Thursday, July 31, 2008

Martian Manhunter & Justice League Logo Signs

Here's an oddity I stumbled upon on the net: Mary Ann Nelson McAlister, a fellow Texan (and possibly even another Jew, b'gosh,) made signs relating to our favorite Martian out of wood and acrylic. What would possess her to recreate the Martian Manhunter logo, of all things, is a mystery to me. I suppose an email would clear that all up, but nah. I prefer idle speculation and minimal human contact. Those inclined to explore further can check out her extensive artwork in a variety of mediums at Mary Ann Art.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"Infinitely Heroic" Giclee by Alex Ross


I decided to go ahead and post a spotlight on this item, rather than list it among this month's "Martian Sightings." I'll never own it, and it doesn't have to be in circulation to be discussed.

"Infinitely Heroic" is my current desktop wallpaper, so I clearly enjoy the piece. For too many years, Ross rendered the fabulous heroes of the DC Universe as his friends and neighbors in pathetic looking costumes, while everyone here (but Flash)is appropriately sexy. The colors are more vibrant than I'm used to from Ross, and there's a more potent airbrush look, rather than the affected appearance of oil. Of all the times Ross has used this exact same layout, this is my favorite.

On the other hand, I've been suffering from Ross fatigue for a long time. I know the guy's stuck in the 70's, but must he shoehorn Shazam and Plastic Man into everything? The Big Red Cheese looking over at the Atom on his shoulder is grievous revisionism that cannot be tolerated! Ross-- Captain Marvel wasn't a fully DC-owned property until the mid-80's, at which time he very briefly joined Justice League International, and never again since. Here's a thought, why don't you paint the "funny" League for once, perhaps over pencils from Kevin Maguire's 30th variation on his cover to "Justice League #1?" It would be ever so meta. As for Plas, not a Leaguer until the late 90's, so how about working him into a retread of Howard Porter's "JLA #1?" Another thought-- could we maybe use Jack Cole's work as a reference, as I've loathed every interpretation of the character since his creator's passing?

I'm sorry, but I must protest being afflicted by Red Tornado and other perpetual D-listers because they were in the League in the same years "Super Friends" was on the air. If we must go there, can we get Zatanna in the Sindella suit, or with the bug in her hair again? I know that look was a Scarlet Witch knock-off, but the top hat and tails is both sexist and, more importantly, drab. This is supposed to be a super-heroine? Looks more like a party stripper.

For goodness sake, Metamorpho? If you're going to paint the entire DCU third-string, I think it's about time we got to see Paco Ramone, Hank Henshaw, Cyndi Reynolds, and Mari McCabe in their cheese-tastic glory! Let's go to Detroit, blast it! You can maybe reference a "Welcome Back Kotter" cast shot, if that will grease the wheels. It's clearly working on your subconscious, as you grouped all the Detroit team but Batman together in this giclee.

Infinitely Heroic features 18 of the most celebrated heroes in the DC Universe.

Illustrated by award-winning comic book artist, Alex Ross, Infinitely Heroic is painted by Ross in his trademark photo-realistic style. Alex Ross’s artwork adds a new dimension to the exciting graphic world of comic book art by creating renditions of superheroes and villains whose proportion relates to a viewer on more of a human level. Published in an edition of 250 on paper, each fine art Giclee print is hand numbered and then signed by Alex Ross. This print is a companion piece to “Infinitely Evil,” a giclee released in March 2007 which featured 20 ruthless villains from the DC Universe.

Image Size: 14 ½ “ H x 29 “ W Paper Size: 18 ½ “ H x 33” W”
Edition Size: Limited to 250

This product will be in stock on Friday 29 August, 2008

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Frienemies of Mars: Hal Jordan

In one of my now fairly rare visits to MySpace, I found that reader and fellow Aquaman/Manhunter fan The Irredeemable Shag wished to alert me to a post on his blog, Once Upon a Geek, where he posed a question about Final Crisis: Requiem … MM & Hal? I still haven't received my copy of "Requiem," and whatever happened to renaming it "...for Martian Manhunter," as DC had previously mentioned? Anyway, Shag griped that in the book Hal Jordan's vow to avenge J'Onn J'Onzz rang hollow. We all know the death is being used as motivation for Jordan's forming a new, pro-active Justice League, so it all comes off like Colin Powell waving "proof" of Iraqi WMDs at the U.N. As Shag noticed, this becomes more blatant when you realize Hal Jordan is hardly a Comrade of Mars.

In our world, Green Lantern and the Martian Manhunter made one another's acquaintance in the first Justice League of America story. Nine issues into the team's series, an origin story was retroactively added. None of this really impacts on the relationship in question however, as Gardner Fox's tales featured a collection of amiable heroic cyphers distinguished only by their powers and costumes. That began to change several years down the line, when Fox was replaced by Denny O'Neil. However, the Manhunter from Mars only appeared in the book sporadically at that point, and O'Neil wrote the character out of the team and off the planet within his first dozen issues on the title. The Manhunter sat out most of the 70's, and the only time he seemed to take note of Green Lantern in that period was when Jordan made his short list of suspects in the apparent assassination of his friend, Re's Eda. While Jordan shared dubious company with Superman and the Hawks-- well-- those are other strange relationships for another time.

J'Onn J'Onzz returned to Earth for good in 1984, in search of help from a Justice League Hal Jordan had abandoned at a time of Earth's dire need. Aquaman dissolved that incarnation right afterward, and the Manhunter joined the now-Lanternless League. He became associated with the Corps again through JLI in the form of Guy Gardner, with whom he had an antagonistic relationship for the next five years. At one point, J'Onzz fired Gardner from the League, and I don't recall that he was officially reinstated for the remainder of Manhunter's own membership. Over those years, J'Onn J'Onzz had very little contact with Jordan, but he did have a traumatic run-in with another Lantern, John Stewart. That Green Lantern was partially responsible for the destruction of a planet in Manhunter's presence, an act J'Onzz swore he'd never forgive. Martian Manhunter was involved in later recriminations and Stewart's near-suicide.

You may notice a pattern emerging here. During the 70's, no less than four launches of individuals bearing the name "Manhunter" sans "Martian" were made by DC. Two of those were tied into the Green Lantern Corps, as robotic "Manhunters" were revealed to be precursors to the Corps with a genocidal agenda. In the 80's, all the "Manhunter" characters still in continuity were tied together for the "Millenium" cross-over... except J'Onzz, who only smashed the robotic Manhunters without comment. Those same Manhunters were among the first villains to appear in the "Justice League" cartoon, whose producers had decided to refer to the Martian hero only as "J'Onn J'Onzz" throughout the series to avoid confusion. The Martian Manhunter had his very trademark infringed by Green Lantern villains. It seems it made him less than friendly toward the entire Corps.

Hal Jordan did not return to active League membership until immediately after the Martian Manhunter quit, although J'Onzz returned himself to serve on two League branches fairly removed from Jordan's. The Martian Manhunter had little-to-no contact with Jordan until he joined Guy Gardner in responding to a suspicious silence among Corpsmen and the people of the planet Oa. Manhunter was part of an investigative party ambushed and brutally assaulted by Jordan, who was then believed to have gone mad. On numerous occasions, Martian Manhunter joined collective of heroes seeking to bring Jordan, now called Parallax, to justice.

Of all the Green Lanterns, only two had relations with J'Onn J'Onzz that could be considered pleasant: Kilowog, who was slain by Parallax, and Kyle Rayner, an exceptional Lantern believed to be the last of his kind for a time. On the other hand, there was the continued pest G'nort, and mounting evidence of acrimony between Martians and Lanterns. In an issue of the Martian Manhunter solo series, Jordan's predecessor Abin Sur butted heads with the Manhunter from Mars, who revealed centuries of distrust and animosity between his people and the Guardians of the Universe. In a terrible JLA story, those Guardians were revealed to have altered Martian DNA to effectively "neuter" them and saddle them with their weakness to fire.

While Manhunter attended Hal Jordan's funeral when he appeared to heroically sacrifice his life, he seemed to have mixed feeling when later confronted by Jordan resurrected as the Spectre. Jordan eventually returned fully to life and Green Lantern membership when it was revealed he had been possessed by a monstrous alien entity. Even in light of this though, Manhunter kept his distance. When Jordan and Stewart alternated membership in a new formation of the Justice League of America, Martian Manhunter chose instead solo status and a brief fling with the Outsiders after twenty years of near-continuous League service.

Retroactive continuity fails to enhance the J'Onzz-Jordan camaraderie. In 1977, it was revealed that most members of the original Justice League were gathered to halt a Mars-centric threat, but Jordan was just a test pilot that happened upon the scene. In the 80's and 90's, various stories set in the League's early period didn't particularly connect the two heroes. Specifically, in "JLA: Year One" Jordan has very little direct contact with J'Onzz. Jordan was among the first and most voracious to wrongly accuse and physically attack the Martian Manhunter, believed to have betrayed his team. Jordan repeated this action recently, when he joined a group of heroes tasked with capturing a transformed Martian Manhunter turned fugitive from the U.S. Government. As for "Elseworlds" and other Imaginary Stories, can anyone name any where the characters had a significant interaction?

