Monday, February 11, 2008

Detective Comics #228 (February, 1956)

“...Anger whips Captain Harding’s voice as he briefs his men at headquarters...”

“I want everyone in the department to drop his other duties and concentrate on nothing but the apprehension of Alex Dunster! He evidently is selling scientific and technical items of great value, at tremendous profit! We know he’s got a cunning scientific mind... and we also know he’s dangerous!”

Sure enough, even John Jones silently agreed, “The captain’s not exaggerating... Even with my Martian skills, I can’t get a lead on Dunster!” For the Secret Visitor from Mars, who “possessed 100 skills that ‘Earthlings’ could not cope with,” that’s high praise. Jones covered “every chemical, scientific and technical plant in the area” until his “tremendously sensitive hearing” picked up Dunster on a heist. Jones then spied the thief with his ability to see through solid matter. If you’re keeping score, that’s two new powers by the second page of the first ever Dave Wood Manhunter script*. Neither served justice here, as by the time Jones circled around the room Dunster was in to covertly materialize through a wall, the crook had made his getaway. Well okay, he was within Martian earshot, taunting “Ha, ha, I heard you coming as if you were an elephant, my friend!”

“Great Falling Meteors!” Dunster had a giant hearing aid strapped to his chest! Plus, the electronic ray gun he fired at Jones before driving off in his boss convertible. “Powerful enough to kill any earthman... but not strong enough to penetrate my Martian body!” Ding! New power #3, which works even while he’s in human form. Winded, Jones used new power #4, super-vision, to follow the bandit’s tire tracks. Jones Martian eyesight would lead the way. “Trailing him will be tedious... time consuming... but it can be done!” Far into the night Jones traveled along the tracks, to a farm house hideout. Seems Dunster had previously made the richest strike of his criminal career by uncovering a machine that could “materialize objects from space.” It had been created by the late “Professor Urdle,” a phonetic rendering of the name of a very famous non-doctor responsible for a certain strange experiment. In the same story, our hero was even misnamed, again, this time as “J’on J’onz.” Man, was editor Jack Schiff asleep at the wheel when it came to details, or what? “J’on” even removed any No-Prize option by flashing back to his origin, name dropping “Urdle” twice.

Continuing to pick nits, Jones contemplated allowing Dunster to escape using Erdel’s devices, then employing it to return him home. This assumes there was anything at all wrong with Erdel’s device in the first place, when the issue was in fact how to direct it to a specific point in space and time. Since Dunster only managed to navigate the return trip of an object he sent to an unnamed point in space, there’s no evidence his modifications to the device could return the Manhunter safely or permanently to his starting point on Mars. Besides, “That would mean Dunster would go free... I’d be letting Earth down... Releasing a criminal whom no one but myself could apprehend! No... NO! I can’t do that to the planet that has befriended me!” Jones tried to arrest Dunster, who tossed the space machine at the cop, shattering it. “You fool, Dunster! With your mind you could have done worlds of good with it!” Instead, Dunster would be trotted off to jail, while Jones remained in another form of confinement.

"Escape To The Stars" was written by Dave Wood and drawn by Joe Certa.

*To be fair, John Jones used a power that resembled x-ray vision as drawn in his second adventure, but what he was doing exactly was never made clear in text. It could have been an artistic shortcut for telepathy, or either of the “new” abilities from this issue.

1 comment:

Luke said...

Imagine the inane ravings of a lunatic fanbase if a writer had the gall (the gall!) to introduce four new powers for a hero in the course of one story. Well, any writer besides Grant Morrison.

These stories remind me of the early episodes of Star Trek, where the writers were kinda feeling their way around the setting and seeing what would stick and what wouldn't. J'On(n) is a spaceman, so it's not incoceivable that he would have all sorts of fantastic powers, so it's just a matter of figuring out which ones make it easier or more exciting to tell a story with. That, or allow the character so many bizarre powers that every plot twist becomes a simple matter of inventing a new one, which would get old fast if taken seriously, but man, what a concept. Captain Everything comes to mind.