Sunday, July 31, 2011

Martian Manhunter #4 (January, 2007)

Sara Moore stepped out of her shower, then talked to her cat about chess moves and her crummy taste in men.

Rio and Keene met with a scientist who explained the capabilities of the weapon used to kill Roh'Kar while viewing a victim's corpse. I at first thought this was Roh'Kar, but if so, it would negate a major upcoming plot point (not that I wouldn't wish for some intervention, like most any stupid plot point in this series.)

Dalen, Till'all and Jornell tried taking a walk outside, but were too weak to maintain human forms, and only the kid had a very loose command of English. He scared some girls in an alley with "Ahhh... it pleases me to meet your face," before J'Onn J'Onzz arrived to chastise their over-eagerness.

Sara Moore got stuck in the elevator with the talkative mailman, then learned from co-workers that Alex had died while setting off a bomb in an office building. The F.B.I. were investigating, but no one knew that Sara was with Alex. In denial, she cried in the bathroom and unsuccessfully tried Alex's cell. Still chanting "he'snotdead" as a continuous mumbled mantra, Sara was met by the mailman, who had forgotten to give her a package with no return address.

Rio was standing in Alex's former hotel room, trying to figure out why this of all the dingy dives was his choice to lay low. A techie sat on the bed, cross-referencing anyone within a ten mile radius against information known about Ferguson.

At the penthouse, J'Onzz tried to improve the Martians' shapeshifting ability and basic understanding of humanity. The two warriors were verbally resentful, the two elders found it tiring, but the boy was ecstatic. J'Onn and Jornell had a nice talk about the difficulties everyone was having with accepting their presence on Earth, even for J'Onzz himself. The Martian Manhunter felt guilty about not having looked hard enough for fellow survivors, leading to the horrors endured by his new friends. "J'orneel" was consoling, feeling they were simply victims of circumstance. "You did save us, J'Onn. And I have no doubt in my mind that you'll continue to do so." J'Onzz thanked him, and prayed "I live up to your faith in me."

In a private office, Sara watched the video Alex shot for her on his camcorder, explaining why he must now be dead, and what Sara must do to avoid the same fate. At about that same time, Rio and company realized from a cable bill that Sara Moore was subletting an apartment at 1100 Broome Street, almost directly across from the hotel room window. Breaking into her apartment, the techie caught a voice sample of Moore's from her answering machine, allowing the group to trace her via N.S.A. satellite feeds. Rio put a gun to the techie's head to rush him on that front.

Because the writer forgot he still needed it, the office of Dyer Investigations got un-blowed-up. This was so Sara could call that phone, which the Martian Manhunter's security system took note of. Don't they still have call forwarding available? Did cell phones wipe that feature out through obsolescence?

William Dyer returned Sara's call as she was riding her motorcycle to the nearest network news station to spill the whole story. Rio was waiting outside the offices of NTV, and after pretending to be an associate of Alex's didn't work, she threatened to blow Sara's head off via a nearby sniper. The Martian Manhunter snatched Moore up and flew off so quickly that only her disappearance registered. "Keane was right," said Rio. "It worked."

Sara Moore woke up on a bed at the penthouse, with William Dyer proclaiming his innocence. The Martians helped in the charade while in the human forms they had practiced earlier, but reverted back to normal as a way of selling Sara on their story. She fainted, hit the ground, and then missiles struck the building. Martian Manhunter demanded evasive maneuvers. Giggs was employing his usual subtlety, and upon seeing through J'orneel in disguise, shot him with his modified sniper rifle. Jornell's last broadcast thought was "Save... the others..." The rest of the group flew with Sara Moore and Alex's tape to safety.

"The Others Among Us Part 4" was by A.J. Lieberman, Al Barrionuevo and Bit. Continuing a Martian Manhunter tradition, the writer can't even remember his own characters' names. It was one thing to de-anglicize Roh Kar into the more overtly Martian Roh'Kar last issue, especially since the name was already a (potentially confusing) tribute to a very different '50s character. On the other hand, Jornell becoming J'orneel in the issue of his death seems like insult just prior to fatal injury. I wouldn't say that this was an intentional change either, since the two names are printed on parallel pages in the final narrow panels of each so that you can make them kiss each other. "Mmm, I love you, J'orneel! No, I you Jornell, even on this world far from home!"

It also irks me that John Broome, who never had anything to do with the Martian Manhunter, received the "Broome Street" homage. If it isn't Samachson Street or Certa Avenue or Miller Place or Schiff Square or even Weisinger Boulevard, I don't want to read it here.

Brave New World

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Doom Patrol #1 (August, 2004)

At the Watchtower, Martian Manhunter informed, "Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash... they have all returned to their homes on Earth. And you have been without sleep for at least seventy-two hours." Batman snorted, "I've gone longer, J'Onn." The Dark Knight Detective still didn't feel the Crucifer case was closed. When the Sleuth from Outer Space suggested the Doom Patrol was the loose string, Batman replied "No-- I trust Niles Caulder, their leader. I would not have let Faith go off with them if I didn't." One, trying to rehabilitate the Chief's sorry reputation by having making Batman say something that naive is just wrong, and two, boy is Batman bossy these days. "J'Onn... you know I wouldn't ask this unless I felt there was no other way. You're Martian telepathy... d'you think you could..." Yes, he said "d'you..."

The four-armed gorilla Nudge, his handler Nudge, Faith, and Vortex were forced to deal with debris from a battle raging inside the Doom Patrol's prison headquarters in Key Mordaz, Florida.

They learned after venturing inside that three of Caulder's inmates held in the prison were loose. An enlarged Rita Farr suddenly fell backwards through a wall. This set up a flashback to the cliffhanger at the end of the Doom Patrol's backdoor pilot JLA story arc "The Tenth Circle." The Chief was bound up on a wall surrounded by three vampires. In an expository flashback during an expository flashback, a punk metahuman kid explained that he had been helping Crucifer out with his wormhole powers, affording contact to the rest of the Circle and access to other dimensions. The punk was the reason Crucifer was able to teleport from Canada to Castle Crucifer, and how he himself had reached Florida. The punk released Caulder's three metahuman prisoners, and helped members of the Circle take possession of their bodies.

The Manhunter from Mars had mentally allowed Batman access to reflection on the previous battle with "crystal clarity." The Dark Knight realized that there was a missing metahuman working with Crucifer, and Green Lantern volunteered to help track him down. "Always impressive, John Stewart." All three were soon at Castle Crucifer, and before Batman could "jimmy" the lock, J'Onn J'Onzz passed immaterially through. One opened door later, and "Welcome, gentlemen. Enter freely, and of your own will." Stewart snickered, wondering when the Martian had gotten around to reading Dracula. J'Onzz missed the rhetorical element, and explained his familiarity with Earth culture after decades here.

The Manhunter's telepathy found the house deserted, until the punk kid turned up out of nowhere, followed by Negative Man. At first, the energy wraith tried to chat, but then screamed in pain and attacked J'Onn J'Onzz...

"Baptism of Blood" was by John Byrne with Doug Hazelwood. There's less dialogue than in the preceding Chris Claremont scripts, but Byrne on his own is no less corny. Jerry Ordway's inks are sorely missed, as the new embellishment hews too close to Byrne's rushed, loose, bland pencils. Faith is still dressed like trash, the villains could not be less generic, and the team pretty much shares a single milquetoast personality. Pity the poor reader who bought a first issue expecting more than to walk in on chapter seven of an uninspired story from an over the hill creator with a painfully out of date take on this "new" super-team.

Friday, July 29, 2011

2010 Evan “Doc” Shaner's Justice League - Take 2

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Artist "Doc" Shaner put together an oddball JLA as part of a Facebook challenge in 2009 that consisted of the Flash, the Atom, Captain Marvel, Plastic Man, Jonah Hex, Sgt. Rock and the Viking Prince. That's a pretty iconic line-up of characters, but a tad underpowered and anachronistic to sell well. Also, let's face it, quite the sausage factory. To correct the estrogen deficiency, Doc revised the piece by replacing the time-travelers with Black Canary and Mera, plus "easy choice" Martian Manhunter. Certainly makes it look more like a proper JLA to me, and I'd happily buy it! Read more about it here.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Martian Knock-Offs: Drax the Destroyer

A lot of the knock-off factor with Drax comes from just looking at him. It's like how everyone points to Thanos as a Darkseid knock-off, but he was actually modeled after Metron. The Mad God Titan's resemblance to the Lord of Apokolips really came from an editorial request of creator Jim Starlin to beef Thanos up. In the years since, Darkseid and Thanos have fed off one another, so that their mutual resemblance grew with time.

