Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Kind of a slow news day, and I'm too tired to create anything new, so I think I'll clean out my junk drawer of some leftovers.

Click To Enlarge

I've been hearing some very disturbing rumors about one of my least favorite writers, Judd Winick. There's a news outlet claiming that Judd Winick Has Been Named DC Comics Editor-in-Chief, and that the announcement was timed to coincide with Brightest Day. Like hell. With the death of Coneheadhunter, we just got done with the second coming of Denny O'Neil-style angry, prejudiced Martian Manhunter. I'm still getting into Ray Palmer Atom blogging after his great showing in Blackest Night, and now I'm hearing he might be getting killed. DC Comics just keep getting worse and worse, and this may be the final straw! You may recall that I once recontextualized actual dialogue written by Winick into a Martian Manhunter parody page. Wasn't that just awful?

Speed Force (blogging about the Flash since 2008) and Arroba Silver (maker of sterling silver Flash and other Justice League rings) have teamed up to sponsor a contest: Design and win your own Flash Ring. The winner will get a free copy of the ring they designed and the chance for it to be produced as a limited edition.

Open through April 26. Full details at Speed Force

Dick Giordano 1932-2010

Until I added up the dates in my head, I had no idea Dick Giordano was old enough to shock me with a death notice. He still seemed so vibrant in interviews, even after all these years away from regular publishing (six years since Future Comics closed shop.) Besides his voluminous artwork, he was the voice of DC Comics throughout my childhood with his Meanwhile... editorial columns. DC never did recover from his departure, and the industry as a whole is lesser for the loss of another one of the greats.


I found this interesting chart online that I thought I'd share:

Length of Time in Months Between Death & Resurrection of Justice League Members

Superman: January - June 1993
Batman: January - March 2009
Wonder Woman: October - November 1997
Flash (Barry Allen): November 1985 - August 2008
Green Lantern (Hal Jordan): November 1996 - March 2005
Aquaman: May 2007 - May 2010
Green Arrow: October 1995 - April 2001
Hawkman: July 1996 - June 2001
Firestorm (Ronnie Raymond): December 2004 - May 2010
Martian Manhunter: July 2008 - May 2010

Funny that this came up the last Wednesday before Easter. You'd think it was planned that way.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

2010 Professor Arnold Hugo Convention Piece by Humberto Ramos

As I was figuring out who my second artist to pester at Comicpalooza 2010 would be, I ran into inker Rodney Ramos, who thought I looked just like one of the the Kids In The Hall (I assume Dave Foley, as he's not the first to make the connection, and preferable to my assumption he initially meant Jim Carrey circa Dumb & Dumber.) We talked for a bit about comics, movies and art supplies, and he seemed like a cool, opinionated guy. If I hadn't been so stingy with my funds this time out, I'd have gotten something from him, but the money flowed to the pencillers, I'm afraid.

Unlike most every other artist at the convention, Humberto Ramos (no relation) had a longish and slow moving line. I'd been a fan since his work on Impulse (what was with that book?), and especially dug his DV8. Clearly the man has fans, as I waited for an hour or so to reach him. Luckily, there were a couple of guys in line to chat with along the way. Since I'd brought inadequate supplies to get commissions with, I bought a copy of Ramos' sketchbook Fairy Quest: The Narrator's Book for $25 to use a glossy interior page for a $40.00 piece.

While Ramos worked off reference from a Joe Certa House of Mystery page, he and my girlfriend chatted in Spanish about Mexico City (his home town,) Monterrey (hers,) his family's dashed hopes he might become a civil engineer or architect, their mutual love of Joaquín Sabina, and her one-sided affection for Enrique Bunbury. I just watched Ramos work with a big grin on my face, as he outlined just the right outlandish proportions and diabolical grin on Prof. Hugo's face. I believe the whole process took just 15-20 minutes, and it was easily my best experience with hovering over a work in progress.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Black Adam: The Dark Age #6 (March, 2008)

After collecting the last piece of an amulet meant to restore Isis to life, Black Adam waded through yet more black ops troopers, painting the arctic ice red with their blood. While gloating at the massacre, Black Adam was shot by one of the wounded with an "Eternity Bullet," which could penetrate even the flesh of a "god." To evade helicopters and deal with his injury, Black Adam dove into the frigid waters, removed the bullet with his bare hands, fed it to a seal, and escaped the scene. Meanwhile, a cooperative of the Justice Society of America and Justice League of America (featuring Martian Manhunter yet again) could not detect Black Adam, but accepted the arrest of the black operatives as a consolation prize. This final setback caused the operation's financiers to give up their pursuit.

While wandering the streets of Fawcett City, Teth-Adam continued reciting whatever words he encountered in hopes of stumbling upon the magic word denied him by Captain Marvel. Stopping at Frank's Soda Fountain, Teth-Adam ordered what a young patron was having, "one of these... Chocolate Egg Creams." Suddenly, the mystical lightning of ancient Egyptian gods struck Teth-Adam, restoring Black Adam to his full grandeur. "Ah, Billy. Always the boy."

In Salem, Massachusetts, Felix Faust had taken up residence in the tower of Doctor Fate while casting a spell over Isis' remains. All the fine details were worked out, but Isis could not be resurrected. Black Adam was furious, but Faust explained that Isis remained dead because Adam had exhausted the magic within her bones with the abuse of his powers over the course of the mini-series. Black Adam left Faust trapped in the tower, after having been tricked into believing Isis' spirit has possessed Faust in order to condemn Black Adam's failure.

In truth, the bones Faust briefly reanimated were Ralph Dibny's. "It was the least you could do after helping to imprison me here." Faust resurrected Isis' bodily, though she seemed a bit of a mindless drone, and used her power to escape Fate's tower.

Black Adam went to live in the Kahndaq Embassy under Gotham City, so he could moan and slam his face into walls.

By Peter J. Tomasi, Doug Mahnke & Christian Alamy.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

2010 Zook Convention Piece by Ethan Van Sciver

Click To Enlarge

I remember when Cyberfrog first came out, and fans thought it was going to be the next big thing. I was running a shop by that time, and tossing through the book, couldn't see it. I figured it for a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles riff as drawn by a Todd McFarlane clone, and dismissed it. I took note of the name Ethan Van Sciver though, so when he turned up looking a lot more polished on DC's Impulse series, I was impressed by his development. I think I liked his stuff here and there, but it was really The Flash: Iron Heights prestige special that made me recognize this was indeed a superstar in the making. Van Sciver is now one of the biggest and best artists in comics, and certainly the top name at Comicpalooza 2010. He was the first artist I approached to do a head sketch, explaining that I regretted his not finishing his run on the Superman/Batman arc "Enemies Among Us." While he drew excellent classic and One Year Later Martian Manhunters (he's one of the best modern MM artists, after all,) what I regretted was his leaving the first appearance of J'onn's other-dimensional pet/sidekick in decades to replacement Matthew Clark. I was promised EVS, dang it, and I was here after his Zook!

Not only did Van Sciver remember Zook, but he expressed regret at not having gotten to draw him, and thought it was cool to get the chance now. I handed the man a couple of reference pages I'd scanned and something like $40 for a head shot. I was asked to return in about three hours, and doing so, found that I was still a few names down the list. Later still, my friends told me Van Sciver was working on Zook, so I walked over to check it out. Van Sciver had been discussing his history with the character for the benefit of onlookers, and upon my arrival one made sport of me by asking slightly sarcastic questions. I addressed his questions with sincerity, though in a somewhat defensive tone. What I didn't know was that a friend of mine had videotaped some of this on his digital camera, so hopefully I can get that from him and post it here down the line.

The lovingly detailed image takes up better than 3/4th of an 11" x 14" rigid, bright white sketch page provided by Van Sciver. It is a thing of beauty, and I'm very proud to share it with you, not to mention very pleased to finally get my promised Zook!

Ethan Van Sciver was a mighty nice guy who does obviously outstanding work, far more valuable than I was charged. In case you were wondering, a friend of mine leaned in and learned directly from the artist that it's pronounced "Sky-ver." Now you know (and I'll have to remember to stop saying "Psy-ver."

