Friday, April 30, 2010

Silver Age Gold

I'm working on relaunching one of my other blogs, and I came up with a nifty first post to start the new month/direction right. That expands into a subject that nicely crosses over between this and another blog. That finally pushes me to start a brand new blog that's been nagging in the back of my head for months, but setting that up takes time. Also, all of the blog posts require photography, and I've had to dig through old digital and physical files. So my closets are a wreck, there's crap all over my floors, I've got backdrops and lights and frustration and no dang time. Hence, a seriously late post by a whole other blogger.

The other day, Rob at The Aquaman Shrine offered a blurb about Silver Age Gold's Not-So-Secret Origins of the JLA Week. Now, I personally refuse to scan whole stories of copyrighted material and offer them publicly, because I work too hard on this blog to see it shut down by "The Man." That said, I love blogs that throw caution to the wind, and it seems to me anyone who visits this blog needs to have read "The Strange Experiment of Dr. Erdel", the original John Jones story. As would be expected of a blog with "aquamanrules" in its URL, the Sea King gets a lot more attention than the Manhunter from Mars, but "The Ghost Who Blogs" has cast an eye toward our Sleuth From Outer Space before. Actually, that eye is a bit jaundiced, as Martian Manhunter, the hero who was picked last for dodgeball proves a somewhat dismissive overview of the Silver Age's first new super-hero. Even less kind is Martian Manhunter is the Laziest Cop EVER . Detective Comics #246, but I can't argue with the Ghost's points. Manhunter from Mars wasn't exactly a high water mark in Silver Age storytelling, and speaking as a fan who traveled from the Modern Age back, I still struggle to read a lot of those strips.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

2007 "Manhunter Inked" by Josh Allar

Click To Enlarge

To the suspicion and incredulity of my girlfriend, for the second night in a row, I really have no interest in sitting in front of a computer to read/write. Plus, even the image posts this week have been a bit text heavy, so I figure we could all use a night off. I've decided to try to pluck some image off my filler stand-by Comic Art Fans that's a bit tricky to dig up. Simply titled "manhunter inked," this fan art head shot turned up when a scanned through a few hundred pieces sans "martian." As it turns out, "Charles Xavier" was just another alternate identity.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Darkseid: The Tenth Most Important Martian Manhunter Adversary

Forensic Psychiatrist Dr. Michael Stone's Scale of Evil Rank
14) Ruthlessly self-centered psychopathic schemer.

Why Darkseid has been selected for 10th Place:
The Martian Manhunter’s rogues gallery is obscure and unenviable. A hero who already struggles for respect and visibility could benefit greatly from an adversary with arguably more marquee value than he himself enjoys. Darkseid is the single best known and most formidable foe the Manhunter from Mars has ever been associated with. Facing off against a villain of Darkseid’s caliber shows that the Alien Atlas rates as an A-lister in power, if not in sales. Also, the characters have enjoyed career parallels, as each had been marginalized from a mainstream that never quite embraced them until the mid-80s. Each received their first widespread exposure to the public via the Super Powers Collection toy line, quickly followed by increased prominence in comics via the Legends crossover and consistent appearances in other best-selling books, including the Cosmic Odyssey mini-series. Each has remained a staple of the DC Universe even since, although neither has had much success in series that relied heavily on their presence. Both characters appeared to die in the Final Crisis mini-series, but according to the prior DC One Million event, the Martian Manhunter is fated to deliver unto Darkseid his final defeat in a far distant future.

The Counter Argument:
The Manhunter from Mars helped usher in the Silver Age as a stand-alone strip, and aside from appearances in the Justice League books, he was pretty much divorced from a shared universe until the 1970s. Jack Kirby created Darkseid specifically as an overarching villain for his Fourth World Saga, considered by many the start of the Bronze Age.  Kirby always intended ties to the DC Universe to be tenuous, despite their being introduced through a Superman Family title. Linking these properties, from their origins to their final fates, effectively spits on their creators’ intentions and undercuts their efforts to build independent properties. What purpose does Orion serve if we know his father will survive him by millennia to face off against, of all people, J’Onn J’Onzz? If Darkseid so thoroughly shaped the Martian Manhunter’s life, and is responsible for so many of his personal tragedies, why hadn’t their animosity come up in previous decades of co-appearances? Further, there’s just too much of a disparity in power levels, as Martian Manhunter was once murdered by a group of villains so far down the pecking order, only one was even aware he was working toward Darkseid’s interests in the matter. Setting up an ongoing feud is a Quixotic crusade for the Manhunter and a minor annoyance to the Lord of Apokolips, at least until a point in a future so distant everyone will have already had their turn at beating Darkseid, and so unlikely it’s probably already been thrown out of continuity. It’s farcical, really.

What Darkseid Represents:
J’Onn J’Onzz is something of an idealized socialist, expecting his fellow heroes to give all they can without regard to reward or recognition, taking back only what is necessary to carry on. Darkseid is a tyrannical fascist, expecting complete subservience to his will. Pitting the pair against one another is a bit like the Communists battling the Nazis in World War II. If more people were aware of the Martian Manhunter’s beliefs and inclinations, not to mention his decades of covert meddling within the U.S., he might very well be considered a threat to national security. Compared to Darkseid though, he’s firmly on the side of the Allies. Also, life on Mars in the Modern Age represents a look back at a simpler, almost tribal existence of mud huts and community, each member doing their part. Apokolips is the ultimate post-Industrial Age nightmare, a world more mechanical than organic, choking under pollution and the iron rule of a largely unseen but literal God working through unholy agents.

  • Darkseid is to the Martian Manhunter as Red Skull is to Spider-Man
  • Darkseid is to the Martian Manhunter as Korvac is to Captain America
Spider-Man is the ultimate nebbish super-hero—the nerdy kid with the elderly aunt just scrapping by before receiving incredible power through a fluke of science. Martian Manhunter was a scientist carried off from his native world by a teleportation device, then stranded on an Earth where he was comparatively omnipotent. Both chose to use their powers responsibly for the greater good, usually against super powered thugs and crime bosses. Pitting either against a master manipulator managing countless schemes run simultaneously involving armies of agents across a universal stage is a bit out of either’s wheelhouse. Still, everyone wants to see a popular hero battle an overwhelming evil, and it’s nice to try a new match-up every now and again. Sure, these villains have their dedicated foes to return to, and a defeat by a hero typically beneath them is a bit of a black eye, but nothing a later battle against an entire super-team wouldn’t clear up. That is, until someone decides the nebbish’s parents were actually secret agents killed by the Nazi fiend, or that the Alien Atlas spent decades battling the overlord, setting off the chain of events that would ultimate destroy all life on his planet. From there, any time the match-up is recalled, it brings with it the stink of retroactive continuity and the undermining of integrity of the individual properties.

Who isn't ranked because of Darkseid:
  • Libra: While he may have been the murderer who plunged a fatal spear into Manhunter’s chest, it was nothing personal—just a show of strength at Darkseid’s behest.
  • Kanto: I don’t really mind the Master Assassin of Darkseid’s involvement in J’Onn J’Onzz’s life, but his name isn’t a draw, he hasn’t appeared all that often, and he was only following orders.

In Closing:
This is roughly a top 8 list rounded up to 10, but despite my objections, Darkseid is a well-regarded villain whose impact on the Martian Manhunter’s series has been embraced by a majority segment of the Alien Atlas’ fans.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

2004 Hawkgirl, J'Onn J'Onzz & Hawkman Convention Sketch by Michael Netzer

Click to Enlarge

Another swell piece owned by Will K, who says of it:
2004 - What a thrill to see Mike again after more than 10 years !!!

Mike signed a bunch of pages that I acquired in the meantime.

And I managed to get this sketch. Could not come up with the characters. Mike suggested DC's Trinity of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. I decided to go with a different trinity that goes back to the backup feature he drew in Adventure Comics 449 - 451. Mike seemed to have a hard time with Hawkgirl's hair as he inked it trying to get some kind of "bird" look. She turned out great.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Teen Titans #39 (October 2006)

In Tokyo, the Titans met with The Amazing Zatara, world's greatest teen magician. Zatara is Zatanna's cousin, whose powers manifested after the Infinite Crisis tie-in Day of Vengeance.

