Wednesday, February 29, 2012

2010 Trends International Justice League Martian Manhunter Sticker

The Irredeemable Shag brings us another swell sticker selection, as he did with Batman: The Brave and the Bold last year. This batch is by Trends International, also responsible for the sparkly Sandylion Sticker Bits, although this set features modern comic art by Ed Benes. It must have been some work to keep young kids from gettin' love drunk on lovely lady lumps, but the company somehow managed to comb the Benes body of body work to avoid the heroines' humps. In the case of the Martian Manhunter here, this appears to be recycled from the Ata-boy Brightest Day Magnet.

More JLA Stickers

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Alter Egos: Nar
Occupation: Scientist
Marital Status: Unknown
Known Relatives: None
Group Affiliation: None
Base of Operations: Pluto
First Appearance: House of Mystery #159 (June, 1966)

Nar was considered the most brilliant and evil scientist on the dwarf planet Pluto. Becoming aware that a million Mercurian heavy gold pieces were to be transported aboard a Jovian cargo ship, Nar enlisted the aid of the bandit Devil Men to steal the shipment. A single blast from the solar-gun on Nar's ship opened up the cargo hold, and the Devil Men ventured into outer space in suits to procure the ill-gotten gain. Nar hid the treasure on Earth, and one Plutonian year later, called the Devil Men back together to collect and divvy the loot. Unfortunately, the Devil Men decided to cut Nar out, and he was gunned down by their leader L'lex. It is unclear whether Nar was killed, but he had set a trap for the Devil Men that appeared to definitely seal their fates.

Powers & Weapons:
Nar appeared to have access to a good deal of powerful technology, with the mind to use it.

Quote: "It is safe now for me to return and collect the treasure!"

Created by Jack Miller and Joe Certa

Monday, February 27, 2012

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

The 2011 edition of CSBG's "The Greatest _____ Stories Ever Told" wrapped in late December, not long after the Martian Manhunter entry, so I decided to look them all over. I was struck by how often stories with a heavy Martian Manhunter presence made these other lists, and yet they were not reflected in J'Onn's own. I'd also like to point out that I was looking out for my other blogs, and I was surprised by how few stories spotlighting someone as well known as Wonder Woman made these lists in comparison with J'Onn. Hell, the Amazing Amazon still hasn't received her own spotlight list, so I detect a real lack of love there. As for say, the Atom? Forgetaboutit. Still, I'm pleased with all these additions to the Alien Atlas annals...

The Greatest Len Wein Stories Ever Told!
6. DC Comics Presents #27-29 “Where No Superman Has Gone Before”
Mongul is introduced, along with Warworld, in this three-parter that also involved the Martian Manhunter, Supergirl and the Spectre!! Art by Jim Starlin.

My love for this story is well documented, even if J'onn J'onzz's only contribution was to the first part.

The Greatest Steve Englehart Stories Ever Told!
8 – The Secret Origin of the Justice League!
Englehart uses the entirety of the 1950s DC Universe to tell the secret origin of how the Justice League REALLY got together!

It certainly appears to have been a major influence on Grant Morrison’s first JLA arc.

Dick Dillin drew the story.

This was the story that reintroduced J'onn J'onzz to JLA fans after nearly a decade's absence, as well as injecting McCarthyism and a firm period setting into Martian Manhunter lore. Plus, Commander Blanx indirectly led to the creation of the team and instigated a crossover amongst most 1950s DC properties in an early example of sweeping retroactive continuity.

The Greatest Keith Giffen Stories Ever Told!
15. Justice League America #34-35 “Kooey Kooey Kooey island scheme”

Blue Beetle and Booster Gold license the JLI name to a resort on the island of Kooey Kooey Kooey and, well, let’s just say things don’t go as planned. Perhaps the most famous of “Blue and Gold”‘s hare-brained schemes. Plotted by Giffen, scripted by J.M. DeMatteis and drawn by Adam Hughes.

Not a favorite. In fact, I came to really dislike Ted and Booster because of this tale.

The Greatest Keith Giffen Stories Ever Told!
6. Justice League International Annual #4 “JLAntarctica”

After the Injustice League approaches Maxwell Lord about going straight, he figures out a way to get them AND G’Nort out of his hair – he establishes a NEW Justice League for them set in..Antarctica. But when the hapless new heroes actually stumble into a fiendish plot involving genetically altered penguins, well, hilarity ensues. Plotted by Giffen, scripted by J.M. DeMatteis and drawn by Mike McKone.

That's actually the J.L. America Annual #4, and it's a genuine classic. A story both very funny and a little scary, with great art by Mike McKone.

The Greatest Keith Giffen Stories Ever Told!
4. Justice League America #38-40 “JLA vs. Despero”

Despero comes back to Earth looking for revenge on the Justice League that last defeated him. The current Justice League stands in the way of his revenge. A pitched battle ensues and a member of the League is seemingly killed plus will the Martian Manhunter make a tragic sacrifice to defeat Despero? Plotted by Giffen, scripted by J.M. DeMatteis and drawn by Adam Hughes.

The Greatest Keith Giffen Stories Ever Told!
3. Justice League #1-7 “A New Beginning”

The new Justice League is formed! Organized by Maxwell Lord, this is the initial series of stories that involve a fight with the mystical Grey Man, as well as the famous “One Punch!” fight between Guy Gardner and Batman. Plotted by Giffen, scripted by J.M. DeMatteis and drawn by Kevin Maguire.

Fun stuff here, though the book didn't really start kicking for me until #8...

