Saturday, February 28, 2009

THE MARCH OF MONGUL



We've had themed events here at the Idol-Head of Diabolu, but this will be our first theme month, so I figure I have some explaining to do. Regulars will recall during week-long events like "The Flame of Py'tar: A Blog For Despero the Destroyer," little mention may be made of this blog's true star, J'Onn J'Onzz. However, there's no way I'd ever skimp on him for such an extended period, and you'll note the Manhunter from Mars remains prominent in our current banner. March will mark a return to coverage of J'Onn's years spent in exile from Earth, usually taking place on the adoptive world Mars II. I've been promising renewed coverage of these 1970s and early '80s stories of the Manhunter's time with his nomadic fellow Martian survivors since our second year started, and now I'll finally deliver. Expect long delayed story synopsis, factoids, and entries into the Vile Menagerie. Also, regular features like "Martian Solicitations" and reviews from the Justice League International years will remain. This is still your one stop blog for all things J'Onn J'Onzz.

However, we'll also devote a good deal of space to Mongul the Merciless, and you might be wondering why. I do love Starlin villains, with Mongul being no exception, but I also have a point to make. Mongul was introduced in an issue of DC Comics Presents from 1980 teaming the Manhunter from Mars with the Man of Steel. The story made it clear that Mongul and the Martian Manhunter had a past history, as our hero had foiled our villain's previous attempts to steal a device J'Onzz had sworn to protect at all costs. In order to finally get around the Manhunter, Mongul extorted the services of Superman to defeat the Martian. In the end though, J'Onn J'Onzz won Superman his freedom, but at the cost of his precious charge. Surely, the next issue would roll Superman and Martian Manhunter into the continuing fight against Mongul, as they were joined by other heroes? In the tradition of Marvel Team-Up & Two-In-One, the number of heroes would swell until finally gaining enough strength to defeat Mongul?

No. Martian Manhunter inexplicably vanishes from the story, while Superman runs to grab his cousin Supergirl for help. Their combined might negates the immediate threat of Mongul, but Superman still has to deal with the Spectre to save Supergirl in a third issue. In each issue, Martian Manhunter even gets pictured in flashback, just to torment me. What should have been a truly formidable ongoing Manhunter foe instead became the unofficial villain of DC Comics Presents. Superman would team with the Legion of Super-Heroes and the Steve Ditko version of Starman in two later encounters spanning 1981-82, but no Manhunter was in sight. In fact, for the most part, Martian Manhunter and Mongul haven't crossed paths since.

What's worse is that these strong appearances culminated in "For The Man Who Has Everything," the most famous Mongul story, and among the greatest Superman comics ever published. Superman, a character much in need of a proper rogues gallery, has a potential A-lister presented to him by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Instead, Mongul is forgotten for several years, then "reimagined" Post-Crisis as a weakling who gets passed around to any super-hero who wants to fight him for an issue. Mongul went from beating Superman and the Legion combined (plus Supergirl, Green Lantern, Black Canary & Red Tornado) to a throwaway bad guy on a given month of The Flash.

My point here is to showcase the great Pre-Crisis conception of Mongul, and his important role in offering details as to what the Martian Manhunter was getting up in his years outside the spotlight. We'll analyze what was, discuss what is, ponder what could have been, and even gaze into the future. You see, Peter Tomasi edited the Martian Manhunter ongoing series, and wrote several stories about him, including the comic that sent him to the afterlife. Tomasi also wrote the origin of the Post-Crisis Mongul, and has used him on an almost monthly basis recently in Green Lantern Corps. Now, Mongul is part of the Sinestro Corps, while Martian Manhunter will become a Black Lantern in a rival Corps. Are we finally due a rematch?

Friday, February 27, 2009

1996 Bloodwynd Pin-Up



With this uncredited illustration from Martian Manhunter Special #1 we say goodbye to the sorcerous Bloodwynd for another month. We got derailed in January after a natural stopping point anyway, and I'm afraid all the space for non-Martian Manhunter specific story synopsis will be taken up by another entity in March. Yes folks, that ominous shift in this blog's template speaks to dark times ahead...

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Commander Benson's Martian Index



Longtime readers will recall that I ran a fan site for a couple or three years (1999-2002, roughly) called "Martian Manhunter: The Rock of the JLA." At that time, I was largely ignorant of the character's Pre-Crisis history, and was schooled on message boards by U.S. Navy Commander Adam Benson, who posted from his ship under the handle "Commander Steel." I collected his posts into a series of articles that ran on that site, and which I repackaged for this blog late last year. In the space between, Commander Benson retired, and began writing a column for Captain Comics and the Legion of Superfluous Heroes. He's repeatedly and at length discussed our favorite Martian there, with his latest spotlight article having posted just today. It seems to me the perfect time to direct folks to the Commander's most excellent works, both here and at Commander Benson's Deck Log.

