Monday, December 30, 2019

2017 Heroes Convention Despero commission by Ed Eargle

Thanks to The Fire & Water Podcast Network having their first expanded group get together, and my years long interest in attending the most comic creator-centric show left in the country, I ended up in Charlotte, NC for HeroesCon. Being anti-social, I still decided to launch a jam art project involving a minimum of eight talents intended to be completed over the three day weekend (plus almost two years for the completed linework... colors still an ongoing effort.) Anyway, I spent evenings and a few meals with those FW guys. Whaddayawant from me? Also, in between episodes of moving a single piece of art from one participant to the next, I encountered a few artists that I either knew who made the same trip (Hi Isaiah!) or wanted to try out on the side.

Such was the case with Ed Eargle, who if I remember correctly, was either listed as a vendor or otherwise did not get vetted by me before the show. I was just surveying the floor, stopped to toss through his book, and liked what I saw. I probably handed him the stack of Martian Manhuter references I'd been slinging at shows for nearly a decade now, and he likely selected Despero himself. I had a fair few Despero commissions at this point, but most (all?) were waist-up or head shots. I was probably thinking forward to the second volume of Who's Who in Martian Manhunter that I still toy with but am unlikely to ever produce (given that I can't even reliably deliver monthly blog posts.) Eargle was good with beefy musculature and thought the Kalanorian would be a fun subject.

As you can see, Eargle turned in an exceptional full color piece. I played around with the levels, so the army pants should be much greener and the skin tone is not remotely this vibrant, but the rich inks and fine feathering only get more impressive the closer you look. I love the sense of mass projected, and this is just all around a big beautiful piece. My only complaint is that I wish the whole outlining-the-figure fad would die already. This piece is so good that it is only marred by that unnecessary affectation. Otherwise, it's ready for print in a major reference tone. Like some sort of encyclopedia or secret file or something...

Ed Eargle

Monday, December 23, 2019

2015 Despero Comicpalooza head sketch by Mike McKone

Podcasting continues to dominate my free time, so I've had a few months' lapse in my hoped-for, already-not-terribly-demanding weekly posting schedule. Eh-- no promises at this point, but I would like to close out 2019 with a few highlights, at least. I've been sitting on a couple of "December of Despero" pieces for as long as 4½ years now. Since showcasing old commissions is my primary motivation for maintaining the blog (and all the Photobucket error images a primary demotivator,) I'd better push them out now before mothballing them another year.

First up is a piece from one of my favorite Martian Manhunter artists, the "Art Adams" of Justice League International annuals, Mike McKone. I told him so when I met him at the local Houston con in 2015, which I believe I have audio on that ended up in Martian Manhunter's 60th Anniversary Special Compilation and in expanded form in Amazing Heroes Interviews Episode 5. I really enjoyed the mass McKone gave J'Onzz, but he disliked his more Alan Davis-inspired style at the time, and went with a much slimmer, sleeker take on Justice League United. McKone was very pleasant, but he was only willing to do headshots at this show, not my preferred commission type. I at least wanted a very distinct head. Since McKone rarely handled Despero, and never in his initial stylized mohawk warlord form from the Detroit revival period, that was my choice. Turned out quite nice, I think. Still hoping for a figure in the future, though.

Mike McKone

Sunday, October 27, 2019

2013 Korge, the Last Angry God Commission by Mark Nasso

Click To Enlarge

Mark Nasso turns up at most of the local Houston cons, and I've been getting commissions from him since Fernus the Burning Martian back in 2012 (which has since become one of his staple prints.) His misfortune is that I've gotten so many pieces from him for so many projects in development that I have a nasty tendency to sit on his pieces for years (and years and years) instead of getting them online.

Nasso doesn't always do commissions at shows, so today's piece was a take-home job. Based on his creator owned book Land of the Rats, you can see that Nasso is good at giant muscular monsters. Martian Manhunter has a fair few of those in his rogues gallery, and I felt like Korge would be a good fit. Nasso is one of the most conscientious and professional artists that I've worked with, and freed from the constraints of a convention, he actually offered me multiple thumbnail sketches to see where I'd like to go with the piece. I felt like an editor!

The first year I started getting commissions, I got a bust from a then-big name artist because I a) didn't have much money and b) didn't know how frustrating it would be to not see the character fully realized. As a result, I rarely get headshots or busts, which nixed Nasso's first proposal. I favored the second full-figure shot, while he liked the third's establishing Korge's scale.