Drax was originally Earthman Arthur Douglas, whose family was slain following a chance encounter with Thanos. The Titan's father, Mentor, found Douglas' daughter alive. Mentor helped raise the girl to become the powerful telepath Moondragon. Mentor also used her father's soul as the driving force of an automaton, embued with great power but stripped of all memory, his sole purpose the destruction of Thanos. Drax the Destroyer was relentlessly grim and obsessive, but always managed to just miss out on killing Thanos thanks to better, faster moving heroes like Captain Mar-Vell and Adam Warlock. Drax's daughter was less than altruistic herself, and when Drax objected to Moondragon's subjugation of a planet, she scrambled his brains. As with his mortal enemy, Drax has been resurrected a bunch of times, but he has suffered through a few radical revisions. For most of the '90s, Drax was essentially a reincarnation of the dumb, violent, Frankenstein-ish Hulk. More recently, he's been Riddick, the Vin Diesel protagonist of two films and one cartoon, who counts Vin Diesel as his biggest fan in a shallow pool.

If I recall correctly, Jim Starlin acknowledged basing Drax partially on the Martian Manhunter. I suppose J'Onn J'Onzz's more severe attitude in his pursuit of Vulture may have played into that, but Drax's intensity far outstripped any take on the Alien Atlas seen to date. In fact, the O'Neil/Nasser interpretation of the character in 1977, and the many austere interpretations since, seem much more of Drax's bloodline than J'Onzz's. Drax had a daughter before J'Onn, and the telepathy angle (Moondragon's) hadn't been an ability of J'Onzz's since his earliest appearances. Once again, beyond the superficial, Drax may have reciprocated Martian Manhunter's influence with some of his own. It's not like super-strength, nigh invulnerability, and energy blasts are highly specific, although Drax playing the perpetual jobber certainly seems familiar. Most recently, J'Onn J'Onzz has taken on Drax's trademark purple costume, while Drax is running around topless to show off his tribal tats. Well, y'know, "Martian Co-Ops" doesn't have the same ring to it, so we'll let that alone.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

JLA #99 (Late August, 2004)

Through Nudge's contact with Manitou Raven, the Manhunter from Mars was eventually able to determine Crucifer's origins and an overview of his activities across centuries, including the nature of his arrangement with the insectoid creatures that rendered him "effectively unkillable." Since Vortex's wormhole was still open, Nudge led the JLA and the (still unnamed) Doom Patrol back through it to Castle Crucifer. Green Lantern John Stewart neutralized Vortex, until Nudge and the Martian Manhunter spoke out on his behalf. The Flash released Crucifer's human child prisoners from their basement cells, then contacted the authorities to see to their well being. Vortex opened a portal to Barnes, Saskatchewan, so that most of the heroes could confront their prey. Martian Manhunter requested, "With your go-ahead, Batman, I would like to stay behind... and try to find some means to liberate Superman. We cannot afford to have Crucifer use him against us further."

The League and the Doom Patrol successfully routed Crucifer's scheme, sending him into retreat back to his castle, where he again was faced by but defeated Wonder Woman. This time, Crucifer decided to "turn" her. Red blood was vomited out of Crucifer's pained throat, even though the just-arrived Nudge called it as green. Either way, "Wonder Woman" turned out to be the Martian Manhunter in disguise, and his alien blood had dealt Crucifer some damage. Working together, Elasti-Girl, the Atom and Superman then finally managed to stake Crucifer to ashes. Afterward, everybody headed back to the Watchtower for a debriefing, before everyone went their separate ways. However, this case wasn't yet through with the Sleuth from Outer Space...

"Heartbreaker!" was the final chapter of "The Tenth Circle," but unfortunately for J'Onn J'Onzz, he would be back to tie up the loose strings in the opening arc of a short-lived new Doom Patrol ongoing series. John Byrne would continue to bring the poor-to-mediocrity, with scripter Chris Claremont to kick around anymore, nor the much missed embellishment of Jerry Ordway.

The Tenth Circle

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

2011 Ma'alefa'ak Comicpalooza Commission by Andy Kuhn

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As I've mentioned, I'm on a budget, and art doesn't come cheap, so why did I go to Comicpalooza 2011? Well, obviously it's because I'm totally addicted to these things, and I'm on a mission to put together a "set." The original idea was to get as many Martian Manhunter related characters drawn by as many different quality creators as possible. Now ideally, I'll get a decent job when I get out of school and get more done, but plans are not always realized. I could maybe travel to other cons when I have the bread, but will I have the time, and do I want to lose the "home court advantage?"

You see, even during the comic book boom years, Houston had a bad reputation when it came to conventions. It's hot, we had more that our share of swindlers, it's humid, folks down here want to haggle/bargain hunt, it's sultry, parking isn't great, it's tropical, most of our venues suck, it's sticky, it's a long trip to get to a place with nothing folks want to do in our weather, it's uncomfortable, our transportation system sucks and it's just plain Houston. We don't always have the best of luck getting names, and those who do visit just can't command the dollars that they might elsewhere. We're not the most fannish of towns, and having consulted what folks pay for commissions at other cons, screw that. So I want to catch the suckers the first time they come here, because I might not get a second chance. Also, I do believe Comicpalooza is a pretty solid show for its size and youth.

Another reason to go was because I'd arranged for a specific piece of art to be handed-off there, and was on the lookout for a specific artist on my way up to the third floor of the George R. Brown convention center. Also, I needed to work out the weird new layout of the con. On the way in, I spotted Andy Kuhn on the way out. I saw this as fortuitous, because I had planned to hit three specific artists at this con I suspected would be seated together: Kuhn, the co-creator of Firebreather; Don Kramer, the artist of Wonder Woman ; and Phil Hester, the writer of both. Since I'd already dealt with Kuhn last year, I wanted the chance to yack with Hester specifically before doing the whole "hey remember me wanna do another commission" dance with Kuhn (which I actually hadn't done before, hence the apprehension.

Navigating the needlessly labyrinthine artists' alley, I tried to take notes of which artists were where. The guys toward the head of the snake weren't on my mental checklist for prospective commissions. Part way through, I found the place-keeping sign for the procrastinating artist of 2010. Well, it was only 10:30, so early enough. Toward the end, I ran into Hester and worked out commission #1, then continued to another place-keeping banner for an artist I was interested in. By the time I doubled back, Hester had already told Kuhn I was coming to talk to him about a new piece, so it saved me a lot of awkward reintroductions. See why it's good to scheme?

I've got last year's Dr. Trap commission hanging to the right of my desk, near the patio door. Invariably, when I look up at my framed original art, my eye goes to the Kuhn. The rich black inks against a glossy white background with the red highlights just demands the attention of your orbs, and I told the artist so. This time, I had already decided in advance who I wanted him to draw, which probably made for a much less confusing and frustrating business transaction.

Ma'alefa'ak, also called Malefic, is the evil twin brother of J'Onn J'Onzz. Last year, Kuhn started out with the premise of doing a natural form (at his request) J'Onn J'Onzz barf bag, but then I decided after getting a really favorable quote to go for the full figure drawing. Kuhn wanted to do the J'Onn J'Onzz lookalike B'rett, but I didn't think the character would be recognizable under those terms. This year, I figured Kuhn should damned well get to do a twisted, evil version of Martian Manhunter in a Natural form if he damned well pleased. Handing Kuhn a really nice color photocopy of Tom Mandrake reference, I explained that I recognized Malefic was a character with a lot of excess costuming detail (chains, piercings, straps, etc.,) so the artist could take or leave those elements as it suited him. The main thing was that he draw a really evil looking green Martian, natural form or on Mandrake's model, and to have a good time doing it. Kuhn simply asked me if the pictured costume was Ma'alefa'ak's standard, I said it was, and he was good to go.

Last year, I had requested a commission much too late, and then kind of hovered excessively when my party became hungry and bored. This year, I was on my own, had two commissions locked down before noon, and fully intended to waste the whole day. Truth to tell, I think Hester and Kuhn probably got aggravated after a while with exactly how much time I gave them. You see, I kept passing by their table, trying to spot the two missing artists I wanted to speak to, without really addressing them. I expect they both were finished by lunch time, but I let them babysit my pieces while I did my shopping and made multiple trips out to the car. I finally started going around collecting the commissions about 3:30, and as it happened in the morning, I caught Hester on his own first. Kuhn actually snuck up on me from behind while we were talking, tapped my arm, and told me he had my piece finished. I swear, I'm always a pain in that poor guy's ass.