  • “But I Always Thought . . . ”: the Manhunter from Mars
    The Commander's latest effort concerns mythbusting...
  • Myth 1: J’onn J’onzz was Could Not Return to Mars Because He Was Unable to Operate Doctor Erdel’s Robot Brain.
  • Myth 2: The Martian Manhunter/Detective John Jones Operated Out of Middleton, Colorado.
  • Myth 3: Invisibility Does Not Prevent J’onn J’onzz from Using His Other Super-Powers.
  • Myth 4: Writer Gardner Fox Never Depicted the Manhunter Using His Non-Superman-Like Powers in JLA Stories.
  • Myth 5: J’onn J’onzz Spent the Last Two Years of His Silver-Age Career Fighting the Criminal Organisation Known as “V.U.L.T.U.R.E.”
  • Mars or Bust!
    In this article, Commander Benson discusses how Martian Manhunter was once strictly an also-ran to most fans, and how his editor rarely checked the facts in his solo stories. Most importantly, the question is asked as to why J'onn J'onzz didn't return home to Mars once he met the space-faring heroes of the Justice League of America.
  • “But I Always Thought . . . .”: the Justice League of America
    Commander Benson puts to rest misconceptions about Silver Age JLA stories. This includes where the Secret Sanctuary did NOT rest, why Martian Manhunter stopped appearing in the series, and why he was NOT the heart of the team.
  • Death in the Silver Age: John Jones, Detective, R. I. P.
    Commander Benson takes a hard look at the brief life of the Detective John Jones identity, which many forget only ran from 1955-1964, ending in his presumed death. Also, the first appearance of the Diabolu Idol-Head is detailed.
  • Commander Benson's Notebook: Introduction
    More on how I met the Commander, and how he made J'onn J'onzz's acquaintance back in the 1950s. "Manhunter From Mars'" supporting cast comes up, specifically Policewoman Diane Meade.
  • Commander Benson's Notebook: Notable Stories
    Topics include J'onn J'onzz's original and developing power set, as well as highlights from his Silver Age solo appearances.
  • Commander Benson's Notebook: Mysterious Disappearance
    The question is asked: Exactly where was the Martian Manhunter when he wasn't appearing in Justice League of America between issue #29-65? Who joined him in absenteeism? Why was he M.I.A.? Finally, a recap of the Manhunter's send-off appearance in JLofA #71.
  • Commander Benson's Notebook: Rogue's Gallery
    Professor Arnold Hugo and Mr. V (a.k.a. Faceless) are discussed.
  • Commander Benson's Notebook: "...By Any Other Name..."
    Who put the capitol "O" in J'Onn J'Onzz, and why they were wrong to do so!
  • Do You Know The Way To Middletown?
  • Where I try to deduce where Detective John Jones called home, with a lengthy discussion in the comments afterward between the Commander and myself. The short answer: New England.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Who's Who in the DC Universe Update 1993 #2 Bloodwynd Profile (1/93)

CLICK TO ENLARGE

As I mentioned in my very late/next day Sunday posting of the 1993 Skybox DC Cosmic Teams Cards #43: Bloodwynd, I feel bad about unintentionally suspending Bloodwynd appearances during Black History Month. The card was meant to salve the wound, and I hope this goes one better. Featuring text by Mark Waid and art by Dan Jurgens and Rick Burchett, this Bloodwynd profile page can be enlarged, front and back, with the click of a mouse. That's a good thing, as the Loose-Leaf Edition of Who's Who sold far less than its predecessor, and this Update is downright scarce. I'd estimate there were only about 13,000 printed, many of which having been ripped apart and kept in 3-ring binders (like mine!) Who knew Bloodwynd had his own logo, even if the font is fairly generic? The information here is sparse, as is common with all things Bloodwynd, but I promise coverage will continue, including an inevitable biography! Lord knows confusion still surrounds the character, but I shall endeavor to make sense of it all! Do note that this is the second extraordinarily powerful African-American super-hero I've profiled in as many days to have vanished from DC Comics for half a decade and counting...

CLICK TO ENLARGE FULL IMAGE

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Comrades of Mars: Kishana Lewis


Real Name: Kishana Lewis
Other Aliases: 'Shana
Occupation: Forest Service Fire Fighter, former soldier
Legal Status: Citizen of the United States with no known criminal record.
Place of Birth: Los Angeles, CA
Marital Status: Single
Known Relatives: Abel Carmody (ancestor, deceased;) unnamed Native American male and female ancestors (deceased)
Known Confidants: J'Onn J'Onzz
Known Allies: JLA
Major Enemies: Demons of Black Spirit Lake
Base of Operations: The U.S. Western Badlands
Group Affiliation: None known.

History:
Unbeknownst to Kishana Lewis, she was the descendant of the famed late 19th century African-American industrialist Abel Carmody and his Native American wife, herself the granddaughter of a shaman. Lewis was born in Los Angeles, far from the secluded Black Spirit Lake, where her ancestors fought to prevent an other-dimensional horror from escaping into our world. After their deaths, the Carmodys left behind an elaborate fortress. Dubbed "Carmody’s Folly," it came into the possession of an unnamed corporation, who maintained it to the present. In the meantime, Lewis served two tours in the U.S. Army and joined the Forest Service as a firefighter.

Lewis and three fellow Forest Service fire fighters were called out to the Spirit Lake Resort by manager William Hume as a preventative measure. Hume had expected a larger group, and remained insistent no flame should appear anywhere near the sprawling resort. Smoke-jumper crew boss Lewis cradled Hume's cheek in her palm, explaining the bad fire year had stretched local resources, but her men could handle the matter.

