Friday, October 31, 2008

2006 Justice League Power Dip

Whenever I hit the dollar store, I see a variety of Justice League candies featuring the same few stock images, some including the Martian Manhunter. I've decided against bothering with featuring those here, since there is really very little variety, nor focus on J'onn J'onzz. It seems to me all the love goes to Superman, Batman, Flash and occasionally Wonder Woman. This here is an exception, with a more distinctive look and extras.

Inside the package was a small grape lollipop covered with Kool-Aid mix that lined the bottom of the packet. The pop was purple, elliptical, and had only the vaguest impression of a "JL" logo. It wasn't too sweet-- pretty tasty, and not all that bad for me at just 51 combined calories (Candy Pop and Candy Powder listed separately in the "Nutritional Fact.") They're just sugar, corn starch, citric acid and food dye. A tad concerned about the "MADE IN CHINA," though. So much for "...of America."

Also inside, in its own clear plastic envelope, was a small sticker with a different group shot. Pretty nifty. So here's your virtual Halloween candy, trick or treaters!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

JLA: Black Baptism #4 (8/01)

Dr. Occult mystically extracted the homunculus/bullet from Superman's body an took it into his own.

Martian Manhunter: "This is what we've been able to deduce so far. The Diablos' accumulated soul-energy will be used in conjunction with the stolen Fountain of Lessing to open a permanent Hell-Gate. This so-called 'Black Baptism' is doubtless planned for today, so we haven't much time. The tangential involvement of the street mage known only as Faust, coupled with the recent disappearance of his father-- sometime JLA adversary Felix Faust-- suggests that the elder man may have been the Diablos shadow-partner all along. As you may recall, our recent encounter with Felix Faust concluded with the banishment of the mad Egyptian sorcerer he raised from the dead named Hermes Trismegistus. Trismegistus had possessed the wizard, and was obsessed with extinguishing all life on Earth. He nearly succeeded. At the time, we all assumed that the undead spirit had finally been laid to rest. Now, however, I fear that the lich has reasserted dominion over Felix Faust, and plans to use the unsuspecting Diablos' dark ceremony for his own nihilistic ends."

Faust: An intended pawn of Anita Soulfeeda in her betrayal of the Hellfather and the Diablos in her pursuit of personal power. The vulnerable June Moon and the threat of Scratch were her leverage.

Martian Manhunter: Joined the JLA against the Diablos at their meeting with Felix Faust/Hermes Trismegistus, targeting the Hellfather Don Asmodeus. Told Superman, "I'll keep him busy, my friend-- Just remember that [Scratch] is just as magical as the bullet that felled you."

Faust: Fought Hermes Trismegistus against his using the Fountain of Lessing to help in birthing a genocidal "vile form" through the unwilling Anita Soulfeeda. Determined that Anita was actually the soul of Enchantress he'd condemned to Hell, and reintegrated it into June Moon, creating another offshoot supernatural persona called Soulsinger. This entity would eventually heal the Sentinels of Magic, while Dr. Occult would take her under his wing.

Blue Devil: Freed by Faust, he helped Superman against Scratch.

Martian Manhunter: Once again acknowledging Wonder Woman as team leader this mission, reported the lesser demons had been subdued, "but their lord is quite resilient." Flash had already fallen beneath Don Asmodeus' hoof.

Batman: Commanded Tempest to cut off the black mana flow to the Fountain of Lessing.

Faust: Absorbed soul-force from Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern and Superman to use against Hermes Trismegistus.

Blue Devil: Destroyed the Fountain of Lessing, and in a chain reaction, seemingly all the Diablos and Hermes Trismegistus.

Zatanna: Agreed to become the JLA liaison for magic users after being healed.

Bloodwynd: Back on his feet and smiling, this time incorrectly drawn with a face mask.

Faust: Hid himself and his father in a bid to nurture their relationship. "Ironically, I think I may have finally found the immortality I have dedicated my life to. The secret lies in having you to carry on the family name. So that there will be another generation of Faust. I'm proud of you, Sebastian." The junior Faust had retrieved a horn lost by Blue Devil in battle, and said, "don't call me Sebastian. Only Mom calls me that."

The Creators: For a little remembered mini-series, a good deal of consequence to minor characters took place here. This was basically the bridge to what became the Shadowpact. Not having followed that series, I wonder how many of the loose ends intentionally left untied here were ever resolved?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

JLA: Black Baptism #3 (7/01)

Batman, Flash and Wonder Woman encountered human sacrifice in Metropolis. Flash and Green Lantern put out a fire at the Infernal Comics Company of Jacksonville, Florida, where GL did some freelance work and the writer took a dig at Crossgen and/or Verotik.

Aquaman: Acknowledged Tempest was still recovering, and that the Fountain of Lessing was "a fountain of healing that hasn't worked in centuries. My ancestors used it to cleanse the souls of sick children.

Blue Devil: Tortured by the Diablos for information, with little forthcoming.

Martian Manhunter: Observed of the Diablos and Scratch, "They seem to operate well as a team, and in all cases, the fallen Sentinels of Magic have been alone when neutralized... When I was close enough to probe its mind, I detected no sentient thoughts. My studies of comparative mythology suggest Scratch predates every godlike being the League has encountered... This Scratch entity is the key to their success. How this Anita creature gained control over it is a mystery I am keen to solve. However, after seeing them both in action, I don't believe she is the leader of their whole operation."

Faust: Took a nap at the Detroit City Morgue with the help of his buddy Shane the mortician. Contacted his father for help. Captured alongside June Moon by Anita Soulfeeda and Scratch.

Plastic Man: Traced Rose Psychic back to the Scrap Bar, where she changed into Dr. Occult once the Diablos showed up. Wonder Woman and Green Lantern were sent to engage them. Dr. Occult returned with the JLA to the Watchtower.

Felix Faust: Revealed to still be possessed by Hermes Trismegistus and secretly backing the Diablos.

The Creators: The covers by Tim Bradstreet were one of the major selling points of this mini-series, and each was exceptional. It's a shame the story began to falter at this point, as the magnitude of the evil began to shrink rather than expand. Zatanna was ultimately the most formidable presence here, as the Diablos were too silly to take seriously, and Felix Faust long past registering as a real threat. Also, the emphasis on minor characters like the junior Faust and Blue Devil makes it feel like the JLA were shoehorned into their story, guest stars in a backdoor pilot.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

JLA: Black Baptism #2 (6/01)

Martian Manhunter: "An ocean stretches across the surface of the moon! Aquaman, what's happening in there?" Gravity-- physics-- all gone haywire at the will of magic evoked by the mad Zatanna.

Zatanna: A stream of flies flew from her mouth as her words reshaped lunar reality. Faust tapped the souls of Green Lantern and the Flash, then created an illusion where Zee had to either regain composure or drown in Houdini's famous water torture trick.

"Manhunter to JLA. The moon is reverting to normal as quickly as it changed." Zee fell back into unconsciousness.

Faust: Visited June Moon at Detroit's Elysium Fields Sanitarium, who had been in a near catatonic state since he slit her throat to use the soul of the Enchantress to reignite the fires of Hell during the Day of Judgment.

Zatanna: Committed to a sound-dampened room at Arkham Asylum by Manhunter and Batman.

Martian Manhunter: Refused to take leave of this mission, despite the likelihood of demons bringing fire to bear. Felt that if magicians better communicated with one another, the attacks of the Diablos would not be as effective. Struggled to maintain psychic barriers against the insane babble of Arkham inmates. "The poor souls here... To think they experience first-hand the anguish I must actively fight to keep out. The very stones seem to weep with the desolation of the mad."

Batman: "John Zatara-- Zatanna's father-- was one of my greatest teachers. He taught me most of what I know of magic... both sleight of hand and the arcane mysteries."

Bloodwynd: Drawn with a Luke Cage-style tiara. In stable condition.

Blue Devil: Stabbed in the back with one of his own bones, kept by Faust when he resurrected the "demon" to keep him pliable. Faust wanted to dissuade the exceedingly loyal B.D. from following him deeper into damnation. Kidnapped by the Diablos.

Martian Manhunter: "Moons of Mars! The fiend masked its presence!" Transformed into an armored insectoid form to battle Scratch. Also present: "The succubus! She must be here for Zatanna! Incredible-- this creature is no mere demon, but of an older order altogether. How did the Diablos manage to tame it? ...Take what form you will, ancient one-- you will not pass!" Prevented Anita Soulfeeda from entering Arkham with his laser vision while fending off Scratch. Came to realize Anita Soulfeeda was Scratch's weakness for its concern, and tried to exploit it, but was shot in the hand by Anita's flame-emitting pistol.

The Creators: This was Jesús Saiz's first major work for DC Comics, after starting out in the European market. His work is almost unrecognizable here, as it is much more exaggerated than his later efforts for the company, "Manhunter," and "Checkmate." The look works best on the monsters and magical elements, aided by dramatic lighting and sex appeal. The super-heroes fare worse, coming off as silly intrusions in their own book.

