Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"Security Detail" from Justice League of America #2 (May, 2013)

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As with Before Christ and Anno Domini, the world now considered the eras preceding and following the arrival of Superman. The White House had gone to considerable lengths to factor in the changes brought by super-heroics in defending the President of the United States. "Phase-proof technology now lines all of the outer fences." Secret Service agents wore "X-Ray Specs." Their glasses also fed them live-steaming biographies of every face they gazed upon. Supposed metal detectors now detected the presence of "super free-radicals" in the bodies of visitors, while floor sensors monitored weight and gait of those that trod upon it. Yet somehow, a Caucasian male with bogus security credentials managed to walk into the Oval Office with a high-tech pistol and aim it at Barack Hussein Obama...

Amodel Waller was in a meeting at the White House, pitching her "Justice League of America" premise to resistant politicos. What headway she made was assisted through basic telepathy and subliminal messages secreted into media at the presentation with the assistance of J'Onn J'Onzz. "Simple techniques that easily affect weaker minds. Changing minds. Gentle nudges towards proper thinking. Influencing the policy of nations isn't done with a gun or a fist. It's done with a suggestion. A gentle encouragement. A gentle hand on the shoulder. Showing the way." However, this soft push had its limits, and wasn't nearly as effective as a mind made up for itself, though that too could be manipulated...

The would-be assassin cried, "Die! For the Society!" Fingers appeared to dart bloodlessly through the man's head, causing him to collapse unconscious. What appeared to be a lean, bald, African-American male in sunglasses and a blue suit had thwarted the attempt on Obama's life. He said, "Mr. President. Your security measures are not enough." That was not entirely true, as the Manhunter from Mars had been using his own enormous powers to conceal the assassin's triggering of numerous White House countermeasures. The Alien Atlas shapeshifted in the Oval Office, making it clear "You need us." J'Onzz believed a mind changed by free will was more reliable than one bent by telepathy, and he could see on Obama's face that his ploy had worked without needing to gaze into his mind. The President backed the creation of the Justice League of America, and later presented them to the public in their first press conference.

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"Security Detail" was by Matt Kindt, Scott Clark and David Beaty. I like how it called back to another Martian Manhunter spotlight moment involving an imperiled president during a time of paranoia against super-heroes. I finally read the first issue of Kindt's Mind MGMT the other day, and wasn't won over, but he's fine in smaller, more direct doses. I think that this approach to improving the world is a lot more plausible than simply impersonating a human police officer in a minor metropolis. Had Mars been knowingly destroyed ahead of J'Onn J'Onzz's arrival on Earth, I expect he would have taken this route instead, and I appreciate the "gentle" guidance (though not Kindt's overuse of the word, nor an early use of "country" twice in one line of dialogue. Nobody checks copy anymore?) The triumph of the story was the artwork, though. I was very much not a fan of the late Scott Clark's efforts on Brightest Day, but I had at one time appreciated his style considerably, and this final effort is a visual feast. I'm sure there's some digital age cheating going on here, but the fine line feathering used on the figures is lovely, and Scott goes completely insane with the crosshatching on not-John Jones/The Manhunter. There are only three images of the Alien Atlas in this entire story, but I fully expect them to be extensively repurposed, because each one is wicked sweet. This here is a Da Vinci demigod of extraterrestrial origin, and I'll mourn for the pages of Clark art we'll never get to see. It continues a peculiar pattern of artists who draw the Manhunter very well and very memorably (Mike Nasser, Don Hillsman,) but not for very long. I can't say it hurts how blue his "purple" costume appears, either.

New 52's Day

Sunday, April 28, 2013

2008 Zook color art by Jeff Martinez

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“I've been working on this idea for some time and now I like to present my "Krypto TAS" version of Zook.

For those who don't know him, Zook is a other-dimensional being who was with J'onn J'onzz/Marian Manhunter as his pet/sidekick in the 60s...

I tried to keep most of his appearance(and personality) intact, while making him suit the show's look...

In the silver age comics, Zook was always naked, but I wanted to give him a costume. Or at least something involving pants.

Here's variation 1...

Variation 2. Same costume but without the red harness thingamajig.

Variation 3. Trunks and harness, without cape.”

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Prophet vs. The Demon

The Prophet
Debut: 1996
Nemesis: Martian Manhunter
Other Major Foes: Darkstar Chaser Bron
Appearances: 1 comic.
Powers: Interstellar flight, energy projection, superhuman strength and nigh-invulnerability.

Bio: The Prophet was a zealous enforcer of an alien church that tried to execute a holy man before he could deliver a universal message of peace. The Prophet was thwarted in his crusade by the Manhunter from Mars.