Within the forest, Lewis' three fellows were possessed by the ancient evil her ancestors had once contained. A subsequent confrontation caused powers Lewis had inherited to unconsciously manifest, igniting a patch of woods, and immolating the other smoke-jumpers. Kishana Lewis initially went into shock, before being met by the super-heroes the Flash and Green Lantern. Lewis attempted to warn the heroes about the immediate danger still posed by the monsters as they spirited her to safety, but the Leaguers were still surprised when the possessed smoke-jumpers rose up to continue their attacks. When the trio of former firefighters seemed poised to overwhelm the super-heroes, Lewis caused them to spontaneously combust, again without fully understanding her role in the action.

The Justice League of America arrived to take Kishana Lewis back to the resort for care, followed by questioning from the detective John Jones. Lewis was able to see through the disguise of the Manhunter from Mars, whom she allowed to enter her mind telepathically to read her memories. There, the Martian Manhunter found a flaming avatar of Lewis, seeming to possesses the knowledge of her ancestral birthright and duties the conscious mind of Kishana did not. This spirit form created a firewall against the horror, to temporarily protect the resort.

Later, J'Onn J'Onzz returned to the bedside and mental plane of Kishana Lewis. This time, Lewis was aware of what was happening, as she saw ancestral memories imprinted in her genome from 1877. It was here J'Onzz recognized Lewis' heritage, and she first began to feel her connection to the shaman. However, the contact was prematurely cut off by an assault on Carmody's Folly, which Lewis helped fend off with an assault rifle. Wonder Woman, who had been infected by part of the horror's influence, acknowledged the attack targeted Lewis, whose heritage the monsters hated and feared.

While Kishana Lewis hid in the catacombs under the fortress, the JLA desperately held back another offensive. When the Martian Manhunter was wounded by the monsters, his telepathic call to Lewis saw her arrive with a shotgun blasting. Lewis saved both J'Onzz and the Batman, before returning to safety to treat the Manhunter's wounds. As they turned septic, J'Onzz began to turn monstrous, and drew Lewis into his mind. The pair were attacked telepathically by a psychic ice storm, and J'Onzz remembered the same monsters had a presence on ancient Mars, where they were dubbed simply "Winter." Lewis again heard drums, both African and American Indian. She began to radiate heat on the astral plane, burning away the ice and curing J'Onn J'Onzz's infection. The pair kissed, then slept together.

Kishana Lewis and Martian Manhunter shared a dream about White Buffalo Woman and Thunderbird, strengthening Lewis' bond with and understanding of her heritage. J'Onzz professed his love for Lewis before leaving her side to defend against another monster attack. After much study, the Batman declared, "Carmody's collection references the demons of Black Spirit Lake from every Indian Nation in the Americas... back to the dawn of their history. And also a guardian-- a hero to stand against these forces of absolute darkness. The powers of the gods bonded to the soul and spirit of man... What we need is a way to unlock those abilities... transfer them from the astral plane to our reality."

Lewis, Batman and Plastic Man left Carmody's Folly and headed for Black Spirit Lake. Wonder Woman, now completely in the grip of monstrosity, fought a winning battle against the Dark Knight. Hiding in the woods from the evolving and increasingly large monsters, Lewis broke down, and was comforted by Plastic Man. "Manhunter believes in you, the Batman believes in you. 'Shana, Superman believes in you! They don't make that kind'a commitment easy, and they sure don't do it for show! Least you can do in return is believe in yourself!" Carrying on, the pair came upon an injured ivory elk. "The White Buffalo is a spirit totem. It imparts wisdom. The Great Elk is a warrior totem. It imparts the strength to use that wisdom. We'll make way better time with a ride!"

The elk carried the duo until it was speared by Wonder Woman and turned evil. Kishana Lewis' powers grew as she neared a tower in the middle of Black Spirit Lake, allowing her to fight off the possessed amazon. However, Plastic Man was defeated, and his malleable body used as a weapon against Lewis. The lynched Lewis held tight, despite Dark Diana seeing her as a flawed vessel for the hope of the world against her kind. However, inborn knowledge was manifesting, as was Lewis' strength, and especially her personal courage to wield both. The Martian Manhunter arrived, and Kishana compelled him to fire laser vision into her own eyes. This ignited heat emanation from Lewis than eclipsed that of the sun itself. The lake evaporated, the forest reduced to ash, and the monsters less than that. All infected persons present were healed, as were their injuries.

Kishana Lewis wished to continue her burgeoning romance with the Martian Manhunter, but her new powers made physical contact with J'Onzz impossible. Also, is appeared the demonic agent William Hume escaped the conflagration. Believing there were both more agents and gates to address, Lewis accepted that her war had just begun.