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: "J'Onn" -Batman
"The Manhunter" -Wonder Woman
"Lousy green freak" -Anita Soulfeeda

Monday, October 27, 2008

JLA: Black Baptism #1 (5/01)

Zatanna: After the Day of Judgment, which altered the status quo in Hell and saw the formation of the Sentinels of Magic, Zee's profile rose sharply. Along with other Sentinels, she was attacked by mafia-styled demons calling themselves "the Diablos," who intended to sacrifice the magical heroes to resurrect more of the infernal fallen. Among them was "Anita Soulfeeda," a succubus who partially fed off Zatanna before being interrupted by Superman and Plastic Man.

Superman: Shot by poseur rhyming demon D'Monix with a magical gun that embedded a homunculus inside his body.

Martian Manhunter: Tended to Superman at the JLA Watchtower infirmary. "You are not a very good patient, you know. The dart seems to be lodged firmly in the wound. And it splinters at the slightest attempt to remove it." Others patients included Zee, Deadman, Madame Xanadu, Ragman and Bloodwynd. "Zatana's not responding. I am going to attempt a mind probe... She's hiding herself in a perverted version of her library."

Zatanna: Spouted gibberish on the psychic plane, from which she expelled Manhunter, after he assumed the appearance of her father.

Martian Manhunter: "No use. When that succubus drained half of Zatanna's soul, she was left on the brink of madness. I fear for those for whom the spell was completed..."

Batman: Initially refused Wonder Woman's suggestion that Faust, semi-heroic son of Felix Faust and an expert on soul magic, should be brought in to help. Relented, but ordered the injured Superman to inactive status pending recovery.

Wonder Woman: Visited the Scrap Bar, an underground club for freaks and misfits in Detroit, and a regular hangout of Faust. She found him in the company of Rose Psychic, receiving a piece of the Fountain of Lessing. Joined by Plastic Man and Blue Devil, the group questioned Samhain Diablo about his association with the Diablos. The group then joined Aquaman in a battle against the gang near Greenland.

Aquaman: Fought Scratch, a large shape shifting demon. Unable to defeat it, nor stop the Diablos from making off with the Fountain of Lessing, nor save the underwater city of B'miria. Faust allowed Tempest access to the knowledge of lost B'mirian sorcerers, which took Aquaman's ward out of the fight for a while. Meanwhile, the moon sprouted wings and a cyclopean eye.

The Creators: Writer Ruben Diaz was an assistant editor to Brian Augustyn and Paul Kupperberg in the 1990s before moving on to full duties, most famously overseeing the 1997 relaunch of "JLA." Diaz jumped ship to Marvel before fully reaping the benefits of that effort, then reappeared at DC as a freelancer before quitting comics for teaching. This mini-series represents his only major work as a writer. This first issue was respectable at establishing a threat to scale with the deified JLA, thanks largely to the vagueness of magic and our heroes vulnerability to it.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

JLA Annual #2 (1998)

For most of the 1990s, DC Comics linked their annuals into "crossover events" of increasingly predictable poor quality and general lack of impact on continuity. By 1998, only eight were released, one for each founding member of the popular new "JLA." The existence of a Martian Manhunter annual as a result of "Ghosts" was about the only noteworthy occurrence over the nearly 400 pages produced. The individual annuals were self-contained stories based more around a theme, making "Ghosts" a hybrid of the years where a concept trumped an interconnected event. The cause and culmination of this supernatural phenomenon were alluded to in the group annual.

Felix Faust, recognizing his lifetime of magical transgressions had doomed him to inevitable torment in Hell, sought the secret of immortality from the likes of Vandal Savage. The key was a centuries-lost Emerald Tablet, so Faust opted to resurrect its last known possessor, ancient Egyptian alchemist Hermes Trismegistus. However, the fellow had gone to considerable pains to end his own life, and took such great exception to Felix's disturbance, he decided to insure his peace by killing everyone on Earth.

J'Onn J'Onzz was the first to be warned of this impending genocide, when Felix spoke to the Martian Manhunter through characters in an old detective movie he had been watching. At the Watchtower, J'Onzz explained to his teammates, "According to Faust, I was contacted first because I was most sensitive to his telepathic distress call... but after hearing him out, I thought it was best for the rest of you to hear his story... He's genuinely terrified. Mind probes confirm it." Faust explained that the Emerald Tablet was a talisman through which Hermes could "actually remove the Life Frequency from our universe." Superman mistook this for the Anti-Life Equation, while Faust continued, "Surely you've noticed the weakening of borders between worlds... Your meta-human energies are like beacons to the other side. You'd be the first to see them... ghosts." Everyone had, including J'Onn J'Onzz, with his departed wife and daughter. Felix Faust charged the League with finding the Emerald Tablet, which had been divided into three parts and hidden around the world by Freemasons, so that he could destroy it.

Martian Manhunter assumed a clear leadership role. "I am convinced this threat is genuine. I will stay here and look after our guest. I suggest the rest of you split up into three teams. Flash... Aquaman... you start in France...

Aquaman: Explored the Pierre-St. Martin Cavern with Wally. Found their piece of the tablet underwater. Surprised by unexpected visitor upon emerging from the depths. "Vibe--? But-- I thought you were dead--!"

Vibe: Startled the Flash when he appeared from out of the darkness of the cavern, accompanied by music. "You not the right one, man... What's happenin'? Where's Aquaman, Holmes?"

Ice: Appeared at the China-Nepal border after Green Lantern Kyle Rayner and Superman recovered their piece of the tablet. "What am I doing here? Is Overmaster defeated?"

Batman: Used a Waynetech prototype sub to reach the bottom of the Marianas Trench with Wonder Woman. Nearly drowned when the vehicle proved unable to withstand the pressures of the deep.

Steel: Took cybernetic control of Batman's craft, sealing it and commanding a crane to capture the final third of the tablet. "It's all right, Batman... I'm here... It's under control."

Martian Manhunter: "For the benefit of our younger members, the face you see on the video screen behind us belongs to a man named Henry Heywood. He was the cyborg Justice Leaguer named Steel. He was killed by Starro the Conqueror* a few years ago. We can't find the source of the signal to these screens..."

Aquaman: Noted that the music everyone could still hear was provided by Vibe.

Vibe: Though unidentified, I'm confident it was the "Beat Street" soundtrack, as projected from a Sanyo MX series jambox. Wikki-wikki-wogga.

Martian Manhunter: "We all know Tora-- Ice. Her death at the hands of the Overmaster touched us all... It seems impossible to communicate with them, even telepathically. I'm not entirely convinced they're really there. I think these manifestations of dead Justice Leaguers are more like psychic or telepathic playback... possibly from our own memories..."

Felix Faust: Had several JLAers form an elemental circle around the reconstituted Emerald Tablet. "Wonder Woman, you are made from the earth itself. Aquaman from water. Green Lantern controls the green fire... J'Onzz. Turn intangible, and you become the air. Join hands around the tablet..." Faust was revealed to be possessed by Hermes Trismegistus, allowing Felix to speak honestly while bound by the Lasso of Truth, which serving Hermes dire intentions. Flash and Superman were immediately removed from consideration by Hermes' superior sorcery.

Batman: Assumed command amidst the chaos. Directed Green Lantern to project his energies into the tablet.

Martian Manhunter: "Batman. This is J'Onn. Your plan requires a distraction." Tried to engage Hermes/Faust, but learned "J'Onzz. Intangibility is another form of energy interaction. You cannot touch this body unless I choose it to be so. Why fight me? I bring you perfect death..."

Aquaman: Telepathically lent his willpower to Green Lantern's own.

Martian Manhunter: Ditto.

Vibe & Steel: Joined Ice, Amazing Man, Crimson Fox, the first Black Canary, the original Mr. Terrific, Johnny Quick, Deadman, Robin II and Blue Devil in distracting Hermes Trismegistus long enough for Green Lantern's might to finally destroy the Emerald Tablet. Wonder Woman noted Ice's closing speech consisted of the exact same words she spoke before being killed by the Overmaster.

Martian Manhunter: Felt his theory about telepathic memory playback being behind the ghosts was, "One of many possible conjectures... but I do not discount the possibility of their existence. My religion and experience teaches me to expect an afterlife. It's something I know to be true. I don't dwell much upon it..."

Felix Faust: Institutionalized, maddened as he was by the perpetual screaming on Hermes Trismegistus, still trapped inside his body...

*: Steel was severely damaged by an android employed by Professor Ivo, leaving him a vegetable on life support for years. What was left of him was killed by Despero the Destroyer. Either name could be confused with Starro the Conqueror, whom Steel never encountered in a recorded adventure. I kind of hope he really was "killed" a third time by the giant alien starfish though, just because.

The Creators: Ty Templeton's story was cute, but lightweight considering the subject matter. Mark Pajarillo was one of several awful artists routinely utilized by JLA editors of the time, possibly because he was either very quick on a demanding book, or especially cheap.

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: "You not the only one who knows how to move energy around, man. It's showtime!"