The Greatest Darkseid Stories Ever Told!
Entries featuring the Martian Manhunter include Cosmic Odyssey, Legends, Final Crisis, & Rock of Ages

The Greatest Mark Waid Stories Ever Told!
5. JLA: Year One

Waid and Barry Kitson delivered this impressive year-long mini-series examining the origins of the Justice League. The phrase “love letter to the Silver Age” is used a lot, but this project is at least a legitimate usage of the phrase, as Waid and Kitson definitely embrace the oddity and coolness of DC’s Silver Age, while also examining the personalities of the various founders of the Justice League a lot deeper than ever was possible during the actual Silver Age.

Mark Waid should have had a run with the Martian Manhunter. Between this, "A Midsummer's Nightmare" and "Terror Incognita," he wrote some of the greatest JLA stories to co-star J'Onn J'Onzz.

3. JLA #43-36 “Tower of Babel”

We’ve long heard tell that, if he were properly motivated, Batman could take down pretty much any hero (like if they went crazy, etc). Well, in this storyline, Ra’s Al Ghul uses Batman’s secret contingencies for each hero to take down the Justice League. Even if the League can manage to survive the plans Batman had for them, can they possibly forgive him for it? Howard Porter and Steve Scott drew this arc, which was Waid’s first arc as the regular JLA writer.

Not a lot of J'Onn in this one, but it's good stuff, and inspired Malefic's first appearance in animation.

Mark Waid’s Greatest Mark Waid Stories Ever Told!
7. Silver Age: Dial H for Hero #1 – ‘The One-Man Justice League’ [N/A]

This tie-in to Waid’s fun Silver Age event was drawn by regular Waid collaborator Barry Kitson. The Silver Age event let Waid get cut loose with his love for DC’s Silver Age characters, and the results were an utter blast, including this Martian Manhunter/Robby Reed team-up. Hey, is this the first issue showing Robby Reed as living in Colorado?

This is the second comic on this list from May 2000 – a pretty good month for Waid, huh?

Waid himself selected this Martian Manhunter co-starring video, though I'm not all that into it.

The Greatest J.M. DeMatteis Stories Ever Told!
9. Justice League America #38-40 “Justice League versus Despero”

Working from a Keith Giffen plot, DeMatteis scripted this emotionally charged confrontation between the Justice League and Despero. Despero’s attempt at revenge on the former members of the League (the last team to defeat him) is chilling. Adam Hughes and Joe Rubinstein did the artwork.

5. Justice League #1-6, Justice League International #7 “A New Beginning”

Working from a Keith Giffen plot, DeMatteis scripted the return of the Justice League and institution of the Justice League International. Kevin Maguire, Terry Austin and Al Gordon did the artwork.

The Greatest Gardner Fox Stories Ever Told!
8. Justice League of America #9 “The Origin of the Justice League”

Well into the series run, Fox finally revealed the origin of the League.

7. Mystery in Space #75 “The Planet That Came to a Standstill!”

In this acclaimed tale, Fox shows how Adam Strange first met the Justice League. They fight against Kanjar Ro.

6. Justice League of America #9-10 “Fantastic Fingers of Felix Faust/One Hour to Doomsday”

This is the introduction of Felix Faust, who tries to gain power by using the Demons Three (also making their first appearance).

4. Justice League of America #21-22 “Crisis on Two Earths”

The first Justice League/Justice Society crossover!

Finally, here are some offered omissions and interesting comments from the CSBG Martian Manhunter post...
  • "Huh– I thought Trial By Fire was terrible and would rank any issue or any arc of the Ostrander-Mandrake series (e.g. Rings of Saturn, which I loved) way, way above it"
  • "American Secrets is awesome. Sadly overlooked, as is most of what Gerard Jones has done."
  • "I love American Secrets. I wish they’d collect it."
  • "I voted for “Rings of Saturn” and not “Trial by Fire” too. But I like “Trial by Fire” well enough... I also thought about voting for “Continuity Bandits” from Kyle Baker’s Plastic Man, which is maybe the best-ever silly use of J’onn."
  • "Wow, I’d totally forgotten about American Secrets. That was a good comic."
  • "...I’d have put the original MM-Despero leaguer chess story and the Martian Invasion destroys the JLA satellite story onto my abbreviated version. And probably the DCCP issue with Mongul, too."
  • "In My Life is SO good."
  • "I’d have gone with Justice League: A Midsummer’s Nightmare, but settled for JLA #1-4, “New World Order.” ...To me the most glaring omission was the Malefic story arc from early in the ongoing... It’s so good that I voted for that as my #1. It really created a brilliant arch-nemesis for J’onn, and the stakes and consequences were suitably epic... I echo the love for #13-16, “Rings of Saturn,"
  • "I always really liked how Morrison used him in his JLA stories..."
  • "There was a great story from Justice League Quarterly (can’t cite the specific issue, sorry) where J’onn investigated a black girl’s death during a church burning in Alabama during the Civil Rights movement that I’m sorry didn’t make the cut..."
  • "6 of the stories from my list made the countdown. The aforementioned Ma’alefak & “Rings of Saturn” were on it... Martian Manhunter #0... JLA 15..."
  • "Aww. I’m disappointed but not surprised to see that the Verheiden/Steacy Secret Origins story from 1989 didn’t make the cut... Other stories I was hoping to see: the Chuck Dixon Detective Comics story where J’onn and Batman team up against Firefly... the first Giffen/Dematteis Justice League annual..."
  • "There was an amazing story from some annual (late nineties, maybe early 2000s) where John Jones goes to investigate some little Southern town..."
  • "...I believe that’s the JLA Annual 1 from the late 90s. That is a good one, iirc."
  • "More than a bit surprised that the late 80′s Martian Manhunter mini by DeMatteis and Badger didn’t make the list... provided the foundation for many of the stories that did..."

My favorite was this:
"As much as i like the character…I hate the name martian manhunter."