We ended up with a hybrid of the latter two, which was a win for me, since I got the bonus appearances of the Alien Atlas and Man of Steel!

Mark Nasso

Monday, October 14, 2019

2014 Diabolu the Wizard Comicpalooza Jam Sketch Detail by Chris Beaver

Here's another one of those regrettable post omissions. In the six years since Chris Beaver produced a glorious Kishana Lewis Commission, I've never given him another full color, take-home piece, and despite his being one of the first contributors to my various jam pieces, he hasn't had any work posted here in over three years. But hey, here's his take on the blog's namesake, Diabolu, which is also the last element in the given jam, so at least I can get the whole work up soon.

Chris Beaver

Monday, October 7, 2019

2018 The Human Falcon Comicpalooza Commission by Rafer Roberts

Funny story-- while on a road trip through New England, I angled to barely touch New Hampshire and blow off Vermont entirely to shoot straight to Connecticut for TERRIFICon. Hey, you vacation your way and I'll do me. Anyway, of the three artists that made the con a must, two cancelled at the last minute and the third wanted me to contact him for a commission through his site (and I have a strong aversion to mail order.) Sigh. I still got some great pieces, and more importantly, the show had the highest concentration of quality inkers per capita of any show I've attended. I had several pieces I needed properly finished, which really put it over. We only had one day to spare, so my girlfriend was helping me locate the inkers I sought, and pointed out one after I'd had trouble catching him at his table. We talked about whether he'd be interested in embellishing a piece, and if he had the tools with him to do it, and were about ready to work out a price. However, he mentioned that he rarely/never inked anyone else's work, which rang false. As it turns out, my girlfriend had fingered the wrong artist, and since I'd gained some weight and he'd lost some, neither of us recognized that we'd already met a year earlier in Houston.

Long story longer, Rafer Roberts has worked on the Valiant series A&A: The Adventures of Archer & Armstrong and Harbinger Renegade, as well as the Exploding Albatross Funnybooks series Grumble whose first issue had been sent to me in a care package from Evan Dorkin (who had supplied a variant cover.) I enjoyed Roberts' mix of indy aesthetic and mainstream chops-- one of those guys like Michel Fiffe, Tom Scioli, and Ed Piskor that could dance between both worlds. I find that hybrid approach works well with the Silver Age Martian Manhunter rogues gallery, and after a bit of deliberation, The Human Falcon was chosen as his subject. I like Kiriska's headshot, but wanted to see him more fully embodied. Roberts delivered, recalling one of my favorites, Cody Schibi's Mr. Moth. It's two professional men in suits with whacked-out inhuman heads, but where Schibi's is a coked-out Cronenberg (you can almost hear James Wood's voice,) Roberts is more of a Wes Anderson stop-motion tweed gentleman thief who just happens to go full bird out the neck (whaddaya think? Schwartzman? Norton?)

Anyway, I love the piece, but like too many others, I've been sitting on it for a while. Once we recognized each other, Roberts recalled being very happy with the Falcon piece, thinking it was one of the best he'd ever done at a con. He asked me to send him a scan and a link to the blog when I posted on it. Better late than never. Oh, and I did get another piece, this time Professor Wickwire holding the orb, that I'll share at another place & time. It's swell too, but all in all, given how the inking job turned out with that other artist, I'm a little sorry we didn't stick to plan A.

Rafer Roberts

Monday, September 30, 2019

Batman '66 Meets the Legion of Super-Heroes (September, 2017)

In another one-shot comic book continuation of the Adam West / Burt Ward television sensation, Batman is transported by teenagers from the future to the year 2966 to solve a time-heist engineered by one of his dastardly fiends of 1966, Egghead. At one point, "Bat-Gramps" argues for deductive reasoning over computer logic with an overly-dependent Brainiac 5, which plays out in the form of a board game. Mr. Mxyzptlk cameos as a series of misdirects on the board.
"Concerned Citizen Recalls Seeing Bald-Headed Man," Go Ahead 2.
"Same Citizen Saw A Suspicious Bald Man On Mars," Go Ahead 1.
"He May Be Bald, But He's Also Very, Very, Green," Return To Earth.

To my knowledge, this is the only small appearance of J'onn J'onzz in the TV show continuity, and also a nice nod to the unused JLA Monopoly art of the special's creator, Michael (& Lee & Laura) Allred.

