter,” and his previous history writing and editing J'Onn J'Onzz stories.

Also, Detroit-Era Justice League fans should check out Luke's synopsis of
Steel, The Indestructible Man #2 over at El Jacone's Comic Book Bunker .

Monday, April 21, 2008

House of Mystery #166 (4/67)

"Would you believe a fantastic ray that transforms ordinary men into indestructible giants?" You'd better, because that's the premise of "VULTURE'S CRIME GOLIATHS!" A mammoth "monster-man" unloaded an armored car in the U.S., attracting Marco Xavier's attention 3,000 miles across the Atlantic. The American branch of the worldwide criminal organization VULTURE invented the molecular-ray that produced the titan, but the effects were only temporary. A new cylinder developed in Europe would make the change permanent, but the cops stateside were already on the lookout. Mr. V believed beloved playboy Marco Xavier could sneak it in without incident. For 50K, Marco would give it a shot, though he was also comitted to failing Faceless if he could.

Arriving stateside, Xavier was greeted by press and groupies. "Oh, Marco darling--We've been dying to see you again!" they cried. "That goes double for me, sweethearts--but business before pleasure, you know!" While resting from the trip in his hotel room, Manhunter spotted a pair of building painters taking a fall, and came to their rescue. This incident hit the news, which reached Zook's little orange ears. "EEK! Manhunter back in the states! I must go and find him!"

Meanwhile, Xavier made the drop to his contact, then doubled back as the Manhunter to reacquire the cylinder. J'Onn learned that he'd jumped the gun, since there was a VULTURE base these goons could have led him to. "I pulled a real boner! But maybe... by playing it smart... I can make up for my goof!" He took a dive before VULTURE's monster-man in order to dupe them into a lead. Unfortunately, Zook arrived to "save" his buddy, having used his antennae to locate him*. Zook froze the normal humans, but couldn't halt the goliath. For once, the Martian Marvel got to upstage the tike, and put the man-mountain on his smug ass besides! While Manhunter explained the situation to Zook, who sighed, "Golly-wolly! Then I spoil everything by barging in!"

They were lucky enough to have one of the goons sneak off on them. It would be no fun for Zook to just use his antennae to track the guy, so MM deduced his location instead. Just as a group of six men are about to get blasted by the giant-making ray, Manhunter burst in and bopped each on the head in turn. He smashed the ray, though he noted to himself, "That cylinder I handed over was a fake duplicate! Your ray wouldn't have worked in any case."

With the problem solved, a brief reunion followed. "I miss you so much, Manhunter! You be coming back soon?" J'Onn replied, "Soon as I hunt down and destroy VULTURE, Zook! ...I hope it's real soon--because I miss you, too!"

*"Zook possesses built-in directional antannae which, like radar, enable him to track electronically any person he has known or seen previously. -Ed."

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Justice League Unlimited Comic Book Ad

This ad has been running in the DC youth line for several years, but seeing it in the April '08 Tiny Titans really salted the wound. Should I watch the cancelled "hit series" on Cartoon Network, or buy the last few issues of the monthly comic book based on it before that wraps? Is it too late for J'Onn to become a raging alcoholic, get replaced by a black guy (again,) turn evil, and get a big budget motion picture for his troubles? Thought so...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

1999 Secret Origins featuring JLA tp cover by John Cassaday

I tried to find the release year for this collection of stories from various Secret Files & Origins editions, but it seems to be out of print and under-represented online. I'd assume it was between 1999-2002, as the scan I resized here was once in use at the old "Rock of the JLA" site. For those curious, reprints included the JLA by Morrison and Porter; Batman by Grayson & Johnson; Wonder Woman by Sandsmark & Giordano; Flash by Waid, Augustyn & Martinez; Green Lantern by Marz & Moder; Aquaman by Larsen & Miller; and Superman by Jurgens and Ordway. There's a Mark Millar credit in there too, so hopefully that swell "Day in the Life" story he did with Don Hillsman with J'Onn J'Onzz also made the cut. Then again, what's one more slight against the Manhunter from Mars, right?

Anyhow, to the best of my knowledge, this is the only time fellow Texan Cassaday has drawn the actual Manhunter (though work with Warren Ellis assures analogues will enter, stage left.) Curiously, his take seems to take cues from Tim Sale, who I'm not confident has ever drawn the Alien Atlas. Let's see *one Google image search later-- nope! Moving on, the image is unusually cartoonish and rather sinister, but seeing as Superman looks like he belongs in the cabinet of Dr. Caligari, I'd say J'Onn made out fairly well...

Friday, April 18, 2008

Toronto ComiCon 2004 Booklet Cover by Tim Levins

The animated Justice League vs. the Teen Titans, and they're all smiles. Too cute, and obviously lopsided all around, but... Speedy? Ah, shoot-- I really do like Roy, and his costume redesign here looks better than anything he's worn in the comics since at least 1994. You just know that's an incendiary as well...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Detective Comics #232 (June 1956)

From the Ambush Bug History of the DC Universe comes an addendum to the Ace the Bathound entry...

Guest Review by Irwin Schwab:

"Here, boy . C'mon, boy. That's a good doggie. This is Jupiter. He first appeared in Detective Comics #232 (June 1956,) exactly one year after Ace the Bathound, in a story called 'The Dog With A Martian Master.' I would have called it 'Jupiter, Manhunter's Best Friend,' but nobody asked me. I was just a kid, 'tho.

