Friday, August 31, 2012

SurVILEvor Island: Fernus

Despite arguing against his validity based on an absence of printed follow-up battles over the past three decades, I'm a big fan of the premise of Mongul as a Martian Manhunter foe. In a close contest with solid voter turn-out, Mongul pulled off 62% favorability out of 26 votes (anagrammatical!) to remain in the rogues gallery of the Sleuth from Outer Space. Mister V has clashed with the Martian Manhunter in more solo stories than any other villain, but has never appeared on a comic book cover (not even his Justice League of America guest shot.) Commander Blanx appeared on one, and Professor Arnold Hugo two. Meanwhile the Trial by Fire trade paperback got a brand new Fernus cover, and despite appearing in only one story, The Burning's been on more frontpieces than those other guys combined.

"Trial by Fire" ran in six bi-weekly issues of JLA in 2003 that served to close out the Joe Kelly/Doug Mahnke run that was bad enough to convince the book's editor not to even try to hire a new creative team afterward. I'd be afraid to risk another "The Obsidian Age" myself. Anyway, Fernus was some recessive gene in the Martian body from prehistoric times that when triggered turned them into Dark Phoenix. Or something. Martian cavemen were on fire constantly and attended a never-ending planet wide Gathering of the Juggalos until the Guardians of the Universe suppressed their Shaggy 2 DopeNA to turn them all into Enya fans like J'Onn J'Onzz. Wishing to rid himself of a career long debilitating weakness against Faygo, the Martian Manhunter shacked up with Scorch White Trash, an inadvertent practitioner of juggalettery who caused the manifestation of Violent J'J'. This was an evil entity contained within J'Onzz who killed a bunch of Vandal Savage's henchmen with a hatchet and beat up the JLA until being stopped by (friggin') Plastic Man and J'Onzz's own disgust with the cancerous portion of his being that craved horrorcore (which he appropriately killed with fire.)

Fernus was an empty vessel that impressed a bunch of people who never read a Martian Manhunter solo story in their life and/or had a (ahem) burning desire to see the Alien Atlas matched up with someone KEWL, despite the story making less sense than the plot of The Dark Knight Rises. No one knows for sure what causes Bloodwynd, but it's a minor condition treatable with topical creams or suppositories. Fernus is more equivalent to continuity prolapse, something gnarly to look at on the internet, but a terror to experience for oneself. The best you can do is push its bowels back up in their hole and hope to God it never manifests again.

Despite Fernus being a short term, ill-advised heel turn of no great consequence, he did fight the League inside a uterus on that one cover, so he's got that going for him. The Burning also battled kinda-sorta Martian Manhunter foe Vandal Savage, and has ties to a version of Martian pre-history best left forgotten. He thrashed the JLA until the Alien Atlas turned up at the last minute for a deus ex machina finale. I'm not certain that he qualifies for the Menagerie, but he's certainly vile...

*Fifth anniversary celebration starts Saturday, but the poll results appear to still be fluid through Friday, so we'll see...

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Bloodwynd the Second Worst Leaguer Ever?

Well, another truncated Summer of Saturn is drawing to a close. I'd have liked to have gotten through to the synopsis for #7, but considering I was stuck on #2 for something like three years, I'm very pleased with the progress I did make over the past two months. I also have lots of major pieces 50-75% finished, like bios for Jogarr and Commander Synn, that will surely get pushed through next year.

Bloodwynd on the other hand has not been so lucky, still stalled out a few issues into his Justice League America run. I'm not a huge fan, but as a misguided bit of '90s window dressing, he has his notoriety. That was apparently enough for him to "earn" a second place ranking in Newsarama's 10 WORST Justice League Members of All Time countdown, though...
"Saddled with a name that suggested pandering to the Image Comics dynamic of the early 1990s -- no less an authority than Grant Morrison commented that "he does appear to have based his super identity on some alarming rectal trauma" in his Supergods book of last year -- and a confused debut that appears to have been based on the Martian Manhunter stealing his identity as the result of mind control and then being rescued by the Manhunter and Justice League from the very gem that gives him supernatural control over the dead, the fact that Bloodwynd made it into the League at all seems like a victory of sorts.

Sadly, it was a victory that was short-lived as the character placed himself on inactive duty after failing to help the team in a mission, further underscoring his odd (and never explained) tendency towards passivity, a trait that rarely makes for fan favorites. Outside of occasional cameos, he has remained in comic book limbo for more than a decade."
That wasn't actually Bloodwynd's story, but it's such a jumbled mess, the misrepresentation is forgivable. I think it was Rott presenting himself as Bloodwynd while possessing Martian Manhunter's body, but it could also be Bloodwynd believing he was himself while trapped in the Blood Gem buried in a shape-shifted Manhunter. I just broke your brain, didn't I?

I argue strongly against the inclusion of Gypsy and Vibe on this list, but it's difficult to defend Bloodwynd. When he wasn't paralyzed by indecision, he was embroiled in some form of treachery, and we still don't even know for sure which powers he possessed and which were on loan from J'Onn J'Onzz. Bloodwynd was basically the token black mystic when Doctor Mist wasn't available (or EXTREME!!!! enough.) The best validation that I can offer is that at least he wasn't as wretched as outliers like the Authority analogues in Justice League Elite.

I'd also like to point out that The Usurper came in at #6, but he still smells like #2 to me...

"It's easy to see why DC writers might have expected Red Tornado to be more successful than he eventually turned out to be. After all, Marvel was having a great deal of success with their introduction of the Vision over in Avengers, and if he had proven that even androids could cry, then Reddy would go even further, proving that androids could feel angst-ridden about anything and everything that ever happened to them.

As if the distinction of being the first emo robot in comics wasn't enough to make him a particularly annoying presence even on a team that specialized in annoying presences (hi, Green Arrow and Snapper Carr!), there's also the matter of his costumes: that Zatanna thought it was a good idea to give him striped leggings and an arrow on his forehead pointing to his nose still makes me wonder if she was playing some cruel joke to see if Reddy had mastered a sense of humor just yet.

No matter how many retcons the character went through - he's not a robot, he's a host body for the Tornado Champion! He's not a host body for the Tornado Champion, he's the Air Elemental! (and so on) -- nothing could make poor Red Tornado interesting enough to compare to his inspiration."
Has a New 52 RT been introduced yet? If there's one character who could benefit from a page one revision, It's bad old John Smith. I wouldn't even keep his gender, much less the manic-depressive robot with a Rannian demigod inside bologna.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

2012 Jemm, Son of Saturn Comicpalooza Commission by Lane Montoya

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As I've mentioned before, I wanted to get as wide a variety of pieces as possible going into this year's Comicpalooza for the fifth anniversary celebration. That included a "manga girls" bloc where I tried to match characters to art styles. I was thinking of an anime Zook, a Tuxedo Mask-ish Conjurer, and so on. The first day, my problem was that I had my kind of jealous girlfriend in tow, and tried to only approach female artists when I could break off on my own. It didn't help that three of them were grouped together at one stand, and in fact that stopped me on day two when I was on my own. It's bar logic-- how do you approach a group of women and choose one or two without offending the rest? That sounds sexist, but I speak from experience. One year, I kept setting up commissions with male artists that I'd vetted, but then threw a bone to his unknown buddy at the table, only to end up disappointed and cash poor as a result. I had a bit of that this year as well. At one con, a guy who was frankly just plain terrible horned in on two other artists' table to try to press me for a commission. Later, he found a permanent locale, and flagged me down again. I kept having to smile, nod, and back away without committing to anything (not even an opinion on his awful work.) It's awkward and a buzzkill for all concerned.