Speaking of slight appearances, September 1st marked the twelfth anniversary of this blog, and I believe that this is the first year that it went unmentioned. If not for the Salvation Run coverage this past summer, you'd be forgiven for fearing the worst. September was always a slow month for the blog in terms of readership, vastly more so since I stopped regularly updating. Frankly, I had other things I needed to get done more this month. That said, the original Z'Onn Z'Orr: Home of the Martian Manhunter and Martian Manhunter: Rock of the JLA Web TV fan pages would also be celebrating their 20th anniversaries around now. I won't pretend to foretell the far future after so many false starts, but an awful lot of artists have waited a long time to see their commissions turn up online. Wouldn't it be nice if I got out a weekly post every Martian Monday going forward?

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Podcast- JLMay 2019: Countdown To Blackest Night (2007-2009)

Episode #36

Look for us on iTunes, ShoutEngine or directly download an art-tagged MP3 from the Internet Archive

JLMay 2019-- Blackest Night 10th Anniversary Podcast Crossover Event
Frank always gets extra with #JLMay, so this first of several tie-in episodes covers three years worth of often extraneous Martian Manhunter material leading to his murder and the aftermath. Series referenced include Infinite Crisis, Amazons Attack, Checkmate, Countdown, Green Arrow/Black Canary Wedding Special, Justice League of America Wedding Special, The Sinestro Corps War, Teen Titans, Black Adam: The Dark Age, Salvation Run, Catwoman, Final Crisis: Requiem, Faces of Evil: Prometheus, Justice League: Cry for Justice, & Blackest Night! From here follow JLMay 2016 to these fantastic podcasts! Each will cover a different issue of SILVER AGE and each will come out in May! And don’t forget to use the hashtag #JLMay2019 when discussing on social media!

JLMay 2019
  1. JLMAY Blackest Night Anniversary Special [The Podcast of Oa Episode 138]
  2. Blackest Night #1 (2009) [Chris & Reggie’s Cosmic Treadmill ep. 139]
  3. Blackest Night #2 and Green Lantern (vol.4) #44 [Idol Head of Diabolu]
  4. Blackest Night #3 [The Fire & Water Podcast]
  5. Blackest Night #4 [Head Speaks]
  6. Blackest Night #5 [Coffee & Comics Podcast]
  7. Blackest Night #6 [Longbox Crusade]
  8. Blackest Night #7 and #8, and Green Lantern (vol.4) #52 [The LanternCast]
  9. Doom Patrol (vol. 5) #4 and #5 [Waiting for Doom]
  10. Suicide Squad #67, and Secret Six #17-#18 [Task Force X]
  11. Justice League of America (vol.2) #38-#40 [Justice’s First Dawn]
  12. Adventure Comics (vol.2) #4-#7, and Untold Tales of the Blackest Night #1 [Coffee & Comics Podcast]
  13. Starman (vol.2) #81 [Starman/Manhunter Adventure Hour]
  14. Booster Gold (vol.2) #26-#27 [Doctor DC Podcast]
  15. Blackest Night: JSA miniseries, issues #1-#3 [Birds of Prey Podcast]
Martian Manhunter in...
JLMay 2017
JLMay 2016

We enjoy dialogue on the red planet, so here are our non-telepathic contact options:

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Final Crisis: Requiem #1 (September, 2008)

Superman said the final words at the funeral of J'Onn J'Onzz, attended by Wonder Woman, Dr. Mid-Nite, Metamorpho, Zatanna, Wildcat, Grace Choi, Black Lightning, Mr. Terrific, Firestorm (Jason Rusch,) Hawkgirl (Kendra Saunders,) Starman, Booster Gold, Plastic Man, the Bulleteer, Beast Boy, Vixen, Robin (Tim Drake,) Nightwing, Green Lanterns Hal Jordan, John Stewart, Alan Scott, & Kyle Rayner, Green Arrow, Stargirl, the Arthur Joseph Curry Aquaman inexplicably in the original's costume, Starfire, Batman, Flash (Wally West,) Red Arrow, Geo-Force, Cyclone, Hawkman, Red Tornado, Steel, Huntress, Black Canary, Damage, Hourman (Rick Tyler,) Supergirl, Power Girl, Adam Strange, Ice, Gypsy and others in the background.