Saturday, March 27, 2010

2010 Marco Xavier Mediocre Convention Sketch by David Malki!

I have two sketches by David Malki! of Wondermark "fame" to share with you. This is the second, lesser, "dance for pocket change as the organ grinds" piece, so I'm using it as a sort of placeholder while I tell a story. More on Malki at a later date, but hey, look at the link. It leads to funny stuff.

I hit my work area comic shop on Wednesday, which I don't like, and from which I only buy odd titles while killing time during my lunch break. I'd missed a very glossy, quality stock, four page pamphlet advertising Comicpalooza 2010 for however long it had been on display at their counter. It was being held at an unusually large convention center, with a unique multimedia line-up, making it quite the spectacle for Houston. The Bayou City has a bad reputation when it comes to cons going back to the '80s, with industry people and dealers getting ripped off big time by promoters and attendees (plus our agonizing summers.) I haven't even seen much traction in a comeback for the dingy old hotel showroom cons of the '90s, and hadn't been to anything myself since probably the 2001 San Diego Comic Con, so I figured I'd round up my buddies to check it out.

I've got a ton of stuff squishing me right now, but not only did that not stop me from attending, but the girlfriend and I were up until 4:00 a.m. gathering reference for the artists and printing them out. We were then awake before nine, and started gathering our group. We arrived after 1:00 p.m. today to $10 parking and a $30 door (internet purchased 3-day passes were about $40.) I really don't need any more dang comics in my house, so my main purpose for going was to get as many quality drawings of obscure Martian Manhunter characters as I could for about $300.00. I'd been spoiled by free sketches by folks like Phil Jimenez back in the day, so I was shocked to find that even the lowliest artists charged for their work at this cash-and-carry con. Since hardly anyone was buying anything, I guess this was the only way a lot of these guys could expect to recoup or profit from this venture. Well, the guys selling overpriced hipster decorative pieces did okay, based on the money my girlfriend dropped on glowing radioactive sheep, Tim Burton originals, and other pop culture ephemera. Anyway, for me it meant that I was faced to make a decision-- get a bunch of pieces for this blog from nobodies at $5-40 a pop, or shell out for some names. I chose the latter, which also meant an investment of time, which I'll discuss at length later in the week.

After scoring my first big piece (involving an hour-and-a-half in line,) I wanted to do some walking and make sure I wasn't missing anything in the dealer's room. I bought a couple of Heroclix, but the closest I could come to anything Manhunter-related was a Dr. Light, which I passed on. There were lots of cool shirts and other merchandise, but none at prices to entice. Trades/GNs were being offered routinely for 40-50% off with few takers. Regular comics were usually discounted, with a few dealers having large selections of fifty cent and dollar books, but I only bought a few (due to budget, time, and all the unread back issues I already own.) At some point, you must draw the line to avoid hoarding.

One shop specialized in loose figures and old bubble gum trading card packs. This was the site of my first convention faux paus, mistaking a fanboy for my girlfriend and gently caressing his back. My girlfriend and I got a big laugh out of it, but the dude seemed a bit unsettled. The second epic fail on my part was, upon once again finding a set of escalators shut down to control foot traffic, I decided to ascend the downward escalators. My jeans were a bit tight, but I put forth quite the effort, and strode all the way to the top feeder. At that point, I did a belly flop onto the floor, eliciting cheers from the balcony. One of my friends, who was unaware of my whereabouts, heard the loud thud of my body and just knew I was involved. Another friend and my girl had waited for the elevator, and hearing the crowd roar while inside, cursed themselves for missing the show. I have a bit of a reputation of my own, you see.

Due to circumstances beyond my control, plus totally lallygagging on some stuff, we didn't finally roll out until 7:00 p.m. My friends have either gone to trades/loaned comics only or quit collecting altogether, so their good time came from my antics and openly mocking convention goers. For instance, there was the DJ room, filled with techno music, colored lights, and empty space. Some rollerbladers tried to get down in there, but it was carpeted, which cramped their style. Cosplay was pretty minimal. There was a short guy with a nice build in a very tight Spider-Man costume my girl devoured with her eyes. Some chick in body paint and a tied on top was running around with a sword, but I didn't recognize her reference nor ogle her. There were the usual Warsie dorks, increasingly among the lowest forms of fandom, especially when they dress as Anakin Skywalker in Episode 3: The Subtitle I Forgot and say stupid crap like "make way for the Empire." Your mother ate the Empire, nerd. I never caught so much as a glimpse of Bruce Campbell, but heard the lines were insane. Unsurprisingly, Chewbacca, Darth Maul, Cat Grant and Teen Wolf's dad were easily but irregular accessed.

My girlfriend passed on a couple of Bernie Wrightson prints due to the main one she wanted having sold out, but I shook the fellow's hand, so that was nice. A number of fantastic pieces were had, and I spent about $275 doing so. We all had a good time, and ate Greek afterward. More details to come (on the con. If you must know, I had the Chicken Souvlaki and a hazelnut gelato for dessert.)

Friday, March 26, 2010

2010 Workman DC Comics Super Heroes and Villains Fandex Advertisement

Sorry for the late post. I'm under time pressure on a project at work, I'm studying for a test and (stupidly) going to a convention this weekend (fingers crossed for sketches.) My schedule is all screwed up. Luckily, I banked a bunch of stuff for ya'll over spring break, but I already ran a some of it this past week, and will need some for the next, as well. I decided that I'd like to get this specific post knocked out today, since I'm running behind anyway, and pick up on the heavier duty posts after the weekend. Besides, I don't like leaving loose stuff like this lying around, as it has a tendency to collect dust on a shelf (looking at you, Arby's Kids Meal materials from November.)

This is the full page ad for the DC Fandex that ran in the March 2010 Diamond Distribution Previews consumer catalog. This novelty information book, which I'm totally buying, seems sort of like a key chain recipe book. Instead of a quick glossy cardstock reference card for how to cook a souffle or mix a margarita, you fan out these die-cut strips and find the image of a DC character. The card then gives you a Reader's Digest version of their Who's Who profile information. I think it's nifty, but will be hell to scan for you guys. We'll see come April, as for once I expect to skip my usual mail order source and have this shipped through Amazon.

DC Comics Super Heroes and Villains Fandex Deluxe
Celebrate 75 years of DC Comics with an obsessive Fandex Deluxe: a supersized deck of 75 iconic heroes and villains whose power over the popular imagination has never been stronger (think The Dark Knight, last summer's $1 billion blockbuster).

The gang’s all here: Batman, Robin, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, the Green Lantern, Captain Marvel, Justice League of America, the Flash. So are their nemeses—the Joker, Catwoman, Mr. Freeze, Lex Luthor, Cheetah, Brainiac, Poison Ivy, Deathstroke. Meticulously researched, with layers of information covering origins, biography, back-stories, affiliations, motivations, weaknesses, and fascinating trivia, the deck adds up to an insider’s history of the DC Universe. And what better way to present it than in the format with super powers—Fandex and its die-cut cards perfectly capture the characters in one dynamic pose after another, with the art taken straight from the pages of the original comics.

From the essential—learn about the Crisis on Infinite Earths—to the improbable—discover how Lex Luthor became President of the United States—to the offbeat—did you know that Clark Kent and Lois Lane lived in a building owned by Wayne (i.e., Batman) Enterprises: it’s a handheld feast for new¬comers and passionate comics fans alike.

Text by Randall Lotowycz
Other book format , 76 pages
ISBN: 9780761158561 (0761158561)
Published by Workman Publishing
$12.95(US) $15.95(CAN)
This title will be available for purchase from on Apr 22, 2010. For now you can pre-order from one of these online retailers.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Black Adam: The Dark Age #4 (January, 2008)

After having been shot in his human form by a black ops team, Adam dreamt he was being dismembered by Dr. Sivana, Captain Marvel, Osiris, and Isis while members of the JLA and JSA (including both the classic and conehead Martian Manhunter) looked on. Afterward, Coneheadhunter offered a smile and a golf clap.