You see, in this tale, Detective John Jones rescues a dog from drowning, jumping from a bridge instead of catching the jewel thief he was after. I don't see why he couldn't do both, since he saved time by nullifying the Earth's gravitational field to walk on water. But then Jones got wet anyway, so folks wouldn't suspect he wasn't 'quite of this world.' John names the dog Jupiter, and passes him off to the station's master sergeant to locate its master. I think he might have been confused about what a master sergeant does. But anyway, as the Manhunter uses his ultra-sensitive ears to track the thief Fletcher, Jupiter sneaks up behind him and --HA HA HA-- starts barking. That tipped off Fletcher, so Jones took the mutt back to his apartment. But Jupiter breaks thru a window, climbs boxes to track his new master to a building ledge, then --HA HA-- leaps on the invisible Manhunter, whose prey is frightened by the --HA HA HA-- floating wiener dog outside his window. So then, Jones bends his golf clubs into a --HA HA HA HA HA-- round doggie cage and leaves Jupiter wearing a --a-HAH-- an old sweater so it won't get cold. But Jupiter rolls --HA HA HA *gasp* he rolls down the fire escape like a pinball --AHHH HAHAHAHAHA!! HAAAAHAAHAHA-- I CAN'T *GASP--GASP* CAN'T TAKE IT-- HAHA-- he busts out! So there's a fire, and John Jones goes limp-- and BWAHAHAHAHAH!! Jupiter drags him-- the little doggie drags him-- HAHAHOHOHEE"

I suppose I'll have to finish up here. This story was so ridiculous, John Jones invented a slew of new exclamations to express his disbelief. Still, Fletcher was caught, and Jones promised Jupiter, "We're going to be real pals for a long time!" Jupiter was never heard from again. Maybe the desk sergeant found its owners... maybe... there was a red-haired woman in the precinct that one day...

Written by Jack Miller and drawn by Joe Certa.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Grant Morrison Spoils Everything

Firstly, I love the placement of the Skrull Manhunter next to John Stewart and Human Flame next to Professor Ivo below. Everything else is a spoiler...

"Martian Manhunter was known around the offices as a character that was sort of boring, but was a JLA "staple," if you will (though we did try to jazz him up with that storyline where he was Scorch's love-slave). If it was him, the fire on the cover would make sense, because fire is his only weakness." -Valerie D'Orazio

Obviously, my opinion of the character varies, but not so much my reaction to the news. Let me tell you, I really just want to move on. I vented a bit of spleen about a tangential subject on Monday, and Tuesday I was all set to do a double post about cute little doggies. Well, that was not to be, but definately today, right? Or will Grant Morrison have an interview posted on Comic Book Resources giving away most of the plot against the Martian Manhunter? The latter, it seems:

"Along the same lines, Morrison shared all readers need to know about the two D-level villains who have been rumored for months as heavy hitters in "Final Crisis" - Libra and Human Flame. "Again, you don't need to know anything about them. Because the more you know about these guys, the lamer they become," laughed Morrison. "I'd rather have people pick up the book and see Libra for the first time done the way I want to see him done and the same goes for the Human Flame character.

"The reason I chose them was because Libra came from my favorite ever run of 'Justice League of America' and he's never been used again. He was a character who had stolen all the powers of the Justice League, but then couldn't handle it and ascended to some kind of screaming godhood where he became a million transparent body parts spread across the sky. So I thought if I was doing a thing about the New Gods, he'd be an interesting guy to bring back because I needed a masked mystery man to start a new recruitment drive for the Secret Society of Supervillains, because they become almost a terrorist sect. Under Libra's guidance, they start doing quite bad things, even to superheroes' wives and families, crossing the line. So there's that element to the story and I needed a masked guy, who people didn't really know that well. And I remembered Libra and the fact that he is connected to this ascending to godhood thing tied him in really quite nicely. What's really going on under the hood will be revealed later in the series.

"With The Human Flame, I wanted a Martian Manhunter villain, and I couldn't find a really good one. Then, looking through the old 'Showcase Presents' books, I discovered this stupid guy called Mike, who declared himself to be the Human Flame. And he wore a homemade costume with six nipples that shot flames. So I just thought this is a great way to start this book because the idea is that Libra gives all the villains a very simple choice, he says, 'Follow me and I'll give you your heart's desire.' And that's it. And some of the villains naturally say, 'Prove it.' So the Human Flame is one of the first to fall in with Libra and he says, 'If you can get revenge on my old enemy, who has had me stuck in jail for the last five years, I'll follow you anywhere.'

"I needed a small-scale dumb guy, who could make very big waves and open the book with a shock moment and the Human Flame fit the bill. Also the name is great, because he's the first of the villains to succumb to the Anti-Life Equation. And the idea of the Human Flame being 'extinguished' in this way was just too cool for me to let go of it."

"All of these guys were chosen for roles in the story, not because they are fan favorites. I just don't play that game. I wish I could. So I don't want readers to run back to their 'Who's Who' thinking that there will be some big revelation about these characters in there. All the stuff you need is in the book. And these two are just the tip of the iceberg, every DC villain appears in this book. There's a cosmic murder mystery running through the book and the really big bad doesn't turn up until the very last issue. There's a lot going on but I've noticed that no matter what I say about the content of 'Final Crisis,' there will still be online fans who'll swear blind they have no idea what the book is about so I'll leave it at that."

And so will I, again, hopefully...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Martian Sightings for July, 2008

Usually, I wait until I get my copy of the Previews catalog before considering posting a "Sighting," but tonight's won't wait until I can make sure there won't be any additional licensed items. You see, the new solicitations all but confirm that the Martian Manhunter will be killed by the Human Flame, likely no sooner than DC Universe #0 but no later than Final Crisis #2. I'll be removing the Mike Netzer banner before the end of the week, as he hasn't updated his blog since February, and his crusade is clearly hopeless. I suspect at least part of the blame for the character's demise in the return of the "Manhunter" series, a book Dan DiDio has a strong investment in, and one that only caused confusion in a universe shared with a Martian double. I still don't understand why the character had to be removed from the Outsiders series in his final days, unless to avoid "spoiling" what quickly became an obvious plot development.

On a side note, it amuses me after my rant last night that DC has listed new JLI action figures of Black Canary, Batman, G'nort, and Ice. None resemble Kevin Maguire's take, so the Batman is utterly superfluous, but at least the membership is acknowledged there. On to the thinly veiled Manhunter memorial special...

Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Art by Doug Mahnke & Christian Alamy
Covers by J.G. Jones and Doug Mahnke
A very special FINAL CRISIS one-shot honoring the passing of a great hero who’s been a staple in the DC Universe for years. All that remains is one final memory that the League experiences together as they must fulfill his last wishes or die trying!
On sale July 9 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US

Do note the above is written by the author of several Martian Manhunter short stories (and not much else until recently) and drawn by a former Martian Manhunter series artist.

