Sunday, September 30, 2012

2012 Patrolwoman Diane Meade Comicpalooza Commission by Marcio Takara

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Marcio Takara is an artist the Idol-Head has been fond of since its 2009 spotlight on his piece "The League: Past & Present", not to mention his 100+ Tiny Characters series back when there were still only 50. I would love to get a couple dozen such teensy icons for the sidebar, but I'm not sure how easy that would be to arrange, and at what cost. Besides, Takara has a delicate, graceful line that demands a more fully realized commission. I had a fairly long list of characters that I felt he could do for me at Comicpalooza, but it didn't take long to zero in on just one.

Patrolwoman Diane Meade made a few sporadic appearances in the John Jones, the Manhunter from Mars strip in Detective Comics before graduating to regular supporting character. She was sort of like a less antagonistic Lois Lane, or a cooler Jimmy Olsen. Meade started out as a nuisance who hindered John Jones' ability to use his secret Martian powers, but that evolved into her having adventures of her own without being aware that a Manhunter was quietly assisting her. Eventually, Meade became more self-sufficient, and a genuine aide to the Alien Atlas in his own cases. The arrival of a more capable sidekick in Zook actually motivated Meade to step up in the strip to more screen time. However, when the Detective Jones identity was abandoned by J'onn a year later, Meade and the rest of Middletown were forgotten as the pursuit of the Diabolu Idol-Head demanded all of the Manhunter's time. Meade wouldn't appear again until the late '90s, revised by Mark Waid and Barry Kitson for JLA: Year One and later the Ostrander/Mandrake Martian Manhunter series.

I started a Diane Meade bio for this blog so many years ago, there's an illustration in my Photobucket account taken from a JPEG of an old comic because the second volume of Showcase Presents Martian Manhunter hadn't come out yet. I'm very fond of Meade, but I got away from Silver Age coverage some time back, so she's been neglected. A new Manhunter series without her involvement would be a real shame, since she's one of the only true supporting characters to come out of J'onn J'onzz's longest, original run. Co-creator Joe Certa was mostly a journeyman artist, but you could tell he enjoyed drawing Meade by the care and beauty on display in her rendering. I've wanted a commission of her since I started doing the Comicpalooza rounds, but I have a very specific conception of the character in my mind, and waited for the right artist to execute it. Marcio Takara fit the bill.

I didn't wait long on the con's first day to approach Takara, and there wasn't a lot of drawn out conversation. Takara's a nice guy, but English isn't his first language, so our dialogue was pretty basic. If I recall correctly, he said it's pronounced Mark-e-oh. I tried to see if I could pay him to digitally color a scan after the piece was done, but I think he took it to mean I wanted it done right there with markers, and explained that he didn't color his work. As you can see from his deviantART gallery, Takara is a fantastic colorist, which is ideally suited for Meade's softer tones and piercing blue eyes. I did up one of my usual crumby MS Paint jobs for this post, but I hold out hope to see it done proper by Takara someday. Anyway, the $80 9" x 12" piece was done within a few hours, and turned out crisp like I'd hoped. Takara's star deservedly remains on the rise, but hopefully someday I'll talk him into working on those sidebar figures...

Marcio Takara

Saturday, September 29, 2012

SurVILEvor Island: Vandal Savage

Fernus was created to be an evil Martian Manhunter who fought the JLA in a JLA comic before meeting his defeat at the hands of the Martian Manhunter. He's the apotheosis of the concept of J'Onn J'Onzz as the "Heart and Soul of the Justice League," the most essential team member being the genesis of a most spectacular villain who could wipe the floor with The World's Greatest Super-Heroes and one of their arch-rivals besides. 81% of 16 votes validated The Burning here.

Speaking of that rival though, what of Vandal Savage? Created in 1943 for a Green Lantern story, the immortal caveman returned in 1947 to co-found one of the first great super-villain teams, the Injustice Society of the World. Savage was revived in 1963 for a Flash story that paired the Golden and Silver Age versions of the speedster legacy, and was defined as a foe of the pair through his occasional reappearances into the Bronze Age. The 1970s were when Vandar Adg finally came into his own, battling the Justice Society in a short-lived new run of All-Star Comics, and the Justice League in the newspaper strip The World's Greatest Superheroes. Savage was pitted against Superman a number of times in the early '80s, helping to inspire the formation of the Forgotten Heroes. Mid-decade, Savage was mostly involved with the JSA and their spin-off teams. Post-Crisis, Vandal Savage returned to plague the Scarlet Speedster in the first issues of Wally West's relaunch of Flash, and made numerous reappearances throughout the volume.

The 1990s marked an explosion of Vandal Savage appearances. An increased presence of the Justice Society invited further clashes with the team. His longevity made him a player in period books like the 1920s set Guns of the Dragon mini-series, and he plagued temporally-enhanced heroes in titles like Time Masters and Resurrection Man. Savage also targeted younger heroes like Damage and Arsenal. Writer Christopher Priest embraced the villain as a favorite in most every book he wrote for a time, including Hawkman, The Ray and Justice League Task Force. Despite some similarities in career progression and common circles, it was only at this late point that the immortal became a prominent figure in Martian Manhunter comics.

Mark Waid brought Vandal Savage into JLTF around the time of Zero Hour, a mini-series which inspired a number of cameos for the fiend. Priest continued to use him throughout his year and a half run, in conjunction with other titles he scripted as an overall mastermind for various plots. As the leader of the Task Force and a mentor to the Ray, J'Onn J'Onzz often stared down Savage. The shapeshifter impersonated a daughter of Savage to help the woman and her child escape plans to harvest their organs to sustain the immortal. Retroactive continuity made Savage a central foe of Martian Manhunter's "new" five member super-team in JLA: Year One, including a conspiracy that had painful impact on the Martian. The event DC One Million predicted that this struggle from the early days of the Alien Atlas' public career would continue for hundreds of centuries, as J'Onn J'Onzz was integral to a strategy meant to finally end the threat of the immortal. The Martian Manhunter also had a contemporary battle with Savage that cost the caveman an eye, a handicap that the mini-series inferred would plague him for millions of years.

Moving into the 2000s meant moving away from all of that. Vandal Savage's missing eye returned, and he formed the team Tartarus to fight the Titans. The introduction of a lesbian villainess daughter called Scandal attracted an errant father's attention in Secret Six. Inclusion in The Society led to cameos aplenty, and Vandal Savage even found time to co-author the overarching conspiracy against the replacement Aquaman that wrapped up Sword of Atlantis. The only nods to a past enmity with the Martian Manhunter were his participation in the hero's gang murder at the start of Final Crisis, and a similar but more intimate fatality dealt in the Elseworld Flashpoint. However, Vandal Savage was established as the person who killed Fernus the Burning during his reign of terror on prehistoric Earth, and when J'Onzz unlocked Fernus in the present, the evil Martian cut a bloody swath through Savage's forces. The caveman is without a doubt essential to at least one Martian's history, at least prior to that other far more famous Flashpoint mini-series.