Instead of commissioning three artists, I got three pieces from one. Lane Montoya had a professional table where she offered prints, buttons and such. She had support working with her at the table, rather than competing for her dollars. After Friday's Princess Cha'rissa commission, I knew she offered quality full color commissions for a great price, on firm board that was polypagged and sealed with a nifty sticker. Where's my incentive to shop around?

I had a few subjects that hadn't worked out with other artists, but I felt bad about trading one half naked alien girl like Cha'rissa with another like Cay'an. Instead, I figured the Princess' intended from the "Rings of Saturn" arc, Jemm, would compliment nicely. On the down side, with the slight instruction of "again," Montoya provided another straightforward full figure. I haven't been a big fan of the ripped Jemm of recent years, preferring him as an exaggeration of a gangly teen, which Montoya captured here. The 8½" x 11" board couldn't quite fit it all though, and from a distance the cut-off near the ankles makes him look squat. Aside from that optical illusion, I think it's swell. I like Jemm's delicate features and slim build. The red flesh tones really pop, and my favorite element is the swirling, shimmering cape. It has the effect of appearing translucent with prismatic purples that look quite cool. It took a bit of time to pull off, so I picked this one up on Sunday, as well as offering a final commission where Montoya could really cut loose. We'll see that next month, but for now, check out Montoya's deviantART page.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

2012 “White Saturn Guard” custom figure by “monitor-earthprime”

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"The Saturnian Red, White and Yellow races are descended from clones of the Green, White and Yellow Martians."
I like that the customizer took the time to find an extremely obscure reference to yellow Martians, not to mention the little seen White Saturnian guard from Superman: World of New Krypton, but then kind of tossed it aside. Pretty much all the White Saturnian males appeared to die in the Great Holocaust, and those that survived (not to mention their Red counterparts) tend to have heads covered with hair. The specific guard referenced was also a brawny, surly looking guy who had wristbands and an ornate sash, whereas this is the Martian Manhunter painted white. Actually, the posture reminds me a lot of N'or Cott, and the face resembles M'gann M'orzz's representation of White Martians in Young Justice #6 (September, 2011). I like it quite a bit, especially the color scheme, but I still call b.s. on it being a proper White Saturnian. It's a sweet Bronze Age Pale Martian, though.

While I'm being a nitpicking ass, let me also point out that we have no confirmation that there is any such thing as a "Yellow Martian," and certainly no indication that any such beast influenced the creation of Saturnians. The more I've thought about it, the more I suspect/prefer B'rett as a mixed race or albino equivalent. What makes more sense-- a hitherto unknown third Martian type, or his being the product of a Desert and Pole Dweller? Anyway, I never heard of a Yellow Saturnian.

Monday, August 27, 2012

...of America

I got an email from Anj of Supergirl Comic Box Commentary today reading, "Weird lineup. Some potential... Can't wait to hear what you have to say." Seeing as this news generated more emails than than any other I can recall, there's a lot of excitement about J'Onn J'Onzz returning to a new Justice League of America...
"DC Comics announced at the DC Entertainment-All Access Sunday panel at Fan Expo Toronto that a new League will be forming.

Launching in 2013, DC Comics will publish a new ongoing comic book series, JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA, written by Geoff Johns and drawn by David Finch."

"This is a very different kind of team book,” says Geoff Johns. “On first glance, people might think the heroes of the JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA stand in the shadows of Superman, Wonder Woman and the rest of the JUSTICE LEAGUE, but Green Arrow, Katana, Martian Manhunter, the new Green Lantern, Stargirl, Vibe, Hawkman and Catwoman thrive in the shadows. They're underdogs who have everything to prove and something to lose. They're a team of unlikely heroes who will help one another discover they're as A-List as anybody -- yes, even Vibe. Though getting there won't be easy. Why they're formed, why each member joins, what they're after and who the society of villains is they're trying to take apart will all be clear in the first issue when it hits early 2013. David and I are really focused on delving deep into what it's like to not be a member of the big seven and why, sometimes, the grass isn't always greener on the other side."
I'm guessing the timing of the announcement has something to do with all the anti-DC press generated this week by Rob Liefeld's twitter antics and Judd Winick's stealthier departure from the company. Sunday morning in Canada? Anyway, I like seeing J'Onn with a more ragtag lot working outside the spotlight. The Patron Saint of Loser Super-Heroes is preferable as the Superman of a lesser League, and there's a much broader latitude for character dynamics once you get away from the icons. I was very disappointed that the Martian Manhunter was left out as a JLA founder in this continuity, and I was among the many fans deflated when he didn't even make the International one (a blessing, given that title was axed to ready this one's launch.

That having been said, once it was revealed that J'Onn would be the sole DC representative on the recreated Wildstorm team Stormwatch, I was swiftly won over by the potential of the hero taking part in an international clandestine group of protagonists freshly introduced to new readers. The Sleuth from Outer Space could have been at the flashpoint of the merging of two distinct continuities, a guide through the marriage of DC to WS. One year, three writers and more artists later, Stormwatch remains a complete mess of watered down Wildstorm material hovering on the fringes, less wedded than a groomsman and bridesmaid having a drunken tryst in the bathroom after the ceremony. Editorial is clearly still working in the background to integrate Wildstorm, and elements will surely come into play in the new Justice League of America title. It just isn't the same proposition though, although I couldn't help but notice similarities to an entirely different one...

...The 2007 incarnation of the Outsiders that never was. Martian Manhunter, Katana and Catwoman were all initially announced as members, then Green Arrow was offered as a replacement for Captain Boomerang Junior. As many as three completed issues featuring this team are probably still sitting unpublished in a drawer somewhere, as new creators were brought in to start from scratch on another line-up (although all four New 52 JLofA members figured into early issues anyway.) I was interested in that Outsiders volume at the time, since that has always been a thrown together assortment of character types that could only be classed up by recruiting from the b-list. For a Justice League though, that's a rather anorexic line-up. There's no way I'm buying that this exact group will still be in place by the twelfth issue of the series. Instead, we have a strawman group created specifically as a tie-in to the 2013 crossover event "The Trinity War," a rather inorganic development.

Frankly, this lot has the faint aroma of hubris. Geoff Johns is in Midas mode after his success on Aquaman, but his upcoming early departure from that book and the Barry Allen Flash reminds me of the sort of thing that turned off the fan bases of serial relaunch abandoners like John Byrne. You have to wonder if Johns thinks he's going to point to the bleachers and actualize Vibe: Rebirth for a fellow Detroit native, or make Katana DC's Michonne. Johns set up the least unsuccessful Hawkman series, lasting 66 issues (16 as Hawkgirl, and more issues were produced after his and Rags Morales' departure than have encompassed any previous run.) Geoff Johns' JLA story arc from shortly before that title's cancellation also managed to squeeze in an incongruous Catwoman, not to mention featuring this team's first scheduled foes, The Secret Society of Super-Villains. Baz is the new Arab-American Green Lantern created by the half-Lebanese Johns, and Stargirl was modeled after his deceased sister. Such a random, commercially dubious selection feels like fanfic or an unchecked ego, especially for a League team.

