Monday, December 27, 2021

2021 “DC Comics 1999 Editorial Presentation: Countdown To The Millennium”

Click To Digital Catalog

Since 2020, Siskoid has co-hosted with various guests Who's Editing, "the show where armchair editors re-imagine the DC Universe based on single issues of Who's Who!" Basically, the participants have to pitch a new ongoing series for every protagonist (and an optional antagonist) featured in a given 1980s issue of "The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe." I took to the podcast like a pig to slop, creating my own fan fiction universe of titles with running mock Previews catalog-style solicitation blurbs for every entry (and then some) in the comments section of each episode. I figured with the round robin guests, Siskoid would eventually get around to me, with the natural assumption I would get tagged for the Martian Manhunter edition. Then he called me up way earlier than I had planned or prepared for, Who’s Editing #8: Flashes in the Pan. I made my initial intentions toward Vol XIV clear, and since Siskoid figures to cycle through most of his first run of guests twice, that about suited his own needs.

Since I'd called dibs, I wanted to make this one extra special, so I glommed onto the old 1992-94 DC Editorial Presentations as a template. To compete with all the better selling flibbertigibbets in the Chromium Age, DC would outline an entire year's worth of titles in two page spreads, one of art, and the other copy. There were some that fell through the cracks or were altered, but more or less, you could reliably see what a given year had in store for DC readers. I also wanted to do a line devoted to the Alien Atlas, because look around the page, man. I got a little work in early, other matters demanded my attention, and then a few months ahead of deadline I committed hard to producing the mock catalog linked above. While the Manhunter from Mars maintained a strong presence, the demands of the other subjects sent things into more of a fantasy direction favoring the Marvel Family and sword & sorcery types. For instance, The Warlords of the Ultra-Realm. But hey, more on that later...

Monday, December 20, 2021

DC Comics 1999 Editorial Presentation: Manhunter



The first ever ongoing series devoted to the Manhunter from Mars launched out of DC ONE MILLION with an innovative campaign. Debuting with a special #0 issue detailing J'Onn J'Onzz's earliest days on Earth living as an African-American, and why he ultimately instead chose the role of a white male authority figure; continuing into a premiere GHOSTS Annual; followed by the #1,000,000 issue co-written by GRANT MORRISON accounting for the Alien Atlas' far future. Finally, the #1 edition, examining the sole Manhunter's decision to drop part of his title following repeated White Martian incidents, and his position as the most prominent super-hero outside the United States.

In this initial story arc, the International Ultramarine Corps have assumed an aggressive role in defending South America, naturally bringing them into contact with the Manhunter. The U.S. government still views many of them as military deserters, and their push back against Latin exploitation in the wake of the tragedy in Montevideo has earned them vicious enemies. When a despicable new incarnation of corporate metahumans The Conglomerate perpetuate a horrific assault upon the team in Superbia, the Manhunter's response places him at odds with the U.S.

As the new creative team take over, Bloodwynd alerts Manhunter to strange activity in the Guyana of Venezuela. Soon joined by Swamp Thing, Aztek the Ultimate Man, and Rima the Jungle Girl, they discover a source of the Endless Energies of Entrop, indicating it as one of the twelve prime mana sites on Earth. Despite his status as a fallen angel, Asmodel and a fraction of his Bull Host will make for strange company in defending the reserve from the forces of Grendel, a new player in the Underworld. Next, we'll see Manhunter guard the Watchtower against the cybernetic assault of Lord Havok, as J'Onn tries to reach the humanity in his old friend, inflaming his awkward standing with former JLA teammates.

Manipulated by the psychic residue of Despero into believing that he's developed a soul, and romantic feelings for the illusion casting Gypsy, L-Ron becomes an increasingly brazen stalker... violently colliding with his friends in a clash of wills. Soon, sharing his base in the frigid Martian city of Z'Onn Z'Orr with a new super team, J'Onn's supporting cast is joined by Oberon, Gypsy, and L-Ron. When Castle Carnage is rediscovered by the Star Hunters along the shores of the Weddell Sea, J'Onn recalls a 1970s adventure involving retiring veteran policeman Dan Richards, playboy Marco Xavier, the international crime cartel of Vandal Savage, and an army of Paul Kirk clones led by the soulless Stalker.

A new incarnation of the Hyperclan is formed from the handful of White Martians that had previously escaped capture, guided by an ancient evil far more deadly than the Manhunter has ever known. Closing out the year, "Alex" Luthor succeeds in creating a bridge to Earth³, but attracts the CSA, whose Ultiman enjoys amplified abilities in the presence of magic... a major modern hazard for the Martian Marvel!

Monday, December 13, 2021

The Vile Menagerie: KARMANG THE EVIL

Alter Ego: Karmang
Occupation: Sorcerer
Base of Operations: Castle Karmang, Mount Olympus, Mars
First Appearance: All New Collectors' Edition, Vol. 7, No. C-58 (1978)
Eyes: Blue
Hair: None
More than a thousand millennia ago, an exceptional White Martian sought immortality at any cost. "Like Ancient Greece on Earth, [Mars] was a civilization of thought and wonder... and of all thinkers, of all its men of science, one was there who dared more... who probed the farthest realms of the imagination... One there was... named Karmang the Good..."

Despite protestations from his friends and fellows, and supposedly in the name of science, Karmang engaged in forbidden experiments that tampered with the forces of sub-nuclear energy to disastrous result. Whether through cruel fate or merely his close proximity to the source of the energy storm that he had ignited, the "would-be wizard" survived while one billion surrounding Martians perished. The "sorcerer" gained the immortality that he had sought, but as a consequence, would be haunted by the spirits of the multitudes that had paid the price for his arrogance.

For what seemed like a million years, far beyond sanity, Karmang sought a means to reverse the tragedy that he had caused. Driven mad by his endless existence, Karmang devised a plan wherein he would cause the multiversal worlds of Earth-One and Earth-S to collide, supposedly releasing a specific, incredible amount of energy which would allow him to resurrect the wraith-like Martians that haunted him. To this end, he summond Black Adam and the Sand Superman, forcing them to do his bidding upon pain of torture. Each planted destructive devices on a given Earth, then used violence and devices to provoke combat between Superman and Captain Marvel, the only beings who could stop Karmang.

As the powerful but bedeviled heroes fought for hours across Earth-One, Supergirl, Mary Marvel, and the wizard Shazam joined forces to end the contest, restore sanity, and ambush Karmang at his castle on Mars. Karmang was so engrossed by the clash of titans that for the first time, he felt ecstactic relief from his haunting. When the heroines attacked, he cast spells powerful enough to thwart even the Maid of Might and World's Mightiest Girl. However, Supergirl used her knowledge of advanced Kryptonian science to analyze Karmang's equipment. She uncovered a button that would send Castle Karmang into a state of limbo, and with her superhuman speed, managed to escape beforehand with Mary in her arms. When last seen, Karmang was screaming endlessly, unable to escape the spirits that tormented him.

Powers & Weapons:
Karmang commands significant magics, which he casts via rhyme. He can project fireballs that immolate foes, while summoning a shield to protect himself. Karmang once cast an "illusion spell" to make Black Adam appear to be Captain Marvel that was capable of deceiving Superman. Through unknown means, Karmang culd monitor actions from worlds away. Karmang provided his unwilling agents with the Judgment Ray, a green palm-sized device, which among other things emitted red sun radiation. The ray could temporarily blind and distort the reality of mortals as mighty as Superman and Captain Marvel, allowing them to be provoked into hours-long irrational rages. In his bid to bridge the dimensional gulf to cause a cosmic catastrophe, Karmang crafted a space-time engine that would cause parallel-reality Earths to collide. An engine would need to be correctly placed on each affected world, and once the control-nodule had been activated, a magnetic aura would surround the device that was capable of repelling all but the most awesome physical forces. Within two hours, the space-time engines would theoretically become acclimated to their host world, adjusting their magnetic fields until the worlds would be attracted to one another across all known boundaries. Disrupting the engines once activated would still cause untold destruction through the altered magnetic field's impact on climate and geothermic structure.