The New 52 seems inclined to treat Vandal Savage as more of an anti-hero, making him a lusty barbarian member of the medieval Demon Knights (which connected to the Manhunter's own Stormwatch,) and giving him a solo serial in DC Universe Presents where he was treated as a quasi-Hannibal Lecter. When Zero Hour solidified J'Onn J'Onzz as having arrived on Earth in 1955, it made perfect sense that one of the few recognizable villains he would encounter between then and the modern age of super-heroes would be Vandal Savage. That connection was never made though, and most of the Martian Manhunter's encounters with the immortal have been filtered through his membership to Justice League teams. As with many other SurVILEvor Island detainees, Vandal Savage cannot truly be "owned" by any one franchise (as evidenced by the sour note of having him begin to fixate on Green Lantern Alan Scott in 2006, after decades with no special acrimony against his debut adversary.)

There was a sweet spot in the late '90s that made Savage's inclusion in the contemporaneous inaugural incarnation of the Vile Menagerie obvious, but the dry spell in the decade since has weathered this position. I could never eject Vandal Savage entirely, but there's little indication that he'll have any further feuding with the Sleuth from Outer Space, so I have to question any need to spotlight him prominently amidst the Martian's rogues gallery. Then again, he did form the first version of the Legion of Doom to include an unquestioned Manhunter villain, Ma'alefa'ak, and did so in the broad medium of animation while voiced by an actor who portrayed John Jones on the live action television show Smallville. Heck, didn't he even battle Young Justice on the cartoon version of the team that included Miss Martian? Who's to say what the next official past or future hold? There remains a poetry in pitting the earliest and most avaricious living human against the last of a neighboring alien species that often demonstrates greater humanity than anyone on his host planet.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Martian Manhunter figure sketch by Kevin Maguire

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The oldest piece of original Martian Manhunter art that I own has had the longest wait to making it onto the blog. In the early days of eBay, you could get comic art for a song, because no one understood the market back then. It probably didn't help the selling price when pieces like this came along-- a supposed, unverified full figure sketch attributed to Justice League International's Kevin Maguire, selling for somewhere between $20-40 by auctions end. I won it, scanned it, and it held a prominent place on my Martian Manhunter: The Rock of the JLA WebTV site for most of its life.

A major factor in the lengthy holdout is that the years have not been kind to the art. Drawn on cheap sketch paper, which was probably never better than off-white to begin with, faded to gray and on to yellow-brown. The pencils were always light, but are now practically invisible at a distance. If it is a legitimate Maguire, the style employed here would date it in the late '80s/early '90s, before Maguire followed the popular trend of giving J'Onn an enormous brow, elaborate cape clamps, and a bulkier body type. I bought it sometime around '98 or '99, and it has spent most of that time in a discount store frame exposed to all manner of unhealthy lighting and low quality cardboard backing that have degenerated it further. The flimsy paper responds poorly to scanning, and I've given up on dolling it up to the usual standards for posting on the blog.

While I'm fond of the piece, I've basically been waiting for the right inker to come to town to embellish it, hopefully with a can of one of those sprays that helps reduce acidity. I don't have the balls or the skill to attempt any sort of chemical preservation of my own. I did photocopy the sketch way back when, using it as a base while I cycled through dozens of attempted costume revisions I will likely bore you folks with in the future, now that posting the original art has "unlocked" that option. There's a sense of closure to finally getting this published and on the internet again that's really swell to find in the course of an anniversary celebration. If there are any fans from way back when who missed this being present on the web, I'm sorry to return it in such a state. I really like that this is my Martian Manhunter, bearing the likeness I was introduced to in toy form by Kenner, though he looks as downcast as I am about his current state.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

2011 “Z'Onn Z'Orr: Martian Boyhunter” animation-style fan fiction by N:TAS

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N:TAS DCU: Z'Onn Z'Orr: Martian Boyhunter 4-08-11

At the Super Buddies message board, there's a user under the handle "NightwingTAS" who builds digital figure models off the Bruce Timm DC Animated Series template for further fan fiction adventures of his own devising. Number 4 in the "Z'Onn "Z'Orr" series, here's his take on Till'all...

The youngest of the captative Martians was Till' All, a young White Martian, who had never known of Mars, or the history, he was born just before he was taken and had been conditioned his whole life to believe he was a Green Martian, because of this his basic form usually reverts to the Green Martian form. While he is able to transform into his White Martian form, Till' All prefers to remain a Green Martian. Through his rescue Till' All had bonded with J'onn, something young male Martians do a psychic connection that bonds a father and son. J'onn decided to take in the young man and add him to his real family giving him the name Tyler Jones, and introducing him to the Justice League. Young Till' decided he too wanted to join his father and sister and took on the name the Martian Boyhunter.
Again, I think maybe N:TAS confused Telok'Telar for Mica'kel, since there's no reason for Till'all to form a paternal bond with J'Onn if his actual father is alive and working with Team Manhunter. I also like the White design above much better that his primary Green Martian Boyhunter form, since it lends itself more to the theme of racial harmony. Also, he looked too much like T'omm, which is especially troublesome if he is an Uncle Tom to the Whites. Till'all was my favorite of the Others, so I like where this is going, except for that skeevy name. Was "Chickenhawk from Mars" taken? There's got to be a less pederastic nom de cape related to a junior hunter, like maybe some sort of "Scout?"

Get Familiar

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

2012 Hunter Commander J'en Space City Con Commission by Chris Beaver

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After Comicpalooza, I had a complex posting formula for all the new commissions. The con was in May, but I decided to start posting in June, choosing Wednesday as the sweet spot amidst my various schedules, and running weekly through the September anniversary. The earliest posts were typically initiated because artists had tweeted/blogged about them, so I wanted to catch up. Otherwise, I tended to feature pieces by artists I'd gotten multiple commissions from, so that I could space them out across the months. At one point, September was going to see a massive art dump that would have given short shrift to the artists who were made to wait for their moment on the blog, and it would have been an enormous undertaking to draft a post of this sort every other day anyway, so to heck with that. I tell you this because Chris Beaver drew one of my top two favorites at Comicpalooza, I hadn't run it by the time I bumped into him again at Space City Con, and focusing on supporting characters this month means I haven't run it after or intend to in the foreseeable future. Good thing I got a second Beaver commission featuring a supporting character then, I suppose.

