Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Manhunter from Mars #250 (May 1985)

After years of barely evading cancellation while getting tied up with other space books like The Omega Men (a natural, as it was also written by Roger Slifer) or nostalgic team-ups with forgotten 50's sci-fi stars (Tommy Tomorrow? Gee, thanks Paul Kupperberg,) the book was finally brought on track by the machinations of Gerry Conway. Returned to Earth after the failed Martian invasion of 1984, the Manhunter from Mars was revitalized by a new creative team and renewed access to his terran rogues gallery. While some might mourn the fact that this title was nearly the DC debut of future superstar Todd McFarlane (who ended up on Infinity Inc., though writer Thomas winked at J'Onn by scripting a guest appearance into his first issue,) I myself am thankful those chores passed to another. Andy Helfer had "Manhunter from Mars" unloaded on him as an early assignment, as he'd only had "Atari Force" and "Super Powers" under his watch. As one featured Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and the other Jack Kirby, Helfer seemed to have a way with drawing in the talent, and managed to snag Pat Broderick as he left "The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man." Doug Moench had left Marvel for DC a couple years prior, and from his previous work on sci-fi characters and his current run on Batman seemed a natural choice.

Helfer had an idea about reviving VULTURE in the image of the sort of MI6 intrigues Moench had written of Master of Kung Fu, but Moench went with a sort of supernormal crime noir vibe instead. Professor Arnold Hugo returned, but had been greatly advanced in age from an experiment gone awry, and resembled one of those creepy apple head dolls. To insure the demise of his returned nemesis before he met his own, Hugo cloned imperfect telepathic "pinhead" copies of himself, each preserving an aspect of his genius and a full serving of his anger issues. In this way, he felt assured that as individuals they would remain vulnerable (should they try to turn on him) and remain civil with one another (as any one's loss would hobble the abilities of the collective.) Hugo then led the Manhunter into a death trap, wherein if his mostly pyric contraptions failed, his "sons" might succeed. Well no, of course they didn't, as Manhunter had no trouble foiling Hugo as an individual without resorting to his psychic powers for years. Though the Hugo boys were able to cloud Manhunter's mind and place him in compromising circumstances, they were still no real physical threat, and the fire weaknesses wasn't what it once was...

One of several fun stories by this creative team, before they ran off to co-create the "Lords of the Ultra-Realm." Sadly, Broderick's relationship with Helfer deteriorated, and he eventually left DC for Marvel as a result. I'm just sorry that with all this business with Hugo's progeny, we still didn't get to see a return of Zook.

It's a good day to make post #250, so soon after breaking 20,000 views of this humble blog. That's not far removed from twice the hits I had at the old "Martian Manhunter: The Rock of the JLA" after over two years of operation. This was a good idea. :D

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