Wednesday, July 31, 2013

2013 "Injustice: Gods Among Us - History of Martian Manhunter" video

Today, J'Onn J'Onzz was released as a downloadable character for the hit game Injustice: Gods Among Us. To celebrate/promote, the game's makers offered this new character biography. It's kind of not very good at all, but I appreciate all the folks who emailed me that this had dropped. It's full of scans from the Martian Manhunter: The Others Among Us, JLA: New World Order, Stormwatch: The Dark Side and Stormwatch: Enemies Of The Earth trade paperbacks that are readily available online without the warped dimensions and glare from the spine roll. Six seconds into the video, the narrator mispronounces the character's name as "John Johns," and much of the video consists of Justice League clips. The New 52 Stormwatch is referred to as a government team, and the Johns/Finch Justice League of America is confusingly abbreviated as the "JLA." They list Manhunter's powers as flight, super strength, x-ray vision, shapeshifting, "phasing," invisibility, and telepathy, which doesn't even cover the abilities he demonstrates in the “Injustice: Gods Among Us” Martian Manhunter DLC Trailer. I should probably mention that using the term "phase" to mean "turn intangible" is a pet peeve of mine, because the usage was popularized in X-Men comics, and because read a dictionary why don't you?

On the plus side, new game footage shows up about a minute in, including a visit to the Fortress of Solitide, where Starro is kept in an extraterrestrial menagerie. The Regime Superman gets pulverized in a finishing sequence, and the Alien Atlas offers a new line of smack talk to Ares, "I fail to see the point of this." I'm very cool with the Manhunter turning up in this game as a boss, but if I seem harshly critical of the video above, it's only because produced a vastly superior retrospective less than a year ago, which remains YouTube's most popular search result for the Sleuth from Outer Space.

Buy the character today for 400 MS Points/$4.99, and tell me how that worked out for you!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Justice League of America #2 (May, 2013)

A gaunt, porcelain-skinned man dressed in purple with a bowler hat and cane addressed the Scarecrow, who was bound to a chair in a dimly lit room. The man was willing to offer the Scarecrow freedom from captivity, both the chair and the asylum he had been taken from, in exchange for a debt of service to be determined later. Scarecrow was hesitant, but convinced by the promise of an introduction to tantalizing horror of the sort a fear junkie couldn't refuse... Later, the mystery man learned from Professor Ivo that an intruder in their midst had escaped them, and was displeased that Ivo had not chosen to engage A.R.G.U.S. to collect the Dark Hunter...

In Washington, D.C., the heroes invited to join the A.R.G.U.S.-sponsored Justice League of America were meeting for the first time in their new headquarters. Two walked in together...
"My friends call me J'Onn, Katana."
"I do not mean to be dismissive, Martian Manhunter, but I am not here to make friends... However, I will cut anyone who attempts to harm my teammates."
"That is appreciated."

Vibe and Stargirl were already waiting, and the quartet was soon joined by Catwoman, Hawkman, and Colonel Steve Trevor. Green Lantern Simon Baz was absent, and Selina Kyle wasn't to be a publicly known associate, but the rest of the team was off to a press conference headed by President Barack Obama to introduce the team to the world.

Later, Steve Trevor asked the Martian Manhunter if he could help access the reconnaissance in Oliver Queen's mind. "There is still some cerebral edema that could leave the information I retrieved limited or fractured, but yes, I can do that... Are there any behavioral issues that should be addressed while I'm in here?" Steve was shocked by the offer, wanting only to read the mind rather than change it. His question as to whether J'Onzz had ever done such a thing to someone he knew went unanswered.

Inside Oliver's mind, Green Arrow sat on a minuscule island amidst a sea of red-- perhaps sand, perhaps on Mars. J'Onn J'Onzz approached on foot. "Stay back. I know who you are. I made a fire." The Manhunter assured him that he meant no harm, but rather sought those who had hurt him, and penetrated further into his psyche. Queen recalled his role as the Dark Hunter, how he'd been found out and confronted by the mystery man. Queen used a secreted arrowhead to escape his bonds, but was brutalized by a figure resembling Batman on his way out of the Society's castle into the forest. The Sleuth from Outer Space had learned all that he could without risking Queen mental damage.

The Justice League of America landed their jet a mile outside the forest in England, then traveled on foot. Catwoman was dubious about the prospect of a Secret Society of Super-Villains that she'd never heard about. J'Onn J'Onzz argued, "I've interrogated dozens of super-human criminals... None of whom have heard of it. Their recruitment must be highly selective." Katana vanished from the group, and while Vibe tried to call out for her discretely, Trevor asked the Manhunter to get a lock on her. "I... I can't. Something's blocking my telepathy." Something flew past the group. Catwoman disappeared, A golden lasso caught Trevor around the neck like a noose. "Steve," said a figure who appeared to be Wonder Woman, "You shouldn't have come here." She was flanked by approximations of Superman and Batman...

"World's Most Dangerous, Chapter Two" was by Geoff Johns & David Finch.

New 52's Day

Monday, July 29, 2013

2013 San Diego Comic-Con International Miss Martian cosplay

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That big toothy smile absolutely slays me, and is totally appropriate to M'gann M'orzz. If it's possible to be unaffected while wearing a costume and slathered in green body paint, here you go. Image courtesy of Bleeding Cool.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

2007 Gorilla Grodd color art by Terry Huddleston

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"More sophisticated than the average gorilla!"
The Great Wall of Villains

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Rʾes Eda vs. Raʾs al-Ġūl

R’es Eda
Debut: 1977
Nemesis: Martian Manhunter
Other Major Foes: Superman, Batman
Appearances: Four comics.
Powers: Presumably the typical abilities of a Martian.

R’es Eda was the Keeper of the Sacred Martian Symbols on Mars II, and the best friend of J'onn J'onzz. However, R'es Eda believed that conquest was essential to Martian survival, so he faked his own assassination, framed J'onzz as a traitor, then resurfaced to lead an army on a genocidal path against an alien civilization. As it turned out, breaching their city would have killed all the Martians due to environmental contaminates, but Rʾes Eda didn't make it that far, after being exposed by his dying lieutenant N'or Cott. His bid halted by Martian Manhunter, Superman, and Batman, R'es Eda was locked up by his own people.

Vile Menagerie Stats
Win: 0
Lose: B'enn B'urnzz (0-9), N'orr Cott (4-6)
Draw: 0

Ra's al Ghul photo: Ra's Al Ghul 1 1124451-rrob_cv12_02-ras.jpg

Ra's al Ghul
Debut: 1971
Nemesis: Batman
Other Major Foes: Batman Family.
Appearances: 400+ comics, extensive use in cartoons and video games, toys, and a major motion picture.
Powers: Excellent combatant with a prolonged life and legions of minions.

Bio: Ra's al Ghul believes that the only way to save the world is by eradicating most of humanity. With his centuries long life span enabled by the Lazarus Pits, Raʾs al-Ġūl has accumulated knowledge and martial skills to come close to his goal time and again, if not for the intervention of the Batman.

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

Idol Speculation:
It would be easy to dismiss Rʾes Eda against one of the most famous and popular comic book villains, but hear me out. Raʾs al-Ġūl is the head of an international criminal organization, the League of Assassins, has a personal army of ninja Man-Bats, plus his daughter is Talia and his grandson is Damien Wayne. With all of these resources at his disposal, al Ghul spent over twenty years getting beaten by Batman and Robin, before moving up in the world and getting beaten by the Dynamic Duo and their extended family of non-powered urban vigilantes. Remember that one time Ra's stole Batman's personal playbook to defeat the entire JLA, and still failed inside of a four issue arc without ever doing anything remotely as cool in the thirteen years since?