Depending on how one chooses to interpret his somewhat ambiguous relationships with Diane Meade (yes, she's coming) and Bel Juz (her too,) J'en was the only proper girlfriend of J'onn J'onzz introduced before Crisis on Infinite Earths shook the Etch A Sketch on Martian history. Before he had a wife and daughter who were already dead in their first appearance, but not all that long before as a mid-80s creation, J'en was introduced as the homicidal half of an already dead relationship. J'en fell in with a scheming Martian Marshal who staged a coup and sent J'en to kill the "traitorous" J'onzz before he could warn Earth of an imminent invasion. The Hunter Commander failed in her mission, and even when the Marshal was revealed to be a loser puppet of the aforementioned Bel Juz, still ditched J'onzz on Earth to return with her fellow militants back home to Mars II. Aside from the assassination attempts though, J'en was nice enough, and a lot of past sins can be forgiven when someone chooses not to shoot you in the face when you're literally asking for it.

While the character had a modest role in one storyline of Justice League of America ("War of the Worlds, 1984") right before everything went to crap Detroit, I've always had a soft spot for J'en. She came with a ready-made backstory that helped fill gaps in Martian Manhunter's publishing history and love life. She was a heavily armored ballbuster back before it was cool (i.e. 1986's Aliens,) and I dig how someone decided that the perfect compliment for a green skinned proto-Samus Aran was an orange Louise Brooks bob cut. I've done something like four of my goofy "Manhunter from Mars" fanfics that have involved the character, which is probably more than anyone but J'onn himself.*

I really struggled to figure out what I wanted Chris Beaver to draw at Comicpalooza, because one look at his deviantART gallery clearly demonstrates that he can employ a wide variety of styles across a multitude of subjects. It's hard enough to pair just the right artist and character when both are clearly defined, but that much more tricky when you have to factor in fluidity. However, Beaver's more recent pieces involved women that were drawn with realistic proportions and features that reflected the loveliness of actual human beings without the influence of make-up teams, lighting and Photoshop. Beaver could also do armor, as shown through his fascination with the Predators and Aliens. I didn't want a T&A artist doing J'en, and she is a tricky mix of soft flesh and shiny metal, so Beaver seemed like my best bet to find the right balance and respect the character.

J'en was to have been Beaver's "assigned" character at Comicpalooza, but then something else came up, so hitting him up for J'en got pushed back to Space City Con. At least I knew what I wanted in advance of my attending a show I only had a couple days' notice on. Beaver was seated with Vo Nguyen, with whom he's teamed-up with in the past on pieces viewable at CAF. Both also appear to be of the philosophy that $60 should buy you an 11" x 17" full figure in color with a background, which is a mindset I can totally support/exploit. Seriously, I can measure J'en's height in this piece as going from my elbow to my most distal pinkie knuckle. I used to have one of those 1970s Shogun Warriors Godzilla toys that this drawing would still manage to tower over. As has become typical of my attempts to scan full color commissions, loads of subtleties are lost, including an inferred extension of the mountain range in fuscia that reads digitally as some scrapes of purple at J'en's midsection. There's an unexpected maliciousness in her eyes, as if she's just killed someone she really wasn't too fond of (as opposed to targeting a groundhog, which might be how you'd interpret the less clear scan.) I do my best, but these guys end up sold short regardless. It may seem to be damning with faint praise against competition of such magnitude as George Tuska and Alan Kupperberg on a character whose career spanned panels in a trio of JLofA comics, but this has got to be one of the best J'en pictures in existence.

* Well, maybe Despero, but my non-researched mental tally for him is three.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

2012 “JLA by George Perez” Martian Manhunter Commission

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Via artist's Facebook page
"Another commission piece. I don't get many requests for J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter, but I've always thought he was a cool-looking character. This marker sketch harkens back to his first appearance way back in the 1950s.."

Aric Shapiro is a comic art collector with the good taste to pursue a series of Justice League of America member spotlight commissions in their full Satellite Era glory by George Pérez. An online acolyte of Pérez, Mitch Ballard, then colored some of the pieces with Shapiro's consent.
"The JLA continues with the backbone of the team and the most underrated of the JLA characters, the Martian Manhunter. Georgge really brough Jonn to life!!"
Pérez's uncolored original can be viewed here. For years, Pérez was "the" guy to draw pretty much anyone perfectly, until he got bitten by the photo-referencing bug. Shapiro's gallery is very Satellite Era leaning, so there's a cognitive dissonance to Pérez's Bronze Age party from the neck down, random lantern jawed businessman in the front where Superman's face should be. Martian Manhunter very much stands apart from the other standard bearers of the era in their period costumes, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Pérez has always done an exceptional J'Onn J'Onzz, but he really goes whole hog on the beetle brow, making the Alien Atlas an intimidating presence while retaining glorious fan minutia like the belt buckle and folded collar. I love this return to the strange experiment of Professor Erdel!

2012 “JLA by George Perez” Commissions

Sunday, September 23, 2012

2012 Cameron Chase Space City Con Commission by Vo Nguyen

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One of the great things about Space City Con coming after Comicpalooza is that it gave me a second chance to amend some oversights in my commission list. At a con, it's easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment. I didn't realize until after the weekend was done and I surveyed the artwork that in an anniversary year meant to spotlight the Martian Manhunter's supporting cast, "good guys" were poorly represented. Part of the joke was that this would be a "Happy Zook Year," and I hadn't gotten anyone to do the other-dimensional pet, so who better that Art Adams? Not only could I get it done, but I could get it done up mighty nice.

Cameron Chase starred in her own short-lived series in 1998 by Dan Curtis "D.C." Johnson (who unjustifiably faded out of the industry) and J.H. Williams III (who has since become a modern idol.) Chase was the daughter of a deceased minor super-hero who grew up to become a private investigator before being recruited by Mister Bones for the DEO. As an agent of the Department of Extra-normal Operations, Chase investigated metahumans in the DC Universe, as basically the F.B.I. of the cape set. If that sounds a lot like the more successful creator-owned Powers series that started a couple of years later, yeah, it sure does. DC only gave the book nine issues, and Johnson got to continue with the property for a few years as short filler material in their Secret Files & Origins books. Johnson wore a John Ostrander influence on his sleeve, and even before Chase ended, Ostrander began appropriating aspects of the book for his new Martian Manhunter series. Johnson was both flattered and flustered, since Ostrander revealed that a contemporary of Chase's dad was the Martian Manhunter in disguise (where Johnson had other plans for the Bronze Wraith,) turned Mister Bones into an adversarial presence (instead of a penitent ex-villain,) and penned the confrontation between Chase and her father's murderer Doctor Trap as part of his single issue wrap-up of Martian Manhunter. Cameron Chase appeared in nearly as many issues of Martian Manhunter as her own book, and had a major impact on the series, so she rates inclusion here. It's worth noting that Chase also turned up in most issues of the Kate Spencer Manhunter series, to affirm her bona fides for representation.