Zachary proved egotistical, rude, and dismissive, wanting nothing to do with the team he felt embarrassed for ever having been a part of. Zatara answered a few questions regarding Raven, was particularly nasty to former cohort Kid Devil, and confirmed that his powers of materialization couldn't retrieve Raven. "I can't affect people. Just things." After the Titans left, Zachary conjured a picture of Raven, and seemed regretful. He leapt up, calling for Kid Devil "Eddie," to wait, but was too late. "...and the show goes on..." Eddie explained later that Zachary wasn't always like that, and had helped him get onto the Titans in the first place.

In Brisbane, Australia, a black villain garbed in a green scaled costume calling himself Gunshot held a woman hostage atop a tall building. His hostage managed to push Gunshot over the ledge, sending the villain soaring through the night sky. Laser Vision struck Gunshots excessive firearm, a disembodied voice chastising "You don't need that awful thing anymore." Gunshot then saw a smiling green-skinned girl with red hair waving at him. "Hi! Who are you?"
"What are you d-doing?"
"I'm flying. You're falling."
"First you have to make me a promise."
"Do you promise not to be a bad guy anymore?"
"I don't want you hurting any more Earth people. That wouldn't be nice."
"Help me!"
"Not until you prooom-ised. And you better mean it! Because if you break your promise... I know where you live, silly. I'm a telepath! Hee hee."
"Okay! Okay! I promise! I promiiiiiise!
"You're not crossing your fingers, are you?"
"No! LOOK!"
"Oh, good."

As the sidewalk rushed toward the pair, the alien finally slowed the villain's decent, grasping him by the ankle. "You would have made a terrible mess." From a nearby rooftop, Ravager explained, "That's M'Gann M'Orzz. She calls herself Miss Martian." As MM grinned and fried the electronics off Gunshot's body with Laser Vision while police looked on, Kid Devil continued. "Megan Morse was born on Mars, like the Martian Manhunter. When the White Martians started decimating the Green ones, her parents sent her in a rocket to the Vega System. After she heard there was another Green Martian who survived the White Martians' attack, she showed up on Earth. And she stayed."

Cyborg asked, "What did J'Onn say about her?" Kid Devil replied, "I don't know. I never met him." Kid Devil also explained that Ravager and Miss Martian had been roommates for a couple of days, but had a falling out when M'Gann thought recreating a pie gag from "Three Stooges" would make Rose laugh. Instead, Ravager went ballistic, calling her nasty names and making her cry. By this point, Miss Martian had realized the Titans were present, and said, that besides the Ravager incident, she had quit the team for "a lot of reasons."

M'Gann led the team to the Ianami Desert, where she confided "I stay here because it reminds me of home. Do you ever get homesick? I think maybe that's why Raven came to me. To talk about it." Wonder Girl wondered what Raven wanted from M'Gann. "She wanted me to use my telepathy on the Teen Titans. She was looking for something. A secret, she called it. But I told her, as I did before, Wonder Girl, I am forbidden to use my telepathy on good people. It's a rule I have." Ravager asked, "How about breaking the rules just this once?" M'Gann mournfully recalled, "I broke the rules when I allowed myself to become friends with you, Rose. I was warned about humans. They lie and cheat and betray. That's why I left the Titans. I was told the Titans were a group where young heroes went to meet friends. But they're not. All they did was argue." Robin didn't want to invade anyone's mind, but he begged Miss Martian to use her telepathy to help Raven. "I... I can't. All I'll hear is the bad things the Titans think about me. It hurts my feelings. None of you know what it's like."

M'Gann directed the Titans to Raven's next stop, meeting Bombshell on the U.S.S. Ranger in the South China Sea. This would be the brash military girl with powers similar to Captain Atom's, who confirmed that Raven had been looking for a traitor amongst the Titans, and that it was Ravager. Meanwhile, in the desert, Miss Martian decided to scan all the Titans minds in secret after all. As her features began to severely blanch, M'Gann revealed much. "Oh, my. I think I've found the bad guy." This was said while M'Orzz was in her true, natural form of a red-eyed White Martian...

"Titans Around The World: Part 2" by Geoff Johns, Tony Daniel and Kevin Conrad.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

1980 Whizzard Fanzine Cover Art by Michael Nasser and Terry Austin

Click to Enlarge

You know what's really hard to find? Any creators talking at length about the Martian Manhunter, especially prior to the 1990s. So here's a 1980 fanzine interview with an artist probably best known for his Manhunter from Mars work and providing an original J'onn J'onzz cover. I should be in heaven, right? Instead, our hero barely rated a mention.

Well, it's an interview, and biographical information on early Manhunter creators is pretty sparse. It's true I hit paydirt there, especially considering I've long intended to produce a series of bio pages, and this made Nasser/Netzer an easy first entry. Still, that was pretty well wrapped in the opening paragraphs of the interviewer's foreword.

So instead, we'll get lots of behind the scenes material on the industry? Not really, as actual production was more grazed upon than deeply discussed. Anecdotes about other creators? Hardly-- names are dropped, but nothing is elaborated upon.

Okay, well, that was a pretty exciting time in Nasser/Netzer's life, full of spiritual, emotional, political and even material upheaval? Well, yes, that's the gist of the interview. However, the events are mentioned obliquely, divorced of context and clear motivation. The artist mentions actions taken related to his religious and political convictions, but doesn't really elaborate much on exactly what they were. There are disagreements with other parties detailed, but none of the discourse that led to these conflicts. The best way I could think of to describe this interview is to take the Johnny Cash song "Folsom Prison Blues," and remove most of the internal/confessional monologue.

I hear the train a comin'
I'm stuck in Folsom Prison,
I shot a man in Reno,
Well, if they freed me from this prison,
I bet I'd move out over a little,

See, you can follow things in general, but the lack of specifics is deeply frustrating. That's my take anyway. Feel free to read for yourself at Michael Netzer's blog. If you continue through the site, you'll find relief from these questions, as Netzer has since expanded greatly upon his philosophies...

Saturday, April 24, 2010

1979 J'onn J'onzz Convention Sketch by Michael Nasser

Click to Enlarge

Last month, we started a run of Michael Netzer-related material I figured we could mingle with other ongoing topics (DC Challenge participant blog linklists, Coneheadhunter stuff, etc.) and stretch out over a couple of weeks. Well, I got distracted (a comic convention and the imminent resurrection of the character Netzer started an internet campaign to "save" figuring heavily,) and now wish to continue that line of thought. Besides, look at the Manhunter from Mars up there, crying out for justice on this matter!

Per owner Will K:
The Martian Manhunter. Looks to be drawn with a ballpoint pen.

One of only a few convention sketches I've gotten on the secondary market.

I could totally see being apprehensive about buying somebody's unverified "sketch," but looking at the detail here, who would put forth that kind of effort and sign another artist's name? I especially dig the planetoids in the background, evoking the Bronze Age Mars II and its moon (possibly where Mongul fought the Alien Ace & Superman?)

Friday, April 23, 2010

If DC Comics Renumbers Martian Manhunter to #200?

I've been playing catch-up on reading other people's blogs, and found that ~PTOR~ over at the Doctor Strange/ROM/Man-Thing blog Sanctum Sanctorum Comix had celebrated his 200th post by relating it to the 200th issue of the Sorcerer Supreme's series. What you may not be aware of is that no Dr. Strange series, not even the 1951-1976 anthology/reprint series Strange Tales, has ever hit their bicentennial issue. So instead of covering a 200th issue, ~P~ spent his anniversary post considering variables in a really long math problem with the intention of determining what book could be considered to serve as Dr. Strange #200, like whether annuals/mini-series/etc. would count, and how that would jigger the results. While that might all sound like a bit of silliness, it is hardly without precedent, as the first Dr. Strange series began at #169. While the Nick Fury feature was spun-off with a new #1, the Doctor retained Strange Tales' numbering, even though the Master of the Mystic Arts didn't debut until #110.

Further, following all the cancellations and relaunches that have plagued comics since the '80s has come a restored nostalgia and respect for tradition, recently seeing Wonder Woman reclaim her original eponymous series numbering at #600 (encompassing two relaunches.) The Incredible Hulk, who debuted a couple of decades after the Amazing Amazon, also recently hit #600. Even though his first series only lasted a half dozen issues, he reaped dividends from claiming the fifty-eight issues of Tales To Astonish he didn't star in before taking it over and eventually renaming it after himself.

All this is to say that I want to play too! The Martian Manhunter, despite helping to start the Silver Age of Comics with his feature in 1955, and seeing continuous publication until 1968, only ever had two comics appear with his name around the title over those thirteen years. In fifty-five years, there's only been a total of 57 comics titled "Martian Manhunter" somewhere in the legal indicia (discounting reprints.) Yet, there have been hundreds of Martian Manhunter stories. Given his due, where would the anniversaries have fallen, using roughly the same criteria as applied to Showcase Presents: Martian Manhunter (essentially, only Manhunter From Mars strips?)