Adam woke up, called down the lightning, and slaughtered his pursuers. Thanks to a spell cast by Felix Faust, Black Adam was able to temporarily siphon the residual magic he'd bestowed upon Isis from her bones, but his human form remained vulnerable. Black Adam forced workers at a veterinary clinic to tend to his wounds, donating their own blood  to mix with his agreeable O+ type to insure he wouldn't someday go after their families.

After Adam departed, the black ops team arrived at the clinic, having tracked the radioactive bullets the vets had dislodged. Black Adam returned to repay his debt to the vets and kill all the operatives, though not before an interrogation. Adam learned the JSA had developed a means to track his lightning via satellite.

A group of investigators including the Martian Manhunter, Superman, Wildcat, Batman and Dr. Mid-Nite showed up at the vet clinic too late, as Black Adam had left for space, and destroyed the JSA satellite.

Coming in so late, I had a difficult time figuring out exactly what was going on. Once I did, I realized it was much ado about nothing. There are quite a few near-silent pages devoted to mood and murder, and this is at heart a drawn out affair to allow Black Adam to "earn" his powers back with the audience. From what I could tell, you could fit this whole story into a one-shot easily, but the art by Doug Mahnke & Christian Alamy, as well as the coloring of Nathan Eyring, is really nice. Peter J. Tomasi's story is violent but lightweight, which are his trademarks. He's another one of these guys who can nail the sophisticated veneer of the '80s British invasion, but lacks the the intellectualism to offer any real structure underneath.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

2010 The Martian Manhunter Archives Volume 6 Table of Contents by Tom Hartley

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I would have been all over the previous volumes of The Martian Manhunter Archives for the recolored, remastered artwork on glossy stock. However, I have access to all those old stories, and if you just want to read them, one of the two inexpensive Showcase Presents volumes should scratch the itch. What makes the late addition of a sixth fantasy volume extra special is that the stories proposed to be contained within, as a whole, will likely never be reprinted. To sway talent away from Marvel in the '70s & '80s, DC offered contracts with generous royalties to creators that DC's current management feels eat too much into the profitability of today's collected editions. That's why you will never see the once announced Showcase Presents Who's Who in the DC Universe, and editions like Showcase Presents Suicide Squad only make it to press after contracts are renegotiated to claw back some of those royalties. That translates into no Showcase Presents Martian Manhunter Volume 3, ever, and dim prospects for a color trade paperback this random.

On the other hand, many of these stories will find their way into Showcase Presents Justice League of America and Showcase Presents DC Comics Presents volumes, if they haven't already, and you may find yourself pleased that their impact is diluted by other company. You see, the theoretical Volume 6 contains stories with swell artwork that were significant to the development of the modern Martian Manhunter, but that doesn't make them particularly well written or enjoyable.

1969's Justice League of America #71 featured some of Dick Dillin's best art under epic embellisher Sid Greene, but Denny O'Neil's "...And So My World Ends!" took the scorched Mars route with regard to the Manhunter's people and continuity. All parties but Greene returned three years later for World's Finest Comics #212, in which a weak and gullible J'onn J'onzz was sidelined by Superman from the story of his people's survival, "...And So My World Begins!" It took another three years for the same writer/penciller team to check back with J'Onn, in a throwaway JLofA story in which the Manhunter barely contributes after the set-up. It only took two years for O'Neil to revisit the Manhunter from Mars, and this time J'onzz was unquestionably the star, but of an especially terrible back-up strip. While O'Neil portrayed Manhunter once again as gullible and incompetent (with the added insult of making him irrationally violent,) it took an exceptional artist to save the day.

Mike Nasser designed a new "Manhunter from Mars" logo to go with his debut on the strip in Adventure Comics #449's "Mission: Catch A Killer". Nasser chose to render the character in a manner similar to his earliest appearances, including the very prominent beetle-brow that became his trademark. While the look was twenty years retro, the artist's style was dynamic, complex and decidedly modern. Supergirl may have guest-starred in the following issue's "Return To Destiny", and Hawkman in "The Suspects",  but it was really the draw of Nasser's pages that reignited interest in the largely forgotten Martian Manhunter. Superman and Batman headlined the story's resolution, "Today Mars, Tomorrow... The Universe". Never averse to shooting progress in the foot, this final tale took place in a separate DC title, with an entirely different creative team of old pros. Although writer Bob Haney did his best with the stinker he'd inherited, and Curt Swan's staid art was bolstered by Murphy Anderson's lush inks, the conclusion felt like a throwback after Nasser's intricately delineated offerings. Absent Nasser, further solo development died with cutbacks to DC's line. However, Steve Englehart did join frequent O'Neil collaborator Dick Dillin the same month as the "mini-series" concluded for the greatest Martian Manhunter story to hardly feature J'onn J'onzz, Justice League of America #144's "The Origin of the Justice League-- Minus One!".

These archives are Tom's show, but we've had some discussions in the past about which books should make the cut in his collections. Unsurprisingly, I fought a losing battle in favor of reprinting Arnold Hugo's first appearance in a previous volume, and I really should have argued to get Mr. V's Justice League of America guest appearance in another. However, our debates have never been so contentious as the 1980s reprints in this volume.

After yet another three years and into a new decade, the Manhunter from Mars reappeared in a couple of issues of Justice League of America, in what amounted to a glorified cameo. At least this was an early head-to-head with Despero, and Jim Starlin's rendering of the despot on a cover provides the illustration on this page. Starlin also used the Manhunter  in the first part of a three chapter epic, "The Key That Unlocked Chaos!", in DC Comics Presents #27. These tales served to remind readers that J'onn J'onzz was still around, and Gerry Conway even played with him in a League anniversary issue not collected here, but the real meat was to be found in the trilogy that closes this edition. The Martian Manhunter returned to Earth and relevance with a vengeance in 1984, in Justice League of America #228's "War-- of the World?" The surviving Martians had decided to invade Earth, and the Manhunter was forced to choose sides. Although marred by inconsistent art, the final two chapters revisited old foes, introduced new ones, and led to the restoration of J'Onzz's League membership. The Martian Manhunter would serve in defense of the Earth for the next twenty-four years, appear in two titular mini-series, a special, and three years of a solo series. The groundwork for all of that began here, in this collection of disparate tales from the Bronze Age.

For individual page listings from this Table of Contents, download the PDF here.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

52 Week Fifty (June, 2007)

Week 50, Day 2: Egypt. Black Adam beat up Captain Marvel Jr., Mary Marvel, and the Big Red Cheese himself after killing millions in Bialya. This was mostly because he's a narcissistic self-justifying psycho creep who barely needed the excuse of his wife and brother-in-law being murdered to go on a rampage.

Week 50, Day 3: Australia. Justice Society of America members discussed Black Adam amidst the damage he'd caused the Sydney Opera House.

Week 50, Day 4: Italy. A battle with the Doom Patrol.

Week 50, Day 5: The JSA tracked Black Adam, whose allies and enemies in various governments clashed across borders.

Week 50, Day 6: China. The Great Ten fought to keep Black Adam out of Beijing.

Week 50, Day 7: A mob of super-heroes gathered at the Great Wall of China, awaiting permission to enter the country. August General-In-Iron finally consented to their aid. Expanding on her role from 52/WW III Part Four: United We Stand #1, Vixen walked, crawled around in the background, and ran away.

At the Rock of Eternity, Captain Marvel revealed to a band of mystics which included Zatanna that the Egyptian Gods had refused his petition to have Black Adam's powers removed.

In China, both versions of Steel with names ending in "Irons" planned to launch a nannite-infested missile at Black Adam, but it was stolen by Booster Gold, who claimed he needed it more. "Besides, it wasn't gonna work anyway. Trust me--"

The new Infinity Inc. created by Lex Luthor chickened out and fled the battle. Black Adam stood atop a mound of fallen heroes, including Donna Troy, Guy Gardner, Steel, Liberty Belle, Green Arrow and more. The female Steel and Martian Manhunter continued to engage, while the JSA rallied for another round.