Vo Nguyen had done a villain piece for me at Comicpalooza, but thanks to theme months and my posting schedule, the Space City Con commission has gone up first. Amusingly, Nguyen was now sharing a booth with Chris Beaver, who has also done two full color pieces for me, neither yet published. I enlisted both for Comrades of Mars though, so we should see some Beaver before the month is out. Anyway, Chase was one of a few character options I'd given Nguyen, but lacking a prepared model sheet, I'd brought a copy of Chase #7 as reference. Nguyen chose Chase based on the cover-- but thought that I wanted him to draw the demon. I corrected the assumption, but Nguyen stuck with his choice anyway. Nguyen tends to like darker subjects, and was apparently hellbent on getting the commission and his demon too. For $60, I got two figures in fully painted color with a modest background and slick perspective. Never underestimate the power of the muse, let me tell you. The scan takes major liberties with the coloring, which are much more moody and subdued in the art, but that wasn't translating very well digitally. About an inch of artwork is cropped off the bottom, because I couldn't fit the full 11 x 17" board on even a FedEx Office copier. I didn't have the same issue with the sides, and the white portions you see are only on the scan, since Nguyen filled virtually every bit of the board. He used his own Blue Line Pro paper, but you can hardly tell, because it is so soaked in paint that it might as well be an unstretched canvas. I need to get this framed and on the wall, because it is a fantastic piece that demands to be displayed!

For more, check out Vo Nguyen deviantART page and his Comic Art Fans gallery!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

2011 DC Comics New 52 Jam Mural Martian Manhunter art by Patrick Gleason

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In a sweet find by Idol-Head regular mathematicscore, here's Pat Gleason's contribution to the enormous mural that lines the walls of DC's West Coast offices, featured back in May on the Patrick Gleason Art blog.
The icing on the cake (or should I say Choc-o) was that I would be getting to draw one of my favorite DCU heros; Martian Manhunter. I liked John from the start. First working on him with Doug Mahnke on an issue of the regular series... then on my own as a character in JLA Welcome to The Working Week...somewhere in there was a pin-up featuring Green Arows chili recipe... And now that I think of it, he's had a cameo in probably every other book I've worked on at DC. Aquaman, Green Lantern Corps and most recently his own story line in Brightest Day... I'm not going to go into all that I love about the character right now, but let's just say there were times he reminded me of how I used to feel when I first saw Superman... Anyway I enjoyed inking my mural section (below) which is something I tend not to do unless there is a deadline crunch. In this case I took my time and enjoyed myself. In the end I was pretty happy with how it turned out.
Kind words and swell art! Here's a too tiny glimpse of it in color...

Notice, as I failed to at first, that Gleason drew a Brightest Day Manhunter that was later converted to the New 52...

Friday, September 21, 2012

Professor Arnold Hugo versus Professor Hugo Strange

Professor Arnold Hugo
Debut: 1962
Nemesis: Martian Manhunter
Other Major Foes: Batman, Robin, Zook
Appearances: 6 original comics
Powers: Superhuman intellect (gadgetry)

An unremarkable local professor, Arnold Hugo became so enraged that an ancestor was overlooked by the Gotham City Historical Society that he subjected himself to a "Brain-Stimulator" that expanded his mind to a superhuman degree. Hugo's enhanced intellect allowed him to create lightning cannons, giant cats, flying invisible robots and an artificial celestial body before being defeated by the Dynamic Duo. Hugo moved to Middletown to attempt to steal the powers of the Martian Manhunter, whom he would continue to quarrel with using his wizardry over technological menaces.

Vile Menagerie Stats
Win: Professor Ivo (9-6,) Bette Noir (9-4,) Dr. Trap (11-6,) Alex Dunster (9-8,) Vulture crime organization (10-3,) Porto (all but 1 vote)
Lose: Mister V (5-6)
Draw: Vandal Savage (5-5)

Professor Hugo Strange
Debut: 1940
Nemesis: Batman
Other Major Foes: Catwoman, Nightwing, Robin
Appearances: 100+ comics, as well as cartoons & video games
Powers: None

Doctor Hugo Strange worked as a professor of psychology at Gotham State University before getting tossed out for being a weirdo. Strange then began working with the mob to conduct genetic experiments. The results were giant cannibalistic "monster men" that Strange used to commit crimes until they were destroyed by Batman. Strange became obsessed with the Dark Knight as a perfect physical specimen, investigating his secret identity and attempting to replace Batman himself. Strange has occasionally uncovered Bruce Wayne's alter ego, but has repeatedly forgotten after having gone around the bend or been convinced that his deduction was erroneous. Most of Strange's modern appearances have revolved around manipulation of subjects through hypnosis, hallucinogenics, and other bad medicine.

Vile Menagerie Stats:
Win: 0
Lose: 0
Draw: 0

Idol Speculation: The Golden Age Hugo Strange would have been a serious challenge, since he was very much of the broad mad scientist school that Professor Hugo teaches at. However, when Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers revived the character in the 1970s after decades in limbo, he became the Dark Knight's answer to Doctor Faustus. That is to say, Strange specializes in playing those mind games, screwing with Batman's head instead of trying to blast it off with a laser cannon. I think there's potential for Professor Strange to toy with Professor Hugo's ego, but that requires time and care Given Name Hugo would be unlikely to be given by Family Name Hugo. More probably, Arnold Hugo would whip out his mind-control doohickey from House of Mystery #157 to make Hugo Strange pirouette in his boxer shorts. The Wizard of a Thousand Menaces is like the honey badger of experi-mental crime. "He got beat by the Dynamic Duo when he was trying to throw a moon at Gotham City, but he just went out and started trying to kill J'onn J'onzz right after, over and over again. Professor Hugo is crazy. He just doesn't give a care."

Thursday, September 20, 2012

2011 “Z'Onn Z'Orr: Nasedo” animation-style fan fiction by N:TAS

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N:TAS DCU: Z'Onn Z'Orr: Nasedo 3-24-11

At the Super Buddies message board, there's a user under the handle "NightwingTAS" who builds digital figure models off the Bruce Timm DC Animated Series template for further fan fiction adventures of his own devising. Number 3 in the "Z'Onn "Z'Orr" series, here's his take on Mica'kel...

After J'onn rescued the Martians from the Government, the eldest White Martian, Mica' Kel went to a Native American Reservation where he learned to commune with not just the people but the Earth itself and build a relationship with them. He learned that not humans were hostile and that he should use his abilities to help his new home, and his new people. Taking the name Nasedo, a name the tribe had given him due to his shapechanging abilities Mica' Kel decided if he wanted to be a hero he had to do so in his White Martian form, he had to show the people of Earth that not all of his kind are monsters.
The new name and background is taken from a character on the TV show Roswell, which is the sort of thing that drives me nuts. Otherwise, I like this direction, especially the strong intention of moving away from White Martians as racially evil. I like the "alignment neutral" color scheme, and the simple fact that a White put some dang clothes on.