It seems to me that, not only is Hal Jordan not in a position to validly fly under the Manhunter banner in his latest crusade, but would likely earn J'Onzz's criticism for the move. The Manhunter from Mars tended, with exceptions, to be a mild-mannered sort who reacted to threats, rather than plan surgical strikes. Further, Hal Jordan has spent his career alternating between being an indecisive, unreliable flake and a power hungry glory whore. In may ways, Jordan is the antithesis of J'Onn J'Onzz. All in all, the Manhunter has always had a fan in Green Arrow, confidant of Jordan and co-founder of this new "Justice League." Any vows to avenge a fallen friend should have come from the lips of Oliver Queen, a hero much closer to the Martian's methods and values. By my reckoning, Hal Jordan never had the right.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Secret Wars of the Super Powers

Over at El Jacone's Comic Book Bunker, Luke recently recalled happy memories regarding a character he likes, the Martian Manhunter. It got me thinking about the early days of my own fandom, so I thought I'd share.

I have no idea when I started reading comics, Both my uncle and mother read them, so they were always just around. The earliest copies I remember reading were from 1978, but when I first picked them up, I cannot say. I'd guess I started actively pursuing comics on the newsstand between 1981-1983. Like most people, I entered with Superman and Batman, then progressed to Spider-Man and Captain America, before settling into X-Men and the New Teen Titans. I was around for the dawn of action figures, with early Star Wars among my first toys. It was only natural when super-hero action figures were released, I'd be all over them. Either I was too young or poor to gather many proper Megos, but my Pocket Heroes came right off the pegs. I bought all my favorites-- Spider-Man, Robin, Wonder Woman and Captain America.

Being more of a Marvel guy in the Reagan years, I tended toward Secret Wars, and snapped up most of the first series new in 1984. Only Magneto and Iron Man escaped my interest, as I only learned to appreciate Tony Stark in the last few years. I could never score any second series, but when I started visiting my half brother, I got to play with his Daredevil and Baron Zemo. I preferred their more smooth and pliable sculpts to the rigid, gimmicky Super Powers.

I thought the Hal Jordan Green Lantern was one of the best looking super-hero figures to that point, so he joined Robin among my first purchases. Somehow, the head had been ripped off my old Pocket Robin, so the Boy Wonder had become an undead assassin until I lost him. Perhaps it was association, or just that slightly demented grin on the Super Powers version, but a lost cape and sniper rifle later yielded a second stone cold killer in booties and short pants. Hawkman, Wonder Woman, Dr. Fate, Darkseid, Joker, Penguin, and the Parademon would all come later. Superman, Batman and Mr. Freeze passed through my hands in undesirable trades. Plastic Man and Martian Manhunter were probably the last two I'd ever buy, at a discount, because the shelves were full of them.

Maybe it was just the lines winding down, but by 85-86, I wasn't nearly as interested in buying super-hero toys. For starters, they were much taller than G.I. Joes, which had far more versatility, playability, and copycats, making them the standard bearer. Next, I wanted my own action heroes, as while I emulated the comics I read during playtime, I never wanted to exactly recreate them. You'd think I'd get off to having my resident bad ass, "The Executer," team-up/battle with Marvel's Wolverine, but it never worked like that. Instead, I'd pour my fantasies into a modified Zartan, while Superman would play some random thug whose butt "The Tarantula" would kick. Maybe it was his Liefeldian protruding chest, those dim eyes, his hands locked at his waist, or his inability to perform a roundhouse kick, but the Man of Steel was, comparatively, a tool.

Not so with the Martian Manhunter. The comic that came with the toy was lousy and forgettable, so his slight backstory went out the same window as his cape. Instead, I relished his lengthy reach. Two fists of iron clinched far from his body, begging to be planted on somebody's chin. Martian Manhunter was never one of my star heroes, but he was clearly too gorgeous to settle for Superman's lowly status. When he played the villain, he'd stare down a host of heroes from his beetle-brow. When he was among the good guys, the rim of his cavalier boots would rustle as he ascended a rocky mountain path to serve as a dutiful, doomed lieutenant. He would hold the line until perishing in the final conflict, serving proudly. There was a nobility to his face, and a serenity in his tight smile that would never allow him to descend to the depraved depths of that grinning lunatic Robin. He could have been a contender, if only he'd had a ball joint in his hip, or maybe a swivel in his waist.

The original Martian Manhunter perished along with pretty much all my toys of similar size when my brother took them with him to that camp for "problem" children. He felt bad, and gifted me all his figures of He-Man stature to make amends. I'd played with them as well, but that was clearly an entirely separate universe with its own continuity. Well okay, after reading "Crisis On Infinite Earths," I did one crossover, with the Robotech Zentradi acting as the bridge/Monitor/Pariah that negotiated the size difference. It was "Crisis," and then "Justice League International," that introduced me to the real Martian Manhunter. I liked him almost immediately, but it would be some years later before I was truly a fan.

Even still, the mold began with that Super Powers action figure, so well crafted that it imparted on me a sense of who the character was before we were truly acquainted. Long ago, with impartiality, I came to the conclusion that he had usurped Hal Jordan as the best Super Powers sculpt. I still feel the same, and am pleased Kenner allowed me access to Martian Manhunter fandom well before DC ever did. I wonder though, what, if anything, will be the gateway for the next generation of fans? Justice League? Smallville? Time will tell...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Super Powers Collection #14: Martian Manhunter (1984)

Secret Origins Matter

Here it is: the first Martian Manhunter comic book I ever owned, though not for long, as it's only 4 1/2 x 2 3/4 and couldn't be held onto by a stripling. It came packaged with the Super Powers action figure I bought discounted, likely a year or so after release. As best as I can tell, that would make Dr. Fate (#15) my second, though I no longer own nor recall it, and I never possessed Mantis (#16,) on whose cover Martian Manhunter appears. I did have Darkseid and a Parademon, but I don't know if J'onzz appearances reached that far. As tends to be the case with these things, no credits were published, and I couldn't find any online. It's also worth noting that this is the first ever eponymous "Martian Manhunter" comic book, as his only time as a lead feature was in anthology titles. I believe the "Martian Manhunter" logo seen here was designed specifically for the line. Aside from popping up in the "Showcase" collection of Silver Age Detective Comics stories and Martian Manhunter's first "Who's Who" entry, this is the only place I've ever seen it.

Martian Manhunter was on a fly-along beside Wonder Woman as she tested the new aircraft/line accessory the Delta Probe One over New York City. Below, at the United Nations Plaza, Darkseid's underling DeSaad caused security guards and bystanders to see horrible illusions. When Martian Manhunter appeared, he was comically misperceived as an only slightly more fearsome version of his normal self. Recognizing the circumstances, Martian Manhunter turned intangible (and seemingly invisible) to pass harmlessly through the crowd.
"Manhunter-- There's no way to battle them now. Let's go!"
"I don't like giving up, Wonder Woman."
"Believe me, we're not! Listen to my plan..."

The pair returned to the Hall of Justice for help, specifically Firestorm, who was interrupted in telling a joke by a gruff Amazon. Manhunter was no less abrupt: "Listen, we need your atomic powers now!" Martian Manhunter filled Firestorm in on their plan. "No problem, Greensleeves! This'll be a snap!"

At the U.N., DeSaad had used a machine to take over the ambassadors minds to serve Darkseid's will. Firestorm turned a wall of the building to gas so that he and Wonder Woman could easily pass through. Manhunter warned, "Careful youngster-- he's tricky!" DeSaad taunted, "You don't know the half of it, Manhunter. Not even the likes of you can escape my vertigo grenades. As the heroes fell from the sky, Firestorm turned the floor into a giant trampoline, and made me start to wonder who's name was on the cover again? Firestorm constructed a shield against DeSaad's nerve beams for himself and Wonder Woman, who observed, "Merciful Minerva-- The Manhunter's in the open!" The sadistic DeSaad agreed, "Which allows me to turn my fear machine on that alien pest! When I'm through with him, he'll wish he had remained on Mars! Hah! Your teammate is helpless! And now I shall use my powers to command the ambassadors to slay themselves with their doom machines!"