From the Rock of Eternity, Zatanna contacted the Flash (Jay Garrick) with a plan to finally contain Black Adam. Nat-Steel and Manhunter were brushed aside as Power Girl and Sentinel held Black Adam in an airborne position, while Captain Marvel called down the mystical lightning that grants him power through his gods to strike Black Adam. Zee announced from her magical circle (including the young Zatara, the Phantom Stanger and Madame Xanadu) "The spell is working! If Billy were grounded, he'd be dead...!"

Adam was reverted back to human form, but vanished in the blinding light show that stripped him of his powers. Captain Marvel consoled the still frantic heroes that even if Adam survived the blast, he had managed to change the magic work that would enable the return of Black Adam to something "He will never guess. Never."

Week 50, Day 7: The Rocky Mountains. T.O. Morrow learned from the head of Red Tornado what it had seen in "the Great Beyond," only to be confronted by Booster Gold and Rip Hunter- Time Master.

"World War III" was written by Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka & Mark Waid. It was laid-out by Keith Giffen, pencilled by Justiniano and inked by Walden Wong

Monday, March 22, 2010

Martian Sightings for June, 2010

June is kind of a lame month. We still don't know whether J'Onn, or really anybody, is getting resurrected at the end of Blackest Night. Then there's some potential appearances and mild reprints. We finally see Martian Manhunter in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold, but unlike the retro designs and/or interesting liberties usually taken, this looks pretty much like the typical Post-Crisis J'Onn J'Onzz. Luckily, since I now hold over stuff from the back of the Previews until the following month's advance DC solicitations, there's a ton of awesome May stuff! Enjoy!

DC Comics Super Heroes and Villains Fandex Deluxe
Celebrate 75 years of DC Comics with an obsessive Fandex Deluxe: a supersized deck of 75 iconic heroes and villains whose power over the popular imagination has never been stronger (think The Dark Knight, last summer's $1 billion blockbuster).

The gang’s all here: Batman, Robin, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, the Green Lantern, Captain Marvel, Justice League of America, the Flash. So are their nemeses—the Joker, Catwoman, Mr. Freeze, Lex Luthor, Cheetah, Brainiac, Poison Ivy, Deathstroke. Meticulously researched, with layers of information covering origins, biography, back-stories, affiliations, motivations, weaknesses, and fascinating trivia, the deck adds up to an insider’s history of the DC Universe. And what better way to present it than in the format with super powers—Fandex and its die-cut cards perfectly capture the characters in one dynamic pose after another, with the art taken straight from the pages of the original comics.

From the essential—learn about the Crisis on Infinite Earths—to the improbable—discover how Lex Luthor became President of the United States—to the offbeat—did you know that Clark Kent and Lois Lane lived in a building owned by Wayne (i.e., Batman) Enterprises: it’s a handheld feast for new¬comers and passionate comics fans alike.

Text by Randall Lotowycz
Other book format , 76 pages
ISBN: 9780761158561 (0761158561)
Published by Workman Publishing
$12.95(US) $15.95(CAN)
This title will be available for purchase from on Apr 22, 2010. For now you can pre-order from one of these online retailers.
SO buying this, even if the Tom Mandrake art gives me terrible flashbacks to the Ostrander series.

DC Universe: Last Sons (Audio CD)
Metahumans, aliens, magical entities, or mortals driven by iron wills. Super heroes, renegades, or villains out for justice, vengeance, or cash. Whether legendary, infamous, or little known, these extraordinary beings are the true champions of the...DC UNIVERSE SUPERMAN. MARTIAN MANHUNTER. LOBO. Interplanetary bounty hunter Lobo is a notorious maverick. Happily wreaking havoc as he brings in his prey, he cares little who his clients or targets are even when his latest quarry is J onn J onnzz, Martian Manhunter of the Justice League. Suddenly Lobo finds himself confronting...Superman. Cogs in the machinations of a powerful artificial life-form, these three aliens, the sole survivors of the planets Krypton, Mars, and Czarnia, have only one thing in common they are the last of their kind...LAST SONS
Publisher: GraphicAudio (March 1, 2010)
I may have to buy this. Recommendations?

On sale JUNE 30
32 pg, FC, $2.50 US
Art and cover by ERIC JONES
Batman learns what “Life on Mars” is all about when he teams up with the mysterious Martian Manhunter in order to prevent an invasion from the red planet!
The debut of the Brave and the Bold Martian Manhunter! Aaaand he vaguely resembles Mojo Jojo? Sooo, when do we get our Super Friend?

Issue #3 on sale JUNE 2
Issue #4 on sale JUNE 16
32 pg, FC, $2.99 US
1:25 variant covers by IVAN REIS & OCLAIR ALBERT
If this is the BRIGHTEST DAY then what is Black Lantern Firestorm doing on our cover?!
Retailers please note: These issues will ship with two covers each. Please see the Previews Order Form for more information.
Yes? No? I dunno.

Issue #3 on sale JUNE 9
Issue #4 on sale JUNE 23
32 pg, FC, $2.99 US
Issue #3 art by FERNANDO DAGNINO
Issue #4 art by AARON LOPRESTI
1:25 variant covers by KEVIN MAGUIRE
DC’s biweekly JUSTICE LEAGUE event continues here! The heroes of the once-great Justice League International – Booster Gold, Captain Atom, Fire and Ice – have reteamed in order to stop a threat to all mankind. But will the heroes of the DCU take this group of misfits seriously? And what happens when Blue Beetle – a new hero with an old legacy – joins the team? And whose side is he really on? Be here to find out!
Retailers please note: These issues will ship with two covers each. Please see the Previews Order Form for more information.

Is he? Isn't he? We'll know on, what, Wednesday? After next?

Black Lantern Toys
Blackest Night Heroclix Starter Game

The War of the Light comes to HeroClix with the DC HeroClix Blackest Night Starter Game! As the Blackest Night encompasses the world, heroes and villains alike are deputized into the Lantern Corps to fight back against the legions of Black Lanterns. Choose a team of lanterns and take them into battle! This starter game includes everything a player needs to play HeroClix, including figures, map, rules and more.
Estimated to Arrive
May 2010
Our Price: $22.99
Black Lantern J'Onn J'Onzz is bound to be in there somewhere, right?

On sale JUNE 9
32 pg, FC, $2.99 US
The shocking events of JUSTICE LEAGUE: GENERATION LOST leave Booster Gold bloody and beaten, and the only way for him to put right what went wrong and save the people he loves is to travel back into the past. But what happens when Booster comes face-to-face with himself and Justice League International?

There's always time travel...

On sale JULY 28
128 pg, FC, $14.99 US
Written by ALAN MOORE
Legendary writer Alan Moore’s seminal Superman issues are collected in this title featuring beautiful art from Curt Swan (ACTION COMICS), Dave Gibbons (WATCHMEN), and Rick Veitch (SWAMP THING)! Collects the two-part “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” from SUPERMAN #423 and ACTION COMICS #583 as Superman faces his greatest foes and his final battle! Also featuring the classic story “For the Man Who Has Everything” from ACTION COMICS ANNUAL #11, in which Batman, Robin and Wonder Woman fight the evil warlord Mongul for the fate of The Man of Steel, and DC COMICS PRESENTS #85, in which Superman meets Swamp Thing.
J'Onn J'Onzz in the background in that one story! Um. Ooo, Mongul!

Comrades of Mars

Miss Martian
On sale JUNE 30
40 pg, FC, $3.99 US
Co-feature written by REX OGLE
Co-feature art by TED NAIFEH
The Teen Titans are now a team divided as they go on the hunt for Raven! One side is stranded on a dead planet, the other thousands of leagues below the sea. But both are in serious danger as they head closer to a trap set by the dangerous Wyld!
Plus, in the second chapter of the Coven co-feature, Traci 13, Zach Zatara and Black Alice wake up in a world where their greatest wishes have come true. Is it all they ever wanted – or their worst nightmare given form?

Look! She's on the cover! Way in the background, but still!