R’es Eda had an army of Martians that repelled Superman and Martian Manhunter! Sure, R’es's plots are nearly as convoluted and illogical as Cay'an's, and he wears a silver swan helmet with pink streamers that do not match his man-skirt. He still managed to drag Supergirl, Hawkman, Batman, and Hawkgirl through his muck! We can't assume R’es Eda had the full compliment of Martian super powers because he didn't display any, but he also was never shown to have the vulnerability to fire, either. I'm not guaranteeing a Rʾes Eda win, but he worked on a bigger scale than Raʾs al-Ġūl, has more inherent abilities, and has fended off a higher caliber of foe than the Demon's Head is accustomed to in his one extended story arc.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Suiting the Sleuth From Outer Space #10

In most of these redesign attempts, I run as far from red as I can, since it's vulgar when married to green, combining red with blue on a Supermanalike isn't okay, and it doesn't suit the sleuth aspect of the character. Here though, probably out of sheer frustration, I wallowed in it. Actually, what I did was have J'Onn J'Onzz cosplay as Adam Warlock, one of my lifelong favorite characters. Warlock and the Manhunter have a lot of similarities in terms of their presentation, so it seems natural to link the two, not least of which because of the Drax connection*. However, Adam Warlock has bronze skin and wears golden accessories, which perfectly match his red tunic with yellow highlights. Combining it with green and blue is a heinous fashion crime, and just to make it worse, I used a poor shade of celeste and dropped the bracelet faux pas in there for bad measure. This has to be near or at the nadir of not couture.

*Am I peeved that Drax will get a movie before J'Onn? Yes I am.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

2013 R’es Eda Comicpalooza Commission by Jerry Rascoe

Characters as obscure as the ones I've tended to get drawn up often only appeared in one story and/or never displayed their full unobstructed costume in a single image. Correcting that paucity of available reference is one of the reasons this blog exists. However, pulling together a bunch of disparate views to create a whole figure for easy viewing is no mean feat.

The two Comicpalooza artists I've turned to repeatedly for good, clean, "style guide" type fully realized figures are Damon Bowie and Jerry Rascoe. Stupidly on my part, despite these guys being perfect for stuff like the sidebar icons on the blog, Bowie was only given one character in 2012 that needed the treatment, and this year he was a no-show (with assistants shilling his prints.) In the case of Jerry Rascoe, I got color figures of B’enn B’urnzz and The Marshal last year, even though both of them had no immediate need for his otherwise very necessary services. For instance, the rough looking biographical entry I threw together for R’es Eda in the early days of the blog was in dire need of Rascoe, and though I regret only getting one piece from the artist this year, I'm glad I got an appropriate personality for him to render.

R'es Eda was the villain in the only multi-part Martian Manhunter story of the 1970s. He was said to be J'onn J'onzz's best friend, for whom the Alien Atlas was willing to violently turn on his JLA buddies Superman, Hawkman, Supergirl, and Hawkgirl in pursuit of vengeance for a perceived wrong done to R'es. Unfortunately, R'es Eda was a total backstabber who branded J'onn a traitor to his people and set him up to die in hopes of taking over the Martian government in a military coup.

The four part "epic" passed through two sets of creative teams, which saw R'es Eda go through three distinct costume/appearance changes (he initially had hair,) plus his final bad guy duds were drawn with inconsistent details. I explained to Jerry Rascoe these many discrepancies, and loaned him my copy of World's Finest Comics #245 in hopes of his being able to work out a functional hybrid image of the character. That's a lot of work to ask from an artist at a convention, but Rascoe is a champion when it comes to attacking the finer details of a subject, gleefully dissecting such minutia in the spirit of a George Perez. I'm also thankful that he was such a sport about a plainly ridiculous character, since not every artist could get excited about a green Martian wearing a Bulletman helmet with swan details and streaming pink feathers. Rascoe got a kick out of foregoing some of the more conventional alternative versions of the costume (one-piece closed shirt tunic) in favor of the most deliciously gaudy take (open shirt, lounge lizard medallion, manny-skirt, white go-go boots, etc.) that earned the character whatever infamy he can lay claim to. Besides being unexpectedly complex, an artist has got to have a good sense of humor (and probably a fair amount of comfort with their heterosexuality) to be able to appreciate R'es Eda.

I knew that I wanted to be able to have options with repurposing a stock R'es Eda figure, especially since I'd excluded him from a lot of Vile Menagerie games because of the lack of quality images on hand. To this end, I asked Rascoe to leave out his usual colors (so that I could do digital tweaks as needed) and to do up a really big figure on 11" x 17" comic board (all the better to recolor and reconfigure when desired.) Rascoe gave me a fantastic rate for the extra duty requested (especially in the face of significant price hikes from about ¾ of returning artists.) Not only did I get a swell piece of art 100% to specifications that allowed me to do another of my (admittedly piss poor) MS Paint jobs, but I got a deal on it to boot! Thanks you Jerry Rascoe, and advanced apologies for all the weirdo characters I'll be hitting you up to draw in the future!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Vile Menagerie: ALEX DUNSTER

Alter Ego: Alex Dunster
Occupation: Master Thief
Marital Status: Unknown
Known Relatives: None
Group Affiliation: None
Base of Operations: Middletown, U.S.A.
First Appearance: Detective Comics #228 (February, 1956)
Hair: Black with white streaks

The criminal mastermind Alex Dunster vexed the entire Middletown Police Department during a series of heists targeting scientific and technical equipment of extraordinary value. Dunster's first recorded strike was against the Benton Optical Company, where he stole valuable lenses being developed for the U.S. Army under cover of tear gas. Next, he targeted a chemical plant using devices that allowed him to overcome the powers of the Manhunter from Mars. Finally, back at his secret rural laboratory, Dunster was able to possess and accurately employ the teleportation device of the scientist that had inadvertently brought J'onn J'onzz to Earth. While Dunster had planned to use it to establish a perfectly inaccessible hideout, he instead destroyed it while trying, and failing, to evade capture by Detective John Jones.

Alex Dunster carried a chest-mounted "giant hearing aid" that allowed him to register sounds at great distances and through dense structures. He was armed with an "electronic ray" rifle which fired a blast of considerable range that would kill any Earthman and could temporarily incapacitate a Martian. Dunster's car was fashioned with special rubber tires of unknown value.

Quote: "In one stroke, I've reaped the benefit of his vast scientific knowledge!"

Created by Dave Wood & Joe Certa

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Martian Manhunter, DC Movies & SDCC 2013

This year's San Diego Comic-Con International did not offer much in the way of news on the Sleuth from Outer Space. The big pull quote was Jeff Lemire saying at a panel "I have huge plans for Martian Manhunter next year... And it's going to be great." However, he later stated on his Twitter feed "not writing a Martian Manhunter book," though he added a "maybe :)" with regard to J'Onn J'Onzz appearing in one of his other titles. Given the current environment at DC, Lemire could very well have gone into the panel thinking he had a book, only to lose it by his 3:37 PM tweet, but it's more likely fan expectations simply overreached. I really disliked Lemire's Atom strip, but I've been fine with other stuff he's done, and he seems to appreciate the Silver Age heroes. His indie/Vertigo pedigree also suits the character, but if he simply takes over from Matt Kindt's taking over from Geoff Johns supposedly until Forever Evil wraps, I'm going to have to go with whoop-dee-doo on this disclosure.