On his knees, Manhunter struggled against the pain to reach and smash DeSaad's mind control device. "My homeworld has... faced tyrants before... and we, uhhh... fought them all... I... I can't allow my... uhh... adopted planet... to fall before... Darkseid's power. There! Y-your machines are useless now! When will you dictators learn you cannot enslave free men against their will? We will always fight back! And we will always be free! Perhaps now you should get a taste of your own medicine, DeSaad." Martian Manhunter turned the fear machine against its cowering former master, who was to be escorted to the Delta Probe's Criminal Capture Pod (sold seperately.) "I don't think Darkseid's going to be all too pleased when DeSaad's returned to him." Wait-- what? Why?!?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Martian Sightings for September, 2008

Written by Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis
Cover by Kevin Maguire
Art by Kevin Maguire, Steve Leialoha, and others
Batman, Green Lantern, Booster Gold and the other quirky heroes of JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL are back! First, the team battles a colony of spaceships known only as the Cluster, then track Mister Miracle back to Apokolips in this new volume collecting issues #14-22 of their acclaimed 1980s series.
Advance-solicited; on November 12 o 224 pg, FC, $24.99 US

Written by Roger Stern
Art by John Byrne & Mark Farmer
Cover by Joshua Middleton
The classic creative team of Roger Stern and John Byrne reunite for this tale from JLA CLASSIFIED #50-54! The Justice League faces a foe who's out for revenge - but The World's Greatest Super Heroes have no record of ever battling him before!
Advance-solicited; on October 8 o 128 pg, FC, $14.99 US

Written by Geoff Johns & Jeff Katz
Art and cover by Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund
In this second BOOSTER GOLD volume collecting issues #0, 7-10 and 1 Million, Booster travels through time to save his best friend, Blue Beetle, from being murdered. But the resulting change to the time stream creates a wormhole of problems for the two heroes and some unpredictable consequences . . .
Advance-solicited; on sale November 5 o 160 pg, FC, $24.99 US

Justice Illus Logo By Ross Blk T-Shirt Med
The art of Alex Ross make a double impact on the new Justice Illustrated Logo T-Shirt. Features Alex's art integrated into the Justice logo screenprinted in full-color on a black 100% cotton shirt. There's plenty of justice to go 'round!
Justice Illus Logo By Ross Blk T-Shirt Med is a pre-order item.
Item is expected to ship by Oct-2008.
Med.-XL: $17.95, XXL: $20.95

Written by Keith Giffen
Art by Lee Garbett & Trevor Scott
Cover by Carlos Pacheco
Hell has been unleashed upon the earth, as all the villains from the DC Universe and the WildStorm Universe team up. And with the moon ripped from its orbit, the earth itself is being torn asunder. Could this final issue contain the end of two universes?
On sale September 17 o 6 of 6 o 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Written by Sean McKeever
Art and cover by Eddy Barrows & Ruy Jose
Bombshell is back! But wait - isn't she dead? Whatever the answer, one thing's for sure: the Teen Titans are gonna have their hands full! Also in this issue: Wonder Girl can feel something terrible on the horizon coming for her and there's nothing she can do to stop it!
On sale September 24 o 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Written by Art Baltazar and Franco
Art and cover by Art Baltazar
School is in session at Sidekick City Elementary and it's time for report cards and parent teacher conferences.
Plus, Beast Boy gets more than he bargained for with a trip to the local library and hilarity ensues at Blue Beetle's birthday party with a case of mistaken identity and much, much more!
On sale September 17 o 32 pg, FC, $2.25 US

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Vile Menagerie: INFLICT

"The Extrasolar Wars were won millions of years before the light of their occurrence" will ever reach Earth. The victors were the Conquerer Rex, "with nothing left to fear except boredom. Masters now of time, folding dimensions to their will. What's left for them? Conquest. Not war or glory. The fashion of conquest. These are the fashion elite."

Seven days prior to the otherworldly Feast announcing the presence of these beings and itself to the JLA, insectoid "sampler drones" powerful enough to cut through Superman's flesh were sent to test the genetic make-up of the planet. As described by Feast, they were part of "Field work for a lucrative project we were contracted for. We expected carbon-based yellow sun life-forms. Exactly what we needed, except... well, we're talking bonus situation. A Martian xenomorph. An Oan power battery. A being linked to the Speed Source. Themysciran clay. Kryptonian solar energy-absorbing cells. And your 'Plastic' Man? We're still analyzing those samples..." At the Feast's recommendation, based on both terran supplies and the unexpected appearance of metahuman protectors, the Conquerer Rex had come to indulge their visceral cravings with our planet's resources. Of its contractors, Feast declared, "I live every moment in terror they'll turn on me. But oh, what they pay me to organise these outings for them... and I'm ready to settle down.

Three days prior, everyone on Earth started becoming indestructible, and by extension stopped dying. This was caused by an RNA mist released by the Feast. "You don't think I want to destroy this sad little water-marble? The Earth, after executive combatants defeat any super-powered threat, will become a no-die breeding ground for parts. The moon will be a spa for interstellar conquerors. With an endless supply of enhanced flesh, bone, blood and muscle for treatments. Soon even your wildlife, your insects..."

Feast was assigned the Batman to defeat on the Watchtower. The Martian Manhunter seemingly faced his opponent on Mars. "Inflict, trained and tortured by a thousand extinct death-tribes... fulfilling a destiny left unfinished and bleeding in the red Martian soil." Innocents experienced deathless Hell on Earth and beyond, with a mound of Inflict's victims laying at his feet as the Manhunter struggled against the cruel, monolithic barbarian. The skulls and other sundry parts of peoples Inflict had annihilated were bound around his neck, wrist, and calves. His visage was masked by a mass of long, thick hair. Nonetheless, the Manhunter ultimately stood victorious, bearing a severed horn from Inflict's head. So too did the rest of the JLA.

Of Inflict and the rest of Conqueror Rex, the Batman observed, "Our planet's got a Goldilocks orbit. Not too hot, not too cold. Prime real estate. It's the price we pay. But... Justice is always ready. That's why evil always fails. There's only one kind of good, and it's all evil ever gets to battle. Makes it weak and narrow-minded. There's an endless variety of evil. And good's got a lifetime of tricks up its sleeve. We learn from the best. Didn't you ever think of it that way? Feast didn't. None of them do."

Real Name: Unknown
Occupation: Alien Warlord
Group Affiliation: Conqueror Rex
Base of Operations: Mobile
First Appearance: JLA: Welcome To The Working Week (2003)
Height: Approx. 3-5 Stories Tall
Build: Muscular
Eyes: Unknown
Hair: Light

Powers: Incredible strength and endurance, among probable others left undefined.

Weapons: A titanic warhammer/ax.

Created by Patton Oswalt and Patrick Gleason

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Vile Menagerie: WILEY DALBERT

Francis Wiley Dalbert worked under a government contract with Plains University's Physics Department in Keystone City, yet he held no degrees, doctorates, nor other title. "He's a researcher with a dozen published texts on radiation and light theory. He's some kind of genius in that field but has no record of formal education past the eighth grade." Dalbert then used his mind and connections to traffic in national security secrets, for which he was discovered and had warrants posted. Picked up on a drunk driving violation in Gotham City, Dalbert escaped the custody of both federal agents and GCPD officers Harvey Bullock and Rene Montoya. During a rooftop exchange, the entire area was bathed in light, into which Dalbert strolled to freedom. All the while, Dalbert was nonplussed, softly singing the lyrics to Napoleon XIV's "They're Coming To Take Me Away."

A slew of evidence continued to bring up the question not just of where Dalbert was headed, but when. He had cased the garage rooftop days before the GCPD knew where they would meet the agents. Dalbert carried legitimate U.S. currency dated two years from the present.

While Batman and Robin began their own investigation of the matter, Bullock and Montoya were joined by private detective John Jones, who had been tracking Dalbert for months. The disguised Martian Manhunter assured the officers Dalbert's buyers were "not locals," alluding to extra-terrestrial-or-temporal elements that drew his special attention. Meanwhile, Dalbert hired the services of the aerial arsonist Firefly, and visited the local library to brush up on history circa 1905 (specifically the quiet little town of Ginger Springs, Kansas.) While Dalbert had a wealth of currency to spare, he needed help pulling a heist to acquire diamonds. "I plan on traveling... where I'm going gems are less... troublesome than cash."

John Jones joined the GCPD officers in a raid on the hotel Dalbert was staying in, but he again escaped under cover of blinding light, as well as "A change in the barometric pressure. A static charge in the air." In his stead was the Firefly, who preyed on the Martian's weakness until he too escaped. This led Jones to join forces with the Batman, as he felt "that we have one more shot at nailing him. If we fail, he's gone forever."

Dalbert seemingly teleported into a bank vault in a flash of light, and was pleased by what he found in the first safety deposit box he opened. It served to distract him, as a previously undetectable John Jones materialized to lead his collar out through the vault door. There he was again set upon by Firefly, who was now targeting his former partner-in-crime, but was apprehended by the Batman. In the meantime, Dalbert reentered the vault and swiftly disappeared.

Jones explained, "Dalbert already knew what was going to happen... He was certain of the future because he'd lived it before... Wiley Dalbert was, is, will be a scientist from the far future. He was traveling through our time from future to past. These events occurred to him in reverse order from the sequence in which we experienced them. Dalbert unlocked the secret of the neutrino. He harnessed their energies and abilities to defy the normal progression of time. And he began his one-way journey toward his dream. To a simpler place than the one he came from. And a place where the law can never reach him-- a time before any of us was born."

