Sunday, June 29, 2008

Martian Manhunter #24 (11/00)

"And then there was the time during the Justice League International Era when I lost my cookies."

Blue Beetle and Booster Gold snickered as J'Onn J'Onzz left the common area to indulge in some Chocos cookies. Fire asked, "What are you two juvenile delinquents up to?" The pair had stolen J'Onn's cookies, and bought out every store in the area within a mile radius of the New York embassy. "J'Onn is crazy for those Chocos! He had bags of 'em, stuffed all over the embassy! It's like he's addicted!" Fire, Guy, and Ice protested their foolishness, but "No no no! J'Onn wants us to do things like this! We're teaching him to be a regular guy!"

J'Onzz was clearly furious when he quizzed fellow Leaguers about the whereabouts of his snacks, but coming up empty handed, forced a smile. "No big deal. I will just go out and get some more. No problem. It is... okay." Not so, as the Blue and the Gold spied from a store security camera J'Onn's increasing hostility as he failed to purchase any double stuff goodness. The pair were getting a hearty laugh until the Manhunter transformed into a near mindless rampaging hulk, screaming "MARS NEEDS CHOCOS!" Dumbfounded, Booster suspected, "We're going to get yelled at again, aren't we?"

Crowds fled and cars flew as the incredible hophead pleaded, "J'Onn don't want stupid pastry wafers! J'Onn want Chocos! BRING J'ONN COOKIES!" Slowly, the Blue & the Gold approached. "You got cookies, friendz? J'Onn can't find his cookies! *snif*" A penitent Blue Beetle rubbed the Martian's marble, saying "Geez, J'Onn-- we're sorry. Had we known this was going to happen, we'd never have taken them in the first place." An angry red eye popped open. "Whoopsie." The addicted Alien Atlas tried to crush Beetle and Booster, leaping after the pair as they flew from his wrath. "Well, that would be a lot easier to accomplish if I wasn't lugging all this dead weight! You sure you aren't getting fat again?"

Meanwhile, Maxwell Lord was in a meeting with a United Nations official who questioned his stewardship of the U.N.-sanctioned League. Under the circumstances, Max had a mild nosebleed, "Just a slight cerebral hemorrhage I get when exercising mind control on toads like you." Out the broad windows, Beetle could be seen riding Booster's back like a jokey, as the Jade Giant continued his jumping pursuit, screaming "KOOO-KIEEE!!" A shock wave caused the windows to shatter, with everyone at meeting remaining calmly seated. Blood poured from Max's nose, until finally erupting like the hero of a Japanese sex comedy seeing a girl in her panties. The Cookie Monster from Mars was led to the warehouse where all the Chocos were stored, and began mainlining the junk. A terribly agitated Max Lord, undoubtedly in need of a cookie himself after all that blood loss, arrived to find Martian Manhunter covered in crumbs and denial.

Everyone convened at the embassy for an intervention. "Nonsense! I like Chocos, certainly. What is not to like? But one does not really get an addiction to them. They are not a drug." Batman joined in teleconference, refuting with, "Not for humans. But you're a Martian. Your body chemistry is different-- and it reacts to the specific combinations of ingredients and chemicals in the cookie in much the same way that the human body responds to highly addictive drugs. At Max's request, I ran some tests, J'Onn. You're a junkie. A Chocos junkie!" J'Onzz continued his dismissal, until Max left a Choco on his desk in front of the Manhunter. Six panels later, four of them a silent static shot, J'Onn fired his tongue like a frog to snare the cookie. "Okay. Maybe I have a small problem."

Ice believed it was much worse than that, as a simple telepathic scan could have revealed the location of the cookies. "On some level, you know you didn't have the right control. You were afraid of what you might do telepathically if you didn't have control. Isn't that right?" Agreeing, J'Onzz used his shapeshifting ability to expel the addicted cells from his body. "Forcing it away literally took a great deal out of me." The cells retained both mass and semi-sentience, which it used to possess several Leaguers in turn. Ice craved baby seals, Guy wanted to crawl back into the womb, while Fire demanded constant attention and Max wanted everyone to do as he said. "I want Superman to do my errands and Batman to respect me and Wonder Woman to... I want Wonder Woman to... OH HOW I WANT WONDER WOMAN TO!" Beetle and Booster weren't possessed, but they did take notes.

The Martian Manhunter psychically demanded his animated craving to settle down, then obliterated it with Martian Vision. "I now end your pseudo-existence... Booster... Beetle... I suppose I should thank you. You helped me save me from myself... Do not do anything like that again."

Time shifted, and Green Lantern Kyle Rayner was asked the lesson of this story at the JLA Watchtower. "Just say 'no' to cookies? Refined white sugar will kill somebody? What?" The Manhunter explained, "Different things can prove addictive for different people. For some, drugs are the addiction. For others-- sex. For others-- alcohol. Or food. Or TV. Or shopping. It can be anything. For Hal Jordan, as well as others, it became power. The point is-- anything can become addictive behavior. The point is-- be aware of it in yourself." Kyle was impressed by the insight and wandered off, while onlooker Wonder Woman remained. "J'Onn, I was a member of the Justice League back around then and I don't remember anything like that story happening!"

"It does not matter. It was an amusing story and it had a point to make. A good tale is its own justification-- true or not. Got a cookie?"