Geoff Johns has basically made Steve Trevor the Nick Fury of DC Comics, which is a lot better than Sarge Steel or Alan Scott, especially for Steve. He might have been a seriously emotionally abusive boyfriend (mostly under Bob Kanigher in the Silver Age,) but a good chunk of the Wonder Woman catalog pivots on characters dumping on the Amazing Amazon. Trevor was a pretty empowering dude in distress during the Golden Age, and I thought he was alright in the Bronze, but George Perez rendered him thoroughly toxic Post-Crisis by making him twice Diana's age and marrying him off to the equally sidelined Etta Candy. Trevor proxies started popping up in recent years though, so a full scale revival was long overdue. It actually suits him to be the weakest link background organizer here, and as a well known supporting player amidst the general public, he deserves all the recent attention. This League is run by S.H.I.E.L.D. A.R.G.U.S., who are dangling the individual carrots motivating each hero to join. Per Johns, "You’ll see why they’re selected, and why this team is going to give the real Justice League a run for its money, because the relationships in this team are going to be incredibly significant," Johns said. "There’s going to be a real learning curve with all the teams, but has the benefit of a true leader in Steve Trevor. Steve Trevor has a heart and soul that’s going to bring these characters that, on first glance, might not ever gel — what does Stargirl ever have in common with Catwoman? How’s that going to work?"

Vibe and Katana are Bronze Age babies, and somehow never managed to mix it up before. If the Martian Manhunter turns out to be the team's frontman, I expect them to fall in line well with his style. Where Catwoman would chafe under most major heroes' leadership, I think J'Onn has enough respect for autonomy and disregard for material gains (under victimless circumstances) to suit her. Stargirl is going to feel off outside the JSA, but after mentoring Gypsy and Jenny Quantum, could end up another surrogate K'hym (as Johns promises she'll have lots of interaction with J'Onzz.) The really interesting tension for me as a long time reader though is the Satellite Era trinity of Hawkman, Green Arrow and a Green Lantern. I find it ironic that Brad Meltzer threw J'Onn off his Bronzey League for a lack of presence during that eras, only for him to return amidst this lot. There was a weird dynamic in which Ollie kind of seemed to hero worship J'Onn, who seemed to ignore him. Meanwhile, J'Onzz had an extraterrestrial bind with Katar Hol, but also a nasty tendency to smack him around, and tended to get on better with Shayera. A deep animosity toward Green Lanterns was established in the Martian Manhunter series, and it's not like Hal, John or Guy were ever exactly cuddle buddies. Ollie and Katar tended to clash, and there's no telling what Baz will bring to the table. Then of course there's the SSoSV, who I've always loved, but have never been significant to the Manhunter from Mars. Might we see an actual member of the Vile Menagerie throw in with them? Don't tease me!

The bloom is definitely off the rose with regard to my appreciation of Geoff Johns, and I have my issues with the idiosyncrasies of David Finch. That said, Johns has previously demonstrated a solid handle on the Sleuth from Outer Space that would be welcome, and I enjoy Finch's Manhunter far more than Jim Lee's (although I think Lee came up with a solid redesign.) I'm definitely coming into this thing neutral (especially at a presumed $3.99 price point,) but the fact that I'll try it at all shows I have some sincere hope that this will be worthwhile. I've been terribly disappointed so far by the New 52 so far, and it would be nice if this turned out to be a saving grace instead of a final straw. It doesn't hurt that Johns states "And then there’s things we’re going to do, like Martian Manhunter, we really want to set him up as one of the most, not just powerful, but also influential characters in the DC Universe, and you don’t even know it - there’s a lot to be revealed about that."

Sunday, August 26, 2012

2012 Jemm Son of Saturn custom figure by “monitor-earthprime”

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"Since the Saturnians are clones of the Martians, I used the YJ Martian Manhunter instead of the JLU version."
I really like the 2010 DC Universe Classics Series 15 Jemm Action Figure for being faithful to Gene Colan's original design. He's too bulky and his face isn't fetusy enough to be exact, but it's a fantastic looking figure that incorporates the stockier take on the character favored since his late '90s revival. With such a swell figure available for sale, I don't really see the point of doing a custom Jemm that looks exactly like someone painted over a Martian Manhunter, but I like the color scheme, and if I squint hard enough it becomes the Vision.

Friday, August 24, 2012

SurVILEvor Island: Brimstone

When I got serious as a Martian Manhunter fan in 1996, I went online to research the character, and found that there weren't very many people who had information to offer. U.S. Navy Commander (RET) Adam Benson was the best guide, as he patrolled the DC Comics Message Board under the handle "Commander Steel," but his wisdom was just a starting point in an ongoing pursuit of Alien Atlas understanding. For instance, one of the most integral elements of a super-hero is their collection of villains, among which Benson only really offered two prospects. In the late '90s, I coined the term "Vile Menagerie" in reference to the Martian Manhunter's rogues gallery, and set about filling it with even the most tangential foes, to increase awareness and initiate codification. In the early days of this blog, I put together a list of nearly a hundred such threats. In retrospect, that was quite simply too many, diluting the pool of Manhunter "owned" bad guys with more familiar but less unique adversaries.

To clear out the excess, we've been running weekly polls to keep or out characters I'd initially tagged for the VM. There's been some success on that front with the likes of Amos Fortune, Lobo, Doctor Light, Doomsday, and Libra being shown out of the circle. More recent matches have been close though, and tenuous selections like Professor Ivo have managed to hang on (by 57% of 14 votes.) I'm hoping Firestorm Fans can assist in a more conclusive repossession.

Brimstone has appeared in something like 35 comics, but at least half of those were flashbacks or tie-ins to his debut appearances during the Legends mini-series. As a colossal flaming construct of Apokolips, Brimstone battled Firestorm, Cosmic Boy, Task Force X, and the New Justice League of America (A.K.A. the "Detroit Era," though they had technically moved back to New York by that point.) In an uncommon bout of stupidity, J'Onn J'Onzz (the hero with a catastrophic vulnerability to fire) flew at the (inflamed) creature, and was swatted away. That was pretty much the end of their first battle, and it eventually fell on the Suicide Squad to destroy Brimstone later in Legends. However, Firestorm devoted an issue of his comic to an initial battle with Brimstone, was the guy who alerted the Detroit League to the threat, and proceeded to fight him some more.

Firestorm has tangled with Brimstone in four issues of his solo comic at three different points in time, not to mention all the tie-in books the Nuclear Man turned up in as part of that first battle in Legends. Brimstone appeared in the first two issues of The Ray's solo series and a Cosmic Boy mini-series. It was in three straight issues of the pre-New 52 Teen Titans book, plus a stray issue of Superman/Batman. In animation, Brimstone took on a trio of Justice League Unlimited members, soundly defeating Captain Atom but eventually being ended by Supergirl and especially Green Arrow.

I say again, Green Arrow. Heaven help you when you're fighting Green Arrow villains.

The only other appearance that I failed to mention was in Justice League Task Force #30. The Underworld Unleashed tie-in featured a Neron-augmented-but-Earthly-recreation of Brimstone. In one of those rarely seen "Martian Manhunter is a true pimp" comics, the Alien Atlas dispatched Shrapnel (primarily a Doom Patrol/Suicide Squad concern,) Sledge (a forgotten Guy Gardner foil) and the aforementioned ersatz Brimstone with the minimum amount of mercy allowable while remaining in character.