  • Martian Manhunter #50 = Detective Comics #274: "The Human Flame"
    Maybe Grant Morrison practices magic after all? It just so happens the guy who initiated the murder of J'Onn J'Onzz after decades of obscurity made his debut appearance in here! Also, this was the Alien Atlas' fiftieth appearance anywhere, occurring just a bit prior to the formation of the Justice League of America.
  •  Martian Manhunter #100 = Detective Comics #324: "The Beast Who Was J'onn J'onzz"
    A much less interesting "milestone," as even if you count J'onn J'onzz's team-up with Green Arrow in Brave and the Bold #50, the anniversary issue would still be run of the mill. Two issues later, and we'd have hit "The Death of John Jones, Detective," the last Manhunter story in 'Tec.
  •  Martian Manhunter #125 = House of Mystery #165: “The Deadly Martian!”
    The final Professor Arnold Hugo appearance for 43 years, and his only story involving Marco Xavier. Lending more credence to discounting Manhunter's two Brave and the Bold team-ups, #167 was an average Mr.V/Vulture entry.

This is the last point where a "solo series" can be determined without things getting controversial. Pretty much however you slice it though, there's going to be a gap of at least twenty-nine years. Much as it pains me, I have to discount the essential Manhunter appearances from Justice League of America and most of World's Finest, as well as scads of guest appearances. By the established criteria, the three solo strips in Adventure Comics count, as does World's Finest #245, since it concluded the tale and was by that point a Dollar Comic anthology. From there, here are some optional Martian Manhunter #150s:
  1. Martian Manhunter Special #1: If you count the 1988 mini-series, the story in Secret Origins #35, "The Man I Never Was" from Justice League International Annual #3, 1992's American Secrets prestige mini-series, "Heat Wave" from Justice League Quarterly #11, "Help Me Make It Through the Night!" from Showcase '93 #10, and "Deep Down" from Showcase '95 #9, you get the first solo story "anniversary" with the Martian Marvel actually on the cover. It wasn't much to brag about, but The Prophet was introduced.
  2. Martian Manhunter #3: If you discount all the specials, annuals and mini-series, since they're "separate" from the "ongoing." Then add "Eye To Eye" from Showcase '96 #9 and "A Day In The Life: Martian Manhunter" from JLA Secret Files and Origins #1. This issue was the full debut of Bette Noir after a cameo in #1,000,000.
  3.  Martian Manhunter #5-7: If you set aside the Secret Origins, the JLI annual story, and/or the JLQ appearance as being one-offs or team appearances (Batman co-starred in one, with lots of cameos besides,) you get a fill-in issue or a chapter of the Malefic arc. You might even consider tossing the very brief SF&Os tale as well.

#200, you ask?

  1. Martian Manhunter (2007) #6: If you throw in everything but the kitchen sink, including Brave New World.
  2. If you count from any other criteria, there is no Martian Manhunter #200.

So, what have we learned from all this? That's right kids-- if everyone else jumped off a cliff, would you? I spent a few hours working this nonsense out that would have been better applied elsewhere.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Which Martian Manhunter Villains do One-Quarter of all "Idol-Heads" want to read about here?

Returning yet again to our analysis of the January I-HoD villains poll, the end of this long road of examining prospects and initiates into the The Vile Menagerie is finally coming into view. At eight votes each, these characters were recommended by 25% of all respondents, and as a group represent a "sixth place" showing amongst Martian Manhunter's adversaries. They're also amongst the top 25 foes of the Alien Atlas, based on your level of interest, signifying a real narrowing of the field.

A reoccurring Apokolipsian construct, Brimstone is visually strong, but the Evangelizing Godzilla shtick is only slightly easier to work into a Modern Age comic than Titano, the King Kong with kryptonite vision. Also, somehow, at least one Brimstone would seem to have sold its mechanical "soul" to the devil Neron. Being a child of the '80s, this isn't the first time I've seen an attention (and otherwise) whoring Bible thumper led into sin, but this specific example is kind of insane. Worst of all, it occurred at the height of Martian Manhunter's "fire weakness only psychosomatic" period. Brimstone's powers are more heat than flame based, so J'Onn straight up ripped Brimstone's heart right out of its belly in a matter of panels. I think that happened with the Jimmys after they lost their tithed luxury cars.

Director Bones
The former Mr. Bones was annoying in the '80s, when he was an Infinity Inc. anti-hero who spoke in rhyme and dressed as the Black Terror. At that point, Bones' sole relevance was as a prototype for Todd McFarlane's Spawn. In the late '90s, D. Curtis Johnson revitalized Bones as a seemingly sinister but ultimately altruistic regional director of the Department of Extranormal Operations, who spoke in verse so subtle you could miss it. The 1998 series certainly did, forsaking a nuanced portrayal in favor of making Bones another liberal conspirist evil government dirtbag who tried to extort information out of Martian Manhunter, and failing that, released most of his secret identities around the world to the public. Bones continues to be a presence in the DCU, including in that other Manhunter series, and filled a sort of reverse Mr.V role for a time.

The Headmaster

The 1998 series tried to hit the ground running with regards to building a rogues gallery in the Martian Manhunter ongoing series. Like Miller & Certa before them, they instead offered a string of one issue wonders with potential they never bothered to explore through return appearances. The Headmaster/Headman could have been a contender, but all the love went to the deeply flawed Malefic instead.

Master Gardener
American Secrets is a book I had to digest, because it's too good and complex to be appreciated immediately upon completion. Not only is it probably the finest Martian Manhunter story ever told, but also an unappreciated masterwork lost on the Vertigo groupies and poly-bagging speculators of the period. All that having been said, I don't really see the point of ever going back to the Master Gardener of Mars or his Lizard-Men. The latter is another of the countless variations on shapeshifting alien invaders in comics, and the former another misguided Martian survivor doing more harm than good. Dipping into that well would be like following Chinatown with The Two Jakes.


I experienced burnout after last year's The March of Mongul, but having rested up, I'm back to thinking fondly of the cad. He may be another variation of Jim Starlin's Fourth World fixation, but who better to fight a poor man's Darkseid than our own off-brand Superman? Everything the '98 series did with Darkseid that got under my skin would have been forgiven and even appreciated had Mongul been substituted. Superman has a notably poor rogues gallery though, and prior to his actually fighting Darkseid on a regular basis, Mongul served as one of his house villains for DC Comics Presents. So Superman got "For the Man Who Has Everything," which in this context takes on a whole other meaning, like "...and the Manhunter gets Nothing but Coal and Switches."

Professor Arnold Hugo

My adoration for Hugo is no secret hereabouts, so I'm not sure what I can add beyond a link and a prayer we'll see more of him someday. The prayer includes a requirement that Prof. Hugo retain his essence as mean-spirited but mostly harmless foil, because if you're just going to get nasty with him, what's the point? Dr. Trap has already filled the role of Hugo for the violence obsessed modern reader, and without ruining the inherent delightful silliness of having a gadgeted-up Peter Pumpkinhead as a primary opponent.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

2010 Young Justice Animated Series Promo Art

Click To Enlarge

Tired. School last night. Attempts at a quick post repeatedly thwarted. Remembered The Aquaman Shrine linking to The Source article. Click picture go big. Totally didn't know/remember Miss Martian was going to be in this thing before starting her Monday spotlight. Just seemed about time. Black Aqualad looks cool = Garth killed in Darkest Night. Arrowette Artemis also cool. New villains post tonight.

YOUNG JUSTICE is an all-new series produced by Warner Bros. Animation and based upon the characters from DC Comics. In YOUNG JUSTICE, being a teenager means proving yourself over and over – to peers, parents, teachers, mentors and, ultimately, to yourself. But what if you’re not just a normal teenager? What if you’re a teenage super hero? How much harder will it be to prove yourself in a world of super powers, super villains and super secrets? Are you ready to come of age in such a world? Are you ready for life or death rites of passage? Are you ready to join the ranks of the great heroes and prove you’re worthy of the Justice League? The members of Young Justice—Robin, Aqualad, Kid Flash, Superboy, Miss Martian and Artemis—are about to find out.
“There’s much more to come from DC Entertainment,” said Geoff Johns, DC Entertainment Chief Creative Officer. “This is just the beginning.”