On sale JUNE 16
32 pg, FC, $2.50 US
Art and cover by ART BALTAZAR
It’s Supergirl’s turn to toddler-sit the tiny Tiny Titans! Can she handle this crisis of infinite toddlers – or will she burst into tears?
Yes, even the 4,684th swipe of that Crisis cover that was itself a swipe of a Byrne X-Men cover is still kinda cute here.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


The final blog spotlight* on the Crisis On Earth-Blog: The DC Challenge "Thank You Trail" is Bubba Shelby's Toyriffic. Founded on Sunday, December 23, 2007, "Bubba" has only gotten better at digging up awesome action figures to crank up my nostalgia. He usually couples this with good humor and pop music references, which I greatly appreciate as a tune geek. Bubba had participated in Shag's Crisis on Earth-Blog: Super Powers 25th Anniversary, and since He-Man & Battle Cat were set to be in my crossover, it seemed natural to ask Bubba to give it another go around... Except he didn't want He-Man, and then the blog that took He-Man never posted their installment, and I went insane and tried to write an interactive story to tie all the blogs together that fell apart. Point being, in the midst of this chaos, Adam Power of all people ended up being Toyriffic's character, and star of a short story that alluded to stuff I never got around to writing. Someday (wipes tear...)

Back on topic, Bubba's got his own blogging empire, including Art by Bubba Shelby, Woodchuck Chuck and Friends, and a slew of others. Hell, I just realized that a) he's a contributor to Amazon Princess, which I tried to rope into the crossover & b) that there's actually a team of people on that blog, one of whom totally ignored me. Bygones. Anyway, check 'em out, along with these handpicked highlights:

Yipes! Dead Smurf!
Deathstroke from DCUC's Series three
2005 Spider-Man Classics Mysterio figure
Change You Can Believe In...
Series six Mr. Miracle
1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Mutagen Man
MadBall Sick Skull Face
Warrior Nun Areala
Hawkman/Thanagarian warrior three pack
San Diego Comic Con 2010 Google header
GoBot Magazine's Premiere Issue
That's no moon... it's a Pez dispenser!
Cyborg DC Infinite Heroes Mallah's Revenge Walmart exclusive
Black Canary from DC Universe Classics wave 9
Masters of the Universe Classics Trap-Jaw
27 small plastic superheroes (DC & Marvel) from Argentine Jack chocolate candy
When Guardian throws his mighty shield...
Masters of the Universe Classics Moss Man
Gulliver Argentine DC Superheroes "Army Men"
Masters of the Universe Classics Moss Man
Mast-Erasers of the Universe
The Batman Hawkman
Target JLU "Legends of the League" six pack: Deadman, Crimson Fox, Commander Steel & Vibe, and B'wana Beast

*How badly have you screwed up a crossover when, nearly two months after the fact, two of your own four "participating" blogs are still offline, and you've never green-lighted another person's publishing their entry in anticipation of finally "getting around to it?"

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Comics Make Me Happy!

The final (re: "other") blogger to answer my public offering to all comers for participation in Crisis On Earth-Blog: The DC Challenge was our own frequent commentator LissBirds. Actually, that's not entirely true, as Liss hadn't decided to throw her hat into the comic blogging ring yet, but thought spinning out of the crossover would be the way to go about it. A brain who didn't want to go the pretentious route, Liss launched Comics Make Me Happy! on Thursday, January 21, 2010. Making good on the interest shown the Martian Manhunter in comments here, Liss has made J'Onn J'Onzz the focal character of her blogging so far, beginning with Men In Hats Part 1. She continued with The Case for John Jones: Noir Comic Book Hero, The Trouble With Telepathy?, a potential costume tweak and J'onn J'onzz is the Ideal Crimefighter, Because Michio Kaku Said So. Biased as I am, these have been my favorite posts so far, and I'm looking forward to her finishing a ten-point guide to writing Martian Manhunter so I can showcase that here as well.

It hasn't all been about the Jones, though. Another hero Liss has touched on, and based on his presence in her banner will likely see his role inevitably expanded, is Adam Strange. I've always wanted to like The Man of Two Worlds more than I do, so I'm hoping she can talk sense into me. After all, Adam Strange... is the nicest guy in the DC Universe and he has swell Fashion Sense.

Balancing thoughtful analysis with goofy fun, I'm consistently entertained by Comics Make Me Happy! You can be too, through the links above and below:
Getting to know LissBirds (via survey)
The Fine Line Between Homage and "Just Plain Ripping Off"
I Readed A Book! (Review of Huntress: Cry for Blood)
Happy Valentine's Day...or something.
The Purpose of Comics, or, Why Grant Morrison Doesn't Write Comics Part I
Wait a Second...! (Human Target Shoots the Shark)
Forward the Bromance!

As for Crisis On Earth-Blog: The DC Challenge, Liss adopted the Metal Men, and ran with that with an unrivaled abandon. She crafted a Metal Men Cross(over)word puzzle game that will kicks your butt up and down the street. I decided I wanted to have an interactive story throughout all the blogs, then did a faceplant when it came to drafting them. Liss, in one weekend, knocked out a mammoth branching epic spanning over twenty chapters. The lady is class, and continues to impress. Here's an overview of the arc, in case you missed some parts last month, or are interested in dissecting this puppy...

The Metal Men: Part 1

Path 1A: You Chose to Draw the Injustice Gang Away From the Auditorium

Path 1B: You Have Chosen to Go With The Injustice Gang (Featuring Captain Boomerang, Abra Kadabra, Shark, I.Q., Floronic Man, and Ocean Master.)

Path 1C: You Chose To Surrender Yourselves to the Injustice Gang (Death & Space)

Path 2: The Adventure Continues! (A side trip to Earth-S with Captain Marvel, Phantom Stranger & Zatanna)

Path 3: You Have Chosen to Go With Adam Strange (with Captain Comet & the Secret Society of Super-Villains)

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Continuity Blog & The Anti-DiDio League

I'd planned to work up a lengthy synopsis tonight, but I'm full of pee and vinegar, so I decided to look for an outlet in that department instead. My February projects have been sidelined so far this month, and since I've only got a few blogs left to thank for their participation in Crisis On Earth-Blog: The DC Challenge, I figure it's about time I got around to seeing that through.

After a holiday break for everyone in planning the event, I tried to get folks fired back up again, but a number of them remained offline without notice for the duration. As I wanted the thing to be as big and weird and convoluted as possible, and after having a lot of folks I'd solicited directly not give me the time of day, I threw caution to the wind with a public offering to all comers across my blogs. This netted exactly two new bloggers, one of whom being dcuboymw, whose The Continuity Blog launched quietly on January 27, 2006. I wasn't familiar with the place, but after a bit of research learned it was a popular destination for folks wishing to locate brief commentary on & summaries of DC Comics. He began with One Year Later Reviews of Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis, Detective Comics, & Outsiders, and has continued for four years and counting!

It's fun for me to read through dcuboymw's posts, because he's such a "Post-Crisis" fan. You see, I got started reading comics in the late 70s/early 80s, as did most of the other DC-character-centric bloggers I know. However, I was rather casual toward DC until I abandoned Marvel Comics in the early 90s, and was myself a devout Post-Crisis (the DC Universe revamp beginning in 1986 that "Marvelized" the line) fanatic for years. dcuboymw's love for that same period is readily apparent, and his view of the DC universe is probably closer to mine than a good many of my contemporaries. However, where my decade long exploration of Martian Manhunter history led me to appreciate the validity of the Pre-Crisis DCU, dcuboymw seems to have registered disdain for DC's regression to those elements, as well as their exploitation of the characters he grew up with as cannon fodder for sensational narrative twists. This led to his creation of a second blog to "spin out" of our event.

The Anti-DiDio League, like the Continuity Blog, calls DC's Executive Editor Dan DiDio on the carpet for the often tasteless and ill-considered changes made to the line since 2002. dcuboymw made his mission statement with Welcome To The Watchtower (NO NOT THE HALL OF JUSTICE) on January 24th of this year. Put simply, he wished to turn back the tide of "heroes I love being pushed aside in favor of boring old Silver Age characters," with his initial spotlights shone on Cassandra "Batgirl 1999-2009" Cain, Linda "Supergirl 1996-2002" Danvers, Green Lantern Kyle Rayner and the Wally West Flash. I personally like three of those four characters, two better than their predecessors, so I was all for this team. Unfortunately, the blog has only seen five additional posts in the last two months.