Hester had told me beforehand that "Andy really nailed it," and I have to agree. In fact, creator Tom Mandrake never quite got Malefic's face to my liking, often coming out looking too clean and similar to J'Onn. I think Kuhn did him one better through the elongated skull, devious eyes, and creepy half-smile. This is the kind of dude that will have mothers of the red planet call their children home from off the playground to avoid. All of the major details of the intricate costume are intact, plus Kuhn offered the subtle but highly effective gray skin tones that somehow evoke a sickly shade of green.

I love how, rather than draw the piercings, they're laid over in white paint. Like visiting a museum, a scan can't do justice* to the physical texture of this piece, thick as it is with layered elements. As usual, Kuhn threw in a background as part of his $80 flat figure rate, so I like to imagine Ma'alefa'ak stalking the mountains of Mars... with his sword? Okay, that last bit was random, but I like it too. If B'rett is J'Onn J'Onzz with a pistol, Malefic can be the Manhunter from Mars that will skewer you. I prefer that to his going all T-2000 with his fingers (not that they wouldn't obviously do the job here.) Kuhn just gets so much character, nuance and motion through impressionistic touches, it's no wonder I decided to blow off my "1 artist, 1 character" guideline to double dip! I was really happy to take this bad boy home... especially since I never got that piece from the other Comicpalooza 2010 holdover. See, that's why I'll make a Kuhn commission an annual tradition if he keeps returning to Houston, and I'll curse that other guy's name indefinitely.

* My scan also faded out a lot of the filled grays, so apologies for the skewed representation. I did my best in that department, and some of the blame comes from scanning a photocopy of the oversized piece from Fed Ex Express.

Monday, July 25, 2011

2011 “Miss Martian at Spitballin'” art by Gerard de la Costa

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This past week was Miss Martian week at Spitballin' courtesy of Selena Goulding. The only things I really know about her I learned from the Young Justice cartoon which didn't really amount to much: she has an annoying catchphrase (Helllooo Megan!) and she has the hots for Superboy. Also, she has powers similar to the Martian Manhunter.

I wanted to try something different with this: instead of using the inks to pull everything together, I wanted the colour to define the shapes. To me it looks very "construction paper cutouts" but I think it still works. Getting more comfortable with Photoshop, so that's a plus.

Once again, I'm avoiding a plug to the original source so I can "borrow" from it at least once more, although de la Costa's blog has a pretty obvious redirect. I wasn't aware that they had made M'gann smitten with Superboy on Young Justice. I've already suffered through Wonder Woman's unrequited feelings toward Superman, Superboy being Cassie Sandsmark's cherry-poppin' daddy, and J'Onn as a punching bag for D-list Supes villains, so why not continue the indignities? Personally, I think a Robin romance would be more appropriate, since Dick Grayson has about as many qualms regarding inter-species mating as Captain Kirk, and it would add a twist to the Batman-Martian Manhunter bromance. Regardless, the show inspired this Nagelesque piece, and while I don't entirely approve of sexualizing a sweetheart like M'gann, it does show her in a different light.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Idle-Head of Diabolu, Vol. III

The good news is that I have coverage and scans for issues #4, 5, and 8 of the 2006 Martian Manhunter mini-series ready to publish, so that will resume next week. Doom Patrol #4 and Sword of Aquaman #44 are also set, but since the latter ends in a two-parter, I'd hate to create a two week wait. Wonder Woman #4 is not formatted correctly, and I'm missing scans for Breach #4. All this is to say, given I have a major school project this week, none of those will publish until next week. However, I've got a Miss Martian post for tomorrow, Malefic art for Tuesday, and the last chapter of The Tenth Circle on Weekday, so today is my only lapse point.

How about this... an old draft of my long in gestation "Martian Detectionary" table of contents, the "Martian Manhunter Encyclopedia?"

Abel Carmody was the 19th Century U.S. Calvalry soldier and industrialist who built Carmody’s Folly and was an ancestor to Kishana Lewis.
Arnold Hugo: see "Professor Arnold Hugo."

B'enn B'urnzz is a Martian Desert Dweller criminal from the year 2062 who escaped to the present before being captured by Martian Manhunter and Futureman.
The Blue Flame of Mars was an energy source that, when unleashed by Commander Blanx, wiped out and rendered uninhabitable most of the surface of the planet Mars.
B'rett is a yellow Martian convict who escaped captivity to Earth before being recaptured by Martian Manhunter.
B'urnzz, B'enn: see "B'enn B'urnzz."
Baltaz is an underground city located on New Mars/Mars II with a deadly atmosphere.
Baltaz's Council is the ruling authority of the buried city of Baltaz on Mars II/New Mars.
Bel Juz is a Martian Desert Dweller who secretly betrayed her people to the Thythens. She became lover and confident to the Marshal of the Red Brotherhood during his military coup against Martian Manhunter.

Capsule Master: see "Vulkor, the Capsule Master."
Carmody, Abel: see Abel Carmody
Carmody’s Folly was a fortress built by Abel Carmody to fend off the Scary Monsters that have threatened possess all life on both ancient Mars and Earth.

Carré, Pierre: see Pierre Carré
Carré Company: see Pierre Carré

The Conjurer is a fantastic human magician who used slight-of-hand for daring thefts in Middletown before being captured by Detective John Jones.
Crystal Mountain resides near the city of Baltaz on the planet New Mars/Mars II.

Dalbert, Wiley: see "Wiley Dalbert."
Director Ergon was an alien scientist on the planet Sirkus who kidnapped Superman and tried to create a false Justice League of America to fend off the advances of Despero.
Doctor Trap is a human serial killer who blames superhumans for the death of his wife, and sets elaborate traps to execute them in retaliation. Martian Manhunter is among his foes.
Dr. Trap: see "Doctor Trap."

Eel-Creatures are semi-humanoid beings that live on the planet Sirkus and were once employed by Despero.

Fouchere, Marie: see Marie Fouchere.
Flamebirds are winged humanoid beings with psychopyrrhic powers that live on the planet Sirkus and were once employed by Despero.

The Getaway King: see "Monty Moran."
The Getaway Mastermind: see "Monty Moran."
Governor Kwim presided over the planet Sirkus at a time when it was conquered by Despero.

Hugo, Arnold: see "Professor Arnold Hugo."
The Hyperclan are ancient White/Pale Martians who were released from the Still Zone in modern times. They pretended to be super-heroes before launching two separate invasion attempts against Earth.

Inflict is a member of the extraterrestrial battle lords Conquerer Rex who was defeated in battle by Martian Manhunter.

Juz, Bel: see "Bel Juz."

The Krill are a nearly extinct alien race who once forced Despero and the Justice League of America to fight for their entertainment.

Larry Trapp: see "Doctor Trap."
The Lizard Men are a saurian alien race who briefly conquered much of Earth in the late 1950s before being defeated by Martian Manhunter.

Marie Fouchere is a French double agent who had a history with Marco Xavier, and helped the Martian Manhunter defeat VULTURE's Abba Sulkar.
The Marshal (of the Red Brotherhood) is a Martian Desert Dweller military leader associated with Bel Juz who staged a successful coup on New Mars/Mars II. He launched a failed invasion of Earth, which was routed by Martian Manhunter and the Justice League of America, ending his career in shame.
Martian Meteorites tend to be green in color, and when heated or gaseous can have an unpredictable effect on the powers of an exposed Martian.
Martin Smith was the identity of a U.N. investigator assumed by J'Onn J'Onzz whilst following up on the shooting death of an alien life form.
The Master Gardener of Mars is a Natural Martian horticulturalist and survivor of H'ronmeer's Plague who masqueraded as the Father-God of the Lizard Men, with whom he briefly conquered much of Earth in the late 1950s. He was defeated by Martian Manhunter and is believed dead.
Mendez, Senor Mendez: see Senor Mendez
Mr. Steele was part of a special secret department that first alerted the Martian Manhunter to the threat of VULTURE.
Monty Moran is a master inventor, crime boss and thief who specialized in escape vehicles. He has fought Martian Manhunter and the Justice League of America, leading to his repeated incarceration. Sometimes called the "Getaway King" or "Getaway Mastermind."
Moran, Monty: see "Monty Moran."

The Old One is the guardian of the underground city of Baltaz.
The Osprey is a flying super-villain who has a grudge against Martian Manhunter and the Justice League Task Force.

Pierre Carré was a friend of Marco Xavier whose Carré Company developed an "ultimate weapon" stolen by a disguised Martian Manhunter.
Professor Arnold Hugo is a human scientist who artificially expanded the size and capacity of his head and brain. He then began a crime spree in Gotham City before expanding to Middletown and beyond. This brought him into repeated conflict with and incarceration by Martian Manhunter, as well as a case involving Batman & Robin.
The Prophet is an exceptionally powerful alien religious zealot who came into conflict with the Martian Manhunter.
The Pyre is a fiery entity destined to become one of Martian Manhunter's greatest enemies.