For the record, the strip was called "John Jones, Manhunter from Mars," then switched to "J'onn J'onzz." He was rarely referred to as "Martian Manhunter" in his own book, as the name really developed from his super-heroization after joining the JLA. It didn't come into popular use until the 1970s, and I too prefer simply "Manhunter." However, once all the other Martians were killed off, it made a lot more sense to refer to him as "The Martian." If I were the last Earthling, I'd expect the same. It also avoids confusion with the dozens of other DC Manhunters, and yields much more specific search results on Google.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

2011 Martian Manhunter OYL art by Gerard de la Costa

Click To Enlarge

"J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter. I actually like his new costume; the old one (boyshorts, pirate boots, x-suspenders and a cape... really?!!) just didn't make any sense to me. It always looked like J'onn was either heading out to a rave or hopping onto a Pride Parade float.

This sketch is dedicated to Sarah, Neil's better half. Her pleas that Neil's Martian Manhunter costume can be worn throughout the year (especially date night!) and not just on Hallowe'en, have always fallen on deaf ears."

Saturday, February 25, 2012


Known Aliases: "Magician-Thief"
Occupation: Thief
Marital Status: Unknown
Known Relatives: None
Group Affiliation: None
Base of Operations: Space-Prison orbiting Mars
First Appearance: Detective Comics #231 (May, 1956)

An outlaw from Mars was serving sentence for his crimes, floating in space for the duration of his term. However, his guard belt malfunctioned, and whisked him to Earth. Once there, the Martian Criminal launched a crime spree around Middletown U.S.A. Although disguised as a human, the Martian Criminal openly flaunted his many powers, attracting widespread attention. Following his fantastic heists at a bank and aboard the luxury liner Queen Ann, the Martian was soon dubbed a "Magician-Thief."

Having drawn the attention of Police Detective John Jones, who was himself a concealed Martian, the thieving Martian was initially presumed an "Earthling magician... a master of the art of deception!" Severely undermining that theory, the "Magician-Thief" was next seen robbing an armored car by literally picking it up and carrying it through the streets on his back. After John Jones' Atom Vision super-heated the car, the Magician-Thief dropped it and appeared to vanish into thin air. Instead, the Criminal had turned invisible and run to hide in his hotel room. Detective Jones traced him by listening for the thief's distinctive footsteps with super-hearing, then nabbed him through a combination of invisibility and intangibility.

The Magician-Thief would not give up so easily, and again vanished from sight, this time shrinking to the size of a mouse. John Jones joined the thief at three inches' height, and with a tackle, ended the chase. The Martian Criminal revealed his true form, handed his guard belt over to John Jones, and seemed to expect some measure of leniency from a countryman. Instead, Jones repaired the belt and sent his cursing countryman back to life in Space-Prison.

Martians are known to possess a virtually limitless array of potential super-powers. Among those displayed by the Martian Criminal were intangibility, invisibility, levitation, super-strength, shrinking, shapeshifting, and a form of Martian Vision favoring telekinesis.

Like most of his race, the Martian Criminal has a catastrophic vulnerability to fire, so much so that its mere mention sends him running in a panic.

Quote: "Huh? I don't know how you managed to find me, mister, but you'll never take me in..."

Created by Jack Miller and Joe Certa

Friday, February 24, 2012

2010-2011 The Justice League of America 100 Project charity art by Scott Koblish

Click To Expand & Enlarge

Scott Koblish is a great embellisher. Probably my favorite run of his was working over Ron Garney in the closing days of Captain America volume one. I haven't seen him pencil much before, and he has a cartoony thing going on, but what I really dig is the pop of his inks and the density of information/detail in this piece.

In late 2000, a consortium of comic publishers came up with the idea to create a financial safety net for comic creators, much in the same fashion that exists in almost any other trade from plumbing to pottery. By March of 2001, the federal government approved The Hero Initiative as a publicly supported not-for-profit corporation under section 501 (c) (3).

Since its inception, The Hero Initiative (Formerly known as A.C.T.O.R., A Commitment To Our Roots) has had the good fortune to grant over $400,000 to the comic book veterans who have paved the way for those in the industry today.

The Hero Initiative is the first-ever federally chartered not-for-profit corporation dedicated strictly to helping comic book creators in need. Hero creates a financial safety net for yesterdays' creators who may need emergency medical aid, financial support for essentials of life, and an avenue back into paying work. It's a chance for all of us to give back something to the people who have given us so much enjoyment.


Please enjoy this gallery of ALL 104 original Justice League of America #50 Hero Initiative covers!

Hardcover and softcover versions of a book collecting all the covers will be available in December, 2011. AND all the originals will be auctioned off according to the following schedule:

• December 3, 2011, Meltdown Comics, Los Angeles, CA: Display of all 104 covers and auction of first one-third
• Jan. 20-22, 2012, Tate's Comics, Lauderhill, FL (Miami/Ft. Lauderdale area): Display of remaining covers and auction of second one-third.
• Feb. 17-19, 2012: Orlando MegaCon, Orlando, FL: Display and auction of final one-third.

All covers will be sold via LIVE AUCTION on-site at the venues above. If you cannot attend but wish to bid, proxy bidding is available.
Contact Joe Davidson at:
Deadlines for each grouping are below, and each cover carries a minimum bid of $100.

Special thanks to Firestorm Fan for the notice!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Guard Belt

One method of managing criminals on Mars is the "Guard Belt," a device that leaves felons floating harmlessly in space. It has not been explained whether the guard belt is used indefinitely on its own, or simply as a means of preventing escapees from Space-Prison to return to the surface of Mars itself. One defective belt caused a Martian criminal to fly through space and land on the planet Earth. It was repaired by the Martian scientist J'onn J'onzz, himself stranded on Earth, who considered using it to return to Mars. Fearing the Martian criminal would rob and plunder an innocent planet if left to his own devices, J'Onzz instead commanded the guard belt to return the fugitive to finish his sentence.