The biggest news to not quite/only partially come out of the show was the announcement that Warner Brothers would forgo an immediate Man of Steel sequel in favor of a Superman/Batman team-up movie for release in 2015 against Avengers: Age of Ultron. I think that this is a very good idea, because Man of Steel's reception wasn't universally warm, and we've got to get a new Batman introduced ahead of the inevitable (currently penciled into 2017) Justice League flick. I firmly believe that the friendship between the World's Finest duo ought to be established on film before mixing in further heroes, and rates its own movie to that end. I also think Batman can be used as a fan proxy to address some issues folks had with Superman's movie, plus Bruce Wayne teaming up with Lex Luthor to determine a weakness against an adversarial Kryptonian writes itself. A rushed Justice League flick would have sucked, and this provides Warner Brothers more ammo against the Avengers sequel than either hero could muster individually.

Actor Harry Lennix was randomly brought in to take part in the veiled announcement, and one blogger incorrectly guessed that his character General Swanwick might secretly have been the Martian Manhunter. I suppose that could still happen, but it would come off as a cheat and raise questions as to where the Alien Atlas was during the battle against Zod's army in Metropolis. That last trailer for Man of Steel and hints that Kara Zor-El might have a role to play very much piqued my interest, but I ultimately was let down by the film's third act and the lack of significant mention of a greater comic book universe surrounding the events. I'll likely see the combo movie, but given that this is to be a reteaming of the writer/director that didn't quite make Superman fly, I'm hardly buzzing over it. Also, Umberto González of Latino Review was right to gripe about the "rinky dink BATMAN/SUPERMAN logo." Worst looking conjoining of their emblems I've ever seen.

The other news, which was broken by The Hollywood Reporter but to my knowledge never announced at Comic-Con, is that a Flash movie is planned for 2016 to lead into Justice League. My initial thought was to set the Hollywood sign afire and begin castrating Warner Brothers executives unto I compiled a set of balls large enough to greenlight a Wonder Woman movie instead. My second thought was that I find super-speed the single least interesting of all the powers, and that the Flash's rogues gallery would be great if they fought Green Arrow, but would be laughed out of theaters against the Scarlet Speedster. Brendan Bettinger of Collider argued that Flash could be the Captain America: The First Avenger of the DC Universe, which struck me as a backhanded comment against the merchandising-friendly Living Legend of World War II and an acknowledgment that Barry Allen was a stuffed shirt that lacked even the modest pop culture recognition afforded to Green Lantern by Wayne Chrebet and Aquaman by Michael Phelps. Mike Ryan of The Huffington Post made a stronger argument for Flash as DC's Iron Man, except you'd need Allen's non-scientist (re: dumbass) layman successor Wally West to mirror Tony's snark, and that the Flash's costume and m.o. are far more difficult to credibly translate to the screen (again, better recalling Cap.) I also find it funny that Ryan thinks moving faster and getting more stuff done is a wish-fulfillment premise offered by the hero. In my experience, most people want to slow down and do less stuff, or be more like Tony Stark in being fantastically rich and well "taken care of" while blowing off responsibility in favor of passion projects.

I find the premise of the Green Lantern Corps exciting, so filmmakers had to actively dissuade me from seeing Green Lantern, and did a fine job of turning me off. Conversely, I find the Flash's Speed Force lore stupid as hell, and can't think of a single actor that would turn me on to the hero. Coupled with my deep offense over favoring the Flash against a Wonder Woman film, I'm fairly certain I won't touch that movie with a ten foot pole. I'd seriously see a Cyborg movie before the Flash. They'd have to adapt Justice League of America #144 to get me into that thing.

Monday, July 22, 2013

2013 Heroes Con “Ms. Martian” commission by Jenny Frison

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"This was my first commission from the awesome Jenny Frison, she totally outdid herself! It was great to meet her and pick up a couple of her fantastic sketch books.

Purchased at Heroes Con 2013"
I've enjoyed the issues of Revival I've read, for which Frison provides outstanding covers. It's not quite as good as the early Hack/Slash, but I'm still looking forward to getting the second trade paperback in a couple of weeks. I think I'm at the point of choosing between Revival and Walking Dead, probably not in Kirkman's favor. Anyway, I quite like Frison's slightly spooky ethereal take on M'gann.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

2013 Vulkor the Capsule Master redesign doodle by Diabolu Frank

To wrap up the extended Capsule Master weekend, I thought I'd over-share. I had some down time at work the other day where I was paid to be very bored and briefly engage the occasional caller/visitor. Frustrated by the state of stasis, I decided to bring up some Vulkor posts on my phone and try to tweak the character's design on a scrap of paper with a ballpoint pen. I'm not saying a pencil and better overall conditions would correct my failings as a drawer, just that I hope you'll forgive the additional elements for eyesoredom.

Anyway, Vulkor's color scheme is wonky, but unlike any other that comes to mind, and he's a fair bit more stylish than most of the Alien Atlas' Silver Age foes. I figure the main reason he gets no respect is because he shops at the same store as Dark Helmet. I thought I'd try my hand at a sleeker, more sinister dome, but otherwise hued very closely to the original design (though not so much reasonable proportions and proper body mechanics.) It ended up reminding me of the minor Flash villain Plunder, though I think it better suits Vulkor (plus Plunder was so very much a '90s holdover unwelcome in the 21st century anyway.)

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Capsule Master vs. Ocean Master

Debut: 1963
Nemesis: Martian Manhunter
Other Major Foes: Green Arrow & Speedy
Appearances: One comic story.
Powers: Super-strength, flight, and other typical Martian abilities. Brainwave Energizer helmet capable of controlling humans. Atom-powered flying capsule with a force field and powerful mechanical arm.

Bio: Vulkor was an arch-criminal on Mars who twice attempted to use a stolen planetary defensive weapon for his own plots. The Capsule Master was eventually defeated through the combined efforts of three super-heroes and returned to prison.

Vile Menagerie Stats
Win: None Recorded
Lose: The Martian Criminal (4-8), the Martian Marauders (4-9)
Draw: 0

Orm Marius
Debut: 1966
Nemesis: Aquaman
Other Major Foes: Mera, Aqualad, and Aquagirl.
Appearances: 125+ comics; animation and video games.
Powers: Superhuman strength, ability to survive underwater at tremendous pressure, control of sealife, and a magical trident capable of projecting energy blasts.

Bio: Orm Marius is the half-brother of Aquaman, and has sought the throne of Atlantis for himself at great personal price. As Ocean Master, Marius has dealt with devils and worked alongside the most nefarious villains in the DC Universe.

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

Idol Speculation:
So here's the deal-- Vulkor the Capsule Master is not getting the love and respect he's owed around here. He was the villain of the first ever Brave and the Bold team-up, and the first Martian Manhunter-specific villain powerful enough to require outside heroes to defeat. Vulkor is admittedly silly looking, but his debut was important enough to warrant reprinting at least three times to date, and he's way more competent than a lot of better regarded Vile Menagerie members. Vulkor has yet to make it out of the first round in one of our March Madness contests (though he probably defeated someone in the unrecorded qualifying rounds in their initial year.) I hope this match will be an opportunity to rebuild his reputation.

I've never been impressed with Ocean Master. Aquaman still has only two villains that most folks can be bothered to remember, and Orm is the other one... the one who wasn't in the Super Friends Legion of Doom; the one who didn't murder Aquaman's son; the one who didn't turn up until Geoff Johns' third year writing Aquaman, after he'd already done two extended Black Manta arcs. The recent "Throne of Atlantis" crossover arc was probably the biggest story of Ocean Master's career, but he still got beat down like a punk in the span of a few pages. Vulkor's a Martian, he's got Martian henchman, and I'll pit his capsule against any of Orm's silly fish-ships.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Suiting the Sleuth From Outer Space #9

In trying to get J'Onn J'Onzz into pants and away from the garish red highlights on green base from his classic costume, I spent a lot of time playing with variations that incorporated large expanses of white. Too much time. White was an excellent peace broker when I needed to find ways to deal with conflicting or overused colors, but it also meant I have so many different white suits applied to these xeroxed Kevin Maguire sketch bases, I have trouble keeping track of which ones I've already run in blog posts. I didn't want to get to this one yet, but it took me too long to make sure it wasn't a duplication, so let's just get this last repetitive blanco out of the way.