Height: Well Above Average (5'10"+)
Build: Athletic
Eyes: Brown
Hair: Brown
Strength Level: Superhuman. Punched a demonically-possessed Wonder Woman through several large trees.
Skills: Military and Fire Fighter training and experience.
Superhuman Powers: Kishana Lewis is possessed of inborn shamanistic knowledge and supernatural power, the full extent of which is unknown. Described at times as being "the Flames of Creation," Kishana Lewis can generate heat of such primal intensity as to eclipse that of a sun. Its radiance can be seen "across the cosmos, far into the future-- when the pulse reaches other inhabited worlds-- astronomers will mistake it for the birth of a star, if not a whole galaxy." Lewis is "an avatar of fire, channeling the molten heart of not only the Earth, but our sun as well." Lewis' very touch is anathema to the demons she is compelled to fight, and she can force spontaneous combustion in living things from a distance. Lewis has superhuman strength, and can absorb at least some types of energy directed at her person. Lewis has an astral form that aids her in navigating the psychic plane and address her unexplored mystical knowledge. Lewis has extrasensory perception, allowing her to see inside the spirits of others to uncover illusions, discover their personal history and detect corruptions. "The patterns of... life… are as clear to me as a trail of fire." Lewis can heal at least some disorders, especially those caused by the scary monsters. She is also capable of unaided flight.

Source of Powers: Shamanic heritage
Special Weaponry: Proficient in the use of most firearms.
Personality: Courageous and conscientious, though mildly sarcastic. Very accepting of differences in others.
First Appearance: JLA: Scary Monsters #1 (May, 2003)
Origin: Scary Monsters #5 (September, 2003)
Publisher: DC Comics
Status: Copyrighted.
Quote: "Gerry has a wife... and a baby he'll never see. Rudy's a painter. Simeon could dance. Ohhh how he danced. They deserved so much better."
Created by: Chris Claremont and Joshua Hood.

See Also:
JLA: SCARY MONSTERS #1, #2, #3 #4, #5, #6

Monday, February 23, 2009

World's Finest: Our World's At War #1 (2001)

Art by Doug Mahnke (top) and Jae Lee (bottom)

Superman attempted to press Batman into attending an upcoming ceremony. The Dark Knight was more concerned about the fate of Robin, lost in space with Young Justice, and refused. Wonder Woman came calling, and drug Superman off. "Kal. Bruce. Everyone mourns in their own way. The least we can do is respect that in each other." Batman later learned Robin had returned safely, because it’s all about the Bat-Family with that guy.

North Atlantis. Approximate former location of Atlantis. Dawn. Superman followed the Amazon there, where Atlantis had been transported to another dimension by Tempest to protect it from Imperiex's power. The ocean waters on either side of where Atlantis had set were held back as if by Charlton "Moses" Heston himself. The Leaguers set up a tall holographic representation of Aquaman, to serve as a beacon of warning for wayward seafarers approaching the chasm.

J’Onn J’Onzz seemed to smile proudly while looking up at this towering monument to his fallen friend. Manhunter noted, "Officially, Aquaman's status is M.I.A.," as the Leaguers spoke about Arthur as if he were one of the dead. For instance, Superman prepared the eulogy, "His sacrifice in the battle with Imperiex was so like him. It was always Atlantis first, himself second. The oceans. Sea life. They were... are his to protect and serve. A friend. A king. A hero."

Perhaps I'm speaking ill, but reading that, I wonder if Superman knew Aquaman at all. I love the character, but he’s never seemed comfortable in any role save wandering Samaritan.

Anyway, Diana returned to Manhunter's more hopeful mindset with, "What a remarkable man... made only more so by his ability to downplay how truly remarkable he is. Having been a princess, I am proud to call him king. And as a woman... I... I'll let him know what I think when I see him again."

The Titans also mourned Aquaman, but at the lighthouse home of his namesake, mostly because Phil Jimenez had to work Donna Troy in there somewhere.

Hippolyta's funeral was mentioned, but not shown. Instead, we saw Jay Garrick, Alan Scott, and Ted Grant reminiscing before Superman, Diana, and Sand called them away from the JSA meeting table.

Next, Kal-El and Diana checked in on Maxima's former armies, now commanded by (ugh) Mongal, who proved to be inhospitable. The pair also visited a monument to the (unmissed) Strange Visitor, a vigil attended only by her former boyfriend, who was no more pleasant to meet than Mongal. Made to feel guilty, Superman asked, "Are we supposed to be responsible for the world's pain? Where's the hope, Diana? Where's that little piece of good news that inspires us to continue on?"

Alternately, Clark Kent and Superman attended the funeral of Major Samuel Lane, along with Lois Lane and President Lex Luthor. The story ended with Superman and Lois at his parents' demolished Kansas home, themselves still missing and presumed dead. In tears, Supes asked, "We won the war, Lois, right...?" Shortly after, both of Clark's parents were revealed to be alive, because they were neither super-heroines nor little regarded supporting cast members.

It's ironic that a book titled "World's Finest," best known as a spotlight for Superman and the Dynamic Duo, had more for the JLA to say and do than in their own special. Jeph Loeb's script wasn't quite as horrible here, possibly thanks to the relief of it all being over, and an all-star art team. Mike Wieringo, Doug Mahnke, Phil Jimenez, Mark Buckingham, Bill Sienkiewicz, Yvel Guichet, Pascual Ferry, Todd Nauck, Duncan Rouleau, and Ed McGuinness all contributed.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

1993 Skybox DC Cosmic Teams Cards #43: Bloodwynd

Whoops! I missed posting on the 22nd, purely by accident. I've also focused so much on my Valentines and Despero coverage, I neglected Black History Month. Sure, there was that Kishana Lewis coverage, but I unintentionally suspended Bloodwynd story synopsis all month. So, here's a trading card, and the promise of more Bloodwynd this week!