I could be mistaken, but I do believe this was the first use of the "Chocos" brand in place of "Oreos." No surprise given the nature of their usage here, and the increasing number of clashing conglomerates that force the mention of name brands out of even comic book stories these days.

Back when this number came out, I was part of a group of message board posters who, among I believe many others, hounded writer John Ostrander over the course of this series. Where's J'Onn's JLI friends? "Where's the history? Where's the humor? Where's the Oreos?" This one tall tale seemed intent on addressing as many of those demands as possible in one fell swoop, though it was also part of a "Revelations" series that delved into Manhunter's past. With the constant gripes of my fellows and I, I've often wondered if J'Onn's final observation was meta-textually directed at the lot of us. We would have been just the sort to note that Diana was only a member of JLI for one issue several years before the setting of this story. No matter, as I felt most of Ostrander's stories failed on their own lack of merit, as when he had Ice question why J'Onn didn't just mindrape his teammates over something as trivial as cookies, with no foreknowledge of their involvement in the petty theft.

Anyhow, this was a breath of fresh air in a series I generally hated, even if the story was based on an idea Keith Giffen originated over a decade prior, but was prevented from pursuing. Pencils were by Doug Mahnke, clearly scratching his itch to draw the Hulk, but also confirming his enjoyment of plain ol' J'Onn. Mahnke took on many more opportunities to depict the Martian Manhunter, including the "Requiem" memorial story following his murder in "Final Crisis." A new kid named Pat Gleason inked the issue, and would go on to become a star penciller in his own right, influenced by Mahnke while moving progressively out of his shadow. The intricate cover was by series regular Tom Mandrake, and has proven a fan favorite over the years.


Anonymous said...

Wow--you've got some strong feelings about the Ostrander series!

I'm not a long-time collector, so I've pretty much only read JLI and the MM solo series, and while his portrayal is...well, pretty different between them, I enjoyed both. Would you be willing to elaborate upon why you detested MARTIAN MANHUNTER so much? Was it primarily that Ostrander made him into such a solitary-seeming character? That he didn't do much to address J'Onn's role within the larger DCU?

Diabolu Frank said...

Justin, I have and will continue to avoid writing about the Ostrander series because of how forcefully and at such excessive length could elaborate on my loathing. I was among three of the loudest, toadiest haters of the series on the DC Message Board and elsewhere while it was running, often in the virtual presence of Ostrander himself. I'll endeavor to keep it brief, as I've shown a penchant for droning on the subject. For a taste of the old me, check my synopsis of Martian Manhunter #0. It's one of the few entries I wrote back in 2000 for "Martian Manhunter: The Rock of the JLA" that I've reused here.

1) Ostrander returned to one of the worst aspects of the character from the past: powers on demand. As if the character's abilities weren't unwieldy enough, O. added more as he felt inclined.

2) Throughout the series, Manhunter invaded the minds of whomever he encountered without regard for their privacy. His religious sanctity of the mind from JLI, which helps explain why things like Max Lord being evil could slip under the radar, causes tons of story complications when ignored. Also, the mindrapes just plain offend me.

3) Manhunter repeatedly killing and/or contemplating murder, something largely anathema to the character in prior and subsequent interpretations.

4) Malefic, at a conceptual level.

5) The lack of a supporting cast for most of the series.

6) The lack of an alter ego.

7) Ostrander's seeming more interested in the continuity of the "Chase" series than what anyone wrote about Manhunter prior to his arrival.

8) Bad grammar and run-on sentences.

9) Ostrander regularly borrowing other book's characers and continuity to augment his book while ignoring more natural connections and established history.

10) Not a single villain that I can recall besides Darkseid who had previously faced Manhunter appearing in the series.

11) Shoddy characterization of both the lead character and anyone unfortunate enough to guest-star in the book.

12) Awful villains created for the series, most so lightweight as to not warrant a second appearance in the book or elsewhere.

13) After Jemm was tortured by Malefic in the guise of Martian Manhunter for months, the real J'Onn J'Onzz has an affair with his fiancee.

14) Everything was so bloody derivative. It's the same reason I avoid reading Greg Rucka. Even if I'm grooving along at first, I suddenly recognize where the writer is "swiping" his ideas from nearly whole cloth. It's like a textual Rob Liefeld book.

15) It was plain dull, especially the Manhunter himself, dubbed "Spectre Lite" back in the day. Watching the creative team, who'd done so much better work elsewhere, was like seeing an actor you respect in a terrible movie they're visibly embarrased to be in.

I honestly could go on, and on, and on. I'm trying to rein myself in. It's as difficult as J'Onn trying to not eat the cookie in this issue...

Anonymous said...

ha! Okay. Thanks for taking the time. Guess I'll have to reread those some day, though what can I say? I liked them at the time.

Diabolu Frank said...

If you dig 'em, more power to you. It's just not my thing...

Bookgal said...

I know this is an old post, but I remember getting this issue (as a longbox pull) and just laughing till I cried. The Hulk/J'onn was just brilliant.

I used to use this pic as my "Had a good day" icon on LJ. :)

Diabolu Frank said...

I don't receive notification emails, but since I moderate comments, I can usually guess which old post one goes to through context clues. This was a popular issue for sure, and for my crusty self, one of Ostrander's least painful to read.