Written by Grant Morrison
Art and covers by J.G. Jones
Batman missing in action! Superman immobilized! Green Lantern on trial for his life!
A shadow is falling across Earth’s super heroes -- and now it’s Wonder Woman’s turn to face the Evil Gods!
What bizarre warning from beyond awaits Frankenstein, The Question and the agents of S.H.A.D.E. in the shadows of the Dark Side Club? What grim fate lies in store for The Human Flame? What happens when the Anti-Life Equation hits the internet? Can the Fastest Men Alive outrun The Black Racer -- Death himself? And who are the Justifiers? The answers are all here as the unstoppable rise of evil continues in FINAL CRISIS #3 by Grant Morrison and J.G. Jones.
On sale July 30 • 3 of 7 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US

Written by Keith Giffen
Art by Lee Garbett & Trevor Scott
Cover by Dustin Nguyen
The DC and WildStorm Universes are colliding, forcing heroes from both sides to work together, much to their displeasure. But when this scuttles the plans of the mastermind behind it all, he ups the ante by bringing the DCU villains into the mix.
On sale July 16 • 4 of 6 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Written by Art Baltazar & Franco
Art and cover by Art Baltazar
New pals Blue Beetle and Supergirl stop by the Titans Treehouse, only to find most of the Tiny Titans away on a field trip. Good thing a few lesser-known heroes are still at school! Plus: follow Raven and Trigon through a typically crazy morning.
On sale July 16 • 32 pg, FC, $2.25 US

Written by Mark Sable Cover by Tony Daniel & Sandu Florea
Art by Carlos Magno & Jonathan Glapion
Victor Stone thought he was the only man to deal with the power and pain that comes with the name Cyborg. Now, he's learned that someone long thought dead is using Vic's deadly technology to battle the Teen Titans. Can Vic stop this new enemy and learn the dark truth behind his foe's creation?
On sale July 23 • 3 of 5 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Written by Sean McKeever
Art by Carlos Rodriguez Cover by Eddy Barrows & Ruy Jos�
Kid Devil's out to prove himself, but that won't stop the latest object of his contempt from getting in the way! In the tradition of Tango & Cash, Starsky & Hutch, and Turner & Hooch comes this instant buddy classic! You’ve already read “The Blue and The Gold” -- Is the world ready for -- “The Red and the Blue”?
On sale July 30 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Art and cover by Patrick Gleason & Drew Geraci
It’s the action-packed conclusion of “Ring Quest”! Kyle, Guy, Sodam Yat, Arisia, Soranik and other members of the Green Lantern Corps wage an all-out battle against Mongul and the mysterious Mother Mercy.
On sale July 9 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

... as an aside, I'd like to mention that I used to be a big DC Comics supporter, buying mich of their line. That's been steady dwindling since Didio took over, and this month my only DC purchases outside "Final Crisis" and the memorial may be the trades for "COUNTDOWN PRESENTS: LORD HAVOK AND THE EXTREMISTS" and "SUICIDE SQUAD: FROM THE ASHES." We'll see, but I've pretty much decided to give up on additional "floppies" besides Shooter's run on "Legion." Thought I'd share.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Revisionist JLI

It'll be a few months yet before we touch on Justice League International here, but I wanted to get this off my chest...

In my formative years as a comic book geek, the Super Friends were my Justice League. The fact is, the actual League had no newsstand presence where I lived, so my coming into contact with their comic book incarnation was reserved for other people's collections. I rarely got to read any of those copies, and was put off by the disparity between the gloriously busy George Pérez covers and the staid interiors by other hands. Also, I don't believe I read a single Detroit period adventure until the late 90's. I'm not positive about this, but there's a good chance the first Justice League comic I ever owned was in the Giffen/DeMatteis era.

As I understand it, a great many fans of the Satellite League were mighty put-off by the modest, multicultural team that was foisted upon them by Gerry Conway and Chuck Patton. This proved the source of lingering resentment that was likely assuaged in the closing pages of the Legends mini-series. There, readers were presented with a modern, powerhouse collection of heroes to usher their team into the Post-Crisis DCU. Well, except that that book's new creative team had restricted access to Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Hawkman, Hawkwoman, the Atom, and even Red Tornado. Worse, as the serio-comic nature of the new book became more apparent and solo developments progressed, Captain Marvel, Black Canary, and Drs. Fate & Light were also soon gone, with the already gifted Batman stepping back some. Faced with a collection of C-listers, the creative team played up the humorous aspects of the book all the more, winning over readers as an ensemble and relief from the grim approaches of most comics of the day.

I was one of those readers, coming on with the seventh issue, and staying through until the early 30's. By that point, I'd begun to see a shift away from the comedy I'd already come to appreciate through Giffen's Ambush Bug toward more serious fare. The problem was, I couldn't take most of the characters seriously, nor did I find them especially compelling regardless. I revisited frequently, but for me, the best days were behind the team.

On the other hand, there were exceptions, as I'd entered the book with an interest in the Martian Manhunter that only grew with the association. Guy Gardner remained a favorite for many years, and I even bought his solo series. The same was true of others, and I retained an affection for the line-up as a whole, when handled properly. Obviously, that wasn't the case for much of the 90's. In fact, I think creators galled by the line-up took a special delight in having their Silver Age "betters" outshine and otherwise abuse the JLI. It should come as no surprise then that I was heartened to hear Giffen, DeMatteis, and artist supreme Kevin Maguire would reunite to revisit the old favorites... or not.

While I enjoyed both of the mini-series the team produced in the 2000's (as well as their work on the Defenders,) I had some issues with the make-up and chemistry of the rechristened "Super Buddies." I was very pleased Max Lord was over that Lord Havok business and L-Ron was restored to his robotic body, but what were they doing alongside European Leaguers Captain Atom and Elongated Man, not to mentioned the quasi-vestigial and virginal Mary Marvel? Most of all though, for obvious reasons, I missed the Martian Manhunter. So long as he was present to play straight man and gell, all would have been right with me. I recognized he was in the big League now, but I do believe that was during the slow decline of the book into cancellation. I allowed for the "Super Buddies" being a showcase of characters long out of the limelight though, and soldiered on.