Savage, Vandal: see "Vandal Savage"
Section T2 was the a lackluster division of VULTURE captured by the Martian Manhunter.
Senor Mendez was a member of VULTURE's Section T2
Smith, Martin: see Martin Smith
Sirkus is a planet that was once conquered by Despero.
Steele, Mr.: see Mr. Steele

The Tablet of Tal is a sacred artifact of the underground city of Baltaz on Mars II/New Mars.
Tal: see "Tablet of Tal."
The Thythen are warmongers who drove off much of the native population of the planet Vonn, then briefly enslaved exiled Martian to power their Robo-Chargers. They were defeated by Superman, Martian Manhunter, and the latter's fellows.
Trapp, Larry: see "Doctor Trap."
Triumph is a superhuman with electromagnetic abilities. One of the first heroes of the modern age, but due to temporal anomalies and constant misfortune he has been largely forgotten. His relationship with Martian Manhunter was violently antagonistic before Triumph was turned to outright villainy and apparantly killed.

Vandal Savage is an immortal despot who has plagued many heroes over the centuries, including Martian Manhunter and the Justice League Task Force.
Vulkor, the Capsule Master is a Martian Desert Dweller criminal who employed a high tech vehicle to collect weaponry for use against Mars and beyond. He was arrested on Earth and extradited by Martian Manhunter and Green Arrow.

Wiley Dalbert is a 27th century human physicist who decided to travel backward through time in spurts before settling in the early 20th Century. Dalbert paid his way through theft, drawing him into conflict with Detective John Jones, Batman and others.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Flashpoint #1 (July, 2011)

"There's only one thing I know about life I know some things happen by chance. And some things happen because we make them happen. Barry Allen was once haunted by the past. But when he became the Flash, he left the ghosts behind. He found love. A family. And for the first time ever... Friends. Barry thought yesterday was finally behind him... but somebody wouldn't let him escape it. When Barry came to me for help, I turned him away. I'm not the hero of this story. I'm a man who's been corrupted by his own unbearable pain. I'm a man who has too much blood on his hands to be called good. I'm a man who had nothing left to live for-- until the day I met the Flash."
-Thomas Wayne, A.K.A. the Batman

After a two page spread with most of the major DC heroes in their current forms, Barry Allen awoke to a heavily altered and more thoroughly corrupted world. Sure his mom, who we only learned a few years ago had been murdered in his youth, was now alive and well. That didn't make up for the hundred million dead "when Atlantis sank Western Europe into the ocean. Before that, thirty-two million were slaughtered when the Amazons claimed the United Kingdom as New Themyscira." Aquaman and Wonder Woman were at war and out to rule the world. Looking at another two page spread of the "heroes" assembled to stop them, it didn't look like a world much worth saving. Few of the heroes from the earlier spread were represented, and those present were pretty heinously reworked.

Once Batman said "no" to pitching in, the alliance fell apart, which goes to show what a bunch of weasels this lot were. Meanwhile, Barry Allen was heroic enough not to pitch the world into Hell for the sake of visiting with his mom, and instead drove his car to trespass in Wayne Manor. The Batman slapped him around some, before Barry deduced that this was actual Thomas Wayne, who had survived that night in Crime Alley.

"Flashpoint Chapter One" was by Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert with Sandra Hope. It looks like a Hollywood production with plenty of money but no soul behind it, so I was more bored reading it than anything. Sure it's offensive, but the impoliteness is felt in the abstract, with many miles of detachment on my part. It's funny though, because I think this is the beginning of the end for Didio Comics, for I foresee a DC Implosion coming that will really shake up the comic book industry. Poor Barry Allen seems like he'll go from a sainted super-hero to the bad penny turning up to bookend the Post-Crisis DC Universe. Your mileage may vary, but for me, I think I'm going to use this as something of a stopping point for my reading. I'll keep up with this or that, but my allegiance to the line is pretty much dead, and had been on life support for most of the decade anyway.

Friday, July 22, 2011

2008 Justice League of America Commission by Phil Hester

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High resolution photograph is just a click away...

...Meanwhile, at DC Bloodlines... The Super-Court judges Marshal Kirovan Kafka... The sorceress Zatanna breaks the 4th Wall... Geo-Force walls off a country... Dr. Fate comes original...Beo-Wulf ain't just for Lit class...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

2011 Scorch Comicpalooza Commission by Roderick Thornton

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After setting up my first two commissions, I was indecisive about the third. Industry veteran Bob Layton was charging a very reasonable $100 for a penciled & inked full figure, so I thought about his doing some shiny metal rogues. As I thumbed through my reference, I couldn't find a character who felt like a home run that I was willing to drop a precious c-note on. TOR? The Osprey? J'en? I just couldn't make that leap, and regretted not having brought my faded Kevin Maguire Martian Manhunter sketch for Layton to ink. I have yet to post it on this blog because I can't pull a decent scan off the yellowed paper and gray pencils.

Anyway, while I was debating, I found myself in the dealer's section, where I stumbled upon the booth for Angel Comics at a little before one o'clock. There was original art and posted rates on display, and I liked what I saw. While there were a number of styles employed, the one that jumped out at me involved elements of Sam Keith's technique over tighter, more mainstream layouts. The artist wasn't at the booth, but table mate Adrian Nelson spoke with me until he came back, as well as showing off his own work. After talking with both men, I decided to spend Bob Layton's $100 on two pieces of art from them. The first artist wanted $40 for a standard figure, but I sprang for the $60 that offered more detail and a background. After going through my stack of reference, the artist kept returning to Scorch and Doctor Trap. I really wanted at least one female sketch this round, and knew it wouldn't happen at this con unless I made a point of it, so Scorch it was.

I had told the artist that Scorch was your basic redneck trailer trash who had been given flame powers by the Joker when he was briefly deified. I continued to explain that she had fought Superman and Martian Manhunter, then hooked-up with J'Onn J'Onzz before being put in a coma. She was a bad girl, but I wasn't looking for a naughty pin-up, preferring her played tough. We both figured that given her powers, flames in the background would be natural.

I hit the super-hero costume contest at four o'clock, but alas, no Martian Manhunters there. When I got back, the artist had me stick with him to offer direction on the layout, which he was sketching out in blue pencil, working off a more dynamic take on the reference's pose. A guy dressed as Deadpool dancing to a motion sensing video game playing Lady Gaga's "Pokerface" livened things up, creating a traffic jam that had me hiding in a corner to avoid contributing to the bottleneck. After ten minutes or so, the artist had his basic framework down, so I told him I'd give him some space to work.

I picked up my piece just before six, when the dealer's area was closing to the public. In the rush to get out of the area, I neglected to get a business card or any other definite contact information from the artist. After perusing the convention's website, Adrian Nelson's Deviant Art page, and the Angel Comics website, I believe the name that most closely matches the signature to be Roderick Thornton, founder of Angel Comics. However, I'm not 100% positive, which is why I referred to him here as just "the artist," in case I have to correct my attribution at a later date. Scorch is easily the largest of my commissions, taking up the majority of a standard 11" X 17" comic art page. I think the leather in Scorch's costume would really pop if inked, so I'm thinking about getting it embellished next year. How ironic would it be if Layton came back in 2012?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

JLA #98 (Early August, 2004)

Batman did not wish to spring any of Crucifer's traps by following obvious leads, so he instead directed the League toward one he had generated that was only tangentially related: Key Mordaz, Floria. The Flash scouted ahead, and found very modern improvements concealed under the appearance of an old Spanish fort turned "abandoned" Confederate island prison. The Scarlet Speedster found Nudge, and assumed she was running in fear from Grunt, so a clash with another gorilla for the Flash commenced. Martian Manhunter's telepathy detected intellect and consciousness within the four-armed beast, and allowed it to pass intangibly through him. Batman performed a judo move and Green Lantern John Stewart caged grunt.

John recognized Nudge as the girl who'd played "Jedi" mind tricks on him, and tried it again on other heroes. "Your mental wiles are wasted on the Dark Knight, child... and are even less effective against a trained telepath. A psychic scan should reveal the truth--! By the twin moons!" The Martian Manhunter was pained by his psychic violation from, "Voices! A multitude, crying out in rage... and hatred... not a part of her. From... somewhere else!"

