Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Human Flame vs. Heat Wave

Mike Miller
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: Effigy (8-4)
Lose: Human Squirrel (6-7); Scorch (4-9)
Draw: 0

Heat Wave photo: Heat Wave HeatWave_00.jpg

Mick Rory
Debut: 1963
Nemesis: The Flash
Other Major Foes: Flash Rogues
Appearances: 200+ comics, plus roles in animation and video games
Powers: Fire generation.

Bio: In the Silver Age, Heat Wave was a themed robber whose rivalry with Captain Cold eventually turned toward their teaming against the Flash. Post-Crisis, he became a murderous serial arsonist pyromaniac.

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

Idol Speculation:
These characters have remarkable similarities in powers, costumes, and perhaps most importantly, my general disinterest in either of them. Comic books are crawling with fire guys, in their respective circles each villain has a charisma deficiency, and both have been radically altered in recent years to try to drum up some kind of audience. In a fair match, I'd favor Heat Wave, if only for his sheer number of appearances and having given the Flash some trouble. Despite trafficking in the Martian Manhunter's specific weaknesses, the Human Flame never really put the Alien Atlas out. On the other hand, pre-Flashpoint, the Inhuman Flame reached grandiose levels of might that qualified him to take on whole teams, where New 52 Heat Wave fought Barry Allen like once and then ran right back to the Rogues.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

2013 Study Suggests Life on Earth Came From Mars!

I've been busily working on an aspect of the blog's September 6th anniversary celebration, and I don't want to break away from it. Thankfully regular commentator Will_in_Chicago left a very useful link today...
"We may all be Martians.

Evidence is building that Earth life originated on Mars and was brought to this planet aboard a meteorite, said biochemist Steven Benner of The Westheimer Institute for Science and Technology in Florida.

An oxidized form of the element molybdenum, which may have been crucial to the origin of life, was likely available on the Red Planet's surface long ago, but unavailable on Earth, said Benner, who presented his findings today (Aug. 28; Aug. 29 local time) at the annual Goldschmidt geochemistry conference in Florence, Italy."
The full article goes into several paragraphs of greater detail, and can be read here.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

John Jones Was (barely) Here!

I always liked this cover, but I'm not sure that I ever before noticed that all of the Leaguers are present amidst the protesters in their civilian identities. I had a bit of trouble telling Ray and Hal apart, but the fairer haired John Jones is clearly... obscured? There's enough attention to detail with everyone else that it's not just Bruce Wayne but Shelly Moldoff as Kane-model Wayne, but all we get of Detective Jones is a bit of brow and an off-brand suit*? Suddenly, I like the cover less...

*He typically wore a blue suit with a red & black striped tie.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Apply Yourself

Posts over the last couple weeks have often been late and frequently been crap. Sorry, but I've been busy with real world stuff and posting ennui. I have finally caught up with Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones and True Blood though, which is productivity of a sort (well, two out of three. One of those shows has gotten terrible enough to consider avoiding.) I am cooking up some stuff for Year 6 though, so stay tuned.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

1993 “Batman and J'onn J"onzz” color sketchbook art by Eric Stephenson

Click To Enlarge

Eric Stephenson was the main non-famous person to write comics for Rob Liefeld that didn't suck back in the heyday of Extreme Studios, and he's since become the outspoken publisher of Image Comics. Curiously enough, the most obvious influence is Todd McFarlane. Anyway, there's a fun story behind the creation of this picture, so I recommend clicking the link to check it out!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Trickster vs. The Riddler

Tom Trent
Debut: 1961
Nemesis: Martian Manhunter
Other Major Foes: Biff Benson
Appearances: One comic story
Powers: Schtick.

The Trickster was a fantastic thief who used elaborate stunts as a distraction while he plied his trade, until he decided to go straight and join "The Ex-Convicts Club."

Vile Menagerie Stats
Win: ?
Lose: King Faraday (?)
Draw: 0

Edward Nigma
Debut: 1948
Nemesis: Batman
Other Major Foes: Robin
Appearances: 500+ comics, numerous cartoons, primary roles in two live action films, extensive television and animated features, plus some video games.
Powers: Riddletrinousness.

Bio: Edward Nigma is a criminal mastermind who finds it so necessary to be the smartest person in any given room that he undermines his heists by leaving riddles that are inevitably doped out by Batman, leading to Nigma's capture.