While the Continuity Blog focused on a Plastic Man trivia quiz that was probably the closest anyone came to how I first envisioned the crossover (including a great "wrong answer" page where the hero looks to be poking you for your misstep,) the A-DL offered The Batgirl Opinion Challenge. dcuboymw has got to be the biggest Cassandra-Batgirl fan I've yet encountered, and he's shown it through his Celebrating Ten Years of Batgirl series, including coverage of Batgirl: May-June 1999, Batman Chronicles #18, Azrael 60, Azrael 61 – Batgirl’s First Christmas, and Robin 73 so far. However, while Batgirl was on hand to punish mistaken answers related to the A-DL, dcuboymw followed a suggestion of mine to use the opportunity to just discuss all the characters being represented in the crossover.

Beyond moving his love of Caine over to the A-DL from his other blog and a brief shout out to Topo, that's all he wrote. As a Didio hater, I hope we get more in the future (especially on Linda-Supergirl, my favorite of the founding four, and a character I hope to use when I finally write my own very late additions to the crossover.)

List of highlight links from The Continuity Blog
Top 50 DCU Characters (as of 2006)
What if DC Never Restarted Title Numbering? (May 2008)
Life On The Outside: Martian Manhunter
Life On The Outside: Captain Marvel Jr.
Action Comics 860 – 871
All New Atom Reviews
All New Atom 15 - 25
Batgirl (Volume 3) #1
Batman 669 – 680
Batman and the Outsiders (Volume 2) #1 - 7
Batman Confidential 9 – 21
Batman: Streets of Gotham #1
Birds of Prey 110 – 122
Birds of Prey #127
Blue Beetle 35 and 36
Booster Gold 2 – 12
Catwoman 69 – 82
Detective 833 – 848
Detective Comics #854
Firestorm 26 – 30
Firestorm: The Nuclear Man #35
The Flash: Fastest Man Alive #1
The Flash: Fastest Man Alive #2-5
The Flash: Fastest Man Alive #9-11
Flash 231 – 246
The Flash (Volume 2) #247
Gotham City Sirens #1
Green Arrow/Black Canary 1 – 4
Green Arrow (Volume 4) #31
Green Lantern 21-34
Green Lantern (Volume 4) #44
Green Lantern Corps #1
Green Lantern Corps 13 – 30
Hawkgirl #50
Hawkgirl 65 and 66
JLA (Detroit) Classified #22
JLA Classified 23 – 28
JLA Classified 38 – 54
Justice League of America #5 (Bring Back The Martian Manhunter)
JLA 13 – 26
JSA 7 – 19
JSA Classified 13 – 18
Legion 33 – 48
Legion of Super-Heroes (Volume 5) #50
Manhunter 31 – 34
Manhunter 35 and 36
Manhunter #37
Robin 164 – 180
Shadowpact 15 – 25
The Shield #1
Supergirl 7 – 11
Supergirl 21 – 33
Supergirl 40 – 42
Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes 19 – 24
Supergirl (Volume 5) #50
Superman 664 – 680
Superman/Batman 28 and 29
Teen Titans 37 – 40
Teen Titans (Volume 3) #41
Teen Titans 50 – 63
The Web #1
Wonder Woman (Volume 3) #1
Wonder Woman 12 – 25

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Brow & Michael Netzer: A Question from Tom Hartley

One of these days, I need to get off my duff and start chasing creators down for interviews. Rob Kelly has been doing interviews for years at The Aquaman Shrine, but that's a much more popular blog about a far more culturally significant character. Still, I get reasonable traffic here, and who ever asks anybody anything about the J'Onn J'Onzz? That's got to have some novelty value.

In yesterday's 2010 The Martian Manhunter Archives Volume 6 Introduction, author Tom Hartley relayed information I'd never heard about how the artist of the 1977 Manhunter from Mars serial in Adventure Comics, Mike Nasser, had come to the decision to restore the character to the look of his earliest appearances. How had Tom come by this knowledge? He'd simply asked Nasser, or rather Michael Netzer, as he is known today...

"You're arguably the second-most influential Martian Manhunter artist after co-creator Joe Certa, since you restored J'Onn's heavy-browed alien look, which was previously seen only in his earliest stories, before Certa gave the character a more human-looking appearance. I was wondering how you discovered MM's original appearance. Had you already read some of those early stories, either in their original appearances in 1950s issues of Detective Comics or in reprints, or did your editor show you one of those stories for reference? I realize all of this was 30 years ago, so I'll certainly understand if you don't remember."

Michel Netzer graciously responded:
Hello Tom,

I wasn't given any direction from Paul Levitz or anyone else at DC about JJ's brow. The series had a special air about it from the beginning. I'd known Martian Manhunter from the 60's with the Justice League but hadn't seen much of earlier appearances. On the other hand, I knew the story was to include Supergirl, Superman and the Thangarian couple. With Terry Austin scheduled to ink it, I considered an approach in the penciling more suitable for his style. So, all in all, it felt there was room to play with this series and I was asking around to get as much info as possible on JJ. As I remember, it was Greg Theakston who brought me some reference from the early days and said it would be nice to see the Martian Manhunter revert to looking a little more like an alien by returning his big brow. In the spirit of the times, which included reverting the campiness of the 60's DC comics, I took that on as an identifying visual for the character. Paul and Denny were more than happy to see it, but it didn't come from either of them.

As a caveat to this story, I commented on a fake Kirby cover by Frank Delano during the campaign to save JJ a few years ago. The comment was a satire meant to be a play on the fictional portrayal of JJ by writer Judd Winick. I cited Kirby the fake Kirby cover as the inspiration to my big browed JJ, but it was really a spoof. Still, as I started looking around at the original post at Idol-Head to refresh my memory and include it in this answer to you, I realized for the first time that it was a fake cover and that Kirby only produced that drawing of Martian Manhunter much later on. I had no idea it was a fake at the time I wrote it. Funny how the wheel spins round. So, I've just edited that piece and added a couple of words in brackets that indicate this. Here's a link to that article:

Hope that helps.


It does indeed. Thanks to Michel Netzer for the comments and consent to publish same, and to Tom Hartley for soliciting and sharing them with us all. In gratitude, do be sure to visit the Michael Netzer Online Portal.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

2010 The Martian Manhunter Archives Volume 6 Introduction by Tom Hartley

Click To Load PDF

This another great intro from Tom, who even schooled me (I never knew about how Michael Netzer was formally introduced to J'onn J'onzz.) Check out the convincing counterfeit page by downloading it in PDF format...

Sailors fighting in the dance hall
Oh man! Look at those cavemen go
It’s the freakiest show
Take a look at the Lawman
Beating up the wrong guy
Oh man! Wonder if he’ll ever know
He’s in the best selling show
Is there life on Mars?
—— David Jones (alias David Bowie)

In the summer of ‘65, around the same time that another Jones, almost as strange as the one who wrote those lyrics, was saving the world from Iwangis, the Creature King, or maybe the mirror Martian Manhunter, or the giant genie of Gensu, a camera attached to the unmanned Mariner 4 spacecraft took some photographs of the surface of the red planet, delivering the sad news to us Earthlings that no, there was no life on Mars. No green men, either even littler than David or as big and burly as our pal J’Onn, walked on that arid, crater-pocked surface. No water flowed through those famous Martian canals Giovanni Schiaparelli had seen in his telescope back in 1877. Later astronomers with better telescopes had already proven, decades before Mariner, that the canals were an optical illusion. (Mariner didn’t take any pictures of the Cydonian region. It would be another eleven years before Viking I captured images of what appeared to be a giant carving of a human face, and another three decades after Viking that higher resolution photos taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter would reveal that the face on Mars was as illusory as the canals.) Maybe the Martians were shy, and didn’t want their civilization to be photographed. We all know that invisibility is one of J’Onn J’Onzz’s Martian powers. Maybe they lived underground, because maybe that’s where the water really was. (Speculation continues to this day about the existence of Martian underground water deposits.) But in the 1960s everyone knew that soon any questions about life on Mars still left unanswered by Mariner’s dreary photolog would be settled once and for all. John F. Kennedy had vowed that before the decade was over, men would set foot on the Moon. Surely this would be followed in another few years, before the end of the ‘70s, by a manned mission to Mars, and if there were any Martians to be found, our astronauts would find them.