The JLA finally located Niles Caulder, Rita Farr, Larry Trainor and Cliff Steele in a secret lab within the decaying prison. Everyone was introduced, literally, because the creators had decided to pull a Hawkworld and try to treat the Doom Patrol as a brand new addition to the DC Universe. Yes friends, the entire JLA arc was just a backdoor pilot for a relaunch that would last less than two years. Anyway, Nudge told everybody her story, which allowed the Sleuth from Outer Space to deduce that "Her psychic discontinuity comes as a result of trying to integrate her already chaotic consciousness... with that of Manitou Raven." The ancient Native American mage almost uncovered the 10th Circle's plot, so he was neutralized by Crucifer. Nudge happened to capture Superman, Crucifer came to possess him, then Faith through Kal-El, plus the near killing of Wonder Woman.

The logic behind this sequence of events as presented is confused, because there's no strong indication Crucifer directed Nudge to Superman, yet happenstance led him to target the JLA. Manhunter felt, "He left me alone because Superman and I are too evenly matched. Open conflict between us would alert the League before he was fully prepared." Except get over yourself, J'Onn, because Wonder Woman consistently fares better against Superman than you, and she was explicitly directed to the JLA as a warning. Maybe Crucifer just figured you'd spend four issues going, "Dur-- where'd Atom go," and if not, he could just light a fireplace in your presence. "I am now able to shed light on the whereabouts of the Atom." Well finally!

Elasti-Girl (or whatever name Rita Farr would use this reboot) was lowered into the telling stones on a tether, and crossed over into the alien world the Atom had been stuck in. Using sophisticated equipment, she broadcast back images of a sacred object that had been revealed the Tiny Titan, as seen on a viewing screen by the Martian Manhunter. "If Manitou Raven's opinion is any guide," J'Onn believed he knew what it was, "And more important, how it may be of use in our overall situation."

"Convergence," part five of "The Tenth Circle," was by John Byrne, Chris Claremont, and Jerry Ordway.

The Tenth Circle

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Martian Sightings for October, 2011

Art and cover by MIGUEL SEPULVEDA
On sale OCTOBER 5 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+
The moon is alive! Following the events of SUPERMAN #1 where [TEXT REDACTED], the covert team of sci-fi Super Heroes known as Stormwatch must not only battle the Earth’s moon, but find a way to hide its monstrous metamorphosis from the rest of the Earth! How? Uh, they’re working on it. Meanwhile, the recruitment of Midnighter goes poorly, and we learn why the Martian Manhunter is a member of the team. Written by Paul Cornell (Doctor Who)!

Did my recent coverage of the Coneheadhunter mini-series invoke the return of Al Barrionuevo to comics? Specifically Manhunter ones? He's a good fit here, actually.

According to Cornell's blog, the new team sans one is on this cover. I'll guess that's Adam One, a new character, on the left. He's apparently "been aging backwards since the Big Bang, the master of tactics who… forgets things and isn’t that great at convincing people he knows what he’s doing..." Next is Midnighter, who's basically Batman mixed with Wolverine, and in desperate need of a return to his old leatherboy gear. Following him is Jack Hawksmoor, team leader and "God of Cities." Apollo looks pretty swell in my opinion, given how tired his Fabio hair was and how blandly he used to dress.

Speaking of dresses, J'Onn J'Onzz has a jock skirt going on, and we'll have to seriously discuss that once we get an unobstructed look at the full ensemble. I was hoping the DC Comics official blog "The Source" would continue offering redesign spotlights, but that petered out quick. The Engineer, who's kind of like a cross between a T-1000 and Terminatrix but with a cool human being under the silver, is consoling little Jenny Quantum, the spirit of the 21st Century. I guess the androgynous person at far right is another new character (Harry Tanner?) Two characters promised in the series: "the Projectionist, the voice of and god of the internet and the Eminence of Blades, the universal master of bladed weapons, who has terrible doubts." There are two new characters pictured and a potential third not, so place your bets.

Of the WS relaunches, Voodoo visually looks great, but the claw hand and newish mileu push me away. Grifter sounds kinda cool, though. Maybe old Wildstorm properties have the advantage of 90s-centricity. One more tease: Cornell says one of the hardest secrets he has to keep is "The Martian Manhunter. The way Stormwatch ties in to everything that’s happening in the rest of the DCU." Intriguing...

This September, DC Comics explodes with 52 new #1 issues! DC’s entire line of comic books starring the World’s Greatest Super-Heroes is being renumbered with new, innovative storylines featuring the most iconic of DC’s characters, helmed by the most creative writers and artists in the industry.
To celebrate this momentous occasion, DC Direct is producing an incredible portfolio featuring the striking cover images from all 52 debut issues illustrated by superstar artists including Jim Lee, Adam Hughes, David Finch, Ivan Reis, Francis Manapul, George Pérez and many more!
Fifty two images by various cover artists are printed on high-quality 4-color matte paper stock, collected in a 4-color folder and shrink-wrapped together. All prints measure 9” x 12” and are ready for framing.
Limited Edition.
*Quantities may be allocated
On sale October 5, 2011 * Portfolio * $129.99
For thirty bucks more, you can buy a hardcover collecting all 52 #1s. Seriously.

Miss Martian
On sale OCTOBER 19 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED E
The team is taking Espionage 101 from Captain Atom. Their class project is to solve a cold case that involves a forty-year-old murder mystery, a military conspiracy and a half-decent chance that none of them will come out alive.

Art and cover by ART BALTAZAR
On sale OCTOBER 19 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED E
You are invited to a special Batgirl issue featuring Cassandra, Stephanie, Flamebird and, of course, Barbara. Find out what happens to The Batcave when the girls take over! Bonus: Coach Lobo’s Secret Soccer team versus…The Birds of Prey?! GO-O-O-A-A-AL!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Homage To Wildstorm

I started reading comics in the late 70s/early 80s, so by 1992, I was already a veteran. The one book that I had stuck through for most of those years was The Uncanny X-Men, which had been revived from a lengthy lull by the arrival of Jim Lee as co-plotter and artist. This was why I stuck with the books after longtime writer Chris Claremont left, but Lee himself was gone within a year. I hung on for about two years, using the Fatal Attractions crossover as my official jumping off point from all the mutant books and Marvel in general. Around the same time, the Titans Hunt storyline had gotten me back to reading a book I'd left behind with George Pérez, and that extended into a slow but steady immersion into the DC Universe as a whole.

Between my leaving the hordes of Marvel Zombies and becoming whatever you call a DC fan, I floundered for a while looking for a universe to call home. First Comics were a favorite of mine, but they somehow managed to go under as the industry was entering its boom years. From Comics' Greatest World to the Ultraverse to every single one of Jim Shooter's upstarts, everyone got the chance to fail to impress. My first and biggest investment in a new universe was the launch of Image Comics, originally a Malibu Comics imprint. At various points Jim Lee, Whilce Portacio and yes even Rob Liefeld had been my favorite artist. I respected Marc Silvestri, and I was cool with Todd McFarlane, Erik Larsen and Jim Valentino. Unfortunately, Larsen under a pseudonym had begun a big artist vs. writer debate in the pages of The Comic Buyers Guide, and Image set out to prove his argument right by scripting the books themselves or with high school buddies. While the titles set the bar for quality printing and coloring, they also devalued quality writing so severely that the majority of most publishers' output at that time became as much of a reading pleasure as junk bond certificates. As has been well documented, the books also shipped very late, which meant I might have five issues of a book I'd committed to buy as a preorder, even after the debut issues stunk up the house. This was why I finally made a home at DC-- that's where most of the writers ended up in the talent wars.

Image didn't come together fully overnight. Originally, Lee, Portacio, Silvestri, and Joe Chiodo all worked out of Homage Studios, and at some point Lee's official shingle was something like "Aegis Entertainment." Whatever they were called, the Homage books were the best looking as a line, thanks to the contributions of pros like Mark Texeira, Michael Golden, Richard Bennett and Tim Sale, as well as new talent discoveries J. Scott Campbell, Humberto Ramos, Travis Charest, Brett Booth, Scott Clark, Ryan Benjamin, and many more. Eventually, Silvestri moved on to form Top Cow Studios, and Lee's rebranded Wildstorm focused on home grown talent. There were stabs at multimedia success, like a WildC.A.T.s Saturday morning cartoon and toy line, but its initial strength was in putting out solid books on a regular schedule to a devoted fan base.