Vile Menagerie Stats
Win: Tybalt Bak'sar (8-4)
Lose: Diabolu (1-8); The Osprey (?)
Draw: 0

etrigan photo: Etrigan! etriganpimp-1.jpg

Debut: 1972
Nemesis: Morgaine Le Fey
Other Major Foes: Lobo, Klarion the Witch Boy
Appearances: 500+ comics, plus action figures and guest appearances on cartoons.
Powers: Supernatural strength/ endurance/ senses, extraordinary self-regeneration, fire-breathing, distance bounding, and feral attack (claws/fangs.)

Bio: Etrigan was a powerful demon summoned from Hell by Merlin in an effort to preserve Camelot. Failing that, the Demon was merged with the human Jason Blood, each taking turns existing on Earth. In modern history, Blood became a paranormal investigator who summons the Demon when confronted by powers greater than himself.

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

Idol Speculation:
This is a fun and unpredictable match. Beyond the inherent conflict between these two character types, the Prophet is one of the few combatants in the Martian Manhunter's circle who is powerful enough to take on Etrigan without being handicapped by a weakness to fire, which the Demon can spit at will. Etrigan may have taken on Superman a time or two, but only because the Man of Steel isn't quite so steely where magic is concerned. Etrigan's matches with the Alien Atlas and the Czarnian Lobo have tended to be more even, though their brawls see the Demon lapse in his usual cunning. Etrigan's power levels are inconsistent, but his wits are typically much sharper than most, and that's his true advantage over the Prophet.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Comicpalooza Alumni 2013

Please feel free to offer suggestions of who should draw what in the event that I revisit the following artists who have contributed to the Martian Manhunter Gallery at conventions past and will be attending Comicpalooza next month...

Brian Denham

Matt Frank

Jamie Kinosian


Lane Montoya

Marat Mychaels

Brent Peeples

Jerry Rascoe

Austin Rogers

Johnny Segura III

Rod Thornton

Thom Zahler

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Justice League #17 (April, 2013)

Due to the manipulations of a former subject, Atlantis declared war on the surface world and flooded a major U.S. city. Their ruler Ocean Master was eventually defeated, and Aquaman took back the throne, but there was widespread animosity over the incident. Back at their satellite headquarters, Batman called the Justice League together for a new initiative. "We need to do what we haven't done before... We open our ranks." At A.R.G.U.S., Amanda Waller saw a similar need. "Atlantis's (sic) attack is the event we needed to push this operation through, Colonel Trevor... The world's skeptical. They want another team. They need one." A third mysterious meeting was taking place elsewhere, as a villain looked over snapshots of DC rogues. "The opportunity is now. It's time for recruitment... starting with the Scarecrow."

"Throne of Atlantis, Chapter Five" was by Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis and Paul Pelletier with Joe Prado, Oclair Albert and Sean Parsons.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

2012 The Prophet Comicpalooza Commission by Damon Bowie

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The Art of Bowie Biography:
"Born and raised in the cultural melting pot that is the city of New Orleans, Bowie has been a professional artist since the age of 16.

He has worked in the Design and Illustration field in New Orleans for the largest fabricator to the Entertainment Industry in the Gulf South. As Art Director and Chief of Design he has helped create parades, sculpture, and elaborate settings for commercial clients and private organizations for over 13 years.

Throughout that time he has made a supplemental living with efforts including comic book projects as well as many Art Prints he made available for public sale. He has also been a contributing artist to the Tabasco Brand of Sportswear and Chiliwear apparel company has been a large personal client . These days, Bowie has been busy as a Conceptual artist, as well doing tons of personal Commissions for clients all over the world.

With the advent of digital painting, Bowie expanded his horizons and began offering color work for clients as well as expanding on his own portfolio driven by his love of his craft. Never satisfied with paint bucket fills and airbrushing, Bowie pushed himself to develop techniques to give his art the desired "punch" he was looking for.

The Iconic Series of work and his approach to the Fan Art he offers is a lifelong ambition finally realized for Bowie. There are plans for future series of the seminal works with more exciting art to come.

Bowie's pastimes include Illustrating...obviously, movies, hot rods, writing, and enjoying time with his wife and children."

The Prophet remains a useful character when the Vile Menagerie needs a boost in the powerhouse department. The Alien Atlas' foes haven't always been able to trade blows with heavy hitters, they're often not visually arresting in a commercial sense, and they sometimes don't stand up as conceptual counterparts. The Prophet bucks that trend by being a sort of evil Thor with a solid design whose intergalactic religious fanaticism would naturally pit him against a follower of H'ronmeer. Martian Manhunter Special #1 wouldn't exactly reach my top twenty (50? 100?) list of favorite tales for the Sleuth from Outer Space, but Paul Kupperberg and Mike Collins designed a decent foe to validate the book's existence.