This proved not quite the case, as Dalbert reappeared years earlier in Gotham City, masterminding a heist involving Killer Moth. However, the "Moth" was in fact the time-travelling hero Booster Gold, who had come to this point in history to correct a temporal anomaly caused by Dalbert. Rip Hunter, Time Master, had revealed to Booster Gold that Dalbert was a 27th century physicist who used a tachyon-based device he'd invented to traverse time, but only in reverse. Booster Gold accomplished his task, and Dalbert moved on.

Dalbert was last seen in a scrapbook photograph from early in the 20th century. "Local philanthropist Wiley Dalbert attends opening ceremonies of the children's library made possible by his selfless gift of the necessary funds." Dalbert had christened the very library he checked out the scrapbook from.

First Appearance: Detective Comics #714(October 1997)
Approx. Height: 5'4"
Approx. Weight: 130 lbs.
Eyes: Blue
Hair: Red
Powers: None
Quote: "I can't imagine how this happened. This will take some studying. Surprises can be so unpleasant."

Created by: Chuck Dixon, Graham Nolan and Eduardo Barreto

See Also: Detective Comics #714-715 (Oct.-Nov.'97)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Vile Menagerie: VULKOR, the CAPSULE MASTER

Real Name: Vulkor
Occupation: Criminal
Group Affiliation: None, a trio of Martian underlings
Base of Operations: Mobile
First Appearance: The Brave and The Bold #50 (October-November, 1963)
Height: Below average
Build: Slim
Eyes: Appear black.
Hair: None.

According to J'onn J'onzz's file on Martian criminals and the All-Martian Council, Vulkor was imprisoned on his home world for stealing the only working model of a super-weapon developed to defend the planet. Believed destroyed in the conflict leading to Vulkor's capture, the super-weapon was instead dismantled and hidden in various locations. Several of Vulkor's Martian underlings took refuge on Earth near Star City, and so hid several components in the area. Three of these underlings impersonated Earth criminals, going so far as to serve time in prison, until everything was ready to recover the super-weapon components.

Once the arch-criminal Vulkor escaped incarceration on Mars, he made contact with his henchmen. The trio of Star City Martians revealed themselves and fled prison, despite the efforts of Green Arrow and Speedy to reign them in. The same night, the trio stole a meteor that was being displayed at a museum, which had been found in a city park two years prior. They then made their way toward a strange orange capsule that had recently begun hovering over Star City. The trio awaited the orders of Vulkor, and placed the meteor into a large mechanical hand that reached down from the craft. A voice over a loudspeaker announced "Hear Vulkor! The great day we have awaited for so long is near!" Within Vulkor, garbed in a purple jumpsuit with a spherical helmet, shattered the meteor to reveal a component of the mechanism he was reconstructing.

Spotted by the Star City harbor patrol, Vulkor crushed their boat with his craft's arm. The patrol managed to alert Green Arrow and Speedy, who had called upon Martian Manhunter for additional assistance. J'onn J'onzz recognized the group as being a Martian gang, and endeavored to apprehend them. Joined by a fourth man on the ground and now all garbed in purple outfits, the quartet of Martians, though slight in stature, overwhelmed J'onn J'onzz. "There! ...Our Martian playmate can't take a strong dose of equal Martian muscle!" Vulkor himself piloted his craft against the Arrowplane, which he crushed. A second encounter had the archers pinning the Martians down with sonics, only to see Vulkor and his ship rescue them, capture Green Arrow, and fend off the Manhunter. Green Arrow was allowed to escape, so that he could later be mentally-controlled through a Brainwave Energizer to attack the Manhunter from Mars.

Vulkor built his super-weapon and intended to test it on the atomic-powered ocean liner the Neptune, but was detected through a radio transmitter arrow fired by Speedy. The Martian Manhunter, disguised as Green Arrow, disabled the capsule craft's forcefield and boarded. Vulkor was not up to the fight that followed, his craft and super-weapon were destroyed, and he joined his men in a prison within a volcano.

Vulkor and his minions are presumed to be possessed of all the standard powers of a Martian. However, only super-strength and flight were demonstrated in their single appearance, although telepathy may have been employed in conjunction with the "Brainwave Energizer."

Vulkor employed a large, spherical helmet which to date was only used as a means of controlling the "Brainwave Energizer." Said device, when placed within a close proximity of an individual, allowed Vulkor to control their actions. The Brainwave Energizer has proven effective against human, but not Martians.

Vulkor piloted the atom-powered "Capsule," a large, orange, spherical metal aircraft that resembled a bathysphere. The craft contained a massive, telescoping mechanical arm capable of tearing apart a jet plane. The sphere was also equipped with a forcefield able to fend off most attacks, but vulnerable to magnetized particles. The field could be used to surround the ship or projected as a wall from a distance. The vessel alone could not withstand sea pressure, and was crushed after it tumbled into the ocean.

Quote: "Eh--? I've pressed the control that makes him my puppet, but-- it's not working!"

Created by Bob Haney and George Roussos

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Vile Menagerie: VANDAL SAVAGE

Alter Ego: Vandar Adg
Occupation: Conqueror
Marital Status: Unknown
Known Relatives: Scandal Savage (daughter;) Miss Watkins (daughter;) Billy Watkins (grandson;) Roy Harper (descendant;) Lian Harper (descendant)
Group Affiliation: The Society, the Illuminati, the Injustice Society of the World, Tartarus, Locus, Symbolix Corporation
Base of Operations: Mobile
First Appearance: Green Lantern #10 (Winter, 1943)
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 176 lbs.
Eyes: Brown
Hair: Black

Vandar Adg was a caveman who stumbled upon a meteor which gave him a variety of super-powers, and more than enough time to master them. Under a myriad of assumed identities, he has pillaged and manipulated the world for over 50,000 years, throwing in with dictators ranging from Attila the Hun to Adolf Hitler. Savage prefers the role of puppet master, allowing figureheads to take the glory while he retains the true seat of power. Savage founded the Illuminati, a shadow government that supposedly runs the world, before the fall of Atlantis. He has often been involved in the plans of villainous super-teams, sometimes without even the members' knowledge.

20,000 years ago, Vandar Adg was confronted by his first native Martian. "We had so few words, back then, the Cro-Magnons... hardly more than grunts... but every culture has a word for destruction. We called it Dakath... 'The Burning.' It took me two months to figure out a way to slaughter it. In that time... it destroyed thousands. Twenty millennia and five lifetimes of wealth later, I learned where it came from. Mars. It's a Martian." Adg kept the skull in a box for the duration.

In the Middle Ages, Vandal Savage served for a time in the Demon Knights, a precursor to the modern Stormwatch organization that the J'Onn J'Onzz also once affiliated with. Savage's first major recorded run-in with the Martian Manhunter came during the initial year of the Justice League of America's operation. Concerned about a new heroic age coming, Savage assailed the group with a variety of villainous collectives. John Jones was the first among the Leaguers to devote serious time to investigating Locus, an criminal organization with ties to Savage. The Earth was soon forced to fend off an invasion from the alien Appellaxians, placing Savage and the Justice League on the same side, though J'Onn J'Onzz was forced to expose himself to great peril in order to sabotage an attempt by the immortal to adulterate the team while rebuffing the aliens' assault.

Whether Vandal Savage and the Martian Manhunter had sparred before in the interim, their next known engagement began during J'Onzz's time with the Justice League Task Force. Savage pointed out, "Much of my story is familiar to you, old foe." A daughter of Vandal Savage possessed of an x-factor that made her and her son prime candidates as organ "donors" in the event of his needing spare biological "parts" decided that the best defense was a lethal offensive. "Miss Watkins" sent an army of assassins to kill her father, or at least disable his operations. Savage tried to manipulate the Task Force into protecting him, but J'Onn J'Onzz soon learned the truth behind the attacks. So did Savage, who decided to personally slay the mother. Shortly after, he learned the Manhunter had actually impersonated Watkins, allowing the woman and her child to escape his wrath. "Your wit is as sharp as ever, J'Onn... You've meddled in my affairs... Soon, I intend to demonstrate exactly how you and your --children-- have displeased me, J'Onn." With that, he blew up their temporary headquarters, and a feud had begun.

Savage familiarized himself with the personal lives of the JLTF. When the team erected their new HQ, Vandal again paid a visit... This time, to kidnap the young hero and potential recruit Damage. Next, he learned the Ray had created his own worst enemy, Death Masque, and was ashamed to call on his teammates to dismantle it. Savage provided Ray with a high-paying job and his mentorship, as well as putting Masque in his place. Before turning to Savage, Ray had asked Triumph for help, and was refused. On learning this, Manhunter was furious. Thanks to Vandal's manipulations, a rift had been created within the group that would never heal. After a brawl between Manhunter and Triumph, the youth was near death, but was saved by Savage, who intended to someday collect on the debt.