It's tough to argue a single hero's "owning" Brimstone as a solo villain, but if anyone had a case, it would be Firestorm. It would definitely not be the green guy whose total time battling Brimstone would best be numbered in panels rather than pages, much less issues. Brimstone is a leftover from a period where Vile Menagerie inclusions were set to minimum resistance and maximum kitchen sinkage. He's a scripture quoting goon in a wrestler's one-piece, and we don't need him around here.

The Irredeemable Shag further argues the case today at Firestorm Fan, but there's longstanding ammunition on the site through the spotlight Rogue’s Gallery: Brimstone and the beast's Mayfair Games’ DC Heroes Role-Playing Stats. Given that Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch have recently been forming a giant flaming monster called Fury, can a New 52 Brimstone to face the creature really be that far behind?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

2012 The Saturnian Criminal Space City Con Commission by Nick Pitarra

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Ever since I attended my first Comicpalooza in 2010, I've tried to get as many different artists to draw as many different Martian Manhunter related characters as possible. Since nobody who creates Alien Atlas stories seems to bother to read the Martian Manhunter comics that came before theirs (case in point: creators don't know "Alien Atlas" from Adam,) the only way to see related characters drawn by someone who didn't come up with them has typically come down to me paying to get it done. Initially, I wanted one artist to draw one character... ever. That fell by the wayside quickly, between great artists doing such a good job that I wanted to commission them again and some sucky renditions of characters I wanted done better. I especially liked the prospect of giving artists a new character to draw each year, except that nobody I had worked with in 2010 or 2011 showed up for 2012. Further, with this being the fifth anniversary year, I wanted lots of commissions. As a result, folks I met for the first time on Friday might have become three commission veterans by Sunday. Truth to tell, I wouldn't do that again, since I think it becomes a bit of a grind for the artist (and tends to yield a clunker somewhere in the run.)

Anyway, one of my big disappointments going into Comicpalooza 2012 was the absence of Nick Pitarra, a highlight from the previous year. Pitarra was a really fun guy to chat with, he did a Martian Manhunter commission that I had nothing to do with, and he produced a bitchin' B'rett piece. Not only that, but he proceeded to digitally color it, free of charge! At this point, he'd only done a few issues of Astonishing Tales in 2009, and was promoting The Red Wing ahead of release. That collaboration with Johnathan Hickman did well enough to lead to a second, The Manhattan Projects. So what, Mr. Big Shot, now you're too good for Houston? Thankfully not, as it came to my attention just days in advance that the first Space City Con, which sounded like it would be garbage back in May, had massively improved the quality of their guest list with guys like Nick Pitarra (and yeah, okay, Art Adams and Whilce Portacio and bunches of others.) I was happy to catch up with Nick again, even if his rates did go up 100% (from a ridiculously low $25, but I enjoy ribbing people.) I gave Pitarra his choice of several subjects, and while he was one of two artists I really hoped would pick D'Kay D'Razz (0 did,) I was very pleased with his first choice. That was not the Saturnian, but Nick had an itch to draw the guy, and wanted to hold on to the reference just in case he changed his mind. When I came by Friday evening to pick up his first commission, I slipped him a c-note and told him that we might as well go for two this show.

I've unfairly discriminated against the Saturnian on this blog in the past. In the early years, he fell between the first Showcase Presents volume and my old stash of House of Mystery issues, not unlike B’enn B’urnzz. Where one looked too much like J'onn J'onzz, the other was too goofy looking in general for my taste, so I played up better liked easier sells that were more familiar to me, like B'rett and the Marshal. I finally read the Saturnian's story a year or two ago, and realized that he's one of the few Silver Age Martian Manhunter villainous powerhouses, and that he looks a lot better in color. This being the most successful Summer of Saturn yet, I thought I'd make up for lost time by giving the Saturnian his well deserved place in the Vile Menagerie immediately followed by his own commission.

One problem was that aside from the art reference I provided, there was nothing online about the Saturnian Criminal. Usually, there's at least my blog, but my snubbing of the guy all these years really limited options. Nick likes to think about the characters he draws, to understand their personalities and circumstances so that he can have a starting point for his own interpretation. I felt like I was slighting him by not having anything available, so I got up at 4:30ish Saturday morning to write a synopsis of the Saturnian's sole appearance and send it via email before heading in to work. Nick received, read, and incorporated the information into a preliminary design that he had ready to show off when I visited the con that afternoon (after having stated previously that I'd skip that day and collect my outstanding commissions on Sunday.)

Not only did Nick work in the Saturnian's weakness against oil, but he'd even incorporated the underground pit that the Criminal had used against lawmen from his home planet in the original story. The image is well conceived, as well as hilarious in Pitarra's unique interpretation of the sinister alien as Count Olaf with a Jewfrohawk in space spectacles. Where Joe Certa did the Saturnian's hair as three cactus-shaped ink blobs, Pitarra draws as many squiggly strands as possible, and you can count each individual tooth in his lower jaw. Inconceivable? Hardly!

For more of Pitarra's swell work, visit his blog and Comic Art Fans gallery, plus check back here for that other commission in the coming weeks...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Alter Ego: Unknown
Occupation: Criminal
Marital Status: Presumed single
Known Relatives: None
Group Affiliation: None
Base of Operations: Saturn
First Appearance: Detective Comics #314 (April, 1963)
Height: Approx. 6'7"
Eyes: Black
Hair: Black

Unarmed and fleeing lawmen from his own world, a Saturnian Criminal landed his small spaceship on the banks of a river near Middletown, U.S.A. Camouflaging the craft, the Saturnian sought to next conceal himself, preferably as an Earthling in a position of authority. This led the sinister alien to Detective John Jones, whom he knocked unconscious and disposed of before assuming his identity. Unbeknownst to the Saturnian, Jones was himself an extraterrestrial pretending to be human, with extraordinary associates who immediately determined something was amiss about the false Jones. However, the criminal was able to convince Jones' Police Captain, who assigned the fraud to assist newly arrived Saturnian lawmen on their mission of apprehension. Instead, the imposter Jones led his pursuers into a trap.

The real John Jones had by this point regained his memory with the help of his otherdimensional pet Zook, who then led the Manhunter from Mars to the criminal who had stolen his human identity. J'onn J'onzz and the Saturnian appeared evenly matched in combat, but the Martian Manhunter was able to deduce the criminal's vulnerability to oil from the trap that he had set for the lawmen. J'onzz doused the criminal, then rescued the lawmen so that the Saturnians could return home, one in chains.

Powers & Weapons:
The Saturnian Criminal is possessed of an array of abilities that appear to be uncommon amongst his people, making him a formidable opponent. His strength level is comparable to the foremost metahumans, with durability to match. He can spin at speeds so incredible that he can drill himself through the earth. The Saturnian's vision and hearing are superhuman, including the ability to see through objects, and he has undefined energy projection powers. Finally, the Saturnian can assume the form of other beings, duplicating them well enough to fool his own people, if not the tracking abilities of Zook.

While assuming the forms of other beings, the Saturnian's powers are diminished, although he is still capable of incredible feats. Saturnians of the same race as the criminal experience an immediate toxic reaction to oil in the slightest amount, rendering them powerless and eventually causing death if left untreated.

