Saturday, September 1, 2012

Five Years After Five Years Later...

In 2011, I offered a multi-year breakdown of my Martian Manhunter fandom, leading to the creation of this blog. Much of it centered on my late '90s WebTV fan site Martian Manhunter: The Rock of the JLA, which had been put to rest approximately five years before my first post here. I've talked a lot in the past about finer details of all that mess, to the point where I'm sick of repeating myself and I'm sure longtime readers can recite it from heart. I've been doing Manhunter from Mars blogging on something vaguely equivalent to a daily basis for most of the past five years, once I got my act together, and you can find 365 posts for each of them archived in the sidebar. Instead of boring you with another navel gazing history lesson, I'd like to do a little compare and contrast with regard to the past half decade.

The Aquaman Shrine inspired me to reinvent the old fan site as a blog, and came out six months or so ahead of the Idol-Head. At the time, Arthur Curry/Orin was dead, replaced by some random kid in a series that was very near cancellation after a misguided shift toward sword & sorcery. In the time since, Aquaman has been resurrected in his iconic presentation, his classic supporting cast revived, he's spent the past three years headlining bestselling series (Blackest Night, Brightest Day and Aquaman) by one of the most popular and accomplished creative teams currently working in the industry, and is no longer a pop culture joke (or at least is far less so.)

BOO$TERRIFIC started in 2007, contemporaneous to the launch of the second Booster Gold ongoing series. It ran 49 issues, thirteen more than any starring the Martian Manhunter. For one of those years, Booster was also in Justice League: Generation Lost before leading the latest iteration of Justice League International as part of the New 52.

Supergirl Comic Box Commentary arose three months after this blog, during the period when the Maid of Might's solo series was adrift following the departure of Jeph Loeb and his terrible Image artists. The title improved almost immediately, Supergirl became more integrated into the Superman family, and a fan favorite run by Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle began. The New 52 relaunch of the book is well within the top 100 comics published each month.

Firestorm Fan launched in January of 2009, citing the Aquaman Shrine and Idol-Head of Diabolu as inspirations. At the time, Ronnie Raymond was a deceased recovered alcoholic, while Jason Rusch was limping along on guest appearances three years after the cancellation of his short-lived series. Since then, the Nuclear Man co-starred in two of the books that made Aquaman more popular than the X-Men before getting a New 52 series that is still doing okay.

Being Carter Hall took flight in 2008, a couple of years after that guy's girlfriend stole their book from him and one after she ran it aground. Hawkman was in two of the same books as Aquaman and Firestorm, and has his own New 52 ongoing which is currently doing slightly better than The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men.

Subject: The Suicide Squad: Task Force X accepted its mission in October of 2010. It had been nearly twenty years since a Squad book had lasted more than twelve issues, involving two unsuccessful revivals. The New 52 volume launched a year later, and sells almost twice as much as The Savage Hawkman.

The last ever eponymous Martian Manhunter comic was published a few months before The Idol-Head of Diabolu opened. J'Onn J'Onzz had already been booted from the Justice League, and wasn't appearing very much. He almost joined Batman and the Outsiders, but the first three issues were scrapped and a whole new creative team were hired to offer him as part of a guest appearance before the new team solidified. Less than a year into the blog's life, the Manhunter was unceremoniously murdered in Final Crisis #1. He stayed dead for a year or so, appearing in the early comics tied into Blackest Night, but swiftly faded into the background. Returning from the grave, he was also in Brightest Day, but was voted by Newsarama readers one of the least popular features. In the New 52, he lost his founding status among the Justice League, was a background player in a relaunched Stormwatch series, and will be joining a JLA b-team clearly set up to be mowed down in the event crossover "The Trinity War." No solo series, like the ones enjoyed by Batwing, Grifter, OMAC, Frankenstein, the vampire Andrew Bennett, Mister Terrific, Voodoo, the Phantom Stranger or Talon, are forthcoming.

For five years, I've pressed for acknowledgement of fifty-seven years of Martian Manhunter stories, supporting players and villains in a book of his own that could showcase his distinctions while offering a vehicle for creative innovation from unique talents. Instead, DC has dumped every bit of that continuity, offered virtually nothing but a costume change in its place, and continue to fill out the back end of rosters for second rate teams with the Alien Atlas.

Basically, demonstrably, whatever I've been doing differently from these other blogs over the past five years has gone terribly wrong for everyone concerned. My apologies to the tens of dozens of Sleuth from Outer Space fans out there, especially because I have no intention of changing even one goddamned iota any time soon.


Hoosier X said...

Your Diabolu blog is great!

I've ended up here every once in a while over the years, but I've never left a comment.

Until recently, I wasn't much of a Martian Manhunter fan. I know who he is. (My favorite JLA incarnation is Justice League Detroit. So sue me!) I don't have anything against him. I've just never collected his solo adventures.