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

Idol Speculation:
I was surprised to find that I either never ran the Trickster in our first March Madness competition, or didn't set down any record of his participation. It took me a while to get around to his bio, so maybe I overlooked him. The truth is, Tom Trent only appeared in plain clothes in one story where he never got to use any of his gimmicks and all of his criminal career was reduced to a touch of exposition. Worse, he was outshone in context by the appearance of the Human Squirrel, and his name was actually stolen from a well liked Flash villain who debuted a year earlier. I obviously considered pitting Trent against James Jesse or Axel Walker, but I figured my alternate choice made Tom's life troubled enough. I have a fondness for the Riddler that dates back to Frank Gorshin's portrayal on the '60s TV show, and while he's hardly the flashiest or most deadly Dark Knight foil, he's certainly smart enough to outwit the Alien Atlas' off-brand Trickster.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Martian Manhunter Traded To Maple Leafs

Let's play a relatively simple game of connect-the-dots. At this year's SDCC, just last month, Jeff Lemire said, "I have huge plans for Martian Manhunter next year... And it's going to be great." 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. Today, The Toronto Star reported that DC Comics would be releasing Justice League Canada in Spring 2014. Spinning out of Forever Evil the Leagues will be so shaken up that a splinter group will end up working out of the Great White North. Most of the comic news outlets picked up the story, but only Comic Book Resources had an exclusive interview with the writer.

The gist of the change is that Lemire was going to take over Justice League of America from Geoff Johns, and Dan DiDio suggested shaking things up by moving the team to Canada. Lemire will introduce a newly created teenage hero and the New 52 Adam Strange, both Canadians. The action will take place in northern Ontario, and three members of the current JLofA will remain with the JLC. Lemire stated that the newly, ambiguously Canadian Booster Gold would not be appearing, but would not confirm or deny the inclusion of two other characters he's been writing, Animal Man and Green Arrow. Lemire has said that he would feature some oddball characters he loves, some fairly major heroes, and specified the inclusion of "a couple of cosmic characters," who will serve a team involved in more cosmic stories. Mike McKone will be drawing the book, and a Bleeding Cool report noted the use of the term "arc," which suggests that this may be a temporary run within the series.

I sent out a tweet to Lemire hours ago with no response, though the guy's been busy promoting projects there all night. My thinking is that the previous statements make it pretty obvious that Martian Manhunter is on this team. J'Onn J'Onzz will be the featured star on Justice League of America for a five issue run under Matt Kindt, Doug Mahnke & Christian Alamy, running parallel to Forever Evil. The Alien Atlas will be dodging the armies of bad guys reigning over the U.S.A., apparently with Stargirl in tow, and escaping across the border wouldn't be out of the question. If Stargirl stays with J'Onn, it wouldn't be a stretch for the new teen Canuck to replace Vibe as her age-appropriate buddy/love interest. Vibe is based in Detroit, which is a three hour drive away, so he could join or guest star, but I'm guessing that Vibe is exactly the sort of dead weight they'd want to shed. Then again, Vibe's a better character in his own book, where he's run afoul of A.R.G.U.S., so he could very well need to flee the country.

I doubt Catwoman would make the same trip from Gotham, and did anyone really think she'd be sticking around past "Trinity War" anyway? Steve Trevor's out, since A.R.G.U.S. is tied to the U.S. government, plus Matt Kindt's writing Trevor's mini-series and Suicide Squad makes him seem that much more likely he'll become the new Rick Flagg. Amanda Waller could always build a new American team, or simply remain a thorn in everyone's side, but wouldn't be liable to retain official ties.

Stargirl has never wandered far from Geoff Johns' watchful eye, and I want to say that he's got more stories to tell with Simon Baz. A Green Lantern would make sense if Lemire wants to do outer space stuff, but there's an awful lot of flavors to choose from, and he strikes me as the sort who would prefer to go older school with a Hal Jordan or John Stewart. Hawkman and Adam Strange on the same team makes a heck of a lot of sense, both in dynamic and in cosmic ties. Katana doesn't seem to fit, and could simply shuffle off to Birds of Prey, but there's got to be some females in Team Toronto.

In the final analysis, Hawkman, Green Arrow, Stargirl, and Green Lantern would all be solid candidates for the two open slots on the JLC, but the money is super safe on Martian Manhunter as the third. Mike McKone is one of my all-time favorite Martian Manhunter artists, and I think he'll be even better on the New 52 design than he was on the OG. Teaming-up with Adam and Katar for mysteries in space would be like a dream come true, and much more a book I'd like to read than the government strike force we have now. I'm looking forward to hearing more...

Thursday, August 22, 2013

2013 Kishana Lewis Commission by Chris Beaver

Last year, Chris Beaver surprised me with one of my all-time favorite commissions, The Human Squirrel, which I have since had reproduced and framed on the wall beside my computer. I loved the concept and small details, but aside from the figure, it was stark and minimalist. When I caught up with Beaver later that summer, he decided to go more colorful and fill in a greater portion of the image space on Hunter Commander J'en. As happy as I've been with his work, I'd have put some thought into the subject for a third commission, but I wasn't aware that he would be at Comicpalooza 2013 until I spotted him at a booth. Luckily, it didn't take too long thumbing through my reference sheets to find just the right subject.

