Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Maxim Magazine "Aftermath #13: Cartoon Networking" (September 2001)

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I recently decided it was time to give up on the possibility of my ever revisiting the stacks of "lad mags" I'd accumulated in the late '90s to mid '00s and schlepped around in old milk crates for no discernible reason. For starters, they were water damaged from a leak in my then-roommate's upstairs bathroom down through the garage during the Bush Administration. More importantly though, I ain't a "lad" no more, and am frankly embarrassed that I held on to this mind-numbing collection of bro humor, sex tips, bling, under-dressed never-was actress/singer/model pictorials, listicles, and other useless testosterone-fueled ADHD trivialities. However, I flipped through them on the way out the door, and was surprised to find an old fluff piece that came out between the end of my WebTV "Rock of the JLA" web page and the Idol-Head blog, and so had no cause to remember J'onn J'onzz's rare appearance in the pages of Maxim for Men.

"Circus Maximus" was the front-of-the-magazine, one-page-or-less collection of light pieces that allowed the reader the opportunity to moderate their bathroom experience between a leisurely sit down pee to a quick effortless bowel movement without the distraction of arousal or the commitment of an actual article. One such offering seems to have gotten lost on its way to Wizard Magazine and ended up as "Cartoon Networking: Whatever happened to... the Justice League of America?" It uses a line graph to chart the careers of five Leaguers across the Respectable/Embarrassing spectrum: Superman, Batman, The Flash, Wonder Woman and... Martian Manhunter? We all known that the Alien Atlas is taking a spot in lowbrow pop culture comedy that is usually reserved for Aquaman, so alarm bells immediately go off. Was the uncredited writer an Aquaman fan, a truly random Martian Manhunter hater, or did they simply want to avoid fish jokes (while holding gay jokes in reserve, just in case?) Actually, the Flash joins J'onn in perpetual embarrassment, and gets the worst abuse in text. I'd say Green Lantern Hal Jordan would have made a far easier and funnier target, while the Flash text reads as dull and needlessly cruel (even in a piece that includes a "gag" about Christopher Reeve's paralysis.)

As for the Sleuth from Outer Space, well, I don't want to be "that" guy, but most of the jabs are easily debunked. Dark comedy could have been mined out of J'onn's inability to save his race from Commander Blanx's genocide on Mars, but that would require knowledge of the character beyond most hard core comic book readers, much less dudes who read Maxim. Instead, they claim J'onn was shipped out of the JLA for no reason, then erroneously assert that he didn't stop the Martian invasion of 1984 and was a less useful member of the Detroit era Justice League than Vibe, Vixen, Steel, Gypsy... let's be honest, only Zatanna could be argued as a more powerful and effective member of that group than the Manhunter from Mars. There's a reason why most folks reach for Aquaman in these situations, because whether you go shallow (dude talks to fish) or deep dive (never avenged the murder of his own son and allowed Mera to deteriorate into insanity,) it's simply way easier to mock the King of the Seven Seas without resorting to weaksauce Jolly Green Giant material. Ultimately, this is a Yankee Doodle moment for the Manhunter, as he got publicity in a magazine that was selling in the millions at a time when he was a notable enough power in the animated JLA TV show that even a casual reader could have been inclined to stand up for him.

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