First Appearance: Detective Comics #231 (May, 1956)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Post-Pointal Depression: Chronic Case of DCnÜ

The news of the rebooted DC Universe broke in May of last year, and was first addressed here with the announcement that Cyborg was now the seventh founder of the JLA. I tried to see the silver lining of the Martian Manhunter being treated as an independent solo hero certain to receive a series spun out of the successful Brightest Day, and offered some tongue-in-cheek plot suggestions. Despite early editorial protestations, it became increasingly clear that pre-Flashpoint continuity was going out the window, and that the former "heart and soul of the Justice League" had now never been a member of any incarnation. Given pause, I reflected on how removing the JLA retcon crutch could be good for the character, even as it became increasingly unlikely that a solo series was in the cards. Finally, it was revealed that the Manhunter from Mars would be part of a DC-integrated Stormwatch, which I found heartening. After co-founding the Justice League of America in 1960, J'Onzz was among the first to ditch the team, and his return heralded his new role as The Patron Saint of Loser Super-Heroes. He'd helped usher in the first multi-ethnic League, and led a unique serio-comic super-team consisting of recently integrated refugees from the defunct Fawcett and Charlton comic lines. Why not act as DC's official ambassador to Wildstorm, which seemed to have an enthusiastic writer who I hoped might have a sense of humor about it all? I'd rather have good comics taking the road less traveled than have Martian Manhunter take part in my dim expectations of a samey-same Justice League. Half a year into the "New 52," and unfortunately, my best hopes for the Manhunter have been dashed.

I was a fan of Wildstorm, and the company has loads of history that seems likely to be completely ignored as part of Ultimate DC Comics™: That Old Crap Don't Matter None. To explain the reference, Marvel Comics launched their Ultimate line of books a decade or so back, which was intended as a separate entry level continuity for new readers to sample their most popular concepts. The sub-line was initially very successful because it allowed comics' most commercial creators carte blanche with the characters on a fresh canvas unburdened by continuity. That also meant that the line lacked the same structural integrity as the mainstream Marvel Universe, and became burdened by its own confusing, contradictory internal history. The mainstream Marvel U proceeded to adopt the best received Ultimate innovations and reabsorb its creators until the Ultimate line became a sort of boutique to try out new creators and indulge in media bait like an Afro-Latino Spider-Man. In some respects, DC's play is smart in that there is no "real" continuity for the New 52 to compete with, and the talent pool is spread across one line instead of divided up. On the other hand, fans of DC and Wildstorm material produced over the last quarter century have seen those stories tossed in the trash, meaning the entire shared universe now stands on the efforts of what is being produced right now by talent spread thin.

An initiative this large demands massive resources and tons of planning, which DC has demonstrated that they substantially lack. Take for instance the tale of the cover to Stormwatch #1. The originally solicited cover by Miguel Sepulveda misidentified the central character in the image, either by coloring Apollo incorrectly or by putting Jack Hawksmoor in the wrong costume. A potential correction was offered by switching the piece out for an entirely new cover by Chris Burnham. The same swap was intended for the second issue, as Burnham was scheduled as regular cover artist from #3 on. However, to date none of Burnham's covers have been used, and his solicited pieces were instead replaced by Sepulveda's. All that having been said, what does it matter, since neither Sepulveda nor Burnham are proven commercial artists known to influence sales? As of January 2012, Stormwatch is ranked #29 in the "New 52," and #65 in overall sales.

How about a more personal pet peeve? The first new Stormwatch image was unveiled on the official DC Blog on June 9th, 2011. Later that same day, Cully Hamner's Apollo redesign followed. Throughout the summer convention circuit, DC showed off tons of similar design sketches. Nine months later, that Apollo costume has yet to be seen inside an issue of Stormwatch, and I'm still waiting for the opportunity to comment at length on the as yet unreleased Martian Manhunter redesign template. I can't tell you who came up with it, and I'm not sure of its intricacies, since there's been inconsistencies in how it's drawn by artists. I'm hopeful to have it for reference sooner or later, in case I get a sketch of it done at one of this summer's conventions. If not, maybe I'll drag a bunch of issues to the con and make my own. Salting the wound, the DC blog has offered three centuries worth of Talon designs, because he won't end up being the Hush of the 2010s.

Out of the New 52 titles, I've tried Justice League, Aquaman, Detective Comics, Action Comics, Green Lantern Corps, Legion Lost, Stormwatch, Grifter, and Demon Knights. I haven't especially liked any of them, and have so far only kept two because I like the characters/art. I had a similar reaction to the mini-series The Huntress and Legion: Secret Origin. Blackhawks, O.M.A.C., Hawk and Dove, Mister Terrific, Static Shock and Men of War have been cancelled, and I don't intend to try any of their replacements. I'm not as put off by the changes made to characters or the universe as I am the lack of anything interesting happening overall. For instance, if you took the four issues of The Huntress I've read so far and cut off their spines, I'd have trouble working out which pages were in which issue. Every issue has a scene on a boat, a scene of Huntress climbing around a building in the dark, a scene with Helena meeting reporters that serve her exposition, a scene of Helena eating at a restaurant, a scene of bad guys trafficking in scantily clad sex workers, and several scenes of Huntress beating up generic thugs. I understand from solicitation copy that the New 52 Huntress is now the Earth-Two Robin who got transplanted with the Earth-Two Supergirl to Earth-One, and that the pair assumed the new identities of Huntress and Power Girl. However, none of that happens in the totally pointless Huntress series, which is so poorly written that I have no intention of buying any more stories by Paul Levitz. While that's the worst example, almost every DC book I've tried has been all about the New 52 sizzle without offering a bit of steak. For example, I like the character of Aquaman, and I'm really glad to see him back to his iconic roots with his best girl Mera. His book is also gorgeously drawn and colored. My problem is that I can read each issue in five minutes, and not much has happened half a year in. Dude fought some sea creatures and Mera bought dog food. As much as I appreciate DC still holding the line at $2.99, I need more than that when I could rent three movies from a Redbox for the same money.