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Martian Sightings for July, 2010

Sorry for yet another late post. I spent too much time this weekend reorganizing my comic collection and "banking" a series of Monday Miss Martian posts; not enough on this week's posts here & abroad. Anyway, what a difference a month makes, as my previous pessimism gives way to verifiable appearances of a living J'Onn J'Onzz... now with pants, as "Tomasi teased an upcoming "Ralph Loren tie-in" issue as a joke." It seems pretty certain there will be little-to-no Martian Manhunter in "Justice League: Generation Lost," so I've removed it from our monthly listings.

On sale JULY 7
On sale JULY 21
32 pg, FC, $2.99 US
1:25 variant cover by IVAN REIS
Deadman discovers the truth behind the formation of the White Lantern and what it means to the twelve returnees and the rest of the DC Universe. Plus, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, Hawkman, Hawkgirl and Firestorm discover the price for their resurrections...and why they may be doing more harm than good to the world.
Retailers please note: This issue will ship with two covers. Please see the Previews Order Form for more information.

On sale JULY 14
32 pg, FC, $2.99 US
Booster Gold travels into the past to right the wrongs of JUSTICE LEAGUE: GENERATION LOST. But when present-day Booster is mistaken for his past self, he lands in the middle of an old JLI mission with Blue Beetle and the man who killed him – Maxwell Lord!

On sale JULY 14
32 pg, FC, $2.99 US
Cover by J. BONE
It’s convention season! And what better convention could one hope to attend than the one where the Super Friends plan to appear? But watch out! Their biggest fans — the Imps — are coming to see them, and Mr. Mxyzptlk is being dragged along, too. What mischief will they get into now?
A second animation-style debut in as many months for the Martian Manhunter, though only as an in-story toy this time.

Real compact – with real impact!
BLAM! A funky, chunky collection of boldly designed toys that pack a lot of punch in a squatty body!
POW! A striking, hyper-stylized twist on the world’s greatest heroes and their biggest foes. Too tough to call small – you’ll want to collect them all!
Packaged on a blister card, each measures approximately 2.5” to 4” tall with three points of articulation.
Martian Manhunter
Etrigan the Demon
On sale December 1, 2010
PVC/ABS Mini Figures
This stupid thing looks like a plush doll after Professor Hugo used it as a pillow. He maybe has an issue with ear wax.

DC Comics 75 2011 16 Month Wall Calendar
Expected to ship in Aug-2010
Our Price: $11.99.

DC Comics 75 2011 Pop-Up Calendar
Expected to ship in Aug-2010
Our Price: $16.99

J'Onn's got to show up on at least one of these.

Graphitti Designs Blackest Night: Green Lantern T-Shirt
M-XL: $17.95
XXL: $20.95
The cover to the second issue, yet again, featuring a black & white Black Lantern J'Onn J'Onzz

On sale August 18
128 pg, B&W, $14.99 US
Written by TONY BEDARD
cover by ANDY CLARKE
Vril Dox learns that one planet could hold the key to Starro’s further conquest. Meanwhile, the Omega Men, Adam Strange and Captain Comet heed Dox’s call to arms to stop Starro’s intergalactic starfish fleet. Collecting R.E.B.E.L.S #7-9 and R.E.B.E.L.S ANNUAL #1!
Good stuff!

Miss Martian

Miss Martian
On sale JULY 28
40 pg, FC, $3.99 US
Co-feature written by REX OGLE
Art and cover by JOSÉ LUÍS & MARIAH BENES
Co-feature art by TED NAIFEH
As the hunt for Raven rages on, the Teen Titans must survive against a world bent on killing them. They’re in the Wyld country now, and the rules have all changed. Meanwhile, Bombshell and Aqua Girl must battle in the belly of the beast!
Plus, Traci 13 and Black Alice face off against one another! Is there anything Zatara can do to stop them from pushing the fight too far?

On sale JULY 21
32 pg, FC, $2.99 US
Art and cover by ART BALTAZAR
The Curly Hair issue! The kids line up for Kid Flash’s special new salon treatment. Will all the Titans wind up doing new ’dos?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Teen Titans #38 (September 2006)

The current, fragile Titans team fought the Flash villain Girder, continued arguing with one another, and learned their former teammate Raven had gone missing on a secret mission to uncover a traitor within the group. Following her trail first led to Moscow, Russia, and another ex-Titan, Red Star. Having become a state-sponsored hero with his own alien spaceship in a nation where outside metahumans were now outlawed, Leonid's notoriety had exploded in the Motherland. Red Star was dissatisfied with his time amongst the Titans, especially after the deaths of Pantha and Baby Wildebeest, his closest friends on the team. He recommended the group's dissolution, but barring that, offered Raven's last known address-- a Beijing apartment. There, the team uncovered a book incriminating twenty-six former Titans, including

Meanwhile, in Edgewater, CO, disarmed former Titan Risk was approached by a mysterious figure to form a villainous "Titans East." Elsewhere, Raven was being hunted by a black ops team, a valued book in her possession.

"Titans Around The World: Part 1" by Geoff Johns, Carlos Ferreira, Art Thibert, and Drew Geraci.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Teen Titans #34-37 (May-August 2006)

There was an Infinite Crisis, which altered reality and killed a great many heroes, including several Titans. One Year Later, long time team member Cyborg awoke from a coma, struggling with digital memory fragments from his lost time, of a poorly constructed series of replacement Titans teams. One involved Dove (Dawn Granger) holding back Hawk (Holly Granger) from attacking Aquagirl (Lorena Marquez), herself checked by Offspring. While Speedy (Mia Dearden) and Zachary Zatara looked on, Hawk mocked Aquagirl with, "We need kids with real power like Zatara and Miss Martian!"

Vic Stone eventually awoke to a whole other line-up, including Ravager (Rose Wilson), Kid Devil, and Robin (Tim Drake). Wendy and Marvin, the current caretakers of Titans Tower and technological geniuses, had helped to repair Cyborg.

Cyborg almost immediately joined the Teen Titans on a case involving the Brotherhood of Evil, which brought them into contact with former member Wonder Girl (Cassie Sandsmark). Cassie resented Tim for abandoning her and the team for a year after the death of Superboy (Kon-El), and refused to return. Unbeknownst to Cassie, Tim had been trying to clone "Conner" in secret.

Cyborg made contact with the Doom Patrol, intent on pulling his old friend Beast Boy back into the fold, and forming a "real" Titans team. Sensing her role as a team member was in danger for just that reason, Ravager tried unsuccessfully to seduce Robin, fearing that alone she would again fall prey to her degenerate father Slade Wilson. After all, Rose had only become a Titan at the insistence of Nightwing, who had been forced to look after her following a confrontation with Deathstroke.

Visiting Titans Tower for information and with very little coaxing from Robin and Cyborg, Wonder Girl agreed to work with the team on the Brotherhood case. In a follow-up encounter, the Titans learned the Brotherhood were developing a clone body for their leader, the Brain. A confrontation left Kid Devil gravely injured, and Ravager distraught over potentially losing her only friend on the team. However, the Doom Patrol stepped in to help. The Titans followed the group of misfits back to Prague, where they were headquartered at Dayton Manor. Robin noted a pattern of emotional abuse and domineering from the Doom Patrol's Chief, and following the recovery of Kid Devil, was anxious to disassociate himself.

In another battle with the Brotherhood, it was revealed that the Chief had been behind all the accidents that befell the Doom Patrol's members, as well as the Brain's own. The Chief had also made a bid to steal Kid Devil for his team. After the Brain's clone body failed, the Titans confronted the Chief, and Mento removed him as team leader. Beast Boy chose to stay on, to help his family, while pressing Cyborg to tend to his own.

Cyborg reviewed security tapes made during his coma, and learned his teammates, many that he'd not previously known, were using him as a comforting sounding board. Zatara revealed he was hardly the world's greatest teenage magician while a certain girl was around to distract him. "She drives me crazy!" Meanwhile, in her first appearance, Miss Martian confessed " not understand Earth's sense of humor. I thought Ravager would laugh waking up to a pie in the face. I saw them laugh on television. I was going to tell them about me, but I think I need to wait. Ravager was awfully angry. But I bet you would understand. They say such nice things about you. The Tin Man with the greatest heart."

Wonder Girl told Cyborg she would return to the team. She then learned about Robin's experiments at cloning Conner, and the pair shared a cry and an unexpected kiss, then more crying.