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Who's Who Vol.XXV: Vixen (3/87)

I was introduced to Vixen back around 1988 or so through discount copies of "Suicide Squad." I always liked her look, but her personality never seemed strong enough to match. After her second team book was canceled, I'd see her here and there, too often in that awful purple get-up that made her seem all the more bland and trivial. It occured to me she was basically the stock black female of the DC Universe, a pale Storm imitation trotted out to say, "Look, we have black heroines too! We just hide them out back in the shed!" Oh no, DC doesn't practice tokenism while avoiding viable minority characters like the plague, right? That's about the only praise I can give Dan Didio, as he's clearly pushed DC out of its entrenched, institutionalized racism.

Back to Vixen, after all those years of dismissing the character, I finally had the opportunity to learn what she was really about through her Justice League appearances. I found her vivacious, capable, and one of the great pleasures of the Detroit years. I suspect part of the problem with her "Suicide Squad" appearances was that J.M. DeMatteis had given her a similar arc to the one John Ostrander intended for Bronze Tiger, rendering Vixen as just "the girlfriend." Moving on, my interest in Vixen expanded thanks to the excellent design work and vocal talent of Gina Torres on the "Justice League Unlimited" cartoon. I'm pleased her appeal has been recognized at DC proper on the relaunched "Justice League of America," though I'm disinterested in the book, but her upcoming mini-series is one of the few things DC has me looking forward to these days.

Art by Luke McDonnell and Bob Smith.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Blue Flame of Mars

A world-wide civil war broke out on Mars over dominion of "a gigantic 'tree' of blue flame" situated between the Pole Dweller and Desert Dweller nations. This flame was believed to be the only source of heat on the planet, and presumably the only type of flame that could be safely harvested by Martians. Military-Science leader J'onn J'onzz had hoped to harness the flame to power spaceships, but it instead fell under the control of Commander Blanx. While J'onn J'onzz was in exile on Earth, Blanx bombarded the Blue Flame with rays that caused it to burst its bonds. Blanx and his men looked on from an Antarean space-vehicle as the flame slowly engulfed the planet. Virtually all of Martian civilization was reduced to cinder, and only a very few survivors escaped the holocaust. The Blue Flame was finally contained when Green Lantern dug several feet below the soil where the fire had touched, shaving much of the planet's surface, and launching it into the vacuum of space.

The Blue Flame of Mars was absolutely resistant to water, actually flourishing as an entire ice planetoid was melted within it. For reasons unexplained, Martians could operate directly in the presence of the Blue Flame without it triggering their potentially fatal vulnerability to fire. Green Lantern Hal Jordan's Power Ring had no effect when leveled directly at the Blue Flame, despite his exhausting his willpower in the effort. Superman has said of it, "I've been to the ends of the universe-- but I've never seen anything like that eerie flame!"

Thursday, October 23, 2008

2005 Martian Manhunter Convention Sketch by Chris Giarrusso

Click To Enlarge

A darned nifty sketch by artist Chris Giarrusso belonging to The Comic Queen, who acquired it at Emerald City Comicon. I doubt I'll ever see this design quality applied to J'Onn J'Onzz in a Johnny DC title, so I'm glad for the taste. If you'd like a bit more, follow the link above to Chris' site, where he has another Martian Manhunter number in his "Crayon Sketches" section!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


After reading Justice League of America #71 (May, 1969,) I had and continue to have so many questions, I heartily invite comment on the following:
  • For better than a decade, guys like James Robinson, Grant Morrison and Brad Meltzer have subverted the Post-Crisis timeline to the point where virtually nothing ever printed is out of continuity anymore. This is especially true of Justice League adventures (like this one,) so when can we expect this comic to be addressed again?
  • Why was J'onn J'onzz dressed so much like "the Stranger?" I mean the villain who fought Roh Kar, the first Manhunter from Mars in BATMAN #78?
  • Will we ever more fully explore J'onzz's role as a pre-devastation "military-science leader?"
  • What was the deal with the Blue Flame? So many questions there, I'd rather not be more specific. Well okay, for starters, how could Martians go anywhere near a perpetual inferno?
  • What all did Commander Blanx get up to on Mars during Manhunter's exile?
  • Why didn't Manhunter take his super friends back to Mars sooner?
  • Were the money men from the Antares system the Thythen, whose planet Vonn also orbits a red sun? If not, who were they?
  • Exactly how many Martians escaped in the ark? 20? 200? 2,000?
  • If the Justice League only disabled the one spaceship, who were piloting the others, and what became of them?
  • Did J'onn J'onzz's mind really "snap" at the carnival, and does that explain his erratic behavior throughout the '70s, or even his reboot in the '80s? Was it caused by an outside force, or did he just go nuts?
  • There are fourteen different pale Martians shown being beaten by the Justice League on page 16 alone, yet Blanx claims he and J'onn are the only surviving Martians. Did he mean on the actual planet, or assume the Justice League slew his men?
  • What exactly did the Justice League do with the Pole Dwellers, and were there any more?
  • Considering the tenacious nature of the Blue Flame, was it permanently extinguished in the vacuum of space?
  • There are still a number of buildings left on Mars, like the Cultural Museum, that have never been mentioned since. Any chance of a visit?
  • Did Manhunter actually kill Commander Blanx, or has it just been assumed for forty years? It's never stated that he died, and there are at least fourteen other Pole Dwellers whose fates have never been confirmed.
  • Having set up a new status quo for Manhunter, why was he able to find the surviving Martians in his very next major appearance? Did he reach them directly, or did it take years (nearly three in real time?)
  • Did the Martians settle Vonn as "Mars II," or did they spend 1972-1977 in exodus?
  • What was everyone up to in between Martian Manhunter's few appearances from 1969-1984?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Vile Menagerie: COMMANDER BLANX

Alter Ego: Blanx
Occupation: Commander of Pole Dweller military forces
Marital Status: Unknown
Known Relatives: None
Group Affiliation: Pole Dwellers
Base of Operations: Mars
First Appearance: Justice League of America #71 (May, 1969)
Height: Tall (variable)
Build: Athletic (variable)
Eyes: White (variable)
Hair: None (variable)

Commander Blanx led white-skinned Pole Dweller forces in an invasion of green-skinned Desert Dweller territory as part of a world-wide civil war in pursuit of the Blue Flame of Mars. His chief rival was Military-Science leader J'onn J'onzz, whom he met in hand-to-hand combat before the Flame. Blanx had one of his men strike J'onzz from behind during their engagement, and took the Desert Dweller into cutody. J'onn J'onzz was too popular a figure to execute, and was instead sentenced to thirteen years in exile by a court presided over by Blanx.

During his first year under the sentence, J'onzz was accidentally whisked away from Mars by a teleport beam to Earth circa 1955. For the next few years, Jones attempted to return home by the same means, sending a probe-ray that was detected by Commander Blanx. In 1959, Blanx first tested the probe by sending a cache of Martian weapons to Earth, then travelled there himself with an away party. Blanx had intended to murder his arch-enemy, but the Manhunter caused a fiery explosion while in his human form and escaped. Commander Blanx then led his men in riots through J'onzz's adoptive home, Middletown U.S.A., to draw out the Manhunter. Blanx was briefly knocked out by the Martian Manhunter, but escaped while J'onzz was distracted by the Barry Allen Flash.

Commander Blanx and his men set a trap for J'onn J'onzz, whom they captured and bound to a rocket set for launch. Their actions were detected by an early collection of super-heroes before the rocket was ignited, and the two groups clashed. Blanx fought with Superman, who was impressed by the Martian's power. During the battle, the Manhunter was released, and he revealed to the Earthling heroes the Martian vulnerability to fire. The Pole Dwellers were swiftly defeated, and were carried by the Man of Steel back to Mars.

Commander Blanx's activities after his return to Mars are vague. Presumably, he returned to power among the dominant Pole Dwellers. At some point, representatives of a distant star-system offered to buy Mars for mineral wealth. According to their code, only the last living Martian had the right to sell. Viewing an increasingly pacifistic Mars as weak and unworthy of continued existence, Blanx loosed the Blue Flame upon the world. The planet was rendered uninhabitable to the very few surviving Martians of the devastation this wrought.

J'onn J'onzz returned to his homeworld after his term of exile, first to aid those he could, and then to see Blanx paid for his actions. With the help of the Justice League of America, the Martian Manhunter overcame Blanx's forces, then confronted the villain in singular armed combat. Over the course of their dual, Blanx fell from a considerable height and was crushed by a large globe. Whether Commander Blanx survived the encounter is unknown, but he has not been seen since.

Click To Enlarge

Powers: Presumably, Commander Blanx possesses all the powers and abilities of the Martian race. This includes telepathy, invisibility, intangibility, flight and "Martian Vision."

All Martians possess several powers, including superior strength and reflexes. In fact, Blanx's strength was great enough to rival Superman's by his own admission. Commander Blanx could clearly summon shape-shifting, flight, invisibility and limited invulnerability. A Pole Dweller in Blanx's company possessed super-hearing, a power he would likely share. It is unclear whether Blanx could use other powers while invisible. Blanx displayed none of the usual Martian mental skills, such as limited telepathy and telekinesis. His shape-shifting appeared limited to assuming the form of another, but this could have been due to his limited time on Earth to explore his abilities.