Quote: "*HA, HA,* With this badge-- and the information contained in these papers, it should be easy to take his place!"

Created by Jack Miller and Joe Certa

Monday, August 20, 2012

2007 “Martian Girl” art by Tony L. Craigen

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I had a particularly scatology day that put the "scat" in "scatter," which is my excuse to clear out my CAF files with another overly-sexualized pseudo-Miss Martian pin-up. Jeez, that was a lot of hyphens. Reminds me of what happens if you do a Miss Martian Google image search without a filter on (do not do that, delicate reader!)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

SurVILEvor Island: Mongul

Despite being Saturnians who debuted in Jemm, Son of Saturn sixteen years before turning up in a Martian Manhunter story arc involving an assassination attempt against Jemm and a Saturnian Princess, Alien Atlas fans like them some Cabal. 67% of 15 voters kept them on, pros doubling cons.

Mongul debuted in a 1980 team-up book where it was revealed that he had previously been defeated by the Martian Manhunter, and thus tricked Superman into beating the Alien Atlas and stealing an object of desire from his people. J'onn J'onzz wasn't appearing regularly at the time, so it was a memorable outing for the character. However, he only made flashback cameos in succeeding chapters of the story, in which Superman was joined by Supergirl in halting Mongul's onslaught. Starman and the Legion of Super-Heroes then helped Superman in further Mongul DC Comics Presents reappearances. Mongul's single most famous story was "For the Man Who Has Everything" from Superman Annual #11, where he also fought Wonder Woman, Batman and Robin. Martian Manhunter had a tiny one panel cameo.

In 1989, Mongul was reintroduced into DC's new Post-Crisis continuity in a story crossing over into various Superman titles, which did not involve the Martian Manhunter. Mongul reappeared in 1993's "Reign of the Supermen," where he destroyed Green Lantern Hal Jordan's home town of Coast City, earning his ire. After Jordan became Parallax, Mongul plagued his replacement, Kyle Rayner. Mongul also found time to wrestle with the Flash. Mongul received an elaborate new origin story in Showcase '95 that contradicted his original debut, but then he was killed by Neron in the first issue of Underworld Unleashed.

Mongul Junior turned up a few years later, again battling Superman before settling into a recurring role as a Green Lantern Corps foe, even leading the misleadingly named Sinestro Corps for a time with his own Yellow Qwardian Power Ring. A sister, Mongal, ran around for a while before succumbing to fratricide most foul. In the year 2011, the Post-Crisis era of DC continuity ended, without a single significant interaction between the Martian Manhunter and any single member of the Mongul family.

Thirty-two years since his premier in comics, and Mongul has yet to tell the tale of his first encounter with the Manhunter from Mars. In all that time, the only meaningful story involving both characters was a two-part cartoon Justice League cartoon that basically retold Mongul's Post-Crisis origin, with its being a Superman/Martian Manhunter team-up the only real nod to the Pre-Crisis era. There aren't even any Elseworlds battles of kiddie comics to speak of. Mongul may have taken his initial bow as a Martian Manhunter opponent, but Superman ran off with the property, and J'Onn J'Onzz has long since given up any claim.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Jemm, Son of Saturn #6 (February, 1985)

"The way home is the longest way of all." --from the teachings of Rahani

In a monologue of the sort one might expect from a stage play, Senator Frank Berkley discussed his desire to quit politics, unwillingness to give up the good life, defended his many moral compromises, and his willingness to suffocate in disquiet in his consciousness in order to ride persecution of Saturnians in order to appear to be a somebody-- a hero even. His wife stepped into the spotlight from behind him on occasion, mostly silent, and plainly less sure of Frank's convictions.

Claudius Tull had videotaped evidence of the existence and hostile intention of the Saturnians of both races, which he agreed to turn over to the senator as soon as he had made his own copies...

Superman was provided background on the Great War of Saturn and its consequences by Jogarr, who offered his own life story and details of the life of Jemm. Superman felt Jogarr thought to harshly of his cousin Jemm, who was not responsible for the past sins of the monarchy or any slights made by his father. Kal-El suspected that Jemm had no idea there were other survivors of his people, and from personal experience demanded that "no one deserves to be that lonely!" Jogarr pounded his fist on a table in repeated refusal, but Superman's persistent pleas softened his resolve. Jogarr reconsidered seeking out Jemm, hoping the Prince truly would be the savior of Saturn, and not instead its Satan.

In a silent series of "widescreen" panels, Jemm piloted an escape craft to Earth with pursuit ships following all the way back to New York City. Jemm managed to outmaneuver one attacker into crashing, then abandoned ship to fly under his own power. Jemm broke off a skyscraper's spire and impaled another pursuer's craft with it. Jemm had been taught that the savior would never kill, preserving all Saturnian lives, Red and White. Having slain several Whites this day, Jemm cried, and feared "his very soul shall shrivel, and he shall become sickened by his own being!"

Senator Berkley was on his way to Tull's house when a sudden flat tire caused his car to swerve into a tree. The Senator abandoned his trapped driver. "Shut up, Jacobs! No damned accident... is going to... keep me from--" The Senator was met on the road by four men in suits with machine guns and skintight red face masks who gunned him down. Only a rube would expect that spectacle to convince a witness that Saturnians were the culprit, yet the abandoned driver played right into the charade. Police notified a tearful Mrs. Berkley of her husband's demise.

"Return Flight!" was by Greg Potter, Gene Colan and Bob McLeod. This issue marked the halfway point of the maxi-series, and essentially reiterated the goings on to date for latecomers and the absentminded. It was still interesting because of the variety of overlapping storytelling techniques employed, as well as the lengthy origin of Jogarr, the obvious J'onn J'onzz analogue. It was also a good time for the new inker to step in, since this issue was steeped in science fantasy. The soon to be outgoing Klaus Janson provided the cover, whose coarse grim & gritty style were suited to the otherwise cartoonish Dickensian poverty and fetishism seen in the earlier issues, but not the wholesale space opera to come.

Friday, August 17, 2012

2010 The Faceless Hunter From Saturn art by Oliver Nome

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I've never been terribly familiar with the Faceless Hunter from Saturn. He turned up in a DC Comics Presents story in the '80s as part of The Forgotten Villains, who got an entry in Who's Who. He'd previously had a string of misadventures in early '60s Strange Adventures, and has been unearthed a time or two in more recent years. Most likely, he's best known for his role on the cartoon Batman: The Brave and the Bold, where he acted as a herald to Starro the Conqueror in a riff on old Galactus comics. For a Silver Agey animated series, Faceless Hunter was a brutal cat who figured into a surprisingly dark story involving the death of a hero.

Anyway, he seems like a pretty cool dude, and the character was brought into the Son of Saturn canon in a roundabout way during a Superman mini-series. Apparently, the Faceless Hunter is actually from Klaramar, a world revolving within an atom upon the planet Saturn, and Jemm somehow finagled jurisdiction over the whole thing.

Check out the original black and white art here.

Oliver Nome

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Martian Sightings for November, 2012

Alright M'gann-- it's up to you once again to carry this column! Well, maybe...
Backup story written by SHOLLY FISCH
Backup story art by CHRIS SPROUSE and KARL STORY
Variant cover by STEVE SKROCE
1:100 B&W Variant cover by RAGS MORALES
On sale NOVEMBER 7 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T
Combo pack edition: $4.99 US
Retailers: This issue will ship with three covers. Please see the order form for more information.