J'Onn J'Onzz had been lying on the floor in a villains' lair with over 300 pyro-tranq darts designed by Dr. Sivana lodged all over his body, immolating and sedating him. Perpetrators Dr. Light and Effigy lowered the so-called firewall so that they could carry him to another room under orders from the super-villain apostle Libra. Though groggy, J'Onzz began to regain consciousness en route. Libra wasted no time impaling him through the chest with his staff. The villains present in the room; Lex Luthor, Effigy, Dr. Sivana, Vandal Savage, Gorilla Grodd, Ocean Master, Dr. Light, and Talia al Ghul; were tormented by visions of a homicidal Justice League projected by J'Onzz in the throes. The Human Flame had cowered behind an armchair over the illusory sight of the Alien Atlas himself, though he was beneath notice as the Manhunter remained focused on Libra. The Martian Marvel pulled himself up from the ground by the spear and began choking Libra, but Effigy and Dr. Light blasted him with their energy powers. Burnt and exhausted, J'Onzz felt the killing cut dealt his heart by Libra from a borrowed knife from Vandal Savage. J'Onn forced a final grin.

At the moment of his death, various heroes were struck by a telepathic wave that notified them of his passing, including Superman, Batman, Dinah (but not her bedmate Ollie,) Hal, and in Detroit, Gypsy. Of all people, it was Dick Grayson who first reached the body, dangling impaled through the chest by a post driven into a large model of planet Mars. This was in New York City, after being reported by a security guard at the Rose Center for Earth and Science. It was a "Level One Omega," in super-hero parlance. The body was taken back to the headquarters of the Justice League of America, a team he was no longer a member of in a Hall of Justice that was long denied him. Hal and Ollie kept watch over him, with the former asking "Look how they slaughtered our friend. Of all of us... I can't believe he's gone." Jordan couldn't bear to close J'Onn's still eyes, but Ollie convinced him his soul was finally with his family, so Hal consented. Both were thirsty for rough justice. Later, the heroes touched by J'Onn's mind began "sleep authoring" a sort of hardbound autobiography by proxy called "Mars: A History By J'Onn J'Onzz" that recapped his 1998-2001 solo series, plus the JLA arc "Trial By Fire" and 52: WW III. Finally, Superman picked up J'Onn's pyramid ancestral home in the Gobi Desert, the Green Lanterns carted dozens of mourners, and Mars was the site of a destination funeral. The book was left on a translucent ruby coffin as the Manhunter on Mars was left lying in state. Batman, unmasked, added a Choco cookie. "Goodbye, old friend." A spectral vision of J'Onn reunited with his wife and child closed the book.

"Caretakers of Mars" was by Peter J. Tomasi, Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy and Rodney Ramos. I didn't synopsize the story a decade ago because I knew I'd add extraneous details I easily cut today, and because I didn't want to express my anger at the book to mourning fans. Its excessively detailed yet frustratingly specific history of J'Onn J'Onzz was mostly limited to stories edited by Tomasi that I already had a difficult relationship with, coupled with a bunch of more recent material that I deeply disliked. From Hal & Ollie calling J'Onn their "favorite Martian" to the damned Choco, the whole affair felt maddeningly superficial, obvious, and corny. At least this time the significance of Gypsy in J'Onn's later life was acknowledged, and we got to see J'Onn put up some kind of fight against his murderers, instead of being put down like a whimpering dog in the core Final Crisis mini-series. The opening splash page of J'Onn in repose at the funeral was lovely, and while uneven, I enjoyed the art overall.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Countdown to Final Crisis (2007-2008)

The Amazons of Themyscira, who had faced annihilation from an army of OMACs in Infinite Crisis, threatened others with annihilation ahead of Final Crisis. J'Onn served as a glorified cell phone in a few panels of the Amazons Attack mini-series by Will Pfeifer & Pete Woods. At least for his cameo in Catwoman #70 by Will Pfeifer, David & Alvaro Lopez, J'Onn was dispatched to stop an Amazonian terrorist captured by Selina Kyle from killing herself before information could be extracted from her. The appearance was likely intended to foreshadow his and Catwoman's joining a new team of Outsiders, but then those plans were scrapped so late that house ads featuring the two of them on the team were already running, and completed issues of the series were never printed. Replacement issues were rapidly commissioned and replacement team members were rapidly inserted.