"New Teen Titans: Parts 1-4" by Geoff Johns, Tony Daniel, Kevin Conrad, Art Thibert, Andy Lanning and Norm Rapmund.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

2000 Martian Manhunter Convention Sketch by Mark Irwin

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I only made a point of working long and hard on a couple of posts, but the unintended lengths of so many posts and/or the quantity of replies made this feel like a really robust week. Saturday's post is late, and I've been working on getting a number of my promised M'gann M'orzz's Miss Martian Mondays in the can, plus I have an Atom blog post due today. So, here's a stopgap by Wildstorm inker Mark Irwin until I get something posted later tonight.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Martian Manhunter Family

One of the things I've had on my "to do" list for, oh, two and a half years or so is to have all of the Idol-Head's posts organized in a series of easy to reference archives (like the frequently long-out-of-date link icons running down our sidebar.) This would be particularly helpful for my op/ed pieces, since even I have trouble tracking some of those down when certain subjects come up. I also really want to edit/rewrite some of the ones done when I was under time pressure/exhausted/inarticulate/etc. Until then though, I'll occasionally revisit some of this stuff via the wonder of cut & paste, either as filler material on my down days, or due to a need I foresee.

For instance, comments on yesterday's, Justice League Animated Style Miss Martian Custom Figure by Victor Kraven have focused heavily on the prospect of nurturing a "Martian Manhunter Family" now that the hero has returned to the land of the living. With his new costume and mission, it seems folks are interested in revising areas where the character has had problems in the past, this being one of them. As it happens, this topic was discussed at length at The Absorbascon blog way back in early 2005. Stumbling upon Scipio's suggestions on the matter, I wrote up a two part response post that I thought I might reedit and revisit here.

About halfway through the February 15, 2008 post Grant Morrison and the Absorbascon, I began talking about J'Onn J'Onzz's shaky history with supporting casts. The only two reoccurring characters to turn up in the first few Manhunter from Mars strips were Professor Mark Erdel, who died in the first story and had his passing revisited with every origin recap, and Lieutenant Saunders, who was in charge of detectives on the Middletown Police Department. Saunders was soon replaced by Captain Harding, who served mostly to sit at his desk and provide exposition to John Jones at the start of his cases. From there were a bunch of "one appearance wonders," whom Scipio was kind enough to cataloge in "Support Your Local Martian!" A few years in, a rival/love interest was introduced in the form of Policewoman Diane Meade, but she only appeared irregularly in a handful of Detective Comics strips over the course of its nine year run. Toward the end of that period, an other-dimensional pet/sidekick named Zook began joining J'onn J'onzz's adventures on a monthly basis, continuing into the majority of the Manhunter strip's House of Mystery entries. Once that ended in 1968, not a single member of the strip's supporting players would make another appearance for at least thirty years.

Beginning in the 1970s, the only support the Martian Manhunter received was in the form of fellow super-heroes and whatever normal characters also played into his various team books. Since J'Onn J'Onzz is such a workaholic and so rarely has his own title anyway, it makes sense he spends most of his time with other super-heroes. I realize supporting casts have always been a comic book staple, but so too has the general apathy among fans and public alike regarding those types. For every Alfred Pennyworth or Mary Jane Watson, there are dozens of examples of Dulla McLovintrest, Guy Bestpal, Dr. Arther Tayfigure, and the rest. Rather than surround John Jones with expendable, forgettable cop buddies, why not get the exact same mileage with far greater levels of interest and resonance out of middling-to-obscure super-heroes?

That seemed to be Scipio's logic, as his original vision of a Martian Manhunter series was something of a clearing house for maintaining old trademarks. March 27, 2005's Are You Sleeping, Brother J'onn? saddled J'Onn with a supporting cast consisting of some of the least viable old DC properties imaginable. Besides looking to revive moribund franchises through association, Scipio also thought this would play off his theory of DC's Dynastic Centerpiece Model, which assumes that "a hero is not a single character but the centerpiece of his/her own array of good and evil forces... a constellation of characters is clustered around the central figure, which helps make him/her seem even more important...You may not always like how such a pattern's being used, but, like it or not, characters who lack the pattern have trouble standing on their own."

The granddaddy of the Dynastic Centerpiece model was the Marvel Family, which were ripped off wholesale by the Superman Family, which the Batman Family initially plundered. A detail more along those lines in my own attempt at following Scipio's pattern, The Dynastic Centerpiece of Diabolu, but I'll cut to the chase and showcase them now:

Junior Counterpart: Jemm, Son of Saturn
Since Morrison connected the character to Mars in "Rock of Ages," and especially with Ostrander's follow-up in J'Onn's own title, this was an early lock.

Female Version: Miss Martian
Not so long ago, this would have either been a reach or just a token slot for the next candidate down. Now, simplicity itself.

Kid Sidekick: Gypsy
Cindy had to get in here. Ever since her reappearance in JLI, Gypsy and J'Onn have been closely linked as surrogate daughter/father.

Black Sheep: Glenn Gammeron
Never heard of Gammeron, the bounty hunting frienemy with history dating back to before J'Onn lost his family? Speak up now if you're hot for an entry on ol' Glenn. I dig this cat a lot, and the JLTF synopsizes remain a ways away...

Civilian Companion: Cameron Chase
Damned if this DC thing isn't vindicating many of Ostrander's choices, but linking his run to D.C. Johnson's late, lamented series was a great idea.

Elder Statesman: King Faraday
Darwyn Cooke's notion of connecting J'Onn & King grew to be among his favorite New Frontier relationships. Mine too.

Animal Companion: Zook
Junior counterpart, kid sidekick... you just knew Zook would get in here, as well. I'm still not comfortable referring to Zook as a sentient "pet," but that was how the character was usually described.

Authority Figure: H'ronmeer
Don't get much more authoritative than your own personal Jesus.

Contextualizing City: None. I don't know when it was decided John Jones was a detective in Middleton, but his generic beat was almost never identified in the Silver Age. After he quit the force, whatever city he happened to be in was also rarely named, and pretty near never the same. Marco Xavier was all over Eurasia. There's just no good reason to pin J'Onn down to one burg, unless maybe Haven: The Broken City is still around somewhere. I do think J'Onn should have a cool base, whether it be a new Z'onn Z'orr, a repurposed Satellite/Watchtower, or what have you.

At this point, we get into super-villains. Scipio added a subdivision to his Dynastic Centerpiece model in the form of The Villainous Tarot, which expanded and clarified his positions on the roles played by figures in a rogues gallery. This caused me to reevaluate positions of certain villains between their Dynastic and Tarot entries, which I'll comment on here. If you want to see my Tarot in its original context, click here.

Arch Enemy/Opposite Number: Despero
As Martian Manhunter's nemesis, Despero seemed a natural fit for "Arch Enemy." Scipio would surely disagree, and his removing that designation from the Tarot saw Despero's become my "Opposite Number" choice instead, accompanied by a lengthy explanation.

Lunatic/Mocker: Malefic
It's no secret I'm not fond of Malefic, but he obviously has his role to play. As a loony pushover with a body count, he's an extra-green Joker.

Hero-worshipping Villain/Unhelpful Helper: Triumph
Clearly, Triumph had the best, though never remotely selfless, intentions. He wanted everything he touched to turn out to the good, for his own personal aggrandizement, and was constantly surprised when he failed epically. I can't think of many super-villains treated as harshly and hatefully by the Martian Manhunter as Triumph, but I can't say he didn't beg for every throttling.

Civilian Enemy: Director Bones
This one for some reason didn't make the transition into the Villainous Tarot, but ongoing thorn in the side with the law on theirs is a righteous role.

Untouchable Crime Lord: Vandal Savage
This is another category not in the Tarot, which is a shame. This was a tough call, as Savage is a greater DCU villain and Flash has some degree of ownership. The Faceless Mr. V could have gone here, but he was ultimately touchable. Savage, while not typically associated with J'Onn J'Onzz, was probably his second most common foe of the 90's. I look forward to providing greater detail, and only regret the trend didn't continue into the aughts.

Crime Lord: Mr. V/Faceless
What a difference a word makes. Quite a few characters could lay claim to Savage as a major foe, including (but not limited to) Rip Hunter, Resurrection Man, Immortal Man, and a sizeable portion of the memberships of the JSA and JLA. What made the difference was "unstoppable," as Martian Manhunter fought a lopsided war against Savage for over a year & a half in the 90's, with repeated run-ins for most of that decade. Still, Mr. V was the original ongoing crime lord of the Manhunter from Mars strip, even if his plans were consistently foiled and he (presumably) was killed in the final Manhunter chapter.