That said, it's applied to the wrong character. Telok'Telar was the member of the Others who most resembled J'Onn J'Onzz physically, and had the most cognitive dissonance from the revelation that he was not in fact a Green Martian. It seems to me that he would be the most likely to adopt a super-heroic pose modeled after the Martian Manhunter. That leaves Mica'kel as the surviving villain, the militant White Martian who would brand Telok'Telar a traitor and clash with J'Onn J'Onzz for the soul of his son, Till'all. That's my take, anyway.

Get Familiar

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

2012 Perkins Preston and Patty Marie Comicpalooza Commission by Jamie Kinosian

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While the blog may be named after a device that generated Martian Manhunter adversaries, I wanted our fifth anniversary to be a loving shindig involving J'Onn J'Onzz's dear friends. The 1950s-set Martian Manhunter: American Secrets is possibly the finest Manhunter story ever told, and an overlooked gem for the medium as a whole, which you can read more about here, here, and here. While obscure and largely forgotten today, I'd imagine a fair percentage of the people inspired to visit a daily Martian Manhunter blog have a lot of love for the story and its characters.

Perkins Preston was an Elvis analogue, while Patty Marie was a random child star, and both could "see" through the disguises of The Lizard Men who secretly conquered Earth during the McCarthy era. Detective John Jones happened upon the two youths over the course of a murder case, and they ended up taking a cross-country road trip of escape from and confrontation of the vast conspiracy. Their lives linked by fate and circumstance, I liked the idea of paying tribute to the pair.

Jamie Kinosian has a strong humanistic quality to her artwork, and seemed perfect to capture the innocence of these kids. I approached her at Comicpalooza on Friday, a few tables down from Jerry Rascoe. Like Paul Maybury, Kinosian made the piece her official time killer in between other, more pressing work, since I had made it clear that it could be played with across the entire weekend. In Kinosian's case, she took advantage of the time frame to meticulously build the piece across all three days. She had the basic layout done on the first day, started building up the color on day two, and offered the finished piece that Sunday. I enjoyed watching it develop over that time, as Kinosian breathed rich life into the characters. Try as I might, I could never get a scan to do justice to her nuanced flesh tones, lighting effects, and watercolor halo. The image as you see it here is a might jaundiced by comparison, I'm afraid. Good thing I've got the 9x12" original here at home to appreciate.

Jamie Kinosian is an absolute sweetheart, but I totally stole this piece from her at $35. She didn't even let me forget the copy of American Secrets #2 that I gave her for reference, the way I totally lost my Green Lantern Corps #5 to the Dave Johnson New 52 Martian Manhunter commission. At least she made a little extra bread off my girlfriend, who bought her Sherlock's Serenade print without knowing the first thing about the British TV show that inspired it. Kinosian was supposed to be at Space City Con, and I had a specific set of characters I was hoping to get done for this month, but I missed her on both Friday and Saturday. Given my druthers, this will not be my last Kinosian piece, but I suppose we'll all have to wait until next con. In the meantime, why not peruse her deviantART gallery, especially you fans of Blue Beetle and Booster Gold slash fiction...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Martian Sightings for December, 2012

I haven't been able to bring myself to read Stormwatch for a few months now, because Milligan seemed to mark a substantial drop-off in the writing quality of an already bad book. I did finally skim #12 though, and it occurred to me that J'Onn J'Onzz might be the "secret" founder of the new Justice League who got busted mindwiping his teammates to help "get them ready." Just a thought as I plow through another month of solicitations carried by M'gann M'orzz in cartoon continuity...
On sale JANUARY 16 • 344 pg, FC, $24.99 US

• Collecting tales from JLA #22-26, 28-31 and 1,000,000!
• The JLA’s very first foe, Starro the Conqueror, returns in this title now in trade paperback!

Written by LEN WEIN, DENNIS O’NEIL, CARY BATES and others Art by DICK DILLIN and others Cover by NICK CARDY On sale JANUARY 23 • 528 pg, B&W, $19.99 US • In this new, value-priced collection of stories from the 1970s, the JLA faces foes including Felix Faust, the Shaggy Man, Eclipso, Amazo, the Injustice Society and more. • Collects JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #107-132.
Featuring Korge-- the Last Angry God!

Miss Martian
Art and cover by CHRISTOPHER JONES
On sale DECEMBER 19 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED E

• Batgirl takes on Match—alone!
• Alpha Squad infiltrates Brainiac’s ship as it hovers above Metropolis!
• Superboy and the Justice League battle their captor, Kylstar!

Monday, September 17, 2012

FCBD 2011 Young Justice Batman BB Super Sampler #1 (July, 2011)

A team of super-heroic sidekicks had come together, and been sanctioned by Batman as a covert operations unit for the Justice League under the mentorship of Red Tornado. On this day, they faced the Psycho-Pirate in Salt Flats. A canister of plutonium had been swiped-- not the usual modus operandi of the villain. When innocents driven to violently hate the teen heroes by the Psycho-Pirate's emotion controlling Medusa Mask failed to stymie to group, it was employed directly on the heroes to paralyze them with anxiety. M'gann M'orzz was frozen in place, thinking...
"Life on Earth is nothing like how it is portrayed on television. I'm a Martian. Mars is not Earth. I'm the ultimate outsider, as if people couldn't tell by my name: Miss Martian! I can hear everyone's thoughts! I'm not supposed to, but I can't help it! I'm trying desperately not to do it. It's how we communicate on Mars! Here it's a violation of things that are 'personal'. To humans it's a violation, but not to Martians. I have things that are... personal. Things I don't necessarily want everyone to know. When you watch people on TV, you can't hear what they are thinking."
Kid Flash was the first to fall to the Medusa Mask, but also the first to fight off its influence. Mud was thrown in the Psycho-Pirate's face, and then the Medusa Mask was ripped off at super-speed. The radioactivity worshiping fiend Atomic Skull appeared to counter Kid Flash and take possession of the canister, but the revived heroes were disinclined to let him keep it. Miss Martian turned one of her arms into an elongated tentacle, but Atomic Skull blasted it before the canister could be reached. Superboy had slightly better luck, but came up short, then Miss Martian managed to use telekinesis to steal the prize. The Atomic Skull blasted her again, but Kid Flash managed to cradle the falling canister to avoid catastrophe. The Skull escaped without his goal, leaving a mystery for the young heroes, but the immediate threat was over.

"Face Your Fears" was by Art Baltazar & Franco on writing and Mike Norton's art.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

2012 B'rett Comicpalooza Commission by Damon Bowie

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I knew going into this month long celebration of the blog's fifth anniversary that sooner or later I would hit some kind of wall. I think the posting quality over the past couple of weeks has been worth taking pride in, and we may set some sort of record for the sheer amount of words going into each post on average. That said, I'm under the weather, I need to try to get a few more hours sleep before a 5 a.m. shift, and I'm inclined to let the art do most of the talking for this post.

