Friday, November 30, 2012

2012 “The Triumvirate of Thallasus” by Randy Kintz

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I know Moon Maiden, who was a time lost stand-in for the Silver Age Wonder Woman and appeared in an 80-Page Giant. Our own Mathematicscore figured out who Regal is in a well-spotted search.
“The Triumvirate of Thallasus-Moon Maiden, Regal and Triumph...

Another piece of my alternate Trinity drawn by artist Randy Kintz.He does sales often so I sprung on the chance to get the trio drawn by him. I'm hoping to get many drawings of the trio in action soon.”
The new Justice League of America has an alright line-up that I don't expect to last a full year on the basis of their seemingly coming together to take part in the fractious "Trinity War." Personally though, I'd have gone a different way. Besides Triumph and Moon Maiden pictured above, I'd have a League with Elongated Man, Citizen Steel, Vibe, Crimson Fox, Amazing Man, and Tomorrow Woman. These are all the Leaguers who died in bad ways, stayed dead, and have no current parallels in the New 52. You would seriously have no way of knowing what would happen to this cursed lot in any given issue. Strangulation? Rape? Treachery? The whole damned lot of them could up and die in any battle they rush into. It would be DC's answer to The Walking Dead ! The Ultraverse did something similar in the early '90s with Exiles, but wiped them out after only four issues without building reader expectations of a bad ending. Triumph even looks like Hardcase, one of that line's premier heroes (which might help explain why they went out of business.)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

2003 “Triumph: The Hero You Love To Hate” article by Christopher James Priest

Christopher J. Priest, born James Christopher Owsley, was a Marvel Comics writer and editor in the 1980s before moving to DC in the '90s and finally to Valiant/Acclaim before quitting comics altogether. While there are some Priest comics, to paraphrase Irwin Schwab, that I'd like to take with me to a white sand beach on a sunny day and leisurely feed copies into a shredder, others prove that he was one of the finest writers the medium ever produced. Coverage of his Justice League Task Force work has been woefully deficient on this blog. Since I'm offering some degree of extended coverage of Triumph this week, I thought I'd take advantage of Lamercie Park, the author's latest official web home. I'd hesitated previously because his old digital PRIEST site had nudity on its main page, so be careful of backlinks while clicking around there.

“This was, perhaps the most poorly thought-out launch of a new hero ever. I think most everyone associated with Triumph (who was created by DC Comics Group Editor Brian Augustyn, Mark Waid and Howard Porter) was taken a bit by surprise by the near-instant backlash the character received from the fans. Triumph's basic premise— that he was one of the charter members of the Justice League from way back in The Brave & The Bold #52— was deemed an apocryphal revision of beloved DC history, especially considering Triumph himself looked so bland and Silver Agey. Which, for those of us who worked on the premise, seemed to be the point: Triumph was specifically designed to look bland and Silver Agey because he was a guy who was there at the formation (actually the pre-formation) of the Justice League, but got swallowed up by some Big Thing and spent the next decade or so in stasis. This was DC's version of the Captain America bit, only with some real consequences to the character, Will MacIntire, who hardly had Steve Rogers' strength of character.”

“Fans took an instant dislike to the character, and vented a great deal of that dislike at me. Despite numerous attempts on my part to explain that Triumph's origins was a creative decision made by the company long before I had anything to do with him, Triumph was savaged in the fan boards and I was burned in effigy. Playing to that energy, I talked to editor Augustyn and suggested we play to that resentment and suspicion by having the characters— the JLA and others— regard Triumph with resentment and suspicion. When Triumph vanished from our time line, all knowledge of him vanished with him: no DC character recalls ever having met him. So Triumph ends up being a whiner who bellyaches repeatedly about how he was there, in the beginning, and how he is due the same respect as Martian Manhunter, Black Canary and Flash— claims absolutely no one takes seriously. Triumph is relegated to the Justice League's training team, their youthful Task Force, mentored by The Martian Manhunter, whom Triumph views as a peer. Triumph's aggressive impatience causes friction between him and The Manhunter, who beats the crap out of Triumph, to the utter delight of most fans, and then fires him.

One thing I wasn't prepared for was how deeply the Triumph resentment pervaded the office environs of DC Comics. Triumph was hated, deeply loathed, by a great many DC staffers, some of whom would go postal at the mere mention of the character's name. I'd kind of patiently look these folks in the eye and, with some trepidation, remind them that Triumph is a comic book character. That Triumph doesn't actually exist. I mean, I'd hear things like, That guy (Triumph) is such an asshole. and I'd kind of shrug and go, "Yes. Yes, he is. That's the idea."”

“The truth is, Triumph had two strikes going in: (1) he disturbed the sacred ground of the JLA's origins and, (2) he was a little unlikable. His shtick was: Triumph was always right. He was. It was that simple, and it was what made him so annoying to his fellow heroes (and DC staffers). Triumph was The Man With The Plan, a gentle tuckerization of DC's Director of Creative Services, the late Neal Pozner. Neal was, likely, the sharpest tool in the shed. He dressed better and had better hair than anybody on the floor, veeps included. He was aggressive, passionate about his convictions, willing to stick his neck out for his ideals and for the people he was charged with defending. Neal swung a (political) bat at the major-major Powers That Be at DC on my behalf once, a political move I didn't expect Neal to survive. I marveled at his courage and his dignity, even as some braced against him for being very direct and headstrong and for always being right. Neal, write this down someplace, was always right. He was. At the end of the day, Neal would be proven right. That fact, more than anything else, annoyed many staffers beyond reason. Not that Neal would rub your nose in it— you'd rub your own nose. That's how right he was.

I told Neal I was basing some of Triumph's energy on him, and warned him that people wouldn't necessarily like Triumph. This seemed to amuse Neal, though he tragically passed away before we could make much of it. Triumph was gay, something probably only Brian and I knew since we didn't have an appropriate storyline to deal sensitively with that issue, but that was my subtext for his emotional center: how out of place and out of sync Triumph was with the DC Universe.

