Wednesday, December 31, 2008

1997 Michael Bair Unused Martian Manhunter Art Page

Click To Enlarge

I only own a few pieces of original art, as I ended up selling most of what had been in my possession when I had my comic shop. No, I wasn't that desperate-- it's just that I found that I only had so much wall space, not to mention interest. As with comics, I learned that I didn't take pleasure in the size of my collection, only its representation of my personal preferences. The piece you see here is my favorite, and remains framed in my room.

It was a New Year's Eve sometime between 1999-2001, and I saw my precious in an eBay auction. As I recall, I set my maximum bid at $150, and let it ride. I returned from a party that morning, checked my standing, and found I'd won for less than a c-note. Again, I can't recall the specific number, but I was very happy to pay something like half what I was willing. A happy new year indeed.

Unfortunately, I was sweating bullets over the length of time it took the seller to respond to me, and then a delay in shipping. The seller was very apologetic, and promised me a bonus when I finally received my package. True to his word, an envelope with a DC Comics return address arrived. Buzz, a then-frequent collaborator with Bair on the JSA titles, had thrown in a Hawkman piece on industry standard art board. This was around the time Hawkman was being revived with a redesign. This was a slight variation on the one that was used, except with a mask that more closely resembled Hawkgirl's helm. I ended up gifting it to a good friend and one of my loyal customers.

I assume given the year and other elements that the piece was intended for JLA Secret Files and Origins #1, though I never had that confirmed. The triptych layout would have allowed for a layer to be covered over with text in the manner employed by the profile pages seen there and other books of the type. Further, where his cohorts' feature pages were drawn by artists associated with their solo books, J'Onn J'Onzz's was provided by Don Hillsman, a little known inker on a rare pencilling assignment. In a circumstance like that, a higher profile artist like Bair would normally be used.

I've never seen this piece used anywhere, much to my chagrin, so I ended up dedicating it to my own fan fiction "Manhunter from Mars #400 (November, 1997)." The scan was performed within months of receipt by my friend Dave, and I used crude techniques to add contrast for use on my old site "Martian Manhunter: The Rock of the JLA" site. I apologize to Mr. Bair for repeated mauling his work, and misrepresenting it here. I'm away from home, so no new scan, and I hope my cut rate copy will inspire someone at DC to finally do something with this wonderful image!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

JLA Gallery: Justice League of America vs. Professor Ivo & Amazo (1997)

Here's another piece by the Adventures in the DC Universe team of John Delaney and Ron Boyd, depicting our heroes' first encounter with a classic foe. Well, the revisionist original team of Aquaman, J'onn J'onzz, Green Lantern Hal Jordan, the "second" Black Canary, and the Barry Allen Flash. If Ivo always looked so conniving, they wouldn't have needed to bother mutating him for effect.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Paul Rivoche JLA-Z #3 Martian Manhunter Pin-Up (1/04)

Over a year ago, I ran this image alongside Five Reasons To Love the Manhunter from Mars, the flavor text I submitted for use on J'Onn J'Onzz's entry in Comics Should Be Good's Top 50 (or so) characters at the DC and Marvel Comics Groups, at which he ranked #11. I wasn't as good at scanning back then, and never felt I had done the image justice, so I've long wanted to represent it in a better light.

Paul Rivoche is an illustrator who has dabbled in comics, mostly on single images. He's also done design work for animation, including the New Batman Adventures, Justice League, and the New Frontier. I love the man's art, which comes across like Jim Steranko by way of Bruce Timm, and this is one of my favorite Martian Manhunter pieces. You can view more at ROCKETFICTION.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

1991 Impel DC Comics Cosmic Cards #121

Sorry the holiday has put me behind in posting, but I'll try to catch up tomorrow. For now, here's the outstanding 1991 Martian Manhunter trading card, featuring art by Kevin Maguire and Dave Cooper. I was going to wait until after covering the 1988 mini-series to post this, but it's easy to scan, on hand, and generally swell. Also, lots of folks missed days last week by my estimates, so now's a perfect time to catch up, eh?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

1997 Fleer/Skybox Justice League (JLA) Overpower CCG Box

I'm sure most folks into comics remember the big collectible card game boom of the '90s. Combining aspects of role-playing with standard card games, CCGs went over big, from Magic: The Gathering to Pokémon and beyond. As a comic book guy, I hated dealing with those people when I started retailing, though not nearly as much as the sports card types. Still, you have to know what you're selling, so I learned the basics of Magic, and even spent too much of my time and money on the first few Star Wars sets.

When I switched from helping manage one comic shop for another, one of my favorite crossover customers talked me into joining him in sampling the new digs' DC Comics Overpower cards. Even though DC was my preferred company, I had and maintain a dislike of Superman and Batman, whose casts were the sole feature of the inaugural set. Still, I had a good time playing with Orlando, and though he started to drift out of comics, a whole gaggle of kids had gotten interested in our wake. Before long, my shop was home to the only Overpower players circle in town, and traveling to competitions elsewhere. I'm still close friends with one of those guys twelve years later.

Meanwhile, I'd begun buying cards from the Marvel sets, since DC's was weak sauce. The emphasis on the Batman family, filled with non-powered acrobatic detectives, necessitated the creation of an IQ ability. This prompted Marvel to update all their previously released character cards with vastly superior stats. DC responded with this JLA set, offering a more diverse selection of characters, plus expansions on their first set to dilute its suckage. I was delighted to finally have access to decent playable characters, especially Wonder Woman, who joined Captain America in a briefly unbeatable deck that combined overwhelming fighting ability with excellent defense. Orion, Wolverine, Sabretooth, Nick Fury, Ra's al Ghul and Azrael all offered support at various times with results vastly favoring Marvel.

Sadly, I only occasionally got use out of the Martian Manhunter, a decent enough DC-only character, but underwhelming when pitted against Marvel. You see, while DC only ever released two sets, Marvel offered seven, providing much expansion and improvement for old and new characters. Four sets followed JLA, including one for Image Comics, leaving DC even more in the dust. Also, I had to keep buying black backed card sleeves, because unless you were fool enough to go all DC, you had to insure no cheating through variances between DC and Marvel's designs. That gets expensive, and tough to shuffle. Someone built a decent deck for me pairing J'Onn with the X-Man Rogue, of all people.

To be honest, competition brings out the worst in me, and I got sick of how irate I'd get when I lost. Since my interest was more in enjoying specific characters and their fisticuffs, losing became routine. Younger men than I were living for this stuff, and focused solely on strategic gaming. It wasn't fun for me anymore, but I continued to host games at my shop and enjoy folks' company. It even led to a brief fling with RPG GMing. *Shudder*.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Brave and the Bold #30 (7-8/60)

“Case of the Stolen Super Powers!”

All of the Leaguers in solo operation felt a sudden, brief loss of their amazing abilities, with the now correctly spelled J’onn J’onzz temporarily unable to blow fog out of the path of an ambulance. “Why did I lose my powers, even for a few seconds?” But, um, you were still flying, J’onn? Convening at their secret headquarters, the Leaguers learned an amazing thief stole a European catfish from a private aquarium in France using each of their powers (including Martian super-strength, not breath, and especially not the flight he never lost.) Superman felt the need to point out he never lost his powers, ‘cuz only Kryptonite can do that, and he’s better than the lot of them put together, and something about “nanner-nanner.”

For some reason the thief then bothered to steal a cicada instead of tracking one in the wild. Snapper Carr happened to be doing a paper on life spans, and it just so happened the pair were both among the longest-lived of their kind, as it happens. Flash correctly figured someone must be working on an immortality elixer, so the Leaguers divided into three teams to protect other long-lived beings on Earth. Clearly, no one lost the ability to leap to unbelievable conclusions here.

Wonder Woman got the most interesting assignment, José Mendoza, who worked as a caretaker for the Peruvian government, lived in the little mountain village of Cuaraz, and was the oldest man on Earth. “Meet my son, 110 years old-- my grandson, 90--my great-granddaughter, 65--my great-great-grandson, 40--and my great-great-great-grandson, age 12!” Mendoza believed this was due to spirit dolls that protected himself and his family, and which he used against the rather queer looking android sent to capture him. He was succeeding where Wonder Woman had failed miserably, but he misunderstood it wasn’t his doll so much as the torch he was carrying that worked so well against the weakness to fire Amazo had inherited from J’onn J’onzz. Still, both were eventually abducted, as were Green Lantern, Aquaman , and the giant turtle they defended to greater but no less futile effect.

Flash and J’onn J’onzz went to an aviary to protect an owl, Barry by land and the Martian by air. Amazo came up from underground to steal the whole building, though his progress was halted by super-breath. However, when Amazo simply dropped the building, J’onn had to dive for the rescue. He was caught in Wonder Woman’s unbreakable lasso, spun around furiously, and then sent to Professor Ivo by a Lantern-generated rocket. Flash was soon after tricked into joining Manhunter as captive aboard Ivo’s yacht. The funny thing is, Ivo didn’t seem to harm anyone by drawing the necessary ingredients for the immortality formula he ingested, though he still draws a foul for planning to permanently steal the League’s power and conquer the world with Amazo. Oh, and Amazo did get around to using Martian Breath, in case you wondered.