I found it redundant to use two different shades of blue to differentiate between the cape, the boots, and where applicable, pants. White tights didn't help with the boots and cape, but it made the distinction less necessary. I went ahead and kept the red chest straps, and they even interact with the green skin, but the white defuses some of the eyesore qualities. Also, the red adds a bit of pop to a muted interaction between the other colors, and I kind of like the pointy bits on the belt that discreetly reference the robotic Manhunter Cult design. All that said, it's still dull, compromising the original costume and failing to augment the Martian Detective aspect of the character. You can tell by all the hand inking I was doing that I was trying to sell it to myself and present the design in the best possible light, but it just sits there. Also, that little white ascot looking thing at the neck bugs the crud out of me.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

2013 Vulkor, the Capsule Master Comicpalooza Commission by Thom Zahler

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There was some ambiguity on my end as to who I would get to do what at this year's Comicpalooza that frankly stressed me out, so it was good to run into Thom Zahler and have him do one of the first commissions of 2013. I have a whole list in my head of characters I want to see him draw, and even considered contacting him to produce something via mail order, but it seems to take the now-or-never nature of a convention to get me properly motivated. Another reason he's a good first contact over a con weekend is because he's such a good guy, starting the con off on a positive note. He's recently been doing work on My Little Pony, which brought a lot of little kids to his table, for whom he doled out renderings with a gentle patience and sweet nature. Zahler's also enthusiastic about the medium as a whole, and even slogged through the entire 4½ hour Fire and Water Fiftieth Edition DC Sampler Podcast while stuck in L.A. traffic. Zahler was complimentary of the grueling but giddy episode, and I should probably point out for Rob's sake that he did an Aquaman & Mera piece at the con. He was happy to tackle another one of my obscuro characters as well, although he noted that I had competition this year from Sister Voodoo.

I totally dug Zahler's Roh Kar commission, and figured his retro-funky sensibilities might help redeem another Silver Age bit of silliness, Vulkor, the Capsule Master. Despite having some modest historical significance and a solid story showing, Vulkor has never performed well in any of this blog's polls or been shown much love in general. I gave Zahler a copy of Vulkor's one comic appearance and carte blanche in interpreting the character, and was pleased by how he humanized the Martian crook. Vulkor wasn't featured in all that many panels with his comically large helmet, and only one spare panel unmasked. Zahler ran with it, giving Vulkor a broad flat nose and angular features that could be inferred from the 1960s drawing, but were only truly realized at Zahler's hand. Vulkor's open collar and cavalier attitude imbue the character with personality that couldn't be conveyed through his near featureless purple dome in the original story, and his gloves are accentuated to give the Capsule Master a more daredevil fashion sense. Appreciate the lighting effects employed here, putting true flesh on the bones of Vulkor as originally presented. This 8.5 x 11" piece gives the character a spirit lacking in his debut, and Zahler is to be applauded for it. If you'd like some art of your own, these are check out Zahler's commission gallery and rates!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Brave and The Bold #50 (October-November, 1963)

"A mysterious capsule hovering in the night sky over Star City... A startling prison-break by convicts who could've escaped at any time... A daring raid on a quiet museum just to steal a rock! What terrible threat lies behind these bizarre events?"

Green Arrow and his kid sidekick Speedy answered the "Arrow-Signal" from a warden requesting they stop escapees before they exited his prison, but the convicts displayed super-human strength and resilience while effecting their departure. Investigating further, the Emerald Archer found fleshy masks worn by the convicts, possibly to hide their inhuman true features. That very night, the cons swiped a mildly radioactive meteor on exhibit that had fallen two years prior, leaving only an impression left by the rock as a clue. "Speedy, we need help on this case-- and the best man to give it to us is... the Martian Manhunter!"

Based on eyewitness descriptions, G.A. drew up a police quality sketch, which resembled an alien-- maybe even Martians! "Who better to help us corral them than the Martian Manhunter!" Green Arrow put out the call for his fellow Justice Leaguer. "So not long afterward, following a radio call over a secret wavelength..." Manhunter's immaterial form passed into the archers' "Arrow-Cave" headquarters. "Greetings, Green Arrow and Speedy! What's this about other aliens being here on Earth?"

At about that same time, a spaceman wearing a featureless spherical helmet named Vulkor claimed the meteor from those very same extra-terrestrials. "Two more pieces remain... and tonight, we will recover the second!" That was the plan, until the harbor patrol blew the whistle on the dockside meeting. Vulkor took his compact orb of a spaceship with its giant appendage sticking out the bottom and crushed the police boat between its artificial fingers.

A flare attracted Martian Vision and that of the archers, who found that the crooks were indeed Martians of an unusually squat variety (or maybe that was just dodgy perspective?) "Go Manhunter! Look at the Manhunter in action, G.A.! That was a great idea, calling him in!" The Martian gang may have looked like tween Go-Go dancers (or as Speedy put it, "queer fish,") but they bashed Manhunter's butt! "You forget-- our powers are as great as yours here, Manhunter! Hold him... I'll make Vulkor a gift of our fellow Martian!" It's funny that these Martians needed masks to assume human form, although they may have just wanted to retain their Martian abilities while incognito (as that was a hang-up at the time, especially for Martian criminals.)

Green Arrow and Speedy tried to help, but their "Arrow-Plane" was forced out of the air by Vulko's wacky flying machine. A "para-arrow" (I kid you not) slowed the jet's death dive to a survivable drift. Concurrently, "There! ...Our Martian playmate can't take strong dose of equal Martian muscle!" The Martians left the Manhunter "beaten to his knees." A stunned Speedy asked, "How could this happen? Vulkor and his Martian thugs beat us, G.A.!" J'onzz confessed, "I overlooked the fact that I was meeting powers equal to my own, for the first time since I've been living on Earth! We've got to work out a plan of action, Green Arrow!"

Manhunter returned to his secret mountain headquarters to facilitate a trip (or in one retelling just to check his computer records.) "The Robot Brain, with which the late Professor Erdel accidentally brought me to Earth... I must use it once more to return to Mars!" Although J'onn J'onzz had been stranded on Earth for seven years due to complications related to the Robot Brain, Dr. Alvin Reeves had finally managed to repair it in Detective Comics #301. "Complex circuits hum, teleporting the Alien Sleuth across the void of space, on an incredible journey to his home planet..."

Manhunter was told by the All-Martian Council that Vulkor was an "arch-criminal recently escaped from long imprisonment!" Further, "Our scientists developed a super-weapon to defend our planet... Vulkor stole the only working model, which was destroyed when he was captured in a furious fight! We have never been able to duplicate the weapon-- it is gone forever! Without it, Vulkor is no real threat to us!" The Sleuth from Outer Space countered that the powers the gang had acquired on Earth, as well as Vulkor's atom-powered capsule, made them a menace anew. "Since we have no official relations with Earth, we cannot send our space police to help you!" The Alien Atlas knew it was up to him to "bring Vulkor to Justice, with the help of my Earth ally-- Green Arrow!"

Back in Star City, the archers were on patrol in their Arrow-Car. Green Arrow fumed "No sign of Vulkor and his bunch anywhere!" Speedy bemoaned, "All the same, I wish the Manhunter were back! Our new arrows look great-- but how will they work against that alien menace?"