It is unclear whether Karmang is able to leave his sacred citadel, or if he is trapped along with the billion Martian ghosts inside Castle Karmang. He has been driven insane, causing him difficulties in concentration and linear thought. He does not appear to suffer from the vulnerability to flame that plagues most Martians, and in fact displays none of their typical superhuman abilities.
Distinguishing Features:

Karmang's eyes are asymmetrical

Quote: "The Undying Ones! By all our ageless gods-- let me be! Why won't you ever let me be?"

Created by Gerry Conway & Rich Buckler

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Action Comics #1037 (January, 2022)

In Metropolis, a variety of people of different races, ages, and genders all end up at Middletown Apartments, unit 225. They are all explorations of J'Onn J'Onzz, who wonders about whether the harder choice is just being himself, "But what the hell does that even mean?" As the Martian Manhunter, he feeds his housecat Double Stuff, reflecting on his own time in that role (along with Isobel de la Rosa, also deriving from the 1998 series, plus Bloodwynd.) "An endless list of endless aliases. Of endless lives. Yet none my own. I'm more vagabond than manhunter." Next he pours himself a bowl of Chocos cereal, and plops on the couch to watch a news program on the television. He reflects upon his disconnectedness from his adoptive world, still moored to lost Mars, and wonders if it's time to finally settle in.

Under the identity of Certa, essentially still John Jones, he's a plainclothes officer with the Metropolis police. Another brown haired white man named Peters visits his desk to discuss an ongoing investigation. Something to do with unconnected young people from all walks of life being linked to some crime, presumably the museum theft from the TV. A break in the case-- they visited an internet sub-forum called "Katharsis Aureus."

It's the Martian Manhunter who visits the Metropolis Museum. Admiring the painting "Lost" by Kyle Rayner that seems perhaps inspired by J'Onn himself, he's met by a stylish Black woman named Gwendolyn Heath. The Museum Director, she reports that the only items missing were pieces of an artifact they had been storing. The Sleuth from Outer Space perks up on learning that the "worthless" pieces were from "a large bust known as the Idol Head of Diabolu," which J'Onn confesses to having broken himself.

The discussion is interrupted by a brutish man in a sealed protective uniform featuring a series of bilateral small flaming jets running vertically up the chest. "Enough talk, nerds. I didn't come here to learn... I came here to burn! It's me, ya boy, HUMAN FLAME."

"A Face in the Crowd" was by Shawn Aldridge and Adriana Melo. I was passingly familiar with the Brazilian artist, who did work on two runs of Birds of Prey with Gail Simone, recalling Ed Benes and Terry Dodson. I'm a bigger fan of Steve Pugh, who she seems to be taking more cues from these days. I must confess to being completely unfamiliar with the writer, whose credits in the industry seem mostly in the lettering department. There was a four-parter in the Dark Horse Presents run that I've had sitting unread in a box since 2015, so that's on me, as well as the mini-series Hack/Slash vs. Vampirella and The Dark and Bloody. According to the podcast playing in the background, he's from Kentucky. For what it's worth, I tried to buy a physical copy of this issue from one of the biggest Houston comic shops, but they only had copies of previous issues left on the shelf. I can't speak to the Mongul lead story, as I've bought almost no new DC content this year, but am waiting for the trade of this arc.

Associating the Martian Marvel with the Man of Tomorrow goes back a long ways, but I still tend to chafe at stuff like basing the character in Superman's city. That said, the scripter goes further out of his way than anyone I've ever read to accommodate me specifically as an entitled fanboy. I considered various ways of highlighting all the fan service in the synopsis, but decided it would look like a heavily redacted transcript. One of the complaints I've heard about movies I've chosen not to see like Ghostbusters: Afterlife and The Rise of Skywalker is that filmmakers appeased hardcore audiences by just cobbling together images of all those things they like, so that they can point and say "look at that thing I like on the screen, making me happy by association with the familiar." I usually poo-poo such a thing, but I'm a whipped dog monkey after nearly a quarter century of creators thinking that naming a plant "Zo'ok" was all they needed to do to nod toward my character's history. To me, this story is like the comics equivalent of Lilly's brain mapping experiment. Ook! Thing I blogged about on WebTV! Ook! I'm fully recovered from Ma'alefa'ak's torture! Decades of stink weed traded for a tiny eight page bag of black tar heroin. Get in my veins!

I wouldn't have pegged J'Onn as someone who keeps pets, as I myself don't, but then he also had children, so maybe that's me projecting. He's definitely more of a cat person (same,) and I just spent too much time looking at pictures online to hazard a guess at its breed being Ragdoll (???) So I suppose I'm into it. It's fun, something sorely lacking in Manhunter comics, and I hope he gets to do some straight comedy in this serial (a stated goal in the podcast.)

Other things I'm not into? I didn't make it halfway into the last maxi-series, a prequel that featured a costume much closer to his Silver Age look. I don't know if that was used to pivot back to this '80s JLI look in the current continuity, which I'm sure many fans have missed since Infinite Crisis. Meanwhile, I always had an issue with the old costume, and wholeheartedly embraced the New 52 design, which I think would better fit Melo's style besides. The references to some momentous change are lost on me, and mentioning it without any context is vexing. I doubt every issue is somebody's first anymore, but it's my first in a long time, and I miss the brief recaps of comics in my youth. "Certa" is way too on the nose for me, and we don't need a white John Jones in the comics when he's now invariably portrayed by African-American performers in other media.

Yeah, that's about all I've got. It's been decades of my banging the drum for a representation that respects and builds upon the Alien Atlas' lore. This story intentionally draws from as many well loved eras of the character as could be reasonably expected within the space and then some, with direct references to Silver Age stories entirely erased for decades. I'm super-duper gun-shy about having any expectations going forward, but for at least this brief shining moment, I'm Montgomery Brewster and "This is the room I could die in."

Monday, November 29, 2021

“Interview: Martian Manhunter” from JLA Secret Files #1 (September, 1997)

As I discussed in previous weeks, JLA Secret Files and Origins #1 was a key book for neophyte Alien Atlas allies turned on by the surprise success of JLA. You had a new Starro story by the hot creative team of Grant Morrison and Howard Porter, bridging the gap between Justice League: A Midsummer's Nightmare and the relaunch. You had "Lost Pages" from between JLA #4 & 5. You had profile pages of the individual team members by the creative teams of their solo titles. You had "A Day In The Life: Martian Manhunter", probably the first J'Onn J'Onzz solo story for many. And finally, this mock interview by Mark Millar & Don Hillsman for the fictional in-universe "The Brave & The Bold" magazine.

Along with a series of Playboy style headshots at the top of the piece, there was the full figure above, which served as "the" Martian Manhunter image of the turn-of-the-century internet. Despite the weird organic foam finger action, there is perhaps no greater example of broad fan rejection of Tom Mandrake's years toiling on the ongoing series than the ubiquity of this picture in the same time frame. An editorializing quote from Who's Whose DC Timeline: "John Ostrander’s Martian Manhunter delves into the soul of the only founding member of the JLA never to have his own title, much to the disgust of fanboys who apparently expected something else. Lots of punching and kicking maybe? Still, the series lasts 36+ issues." Well, as a fan who was kicking and screaming by the end of those three years, perhaps it was because everything in this issue geared readers for a title about the Pacific Rim's greatest protector, and the actual ongoing tossed that aside with a single issue robotto manga pastiche?