Thankfully, Green Lantern had outsmarted Ivo, stripping his android of the powers it had stolen with his ring. I never knew it was that easy to do. Amazo has been diminished in my mind by this debut story, almost as much as he was by my seeing those fairy eyebrows he used to sport. Ivo was later sentenced to 500 years in the pen, the exact length of time his elixer was meant to last before needing a second dose. I guess by then he’d be someone else’s problem. Maybe Superman, who after asserting his imperviousness to Amazo’s abilities just sort of blew off the rest of the story.

By Gardner Fox, Mike Sekowsky, and Bernard Sachs. Garish “pop art” coloring by Frank Lee Delano, without any reference, so grain of salt.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

1993 Skybox DC Cosmic Teams Weapons Master Card (#121)

What? This is, like, the second greatest Bloodwynd foe of all time, maybe! Sure, B.W. sent him packing in their two encounters, but the second Weapons Master had totally jobbed a Justice League headlined by Superman just prior. That's pretty impressive, right?

Alright, look... I'm juggling Hanukkah and Christmas celebrations here. Suck it up, or I'll run a Bloodwynd week in the new year.

Yeah, that's what I thought!

Pencils by creator Dan Jurgens, with inks by Rick Burchett.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Wizard Magazine JLA Animated Holiday Mini-Poster (1/98)

Here's a touching piece by John Delaney and Ron Boyd, the regular art team on Adventures in the DC Universe, a book that teased potential animated versions of their heroes. Everyone have a lovely Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Human Light, Solstice, or whatever gets you and yours through the bitter times.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Justice League #3 (July 1987)

While Silver Sorceress, Wandjina and "Bluejay" were not so naive as to actually trust Colonel Rumaan Harjavti, they still left Bialya to target the nuclear arsenals of the Soviet Union at his suggestion and aided by his country's intelligence.

After 9.2 hours of hovering inside "the Bug" outside Bialyan airspace, Blue Beetle was sarcastic and the Dark Knight didn't like his attitude. Martian Manhunter soothed, "Blue Beetle meant no harm, Batman. And, frankly, it has been a long night." Sooner, on-board radar detected the former Assemblers flying out of the country, and gave chase. Given the lack of information on the trio, Beetle and Manhunter were of like mind regarding their likely other-worldly origins. "Just what I was thinking, Manhunter!" The Bug gave chase, until the trio entered the Soviet Union. "If three costumed superbeings start attacking Soviet missile sites..."

The Rocket Red Brigade was alerted to defend the U.S.S.R., both from the surviving Champions of Angor and the Justice League. Guy Gardner, a prior threat to the Brigade, again took undesirable initiative against the Reds. Captain Marvel was too preoccupied with the Brigade to follow Batman's order to rein the Green Lantern in. The Caped Crusader then demanded, "Manhunter-- get out there and grab Gardner!"

"...Gardner-- Batman wants you inside... Now!"
"Aww-- go back to Mars!"
"I said inside-- and I meant it!"
The Alien Atlas drug Gardner by the scuff of his collar back to the Bug, and roughly dumped him inside, while J'Onzz went on to battle Rocket Reds. The Martian Marvel punched one of the armored fliers toward Captain Marvel, who redirected the Red into another with a blow of his own. "J'Onn-- I don't understand this. We're here trying to save the Russians-- but all we seem to be doing is beating on them!"

General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev saw the error, ordering the Brigade to stand down, and allow the Justice League to assist them. Sadly, a nuclear reactor had been shut down too quickly in anticipation of the surviving Champions of Angor arrival, initiating a meltdown. Wandjina managed to avert that tragedy, but not without paying a heavy personal price. The Soviets took the trio into custody, then escorted the Justice League outside their airspace.

Returning to their mountain base, the Justice League were greeted by Maxwell Lord IV, who arbitrarily introduced to them their newest member, Booster Gold...

Back to Justice League #2 (June 1987)

Forward to Justice League #4 (8/87)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Justice League America #62 (May, 1992)

We last saw the J.L.A. sitting at a table floating through swirling rainbow colored space, completely at the mercy of the Weapons Master. He had engaged Blue Beetle in a game of death using Despero's classic chess board, and when at first denied, set Ice's game piece on a square that teleported the actual heroine to a molten planet.

Beetle countered by moving Superman's piece to the same square, allowing the Man of Steel to provide aid, and deepen Ice's massive crush on him. "You-- you simpering fool! You... deliberately sent him there to rescue her! Try that, or anything like it again-- and I'll devise the slowest, most excruciatingly painful death..." Not the worst gambit, but Beetle grew more cavalier in playing with the lives of his teammates, switching Booster Gold and Maxima's positions to see what would happen. Both were transported to the same world, not quite instantaneouly. "Now that's something new! Maxima managed to get a few words out before she faded out..."

Meanwhile, at the offices of Maxwell Lord IV, he and Oberon were shocked by the sudden appearance of Bloodwynd. While the mysterious visitor offered warnings about the team's disappearance and requested information, Max and Oberon were suspicious. "Look, Deathwind, or Bloodsky, or whoever you are-- how do I know you're on the level?" Bloodwynd was in no way forthcoming, but concerned for his friends, Oberon finally conceeded, "Okay, okay! Speak your piece, Doctor X!" Bloodwynd explained, "I used my magics to telepathically examine one of Weapons Master's guns. I saw a psychic image of a yacht called Kiki's Dream. Your computers can help locate it, correct?"

On his next move, Beetle paused long enough for Green Lantern Guy Gardner to remotely retrieve his power ring from Weapons Master and put the villain on the defensive. Weapons Master returned to his yacht, where he murdered the Dominator that hired him to cover his bungling the case. Girlfriend Kiki squeeled "Ooo, like maximum gross-out! I am not cleaning that mess up!" Within seconds, Bloodwynd was also on the scene, and would not be so easily dispatched. "Release the Justice League. Now. ...Spirits, grant me strength that I might turn this craft-- and end this match on a victorious note!"

By this point, Blue Beetle had instructed Guy Gardner in using his power ring to locate and collect the lost Leaguers, who were viewing the action on Earth from a distant world. Booster proclaimed, "Whoever that guy is, he's kicking Weapons Master's butt!" Fire suspected "Something tells me that if we're going to leave-- it will be due to the efforts of our mysterious ally." Bloodwynd fired eye beams at his foe, as Weapons Master shouted "KIKI! Get over here!" The villain grabbed her hand and teleported to safety. "You may have ruined this entire operation but I'll be back! And when I am-- you'll rue the day you ever crossed Weapons Master!"

Bloodwynd found a monitor through which he could contact the League. "I cannot fathom the operation of this board. Despite that, there may be a way. Stand fast, Justice League. You will soon be free. So swears Bloodwynd." Over a span of hours, Bloodwynd broke down the computer and brought it to Oberon, who used it to locate and teleport the team home. Despite objection from the League, Max welcomed Maxima and Bloodwynd as new members. Superman left in a fit over this and Max's arranging receipt of a new headquarters from the U.N., leaving without a signal device in case his team needed him... again. Tora and Bea fought over the same, with Ice assuring, "Listen to Superman! He knows best!"

Guy was dismayed to realize Tora's feelings for Superman, as she'd taken to keeping a clipping of him in a frame by her bed. "DEATH! PAIN! KILL! DISMEMBERMENT! DISEMBOWELMENT!" While Gardner moped and fumed, Beetle was more worried about the expansion to their ranks. "Bloodwynd! He sure seems to know an awful lot about us for someone who just joined! I mean, how do we even know he's a good guy! ...It's almost like he's read the Justice League handbook! There's more to Bloodwynd than meets the eye-- and we have to find out what it is before it's too late!" The subject in question hovered Indian-style in his room, before diapappearing...

I'm not going to sugar coat here: Dan Jurgens' story sucked. It's about four shades of bad. The dialogue, when not nakedly expository, is just plain terrible-- especially when he tries to replicate the sarcasm of Giffen/DeMatteis. Example? Weapons Master: "The Green Lantern ring! Don't leave home without it!" Grrr-oan! Beetle's "plan" shouldn't really have worked, and how Gardner overwhelms Weapons Master after his previous defeat makes no sense. Since this turnabout takes place on page 13, you're left wondering what's left to tell. The League is left to passively look on at a Bloodwynd solo battle without resolution, and then some heavy handed b-stories & foreshadowing.