One thing I hadn't thought of when I started doing the weekly "Best (Martian Manhunter) Art Ever (This Week)" posts after Comicpalooza is that when the doubling/tripling of art posts was to begin in September, it wouldn't be fair to the artists who didn't get their own week in the spotlight. Obviously, there's some incentive to plugging in the "big name" artists this month, not just to raise the roof, but because they wouldn't get as much out of a blog post touting their work. Still, it makes sense for both logistics and fairness to knock out a quick post with someone like Damon Bowie, who provided three commissions and will get a whole other week of his own down the line.

B'rett was the last of Bowie's three 2012 commissions. The artist did swell work at twenty bucks a pop, but we didn't have any lengthy conversations, and I've already talked up our interactions in the Glenn Gammeron art post. I've also spoken enough about B'rett elsewhere not to hijack a sketch post with commentary. Bowie's remaining piece is my favorite of the trio, which I'd love to color for a sidebar icon, and features an obscure character I would like to devote some thought to when I have time. For now though, tiptoeing through the tulips with B'rett and keeping this short on effort and high on eye appeal suits me fine. If you'd like more, why not visit Damon Bowie's deviantART gallery?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

SurVILEvor Island: Darkseid

Some might have considered it bad form to involve Firestorm Fans in the exile of Brimstone from SurVILEvor Island by 64% of 25 votes. A counterargument would be that Idol-Head readers could get a poll up to that many votes on their own, so if they wanted to save Brimstone, the opportunity was there. Either way, the defeat of a minion of Apokolips drew the attention of its lord and master, Darkseid.

Darkseid was Jack Kirby's first major creation for DC since his departure from the company, ushering in of the Marvel age of comics, and return to the fold. Arguably, it was also his greatest contribution to DC Comics. The Fourth World Saga was Kirby's stab at creating a new pantheon of gods representing modern times, and while it was not the commercial success everyone involved had hoped for, it was still hugely influential within comics and beyond. It has long been believed that George Lucas took more than a little from the franchise to create his own Star Wars. Darkseid certainly appeared to be a template for Darth Vader-- an ebon deity committed to universal fascism under his rule. Vader was the lieutenant of an emperor though, whereas Darkseid was a chief and less hands-on with regard to actual conflict. The Lord of Apokolips had a whole host of underlings to do his bidding, and saved his strength for occasional clashes with his own son, Orion.

People will point to characters like Thanos and Mongul as knock-offs of Darkseid, lacking the historical perspective to recognize that Darkseid was not himself the villain as we know him today at the time of their creation. Despite being introduced in an issue of Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen, Jack Kirby intended his New Gods to exist in their own continuum. While he was the main threat in books like Mr. Miracle and Forever People, it was in a role akin to Adolph Hitler in World War II. There was no shortage of evil Nazi masterminds for heroes to struggle against without Hitler being directly involved with a given adventure. If Thanos wanted a Cosmic Cube, he had to go punch his way through a bunch of Avengers. For Mongul to get Warworld, he had to extort the services of Superman by threatening his friends' lives. Darkseid already had Apokolips from the beginning, and guys like Kalibak, Baron Bedlam, the Deep Six, Mantis, Virman Vundabar and Granny Goodness did all the dirty work. Darkseid and the Fourth World didn't really take part in the greater DC Universe until Apokolips hosted one of the annual JLA/JSA team-ups in 1980, followed a couple of years later by the Legion of Super-Heroes' use of Darkseid for the classic story arc "The Great Darkness Saga."

The major turning point came in 1984, when Jack Kirby was brought in to produce a tie-in comic for Kenner's The Super Powers Collection toy line. Kirby used his own Darkseid as the mini-series' overarching villain, which led to the creation of a Darkseid action figure in 1985, and Apokolips figuring heavily into the final years of the long-running Super Friends cartoon show. All this exposure saw Darkseid take center stage in DC's follow-up to the Crisis on Infinite Earths mega-event, Legends. At this point, nearly two decades after his creation, Darkseid became the cosmic comic threat familiar today.

As it happened, the Martian Manhunter was reintroduced to comic book fans after a lengthy absence in 1984, taking part in most of the same mini-series as Darkseid, and being rendered in action figure form as part of the same "wave" assortment. I bought both as a kid, and played out matches between the two before they tangled in comics like Legends and Cosmic Odyssey. The truth is though, Martian Manhunter appeared in such books as a member of the Justice League, Darkseid was there as a villain or uneasy ally, but the two characters rarely had any direct interaction.

It came as some surprise then when Darkseid turned up in 1998's Martian Manhunter #1,000,000, and the book testified that it would be the Alien Atlas who finally defeated the Lord of Apokolips once and for all. Probably not what Jack Kirby had in mind, any more than Samachson and Certa ever intended J'Onzz to become the living planet of Mars. Later, Darkseid served as a catalyst for a Manhunter/JSA team-up. Further yet, Darkseid was meant to inspire J'Onzz's brother Ma'alefa'ak to nearly eradicate the Martian people through plague, while torture by Darkseid's minion DeSaad more directly caused the death of their father.

The Sleuth from Outer Space stopped appearing regularly in comics a couple of years before Darkseid's debut, but even if you start the clock at 1984, how likely would it be to take a decade and a half before J'Onn J'Onzz acknowledged to someone-- anyone-- that Darkseid was his longest standing and most implacable nemesis, the mastermind of all his greatest tragedies? "Say Mr. Miracle, did I ever mention the months I spent with your mentor Himon acting as the instigator of an insurgency in the Armagetto? Never? Gee, I guess that's why we're just passing acquaintances. Enjoy your latest short-lived solo series. Toodles."

While I've never had the same emotional connection to Darkseid that I do to Jim Starlin's take on archetypal villainy, and I really do think the character has been overly, poorly used, I do like and respect the villain. It's just that unlike many modern fans, I've actual read the Kirby original, and that guy wouldn't be getting into slugfests with the Martian Manhunter. If handled as Kirby intended, any given New God would be a struggle for Superman, rather than goons scattered like tenpins in the path of "Stalemate with Darkseid XXIV."