Magician: Lord Asmodel
Another Centerpiece-exclusive category. This was the only tricky one for me, as J'Onn tends not to deal with magic types. There was that one fight with Etrigan, and the witch he teamed-up with the Spectre to fight, but those were pretty weak reaches. Asmodel meanwhile has a history of kicking Martian Manhunter's ass, so he seemed a solid choice. The only others that come to mind are Libra and The Conjurer.

Evil Opposite/Rival Twin: The Marshal
There's quite a few evil Martian Manhunters out there, from B'rett to The Hyperclan to B’enn B’urnzz and a bunch of prior selections. Maybe it's just that awesome Chuck Patton cover, but there's something about the genetically-engineered military leader who led the first true invasion from Green Martians that still gets me going.

Femme Fatale: Bel Juz
Another role dropped from the Tarot. I had more options here than I expected, but since no one else can really claim Bel Juz as one of their own, she seemed appropriate.

Mental Challenger I/Gadgeteer: Professor Arnold Hugo
The man! The myth! The melon! Scipio kept the "Mental Challenger" role, but I reassigned Hugo in the Tarot version. Hugo invented one device after another that put the Martian Marvel out, but almost never truly endangered him. He often set circumstances into motion that would occupy the Alien Atlas, but really didn't overwhelm him. I love me some Hugo, and he's undoubtedly formidable, but ultimately more a nuisance than a mastermind.

Mental Challenger II: Bette Noir
This is clearly the weakest link in Manhunter's "tarot," and its adverse effect on the hero is extraordinary. Typically, villains who can shut down Manhunter's telepathy are Justice League class threats. Even overlooking that advantage, few of Manhunter's foes are as smart as him, either scientifically or strategically. Dr. Trapp doesn't rate, because he really hasn't manage to take the Sleuth From Outer Space on by himself. Vandal Savage, despite his skill, seemed more a test for early members of the JLA and the JLTF than someone who could plausibly take J'Onn on. Bel Juz pulled the wool over J'Onn's eyes once, and helped install the Marshal, but posed no direct threat. Only Bette Noir has troubled J'Onzz on several occasions, through both telepathy and maneuvers. She's no Despero, but he already has a slot, so she slides into this place.

Physical Challenger: Brimstone
He's big, he's strong, he's made of fire, he has ties to Darkseid, and several fights with the Alien Atlas under his considerable belt. If anything, Manhunter has too many of these. Nearly every creature released from the Diabolu Idol-Head qualified, as did most notable VULTURE and Middletown threats.

Twisted One: The Prophet
This is the one category in which the Manhunter excels. It seems like religious fantatics, fascists, and the like are drawn to him like Mr. Moth to a Human Flame. I went with the Prophet, as he was created for the Martian Manhunter Special and held his own. Tybalt Bak'sar, Brimstone, Cabal, Director Bones, and others appearing later could have served as well.

Misguided Idealist: The Master Gardener
A fellow Martian who arrived on Earth first to help lead his adopted planet toward the Great Evolution? That's swell! Doing it by manipulating the media, violently supressing dissent, and binding a fungus that causes spontaneous combustion within the bodies of the populace? Uncool!

Friend-Turned-Foe: Re's Eda
J'Onn J'Onzz became a fugitive from Mars and beat on a slew of innocent super-heroes in the name of poor R’es Eda, the victim of an assassination. Except he wasn't, and instead framed J'Onn J'Onzz in order to lead his people in an invasion against peaceful co-habitants on Mars II. That's forgetting N'or Cott's inglorious death besides...

Sexual Challenger: Scorch
A case could be made for Manhunter getting his freak on right through the Bronze Age, whether it be Diane Meade, J'en , or the plentiful arm candy from the Marco Xavier days. When his status as a widower was revealed, he went through a lengthy dry spell. Around the time of his ongoing series though, he started running buck wild with a number of flings and near misses. All told though, I can think of only one "bad girl," one "villainess" who ever got her hands on the guy mind, body and spirit-- to horrific consequence. While Scorch's intentions were the best, based on her history and the unlikelihood of her remaining "straight" should she return from her coma, Scorch is the only truly qualified selection.

Evil Genius: Darkseid
Another massive weakness of the Martian Manhunter-- his best foes aren't "his." I could have used a number of other gadgeteers and tried to cover by placing Prof. Hugo in this spot, but the truth will out. Most of the villains Manhunter has faced who are remotely at his mental level; Savage, Gorilla Grodd, Professors Ivo and Fortune, Despero; could just as easily be removed as options due to prior or multitudinous committments. Darkseid was the primary villain after Malefic during the "Ostrander/Mandrake" series, which is another reason I freakin' hate that series.

Manipulator: Commander Blanx
The guy managed to bushwhack J'Onn J'Onzz, pass him through a kangaroo court into exile, nearly ruin his Earthly reputation, and slaughter most of Mars-- all for the sake of a real estate deal! I'm still not sure he isn't alive and well, hidden within the Bush Administration. Dick? Karl?

Contingent Foe: Fernus the Burning Martian
Were there no J'Onn J'Onzz in pursuit of a cure for his people's natural(?) weakness, a bunch of White Martians and troops of Vandal Savage would still be alive today. I can't say I like Fernus, but maybe fanboys will think twice the next time they beg for the Manhunter from Mars to "realize his potential."

Personal Foe: N'or Cott
A bit of a cheat, but most anyone else who could have fit this role have been taken up elsewhere. The Manhunter tends to be pretty unambiguously in the right, so beyond occasional lapses into New Age passivism, he doesn't mind blasting most foes overly much.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Justice League Animated Style Miss Martian Custom Figure by Victor Kraven

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Too much text this week, I figure, so we're taking a little break tonight. Also, too little attention given to the Teen Titan representing for the Red Planet here for too long. I'll tell you what-- if I get ten comments from at least four people after this post, I promise to institute M'gann M'orzz's Miss Martian Monday in the near future. Deal? Hey, maybe she'll finally meet J'Onn J'Onzz in Brightest Day, eh?

For another picture and creation details, visit Victor Kraven's custom Miss Martian page!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

2010 Doctor Trap Commission by Andy Kuhn

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For the most part, I've been telling my tales of hunting commissions in Artist Alley at Comicpalooza 2010 in sequential order, and since this is the last related post for the foreseeable future, I'll try to take some time to fill in gaps left previously.

Now, owning entirely too many comics already and with a blog to feed, my goal for attending the con was to acquire as many pieces of new art involving obscure but important Martian Manhunter-related characters as possible. It makes me sad when I run web searches for images of these characters I love, and come up with nothing but scans I took (or worse, when even they fail to materialize.) Further, I didn't want to just grab a bunch of cheap sketches from unknowns, instead focusing on artists I was familiar enough with to associate their style with the perfect character match.

My first contact was with the biggest name at the con, Ethan Van Sciver. As great as it would have been to get an insanely detailed head shot of Prof. Hugo along the lines of his take on Hector Hammond, he had been scheduled to draw the first modern appearance of Manhunter's old Silver Age pet/sidekick years ago. Since his continued involvement fell through prior to completion, I felt the day had finally come to unveil EVS' Zook, which took about 3 1/2 hours to get completed (along with a string of other pieces, of course.)

That project initiated, I held off on joining the line for Humberto Ramos for a bit. I checked in on old school fan favorite Bernie Wrightson (a tall, lean, older gentleman with unkempt hair and glasses,) but he was only selling prints. One table over was J.H. Williams III, a smallish bald fellow with dark glasses and a graying goatee. I'd been a fan of his since his earliest days, and told him so. I felt he was the only artist at the con I thought could pull off the Manhunter's most important foe of the Silver Age, Mr. V (a.k.a. "Faceless," a.k.a. a fat man in a bad suit with a featureless mask.) Williams had reinterpreted an old Infinity Inc. villain, Mr. Bones, into the director of the Department of Extranormal Operations in his short-lived series Chase. John Ostrander later turned Director Bones into a liberal conspiracy nut proxy for Mr. V in the Martian Manhunter series, so you can see my thinking. Unfortunately, what I heard was that Williams was not doing sketches, so I shook his hand and moved on. I ended up in a nice chat with inker Rodney Ramos, as well.

I eventually took my place in line, because there was no way I was going to miss out on having Humberto Ramos sketch Professor Arnold Hugo, my favorite Martian Manhunter villain by quite probably the most perfect artist match possible. At the next booth over was Andy Kuhn, an artist whose work I enjoyed on Firebreather. Kuhn was on my short list for commissions, but unlike with everyone else, I wasn't sure who I wanted him to draw. Kuhn was having a fairly lively conversation with a convention goer about his willingness to confess to swiping elements from other artists' work, and how his love for drawing monsters (preferably to the exclusion of most anything else) had determined his career path. All told, I spent over an hour getting that leg done, but you can't beat the instant gratification of seeing a piece of art begun and ended before your eyes.