One of the characters I'd had in mind for Beaver to do before I got my first commission was Kishana Lewis, and while Chris Foreman did a bust at the same show I got the Squirrel, I still wanted a full figure.

I grew up on Chris Claremont Uncanny X-Men, and while his later work wasn't often my taste, I thoroughly enjoyed the mythology he came up with for the Scary Monsters mini-series. I suspect Claremont missed writing Storm, and perhaps wanted to set up a proxy at DC, as a lot more thought went into the plot than could be fully explored in just a few issues. As with Commander Blanx & Malefic or Cay'an & D'Kay D'Razz, Kishana Lewis was replaced by a similar character in Scorch and never used again.

Scorch was one of about a half dozen new characters created to fill out a Superman event, but since Joe Kelly and his editors thought J'Onn J'Onzz was boring, they decided to recycle the villainess as literally a "hot" new girlfriend with a surplus of personality to jazz J'Onzz up. Kishana Lewis was created as a new protagonist to combat the monstrous hordes unleashed at Carmody’s Folly, with its own rich history built into the story. As it happened, the Martian Manhunter also had ancestral ties to the monsters, and when he became infected by their evil, Lewis cured him. Healer and patient wound up in bed together to do more than nurse wounds, but Lewis' manifesting fire powers drove the new couple apart. Lewis was to my mind a better developed character, a more suitable partner for J'Onn, their romance was more organic, and their break-up understandable.

Scorch was frowned upon by the JLA, and a suspect in the creation of Fernus the Burning right up until he sent her into a coma. J'Onn mourned her vegetative state for a few pages, then pretty much forgot she existed, aside from arbitrarily making her a suspect in a later case. Scorch had a few more appearances than Kishana Lewis, but she was ultimately treated as similarly disposable. Shame the two characters weren't consolidated, so at least the heroine could have had another shot, and the villainess might have continued as a Supergirl foil had she not been dragged into a Manhunter mess.

Like his convention buddy Vo Nguyen, Chris Beaver has been wanting to spend more time on his pieces, to show what he's really capable of rather than trying to knock out stuff before the end of a con. I was fine with that, and proceeded to give Beaver a huge verbal information dump about who Kishana Lewis was supposed to be. This can be overwhelming, as anyone who's listened to my podcast guest spots can attest, so Beaver mostly nodded silently with saucer eyes. Whether he could take my dialogue diarrhea in or simply researched the character through the blog (likely both,) Beaver packed his initial sketch with telling details.

By the end of the con, Beaver had an excellent black and white image done that I would have been perfectly happy with. He had adapted co-creator Joshua Hood's facial features into a somewhat more realistic and better defined visage. I enjoyed Lewis' hand gestures, which indicate the magical shamanic origins of her abilities, while all the costume specifics were in place. One of the things that first attracted me to Beaver's work was his believably feminine figures, and he excelled here at making Lewis sensually depicted without being sexualized. Lewis is athletically well toned, but her proportions aren't exaggerated, though her muscular muffin top and pelvis are certainly drool worthy. Beaver had already outlined the flames and parts of the background, so I was satisfied where the piece stood, but Beaver wasn't remotely finished.

A few weeks later, Beaver sent me a photo from his drawing table, and apologized needlessly for the time taken, as he had continued on the con circuit. He'd added lovely, nuanced flesh tones that brought Kishana Lewis that much more fully to life. The tiles under her feet had broken up with infernal flames licking up at her feet, recalling the demonic forces that dogged her. A stone temple had been added to the background, alluding to either Carmody's Folly or perhaps insinuating that her ongoing battle had gone global. Beaver asked how I liked his progress, and I told him that he could stop right there if he liked, because the piece was already fantastic.

A few more weeks passed, and Beaver emailed me a scan of the finished piece, the same seen at the top of the post. The flames were enlivened with yellows, oranges, reds and delicately feathered grays. The tan mass in the background had become a forest of the sort where Lewis had fought fires and first confronted her monsters. Map pencil crosshatching had rendered the location a dawn setting. Unnatural green luminescence twinkled from beneath the tiles. I immediately set the image as my desktop wallpaper, where it remains, as I like to marvel at the intricacy of the work while I boot up.

Chris Beaver didn't have a table at Space City Con, but he was attending all three days, so we worked out a hand-off for Sunday. Let me tell you, no scan can do the work justice. The texture of Lewis' hair, streaks of white laced into flames, the tonal changes-- can't be conveyed digitally. Below I offer a second darker scan, which better represents some colors but washes out others. Hopefully, a stronger sense of the physical art can be found in the balance of the two extremes. Regardless, I'm the proud owner of what I feel is Chris Beaver's finest work, and I'm hopeful we'll see more of it in comics, because this guy just keeps getting better! I need to see if I can get this beauty more properly reproduced and up on the wall!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

2012 Martian Manhunter color art by Stjepan Šejić

Click To Enlarge

"martian manhunter...i just love that name... no joke, there is just so wonderfully nerdy about it that i just love"
And here's a nifty color warm-up to go with the spiffy piece above!