Then they started killing off all the JLIers, and Max Lord was proven so irredeemably evil as to be executed himself. Besides the general offense of snuffing out characters regarded less as super-heroes than comedic foils, he whole thing fairly reeked of the Old Guard vs. JLI resentments dating back to the Detroit reconstitution. Thankfully, surviving JLI characters have been allowed to re energize and even regroup, most recently in acclaimed issues of the new Blue Beetle...

...except again, where is the Martian Manhunter? The character hasn't been a member of the Justice League in over two years, his poorly received mini-series wrapped long ago, and he rarely makes guest-appearances. As an added bonus, he's likely to die soon in Final Crisis, and he can't even get added to a JLI card not involving time-travel. In fact, most of the JLI members in these reunions either star or co-star in current ongoing series, even some of the dead ones! As a patron saint of also-ran super-heroes no longer associated with he big guns of the DCU, it seems to me that J'Onn J'Onzz is now being treated poorly in part because he acts as a bridge between the twin camps of League fandom that both seem entirely too happy to burn. He's too powerful and respected to be allowed in the new JLI clique, but too unpopular and vulnerable to return to mainstream prominence. Is the price the character has to pay for finally crossing over into mass-media that his roots should be stomped all over back on his home turf? And why does this all seem like an 80's Patrick Dempsy movie?

Also, why is it we're at the point where the JLI means Booster Gold (joined early, stayed late) Beetle, Fire, Ice and sometimes Power Girl? Why don't the contributions of bigger names like Black Canary and Flash count anymore, or lesser lights like Metamorpho and Mr. Miracle? Who decided there were only a handful of characters allowed to represent the JLI?

My final question is, where does Martian Manhunter belong? Has he grown too big to be allowed friendship amongst the JLI peers that kept him in the public eye after the Detroit debacle could have left him a footnote? Would it have done him more good to wait until Grant Morrision revamped the founders' League, or would the disdain from Detroit haters have carried over regardless? As most of J'Onn's development as a character and the investment myself and others made in him came from his time amongst the International League, would it have been better for him to remain a lower profile but fondly remembered member of their ranks? Can't we all just get along, and maybe show Manhunter some love?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Martian Sightings for June, 2008

MAY SHIPPING UPDATE: Martian Manhunter and the Human Flame will both be appearing in DC Universe #0, as they are both featured on George Pérez's cover, and I expect one of them will die ala Countdown to Infinite Crisis' Blue Beetle sacrifice...


Written by Matt Wayne
Art by Carlo Barberi & Bob Petrecca
Cover by Zach Howard
Say goodbye to the League as John Stewart and the Green Lantern Corps. take on a universe-threatening mission. Who is the force behind it all? And who is the traitor within the ranks?
On sale June 4 o 32 pg, FC, $2.25 US o Final Issue

The only title to regularly feature the Martian Manhunter was an all-ages Johnny DC media tie-in that is now just as cancelled as the TV show. Also, a Manhunter series began yet again this month, but it is in no way related to our favorite Martian. Swell.

Written by Keith Giffen Cover by Giuseppe Camuncoli & Scott
Art by Lee Garbett & Trevor Scott
All good things must pass, and our heroes find out they're on the same side after all. But tensions remain high as the heavy hitters - the JLA, Wildcats, Teen Titans and the Authority - still don't care for each other at all. But they're willing to work together if that's what it takes to save the world. Because with things like Metropolis and Gotham City suddenly showing up on the east coast of the WildStorm Universe's United States of America, or Central City and Keystone City in the midwest, massive damage is occurring on an unprecedented scale. Hate each other as they might, they're forced to work together for the common good.
On sale Juneo 11 o 3 of 6 o 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

I fully intended to give this series a pass, as DC has pillaged all WS's major talent, and ran off anyone that might have been unswayed. I never expected the book to stray from the new Meltzer Satellite League, but lo & behold, Giff's on the case with J'Onn J'Onzz in tow. Glad I caught that fact in time to pre-order all the issues to date.

Written by Grant Morrison and Mark Millar
Art by Howard Porter, Oscar Jimenez, Don Hillsman, John Dell, Chip Wallace and others
Cover by Porter & Dell
Relive the legendary 1990s JLA series, written by comics masterminds Grant Morrison (FINAL CRISIS) and Mark Millar (Civil War) with stunning art by Howard Porter and others, in this amazing oversized hardcover collecting JLA #1-9 and SECRET FILES AND ORIGINS #1! The action begins as the JLA reunites to stop the Hyperclan, who have come to Earth posing as a new group of super heroes. But as their true nature comes to light, only the World's Greatest Super Heroes can stop them! Standing side by side, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash, Green Lantern and the Martian Manhunter take on alien posers and come to realize that Earth needs a protectorate made up of only the mightiest icons!
Advance-solicited; on sale August 20 o 7" x 10.75," 256 pg, FC, $29.99 US

Ah, glory days...

A White Martian only tangentially related to the Martian Manhunter makes two cover appearances this month and a probable interior. The actual Alien Atlas makes two new cover-featured but indefinate interior appearances this month. Thanks so much DC!

Written by Sean McKeever
Art by Eddy Barrows & Ruy Jose
Cover by Barrows & Julio Ferreira
It's the final battle against the Terror Titans! With the true nature of the Clock King revealed, how can the Teen Titans possibly hope to prevail? And, when all is said and done, who will still be Teen Titans?
On sale June 25 o 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Written by Mark Sable
Art and cover by Ken Lashley & Jonathan Glapion
Vic Stone has sworn that he'll never let anyone undergo the horrific process that transformed him into Cyborg. Now it appears he's on a nationwide rampage taking out S.T.A.R. Labs. Are two teams of Titans enough to stop this madness?
On sale June 18 o 2 of 5 o 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Written by Baltazar & Franco
Art and cover by Baltazar
Watch out as the Tiny Titans East invade the playground! See if Robin keeps his new identity as Nightwing! Find out the hilarity that only comes with knock knock jokes! And the penguins are back, as the boys play Batman for a day!! Another all ages all fun adventure filled issue!
On sale June 11 o 32 pg, FC, $2.25 US
Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Art and cover by Patrick Gleason & Prentis Rollins
The epic battle against Mongul begins here, as the true origin of the Black Mercy is revealed! The Green Lantern Corps find itself pitted not only against Mongul to save Sodam and Arisia, but an entire planet made of Black Mercys that seem to be under the control of a quite possibly darker and more disturbing force. This creature the Corps will come to fear is known simply as Mother Mercy - and it has no plans of showing any now or ever.
On sale June 11 o 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Written by Grant Morrison
Art and covers by J.G. Jones
Meet Japan's number one pop culture heroes, the Super Young Team and their languid leader, Most Excellent Superbat! Join legendary wrestler Sonny Sumo and super escape artist Mister Miracle as they team to face the offspring of the Anti-Life Equation! See Earth's superheroes mourn one of their oldest allies! Witness costumed criminals sinking to new depths of cowardice and depravity as Libra takes things too far! Uncover the doomsday secrets of the poisoned city of BlŸdhaven! Learn the shocking identity of the prime suspect in the murder of a god! And read on if you dare as Batman becomes the first of Earth's champions to face the Fallen of Apokolips. All this and a spectacular return from the dead...