That the fans didn't like him, I felt, was a function of my writing: I deliberately made him less than heroic, a bit self-absorbed and headstrong. I got permission, in a sense, to make Triumph unlikable, to make him a kind of pushy spoiler character, like Dr, Smith on the classic TV show Lost In Space. When I'd get hate mail saying how much of an a-hole Triumph was, and how the fans couldn't wait to see what shady thing he'd be up to next— I actually took that as a compliment. Sure, Triumph was an a-hole, but an a-hole that brought readers back to the pages of Task Force to see what sneaky crap he'd be up to next month.

I was more than taken aback, though, by many staffers' absolute loathing of the character, which, honestly, shouldn't have surprised me. DC, in those days at least, trended towards being The Nice Guy Company. The Jay Leno of comics. All their heroes pretty much knew each other's secret ID's, and all liked each other (I presume DC has evolved a bit out of this). DC's stationery had the characters, smiling and waving, standing on one another's shoulders as Wonder Woman, at the very top, held up the DC Comics logo. And that was the harmonious, Comics R For Kids family-friendly environment most of us worked in at DC. Marvel, meanwhile, was a more competitive environment where the heroes were handled a bit more realistically, where the heroes routinely kept secrets from and mistrusted the motives of one another. My edge on Triumph— I called him The Hero You Love To Hate— would have worked much better at Marvel, a place where cynicism was the hallmark and where Stan Lee set the tone 40 years ago with his irreverent take on super-heroing and his grounding of the same in the people politics of The World Outside Your Window.

DC staffers simply loathed Triumph and actively plotted his death (they got rid of him in some Persian Bazaar manner after Brian left the company). And, for me, that was DC's greatest failure: its inability to get out of its own way creatively. Killing off or retro-retconning Triumph or whatever they did just because they found the character annoying, jut because they didn't like the shadow Triumph cast over The Grail, seemed completely sophomoric and unprofessional. My eternal struggle over this character was in reminding staffers that they were staff, not fans, and that Triumph was a comic book character and not an actual person. But, at DC, in those days anyway, if you wore Spandex and looked like a hero, then, dammit, we expect you to act like one. That Triumph's main concern was, well, Triumph, was a violation of the Happy Pants code, wherein all DC characters must, by law, join hands and sing— something Triumph would never do unless there was something in it for him.

These folks missed the point of Triumph completely, and, I am told, couldn't wait for their earliest opportunity to remove the character from the DCU in the least dignified manner possible. Alas, poor MacIntire, we hardly knew ye.

In 1994, DC published Triumph, a four-issue miniseries intended to flesh out the character's origins and status quo. My vision for the Triumph book was a kind of ersatz Mission: Impossible (Tom cruise version), where Triumph is the pushy, headstrong leader of a freelance covert ops team. As usual, I went for layers of complexity— too many, in hindsight. We assembled a great creative team for the book that simply did not work well together. I mean, individually, everybody on the book was quite good at what they do. But, collectively, I dunno, something just didn't work. I didn't like the overall look of the book, and I didn't think the script's ambitions were well-served. In the summer of 1998, Acclaim Comics sent me on a cross-country signing tour for Quantum & Woody, and, in every city I went to, I bought back copies of Triumph from fans who'd bring them to signings, "Sorry, kid, here's your buck back."”
In 2000, Priest had also said of the character, "Putting Triumph, the brash, immature know-it-all thrown into limbo around the time of the JLA's formation, in the TF was a lot like sending John Rocker to the minor leagues. Triumph's abrasiveness frequently elevated J'Onn's disciplinarian side, which to me was a logical reaction for the Martian to have." I liked that bit. Anyway, there's a lot more to read if you visit the Triumph page @ Lamercie Park, including a breakdown of the Triumph mini-series with character details, not to mention the full script from the first issue.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

2012 “The Triumvirate of Thallasus” jam commission by Dominike Stanton, Jerry Gaylord & Bryan Turner

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I'm not going to make a joke about Triumph being drawn by a Gaylord...
“A crazy idea I had following the post Flashpoint DC. We glimpsed how Darkseid and the evil New Gods attacked universes in the Multiverse as evidenced in Earth 2 and Justice League and I though for a bit what if there was a world where the New Gods found themselves outgunned? We've already seen universes with the Trinity of Superman, Batman and Wonderwoman multiple times so what about a world where the three didn't exist and were never supposed to? We thus arrive to this odd idea I had of the three greatest heroes who never were of the DCU.

I thought it'd be fun to get my alternate Trinity or Triumvirate together at NYCC and figured a group of artists who work together would be ideal. I previously got a piece drawn by Penelope Gaylord so I asked her three compatriots from ID Comics to draw the Triumvirate.

Bryan Turner- Moon Maiden
Dominike Stanton-Regal
Jerry Gaylord- Triumph

Each has been a hero that in DC either retconned in as a past member of the Justice League or as ultimate could have been hero as Regal was so the three teaming up bubbled in my mind. They each share characteristics to the regular Trinity but in different ways in my mind. Triumph is something of a Superman/Batman being a great hero and strategist, Moon Maiden is something of a genius and magical creation ala a Batman Wonderwoman and Regal is a force of change and compassion as a Superman Wonderwoman in a way. I've thought of some ideas on how they could be launched as a group but of course not working for DC I know it'll never happen but would be one heck of a what if for me. And lastly Thallasus I chose as the name of their universe's Earth as it comes from the Greek word for ocean and Earth is a predominately watery world.”

