Wednesday, November 30, 2011

CSBG's "The Greatest Martian Manhunter Stories Ever Told"

Yeah, I'm a lone wolf (*affects rebel sneer*) but the downside of not having a network of minions is that I'm occasionally caught flatfooted on Martian Manhunter goings on. For instance, I didn't know Brian Cronin had restarted Comics Should Be Good's Greatest Stories reader polls until Rob Kelly and Joe Slab were already correcting "The Greatest Aquaman Stories Ever Told". As I often do, I followed the link to see if there was a Manhunter variation...

"Here’s the latest of the daily voting threads for The Greatest ____ Stories Ever Told!

Our next character up for voting is Martian Manhunter.

J’onn J’onnz, the Martian Manhunter, was one of the rare superheroes DC had in the years between the Golden Age and the beginning of the Silver Age (although he was not really much of a “superhero” to start – more of a science fiction character). One of the founding members of the Justice League, Manhunter served with the team in most of the incarnations of the League, taking on a higher profile on the team during the 1980s. Manhunter had an ongoing feature for a number of years in Detective Comics and House of Mystery and had a solo title during the late 1990s/early 2000s. He currently is a member of Stormwatch.

You have until 11:59 PM Pacific time, November 13th to vote for your top ten favorite comic book stories starring Martian Manhunter! Your choices will be revealed on November 14th. I will leave what “starring” entails up to you."

Voting began on the 8th, offering readers a week to send in their emails. According to them, these are The Greatest Martian Manhunter Stories Ever Told!

10. JLA Secret Files and Origins #1 “A Day in the Life”

Probably the first and sometimes the only Martian Manhunter solo story many readers brought in by the surprise success of JLA have ever read. Pretty nifty one, too.

9. JLA #84-89 “Trial by Fire”

This was something of an updated Bronze Age story. It has all the hallmarks: J'Onn going nuts; beating up other super-heroes for no good reason; a romantic interest that never shows up again; massive alterations to continuity and the people of Mars; despicable, genocidal villain. I figured the appeal of this thing would wane over time, but I guess folks still like it. The absence of any serious Fernus coverage over four years of blogging probably expresses my own feelings...

8. Final Crisis: Requiem

The only issue on the list to come out since I started the blog. A great looking book with an alright story that gets points for remembering Gypsy but loses them for neglecting Manhunter history prior to 1997.

7. Martian Manhunter #17 “Hidden Faces”

This one was the biggest head-scratcher for me, since it undid several years of work into making the Manhunter an international hero with longstanding secret identities across the globe.

6. Martian Manhunter #1,000,000 “The Abyss of Time”

This one I get. It was essentially the mission statement of the entire Ostrander/Mandrake series. It introduced a slew of new villains, infused the New Gods into Martian life, foretold the ultimate defeat of Darkseid, and offered a roadmap for Manhunter stories across millenia.

5. DC: The New Frontier #1-6

No other character benefited from this book like John Jones. It combined elements of the original stories with retcons of the 70s, 80s & 90s into one well received package that introduced a lot of people to material they'd never seen before. The book also led to the first recognizable origin story to hit animation, after the liberties taken on Justice League. Having already been familiar with the source material, I never felt as strongly about this book as others, but I appreciate its impact and new additions (King Faraday, J'Onn's interest in John Henry, etc.)

4. Martian Manhunter: American Secrets #1-3

This is the one I'd expect readers here to rally around, based on a seeming consensus. I see this as the closest thing so far to a Watchmen for the Martian Manhunter set, but it's also a difficult, quirky book lacking flash and action.

3. Martian Manhunter #33-36 “In My Life”

I found this one really interesting. Rather than the origin story from #0 or the story arc that introduced Malefic, fans took to this piece on the early days of the J'Onzzes and the impact of Apokolips on Mars. It's not a bad story, and it's much tighter (yet more expansive in scope) than other Ostrander arcs. Still, it traded Tom Mandrake for Ed Barreto at his worst, plus a tacked-on ending with Jamal Igle to wrap up some subplots.

2. Martian Manhunter #20-24 “Revelations”

No surprise here. Manhunter fans love stories where he's woven into the fabric of DC history, and the series of short stories were well received upon release. However, the majority of votes came from "Double Stuff," the humorous JLI flashback with guest art by Doug Mahnke. I suppose "Mars Needs Chocos!"

1. Justice League America #38-40 “Justice League versus Despero

In terms of the great Martian Manhunter nemesis, this blog's Great Taste/Less Filling debate has always trended toward Commander Blanx vs. Malefic. Ma'alefa'ak may have smoked Blanx on this countdown, but it's pretty clear Despero is the true threat. Considering I run Despero theme months here, and made a point of covering this epic last year for Despero's 50th birthday celebration, I'm cool with that. This is certainly one of the greatest and most broadly read Manhunter stories, though the shared spotlight and aspects of the ending sees it lowered in my esteem.

Now that you've heard my thoughts on CBR readers' choices, I'd like to hear yours! Drop a comment, or vote for the best of CSBG's selections in our new poll on the sidebar. We'll be revisiting this topic a few times in the near future...


mathematicscore said...

I voted in your poll for In My Life, as I feel it's the Most complete, and the Apokalips stuff felt less cliche than the revelations stuff.

American Secrets is great, but feels incomplete, as I feel straight up superheroics are pretty key to J'onn, and it's tone is a bit differnt.

The one thing missing to me is his first mini, but I Acknowledge it's not for everyone.

Diabolu Frank said...

See, this is why I like comments. I had you pegged as the Despero vote. Go figure.

I very much prefer "In My Life" to "Revelations." In fact, I didn't even like the latter, with "Double Stuff" being the lipstick on the pig. It was alright, and I definitely dug the art, but Ostrander's comedy-fu was futile against the Masters of Bwah-ha-ha. With "Life," I'm on record with my issues on the art, Malefic and the New Gods, but the story was solid enough.