I stopped buying Marvel Comics with any regularity in the mid-90s because despite solid art and production values, the stories stank, and I found myself increasingly disengaged from the characters. Marvel has had creatively good and bad times in the years since, but once I'd gotten tired enough not to care anymore, the divorce remained largely final. Another problem I have is that nothing ever changes at Marvel. They locked in a commercially viable template in the early '90s that continues to play out in movies I watch and television shows other people do, but has frozen the comic book universe in a way that recalls Bronze Age DC. When even Bucky won't stay dead, who gives a crap about a temporary new Ghost Rider? Marvel seems to have had a lot of disgruntled fans since the paradigm shift of Civil War slowly shifted back to a muddled middle ground, and I think DC has capitalized on that questing fan base with the New 52. However, is it reasonable to expect to keep them with the latest return of Darkseid and Power Armor Super-Family? Is a different version of the same old thing going to keep comic sales from falling steadily lower into the five digits?

DC Comics has a history of failing the market in general and Martian Manhunter in particular, so none of this should be all that big of a surprise. Between establishing and contradicting facts, all we really know about the character is that J'Onn J'Onzz has a familiar set of powers, is probably still from a version of Mars, and was probably not a member of the Justice League. Obscurities like Bloodwynd aren't an issue, because outside of a few favored sons like Batman and Green Lantern, pretty much nobody's stories prior to the new #1s "happened." The entire universe started six months ago, and based on what I've read, it leaves a lot to be desired.

Paul Cornell's Stormwatch story arc "The Dark Side" was a jumble of subplots whose central driving story ended ingloriously two-thirds of the way in. There was a menace that was put to rest despite a poorly organized team, which gets reconfigured in a painfully arbitrary fashion in the final third of the story. Whether it was editorial dictates or just plain bad writing, it summed up as a bunch of unlikeable, derivative characters tripping over one another to set up an upcoming crossover while the book's initial writer made a graceless exit. What was intended to be a central book in the line has instead found itself in the central sales region instead. Its third writer will come aboard with #9, in a tie-in to another book the guy's writing. Stormwatch is just one title, but the whole line is like that. I buy a Martian Manhunter guest appearance in Green Lantern Corps, and he only shows up as a deus ex machina when the writer got himself into a corner. That same writer wrote these same characters for years, and they're not much different for the New 52 banner. I buy a Martian Manhunter guest appearance in Legion Lost, and the writer is channeling his New Warriors glory days for his last issues on a book spun-off from a low seller that will be cancelled when DC launches its Third Wave. The appearance isn't bad, just meaningless in the scheme of things.

Will there be a Martian Manhunter #1 in 2012? I'm not sure it matters. Books launched after the New 52 #1 in September have done pretty poorly, and the creative team assigned would probably be the same assortment of mediocre talents who typically handle lower rung books. I haven't been happy with DC since Dan Didio finally won his battle with Paul Levitz over the soul of the company, and I suspect directions from on high have had a negative impact on many books. Most likely, a Martian Manhunter mini-series would be a calculated initiative to set up some goings on in another book, or a dumping ground for loyal cronies to collect a check until they "prove" a Manhunter book can't sell yet again.

I've got more money to spend on comics now than I've had in years, and what do I spend it on? My last comic order included a collection of Matt Wagner Grendel stories, a second volume of Tim Seeley's Hack/Slash, and a graphic novel adaptation of one of my favorite books, The Girl Who Owned A City. I also ordered Aquaman and Stormwatch again, for now...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Stormwatch #5 (March, 2012)

A member of the collective of Stormwatch's mysterious bosses, the Shadow Cabinet, showed up to pin Adam One to a wall and declare that he had to die. Apparently, one has to pass through a "death pit" to enter the realm where the Shadow Cabinet exists, and so Adam was rendered clinically dead to pay them a visit. The visitor next asked who should now lead Stormwatch. The Engineer protested, asked questions, and tried in vain to probe the uninvited guest with her sensors. "I'm the one who writes your enormous checks. I'm the one who wiped your identities from the public record. I know you all very well" He then began airing dirty laundry about the individual members as a means of explaining how knowledgeable he was and why they should be disqualified from leadership. Jenny Quantum was too young, Jack Hawksmoor too unpredictable, the Engineer too individualistic, and Harry Tanner too lacking in power.

"J'Onn J'Onzz, the 'Martian Manhunter.' Telepathy, strength, shapeshifting, energy manipulation. He wants humans to think he's the last Martian: a tragic, noble orphan. But--" J'Onzz ordered him to be silent twice. "I know what you are, remember? I do not doubt you. And before you say it, I do not wish to lead Stormwatch." That left the Shadow Cabinet's choice for new leader, the Projectionist.

Meanwhile, Apollo and Midnighter were scurrying through the Eye of the Storm headquarters, looking for a discrete escape route. Midnighter revealed his face, that his name was Lucas, and that the pair were truly "two of a kind." Which is code for homosexual analogues of two-thirds of the DC Trinity, to be clear, who are fated to someday soon form the beast with one back and a reacharound. Midnighter was already finishing Apollo's sentences as part of his power, which wasn't at all like being stabbed in the neck with a chin spike.

