Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Top 20 Martian Manhunter Covers of the 1960s

You probably wouldn't find it hard to believe that it takes many, many hours to do any single one of these cover countdown lists. What might surprise you is that many of the latest batch I'll be offering across my blogs today have been ready for publication for 4-6 months, including this one, and I had the Blackhawks ready to fly last year. My schedule was simply too tight to get all five 100% completed, so I'm pleased to finally see them through. Well, maybe not this one, as period Martian Manhunter covers were rather anemic. Everything past ten is a reach...

20) House of Mystery #151 (June, 1965)

This needlessly bifurcated cover makes it look like J'onn J'onzz is a back-up feature for Zook, and this isn't a particularly good Zook cover, either. Crap like this will cost Martian Manhunter his cover slot entirely three months later.

19) Justice League of America #8 (January, 1962)

Martian Manhunter in the center background glowering at a carnival barker in a forgettable early JLofA story is still better than that last entry.

18) Justice League of America #15 (November, 1962)

This was right before Superman started to become a serious presence in the book, allowing the Alien Atlas to shine on this pleasantly busy action cover.

17) Justice League of America #21 (August, 1963)

J'onn J'onzz is channeling more heroes to help push him out of the book.

16) House of Mystery #148 (January, 1965)

There is so little right with this cover. The star is distorted, the adversary is a set of sentient rubber bands, the action is silly, the background color is blech, and the sidekick is barely squeezed in as an afterthought. J'onn deservedly lost the cover spot the following two months (once to killer bees!)

15) Justice League of America #9 (February, 1962)

Why don't you make like a tree and leaf? An iconic image, even if J'onn is the furthest in the background and equally compromised with his team.

14) Justice League of America #2 (January, 1961)

It's cool seeing Martian Manhunter as the League's thuggish green Superman, short-lived as that was.

13) Justice League of America #1 (November, 1960)

The debut of Despero and the inspiration for countless chess-themed covers/homages. The eye is drawn to featured player Flash though, and come to think of it, only Green Lantern is visually less interesting (for lack of color) than J'J'.

12) Justice League of America #71 (May, 1969)

J'onn may be in another of many vulnerable positions, but this is a key issue for the character,and his necessary prominence on the cover reflects that. Plus, I always liked the lettering on "Death-Orbit!"

11) House of Mystery #146 (October, 1964)

What a great view of J'onn J'onzz lying effeminately on the ground while the shadow of a giant pink creature looms. How come this series didn't sell like Hotcakes (an early underground femdom magazine) is beyond me.

10) House of Mystery #145 (September, 1964)

Easily one of the best Idol-Head period stories, a swell Zook cover image, and Manhunter turned into a fish! Shame J'onn's figure is so small, and the background so bland.

9) The Brave and The Bold #28 (March, 1960)

An eye-catching overall layout, and the Manhunter from Mars' first ever U.S. cover appearance. However, not a great showcase for the individual heroes. J'onn isn't one of the shiny new Schwartz heroes on the offensive, nor the classic Wonder Woman on defense, but is rather joining Aquaman in getting owned (now and for some time to come.) In one of their many shared moments, this was also Aquaman's cover debut.

8) The Brave and The Bold #50 (November, 1963)

This is the first comic book to bear a true Manhunter from Mars logo on its cover, his first major co-starring role, the first ever TB&TB team-up in a series defined by them, and that's a Martian villain in the (shadowed) foreground. Collectively, that still doesn't fully makes up for the drab coloring, ugly border, uninspired layout, and J'onn J'onzz in an inferior, weakened position thanks to fiery arrows.

7) House of Mystery #152 (July, 1965)

Aside for the Alien Atlas having his back to the reader, this is a strong cover. Imposing monster, frightened running bystanders, attention grabbing background color, columns of earth exploding upward, violent action, and even "The Martian Manhunter" spelled out in copy right under the logo. Too little too late, as J'onn would get only one more solo cover in this series.