While I gave most Wildstorm properties a try at some point, WildC.A.T.s was the main draw for me. The initial mini-series was a pretty but vacant X-Men swipe that simply replaced mutants with aliens and their progeny. The main overarching story of the entire universe was that the Kherubim (the humanoid good guy aliens with varied super-powers) were at war with the Daemonites (ugly evil shapeshifting aliens) for millenia, Earth was among the worlds caught in their conflict, and our planet ended up entangled in countless conspiracies amongst the super-powers. I wasn't especially interested in that, but was eventually drawn back into the fold after James Robinson's dabbling as a scripter of the main book and Alan Moore's full run as series writer. Robinson did a great job of recognizing the influence of G.I. Joe and the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents on the Cover Action Teams and actually get that across. A major problem with Image Comics was that the creators had really interesting ideas that they talked about in interviews, but utterly failed to convey (or often even address) in their printed stories. Moore continued that upward trajectory through a parallel narrative that saw the original C.A.T.s learn that the alien war was far from black & white during a stay on the Khera, while a new team dealt with a kinky, inventive take on metahuman affairs back on Earth. Though certainly not one for the ages, Moore's WildC.A.T.s was an exceptionally entertaining team book that influenced the direction of the line for years.

The Wildstorm books had always been violent and paranoid, but the line began to solicit sophisticated writers from lines like Vertigo to really ratchet up the mature readers angle. This was the golden period of the line, with Warren Ellis, Mark Millar, Kurt Busiek, Garth Ennis, Ed Brubaker, Joe Casey, Christos Gage, Peter Tomasi, John Arcudi, Adam Warren, and many more outstanding writers presenting to the entire industry new ways to produce super-hero comics. When DC first acquired Wildstorm, I cheered, because it was my two favorite lines merging into what I thought would be a stronger whole. I hoped for a Marvel Knights style line where moribund DC properties could be revised into something fresh and hip, while the WS would gain access to more good DC scripters and DC more flashy pencillers. Instead, DC editorial micromanaged and nitpicked until WS' editors moved to IDW, their writers became Marvel's new "architects," and their artists were scattered to the four winds. Wildstorm became DC's "New Universe," a vestigial line from a departed administration with limited talent or sense of direction. Like the New U, WS ended up a post-apocalyptic wasteland where characters scavenged for survival while unknowns and has-beens scavenged for a paycheck before the end finally came.

Wildstorm was a great line that left its mark on the industry, both in terms of writing and artistry. Unfortunately, all DC owns are reprint rights and the characters, most of whom remained derivative or inanimate outside the vision of their creators. It was kind of a shame that Marvel didn't buy them, since so many WS characters were Marvelized DC analogues (where DC could have benefited from Rob Liefeld's House of Thinly Veiled Swipes.) It remains to be seen whether integrating DC and the WS reinvigorates either line, or else is just another step toward DC looking more like Kamandi's bombed out future than the shining Legion of Super-Heroes books they keep trying to shove onto a disinterested market. Regardless, J'Onn J'Onzz seems to be the sole DC character on the new Stormwatch team. Aside from the possibility of Jenny Sparks/Quantum/Blitz joining the Justice League, the WS characters are still somewhat segregated, making the Martian Manhunter something of a de facto transplant into the Wildstorm sphere. Aside from Captain Atom, no other DC hero has had such an intimate connection with these characters. The relationship promises to shape the future of both properties, since Stormwatch is clearly positioned as the most prominent and promising of the WS-related titles. As a former WS fan, I see so much potential in this mingling, but as happened with the initial DC/WS acquisition, I fear it could instead be a deathmate* that sullies both parties. Ultimately though, I can't help but feel the association elevates J'Onn J'Onzz's esteem and relevance, offering him an opportunity to explore a bold new frontier paved by titans of the typewriter for a too brief moment in time. When everyone else seems to be prematurely hopping on an early '90s revival bandwagon toward those bad old days when new universes plagued my longboxes, I can't help but see that as a good thing.

*In-joke. Deathmate was a crossover between Image and Valiant that helped signal the end of the speculator boom by being a terrifically late, high end mini-series that choked retailers across the country in 1993-1994. Stacks of Deathmate Red, Adventures of Superman #500 & Turok #1 could be seen selling for a quarter a copy at often soon-to-be-closed shops within months of release.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Martian Manhunter #3 (December, 2006)

J'Onn J'Onzz once again waxed philosophical about the nature of "home," or to be more truthful, whined again about the JLA breaking up and making more ridiculously dramatic overstatements like "Home. For the first time in all the years I've lived among humans, that word has started to feel... alien." Wait, doesn't that mean you used to be comfortable and happy here? I guess running into a group of plainly irritating Green Martians has made J'Onn feel ready to move to another planet?

J'Onn put the relatives up in a swanky highrise apartment that he sure wasn't paying for on a P.I.'s earnings. Once there, he chewed out Mica'kel for totally being solely responsible for killing all those troopers last issue, and not him at all, so don't pull his League membership, please sir, thank you. "I respect you, Mica'kel, but only a fool would mistake that for weakness. Kill anyone again and you'll have to answer to me. That goes for all of you... the carnage at the lab was unnecessary-- and wrong." Telok'Telar still thought, "The humans have done something to you."

I like Telok'Telar. He rocks the same basic outfit as OYL J'Onn, but his colors work better, and he's 100% behind being a jerk in a way J'Onn wouldn't commit to here. Most importantly, Telok'Telar went with the dual prong "Wolverine" head, where the Martian Manhunter looks like he was revised to sell okra for the Farmers Association of America. Coneheadhunter from Mars is a bit of a misnomer in its main venue, because the design really recalls the grimmest, grittiest Veggietale of all. Anyway, Jornell chimed in with "J'Onn's right. Without trust we won't survive. We shall do what you think best." Cue scene transition.

The airport. Alex Ferguson's plane was still burning as William Dyer checked the passenger manifest for Flight 21. Ferguson, under his alias of Alex Ferguson, had decided not to board at the last minute. Seeing as Dyer couldn't even wait around to see Alex off, much less conceal his identity, is it any wonder Ferguson continued running on his own? Not far, however, since he rented a hotel within a binocular's reach of his secret office girlfriend's apartment, whom he continued to lie to about his situation. Figuring his days might be numbered, Alex recorded a confession and warning for Sara Moore on his camcorder.

Rio Ferdinand reported to her superior, a mustachioed older man shooting clay pigeons on his palatial grounds. The gentleman was not concerned about the lab or any casualties, only locating William Dyer. Rio erroneously reported Ferguson dead. "Right, the plane. Giggs' attempt at subtlety, no doubt. What about anyone Ferguson might've talked to." Rio believed she'd tied up any loose ends with extreme prejudice, and that Alex "had no life." Her superior thought otherwise. "People with nothing don't run."

Up above the world so high, telepathy did J'Onn apply, trying to find this Alex guy. Failing that, even thought they were both still in New York, J'Onzz returned to find Till'all hovering invisibly many meters above the city streets. "I-- I just wanted to see them. See what this world was like." J'Onn chastised Till'all, explaining that it was too dangerous to be near the fearful Earthlings. "We're... different from them. And we're stronger. And they know that." On their flight back to the Martians' penthouse, Till'all told J'Onn about Roh'Kar's escape, the groups' past life on Mars, and a few details about their capture. Upon their roof landing, Dal'en joined the conversation, offering even more information on the group's history. However, there was an interruption when security monitors at William Dyer's office set off an alert.

Alex Ferguson's only lead in retrieving the Kuru Pendant was to visit Dyer Investigations, which was an office empty save for an answering machine. However, the building across the street offered Giggs an excellent view of the previously presumed deceased. The Martian Manhunter arrived in time to dismantle a highly sophisticated flying gunship, but overstatements cost lives. "I have fought gods, demons, aliens... even my fellow superheroes. But never this. Never foes who knew Martian physiology from the inside out." Wow, I've seen random dudes with flamethrowers do more damage to the Alien Atlas than this black ops team would deal in this entire mini-series, but you wouldn't know it from the hyperbole. No, the true engine of death in this book were phrases like, "It's okay Alex. You're safe now."

Not from napalm.

Good thing the bad guys already knew where the other Martians were, and had orders not to bother with the Martian Manhunter if possible. After they bugged out, J'Onn brushed off the napalm, and then immediately... determined Alex was dead, then swiftly... contacted the painfully slow in forming Brad Meltzer Justice League of America team. Meaning Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman were taken to the abandoned secret lab two hours later. The Martian Manhunter believed the powers recently employed against him could only have been wielded by or replicated from another Green Martian. Diana questioned J'Onn's judgment, while Bruce and Clark were both uneasy about the psychic invasions J'Onzz had committed against the captured assassin of Roh'Kar and the definitely deceased Alex Ferguson. J'Onzz also withheld the truth about the dead troopers, but guilted Superman with "Tell me you wouldn't do the exact same thing, Clark." For the Man of Steel, no matter how honorable the motivation, that simply was not good enough. All three heroes turned their backs on their friend, with the Dark Knight being especially pointed about it, because.

Even though it had been explicitly stated that the bad guys knew where the Martians were, and the Manhunter was clearly distracted, they hadn't attacked, because.