In the Checkmate series that spun out of Infinite Crisis, it was revealed that the Manhunter was often impersonating Black King Taleb Beni Khalid to lure White Queen Amanda Waller into a trap. The Wall had continued to act primarily in the interests of the U.S. Government in direct opposition to her oaths to the United Nations organization, and had also violated a rule governing the number of metahumans allowed in the operation by injecting OMAC nanites into her bloodstream. Where Waller had thought the Manhunter impersonations would drive out the Black King, they instead placed her in a position to have a resignation extorted out of her. The Manhunter also helped in the investigation of her Salvation Run project, in which Task Force X was illegally capturing and deporting super-humans to a hostile alien world. In Countdown, the Manhunter was show attending the funeral of Bart Allen, who had been temporarily aged to adulthood to assume the role of The Flash, only to be murdered by a prior incarnation's Rogues. In the Green Arrow/Black Canary Wedding Special, he claimed to have seen this outcome from the moment they met, and was in attendance for their nuptials. This was followed by the Justice League of America Wedding Special #1.

The Alien Atlas participated in the Sinestro Corps War, and was seen punching a robot from the Manhunter Corps. He also joined a host of heroes in a rematch against Superboy-Prime after his spree killing of heroes in Infinite Crisis. The Martian Marvel was one of the main point men in the struggle, and detected that Prime was not yet at full strength after escaping confinement on Oa. It was during the Sinestro conflict that a then unknown entity caused the first member of a new undead Black Lantern Corps to rise from the remains of the Anti-Monitor. [Tales of the Sinestro Corps: Superman Prime] Miss Martian had also fought Sinestro's Corps, while J'Onn J'Onzz turned up in her book for a few issues of Teen Titans [#50-51.] He had been investigating a murder in Vancouver when he was ambushed by evil Titans from the future, and joined several other powerful Titans mentors in temporary imprisonment. In another rematch involving the center of a recent super-hero massacre, Martian Manhunter and many other champions made sporadic appearances in the mini-series Black Adam: The Dark Age by Peter J. Tomasi, Doug Mahnke & Christian Alamy.

Back in Countdown, some alternate universe version of Superman broke the neck of some multiversal Martian Manhunter. He helped fight some rogue Kryptonians in Action Comics Annual #11.

In Catwoman #75-77 by Will Pfeifer, David & Alvaro Lopez, we see the titular star sent to the ironically dubbed Salvation planet via Boom Tube alongside fellow villains Deadshot, Bane, Lex Luthor, Blockbuster, and Chemo. Cheetah was already there, nursing a grudge against Catwoman and intent on lethal payback with no one to stop her. Then Blockbuster punched Cheetah out cold. Catwoman was recruited by Luthor for a perilous mission alongside Cheetah, things go awry, and eventually Martian Manhunter appeared to warn Selina that things were not as they appeared. J'Onzz was silenced by explosive fire from an assault helicopter, and Catwoman became lost in her increasingly incredulous misadventure. Finally, wielding a Green Lantern ring against a host of DC heroes, Catwoman was again visited by the Sleuth from Outer Space. Selina had never left a computer room underneath the prison planet, slowly dying as a machine fed scenarios into her mind to keep her from acting to truly save herself. There were no external controls, so Luthor couldn't have saved her if he wanted to. The only way out was from inside, and J'Onzz guided Catwoman through willing herself loose. Their story would continue in Salvation Run...

Friday, May 3, 2019

Salvation Run #6-7 (June-July, 2008)

Two more weeks on Hell Planet. Despite the narrow bloodless victory last issue, Martian Manhunter was now depicted as brutalized and dirty with missing teeth in a flame cage constructed and maintained this entire time by a Heat Wave who has gone from fear at being blamed for his death to anticipation for murdering him. Except when he joins Captain Cold in pointing out that killing Bart Allen was the worst mistake the Rogues ever made and led to their dire straits. But ask again in five minutes. The Joker & Luthor camps also reunited, because. The Titans associates Thunder & Lighting tried to rescue J'Onn, but got captured by Bane and imprisoned. Luthor and Joker fought over whether to kill the lot of them, and then they just plain fistfought, and then the Parademons show up.

Vandal Savage continued to mentally abuse and sleep deprive his would-be villainess harem, tricking each in turn to think that they were his sole partner in manipulating the other, with Phobia's literal fearmongering amongst them going a long way toward explaining why they would be so malleable. Eventually, they bothered to talk amongst themselves, figure out his scam, and throw a beating. Luthor needed a safe place for Warp to teleport the device his team had constructed to return to Earth, and Catwoman guided them to the safe zone, where they halted the savaging of Vandal. Grodd reminded everyone why he was called Super-Gorilla by surviving the attempt on his life and working with Luthor to telepathically force help with opening a portal from unwilling parties. Grodd wanted to kill Joker, of course, but then the Parademons showed up again.