While still clearly providing his framework, Dan Jurgens's pencils was graced with finishes by Jackson Guice, a very palatable combination for my taste. While his usual inker was trying to ape the current hot style, Guice just provided lush embellishment, offering more mood and nuance than the story deserved. Both artists seemed particularly to relish drawing Ice, whose anatomy was delineated with much greater care than usual. At least they didn't use the heat as an excuse to strip her of her costume, though.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

2007 Chris Samnee 10 Minute Sketch: Martian Manhunter

I love the pensive look on J'Onn's face. Follow this link to see the artist's rendition at a larger size, or to explore more of his swift and sure art...

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Hyperclan: ZÜM

Alter Ego: Unknown
Occupation: Alien Invader
Group Affiliation: The Hyperclan, White Martians
Base of Operations: Still Zone, formerly Gobi Desert
First Appearance: JLA #1 (January, 1997)
Height: Variable, appeared approx. 6'0"
Build: Variable, appeared with lean muscle
Weight: Variable, appeared approx.170 lbs.
Eyes: Variable, appeared white
Hair: Variable, appeared white
Skin: Variable, appeared Caucasian

As a member of the Hyperclan, Züm took part in a White Martian plot to conquer Earth by pretending to be a member of a super-team of "Alien Samaritans," while simultaneously controlling the minds of the population and undermining true heroes. Züm was involved in the execution of a number of super-villains during this charade.

While stationed at the Hyperclan's Gobi Desert base, Züm attacked the Flash, launching a high speed skirmish across the globe. When Züm showered Wally West with bricks, the hero thought, "Get the feeling Züm has some military training-- using superspeed in a tactical way. If I don't start thinking the way he does, I'm in trouble. Just running fast isn't going to get me through this one. Züm's smart." Flash finally used his superior speed to increase his body's mass toward infinity, striking Züm with a super-punch that sent him reeling at escape velocity.

After Züm's recovery, he partnered with Armek in storming toward Z'Onn Z'Orr to engage the JLA. There he threatened Aquaman, who used his telepathy to locate Züm's basal ganglia and give the Martian a tremendous seizure. From there, Züm was likely captured by J'Onn J'Onzz, but his present whereabouts and circumstances are not known.

Powers & Weapons:
Züm has exemplary command of super-human speeds. While not up to the velocity of the Flash, nor seeming to connect to the mysterious "Speed Force," Züm uses tactical thinking to maximize the effect of his still considerable power. For instance, he's been known to modulate the frequency of his afterimages to create a strobe flicker that can disorient the mind. Züm also displayed laser vision capable of flash-frying a metahuman body. Züm should presumably have other Martian abilities, such as shapeshifting and superhuman strength, but the full compliment and aptitude are unknown. For example, Züm was easily bested by Aquaman through telepathy, a power often treated as inborn among Green Martians.

Züm has a catastrophic vulnerability to fire, causing immediate loss of his abilities, and eventually death.

Quote: "You must be Aquaman. What can you do? You can't fly or run fast, can you? Your skin may be tough but not so tough I can't just... cut through. What can you do, apart from talk to fish?"

Created by: Grant Morrison & Howard Porter

Thursday, December 18, 2008

2004 DC Direct Justice League Animated: Martian Manhunter Wall Plaque

Sculpted by John G. Mathews.

DC Direct's series of sculpted wall plaques based on the super heroic stars of the Justice League animated series on Cartoon Network continues. A founding member of the Justice League and also an invaluable resource to the team, Martian Manhunter defends the Earth using his incalculable strength. Other heroes featured in this series include Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Superman, and Hawkgirl. The Justice League Animated Martian Manhunter Wall Plaque is a fully sculpted, hand-painted, cold-cast porcelain wall relief, measuring approximately 4" tall x 7 3/4" wide x 2 3/4" deep. Packaged in a 4-color box.

$39.95, in stores on Jan. 14, 2004.

The Martian Manhunter wall plaque: because nothing says art deco sophistication like a boxy green alien with an electric blue cape and crimson eyes.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Commander Benson's Notebook: "...By Any Other Name..."

When I was first putting together my fan site "Martian Manhunter: The Rock of the JLA," U.S. Navy Commander Adam Benson became my guru with regard to the Manhunter's Silver Age stories. I ran a series of "articles" culled from his message board posts from 1998-2000, and thought it would be nice to return the pieces to the web. If you'd like to read more current and thorough offerings, visit the index of his Commander Benson's Deck Log columns at Captain Comics and the Legion of Superfluous Heroes.

This is the final post in the series...

I can tell you exactly when the Martian Manhunter's name was spelled with the "O's" capitalised, as "J'Onn J'Onzz". It's easy to pinpoint, since it was during a time when the Manhunter was a character more or less consigned to limbo; so it was unusual to see any mention of him. I was an inveterate DC reader in those days--I bought every magazine DC published that wasn't romance or supernatural (as opposed to now, where I buy nothing it publishes).

The change occurred on the back cover of 100-Page Super-Spectacular # 6, subtitled "The World's Greatest Super-Heroes", from the summer of 1971. This was the hundred-pager which reprinted the first meeting of the Justice League and Justice Society.

The cover was a wrap-around drawn by Neal Adams, and featured a line-up of all of the JLA/JSA members, plus significant supporting characters. The inside back cover provided a legend, identifying all of the cover-featured characters. This was the first occasion where the Manhunter's name was written "J'Onn J'Onzz" with the "O's" capitalised. I remember thinking this was kind of a neat idea, and was willing to accept it as gospel, as opposed to writing it off as a mistake. Since the lettering on the pages of comics--the captions, word balloons, and so forth--was always upper case, my first thought was that there was no reason to believe the Manhunter's name wasn't always spelt like that.

Shortly after that, however, I remembered the letter columns of JLA, and during the Manhunter's tenure there, his name had always appeared in the letter columns as "J'onn J'onzz", I realised that this was the intended original spelling. Without the capital "O's". I continue to use the original spelling, since I feel that the "J'Onn J'Onzz" version was an error which has since perpetuated itself as the "right" spelling, much in the same fashion that Denny O'Neil's error in calling Snapper Carr the JLA mascot (as opposed to honorary member) or the mistaken concept that the Earth-One Batman stories started when he first adopted the yellow circle around his bat-emblem have become considered as "fact".

Edited by Frank Lee Delano from posts made by "Commander Steel" on the DC Comics Message Boards. All material used with the written consent of the author.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Justice League #2 (June 1987)

Batman asked Kimiyo Hoshi (a.k.a. Doctor Light II) to repeat the story of where she obtained a Justice League signal device until she was exasperated, but Martian Manhunter entreated, "Please, Doctor. It's important."
"All right, Manhunter--"
"Call me J'Onn."
"--I'll go over it again. For you."
She did, until Batman pleaded for her to turn over the device. "'Please.'? Did you actually say-- 'please'? Here, take it-- quick-- before I faint!"

On the sidelines, other Leaguers watched Jack Rider's Hot Seat, the O'Reilly Factor of its day, as it grilled their new formation. "Then there's the extraterrestrial in their midst: the so-called Martian Manhunter. At a time when America can't trust other countries-- how can we trust a creature from another world?"

Green Lantern Guy Gardner, typically a far right-winger himself, was incensed to the point of threatening to go rip out Ryder's heart after his televised insults. Martian Manhunter raised his hand and decreed "You will do no such thing." The Dark Knight also chimed in, as J'Onn J'Onzz agreed "I'd advise you to listen to Batman, Guy. There's just so long we will tolerate this infantile behavior."

In Bialya, the surviving Champions of Angor Wandjina, Silver Sorceress and "Bluejay" attempted to dismantle the hostile Middle Eastern nation's nuclear weapons program. Their world had been lost to the same, and they hoped to rescue ours from our war mongering. Instead, they were convinced by Colonel Rumaan Harjavti to redirect their global crusade, under his guidance.

Later, Batman and Martian Manhunter studied the signal device in the lab of the team's cave-based headquarters. The Dark Knight Detective interrupted the Sleuth from Outer Space to pedantically interject that the signal couldn't possibly be genuine issue, and suspected it to be an inferior copy. "I didn't say it was one of ours... I said it seems to be one of ours... Actually, Batman-- it's a superior copy. There are elements of the design that should be incorporated into ours." The Caped Crusader was taken aback, but before he could more deeply consider the implications, Captain Marvel heralded a news report regarding the former Assemblers/Champions of Angor having struck missile silos in Israel.

Guy Gardner cheered, "I love it! Let's hope those three take out every two-bit country that's packing nukes! Nobody but Ronnie-Boy should have his finger on the button! Then we'd have the world where we want it, huh?" The Martian Detective thought, "Pathetic!" He then shared, "Guy, your logic... if I can even call it that... is utterly unique."
"Oh... then you agree with me?"
"Of course not."
"Well, I'd expect it from you-- I mean, you're a freakin' Martian!"

The team traveled via Blue Beetle's "Bug" airship to confront the trio, but Guy Gardner launched an attack before more diplomatic overtures could be made. Wandjina proved too much for the Green Lantern, and was next met by Mr. Miracle and the Alien Atlas. "It was not our intent to attack-- but we must ask you to surrender. Now." Manhunter's pointed request could not be enforced, as Bialya demanded the Bug leave its airspace, or be blown out of the sky. The Caped Crusader ordered retreat.