Just then, a police scanner alerted the pair to the "alien gang attacking Highmount Radar Station!" The archers located and disturbed the Martian gang. Their ultra-high frequency sonic arrows were "hitting the acute Martian ears like shock waves!" The Martians were rescued by the Capsule Master's deployment of a force wall, prompting Green Arrow to fire himself out of his "Arrow-Car" by means of its "Catapult Seat" to pursue. A force field halted Green Arrow's attempts to disable the ship, and its mechanical arm captured the Emerald Archer. Manhunter arrived, but was unable to penetrate the force field before the ship sped away. Speedy was again incredulous, as he watched his mentor spirited away while "Manhunter's tumbled like a rock into that lake!"

Speedy and the recovered Manhunter spent a short time together, trying to figure out Vulkor's plan and rescue Green Arrow. J'onn J'onzz compared a shadow image cast by the radioactive museum meteor with a mechanical part his x-ray Martian Vision spotted the alien gang making off with, and deduced that the super-weapon Vulkor once possessed was not truly destroyed. "When his henchmen took refuge on Earth years ago, they dismantled the weapon and hid each piece in a different place!" Manhunter had a hunch the Martians' presence on Highmount Hill, where Green Arrow was lost, denoted the probable hiding place of the final weapon piece. A concerned Speedy asked, "But what about Green Arrow? Can we risk tackling Vulkor while G.A.'s in his hands?" Oliver Queen then stumbled into the Arrow-Cave with the tale of his escape from the aliens. His timing was perfect, as Manhunter needed archers to fire incendiary arrows at his fellow Martians to exploit their natural weakness to fire.

The trio staked out the Highmount until they cornered Vulkor on foot, but Green Arrow then turned on Manhunter! The Capsule Master proclaimed, "*Ha, Ha* They joined forces to combat me-- but I've turned one against the other!" Speedy used a foam arrow to douse the Ace Archer's flames, while Vulkor made his exit. J'onzz thanked Speedy, then set about figuring out why the Emerald Archer "blacked out" and attacked. Manhunter had more than one reason to appreciate Speedy, who had also fired a traceable radio transmitter arrow at Vulkor. A one-way microphone revealed that Vulkor had gained the ability to mind-control Oliver Queen, so Green Arrow would be a potential liability for the rest of the mission. It also clued the green team in to where the Capsule Master would test his now completed super-weapon... an atomic-powered sea liner dubbed the Neptune.

The heroes decided to board the vessel in civilian guise. "I hope our plan works, Manhunt-- I mean, John Jones!" On sight of incoming trouble, a spare Arrow-Plane took flight, and intercepted Vulkor's sphere. Green Arrow ejected and fired an arrow with "magnetized particles" that absorbed the spaceship's force field. The Martian crew attempted to manually remove the particles, but were blown off the ship by Green Arrow's super-breath. Oliver Queen, disguised as Manhunter, continued to fly the Arrow-Plane with Speedy while the Martian "Green Arrow" boarded the capsule. Vulkor was unable to control J'onn J'onzz mentally, instead extorting his inaction by threatening the Neptune. The true modern day Robin Hood used his plane to jar the sphere, giving the other "Emerald Archer" a chance to stop Vulkor. "I'll destroy that ship... Earth... Mars--!"
"You'll never fire that weapon, Vulkor!"

Speedy and Green Arrow shot fireworks arrows to turn back the recovered Martian gang of four as they flew in pursuit, while Vulkor's orb plunged into the sea. The pressure of the depths crushed the ship and its super-weapons, while Manhunter used "a little Martian judo" to subdue Vulkor. A "Brainwave Energizer" hidden in G.A.'s bow grip was discovered to have effected the mind-control, and was removed. Manhunter determined cruel punishment was in order. "Now, I'm off to imprison these criminals in a fiery volcano! If you ever need me again..."

"We'll send for you, Manhunter! It was great being teamed with you...Earth's lucky to have you on it's side!"

"Wanted--The Capsule Master!" was by Bob Haney and George Roussos. When The Brave & The Bold switched formats from anthology to super-hero team-ups, J'onn J'onzz joined Green Arrow as the very first pairing of the series. I've never been a fan of Silver Age comics, and some of Haney's work is just mind-numbingly awful, but when he's as on as he is here, he's a gas. The art wasn't up to the standards set by Joe Certa in Manhunter's solo strip, but it was solid enough. Vulkor was a fun oddball, and I wish both he and the Arrow/Atlas friendship had been given more of a chance in comics.

DC Comics Presents

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

2012 “Martian Manhunter Saves The Day” fan video by “InItForTheTank”

After yesterday's triumphant trailer for the Alien Atlas' debut as part of “Injustice: Gods Among Us,” I feel comfortable offering a less-than-laudable collection of Martian Manhunter appearances on the Justice League animated series. Jobbers gonna job.

Monday, July 15, 2013

2013 “Injustice: Gods Among Us” Martian Manhunter DLC Trailer

I went to a comic convention, then disappeared on a lengthy road trip through 1, 2, 3... 16 states and then almost immediately started a new job. Getting blog stuff done has taken a hit as a result, though I think it's been felt mostly outside the Idol-Head. Today though, I'm coming off a punishing series of long days that have really reminded my body that it's middle-aged, so I have no go-juice in the tank for posting. Thankfully, an anonymous commentator alerted me that the Martian Manhunter has become a downloadable character for play in the very popular NetherRealm Studios video game Injustice: Gods Among Us. While the game featured most of the iconic DC heroes and a fair amount of villains, the developers intentionally held back on playable characters with the intention of offering them later as downloads, thus extending the playing life and promotion of the game. Lobo, Batgirl (Barbara Gordon,) the Mortal Kombat character Scorpion, and General Zod were released as part of a pack earlier this year, with Martian Manhunter the first entirely new character to be offered since the pack. The Martian Manhunter has had quite vocal fan support in relation to the game, and this demand was in part responsible for his late inclusion in the game.

In the trailer, we see a mid-80s style private investigator John Jones in a dark alley transform into the New 52 version of the Alien Atlas and fly off. He lands on the Justice League satellite from the animated series, and once again voiced by Carl Lumbly, proclaims "I will defend Earth." He then confronts John Stewart, a new Green Lantern skin, which is to say Stewart has the same moves as Hal Jordan used in the game, with only the principle figure altered. J'Onn J'Onzz proceeds to throw Stewart a beating of such magnitude that you would think it was a deleted scene from Cosmic Odyssey. The action is incredibly fast, but I spotted Martian Vision, invisibility/intangibility that mimics Bloodwynd style teleportion, lots of super-strength blows, a Cay'an style psionic pulse blast emitted from his palm, some weird ranged energy manifestation, and elongated arm punches.

J'Onn takes a few good hits, most spectacularly when he's caught in a furnace blast of flame from a rocket launch, but he recovers immediately and continues his spotlight assault on poor Green Lantern. Stewart is thrown through a line of Javelin-7 spaceships, falls into a ventilation shaft, and is speared by the nose of one of the ships that fell in after him. J'Onzz makes up for his lack of quality smack talk ("Do you not listen to reason?") with some vicious moves (like close quarters Laser Vision to the face) and a killer finishing move. J'Onzz draws Stewart into a telepathic recreation of Mars, temporarily assumes Stewart's form, punches him into the sky, then appears as a colossal giant that smashes Stewart between the boulders J'Onzz has in each mammoth hand while roaring. The trailer ends with a close-up on the Martian Marvel's glowing red eyes, then adds a stinger of him in his New-52 Natural Form seen in recent Justice League of America issues for a slow pull-back on the Red Planet.