Weaknesses: Commander Blanx did not have any super-powers on his native Mars, and like many Martians the extent of his powers depended on his environment. While largely invulnerable on Earth, his one known weakness was fire, which would sap his strength and eventually kill him. While not as resilient against it as the Martian Manhunter, Blanx and his fellow Pole Dwellers seemed to react to its presence much better than other Martians from his time period, who tended to collapse immediately at the sight of flame.

Distinguishing Features: As a member of the Martian Pole Dwellers, Commander Blanx had pure white skin.

Weapons: Commander Blanx appeared to be enamored with and proficient in the use of any number of Martian weapons. He was most often seen with a Microwave Pistol, powerful enough to injure even near-invulnerable beings like the Martian Manhunter.

Vehicles: As commander of the Pole Dweller military, Blanx had access to a sizeable arsenal, including specialized tanks. Through his contact with representatives of a distant star-system, Blanx was also given use to several interstellar spacecraft capable of projecting red sun radiation that could immobilize the entire Justice League of America. Blanx seemed a capable pilot in the operation of these craft.

Quote: "You are a cool one, J'onn! I'll sleep better when you're gone!"

Created by: Denny O'Neil & Dick Dillin

See Also:

Justice League of America #71
Justice League of America #144: Part 1, Part 2

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Few Final Words...

Art by Doug Mahnke and Christian Alamy

Patton Oswalt (Actor-Comedian, writing as "Marlus Randone")
The Manhunter from Mars. If Superman is Elvis, then this is Dylan. When you're a kid, you're all for the spitcurl. But by the time you hit college, you're forehead all the way. That thinker's skull, on top of a linebacker's bod... like if Socrates played for the Steelers... For every time the world's been saved in the sunshine by Superman... it's been saved in the shadows by this guy." 2

Oberon (JLI Support Staff)
"J'Onn J'Onzz is the one person on this team we don't have to worry about... he's solid as a rock!"2

Ray Palmer (The Atom)
"... J.J! We're pals-- remember!"4

Hal Jordan (Green Lantern)
"Look how they slaughtered our friend. Of all of us... I can't believe he's gone... A lot of our blood's been spilled... We've lost so many to them... and now J'onn."10

J.M. DeMatteis (Author)
"As I recall, the characters I was emotionally hooked into were J'onn (this was my first time writing him and he immediately became an all-time favorite) and Gypsy (primarily because of J'onn's emotional connection to her)."3

G'nort Esplanade Gneesmacher (Green Lantern)
"Don't let J'Onny-boy fool ya! His bark's worse than his bite!"5

Maxwell Lord IV(Checkmate, Businessman)
"I respect J'Onn... but... God, this is going to sound all wrong... the man's an alien! I mean he's not even a man... Sometimes, I feel that what J'Onn shows us of himself... is just a false front..."1

"...Well-- so long, J'onn. I'm really going to miss him. God, who'd've ever guessed the day would come when one of my closest friends would be a green man from Mars?"11

Ronald Wilson Reagan (Actor, 40th President of the United States)
"Green-skinned or otherwise, this man... risked his life for mine-- and I intend to thank him... I am in your debt. I won't soon forget what you did for me..."

Oliver Queen (Green Arrow)
"I've got no doubts that J'onn's soul is exactly where it should be, hugging it out with his family and friends from Mars right now. And as long as we're still here sucking air, our job is to carry the light and chase the shadows away like he would've wanted us to. He was my favorite Martian."10

Scott Porter (Actor, "Friday Night Lights," "Prom Night," "Speed Racer")
"Tim (Drake) and Martian Manhunter are two of the main reasons I even began reading DC in the first place... I love Martian Manhunter. I’m a little disappointed with the new direction, but I love him as a character."6

Kilowog (Green Lantern)
"...That lean, green fighting machine... The Martian we know and love..."5

Paco Ramone (Vibe)
"We were never good enough for you-- were we, J'Onzz? Not like your buddies Superman and Green Lantern! Ain't that right, you green-skinned, alien son of a--

...I'm not Batman... or the Martian Manhunter... I'm just Vibe! I'm just a joke!

...And what about JJ? He said he was my friend! He said he was proud of me! After all the times I dumped on him-- he said he was proud of me! And I'll be damned if I'm gonna let him down!"7

Alex Ross (Painter)
“I’ve always found Manhunter to be one of the more personally compelling DC figures because of his solitary nature. For me he embodies the distance and disconnect I felt as a teenager. Or maybe it’s the fact that I realized I too would be bald someday.”

Bruce Wayne (The Batman)
"Yes, Old Greenskin is all heart and guts..."8

"Goodbye, old friend."10

Cindy Reynolds (Gypsy)
"He was like a father to me. Always there to listen... in good times and bad. Told me the truth even when I didn't want to hear it. And he never let me beat him at chess. I always had to earn it. When I did win he'd share his cookies with me."10

Clark Kent (Superman)
"Our old buddy-- J'onn J'onzz-- the Martian Manhunter!"4

"J'onn J'onzz was my friend. Always there, always strong, always reliable... He was someone I could confide in. Someone who understood what it was like to lose a world and find another... We'll all miss him. And pray for a resurrection."9

"I guess there are no more words. We've all said what we wanted... needed to say on this sad and mournful day. I think it's best now to simply remember J'onn in our own private way before we leave these red sands and head back to Earth. J'onn was a friend, an ally, a brother in arms, a confidant, and a comedian with the driest delivery you could possibly imagine. J'onn knew most of us better than we know ourselves, and sometimes had no problem letting us know that fact when we strayed from true north. We were J'onn, and he was us... J'onn was the League-- embodied all that was good about it-- perhaps more than any of us. He'll live on in our hearts and minds forever."10

H'ronmeer (Martian Deity)
"Are you ready, J'Onn J'Onzz-- to leave this world of strangers? She's waiting. Will you come?"12

1 JLI Annual #3 (1989); 2 JLA: Welcome to the Working Week (2003); 3 Justice League of America; 4 Justice League of America #115 (1975); 5 Justice League America #51 (1991); 6; 7 (Justice League of America #258 (1987); 8 World's Finest Comics #245 (1977); 9 Final Crisis #2 (2008); 10 Final Crisis: Requiem #1 (2008); 11 Justice League America #60 (1992); 12 (Justice League of America #256 (1986)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Mission Accomplished

As I've mentioned many times, I first became interested in Martian Manhunter sometime between 1985-86, became a fan in 1987, and embraced the character as a favorite in 1996. When I first got on the internet, there were no sites devoted to the character, and when I decided to build one, there were just a few. Of those, including my own "Martian Manhunter: The Rock of the JLA," only one still exists: the Angelfire J'ONN J'ONZZ, The Martian Manhunter FAN PAGE, which hasn't been updated in at least eight years.

My goal with the first site was to give an overview of all Martian Manhunter comic book history, plus lots of extras, some sillier than others. Seeing as how I hadn't read any Martian Manhunter solo stories published prior to the 80's, that required a lot of hustling on my part. I leaned on the knowledge of older fans, bought back issues, and did oodles of research. However, I never felt like I'd come close to my goal. This was partly due to my having failed to fully encapsulate any one era. The greatest thorn though was the VULTURE period. I've owned that last appearance of Mr. V/Faceless, and the destruction of his organization, for nearly a decade. I scanned pages from it, prepared a rough outline, and even had images hidden on my WebTV site. Then, I canceled my service, never finished the writing, and left all my material to collect dust for something like five years.

A few weeks ago, I not only posted that final VULTURE story, but made sure I'd posted every one ever, outside of a mention in an issue of Justice League of America. I have posted an encapsulation of every House of Mystery story I've ever owned. I was finally "finished."

I really wish I'd started the blog a year earlier. I felt so much pressure to generate reams of material once it was announced that DC was killing off the Martian Manhunter. My highest daily hit count was 568, and I felt responsible for educating every single person about as much solo history as I knew while the audience was there. In that respect I failed, since there a dozens and dozens of great stories from the '50s-'00s I never got to, including favorite unappreciated runs like Christopher Priest's "Justice League Task Force." So much time, effort, and personal sacrifice went into reaching obsessive goals, this was often less a hobby than a self-inflicted cross to bear.

I finally feel like I'm done now. John Jones' earliest appearances have been covered, and anyone interested in more can now buy the Showcase edition that reprints almost all of the Detective Comics run. My own synopsis cover nearly every appearance in "House of Mystery," pretty much rounding out the '60s. I've finally used the end of that feature to springboard into the Manhunter from Mars' '70s appearances, and most any I have missed to date will be handled shortly. That will run into Martian Manhunter's early '80s appearances, which will end where my "Justice League Detroit" coverage began, itself now also ended (though the "Detroit" sister blog will continue with weekly updates.) The vast majority of the history I felt was a priority will soon be settled. The foundation I always imagined is now in place, and rendered in greater detail than I ever would have thought remotely sane.