Grant Morrison and J.G. Jones' multiverse-spanning epic continues with bombshell after bombshell in FINAL CRISIS #2 - "Ticket to Bludhaven"!

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 June 25 o 2 of 7 o 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US

Note the highlighted text. Lots of clues pointing to Batman, but I still strongly suspect one of those variant covers will feature a Martian Manhunter memorial. As further evidence, ask yourself why the Starlin-written new Rann/Thanagar doesn't have a Martian represented.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Silver Age Despero Sketch by Chris Samnee (2007)

If you run a Google image search for "Despero Sketch," the only relevant image that appears is CHRIS SAMNEE: Silver Age Despero. This fellow does mighty fine work at incredible speeds, and it seems to be keeping his busy in the field (most recently on "Checkmate.") Do check out his blog and comments on the piece. He reminds me a lot of the underappreciated Peter Snejberg of "The Sandman" not-quite-fame.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Seventh and Final Book of Despero, the Reborn (Aug.-Sep. 1986)

"On my homeworld of Kalanor, I experienced pain and purification in the Flame of Py'tar. Now I possess a power beyond description. At a whim, I change matter to energy and energy to matter. I am like unto a god. No... not like a god...

Despero created a fire-breathing dragon from the stone of Gotham City, and launched it at the five standing members of the Justice League of America. "Enjoying yourself, Despero," asked Batman, before calling him a madman. "I hope your other friends show up soon... Superman, the Flash, Green Lantern. I've a special treat prepared for them... Mad or sane, who are you to judge such as me? See what I've accomplished already? As my will extends outward from this central point, I alter reality to fit my desire... remaking first Gotham City, and soon the entire planet in an extending circle, like ripples spreading in a pond. Earth is my world now. My... plaything... to do as I please... until at last I tire of the novelty, and crush it like an unwanted toy."

The League defeated the dragon, which in turn caused Despero great pain, and from there, great anger. The city block the team stood upon exploded, toppling them. In the peace that followed, Despero discussed his origins with Batman, then stepped back into his terrestrial facimilie of Py'tar. "Once I have renewed myself in the embrace of this ember of the true flame, then shall I begin to play in earnest." Batman of course escaped, and freed Vixen to aid the League. The Dark Knight himself disrupred Despero's renewal process, raising his ire. "You've made an unfortunate mistake, little man. For the last time, you have underestimated the power I gain from immersing myself in the Flame of Py'tar. And as well, you've underestimated the sheer hatred I feel for you and your companions in the Justice League. Allow me to make myself clear." Despero recaptured and began torturing the Caped Crusader, but Batman asserted, "Destroying me isn't enough for you. You won't be satisfied till I beg. I won't give you that satisfaction. So no matter what you do to me now, Despero... I win. For all your power, you're a loser. A pathetic little..." but his words were cut shorted by an eyebeam blast.

Vixen came to the rescue, though by this point Despero had grown in stature, so that she ran headlong into the back of his knee. "Woman, your death will be long and painful." The rest of the League continued the offensive. The most effect in direct approach was Gypsy, responding to painful injury inflicted upon her crush Steel. "In his mind, he knows this isn't happening. It's a trick by the girl who calls herself Gypsy, as much an illusion as the chameleon effect by which she hides herself at will. But in his heart, he knows only panic as the Solar Corona sears his skin, worse than the Flame of Py'tar, eating him alive... and he screams!"

Through information passed from Batman, Martian Manhunter employed Vibe to attack the source of Despero's new might, the terrestrial Flame of Py'tar, while he ran defensive against stone demons. "Like some enormous candlewick struck by an errant breeze, the Flame of Py'tar...blows out. For Despero, he who named himself the Destroyer, the effect is instantaneous and dramatic. Without an outside power source to feed on, he consumes himself. The next half second is really quite spectacular. And when it's over, it's over."

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Sixth Book of Despero, the Reborn (July 1986)

An unidentified and undetected molten mass "hot enough to vaporize flesh and blood" struck Maine near the Canadian, "as if guided by some invisible force." It lay in its woodland berth until late the next day, "its one passenger waits... and broods... and dreams." A hunter and his dog wandered near, only to be grievously assaulted by forces physical, mental, and perhaps even spiritual. "Where... are... they? Answer, and I will let you die. Where... is... the Justice League? Fear and pain block your thoughts. I must know what is in your brain. I will take your mind." The hunter was shattered in every sense and absorbed into Despero. "So. I see. The League that helped banish me to the prison planet of Takron-Galtos... is no more. But there is a new League... led by an old enemy. Through them, I will find and destroy those who dared oppose my dream of conquest. And they shall be but the first to die..."

Soon, Despero caused an inferno to erupt where Gotham City once stood. Human beings were transformed into demonic shapes and persuasions. The city itself was reconfigured into a wretched vision. Batman would not stand for such an offense, if he had any choice in the matter. "Around him, the air is furnace-hot. The sky a tortured crimson. He ignores the heat, ignores too the pain of raining lava against his costumed flesh, and charges the vaguely humanoid figure at the heart of the madness. Laughing, forehead agleam with alien energy, the figure gestures... and the madness explodes." Despero's form distorted into a horror, then the Dark Knight was charged by a molten mammoth and collapsed.

"The Batman, isn't it? Yes, I thought so. I remember that this was your city. I saw it, once, in your mind. Have you summoned your friends? Yes, I see you have. Good. We'll await them, you and I, and I'll speak of the changes that have occured to me since last we met."