I've recently advocated a low cost simplified Martian Manhunter movie, but this trailer provides a compelling counter-argument for fierce and flashy demonstration of J'Onn J'Onzz's vast array of abilities. It sells the Martian Marvel as a seriously bad ass force, and makes great use of his snazzy current outfit. I expect I'll be watching this again and again...

Sunday, July 14, 2013


Cluzot was the leader of a French unit of Vulture local to the base of operations for Andre Rennay. Cluzot enjoyed roulette at the casino, smoking cigarettes, and speaking with a comically heavy accent. He did not suffer fools gladly, expressing a willingness to kill if a subordinate was indiscreet. Such was the case when "Rennay" revealed Cluzot's role in Vulture to international playboy "Marco Xavier," though both identities actually belonged to the Manhunter from Mars. As Xavier, J'onzz used Cluzot to inform Vulture kingpin Mr.V of a Mercurian renegade spotted in the area. Mr. V dispatched Cluzot and a group of Vulture goons to find the Mercurian and procure his disintegrator ray gun. Cluzot would also be field testing Vulture's long in development Captive-Ray Gun to meet the task. Cluzot and the Mercurian initially fought, but once Cluzot successfully captured the Martian Manhunter, he was able to convince the renegade that a partnership was in their mutual best interests. However, the Martian Marvel managed to trick and disarm both Cluzot and the Mercurian. Cluzot and his men were then turned over to the police.

First Appearance: House of Mystery #163 (December, 1966)

Quote: "It gives one a great feeling of security to know we are associated with such genius, eh, Rennay?"

Created by Jack Miller and Joe Certa

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Mercurian vs. Sonar

The Mercurian Renegade
Debut: 1966
Nemesis: Martian Manhunter
Other Major Foes: None
Appearances: One comic story.
Powers: Super-strength, invulnerability, a disintegrator gun, and a small spaceship.

Bio: The Mercurian Renegade landed his one-man ship in France, and decided Earth was as good as any planet to conquer. He was aided by the super-powers he developed in Earth's atmosphere, but the similarly empowered Martian Manhunter showed up to send him packing back to the stars.

Vile Menagerie Stats
Win: 0
Lose: The Saturnian Criminal (1-?); The Invaders from the Space Warp (4-7)
Draw: 0

sonar photo: Sonar sonar.jpg

Debut: 1962
Nemesis: Green Lantern
Other Major Foes: The JLA.
Appearances: 60+ comics and an episode of Justice League Unlimited
Powers: The Sonic Sceptre allows Sonar to lift and carry objects (including himself,) project a force field, absorb & weaponize sonic emissions, as well as create illusions.

Bio: Bito Wladon was born to deaf parents in the minuscule European nation of Modora. A backwards, superstitious people, the Modorans shunned the deaf, inspiring the unimpaired Wladon to pursue inventions related to sound. Bound to prove both his self-worth and the greatness of his country, Wladon became "The Sultan of Super-Sonic Sound," using specialized weaponry in pursuit of crime and international conflict.

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

Idol Speculation:
Sonar is one of those harmless Silver Age megalomaniacs that DC has of course tried to turn into Magneto/Dr. Doom or replace with a more gnarly successor, but it won't take. He dresses like Napoleon and plays with a tuning fork gun. That'd how he rolls. He's fought virtually every earthbound Green Lantern except maybe Kyle Rayner (who tangled with two short-lived revision attempts instead,) and that deserves respect. The Mercurian is one of the cooler looking alien bad guys to fistfight the Alien Atlas, which is nothing to sneeze at, either. This could go either way, depending on circumstances, but I lean toward Sonar's versatility. Plus, I keep forgetting that the Mercurian didn't have the air-bubble-trap-rifle-thingee in his one story, which would have been a more formidable gimmick than a garden variety ray gun. If the Renegade ever comes back, I hope he steals that dealy from Vulture. I'd like the poor alien to win at least one of these matches someday.

Friday, July 12, 2013

2012 DC Nation Short: "Plastic Man in... Super Hero Sketch Artist"

Early in 2012, the "DC Nation" programming block began airing on Cartoon Network, which included Green Lantern: The Animated Series and Young Justice, both since canceled. Between the main shows, the block offered short interstitial cartoons produced by Warner Brothers Animation featuring a variety of DC characters. As of this writing, 101 of these shorts have aired, and they will presumably continue in the future, with Beware the Batman and Teen Titans Go! serving as their new anchors.

One of the earliest shorts (#5 to be exact) was "Plastic Man in... Super Hero Sketch Artist," first aired on March 3, 2012. The clips have recently been showing up en masse on YouTube, and I was surprised to find that this one featured a reference to the Alien Atlas. Watch the embed, and I'll offer a brief description afterward...

After Plastic Man uses an elderly woman's lengthy description of a purse snatcher as an excuse to ham it up for one minute and three seconds, the exasperated old lady asks, "Is Martian Manhunter available?" Looking over the episode guide, that would be a no, and are they ever going to continue their adaptation of "Sword of the Atom" besides? Jeez Louise!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

2011 “JUSTICE LEAGUE Theatrical Teaser” fan art by Sahin Düzgün

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This is easily my favorite of all the JLA fan made movie posters I've seen. Instead of looking all Photoshopy with uneven colors and obvious cobbling, Duzgun aims for a legitimate looking subdued design. The figures integrate far better than most, with the more problematic characters pushed to the background (widely publicized Reynolds GL image; Colorforms Chris Pine Aquaman; etc.) Aside from the googly eyes, the heavy Corman shadow even allows a Martian Manhunter action figure to mingle in with the living actors. This image has a mood and attitude that make me want to see a sizzle reel rather than fear it, and that's a nice logo concept, too.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Martian Sightings for October, 2013

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Martian Manhunter
Written by GEOFF JOHNS
1:25 Villain A variant cover by ETHAN VAN SCIVER
1:25 Villain B variant cover by ETHAN VAN SCIVER
1:25 Villain C variant cover by ETHAN VAN SCIVER
1:200 B&W Variant cover by DAVID FINCH and RICHARD FRIEND
On sale OCTOBER 2 • 32 pg, FC, 2 of 7, $3.99 US • RATED T
Combo pack edition: $4.99 US
Retailers: This issue will ship with six covers. Please see the order form for more information.

The villains have taken over the world! The Teen Titans fight back! Can the inexperienced teen heroes do what the adults could not? (Answer: Nope. It goes very poorly.) This issue is also offered as a combo pack edition with a redemption code for a digital download of this issue
Screw it. I'm trade-waiting with my fingers crossed to skip it entirely in the end.

Written by MATT KINDT
1:25 Variant cover by KENNETH ROCAFORT
1:100 B&W Variant cover by DOUG MAHNKE and CHRISTIAN ALAMY
On sale OCTOBER 9 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T
Combo pack edition: $4.99 US. 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 four covers. Please see the order form for more information.

A “Forever Evil” tie-in! THE JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA IS DEAD. But in the aftermath, one of the team’s members uncovers the JLA’s darkest secrets!

This may be the start of that J'Onn J'Onzz solo story we were hearing about. Flashback?

Written by RAY FAWKES
Art and cover by MIKEL JANIN
1:25 B&W Variant cover by MIKEL JANIN
On sale OCTOBER 23 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T
Retailers: This issue will ship with two covers. Please see the order form for more information.

A “Forever Evil” tie-in! THE JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK IS DEAD. Not even the JL Dark can escape the evil that’s invaded the Earth—except for John Constantine! But why has he alone survived? And will he try to stop the villains—or join them? Long live the NEW Justice League Dark!