Monday, November 26, 2012

Silver Age Triumph by Gil Kane

As I've mentioned recently, I never "bought" Triumph as a Silver Age hero lost in time, because despite a stripped down costume, he simply didn't look the part. If anything, the unusual color scheme and the "Me" Generation melodrama was much more Bronze Age. I've been curious to see how a more bona fide take would have played out. Triumph's electromagnetic powers would have been simplified to magnetism, and therefore his icon would naturally be the sort of horseshoe magnet familiar more from cartoons than real life. This reminded me of the Green Lantern villain Doctor Polaris, and more specifically his entry in an '80s issue of Who's Who where he was drawn in a rarely seen early costume as a surprint. It occurred to me that the image could easily be adapted into a Silver Age Triumph with a few modifications and an approximation of Triumph's color scheme dropped in. I did keep the red magnet, but with yellow tips instead of white, which fit in the scheme and mildly nods at the "electro" part. I thought about putting a stylized "T" on his belt buckle, but it kept looking like he was wearing a representation of his own frank n' beans.

The end result was surprisingly similar to Iron Fist, a Bronze Age character Kane had association with, as well as the Guardian and Agent Liberty. Were I inclined to put in more effort, I could alleviate that by giving "Triumph" the domino mask I'd expect from him, since he surely couldn't bear to have his hair matted by a skullcap. Try to picture Ozymandias' face instead, and we're good.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Top 5 Triumph Covers

5) Justice League Task Force #0 (October, 1994)

Though not exactly the founding line-up of the JLA, Triumph is at the forefront of a decent team, and well rendered.

4) Triumph #1 (June, 1995)

The anatomy is dubious, but for its time, not a bad debut cover.

3) Justice League International #68 (September, 1994)

A hero punching a guy's head off would be more remarkable if it registered at all, beyond "badly dressed hero versus gloop aliens."

2) Justice League America #92 (September, 1994)

The life Triumph should have lived, according to his own mind. White, blond, male-- was there a single contribution Will could have made to this team's diversity? Well yes, one, but he was never outed in a canonical publication.

1) Triumph #3 (August, 1995)

Slick, handsome, powerful, and slowly swallowed up by the shadows.

Cornucopia of Top Comic Covers

Saturday, November 24, 2012

SurVILEvor Island: Triumph

Mindboggling as it is to me, major villains veteran to numerous run-ins with the Sleuth from Outer Space lack poll support. Meanwhile, the poor man's Sinestro, who could be considered a lesser Green Lantern Kyle Rayner foe (behind the lightweight likes of Fatality, the sons of Darkseid, the junior Mongul, an evil version of Hal Jordan and Captain Atom loaner Major Force) who only ever fought J'Onn J'Onzz as part of a Love Boat collection of bad guy guest stars (Salvation Run, Final Crisis) has a reasonably strong mandate. Effigy took 62% of 13 votes, but consider yourselves chastised.

Zero Hour was conceived as a soft reboot of the DC Universe that would explain away problematic chunks of continuity that hung on after their more pronounced but staggered and divisive new beginning point, Crisis On Infinite Earths. The history of the Justice League of America was pretty screwed-up by this approach, since Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman were all retroactively removed from membership, Hawkman was turned into two different guys from the one that had served in the comics, Black Canary was made a founder, and the Martian Manhunter never once left the group. They could, and eventually did, devote an entire maxi-series just to handling the team dynamic that came out of those changes. In the meantime, Zero Hour was a weekly event mini-series that demanded all DC Comics have a tie-in issue one month, and a reader friendly entry point #0 issue the following month.

The three JLA titles had just done a self-contained event story, "Judgment Day," that was intended to finally bring a blessed end to the International era of branches governed by the United Nations in America, Europe, and the special missions Task Force of temporary recruits. "Zero Month" saw the core U.S. team continue to be led by Wonder Woman as a halfway home for revised heroes like Hawkman, '80s leftovers from Infinity Inc., and female JLI members with nowhere else to go. By design, it was the inclusionist, namby-pamby liberal League. Captain Atom would lead Extreme Justice, the Chromium Age militant unit complete with bad art involving lots of screaming and shiny metal. The Task Force was reworked as classic X-Men/New Mutants, with a reserved mentalist guiding young charges in the art of heroing-up. The new approaches would launch with #0, while "Judgment Day" was already done, so the editors had to come up with a gimmick to float the titles for the lag month that also had to invent a continuity glitch to tie into Zero Hour without touching on any of the heroes who had issues to work through in their own books.

Hence Triumph, a hero invented by committee to solve a temporary problem before lingering indefinitely. In the early days of DC's Modern Heroic Age, William MacIntyre was a young turk on the costume scene who put together a team of heroes nearly identical to the founding Justice League line-up(s). While battling the big alien menace, Triumph and the extraterrestrial invaders became dislodged in time, forgotten by history, only to resurface during the "Crisis in Time." Triumph tried to rally the heroes of the fractured League, but had to overcome his suspicious history and off-putting personality. The introduction and set-up meant that the alien menace was rather lame and easily dispatched in one issue, minimizing Triumph's ordeal. Finally, what could have been a well-loved dabbling in one-off pathos that won Kurt Busiek awards for his Astro City story "The Nearness Of You" and keeps the memory of Tomorrow Woman alive was undone by William MacIntyre sticking around as a permanent addition to the DC Universe. Rather than a hero who sacrificed himself to the greater good, Triumph was a griper who screwed up continuity and acted as an equal to the founding Leaguers without earning that regard in hundreds of stories, as they had.

Triumph was never believable as as Silver Age implant, with a costume that was much too simple and of a hue likely impossible to replicate via the old school four color process. Electromagnetic abilities are passé now, but who rolled that way under Eisenhower, at least not without throwing in some quaint pseudoscientific jargon? Nobody had all those random hunks of pointy metal on their unitards back in the day, while Triumph's overwrought story and overheated attitude were pure Bronze Age.