Even within the confines of DC's common usage of the Lord of Apokolips, Martian Manhunter is way out of his weight class and expecting the loan of a villain that will always be far more associated with the Man of Steel, the entirety of the Fourth World, and even the entire DC Universe as a whole. The insertion of Darkseid into the Martian Manhunter origin story at best weakens the integrity of J'Onn J'Onzz's entire life, and at worst diminishes the Fourth World by bringing it down to the level of a Martian being a credible threat on a world dotted by Flame Pits. Boiled down, that makes J'Onzz a secret agent in an extraterrestrial Berlin during a black and white war, doing his patriotic duty for the good of all. That is the exact opposite of noir, where men with ambiguous, regrettable backgrounds try to hold on to their souls in a compromised world. The green man is meant to negotiate shades of gray, not the absolute darkness of a rhetorical metaphor. The Martian Manhunter does not fit in the Fourth World, nor does Darkseid function properly on Mars. There's no spark here, no great clash of polar personalities. This is pure, ill-considered fan fiction that drew a paycheck somehow. Nobody wants to see the Martian Manhunter pitted against Mr. Freeze, either. It's oil and water, where both of these withdrawn, solemn figures need gasoline and a match to maintain audience interest.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Dragon*Con 2012 Martian Manhunter Cosplay Gallery by Shag Matthews

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Earlier this month, the Irredeemable Shag sent us a Martian Manhunter Family Cosplay photo from his trip to this year's Dragon*Con, one of the biggest comic and costume aficionado conventions on planet Earth (they've nothing on PlutoCon 96473, of course.) As is our way, we follow up on that peek with multiple blog crossover galleries. It's been half a decade. You know how we roll.

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Multiple M'gann M'orzz Miss Martian Meeting! M'Orr?

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The Box Hero Corps works from a premise I can't quite grasp of making uncomfortable looking costumes out of materials off the back of a UPS truck designed to resemble small toys. I guess I'm square that way. They look cool though, and there's a Martian Manhunter on board!

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Here's a picture with the Magnificent Seven Justice League of Professional Movers!

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Here's J'Onn giving Cyborg the stink-eye for taking his slot as a founding member of the League.

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Here's Cyborg screwing around on his iPhone instead of heroing-up. I bet he can't even get a signal on his crapware.

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Here's Victor Stone pounding on J'Onn's shoulder over a rude reference to his do-rag, while Aquaman punches J'Onzz in the back of the head for something he muttered under his breath about Arthur selling his son out for popularity! Aquaman has very acute hearing from living underwater. Plastic Man, meanwhile, is doing something lewd off-panel, as usual.

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Here's Firestorm the Nuclear Man standing close to a fellow hero with a well known aversion to open flames. Even Cyborg thinks that's inconsiderate. What a douche bag.

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And here's the gentleman with the fine taste to not only cosplay as the Manhunter from Mars, but to add a Box Hero Atom to his shoulder as well. Also, praise for hopefully having a sense of humor about my mocking him lovingly. That is the most badass hobo armor ever, and I must commend the attention to details like the belt buckle and the 300 polygon brow. I'm proud for the creator of this suit, and commend them on a job well done.

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The picture at the top of the post featured KalEl NC Sean in his newly revised Brightest Day Martian Manhunter costume. I assume he loaned his belt/straps to Alcide the Boyhunter of Bon Temps above. If you'd like more of KalEl NC Sean, visit Power of the Atom at the link below. If you'd like more of The Most Interesting Manhunter Alive here, google "Gay Bear."

Thanks to the Irredeemable Shag for sharing his hundreds of pictures, and the Superhero Costuming Forum for arranging the shoot.

Dragon*Con 2012 Cosplay Galleries by Shag Matthews

Thursday, September 13, 2012

2011 “Z'Onn Z'Orr: Martian Huntress” animation-style fan fiction by N:TAS

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N:TAS DCU: Z'Onn Z'Orr: Martian Huntress 3-12-11

At the Super Buddies message board, there's a user under the handle "NightwingTAS" who builds digital figure models off the Bruce Timm DC Animated Series template for further fan fiction adventures of his own devising. Number 2 in the "Z'Onn "Z'Orr" series, here's his take on K'hym J'onzz...

Ok I changed her name from Martian Girlhunter to the Martian Huntress.

J'onn thought that the Martian race was extinct, until he found an amulet that belonged to his daughter K'hym, and he went on a search, and was shocked to find his daughter being held in stasis by the government, along with a few others. J'onn rescued them and since she has been freed young K'hym has adapted to life on earth and has taken the human name Kim Jones and joined her father as the Martian Huntress.
N:TAS went on to explain that K'hym would idolize M'gann M'orzz as her "big sister," and in her heroic identity takes on her red-headed bob. You can see that version of the Martian Huntress here. For myself, while this is very sweet and cute, I think the tragedy that drives J'Onn is lessened considerably if he's only a widower. Losing his kid is that extra gut punch denied most super-heroes, and explains why an adult male would hang out with teenage girls. I vastly prefer "surrogate daughters" to "prospective interspecial child brides" or "JLJB." This does remind me of a story idea I had that would probably be pointless in the current continuity, not to mention in poor taste.

In the J.M. DeMatteis version of J'Onn's origin, J'Onzz is teleported to Earth while cradling K'hym's body in his arms. That meant K'hym's plague-ridden corpse was still on Earth somewhere. So many morbid directions to go with that. Probably best we don't though.

Get Familiar

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

2012 Kishana Lewis Comicpalooza Commission by Chris Foreman

Chris Foreman has been on the local convention circuit for a while now, and does good trade on custom art cards. I wondered how he might like to handle something with greater dimensions though, and was happy to finally see the Blue Line pages I'd had mothballed since the '90s see some action. Looking through Foreman's CAF gallery, the images I liked best involved an unidentified African-American female (although I'm sure I found her name out at some point, but forgot where.) The pics aren't 100% safe for work, you can scope them here and here. I've wanted to increase focus on the Martian Manhunter's supporting cast this year, so she brought to mind Kishana Lewis from the underappreciated JLA: Scary Monsters mini-series. It seemed to me like Chris Claremont had a backdoor pilot in mind, so Lewis got a disproportionate amount of "screen time" as J'Onn J'Onzz's love interest and the salvation of the earth. After reading Joe Kelly's run on JLA, I can say with confidence that it would have been improved by both Faith and Scorch having been replaced with Kishana Lewis, but the neophyte heroine instead vanished at the end of her mini-series. Not all artists have a good handle on drawing black characters, but Foreman had shown that he did and could combine that with sex appeal and the more cartoony qualities of Lewis' co-creator, Joshua Hood. Seemed like a love connection to me.

The result was the above $50 full color 11 x 17" bust, emphasis on bust, as in stacked and packed with a fresh coat of wax. Those were some busy markers, and there's a funny demonic negative version on the back from bleeding through the paper. Kishana looks unusually pissy, like you're about to light a cigarette in the woods. Only you can prevent forest fires! Foreman pulled it together inside of a few hours on Saturday (if I recall correctly.) If you're bummed about missing out on his Martian Manhunter, don't be, because here's a 2010 Sketch Card, and there's plenty more to see at Chris Foreman's deviantART page!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

2011 New 52 Martian Manhunter Designs by Cully Hamner and Jim Lee

"The big gun of Stormwatch. The goal was to create a warrior look for the Martian Manhunter-- he's a bad dude-- but at the same time make him somewhat regal looking. He's not a brawler; he's a master strategist. DC co-publisher Jim Lee stepped up to lock down the final design...