The war between Savage and J'Onzz's forces came to an abrupt end, when the demonic Neron presented Triumph with a candle that would allow him to rewrite his personal history. Once it was lit, the continuity of his time in the JLTF became suspect.

Savage would next clash with J'Onzz during a desert battle in Egypt. Driven temporarily insane by the Hourman virus, Savage had unearthed a giant tank from World War II as part of his rampage. The tank was overturned by Manhunter, costing Savage an eye, and earning the Martian an eternal enemy.

After the Martian Manhunter conquered his fear of fire with the aid of villainess-turned-romantic interest Scorch, he was left vulnerable to possession by "The Burning." As "Fernus," the Martian slaughtered a couple hundred of Savage's troops in an unsuccessful attempt to reclaim the "Dakath" skull. With the help of Scorch and information provided by Savage, Fernus was defeated.

Most recently, Vandal Savage was present for the murder of J'Onn J'Onzz by Libra. J'Onzz was eventually resurrected, but his antagonism with Vandal Savage has not, at least so far. By some accounts, Martian Manhunter will continue to wage war on the immortal for another 800 centuries, so it's only a matter of time.

Powers & Weapons:
Immortal, resistant to injury, and able to accept "donated" organs into his body with relative ease. He has built up an immunity to telepathic probes. He's also superhumanly strong, and can create inter-dimensional warps. Savage's access to these and other powers waver depending on his physical, mental, and spiritual condition.

Quote: "Is that what you think I am? A criminal? I am Cro-Magnon... I have lived a thousand lifetimes. Crime is so...pedestrian."

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Vile Menagerie: B'RETT

Click To Enlarge

Alter Ego: B'rett
Occupation: Criminal
Marital Status: Unknown
Known Relatives: None
Group Affiliation: None
Base of Operations: Mars
First Appearance: DETECTIVE COMICS #273 (Nov. 1959)
Height: 6'7"
Weight: 250 lbs.
Eyes: Black
Hair: None

History: B'rett was a Martian convict who escaped captivity to Earth by stowing away in an experimental missile that overshot its mark. He landed in Middletown, U.S.A., where he immediately went on a destructive rampage. This attracted the attention of resident policeman and heroic Manhunter from Mars J'onn J'onzz, who followed B'rett to an abandoned warehouse. On being confronted, B'rett expended the battery charge of his ray gun firing on the invisible Manhunter. Failing to make his mark, B'rett released a pellet of Formula Z6. This was the chemical given to Martian criminals to rob them of their super-powers while invisible, and effected the Martian Manhunter for years after this exposure.

B'rett returned to the missile, where he re-charged his ray gun. In order to save Middletown policemen from certain death at B'rett's hands, the Martian Manhunter revealed not only his existence to the world, but also his greatest weakness. B'rett was weakened by a fire set by J'onn J'onzz, then returned to the missile, which was eventually launched into orbit around Mars.

Click To Enlarge

Powers & Weapons: All Martians possess several powers, including superior strength and reflexes. B'rett could clearly summon super-breath, super-speed, and become immaterial.

Martians can typically alter their shapes and impersonate others, though B'rett did not display such talents. It is possible exposure to Formula Z6 robbed him of these attributes, as it did the ability to use any of his Martian super-powers while invisible. B'rett also displayed none of the usual Martian mental skills, such as limited telepathy and telekinesis.

His one known weakness is fire, which will sap his strength and eventually kill him.

B'rett carried a Martian ray gun that could vaporize most targets, including fellow Martians.

Quote: "This weapon says you're wrong! With you out of the way, I'll be the master of the Earth!

Created by Jack Miller and Joe Certa

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Vile Menagerie: TRIUMPH

Real Name: William MacIntyre
Occupation: Sculpture; former student and investor
Group Affiliation: None, formerly Justice League Task Force
Base of Operations: JLA Trophy Room, Earth's Moon
First Appearance: Justice League International #67 (August, 1994)
Height: Estimated between 6'0" and 6'2"
Weight: Approximatly 210-225 lbs.
Eyes: Blue
Hair: Grey, formerly blonde

James "Jimmy Mac" MacIntyre was one of the best "wheelmen," or getaway drivers, in the super-villain business. He wasn't a metahuman himself, but he worked as a costumed henchman, and his family paid the price. One day, MacIntyre's son "Billy Mac" found his costume, and put together why the family always moved from place to place, never setting down roots. Billy's mother told him his father was in the merchant marines, and he pretended to believe her to protect her. Billy never let anyone get close, sacrificing any chance at healthy bonds for the good of his three member family. On Billy's birthday, Jimmy Mac broke his final promise to take his son to the circus. Instead, Jimmy Mac was driving his boss, Dr. Cobalt, along a mountain road, where they stashed a box of ill-gotten gains in an abandoned bomb shelter under a house scheduled for demolition. Perhaps Jimmy Mac and Dr. Cobalt would have evaded a police blockade if they hadn't made that stop, and perhaps Dr. Cobalt's powers would have overcome it if his regular foe Hourman were not also present. Finally, if Jimmy Mac had not knocked out Dr. Cobalt rather than allow him to kill Hourman, they both might not have ended up in prison.

In an attempt to keep his son Billy Mac on the straight and narrow, Jimmy asked Hourman to visit him on the night after his "third-strike" sentencing. Already a loner, the visit made Billy Mac dive even deeper into himself. He decided he wanted to become the polar opposite of his father, a super-hero, and began training both mind and body at an early age. By seventeen, he had a body-builder's physique, martial arts degrees, and working knowledge of science and criminology. He eventually developed powers as a byproduct of his father's career. Learning of an alien threat, he studied them, gathered equipment, and meticulously planned his strike. He also studied the new heroes of his time, learning their weaknesses, so he could command them in battle.

In short, Triumph was obsessed, more concerned with his own stature and gratification than helping his fellow man. He was egotistical, overbearing, aggressive, and reckless. He gathered together for the first time the heroes that would later form the Justice League, but would have sacrificed the lives of The Flash and Aquaman for his own glory. When the Manhunter stood in his way, he attacked his teammate, and set off a temporal explosion that thrust him ten years into the future. As it was happening, he was deciding on his heroic code-name.

Returning to reality during Zero Hour, he sought aid from what was left of the Justice League in defending the world against the aliens that started his career. His claims were met with ridicule, so he decided to punch the Tasmanian Devil through a window to show he meant business. While L-Ron/Despero erected a telepathic shield to protect bystanders from falling teammates and debris, Triumph fought Crimson Fox, Elongated Man, and Fire for no good reason. This attracted the attention of the ancient Atlantean sorcerer Arion, who broke things up. While the rest of the JLI decided to give Triumph the benefit of the doubt by heading to Washington D.C., Fire stayed behind. When The Manhunter returned, she informed him of the return of the JLA's founding member. "I've never met anyone named 'Triumph.'"

When Triumph spotted the Capitol Dome, which had been destroyed by the aliens in his past, he realized the time/space drive that kicked him into the future had also wiped the battle from the world's memory. That included J'Onn J'Onzz, who had traced his teammates' course. After receiving a telepathic status report from L-Ron/Despero, he delivered a well-deserved beating to the pompous Triumph. Having received a therapeutic kiss from an easily impressed Crimson Fox, a concussed Triumph remembered that the aliens' weakness was sonics. Finally heeding Manhunter's decade old advice to attempt peaceful communications with the aliens, Triumph successfully called for an end to hostilities.

Turned down by seventy-seven university grad programs upon his return, Triumph joined the Justice League Task Force instead, and immediately began undermining the Manhunter's authority on the team. He feigned a dispute with the Ray to cover their covertly exploring the headquarters of Vandal Savage during a mission. They were immediately detected, and the move only served to embarrass Manhunter. Later, Triumph bungled a break-in at one of Savage's offices, setting off a bomb which blew up one floor of the skyscraper. Later still, he and his team were trapped on Savage's island headquarters, with the place is set to explode. Powerless, Triumph stood watching Savage, waiting for him to open some secret escape route. While the rest of his team saved their lives, Triumph did nothing except expect a last-minute save that didn't exist. Savage believed Triumph was fascinated by his Machiavellian scheming, and wished to emulate the immortal. His continued actions would bare that out.

Eddie X, Wilma, Fang & Father Rocco

As luck would have it, an old associate of MacIntyre's, Russell "Rusty" Wells, saw him on television and got in touch. While still in college, MacIntyre had been convinced to invest in what became the Home Bargain Channel, and was now filthy rich. In his time away from the Task Force, MacIntyre bought out an investigation company that had been acting as a sort of vigilante "revenge squad" for victims of crime. The members were bonded by the negative impact of the underworld on their lives, and Triumph employed them as his specialized support staff while financing and leading their expanded operations. Among the group was the reckless Latino gunman Eddie X (whose identity was lost to him by amnesia,) African-American communications oracle Wilma (Lester Holmes,) and the Caucasians: dentist/pilot (Meredith) Fang and bulletproof priest Father Rocco (Reverend Douglas Haeffner.)