Stjepan Šejić

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Getaway King vs. The Toyman

Monty Moran
Debut: 1958
Nemesis: Martian Manhunter
Other Major Foes: Justice League of America
Appearances: Two comic stories
Powers: Tricked-out vehicles and gadgets.

The (sometimes) Getaway Mastermind and his minions employed advanced vehicles of Moran's design to commit and successfully escape crimes. Moran was eventually captured by the Manhunter from Mars, but used a shrink ray he'd made to escape prison and form the first ever super-villain team to combat the JLA.

Vile Menagerie Stats
Win: Professor Proxon (8-3)
Lose: Dr. Trap (1/4); Amos Fortune (5-7)
Draw: 0

Jack Nimball
Debut: 1974
Nemesis: Superman
Other Major Foes: Super Friends
Appearances: Several comics and animated episodes (< 10 each.)
Powers: Dangerous toys.

Bio: After the original Toyman retired, a rogue named Jack Nimball took up the mantle without authorization. He continued the m.o. of Winslow Schott, but had even wackier toys repurposed as weapons (with a strong stream of candy-themed armaments, as well.) Nimball fought Superman alone and with other famous villains, in comics and on cartoons. However, the first Toyman returned in short order, set up Nimball for a fall in one story, and then outright murdered him in another.

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

Idol Speculation:
Winslow Schott was the first Toyman, created in 1943 when Action Comics was still in the double digits. He was dopey and dumpy, so he got dropped for a couple of years in the '70s in favor of the younger, leaner Jack Nimball (whose grandfather must have met the same immigration officer as Edward Nigma's coming through Ellis Island.) Since it's some sort of mortal sin for Superman lore to ever progress, Schott rubbed out Nimball so that he could continue to dress like a shmuck with hideous hair for another thirty years. Because Schott is one of the worst Superman villains among a lot that makes Firestorm's rogues look reasonable, animators and comic creators have made further attempts to replace or update Schott, to varying degrees of success but unfortunately little greater longevity than was seen with Jack Nimball.

The only reason I bothered to use any Toyman is because I'm trying to keep up the parallels between the Vile Menagerie and the Legion of Doom as seen in Challenge of the SuperFriends. I'd take Nimball over Schott, but none of them are especially worthwhile. The Getaway King came up with some awesomely pimped rides, including drills capable of penetrating bank walls doubling as mini-jets, sectional self-propelling cars, and a portable force field. Toyman had cheesy micro-jets and kept trying to choke people with weaponized cotton candy and chocolate. Advantage: Moran.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

2013 D'Kay D'Razz Comicpalooza Commission by Lane Montoya

Click To Enlarge

I spent an awful, awful lot of money at Comicpalooza 2012, and had to cut way back this year. Unfortunately, that meant that instead of three sweet commissions from Lane Montoya like Princess Cha'rissa, Jemm, Son of Saturn & Gypsy, I could only have one. On the plus side, my favorite subjects to give Montoya are extraterrestrial femme fatales, which in the case of the Vile Menagerie tends to translate as buck nekkid alien chicks. If I tried to get her to pull a hat trick on those, I'd look like a perv, but spaced out I can probably get away with Cay'an, Bel Juz, Bette Noir, or in this case, D'Kay D'Razz.

If you read the Martian Manhunter segments in Brightest Day, let me say sorry and that I feel your pain. It was after all voted next-to-worst in a 2010 Newsarama poll. But if you did read it, you'll recall that D'Kay D'Razz was introduced as a mass murdering Martian whose arrival on Earth via Dr. Saul Erdel's teleportation beam predated J'Onn J'Onzz's. In fact, Erdel secretly brought the Manhunter to Earth specifically to stop D'Kay, though he never mentioned it and D'Kay went into hiding for sixty years and a daughter was invented for Erdel to serve up the exposition and *ping*... I'm sorry, but I don't remember what we were talking about. I suspect a fuse just popped in my brain.

I visited Lane Montoya's table on Saturday, but she'd snuck off to see Patrick Stewart speak on stage upstairs before several hundred people. I'd just come back from seeing Avery Brook's presentation in one of the adjoining rooms, so I chatted with the artist's mom for a bit about his time as Hawk on Spencer for Hire. It was nice to talk about non-geek stuff at a con for once, and given Brook's ability to never answer a Star Trek question when he could just use it as an opportunity to talk about anything else but, I suspect he might have liked that too. Once Montoya got back, I found out that she was still charging a paltry $35 for her work, for which I chastised her, and I was happy to hear that she recently ghosted some coloring on an Image book. Hopefully we'll see her name properly attributed in a credit box soon.