Fans and creators took an immediate and intense dislike of the character, which writer Christopher Priest smartly turned to his advantage by making him the "mixer" of the JLTF: conniving, arrogant and outspoken. Where that was played successfully for comedic value with the fan favorite Guy Gardner, readers instead were irritated by Triumph, and relished his headbutting and eventual beating at the hands of the Martian Manhunter.

J'Onn J'Onzz fired Triumph from the League that he sorta-kinda created, refused to allow Will back once rejoining became Triumph's sole mission in life, and contributed to Will losing his soul to the demon Neron, turning full-on League villain as part of Morrison's JLA. When looked at objectively, the Martian Manhunter was an antagonist who ruined Triumph's chances for redemption and drove him to ruin. Despite being driven more by narcissism/self-actualization than altruism, Triumph was still a good enough guy who was stymied by an uncharacteristically intractable Alien Atlas and eventually corrupted by his inability to recover from the consequences of that insult. In Triumph's story, the Martian Manhunter is the bad guy, which is a great starting point for a grand conflict.

J'Onn J'Onzz's story is that of the quiet, grateful but still somewhat critical immigrant who assimilates dutifully and contributes to society. William MacIntyre's story is of an entitled a-type who is simultaneously more and less than human, whose best works are more of a side effect than a true concern. At the same time, both are men with deep, dark secrets that set them apart from their peers. Triumph, for instance, was born from villainy and a closeted homosexual. Despite Marvel's running wild with the exact same character template under the guise of the Sentry, Triumph's back story and relationship to the League keep him unique and viable as more than an editorial construct. If the Martian Manhunter was the heart and soul of the Justice League for decades, Triumph was the prostate cancer that surfaced after years of self-abuse. Triumph was the quasi-righteous anger of Pete Best and Stuart Sutcliffe. In some ways, he's a perfect match for the Martian Marvel, a worthy, not-quite-sympathetic member of the one collective he wholeheartedly deserves, the Vile Menagerie...

Friday, November 23, 2012

Suiting the Sleuth From Outer Space #7

Here's a relatively safe design, essentially the classic costume, but with more flesh covered (and two shades of blue to offer contrast unneeded when the green broke it up.) The large figure is an Adam Hughes swipe, because I love the lengthy billowy boots he drew. There's too much blue, I still don't care for the red "X," and it doesn't bring into focus any aspect unique to the character. If anything, it makes the Alien Atlas more generic.

Here's some variations that incorporate the Manhunter Cult belt, which has a side effect of recalling the best known Martian Manhunter logo.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Random '90s head doodles

It's Thanksgiving. What do you want from me?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

2007 DC2 Justice League of America ink wash art by Craig Cermak

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"Banner for the DC2 site. Tis why Green Lantern's Aquaman's, and J'Onn J'Onzz's uniforms are different. Anywho, pencils, inks, inkwash. 11"X17" Bristol Board. Bit rushed but I thought Superman turned out alright."

Craig Cermak

Monday, November 19, 2012

Sunday, November 18, 2012

2012 Martian Manhunter color commission art by Brian Shearer

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"Wow, I tell you if you have the chance to get a commission from Brian, you need to do it. This is a continuation of my JLA 11 x 17 line started with the Green Lantern by Ardian Syaf. I think that Brian hit a home run in capturing exactly what I wanted from him, and it will look awesome framed on my wall."

Brian Shearer

Saturday, November 17, 2012

SurVILEvor Island: Weapons Master

While bringing in New Gods lore is not something I look favorably upon when it comes to building J'Onn J'Onzz's own mythos, the master assassin Kanto has been an exclusive enough thorn in the Martian Manhunter's side to be reasonable. The Apokolips contingent has fared especially poorly on SurVILEvor Island, but Kanto took a narrow loss at 46% of 13 votes, a light response that suggests ambivalence in the readership. How that relates to Effigy's surprisingly positive showing to date is a mystery to me, but I think we'll offer a sacrificial turkey this week that we can all get behind with nice long knives.

Back in 1960, the second guy to fight the Justice League of America was named Xotar, the Weapons Master. Not unlike Karl Rove during the 2012 presidential election, Xotar put a lot of stock in a prediction of victory based on scurrilous evidence and willful ignorance, only to lose big and embarrassingly public. As part of the founding five members of the JLA, right there on the cover, the Alien Atlas was the only hero with the raw power to straight up punch the knee off the giant yellow robot Xotar thought would be his chariot to greatness. Aquaman, on his second ever cover and in the clutches of an oversized foe once again, wailed on it with a completely random sledgehammer. He's still a JLA founder in the New 52. Go figure. Anyway, Xotar turned up a few more times here and there, but never amounted to much.

In 1992, Dan Jurgens tried to shift the funny Justice League International back to classic super-heroics, and decided to recycle the Weapons Master name in a more Chromium Age vein. Instead of being a geek anticipating a Japanese fad, this guy would be a stubbly mercenary badass in form fitting gold body armor. His gimmick was that he had an extraordinarily large and diverse arsenal that he could bring to bear with a thought via teleportation. While otherwise being utterly generic in his time, that mobility of firepower made him a far more credible foe for the Justice League than many other Taskmaster wannabes (who is himself just evil Captain America.) Regardless, because Dan Jurgens' run is without regard, Weapons Master became that '90s guy who turned up in super-villain crowd scenes in the general vicinity of Deadline, Chiller, Merlyn, Bloodsport, and countless other ruthless guns for hire who combined a noun and a verb or adjective to form a commercial brand name marketable to early Image collectors.