Subplots included Maxwell Lord IV looking into Jack Ryder and meeting with a "Mr. Gold," while Dr. Fate tried to warn the mystical threat the Gray Man off his chosen course.

Back to Justice League #1 (May 1987)

Forward to Justice League #3 (July 1987)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Martian Sightings for February, 2009

After a five month hiatus, I am compelled to run another "Martian Sighting." I quit because DC Comics had murdered Martian Manhunter, but were still profiting off his corpse with reprints and the odd t-shirt. Didn't seem worth my time to point out the character was still alive in the back catalog, but too much coolness is available for pre-order to ignore this time out...

TRINITY #36-39
Written by Kurt Busiek and Fabian Nicieza
Art by Mark Bagley & Art Thibert, Scott McDaniel & Andy Owens, Tom Derenick & Wayne Faucher and Mike Norton & Ande Parks
Covers to issue #36 by Shane Davis & Richard Friend; covers to issues #37-39 by Andy Kubert & Jesse Delperdang
The war to save all of reality rages on and is waged in the memory of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. But the legendary Trinity battle to end the conflict themselves by becoming more than just a memory!
Issue #36 on sale February 4; issue #37 on sale February 11; issue #38 on sale February 18; issue #39 on sale February 25 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Sure, it's some Multiversal duplicate, but at least he's in the classic costume. Plus, there may be Despero...

Written by Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis
Art by Kevin Maguire, Terry Austin & Al Gordon
Cover by Kevin Maguire & Terry Austin
Collecting the classic JUSTICE LEAGUE #1-6 and JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL #7! Can an unlikely new Justice League lineup work as a unit to stop terrorists at the U.N., the Royal Flush Gang, and other threats — or will they succumb to squabbling and bad jokes?
Advance-solicited; on sale March 4 • 192 pg, FC, $17.99 US

I intentionally skipped this in hardcover specifically because I hated J'Onn's eyes. They were really dark blue in that period, so that garish red in the re-coloring bugs the tar out of me.

Written by Mark Verheiden
Art by Ethan Van Sciver, Matthew Clark, Andy Lanning, Marlo Alquiza and Joe Benitez
Cover by Ethan Van Sciver
Don’t miss this explosive new trade paperback volume collecting SUPERMAN/BATMAN #28-33! The JLA's Martian Manhunter attacks Batman! The villainous Parasite and Titano return! Superman's allegiances will be tested in this story involving the Green Lantern Corps and more!
94 Advance-solicited; on sale March 25 • 160 pg, FC, $12.99 US

Ethan Van Sciver drawing a classic (if evil) Manhunter from Mars battering Batman is heavily fortified with vitamin WIN. Add the first Post-Crisis appearance of Zook for the championship. Lose the game to a lame story and a replacement artist...

Written by Gardner Fox and Dennis O’Neil
Art by Mike Sekowsky, Dick Dillin, Sid Greene, George Roussos and Joe Giella
Cover by Neal Adams
The JLA continues to fight evil in this new bargain-priced volume collection JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #61-83. These epic tales feature the JLA debuts of the Red Tornado and Black Canary, plus the annual adventure with the Justice Society of America!
Advance-solicited; on sale March 11 • 544 pg, B&W, $16.99 US

Reprints J'Onn J'Onzz's final appearances as an official member of the team for the next fifteen years. Includes the first appearance of Commander Blanx and his eradication of life on Mars.

Dc Originals Boxed Characters 2 Red T/S
DC Comics' biggest stars feature on these classic blue and red t-shirt designs that hearken back to days gone by! Now you can take the DC Comics heroes with you wherever you travel with these "Boxed Characters" designs featuring retro art! MED-XL SRP: $16.99 XXL SRP: $19.99 Release Date: February 25, 2009

By "retro" they mean chopped-up and recycled. Not a bad design, though.

The animated Justice League returns on these two new shirt designs. Justice League Unlimited Hawkman and Martian Manhunter Symbols features the distict animated symbols screenprinted on gold nugget and deep forest 100% cotton shirts respectively. Also still available are the previously offered JLU Green Lantern and Flash Symbols. The League has arrived!
S - XL $ 17.95 XXL $ 20.95 Release Date: February 25, 2009

It will be mine, though I wonder why the "pie slices" aren't white...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Mike McKone & Mark McKenna JLA vs. Xotar Pin-Up (1997)

It's a McTeam to adore, specifically McKone, a long time favorite comic artist of mine. He was one of those fellows tapped for the unenviable task of continuing the JLI in the fashion of Kevin Maguire, and did a fine job on their quarterly spin-off title, but on his own terms. In this somewhat anachronistic pin-up from the JLA Gallery, he depicts the then-current JLA line-up battling the original Weapons Master. An underwhelming and largely forgotten foe, Xotar appeared in the second Justice League of America story ever. However, as of 1997, the heroes he would have fought had been altered by retroactive continuity to include Black Canary and exclude Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, the latter of whom's diary was integral to the story. I fought to preserve Post-Crisis continuity for a long time, but I now recognize how foolish and diminishing that inclination was. Thankfully, so has DC Comics, especially advocates like Grant Morrison and Geoff Johns.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Brave and the Bold #29 (5-6/60)

“Challenge of the Weapons Master!”

Escaping from the year 11,960 just as the police of that era were about to capture him, Xotar traveled ten thousand years in the past to battle the Justice League of America. It seemed Xotar had in his possession an ancient League journal written by Wonder Woman revealing that he would defeat her team with one of his four futuristic weapons. Xotar figured once he’d proven that device, he could return home to claim victory over the police as well. Having failed on his first try against the Flash, Xotar’s second weapon would be used against the duo of Aquaman and "J’onn J’onz" at the Isthmus of Panama. That wasn’t a typo, by the way, as the only point in the story the Manhunter’s name was spelled correctly was in the roll call splash. Maybe he’ll get more respect if this second special appearance should lead to a series for the team?

“The Sea King and the Man from Mars are soon speeding across the heaving waves of the Atlantic Ocean...” J’onz employed super-breath in a second straight adventure against the huge dorsal fin of the sail-fish upon which Aquaman rested. Near the Panama Canal, J’onn J’onz was struck by Xotar’s “de-evolutionizer,” blasting him seemingly to nothingness. Xotar was blinded before he could continue his onslaught by nearby octopi projecting ink on his view window. “I thought for a moment Xotar destroyed J’onn J’onz--but then I remembered the Martian’s ability to make himself invisible! When J’onn J’onz is invisible he has no super powers! My job is to distract Xotar--until J’onn J’onz can find a way to overcome him!” Well I’m glad Aquaman had such confidence in and familiarity with the powers of a hero he doesn’t quite know the name of yet, but you’d think he would expect a bit more of himself than acting diversion. A chain of tentacles ensnared the giant robot Xotar housed himself in, before the poor octopi were transformed by ray into a primitive evolutionary state. They were replaced by giant clams while J’onn J’onz used his Martian breath to create from the very beach sands--a mirror? Really? They don’t have freakin’ mirrors in Panama, they’re so poor? The guy couldn’t possibly find a reflective surface to refract the de-evolutionizer’s ray back on itself, destroying the gun, without creative a silver mirror from scratch? He literally precision-sucked potash, soda, oxide of iron, and aluminum out of the ground, super-heated it with super-stank-breath, and... well, you probably got the point a while back, eh?

Green Lantern and Wonder Woman fared just as well, pretty much negating any impact Xotar the Weapons Master was likely to ever have. See, the JLofA formula was to have the heroes lose three out of four missions before overcoming the odds, but here they just beat Xotar in three separate configurations before gang-busting him. While Xotar came closest to victory with an illusion weapon that caused the League to do battle with one another (seeing fire-breathing dinosaurs, ‘natch,) it only worked on what it was directly pointed at, so that the late arriving Superman was unaffected. Xotar was completely ruined by his greatest enemy-- poor reading comprehension! He presumed through dubious context clues that Wonder Woman’s journal insured his victory, but when the story was recounted in full in the present, it became clear the League was fated to win the whole time. May Xotar work on his literacy issues in future-prison...

By Gardner Fox, Mike Sekowsky, Bernard Sachs, and Joe Giella. Garish “pop art” coloring by Frank Lee Delano, without any reference, so grain of salt.


Friday, December 12, 2008

2004 DC Direct Martian Manhunter Mini-Bust

As you can see, I own and love this bust enough to take pictures from all angles for your viewing pleasure. DC Direct has never recovered from the loss of Bruckner, the Joe Rubinstein of their licensing...

Sculpted by Tim Bruckner

Lone survivor of a lost Martian civilization, J'Onn J'Onzz escaped the annihilation of his own people to land on Earth, where he dedicates his incredible array of super-powers to fighting evil as the Martian Manhunter. This DC Mini-Bust is a hand-painted, cold-cast porcelain bust measuring approximately 5 5/8" high x 3 1/2" wide x 2 3/4" deep and is packaged in a 4-color window box.