Montoya produced a full color piece on heavy stock 8½" x 11" paper with a backing board inside a self-sealing protective polybag. Despite appearances on several variant covers and on interior pages throughout most of Brightest Day, no artist had ever clearly depicted D'Kay D'Razz in full figure. I'm thankful that Montoya was able to comb over the various issues of the series I had brought as reference and come back with a clear model image. There was a slight miscommunication where "serial killer" became "assassin," which is where the swords and armbands came from. As I mentioned to Montoya, she'd inadvertently created a companion piece to Andy Kuhn's sword-wielding Ma'alefa'ak, which amused me to no end.

Truthfully, I was happy for their lending a colorful flourish to the piece with that elaborate handle. Otherwise, D'Kay as a character is all about the green, with the only breaks in color coming from being covered in the blood of innocents and creating mouths on parts of her body where there shouldn't oughta be none. The request for a simplified figure prevented Montoya from going that route, and unfortunately my scan muddling her darker, richer and more consistent skin tone in the original art. Other areas that didn't translate digitally are the fine feathering along the contours of D'Kay's muscles and the light textural gradiation from the white/pale yellow center of her eyes to the outer pink/red. I especially like the facial features and the shoulders, but the whole piece turned out great!

Montoya asked that I redirect folks from her previously linked portfolios to her new tumblr feed, where there are... hmm. Those are some NSFW full frontal detailed buck nekkid extraterrestrial femme fatales, aren't they? Okay, so I won't think twice about getting Cay'an next year, then...

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Martian Sightings for November, 2013

Martian Manhunter
Written by MATT KINDT
1:25 Variant cover by ETHAN VAN SCIVER
1:100 B&W Variant cover by DOUG MAHNKE
On sale NOVEMBER 13 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T
Combo pack edition: $4.99 US

A FOREVER EVIL tie-in! Martian Manhunter literally claws his way out of the fire, with one other member of the JLA at his side. But what are their chances of survival on a world being run by the deadliest Super-Villians? 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.
I do like the idea of J'Onn J'Onzz being the one hero to make it out of the Trinity War to fight on Earth-1. Well, him and his latest K'hymm proxy, Stargirl.

Written by GEOFF JOHNS
1:25 Villain A cover by ETHAN VAN SCIVER
1:25 Villain B cover by ETHAN VAN SCIVER
1:25 Villain C cover by ETHAN VAN SCIVER
1:200 B&W Variant cover by DAVID FINCH and RICHARD FRIEND
On sale NOVEMBER 6 • 32 pg, FC, 3 of 7, $3.99 US • RATED T
Combo pack edition: $4.99 US

The first universe-wide event of The New 52 continues to explode across the DC Universe! With the world under the rule of the mysterious and deadly Crime Syndicate and our greatest heroes dead, it’s up to the unlikeliest of defenders to rise up to save us—humanity’s only hope—Lex Luthor?! Plus, a startling revelation about the dark secret of the Syndicate’s mission on Earth—and what it means for the future of the DC Universe and its heroes and villains.

Retailers: This issue will ship with six covers. Please see the order form for more information. This issue is also offered as a combo pack edition with a redemption code for a digital download of this issue.
Either this copy is spoiler-free boilerplate or this book will play out just like all the other damned books like it that have come out of the past forever.

Cover by RYAN SOOK
On sale DECEMBER 18 • 144 pg, FC, $14.99 US

Superman battles the intergalactic conqueror known as Mongul in these tales from the late 1970s and early 1980s from DC COMICS PRESENTS #27-28, 36 and 43 and SUPERMAN ANNUAL #11. Guest-starring Wonder Woman, Batman, Supergirl and more!
Vibe & Gypsy
On sale NOVEMBER 20 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

Vibe is stuck in another dimension, where he must stop an alien invasion of Earth and rescue his brother—who is busy trying to kill Vibe! No problem, right?
It did! It did get better! I've read up to #5, and even though I have no clue how the book could possibly fit into the Trinity War timeline, it's entertaining. It's also selling about 12,000 copies, so next month should be a lock on final issue. Hope they wrap the story arc, at least! Is that Gypsy returned on the cover?

Miss Martian
Art and cover by CHRISTOPHER JONES
On sale DECEMBER 11 • 128 pg, FC, $12.99 US

In this action-packed collection from issues #20-25 of the all-ages series, Young Justice adds to its ranks in an effort to battle the impending invasion by The Collector of Worlds and Brainiac!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Justice League of America #3 (June, 2013)

In the Kilder Forest of Northumberland, England the Justice League of America were confronted by what appeared to be the DC Trinity. The Martian Manhunter flew straight at Superman, but was smashed in the face with a tree. The Sleuth from Outer Space wrestled with a Last Son of Superman presenting incongruent details; a chest shield with no "S," a red and yellow loincloth, an excess of seams even for the New 52. J'Onn J'Onzz announced "Obviously, these things are not human." The Alien Atlas ripped off "Superman's" right arm while evading heat vision beams, but the rookie hero Vibe joined in, using his powers to dismantle all three robots at once. Though caught in the line of fire, the Manhunter seemed unaffected, steady on his feet while helping Katana to hers.