What qualifies Weapons Master for consideration in the Vile Menagerie is that he was involved in the conspiracy that temporarily merged Bloodwynd and the Manhunter from Mars, who were then manipulated by the demonic Rott. What I feel disqualifies Weapons Master is that he was the first person to combat Bloodwynd in a comic book (whether or not that was really Bloodwynd, the Martian Manhunter's body shapeshifted to appear as Bloodwynd, or Rott pretending to be Bloodwynd is subject to debate and a separate issue from the specific comic as a singular unit released in a moment in time.) His only interaction with the Martian Manhunter was through his short-lived connection to Bloodwynd. Essentially, if you treat Bloodwynd as a property with any value, Weapons Master joins Rott and (if you really want to stretch) Dreamslayer as the sum total of Bloodwynd's primary rogues gallery. By employing the broadest net possible, Eclipso, Count Viper, Sonar, Doomsday, Starbreaker, and the Diablos could maybe get nods, but only in the same sense that "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)," "Tainted Love," and "Personal Jesus" would technically be Marilyn Manson songs. He didn't build that!

Finally, Weapons Master brings nothing to the table as a foe of the Sleuth from Outer Space. What made him "kewl" was that he was an individual, modestly powered threat who matched the League with forethought and access to the right counter measure at the right time. When faced with Bloodwynd, an unknown quantity, he cut and ran and got caught anyway. See also: Prometheus' "ironic" defeats by the likes of Huntress and Catwoman (sorry ladies.) Here's every Weapons Master versus Martian Manhunter fight:
  1. Flamethrower 
  2. Martian Manhunter "perishes." 
  3. "Hemocaine" or "Plasmastorm" or "Irving the Wonder Weiner" ambushes Weapons Master with extraordinary yet vaguely familiar powers. 
  4. "It was J'Onn J'Onzz the whole time!"
Weapons Master doesn't have a particularly strong visual, nor any built-in subtext/themes that helps him contrast against the Martian Marvel better than any of dozens of similar villains, many already embedded in the Vile Menagerie. Weapons Master could be an awesome Hawkman foil, and there's a guy who both needs a rogues gallery expansion with a respectable CVA and is defined in part by an obsession with melee arms. If J'Onn wants to go anywhere near there, better to do so with a Tybalt Bak'sar or Glenn Gammeron who bring other character-specific elements to bear. When you're already a One Man Justice League, a One Man Anti-JLA Ex Machinator seems a tad too on the nose.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Suiting the Sleuth From Outer Space #6: Manhunters

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Hard as it might be to believe after five years of daily blogging and over a decade of character-specific web presence, there was a time when I was far more interested in Mark Shaw than J'Onn J'Onzz. This page was drawn up around 1994, and involved my taking a look at the costumes of the former Privateer, as well as other Manhunters Paul Kirk, Dan Richards, and Chase Lawler. I'm not 100% sure that those names are correct, but the fact that I'm secure enough to reference them off the top of my head decades later should have some merit. At a later date (1997) I took some stabs at Alien Atlas alternative gear that incorporated elements from as unfortunate a source as the Manhunter Cult. Yes, there's even one with no pants, allowing the lesser noted shapeshifting option of genital absorption.

There's a few more period odds n' sods here, including a Two-Face doodle, Superman as Flamebird, a Green Lantern Hal Jordan ensemble, and even a rare dalliance with Spider-Man (surely later still-- like Post-Clone Saga.) If you're feeling bored, here's links to a Wonder Woman I did that was cropped out of this scan, and a 1994-1995 Swipe Collage from the preceding page. I have no shame, clearly, irregardless of my ability to conceal my own genitals.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Suiting the Sleuth From Outer Space #5

Trying to wrap up those "race" essays that had been sitting around for months in the queues of my DC blogs at various stages of completion before the typical holiday wind down of comments wore me out on Wednesday. Guess it's time for another throwaway Martian Manhunter costume redesign. Once again, we're in the "white period," as I scaled back the Bloodwynd influence inch by inch. What we have here is a colorless unitard version of the basic Silver Age design, aside from being full pants with a stark red belt. Still rather bland, and the combination kind of reminds me of Dynamo from the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents. Big bored pass on this.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Race & Mars

When J'onn J'onzz first arrived on Earth, he painted a picture of a utopic Mars that he longed to return to, free from war and pursuing technological advances. This notion fell into doubt within his first year of publication, as a Martian Criminal turned up on Earth with a defective guard belt that had liberated him from "Space-Prison." J'onzz considered leaving his fellow green-skinned Martian on Earth and using the belt to return home, but decided that he couldn't leave his recalcitrant countryman to his own devices. It's worth mentioning that like John Jones, the Criminal assumed the form of a Caucasian male.

A few months later, J'onzz helped solve a series of robberies committed by Canal Raiders on his home world armed with ray guns, and a while after, fended off a Robot Criminal from Mars who possessed the body of a white male. A cache of Martian weapons turned up once, and bands of green-skinned hooligans occasionally dropped by from the red planet. However, all of this was handled with a sort of aplomb-- the unruly getting up to shenanigans that needed to be addressed by the Manhunter from Mars.

B'rett was different. Where others fled, this fugitive had the means to kill J'onn J'onzz, and set about gunning him down. Failing that, B'rett stripped away the Martian Manhunter's ability to use his other powers while invisible by exposing him to Formula Z6. This forced J'onzz to reveal his presence on Earth in order to save the lives of some local police officers B'rett would surely have murdered otherwise. This was no vandal or smash thief, but a cold-blooded killer. B'rett was plumb evil, the first such Martian revealed to be so dire. B'rett was also the first Martian in continuity to be of a skin color other than green, and remains the only one of the highest yellow. One wonder what color B'rett might have been, had he ever assumed human form. The xanthic bandit made race an issue, and it is an issue that continues to be focal in Martian lore.