Even this late in the game, previously unseen key players were being introduced without explanation. Super-villains apparently killed in the ensuing battle are included and struck out in the final census below (though some will turn up elsewhere in the future, also without explanation.) Thunder, Lightning, Warp, Neutron, Plasmus, and, um, Lady Robot Arms(? I hope it's not Silver Swan. That would be embarrassing) were revealed to be powering the portal, and were all blown to pieces by a bomb left by Luthor before he was the last man through the portal. Weak and in great pain, Martian Manhunter was ignored by the Parademons and left to die in the flame cage (maintained by what exactly?)

"Burning Down the House World" & "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place Planet" were by Matthew Sturges, Sean Chen and Walden Wong, again, but for the last time, and joined by Wayne Faucher. I can't stand the Joker and can't believe he'd win a fight against Lex Luthor, but these issues were less terrible (and less substantial) than the rest. But why again didn't anybody kill the Joker after they got back home?

Census: Abra Kadabra, Bane, Black Spider, the Body Doubles, the Brain, Brutale, Captain Cold, Catman, Catwoman, the Cheetah, Chemo, Cicada, Clayface, Deadshot, Dr. Light, Dr. Sivana, Effigy, Fatality, General Immortus, Giganta, Girder, Gorilla Grodd, Hammer, Heat Wave, Hellhound, Hindenberg, Hyena, Ibac, Iron Cross, Jewelee, Jinx, Jongleur, Kid Karnevil, Killer Croc, Killer Frost, Leather, Lex Luthor, Lockup, Mad Hatter, Magenta, Mammoth, Man-Bat, Manticore, Meanstreak, Metallo, Mirror Master, Mr. Freeze, Mr. Terrible, Monsieur Mallah, Neutron, Phobia, the Prankster, Professor Ivo, Psimon, Rag Doll, Rock, Scandal Savage, Shadow-Thief, Shimmer, Shrapnel, Sickle, Silver Monkey, Silver Swan, Splitshot, Sterling Silversmith, Skorpio, Solomon Grundy, Sonar, Hugo Strange, Tapeworm, Tar Pit, Tremor, Tweedledee, Tweedledum, Two-Face, Warp and Weather Wizard. Wow, that's a lot of lame-os who survived.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Salvation Run #5 (May, 2008)

Another week later on Hell Planet. Catwoman continued to keep her own company while spying on others. The Joker's camp, being the most shiftless, launched a predawn raid on Luthor's supply silos. Although Joker's side was outnumbered, he managed to get the drop on Lex before Deadshot got the drop on him, leading to a Mexican stand-off. Then Catwoman got caught on the scene and Lex managed to talk all parties into believing she was a spy for Waller's people on Earth. To save her own skin, she gave up Blockbuster's true identity and fled the scene.

Despite remaining visible and tangible while trying to talk to the assembled villains and it being known that he was in possession of a communicator that supposedly reached back home, everyone piled on the exposed Martian Manhunter as hard as they were able while tripping over each other. J'Onn took a punch from Mammoth and a citrus-like fruit to the head. He retaliated by dive-bombing Giganta in the solar plexus and simultaneously battling 20+ bad guys without breaking a sweat. He also blasted a (cyborg?) villain (Thinker?) through the chest with laser vision in what may have been a fatality, but the dude was too obscure for me to be able to positively identify. The Alien Atlas didn't run into trouble until Luthor gathered the sonics for an initial counteroffensive and then a group of fire-blasters (including Neutron, Heat Wave & effigy) for the coup de grâce. Sure the valuable communicator was destroyed, a powerful potential ally was felled, and wrathful heroes surely would be even less inclined to rescue them (and might actively retaliate,) but Salvation Run, ya'll

Elsewhere, Vandal Savage revealed to Lady Flash that the women he lured away were intended to be his personal breeding stock, and would have no say in the matter, because he only meant that this would be his paradise. Plenty of room for fights and two page spreads, but not even a smidge for subtlety. Also, it turned out the Hell Planet was created by Apokolips as a training ground for Parademons, and the trainees having the opportunity to take on all those super-villains would surely forge some of their greatest soldiers yet...

