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."