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.

1 comment:

will_in_chicago said...

These are great issues, and I think that there is a lot to work with for background on J'Onn. Sadly, it looks like you may be more aware of previous continuity than the folks at DC.