"Through a Glass Darkly Deadly" was by Matthew Sturges, Joe Bennett, and Belardino Brabo. Why yes, that is a new art team five issues into a seven part mini-series. On the right book with good embellishment, I have no major problem with Sean Chen, but his loose perfunctory work here only made an ugly book uglier. Bennett makes the title look so much better, at times I almost forgot what a stinky turd the script was. This book fits neatly in a pattern where some muckity muck at DC *cough*didio*cough* talks a modest talent without a serious following into executing a terrible idea that tanks their career.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Salvation Run #4 (April, 2008)

On Hell Planet, Martian Manhunter had been impersonating Blockbuster for the past thirteen days as part of an operation he was coordinating with Batman to find all those recently missing super-villains. Now, he was trapped incommunicado on a world so far from any he knew that there was no semblance of a direction home. The villains were turning on each other on a planet that appeared engineered to be as deadly as possible. And hiding in the bushes, observing J'Onn's futile effort to communicate with Batman, Catwoman found this development "Verrrry interesting."

One week later, tensions within Lex Luthor's camp continued to rise. Lady Vic confronted "Blockbuster" with his charade, not recognizing this man as the one she knew "very well." At least there were some support systems there. It was every man for himself at Joker's camp, as Gorilla Grodd shoved a bamboo rod in Bolt's hand so he could go hunt his own food if he wanted to eat. Grodd was eying Joker's chair when he was approached with a strategic alliance by Monsieur Mallah and The Brain. While Mallah tried to tout the apes' superiority to the humans, especially in a jungle setting, Grodd expressed repulsion at the comparison. "You absurd science experiment! ...You are an abomination!" It was Mallah's turn to be offended, and he lashed out, but was no match for Grodd's brute strength. In desperation, Mallah fired five slugs into Grodd's chest, only to be bludgeoned to death with The Brain's containment vessel, his one consolation being that he would die alongside his disembodied love. Weakened and wounded, the six-hundred pound Grodd was unable to prevent Joker's pallid, anorexic, dandy leg from from kicking him off an inconveniently located mountain ledge.

Vandal Savage had seen these downturns coming, and had convinced Lady Flash, Phobia, Nocturna, and the Cheetah to follow him into the wilderness. "Whether anyone develops the technology to escape or not, we'll be alive." Savage had already determined that the planet was technologically-based, and had located an isolated location wired for paradise...

"Life Is But A Dream Nightmare" was by Matthew Sturges, Sean Chen and Walden Wong. I stopped recapping this mini-series halfway through seven years ago for a number of reasons, not the least of which because these posts corresponded with lengthy simultaneous synopses of other titles across numerous blogs at a time when audiences for that format were dwindling. The New 52 had also gone into effect, rendering the continuity these stories took place in moot. But most importantly, it's because I hated what a vicious and stupid effort this mini-series was, and I was particularly disgusted at the thinly motivated ape massacre in this issue. It was DC not only disowning its innocent past of evil talking gorillas, but relishing in adulterating their very memory in as cruel and distasteful a way as possible. Its utter contempt for its own past creators and their output inspire contempt in me for them. I wanted no more to do with it then, and now, I just want to sort out my loose ends and draft copy for a podcast adaptation as part of a larger overview of this era.

Census: Abra Kadabra, Bane, Black Spider, Blockbuster (Martian Manhunter), the Body Doubles, the Brain, Brutale, Captain Cold, Catman, Catwoman, the Cheetah, Chemo, Cicada, Clayface, Deadshot, Dr. Light, Dr. Sivana, Effigy, Fatality, General Immortus, Giganta, Girder, Gorilla Grodd, Solomon Grundy, Hammer, Heat Wave, Hellhound, Hindenberg, Hyena, Ibac, Iron Cross, Jewelee, Jinx, Jongleur, Kid Karnevil, Killer Croc, Killer Frost, Leather, Lex Luthor, Lockup, Mad Hatter, Magenta, Mammoth, Man-Bat, Manticore, Meanstreak, Metallo, Mirror Master, Mr. Freeze, Mr. Terrible, Monsieur Mallah, Neutron, Phobia, the Prankster, Professor Ivo, Psimon, Rag Doll, Rock, Scandal Savage, Shadow-Thief, Shimmer, Shrapnel, Sickle, Silver Monkey, Silver Swan, Splitshot, Sterling Silversmith, Skorpio, Sonar, Hugo Strange, Tapeworm, Tar Pit, Tremor, Tweedledee, Tweedledum, Two-Face, Warp and Weather Wizard.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Martian Manhunter in the 2010s