Further, the days of averaging just under 300 hits a day are gone. I barely get comments anymore. Everyone who suddenly cared about J'Onn J'Onzz because of the spectacle of his murder has moved on. The daily averages are back down to where you, the true fans, had them before the hullabaloo. Finally, I think we can all breathe a sigh of relief, take a break from all these heavy posts, and have some fun.

The '50s and '80s story synopsis are being placed on hiatus. I will fill in the gaps in the HoM run sporadically over the next few months, and probably rewrite several of the earlier, slipshod entries. The '70s are winding down. I'm in no rush to deal in depth with the '90s and '00s. The history lessons will now be more like once or twice a week for the foreseeable future. The extremely long fan fiction "anniversary" posts are now either done or nearly so. I'm going to try to keep those closer to annual from now on. They're stressful for me, and I don't think many care for them, either.

In place of all that back breaking material, I'm going to try to offer more digestible nuggets. You may have noticed the "Martian Detectionary" posts of late, spotlighting characters and concepts of varying degrees of importance. You'll be seeing a great deal more of these, especially since there's lots of VULTURE-related minutia I want to touch on. There will be more Vile Menagerie entries, a feature that has been popular since the very beginning, with a MAJOR and longstanding exclusion finally remedied this week. "Comrades of Mars," one of the earliest and longest stalled series at the Idol-Head, will be coming back in a big way to compliment the Menagerie. Through features like these, I want to begin exploring more modern additions to the Martian Manhunter cannon, as I never intended the blog to skew so Silver Age.

Also, I want greater variety here. So much emphasis has been placed on story synopsis, where folks have asked for more specific data, as well as fun stuff like toys, original art, and so on. I'm really looking forward to all of this, as well as having more free time to hit the gym, go out, read, and just plain do something besides writing all those damned encapsulations. I hope everyone enjoys the new direction, and I welcome your suggestions. I also sincerely thank everyone here for visiting, and for returning regularly. Reaching this point is a real weight off my shoulders. Still, when the blog is working, its a joy for me, and I'm glad for the chance to share it with you.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

JLA: Incarnations #5 (Third Story, Nov. 2001)

The lead story in the December, 1988 issue of editor/publisher Tully Reed's Meta Magazine was intended to cover the murders of Steel and Vibe. "J'onn J'onzz, the alien acting as head of the allegedly disbanded League, denied that either of the former members were acting on its behalf and maintained that the League had disbanded. The murders, the Martian maintained, were carried out by robots created by Professor Ivo... G. Gordon Godfrey, the voice of the anti-metahuman movement sweeping the country, released the following statement through a press secretary: 'I am saddened by the deaths of these two young men, mislead into a life that they were clearly ill suited for by the false promise of glory and fame. Inadequately trained, they fell before ruthless foes. This is part of the reason for my crusade- to save our children! How many have been hurt already simply by tying towels around their necks and jumping off roofs while pretending to be Superman or some such?"

Tully Reed looked over the article, and asked himself, "What have I done? What am I doing?"

Reed's former editor was Roz Leung, whose scathing article on the Detroit League had triggered angst and strife in the group. It wasn't the kind of magazine Reed, a hero-loving Phil Sheldon type, wanted to publish. "Sure it is, sweetie! We cover the metahuman scene but we do it with attitude. I mean, who can take these steroid queens in their underwear pounding the poo out of each other seriously?" Reed loved Roz, but argued against her cynicism. As the couple embraced, Reed made clear "'s my magazine, Roz. And we're going to do things my way." Roz smirked, "Over my dead body, sweetie."

During the Crisis on Infinite Earths, Elongated Man, Vixen, Vibe and Gypsy were shown battling Shadow Demons and rescuing citizens in the chaos. Tully Reed was trying to calm the hysterical Roz Leung down on a ravaged New York street, but she was hysterical. "We're all going to die! ...This is one of my recurrent dreams! The red skies and black shadows and in the end everything goes black!" Tears in her eyes, Roz tore loose of Tully's grip and ran aimlessly, only to be killed almost immediately after by a Shadow Demon. Just as quickly, an unseen Green Lantern blew the demons away, and Vixen arrived to see if the couple was alright. Reed cradled Roz's body and cursed at Vixen for not arriving five seconds sooner. He felt his faith in heroes had been betrayed.

"I'm sorry for your loss but we couldn't be everywhere at once! Despite what you think, we are only human! We've saved as many as we could! ...We didn't betray you. We just couldn't be what you wanted us to be. Excuse me. I'm needed elsewhere."

Later, Reed met with G. Gordon Godfrey, who wished to use Meta Magazine as another soapbox for his crusade against super-heroes. After all, since his girlfriend's death, Reed had turned the magazine from a cheerleader to skeptic of metahumans...

Still staring at the printer's proof alone in his office, Tully Reed called to have the entire run pulped. "Yeah, I know what it'll cost. You're right. We probably will lose advertisers. Do it anyway." Reed realized he'd allowed grief to cloud his judgment. "And that creep Godfrey played me like a violin. Vixen was right. They're only human. I was the one who wanted them to be legends. They're not perfect but they are heroes and I'm never going to forget that again."

"Doubt" by John Ostrander, Eric Battle and Keith Champagne.

Friday, October 17, 2008

JLA #1 (January, 1997)

In Washington D.C., the President of the United States was complaining about a variety of things, including Firehawk getting sick and being unable to serve as his superhuman escort in his meeting with "El Presidente or whatever it is this jumped-up bandit calls himself." Suddenly, a flying saucer appeared, a mile across, projecting a light onto the White House. Members of the recently decommissioned "Justice League America," headquartered in a space ship once used by the Overmaster, received a call concerning the matter. "How did we miss it? Freakin' thing came outta nowhere. We're talking major camouflage here." Metamorpho complained about the new JL "A-Team" and their egos pushing his group out of the way, while Nuklon studied the saucer and Icemaiden noted Fire had called in sick."

Superman arrived on the White House lawn just after eight large silver "eggs" had landed, from which exited a varied group of costumed super-heroes. "People of Earth! Greetings. Allow us to introduce ourselves... I am Protex. We are The Hyperclan. We've come to save the world... We have journeyed through space... for a world like this one. A world where we could succeed where we failed before. We are here to house your homeless. We are here to feed your starving and to repair the damage you have done to your biosphere. We are at your disposal. Bring us your problems and we will give you solutions in return. And if any of your native superhuman community wish to help us, we... welcome them. We would like to show you what can be done when the will is strong, the heart is pure and the mind is clear. Thank you for your attention." Both humans and superhumans watched this televised proclamation in awe, including the Martian Manhunter from his Denver home. His television was flanked with videos about extra-terrestrials, including "Autopsy," Close Encounters," "Aliens" and "E.T." Cassie Sandsmark watched with her mother and Princess Diana in Gateway City, and said she thought Protex "looks like Jim Morrison... He's gorgeous!"

Through their combined powers, the Hyperclan brought rain to the Sahara Desert and the appearance of potential for vegetation. However, Superman noted, "The Sahara is green today but can it be sustained or are people being given false hope in the name of spectacle? Is humankind really willing to become the pampered lapdog of superhuman beings and squander its own potential?" The question raised ire the world over, as people believed Superman and his fellows were jealous of the Hyperclan. Protex teased his willingness to discuss the matter with the Man of Steel. "If he wants to know where to find me, I'll be out 'fixing' the world." The worm really began to turn when the Hyperclan started executing super-villains like Judgment, which saw instances of "metacrimes" plummet, but alerted the JLA to the severity of the Hyperclan's threat.

Wonder Woman and Green Lantern Kyle Rayner returned to Overmaster's former ship, from which the Amazing Amazon had commanded the immediately prior incarnation of the League. Humanoid lifeforms in red space suits attacked the ship from the outside, crippling it with an electromagnetic pulse before breaching the hull with their fists. "Diana" asked GL to join her in space to confront the attackers, and to call her by her first name, as they were now in the same League. "Says you," Kyle muttered, " I can't handle this. It's like playing with the Beatles..." The other heroes aboard were trying to escape, but without functioning away craft, were forced to improvise. Metamorpho was left in an "inert" state from saving his fellows as they reentered Earth's atmosphere and crash landed. Lantern and Wonder Woman continued to battle their aggressors, who displayed super powers, but were neutralized still. However, Rayner and the Princess were distracted by an ultimately futile effort to save the Overmaster ship, and lost track of the guilty parties.

Meanwhile, Protex was in the Antarctic with his seven cohorts, who fired energy beams to melt the ice around a hidden city. "How long has it been? How long since we stood here for the first time? What was the human species then? No more than dormant potential in the genetic material of jellyfish! How little they have changed. But remember the barges heaped with spices and precious metals? Remember the music of the brass gongs and the toiling of the warmills? Life was good then. Life will be better. Join with me! Tear open the ice with your gaze! Unearth the ancient of days! Behold the glory of Z'onn Z'orr!"