The Shadow went back to his island home, unaffected by Jack's attempt to contain him. Meanwhile, Harry Tanner had himself snuck off to steal a bunch of Stormwatch's records, attracting Midnighter's attention. The Eminence of Blades claimed that without his leadership, the threat warned of by the Scourge of Worlds would destroy their world. Midnighter determined that Harry had an actual lying power, and after Tanner had tried to kill him and expressed a willingness to rule the world if need be to save it, took offense. Their battle was relatively brief, stopped short by Harry taking the Projectionist hostage. The pair went out an airlock just as a bomb Harry had set to "blow the alien horn" shattered the Eye, with the intention of killing everyone aboard instantaneously.

"The Dark Side: Part Five" was by Paul Cornell and Miguel Sepulveda. In a book now defined by the deus ex machina, it should come as no surprise when random cosmic guy shows up to tell bits of everyone's heretofore unrevealed DCnÜ history and crown a leader. I'm also done defending Cornell's underuse of the Martian Manhunter, especially in an issue where he and Apollo are conveniently distracted to facilitate a brawl between two lesser combatants. Tanner turned heel as expected, and stands revealed as a prefabricated nemesis for the rogues gallery-challenged Midnighter. Adam One and Projectionist are off the board, either because Cornell wrapped up his personal toys for later use elsewhere or because their whole purpose was to fall by numbers here. I'm really glad J'Onn J'Onzz is guest starring in a bunch of other books of late, because everyone else writes and draws him better than the "home team." Sepulveda can't even keep straight whether J'Onn's chest symbol is eight symmetrically crossed bars (a.k.a. the classic "pie") or the Atom's atom (three elliptical circles with six curves.) He also draws the back of J'Onn's head like its sloughing flesh off a ridge, or perhaps like he has a second brow, or maybe he's got a highrise Moe Howard. It's not as silly as the Coneheadhunter, but it's still pretty darn silly.

New 52's Day

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Vile Menagerie: DEVIL MEN OF PLUTO

Alter Egos: L'lex Xanadar and company
Occupation: Bandits
Marital Status: Unknown
Known Relatives: None
Base of Operations: B'ar Mountains of Pluto
First Appearance: House of Mystery #159 (June, 1966)

L'lex Xanadar and two unnamed partners were infamous bandit brothers from the dwarf planet Pluto, known at least as far as Mars to inhabit the lawless B'ar Mountains. Following a successful heist orchestrated by the scientist Nar, the Devil Men decided to gun down their benefactor and divide his share three ways. However, the treasure needed to be recovered from Earth, and involved a scavenger hunt for parts to a robot that, when constructed, would uncover the loot. The Devil Men made no attempt to conceal their presence on Earth, swiftly attracting the attention of the expatriate hero Martian Manhunter. This was a minor concern, as Plutonian weaponry easily routed any attempts by the Manhunter to hinder their progress. The robot was swiftly constructed, but a booby trap planted by Nar gave the scientist the last laugh. The Devil Men appeared to perish when the robot exploded in front of them.

Powers & Weapons:
The Devil Men possessed a wide variety of powerful weapons, including individual Plutonian handguns that could fire shrink rays, energy blasts, and an ultra-violet light flash capable of uncovering an invisible Martian. The group carried Element X2, crushed herbs that would form a fiery powder, in their belt pouches. They could fly for an undefined period of time through Plutonian gas-propelled flight capsules. The Devil Men's interplanetary travel was provided by a flying saucer that could deploy a giant buzz saw to shear away trees and create a landing field.

Quote: "Tell the Martian, L'lex! Demonstrate how courteous and friendly we can be, despite our sinister reputations!"

Created by Jack Miller & Joe Certa

Sunday, February 19, 2012

2011 Martian Manhunter art by by Ken House

Click To Enlarge

"Here's J'onn's shapeshifter/psychic stress response, or alternatively, he's scaring small children.
It seems that the rest of the gang was in a tender mood this week, so I almost hate to end the week on a note of grossness. It's dedicated to Sarah anyhow.


Saturday, February 18, 2012

2012 Comicpalooza Con Wish List WIP

The first year I attended Houston's biggest and (from my experience at least) best comic convention, I had never gotten a commission in my life, and had limited funds for which to procure them. My second year, I was much wiser, but a student with far fewer resources from which to derive commissions. God willing, come May, I'll finally have the time, forethought, and money to do this right. I've found that planning ahead is extremely helpful, because great artists don't always produce good sketches, and you can often get more bang for the buck uncovering new talent. That doesn't seem likely to be a problem this time, as the guest list has gotten steadily more intimidating over the course of the last few months. In fact, I've decided to open up your comments to help guide me in selecting from whom I should get commissions, and of what. The following is a list of attending artists up for consideration, ranked somewhat in order of desirability, but your input could certainly impact on that...

Joe Kubert
When I saw that one of the few surviving industry legends of the Golden Age was coming to town, I gasped. Surely the man who has taught generations of artists how to draw at the only comic art school in the world wouldn't be offering sketches? Well, I don't know for sure, but Comic Art Fans seem to have a fair selection of relatively recent sketches. I've tended to avoid getting any commissions of the Martian Manhunter himself, especially as modern artists had tended to draw him sooner or later as part of the JLA. However, I'm not sure that Joe's ever drawn the guy, and I can't imagine letting the chance at possibly the only waist up or full figure of J'Onn J'Onzz by Joltin' Joe pass me by!

The Reverend Dave Johnson
I've been a fan of this guy for decades, and he was the first artist announced that had me sweating. As much as I would love to see him draw a lesser known Manhunter character, he simply must do a straight-ahead J'Onn J'Onzz. That is, if I can beat back the crowds that will surely be rushing toward his table. I have serious doubts I can get in with enough time to get work from him, and price might still be an issue, as well.

Andrew Robinson
This guy is probably best known for his painted art of Hawkman and Starman covers, but what impressed me was the high quality of his convention sketches. He seems well suited for a more moody or esoteric character.