$45.00 U.S. - In stores February 18, 2004.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

2003 DC Direct JLA: LIBERTY & JUSTICE Collector's Plate by Alex Ross


"This meeting of the Justice League is now called to order! The World's Greatest Superheroes are gathered together on this stunning Collector's Plate featuring art by the acclaimed Alex Ross. This limited edition, hand-painted Collector's Plate measures approximately 10 1/2" in diameter, features a certificate of authenticity imprinted on the back of the plate and is edged with a 24-karat gold band. Packaged in an elegant black gift box with foil stamping."

$ 59.95 US

Limited to 1700 editions, this item now sells for up to $199.99. Do note that Martian Manhunter is standing parallel to The Usurper, curse him!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Justice League America #61 (April, 1992)

An arrogant Green Lantern Guy Gardner brooded alone at the old, ravaged Justice League America meeting table, intent on demanding leadership of the anemic team. He was soon joined by Blue Beetle and Booster Gold, who explained the base had been trashed by an L-Ron robot possessed by Despero. "...but we'll fix it up..." Maxima, a haughty alien queen on the hunt for her perfect mate, next intruded. Her quarry would be the Man of Steel, who at that moment was tersely telling off Maxwell Lord IV...

At no point was it shown that the team officially chose Supes as their leader, but when Maxwell Lord met with the heroines Fire and Ice to discuss their future... "The Justice League is not one of your toys. It doesn't exist to feed your ego. It exists because there's a need for it--and because we say it does. The League is ours, Max. NOT YOURS!" For a guy who'd begrudgingly joined the team a few days prior, Superman sure was quick to start throwing his weight around.

Like a good little girl with a crush, Ice followed Big Blue's lead: "Superman is right... You always thought you could set our agenda and boss us around! Whatever Superman says we should do I agree with!" Okay, so one member made him their leader. Never mind that Lord financed the team, and petitioned the U.N. for their charter. That, and he was never a leader so much as a business manager, and certainly never as overbearing as Superman would become. Gee, can you tell the star member of the Superman creative team was now also helming this book? Oberon said "You're losin' 'em, Max."

On a private yacht at sea, the Dominator questioned the spectacle Weapons Master was about to make by taking on the Justice League, when only one member's power ring was being commissioned by the alien for theft. W.M.'s Girl Friday explained how it would increase his reputation, and thus his future fees. Using his teleportational abilities, Weapons Master armed himself for combat. He then materialized inside the Justice League's headquarters and back-shot Guy Gardner. The Blue and the Gold were subdued just as swiftly, but the Superman villainess Maxima put up more of a fight.

"Wasn't prepared for-- psionic blast-- but then I never expected to see Almerac's ruler here! I must retreat-- and assess my situation!" The heroes assumed he was done for now, but Weapons Master reappeared almost as quickly as he left. "You see, my dimensional arsenal is limitless. I can access the best weapons of virtually any planet in the universe... This Skellorean helmet insulates me from your psionic powers!" Weapons Master retrieved the perfect arms to defeat the assembled heroes. "Even with Maxima at their side, the Justice League proved easily vanquished. All that is left-- is to get what I came for."

Faster than a speeding bullet, a strange visitor from another planet appeared to give Weapons Master what for! Ice, in tow, mooned "Wow! Isn't he simply wonderful?" Fire agreed, "Yeah, maybe we should just change our name to Justice League Superman!" The heroines looked on as Big Blue ripped an arm covering and helmet off Weapons Master's body armor. "Gloat while you can, Kryptonian," before Weapons Master warped the Man of Tomorrow to another plane. Weapons Master quickly put down Fire and Ice after they retaliated, but just as he was about to claim the Green Lantern's ring, an otherworld voice commanded him to stop. "Another intruder? And one I don't know? I see. You're the silent type. A mystery man!" Weapons Master blasted at his new foe with an energy pistol, but he vanished into thin air. "I have no data on this man-- no information! I may have access to any weapon ever devised-- but that does me little good if I don't know which ones to use!"

The white, red and black garbed figure rematerialized, demanding the return of Guy Gardner's ring. Weapons Master's thought he might have teleported in a manner like himself, and again questioned the identity of the hovering man who confronted him. "I am Bloodwynd. My magic enables me to tap into the plasma energies of the spirits of the dead. Feel the blazing fury of those whose souls burn in hell!" Weapons Master did suffer under Bloodwynd's eyebeams, and then hightailed it outta there with the League as his captives. "A sorcerer! This is new to me! Unexpected! I will not tolerate that! After all the work I put into this operation-- I refuse to be sandbagged by a cheap parlor magician! I hope you enjoy solitude, Bloodwynd-- because I'm leaving! Exclusionary Location Warp. NOW!" Weapons Master left a sword behind, which Bloodwynd silently studied, until his orange eyes lit up!

Back on the yacht, the blond bimbo Kiki explained to the Dominator "He's like a cat, y'know? And the Justice League-- they're mice to him! --He's probably taken them to one of his dimensions-- where he can toy with them for a while-- before he kills them."

Justice League America sat at a table floating through swirling rainbow colored space. Weapons Master pondered "What is it that makes life worth living? Money? Power? No. It is the challenge of acquiring those trapping of success. The challenge. The win. The game. That what it's all about." Weapons Master wished to engage Blue Beetle in a game of death along the exact same lines as the one from the League's first encounter with Despero! "Isn't this chess board interesting? The man who sold it to me said he got it from a red-skinned, three-eyed alien. This game represents the lives of your friends..." Blue Beetle had the chance to win back Guy's ring, but every game piece he lost would cost a teammate their life, beginning with Ice...

With this issue, Dan Jurgens began a tumultuous run as writer/artist on the series. While the period had some glaring faults, the man deserves credit for showing Superman to be a fallible being. Jurgens was inked by Rick Burchett, who was clearly trying to ape the "Image style" to limited effect. Also introduced here was kewl new badace Bloodwynd, in his first costumed appearance.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Justice League #1 (May 1987)

Maxwell Lord IV scanned television reports from outside the Justice League's mountain base: "... Many people question the effectiveness of a new J.L.A. in these times of, at best, grudging tolerance of super-- ...Two of the newer members arrive-- I'm sorry, one new member and a veteran of this oldest of super-teams-- ...A Martian. What effect his presence will have on public opinion is yet to be--"

An arrogant Green Lantern Guy Gardner brooded alone at the new Justice League meeting table, intent on demanding leadership of the fledgling team. He was soon joined by Black Canary, Mr. Miracle, Oberon, Captain Marvel, and, together, Blue Beetle with the Manhunter from Mars. Oberon felt the media circus surrounding the group's reformation couldn't hurt.

Martian Manhunter: "In light of recent events-- I would tend to doubt it."
Blue Beetle: "I think the Martian Manhunter's just being paranoid, group!"
Martian Manhunter: "Then I suggest you think again! ...They are wolves-- waiting to consume us. To them, we're novelties... Sideshow freaks-- viewed with amusement one moment, reviled the next."
Blue Beetle: "Look, J'Onzz-- we don't really know each other... but aren't you being a tad grim?"
Martian Manhunter: "You are correct, Beetle. You don't know me. Nor do you know what I have lived through... what the old League endured... what we lost.

J'Onn cued a monitor bank of images:





He gazed at them solemnly for a moment, then crestfallen, pressed a button to purge the vision of his former teammates. Dinah consoled, "J'Onn, I--" but before she could finish, the most obnoxious Green Lantern returned to demanding leadership of the outfit.

A screaming match with Black Canary developed, followed by rough handling of Oberon, prompting Manhunter to step between the pair.




Unlike with Superman, Guy Gardner felt no hesitation about tugging on the Martian Manhunter's cape, lifting him off the ground by the neck. "I strongly suggest you let me down."
"Just butt out, Jolly Green-- or I'll boot you back to the valley! Ho-ho-ho."

Gardner briefly relented, until Oberon renewed hostilities, prompting Mr. Miracle to complain, "J'Onn, this is utterly infantile..."
"You are correct, Mr. Miracle. This is infantile. And it's time our ring-wielding baby got the spanking he deserves!."

Batman and Dr. Fate walked in on a full scale brawl, as Captain Marvel took a power ring blast to the belly that launched him into a guarded Alien Atlas. The Dark Knight strode through the collection of heroes to pacify Guy Gardner with his overwhelming presence, and a meeting commenced.

Meanwhile, the heroic Doctor Light (Kimiyo Hoshi) was at the United Nations, where her new Justice League signal-device was paging her relentlessly. She was so distracted, she almost missed the terrorists who would hold her and the General Assembly hostage.

The Batman was alerted, so he sent Captain Marvel and Dr. Fate ahead while he joined the rest of the team in flying to the scene inside Beetle's Bug craft. On arrival, Manhunter noted, "Batman-- I don't see Dr. Fate..." ...who vanished to take care of another matter.