Damon Bowie's commissions have been a joy for me. His tight, unabridged figures are crisply inked, making them dynamic, easy to scan, and a breeze to color (even with my paltry MSPaint skillz.) I opted to give the Prophet such treatment for one of the blog's banner collages, and it turned out well enough to double as a sidebar icon. This 9" x 12" sketch board piece was done on Saturday, between Glenn Gammeron and B'rett, serving as my favorite of the three. I love Bowie's $20 flat rate for a single figure, though I'm very tempted to hit him up for a full team if I ever get another chance. His attention to detail also make me want to go for a "War of the Worlds: 1984" triptych for Hunter Commander J'enn, the Marshal and Challenger, so there's another option. As one of the most consistent quality artists at Comicpalooza 2012, and I sincerely hope he shows up this year for more!

Check out Bowie's deviantART gallery, After the Dream web comic, Christian art prints, commission list, or the links below for additional goodness...

Intense Yellow Studios

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

2008 Martian Manhunter color head shot by David Jackson

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"Martian Manhunter done by me. Martian Manhunter is owned by DC comics. Just a lil pic I did while at the hospital waiting lol."

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Fire, Water, Burn Manhunter Burn Podcast 3


In September of 2011, Rob Kelly of The Aquaman Shrine and Shag Matthews of Firestorm Fan teamed-up for The Fire and Water Podcast, a weekly program available through iTunes discussing the heroes of their respective blogs and comics in general. To celebrate their fiftieth podcast, the guys decided to scare away their entire audience by inviting me as a guest to discuss a series of comics. Across more than 4½ hours we tackle greater than 100 giant pages of material from the DC Sampler, a free promotional comic spanning three issues from 1983-1985. We pretty much review DC's entire line across a three year span, and we don't finishing until the rooster crows! For extra punchy nerdistry, it can't should be beaten!

You can find the 50th anniversary spectacular episode of THE FIRE AND WATER PODCAST on iTunes. While you’re there, please drop the guys a review on the iTunes page. Every comment helps! Alternatively, you may download the podcast by right-clicking here, choosing “Save Target/Link As”, and selecting a location on your computer to save the file (128 MB).

Feel free to read along with us, as the comics are available in their entirety via these devoted tumblr pages:
DC Sampler #1 (1983)
DC Sampler #2 (1984)
DC Sampler #3 (1985)

I also recommend trying "back issues" of the podcast, and offer a linklist below:

Episodes 1-13 Linklist
Episode 14: "War of the Worlds -- 1984!"
Episodes 15-32 Linklist
Episode 33: Dan Jurgens Interview
Episode 34: Aquaman #13 and Firestorm #13 Reviews
Episode 35: Geek Talk
Episode 36: The Phantom Stranger
Episode 37: Firestorm #14 and Aquaman #14 Reviews
Episode 38: 2012 Year End Spectacular!
Episode 39: Aquaman #15 and Justice League #15 Reviews
Episode 40: Firestorm #15 Review
Episode 41: Geek Talk!
Episode 42: Justice League, Aquaman, and Firestorm #16 Reviews
Episode 43: Firestorm Cancellation and Listener Feedback!
Episode 44: Power Records Showcase!
Episode 45: Aquaman #17, Firestorm #17, and Justice League #17 Reviews
Episode 46: Super Powers Collection, Part 2: Vehicles, Cartoons, Comics and Merchandise!
Episode 47: JLA #1 and Vibe #1 Reviews
Episode 48: Justice League #18, Aquaman #18, and Firestorm #18 Reviews
Episode 49: Hostess Fruit Pie Ads, Fury of Firestorm #42, & Listener Feedback

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Human Flame vs. Effigy

The Human Flame
Debut: 1959
Nemesis: Martian Manhunter
Other Major Foes: The JLA, The Army of the Endangered
Appearances: 15+ comics.
Powers: Fire projecting technology. As Inhuman Flame: Flight, strength, nigh-invulnerability and size alteration.

Bio: Mike Miller was a minor inventor/thief who had a brush with the greatness of Libra. This led him to alienate pretty much the entire metahuman community, until he was transformed into the monstrous "Inhuman Flame" and trapped in outer space by Green Lantern John Stewart.

Vile Menagerie Stats
Win: 0
Lose: Human Squirrel (6-7); Scorch (4-9)
Draw: 0

Debut: 1998
Nemesis: Green Lantern Kyle Rayner
Other Major Foes: Green Lantern Corps
Appearances: 40+ comics.
Powers: Fire generation and manipulation allowing flame blasts, energy constructs and flight.

Bio: Martyn Van Wyck was kidnapped by the Controllers and turned into a prototype for their own corps to rival the Green Lanterns. Following a mental breakdown, Effigy joined several villains in plotting the murder of J'Onn J'Onzz, the crime for which he was executed by the Spectre.