I think CSBG's readers drafted an interesting list, but you should know I've got a ton of material I'd press forward instead.

mathematicscore said...

You know, aside from Flesh and Bones, which seems anachronistic, I'm actually not sure what you would/could put ahead of these.


mathematicscore said...

Oh, and as for the despero storyline, that's more JLI than Martian Manhunter, and what's more, J'onn gets his ass handed to him physically, even though he pulls the Psychic KO; And not in a Superman Doomsday fashion.

My read of J'onn's control over his form means strength-wise he should be able to compete with pretty much anyone.

Diabolu Frank said...

A.S.A.P. I've got a follow-up CSBG-related post, and December of Despero needs to get started, so it'll be next week at the earliest.

Tom Hartley said...

I wasn't as bothered by Ostrander's series as some folks around here, but the clumsy mash-up of Kirby's Fourth World and Ostrander's remix of Dematteis' Mars that was "In My Life" didn't do anything for me.

"Double Stuff" was competent JLI fan fiction.

I kinda' liked the Superman chapter of "Revelations". It makes sense for J'Onn to worry that such a powerful being may pose a threat to humanity. After having spent two decades preparing for the day when he might have to kill a monster, he and Superman meet as friends.

Diabolu Frank said...

Gah! If I hadn't gotten an email notification on this comment, I'd have never known to rescue it from the spam folder. What is Blogspot's problem?

I like that line about "Double Stuff." Any additions you'd make to this list, given your time as editor of the Archive Editions?

Tom Hartley said...

I'm tempted to turn it into a game, like the fake Archives, imagining what DC would publish in a GREATEST MARTIAN MANHUNTER STORIES collection. All of those recent "Greatest Stories" collections were 192 pages, right? Did they have introductions, of writer and artist bios. I'm not going to write a fake intro; I'm just wondering how much room I would have for reprinted stories before I list them.

As for my personal favorites, everything after AMERICAN SECRETS is a distant second.

I'll email Google and find out what their problem is.

Tom Hartley said...

Once again, these are not necessarily my favorites (although many of them are), but rather my imagining of what DC might actually publish. I'm hoping that J'Onn's death in FINAL CRISIS no longer happened, thanks to the DCnÜ reboot, so I left out "Requiem".

Written by Joe Samachson, Jack Miller, Denny O'Neil, Bob Haney, Steve Englehart, Mark Verheiden, Keith Giffen, J. M. DeMatteis and John Ostrander
Art by Joe Certa, Dick Dillin, Michael Netzer, Curt Swan, Ken Steacy, Tim Gula, Doug Mahnke, Sid Greene, Terry Austin, Murphy Anderson, Frank McLaughlin and Patrick Gleason
Cover by Alex Ross
192 pages

"The Strange Experiment of Dr. Erdel" (6 pages)
Detective Comics #225, November 1955

"The Unmasking of J'Onn J'Onzz" (6 pages)
Detective Comics #273, November 1959

"The Invaders from the Space Warp" (12 pages)
Detective Comics #311, January 1963

"The Death of John Jones, Detective" (12 pages)
Detective Comics #326, April 1964

"...And So My World Ends" (23 pages)
Justice League of America #71, May 1969

"Mission: Catch a Killer" (6 pages)
Adventure Comics #449, January/February 1977

"Return to Destiny" (6 pages)
Adventure Comics #450, March/April 1977

"The Suspects" (6 pages)
Adventure Comics #451, May/June 1977

"Today Mars, Tomorrow... the Universe" (20 pages)
World's Finest Comics #245, June/July 1977

"The Origin of the Justice League -- Minus One" (33 pages)
Justice League of America #144, July 1977

"The Secret Origin of the Martian Manhunter" (12 pages)
Secret Origins #35, 1988

"The Men I Never Was" (20 pages)
Justice League International Annual #3, 1989

"Double Stuff" (22 pages)
Martian Manhunter #24, November 2000

Diabolu Frank said...

That is a darned fine list, Tom. I would not disagree with any of those choices, though I might have to swap in some favorites if I did one of my own. I've actually been thinking about doing a fake Martian Manhunter greatest stories for a long time, but I've been putting it off until I read every Silver Age story, which is to say indefinitely. It looks like you've got the matter well in hand!

will_in_chicago said...

I liked the list, but I hope that in ten years time that we will see some new entries.

Diabolu Frank said...

Yeah, the newest story is a decade old. That's quite a dry spell.

Tom Hartley said...

Are there any other recent contenders besides "Requiem"?

Diabolu Frank said...

Like I said, nothing this decade except the two books from this decade, with many considering DC: The New Frontier to be a modern classic. I couldn't have been more obviously unclear and ill-informed. Would everyone forgive me if I did a frowning/confused emoticon?

LissBirds said...

Well, you know my vote went to American Secrets, because I think that is the paragon of Martian Manhunter stories, and the mold I wish all future stories would be cast in.

I *did* cheat and vote twice, however, because I really do think DC: New Frontier captured an aspect of the Martian Manhunter that I really liked. I could be emotionally biased because essentially it was my first exposure to the character.

"Double Stuff" is a guilty pleasure kind of story..."fan fiction" describes it perfectly. Somehow it just works for me, though.

The only other story I feel strongly about is the Despero one. I just can't get psyched up about Ostrander no matter how hard I try.

It would be nice if there were some more recent entries to the "Greatest Stories Ever Told" list, but I'm not holding my breath.

Diabolu Frank said...

Regardless of the double vote (shame-shame,) the favorites haven't clustered quite as expected. While some duds remain, there seems to be different flavors serving a variety of tastes on this list. I'm cool with that.