The Martian Marvel joined his team in stealthily entering the U.N., where he embedded the heads of several assailants quite forcefully into a corridor ceiling. The Sleuth From Outer Space then invisibly contacted Dr. Light, whispering in her ear, "Show no alarm. Make no sudden moves. I'm J'Onn J'Onzz of the Justice League--"
"Y-you're invisible?!"
"Obviously. Now, please-- listen carefully." At his signal, Dr. Light blinded everyone in her vicinity, as Green Lantern swiftly handled all but two of he remaining terrorists. Dr. Light had elbowed half the remainder.
"I admire you... efficiency."
"Years of practice."
"They paid off."

Batman stared down the final boss, who thereafter committed apparent suicide. Martian Manhunter was annoyed to face the press after.

Meanwhile, the tycoon Maxwell Lord IV watched all these events from afar, having bankrolled the terrorists as part of a plot to help put the new Justice League on the international map...

Back to Justice League of America #261 (4/87)

Forward to Justice League #2 (June 1987)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Lega Della Giustizia: Justice League No. 8 (Novembre 1990)

Finally, in our second year and starting next week, we begin our coverage of Justice League International. Alongside the New Teen Titans, this book was a major step toward acquainting me with the DC super-hero universe, which I'd mostly avoided in favor of Marvel Comics and sideline stuff (Blue Devil, Ambush Bug, the Warlord, etc.) It was also where Martian Manhunter turned from a curiosity into a character I admired. The funny thing is, while I remain a fan of the book, I have far less interest in the individual team members. Because of its sprawling and ever-shifting cast, JLI is sort of like SNL, in that while you may fall for a Belushi or a Murphy, there's an awful lot of Darrell Hammonds and Tim Meadows that I take slight notice of. Of course, big name straight men like Batman and J'Onn J'Onzz-- as well as mugging madmen like Guy Gardner-- register as favorites, but many of the rest meld in my mind as just part of the troupe. For this reason, the Idol-Head's coverage of the book will be vastly different from the 1984-1987 Justice League of America cast.

I have a surprising amount of affection for the so-called Justice League Detroit, so much so I created a separate weekly blog for them, though that's mostly just repackaged stuff from here so far. Now that group coverage is at an end, that will change, as I devote space to the solo appearances of Gypsy, Vibe, Vixen, Steel II, Aquaman, Elongated Man and Zatanna. I do this because:
a) their book returned Martian Manhunter from 13 years in exile
b) these characters were integral to the re-conception of Martian Manhunter's role in the DCU as a brooding drill sergeant for lesser heroes
c) Vibe and Steel II made virtually no appearances in any other context, making them easy to cover
d) I really like Vixen, Aquaman, and Zatanna a lot
e) Gypsy became such a fixture in J'Onn J'Onzz's world throughout the '90s, earning a special place in my heart

So feel free to visit their blog as it suits you. However there will be no JLI blog, and their coverage here will be far more subjective. Instead, I'm going to try to treat the book as a Martian Manhunter pre-solo series. It'll be his world, with the other Leaguers just living in it. Concurrently, I'll be attempting the same treatment with the short-lived Superman-led incarnation of the group, but spotlighting Bloodwynd. I guess it will be sort of like Garfield Minus Garfield, somehow with less existential angst.

As for the poor foreign edition comic I used to explain this all to you, it's Justice League in Italian! Sandwiched between JLI #4 & 5 was this reprint of their first annual's lead story, as well as the ongoing translation of the 1987 Wonder Woman series (issue #6, to be precise.) The extra length of the annual ousted the other regular feature, Green Lantern's serial from Action Comics Weekly.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Commander Benson's Notebook: Mysterious Disappearance

When I was first putting together my fan site "Martian Manhunter: The Rock of the JLA," U.S. Navy Commander Adam Benson became my guru with regard to the Manhunter's Silver Age stories. I ran a series of "articles" culled from his message board posts from 1998-2000, and thought it would be nice to return the pieces to the web. If you'd like to read more current and thorough offerings, visit the index of his Commander Benson's Deck Log columns at Captain Comics and the Legion of Superfluous Heroes.

"I'm as much of a J'onn J'onzz fan as anyone--at least of his old Detective Comics/House of Mystery incarnation--so this isn't a criticism of his character. It's more like putting things in perspective:

Where was the Martian Manhunter when:
--the Crime Syndicate first invaded Earth-One? (JLA # 29-30)
--When both Earth-One and Earth-Two almost collided; that is, if either of them wasn't blown up first when Anti-Matter Man stepped on it? (JLA # 46-7)
--When the Key condemned the rest of the JLA to die at their own hands? (JLA # 63)
--When T. O. Morrow killed the rest of the Justice League in "The Stormy Return of the Red Tornado"? (JLA # 65)

The Manhunter's run in House of Mystery went from # 143 (Jun., '64) to # 173 (Apr., '68). The only other comic in which J'onn J'onzz regularly appeared in at that time was Justice League of America. So, I went through the run of JLA between the dates of the Manhunter's strip in HOM--June, 1964 to April, 1968, inclusive.

The JLA issue with the June, 1964 cover date was # 28--"The Case of the Forbidden Super-Powers"--and the issue with the April, 1968 date would be JLA # 61--"Operation: Jail the Justice League". Not counting Giant Annuals--reprinted material--that is a run of 31 issues of JLA which ran concurrently with the Manhunter's own strip in HOM. I went through each of those 31 JLA issues and counted up the appearances of each of the 11 members at the time. If a JLA member appeared only to say "hi", but did not take an active part in the case (such as in JLA # 31, when half of the membership took off on "important cases of their own" after page 4), I counted it as an appearance. Counting the number of absences by each Justice Leaguer in those 31 adventures, the mean group was between 8 absences (or did not show for cases 26% of the time) to 13 absences (42%).

Only two heroes failed to show up for more than half of those 31 cases. Aquaman was one, who with 17 absences failed to show 55% of the time. The other, with the number one slot for absenteeism, was J'onn J'onzz, the Manhunter from Mars--who missed 20 out of 31 adventures, or failed to show up for a case 65% of the time. Even Snapper Carr missed fewer (42%). For that matter, Hawkman--who wasn't even a member at the start of this 31-issue run--missed less (39%). And note that this period does not encompass the Manhunter's longest streak of absences--8 straight issues, from JLA # 62 (May, '68) to # 70 (May, '69), inclusive. I'll stipulate that those absences were due to that "thirteen-month period" when J'onn J'onzz was on a desolate Mars, returned there automatically by Dr.Erdel's robot brain--as described in JLA # 71 (which is a terrible story, incidentally). However, during that period from June, 1964 to April, 1968, J'onn J'onzz has no excuse for missing such an overwhelming number of JLA meetings (he had not left Earth during this run, since he showed up for the case in JLA # 61--the last issue of the period)--except that he was too busy in his own title.

I can't deny, explaining J'onn J'onzz's mid-to late-60's absences from JLA cases by saying he was embroiled in his activities against Vulture out in the Mediterranean is an exceptionally good notion. The few appearances he does make with the JLA during that period can be explained by stating they were contemporaneous with the occasions when his "Vulture-fighting" took him back to the United States. There were a few stories in his House of Mystery series which showed the Manhunter combating Vulture agents in the States. In fact, two issues of JLA--# 52 and # 60--which depicted the same thing; in fact, the Manhunter's efforts against Faceless form a major plot point of the story in # 52.

I'm not sure why Gardner Fox started curtailing the Manhunter's appearances in JLA. Until JLA # 28--which coincided with the Manhunter's debut as the headliner in House of Mystery in June, 1964--Fox had used J'onn J'onzz in all but one of the previous thirty JLA stories, and used him prominently. Moreover, Fox had made use of the Manhunter's non-Superman like powers, if not constantly, at least fairly often. (In The Brave and the Bold # 29, he has the Manhunter turning invisible; and in JLA's # 23, 24, 27, 44, and 61, Fox depicts the martian using his transformation power to change shape or become someone else.) So Gardner Fox knew the character; I can only presume that some kind of editorial fiat forced him to use J'onn J'onzz less.

Back in the mid-'60's, just when the BATMAN television show became the national craze, Gardner Fox's stories in the JLA magazine began to regularly feature JLA members Superman, the Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, and--most prominently--Batman, reducing the remaining members at the time (Aquaman, the Atom, Green Arrow, J'onn J'onzz, and Wonder Woman) to less-frequent appearances (most often explained away by the "tied up on urgent cases of their own" excuse). The Atom and Wonder Woman didn't fare too badly; Aquaman and Green Arrow popped up every four issues or so; but the Manhunter's appearances grew few and far between. And when he did appear, he was shown using his Superman-like powers and never his unique martian abilities.