• Brainiac first warned of the Multitude, and now Superman comes face to face with them — on Mars!
• Plus: In the backup story, what appointment is so important that Superman would drop everything to attend it?
This issue is also offered as a combo pack edition with a redemption code for a digital download of this issue.
Reference to a trip to Mars in a DC comic, especially one followed by an exclamation point and written by Morrison, typically means the Manhunter is on his way. Perhaps Brainiac bottled a bunch of Silver/Bronze Age Alien Atlas supporting players? No one but Morrison could even give me hope of such a thing...

Miss Martian
On sale NOVEMBER 21 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED E

• The Invasion continues!
• Earth's greatest heroes are kidnapped by Kylstar!
• Brainiac has Metropolis under glass and Lex Luthor's secret weapon is on the loose!
Written by VARIOUS
Montage cover
On sale NOVEMBER 7 • 64 pg, FC, 8" x 10.5", $4.99 US
• DC NATION is back with an all-new, Bat-tacular issue!
• Enjoy exciting holiday adventures with your favorite DC heroes (and villains)!
• Featuring an exclusive sneak peek at the much-anticipated new series Beware The Batman!
On sale JANUARY 30 • 1,440 pg, FC, $150.00 US

• In this massive hardcover from superstar writer Geoff Johns, Superboy, Kid Flash, Robin, Wonder Girl and Cyborg join together as the DC Universe's premiere teen super team!
• Plus, meet new arrivals Miss Martian and Ravager and witness a battle for the fate of the universe as the INFINITE CRISIS arrives!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

2012 B’enn B’urnzz Comicpalooza Commission by Jerry Rascoe

Awesomest (Alien Atlas) Art Anytime (This Week) bounds onward! As I've mentioned in the past, much of my Martian Manhunter reading has been in reverse chronological order. Despite being first introduced to the character in the mid-80s and following him peripherally through Justice League titles, I didn't zero in on J'Onn J'Onzz as a personal favorite until a few years ahead of Y2K. When I started reaching backward, it was with the then-recently cancelled Justice League Task Force, back to the Bronze Age, and then further to House of Mystery. The Sleuth from Outer Space's Detective Comics issues were prohibitively expensive because of that Batman guy, so I stopped there for years, until Showcase Presents Martian Manhunter caught me up with most of his back-up feature's run.

B’enn B’urnzz's only story was in the first comic after the issues collected in the 2007 Showcase, and would not be reprinted until the second volume finally arrived two years later. That placed him in a sour spot between my runs, though pirated scans contributed to my education about the character. I will always favor the recurring menaces from HoM like Mister V, Professor Hugo and this blog's namesake, but I also liked the goofy one-off villains from the early days. Once again, B’enn B’urnzz fits neither category, and as an unapologetic Manhunter clone, I've tended to be dismissive towards him. Positive response to the character in our annual March Madness contests made me reconsider the guy, and realize that he was one of the only Silver Age foes powerful enough to truly fight the Alien Atlas to a standstill.

When I was initially looking at subjects to commission from Jerry Rascoe, my selections trended toward the heroic. If you look at his deviantART gallery, you'll find full color figures in negative space. This strongly recalls the much loved entries in The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, and the effect is doubled by the artist's preference for 1980s costumes and design aesthetic. I grew up a Marvel Zombie in the age of Big Jim Shooter, so that's basically my personal golden age as a collector (with I suppose my '90s switch to DC as an individual silver age, and current muddling through bronze hues.)

As the con approached though, and I tried to spread characters to as wide a variety of artists as possible, Rascoe's selection suffered. Several were supposed to get mangafied, most specifically a Yaoi Triumph, from one of the manga girls. I ran out of steam/funds before making it past Kiriska and Lane Montoya, though. I never did round up proper N’orr Cott/R’es Eda reference, either. Since Rascoe's gallery stressed mainstream versatility, I didn't feel the need to fret over finding him one specific character suited to his style, since his style stressed universality. I figured Rascoe could handle whoever I assigned to him, and that ended up being B’enn B’urnzz.

100 years into a Silver Age future, B’enn B’urnzz was a fugitive who traveled back in time through stolen technology, the heroic Futureman in hot pursuit. Thanks to a passing resemblance to and exact couture of local hero Martian Manhunter, a conflict of identity error ensued, with the Alien Atlas eventually drafted into securing the future of Martian criminality. I informed Rascoe of this, and that all I was really asking from him was a period Martian Manhunter, but evil and with a more thuggish face. I think this was more frustrating than anything for Rascoe, who takes personal pride in getting every detail of a character's look and costume as canonically correct as possible. In an uncommon role reversal, the artist was looking to pick nits, while the patron was saying to just relax, be creative, and not sweat the small stuff.

Rascoe turned around a full color, full figure drawing within hours for just $30. I thought that price was too low for the quality, but Rascoe has a different philosophy. According to the artist, his wife was usually at shows with him, cracking the whip to knock out as many pieces as possible to expand his fan base and improve his skills. A solo Rascoe had to motivate himself at this show, but I was happy to help by paying him for as many swell pieces like this as he could provide over the weekend. Thanks to his maniacal grin and posture, no one would ever believe that this was the real Martian Manhunter, even if this bastard from days of future past dressed the same (although Rascoe adapted his cape to have a modern-agey collar that enhances his necessarily apparent villainy.) In an amusing twist, Rascoe's friend and table mate pointed out one of the artist's elderly relatives in attendance at the con, who bore more of a resemblance to this B’enn than the comic B’urnzz ever did to J'onn J'onzz. My lousy scan blanches Rascoe's vivid colors, but you can still see the fun, can't you? For more Jerry Rascoe, your best bet is his regularly updated Facebook page.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Stormwatch #9 (July, 2012)

Midnighter was concerned about his increasing pleasure from killing. He and Apollo were sent by the Engineer to investigate an unidentified alien with an unfamiliar power ring arriving in Devon, United Kingdom. Despite being able to shrug off a punch from a world-class super-human like Apollo, Midnighter chopped off its arm with a big knife.

Jack Hawksmoor, Jenny Quantum and Martian Manhunter were in Italy dealing with the destructive public rampage of the Vitruvian Man, "A mind on the edge of despair... it's strange but... he actually thinks he is one of us." Jenny trapped him in dark matter, Jack rebuilt Rome in a day (scripted pun paraphrased,) and J'Onn made sure the bystanders would remember nothing.

The captured and mauled alien had no heart nor blood to pump, save for a "napalm-like liquid" coursing through its veins. Its power ring normally kept it alive, but in its absence, Stormwatch's ship did the job.

Manhunter sent a telepathic call to the Engineer when their other guest woke up. J'Onn learned that Piero Rosci had been "improved" into the Vitruvian Man with the help of none other than Leonardo Da Vinci. This was done under the orders of a Stormwatch precursor called "the Veiled Sect." Piero had fallen for Isabella, but the Dark Lords forbade outside relationships, so she was assassinated. Assuming the killer was one of his own teammates, Piero went into hiding. After years of mourning the anniversary of Isabella's death, Piero had finally snapped. At least that is what the Vitruvian Man told J'Onn in polite conversation, since Piero's brain had been worked over to resist telepathy.