The piece opens with the interviewer acknowledging J'Onn's sensitivity to their possible concerns over being seen in public with a Martian, offering to change for discretion, though the admitted clout-chaser declines. They then discuss the JLA's internal conversations regarding nations' discomfort with a Justice League of America following the dissolution of the U.N. sanctioned international operation, their commitment to preserving their humanism, protests against perceived League authoritarianism, and the Martian Marvel's specific efforts to address the imbalance of metahuman protections outside the Anglo-Saxon West. Clearly saving all that deep "my evil twin brother, Gumby Venom," for Ostrander. Nothing communicates the sociopolitical impact of superhumans like writing a one-off of Beatriz da Costa talking like Charo while battling a racially caricatured voodoo doctor from a '70s Blaxploitation Bond movie. But I'm not bitter.

There's talk of Z'Onn Z'Orr, the ancient Martian city destroyed in the first extended arc of the series in favor of... a generic pyramid? There's a multiplicity of international identities offered, with endless story possibilities teased, replaced by the tired exploration of duality in a super-hero comic, itself abandoned for the monotony of simple Martian Manhunter Team-Up. TIL there's a sly reference to actor Gregory Reed playing J'Onn in a potential movie. There's acknowledgement of his loneliness as a widower, but also his deep religious convictions and romantic incompatibility stemming from his alien nature. Unlike that time he shagged Jemm's fiance, centuries his junior, from a race still suffering the effects of slavery and colonization by Martians, coloring his long history of mentoring young girls? We're still having fun, right? Considering what could have been? Yeah, this is fun.

Monday, November 22, 2021

“LOST PAGES”: The "new" Superman meets the JLA from JLA Secret Files #1 (September, 1997)

The JLA Watchtower. All but two of the "Magnificent Seven" were seated at their meeting table. "When Superman gets here... like we agreed. Batman's busy on a case of his own right now, but he said we could download the results of the membership drive to him later." Wonder Woman wanted to see the electric blue Superman's new capeless costume, and Kyle Rayner expressed his belief that it's good to keep things fresh. "You would say that," chided Wally West. Superman appeared as a bolt from the blue, with the expectation of having his altered powers tested to determine his continued fitness for service.

Manhunter supervised as Green Lantern created energy constructs to test Superman's "strength," though his lifting was now accomplished via generating electromagnetic fields. He could also disrupt the electrical impulses in Kyle's nervous system, inhibiting his ability to control his power ring. Next was an international race with the Flash, which Superman easily aced. Aquaman determined that water wasn't an issue for Superman Blue, and he could even detect electric eels in the vicinity. Sparring with Princess Diana in the arctic was pathetic, since he could become immaterial and convert the Amazing Amazon's kinetic energy into force beams.

"Well, Superman, you've passed the written test, the VR simulations and the Martian mind-probe. All we have to do now is download your results to Batman and see if Batman will make your membership unanimous." The Dark Knight couldn't be bothered with the details, or even to look up from whatever he was saudering at a workbench. "Of course he's in. He's Superman." The Martian Manhunter shook the hand of the renewed member. "I suppose that makes everything official. Welcome back to the Justice League, Superman. Somebody apologize to Damage for the wait." Nice nod, that.

I've talked up Mark Millar & Don Hillsman a lot while covering this book, so I'll offer more criticism in this particular case. Millar was generating a lot of copy for this comic, which should explain some of the dodgier dialogue here. Hillsman has mostly worked as an inker, perhaps his most notable pencils being for the first Malibu Street Fighter mini-series a few years prior. I have a fondness for his dynamic take on the Alien Atlas, but the other characters don't fare as well, and the storytelling is pretty basic. To this day, Millar's longest run in comics is presiding over the cancellation of Swamp Thing, the house Len & Berni and Alan Moore built. Maybe Superman wasn't the only talent being tested in these pages, and not everybody performed as confidently as the Man of--er, Static? Millar & Hillsman were unproven unknowns, so it makes sense that when the former Spectre creative team were looking for a follow-up project, they were the ones chosen to produce the high profile Martian Manhunter spin-off series.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

“The Manhunter from Mars” profile page from JLA Secret Files #1 (September, 1997)

I can carbon date my J'Onn J'Onzz fandom to August 7, 1996. As I've discussed many times before, my familiarity with the character went back about twelve years earlier, to house ads from the time of the Martian Marvel's 1984 return in Justice League of America, and I bought his Super Powers action figure the following year. That was one of my favorite toys growing up, and I had plenty of experiences with the Alien Atlas in the comics. I consider them near misses-- instances of my liking and having an interest in exploring the Martian Manhunter, but still not quite connecting in a significant way.

I was working at a comic shop in 1996, so I would have taken Justice League: A Midsummer's Nightmare #2 home on its day of release. I recall reading it in bed, reaching that glorious gut punch of a splash page by Jeff Johnson, in a sequence co-writer Mark Waid credited to Fabian Nicieza. In period parlance, it was Agent Kujan finally deducing the identity of Keyser Söze, Neo suddenly knowing kung-fu, or Cher Horowitz realizing that she loved Josh. A switch just flipped. I stole a car, drove west, played an 8-track at full blast until it stopped, got out of the car, got in a fight, got back into the car, drove back to town, went to the Cargas Club, and then got into the most prestigious hotel of all time. I was a Martian Manhunter fan, man.

A quarter century later, with admitted gaps and lots of burn out, I'm still here plugging away. But a journey of a thousand miles begins with baby steps, or some such. I was still a Padawan with much to learn, from older fans like Commander Benson on the DC Message Boards, or from scavenged back issues. There were no wikis back then, and very few fan pages. Virtually all of them referenced Don Hillsman's art from JLA Secret Files & Origins, as I was surely not alone in a newfound appreciation of the Martian Manhunter amidst the explosive success of JLA. For many of us, this was the gateway.

"All Who's Who pages written by Mark Millar and colored by Tom McCraw" if you can believe it.

Monday, October 11, 2021

2015 Super-Team Family: The Lost Issues: "1000th ISSUE SPECTACULAR!" featuring Martian Manhunter and Drax the Destroyer

In the long life of The Brave and the Bold / Marvel Two-in-One: The Lost Issues, Ross has surely reached a lot of numerical milestones by posting every weekday. #1000 has to be among the most memorable though, since in 2015 no American super-hero comics had made it to that many issues, far eclipsing the combined runs of the various team-up titles that inspired the project. Also, people still paid attention to blogs in 2015. For the occasion, Ross did a real tour de force post, including scan of childhood hand-drawn team-up comics, how-to tutorial, best of gallery, and more! This is clearly a lifelong passion project, as evidence by his still going another half-dozen years since.

Ross also produced a special 1000th edition speculative comic in the tradition of DC Comics' 100 Page Giants, offering seven different pairings involving Batman, Deadpool, The Thing, Firestorm, The Hulk, Black Lightning, Superman, Gladiator, Ant-Man, The Atom... The primary story involved the Avengers and JSA, but for the purposes of this blog, a (crudely) foregrounded a back-up with J'Onn J'Onzz and Drax titled "Riot on the Red Planet!"

I just noticed that I screwed-up last week's link for Tars Tarkas, but another entry in my short-lived Martian Knock-Offs series of posts was Drax the Destroyer. Even by 2011, the characters had diverged sharply, to the point where the similarities ended with broad physical characteristics. Certainly, no one who has seen Dave Bautista (and of course James Gunn's) portrayal of an obtuse, brutally violent, fairly misogynistic MCU anti-hero would confuse the character with the more empathetic and pensive live action Alien Atlas. That said, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has made Drax a full blooded alien mourning a deceased wife and child with deep wells of sadness detected by his psychic cohort Mantis, so in some ways they're even more alike today.

The images here were taken, I believe, from a Phil Jimenez two-page massive group spread from JLA Secret Files & Origins and a Ron Lim cover for Silver Sufer when Drax was still in his imbecilic Hulk phase. I was a huge Adam Warlock fan growing up, but unless Jim Starlin were to do the project, preferably in 1977, I doubt this would be my bad today.