Finally, the Manhunter dropped off the scope entirely. Stories which were meant to include the entire JLA (# 63 and # 65, for example) did not include J'onn J'onzz; nor was there even a reason within the text of the story given for his absence. It was like the character was completely forgotten--by both the JLA and DC.
Only after Denny O'Neil took over the scripting chores did DC attempt to explain the Manhunter's absence retroactively. This was in JLA # 71 (May, 1969), in the story entitled " . . .and So My World Ends". I will give DC and O'Neil credit for attempting to explain not only why J'onn J'onzz had missed so many JLA meetings (at the time of that story, he had been absent for eight straight stories), but why he had opted to remain on Earth for all those years when obviously Superman or Green Lantern could have had him back on Mars in no time. The aim was good, but the execution, in my opinion, missed the mark.

The story informs the reader that, on Mars, J'onn J'onzz had been the leader of a scientific-military force, opposing an enemy force of white martians led by Commander Blanx. J'onn J'onzz was captured by Blanx's forces, and he was subsequently exiled. During that first year of exile was when he was accidentally teleported to Earth by Dr. Erdel's "robot brain". He remained on Earth in his role as a crime-fighter throughout his term of exile (which explained why he never had the JLA return him to Mars). When the period of exile was over, he had Erdel's robot brain return him to Mars (which explained why he was incommunicado and missed all those JLA meetings).

On Mars, the Manhunter found that Blanx was intent on exterminating all life on their world, for reasons too long to go into here. Actually, Blanx had done a pretty good job of it, since he believed that J'onn J'onzz was the last remaining martian besides himself. The Manhunter returned to Earth to get the aid of his JLA pals (why he didn't just use his JLA signaller [since many stories showed the emergency signal could transmit across vast reaches of space] is one of the many discrepancies in O'Neil's story). In short order, the JLA whupped up on Blanx's men, and the Manhunter himself took out Blanx. However, they were unable to prevent the complete devastation of Mars, which was reduced to a charred cinder. The story's conclusion revealed that a spaceship containing the last survivors of J'onn J'onzz's people had escaped their planet's doom, and the Manhunter left the JLA to follow his people in search of a new home.Hope this helps.

I will stipulate that when all the other big guns abandoned the JLA to such losers as the Vixen, Steel, Gypsy, and Vibe, that was one moment when the Martian Manhunter did hold the JLA together (at least until the real members could get back)."

Edited by Frank Lee Delano from posts made by "Commander Steel" on the DC Comics Message Boards. All material used with the written consent of the author.

Who is your favorite JLA member? - posted August 04 & 07, 2000
Martian Manhunter in DC Archives - posted March 08, 2000
Why did J'onn leave the JLA/earth in the 60s/70s - posted June 01, 1999

Saturday, December 6, 2008

JLA Secret Files and Origins #1: "Star-Seed" (9/97)

In Blue Valley, the Flash tried to take on a new incarnation of an old alien foe alone, and failed. The Star Conqueror took possession of the speedster through a starfish-like creature, which attached to his face, and made an announcement to the world. "Listen carefully. These are the facts... I am the probe, he is the conqueror, you are the spaces yet to be taken. Understand that your minds were never your own... This area has been conquered! This continent will be conquered! This world will be conquered! And the next! And the next! And the..."

Aboard the "JLA Satellite," in truth a former ship of the Overmaster, were convened former Justice League America leader Wonder Woman and five other heroes. Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, and Green Lantern Kyle Rayner hesitated to speak as Batman and the Amazing Amazon debated strategy. Superman acknowledged "...I must admit I'm uneasy about us taking charge of this without consulting the Justice League." The Sleuth from Outer Space grimly asserted "There is no Justice League, Superman. Metamorpho and the present team were asked by the U.N. to vacate the satellite this morning. We're the new temporary JLA." Aquaman confided "I doubt they'll be happy about that. Some of those people aren't bad at all." Batman was dismissive. Shades of the Detroit League, anyone?

Suddenly, the Spectre appeared, on authority from the highest power, commanding the JLA to "Ignore Blue Valley. Let them die. I forbid you to form the new Justice League of America at this precise hour." Among others, the Martian Marvel protested. "Are you suggesting we look the other way while this monster consumes the entire Earth? Because that's what it's threatening to do." The Spectre divulged that a tactical nuclear strike was already being planned, and would remedy the problem. When the JLA continued to argue, the Spectre played Ghost of Christmas Future, and showed the team the probable result of their interference: They would all bne enslaved, and their combined power would allow the alien invader conquest of our world. From there, the Star Conqueror would dominate an army of super-human bodies that would be used to subjugate all worlds, and even all time.

Superman hit upon a solution: having the Spectre remove all of the JLA's powers, so they could enter Blue Valley without potentially compromising the safety of the universe. The Caped Crusader and Man of Tomorrow led a League engagement of the Star Conqueror. The JLA essentially ran interference for the Dark Knight Detective, each battered by the possessed Flash while Batman rigged the temperature controls of a building. Subzero cold had an adverse effect on computer systems and alien probes under the Star Conqueror's power, allowing Wally West to free his mind with Batman's help. The Flash's incredible speeds then allowed his to route any resistance from the chilled probes, with the Star Conqueror itself seeming to perish in an explosion.

The Martian Manhunter congratulated, "Well done, Wally. It's good to see you back to your old self." As Green Lantern whined about his lost cosmic abilities, J'Onn J'Onzz concede, "We gave up our powers to save these people, Kyle. Any alternative was never an option." The Spectre materialized to avow "Indeed, no more an option than removing your powers permanently, Martian Manhunter. They were not taken as a punishment. I can see no conceivable reason why they should not be returned to you in full bow that your mission has been accomplished... The future was my only concern. It shall be safe in the hands of the Justice League."

By Grant Morrison, Howard Porter, & John Dell.

Friday, December 5, 2008

2000 DC Direct JLA Pewter Series: Martian Manhunter Pewter Figure

One of the few pieces of merch I still own from my retailing days. It's a solid little piece with a nice bit of weight to it. Here's the original solicitation copy:


Martian Manhunter J'onn J'onzz is captured in a beautiful pewter figurine - part of a series devoted to the JLA. Measuring 4" h x 3 1/8" w, the beetle-browed hero stands mounted on a circular base emblazoned with the JLA logo.

$24.95, ships on Dec. 6.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

fotolog highlights for oct/nov/dec 2007

Not long after starting this blog, I received a message from a fellow under the alias "Zoiber," a Spanish "Detective Marciano" fan. Zoiber seems intent on collecting every Martian Manhunter image on the internet, and he was hoping it was okay with me if he started taking mine. I explained my belief that no one has the right to withhold a scan of a copyrighted image, so of course any of mine he cared for were fair game. Of course, a link is always nice, and bandwidth theft is just that, but you figure that goes without saying.

So anyway, Zoiber's been running an online catalog of these images since the start of 2007, and it just might be a bit of a task to get through them all, though I'm sure the process would be rewarding. I began covering highlights for jan/feb 2007, mar/apr 2007, may/june 2007, and july/aug/sep 2007 so I figure it's about time I picked up where I left off...

Gnarly Martian Figure, Dude!
Static Shock Screen cartoon screen grabs
The Batman cartoon screen grabs
Merchandise Mars Needs!
Fan-Casting Martian Manhunter #1
Fan-Casting Martian Manhunter #2
Creepy Mego Custom
Firestork #4 cameo pages
Firestork #6 cameo pages
Tales of the Unexpected #7 cameo
Green Arrow & Black Canary #1 cameo
All New Atom #16 cameo
Mike Allred's Solo #7 cameo
Countdown to Adventure #1 cameo
Countdown #43 cameo
Teen Titans #50-52 cameos
Superman/Batman #41 cameo
Tales of the Sinestro corps Superman-Prime #01 cameo

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Commander Benson's Notebook: Notable Stories

When I was first putting together my fan site "Martian Manhunter: The Rock of the JLA," U.S. Navy Commander Adam Benson became my guru with regard to the Manhunter's Silver Age stories. I ran a series of "articles" culled from his message board posts from 1998-2000, and thought it would be nice to return the pieces to the web. If you'd like to read more current and thorough offerings, visit the index of his Commander Benson's Deck Log columns at Captain Comics and the Legion of Superfluous Heroes.

"I would warn the contemporary fans that the Manhunter of the Detective/HOM days had a different style and attitude. However, for those who want to explore them, those old stories of J'onn J'onzz have some gems and milestones. There are some very key stories in those old Detectives.

At his debut in Detective Comics #225, J'onn J'onzz possessed the abilities of telepathy, telekinesis and clairvoyance. All three of these powers gradually disappeared through editorial intervention, as it became readily apparent that with his overwhelming host of powers, there was little tension in cases where J'onn J'onzz squared off against an Earth crook or even a reasonable alien menace. Frankly, I agreed with the elimination of those powers for that very reason. For the first couple of years of the "Manhunter from Mars" series, the Manhunter could and did utilise his powers while in his guise of John Jones, police detective. Rarely did he assume his true form, and when he did, he turned invisible. (At the time, he could use his other Martian powers while invisible.)