Vile Menagerie Stats:
Win: 0
Lose: Fernus (2-10) and Scorch (?)
Draw: 0

Idol Speculation:
Both of these guys have fire powers and sorta-kinda killed the Martian Manhunter, except not really. They've also been minor annoyances to Green Lanterns. I'm not especially fond of either character, and given their swift first round exits in both years of March Madness contests for which they qualified, you're not big on 'em either. The "classic" Human Flame wouldn't stand a chance, but his final Inhuman Flame form could probably do Effigy in. Whoever wins, it'll be a first for either party.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Martian Manhunter: New 52/Old Story

J'onn J'onzz was a scientist from Mars who was teleported to Earth and stranded. He couldn't very well practice Martian science while secretly on another world, and anyway, there's not much indication that Martian science was any great shakes. They may have had some nifty architecture and a few ray guns, but they were also just about the only alien race that didn't have interplanetary travel worked out. I mean, it was Mark Erdel who came up with the robot brain that brought J'onzz to Earth, and it took J'onzz over a decade to figure out how to throw it in reverse, assuming he didn't have help. One of the only science experiments we ever saw him involved with was TOR, the robot that was accidentally turned into an unstoppable rampaging criminal. Not something you want on your resume.

While J'onn J'onzz was stuck on Earth, he decided to pretend to be a police detective and fight crime with his awesome concealed Martian powers. For quite a while, he just fought gangsters and mad scientists, who he still struggled with despite his overwhelming extraterrestrial talents. His parents and kid brother were alive and well, and they visited one another on occasion. John Jones may not have had a proper girlfriend, but his relationship with sometimes partner Diane Meade wasn't entirely professional, either. In short, as created and portrayed in most of his original series, J'onn J'onzz was a dude. He was a seemingly unexceptional Martian who made the most of becoming a reverse John Carter, except not really, because John Carter became the revered warrior of his adoptive world and the recipient of sweet princess lovin'. John just had a decent apartment where he kept his dog while serving as the least popular member of the Justice League of America until he was quietly pushed aside.

John Jones was created in a time when characters didn't have to be terribly involved. His motivation could be chalked up to a guy needing a hobby while stuck in (literally) Middletown, U.S.A. Later, his scene got messed up by John Jones' apparent demise, and his secret existence as the Manhunter from Mars had already been revealed. As a result, J'onn J'onzz just tooled around as himself with his imp buddy Zook in tow as they looked for a strange magical artifact that kept spitting out monsters for them to fight. By that point, the Marvel revolution was beginning, with Spider-Man specifically changing everyone's game. John Jones came from a time between the Golden and Silver Ages, and was exceptionally simplistic for his times in comparison to the Julius Schwartz heroes, much less Stan Lee's. Floundering in the market and no longer buoyed by being hosted in a Batman comic, J'onn J'onzz needed to make a change.

The main creators of J'onn J'onzz's solo adventures were Jack Miller and Joe Certa. In their title's final years, they chose to update the initial alien cop angle to embrace the 1960s spy craze. The basic premise was still the same, but J'onn J'onzz would adopt the more suave and conniving role of Marco Xavier, international playboy. Most of his final adventures involved the criminal organization VULTURE, who played fast and loose with human life. The Manhunter met them halfway, facilitating the dispatching of evil agents without any sign of remorse, marking J'onn J'onzz as perhaps the first true "grim n' gritty" revised super-hero. The Manhunter's stories were increasingly brutal, with his final tale ending in the explosive demise of his arch-foe Mister V. The Manhunter briefly returned to the pages of Justice League of America, where he became the poster child for retroactive continuity. It was revealed that J'onzz was Mars' "science leader," living in exile after the racial conflict between two nations had seen the Pale Martians gain the upper hand. In his absence, a hitherto unknown nemesis named Commander Blanx sold out the entire planet of Mars and rendered it uninhabitable through global genocide. J'onn J'onzz killed Blanx for his heinous act, then took a spaceship to parts unknown in search of the few survivors of his home planet.

At this point, J'onn J'onzz was clearly no longer a dude. This guy was a muckity-muck in a dirty conflict that made World War II look like a tea party. This J'onn J'onzz was a hardened soldier concealing essential information from his Justice League confederates. In the end, whatever gambits J'onzz was running failed, his planet died, and none of those supporting players or villains seen in the old stories survived J'onzz's hubris. That's some heavy, dark stuff for a super-hero to carry around. Superman's grief over a Krypton dead while he was in diapers, fated to be destroyed no matter how many times he traveled back in time to save it, was juvenile compared to J'onzz's weight of personal adult culpability for an incalculable catastrophe.

The Manhunter from Mars continued down this harrowing path. A girl he'd known back home turned out to be willing to see every other Martian enslaved to save her own skin. J'onn J'onzz's best friend faked his death, framed him for treason, and attempted to slaughter a peaceful native race for spoils with a naive Martian army behind him. A genetically engineered Martian "hero" overthrew the government and again conned his people into invading a world that meant them no harm. A former lover of J'onn J'onzz was among those forces, and made repeated attempts on J'onzz's life. The Manhunter himself was consistently played as a paranoid thug willing to assault his former friends with the thinnest of provocations.