As it turned out, the murder of J'Onn J'Onzz was surely among the shortest-lived deaths in a comic book history partially defined in popular culture by its genre-specific impermanence. Pronounced deceased on May 28, 2008, the Final Crisis-branded coda mini-series starring the villain Human Flame (who had sought Martian Manhunter's death by Libra) was still being released when Blackest Night debuted. On July 15, 2009, 413 days from his expiration date, J'Onn J'Onzz of Mars was ordered to "RISE" and join the hateful undead Black Lantern Corps. Another 259 days later, a dozen "White Lantern" rings compelled their bearers to "LIVE" unto a Brightest Day. The Alien Atlas co-starred in the bestselling year-long biweekly ensemble maxi-series and seemed poised for another chance at a solo ongoing.

Comic book continuity is a sort of gentlemen's agreement, where readers suspend disbelief to allow for all the stories being told at a particular publisher to have "happened" as one overarching cohesive universe. A broad general audience expecting entry-level reading with every comic purchase had no use for that sort of thing, but as their attention and dimes shifted to television, the nerds living vicariously through a four-color existence demanded it. There was a loose coexistence until 1986, when fears of insolvency and irrelevance pushed DC toward a more contemporary and "Marvel" type of tight interrelationships. DC was always a square peg in a round hole in that regard, but aside from intermittent fixer-uppers and a few "hard" reboots, you could argue that there was a through line from their publishing beginnings to the present.

Then, Flashpoint. DC was tired of being eternally #2, and the slow steady decay of an ever narrowing market necessitated the sensationalism of a "New 52"-title strong across-the-board-of-the-Titanic restarting of their history. Talent-wise, DC just rearranged the deck chairs, and they were so indecisive that the public wasn't sure it even was a complete restart until months into the relaunch, but sure enough it seems to have been. Yes, still weasel words over seven years later.

Despite all the groundwork for spin-offs laid down in Brightest Day, none of it led anywhere, and we were now in a universe where the Martian Manhunter was at a halfway point between familiar super-hero uncle and scary inscrutable alien who had only the briefest association with the Justice League before seemingly, violently betraying them... To join, of all things, Wildstorm's integrated and reconfigured Authority (though back to being called Stormwatch to preserve future branding opportunities.) No need to go into too much detail, because the arrangement lasted less than a year before J'Onn erased the members' minds about his ever having served alongside them. Next up, a new incarnation of Justice League of America (various anti-heroes, second-stringers, and rehab attempts) manufactured by Amanda Waller to "take out" the real Justice League (essentially the 1960s founders with Cyborg replacing J'Onn.) I won't go too far into them either, since despite launching with FIFTY-THREE variant covers that title lasted barely more than a year. Next up, Justice League United, the de facto JLCanada. Seventeen issues. Fifty-two covers total. Martian mulligans. He's back on the main team, currently, following a "Rebirth" that seems to have let some of the old continuity back in.

There was finally another "ongoing" series (three years too late) and a maxi-series launched late in the decade, both a dozen issues of "everything you thought you knew was wrong, but you apparently thought you knew something from this book, which won't stick, so also wrong." Eh, nobody reads comics anymore. But the Cyborg swap also meant the Martian Marvel was no longer carried into DTV animation or feature films alongside the Justice League. But you saw Justice League, so whose to say which pro/con column that falls into. Martian Manhunter still gets lighter play in animation, too part in successful video games like Injustice 2, and has been a series regular on the CW TV show Supergirl since 2015. By the end of the decade, that will have seen over 100 episodes. It's not a billion dollars at the box office, but fish jokes aside, J'Onn is no Aquaman. And it sure beats being a zombie super-villain.

Justice League: Cry for Justice #7 (April, 2010)
DC Holiday Special '09 #1

#0, #1, #2, #3, #6, #7, #8

Green Arrow #4

#9, #11, #12, #15, #18, #19, #22

Flashpoint #1
DC Retroactive: JLA - The '90s #1
Stormwatch #1
Stormwatch #2

Legion Lost #5

#3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9

Superman Annual #1

Justice League #17

#1, #2a, #2b, #3

All-Star Section Eight #3

#1, #2, #3,#4, #5, #6

Doomsday Clock #1-12

Current as of 5/4/19