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Our Worlds At War In A Nutshell (2001)


The son of Mongul appeared to train Superman for the coming of Imperiex. Mongul Jr. himself appeared to perish in the struggle that followed, but he inexplicably turned up alive years later. Topeka, Kansas was destroyed by an Imperiex probe. Super-heroes, alien refugees, and New Gods rallied against the threat.

Strange Visitor and/or Kismet sacrificed her/their “life” while merging with Superman into a virtual exploding bullet to kill Imperiex. Brainiac-13 absorbed the energy released into his own Warworld, so now everybody had to fight him. Steel helped in his Entropy Aegis forged from the armor of a downed Imperiex drone by Darkseid. Martian Manhunter aided in the telepathic transmission of a new strategy.

The Amazons of Themyscira physically threw Paradise Island at Warworld for reasons and by means too ridiculous to elaborate upon. They also attacked Brainiac-13 through the sheer power of their love channeled through Darkseid into Tempest. Again, you don’t want to know, and yes, it was all the idea of a very gay creator passionately devoted to popularizing the Amazon heroines, Tempest and, apparently, the Care Bear Stare. Yes, it is not P.C. to even hint at "gay" as a pejorative, but I'm not taking it back.

Superman dove into the heart of the sun, powered up, and pushed Warworld/Imperiex/Brainiac-13 through a portal in space/time to act as the Big Bang itself. Oh, and Lena Luthor became a baby again, and as such has barely been seen or mentioned again. Hopefully the Contassa took her back.

Further casualities would include Sam Lane (father to Lois,) Hippolyta (mother of Wonder Woman, when not in the role herself,) Maxima, Strange Visitor, Massacre, Doomsday (who was later regrown from the skeleton by Lex Luthor,) Mongul (who just turned up “better” years later,) Steel (on whom the Black Racer took pity and revived,) Lil’ Lobo (who replicated and evolved back into regular Lobo,) and a duplicate of Impulse (don’t ask.) So basically, as long as you weren’t a super-heroine or a forgettable supporting cast member, the whole mess rolled right past you. Three more women for the refrigerator, and a fourth if you count Mongal’s being murdered by the returned Mongul in her first appearance since OWAW (five years after the fact.) You really shouldn’t though, as there's neither woman nor male whose life had ever been touched by Mongal who didn’t wish on her death both brutal and swift.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Martian Sightings for April, 2009

Sorry these are so late, but I forgot to mail order my copy of Previews, and didn't buy one from a brick and mortar shop until last week.



LEVEL-GREEN CONFIRMED:
FINAL CRISIS HC
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by J.G. Jones, Carlos Pacheco, Jesus Merino, Marco Rudy, Doug Mahnke and Christian Alamy
Cover by J.G. Jones
The year’s most mind-blowing event is collected in this spectacular new hardcover featuring FINAL CRISIS #1-7! What happens when evil wins? That’s the devastating question Superman, Batman, the Justice League and every other super being in the DC Universe must face when Darkseid and his otherworldly legion of followers actually win the war between light and dark. Written by superstar creator Grant Morrison (JLA, BATMAN) with stellar art from J.G. Jones (52 covers), Carlos Pacheco (SUPERMAN) and Doug Mahnke (BLACK ADAM), this event defined the DCU and the New Gods for the 21st century and beyond!
Advance-solicited; on sale June 10 • 240 pg, FC, $24.99 US
See the Martian Manhunter murdered! Skip the funeral! Die in a fire!

THE HISTORY OF THE DC UNIVERSE NEW PRINTING TP
Written by Marv Wolfman
Art by George Pérez and Karl Kesel
Cover by Alex Ross
Don’t miss this new printing of the definitive history of the DC Universe. Featuring virtually every character in the DC Universe, this tale takes us from the dawn of creation to the end of recorded history and lays the foundation for adventures to come.
Advance-solicited; on sale May 13 • 104 pg, FC , $12.99 US
A great looking book that did a solid job of outline the Post-Crisis gestalt chronology on the new Earth. Too bad it's been added to and contradicted so often as to be an unreliable reference. I bought the original Graffiti Designs hardcover years back.

JLA DELUXE EDITION VOL. 2 HC
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Howard Porter, Gary Frank, Greg Land, Val Semeiks and others
Cover by Howard Porter & John Dell
Collecting stories from JLA #10-17, PROMETHEUS #1 and JLA/WILDCATS in Deluxe format, this volume features the Justice League facing off against Lex Luthor's newly assembled Injustice Gang while the fate of the Earth itself hangs in the balance.
Advance-solicited; on sale June 24 • 320 pg, FC, $29.99 US
Tempting, but I have most of these books in trade or original editions already, and DC doesn't deserve to cash in on me again.

SHOWCASE PRESENTS: MARTIAN MANHUNTER VOL. 2 TP
Written by Jack Miller and others
Art and cover by Joe Certa
The 1960s adventures of J’onn J’onzz are collected in this new volume featuring stories from DETECTIVE COMICS #305-326 and HOUSE OF MYSTERY #143-173!
Advance-solicited; on sale May 13 • 592 pg, B&W, $16.99 US


Must own. I'm looking forward to scanning and recoloring these stories to broadly expand the Vile Menagerie and other places. Plus, you guys can finally bask in the glories of Zook, Professor Hugo, VULTURE and... okay, there's no glory in the Diabolu Idol-Head. Those stories suck, and their inanity accounts for my co-opting them to name my blog.