The Vitruvian Man stressed out over the retelling, beyond Manhunter's ability to psychically sedate him. Jenny believed what Piero was saying, and worried for her own future love life as hormones kicked in. Piero's telekinesis ripped through the Eye of the Storm, until Midnighter dropped out of nowhere to snap Piero's neck. Just as suddenly, a Red Lantern power ring flew up to him, stating, "Lucas Trent..." The Engineer managed to project a field of "pure rage" around the ring, holding it in "a stasis of fury."

Apollo thought Piero was a "poor guy" who could have remained in hiding if not for his breakdown. Jack thought he had a "good run" over half a millennium. The Engineer felt the team owed their newest member a debt of gratitude. Manhunter concurred "It's true. We all froze. Only Midnighter instinctively reacted." Trent remained isolated from the team, and later ran a virtual reality simulation where he fought Batman, preparing for the day his masters in Stormwatch decided to get rid of him as he had Piero.

"The Da Vinci Coda" was by Paul Jenkins and Miguel Sepulveda. I also read the second half of this crossover with Red Lanterns by the same creative team, and haven't been able to motivate myself to read any more in the two months since. I wish the depths of this title were unusual, but they're actually so emblematic of the New 52 that it makes me want to fold up all my DC blogging and call it quits. I'm thankful Martian Manhunter will be out by #0, so I can drop this and virtually every other DC title (I might stick with National Comics.) I could point out how nonsensically stupid, bloodthirstily stupid, and mean-spiritedly stupid the book is, but that's self-evident, and we all surely have better things to do than dwell on it.

New 52's Day

Sunday, August 12, 2012


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Courtesy of “Illegal Machine” Dave

I'm not done with our 2/3rd Summer of Saturn yet. After years of stalled efforts, I have #6's write-up in the can, only requiring image scans. #7 seems like a natural stopping point, since I have too much planned for our 5th anniversary to take the recaps into September. #7 really wraps up Jemm's time on Earth, and as a whole things get more cosmic. I also want to get a few more character bios and some more odds and sods in.

We took a break this Saturday on account of exhaustion. I've been working a crazy schedule, and where I thought I'd catch a break on Thursday-Friday, plans changed. I got some more great commissions at the Space City Comic Con, including some very big names, which will make September that much more special. However, it's nearly three in the morning, and I can barely see straight, so emergency posting protocols kick in.

Above is a photo taken by one of my best friends as part of a series done during the blog's first year of operation (about seventy pounds ago, unfortunately.) I thought I'd use these at random intervals, but my blogging agenda changed fairly early on, and these quirky pieces got boxed up. This was probably the weakest of the lot, and I'm too tired to check which pics I've already run, so I figure it's a safe bet for previous exclusion. Miss Martian will be back up on Monday, and we should get back on track from there. Thank you for your patience...

Saturday, August 11, 2012

SurVILEvor Island: Professor Ivo

Super-Gorilla Grodd is a great fiend who provides an excellent contrast to the Manhunter from Mars, which is why his fans fought to keep him in the Vile Menagerie. Decades of identification as a Flash rogue are tough to shake off though, so it may be time to shake paws and shove off back to the cities of Central, Keystone or Gorilla. They're all closer to home than Middletown can ever be, although with an even split of 26 votes, he may yet be close enough.

Anthony Ivo debuted in 1960 as the villain in the third appearance of the Justice League of America. He was featured on an iconic cover involving the Founding Five JLA sealed in individual tubes as their powers were sapped and redistributed to the robot Amazo. Jacking with the League was a secondary concern for Ivo, who was really pursuing immortality. He found it, and as fate is wont to do, it turned out to be a disfiguring, maddening curse. That last sentence wasn't relevant to the Martian Manhunter though, as he wasn't around for Ivo's reappearances in 1966, 1971, 1974, and 1978. There, Ivo fought League incarnations that excluded J'Onzz, or engaged in solo action against Superman and the Flash.

What put Ivo on the Vile Menagerie radar was a three issue arc chronicling "The End of the Justice League of America." It literally wrapped up the first volume of that series, and saw rogue android duplicates of Ivo murder Vibe and Steel. Gypsy pretty much saved herself, but it was up to the Martian Manhunter to rescue Vixen and put a stop to Ivo's runaway creations. It remains one of the best unsung JLA stories ever, grim and gritty before that was passé, while clearing the decks for the comedy stylings of the International crew. There was a swell panel of the Alien Atlas screaming Ivo's name while busting down a door, but not much of a final confrontation, and Ivo went into limbo for most of the next decade. When he did turn up, he was oddly cordial with the JLA, even donating an island base the the Justice League Task Force.

Ivo's true return to villainy came when he teamed up with T.O. Morrow to create Tomorrow Woman to infiltrate and undermine the Magnificent Seven JLA. He's turned up a number of times since, usually as a throwaway old school mad scientist or as a +1 to his more famous creation, Amazo. While some of these later stories have involved the Martian Manhunter, none have had any serious implications for the Sleuth from Outer Space. There isn't any one hero who could ever lay claim to Ivo, and even his status as a JLA foe of note waxes and wanes. Amazo is typically portrayed as too powerful for the Martian Marvel to take on his own, while Ivo hasn't offered up any other inventions that could seriously task the Manhunter. My inclusion of Ivo in the earliest draft of the Vile Menagerie was another ignorant overreach, and although he was official declined re-admittance in this blog's incarnation, the guy has turned up in our March Madness contests. It's been nice having him as a guest and all, but it's probably best that we finally send him on his way.

Friday, August 10, 2012

1999 Martian Manhunter Annual #2 original cover art by Arthur “Art” Adams

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As I write this, there are 13 hours left on a poll to determine whether Gorilla Grodd stays in the Vile Menagerie with 26 votes evenly divided at 13/13. Also, hopefully by the time you read this, I'll be getting an Art Adams commission at the Space City Comic Con. I seriously considered trying to get my first Miss Martian piece from him, but as you'll see at the links, Art's ladies are perhaps less... aerodynamic... than I'm comfortable with...

Art Adams Art

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Martian on Finite Earth

Stormwatch #12 came out this week, though I won't read it for another month. I'm not concerned about it getting spoiled, as we all know from the solicitations that this is the issue where the Martian Manhunter gets written out of the book. Presumably, the exit is motivated by his taking part in another solo/team/event series yet to be announced. The departure did not appear to be planned from the beginning, although one wonders if J'Onn J'Onzz's presence was intended to make the former Wildstorm team more palatable to DC readers before reverting back to a more "pure" version of the group.

Reader will_in_chicago asks, "What characters from either the Milestone or Wildstorm lines would work well with the Alien Atlas?" I was very excited by the Manhunter from Mars acting as an emissary to the newly integrated Wildstorm Universe, as he helped welcome the Charlton and Fawcett properties after their integration following Crisis on Infinite Earths. One mistake that I think the New 52 made was the "Five Years Later" conceit, wherein whichever stories from the old continuity still stand will be consigned to a truncated timeline. Instead of getting in on the ground floor of a legitimately new DC Universe, it turns the entire line into an X-Men comic with megatons of back continuity being vaguely hinted at constantly. A side effect was that the Authority went back to being Stormwatch, and the Martian Manhunter was entrenched amongst them, until he wasn't. There were no proper introductions outside of Apollo and Midnighter, and the Martian Manhunter just sort of hung out for a year before bailing.