That began to change in 1984, when the Alien Atlas rejoined the Justice League of America as a minor player but helpful powerhouse while new heroes Vibe, Vixen, Gypsy and Steel took center stage (alongside veteran leaders Aquaman and Batman.) The revision of J'Onn J'Onzz accelerated in Justice League International, where the Martian Manhunter became a leader and role model of the old school contrasted against dysfunctional Bronze/Modern Age punks like Guy Gardner. J'onn received his first mini-series, which erased the lion's share of his solo stories. He was retroactively made a husband and father whose family perished in a global plague over which he had no control beyond simply managing to survive through the twist of fate that brought him to Earth. There was no Commander Blanx, and J'Onn J'Onzz was now a blameless victim of tragedy. Even his long time vulnerability to fire was revealed as a psychosomatic response that he could work through with therapy.

At a time when super-heroes were becoming increasingly unstable and complex, J'Onn J'Onzz was simplified and grounded... spiritual and meditative. He was a sound, steady mentor who refused to abuse his considerable powers. He was sad and deep, but not conflicted like other deconstructed heroes. He stood out through his serenity at best, or his understandable irritability in the face of shenanigans at worst. This approach made him a well liked, essential aspect of an ensemble, but did not allow him to find purchase as a solo character. An eponymous mini-series and Justice League ongoing spin-off with Martian Manhunter as the lynchpin failed to make waves. Dan Jurgens teased a return to the colder J'Onn J'Onzz in his extended Bloodwynd subplot, and Christopher Priest set him up as a manipulative instructor in Justice League Task Force, but neither take played out for long.

The Alien Atlas enjoyed a huge spike in interest during the late 1990s thanks to his association with the "Magnificent Seven" JLA and popular recognition of his extraordinary power levels within the DC Universe. The longstanding stoic last survivor of Mars interpretation carried over into J'Onn J'Onzz's first major appearance in outside media as a member of the animated Justice League, and guided him into his first ever ongoing self-titled comic book. His origin was revised so that he was again partially responsible for the destruction of Mars thanks to his protection of a heretofore unmentioned evil twin brother, Ma'alefa'ak. "Malefic" was killed by the Martian Manhunter at the end of his debut story arc, and J'Onzz showed an increased willingness to use his powers in a manner that was ethically questionable. However, J'Onn J'Onzz remained essentially the same reliable, even-tempered hero he had been for the previous decade and change. As the solo series progressed, more and more time was spent on untold tales from the past, usually involving team-ups with other heroes. The creators did not seem to know what to do with J'Onn J'Onzz, or weren't allowed to do what they wished, and so they wrote stories around the character instead of for him. Similarly, JLA threw trashy odd couple girlfriends and bizarre retcon villains at the Alien Atlas, in order to make him less "boring" without changing the character as preferred by fans.

Martian Manhunter got another mini-series in the mid-00s that was in spirit very much a revival of the 1970s approach to the character; changing his appearance, alienating him violently from other heroes, and honing in on the racial conflict amongst Martians. The mini-series was broadly rejected, and J'Onn J'Onzz was soon sacrificed as part of a stunt to start off an unspectacular event mini-series. J'Onzz's body was barely cold when he was resurrected alongside other heroes as part of a stunt to cap off a well-received event mini-series. The Alien Atlas was back to recognizable form in the follow-up maxi-series Brightest Day, which is to say all of the interesting actions were performed by a newly created villainess whose existence demanded another retcon to J'Onzz's origin, and it all amounted to a mean-spirited, underwhelming arc for the Sleuth from Outer Space.

Aside from short-lived and creatively anemic evil Green Martians popping up sporadically, J'Onzz's people remained dead. When Fernus slaughtered the White Martians, the prospect of J'Onzz trying to learn and teach racial tolerance fell by the wayside. His acquaintance with Miss Martian was in passing and platonic. Most every character from older Alien Atlas tales remained deceased or retroactively aborted. His most famous foe, Malefic, died in his first arc and made return visits only in flashbacks or as a psychic fragment. J'Onn J'Onzz was a static character from a lost culture with no place to go but ever backwards.

The New 52 Martian Manhunter has seen the return of an adversarial J'Onn J'Onzz with vague motivations acting from a place of moral ambiguity while advancing machinations of unclear ends. It's a jarring change for fans who know the character from cartoons or happier times in the comics, but their pushback has been met by other fans who are embracing this Alien Atlas as an empowered, effective super-hero in his own right. As a guy who has probably spent more time thinking about J'Onn J'Onzz over the past fifteen years than most anyone on the planet, I can see both sides' argument. However, I find myself ultimately siding with embracing the New 52 take.