Justice League Unlimited Silhouette Blue T-Shirt LG
The group take on a clandestine look on the new Justice League Unlimited: Silhouette T-Shirt. Features all you favorite animated heroes screenprinted in black & white on a denium blue 100% cotton shirt. The JLU has arrived! NOW AVAILABLE for sale in Canada and U.K.
$17.95
Release Date: April 29, 2009



MISS MARTIAN:
TEEN TITANS ANNUAL 2009 #1
Written by Sean McKeever
Art by Fernando Dagnino & Raul Fernandez
Cover by Andrew Robinson
Prelude to the “Deathtrap” crossover between the pages of TEEN TITANS, TITANS and VIGILANTE! Titans Tower has mysteriously come to life to attack the Teen Titans! But The Titans have one secret weapon their unknown assailant doesn’t know about. Will they be able to use this weapon in time to save themselves? Find out as the story continues in TITANS #12! And be sure to check out the awesome interlocking covers by Andrew Robinson spanning the entire “Deathtrap” story that create one massive image!
On sale April 1 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US

Seriously, what happened to this team? Wonder Girl is the only founding member of the current incarnation left? Bombshell? Kid Eternity? Even the love some have for Blue Beetle and I have for the new Aquagirl doesn't mean this book could stink any worse of an inevitable Titans Hunt III (4, counting Titans East's fate?)
TITANS #12
Written by Judd Winick
Art by Howard Porter
Cover by Andrew Robinson
“Deathtrap” Part 1 of 5! Completely unhinged, Jericho continues his assault upon his former teammates. As if that wasn’t enough, he also draws the Teen Titans into his twisted plot. And the Vigilante makes it his mission to stop Jericho – permanently! Continued in VIGILANTE #5!
On sale April 8 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Pretty much any Judd Winick script is a death trap, isn't it?
VIGILANTE #5
Written by Marv Wolfman
Art by Rick Leonardi & John Stanisci
Cover by Andrew Robinson
“Deathtrap” part 2 of 5! After attempting to kill Cyborg, Vigilante has been locked up by the Titans. But Vigilante knows that there is a traitor in their midst, and he will use any means necessary to bring Jericho to justice – Even if that means killing all of the Titans to do it!
On sale April 15 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

I thought Vigilante was so cool when I read his first appearances as a kid. The concept has since grown contemptible.
TEEN TITANS #70
Written by Sean McKeever
Art by Joe Bennett & Jack Jadson
Cover by Andrew Robinson
“Deathtrap” Part 3 of 5! Straight from the pages of VIGILANTE #5, the team gets roped into Jericho’s insane plot to take out both Titans teams. But how can they fight back against a menace who can possess their bodies? Continued in TITANS #13, on sale in May!
On sale April 29 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Evil Jericho? Again? Who set the Wayback Machine to 1992?

WANTED: FORMER MARTIAN MANHUNTER VILLAINS!

DESPERO WATCH:
TRINITY #44-48
Written by Kurt Busiek and Fabian Nicieza
Art by Mark Bagley & Art Thibert, Mike Norton & Ande Parks, Scott McDaniel & Andy Owens and Tom Derenick & Wayne Faucher
Covers by Shane Davis & John Dell and Jesus Merino
Earth – and all of reality – is under assault from space, magic forces, other dimensions and more! But if Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman changed forever, does it mean salvation for everybody else – or disaster? The Trinity leads DC's heroes and some surprising allies in a sprawling battle to save reality! Featuring Krona, Morgaine Le Fey, the Crime Syndicate, Despero, Enigma, the JLA and loads of other DC heroes and villains!
Issue #44 on sale April 1; issue #45 on sale April 8; issue #46 on sale April 15; issue #47 on sale April 22, issue #48 on sale April 29 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US


MONGUL WATCH:

GREEN LANTERN CORPS #35
Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Art and cover by Patrick Gleason & Rebecca Buchman
Variant cover by Rodolfo Migliari
Prelude to BLACKEST NIGHT! “Emerald Eclipse” continues as a Red Lantern escapes out of its sciencell and ignites a riot on Oa, forcing Guy, Kyle, Kilowog and Voz to try and prevent the ultimate jailbreak. Meanwhile, Sodam Yat and Arisia arrive on Daxam to stop Mongul and the Sinestro Corps. But how can they hope to stop an entire Corps? Plus: Sinestro arrives on Korugan in search of his daughter!
On sale April 15 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Thursday, February 19, 2009

JLA: Our Worlds At War (2001)


JLA: Our Worlds At War was a misleading title. In the beginning, J'Onn J'Onzz floated through space. His alien body seemed twisted so heinously as to suggest damage to even its malleable form. With a shredded cape and one eye dangling out of its socket, the Manhunter sent out a telepathic cry for "Help."

"Martian Manhunter is down. I'm afraid we let another one get by us! Don't know how long J'Onn will maintain the telepathic link. We might have to go electronic--," thought Green Lantern Kyle Rayner, as he joined the Flash and Plastic Man in combating an Imperiex drone. All three were soon out of commission.

