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.


LissBirds said...

Very, very cool stuff indeed, Tom. It's great to hear some behind-the-scenes insights.

mathematicscore said...

Indeed! As much as I love the stories and immersing in the world, the mechanics of the creative process are equally intersting.