Tired of standing in one place and conflicted about where next to spend my ever-dwindling funds, I hit the dealers room for a break. There, I met David Malki, who I thought might do a nice Marco Xavier. Still, like Mr. V, there wasn't much to work with for "mustachioed guy in nice suit" that would differentiate him from, say, Tony Stark. Instead, I got a dirt cheap and quick sketch of a guy in a nice suit with an enormous head. That worked out well enough, so I bribed a second sketch out, deciding to go ahead and have David Malki draw Marco Xavier.

That silliness out of my system, I was ready to put down real money for some more serious pieces. I was torn between two artists once associated with Rob Liefeld's Extreme Studios. Since most of the early Image artists were the bastard children of the Bronze Age and '80s manga anyhow, I wanted one of these two to handle characters from the first era when villains needed to be as idealized as the heroes (but drawn with a bit more modern pizazz then frequent '70s artist Dick Dillin.) I knew somebody had to draw the genocidal madman who destroyed almost all life on Mars, but struggled to decide which of the two would have the honor. One took home $100, my mailing address, and art reference. The other, Marat Mychaels, would draw a Commander Blanx bust shot. Blanx was the last character I felt compelled to get drawn by the artists available, so I could finally relax on that front.

Right after I paid Mychaels and was given a schedule of a half-hour, I went back to Andy Kuhn's table, flipping through his books of prints. It was getting late, so I wasn't looking to get anything too fancy. Kuhn was offering sketches of your favorite characters retching on an actual barf bag for $25, so I thought it would be cute to have J'Onn J'Onzz hurl his milk and cookies. Kuhn asked if he could draw J'Onzz in his Natural Martian form, which I said was fine with me, so long as there were bits of Choco in there. My mind had flashed to Darwin Cooke's "MMM... OREOS" sketch, and thought this would make a satirical pseudo-sequel.

Just as I was paying Kuhn though, I saw the piece he was currently finishing on his table, of Red Sonja. Impressed, I asked what he was charging for that, and he replied "$50." I was like, "hold up, new plan, I want one of those." You could tell by his body language Kuhn would druther have taken in half the price for three-quarters of a small head shot and a bunch of vomit squiggles, but he agreed nonetheless. Previously, I'd allowed an artist to choose between two characters I wanted from him, but in this case, I just fanned out all my reference and let Kuhn have his pick of the litter.

Let me explain. I really do enjoy Andy Kuhn's work, but I hesitated so long to employ him because his style is aesthetically similar to the longest lasting Manhunter from Mars artist in history, Joe Certa. Not so much the first decade, mind, but Certa's last few years of experimenting with a looser, more expressive style. Andy Kuhn's art is almost too on the nose to draw the various beasties from the Diabolu Idol-Head period, like he and John Arcudi had already worked on a revival in an alternate dimension 1990s. It's like asking Paul Sorvino to play a mobster, or R. Lee Ermey to play a drill sergeant. On the other hand, if I'm going to get a piece, it might as well be an obvious home run.

Kuhn asked about several of the characters, but ultimately held on to my reference for B'rett and Doctor Trap. Once again, Kuhn asked if he could draw B'rett in his Natural Martian form, but I didn't feel he'd be recognizable like that. B'rett only appeared once, decades before "Natural" forms had been conceived, and in a black and white piece the only identifiers he would have are his gun and resemblance to J'Onn J'Onzz. I asked Kuhn when I should come back, and he told me 45 minutes to an hour. I figured I could swing by at six, an hour before the con ended, and pick up both of my remaining pieces.

While my friends rested, I remained on my feet, thumbing through cheap back issues. On the hour, I picked up Marat Mychaels' dazzling Commander Blanx. Extreme Studios artists don't have the best reputations for timeliness, and he's one of the few still working for Rob Liefeld, but he'd obviously long since finished to glorious results.

Next I swung by Andy Kuhn's table, where his head was down, doodling a little sketch. I asked him, "so, who did you choose?" He didn't appear to hear me, so after a moment, I asked again. This time, he slowly glanced up, and declared Dr. Trap. From there, a pregnant pause as he went back to his doodling. I stood there, confused, wondering when he was actually going to produce the finished piece. Kuhn eventually explained that he liked to figure out what he was going to do before he started drawing, so his full figures didn't get cut off halfway down the page. I nodded, comprehending, yet still dazed.

I went back to my friends, and explained that Kuhn hadn't started drawing yet. My friend Dave thought I meant he was working on the layouts, to which I queried, "do you know what a thumbnail is...?"

Needing to kill another "forty-five minutes to an hour," I realized that next convention, I was going to get all my commissions lined up as early as possible. We were all tired, hungry, and everyone but me was long past bored. We trekked down to the parking lot to put up all our stuff. My girlfriend showed off her new car, and we discussed the gun show and Shell fuel-efficient go-cart racing demonstration going on inside or just outside the convention center. Only in Texas would steampunks and goths have to shuffle past rifle-toting teabaggers signing up people for the NRA next to a picture of Barack Obama sporting a Hitler 'stache. Off to one side, Bernie Wrightson had a cigarette break. My friends left ahead of us to reserve a seat at a restaurant, and my girl and I headed back upstairs.

At around the forty-five minute mark, I finally strolled back to Kuhn's table. There in stark black and white was a wonderful piece that made all the waiting worthwhile. I chatted up the artist a bit, but he was still working out some touches. Personally, I'm a solitary guy, so I'd hate to have someone hover over me as I worked. Some artists are more sociable, and starved for company in their isolating field. I felt like maybe I should have hung out with Kuhn more. I did bring my girl over to see, and with her heavy Spanish action, her innocent "That's it? sounded more like "That's it?" I wanted to clasp her mouth shut with both hands, but instead played it off, mentioning that I thought some of her beloved Mexican Marvel Comics of the 1990s had Kuhn art, and stammering about the trouble I'd had getting a copy of the first Firebreather trade.

Kuhn made it clear he wasn't finished yet. A red marker materialized, and he added in a few missing details to Trap's costume. Kuhn used an unusual type of art board that brought out the rich darkness of his markers, where standard paper would have rendered them gray. It occured to me that if he had a yellow marker, maybe he could have pulled off B'rett after all. Next, Kuhn added a red border, which I wasn't sure about, but red shock lines and a blood splatter really sold the violence of Dr. Trap's character. Then Kuhn kept going with the red-- the figure, the background, the little tree branch-- all red.

I'd explained to Kuhn that fellow con guest J.H. Williams III had created Dr. Trap, so we all walked over to introduce his interpretation. Williams liked it, and I was very careful not to touch it on the way back to the car, as the black and red ink was still wet on the glossy 10" x 16" art board. It was an impressive piece of art.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

2010 Brightest Day #0 Covers

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I did a nice big post yesterday, and I dealt with various minor personal issues for most of tonight. I figure to take today off by simply posting links to the covers of tomorrow's Brightest Day #0. The Dave Finch cover ran in the back of Blackest Night #8, but this is a big scan measuring 1,987px × 3,056px. A second cover by Ivan Reis was unfamiliar to me, so in case you missed it, there you go.

Tomorrow night, we'll look at the last piece of commissioned art from Comicpalooza 2010 I currently have in my possession, involving a disfigured member of the Martian Manhunter rogues gallery...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Who Created the Martian Manhunter?

When the JLA series launched in 1996, it was cause for much celebration. The team had spent a dozen years avoiding their most iconic members in order to emulate the successful Marvel Comics super-group formula of mixing a few headliners with a lot of second stringers the book's writers could have their way with. It never worked as well for DC though, because no matter how hard they tried, as a company and creative collective their favoritism toward their icons could never truly be contained. JLA began the renaissance of valuing DC's most recognizable brands, which has led to common folk being able to thumb through shirts featuring guys like Green Lantern and the Flash at their local department store. JLA restored the Magnificent Seven finest heroes of the universe: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, GL, Flash, Aquaman and... the Martian Manhunter?