In the summer of ’68 there were plenty of other things to think about besides space exploration. Thus far there had been six Apollo missions. Apollo 6, an unmanned test flight of the Saturn V launch vehicle, was launched on April 4th, the same day Martin Luther King was assassinated. Two months later Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy was shot. And two months after that was the 1968 Democratic National Convention. The division between those who wanted an immediate end to the war in Viet Nam and those who still thought victory was possible didn’t kill the Democratic Party, but it wrecked their convention. An overreaction from the police didn’t help either. For four days in August the news footage from Chicago was almost as violent as the daily televised images from Viet Nam, leaving many to wonder if a dispute over a civil war in Asia might lead to second American civil war. Besides the folks at NASA, who else could spare a thought for life on other worlds?

Comic book writers, that’s who. Given the six month lead-time for comic book production, the script for this volume’s first reprinted story from JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #71, with its May, 1969 cover date, but its actual on-sale date of February, 1969, would likely have been written in August, 1968. So while most Americans were wondering what to do about Viet Nam and race relations, Denny O’Neil had to figure out what to do with the Martian Manhunter.

J’Onn J’Onzz had been one of the founding members of the JLA, appearing in the team’s debut stories in THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #28-30 and in every issue of the League’s own book up to #24. But he’s in only 10 of the next 24 issues, and in 6 of the next 13 after that (not counting his appearances in three giant-size reprint issues). Finally, more than a year would separate his appearance in issue #61 (March, 1968) from his next appearance in #71 (May, 1969). Whatever popularity J’Onn had enjoyed had been declining for years, since the early ‘60s during his last years as a DETECTIVE COMICS back-up feature, when the book’s sales were declining, not necessarily through any fault of J’Onn’s, but mainly because readers were tiring of editor Jack Schiff’s silly treatment of the lead feature, Batman. J’Onn was booted from DETECTIVE COMICS when a new editor, Julius Schwartz, took over. His new home, HOUSE OF MYSTERY, was an even worse seller than the Schiff era DETECTIVE COMICS. His appearance in JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #61 occured the same month as his last story in HOUSE OF MYSTERY, in issue #173 (March-April, 1968). He wasn’t given a new home after HOUSE OF MYSTERY, and for years afterward had to settle for guest appearances with his fellow Justice Leaguers. This volume of THE MARTIAN MANHUNTER ARCHIVES covers that decade-and-a-half long period from 1968-1984, when not just J’Onn, but all of his fellow Martians, were looking for a new home.

Those familiar with the conventions of super-hero comics know that when a member of a super-hero team returns after a long absence, it is only so that he can say goodbye. So for experienced comic book readers, I’m not spoiling anything when I say that in issue #71 the Martian Manhunter resigns from the Justice League of America. He has a good reason, of course. The consequences of a civil war has rendered Mars uninhabitable; J’Onn and his fellow Martians must find a new homeworld. This takes care of the problem facing anyone who could spare a thought for DC’s fictional Martians during those turbulent times. The Apollo program was racing toward its goal of putting a man on the Moon, and would succeed in the summer of 1969, barely meeting JFK’s deadline. When astronauts would surely visit Mars a few years later, they were not likely to find any Martians. Maybe there never were any Martians, or maybe they had to leave because their entire world was engulfed by blue flame. The Martians would eventually find a new world, many light years away and likely beyond the reach of Earth’s astronauts for many centuries to come.

The remaining stories in this volume deal with the problems J’Onn and his fellow Martians face on their new home, Mars II. One in particular is of special interest, not for the story itself, which is easily the silliest in this collection (sorry, Denny), but for the influence its artist would have on future depictions of the Martian Manhunter. Readers of the previous five volumes have seen how J’Onn’s look changed during his early years, from the heavy-browed alien in his first appearance in DETECTIVE COMICS #225 (November, 1955), to the pug-nosed, square-headed bruiser in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, and to the handsome bald fellow from the mid-60s through the mid-70s. It’s this green Mr. Clean whom we see in this volume’s first three stories. But in the fourth story the brow is back. For this we can thank artist Michael Netzer (named Mike Nasser back when he drew the story), who restored the Martian Manhunter to his original appearance in ADVENTURE COMICS #449 (January-February, 1977). When Netzer was given the assignment, he became curious about the character’s early history. It was artist, publisher and comics historian Greg Theakston who showed Netzer some of the early DETECTIVE COMICS stories. Netzer liked the alien look artist and co-creator Joe Certa had originally given J’Onn, so that’s how Netzer chose to draw him, and how every other artist has drawn him since.

In addition to getting back his brow, J’Onn would also return to Earth and rejoin the Justice League, as you’ll see in this volume’s final 3-part epic, from JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #228-230 (July – September, 1984). The League has gone through several incarnations in the decades since, and J’Onn has played an important role in every one of them, and has even had some solo adventures from time to time. So even though, decades after Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon, we’re still waiting for that manned mission to Mars, at least we can always enjoy the adventures of our favorite fictional Martian.

—— Wade Greenberg

Novelist WADE GREENBERG has never beaten up the wrong guy and always knows he’s in the freakiest, best selling show.

Monday, March 15, 2010

52/WW III Part Four: United We Stand #1 (June, 2007)

The Martian Manhunter's quest to understand human nature has forced him to confront his own failings and limitations. Having cast off his human aliases, J'Onn J'Onzz follows Black Adam's path of destruction toward a rendezvous with his own destiny

The heroes of Earth have gathered along the Great Wall of China and stand united to bring Black Adam to justice.

Or, put another way, Martian Manhunter still hasn't gotten his bulbous head around "human nature" after over half a century pretending to be one of us, also known as one of the most annoying cliché devices in popular science fiction. Meanwhile, as if the entire DC Universe of heroes being thrown under the bus on a regular basis to make Superman look good wasn't bad enough, Evil Imitation Superman holds off multiple teams of B-Listers by himself as well.

Week 50, Day 7.

Pretty much everyone was there, including the Justice Society of America, the remaining Teen Titans, the Seven Soldiers, Luthor's Infinity Inc., Green Lantern John Stewart  (looking like he had IBS) carrying Green Arrow (yeah, he'll be a big help,) the old school Outsiders, self-appointed Wonder Woman Donna Troy, Aquagirl, Guy Gardner, Black Canary, Plastic Man, Firestorm, Dr. Light II, both Steels, and most amusingly, Vixen flying in with a flock of birds.

Black Adam was battling the Great Ten on one side of the Great Wall, while the collected Western heroes were forced by the prideful Chinese government to wait on the other side until that battle ran its course. This afforded Martian Manhunter the chance to drone on about how he doesn't understand racism/nationalism/etc., and how humans are the craziest peoples. The Martian Manhunter also provided stock narration, about how the heroes girded themselves for combat, and the Great Ten fought valiantly, and "Within Black Adam, I have seen the darkest beat of humanity's heart. Facing him before, I was... broken... against the crux of his anger. It has taken far too long to put the pieces back together again." True, yet the Martian Manhunter continued to wander amongst his comrades invisibly, casually reading their thoughts, and offering fan service commentary for the more marketable heroes. "None of them want to admit that this might be it. The time they fail. That without Clark, Bruce, and Diana, perhaps Black Adam simply can't be stopped. The void created by their absence is too large to ignore." Can I just say again: Black Adam, who was routinely defeated by Captain Marvel from 1977-1999, and largely forgotten for thirty-two years prior as a one-off foe?

"As I listen to their conversations, their doubts and fears and failures... I begin to once more see myself reflected in the face of their humanity. To live is to doubt, to fear, to fail. Human nature is to stand up and try again. Not just human nature. My place is with them." ...As a fellow jobber-- another jerky C-lister to serve as grist for the mill while the Big Leaguers are away.

