Monday, March 29, 2021

Secret Origins #29 (August, 1988)

People forget that the impact of momentous events is not felt universally nor instantaneously. DC Comics' super-hero publishing from December 19, 1985 until August 31, 2011 is referred to as "Post-Crisis," theoretically a closed expanse of in-universe continuity. You would then assume that everything DC put out in 1986 would be "Post-Crisis," and if you mean "published after Crisis on Infinite Earths #12," you'd be right. But see, "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" wasn't out until June of that year. The supposed "New Adventures" of Batman began with a Legends tie-in that August. Wonder Woman was a mound of clay until her book relaunched in November. Wally West may have taken on the mantle of Flash during Crisis, but his solo book kept until March of 1987. Supposedly everyone was starting off more or less from scratch, but Green Lantern and Aquaman have arguably never had a proper reboot. Whether or not "Aquababy" is still in canon today, the Sea King picked up roughly where Brightest Day left him in 2011 as the "New 52" continuity was ushered in. Hell, DC was coy about whether the "New 52" launching after the Flashpoint event series was a line wide reboot, and in retrospect it's pretty clear that DC editorial hadn't fully committed to that as the titles were coming out.

I mention all this because my recent revival of the Power of the Atom Podcast, fueled by early April Fool's Day pranking and my guest appearance on Justice League International: Bwah-Ha-Ha Podcast, meant revisiting Secret Origins #29 for a second time in audio format. John Byrne and George Pérez had committed to full reboots of Superman and Wonder Woman that did not include their ever having been members of the Justice League of America. Batman's membership was firm, but not his foundership. Their single panel appearance in this Atom origin story includes Hawkman, who notoriously had his ground zero reboot in mid-1990, almost five full years after Crisis and including his own solo ongoing series and a slew of guest appearances. Suddenly, a character presented here as a co-founder had never even been a member. They had to create Thanagarian spies who had been members of the Post-Crisis Justice League international, who were emulating the Golden Age Hawkman Carter Hall, who years later would get retconned into an early Justice League member himself. It was quite a mess.

A few months later, a different issue of Secret Origins finally determined that the founding members were Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, and Black Canary, the latter not having joined the League until the seventy-fifth issue roughly a decade into the property's life. And technically, that was the mother of the character depicted in Secret Origins. From the very beginning, Wonder Woman was in that very first League story from 1960(ish,) part of the cover-featured quintet. It's more than a little off to see the sausage factory heptad depicted here, and presumably only here. We saw a variety of permutations of the founders before and even after Secret Origins #32, but Dinah Lance was pretty much a staple from 1988 until the New 52 (though things got fuzzy after Infinite Crisis.

Another constant? Martian Manhunter. Unlike pretty much any other hero picture, nobody cared enough to make spurious claims about J'onn J'onzz's status as a League founder. He just wasn't that popular, and his continuity didn't pose serious problems, plus his status had been romanticized by "lost" stories featuring this M.I.A. member in the 1970s. If anybody could confidently be named a founder, it was the Alien Atlas, and this morphed over years into his being the most resolute and reliable member. Yeah, in the actual publishing, he was gone from the late '60s until the mid '80s. In the Post-Crisis canon though, he became "the" Leaguer, who never left in this continuity, and that construct did as much to elevate the Martian Manhunter within the universe and outside media like cartoons and movies as anything else done with the character. Throwaway images like this helped to build the Martian Manhunter that I built this blog to serve. Just Imagine...

"The Secret Origin of the Atom" was by Roger Stern, Dwayne Turner & K.S. Wilson.

Monday, March 22, 2021

The Martian Manhunter in Zack Snyder's Justice League (2021)

So, I guess my first question would be, do the makers of modern super-hero movies all have Oedipal Complexes? I mean, I'm of the opinion that Rosemary Harris, aged 75 years in 2002, was the best cinematic Aunt May. Sure, she's sweeter and prettier than the sentient prune Steve Ditko drew, but this was still the same Hollywood that cast Arnold Schwarzenegger as the protagonist in Philip K. Dick's "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale". I thought Sally Field (65 in 2012) was too young and attractive for the role. Now we're at Marisa Tomei, barely 52 during filming, who has yet to have a picnic with Tina Fey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Patricia Arquette, and Amy Schumer. At least Hope Davis' Maria Stark was from a quarter-century flashback! But move over to the DCEU with Nicole Kidman as Aquamom and Diane Lane as Ma Kent? There's some serious kinks at play here. The age difference between Lane and her "son" Henry Cavill was the same total years of life as the teenager he was dating at 33 after Man of Steel wrapped.