You see, I was one of those people who were screaming for blood when the Ostrander/Mandrake series was being published because they weren't getting the character "right." In retrospect, I can see that they were hamstrung by the expectations of editors and readers like myself to maintain the Grandfather Super-Hero approach, but the fact is, that doesn't work for a solo character. J.M. DeMatteis took the Martian Manhunter to a place where he was nearly complete as an entity. His J'Onn J'Onzz longed to ascend spiritually and to take hold of a higher truth that precluded running around in a costume and punching bad guys. It was a heartfelt reaction to the tide of deconstructionist super-hero comics of the late '80s, but it also stalled out the character's ability to progress, since he could barely function within the genre due to the restrictions placed on him by being above it. The Green Guru was like a monk; rigidly disciplined, lacking libido, unimpeachable in his actions. Such a character can function in an ensemble, but someone evolved beyond his own creators is bound to end up spouting pseudo-profundities and being an insufferable read until his inevitable cancellation.

Despite being two years into the New 52, the Martian Manhunter hasn't been properly introduced yet. He was purely a background figure in Stormwatch, has had a few teasing moments in Justice League, and has only just begun to take part in Justice League of America. What we do know is that he's on a clandestine mission to save civilization from an unknown, overwhelming threat that the Earth is not yet ready for. He has used his powers quite offensively, both literally on the page and against the sensitivities of some readers, but has not committed any indefensible acts depending on the circumstances he's confronting. This is clearly not the JLA's lovable pappy, but he is recognizable in his deeds as carrying on traditions from both the Silver and Bronze Ages, and by extension has not contradicted the intent of his creators in his conception and long term execution.

This is the same character who lied/psychically nudged his way onto a police force, and allowed them to believe their hero officer John Jones had died in the line of duty. This is the same character who kept the secret struggles of Mars to himself while serving alongside the Justice League, until that ploy blew up in his face. This is the same character who battered Superman, Hawkman, and Firestorm when they crossed his path.

J'Onn J'Onzz isn't safe and predictable anymore, and while that can be off-putting in some regards or feel like a betrayal of individual readers' trusts, it also allows the Manhunter to be intriguing and gives him directions to develop in as a solo hero. In a role reversal, elder readers like myself are now the paternal figures, and J'Onn J'Onzz is the adolescent entering adulthood. Do we really want this character to forever remain encased in amber as the grumbling Oreo-loving den mother overseeing green recruits? Shouldn't he be allowed to do things we don't necessarily agree with but are right for his life in these times, retaining hope and expectations that enough of "our" J'Onn remains to see him through?

What I keep going back to is that I read Martian Manhunter appearances in comics for over a decade without truly being a "fan." I liked him well enough, but he wasn't on my radar in the same way as other characters. Two moments stand out though: his angry eye-blasting of super-villains trying to take advantage of the Crisis on Infinite Earths, and the righteous fury in A Midsummer's Nightmare that saw him shut down the minds of an entire super-team with a thought. I wasn't thinking about the ethics of his actions, but how his powers and the force of his emotions swept me up in his story. I haven't read any Martian Manhunter moments like those in a long time, but I feel like the New 52 offers the potential to revive the passion lost since my indoctrination into the Friends of Our Martian in 1996. The creators still have to do good quality work, but we have to give them the breathing room to get enthused enough about J'Onn J'Onzz to deliver on his promise. It's the difference between a compelling concept reaching its potential, and a comforting cypher Cookie Martian forever loitering in the background behind heroic icons.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

2013 “Exercise sketch of Supergirl, The Martian Manhunter and Wonder Woman” by Israel S. Algarin

Click To Enlarge

I was in an extremely bad mood yesterday, and have decided to make a somewhat major change in my status quo to take care of that. Also, yesterday's multi-blog posts were a bear, and I liked the idea of their "running long" for more top of the page views today. As a result, in the waning hours of Wednesday, you get this. Whatever it's supposed to be. You tell me. Might be funny.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Justice League of America #1 (April, 2013)

Five years ago in London, Professor Ivo met with a mysterious figure to discuss all the "super-heroes;" the Justice League, Green Arrow, Zatanna, Hawkman; that were turning up with increasing routine. "Well, then. I guess they'll call us super-villains..."

In the present, Amanda Waller feared the Justice League itself, especially the implications of a burgeoning romance between Superman and Wonder Woman. Her antidote was a government controlled super-team designed to be capable of taking down the individual members of the six hero League. Cue a credit sequence page of seven skinny "widescreen" panels referencing Catwoman, Green Lantern Simon Baz, Hawkman, Stargirl, Vibe, Katana and Green Arrow (curiously excluding Martian Manhunter, even though Selina and Ollie aren't officially part of the group.)

Waller needed a veteran to guide the team, and former Justice League liaison (and ex-Wonder Woman boyfriend) Colonel Steve Trevor was the obvious choice. Trevor had his own reasons for becoming involved with a public heroic line-up that doubled as a covert couterpoint to his former allies, as well as some strong opinions that affected the line-up, including reservations about Waller's measure against the Man of Steel...