Since there still wasn't an official Justice League, the mastermind behind the Martian experiments called together a groups of heroes consisting of Black Canary, Zatanna, Green Arrow, Vixen, and Green Lantern Hal Jordan. This was done on the gentleman's home turf, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Even though Ollie Queen is possibly the most vocal liberal in comics, and everyone else had worked closely with the Martian Manhunter for years (including at least one instance of presuming his guilt in a frame-up that nearly killed J'Onzz and ended the JLA,) they agreed to bring the rogue Martian in, because. Because? Because Hal Jordan is a douchebag Frienemy of Mars?

"The Others Among Us Part 3" was by A.J. Lieberman, Al Barrionuevo and Bit. No spell check, proofreader, or editor was disturbed between Lieberman's typos/misspellings and the letterer immortalizing them.

Brave New World

Saturday, July 16, 2011

New Beginning, Again

I've tried to be a dutiful fanboy and take umbrage with the Martian Manhunter's exclusion from any Justice League team in the DCnÜ, potentially retroactively to the dawn of the super-hero. I even went off on a rambling tangential thought from this post, trying to sell the outrage. The truth is, I simply do not care. DC continuity never really recovered from the Crisis on Infinite Earths twenty-five years ago. The people I really feel bad for are the Justice Society fans who have once again been thrown under the bus to try and make the DC Trinity both contemporary and the "first ever" super-heroes. It doesn't really matter though, because I think this initiative will ultimately bleed fans and lead to another much needed DC Implosion. As for J'Onn J'Onzz, this is business as usual, because he's never really been much for maintaining a status quo.

Let's set the Wayback Machine to 1955. The Martian Manhunter's creative origins are shrouded in mystery to the point where it's anyone's guess Who Created the Martian Manhunter? What we can plainly see is that the John Jones, Manhunter from Mars strip started out as a crime series with a sci-fi twist starring a police detective who secretly was an alien. It's one of the reasons nobody talks about the Martian Manhunter starting the Silver Age anymore, because it was super-hero fans who defined those arbitrary "ages," and John Jones was not a super-hero. Like a number of DC back-up strips, it was trying to jump on the popular crime bandwagon, but since National was a family company, they couldn't trade in the lurid details that made EC Comics and Lev Gleason money. Following the imposition of the Comics Code Authority in 1954, National employed kid-friendly gimmicks where once an injury to the eye motif would have been the hook.

What happened was Julie Schwartz jump-started the super-hero market with new versions of the Flash and Green Lantern. Detective Comics was selling poorly, and fans were more inclined to watch detectives on their brand new televisions rather than read tepid comics like "Roy Raymond, TV Detective." Since cops and aliens weren't getting the job done, John Jones began spending a lot more time as the Manhunter from Mars. It was only when Schwartz looked to other editors' stables to round out a revival of the Justice Society of America (but trading out the high falutin' "Society" for the more Americana-like-baseball "League,") that the super-heroic Martian Manhunter was truly born.

It was an easy transition to make, because nobody cared much about the Martian Manhunter or his continuity back then. His alien name was alternately "J'onn J'onzz," "J'onn J'onz," "J'on J'onz" or "J'on J'onzz." His powers were whatever the writer said they were in a given story, and the book changed writers by the fourth strip. The character went through ten variances of physical appearance within a three year span. His only supporting cast was Captain Harding, who was pretty much just an exposition machine assigning John Jones' cases. Harding had morphed out of Jones' original commander officer, Lieutenant Saunders, with whom he was interchangeable in the first year's worth of stories.

As J'onn J'onzz made more appearances, he shifted from a scrawny creature with a Matt Groening overbite into a lantern jawed Wayne Boring type into a leaner, more graceful Everett style hero. He acquired super-villains after a while, but only two made repeat appearance through into the first half of the 1960s. Jones picked up a Lois Lane style girl helper in Policewoman Diane Meade, but without the romantic tension. When that didn't work, J'onzz gained a impish sidekick in Zook, not unlike Green Lantern's Itty, Aquaman's Quisp, and Bat-Mite. Just after the town John Jones had been patrolling for the better part of a decade finally received a name, Middletown, the biggest shake-up occurred. Detective John Jones was killed off, and stayed that way for over twenty years. Captain Harding has only made one appearance in the nearly fifty years since, Diane Meade vanished for about thirty-five years, and I don't believe Middletown has been mentioned in a DC Comics since 1977.

J'onn J'onzz moved from Detective Comics to the lead feature in House of Mystery, a corny creature feature comic. In a bid to keep old readers and hopeful gain new super-hero ones, the Martian Manhunter and Zook were given the mission of finding the Diabolu Idol-Head, a monster-of-the-month manufacturing artifact. That didn't pan out, so after about a year, the Idol-Head was destroyed, Zook's appearances became sporadic, and the Martian Manhunter abandoned his secret mountain headquarters. Instead, he was directed by a government agent named Mr. Steele to move to the Mediterranean in pursuit of the international criminal organization Vulture. Assuming the identity of deceased former associate Marco Xavier, J'onn J'onzz's personality became grim and violence prone in his relentless pursuit of Vulture's faceless leader, Mister V. Once that villain was killed in an explosion, J'onn J'onzz ended thirteen years of solo adventures.

By that point, the Martian Manhunter had already made his de facto resignation from the Justice League, but it became official when his entire origin was heavily retconned. Instead of a humble scientist on a utopic Mars accidentally whisked away to Earth, J'Onzz was a military leader in mortal conflict with the heretofore unheard of Pale Martians, specifically Commander Blanx. Defeated through treachery, J'Onzz was sent into political exile, which he spent on Earth. In the meantime, Blanx destroyed all of Martian civilization, presumably including J'onzz's mother, father, and younger brother T'omm, who'd never made more than a couple of appearances anyway. The sixties ended with J'onzz traveling the galaxy in search of the ark bearing the last survivors of Mars. This was also chronologically the last time a Pale Martian would ever be seen again. While I'm thinking about it, there was exactly one Yellow Martian, B'rett, but he only showed up for one story.

In the 1970s, J'onn J'onzz liberated the last of his people and helped them forge a new civilization. This might have been on the planet Vonn, or it might have been Mars II, because there's conflicting stories about both. The beetle-brow, possibly J'onn J'onzz's most memorable visual trait, was reestablished in 1977 after having been dropped for the previous twenty years. This period was actually the longest lasting status quo for J'onn J'onzz, since he only appeared a handful of times between 1969 (when Mars was first destroyed,) and 1984 (when the Martian Manhunter returned to Earth.) There was a popular militant uprising led by The Marshal that overthrew Mars II's government (including J'onn J'onzz) and attempted to conquer Earth. Bel Juz returned for the epic after a twelve year absence, and a new girlfriend of J'onn's named J'en was introduced. None of the three have appeared since the invasion was routed, and J'onn J'onzz stayed on Earth to co-found a new Justice League of America with lesser known/loved characters. During that run, the John Jones identity returned as a private investigator, a grandmother was mentioned for the first and last time, and the Martian deity H'ronmeer was created. Aquaman quit the team and Batman took over briefly, with Martian Manhunter getting his first stint as team leader between their terms.

By the way, somewhere in there, the kindly old scientist named Mark Erdel who died from a heart attack at the sight of the Martian he'd transported to Earth was revealed to have actually been murdered by his computer in a Hawkman story. Also, Commander Blanx and the Pale Martians had one more story in them, the extra-secret origin of the Justice League of America that revealed it had actually be founded in 1957 by Martian Manhunter, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Aquaman and Roy Raymond, with Superman, Batman and Robin abstaining until further consideration. See why I don't worry about retcons?

In 1987, the Martian Manhunter co-founded his second Justice League in three years, which saw both major roster and status changes almost immediately. J'Onn J'Onzz was a morose figure for about a year, but as the comedy of Justice League International ratcheted up, his sardonic humor and love of sandwich cookies became defining traits. This was even after his 1988 mini-series, which revealed that pretty much every Martian Manhunter story prior to 1985 was a figment of his imagination, especially if it related to fellow Martians. You see, all the other Martians were simple natives who lived hundreds of thousands of years ago, but died out in a plague. He'd been transported through space and time by a still living Saul Erdel, who cured J'Onzz of the plague and fed him the false memories to protect him from the trauma of having lost a wife and daughter. J'Onzz may have been visited by the deity H'ronmeer, or it may have been a delusion brought on by a resurgence of his illness, but the end result was the restoration of his "true" memories. Of course, Saul Erdel never turned up again after the mini-series ended. Finally, there was no Middletown, so Jones had now been in a cop in Middleton, Colorado. Oh, did I mention that it was decided in 1989 that the Justice League was actually formed by Black Canary, the Flash, Aquaman, Green Lantern and the Martian Manhunter, with Superman and Wonder Woman having never become members? No really, see why I don't worry about retcons? Also, there was a bounty hunter named Glenn Gammeron around when Mars died that hasn't been mentioned in fifteen years. Just saying.

