Monday, April 26, 2021

Secret Origins #32 (November, 1988)

On the planet Appellax, whoever kills the world's leader succeeds him as the new kalar. With seven total claimants, the dispute could only be resolved through trial by combat, and impossibly destructive proposition. Instead of sacrificing 85% of their world to devastation, as occurred in the previous contest, it was decided to play out the scenario on the backwater world of Earth instead. The contestants would have their minds transplanted into various battleforms, and the last one standing would become kalar.

J'onn J'onzz flew over his city, wondering how people would react if he revealed his true Martian self, as he was tired of spending his life invisible or disguised. However, he spied stone statues littering the streets, and was discrete in checking them out. He realized these were not statues when he saw two police officers that he recognized in their midst, and heard the thudding footfalls of a stone colossus. Eyebeams from the battleform were petrifying people, so the Manhunter attempted to put a stop to it. Telepathy was particularly ineffective, as its overwhelming evil pained the Sleuth from Outer Space. The stone Appellaxian began taunting J'onzz, as the attempted probe had backfired, revealing J'onn's secrets-- including his weakness to fire! Sparks from stony fingers against a demolished gas station ignited an explosion, but J'onzz saved himself by landing on a fire hydrant. He briefly considered waiting the flames out, but recognized the continued harm the colossus would do in the meantime. Focusing totally on launching himself like a missile, the Alien Atlas flew through and exploded the proxy body of the Appellaxian. Waking up on the street, J'onn was not greeted by fear or anger, but the bemusement and incredulity of the citizens he'd saved. The mind probe had alerted Manhunter to the other invaders, and he set off to stop them before they could hatch from their cocoons.

In turn, Aquaman, Black Canary, Green Lantern Hal Jordan, and The Flash had faced their own battleforms. Likewise, each had been captured at the site of a sixth Appellaxian cocoon, turned into trees. Or as Barry Allen put it, "I feel like such a sap." The quintet were to march from Florida to Antarctica to help the wooden Appellaxian confront the remaining battleform. Luckily, Aquaman used his telepathy to break the alien's control to trigger a domino effect of super-heroes using the smallest measure of their remaining power to free parts of one another. This culminated in the entirely freed Flash turning the Appellaxian into toothpicks. The Manhunter asserted that there was no time for self-congratulation, and thought it logical to stick together, so Green Lantern used his power ring to fly everyone to the final invader.

The Martian noticed that the Lantern was the only hero entirely at ease with his presence, having seen more than his share of extra-terrestrials. The fast friends started calling each other by their first names. Up ahead in the frigid wasteland, "By Tarkas! Gentlebeings... we've been upstaged." Superman had destroyed the battleform and flew off without even noticing the approaching heroes. Dubious, given his super-senses, but we'll go with it. Despite the anticlimax, the Flash thought that it would be a great idea to stay together as a proper team. J'onn hated it, as it would necessitate going completely public. Still he was eventually convinced of the good they could do, "And it would be good to have... friends." Besides, it would be excellent P.R. for the Martian's coming out. Inspired by Black Canary's Society ties, they became the Justice League of America.

"All Together Now" was by Keith Giffen, Peter David, and Eric Shanower. I once asked David why he didn't do any more JLI-era material, since this was a swell story with an appropriate sense of humor for the time. Sadly, he was never asked, aside from a two part JLTF. The art nicely conveyed a Silver Age vibe, as well. Nearly three years after Crisis on Infinite Earths, with lots of weird and vague potential line-ups offered (such as in Secret Origins #29,) the answer to who exactly founded the group under the revised circumstances was finally decided. Taking its basic plot from the first team origin story from 1962's Justice League of America #9, Wonder Woman is swapped out for Black Canary and Batman is omitted entirely. While the World's Finest duo were late additions to the team and the tale the first time, here Superman is reduced to a cameo without interaction with the team at all. I really like the quintet model, at least for the early founding members (favoring Diana over Dinah, but still...)

Thursday, April 22, 2021

2015 Jonah Hex/Batman/Martian Manhunter pinup by Greg Moutafis


This piece is an example of a commission I created for a client.
I am currently taking commissions and if you would like more information, please view my commission info


I have an interest in all three of these characters, just like I enjoy eating kippered herring, bleu cheese, and mint ice cream... just not all at the same time, Right? Anyway, I considered doing a more substantial post earlier this week, but then today happened, so you get this.

Monday, April 19, 2021

2021 Zook Sketch Card by Fred Hembeck

I didn't post last week, despite The Irredeemable Shag sending this to me weeks ago. Hope to have something more substantial up later in the week to make it up to you.
Fred Hembeck Color Sketch Card: Zook

...This card is a fully finished, unique piece of art by cartoonist Fred Hembeck (Fantastic Four Roast, Fred Hembeck Destroys The Marvel Universe, The Nearly Complete Essential Hembeck Archives Omnibus, and the recent Marvel collection, House of Hem). It is one of a collection of sketch cards being offered by the artist.

The card is drawn on 2.5" by 3.5" smooth surface bristol paper that Strathmore produces under the "Artist Trading Cards" specialty designation. The back of the card has a hand-lettered declaration, reading "This is a genuine FRED HEMBECK SKETCH CARD!!" A "Fred Head" caricature as well as the name of the character depicted are also included on the opposite side.