Paul Maybury
I'm not at all familiar with this guy's work, but his style reminds me of Paul Pope, and he doesn't do figure sketches so much as full scenes. Maybe it would be a better idea to come up with a scenario or versus match for him, rather than just say "draw this guy."

Howard Chaykin
Another industry great who for all I know has never drawn the Manhunter from Mars, and I feel he should. However, his convention sketches seem to be pretty basic headshots, which I find boring. I think I'd rather talk to him about a "take home" commission with serious meat on it that I might have to wait a few months for. Hope that doesn't equal serious scratch, as well.

Eric Basaldua
I liked some of this guy's Silvestri school art for Zenescope, and he seems to really like drawing hot and bothered girls in their underwear (or less.) Let's just say that if I wanted to con tribute to the scant amounts of Martian Manhunter porn on the internet (and droves of Miss Martian stuff,) he'd be the man to call. Given that this isn't a mature readers blog and also ick, I'm inclined to be contrary and get him to draw a guy in armor or something completely different from his norm.

Thom Zahler
This fellow does fantastic fully inked figures, so he's a can't miss on pretty much any Silver Age character I could throw at him. That said, I like flashy modern artists to work on the corny old characters, and retro cartoony artists to work on edgy modern characters. Then again, I'd like a Zook full figure as well, and Zahler might be a safer choice for Patrolwoman Diane Meade than, say, Eric "You Did What With Her Nightstick" Basaldua.

Marcio Takara
A clean artist who's drawn Martian Manhunter a few times already and seems like he could do justice to pretty much any character I asked of him. Of course, this begs the question of who the heck to have him draw, then.

Tyler Kirkham
Here's another guy with a Top Cow pedigree, who has also done some stuff at DC. It might be fun to have him draw somebody completely inappropriate, like maybe Monty Moran.

Ryan Stegman
This is another artist that might be a pain to get to, not so much because he's far famed, but because he just launched the Houston-based Spider-Man spin-off Scarlet Spider.

Gerry Kissell
I'm totally unfamiliar with this guy's work, there's barely anything online, and no strong indications of his inclination or quality of sketches.

Shane Davis & Michelle Delecki
To be honest, I expect the success of Superman: Earth One makes it likely that I won't be up for standing in line to get a piece "just 'cuz." The lady sometimes paints over Davis' work, and has her own Patrick Nagel sort of thing going on. I'd need to see/know more for her to seriously be in contention, though.

Bob Eggleton
A painter of monster stuff, so most likely he'll just be selling prints.

Tommy Phillips
I never heard of him, and the only art I found was a few pieces of zombified super-heroes.

I welcome your suggestions. If nothing else, this puts my priorities into perspective. I really need to get to Johnson and Kubert, since I think that if I can score commissions and early enough, they'll be mine that weekend. I should be able to talk to Chaykin about something for the future without time being an issue, and the rest I can work out on my feet. Of course, it's only February, so there's another three months for guests to be announced...

Friday, February 17, 2012

2010-2011 The Justice League of America 100 Project charity art by Bob Wiacek

Click To Expand & Enlarge

Since you're already looking at the founding members of the JLA battling Starro in a variation of their debut comic book cover, might as well check out their cameo on Jim Valentino's homage to the All-New, All-Different something something...

In late 2000, a consortium of comic publishers came up with the idea to create a financial safety net for comic creators, much in the same fashion that exists in almost any other trade from plumbing to pottery. By March of 2001, the federal government approved The Hero Initiative as a publicly supported not-for-profit corporation under section 501 (c) (3).

Since its inception, The Hero Initiative (Formerly known as A.C.T.O.R., A Commitment To Our Roots) has had the good fortune to grant over $400,000 to the comic book veterans who have paved the way for those in the industry today.

The Hero Initiative is the first-ever federally chartered not-for-profit corporation dedicated strictly to helping comic book creators in need. Hero creates a financial safety net for yesterdays' creators who may need emergency medical aid, financial support for essentials of life, and an avenue back into paying work. It's a chance for all of us to give back something to the people who have given us so much enjoyment.


Please enjoy this gallery of ALL 104 original Justice League of America #50 Hero Initiative covers!

Hardcover and softcover versions of a book collecting all the covers will be available in December, 2011. AND all the originals will be auctioned off according to the following schedule:

• December 3, 2011, Meltdown Comics, Los Angeles, CA: Display of all 104 covers and auction of first one-third
• Jan. 20-22, 2012, Tate's Comics, Lauderhill, FL (Miami/Ft. Lauderdale area): Display of remaining covers and auction of second one-third.
• Feb. 17-19, 2012: Orlando MegaCon, Orlando, FL: Display and auction of final one-third.

All covers will be sold via LIVE AUCTION on-site at the venues above. If you cannot attend but wish to bid, proxy bidding is available.
Contact Joe Davidson at:
Deadlines for each grouping are below, and each cover carries a minimum bid of $100.

Special thanks to Firestorm Fan for the notice!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

1999 Hasbro JLA Justice League of America Martian Manhunter 9" Doll

Allow me to introduce you to my little friend-- my favorite ever J'Onn J'Onzz toy, the JLA nine inch action figure DOLL. That's right-- you heard me-- it's a freakin' doll. "Action figures" peak at about seven inches, do not have removable cloth accessories, and should probably have some sort of weapon to enforce their manliness. If I can strip a figure buck-nekkid, it's a doll, and as you'll see later, the Manhunter from Mars qualifies.