The Martian Manhunter left the Justice League International when it temporarily disbanded, except he got possessed by Bloodwynd and joined the reformed Justice League America in that identity. Eventually, J'Onzz got his freedom, and formed the Justice League Task Force, joined by his "surrogate daughter" Gypsy, as well as his mortal enemy of the '90s (whom he rarely fights anymore) Despero, and his Justice League of America co-founder Triumph. What, another retcon? Perish the thought. See, Triumph's initial membership was retconned within his first few appearances, and a deal with Neron retconned the entire JLTF series, and Triumph is dead now (if he ever existed) anyway. Oh hey, did I mention the Martian Manhunter's devastating kryptonite of over thirty years, fire, had been revealed to be solely a psychosomatic disorder that simply triggered PTSD, but could totally be overcome?

Well, forget that. Ancient White Martians (not Pale) were released from what was essentially the Phantom Zone, tried to conquer Earth, and were defeated by lighters and gasoline. A couple of years later, it was revealed that the Martians had a telepathically transmitted virus that caused them to kinda sorta spontaneously combust after prolonged exposure to open flames. It had been engineered by J'Onn J'Onzz's newly introduced evil twin brother Ma'alefa'ak, who was still alive and killing. He captured and tortured Jemm, Son of Saturn, whose race were actually clones of Martians, created when the White and Green Martians were locked in an interstellar war. Did you know that in the original stories, J'onn J'onzz was trapped on Earth because Mars didn't have a single ship capable of interplanetary travel? So remember, the Martians were technologically comparable to Earth in 1955, but socially advanced, then socially regressed in 1969, but technologically advanced. Then they were all dead, but noble savages, and now were galactic conquerors. Speaking of the earliest J'onn J'onzz stories, he had telepathy back then. For a few stories. Then that power was forgotten for thirty years or so. Telepathy. The one power everybody knows the Martian Manhunter for being useful with. Since about 1986, give or take. P.S., J'Onn's whole family got names, and he's at least a second generation cop, not a scientist. The only scientist was Mark Erdel. Yes, Mark. Oh, and John Jones was a real dude that got killed and replaced by J'onn J'onzz (how convenient) to testify against "his" own killer. And there were Martians worshiped in Ancient Egypt still living in human bodies. And tons of other retcons from the solo series nobody remembers now, like new powers involving absorbing mass to become a giant and crap.

J'Onn J'Onzz co-founded another JLA in 1996, and after his solo series ended, it turned out that the Martian weakness to fire was actually encoded into them by the Guardians of the Universe because they were originally demonic fire creatures as seen in Fernus the Burning Martian, whom J'Onn J'Onzz regressed into after conquering his fear of fire with the help of his short-lived girlfriend, the redneck villainess Scorch, who has been in a coma since the early '00s. That was all one sentence, ya'll. Don't sweat it, as everything in that sentence got completely blown off pretty much immediately.

Surprise, the JLA disbanded, the entire universe rebooted, Wonder Woman helped found the team again, but J'Onn was booted off its latest incarnation (and ever since.) His head turned into a pickle wrapped in blue latex, and he was a really, really sour pickle, for no reason that ever made much sense. He starred in a comically inept mini-series, and then got forked to death by a random one-shot JLA villain from the 1970s. Then he became a evil zombie, and then he was alive again, but sometimes turned back into an zombie in a subplot that totally got dropped a few issues into Brightest Day... because the writers were totally winging it... as if you couldn't tell... duh. Also: pants. Also Also: Cabochon. I mention that last one just to point out that I'll never use the word cabochon again, which I only learned because they gave the Martian Manhunter a cabochon.

I might mention "cabochon" again. I kind of wing it, too. Like how I just remembered to mention J'Onn J'Onzz was briefly an Earth elemental. I'm sure that doesn't make Alan Moore want to swallow the business end of a pistol.

John Jones, right? Somehow, J'Onn J'Onzz was definitely police detective John Jones in the 1950s, and was still so until the early days of the Justice League, and intermittently since. I don't know how that works. Occasionally, he's also Black John Jones, Angry White John Jones, and Fox Mulder, just to keep up plausible deniability. He's been an undercover double agent in the Department of Extranormal Operations a few times, but I think their screening got beefed up by the Patriot Act.

Who is Batman? Rich kid traumatized by his parents' murder who trained for years to become a well-equipped vigilante battling routinely recidivist gangsters and psychopaths in Gotham City with the help of a "family." Has a month gone by since 1940 when that statement wasn't true?

Who is Superman? Survivor of the destruction of the planet Krypton who uses his fantastic powers to battle a small group of decent regular villains and a lot of crap ones while working in his secret identity as reporter Clark Kent alongside his lady love/rival Lois Lane. Has a month gone by since 1938 or so when that statement wasn't true?

Who is the Martian Manhunter? A green-skinned alien with a blue cape transported to Earth from his home planet by a scientist named Erdel who uses his powers for good. That's the constant. He wasn't transported on accident by either Saul Erdel, and the second one specifically recruited J'Onzz to battle another Martian named D'Kay. He's been a cop at times, and a private investigator at others, so you could maybe say he's been a detective of some sort a fair amount of his career. He usually has some kind of flight, super-strength, widely varying degrees of shape-shifting and invisibility, but the rest of his powers come and go. The basics of his costume were stable for most of his career, but almost everybody who ever drew it offered noticeable tweaks. He's had at least five distinctly different personalities. The percentage of villains he's fought more than once should be in the low single digits, and I think you could count the ones he's fought ten or more times on the fingers of one hand. With the sole exception of Captain Harding, J'onn J'onzz has never had a supporting cast member last for five consecutive years. He's often a member of some form of Justice League, but usually some sort of weird "off brand," and with enormous gaps in service (mid '60s until mid '80s + 2006-present = > half the existence of the team.) The "Magnificent Seven" League would be the longest lasting quasi-supporting cast, lasting about thirteen years if you combine the '60s and '90s series. Second place would go to the JLI, at six years (if you count Bloodwynd,) yet he has abstained from four revivals to date (two Superbuddies mini-series, "Generation Lost," and now the DCnÜ incarnation.) Even that "heart and soul of the Justice League" business doesn't hold up if you crunch the numbers.

This brings me to the point of this history lesson. J'Onn J'Onzz did not serve in every incarnation of the JLA, just a lot of little ones. He has few non-super friends with any longevity (including "daughter" Gypsy, with whom he served two three-year runs nearly a decade apart,) and even fewer reoccurring foes. He is not "owed" a slot in any version of the Justice League, and in fact has a history of blowing off reunions of past groupings. His fidelity to both the "Magnificent Seven" and JLI is certainly up for scrutiny. Should his having been on Earth since the 1950s remain true, but acting in secret decades before the arrival of "super-heroes," the new continuity would be the closest the character has come to his original conception in our definition of "ages." It would also vastly elevate his status as an elder titan, since he would now be out of the JSA's shadow, and clearly senior to newbies like Superman. Working with a super-spy group on an international scale, up to and including a more lethal "edge," would be a return to the days of Marco Xavier vs. Vulture. Just as when J'Onzz helped welcome the Charlton heroes into the DC Universe through the JLI, J'Onn is once again an ambassador, this time to the Wildstorm properties.

Frankly, I think it's about time the Martian Manhunter stopped being "best buddies" with the JLA, stuck in the "friend zone" as the safe, non-competitive team mascot amongst multimedia icons. The current mainstream DC readership is uncertain and mistrustful of Wildstorm, which to them makes the Martian Manhunter the star of Stormwatch. Not being a boring "mom and apple pie" American super-hero has likely already endeared him to international and nonconformist DC/WS readers. Hopefully, this will not only be a return to the character's roots, but will allow him to take root and grow after so very long as having such "potential." Heck, maybe he could even help diversify the new team, the way Cyborg's supplanting of J'Onzz adds a drop of color to the League. The Authority had a Latina and an Asian, so maybe a new John Jones can finally be like all the black dudes that end up voice/live acting the character. Also, the new team like to wear normal clothes, so maybe we'll see a John Jones in a neat blue suit with a fedora after too many years of strict adherence to spandex? I'm excited, because maybe he can finally stop being an obligatory, neglected seventh among the "magnificent," and instead become something truly sublime in a new sphere of influence.