Monday, March 28, 2022

Action Comics #1040 (April, 2022)

Lurking outside the first floor Middletown Apartment of J'Onn J'Onzz was Doctor Trap. I feel seen. After nearly a full page of social media baiting cat petting while explicitly referencing Marco Xavier in 1960s Silver Age stories, the trap was sprung. Double Stuff evaded the thermal that detonated when J'Onn reached for their kitty food in the cupboard. J'Onn began melting like he'd been eating The Stuff before the story started while Trapp kicked down the door declaring a "House call." In a tell that makes me think a pass wasn't made at reading the original stories, the two characters exposit Who's Who bulletpoints while Trapp's voice sounds off for the character. Hired to capture the Manhunter, Dr. Trap decided he just had to kill the former Bronze Wraith, just about the time the cat attacks him. Yes, the big fat orange cat bought J'Onn the time to recover, then was safely "caged" in his abdomen.

The point is made between punches that our boy self-identifies as the Martian Manhunter, not Bronze Wraith, Marco Xavier, or even John Jones. Besides being arch and not exactly relevant, I think the one direct punch connecting would have done Doctor Trap in. I'm glad we moved past the untrained stand-ins for classic rogues to the non-powered real deals as an escalation, but like, what exactly was he going to do with that leg trap he kept swinging? His mind can't be read because of an implant by a guy named "Hugo. Funny looking dude. Head four times too big for his body." Trapp had been sent to give J'Onn a message. "If you want this to end, find them at the place you first met." The implant was in Dr. Ttap's jaw, which J'Onn shattered, then telepathically shut him down.

The next day, Certa and Peters investigated a dilapidated mansion property bought eight months prior by the presumed deceased Marco Xavier. Apparently, Ostrander was under concussion protocols from... um... I don't know? There wasn't a car crash last issue. Anyway, they got shot in their necks with tranquilizer darts. Is this comic a 1970s' TV show? Weird installment.

"A Face in the Crowd: Part Four" was by Shawn Aldridge and Adriana Melo. I know that it's a relatively small thing, given that these are only eight page monthly installments, but I'm really glad the creative team on this strip has been consistent. I liked Melo's work on Female Furies, and her mix of quirk and menace has really defined this story for me. I'll be so disappointed and have to track her down at a con for a commission if we don't get to see her Arnold Hugo in this arc. I've timidly dipped my toe into the waters of Shawn Aldridge coverage because, put indelicately, past interviews with previous Manhunter writers have led me to the conclusion that they're a bunch of f***bois. Honeyed words, crappy intentions. I mean, Aldridge even kind of looks like the new Getaway King. But he seemed like a good guy in the podcasts I've heard him on, and he's clearly done the work here. He's not just slapping legacy names on his own creations (well... Zoey...) but clearly knows who all these characters were and could be again to our Martian Marvel.

This really is the closest we'll ever get to a Batman: Hush or a Who is Wonder Woman? where the entire rogues gallery Vile Menagerie turn up in one Batman: The Movie style romp. The Diabolu Idol-Head, Human Flame, Monty Moran, Vulture, Mr. V... I'm not arrogant and I try not to be excessively paranoid, but it definitely feels like somebody's been reading this blog. Or the reference sites that borrowed heavily from here. There's a vague semblance of payoff for all these years of largely thankless effort. But also a bit of wistfulness, as there was always that not-so-secret hope that I'd get to do something like this someday, mixed with gratitude that somebody with actual motivation and any accomplishment within the industry actually did.

Monday, March 21, 2022

2022 Justice League International 35th anniversary art by Kevin Maguire

Click To Enlarge

Now that the JLI 35th anniversary passed, I got to thinking what they might look like now and I think they MIGHT look something like this...

Monday, March 14, 2022

2018 Garden State Comic Fest sketch cover by Jason Baroody

I used to think posting links to Comic Art Fans posts was lazy and redundant, but man, a lot of stuff disappears without notice from CAF. When I'm bone dry for content, I guess there are worse crimes, like skipping weeks entirely.

Monday, March 7, 2022

35 Years Ago

I don't believe I owned or read "The Origin of the Justice League-- Minus One!" until after I started this blog, but it swiftly became one of my favorite Martian Manhunter related stories. That statement is thick with disclaimers, among them being that the Manhunter is at best a supporting player in the overall narrative, and I'm not all that enamored with the actual script. It's down to the conceit. Retroactive continuity grounded firmly in established lore, supplying an untold story of how most of the original Justice Leaguers first met, researched to the month of proposed publication, referencing exactly where the players in DC hero comics would have been at that exact moment in time. Obscure characters and continuity minutia are my kink, so a story working in the little seen original Robotman (All-Star Squadron wasn't even a twinkle in Roy's eye yet) and contextualizing where vanguard teams like the Challengers and Blackhawks would have been relative to one another? *Ecstatic shudder* It was obviously a primary influence on Darwyn Cook's The New Frontier, made rare direct nods to actual Manhunter from Mars strip elements, and grounded John Jones so firmly in one of the most fascinating periods in United States history that he was still acknowledged as a 1950s hero as canon during Zero Hour? The event series designed to euthanize surviving 1940s heroes? It's positively miraculous that this thing still has a toe-hold of relevancy, much less an actual artistic legacy.