The next day, the new JLA began coming together in a makeshift club in Rhode Island. Despite the blow they'd received, public opinion was still against their group, incensed at the slightest implication the Hyperclan might have been involved. "Protex, named 'the sexiest man in the universe' by readers of 'Sunday Planet Magazine,' answered, "The Justice League seems hellbent on manufacturing a confrontation. I pray it needn't come to that. I would rather we were allies in the service of this world and its people."

Martian Manhunter greeted Flash upon the speedster's arrival, a man who had issues with the already present new Green Lantern. Wonder Woman was also around, while Superman followed Flash in, and knew at this point Protex was lying. Green Lantern thought the indictment against the League's not having done enough for mankind might be true, but J'Onn J'Onzz affirmed, "They've taken lives. They've created superficial displays of power..." Batman was the last to arrive, but the first with the conclusion that the Hyperclan were broadcasting globally at the 7Hz wavelength of the human brain to control the population's minds. "This is a planned invasion. We're facing an unknown, immensely powerful enemy. We don't know how many there are and we don't know what they want. First blood goes to them but now it's our turn. This is war!"

By Grant Morrison, Howard Porter, John Dell and Pat Garrahy

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Justice League of America #261 (4/87)

Professor Ivo: Continued to be conflicted by his own murderous actions, seeing visions of himself in a padded room. The Ivo in a straight jacket thought Amazo was a silly name, was saddened "A Martian killed my son," but felt he couldn't himself have killed anyone. "Murder is a sin. Bad. Bad." The Ivo in a tux continued to argue with his android "psychiatrist," before deciding to trigger its self-destruct mechanism.

Dale Gunn: Drank a toast to Steel with the boy's grandfather and Martian Manhunter. Watched J'Onn J'Onzz toss his drink to the floor, cursing "Damn it!!" As the Martian slumped against a wall, Dale explained, "J'Onn? Listen to me. I knew Hank since he was just a kid. I've been working with his grandfather for more years than I'd care to count. We're all hurting, but there's nothing to be gained by throwing fits. Hell, what I know of you-- this just isn't your style."

Martian Manhunter: Answered, "My style? Dale-- you don't know what my style is. And neither does Ivo. I've never wanted blood so badly in my life."

Commander Steel: After analyzing the android that killed his grandson, devised means to track other androids with the same power source.

Martian Manhunter: "Before this day is out, Hank will be avenged."

Dale Gunn: Halted J'Onn J'Onzz's intended departure to deliver a speech. "I thought the name of your team was the Justice League... not the Revengers. Justice means you find the ones responsible for what's happened, and you let the law take care of it. Revenge isn't justice, J'Onn. You know that. Revenge goes against everything you and the Justice League stand for."

Martian Manhunter: "The League is dead, Dale-- or hadn't you noticed?"

Vixen: Continued to stalk New York's rooftops. "Dead. Can he really be dead? Steel? My friend? If he's dead, it's my fault. I knew what the situation was. G. Gordon Godfrey turned the whole country against us. Yet I let Steel go out there... No... It's not my fault. It's Ivo's fault. And I'm going to find that murdering scum-- and he's going to pay." Dropping to a subway entrance, a group of bums made their way toward her. "Predators. They think I'm a woman. They think I'm something that can be taken, used, and discarded. But I'm not a woman. I'm Vixen. I'm a panther. An elephant. A vulture. A snake. I'm whatever animal-spirits I need to be to hunt my prey. To hunt-- and kill."

Vixen continued to wrestle with her bestial drive and more reasoned humanity. "I'm not an animal. I'm Mari McCabe. I'm a fashion model. I'm a woman." This didn't stop her from roaming barefoot in a New York sewer, beating rats to death as an aggression vent. Finally, Vixen located the underground headquarters of Professor Ivo, who greeted her with a poisoned meal. While Ivo was terribly civil, Vixen offered him a variety of means by which she could kill him, and threw tainted coffee in his face. "I'll feast on your dead flesh... How stupid do you think I am! You think I'll just sit here like a good girl and drink my cup of hemlock?"

While Vixen battered the immortality-ravaged Ivo, a dozen of his pretty shirtless androids appeared to wrestle her to the ground. Vixen destroyed several of them, but their programming was altered to specifically target her weaknesses. She was drowned in numbers.

Martian Manhunter: "IVO!!" J'Onn J'Onzz smashed his way into the Professor's lair, who stammered, "No! Not you! You're one of the real ones! You always beat me!" J'Onzz emphasized, "To a pulp." Learning of Vixen's plight, the Manhunter barreled through all but two of the Ivos before the Professor came to a realization. "Oh, of course! He's a green man from Mars. And Martians can't abide fire." The Professor then lit up J'Onzz with a tricked-out lighter. "I knew I carried this with me for a reason. You can't hurt me now, Green Man... Now I would deeply appreciate it if you'd die."

Vixen: The two remaining Ivos could find no pulse, heartbeat or respiration, but just as they were prepared to certify she had expired, Vixen came alive. She smashed the pair.

Martian Manhunter: "You turned your back on me, Ivo. A very big mistake... You have the audacity to ask for mercy? You've got a lot to learn, Professor. And I'm going to teach you. Right now. I'm going to teach you about pain. About fear. And death... I can't. Dammit-- I can't."

Vixen: "I can!!" Vixen tore Professor Ivo's head off... not clean, as various wires and other mechanical bits left it dangling. "This 'droid was extremely sophisticated. It even mimicked the scent of a living man." She caught the real Ivo's scent behind a door, and found those visions of the Professor in a padded cell were factual.

Professor Ivo: "He escaped from Arkham Asylum, built an army of androids, even created a near-perfect duplicate of himself to fool the authorities with in case he was discovered. And yet, he was totally insane." The androids' minds modeled after Ivo's, they too were filled with madness and conflicting impulses, and locked away their own imperfect creator in a new cell. "Indeed. He pushed them to murder. While his soul burned in shame."

Martian Manhunter: "I find it impossible to hate someone so filled with remorse... so lost and anguished. And I feel such a need to hate. Such a deep need... Mourning. And forgiveness. And something more... I see it so clearly. Let the President and his orders go to hell. Let every man, woman and child in this nation come to loathe us. But, in order for Steel and Vibe's deaths to have any meaning-- the League must continue. Politics and opinion shift. Tomorrow we may be heroes in the eyes of the world again. But that doesn't matter. What matters is that we are duty-bound to do our job, despite praise or blame. Fate took me from my homeworld... brought me to this earth for a reason: To help. To fight for what's right. For justice. And, for the sake of justice, the League must never dissolve. We've got to go on.

Vixen: "I looked inside myself these past few days. I saw a demon... a demon that had to be exorcised. And I did exorcise it. Vixen died... For the first time in my life... I'm truly, wholly-- Mari McCabe." Mari wasn't sure if G. Gordon Godfrey wasn't right, considering the violence that surrounds super-heroes, and the deaths of her friends. "We choose to live like this! We choose this bloody path! There are a million ways to help people, to make the world a better place... ways that don't have anything to do with fists and suns and corpses... I don't intend to beget any more violence in this lifetime, JJ. I want to be free of the animal, and embrace the human. Maybe the League should continue. But it won't continue with me... I'm sorry. I didn't mean to sound so... judgmental."

Martian Manhunter: Tried to convince Vixen to remain, but acknowledged her path led elsewhere, and hugged her goodbye. J'Onn stared into a monitor bank at the Secret Sanctuary for a time... into the faces of the departed Gypsy, Vibe, Steel, and Vixen. An emergency signal sounded, and the Manhunter from Mars was off.

Gypsy: Retired from super-heroics to return to her family and school, for now.

Vibe: Family in mourning, including a younger brother who will develop similar powers.

Steel: Grandfather shut off life support, but for good?

Vixen: Her hiatus from the life will be short, but she will return in very different company.

The Creators: J.M. DeMatteis did wonderful work here, and his take on madness hints at what would become one of his most famous stories, the Death of Kraven the Hunter. It's no wonder editor Andrew Helfer asked him to stay on for the Justice League relaunch. Bob Lewis provided inks in a style reminiscent of Terry Austin, which set him apart from any of the others on this arc. This was some of Luke McDonnell's best work, but his style would soon change with his moving on to Suicide Squad. These were not the characters or situations one would expect to close out over two decades of JLA comics, but the story was well told regardless

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: "JJ" -Vixen
"J'onn." -Dale Gunn, Commander Steel
"J'onn J'onzz." -Ivo
"Green Man" -Ivo

Back to Justice League of America #260 (3/87)

Forward to Justice League #1 (May 1987)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

World's Finest Comics #212 (June, 1972)

"A tale of war and peace... of triumph and tragedy... of hope... of love... and of courage! Presenting... the long-awaited return of... the MARTIAN MANHUNTER-- teamed with the greatest super-hero of them all-- SUPERMAN... Prepare to stretch your imagination... from here to a star in a galaxy so distant it appears in our telescopes as no more than a faint pinpoint of light... where a desperate group of refugees battles matchless evil to the cry of-- '...AND SO MY WORLD BEGINS!'"