The Dark Knight struck Despero in the face, with Vixen following in the belly, forcing the despot into the blaze of his making. Batman collapsed from his injuries, while Vixen looked on as Despero emerged unscathed. "Pathetic humans... don't you yet understand? I survived the Flames of Py'tar... and in that sacred pyre, all that I was, stripped away. No longer am I flesh as you know flesh; I am energy and hate incarnate. What is molten rock to such as me? Non-organic... non-living... I AM A NEW BREED OF BEING. I AM DESPERO THE REBORN!

A flare of power exploded across the city. Hell had come to Earth, drawing the rest of the Justice League to Gotham. The Martian Manhunter, instrumental in Despero's last defeat, was at the fore, and recognized his handiwork.

"How perceptive. As always, Martian, you are a keen observer of the obvious. I owe you special consideration, for your part in my imprisonment. I shall save your destruction for last." The Manhunter's features sank to reveal his dispair in the face of this horror. From atop a cathedral, Batman and Vixen chained to his left and right, a declaration was made:

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Fifth Book of Despero, the Reborn (June 1986)

Despero flew through space in a golden craft vaguely resembling a grasshopper, heading toward a massive amorphous blob of violet and green...

"Rage seethes inside him, as constant as a heartbeat. Since the agony of his transformation, he has had but one desire, one goal, one plan: He will destroy the Justice League. In pursuit of this end, Despero the Reborn will allow nothing to stand in his way.

The Torq grew to maturity a billion years ago, on a giant gas planet orbiting a star in the galactic core. For more than thirty million years, it has wandered this arm of the galaxy, thoughtful and at peace, a silent, wondering observer of the universe. The Torq is the very definition of innocent bystander. Even the warlike Psions would alter their course, rather than harm such a harmless creature."

Despero's craft erupted through the Torq, spray purple ectoplasm into the void.

"The thought never crosses the hunter's mind. A billion years of wonderment are snuffed out in an instant. He has places to go, things to do. People to kill. Nothing can stop him now."

Further on, Despero spied the former Justice League Satellite, still hovering 22,300 miles above Earth. As was said, nothing would stop Despero, as he plowed his spacecraft headlong into the vessel. "Where are you, my enemies? Show yourselves, that I may destroy you!"

"Beneath his booted feet, the skeletal satellite shifts and sways, knocked from its orbit by the impact of his starship. Already, he could feel it drifting Earthward... but what he sees about him makes all other considerations unimportant. They are not here. Their satellite headquarters is empty... a ruin... abandoned. The thought is a hot blade twisting in his skull. THEY... ARE... NOT... HERE!"


Despero vented his fury audibly and through energy beams emitted from his eyes.

"There is only one place where they could be. Under his feet, the satellite's movement is more pronounced now; and he feels the first whispers of atmosphere rushing past like a distant wind. Earth. They are below him... somewhere... on the Earth. Then that is where he will join them. Atmosphere shrieks about him; the heat of re-entry is incandescent, but no more incandescent than the raging fury in his heart. He survived the Flames of Py'tar, and came forth reborn; this too shall he survive. Nothing will stop him now. He is Despero. He is destiny."

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Desperately Seeking Despero in June '08

Written by Geoff Johns & Jeff Katz
Art and cover by Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund

In order to correct the past and save the future, Booster Gold faces a startling reality - someone from his past must live and someone must die! Can the greatest hero the world has never known do what must be done to save all of time?
On sale June 11 o 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

The best-selling action figure line continues with its sixth set of figures, this time based on the popular story arc Enemies Among Us, illustrated by Ethan Van Sciver!

Each figure features multiple points of articulation and a base.
Clamshell 4/C blister card packaging.
Advance-solicited; on sale November 5, 2008 * Action Figures * PI

Figures included:
Batman o 6.75" h
Superman o 6.75" h
Green Lantern o 6.75" h
Despero o 7.25" h
Another reason why running the Flame of Py'tar last week would have been perfect was that Ron at the JLA Satellite blog could have been concurrently running a quasi-Third Book of Despero with his coverage of his two appearances in 1976. As this is a light post day, why not check his synopsis for Justice League of America #133 and Justice League of America #134?

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Second Book of Despero

Just a few months later, Despero would attempt his revenge. "The last time that you saw me, Snapper, I was the defeated one, being taken by Jasonar back to my dimensional world for punishment... That ‘punishment’ took the form of a rehabilitation program during which my third eye-- the hypnotic one that gave me all my powers-- was surgically removed. I was a model citizen for a while. But what Jasonar-- and no one else knew-- was that my body possessed regenerative powers! Because of my high mental rating, I was assigned to a scientific research laboratory--where I "honestly" did a good day’s work---while my third eye kept developing..."

Despero had camouflaged his third eye to escape detection during this time. "It was simple to fake an explosion--after which the only trace of me ever found was my belt..." Despero then secretly made his way to Earth, where he caused several Justice Leaguers to age rapidly through radiation, while the rest he trapped in individual hourglasses. "I could never have captured any of you super-heroes without the use of the unusual energies you all possess!" Though he had chronal energy enough to set the dominoes falling with Snapper Carr, the energy he stole from the various heroes using their powers in turn provided the fuel for his traps.

The Leaguers confined under glass were further traumatized by having their bodies convert to sand. "Even now I have created three alternate earths of which reptilian life-- insect life-- marine life-- have evolved into the dominant life-forms! ...Though my Kalanor nature will not permit me to slay you, I’ve arranged for you to travel to these chronal worlds... but---on these worlds you will be even more helpless than you are on your own world---for you shall no longer have your super-powers! Though you have changed to chronosand, you still possess enough life-force to understand the completeness of my victory! Your failure will be as bitter ashes in your mouths for the rest of your futile lives!"

There should be some doubt about Despero’s "creation" of these worlds, not only because he lacked the power, but because three parallel Desperos sought to conquer these planets. One was defeated by Flash, another by Green Lantern (despite this Despero having stolen and wielded Jordan's power ring,) and a third by the Aquaman/Manhunter team (all aided by friendly natives, naturally.) On each earth, Despero had failed to reckon with the inhabitant’s ability to replicate the heroes’ former powers when in physical contact with them.