Monday, October 4, 2021

2012 Super-Team Family: The Lost Issues: Martian Manhunter and John Carter, Warlord of Mars

Click To Enlarge

As I got away from writing posts, I likewise more or less stopped reading blogs. When Ross Pearsall of Super-Team Family... The Lost Issues! recently made a guest appearance on The Fire and Water Podcast, it reminded me that I hadn't exploited his fanfic team-up efforts for easy content in years!

We regifted a Batman and The Martian Manhunter Mock-Up Cover in 2011, Beta Ray Bill in 2012, Marvel Two-in-One: The Thing in 2013*, Captain America Vs. The Justice League of America in 2015.

One that I passed on covering for nearly a decade was John Carter, despite once harrassing his buddy Tars Tarkas. I remember having ancient Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movies playing in the background to my less than rapt inattention when I was a wee lad, but I never had much use for Edgar Rice Burroughs. Blame Spielberg and Lucas, but I was raised to appreciate the bravura loving tributes, not the clunky source material.

* and just for good measure, Mahunter Paul Kirk and Iron Fist

Monday, September 20, 2021

2021 Martian Manhunter art by Nick Bradshaw

"Martian Manhunter bust illustration in pencil, ink and acrylic ink. Portrait, 11 x 17". By Nick Bradshaw."
Sorry that I skipped out for most of September. I've been juggling a lot this month. Ironically, by hitting a wall on my more elaborate projects, like podcasting, I'm taking a breather this week that allowed for posting here. Depending on how things go, I may try to make up some of that missed time, or not. Anyway, here's a big name artist with a very pleasing Art Adams streak providing a rare take on DC's Alien Atlas!

Thursday, September 2, 2021

2021 Martian Manhunter costume redesign by Scott E. Hileman

Click To Enlarge

A few months back, I started receiving some friendly emails from one of our reader/listeners, and thought I'd share a sampling of his words to go with the art above...
I first encountered the Martian Manhunter back in my elementary school days in the early 70s in a reprint of an earlier JLA comic where Fox and Sekowsky had them fighting robots or statues that looked like them. I’d catch him at different times over the years in reprinted stories in 100-page giants, etc. I was very excited when he returned to earth and the JLA during the Detroit-era, perhaps the only good thing to come out of that time period. Then I pretty much followed him ever since until the early 2000s. IMHO, ever since Identity Crisis, the flavor of DC Comics changed for me to the point where I just didn’t buy new DC Comics. And as such some of the newer appearances of J’Onzz I missed except for the last outing. I bought the first couple of issues but I haven’t looked through them, let alone read them.

So that’s my relationship with the character. Obviously, mine isn’t as deep and passionate as yours. I hope that some day soon that DC will J’Onn J’Onzz book that hit all your buttons. You deserve it for trying to keep the blue flame of Mars alive...

Fan-casting for a 1950s style J’Onn J’Onzz story, I think Richard Bulgi would make for a great John Jones.

If you could warp time and space, I’d suggest the late, great John Huston would have made a great Monte Moran. Not just his look but his voice too. I can hear it in my head mocking J’Onn as he gets away...

Here’s my idea. I’m not re-inventing the wheel by any stretch but I think this looks pretty cool in my humble opinion. It is nothing more than basically taking the blackest night costume and adding the original MM color scheme to it. I tried to make his shirt more like a tunic for a subtle nod to Ancient Rome (the whole Mars-Roman god thing). Also I didn’t want to give him outer shorts like Superman, but it need some kind of break between the legs and torso would do that and look a little better shorts or loin cloth. The open neck and short sleeves shows off more of his green skin and gives him a causal air about him, like he isn’t afraid to face any menace.

Monday, August 23, 2021

2021 “Justice League Extreme #1” Bloodwynd fanfic commission art by Brad Green

Despite having read over his stories several times with the expressed purpose of nailing down what his whole deal was, Bloodwynd yet remains a confounding mystery. To this day, most people still think that he was just a cover identity of the Martian Manhunter, not a separate character, if they ever think of him at all. I've had an angle on Bloodwynd in mind going back to at least the reviled Dan Vado run, but it doesn't fit with this project, and he somehow managed to become the motivating factor for the team's creation instead. I never talked up my interest in Manhunter/Bloodwynd like I did Artemis, so it would have been easy to shove him in between bigger characters for little more than a head shot or waist-up. I'm really glad Brad Green was able to draw most of the heroes as full figures, but especially that Bloodwynd is so fully realized with serious cape action and authentic African-American features. Bloodwynd has rarely looked as good anywhere as he does here!

art & cover by BRAD GREEN
variant cover by PHIL CHO
card stock variant cover by ED BENES
Bloodwynd is no hero. The mysterious dark mage of death has his own agenda, which he preferred to pursue in isolation. Outed by his nemesis, the necromancer briefly played at being a champion during a time of unprecedented tumult, when the world’s greatest super-heroes were threatened with extermination. The savage Kryptonian behemoth Doomsday beat Superman into a coma. Hulking criminal mastermind Bane broke the Batman. The minions of the war god Ares saw to the demise of a Wonder Woman. The multiversal destroyer Anti-Monitor extinguished the Flash. Alien tyrant Mongul drove Green Lantern mad. Extraterrestrial terror Imperiex obliterated Aquaman. The worshipers of Darkseid, Lord of Apokolips, executed Martian Manhunter. Through his necromancy, Bloodwynd recognized that these magnificent seven crusaders were tied mystically to the fate of all creation, and he stepped up to defend all of existence… including, especially, his own.

Then came Judgment Day, when the Overmaster and his Cadre arrived to witness the end of the Earth. Bloodwynd was cosmically aware that this moment was beyond him, that all hope rested with the Justice League. He merely watched as the universe ended… and began again. Like tumbling dominoes, the events set in motion by Doomsday led to Hal Jordan becoming Parallax, and with other terrorists against time itself, unleashed entropic energies that annihilated the universe. Only a handful of heroes remained at the Vanishing Point to restart everything with a Big Bang. Today, another Crisis in Time has begun, and many of the horsemen of the previous apocalypse rise again… without any of the Magnificent Seven to meet them. The Septuplicate is essential for salvation, a search for seven successors, an extreme form of Justice League.

Reignman has been born through the melding of the corpse of the Cyborg Superman Zor-El, further enhanced with the automations of John Henry Irons, controlled by the intelligence of the Kryptonian Eradicator. The unjustly exiled Amazon Artemis has chosen to wear the indignity on her back, in the discarded garb of her fallen sister Diana from her own hour of disgrace, as a living Requiem. Freed from Mother’s control and picking up where The Colony left off, the genetically engineered and psychologically programmed killer Jean-Paul Valley is among the sole standing vigilantes defending Gotham from Leviathan, within his sealed Knightfall battle armor. Arrived from a catastrophic near-future where his family perished before his eyes, Walter West takes no prisoners with the crimson quickness of Dark Flash. Compelled by the Life Entity within his White Power Battery to defend their home world against aliens, Kyle Rayner returns to Earth to wield nearly limitless powers over creation as the Omega Lantern. Obsessed with reclaiming the throne for his bloodline, Arthur Curry’s only surviving son, the berserker Koryak, would rule as Aquamaster.

The return of Mongul to Coast City attracts several of these anti-heroes who have faced him in the past, and understand the danger he normally represents. However, the flaxen fiend has not come alone, and his fellows’ reach and menace in unfathomable. What is the Superman Death Squad, and what purpose could it still serve in a world without the Man of Tomorrow? And what of these would-be heroes? Are they all that they seem, and could there be just as much of a threat within their ranks as without?
ON SALE 05.12.21
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“Justice League Extreme #1” by Brad Green

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

2021 Martian Manhunter by Paul Smith

Juggling too many projects this week while also suffering from the energy depletion of dieting, so nothing substantial this week. One of those efforts is Siskoid's "Who's Editing" fan fiction thought experiment, for which I offered... 

written by G. WILLOW WILSON
art & cover by PAUL SMITH
Spinning out of the pages of DOOMSDAY CLOCK & ATOMIC! The Shadow Lords’ trap has been sprung, bringing about a new world order. Their Stormwatch Intercontinental now patrols the globe, capable of putting down any threats to their planetary rule. With the Justice League no more, numerous other challengers neutralized, and even the alien refugees being deported from Earth, their control appears complete.