Although J'Onn J'Onzz had been one of the most consistent figures in the Justice League since 1984, new readers brought in by the spectacle of JLA were intrigued by this comparatively enigmatic character. Few of his solo stories had ever been reprinted, none of his supporting cast or foes could be found in reference books like Who's Who, and fellows familiar with his early tales were few and far between, at least online. With the spotlight shone through his sudden close association with greatness came the revelation of a glaring oversight in DC history-- that not only was there some dispute as to who had crafted the Manhunter from Mars' solo stories, but even the identity of his very creators!

I've read internet sources who've claimed John Jones' origin story was by Jack Miller, and that credit Dave Wood with a good many of the character's scripts. Some have speculated Miller wrote the debut script from Samachson's plot, while fan historian Jerry Bails thought Miller was merely a pen name of Samachson. In 1988, editor Mark Waid said that no one knew who wrote the series, only that artist Joe Certa drew every strip. In 1995, author Les Daniels attributed the first Manhunter from Mars tale to Mort Weisinger. Finally, DC Comics announced (with absolutely no fanfare and only if the matter came up) that Joe Samachson and Certa were the responsible parties. They could then join the likes of Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Bob Kane, Charles Moulton, John Broome, Carmine Infantino, Gil Kane, Mort Weisinger, and Paul Norris as the creators behind the founders of the JLA.

Of course, if you know your comics history, you may detect the common fib. Bob Kane had it in his contract that he would receive sole credit for all Batman stories, regardless of who actually produced them, and the lion's share of the Batman mythos was actually created by Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson. Likewise, there was no "Charles Moulton," a pseudonym combining the middle names of Wonder Woman's creators, Dr. William Moulton Marston and Harry Charles Peter. Both the Flash and Green Lantern were derivatives of heroic names/concepts from a previous generation of artists. We may have had the gents officially tied to the Martian Manhunter, but who truly came up with the Alien Atlas?

That story begins in 1953, with a script from Batman called "The Manhunter from Mars!" by pulp science fiction writer Edmond Hamilton. Although it featured a goofy protagonist named Roh Kar in pursuit of a fugitive while aided by the Dynamic Duo in a forgettable short story, that title certainly was evocative. Superman editor Mortimer Weisinger likely took note of it.

Weisinger was a deeply unpleasant man who in earlier years had created the Sub-Mariner knock-off Aquaman, the Batman clone Green Arrow, and the Flash riff Johnny Quick. Weisinger always kept his eye on competitors' product, even those of fellow National editor Jack Schiff, with whom he had a long history on comparatively good terms and who had ended up as caretaker of Weisinger's old characters. While the Superman line had ridden out the super-hero bust of the late '40s, Batman hadn't fared as well, so Weisinger pressured Schiff to adopt his "innovations." This led to the proliferation of alien menaces in the Bat books, as well as mischievous other-dimensional imps, a ridiculously extended family, and themed pets. Weisinger had likely seen the potential in a "Manhunter from Mars," and wouldn't hesitate to exploit it.

Weisinger had a habit of passing one writer's story ideas to another to script, muddying up specific credits and insuring his ultimate control of the end product. As he is said to have developed the second life of the "Manhunter from Mars" property with Joe Samachson, a little deductive reasoning could be applied to parse out who was responsible for what. In real life, Samachson was a scientist, just as J'onn J'onzz revealed himself to be in his first story. In 1955's "The Strange Experiment of Dr. Erdel," J'onzz waxes nostalgic for his lost world of Mars, an idyllic place free from war and crime. The entire tale is devoted to setting up how the alien arrived on Earth, and what his motivations would be to help us route our own wrongdoers. It seems fairly clear this was Samachson's hand at play, as neither Weisinger nor Jack Miller were known for that sort of quiet meditation. Weisinger's contribution seems mostly to be in the plethora of powers assigned to the alien, even though this undermined Samachson's premise of his fighting ordinary Earthly crooks in fairly realistic situations. This is further evidenced in the follow-up tale "The Case of the Magic Baseball," which reads more like a continuation of the first story than something intended to be published a month later, with most of the action revolving around manipulating baseballs through mild telekinesis.

Samachson is credited with writing a third and final story, "The Man With 20 Lives," in which Detective John Jones uses his powers to appear as the ghost of a murderer's victim in order to force a confession. All three of these tales show the influence of EC Comics' popular line of sophisticated science fiction, crime, and horror comics. This may have been another indication of Weisinger "keeping up with the Jones," or a reflection of Samachson's roots as a pulp writer. It's also possible this was the influence of Detective Comics editor Schiff, who'd overseen a series of watered-down, all-ages rip offs of EC titles for DC (most famously with House of Mystery.)

By this point Frederick Wertham's scathing criticism of comic book violence Seduction of the Innocent had seen print, and a sea change was already apparent in the fourth John Jones script. Suddenly, Samachson was out, and Dave Wood's "Escape To The Stars" involved John Jones' clash with a high tech bank robber, far removed from the earthier material which preceded it. Jack Miller's first of a great many scripts was "The Phantom Bodyguard", which only referenced a fraudulent murder attempt, where Samachson had depicted the dirty deed. After that throwback, Miller's scripts leaned more toward the Wood model, of fantastic circumstances and low peril, involving lost powers, evil robots, canine companions and con acts. The only death in these early follow-up scripts were accidental and off-panel.

So, how did the John Jones, Manhunter from Mars strip come to be printed in Detective Comics for a decade? Was it submitted by Samachson, or proposed by Weisinger, and how much was the earlier Hamilton script involved? Did Weisinger intend the strip to appear in one of his books, was it rejected, or was it always meant for Detective Comics? Was Samachson dropped from the strip, did he abandon it, and how were Weisinger or Schiff involved in the decision? At what point was artist Joe Certa brought into the picture, and was he influenced by the Batman story, which featured some Martians with more than passing similarities to J'onn J'onzz?

My belief is the credits released by DC Comics are entirely credible. The stories attributed to Samachson, especially his first, barely resemble anything Jack Miller would later produce. By extension, a good deal of what Samachson sets up in his early installments is ignored by the writers who followed him, leaving only the basic premise and some of the initial powers intact. As with Julie Schwartz's heavy but uncredited influence over his Silver Age revivals, DC policy to discount their editors as part of the creative unit seems to come into play here. In the case of John Jones, the Manhunter from Mars, it seems that only Weisinger's name deserves to be recognized alongside Joe Samachson's contributions and Joe Certa's visual representation. That group should also be credited for Lt. Saunders, Jones' original commanding officer.

It's worth noting though that some later creations remain up for grabs. It seems Dave Wood mistakenly renamed Saunders "Captain Harding," and Jack Miller continued using the name. Since the visual of Saunders slowly transformed from a stocky, balding, cigar chomping hardcase at crime scenes to the friendly, tubby, hirsute desk jockey Captain Harding, it's arguable that they ended up two separate characters. Lady policewoman Diane Meade might have been a notion of the socially progressive Schiff, or perhaps Weisinger suggested the strip needed its own Lois Lane? The same could be true of Zook, as he fits both Weisinger's imp mold and Schiff's tendencies to view his books as geared toward younger kids. The sudden push of Batman foe Professor Arnold Hugo in a reoccurring role, the Caped Crusader's cameo appearance in his first story, and Jones' town finally being named all point toward words from Weisinger. The Diabolu Idol-Head is a mystery, but Mr. V and Vulture were awfully reminiscent of other work by Jack Miller.

This is all speculation on my part though, as not a single one of the men responsible for all those John Jones tales is with us today to help sort it all out. I just felt like offering my theories on the matter, because we'll likely never know the full story behind the creation of the Martian Manhunter's lore.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

2007 Watercolor Painting by Tom Valente

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Tom Valente is a commercial artist whose done work for places like Cracked, and more recently contributed to the Justice League of America Rittenhouse Archives sketch card series. Thanks to the Martian Manhunter Fotolog, I was directed to his blog, which offered up two illustrations of the Manhunter from Mars.

Just a quick watercolor sketch of Martian Manhunter. I've always liked this character and he's also one of my fiancè favorites.

We've previously showed off Valente's work on the 2007 "ICE COLD MILK and AN OREO COOKIE" sketch and its colorized version, 2009's "LATE NIGHT SNACK...". I prepped most of this post in early November of last year, aside from editing the image for this blog's proportions. I chopped off a massive chunk from the top and bottom, then widened and digitally altered the piece, so you really have to click the link to see it as the artist intended. Also, I know I promised more in-depth posts this weekend, but I've fought hard through distractions (usual stuff, like shopping for a new bed and showering with a monkey,) to build up some surplus on my other blogs. I hate to neglect the Idol-Head, but there'll be some goodies this week to make up for it (like the last of the recent con sketches in my possession...)