Oh god, Constantine's that guy now. The one who puts together temporary substitute teams to prolong the drama before the inevitable reversion to the status quo. Poor bastard.

Vibe & Gypsy
On sale OCTOBER 16 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

Lost in another dimension, Vibe finds a shocking link to his home!
I must confess that I'm still purchasing this book, but haven't read any since #2. Did it get any better?

Manhunter 2070
Art and cover by WALTER SIMONSON
On sale NOVEMBER 6 • 104 pg, FC, $14.99 US

The acclaimed graphic novel from legendary writer/artist Walter Simonson shows how one of the silver coins Judas was paid to betray Jesus has had an impact on the DC Universe, with chapters starring the Golden Gladiator, (A.D. 73), the Viking Prince (A.D. 1000), Captain Fear (1720) and Bat Lash (1881). In the centerpiece of the book, Batman faces Two-Face in an epic, present-day battle before the story blasts into the future for a final chapter set in the year 2087 starring Manhunter 2070!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Consider MARTIAN MANHUNTER for your Motion Picture Needs

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2013 “JL Banner Manhunter” by Zyrus Viray

Marvel Comics has seen incredible success with a diverse selection of their characters at various movie studios, even those largely unfamiliar to general audiences. New Line grossed around $400m off the Blade trilogy, and Sony pulled in nearly $200m on the two Ghost Rider flicks. Fox managed to profit by $100m on the panned Daredevil, and probably broke even on Elekta. Leaner budget, lower profile, non-Marvel super-heroes have also performed well for decades at other studios, who found hits with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Darkman, The Crow, The Mask, Spawn, Unbreakable, Hellboy, Wanted, Kick-Ass, and Chronicle, all made for well under $100m and each turning a tidy profit.

DC Comics has not been so successful. Catwoman, a fairly popular and recognizable heroine, managed to lose almost twenty million dollars, and that's before you factor in the advertising budget. If you thought that was bad, consider how Jonah Hex hemorrhaged even more money with less than half of Catwoman's budget. In fact, Warners has had better luck adapting the comics work of writer Alan Moore than their own catalog of B-list super-heroes.The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Constantine and V for Vendetta were all in the black, but were also each single serving cinema. Despite high hopes and deep pockets on Watchmen, it only cleared $55m on a hefty budget. Now, these were all just side bets for Warner Brothers, not serious contenders like Superman, Batman and Green Lantern, who have each managed to underwhelm at various points. Why can't Warners successfully move past the chocolate and vanilla of comic book franchises, Batman and Superman?

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2013 “Justice League (Fan-Made) Movie Poster” fan art by DiamondDesignHD

That's a bigger problem for Warner Brothers than just box office. Spider-Man, the Hulk, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and the Punisher make crazy money in merchandising. Despite a recent push for the Justice League at Target, DC is hurting from the ground lost in this pop culture IP war. DC has had some good fortune with introducing also-rans like Swamp Thing and Green Arrow on television, but always as niche properties on minor networks with negligible cultural impact. Warner Brothers needs to build up its cinematic repertory company if it wants to hold its own against Marvel Studios and Fox. The Super Friends might have been the height of heroic fantasy in the 1970s, but ask Disney how costly assuming relevancy for bygone favorites like the Lone Ranger and John Carter of Mars can be. At the same time, Warners can't afford costly missteps that result in production freezes and retreats back to the World's Finest duo.

While Warner Brothers spends hundreds of million of dollars developing Wonder Woman and/or Aquaman with their eyes on the Justice League prize, what they really ought to do is pull alternative prospects off the bench for some $50-75 million dollar specialty movies to enrich their shared universe and maybe stumble upon another Wesley Snipes or Robert Downey Jr. performance strong enough to build their first non-Superman/Batman super-hero franchise-- one that doesn't cost as much as a small country's GDP to get made. More modest in scope, but with some name actors and flashy sequences to earn it a respectable place on the side of the Justice League meeting table nearer the restroom. A property like the "Sleuth from Outer Space," better known as the Martian Manhunter.

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2012 “Martian Manhunter Poster” by Kal-elmeeksio

"J'onn J'onzz, the Manhunter from Mars" was created in 1955 as a side strip in the back of a Batman comic book series, running for thirteen years total. The basic premise was that an alien was accidentally teleported to Earth by an obscure human scientist, who promptly died of a heart attack brought on by the shock of the Martian's surprising arrival. Stranded, the alien decided to make the best of his situation by using his otherworldly powers to make the Earth a better place. Assuming the identity of a police detective, "John Jones" caught crooks too sharp for normal cops, as well as protecting the Earth from alien invaders. Later, J'onn J'onzz assumed other roles, chasing after a supernatural artifact that periodically unleashed ancient monsters, or combating a hi-tech international crime syndicate by spying on them from within. "The Alien Atlas" also made time to co-found the Justice League of America, one of comics' first and greatest heroic teams.

The character was little used in the 1970s, but was revived in the mid-1980s as part of the Super Powers Collection toy line and as a fixture in several wildly different interpretations of the Justice League. His visibility steadily grew, until interest in the character exploded after he was drafted into the wildly popular "Magnificent Seven" version of the League, called simply "JLA." Judged to be equal to the company of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Green Lantern, and Aquaman as a foundational hero of the team and universe, the Manhunter from Mars was finally given his own well regarded ongoing series, which ran for three years. The success of "JLA" helped spawn the long running Cartoon Network Justice League show, which prominently featured the Martian Manhunter for most of its run and across much of its ancillary products. The character was next used in the widely watched Smallville television series, reoccurring in key episodes for several seasons, and embraced by fans. The Martian Manhunter also turns up regularly in other DC animated TV shows and direct to video releases, as well as in video games.

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2012 “Justice is Coming!” fan art by DiamondDesignHD

The Martian Manhunter was known to comic fans of the '50s and '60s, but his visibility spiked substantially in the mid-80s, and he's been embraced most by Generation X and Millennial audiences. IGN ranked him #43 on their list of the Top 100 Comic Book Heroes, #40 by, #11 on CSBG's 2007 Top 50 DC Characters list, and #22 on CBR's 2011 Top DC Characters list. Those numbers may sound low, but most every character ranked higher on the list has already been featured in motion pictures within the last decade or so.

J'Onn J'Onzz is perhaps the most versatile remaining super-hero, defying genre by appearing in stories centered on police procedurals, science fiction, supernatural horror, situational comedy, and straightforward comic book punch-outs. The character has a remarkably broad power set, including shapeshifting, telepathy, invisibility, intangibility, flight, laser beam vision, enhanced senses and intelligence, superhuman strength & speed, relative invulnerability... virtually any ability needed for whichever story is being told. His primary weakness is an adverse reaction from exposure to open flames, although its effects range anywhere from triggering severe but manageable anxiety to the catastrophic, potentially fatal loss of all powers and spontaneous combustion. Likewise, the Martian Manhunter's power set is so erratic between interpretations that as many or as few can be used as desired for a given story.

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2012 “Ajax - Martian Manhunter” by Jack Malone

Between a flexibility in plotlines, tone, abilities, and weaknesses, what else could a movie producer possibly want? How about an uncommon openness to interpretation? Although J'onn J'onzz typically assumes the human identity of a middle aged white male in the comics, he's also taken up guises of most every race and gender imaginable. While he spent decades wearing one simple costume, alternate suits have been employed in recent years without any serious outcry from readers. While typically bald with green skin and a pronounced brow, a variety of more alien looks have been adopted without issue. In some stories, J'onn J'onzz is a young expatriate from a thriving retro-futurist Mars, and in others he's the sole survivor of a tribal culture mourning his dead wife and daughter. Sometimes his world dies by fire sparked by a power mad military leader, and other times a plague quietly claims his people. Sometimes his living parents watch over a sweet natured kid brother, and other times he has a psychotic rapist serial-killing twin who indirectly murders everyone J'Onn loves. There's no singular, rigid story fans demand be told on film, and while the Martian Manhunter appeals to a broad swath of fans, his status as an alternative to more mainstream heroes means his audience is more open-minded than most bases.