In 1969, it was revealed through retroactive continuity that the Martian Manhunter's green-skinned people were properly known as Desert Dwellers, and had been at war with white-skinned Pole Dwellers over an energy source called the Blue Flame. The polar people were also known by the more seemingly derogatory "Pale Martians," not that there aren't negative connotations to "pole-dwelling," as well. Led by the cruel Commander Blanx, there has to date never been a "good" Pale Martian, and those shown were either outright evil or at least fully committed to carrying out atrocious orders without question. Specifically, Blanx and his men unleashed the holocaust on Mars that wiped out most of the population and rendered the world uninhabitable. Blanx was not motivated by racial hatred, as it seems probable his own Pole Dwellers were allowed to perish, aside from his minions. Blanx committed genocide purely for profit, with the intention of selling Mars in its entirety to an unnamed buyer.

In this version of the Martian Manhunter's origin, J'onn J'onzz was ambushed, convicted of trumped-up charges by an all-Pale jury, and sent into exile. J'onzz's absence allowed Mars to die, and despite Blanx's motivations, it's hard not to see their final battle amidst the ashes of the red planet as a clash between the sole remaining representatives of two races. The Justice League of America helped round up the evil Pale Martians, and turned a blind eye to J'onzz's use of lethal force against Blanx. John Jones had been a paragon of white authority, working under a similarly hued police captain and alongside a blond haired, blue-eyed patrolwoman. Blanx was a paler shade of white though, practicing prejudice with self-interest of the sort that the Love Generation was loudly condemning at the time. I suppose this was the beginning of J'onn J'onzz as Israelite, as Native American, as last chief of a race largely wiped from the cosmos.

In a story from 1977, a friend of J'onn J'onzz appeared to be assassinated on the alien world Mars' survivors settled on. Rather than make the obvious assumption that one Desert-Dweller had killed another, J'onzz leapt to the wildly inaccurate conclusion that it must have been one of the super-heroes on Earth who knew of Mars II's location. Bad plotting and a desire to use a lot of guest stars surely played into his logic, but one has to wonder if it was just easier to blame another species instead of looking to his own people for the guilty parties, which is exactly where they were eventually found. The "assassination" turned out to be a misdirection to push a Desert Dweller army into massacring a blue-skinned people who inhabited the planet and seizing their superior city. Not a progressive sounding bunch, these Desert Dwellers. A similar ruse was used in 1984 to launch a war against the Earth, which the Martian Manhunter helped route. However, there was a good deal of distrust between the Alien Atlas and his former allies in the Justice League, likely fueled by J'onzz's tendency to run around battering people and making insane allegations against them. There was a lot of tension revolving around people's relative "Martianness," and J'onzz was ultimately abandoned by his people as they left Earth in shame.

In 1984, a cousin for J'onn J'onzz was created in "Jemm, Son of Mars," whose self-titled mini-series made ample use of the previously mentioned Bronze Age history of Mars. An editorial clash saw Jemm shift setting to Saturn, but the core story remained the same. White-skinned Saturnians were still sociopaths, while Red Saturnians were warmongers who feared and loathed them. Saturnians added some rather unhealthy sexual prejudices as well, with misandrist White females enslaving weaker men. A later retcon reunited the Saturnians with Mars, making Saturns' races cloned colonists of Mars, Red for Green, White for White. The typically pacifistic Jemm has been repeatedly manipulated into conflict with J'Onn J'Onzz, who was mostly understanding about the matter, although he did decide to have intimacies with Jemm's fiancé. The Saturnians defer the Martians as superior beings, which J'Onzz also took advantage of rather than dissuading.

From around 1985 until 1996, the Martian Manhunter was treated as being essentially the only Martian. In 1988, all Martians appearing in earlier stories were revealed to be figments of J'onzz's imagination planted by a psychic suggestion to deal with the trauma of living through a destructive plague. J'onzz learned that he had a wife and child, both of whom had green skin. Previously, the only two females linked to J'onzz in a romantic capacity had also been green-skinned.

In 1997, the old racial war was revisited with a vengeance, as monstrous White Martians were introduced and made a bid for Earth. Besides being bestial in form, the White Martians were portrayed as universally racist, sadistic, and generally amoral. The one exception, introduced nearly a decade later, was the heroine Miss Martian. M'gann M'orzz chose to a appear as a Green Martian because of the broad hatred of her people, and has continued this charade for years, despite her true race being known. While a "good" White, a future version of M'orzz revealed that she would eventually embrace her race and vicious White leanings. Miss Martian did not care to hear this, and chopped off her future self's head before indulging in an identity crisis with signs of emerging schizophrenia.

J'Onn J'Onzz had spent years mourning the absence of his people, but that did not stop him from mind-wiping the White Martians, imprisoning them, and merging temporarily with an entity called Fernus in a bid to exterminate them. In the "One Year Later" period, J'Onn turned against the Justice League to protect a group of murderous Green Martians, until he found out that they were really White, and they were never heard from again. J'Onzz also waited years before having any sort of direct contact with M'gann M'orzz, and has largely maintained that distance. Only in the non-canon cartoon Young Justice has there been a portrayal of genuine sustained warmth between the two, although Miss Martian appears to be a Green Martian and niece to J'Onzz in that series.

What we have here is a failure to communicate a positive direction for racial politics in the Martian Manhunter's neck of the woods. All White Martians are pure evil, aside from a couple of "good ones." All Pale Martians were Nazi goons, while White Saturnians were all kinds of creepy messed up. Red Saturnians weren't much better, just weaker, and most Green Martians were either massacre bait or knee-jerk violent reactionaries. The one yellow-skinned Martian was a killer outlaw, and J'Onn J'Onzz hasn't had a healthy relationship with any of them since 1968. J'Onzz did deign to have a fling with the White Saturnian Princess Cha'rissa, which had built-in terminating complications, not the least of which was J'Onzz being a "Maker" dallying with the descendant of a slave to his enemy race. There was also the young demi-human bad girl Scorch, which fairly screamed of a midlife crisis on J'Onn's part. Much less skeevy was a doomed romance with the African/Native American descendant Kishana Lewis.