Katana swiftly moved against Catwoman, holding a blade to her throat. "It's my husband within the sword. He doesn't trust her... We came to the forest to find the Secret Society, yet as soon as we enter, we are ambushed. Someone sold us out..." J'Onn J'Onzz swiftly brought the accusation to a head. "A mindscan reveals Catwoman hasn't told anyone about the JLA, Tatsu. And she is as in the dark as we are on who the Secret Society is. Don't make me force you to release her." Katana relented. "As strong as you might be, Manhunter, my sword can still cut you-- but we trust you."

The castle reported by Oliver Queen had vanished with little evidence left that it had ever been there. At A.R.G.U.S., The Puzzler studied some 19th century stained glass shards and a shingle recovered from the scene, while Dr. Larvan determined that the robots were the handiwork of Professor Ivo. "The reports of his self-inflicted death were wrong."

With little to show for their first mission, Colonel Steve Trevor soon launched into a second. "We need to get someone on the inside of this Society. Someone who won't raise suspicion. Someone who isn't lying about being a criminal..." Namely, Catwoman. "The Museum of Natural History is holding an exhibit on super-human culture. You're going to break in and steal a Martian artifact that J'Onn's donated for this little exercise called the Scepter of the State..."

Catwoman intentionally tripped an alarm, attracting police helicopters and the flying heroes Hawkman and the Manhunter from Mars. "Put your hands in the air." Catwoman led the League on a chase, where the sudden arrival of non-member Green Arrow proved a distraction. Ollie eventually realized that the whole thing was a sham, and used the information to blackmail his way onto the team that had refused him. Selina Kyle was then "captured" and taken to Arkham Asylum, where she stirred the pot until she broke out a couple of days later. Catwoman was then abducted by the Society...

"World's Most Dangerous, Chapter Three" was by Geoff Johns, David Finch & Richard Friend. Whatever my misgivings about the New 52, someone's been doing their research to drop that Scepter reference...

New 52's Day

Monday, August 12, 2013

2013 Heroes Convention “Ms. Martian & the Manhunter” art by Jorge Corona

Click To Enlarge

"This 11X17 original inked art on 2-ply of Ms. Martian & The Manhunter is rendered by artist Jorge Corona, who donated it to the Inkwell Awards at Heroes Con 2013."
We need to have a PSA to inform people that if they're not sure which honorific is correct for M'gann M'orzz's super-hero name, they should google it if they want to reap all the Google hits they would prefer. Anyway, is that cute reworking of a Manhunter robot from something? I didn't recognize what it was supposed to be at first, thinking it was from some anime...

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Conjurer vs. The Scarecrow

The Conjurer
Debut: 1959
Nemesis: Martian Manhunter
Other Major Foes: None
Appearances: One comic story
Powers: Slight-of-hand and minor gadgetry.

The Conjurer managed a quite successful crime spree, thanks to Detective John Jones' inability to use his powers in several apprehension attempts. Then the Martian Manhunter was unleashed, and that was that.

Vile Menagerie Stats
Win: Captain Horatio Destiny (6-5); Strega (all but 1 vote)
Lose: Captain Horatio Destiny (?); Doctor Samedi (1:2)
Draw: 0

Dr. Jonathan Crane
Debut: 1941
Nemesis: Batman
Other Major Foes: Robin
Appearances: 500+ comics, 20+ cartoon episodes, modest role in three major motion pictures, and numerous video games.
Powers: Fear gas.

Bio: The Scarecrow was a psychiatrist obsessed with fear who conducted unethical experiments and exposed innocents to chemicals to heighten the emotion for study. The Batman was displeased, and the hurting began, again and again.

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

Idol Speculation:
There are far, far more Joker fans than Martian Manhunter ones. Catwoman got her own movie and has supported a solo comic book series for nearly twenty years. Two-Face, Ra's al Ghul, the Riddler, and the Penguin have each been primary villains in multiple films and have devoted followings. Poison Ivy and Mister Freeze may have sank the first Batman movie franchise, but their cartoon incarnations are still well loved. Even lesser lights of more recent vintage like Bane and Hush have managed to maintain at least cult status and continued relevance, while everyone has favorite obscurities (I'm personally fond of Killer Croc and Hugo Strange.)