But I'm a big Batman fan, so over the last year or so, I've been buying beat-up copies of Detective Comics from the 1960s and 1970s, and I now have about 12-15 issues of the Martian Manhunter series from that period.

The big green goof is really growing on me. I love Zook! (Before, I only knew about Zook from Scipio making fun of him.) And I love it when Diane Meade has a decent role.

And now I'm interested in J'onn's history, the House of Mystery period and so on. And your blog is a great resource! Informative ... and fun, too!

And since I've only just begun - I checked out the Bel Juz entry just today and I may have to get hold of WF #212 pretty soon - there is so much more J'onn J'onzz history to look into!

Keep up the great work!

Diabolu Frank said...

Howdy Hoosier X! Glad to hear from a new voice!

I run a Detroit League blog, so I'm pretty understanding on that front. It wasn't a good place to become a Martian Manhunter fan, since literally every other team member had more development (even Dale Gunn!) J'Onn was just the generic classic flavor hero hovering in the background.

You'll want to stick around a bit if you love Zook. I've got a commission of him posting very soon by one of the greatest comic artists of all time. He turns up in about half of the Martian Manhunter stories from 1960s House of Mystery comics, which can be had for a fraction of the cost of old Detective Comics. I'm fond of Diane Meade myself, but it's true that she was often window dressing. Speaking of, she's got a piece coming this month, as well.

I'm happy to hear that you're exploring Alien Atlas history in back issues. Bring friends! ;)

mathematicscore said...

Don't ever change, Frank... :)

Anthony B. said...

My first comment on this blog and well needed.

MM by far is my favorite character in all of comics because, let's face it, he's a writers dream. He can make for a great detective story, a intergalactic epic, a commentary on everything from racism to loneliness etc.

I don't understand why writers seem to waste this character. I must have read "American Secrets" 5 times in my life and everything I think "Why can't they do a series like this? Why can't they bring something like this to television"

Anj said...

We need you on that wall!

I am a DC guy through and through, for 3+decades. I learned almost everything I know about J'Onn from this blog.

Keep fighting the good fight!

Diabolu Frank said...

Thank yous to M.C. & Anj!

Anthony B., great to hear from another first timer! I totally agree with all your sentiments, which is why it's so sad when J'Onn stays stuck in the super-hero milieu. It's like watching a quality actor take nothing but paycheck genre gigs.

will_in_chicago said...

Frank, keep doing what you are doing -- as I like it.

As for J'Onn, it almost feels like he is like an actor who was blacklisted in the 1950s and can't get decent work.

I had hopes for Stormwatch, but it seemed that he was an afterthought in the comic and only glimpses of the character's potential came out. (Stormwatch #12 was J'Onn's issue.) We now see him heading up a team where he is by far the most powerful member. (I suppose they couldn't have gotten Captain Atom, or Firestorm or anyone else to join the team. Let's say once you get past J'Onn and the new Green Lantern, the power levels of the new Justice League of America drop rapidly down to the level of Green Arrow, Steve and Catwoman. (As Catwoman sold J'Onn out in Salvation Run, perhaps it is a good thing that this is a new continuity. J'Onn could perhaps be forgiven for wanting to make sure she has nightmares for the rest of her life -- along with enough phobias that she would be lucky to be able to steal a candy bar.)

If J'Onn was an actual person and the DCnU was where he worked, I think his friends would urge him to find a better place to work. This is a character with volumes of history, several great stories, tragedies to overcome yet who is treated as a mere afterthought. Maybe the new JLA title will prove the beginning of better things for J'Onn, but after a Stormwatch that promised a hamburger when I wanted and expected a steak, I have to ask why DC can't figure out how to make the best use of a relatively well known character. (The Justice League and Young Justice cartoons helped with the recognition levels for J'Onn, but he seems to be given less respect than Rodney Dangerfield by the editors at DC.)

Diabolu Frank said...

Thanks Will! Still waiting for my copy of Stormwatch #12 (despite not bothering to read #11 yet, or #10 come to think of it.) I think Firestorm and Captain Atom both are going to require redefinition before rejoining the greater DC Universe, but I'd be happy with either working alongside J'Onn. I think JLofA is going to get thrown under the bus like the JLI before all is said and done, so the line-up probably required jobbers (some of whom likely won't make it to year two.) As is par, that would make the Alien Atlas the most powerful and high profile hero that DC wouldn't mind sucker punching for an event.

Hopefully, I'll get back to Salvation Run in October to explore those Catwoman issues...

Luke said...

I will say this -- Martian Manhunter has not had the same kind of exposure as Hawkman over the same period we've been blogging about them, true, but he hasn't had the high profile disasters, either. *coughcoughLiefeldwalkoffcough*

I know it doesn't even the scales but it does tip them ever so much.