The figure was a K·B Toys exclusive, and I bought it when it first came out for $14.99. Aquaman, The Flash, Green Lantern Kyle Rayner, and Superman Blue were part of the same line, but I don't recall their being exclusive. KB overstocked the Martian Manhunter for sure, and they routinely sold for considerably less than the initial retail price (probably right up until the chain's closure.) Even today, twelve years later, you can find them on eBay for less than I paid. Heck, I'm tempted to buy some for custom action figures, but I'm too old, impatient, unskilled, and time-strapped for all that. An abused friend shot the above picture around the year 2000 with a digital camera. I don't think they were so hot back then.

As announced on the box face, the doll is "FULLY POSEABLE WITH ARTICULATED FINGERS!" Let me just say, articulated fingers are the best! I loved Mego-style dolls growing up, but a kid will invariably try to put a weapon in their hand, and off comes their thumbs. Instead of wedging hunks of plastic into the single weakest point on a figure until it snaps, these newer dolls can actually open their hands and grasp things. In this case, J'Onn is constantly tugging on his cape like a security blanket, and I love it!

I no longer have my box, so I pulled a bunch of these pictures off eBay. As I recall, I kept mine folded up for a while, but I think it was eventually water damaged and discarded. Anyway, the interior was notable for its lack of being notable. That bland yellow really highlighted the impossible number of twist-ties binding J'Onn onto the card, including little plastic staple thingies in the cape. The twists also had plastic coverings over them plus box tape, so you basically needed a knife and a good 5-10 minutes to liberate the Alien Atlas. Looks a bit like King Kong, all trussed up as he was.

As best as I can tell, the art on the sides of the box was by Eduardo Barreto, drawing in a slightly more '90s style. Likely thanks in part to American Secrets, Barreto drew most Manhunter-centric licensed product around this time, including the 1999 Hasbro Justice League of America Monopoly Game, 2000 DC Super Heroes Magic Effects 500 Piece Puzzle and 2000 Warner Bros. Studio Store Exclusive JLA Mug.

The back of the box starts with JLA line boilerplate recycled from the standard figures...


The mightiest heroes in the universe
join forces to combat the world's
most diabolical villains!

...followed by...

This immensely powerful and strikingly quiet
hero is one of the DC Universe's most
powerful figures, and a founding member of
the Justice League of America. Born on the
planet Mars as J'onn J'onzz, the Martian
Manhunter has telepathic powers, massive
super-strength, and the abilities to both fly
and completely alter his appearance.
When the rest of his race was wiped out, he
came to Earth, where he adopted a new
identity as Detective John Jones.

There are so many things to love about this figure, the first being that you could fold the collar on the cloth cape. The 1998 JLA figure had an enormous plastic collar that stuck up, and '99 J'Onn still rocked the Dracula while imprisoned in the box. However, the cloth collar folds naturally, holds position, and looks fantastic. The plastic clasp goes through the mystery fabric, literally clasping through a teat and slot. In a rarity, the sculptors managed to give J'Onn a massive brow that still looks realistic and does not overwhelm his face.

Upon removing the cape, you can see J'Onn can move his head from side to side. The combination hinge and ball & socket joints at his shoulders and hips allow a full range of motion while providing enough resistance to insure the figure maintains a secure pose without a stand (not included besides.) J'Onn can pivot at the biceps and wrists, with an additional hinge in the wrist, plus at the knees and knuckles.

Like his cape clasp, J'Onn's harness secures at two points on the belt and the straps connect at two other points. The harness is flexible but firm and generally well made enough that you can remove and replace it without fear of tears. You can now see that the figure has both a pivot and hinge concealed in the folds of his boot at the ankles. There are slots where the figure could be placed on a stand, but I assure you, it stands exceptionally well under its own power. The right foot has a DC Comics copyright, and the left a Hasbro one (made in China.)

Here's the head in profile, displaying what I feel is the finest Martian Manhunter sculpt to date (even over the 13".) How many ways can I count the win? The slight furrowing of the brow and crinkle above the nose are perfect for indicating intense thought (telepathy?) or just irritation with the antics of the JLI. The beetle brow is thick, but phat rather than fat, distinctive while still appropriate hanging off somebody's face. There's some fine detail around the eyes, both gentle/human and glowing an unnerving red. The prominent cheekbones and facial lines are heroically handsome, yet severe in a way inappropriate for more traditional heroes. Really nice chin, well-sculpted ears, and a perfect Silver Age head shape (the wrinkles at the nape of the neck a nice touch.)

Without his easily removable doll trunks, you can get a better look at the figure's versatile hip joints. The only problem with the harness is that it restricts movement in the abdomen to an extent. In its absence, we find that J'Onn can maybe do a few crunches with effort, but he can readily pivot at the waist either way.

There really isn't any new information in this picture. I just threw it in for the ladies (and manly man-hunters.) I think these last two pictures do make my point about it being a doll, though.

Click To Enlarge

My friend Dave indulged me during the earliest days of the blog way back in the fall of 2007 (and a few score pounds ago) by taking pictures of me and this doll. He also worked out a few "special effects" shots that I decided to allow to be enbiggened. I think that's J'Onn landing on the roof of a Chipotle Mexican Grill off Richmond. It damned sure wouldn't be a Subway, with his getting left out of their recent tongue-in-cheek Justice League campaign.

Click To Enlarge

I'm not quite sure how I was holding the figure, but Dave clearly did an excellent job "removing the wires," or in my case the fingers, especially for his "ancient" 2007 technology. Dynamic pose. no?

Click To Enlarge

Here, the DC Direct Atom demonstrates how awesome articulated fingers can be! However, we'll close on a hero who is among the closest friends to the Martian Manhunter out of the classic Justice League, Aquaman. Today is a crossover with my Justice League Detroit blog, where I'll be covering the 1999 Hasbro DC Super Heroes Silver Age Collection Aquaman!

Before you go, here's another post with more animated photos showing love for this figure at Super-Duper Toy Box. Finally, a video on the figure, from a guy more knit-picky than me...