That mid-century, postwar, paranoiac, conformist, xenophobic period is such a perfect milieu for the Sleuth from Outer Space. It's also the overlooked middle child between the roaring 20s/Depression/WWII and the revolutionary 60s/Me Decade/80s excess that it speaks to a Gen-Xer like me. Eternally, horrifically tainted creative ped(-o-)gree aside, Martian Manhunter: American Secrets remains a top contender for my actual favorite story that not only unquestionably stars the Alien Atlas, but is also about exploring the same themes as the character himself. In 1994, J'onn J'onzz was explicitly stated as arriving "35 years ago," which supported that 1977 Steve Englehart's setting for only the year Zero Hour #0 was published. I'm sure the intent was Marvel method, where Reed & Ben went from serving in World War II to Korea to... jeez, didn't they end up in the Persian Gulf at some point? And yes, J'onn J'onzz did have a bunch of '60s & '70s set stories published in the '90s & '00s, but he never felt unmoored from the 1950s. The Justice Society exited, and the Manhunter from Mars quietly, covertly entered. I big part of his appeal, certainly to myself and in my experience others, was that he was a rare super-hero "holding the line" before the likes of Clark Kent was (functionally) born, much less "The New Heroic Age" begins. Even when my fandom exploded in the late '90s, it was hard to swallow 40+ years of no one else appearing in the JSA's stead. It was even harder when I finally read "Minus One" another decade (and century) removed. Today, it's too great a logistical hurdle.

It should surprise no one that after decades of writing about the Martian Marvel, I have oodles of stories conceived for the hero swimming around my head. Every comic fan carries some fan fiction within them, whether they express it or not. A lot of mine involve continuity patches. When DC Comics bought Wildstorm, they had a fair amount of continuity set in the '40s and '60s that could have been absorbed by DC to fill those "lost decades" before Batman had his Year One. My feeling was that a lot of DC's properties really only worked for the time period in which they were conceived, so why not just leave the Sea Devils or the Metal Men in the 1960s? DC so radically altered the Charlton heroes when reintroducing them post-Crisis that there could have just as easily been a real "Watchmen" made up of their inspirations who had come and gone in times past. If I wanted to keep some vestige of "Minus One" in continuity, why not recast the Barry Allen Flash as Johnny Quick, or really lean into a want of mine, Superman replaced by Captain Comet for even more fifties team-ups?

The "why not" is pretty obvious. DC's love-hate relationship with the JSA for sure, and those historical ties to the Golden Age are often considered an albatross. All that continuity that I wanted to patch was cast aside in 2011 by Flashpoint and "The New 52." Even after Rebirth and Dark Nights debuted an all-inclusive Hypertime omniverse, there's little editorial appetite for deep dive continuity implants. With 89% of DC's current output being Batman Family titles, where would you even put one? Frankly, dear as the generational legacy aspect is to my heart, World War II was nearly a century ago. Do we really want to be conjuring up Nazis and straight patriarchal Caucasian heroic hegemony into infinity? That's rhetorical. No rando partisan gater comment bombs are being solicited here. You guys are a little too into Kylo Ren, right? "Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to."

Speaking of solicitations, for two years next month, I've devoted entirely too much time to obsessively crafting fake ad copy for a line of books in an alternate DC Universe as part of Siskoid's Who's Editing. "Why" is an excellent question. I have a number of answers of varying degrees of quality and desperate raving madness that I vaguely allude to in a companion podcast, The DK Encyclopedia Diaries: The Drunken Guide To The Characters Of The DC Universe. Hopefully I can slur out a semblance of a satisfying response before my liver gives out. But one of them is to serve as my personal island of misfit ideas, aborted concepts lost to space and time and lack of ambition... tears in the rain streaking down little seen comments. This entire post was a ploy to fill a week of blogging with a visual aid I roughly threw together of a final alternate draft for the DC You Moi "Minus One." I had Captain Marvel still active in the 1950s in my "DC Comments Challenge," while Captain Comet is otherwise engaged, so he got the Superman spot. Knight & Squire, the Fury, Max Mercury, and Neptune Perkins stand in for the rest of the proto-JLA. Rex the Wonder Dog from the original story is rendered Thor the Thunderdog here, and a non-pictured Tommy Tomorrow takes pre-GL Hal Jordan's place. Variations of this substitute League have swirled in my subconscious for at least three presidencies. It's never to be, and acknowledging it here as a pure fan fiction is cathartic for me. Thanks for indulging my eleven-hundred word blogging therapy session.