Triumph was notable for his extreme vetting and due diligence; thoroughly coordinating with federal, state and local authorities in the safe apprehension of criminals in a way that made everyone look good. Eddie X proved to be too unpredictable, throwing off MacIntyre's intricate plans. When he was fired, the group attempted to walk out on MacIntyre, but Eddie urged them to stick with the best gig they'd ever had. Regardless, his departure stirred discord within the group. The youthful Fang's "post adolescent Oedipal dysfunction" generating attraction for the closeted MacIntyre was an additional complication. These divisions were exploited by a new Dr. Cobalt, but his machinations ultimately brought "The Machine" closer together, as they finally revealed their true identities to one another. MacIntyre was also briefly reunited with his father, who was broken out of prison by Dr. Cobalt for one last job. "Jimmy Mac" had a terminal cancer diagnosis, and was allowed to escape in an old Chevy pick-up truck with $10,000 of recovered loot after Dr. Cobalt was apprehended. A major consequence of the episode was Triumph's near-death episode after a traumatic encounter with Doctor Cobalt left him with multiple broken vertebrae.

Even after numerous warnings, Triumph continues to go behind Manhunter's back for his own ends. Once, believing he had deduced the Manhunter's secret identity, he led the team in formulating a practical joke against MM's presumed alias. Instead, two members nearly died at the hands of a telepath named Von Mauler. After The Ray quit the JLTF, he needed help in dealing with his nemesis, Death Masque. Without consulting J'Onn J'Onzz, Triumph refused to provide assistance in the team's name, leading Ray to accept Vandal Savage's aid.

This was the final straw. On learning the truth, the very angry Martian Manhunter beat Triumph like a red-headed stepchild, then fired him from the team. Unbeknownst to Manhunter, Triumph had suffered a spinal injury on a solo mission, and nearly died from the extra trauma inflicted by J'Onzz. After a self-serving attempt to patch things up with Ray, he returned to JLTF like a stray puppy. While his membership was not actually restored, he tagged along on a mission to save L-Ron, which led to a battle in Skartaris.

Triumph was given a candle by the demonic entity called Neron. Should he light it, the ten years he lost in time would be returned to him, at the cost of his soul. Later, he saved Gypsy's life in outer space, but not out of any concern for her safety. "I was too scared to go after you--I thought better you than me...[but] I knew it would look bad if I didn't! ...I weighed the pros and cons of saving you--then I let you believe I was some kind of hero!!" At a Christmas party, Triumph made peace with his fellow heroes, but was still turned down for League membership. After starting a brawl, he left, then debated lighting Neron's candle. Triumph decided against it, but it is accidentally lit by The Ray. That's when continuity got weird.

It is revealed that the pre-Justice League Triumph gathered opted not to stay together, so he didn't get the credit he longed for there. Billy MacIntyre's powers were stolen by Amazo, never to return, and parts of his anatomy were left reduced by a shrink ray. Apparantly, Triumph was still a member of the JLTF, but as a loser also-ran instead of as a rookie. At some point, MacIntyre swiped some souvenirs from the JLA trophy room, including a pen containing a 5th Dimensional Imp named LKZ. Down on his luck, MacIntyre tried to sell these items to a two-bit supervillain, who decided to just kill Billy Mac for kicks. Tempted by LKZ (pronounced "look-o's"), Triumph freed the imp, who killed his captors. The Imp restored Triumph's powers, then wrecked havok in Keystone City. Triumph contacted Ray and Gypsy, taking mental control of his friends, and directing them in invading the JLA's Watchtower. "Let's go live on the moon now."

After ironically taking out the android version of Hourman with an electromagnetc pulse, Triumph sat in Superman's meeting room chair. "After all these years...the throne's mine. This is the way it should have happened ten years ago." Steel disagreed, and ended up with his armor ripped off his body. John Henry Irons narrowly managed to escape into a vent shaft. Triumph's plan was to allow LKZ to defeat the combined might of the JLA and JSA, then ride in with his League to save the day. Pretty weak plan, especially after Batman learned of it, and took down the controlled Ray. Triumph retaliated successfully, beating both Batman and Superman. That is, until Steel turned the Watchtower's security system on Billy Mac. The Spectre finished the job, turning Triumph into a statue made of ice. It is unknown whether Triumph survived the destruction of the Watchtower a bit afterward, but he has not been seen since.

Originally, Triumph drew power from Earth's magnetic field. He could manipulate electromagnetic energy, allowing him to fly, create forcefields, "read" electronic messages, trace energy signatures, emit energy pulses, manipulate objects, enhance his strength, and other formidable abilities. He could levitate other people, as well as create a stasis field within which no normal human could move. Triumph and his agents in the Machine wore energy-dampening suits which absorbed kinetic impact, allowing them to brush off hails of gunfire and major impacts with minimal injury. When empowered by 5th dimensional energies, he could mentally control people, had 360º "hyper-senses," super-speed, and could mentally siphon energy. Triumph claimed to be Superman's superior at this level, while slowly killing the Man of Steel by draining his solar cells. It is unknown if Triumph retained these powers after LKZ's imprisonment.

Vulnerable to microwave radiation.

Quote: "See, you and Ray were my League, Gypsy, the losers nobody remembered or cared about when the headliners climbed back on stage like it was a Beatles reunion."

Created by Ruben Diaz, Brian Augustyn, Mark Waid, Christopher Priest and Howard Porter.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Click To Enlarge

Alter Ego: Arnold Hugo
Occupation: Criminal Scientist
Marital Status: Single
Known Relatives: None
Group Affiliation: None
Base of Operations: Mobile
First Appearance: DETECTIVE COMICS #306 (Aug. 1962)
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 190 lbs.
Eyes: Blue
Hair: Black

Though Professor Arnold Hugo believed his ancestor was a famous warrior, his name was bypassed by a Gotham City Historical Society tribute to ancestors of city residents. Seeking to elevate his status as a minor scientist, Hugo employed a device of his own creation that expanded both the size and capacity of his mind. While deformed by the experiment, Hugo dismissed any adverse effects, as he set about sabotaging the Historical Society's program in pursuit of personal infamy. Hugo's attacks caught the attention of the honored socialite Bruce Wayne, and by extension Batman and Robin. The Dynamic Duo repeatedly thwarted Hugo's machinations, as well as stealing his thunder in the press. The Professor eventually captured the Caped Crusaders, and left them in a death trap while he addressed Gotham City publicly. His intention to create an artificial moon, to insure both his immortality and the destruction of the planet, was routed by Batman and Robin's escape and continued pursuit.

Some time later, Hugo escaped prison to establish a new lab in Middletown, where he facilitated a crime spree with his scientific wonders. Hugo's ultimate goal was to capture the city's resident hero, the Martian Manhunter, in order to duplicate his powers. Hugo temporarily gained all the abilities of a Martian, but was foiled by their inherent weakness to fire, and was prohibited from rendering his transformation permanent.

Hugo again fled captivity, and happened to head in the direction of where the now mobile Martian Manhunter was searching for the Diabolu Idol-Head. Hugo evaded capture, so that he could absorb the abilities of giant cavemen frozen within a nearby mountain. Both Hugo and then the cavemen went on a destructive rampage, but when the brutes turned on the Professor, Hugo joined the Manhunter in defeating them.

Hugo was returned to confinement, where he blamed the Manhunter for turning him into a laughing stock, and plotted revenge. The Professor made his getaway, then lured the Martian Manhunter to a circus while disguised as a clown. Hugo used a machine to take control of Manhunter's body, turning him into a comedic attraction for audiences. Chagrined that this turn seemed only to bolster Manhunter's popularity, Hugo directed the Alien Atlas toward crime, attracting the attention of his other-dimensional pet Zook. Once the creature destroyed Hugo's control device, he was returned to a cell.

Hugo broke out once more, this time travelling to the Mediterranean area the Manhunter now patrolled to set another trap. The Professor irradiated the Martian Marvel as part of a blackmail scheme, but was tricked into curing the Manhunter when he assumed another identity. Hugo swore that one day, he would get the better of his foe.

Powers & Weapons: Using the Brain-Stimulator, Hugo expanded the size and capacity of both his mind and cranium to an incredible degree. This transformed Hugo into a technological genius, a talent which he has employed in the creation of as many as 1,000 menaces. Hugo's preferences seems to run toward unusual firearms, power absorption and size enhancement.

Quote: "Fool! If you read the newspapers, you would know all about the great Arnold Hugo!"