"Martian Manhunter? You really have lost your mind... He left the League after a drag-out fight. If I know anything about the Manhunter, it's that he's impossible to predict. Or trust." Regardless, Waller found "His power levels are unmatched and you've worked with him before." Trevor wasn't confident that he could turn these disparate individuals into a team, but he did know how to get ahold of the Manhunter if she wanted to debut in time to take advantage of the Justice League's "Throne of Atlantis" P.R. troubles. After Waller left the briefing room, Steve simply said "You can come out, J'Onn." The heretofore invisible Alien Atlas manifested.

"How did you know I was here?"
"Because you always show up when people start talking about you. I assume you heard everything."
"Yes. You can count me in. If your job is getting these people to work together, you're going to need all the help you can get."
"I don't need help, J'Onn."
"Don't lie to me, Steve. We've known each other too long-- and the telepathic inhibitors A.R.G.U.S. has equipped you and its agents with don't block out someone like me... I know why you're really doing this. But if Waller or one of these government lackeys even thinks about making a move against me, I will erase their mind. And then I will erase the mind of every person in this building, including yours. They'll give me no other option. Do we have an understanding?"
They did, J'Onn was glad, and Steve grinned, "Yeah. You look it."

Meanwhile, those five year old nefarious plans appeared to be progressing, as Green Arrow, disguised as a criminal "Dark Hunter," nearly died trying to infiltrate the European camp of "The Secret Society..."

"World's Most Dangerous, Chapter One" was by Geoff Johns & David Finch. I'm not sure if the line-up or the rationale of the group was conceived first, but it's hard to imagine someone setting out to build a true anti-Justice League and deciding these second stringers had the mettle. There's some evidence supporting the New 52 Alien Atlas being able to tackle Superman, long the dream of posters on versus threads who fixate on all his powers, but nobody is buying the legitimacy of most of the other match-ups. They're playing J'Onn J'Onzz as awfully heavy-handed, seemingly no longer a private detective, but certainly a dick at large. If he went to the bother of mindwiping Stormwatch on his way out that door, why did A.R.G.U.S. get a pass when he bailed on the Justice League? The artist has an interesting take on the Martian Manhunter, having nothing to do with the more alien skull seen recently and favoring the classic look. His costume is rendered so heavily in shadow that the sometimes loud purples are agreeably muted, but Finch inexplicably draws a crude flower shape as the Manhunter's chest emblem. His threats just don't hold the same gravitas when he seems to be promoting no-skid shower stickers like a NASCAR driver in need of better sponsorship. Also worth noting is that Despero was name-dropped as a League foe who once "physically shattered" Steve Trevor (so his upcoming two-parter in Justice League will not be a debut encounter.) I hope J'Onn was on the team for that.

New 52's Day

Monday, April 15, 2013

Megan Morse Miss Martian Sketchbook art by Don Kramer

Click To Enlarge

As you may recall, Ben Morse's wife Megan helped inspire the creation of Miss Martian, which in turn led to "Megan's Sketch Book of Mystery". That book was opened by Ben for The Cool Kids Table, featuring pieces by Todd Nauck, Bill Willingham, Juan Doe, Franco Aureliani, Dennis Calero, Terry Montimore, and the artist seen above, Don Kramer. Morse writes...
"Another one of those "nicest guys in comics" you're always hearing about, Don Kramer actually lobbied to get a crack at Megan's book, and I'm not gonna say no to somebody with Don's mad skills (and suave good looks). This may look like it took weeks, but Don did it in an afternoon, complete with awesome background and incredible shading. Miss Martian seriously looks like a real figure ready to fly off the friggin' page. This is the kind of care and nuance Don puts into every single commission he does, so if you're at a convention he's attending, do yourself a big favor and track him down (and to the comic book powers that be: give him more work!)."
I was going to get a commission from Don Kramer at Comicpalooza 2011, but I only attended Sunday and he had left early. I started attending all three days of the convention last year, and seeing a piece like this does not dissuade me from continuing that policy.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

2010 “Martian Manhunter - Theatrical Trailer” by SouperboyX

“This is the eighth Origin Trailer for "Month of Justice". This is the "Martian Manhunter" Trailer. It is probably the most epic one out of them all, or maybe a close tie with "The Last Son of Krypton" Trailer. Anyway, I know I skipped a few days in there, but it has been way too busy, but I'm willing to get back on track if you guys are. I should still have about 30 videos by the end of the month so don't worry, and you guys will like the end result. Audio: Trinity - James Dooley”
I've seen this once or twice on YouTube, but kept forgetting to post it here. The opening moments are from the Transformers: Dark of the Moon teaser trailer. I was surprised to realize they closely paralleled the first few pages of "War of the Worlds 1984," the Justice League of America arc that brought J'onn J'onzz back to comics for good. The Smallville's most quotable John Jones lines material was fun. The Day the Earth Stood Still footage was also a good choice, because who saw that crap? Unfortunately, the trailer consists mostly of footage from other trailers rather than movie meat, so despite having never seen Prince of Persia, I knew exactly where that millisecond came from. A solid effort nonetheless.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Thantos vs. Thanatos

Thantos, The 3-In-1 Man
Debut: 1967
Nemesis: Martian Manhunter
Other Major Foes: Zook
Appearances: One comic story
Powers: Super-strength, nigh-invulnerability, flight, super-spinning drill head, self-triplication, vanishing, and height alteration (growing & shrinking.)

