Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Manhunter from Mars Annual #14 (1997)

The Martian Marauders have left a trail of dead in their wake!
J'Onn J'Onzz wants to reclaim a doomsday weapon and bring the bandits to justice!
B'rett wants to be free from captivity & revenge on his treacherous former accomplices!
Three agendas! Two pursuers! And no can be trusted!

"Red Planet/White Heat"
Written by Christopher J. Priest
Art by Larry Stroman and Prentis Rollins
Cover by Mark Texeira

In stores May 7, 1997.
FC, 64 pg. $3.95
Another one of those comics that never existed, but I like to pretend. B'rett is from a Mark Texeira watercolor commission I got at Comicpalooza 2014 that I'll post a full image/write-up on sooner or later. I extended the cape through cloning and paint to conceal J'Onn J'Onzz's lack of a lower body. Martian Manhunter is from a 2006 Justice League of America Painting homage. The brick wall background is from a small detail in a Penthouse Comix story Tex did. My scan didn't fill the image space, so instead of trying for a different one, I just lazily copied and vertically flipped the same image. The trade dress is from the fifth and final Batman: Shadow of the Bat Annual, chosen for sheer practicality because it had the fewest elements breaking borders that needed to be cleaned up. I took the # "14" from the first Nightwing & fourth Catwoman annuals to maintain the design aesthetic as best as possible. These annuals were signified as such by mostly basic Microsoft style computer fonts similar to Papyrus, so that's what I was going to use, until I forgot. I'd already sent my templates to the recycle bin and uploaded a draft to Photobucket before I realized my error. The easiest fix was to just steal and shrink the logo from JLA Annual #1, where I'd already gotten the "Suspense Detective." This "Manhunter from Mars" logo had the right look for the retro stylings of this event, and actually predates J'onn J'onzz, as it was used for Roh Kar's 1953 tale in Batman #78.

Most of DC's "Pulp Heroes" annuals were only tenuously tied to themes like "Young Romance," "Tales of the Unexpected," "Weird Western" and "My Greatest Adventure," all recycled from old anthology titles. Pairing up B'rett and J'Onn begs tension, and race has been an issue for the property since the '60s. I figured that rather than the dime dick novel material already used in "Hardboiled Hangover", we'd try to mingle some blaxploitation into the "solo" Manhunter from Mars annual. Christopher Priest had already done nice work with J'Onn in Justice League Task Force, and clearly wanted to do more. I think Priest was comics' finest African-American comic writer, and his absence from Milestone Media was one of its failings as a company. Milestone also lacked most of the top black comic artists, including Larry Stroman, whose first issue of Tribe probably outsold the debuts of most of the Milestone launch titles combined. Stroman wasn't working much by 1997, so it was easy to suspend belief that he could be seen here, inked by one of Milestone's best embellishers and DC period stalwart Prentis Rollins. It would have been a thing of beauty, let me tell you.

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