Superman had continued to investigate the alien building in the Utah Salt Lake that appeared and vanished mysteriously. "The last time I saw the structure, it showed up at precisely this spot-- and I could've sworn my long-lost friend, J'onn J'onzz, was inside! Which isn't likely-- because he's somewhere in intergalactic space, seeking his fellow surviving Martians!" As though a mirage, the Alien Arsenal came into view, before solidifying. Superman entered, but there was no light inside save pale illumination from a window, affording him the sight of a familiar silhouette moving toward him. "J'onn J'onzz! How are you--? How about an Earthly handshake..? Give me your hand..." ...and he surely did, right across Superman's kisser!

Knocked backward into otherworldly artifacts, Superman thought, "People used to wonder if the Martian Manhunter could throw a punch as hard as I can! Judging from the condition of my jaw, the answer is a definite yes! But the big question is... why? What possible reason could J'onn have for trying to dismantle me? Maybe the answer to that is in his eyes-- They're wide... with madness! He's crazed... doesn't know what he's doing!" Superman sidestepped the Manhunter once, only to have the Martian Marvel rebound, and squeeze the Man of Steel around the throat. Left with no choice but to fight back, Kryptonian muscles batted the Alien Atlas' arms away, then delivered a left hook that dazed a friend turned foe! "We could probably slug each other all century! On Earth, we're both super-powered! So I'll have to try being smart instead of merely strong! The Batman showed me this judo trick... a sleeper-hold! --If Martians are constructed anything like humans-- it should end our brawl!"

A tremor more violent than an earthquake shook the vaulted hall, as it suddenly traveled to another world! "I'm being shaken loose!" As the arsenal settled, Martian Manhunter struck for the final time. "Wetness on my lip...! I... I'm bleeding!? J-J'onn's fist cut me! How--?" As Superman marveled at his wound, J'onzz seemed to come to his senses. "Superman! Am I dreaming... or are you real?" The reply, "I am, J'onn... including my blood!"

"I... I'm sorry! I thought I was having a nightmare! I wouldn't have... hit you otherwise! --I thought you were either a living nightmare... or one of them! ...The Thythen! --The fiends destroying the last pitiful remnants of my people! --The unholy trinity preening out there-- bathing in the sunlight!" The pair of heroes looked out through the structure's massive doors, where Superman found the answer to another of his questions. "Ummm... a red sun! Which means I'm back to normal... no super-powers! At least... I'm usually my regular Kryptonian self beneath a red sun!" Kal-El punched a wall to check, the only effect being rapped knuckles. "Yeah... ordinary! Look, J'onn... maybe you'd better give me your story! Begin at the beginning... As I recall, your people fled Mars after the planet was devastated by global war..."

"Yes... and I followed them... I bid farewell to you and the other members of the Justice League and sped toward the stars... The alien ship I was piloting was equipped with devices to detect ionized anti-matter, the fuel my fellow Martians were using... While following the trail into a space-warp, I was hurled into a distant galaxy... where, on the far side of the warp, I again found the trail-- leading to this world! ...After landing, I saw a huge framework and crept close... and was struck numb with sheer horror-- My people were captive... hung like sides of meat on a rack-- alive but unconscious! Helmets were attached to their heads-- and worst of all... they were connected to gigantic monstrosities... Things I guessed were combination androids and machines... obviously designed for war! As I strove to understand, I was spotted-- and chased... I sought refuge here... reached the building just as it was vanishing! Otherwise, I would surely have been destroyed!"

From a tablet he had found, Martian Manhunter learned he had been on the planet Vonn, that he was traveling inside an Alien Arsenal that was being sent to various points in space, that his people's captors were the Thythen, and that they were being used to power war machines called Robo-Chargers. Overwhelmed by all this terrible information and horrific circumstance while trapped inside the arsenal, J'onn J'onzz seemed to go a little mad. Superman thought, "Poor guy! He's obviously exhausted... half crazy with worry! No wonder he mistakenly attacked me!" Finally returned to Vonn, Manhunter was resigned to a suicide mission. "Tonight-- when the sun sets-- I'll attempt a rescue! Chances are I'll fail-- but if I didn't try, I'd be as good as dead anyway!" Superman declared, "You won't fail-- neither of us will! Together... we'll lick 'em!" Manhunter felt this wasn't his fight, and couldn't ask his friend to risk his life. "Listen... either accept my help-- or walk over my body!"

Manhunter conceded, "All right, Superman... I know better than to argue with you! I'd hoped to use some of the native weapons! But most of them are beyond my comprehension-- and those that aren't, we wrecked in our combat!" On the plus side, the Alien Atlas had some super-powers. "The atmosphere of Vonn affected them! I'm a bit stronger than on Mars... I have limited flight... Fair muscle-strength... No invulnerability!" J'onzz also still had the ship which carried him from Mars. Viewing the Thythen camp from a distance as the red sun set, Superman stated, "I'm beginning to get the glimmer of a plan! It'll be a variation of the old Trojan Horse maneuver-- using your spacecraft instead of a giant wooden steed! ...Since you can fly unaided-- and I can't... You'll have to give me a crash course in piloting this rig!"

Having done so, both men were startled by a voice coming from behind the cockpit. "Hello! Is anyone in there--? J'onn! Is it you?" Standing at the entrance was the lovely Bel Juz, who embraced her fellow Desert Dweller. "'O J'onn! Thank Vrom you've arrived! ...I managed to escape the Thythen! J'onn... it's been horrible! Our minds... our souls... feeding those machines!" J'onn held Bel for a time, until being reminded of another presence. "Forgive me, Superman! You two haven't met! Bel-- meet my friend from Earth..."
"My pleasure!"
"And mine, Superman!"

Superman thought it might be best to reverse Bel Juz's escape route to gain entry to the Thythen camp, and not knowing how long the night would last, the trio set off. Manhunter confessed, "I may not be up to moving quietly... after all the months I spent in space! I'm feeling tangle-footed!" Bel praised, "You were wonderfully agile fighting Superman!" Manhunter was no braggart. "But... I didn't win, did I? --Still, thanks for the compliment." Superman found the landscape eerie as the trip trekked through mountainous terrain, but not Manhunter. "To me it looks natural! --Look... two moons-- just as we had on Mars!" Bel shushed the pair as they neared a tunnel entrance, at which point Superman demanded J'onn stay behind. "Because I said so! --I insist! It'd be stupid for the three of us to go blundering on! J'onn-- hide in the ditch! And stay there... till you get a signal to act!" J'onn did as he was told, but stammered, " sound like a tyrant!"

Superman hated to snap at his Martian friend, but was confident Bel Juz was a traitor, and was afraid J'onn might not listen to reason when he tried to turn the tables. "Uh... Bel! Go ahead of me! I'm feeling a bit... uh... uneasy!" Bel thought it might be cowardice. "Very well... you can hide behind me!" As gently as possible, Superman applied a sleeper-hold on the "feminine Benedict Arnold!" Bel inadvertently began to fly up as she struggled against Superman. "J'onn didn't say how the Martians fell into the hands of the Thythen! You led them to the trap-- as you tried to lead J'onn and me! You gave yourself away when you mentioned our fight-- which you couldn't have known about if you'd just escaped... as you said!" Sure enough, an armed Thythen could be seen from their now elevated height, lying in wait. Bel Juz finally passed out, and the pair landed roughly back at Manhunter's spaceship. "I feel like a 97-pound weakling after going 15 rounds with Muhammad Ali-- ache everywhere! --But no bones broken! Bel seems to have also survived! She'll be asleep for a while-- long enough to either free the Martians-- or learn we can't-- in which case we'll probably be dead!"

Superman flew the spaceship to where he'd left the Manhunter, to whom he called out his intention to create a diversion, and ordered to follow up by entering the camp alone. The Man of Tomorrow piloted the craft in a kamikaze dive on the Thythen headquarters, shattering the dome with its impact as flames erupted out the exposed top. The Martian Marvel, "half-leaping, half-flying," followed through with contingent action. "...I didn't expect him to do that-- to give his very life! Nobody could have survived such a crash--! I vow his sacrifice won't be in vain! ...I'll avenge Superman! The Thythen will pay--!"

Manhunter ripped loose the cables that bound his fellow Martians, as two of the three Thythen climbed out of the shattered dome. "The Martians are responsible for this outrage! Somehow-- they are responsible!"
"Yes-- and will be responsible for naught else! Robo-Chargers-- attention! Attack the foreigners-- grind them to dust!"

However, the Chargers turned on the Thythen rather than the Martians. Circling the pair, the Robo-Chargers' projectors disintegrated their former masters. Manhunter couldn't understand it, but a bearded Desert Dweller explained, "J'onn... our life-force was fueling the Robo-Chargers! What the Thythen didn't realize is... that in putting our life into their forms, they put in our souls... our consciousness! We became the machines... and they us! It was we-- alive inside the machines' bodies-- who vanquished our enemies! It is good! They will be useful... for rebuilding our cities-- our civilizations-- on this world's soil. No more will they destroy! Rather... they will create!"