In a bid to salvage his scheme, Despero cast the illusion of himself as a withered Superman to imprison the Leaguers at the Sanctuary. Wonder Woman wasn’t convinced though, knowing Superman could only be affected by magic or kryptonite, not chronal energy. She bound him in her lasso, forcing the restoration of the League. Flash questioned, "Now the problem is--what do we do with Despero?"

“Four Worlds To Conquer!” was written by Gardner Fox and drawn by Mike Sekowsky with Bernard Sachs.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The First Book of Despero

Blank-eyed heroes sat at their meeting room table, surrounding the standing chairperson of the proceedings. As their judge thumped a gavel, his decree was made. "Members of the Justice League of America, you are gathered here to deal with the menace of Despero! But I--Despero himself--am taking over! Since I have defeated you all, I now declare this meeting adjourned... forever!"

Their involvement began earlier, when Barry Allen’s car lost all power while travelling a lonely country road. The Flash made his way to a farmhouse, where he was surprised to spy a green-haired alien girl and her elderly father. She feared he was one of Despero’s hunters, but father explained, "No, Saranna! He’s an earth-being! I can read his thoughts!" Saranna enlisted Flash’s assistance by describing the circumstances of their presence on his planet.

"We come from a dimensional world called Kalanor! There a three-eyed tyrant called Despero--has seized control and made slaves of our people! Some days ago my father--Jasonar--and I fled from Kalanor in a dimensional traveler, hoping to find asylum on Earth where we could perfect an anti-weapon... Then Despero’s super-energy weapons would be useless---as was your four-wheeled vehicle---and our people will be able to overthrow the tyrant!" Jasonar continued, "Even now he’s searching for us! If he finds us, he’ll drag us back to Kalanor and our people will never be free!"

Flash sent a call out to the Justice League, but upon arriving was faced with the grim scene previously described. "Come in, Flash! I, Despero of Kalanor---have been expecting you! Don’t bother to look to your friends for help or information, Flash! Only I can release them from this trance, which is why you won’t dare attack me!" Despero kidnapped Saranna and then launched his surprise attack via teleport beam. "...My mystic mental powers overwhelmed all the members but you, Flash! You are still protected by that blue glow you absorbed," radiation from Jasonar’s lab. "Being a sportsman, I have decided to play a simple game with you! Win---and I will release your fellow JLA members and go back to Kalanor, freeing Saranna and giving up my pursuit of her father and his anti-weapon device!" Despero then described a game that bore a passing resemblance to poker and chess, with each Leaguer represented by a game piece. As explained, the odds were overwhelmingly in Flash's favor. "If you place your piece on a single disaster square, your fellow member will be teleported instantly into a dimensional world---from which I’ll make sure he can never return!"

Flash agreed to play, only to lose piece after piece to his shock and horror. With his entire team wiped out, Flash was led to a rocket ship to be sent off world, as the rads that protected him from Despero’s mind-control also prevented him from being teleported. One thing they didn’t guard against was sensory manipulation. "Flash didn’t realize my third eye was causing a change in the number of every card he chose---blanking out the right number and causing the disaster square number to appear!"

Despero continued his pursuit of Jasonar, but was distracted by Snapper Carr. "Rash youth! Do you think you can match mental powers with Despero?" The League mascot pretended to be effected by Despero’s telepathy, though actually protected through exposure to Jasonar’s equipment. "Now to punish you for defying me, Jasonar..." With his back turned, Despero didn’t catch Snapper reaching for Jasonar’s energy-absorbing machine, which was turned against his very person! "I saw how you worked this gizmo before! I’ll leave Despero just enough energy, like to barely stay alive..." An ignominious end to the inaugural appearance of what would become Martian Manhunter’s greatest foe. Moments after the League’s return to Earth, Jasonar departed for Kalanor to reunite with his daughter, the helpless Despero and his anti-energy weapon in tow.

“The World of No Return!” was written by Gardner Fox and drawn by Mike Sekowsky with Bernard Sachs.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Justice League of America #250 (5/86)

Sue Dibney: Fallen form lorded over by "Junior," who had emerged from its tentacle blob form to become a bronze-skinned bipedal Adonis not named Adam Warlock (as he had a blond crewcut and convenient green trunks, rather than a lustrous blond 70's mane and convenient red trunks.

Green Lantern: Recently reunited with his beloved power ring, Hal Jordon was chasing a comet when he heard the League's distress signal. Scanned fallen Detroit team for "minimal life signs." Went looking for "Junior" with Green Arrow, only to have his life force drained before making any significant contribution. Somewhere, Zatanna let out a knowing sigh, I'd assume.

Zatanna: Hal heard the signal from Mercury, but Zee missed it entirely at a NY dock. Finally tracked her sub-letter to a suspicious "social group" at a marina boat, only to be conked on the head with a lead pipe. This was on the order of the "group leader," the rather Aryan "Adam."

Steel: Emaciated and aged, looked a lot like his grandfather. I mean now, after years in the ground. Felt better and hung with Hal Jordan, the most obvious Republican of the old timers.

Black Canary: Asleep on Ollie's couch when she heard the signal. Donned awful 80's costume to investigate. Ordered to sit with the infirm while the top-billed boys searched the Secret Sanctuary for "Junior." Comforted Gypsy, and in talking with her deduced that her powers were telepathic in nature, which protected her. J'Onn's being a victimized telepath and Gypsy's having previous been effected never came up. Later helped Ollie draw out "Junior" with her Canary Cry.

Green Arrow: Along with Dinah's urging, Ollie dug through his closet to find a mothballed signal device arrow. Really. Joined and was forced to rescue Green Lantern when confronted by "Junior," who he singed with an electrified arrow. Double-teamed "Junior" with Black Canary.

Gypsy: Dreamt of an idealized version of her suburban home life before running away, which turned into a nightmare pitting her against her withered teammates. Her Manhunter taunted, "We are your family! ... Now and evermore," prompting Gypsy to push him away, but instead caved in his chest. She awoke to find her youth restored, and that she was encircled by former League members. Broke down in tears, blaming herself for her friends' malady. "I never want to hurt anyone, but its like I always do. Ever since I got the power, my life's been a mess... I'm just so scared..." Figured out "Junior" had become what it ate, confirmed by the creature's simplistic internal regarding it making it all the easier to hunt amongst mankind.