Hopefully, that tangent was enough spoiler space ahead of discussing the reedited extended cut of a 2017 movie wherein the director already spoiled everything via social media and the trailer. There's a scene from Josstice League, written and directed by Joss Whedon, where Ma Kent visits Lois Lane in the Daily Planet break room to discuss mourning her dead son and her would-be daughter-in-law's doing "light duty" reporting since. In the original version, Lois had taken an extended leave of absence, and Ma visited her at the apartment she shared with her would-be fiance. Ma urges Lois to return to work, which Lane ultimately agrees with, but not before spending a final day visiting the Superman Memorial. At the end of this scene, it was revealed that Ma Kent was really a disguised Martian Manhunter. Because there's two similar scenes in twin edits of the movie, I want to head cannon one as the real Ma and the other as Manhunter, even though it is impossible within the circumstances of either film, but said hopeless attempt makes more sense than the actual Snyder scene. It accomplishes nothing for the plot, and betrays a scene some had found emotionally rewarding, all for a sad grasp at the gasp fans inhaled in an episode of Supergirl two years earlier.

Back in 2013's Man of Steel, somebody saw African American actor Harry Lennix wearing some sort of x-shaped harness, and perhaps recalling Phil Morris' gun holster on Smallville, theorized that he would be revealed as J'Onn J'Onzz. That didn't come to pass, and given that his character of General Swanwick let thousands die in the Kryptonian invasion, then agreed to nuke Superman in Dawn of Justice, I would hope that was never the plan. In a recent issue of Vanity Fair, Snyder revealed of the closing moments of the revised film that, "We shot a version of this scene with Green Lantern, but the studio really fought me and said, 'We really don't want you to do Green Lantern.' So I made a deal with them, and they let me do this..." Need I remind you of screenwriter David Goyer's take? My guess is that Snyder was well aware of the old fan theories, and exploited them. Otherwise, Goyer was trolling us, and Snyder just had terrible ideas and no continuity in deploying the 6′ 4″ Lennix as an Alien Atlas.

Setting aside that as written, the Martian Manhunter (ironically his only given name, given Goyer's insistence that it would never be used on screen) is a nonsensical coward, what are my thoughts on Snyder's take? It stinks. They gave him glowing red bobbing googly eyes that make them look like an old dashboard liquid compass with an LED light inside. Lennix's voice is fine, but there's too much of his face in J'Onn's, so that it looks more like cosplay bodypaint than an actual alien. All of the ritual scarring lines all over his body make him look like cherimoya. The iron cross cape clasps make him look like a Nazi, and the x-shape on his chest is crude and ugly, By the end of the movie, Manhunter is the third member of the Justice League in an all-black costume with a cape, which is hella drab. The whole Tars Tarkas vibe means he'd probably explode perps brains with his telepathy like in Scanners, and it's altogether inferior to what the CW have managed across six years of UHF television. Any comic design would improve upon this. I'm sorry that this happened, am thankful that it technically isn't Manhunter's cinematic debut, and wish that it never darken our screens again.

Monday, March 15, 2021

2020 New Zealand Mint 1oz Niue Justice League 60th Anniversary Martian Manhunter .999 Silver Proof Coin

This coin features a glorious green image of MARTIAN MANHUNTER alongside his logo. Additional engraving in the background, showing him in flight,completes the lively design. As a legal tender coin,the obverse features the Ian Rank-Broadley effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the year 2020-60 years exactly since the formation of the Justice League.

Key Selling Points:
Sixth release in the officially licensed JUSTICE LEAGUE 1oz Silver Coin Collection.
Celebrates the 60th anniversary of the original super hero team.
Features two images of MARTIAN MANHUNTERTM. In the forefront he is shown in colour with his logo and, in the background, engraved in flight.
Acrylic coin case allows easy access and display-arrives inside a complementary box.
Limited mintage of 1,960 for each coin reflects the year the JUSTICE LEAGUE was created.
Ideal for any collector, especially one of DC Comic memorabilia.
I got excited for a minute when I thought I'd missed a sixtieth anniversary coin for the Manhunter from Mars from six years ago. Read the fine print, and it's from last year, in celebration of the JLA's anniversary. On the one hand, DC really should do a better job of celebrating the world's greatest super-heroes as a team, given that most of us are quizzical over that Green Arrow 80th anniversary special when the dude hasn't supported an ongoing in a few years. On the other hand, J'Onn J'Onzz's entire existence continues to be bound up in the group he co-founded. Admittedly, as a solo character, he would rate neither a coin nor a special on his own, so I should be happy that he'll always be a Beatle, even if only Pete Best.