Despite faltering at Shadowspire, there is yet a collective of heroes to fight back against these nihilistic fascists. Aided by Staq Mavlen before his demise, Ray Palmer located the 30th Century telepath Imra Ardeen within a dank prison, the captive of Adrian Veidt. Her own mission to save Superman, Johnny Thunder, and the new Rorschach Reggie Long has failed, but Veidt himself offered a path to redemption. The son of Erika Manson and Marcos Maez held special meaning to Doctor Manhattan, who left the boy to be raised by the former Silk Spectre and Nite-Owl in 1992. That boy, now adult, is somewhere on Earth with the full inheritance of power from his “foster father,” capable of correcting the time stream to save… everyone?

Dr. Osterman had prophesied before his disappearance, “In the year 2020, Superman’s timeline is bombarded by the reckless energies of the Old Gods, once again warping the Metaverse.” Instead, the New Gods brought about his end in that year, or have they? So many threads to pull on this harrowing new reality, and who better than the survivors of the classic Justice League, joined by their proud legacy from 1,000 years in the future? The Atom and Saturn Girl escape with Elongated Man, Hawkman and Hawkwoman, herself drawn to reunite her cohorts in serving The Life Entity during Brightest Day. But first, they need allies and a base to plan their next moves, and after a quick stop for Sue Dibny, they are directed to Monument Point, Virginia. Former mayor Jay Garrick is also under fire from the government after aiding XS & Kid Flash against A.C.E., and is ready to get back into the race as The Flash. Hot in pursuit is the Shadow Cabinet, led by the aged Veidt’s heir apparent, Cleopatra Pak… the villainess Nostalgia.
ON SALE 5.26.21
$3.99 US | 32 PAGES

Like all right-thinking people, I love Paul Smith, so it's fun to see his take on J'Onn J'Onzz. He's bit too inhuman to me, especially with the Spock ears and vampire collar on an otherwise very Silver Age-y interpretation. The Alien Atlas isn't on my fake team because I killed him off with the rest of the Magnificent Seven JLA at the start of the project. More on that next week...

Monday, August 2, 2021

JLA: Year One #12 (December, 1998)

The Daily Planet buzzed over Earth's heroes beating back the Appellaxian invaders. Two generations of Green Lanterns & friends saved Metropolis. Black Canary & the Blackhawks had an Iwo Jima moment in DC. Aquaman, the Sea Devils and others were in... um... ocean? Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Shining Knight, and Black Condor fought avians in... air, and Martian Manhunter had to listen to them wonder how the aliens knew all their secret identities. Awkward.

Kalar took out his frustrations on Stonehenge, where a teleporting Vandal Savage used the mindwipe device to take out a group of Appellaxians, and also took offense at the insult to his design. On to St. Louis. In a brilliant moment, the Atom shattered a crystal proxy by enlarging slightly in one of its flaws, but the explosion knocked Ray Palmer out, leaving his tiny form to be caught in the palms of Doll Man. In Paris, Molly Mayne reported on the Global Guardians. In Central City, Canary and Flash reunited, as did Barry Allen and Iris West, so Dinah made clear that she wasn't going to be her mother's daughter in a way that would make for two-timing. Also, Green Arrow showed up to flirt.

Martian Manhunter helped clear Peking, but even with Metamorpho and the Doom Patrol, the Great Wall was lost. Despite some gains, there were just too many aliens being fought by exhausted heroes. Even the mystical likes of Dr. Fate and the Spectre faltered. Vandal Savage offered a poisoned chalice, delivered by a shapeshifted Clayface in his image. The device, now set to kill all the Appellaxians on Earth with the touch of a button. The League debated. Aquaman and Flash leaned yeh, Canary and Lantern nay. Snapper Carr and Martian Manhunter went a third way, filtering the device's ray's through J'Onn's psyche to render it agonizing rather than lethal. The Alien Atlas head warped and mind verged on shattering. Aquaman whispered, "I'm here, J'Onn, my friend. Open your mind to me... Open your mind... to us." The League lent their own psyches to the filtration. The mystics creating a portal to Appellaxia, and those that didn't walk through it were tossed in. Savage wanted the League complicit in an act of vengeance. Canary insisted, "We're not about vengeance... we're about justice!"

Flash noted, "I'll say it again, J'Onn. You never fail to surprise us. That was one incredible risk." J'Onn felt he owed a debt to everyone there for the way he'd compromised them, which Canary assured with a kiss was "--Paid in full. Let it go. We will." Hawkman asserted that the Justice Society was proud to pass the torch, and Superman stated that there could be no greater honor than to serve at their side when needed. Planet headlines announced future victories against Amazo, (an anachronistic) Despero, and Kanjar Ro. Aquaman removed the plague commemorating the Appellaxian casualty of their first missio, and thought the surface dwellers had done a nice job pulling together. There was a very forced moment where Black Canary likened herself to a flower blossoming and a bunch of stuff about hers and Flash secret identities being trains going in different directions, yadda yadda. Green Lantern put forth the notion of expanding the roster, beginning with Green Arrow, to the questioning of Dinah and Barry. They took it to a vote. As it turned out, the identity of the secret financier Simon Carr continued to keep was none other than Oliver Queen. "The Irony is just to wicked."

"Justice for All" was by storytellers Mark Waid / Brian Augustyn / Barry Kitson with inker Michael Bair. This extra-length finale didn't take so long to read or to write up, but I put it off because of all the expected listing of names and locations and this happened and that happened. All the toys got set up in their displays and the good guys won. I appreciated that this series made a point of spotlighting the original Blue Beetle, often overlooked in DC history as one of the earliest published super-heroes (thanks to his originating at another publisher and not moving to DC until after Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas were heading out the door.) Still, fanboy here, so can't quite forget that the Seven Soldiers of Victory should have still been separated and lost in time.

Overall, the story is nice and pleasant, with no small amount of nostalgia both for Silver Age comics and even then-contemporary ones. There are some great bits and classic character moments. The whole premise of a super-alien with total recall keeping filing cabinets full of excruciatingly sensitive data about masked heroes on paper in filing cabinets behind a false wall is about the dopiest I could point to off the top of my head. It worked way better as encrypted files on the Bat-computer in "Tower of Babel." All the Appellaxian stuff goes on for too long, and I wish we'd had more single issue spotlights and attention to period detail. Then again, they tried that with the quasi-sequel Incarnations, and maybe not so much. This is probably my second or third pass reading the material, and my second write-up, so I'm probably done revisiting it unbidden by outside factors. I like it fine, but prefer to skim rather than fully invest as a whole, which is probably why it never got a proper adaptation.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Year One: The Post-Crisis Retcons

Despite being familiar with Martian Manhunter going back to around 1984, I didn't become a proper fan until 1996's Justice League: A Midsummer's Nightmare #2. It was a moment of epiphany, as if all the near misses of finding favor with the Sleuth from Outer Space all swerved the other way at the same time. In a single splash page by Jeff Johnson, depicting a story beat co-writer Mark Waid informed me was Fabian Nicieza's contribution, it hit me that I loved this character. Being of limited means, I did what most new fans do; started picking up what I could of the character as it came out or when back issues presented themselves to me. While I was certainly a veteran comics reader, it became clear rather quickly that J'Onn J'Onzz's solo stories were a blind spot not only for me, but for the majority of the then-modern audience. Likewise, JLA was an immediate smash hit, reintroducing a new readership to the "Magnificent Seven" Justice League not seen since the early 1980s. DC wisely recognized that these recent converts would be receptive to a new testament, and so a twelve issue maxi-series was commissioned to expand upon a one-off revised League origin story the way Man of Steel and Legends of the Dark Knight had elaborated upon a modern take on heroes' formative adventures. These revisionist histories formed the ground floors of my Alien Atlas adoration, though I'd later face the cognitive dissonance of a deeper understanding of how the Manhunter did (or admittedly most often did not) work on his own terms. In this era, the gospel of J'Onn as "the Heart and Soul of the Justice League" reigned, strongly informing the late '90s WebTV fan site that predated this blog (to my knowledge, only the second significant one of its kind at the time.) Textless solicitation images of period books like JLA: Year One were the backbone of the site, especially before I had access to a scanner (and even then, always someone else's.) Seeing an image like the one above always sends me back to that period.