Superman: Was putting out a fire when he heard the J.L.A. Alert signal. Learned more from the Dark Knight Detective before being attacked by "Junior." Thought to himself, "Eh? The Batman's gone--? I may not like him, but I never expected him to run..." Used his body as a conduit to redirect the Leaguers' life energy.

Elongated Man: Hung out with Kal-El and his wife, presumably to keep the Man of Tomorrow away from the riff-raff. My theory backed-up by his being the one to suggest and press the League veterans to stick around.

Batman: Halting a terrorist attack on Gotham when he heard the signal. Investigated the scene and ordered his fellow veterans around. Clearly, the brusque control freak pre-dated Frank Miller. Found the records J'Onn J'Onzz browsed last issue and laid the blame at Superman's feet for the mess. Saved the Man of Steel from Junior. Lured the creature into an electrified elevator shaft, which both flash-fried "Junior" and released his stored energies. Devised method of sending those energies through the Last Son of Krypton back to their rightful carcasses.

Vibe: Unintentional humor from the sight of a geriatric Paco with silver hair, shades, and a plunging neckline. Got along with Green Arrow for once through bonding over their mutually unfortunate facial hair.

Vixen: Formed a girl power conversation clique with Dinah and Gypsy, once she felt equally fit.

The Atom, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, and Aquaman: Far removed from any signal receiver, as they were all away from home on important affairs, meaning solo mini-series.

Martian Manhunter: A passive lump for most of the issue, until talk of recalling veteran Leaguers to service came up. He approached the distant Batman, saying "Old friend, I've been told you left the League... unhappily. I cannot judge the right or wrong of that leaving. Nonetheless, today's events prove this is where you belong. You should lead the League, not I." Green Arrow concurred, while Vibe and of course Batman briefly protested. An again tearful Gypsy pleaded "We need you! I hear you were an orphan. So are we, sorta. Orphans gotta stick together, right? Right?" Batman patted her head and promised them a year. "Gypsy thinks she convinced me... but I have my own reasons for rejoining the League. And when I reveal those reasons, she'll be very surprised..."

The Creators: would we all. Batman's "year" turned out to be one story arc before he abandoned the group and the never-resolved Gypsy sub-plot. The issue at hand fell into cliche quickly, though it ushered in what will be last hurrah of half this creative team.

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: [Of Batman] "That dude? Get serious. We'd chew 'im up, and spit him---- out. Uh, well, maybe not."

EPILOGUE: On the planet Kalanor, atop a narrow spire leading to garbed aliens standing before an enormous pyre... "Hail, O Master... You have braved the cleansing, transforming Flame of Py'tar... and no longer are you the creature you were when you welcomed that all-consuming embrace. In form, in substance, you are reborn. What is your will, Walker In The Flame?"

"My will... is vengeance against mine enemies. My desire... is the destruction of the Justice League. And when I tread their bloody remains beneath my booted feet, I wish only one reward: let them whisper my name in horror...


Friday, April 4, 2008

Hembeck Strip Day 9

Alright, last day of this. Something else tomorrow...

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.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Hembeck Strip Day 8

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.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Apex City

Firstly, I'm still really ticked my plans for this week were botched. With April Fool's Day starting us out, things would have been that much more perfect.

Secondly, after my lengthy post regarding the Martian Manhunter's various bases of operations, it pains me to admit so soon that I already missed one: J'Onn J'Onzz's underwater headquarters, used by the Justice League in their failed CBS pilot from the 90's.

Lastly, in light of the first two, I wanted to break up the Hembeck strips for a day to at least partially acknowledge the holiday, and address the question of which city Detective John Jones patrolled during the Silver Age. I consulted my records from the old "Rock of the JLA" site, where I found my re-edited collection of message board posts made by a fellow under the handle "Commander Steel." Back before I had any of MM's Silver Age comics of my own, "Steel" laid down the gospel, and in those notes he repeatedly referred to the city as "Middletown." Note the "w." However, my notes also suggest at the time he had "over thirty" Detective Comics appearances, well short of the sampling from the recent "Showcase" collection of strips. As Scipio of The Absorbascon has read that whole edition (and I still haven't,) I'm plenty willing to get behind his assertion that the town is not only called "Apex City," but that it happens to be in Florida.

Now, there is evidence to suggest that Detective Jones did not pound a beat in the Sunshine State. I just read a story in which a radiator is clearly visible in Jones' apartment, and he felt the need to wrap a dog in one of his sweaters to protect against the cold outdoors. However, all those 50's tales were written by either Jack Miller or Dave Wood, and these guys couldn't even keep J'onn J'onzz's name straight, much less his powers, location, or even elements of a given plot. When you can't stay on track for six straight pages, inconsistencies have to be forgiven to locate a semblance of a norm. Scipio combed over many dozens of stories, and you can follow his logic in the article "Where In The World Is Martian Manhunter?" A comical piece follows, concerning "Meteorology In Apex City". Finally, Scipio took all of the information at his disposal to craft the Heroclix map shown on this page, with greater detail here. All of this may be a fiction, but considering the thought and effort, I think we'd all do well to give it as serious a consideration as ludicrous Silver Age DC storytelling will allow.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Hembeck Strip Day Seven

I had something very specific and time-sensitive I wanted to get done this week, so of course I lost my internet access, removing the "daily" qualifier from this blog for three straight dates. I heartily appologize for this, and as a way of making it up to you all, I've backdated a continuation of the Hembeck strips from December to fill the missing time. I explain the absence here. Unlike the Idol-Head, the ...nurgh... flows as it pleases, and will allow for no retroactive posting. However, I launched into a goofy defense of Iron Man last Thursday that I'll be picking up on tomorrow. As for here, I wasn't sure when I would return, so planned strip segments through Thursday, a scam I'll stick with barring public outcry. I'm glad my hit counts weren't hurt by this lapse, and hope folks "dug through the back issues" here while time permitted. Everything should be back on track for an interesting week to come. Also, the same links and text are on each of the previous days, so if you read/click them once, it's all reruns from there...

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.