In the distance, Wonder Woman and Aquaman battled another drone. "J'Onn. Tell the League. I'm on my way." Even with the timely arrival of Superman, the drone's "death" gravely injured Diana.

Batman chose to remain in Gotham.

That meant that with J’Onzz pretty much out before page one, Plas by seven, Flash eight, and Wonder Woman eighteen, a book with the JLA logo no longer featured anything that could be considered a League before the halfway point of the special. Green Lantern wasn’t even allowed the dignity to fall in-panel, though he would eventually recover before anyone but Wonder Woman. Further, all but three present Leaguers were out of commission by page 9, in the equivalent of five story panels.

The remaining 20 pages focused on two active teammates, Superman and Aquaman, with the fallen JLAers placed in intensive care aboard Maxima's Space Arc. Former JLIers Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, and Rocket Red were shown fighting a drone, while Guy Gardner was skewered. Seems curious that of all characters, Aquaman was left standing with Supes, although the pair actually separated immediately after losing their team.

King Arthur took on a drone before Atlantis, and the explosion that ripped from the Imperiex's torn armor caused a rift to open in the ocean. Aquaman had vanished completely, and the full circumstances of his disappearance remained a mystery for some time. There’s that elusive rationale... a seagoat needed to be led to the altar of the Crossover Sacrifice.

Jeph Loeb's writing was poor, especially his distracting inclusion of FDR's "The Pearl Harbor Speech," broken into captions running throughout the book. Thankfully, the art team of Ron Garney and Mark Morales, aided by colorists Tanya & Rich Horie, delivered an epic look to the many splashes and spreads that turned this comic into a glorified poster book.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Justice League of America Pin-Up by Jeff Lemire


Found on the Top Shelf Comics "Hey, Bartender!" blog, where Brett Warnock noted, "Jeff Lemire did these two JLA drawings just for fun. I love it so much when indy cartoonists draw super-heroes. It's as good as peanut butter and chocolate."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Action Comics #780 (9/2001)


In order to protect the world on which he reigned, Darkseid made a trip to our solar system, and brought Apokolips itself along with him. Earth's heroes quickly rallied to meet the dark lord on Earth. Manhunter was of course among them, although the swirling tentacles that appeared from out of his cape seemed a bit more like a Durlan than a Martian. Then again, penciller Kano was prone to cartoonish extravagance.

Preceding his appearance, Darkseid was involved in the kidnapping of two million citizens from the city of Metropolis, and Superman demanded to know why. Once Supes revealed that he was aware of the threat of Imperiex, Darkseid felt no more needed to be said. When Superman pressed, an energy blast shot the Man of Steel across the city's skyline. Manhunter held back a League set on retaliation, overriding a first strike command by Aquaman. "No. He's trying to goad us into conflict. Superman is unharmed. Continue to hold--"

"I'd listen to the Martian if I were you", interrupted Lex Luthor, fresh from his presidential helicopter. Luthor was well aware of Darkseid's intentions, as he planned to coordinate the League forces alongside the grim tyrant. Gesturing to Manhunter, Lex requested the JLA's services... except for Superman, who was needed to stop an attack on Berlin by forces from the former U.S.S.R. nation Pokolistan. Superman was wary of leaving Darkseid to roam, but Martian Manhunter telepathically assured him, "If it makes the decision easier... I've locked the Watchtower teleporter on his Omega Beam signature. He so much as adjusts a contact lens, and he'll be on Neptune in five hundredths of a nanosecond." Superman took the trip...

Joe Kelly continued his reintroduction of a General Zod here, and though I thought he did a fairly good job, this iteration of the concept didn't last long.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Human Flame to "Run!"



I've read most of the Martian Manhunter appearances produced since the early '6os, I run this blog, and even I don't care about the Human Flame. He appeared in one lousy story in 1959, was deservedly forgotten for nearly fifty years, and now he's got a Wikipedia page and co-credit for killing off a favorite super-hero of mine.

You know who doesn't have a Wikipedia page? Professor Arnold Hugo, who fought J'Onn J'Onzz in four of the best classic Martian Manhunter stories of all time, and got his start against Batman and Robin! You know who else doesn't have a Wikipedia page? Mr.V/Faceless, whose VULTURE criminal organization plagued J'Onn J'Onzz over eleven Silver Age episodes. I don't particularly care for MR. V either, as he was never especially effective, and the big reveal as to his true identity never made a lick of sense. Regardless, he's a more interesting Martian Manhunter villain than the Human Flame by a factor of ten. It goes without saying that Professor Arnold Hugo is better than Starbucks, right turns on a red, and the oeuvre of Lorenzo Lamas-- combined!!!

Unless Professor Arnold Hugo had a cameo on Oolong Island, he hasn't appeared in over forty years. Even if you count Mr. X from Amalgam Comics, Mr. V hasn't seen daylight in a dozen years. The Human Flame? Getting his own six issue limited series...

DiDio polled the crowd on Final Crisis (people seemed to like it), and then asked Ian Sattler about Final Crisis Aftermath. "During Final Crisis we ran those ads that said 'The Day Evil Won,'" Sattler said. "We started talking about what it meant to be a hero in the DCU, and what it meant to be villain, having survived these experiences and being in situations you couldn't punch or heat-vision your way out of," said Sattler of Final Crisis Aftermath. "I personally guarantee that there will be one moment in each issue you won't believe that we could do in the DCU."