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2012 “Justice League Movie” fan art by Nicholas Cashio

Where many comic book properties demand that a narrow range of actors of specific types and looks be chosen to accurately reflect the heroic persona, J'onn J'onzz could be played by almost any reasonable performer that could be cast. Admittedly, African-American males routinely provide the voice for the character in animation, and Phil Morris is the best known actor to portray John Jones in live action. Continuing that accepted pattern allows for racial diversity in media representation despite the character rarely having been shown as black in the comics. That said, an actor of any race or gender could believably play the part with the expectation that fans' primary concern will be in their performance and functionality within the DC cinematic universe. Likewise, the hero has a supporting cast that can be drawn from in transitioning to film, but are not necessary to insure fan involvement. From his police partner Diane Meade and precinct Captain Harding in his detective days to a toycentric alien sidekick called Zook to sassy superpowered teenage ward Gypsy, Martian Manhunter's circle of support have come and gone as needed without being essential to his narrative as a whole. The character has a whole menagerie of vile foes, but none like Lex Luthor or the Joker that a filmmaker would be required by expectations to include. The Manhunter from Mars offers a buffet of potential characters, concepts, tones, and genres for the filmmaker to take or leave as they please.

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2013 “The Manhunter from Mars” fan art by Francis Bernardo

All this talk about how wide open the Martian Manhunter property is may give you cause for concern. Is it too amorphous-- too undefined? Not so. While his fans may be less dogmatic and more accepting of different approaches, readers know who J'Onn J'Onzz is, and will have certain expectations. He is a solemn survivor of great tragedy; an analytical detective; seemingly closed off, but often so as to protect a more delicate than human heart. Mr. Spock would be a good starting point, but with a greater range of emotion, and less emphasis on intellectualism or the arrogance that comes with it. J'Onzz saltily observes and comments on humanity from a remove, but remains grinningly wry and accepting of foibles. I suppose in that respect, he's Mr. Spock crossed with Bones McCoy-- always a slightly irritated contrarian in provocative mixed company, but with a deep soul and an attention to needs overlooked by more remote or reckless personalities.

His sense of humor is dry and incisive. Marvel's The Avengers did a good job of mixing different types of comedy, with Tony Stark the showy sarcastic one, Steve Rogers the honest but befuddled kind, and Thor the blunt, coarse one. Bruce Banner's quiet, self-deprecating, and occasionally sardonic asides would most closely match J'Onn J'Onzz; funny in part because the lines are unexpected coming from such a serious, focused sort. Not unlike the Hulk, stirring the passionate anger of the Alien Atlas is not advised, but its manifestation is silent and surgical. His eyes will glow, his brow will furrow, then he'll instantaneously shut down the minds of every offender within a city block, only to fall to his knees in pain/exhaustion to demonstrate why that isn't his first move. Rather than a nerve pinch, he'll materialize behind an opponent, slide a ghostly hand through their chest, and solidify just enough to paralyze his prey agonizingly. He's a calculating super space ninja private investigator with a droll wit who's content to let other heroes take the lead while he steals the occasional scene with his calm, confident cool.

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2012 “Martian Manhunter Fanart Movie Poster” by Markus Tralls

In terms of story, especially one intended to be told on a budget, my mind goes to '80s cheese like Highlander, The Hidden and I Come in Peace. None of those movies made much if any money on initial release, but most did okay on home video, becoming cult hits. These films don't hold up that well, but they had interesting premises that sustained them in the face of poor acting, abysmal scripts, and/or corny effects. Highlander was sturdy enough to launch a franchise, and all it amounted to was modern day swordplay in single combat between immortals. You can take a similar approach with the Manhunter from Mars.

A human police detective, let's say Diane Meade, works with a mysterious new partner named John Jones with some noticeable quirks as they become embroiled in a case that gets progressively weirder and more intimidating. In a second act reveal, John Jones proves to be a refugee from Mars who is tracking down an alien archnemesis, or has uncovered an invasion plot, or whose extraterrestrial nature allows him to deal with a domestic but ancient supernatural force. Whatever, it's normal people in trenchcoats on city streets with occasional bursts of practical and CGI effects for an hour, with the real money poured into final reel fireworks. That sort of low key, slow burn, paranoid, and slightly scary neo-noir is right in the Manhunter audience's wheelhouse. Add a reasonable budget for behind the scenes talent (quality screenwriter/director/cinematographer,) some sweet but judiciously employed effects, maybe one star and some good characters actors... you could finally pay off on the promise of that nostalgic dreck while feeding into the greater Justice League franchise.

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2012 “Martian Manhunter wp” by “SWFan1977”

The math is simple. Pay less than $100m for a movie guaranteed to have a 50%+ return based on name recognition and its role in setting up the JLA film. Since the character is established, he can dive right into the Justice League feature without a lengthy introduction, and perhaps even bring his own fan base into that film if he does well on his own. If his reception is chilly, the part can be easily recast, diminished to a cameo, or dropped altogether so as not to weight the big tentpole down. I don't see that happening though, since like Iron Man, the Manhunter from Mars is the sort of property that improves by transitioning to live action. Take Morpheus from The Matrix, partner him with Ellen Ripley, and have them uncover and foil the Invasion of the Body Snatchers with cool but relatively inexpensive displays of power. Do you think we could get Denzel for this? Everybody wants to play a super-hero once, and that noir angle could hook him. So many possibilities...

Monday, July 8, 2013

2013 Miss Martian Comicpalooza Commission by Johnny J. Segura III

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I didn't want to run any Awesomest Alien Atlas Art I personally commissioned, because I wasn't sure how well visited such a post might be over the holiday weekend, and I like the stuff I pay for to get the most possible eyes. Instead, I figured we'd push the weekly post to this M'gann M'orzz Miss Martian Monday, as presented by Johnny Segura. He did three villains for me last year, and another this year, so I figured it was about time we gave him a chance to show his sweeter side! Once again, Segura used one of my old 1990s comic art boards I'd sat on for ages, so it's a nice big 11"x17" of full color art. This was my first Megan Morse piece, and you might wonder why it took so long. I do like the character, but there are so many people drawing her for free thanks to Young Justice, I don't feel there's much need for me to pony up. However, I thought Segura's style was so well suited to the character, I might as well get the one. My girlfriend also picked up his Freakazoid print. If you'd like to get some pieces of your own done, order his $45.00 8.5 x 11" or $120.00 11 x 17" eBay commissions!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Andre Rennay

Andre Rennay was a French outlaw associated with the world-wide criminal syndicate known as Vulture until a fatal gun battle with police. After Rennay's demise, the Manhunter from Mars deciphered the code in his notebook containing the location of the local Vulture headquarters. Since his former associates were unaware of Rennay's death, J'onn J'onzz was able to assume his identity and infiltrate Vulture. This gambit allowed J'onzz to discover the existence of Vulture's "Captive-Ray Gun." In his last recorded appearance as Andre Rennay, J'onn J'onzz shifted out of the form to confront a Mercurian Renegade.

First Appearance: House of Mystery #163 (December, 1966)

Quote: "Oui, oui, Cluzot! You can say that again!"

Created by Jack Miller and Joe Certa