The card will be slipped into a sleeve and then put in a top loader.
Please note that "1 of 1" refers to the specific illustration on each card, NOT the character depicted. Inevitably, some characters will appear on multiple cards in different poses. Each card is hand drawn, therefore unique.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Power of the Atom #5 (December, 1988)

I'm pretty confident that I covered this ground years ago, but while working on Power of the Atom Podcast #607, I got to thinking about relationships within the Justice League again. It's easy to think of the team as one big family, but the '90s hammered home that there are multiple groups within the sprawling League itself, and some folks seem to spend more time together than others.

As a side effect of Superman and Batman being held from early Justice League covers, they come off as being maybe just a little stuck up? I mean, the pair and Robin hung out on so many World's Finest Comics covers before the League was "born" that they had their preexisting clique. Obviously both the Man of Steel and the Caped Crusader would happily team-up with most anyone in the DC Comics Presents / Brave & the Bold days, but after the mission was over, they probably gave you the bum's rush. Batman has more tolerance for street level detectives like Black Canary and Green Arrow, and various retcons have had him spend quality time with Zatanna. Due to being fellow travelers in rarified cosmic circles, Superman and Green Lantern pair up more often than you might recall.

Martian Manhunter is in an interesting place because he doesn't have an especially deep connection to anyone in the classic Justice League. Like Batman and Superman, he's had enough one-off team-ups over the years to get credit for starting the practice that Batman later took over in TB&TB. That said, serving as Batman's back-up for over a decade allows him some special access, especially in the JLI years when they were basically co-leaders of the team. I mean, Captain Atom was running Justice League Europe, but it always seemed to come down to J'Onn and Batman pow-wowing with Maxwell Lord about the overall JLI. Outside of the League though, J'Onn has appeared in a ton of Superman comics, and was something of a mentor to Kal-El in the aughts. When Morrison and Porter took JLA to #1, you'd think they'd lean on the DC Trinity with Wonder Woman, but it was obvious Manhunter and Batman did most of the oversight while Superman was a contributing figurehead. Ultimately though, Manhunter's loyalties are to the lesser loved Leaguers of the '80s & '90s.

Wonder Woman gets along with everyone, but gravitates more toward Superman than anyone outside of her core supporting cast. I'd argue that she's been treated as tighter with the Man of Tomorrow than any of her fellow Wonder Women like Donna Troy, Cassie Sandsmark, Artemis, or Nubia. I'm thinking more Steve, Etta, the Kapetalises, a few key Amazons, Barbara Minerva in recent years, and her mom.

The first non-World's Finest clique begins with the Flash. Barry's one of those pivotal figures that everyone likes and wants to be friends with, and Allen is emotional available enough to be such. Elongated Man, Superman, Green Lantern, Black Canary, the Atom, and Zatanna are all close friends and romantic prospects of Barry Allen's. Part of why Barry works better than Wally West is that despite spanning two generations of heroes as a Titan, Barry's sphere of influence is still larger. It's easier to list people that Barry isn't tight with, and who within his circle are closer to each other.

Green Lantern, Green Arrow, and Black Canary are something of a typical trio where you've got two buddies and one of their girlfriends. I have zero recollection of Dinah having any kind of relationship with Carol Ferris, and I don't see her being particularly friendly with Hal, either. Speedy is in the mix as well, but that's still Ollie's family and also his best friend Hal.

The Atom can be a bit of a judgemental jerk at times, but Hawkman is defined by being aggressively unpleasant. They shared a book together, and always have team-ups on the occasions that they have solo series. Oliver Queen is also a bellicose partisan, so Carter Hall is a partner in pugnacious discourse, but Ray doesn't much mess with Green Arrow. The Mighty Mite will ride the odd arrowtip, but they're not drinking together.

Aquaman is another stand-offish one. He clearly wants to be friends with Wonder Woman and Superman, but they don't give him much ground. Martian Manhunter clearly cares about Arthur, but it's not really reciprocated. His social pool is shallow.

Zatanna is broadly well-liked with a surprisingly large network. She's also something of a guy's girl, not especially close with heroines beyond Vixen (and not even her once they quit being roommates.) Excepting her recently seeming to take over the role once held by Kendra Saunders going into the New 52, Shayera Hol remains fairly joined at the hip with her husband. I think many people prefer her, but hardly anybody will suffer through Hawkman to get to her.

Looking back, the League cliques are something of a cohort. The Satellite era members seem to be a tight pack. If they were a solar system with Superman as the sun, the rest of the system would likely play out as Barry Allen, Hal Jordan, Zatanna Zatara, Bruce Wayne, Dinah Lance/Drake, Oliver Queen, J'onn J'onzz, Diana Prince, Arthur Curry, Shayera Hol, Ralph Dibny, Katar Hol, and Ray Palmer. Firestorm and Red Tornado have the lowest Q-ratings. Ronnie was forced out of the League going into the Detroit era, and sat every other one out until Extreme Justice. His book wasn't exactly rife with guest appearances, and he was usually a youthful nuisance to the likes of Blue Devil and Captain Atom. Nobody liked John Smith much, and even in Young Justice he was like the one grown-up who would buy you beer.