6) Justice League of America #23 (November, 1963)

One of J'onn's largest, most prominent, and best drawn cover figures... in no small amount aided by Murphy Anderson's embellishment. The final brawny image of his first stint with the team, even if he is just Queen Bee's lackey.

5) House of Mystery #153 (September, 1965)

The last solo Martian Manhunter cover for fifteen years is one of his best of the Silver Age, with an imposing menace and character-specific weakness generated by novel means.

4) House of Mystery #144 (July, 1964)

Good-sized central figure, but it's still the Manhunter passively sucked into a giant pink gap in the sky. Let those metaphorical assumptions fly!

3) House of Mystery #147 (December, 1964)

The Martian Manhunter is getting his ass kicked by his impish sidekick and a demonic cello. No wonder respect was so elusive for decades. If J'Onn J'Onzz were a greater hero, horns wouldn't have remained prominent in pop music through the '80s. That satanic sax is the one that turned Genesis Phil Collins into Sussudio Phil Collins, and a plutonic piano plagued the populace with ...But Seriously.

2) The Brave and The Bold #56 (November, 1964)

The contrasting red and green means Composite Martian Speedster really pops, plus the compelling layout and boss The Manhunter from Mars logo. Bernard Baily really made this happen.

1) House of Mystery #143 (June, 1964)

The perfect J'onn J'onzz, the Manhunter from Mars period cover. Manhunter cowering before a Diabolu-created threat while random energy blasts and Zook totally dominates your attention. The only improvements I could make would be to add fire and a really poorly designed monster of the month.

Top Character Covers Countdown


James said...

Zook is awesome. Straight up fight I have Zook beating Robin as the best sidekick. One of the things I love about the showcase presents books are that they allow for me to read about Zook.

Off subject but I remember reading how for Final Crisis the author looked through the showcase books and found the Human Flame. Just think if he used Brett instead.

Diabolu Frank said...

I really hated a lot of the Diabolu Idol-Head stuff, but the one shining light was always Zook. I love that little guy, and he often threatened to outshine J'onn J'onzz, much less fellow sidekicks.

As appalled as I was by the arbitrary nature of the Human Flame's selection, I ultimately stand behind his usage. He suited Grant Morrison's purposes well, and his role elevated a member of the Martian Manhunter rogues gallery to new heights. I would not have wanted to read Matt Sturges' tie-in Professor Arnold Hugo mini-series, the next most obvious choice in the role. B'rett would have radically altered the story as told, so I can't speak to whether that would have panned out, especially if a more direct role in J'Onn's demise meant death by Spectre.

Tom Hartley said...

Although I've grown to like Certa's work, I think it says something about his ability as a cover artist that the best House of Mystery cover is the one by Dillin & Moldoff.

Diabolu Frank said...

I'd tend to agree with that observation, although I'm amused by the lemon-to-lime comparison. I found both artists to very much be an acquired taste after initially pegging them as terribly boring. Now I would say clean and subtle. Neither are in competition as favorites, but I at least came to appreciate them.

Tom Hartley said...

I'm not saying that Dick Dillin is Neal Adams or Bernie Wrightson. If Neal Adams had drawn the cover of House of Mystery #143, no one could think any less of Joe Certa for being bested by one of the masters. But his being upstaged by Dick Dillin makes me feel sorry for the guy.

Diabolu Frank said...

Oh, yes, yes. When I first started looking at Bronze Age JLofAs, getting past an appealing cover to find Dick underneath was like a slap in the face. Looking at all of the incredible artists the Avengers had over that period, then casting an eye at over a decade of Dick on the JLofA, followed by the likes of Don Heck and George Tuska, is it any wonder DC had settled into a distant #2? With the right inker, Dillin could sing, but even a kind assessment of his work is faced with an awful lot of mediocrity and visible disinterest in the material on the artist's part. I liked a lot of Certa's later stuff, but most of his career was spent as a journeyman, and that becomes clear in his covers. Dillin was the more experienced hand when it came to front piece pizazz, and it shows here.