When J'onn J'onzz first took human form in 1955, it was as a white man. When he killed off the John Jones identity in the early '60s, he eventually took on the role of Marco Xavier, another white man. After decades away from Earth, upon repatriating here, he reestablished the deceased John Jones identity while serving on a calculatedly multicultural team. It wasn't until the late '90s that creators flirted with other races or genders, none sticking for long. In animation and live action, African-American actors have tended to portray the Martian Manhunter, the 2012 direct-to-DVD cartoon Justice League Doom introduced a black John Jones, and New 52 DC Comics may follow suit. While I've tended to be critical of DC's dumping decades of continuity in an attention grab, J'Onn J'Onzz could benefit mightily from this new beginning. There were numerous isolated pockets of continuity in any given decade of publishing that rarely connected as any kind of whole, and the stuff that did carry over was often naive demonizing along racial lines. I sincerely hope that when we do finally get to know the Manhunter from Mars in the New 52, someone will have given thought to the greater scheme of Martian history, and will offer a more nuanced approach to the races of the red planet.

Post-Racial DC Comics?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Martian Sightings for February, 2013

Martian Manhunter
Written by GEOFF JOHNS
Art and cover by DAVID FINCH
On sale FEBRUARY 6 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T
Combo pack edition: $4.99 US

• The march toward TRINITY WAR begins with part one of “WORLD’S MOST DANGEROUS”!
• Green Lantern! Green Arrow! Catwoman! Katana! Vibe! Hawkman! Stargirl! They aren’t the world’s greatest super heroes—they’re the most dangerous! But why does a team like the JLA need to exist? What is their ultimate mission? And who is pulling the strings?
• Plus: Find out why Martian Manhunter is the most dangerous of them all. Period. This issue is also offered as a combo pack edition with a redemption code for a digital download of this issue.

Retailers: This issue will ship with 54 covers. See following page for details. The standard edition cover features the flag of the United States. The variants are available in 52 U.S. flag variant editions, one for each state plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico In addition, you may order a shrinkwrapped pack of the standard edition of JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #1 plus all 52 variant covers, with a suggested retail price of $149.99 US. There is no minimum purchase needed to order this item.
So the Alien Atlas is a founding member of the Justice League of America-- just not the important one with the iconic characters? Eh, I'm okay with that. As has been discussed with my blogging buddies, it seems like Johns is intent on turning J'Onn from a Jobber to a Face. For those unfamiliar with wrestling terminology, it means he'll go from the least of the Magnificent Seven, constantly beaten by "Heels" to show their might before facing more important heroes, to being the "most dangerous" of this lot. Even before Superman and Batman properly joined the JLA, J'Onn never really got to play that role on the team, and even on the JLI and Task Force he was more a paternal figure than a frontrunner. As much as I love the version of the Manhunter that lives in my brain, I acknowledge that you can take more chances with his interpretation in the New 52, and am willing to keep an open mind about him being promoted to "edgy."
1:50 Variant cover by DAVID FINCH
On sale FEBRUARY 20 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
• No, that’s not a typo. Vibe stars in his own ongoing monthly title, starting with this debut issue cowritten by GEOFF JOHNS!
• One of the most unlikely members of the Justice League of America ever (okay, THE most unlikely) will soon discover he’s one of the most powerful individuals on Earth. But how did Vibe get his abilities? What is the cost to them? And why does the JLA want him on the team so desperately?
• Plus: We’ve seen the Red Room and the Black Room, but what is...the Circus?

Retailers: This issue will ship with two covers. The variant cover will feature the standard edition cover in a wraparound format.
If I still covered solicitation copy at the Justice League Detroit blog I would a) post this there and b) be as bald as J'Onn by now. Speaking of whom, I'm sure the Manhunter will play a role in this comic, and I'll be giving it a shot.

Written by PETER MILLIGAN Art by ANDRES GUINALDO, JORGE JIMENEZ, MARK IRWIN, TOMAS GIORELLO and MIGUEL SEPULVEDA Cover by MIGUEL SEPULVEDA On sale MARCH 6 • 144 pg, FC, $16.99 US • In this second New 52 volume, Atrocitus, the creator of the Red Lanterns, is haunted by his past. Abysmus has been freed from his imprisonment and intends to destroy not only the Red Lanterns, but all life. Then, Atrocitus must face a civil war led by Bleez. Did Bleez free Abysmus in an effort to topple Atrocitus? And is the new human Red Lantern Jack Moore the key to stopping Abysmus? • Collects RED LANTERNS #8-12 and STORMWATCH #9.

For the record, this is some curdled dreck. I haven't been able to get my synopsizing of Stormwatch back on track in part because covering this garbage will be such a chore.
On sale MARCH 13 • 128 pg, FC, $12.99 US

• This all-ages title guest-stars DC Super Heroes including Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Martian Manhunter and more!
I bought but don't recall having read a couple of these issues. Shame on me.

On sale APRIL 17 • 624 pg, FC, $39.99 US

• Collecting more of Jack Kirby’s epic tales from the 1970s and 1980s starring The Sandman, The Justice League, Atlas and many more.
The King offered a rockin' J'Onn J'Onzz. There probably isn't a member of DC's core stable of super-heroes better suited to his bombastic yet somber style than the Manhunter from Mars.

Miss Martian
Art and cover by CHRISTOPHER JONES
On sale FEBRUARY 20 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED E

• The heroes make their last stand against Kylstar and Brainiac!
• Metropolis is still in danger, but now the entire planet risks destruction!
• Deadshot hits his target!
If this is truly the end, then God bless Miss Martian for keeping the hope of her planet alive when J'Onn J'Onzz was dead or otherwise lacking a presence in newly published comics. I suspect though that they'll just do an "Invasion" branded relaunch, as those elements were shoehorned in just a few months back. I love this cover so much that I'll buy the trade collection if it sports it.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sergeant Bob Segarini

Alter Ego: Bob Segarini
Occupation: Police Sergeant
Marital Status: Single
Known Relatives: None
Group Affiliation: Two-Seven Precinct Police Homicide Department
Base of Operations: Vague
First Appearance: Martian Manhunter Annual #1 (1998)
Eyes: Brown
Hair: Black

Sgt. Segarini was a police contact who helped John Jones with his cases when plied by telepathic nudges, although he rarely recalled this, since he was also subjected to mind wipes that removed his memory of the aid.