Martian Manhunter (1998) Martian Manhunter: American Secrets (1992)
by Gerard Jones & Eduardo Barreto
Justice League Quarterly Secret Origins
  • #35 (1988) "Martian Manhunter" by Mark Verheiden & Ken Steacy
  • #32 (November, 1988) "All Together Now" by Keith Giffen, Peter David, and Eric Shanower
  • #29 (August, 1988): "The Secret Origin of the Atom" by Roger Stern, Dwayne Turner & K.S. Wilson
JLA: Year One (1998) by Waid / Augustyn / Kitson / Bair The Silver Age (July, 2000) Chase #6 (July, 1998) Starman #28 (March, 1997) Justice League of America #0 (September, 2006)

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

JLA: Year One #11 (November, 1998)

Thanks to Simon Carr, the files kept by J'Onn J'Onzz at the Sanctuary were available to exploit. The Appellaxian invaders struck Earth's metahuman community hard and fast, exploiting their knowledge of secret identities and other vulnerabilities. "First, they took Superman." The Atom, Blue Beetle, the Metal Men, Batman, Hawkman, Johnny Quick, and Dr. Mid-Nite followed in turn. Setting up an internment camp on Blackhawk Island, members of the Squadron, the Freedom Fighters, Seven Soldiers of Victory, and the Justice Society could all be seen as being held captive. As the only files removed from the piles were those belonging to Barry, Dinah, Hal, and Arthur, they were the only heroes spared.

The Justice League were in Metropolis, fighting a tiny portion of the 7,000 or so Appellaxian proxy bodies alerted to the threat Earth posed, intent on wiping us out. Aquaman was randomly shouting orders to the team while discussing with Snapper Carr how Uncle Simon's Appellaxian, Kalar, evaded Martian Manhunter's telepathy by loosening his psychic grip as needed. Simon was barely aware of any changes to his consciousness. Martian Manhunter had only just caught a falling Green Lantern when he soon after took another tumble, thanks to a depleted power battery. After over 24 hours of continuous fighting, the League was broadly tapped out, but not so much that the Alien Atlas couldn't guide the Flash to a locker at Ferris Aircraft housing an invisible power battery. The Emerald Gladiator was soon speaking his oath to recharge midair. Aquaman congratulated the crackerjack teamwork, but also had to acknowledge that Metropolis was lost to the invaders.

In Gotham City, Kalar needlessly obliterated the mind of an Appellaxian fire proxy to take it as his own, surrendering Simon Carr's frail human form. Just as he'd sent the soldier to the plasmgods above, so to had he planned to execute Carr. However, he was spirited away by Vandal Savage, along with the device Kalar had used against his own kind. Meanwhile, things faired just as poorly for the League in Midway City, though Barry scored a kiss from Dinah in a moment of weakness. The Scarlet Speedster had wondered aloud "What... would the JSA have done," but suddenly struck upon his own inspiration.

Via the undervalued "talks to fishes," Aquaman knew where in the Atlantic Ocean the metahumans were being held. Almost as soon as the League arrived back at the sanctuary, they were captured by Appellaxians exploiting their specific vulnerabilities. Soon, the League was on Blackhawk Island, and Green Lantern was warned not to try anything, or his yellow bonds woukd squeeze the life out of him. A demonstration was provided, and Lantern screamed in such pain that it blew a hole through an Appellaxian's chest. "His" power ring had disguised the League as one another, so that Black Canary easily brushed off Lantern's bonds, while Hal Jordan was hardly bothered by a cage of fire, and so on. Soon, Flash had recovered all the heroes' stolen technology, which was being studied by the invaders ahead of their planning to do the same to the metahumans. Suddenly, the prison camp was becoming the staging grounds for the super-human resistance army...

"Stalag Earth" was by storytellers Mark Waid / Brian Augustyn / Barry Kitson with inker Michael Bair. It will never not drive me nuts that DC went decades pretending like everyone from the JLA to Speedy were active before Robin the Boy Wonder just because of stupid "Batman: Year Three." Real time, the Dark Knight flew solo for one year and one month, but editors and dirtbag fandom keep trying to erase one of the greatest characters in all of comics because grimdark. Don't even get me started on Wonder Woman. Anyway, it's always fun to see heroes get took, and leaving them behind fences has a resonance today following Gitmo and refugee detentions that may have been fuzzier to readers in '98 over a half century removed from the Japanese internments of World War II. Seeing these costumed prisoners of war liberate themselves might have had more "oomph" broken up by a cliffhanger, but the resolution was appropriately clever and Silver Agey for a series rooted in nostalgia. Neat to see so many heroes from across DC's history all in one place, centering on their first couple of decades so that we're not suffering any Infinitors or New Bloods or whatever. It's also fun because of how many DC acquisitions are present, published by different companies in the beginning, with few integrating into the DC Universe until the 1970s. It's the sort of thing children of the Greatest Generation could scarcely dream of when they were all publishing contemporaries.

Monday, July 12, 2021

JLA: Year One #10 (October, 1998)

"It is the worst nightmare of a man who can be felled by a candleflame. The sky is on fire." Given their role in igniting the blaze to exploit Martian Manhunter's greatest vulnerability, the Justice League remained quick to blame him for the outcome. Aquaman especially is a jerk, pointedly referring to him again as "alien" and stating "We already know that, even for a land-dweller, you're a lying schemer! What other conclusion are we to draw? Locus is changing the Earth to suit you! You're the eighth Appellaxian!" Never heralded as a detective, Aquaman took an energy blast to the back from armed Locus proxies. While the dysfunctional, paranoiac League tripped over themselves beating Locus back, the Alien Atlas ripped the terraforming device to pieces. This was done at personal expense, as J'Onn was severely burnt in the process.

The League abandoned the deathly still Manhunter to pursue Locus through a portal to one of their secret bases. The Aryan leader of Locus confirmed their plot to render the planet uninhabitable to humans while forcing a return to Pangaea. Somewhat recovered, "The Martian" traced the League to the Locus base, smashed through the ceiling with Laser Vision blasing, and demanded "Get away from my friends!" The League were audibly pleased and impressed. Green Lantern readily conceded leadership to Flash, who directed him to keep the continents in place until they could stop Locus' machines. J'Onn eventually began to take a pounding from the purple proxies, too weak to focus on turning immaterial. Flash moved his teammates to safety, then used super-speed to eventually determine the passwords to switch off Locus' contraption. Barry then asked J'Onn to use his telepathy to find a way to restore the proxies' minds to their human bodies. The probe instead set off a fatal neuroshock to kill the Locus soldiers and send their secrets to the grave with them. J'Onn felt like he was dying himself, and the heroes were left standing amidst piles of bodies. At least here Aquaman called for the Alien to get out of their thoughts before his own were snuffed.