Created by Bill Finger and Sheldon Moldoff

See Also: Detective Comics #322 (12/63)
House of Mystery #153, #157, #165

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Vile Menagerie Week

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One of the ways in which I felt I'd let down ol' J'Onn J'Onzz when I heard he was dying was by not filling out the "Vile Menagerie" more quickly. For those who don't know, I coined the term for Martian Manhunter's rogues gallery back in 1999 for my old "Martian Manhunter: The Rock of the JLA" site. Sadly, while "the Rock" phrase still seems to get play on the 'net years after I abandoned it (focusing on Manhunter as a soloist,) the "Vile Menagerie" never really caught on. Well, maybe it's because I haven't done enough to popularize it, like rounding it out better. I had a lot more rogue profiles back in the day, but I've failed to resurrect and update enough of them, instead resting on links to synopsis and such. Well, no longer! There will be a full week of brand new Vile Menagerie entries, starting tomorrow! Maybe next time a Grant Morrison type is casting about for a Martian Manhunter foe worthy of slaying the Alien Atlas, he won't settle for the freakin' Human Flame! Who will not appear this week! Nyah!

First up will be the the single greatest original Martian Manhunter villain of all time (if you don't count that first appearance against Batman...)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Hembeck Strip Epilogue

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 continued the strip in April, but still didn't finish. I thought I'd finally wrapped it up this July, but missed two related panels toward the end of the book. I think that there's enough exposition to catch folks up for the jokes to play, so I'll offer no further commentary.

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
Day/Strip Four
Day/Strip Five
Day/Strip Six
Day/Strip Seven
Day/Strip Eight
Day/Strip Nine
Day/Strip Ten
Day/Strip Eleven
Day/Strip Twelve
Day/Strip Thirteen
Day/Strip Fourteen

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, July 16, 2008

John Jones, Manhunter of Integrity

A while back at ...nurgh... I ran a series of posts expounding my theories on comic book creations and the responsibilities that come with writing these characters (Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.) Basically, it's about staying true to the seminal integrity of the creation, both out of respect and the consistent direction offered. I'd just stumbled on a batch of swell Mike Grell commissions on the net, and used them to illustrate the series. This one above is of Mike Hammer, but at least as a thumbnail, it might as well have been a take on 50's John Jones stories. While the Manhunter from Mars is often considered more a "writer's character" than a fan favorite, many in the profession have expressed their difficulty in finding a handle on the character. It's really quite simple, and I'm glad to help.

After two World Wars and a Depression, the fifties were full of hard-boiled men, some with some pretty dark passions. Crime fiction had been swollen with titillating and sadistic imagery for years, which began to manifest more generally in the cinematic genre later dubbed "film noir." These works were partially defined by their moral ambiguity, cruelty, eroticism, and the influence German expression to create a stark or surreal atmosphere. The protagonists were often possessed of undesirable traits-- obsessive, manipulative, and so on. While more realistic than earlier detective stories, there was still a desire amongst many for heroes in dire times, men of virtue to combat both the blacks and the grays of their existence. A perfect example of this was Joe Friday.

Created by Jack Webb in the late 40's, Joe Friday began life as the lead on the "Dragnet" radio show, continuing throughout the 1950's on television. Friday was aware of how awful life could be, but he didn't allow the crimes he investigated to drag him into the gutter. He wasn't a boozer, didn't mingle with femme fatales, and tried to treat everyone he encountered with respect. He carried a badge, and did his job as best he could, to investigate wrongdoing and bring perpetrators to justice. He was a professional, only drawing his gun in the most dire circumstances. No flashy car chases, no roughing up suspects. It isn't that Friday lacked emotion: he shared a chuckle with his partners, expressed contempt for dope, and could lecture you to within an inch of your life.

Fanboys have been known to complain that the Martian Manhunter is just an unimpressive Superman knock-off. There's some truth to that, but the facts are, that isn't how he started out. John Jones was very much like Detective Sergeant Joe Friday, with a bit of Phillip Marlowe and a science fiction twist. Like pulp detectives, crooks routinely got the drop on Jones in the second act, roughing him up to add tension before the final turnabout. In later years, those femme fatales Friday dodged would get their hooks into J'Onzz, and he would become a bit too quick with the fisticuffs, more akin to a Spillane character. Like many of the dime store sort, he fixates on elusive truth, sometimes despite the harm that comes with the pursuit. Ultimately though, John Jones was too rough around the edges for a drawing room detective, and too tame for noir. He's Joe Friday with x-ray vision. In most every comic, at his heart, he's still the super-cop on patrol, his primary concern the protection of others from the gray, blacks, and even whites-- at least when they take Martian form. If you just keep that in mind, it's amazing how easy it can be to stay in-character. Also remember, if he doesn't always work as a typical, He-Man American super-hero, it might be because he wasn't meant to be one to begin with.

Say, if any of this intrigues you, might I suggest another "discussion" between Jules Pfeiffer, Larry Niven and myself regarding Superman?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

2008 "Celestial Domes" Martian Manhunter and Moondragon Commission Piece by Steve Carr & Joe Rubinstein

I found another great commission at the blog of one SwanShadow, but I'll let him explain the concept:

"Common Elements commissions are like Forrest Gump's mom's box of chocolates: You never know what you're gonna get. Often, the artist simply draws his or her best representation of the two characters I've assigned. That's an excellent outcome in itself. On other occasions, the artist will go beyond the characters themselves, and create a unique milieu in which to set the figures. That, of course, is even better."

SwanShadow goes into more detail here, but the gist is he was impressed by the thought that went into Steve Carr's twin telepaths, and I'd have to agree. I remember Carr for some fill-in work he did on Wonder Woman during the Messner-Loebs run, and dug his stuff. Shame he hasn't seen more work in recent years.

One more interesting note: Both of these characters died recently to satisfy the bloodlust of a "sequel" crossover...

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Vile Tarot

While I was mired in Memorial Month, Scipio of The Absorbascon presented his natural progression from the Dynastic Centerpiece Model, the Villainous Tarot. Just as I did with the Martian Manhunter Dynasty, the Idol-Head must now chime in on the new archtypical hierarchy amongst the Vile Menagerie. The Absorbascon commentors added a few caregories and clarifications I liked, so I've incorporated them into Scipio's scheme. This is especially helpful, as the Tarot isn't far removed from the "Anti-Dynasty of Supervillainy," but allows for more room to play.

Mocker: Malefic
I considered a number of unusual choices here, including one that could have been fairly controversial. Still, Malefic is a Manhunter-specific foe, a loon, and always ready with a taunt. In fact, his being so clearly in the Joker mold (not to mention Venom) helps explain why I absolutely loathe the character. Beyond the "Ostrander/Mandrake" near-blackout here, I still haven't given him a Vile Menagerie listing. Hey, if you wanna know more, the loser appears in virtually every Martian Manhunter listing on the 'net. Grrr!

Crime Lord: Mr. V/Faceless
What a difference a word makes. In my reply to this section in the Anti-Dynasty of Supervillainy portion of the "Centerpiece" post, I originally listed Vandal Savage. Quite a few characters could lay claim to Savage as a major foe, including (but not limited to) Rip Hunter, Resurrection Man, Immortal Man, and a sizeable portion of the memberships of the JSA and JLA. What made the difference was "unstoppable," as Martian Manhunter fought a lopsided war against Savage for over a year & a half in the 90's, with repeated run-ins for most of that decade.

Mr. V hasn't appeared in a comic for just about forty years, and Martian Manhunter was present for his seeming death (twice!) However, as I recall only Hawkman ever joined Manhunter in facing the forces of VULTURE, and the Martian beat on them throughout the last year or so of his 60's run. Hardly "unstoppable," but Mr. V was certainly tenacious. Also, I like reenforcing the fact that "Faceless" was a crime lord, not the head of a spy/terrorist agency. There's a lot of confusion about that.

Opposite Number: Despero
There are those that would argue that Malefic should be in this role. Well, Malefic wasn't up to the challenge, and lacked both an essential Martian power and weakness.

There are also those who would say Despero is strictly a "Justice League" villain. I would dispute this. Despero certainly started that way, but specifically captured J'Onn J'Onzz in a 1980 story for a game of chess that imperilled the JLA. Then, Manhunter and Batman were the only Leaguers still standing when Despero was reworked in the mid-80's. It was 1990 though that the conflict became personal. J'Onn J'Onzz led the fight against a restored Despero, and was ultimately responsible for his humbling defeat. J'Onzz then bartered Despero to Manga Khan, who's hench-robot L-Ron was used to usurp Despero's mind upon his next return to Earth. J'Onn and L-Ron next used Despero's body to do their bidding for several years, with the sublimated villain seething the whole time. Despero's psychic "ghost" eventually returned the slight by possessing J'Onn J'Onzz's body. Finally, Despero sought out the Martian Manhunter personally as part of his assault on the JLA during "Final Crisis," assigning the Injustice Gang to handle the rest of the team. While Despero remains a League foe, he's more often than not singled the Martian Manhunter out as his personal nemesis for nearly thirty years.