Inconspicuously, an editorial change was made in the Manhunter's abilities: whenever he turned into his Earth identity--or any earthling--he lost his Martian powers. He became an Earth man. Or if he turned into a Saturnian bird man, he lost his Martian powers and gained the Saturnian power of flight. In short, he adopted the abilities (or lack thereof) of whatever form he assumed. This compelled J'onn J'onzz to change to his Martian form to use his powers. (I don't know this remains true with the current version of the Martian Manhunter, but it stayed true for this version through his last appearance in House of Mystery # 173.) However, since he could do so invisibly, his presence on Earth could still remain secret.

This was also a wise editorial choice, for it gave J'onn J'onzz another weakness of sorts, for he was now vulnerable as John Jones. Although frankly, I almost feel the best change of all was when Joe Certa stopped drawing him with that goofy-looking beetlebrow.

More Detective Comics:
# 236: J'onn J'onzz finally makes contact with his father from Earth.

# 287: Introduction of J'onn's little brother, T'omm J'onzz, as well as his mother.

The story in which the Manhunter's presence was revealed on Earth appeared in Detective Comics # 273 (Nov., 1959). Detective John Jones was on the scene when a yellow-skinned Martian went on a rampage in downtown Middletown. Jones recognised him as B'rett, a Martian criminal. Invisibly changing to his true identity, the Manhunter confronted B'rett in a deserted warehouse. At that moment, B'rett exploded a vial of Formula Z7 at J'onn J'onzz's feet, enveloping him in a cloud of the formula. Formula Z7 caused a Martian to lose his other Martian powers whenever he turned invisible. (It was developed and used by Martian authorities to prevent Martian criminals from escaping.) As Captain Harding and the Middletown police department surrounded B'rett, J'onn J'onzz realised he had no choice but to reveal his existence to keep B'rett from slaughtering the police. Turning visible, the Manhunter defeated B'rett and secured him in the rocket the criminal had used to escape the authorities. Then, he sent the rocket back into space. (Why J'onn J'onzz didn't accompany him on the rocket was studiously ignored.) The last panel showed Captain Harding welcoming J'onn J'onzz to Earth. I know there have been at least two other, different stories of how the Manhunter's presence on Earth was revealed. But this was the first one--and for me, the best one.

#301: J'onn J'onzz returns to Mars, briefly, for the first time since being marooned on Earth.

#311: The first appearance of Zook

To give you the quick run-down on Zook's appearances, the little fellow debuted in DETECTIVE COMICS #311 (Jan., 1963) as "one of the Zooks . . . a mischievous little animal" from another dimension, who was stranded on Earth after a dimensional warp closed. He did not become sentient until an issue or two later; hence his usual description as the Manhunter's "pet". His powers included: a limited ability to stretch his body, the ability to raise or lower his body temperature to extremes (hence the ability to cast heat and cold), and his antennae could track any person which he had met. Zook appeared in the J'onn J'onzz strip from then on through the rest of its run in DETECTIVE, ending with issue #326 (Apr., 1964).

#326: The Manhunter's last appearance in Detective; the story, entitled "The Death of John Jones, Detective", showed why the Manhunter was forced to abandon his John Jones identity. Also the debut of the Idol-Head of Diabolu storyline.

In May of '65, J'onn J'onzz took over as the lead in HOUSE OF MYSTERY, in issue #143. Zook went with him and continued in the strip throughout the remainder of the "Idol-Head of Diabolu" storyline.

#158: The conclusion of the Idol-Head of Diabolu storyline. The Manhunter discovered the origin of the Idol-Head of Diabolu and destroyed it.

#160: J'onn J'onzz assumed the identity of Marco Xavier and began his war against Vulture. Zook, probably viewed as not fitting into the more-serious storyline, was not seen, nor mentioned for several issues. Eventually, however, Zook re-appeared in the Manhunter stories (by reader demand?) in HOM #166, 168, 171, and 172.

#173: The conclusion of his war against VULTURE, the revelation of Faceless' true identity, and the last story of the Joe Certa-drawn "J'onn J'onzz" series. Zook did not appear in HOM #173, and since that was also the Manhunter's last appearance in the series, we never saw Zook--as we knew him--again.

The Martian Manhunter appeared on the covers of HOUSE OF MYSTERY #143 (his first appearance in HOM after being kicked out of DETECTIVE), 144-8, 151-3. And Zook appeared with him on most of those nine covers. Good stories, all!"

Edited by Frank Lee Delano from posts made by "Commander Steel" on the DC Comics Message Boards. All material used with the written consent of the author.

Who is your favorite JLA member? - posted August 04 & 07, 2000
What's up with the plant? - posted May 23, 1999
Zook - posted May 19, 1999 03:39 PM
Martian Manhunter in DC Archives - posted March 08, 2000

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Superman/Batman #14-18 (1/05-4/05)

I'm going to keep this short, like the length of Martian Manhunter's appearances in the five part story "Absolute Power" by Jeph Loeb, Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Merino. Someone mucked with the origins of Superman and Batman, causing them to grow up happily together as adoptive brothers. Barry Allen, Hal Jordan, and J'Onn J'Onzz were given the same treatment, except their changes ended in the death of each. The World's Finest became despots deposed by other heroes, whom they killed mercilessly. Realizing the error of their ways, the tyrants dropped the moldering corpses of J'Onzz and co. into a Lazarus Pit, from which they sprang as soulless zombies. They then confronted the villains behind this scenario, Ra's al Ghul and the futuristic founders of the Legion of Super-Villains. Zombie Manhunter perished just as he had previously, through the lethal telepathic force of the Saturn Queen. At least J'Onn was in good company, as the other Leaguers were dispatched just as hastily, while Clark and Bruce salvaged the timestream. Huzzah.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Action Comics #821-824 (1-4/05)

Art by Ivan Reis & Marc Campos

A story running as a b-plot through Action Comics involved the return of the xenophobic Preus, a former patrolman of the bottle city of Kandorian who had gotten loosed upon the Earth with powers rivaling Superman's. Preus found himself a new adoptive home in God's Peake, a white supremacist encampment where he found a willing and disposable army to aid in his pursuit of racial purity and the death of the "pretender" Superman (who had become a deity in Kandor years prior.) After raping a series of women to death, Preus was confronted by the Manhunter from Mars, who had been dispatched by the Man of Steel while Clark Kent saw to a convalescing Lois Lane. Speaking of people "almost as powerful as Superman," whenever those magic words are spoken, it is safe to assume the Alien Atlas is going to be humiliated once again. One assumes Preus, hailing from a shrunken city, is used to dealing with things on a smaller scale than most. His dark-hued energy blast either managed to effect the intangible J'Onn J'Onzz on a sub-quark level, or through some other unexplained means, and the Martian Marvel was a goner. Shortly afterward, J'Onn was found by an investigating Jimmy Olsen chained to a St. Andrew's Cross, morphing uncontrollably and surrounded by flaming pits. Olsen joined him in bondage, strapped shirtless to a giant metal S-Shield. Is it just me, or is it getting kinky in here?

Now, brief words on story author Chuck Austen: A talented artist and the writer of soap operatic adult comics in the late 80's/early 90's, Austen was rescued from obscurity by Joe Quesada's Marvel. He soon transitioned from a black & white War Machine mini-series to scripter of one of their biggest moneymakers, Uncanny X-Men. Whether due to his noted disinterest in continuity, his shady background, or his tendency toward incredulous turns of events, Austen found himself out of favor at the House of Ideas, and followed the traditional route of exiting a burning bridge into the DC Universe, especially toward the Superman line. While his sarcastic Superman in intense action situations won him some fans and raised sales, the controversy surrounding Austen led to his removal from Action Comics. While Austen brought the action to a head in the book length Action Comics #824, it was an editor writing under the nom-de-plume of "J.T. Finn" who wrapped the tale in the extra-length follow-up issue when Austen was unceremoniously dumped. Most of the art was by Ivan Reis and Marc Campos, though a host of others also contributed, including Luke Ross, Renato Guedes, Shane Davis, Cliff Richards, Fabio Laguna, Larry Stucker, Will Conrad, Art Adams and Ian Churchill.

Summoned by Jimmy Olsen's signal watch, Superman arrived to save the day from Preus, who only served as part of the master plan of the futuristic villain Gog. Also involved was a now fully sentient Doomsday, who joined the party as part of an odyssey that spanned millennia. Insult to injury, it was shirtless Jimmy Olsen aiding the weakened J'Onn J''Onzz in walking out of harm's way. Due to Doomsday's presence, the Justice League evacuated all other heroes and civilians from the area. As part of these Doomsday Protocols, a revived Manhunter was prohibited by Batman from rejoining the action. Long story made short, Preus nearly died in battle with Superman, while Gog and Doomsday vanished due to alterations of the timestream, and Martian Manhunter remained punked.