Back at the Secret Sanctuary, J'Onn J'Onzz was interrogated over his stalking of the League members in their private lives. "For years, I have been stranded on a world not my own... one that has a history of being... unreceptive to those who are different. One in which my senses are dulled by the simple light of a match... my life endangered by the flare of a campfire. Alone, in hiding, my survival depended on my powers of observation... of gathering and chronicling information on the motivations of the strangers around me. Recently, buoyed by the world's acceptance of you and others like you, I went public in search of kinship... During our first encounter, I watched you exterminate an alien force you knew little about... and take pride in that... We keep one of their corpses in the trophy room. I did not want to fear you people. My instincts told me you were good and noble. But you are, after all... still human. I needed to know more about you to guarantee my own safety. Foregoing an invasive mindprobe, I instead followed you with my enhanced senses... tracked you using an array of identities. I have no one to rely upon but myself. I did what I had to... to survive."

The team began to squabble amongst themselves again, and Black Canary despaired that they really didn't know each other at all. After a pause, Barry Allen chose to unmask and introduce his true self. Dinah Lance, Hal Jordan, Arthur Curry, and John Jones followed suit. The tension was broken, and trust was rebuilt. However, the super-heroes reasserted when a bloodied and battered Snapper Carr stumbled upon them. He revealed that Uncle Simon was the eighth Appellaxian, and had tried to kill him. Then a NORAD alert sounded, and the team rushed onto the beach to see a sky full of invading alien spacecraft...

"Heaven and Earth" was by storytellers Mark Waid / Brian Augustyn / Barry Kitson with inkers Michael Bair & Mark Propst. The quality of embellishment was more varied this issue, but the art made excellent use of small figures in wide spaces to minimize the power and presence of the Justice League. Where there had been a lot of forced O'Neill/Englehart conflict amongst the heroes, their recovery process offers a lot of fun moments to showcase super friendships. These people should like and support one another, or to put it in my preferred terms, they should be DC instead of Marvel. This story also features one of the all time great J'Onn J'Onzz speeches, explaining his character and how he relates to the heroic community.

Monday, June 28, 2021

JLA: Year One #9 (September, 1998)

Snapper Carr called the Flash back to base after days of it's being empty. "...morale's a little low. I can't believe J'Onn betrayed us like he did... Canary's cynical as it is, and Aquaman... I keep expecting him to swim off in disgust. He's just waiting for the rest of us to turn on him now." Snapper jabbed that he hoped they could set aside their paranoia long enough to save the world from three simultaneous globe-threatening climate disturbances, and everyone appeared to respond to the distress signal except J'Onn. Possibly not having seen each other since the confrontation, Flash asked about Green Lantern's pursuit of J'Onn. "I've searched high and low. Nothing." In truth, the Manhunter was present, invisibly undetected, and left for a third location after the rest paired up for separate priority targets.

The Flash was uncomfortable with his physical proximity to Black Canary while running to the Arctic, and she was put all the way off when he let slip that he had less a girlfriend and more a fiancé. Both had trouble sleeping at night knowing J'Onn was out there with all their secrets, presumably telling them to Locus. The pair still succeeded in bypassing a flaming giant Locus proxy body agent to destroy the machine that was melting the polar icecaps.

At the Mariana Trench, Aquman asked why Green Lantern was always giving orders, then belly-laughed at his answer. "You're not the leader. Flash is the leader! ... J'Onn, Canary, and I talked about this weeks ago. It's obvious to us!" The revelation poked leaks in Lantern's energy construct bubble, which would be much needed against a giant Locus agent sea monster. The heroes tricked it into destroying the second atmosphere-altering machine.

Locus agents collapsed Vandal Savage's base on top of him, but he survived by hiding in a sarcophagus, plotting revenge.

The eighth Appellaxian had failed to launch, but was found and freed by Locus, who eventually inserted it into the human body of Simon Carr. After four months of nightmares and a loss of control, Simon finally confided in Snapper, who tried to alert the Justice League. Instead, he had his face smashed through a computer monitor by Uncle Simon.

The machine in California's Redwood Forest was the lowest priority, so the pairs of heroes reconvened there, only to find J'Onn J'Onzz working the device. Green Lantern thought that cleared up any lingering doubts, assuming the Alien Atlas was guarding it, missing entirely the downed Locus proxy body off to the side. The Flash councilled against acting too rashly. "J'Onn's always been full of secrets. Suppose he neglected to tell us about his 'deathvision' or something. We only know one way to take him down for certain... and that's to take advantage of his one weakness." While Flash ran a ring of fire on the ground around J'Onn, Green Lantern punched him with a giant energy fist. J'Onn pleaded with them to extinguish the fire, but Aquaman popped him one while declaring "Not a chance, traitor!" Then the enormous explosion happened. "I tried... to tell you... to keep the fire away. The machine... I was attempting to shut it down safely. It was pumping... methane-based gases into the atmosphere! Not only are they deadly to human life... they're flammable!" Never mind that they knew about J'Onn's weakness because he told them, but hey, only you can start forest fires!

"Change the World" was by storytellers Mark Waid / Brian Augustyn / Barry Kitson with inker Michael Bair. In 1997, Grant Morrison gave an interview to Wizard Magazine for a special edition devoted to JLA, featuring sections with his thoughts on each member. "When I talk with other writers about JLA, a lot of them tell me they don't like the Martian Manhunter, and think that if there was going to be a story where someone betrays the JLA, then he's the guy who would do it. I see him much differently. If someone was to betray the JLA, he's the last person who would do it." Wizard stated his rationale was that Manhunter was the most stalwart member, in good times and bad, specifically referencing the Post-Crisis contrivance that he'd been a member of every incarnation. Obviously that wasn't true of the actual publishing history, and cue a slew of writers having Manhunter either betray or quit the team in some fashion. Ultimately though, Morrison was right, because fans roundly rejected or ignored these hot takes and pestered DC to get J'Onn back on the team. Anyway, I feel like Waid also agreed with Morrison, and did his best to explore that angle in a "safe" environment to abort any of those other nefarious writers' plans. The Manhunter isn't entirely in the right during this maxi-series, but the League is very in the wrong with regard to their treatment of our boy.

1990s, Aquaman, Black Canary, Flash, Green Lantern, Justice League of America, Martian Manhunter, Retcons, Vandal Savage

Thursday, June 24, 2021

JLA: Year One #8 (August, 1998)

Locus' plans were near fruition, thanks to the purple gengineered host bodies derived from Appellaxian DNA. Robert Anderson's last day as a fully human member was defined by distraction and detachment, even from Locus itself. After years of knowing Mr. Genuardi at the neighborhood store, Anderson refused to remember his name, even as he inquired as to the health of Anderson's brother. A dinner invite from a sunny married couple in his building was refused. Robert took his girlfriend Linda out to dinner for a one-sided tearful break-up, as he emotionlessly asserted "I just don't see a future for us" while imagining the smoldering corpses of everyone in the restaurant. At Rolling Hills Mental Hospital, "Bobby" saw his intellectually disabled brother "Stevie" for the last time, as he again blames himself for the Frankenstein-style accidental drowning of their sister, Janie.

Back at the sanctuary, Green Lantern angrily threw Superman's chair into space, ignored Black Canary's personal inquiries, and became a unappeasable martinet with his teammates and associates. While most of the League focused on Superman's lame "My time is not my own" excuse, Aquaman rightly noted that the more interesting comment was the Man of Steel's having fought another Appellaxian during their invasion. If the League missed that one, who's to say if there weren't others? Snapper Carr hacked into a bunch of government databases on satellites, and sure enough, he counted eight meteors on the day the League was born.