All that having been said, when was the last time you saw someone wearing a Scarecrow t-shirt? Despite the ease of putting a suit together, who really wants to cosplay as Jonathan Crane? In my entire life, I don't believe I've ever heard someone utter the phrase "Scarecrow is my favorite." The villain has a solid motivation and is visually striking, but nobody has written "the great Scarecrow epic," and I can't even recall any particularly good tales. Yes, there have been some awesome sequences involving hallucinations brought on by fear gas, and "Over the Edge" was one of the best episodes of Batman: The Animated Series, but how much of the credit can Scarecrow claim? Joker Venom is a tool used by the Clown Prince of Crime, whereas Scarecrow is just the conduit through which people get exposed to his fear gas and have crazy nightmares that often only tangentially involve Crane. The Scarecrow isn't much of a fighter, is hardly charismatic, and has only managed to become a background player in the movies. Jonathan Crane isn't even my favorite super-villain named Scarecrow who has fought a mainstream non-powered super-hero, since I kind of prefer Marvel's Ebenezer Laughton, who at least has creepy contortionism and comparative moxie. Yes, the Scarecrow was a Golden Age villain, but after two appearances, nobody bothered with him again for a quarter century. He's practically a Bronze Age also-ran who has managed somehow to be afforded vastly more respect than he deserves.

Getting to the matter at hand, could the Conjurer beat the Scarecrow? I'm going to go with a solid maybe. The Conjurer folded like a card table in the face of J'onn J'onzz, but he seemed pretty capable against human combatants, and likely would have had a better career in Gotham City than Middletown. However, woulda shoulda coulda, my lack of Scarecrow regard doesn't mean I fail to recognize his longevity against the Dark Knight, which is nothing to sneeze at. I'd like to be more definitive in my answer, but the Scarecrow is a creep with a bag over his head and one endlessly repeated trick, so you'll forgive me if I'm more interested in what the Conjurer has up his sleeve...

Thursday, August 8, 2013

2013 Thythen Space City Con Commission by Josh C Lyman

Click To Enlarge

I had some hesitation about hitting Space City Con this year, as I was burnt out of money and enthusiasm by Comicpalooza, and their shift toward catering to sci-fi geeks meant no one comparable to Art Adams or Whilce Portacio attended. On the other hand, some pieces initiated at Comicpalooza came to fruition and were made available for pick-up, so why not? They're easily among the best I've ever gotten by the way, so that alone made it worthwhile. It's also great to stumble upon exciting new talent along the way.

Josh C Lyman has a westernized quasi-chibi style that recalls Chris Giarrusso (who recalls Bill Watterson, who recalls Charles Schulz, who reca...) He also draws in a more realistic "comic book" style, so I ended up getting one of each at the low, low introductory rate I missed so much at Comicpalooza. Again, con fatigue meant I only attended SCC for one day, and only for a few hours at that, but if I had stayed I could have given Lyman as many commissions as he was willing to take. Fantastic work!

That said, I may have made a terrible mistake in having the Thythen done in chibi style. I like the cognitive dissonance that comes from taking repugnant characters like Dr. Light or Ma'alefa'ak and adapting them to a saccharine style, like Skottie Young's Thanos Baby or the Superhero Squad version of the Punisher. The Thythen already have legitimacy problems, since they're jaundiced well-muscled Humpty Dumpties with antennae. The Thythen were the alien slavers who used the survivors of Mars as living batteries to power their Robo-Chargers. Like much of the Vile Menagerie, they only ever appeared once, in only a handful of heavily shadowed panels, so there's no single reference available that captures them clearly. A realistic take might have been best.

On the other hand, I've joined the rest of the world in blowing off the Thythen, whose plan was unraveled with relative ease by a sleep-deprived whackjob Manhunter and a particularly dickish Superman, neither operating at full power. They also had the misfortune of competing with the debut of Bel Juz, an unenviable position. Frankly, I don't think there's much redemption to be found in the Thythen as sinister villains, so perhaps they're better off as playing the role of buffoonish rogues along the lines of the Mooninites or Marvin the Martian. Hey, maybe they went off and enslaved Zook's people, giving the imp a goofy nemesis?

Actually, now that I look closer, Lyman's use of deep shadows around the eyes are pretty intense, and the orbs within are rather cruel. I based my cruddy coloring job as closely on the comics as possible, and their corpse complexions are unnerving. It's easy to see those thick orange gloves crushing the life out of some poor little cuddly critter in the manner of Elmyra Duff or Hugo the Abominable Snowman. Maybe the Thythen could be like Him or Eustace's Trumpet where you're like "oh, this is no big deaOMFG get that freakin' thing away from me!" That totally works. Never mind that other stuff I said.