The sides of Manhunter's head proved tricky for artists when this new design was first being incorporated. The raised forehead yet slightly sunken, ridged sides took some practice before it became second nature to draw."

The New 52 has proven a solid jumping off point for me as a devoted DC reader, although the truth is that I've been steadily losing interest across a decade, and should have probably quit them between the Crises Identity and Infinite. I came in with Jenette Kahn, Dick Giordano and Paul Levitz, whose aesthetic is simply not compatible with that of Dan DiDio, Geoff Johns and Jim Lee. That said, I remain excited by the potential of the New 52 Martian Manhunter, who despite recently leaving Stormwatch remains a pivotal figure in the integration of the Wildstorm properties into a merged DC Universe. I'm more excited about Helspont as a Superman villain than I ever was in his days as the Magneto of the WildC.A.T.s, and it's great fun to feel the fresh synergy of Daemonites roaming in a shared history with Mars. After a year's worth of revised, mysterious continuity and some hindsight, I've come to appreciate J'Onn J'Onzz being freed from the shackles of staid establishment. He's not a Justice League founder anymore-- and he may have betrayed them as an early recruit! Is the Blue Flame that empowers Helspont the same as the one that destroyed Mars in the Bronze Age? If Martian Manhunter wasn't tied down to every incarnation of the JLA, what has he been getting up to with his clandestine operations? Might we finally get an Alien Atlas built up to stand as a solo hero again, with creators actually looking into his rogues gallery instead of inventing redundant retcon lame-os?

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Another major step forward in my book was the redesign of the Manhunter from Mars. I have much love for J'Onn J'Onzz, but I've always tried to view him with a critical eye and recognize his failings. Let's be honest, no thought went into his original costume, and it was about as generic as Martian gear gets. Chest straps, a belt, trunks, boots, cape. Tweaks were made over the years, my favorite being the raised, folded collar on his cape, but he might as well have been a low rent luchador if not for the brow and green skin. Over time, the simplicity of the suit gave it a nostalgic appeal, but the uninitiated would be forgiven for assuming that J'Onzz was simply a variation on the Hulk (as I've learned from experience.) As much as I want to hold on to the old J'Onn I bought as a Super Powers figure back in 1985, his look has held him back for decades. Visually, there was nothing about him that said "the Sleuth from Outer Space," or much of anything besides "retro extraterrestrial."

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I've been frustrated for over a year with DC releasing design sketches for New 52 heroes on their blog, many with only minor tweaks, but skipped the fairly radical Martian Manhunter revision entirely. Yeah, I'm sure Apollo and Midnighter were worth way more web traffic. It's not like their every solo comic combined amounts to fewer issues than the 1998 Martian Manhunter series alone. Thanks to DC's irritating oversight, like sand in my eyelid, I had to wait until the trade paperback collection Stormwatch Vol. 1: The Dark Side was released in late May to finally see the above images. I bought the comics as floppies, so between the wait and their not being very good, I was pissed off enough not to bother buying it. I've waited for months to see if a scan would turn up online, and finally found some at The Art of Jim Lee tumblr and Character Model.

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I liked Apollo's new outfit, as I found the old one about as dull as any super-hero who ever existed, so the only direction was up. Midnighter's is-- well-- comically inept. Jenny Quantum and Jack Hawksmoor were given modest positive alterations, while the Engineer seems to have been left alone. All were by Cully Hamner, who I've erroneously been crediting for the new look Martian Manhunter. No one has yet to draw J'Onn's more alien head as well as Hamner, but the two designs he turned in for the Alien Atlas leave a lot to be desired. The first one kept J'Onn's red "x" chest straps, which I have long felt are too common amongst prominent DC heroes (Hawkman and Adam Strange come readily to mind.) I hate when the "x" is used as an icon for the Manhunter, and I'm happy to see it ultimately excised. However, aside from the "x," nothing in that first design says "Martian Manhunter" except the guy wearing it. The flap on the cape kind of alludes to his old collar, but the degree of skin exposure around the neck better recalls Superman. The reverse teardrop cape serves even less purpose than a normal cape, is effeminate, and just plain embarrassing. The random techie crap on the chest is dated and dumb, the plunging "v" neck pities the fool, and the artist seemed to lose interest from the waist down. Piping is to 2012 as multiple bootstraps were to 1994.

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Hamner's revised attempt looks like a swell N'or Cott update, but what about this tells you it's meant for the premier Martian super-hero? Remember in the '90s when you'd get a costume redesign for a story, and then Toy Biz would turn it into Arctic Gear Batman™ or Stealth Armor Iron Man®? This looks like that action figure variant, except dressed down, like he comes with a vehicle or snap-on extras. Besides a souvenir novelty-sized Blood Gem and boots that vaguely resemble cavalier stock, there's nothing Martian Manhunter here. That is, unless he's going undercover as Johnny Utah to prove that the Ex-Presidents are, in fact, surfers.

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I typically like Hamner's work, and the final Martian Manhunter design seemed keyed in to his sensibilities. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be Jim Lee, who I feel is one of the worst, most creatively bankrupt designers in comics. Lee was really inspired here though, and deserves kudos. As much as I miss the collar, the skin tight yet angular cape is slick. The bottom straps of the old chest piece remain intact, but the upper portion is a unique horizontal plateau. The eight sided "pie" belt buckle dating back to the oldest comics is elevated to emblem status, which frankly warms my heart, since it was also present on my Super Powers figure. In order for it to stand out from a Plain Jane black and white image any schoolchild could draw in seconds, the "slices" are rendered gray and the slits a luminescent red, oddly complimentary. In an intriguing blending of cultures, an Eastern style breechcloth covers a pants/boot combo once worn by Cossacks, giving an added exotic effect to the alien's otherworldliness. While the seashell temples and insectoid forearm plates have that stink of cheap television sci-fi and video games, they also serve to separate the Martian Manhunter visually from the Hulk, which is a good thing in moderation. As previously noted, application of those physical affectations has been inconsistent, and the great thing about a shapeshifter is that it leaves a lot of the presentation up to the artist's prerogative. They can go for handsome humanoid or creepy creature as desired, and that flexibility should lend them enthusiasm, always preferable if you want good work.

Other elements have been up for grabs. Miguel Sepulveda drew the chest symbol as an Atom atom, which I could have done without, and the dhoti has contained a variety of designs. Sometimes the suit is colored bright purple, which is a bit loud but contrasts perfectly against green skin. Other times, the purple is so dark as to turn blue, and often is a dark blue at that, which is more familiar and preferable to me. The new get-up doesn't have much "Sleuth from Outer Space" in it, but as a battle suit for cosmic conflicts, I think it's aces. There's also room to play, since the new Martian Manhunter seems geared toward a more multifaceted presentation. I like this track, and hope DC has more in store for J'Onn J'Onzz...