After a snarky comment while searching Star City Harbor for signs of the meteor, Green Lantern was called out for being a jerk by Green Arrow, as well as by Aquaman. Flash explained the Superman scenario, and apologized for rubbing any salt in the wound of Arrow not having been asked to join. The Emerald Archer displayed maturity over Lantern, chiding "What a baby. He's got to learn to take the blows..." Meanwhile, a Martian alternative to capacitors was offered to Snapper Carr for the headquarters, and he made the cringe joke "Mighty human of you" before immediately expressing regret to the Green Dude. "Think nothing of it, Snapper. It is a compliment... in a way. Over these past few weeks, I have learned a great deal about being... human." After, Uncle Simon was sweaty and acting weird, asking Snapper to keep an eye on J'Onn J'Onzz specifically, to see that he didn't do any unwanted snooping. Elsewhere, the brief turn of the Blackhawks acting as costumed super-heroes ended with them shedding their ridiculous short-lived affectation. Also, Barry Allen and Iris West were having relationship troubles over his growing affection for Black Canary and secret double life.

While crawling through ducts to set up more requested surveillance cameras, Snapper accidentally looked in on J'Onn's private quarters. Alarmed by what he saw, Snapper began filming. He immediately showed the footage to the human members of the League, declaring J'Onn a spy. The Manhunter was recorded shapeshifting between various identities, including Mike the cop, Detective Paris Jackson, F.A.A. investigator Lora Denton, and Coast Guard Officer Perez. The League smashed through the wall of J'Onn's private quarters demanding answers, only to discover detailed files on Earth's metahumans like the Atom, the Metal Men, Metamorpho, and the Spectre. Black Canary finally realized that J'Onn had once called her by her real name in battle, only heightening her feelings of violation. Aquaman felt that it was an obvious mistake to have taken Manhunter at his word, and wondered if the deception was so deep as to cover for his being the missing Appellaxian. J'Onn asked for trust, but in a new reason for calling him Snapper, "NO! Why should we? Why should we believe anything you say?" Manhunter started to fly off, but was caged by an energy construct, Lantern declaring "Forget it, alien! You're not going anywhere!" A little weird that the Alien Atlas used invisibility and presumably malleability but not intangibility, blasting through the roof to escape the base. Lantern gave chase, while J'Onn's only (barely) defender The Flash smashed his globe of Mars. Rude.

Mr. Anderson was not another identity of J'Onn J'Onzz, in case you were wondering. He finally committed to reengaging with his life, and tried to warn the Justice League about the Locus plot. While attempting to make his way into their base, he was discovered and shot dead by Simon Carr, who branded him a traitor to Locus.

"Loose Ends" was by storytellers Mark Waid / Brian Augustyn / Barry Kitson with inker Michael Bair. More than half the series has been noodling and character work, so this issue was almost jarring in its use of a one-off POV side character and throttling acceleration of the plot. Not so much a slow burn ratcheting tension and more the sudden panic of realizing the big test is coming up and you need to start cramming. Everything was in place already, but the contrivance of it all hitting at once with peak histrionics was an artificial turn following seven relatively languid issues. The writers did such a great job of indicating Hal Jordan's toxicity in a story clearly informed by his fall from grace a few years earlier that I still can't accept his redemption arc under Geoff Johns. It was just too clearly another example of white guys always getting another chance, even with the blood of an entire corps and parallel universes on his hands. Your mileage may vary on J'Onn J'Onzz being the first non-white member of the League, but the othering portrayal here leans hard into that aspect. Jordan especially said "alien" with a hard "r," and while J'Onn's trespasses were grievous, the reaction went full Karen.

1990s, Aquaman, Black Canary, Flash, Green Lantern, Justice League of America, Martian Manhunter, Retcons, Superman,

Friday, June 18, 2021

JLA: Year One #7 (July, 1998)

The Gotham City Executive Club could barely tolerate the rest of the Justice League's attire, but J'Onn J'Onzz's mankini was entirely unacceptable. Shapeshifting into what probably seemed like Tony Stark in a tuxedo, but what true fans would catch as a callback to Marco Xavier, the Martian was finally allowed passage. Once inside, Green Lantern led the team in an inquisition of Simon Carr, as it was suddenly untenable to have a mysterious benefactor giving them likely billions of dollars in support with no questions asked. "For all we know, Vandal Savage could be holding the purse strings!" Weirdly gendered phrasing from Black Canary. During this rather unnecessary public spectacle, Maxwell Lord tried to bet Bruce Wayne over who could "nail" Canary first (not-so-oddly gendered phrasing,) but Wayne was all *who are you* and *this is boring* about it. Both Wayne and Lord had no patience for the more prejudiced club members treating the League as riffraff, with Lord expressing a keen interest in turning them into his personal army. Foreshadowing, both intended and unforeseen. Speaking of, the Marco Xavier form was abandoned by page 3 for effect when The Sleuth from Outer Space affirmed that Carr was telling the truth because "I read his mind." I believe J'Onn rightly asserted on the "ride home" that he'd previously disclosed this ability, but the team had a delayed freakout over the implications. "I'm sure J'Onn wouldn't invade our private thoughts... right, J'Onn?"

In her personal time, Dinah Lance hashed out her beef with mom over coffee with friendly Officer Mike. Cut to the various new supporting cast members who've inserted themselves into the League's civilian lives to gather data and build intelligence files. The dossiers were hidden behind a holographic wall, and there was some questioning the ethics of manipulating the team members, assuaged by having "much at stake". Locus saw value in such files digging up "dirt," though their leader was content to simply allow the League to be distracted by other threats as they continued their own agenda unmolested. Genegrafting their minds into superior new bodies would assure their survival in the coming holocaust. Boy, this issue is full of problematic phrasing, as even by the '90s the term "holocaust" was firmly associated specifically with the Nazi campaign of genocide, though as with "ghetto," later association doesn't negate a word's independent origins.

There's a two page spread of the Justice League's unrecorded missions, battling the Invisible Destroyer, Icicle, Gorilla Grodd, and the "phantom doom." Typically, this would be where you'd reference actual stories from the League canon to establish a time frame, but the creators chose to frustrate future wiki contributors with ahistorical matches involving villains individual Leaguers had already beaten on their own. Clark Kent was doing a story on the team for the Daily Planet, and caught sight of them battling one another while mislead by an illusion cast by Xotar the Weapons Master, one of their earliest foes. Superman's heat vision slagged whatever literally futuristic device Xotar was employing, and clear-eyed, the League turned their attention toward their true enemy. Green Lantern embarrassed the team with a ham-fisted error, but clean-up was a snap with the Man of Steel pitching in. Superman smashed a "time-porter," and Xotar was seemingly flung back to his starting point 10,000 years in the future. Still, Lantern was staring daggers at being upstaged, while the rest of the starstruck team gave Superman a tour of their headquarters (with a security system incorporating Martian technology.) At the urging of Aquaman and Canary, the Flash finally offered Superman League membership (seconded by Arthur.) In an abrupt chapter close, Superman turned them down, retroactively stripping Metamorpho and Black Lightning of their privileged status as first refusals.

"The American Way" was by storytellers Mark Waid / Brian Augustyn / Barry Kitson with inker Michael Bair. I enjoy the crisp, dark line that Bair provides, adding just the right touch of edge and mood while still maintaining Kitson's overall genteel Silver Age quality. Sekowsky drew the original stories, but he was an atypical DC artist, with his awkward, rough-hewn figures and stylized, angular backgrounds. This series feels like the Justice League being reclaimed as part of what Jacobs & Jones called DC's 1950s "Frigidaire" house style of clean, clear, antiseptic, conformist commercial art. That may seem like a knock, but after the grotesque excesses and perilous upheaval of the Chromium Age, this was a comfort to aging '90s audiences. The industry had reached its ultimate peak, fractured violently, and plunged to lows that seemed liable to terminally pulp the art form. A pleasant nostalgia piece was entirely called for in 1998, with just enough Image sheen to satisfy the fanboys.

1990s, Aquaman, Black Canary, Flash, Green Lantern, Justice League of America, Justice Society of America, Martian Manhunter, Retcons, Superman, Vandal Savage