Also, when Despero was "reborn," he became one of the rare few telepaths/telekinetics who are also superior physical combatants. J'Onn J'Onzz is another, allowing Despero to fully utilize his powers on the physical and psychic planes, not to mention shared energy projection. Further, Despero now derived his powers from the same source as Martian Manhunter's greatest weakness, and stands as a nemesis in the truest sense of the word in that he more often than not beats the Alien Atlas one-on-one. Comic books have trained us to believe that guys like Lex Luthor and the Joker are nemeses, which has been more true in later years. Earlier on though, their nemeses were Batman and Superman, not vice versa, as they consistently lost to their foe. A nemesis should be your equal are better to truly qualify for the term.

Twisted One: The Prophet
This is the one category in which the Manhunter excels. It seems like religious fantatics, fascists, and the like are drawn to him like Mr. Moth to a Human Flame. I went with the Prophet, as he was created for the Martian Manhunter Special and held his own. Tybalt Bak'sar, Brimstone, Cabal, Director Bones, and others appearing later could have served as well.

Unhelpful Helper: Triumph
This and the next two suggested categories were similar to "Twisted One," but with just enough nuance, to catch the massive run-off and still remain valid. Clearly, Triumph had the best, though never remotely selfless, intentions. He wanted everything he touched to turn out to the good, for his own personal aggrandizement, and was constantly surprised when he failed epically. I can't think of many super-villains treated as harshly and hatefully by the Martian Manhunter as Triumph, but I can't say he didn't beg for every throttle.

Misguided Idealist: The Master Gardener
A fellow Martian who arrived on Earth first to help lead his adopted planet toward the Great Evolution? That's swell! Doing it by manipulating the media, violently supressing dissent, and binding a fungus that causes spontaneous combustion within the bodies of the populace? Uncool!

Friend-Turned-Foe: Re's Eda
J'Onn J'Onzz became a fugitive from Mars and beat on a slew of innocent super-heroes in the name of poor R’es Eda, the victim of an assassination. Except he wasn't, and instead framed J'Onn J'Onzz in order to lead his people in an invasion against peaceful co-habitants on Mars II. That's forgetting N'or Cott's inglorious death besides...

Mental Challenger: Bette Noir
This is clearly the weakest link in Manhunter's "tarot," and its adverse effect on the hero is extraordinary. Typically, villains who can shut down Manhunter's telepathy are Justice League class threats. Even overlooking that advantage, few of Manhunter's foes are as smart as him, either scientifically or strategically. Dr. Trapp doesn't rate, because he really hasn't manage to take the Sleuth From Outer Space on by himself. Vandal Savage, despite his skill, seemed more a test for early members of the JLA and the JLTF than someone who could plausibly take J'Onn on. Bel Juz pulled the wool over J'Onn's eyes once, and helped install the Marshal, but posed no direct threat. Only Bette Noir has troubled J'Onzz on several occasions, through both telepathy and maneuvers. She's no Despero, but he already has a slot, so she slides into this place.

Physical Challenger: TNTL
If anything, Manhunter has too many of these. Nearly every creature released from the Diabolu Idol-Head qualified, as did most notable VULTURE and Middletown threats.

Gadgeteer: Professor Arnold Hugo
This may seem a demotion from "Mental Challenger," but it's much closer to the truth. Hugo invented one device after another that put the Martian Marvel out, but almost never truly endangered him. He often set circumstances into motion that would occupy the Alien Atlas, but really didn't overwhelm him. I love me some Hugo, and he's undoubtedly formitable, but ultimately more a nuisance than a mastermind.

Sexual Challenger: Scorch
A case could be made for Manhunter getting his freak on right through the Bronze Age, whether it be Diane Meade, J'en , or the plentiful arm candy from the Marco Xavier days. When his status as a widower was revealed, he went through a lengthy dry spell. Around the time of his ongoing series though, he started running buck wild with a number of flings and near misses. All told though, I can think of only one "bad girl," one "villainess" who ever got her hands on the guy mind, body and spirit-- to horrific consequence. While Scorch's intentions were the best, based on her history and the unlikelihood of her remaining "straight" should she return from her coma, Scorch is the only truly qualified selection.

Evil Genius: Darkseid
Another massive weakness of the Martian Manhunter-- his best foes aren't "his." I could have used a number of other gadgeteers and tried to cover by placing Prof. Hugo in this spot, but the truth will out. Most of the villains Manhunter has faced who are remotely at his mental level; Savage, Gorilla Grodd, Professors Ivo and Fortune, Despero; could just as easily be removed as options due to prior or multitudinous committments. Darkseid was the primary villain after Malefic during the "Ostrander/Mandrake" series, which is another reason I freakin' hate that series.

Manipulator: Commander Blanx
The guy managed to bushwhack J'Onn J'Onzz, pass him through a kangaroo court into exile, nearly ruin his Earthly reputation, and slaughter most of Mars-- all for the sake of a real estate deal! I'm still not sure he isn't alive and well, hidden within the Bush Administration. Dick? Karl?

Rival Twin: The Marshal
There's quite a few evil Martian Manhunters out there, from B'rett to The Hyperclan to B’enn B’urnzz and a bunch of prior selections. Maybe it's just that awesome Chuck Patton cover, but there's something about the genetically-engineered military leader who led the first true invasion from Green Martians that still gets me going.

Contingent Foe: Fernus the Burning Martian
Were there no J'Onn J'Onzz in pursuit of a cure for his people's natural(?) weakness, a bunch of White Martians and troops of Vandal Savage would still be alive today. I can't say I like Fernus, but maybe fanboys will think twice the next time they beg for the Manhunter from Mars to "realize his potential."

Personal Foe: N'or Cott
A bit of a cheat, but most anyone else who could have fit this role have been taken up elsewhere. The Manhunter tends to be pretty unambiguously in the right, so beyond occasional lapses into New Age passivism, he doesn't mind blasting most foes overly much.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Hembeck Strip Day Twelve

All the boy-nipples and other dude-centric body exposure isn't helping...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Hembeck Strip Day Eleven

I just have to say it-- I'm not comfortable with how "touchy" Tommy Tomorrow has been throughout this strip. Taking advantage of a moment of vulnerability...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Hembeck Strip Day Ten

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 continued the strip in April, but still didn't finish. Maybe between double posting and the weekend, I can finally wrap this up?

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
Day/Strip Four
Day/Strip Five
Day/Strip Six
Day/Strip Seven
Day/Strip Eight
Day/Strip Nine

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.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Favorite Martian Manhunter Stories

16 Stories. 21 Comics. That's what I presented as being among my favorite Martian Manhunter stories over the course of five weeks. A good many more I'd like to have included were left out for a variety of reasons. For example, I wouldn't have minded J'onn J'onzz's team-ups from "Brave and the Bold," but I wanted to pull quality scans (unavailable from my ratty, yellowed copies) from the Archive Edition reprints first, and couldn't get to the copy once made available to me at this time. I wish I could have covered the first appearances of Zook, the Idol-Head, and Marco Xavier-- but I've never held any of them in my hands. I could have run more Detective Comics stories, but I haven't read as many as I should have, and had wicked alternate plans for several that I have (coming soon!) Ties to continuity kept a lot of great books from consideration, as did length. I'm pleased to point out a number of awesome tales had already been reviewed here, and hope you turned some up with my links to past editions, sorted by decade. The button guides to those will remain to the right.>>>

I tried to allow a good balance between the zany Silver Age tales of long, lanky Jones; the sober, complex works of the Modern Age; all the wonderful period pieces; and the lighter, laughable antics of the JLI years. Dime novel detective work, space-spanning sci-fi, fantastic super-heroics, animated adventures-- I tried to give a little taste of everything that makes the Sleuth From Outer Space such a classic character.

I'm sure I missed some of your favorites, and too many of my own as well. Still, I hope everyone took something away from Martian Manhunter Memorial Month, and that you'll share your personal best loved books in the comments section...

Detective Comics #264: “The Menace of the Martian Weapons!”
Detective Comics #306: “The Last Days of J’onn J’onzz”
Detective Comics #322: "The Man Who Destroyed J'onn J'onzz"
House of Mystery #158: "The Origin of the Diabolu Idol-Head"
JLA Annual #1: "Hardboiled Hangover"
JLA Secret Files & Origins #1: "A Day In The Life: Martian Manhunter"
Justice League: A Midsummer's Nightmare #1, #2, #3, Review
Justice League America #51: "My Dinner With G'nort"
Justice League International #8: "Moving Day"
Justice League International Annual #3: "The Man I Never Was"
Justice League of America #144: "The Origin of the Justice League-- Minus One!" Part 1, Part 2
Justice League Quarterly #11: "Heat Wave"
Justice League Task Force #7: "Valley of the Daals!"
Justice League Task Force #8: "How Green Was My Daalie?"
Justice League Unlimited #24: "Alone Among The Stars"
Martian Manhunter #24: "Double Stuff"
Martian Manhunter: American Secrets Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, Review