"J'onn... darling!" J'onzz was surprised as Bel Juz raced into his arms, having thought she may have been killed while with Superman. "No... he... uh-- insisted I remain behind!" A mournful Manhunter acknowledged, "He would! He is the most noble man I've ever met! No one will replace him! His death is a great loss-- to the universe!"

Just then, from out of the flaming wreckage, the Man of Steel was climbing out of the wreckage. "I'm lucky... to be alive! That was quite a jolt! I wouldn't have made it... without this fire- and shock-proof suit I found in the spaceship's locker! I'll find J'onn and clue him to Bel's treachery--" The remaining Thythen had also survived to warn, "Prepare to perish-- You brazen fool! Dare our wrath, do you? I will squeeze you to a pulp, frail one!" Superman raced from the towering monster toward the weapon museum, quite a respectable jaunt. Kal-El stumbled at the door of the Alien Arsenal, allowing the Thythen to seize him. Just then, the structure made another trip "across the wastes of the galactic void-- to come to rest in bright... yellow sunlight... of Earth!" Superman's strength immediately returned, and he made short work of the Thythen. "The museum is smashed! It'll go nowhere-- not in that condition! So for me it's over-- a happy ending! And I hope for J'onn J'onzz and his fellow Martians-- a happy beginning!

A milestone brought to you by Denny O'Neil, Dick Dillin & Joe Giella! "What about Bel, the traitor? We'll learn her fate in a future issue!" In about, oh, twelve years...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Justice League of America #71 (May, 1969)

While on extended leave of absence, the powerless Diana Prince visited a carnival with her blind mentor, Ching. A commotion was caused by a mysterious figure in a red-violet fedora, jacket and pants-- with the rest of his body cloaked under a scarf, sunglasses and gloves. The figure was wrecking the fire-eater sideshow, and when Prince tried to use judo to stop the berserk man, he swatted her away like a fly. While Ching tried his hand, to similar dismissal, Diana activated her Justice League signal device. Green Arrow and Batman answered the summons, but were also manhandled. "What are we fighting?! He broke GA's steel-net like a strand of spaghetti! And tossed me like a rag doll!" Ollie tried a Dazzle-Arrow, which saw the figure collapse from panic. "N-no... Not fire! Not Fire!!" The heroic pair were surprised at the effectiveness of the phosphorescent arrowhead, until the Caped Crusader uncovered, "The Martian Manhunter?!"

An omnipotent narrator heralded, "J'onn J'onzz has returned from obscurity to plunge the Justice League of America into its most bizarre battle-- and into disastrous defeat!" The Manhunter from Mars' final story of the 1960s, and one of his most important ever was about to unfold. "...And So My World Ends!" by Denny O'Neil, Dick Dillin and Sid Greene!

Shortly, at the Secret Sanctuary, Atom asked "Where've you been all these months, J'onn?" Superman continued, "Why haven't we heard from you?" J'onn J'onzz asserted that the answers to those questions required him to go back all the way to before he made his first trip to Earth. "What you don't know is that on Mars I was a military-science leader-- engaged in fighting a world-wide civil war! I directed the forces of the Desert Dwellers... and my opponent-- Commander Blanx-- led the invading forces of the Pole Dwellers!..." Their conflict revolved around the Blue Flame of Mars, and ended with J'onzz being sent into exile for thirteen years. Most of that time was spent as an accidental visitor on Earth, "until my time of exile was over! Using the Earth-scientist's device, I returned to Mars... and found our once-mighty civilization in charred ruins! I captured one of Blanx's lieutenants and beat the truth from him... the horrible truth... Somehow Blanx had gotten a space-vehicle... and from 50 miles up bombarded the Blue Flame with rays..." An inferno swept the globe "slowly, systematically..."

"For days I tried to stop the flame's relentless progress... but it was worse than hopeless! On Mars, I am but an ordinary being, with no super powers! Finally, in desperation, I directed the building of a gigantic space-craft, using scientific knowledge I gained on Earth! However, I saw that this modern ark would not be finished in time... and with the last iota of energy in the Professor's teleportation device, I returned to Earth... I happened to land at that carnival-- was hastily disguising myself when-- something in my mind snapped! ...Only a fraction of my people survive... and even that tiny number is doomed unless Blanx is stopped! I plead with you to aid me..." Atom readily replied, "Say no more, chum! We're in!"

Atom felt "like a fugitive from Star Trek" in the special space suits Batman already had prepared for the team. "Where man goes, crime follows! And since man is in space, I thought we'd better be prepared to do our stuff in the void!" So they did, as Green Lantern carried most of the team across space with his power ring, until he spied a passing vessel of "the type used around the giant star-sun, Antares!" The craft pelted the Justice League with an incandescent radiation probe, similar to that emitted by a red sun. All of the heroes, especially Superman, were adversely affected. Green Arrow fared the best, having been shielded by Superman, whom he revived and aided in rescuing the rest of the team from a "death-orbit." Superman wasn't sure that the Antares craft's intentions were harmful, as they came from a red sun solar system, and could have merely been investigating goings-on around the Red Planet. While Green Lantern and Superman dealt with the spread of the Blue Flame, the rest were sent to determine what was going on inside the ships from Antares.

The Justice League of America found themselves under hostile fire, this time from multiple vessels of the Antares type. In the most bizarre but incredibly intricate depiction of Flash's vibrating powers I've ever seen, the hero passed intangibly into one of the craft. Similarly, the Atom shrunk small enough to pass through the matter comprising the ship's hull, and the pair laid a beating on the Pole Dwellers manning the craft. Atom opened the airlock to allow his other teammates entry, and the group worked their way through the ship, level by level, rounding up the crew. Funnily enough, of all people, only Hawkman wasn't shown to be in indelicate physical contact with a pale-skinned Martian. Soon, only the panicked Commander Blanx remained, as he piloted an escape craft back toward Mars. It could well have been a suicidal play, had not Superman and Green Lantern finally managed to remove the Blue Flame from the planet's atmosphere.

"My foe shall not escape--" the Manhunter from Mars vowed. "J'onn, wait for us--" said Batman. "No! I am grateful for your help... but I must meet Blanx alone! Do what I am sworn to do!" Green Arrow assured, "We understand... Good luck!" Manhunter followed Blanx in an away vessel. "Blanx has taken refuge in the Cultural Museum! Destiny has arranged for us to meet in a place originally dedicated to celebrating the civilization he wantonly destroyed!"

Inside the wrecked building, "Show yourself, coward!"
"Your taunts are wasted, J'onzz! I am above them!"
"No! You are afraid to silence me!"
"Commander Blanx has never known fear!"
The Martian Manhunter evaded a trident thrown at him from behind, then took it in hand.
"Does a courageous man strike from hiding? Why did you commit the most unforgivable of crimes...? What twisted reason did you have for murdering your people... ruining your home?"

"You shall be answered... and then you shall join the others in death! Look around you... this museum... dedicated to the glories of Mars! Glories... bah! These pictures, these statues-- these are glorious? No! They are things of weaklings! Once, we were mighty and spirited... Once, we treasured the implements of war! Now our weapons are put in dark corners, to rust-- as the spear I hold is rusted... When representatives of a distant star-system offered to buy Mars for its mineral wealth, I agreed... but according to their code, I could sell only if I were the last living Martian! With the aliens' help, I set about erasing life-- life that had grown weak! And I succeeded! We two are the last..."
"Soon, there shall be but one! Defend yourself...!"

Upon a staircase, the remaining Martians pushed and swiped at one another with their tridents. The staff of Manhunter's was shattered, and J'onzz was knocked backward into a large globe by another swing. As Blanx moved in for the kill, the Manhunter tossed the globe like a medicine ball, the impact pushing the Commander off the stairs. Blanx fell from an indeterminate height, then lay unmoving on the ground, the globe shattered across his body.

J'onn J'onzz fell to one knee, sobbing in dispair. "We were so close! After untold hundreds of centuries, we were about to find maturity... outgrow senseless strife... become all we might have been! And one individual, sick with the need for violence, deprived us of our destiny! And so my world ends!"

The Justice League encircled their tormented friend. The Last Son of Krypton confided, "J'onn... I know there's nothing I can say... to console you! But a few of your people did escape... in the space-craft you started..." Batman continued, "You're more than welcome to return with us! You have a home on Earth..." Green Lantern warned, "The survivors could be anywhere in the galaxy..." Still, the Manhunter from Mars, a tear in his eye, climbed back aboard the ship that delivered him to Blanx. "Wherever they are, I'll find them... bring them back! Back to rebuild, to begin again... Now... to the aliens' ship-- and then to the stars! Farewell, Justice League!" Superman blessed him with "Farewell, J'onn... and godspeed!"

On the one hand, this is a highly problematic story in terms of not only continuity, but internal logic. On the other hand, it served as the basis for J'onn's characterization for the rest of his life. Before, the Manhunter was something of a good-natured dilettante crimefighter with a happy home waiting for him whenever he overcame a few obstacles and reservations on his part. From here on, he was the tragic survivor of a mostly dead race divided by civil war, with all his native loved ones wiped out in one fell swoop, who could never go home again.