Green Arrow was first to acknowledge the materializing Martian. "Don't sneak up on a guy like that, J'Onn. I got enough gray in my scalp already." Black Canary exclaimed, "J'Onn, thank God! No one's heard from you, we've been so worried!" Ollie continued, "Your timing couldn't be better, m'man!" Just then, Golden Age Green Lantern Alan Scott announced that the Chinese government had decided to request the Western heroes' aid after all. "All lights are green. Let's go to work." In a nigh-splash with a host of heroes in the background, the Alien Atlas concurred, "Yes. Let's." Among those in the background was Vixen, flying in with her flock of birds.

"For the briefest of instants, Black Adam's eyes lock with mine."
"Come, fools. Meet your end."

Even though he was among the most powerful heroes and at the forefront of the charge, Martian Manhunter somehow ended up remaining in reserve. J'Onzz was simply commenting to himself on the battle, as a hoard of other heroes engaged Black Adam. For no good reason, Guy Gardner and John Stewart were each in Adam's striking distance and dealt severe blows. Dr. Light and Firestorm did the same, despite having powers that work best with broad range. Power Girl, a Kryptonian bruiser near Superman's range, was handled like a sack of potatoes. The usual crossover nonsense.

Martian Manhunter was too busy being in psychic turmoil again, reading the minds of all the bad people on Earth, including the Chinese government officials debating nuking everyone within the battle's range, and the U.S. officials fine enough with that. Amanda Waller was at Checkmate headquarters, looking past the present battle at the conflict to come over which nations would claim what was left of Bialya. The ghost of slain Gotham City police officerCrispus Allen had yet to assume the role of the Spectre and join in, but his sitting on his hands about the matter was acknowledged by J'Onzz, whose telepathy was now metaphysical, I guess.

Back at the scene, colorful cannon fodder continued to be tossed at Black Adam, while Vixen and her flock of birds flew in the background. I didn't know chickens could reach those altitudes, much less sustain then. Even if she were ducking the battle, at least she would be mentally present and admittedly useless outside of helping with a sensational body count. The Martian Manhunter, levitating above the
archrival and nemesis of Captain Marvel, with powers comparable to Black Adam's, was just sitting on his mind bullets.

"In spite of their fear, no matter the pain, one sentiment echoes through their minds. Get up. Stop Black Adam. It is a mantra of courage. I am humbled by their determination. This is no longer a battle defined by human nature. The time for thought has long passed. It is about who I am, and what I choose to be. It is not about thought. It is about what I do."

So, Martian Manhunter got over his distancing himself from the violence and horror of the human condition by watching the violence and horror of super-human combat? Without a thought in his head, the Alien Atlas punched Black Adam with all his might in his Ancient Egyptian junk (must have learned that from Dick Grayson's brief JLTF stint,) then shot him in the face with Laser Vision, then punched him in the lower vertebrae.

Despite his right eye nearly popping out of his head from that shot to the ballzack, Black Adam recovered to deliver a head butt. With half his face burnt and hanging loose, Adam declared "You are a fool, J'Onn J'Onzz! A fool fighting against the wrong enemy. I have walked in your mind, Manhunter, and you have walked through mine. We are the same, you and I. We have both lost our families. They fear what they cannot control, J'Onn J'Onzz. The power in our hands is beyond them. Someday soon, they will hunt you down. They will destroy you unless you draw first blood. I showed you mercy in Bialya out of kinship, Manhunter. Do not make me regret my choice." Black Adam beat Martian Manhunter bloody, and punched him so hard he landed like a missile amongst other heroes. "When next we meet, my wrath will devour you. That is my word, Manhunter, not a promise. You deal with power far beyond your reckoning." The Martian Manhunter pulled himself up with, "As do you."

Geo-Force, Natasha Irons, and Green Lantern Alan Scott wrestled with the villain, giving the Manhunter another chance to telepathically latch on. "We end where we began, Black Adam. Once more, I am in your mind, Adam. This time, you will go no further. I have known your pain, evil one, and I could not bear it. Can you stand beneath the weight of mine?" Black Adam experienced J'Onn's memories of the plague death of Mars, as well as the collective memory of Bialya's dead, plus the D-list heroes Adam killed, and possibly your childhood trauma over flushing your goldfish for good measure. Black Adam screamed, but soon collected himself to swear "You have earned a mortal enemy this day, Manhunter! I will see you broken once more!"

As if it weren't bad enough that Martian Manhunter stole Professor Arnold Hugo, Despero, Vandal Savage, Darkseid and more villains from other heroes to build a rogues gallery, writer John Ostrander decided to add Captain Marvel's arch-rival to the list. A massive change in Martian Manhunter's appearance and m.o., leading into his only mini-series of the decade, all due to another guy's big bad. Also note that it took Black Adam a page and a half to man-up from a psychic attack, not three-and-a-half issues of out-emoing Red Tornado.

"Last time, you called down fire from the heavens to save yourself, Black Adam. This time, the lightning comes for you." While still held in place by the trio of heroes, Captain Marvel struck Black Adam with a magical lightning bolt, which adversely affected J'Onn J'Onzz through his mental rapport. Black Adam vanished in a blinding light, while the Manhunter fell unconscious. Heroes rushed to J'Onn's side, fearful he might have been killed, while others searched in vain for Black Adam. J'Onzz began to change physically before their eyes into the José Ladrönn-designed Coneheadhunter from Mars before finally getting up.

"The moment the lightning struck, my connection to Black Adam's mind was lost. Obliterated in a blinding white flash. Whether he is dead or alive, I do not know. All I do know is that I can no longer detect his presence. In that moment of searing heat and pain, I both died and was reborn. No longer am I exactly what I was. No longer will I deny what I am. J'Onn J'Onzz. The Manhunter from Mars. The time has come for a beginning."

Yeah, the beginning of the end for the Dill Pickle Wrapped in Blue Vinyl from Mars, who would die a yearish later. There was also a one-page epilogue with the Watchers (er-- "Monitors,") that led into Countdown to Final Crisis, but the first rule of CTFC is that we do not talk about CTFC. The art here was by Jack Jadson and Rodney Ramos, which was weird and off and bounced from realistic to caricature and obviously referenced the work of a bunch of other artists.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

2007 One Year Later Martian Manhunter by Craig Cermak

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Here's a nice watercolor painting of Coneheadhunter by Craig Cermak. It's um... Contemplative? Dill-like?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

2010 Martian Manhunter Archives Vol. 6 Create-Your-Own Back Cover by Tom Hartley

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On the heels of Michael Netzer's glowing blog review of his front cover mock-up, Tom Hartley has created a brand new Martian Manhunter Archives Vol.6 back cover web page, where you get to decide which four covers in the collection will grace the imaginary back cover! Tom explains:

This uses some complicated javascript that may not work with all browsers... Attached is a screenshot of the back cover page that you can post to your blog... I'd like to know which covers everybody picked. Please post your choices to this comments thread.

Sadly, Michael Netzer didn't provide covers for any of his Adventure Comics issues, although his mentor Neal Adams provided a nifty cover to that story's final chapter in World's Finest Comics #245. The best and most influential story of the bunch was Justice League of America #144, but Commander Blanx is the star of that Dick Dillin cover.

In my own four, I went with a different Dillin, Justice League of America #71, one of the single most important Martian Manhunter comics ever published. It explored J'Onn J'Onzz's life on Mars, why he stayed on Earth, the introduction of arch-nemesis Commander Blanx, the destruction of Mars, Manhunter's departure from our world and his team, and the launch of the Bronze Age Mars II stories. Next was Nick Cardy's World's Finest Comics #212, possibly my all-time favorite cover starring the Alien Atlas. I mean, he makes Superman bleed-- and gloats about it! Squeal, Man of Steel, squeal! Out of the two covers by a fellow amongst my lifetime best loved comics creators, Jim Starlin, I favored his introduction of Mongul and another Superman fight in DC Comics Presents #27 to his more passive role against Despero in JLofA #178. The JLofA #115 cover is plain weak (Ernie Chan?) so my last choice was between two great Chuck Patton/Dick Giordano pieces. Manhunter whacking Aquaman upon his return to Earth in JLofA #228 was cool, but I went with Justice League of America #230, because I've loved that dynamic image of a battle with The Marshal since before I really even knew who the Martian Manhunter was.

So, which did you choose?