It should be noted that Sergeant Bob Segarini may have been unintentionally renamed "Segretti" in a later storyline by another creative team, and either/both might have been further misidentified as Peter Santorelli in another story besides.

Powers & Weapons:
Standard issue police automatic handgun.

Quote: "I really shouldn't be giving you this stuff..."

Created by Ty Templeton & Ariel Olivetti

Sunday, November 11, 2012


The Martian Manhunter is more of a cold warrior than the regular kind. I suppose that comes with stealth powers and being stranded within a culture not your own. If they hadn't wiped out Diana Prince's Pre-Crisis history, I imagine he'd have a lot of notes to compare with Wonder Woman on that front. J'Onn did soldier up on the cartoon front, waging a losing war to save his species on Justice League, and in the DC One Million future, he was meant to spend over a thousand years protecting planets from the Clanetary System and the Swarm. Those are pretty fantastic circumstances, though.

Luke of El Jacone's Comic Book Bunker and Being Carter Hall would like to take advantage of Veterans Day 2012 to launch #WarComicsMonth, a trending topic on Twitter and Google+ spotlighting stories about fighting forces. I've offered my own synopsis for the Sgt. Rock/Johnny Cloud/Haunted Tank teamp-up The Brave and the Bold #52 (February/March 1964) at DC Bloodlines, and hope you'll take this opportunity to expand your reading out of the spandex set.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

SurVILEvor Island: Effigy

Vandal Savage was an early entry into the Vile Menagerie, as I worked my way backward through history, of which the immortal and J'Onn J'Onzz shared much in the '90s. Still, that was the decade before last, with no sign of a renewal in the New 52. Vandal Savage belongs to the greater DC Universe, but he's a personal favorite, and a great foil for the Manhunter from Mars. 53% of 19 votes isn't much of a mandate, but he'll be around when I think of interesting things to do with him on the blog.

Effigy was one of those horrid prefabricated nemeses that comic book creators order out of a Swedish catalog, build into one story, but they can't be moved beyond it without falling apart. One of the easiest telltale signs of this in the modern era is when a character debuts in a reference book, working under the hubristic assumption that they will be significant enough to rate a biographical entry before they've even been in a story. Martyn Van Wyck's first appearance was on such a page in 1998's Green Lantern Secret Files & Origins #1, where it was revealed that he sampled "Under Pressure" and somehow rode a fad of whiteboy rap into his own feature film and the soundtrack of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze.

After musical fame died hard and fast, Van Wyck (who led a life of tragedy and destitution common for young white males named "Van Wyck") was kidnapped by the Controllers, who were the tall pink cousins of the Guardians of the Universe who never bothered pretending not to be jerks. They had their own rent-a-cop parallel to the Green Lantern Corps called the Darkstars, who got killeded by Darkseid's possible illegitimate son who sucked so hard that they just drowned him in the river without bothering with a paternity test. Martyn Van Wyck was supposed to be the vanguard of a replacement for the Darkstars, and there was in fact very briefly a loser Effigy Corps, but that swiftly fell by the wayside.

If you hadn't figured it out, Effigy was supposed to be Kyle Rayner's Sinestro. He could create flaming constructs, but like Rayner he had it all handed to him, and unlike Rayner never proved worthy of it. Effigy was a weasel who figured that once he had the strength to poop all over the world, why not? Well, because it makes for weak character motivation, which in turn makes for a poor adversary and a tepid story. Once it was clear that he couldn't headline, Effigy became a novelty act as half of an elementary romantic duo with the Firestorm villainess Killer Frost. After that, Effigy developed multiple personality disorder that was manifested by constructs named Blaze, Ember and Torch. Blinky, Inky, and Pinky were taken, I suppose. Effigy was so used up so quickly, the "team" were one issues foes for Kyle's girlfriend Jade. A successive writer created very nearly an exact replica of Effigy named Nero, who despite being a Villain Sue who took down the JLA still wasn't as interesting or well designed as, well, Effigy.

Once he underperformed against Green Lantern, Effigy bopped around the fringes of lesser crossovers like Joker's Last Laugh when he wasn't an outright throwaway villain. It was in that latter capacity that Effigy ended up on the salvation planet where the U.S. government tried to strand hordes of super-villains. There, Effigy helped to capture and contain the Martian Manhunter, until Libra decided to make an example of him in Final Crisis. There, Effigy helped to capture and contain the Martian Manhunter, until Libra killed him. Effigy was then executed by the Spectre for his crime of accessory to the murder, as was Doctor Light. There were at least half a dozen guys just as culpable, but apparently not as expendable.

When Bullseye murdered Elektra, it was one of the most important events in comic book history. It was hard to miss the subtext of the woman's throat being slit and her own sai piercing her abdomen, elevated splay-legged while her killer held her at his lower torso. In The Killing Joke, the effete Joker took out his big gun and crippled Batgirl with a blast through the pelvis. There was something to that. Comparatively, Effigy and Martian Manhunter being tangentially involved in one another's deaths was more equivalent to an embarrassing drunken blackout hook-up that neither party much remembers, or cares to. When Effigy returns in the New 52, he'll either still be that guy in a crowd scene of nogoodniks, or he'll get reassigned to a lower tier hero that he could potentially trouble. Martian Manhunter never died in the new continuity, so no harm, no foul, no foe.