The simplest answer to Will's question is that after the build-up of the New 52, I still want to see Martian Manhunter as a member of Stormwatch. When first introduced in the early '90s, Stormwatch was the official super-team of the United Nations. They were like the Global Guardians played straight in the Chromium Age, with obvious influences from Marvel's S.H.I.E.L.D., Tower's T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, and Hasbro's G.I. Joe. The team also tended to fight a lot of aliens, since one of the diving concepts behind the Wildstorm Universe was a centuries long intergalactic war between the "good" Kherubim and the "evil" Daemonites. The individual members of the team never amounted to much, and most were slowly pushed out when Warren Ellis reworked the title and staffed it with his own creations. Eventually, Ellis just decided to rename the lot as the Authority, leaving Stormwatch and its related characters up for grabs. Thanks to his now erased but still felt history with the Justice League International, as well as the whole being an alien himself thing, Stormwatch seemed like a good place for the Alien Atlas to build a new backstory from the ashes while propping up a group that never quite left the shadow of the WildC.A.T.S. I'd have kept Weatherman One for tension, Battalion as the natural leader, and kept a few of the more well liked characters like Backlash, Diva, Winter, Fuji or Hellstrike. I'd have probably also recruited DC spy types from series like Suicide Squad and Checkmate. Heck, why not borrow from T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, now that DC owns that, too?

Milestone has always been adjunct to DC, since Dwayne McDuffie and company may have an ownership stake, but DC bankrolled the initiative. As a result, they've always kinda sorta been part of the DCU, and at the same time, partitions remain that continue to separate the companies. Also, Image Comics was formed by the biggest artists of its time, whereas Milestone was the big black publisher that couldn't land Christopher Priest, Larry Stroman, Mark Beachum, Brian Stelfreeze, etc. etc. I never really warmed to Milestone, but their shortlived super group the Shadow Cabinet could definitely intermingle with Stormwatch. Hardware would also be a great mixer to set next to the Manhunter.

Despite his time with the "Detroit" Justice League and the second incarnation of the JL Task Force, I'm not big on J'Onn J'Onzz mentoring teen teams. For one, he's not that great of a team leader. For two, he's not a very protective guardian or even the strongest role model. Third, Young Justice made that more of a Red Tornado thing, and The Usurper can have it. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Charles Xavier. Still, Static could be cute in a non-Teen Titans team, perhaps a new Gen13 where Gypsy might also find a slot.

Ideally, I'd prefer a Martian Manhunter solo series, but he's had so many "bold new directions" that I feel he'd be ill-served divorcing himself from old continuity. I have a fantasy about rebuilding his Silver/Bronze origins of the Martian Marvel using Wildstorm characters. It was revealed in a 1977 story that J'Onn secretly co-founded the Justice League in 1957 with Superman, Batman, Robin, Wonder Woman, the Flash and Aquaman to battle Commander Blanx. How about a DC version of Team One forming to deal with the first invasion of Helspont, leading into the modern incarnation of Stormwatch (relative to their Demon Knights beginnings?) It always seemed redundant for DC to buy Wildstorm, since so many of their characters were Jim Lee's versions of DC characters. Having lost DC's Golden Age to Earth 2, suddenly WS could fit nicely as a covert replacement. I still see so much potential for Martian Manhunter's involvement in the DC/Wildstorm merger, but I expect little of it being realized. Nice to daydream, though.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

2012 Mister Moth Comicpalooza Commission by Cody Schibi

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Awesomest (Alien Atlas) Art Anytime (This Week) rolls on with Cody Schibi! The guy was announced fairly early at Comicpalooza, but he only had one piece at Comic Art Fans, and the intricately detailed art on his blog drawing a blank was frankly intimidating. I knew immediately that there was perhaps no more perfect an artist for Mister Moth, as one of his recurring themes was casual schmucks with totally weird crap growing out of their heads. However, Schibi put such an impossible amount of effort into that weirdness, I thought for sure that a commission would cost a bloody fortune. After shelling out better than half a grand inside an hour at the show, I was afraid to even approach Schibi at first.

Eventually, my girlfriend and I made our way to Schibi's table, where he was hanging out with a buddy. We both really liked the art on display, but I hesitated to bring up commission rates, as I didn't necessarily want her to know what I might be spending. In a Freudian misreading, I explained to my girl how Schibi had done a blog post about hoping to make Benjamins at the show, a term she had never heard before. Benjamins are of course hundred dollar bills, but what Schibi actually wrote was "I'll also be taking commissions all weekend in exchange for a few Washingtons..." George is a much, much kinder fellow to a wallet than Franklin. For instance, my girl bought a piece for something like $20 that I initially assumed was a print, but it turned out to be the original art for one of the blog's old banners.

I didn't screw up the courage to talk money with Schibi until Saturday, and ended up getting the above piece for the ridiculously low price of $50.00. I initially was going to get an $80 full figure, but thought better of it. One of my friends decided that he would also get a commission from Schibi, but had no subject in mind, and just told the artist to draw whatever he wanted. Schibi asked if he was sure, then told him how refreshing it was to be allowed the freedom to do whatever he liked. Of course, my buddy then added, "well-- nudity is a plus." I kept hoping that he would end up with a syphilitic phallus, but no such luck. Schibi was working on the layout for Mr. Moth while I was elsewhere, and asked my friend what he thought. My buddy kind of shrugged, and Schibi started over from scratch. I'd love to know what that piece looked like, but despite his tepid condemnation, my pal couldn't be bothered to recall. Stuff like that is why I wish syphilitic peckers on him at times.

Schibi tweeted:
"Two 1st time commissions today: Aquaman & MR. MOTH? obscure can one get?! ONE appearance EVER in 1937. Having fun w this weirdo though"

"Here's that ridiculous 'Mr. Moth' Con commission I was talking about a few days ago. Proud of the tagline... "
Mister Moth is one of my two favorite pieces from Comicpalooza. I imagine that this is a 1980s, deconstructed, Bret Easton Ellis Mr. Moth. He did the high concept crime thing... it never worked out... he's struggling with a cocaine habit and child support for his larvae... "Stay Away From The Light," indeed, he warned in a voice reminiscent of Jeff Goldblum. I relish every bit of this piece, from the weathered antennae to the ebon depths of his eyes to the loose tie to the Miami Vice couture and New Wave graded neon blue back lighting. This one image makes my mind boil over with the story potential of a post-modern Mister.

I offered Schibi kudos. I pointed out that my cheapskate, overly critical buddy not only commissioned just one artist at Comicpalooza, but did so twice (this Thanos, which Schibi had to mail him.) I told him how beautifully he'd reimagined Mr. Moth. I even mentioned how my girlfriend raved about how cute he and his friend were, because sometimes I get my kicks making perfectly nice people deeply uncomfortable. Most importantly though, my good fortune from association with Cody Schibi continues. I decided on Tuesday to spotlight him today, and had I gone any other way, I wouldn't have visited him blog to learn that he would be at Space City Con this Friday. I assumed that it was going to be low rent months ago, and forgot all about it. As it happens, I'm off work and have a few more Washingtons in my pocket. Any suggestions for my own second Schibi commission (not to mention firsts from Art Adams and Whilce Portacio, two of my lifetime favorites) in the comments would be greatly appreciated...