For more from Joshua C. Lyman, check out his tumblr and deviantART galleries, or just way until I get back to him again, because I'm gonna.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

2013 Justice League of America #2 variant cover by Juan Jose Ryp

Whether or not you prefer the standard David Finch cover, you have to admit, at least this version isn't a spotlight for a character that hadn't even appeared in the series yet.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

2013 “Death And Return Of Superman Pitch” by Max Landis

Someone in Max Landis' circle at least kind of likes the Martian Manhunter. Bloodwynd understandably played a role in the fan film "The Death and Return of Superman", but J'Onn J'Onzz also got name checked among the many fallen heroes that traveled in the wake of Superman's having "broken" death in comics. A year later, Landis claims to have been approached by DC to do an actual comic version of the premise as part of the New 52, but since that fell through, he's now offering a forty-three minute verbal telling (NSFW language) of his ideas for the proposal. Batman and Wonder Woman are in there. Green Lantern. Flash. Blue Beetle comes up a bunch. Martian Manhunter? Not a word. However, his logo flashes on he screen for a split second. So effects editor Andy Holton might like J'Onn J'Onzz. Thanks for that. Here's his IMDb page. His godfather was Andy Griffith. Max is John Landis' son. It's who you know.

Monday, August 5, 2013

2012 Miss Martian Summit City Comic Con commission by Mike Norton

Click To Enlarge

"Mike did this nice sketch for me at the 2012 Summit City Con in Ft. Wayne, IN."
Mike Norton

Sunday, August 4, 2013

2013 "Injustice: Gods Among Us" - Martian Manhunter Story Ending video

In the video game "Injustice: Gods Among Us," a savage twist of fate sees Superman become a fascist, with Wonder Woman backing him all the way. Batman leads a group of resistance fighters against their regime. The Manhunter from Mars is on the right side of the conflict, which is to say the left. The game makers have treated us to videos of Manhunter character history and a gameplay/cutscene trailer, while DC has produced online-first comics involving battles with Supes, Wondy, & Green Lantern Hal Jordan. There's a good Injustice Manhunter wiki page online that will continue to chronicle the progress of these stories, or you can skip to the last chapter by reading the Sleuth from Outer Space's in-game ending sequence. Let's just say I was content with how things turned out...

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Alex Dunster vs. Captain Cold

Alex Dunster
Debut: 1956
Nemesis: Martian Manhunter
Other Major Foes: Captain Harding
Appearances: One comic story
Powers: Hearing enhancement device, electricity emitting rifle, and various other pieces of tech.

Alex Dunster was a master thief specializing in rare technological breakthroughs. He successfully fended off the Martian Manhunter for an extended period of time before his eventual capture.

Vile Menagerie Stats
Win: Wiley Dalbert (?)
Lose: Professor Arnold Hugo (8-9); Professor Anthony Ivo (4-8)
Draw: 0

captain cold photo: Captain Cold CaptainCold.jpg

Captain Cold
Debut: 1957
Nemesis: The Flash
Other Major Foes: Other Flash Rogues.
Appearances: 500+ comics, numerous cartoons, a live action television episode, and some video games.
Powers: Freeze gun.

Bio: Leonard Snart was a hood who recognized that he had to find a way to deal with the new super-hero known as the Flash, so he invented a freeze gun to slow the Scarlet Speedster down. Captain Cold has since established a long career as a leading member of the Flash's rogues gallery.

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

Idol Speculation:
It has been argued that the Manhunter from Mars was the first super-hero of the Silver Age. Alex Dunster was the villain in his third adventure, his first evil scientist/super-foe, and Dunster worked on a machine tied directly to the hero's origin. It is more commonly held that the Barry Allen Flash was the first super-hero of the Silver Age. Captain Cold was the villain in his third adventure, debatably his first fully costumed super-foe, and Cold worked on a weapon tied directly to the hero's powers. If neither of these guys had appeared again, this might have been a match, but Captain Cold went on to become a fan favorite villain with a multimedia presence dating back to Challenge of the Super Friends, whereas Alex Dunster was never seen again and thoroughly trumped by Professor Arnold Hugo besides. I see Dunster attempting to swipe Leonard Snart's gear, but not surviving the experience.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Suiting the Sleuth From Outer Space #11

This is obviously a minuscule color test blown way up, and it's not like I put much stock in the notion to begin with. See, I was playing with anti-Superman influences, and the classic Daxamite Legion of Super-Heroes member Mon-El has been known to wear a suit that reverses the Kryptonian's colors. This is pretty much the exact same costume as the Silver Age Lar Gand, but at the time I was stealing it, the character had switched to a red & black number with a star pattern. During the post-Zero Hour reboot period, to distance Lar Gand further from his earlier mistaken ties to Krypton, he changed his codename to M'Onel, Martian for "He Who Wanders." Last time I checked, he was back to Mon-El, though "Valor" is still available if he ever wants it back.

Pooping on the DCU