Bio: Thantos is an other-dimensional thief seeking to find the necessary means to stay on Earth permanently for his evil ends.

Vile Menagerie Stats
Win: The Cosmic Creature (6-3); D'Kay D'Razz (9-5); Ryx (4-3*); Triumph (?)
Lose: Gorilla Grodd (6-4*); The Lizard Men (?)
Draw: 0
*Stats reflect the point value of matches with 3+ participants, not direct confrontations.

Debut: 1970
Nemesis: Aquaman
Other Major Foes: Aquaman Family
Appearances: 6 comics.
Powers: Amphibious, enhanced senses, superhuman strength/speed, mind control, and illusion projection.

Bio: Thanatos was a being trapped in the other-dimensional "Netherspace" by powerful entities called "The Others" until he could prove himself evil enough to be returned to plague reality. Thanatos could temporarily access Earth when victims gazed into a magical mirror that mesmerized them. Thanatos could then assume their form and walk the Earth for a time, committing evil acts. Upon encountering Aquaman, Thanatos chose him as the template for a permanent form. When Aquaman's wife was in the grip of madness after the death of her first son, Mera was lured into the Netherspace, where she gave birth to a second ill-fated child. Aquaman eventually ended up in Netherspace himself for a time, and while imprisoned there Thanatos was freed and assumed Aquaman's identity. Shortly after declaring war on the surface world, Thanatos was murdered by Major Disaster, who had been contracted to assassinate Aquaman.

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

Idol Speculation:
Here's something we haven't seen much of so far-- a Martian Manhunter foe who really is quite similar to a better known rogue from another hero's gallery, but the Vile Menagerie member is the older, more powerful, and less derivative of the two. If only Thantos had made a few more appearances, or had any commercial value, this really would have been the complete opposite of the norm around here. Of course, I did have to go fishing into Aquaman villains, which is a notoriously shallow pool to draw from. I can't believe Peter David not only killed this guy early in his run, but did so in such an arbitrary and frankly stupid fashion. Anyway, while I think Thanatos would hold up for a while, especially in Netherspace, the 3-In-1 Man simply bowls his over with superior abilities and a lack of compunction in using them. Hell, I think Thantos might even like Netherspace, and would certainly use it as a stepping stone to Earth.

Friday, April 12, 2013

2009 Zook Custom Action Figure by hagop

"I think it's a sure thing that we'll see a Martian Manhunter in the DC Universe Classics line within the next year. However, it's a long shot that we'll ever get a Zook. I've wanted a representation of the little guy for some time, but where to begin on a custom had me somewhat stumped. Then one day I saw a Ben 10 figure on the pegs at Target. The scale and body sculpt jumped out at me--this was my chance for a Zook! Now my Martian Manhunter isn't lonely anymore....

I had to modify the body somewhat; a little dremeling here, a little Aves there. The head is an original sculpt, of course. If I had the chance to do it over, I would make the forehead more pronounced. That's something I missed. But I'm just glad I've finally got the li'l fella."
Obviously it makes me very happy that this exists, and you should check out the head shot and J'Onn & Zook together pictures!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

2011 “J'onn Kyle Slash This Close” fan art by “Codename Eternity”

Click To Enlarge

So, this has been a notable day for my internet searching of filler material to post while feeling uninspired. Whereas stumbling upon naughty drawings of J'Onn J'Onzz, Gypsy, and especially M'gann M'orzz rarely even registers as odd for me anymore, I encountered my first Despero fan porn image today. In case it wasn't obvious, I wasn't actually seeking to see the Silver Age Despero use his telepathy to do... that... but once it passed my gaze, I decided to run an active search. This was an unfortunate error in judgment, since it led my virgin eyes to some serious J'Onn/Despero gay grinding action, and I could have just kept right on living my life without those images in my head. I like to imagine Proposition 8 being on the bubble in California, and then proponents started waving these around, sending the victorious amendment to the Supreme Court. Anyway, since we aim to keep it PG around here most days, how about some Green Lantern Kyle Rayner slash imagery instead? It may be too intense for some viewers, but compared to that other stuff, I find it positively sweet and decidedly delicate. Plus, the one boot on/one off thing amuses me.