The first book showed was Final Crisis Aftermath: Run!, with a slide of a cover featuring Human Flame. "The heroes hate him, the villains feel he sold them out to Libra," Sattler said. "His only choice is to run. This is a guy that feels the world owes him something, and he makes some terrible decisions. It tells you what life is like for an F-list villain in the DCU. It's fast-moving and a lot of people die. What else could you ask for?"


Now, Scipio of the Absorbascon has had great fun ripping on Silver Age Martian Manhunter foes, and had a brilliant run with The Story of the Human Flame, pointing out that the villain is pretty much the poster child for epic failure. I mean, he didn't even kill J'Onn. That was Libra, a '70s JLofA baddie who'd never even met J'Onn before. Why did this happen? Like Scipio, Grant Morrison owned a copy of Showcase Presents: Martian Manhunter, Vol. 1, and never bothered to research the comparatively awesome Mr. V or Prof. Hugo. I ended up hating Final Crisis, and counted many of the ways, but it may well have been worth all that hell to get a six issue Professor Hugo mini-series. Instead?

"The Human Flame will be one of the most powerful supervillains in the DCU by the time this is over."

For anyone familiar with the Human Flame, that statement by writer Matthew Sturges is hard to believe. But as writer of the upcoming six-issue mini-series Run!, which focuses on the formerly comical villain, Sturges said that not only will the Human Flame be a serious threat, but "there won't be anything funny about him anymore."


So "Run!" will be written by the man responsible for most of "Salvation Run," of which I wrote "if you were asked what was wrong with DC Comics under Dan DiDio, and you didn't have copies of Countdown handy, this trade would be an excellent alternative summation." So color me thrilled that he'll be guiding a character he rightly calls "a complete loser. I'd even go so far as to say that he is a complete douchebag" into some sort of powerhouse. For reals? Between this and that Black Lantern business, I'm now working under the assumption DC Comics exists to insult my sensibilities. I'm filled with dread when I read "And so to make him feel at home, we found a couple characters of his ilk and invented a couple others. And we're going to see what happens to him and them as they join forces for a short time." Based on how Psimon and the Brain ended up, I'm convinced a Professor Hugo memorial may be forthcoming.

Video: Newsarama's Alex Zalben talks with DC Comics' Senior Story Editor Ian Sattler about Final Crisis Aftermath.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Scary Monsters #4 (8/03)


“Superman is not invulnerable to our adversaries. That suggests their nature derives from magic. However, they appear to be extremely vulnerable to heat, making fire our most effective weapon.” The Manhunter from Mars surmised this as he helped his fellows fended off the creatures’ latest assault. “Perhaps I can use my intangibility to get past these outer limbs... to the main body of the creatures!” Or perhaps not, as unearthly talons “...gaffed him like a fish... J’Onn’s in no condition to fight,” at least in the Dark Knight’s estimation. A shotgun-wielding Kishana Lewis fought to protect them both, earning the heroes’ respect, while remaining in their eyes a liability. Though Kishana's skilled use of firearms and evasive maneuvers made her seem at least as effective as the super-heroes, she tearfully fell back to look after the wounded J’Onn, as both were led back to safety by Plastic Man. On their way out, Superman couldn't help noticing what had drawn Kishana into the fray to begin with. "Interesting that J'Onn used his telepathy to reach out to Kishana."

With study, the Dark Knight Detective concluded of the Scary Monsters, “Their native environment must be absolute zero… They come from a dimension of primal cold. But each time they appear here, they’re stronger, smarter, more resilient.” Given a respite, Superman learned from the Carmody library that knowledge of the texts would not be enough to use the occult against the creatures. “Shamanic lore requires a spiritual aptitude, much like the metagene that conveys super powers, in those who seek enlightenment. You not only have to be born to the role, you also have to earn it by undertaking a series of ordeals.” On other matters, given Superman’s assertion about the creature’s natural habitat, Batman surmised, “On their side of the ‘door’ they’re static. Here, they evolve.”

Manhunter himself was evolving, as his shape-shifting abilities merely amplified the speed at which his septic wounds allowed their poison to turn him into a monster. J’Onzz envisioned the volcano we know as the Olympus Mons. “According to legend, it was created during a great and terrible battle for the soul, not only of the Martian race, but of our very world. Against a malevolence too awful to even name. The closest word we applied to them was-- Winter.” J’Onn drew Kishana into his mind, within which the monsters attacked the pair telepathically. “My heart is racing. It sounds like… drums… The pattern… it sounds African… It sounds Indian… Just like me… My blood-- feels like it’s setting me on fire!!” Kishana began to radiate heat, vaporizing the ice in their thoughts and cauterizing the Manhunter’s wounds clean. “The patterns of his life… are as clear to me as a trail of fire. The poison in him creates patches of darkness and cold. All I have to do is reignite the flames of creation… and I can make him whole.” J’Onzz felt reborn, and apparently aroused, as he kissed Kishana passionately...

"J'Onn, I--!"
"Hush. I'm a telepath, remember..? I know."

By Chris Claremont, Joshua Hood and Sean Parsons.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Carmody’s Folly



A sprawling fortress constructed near Black Spirit Lake in the Badlands under the direction of 19th Century African-American industrialist Abel Carmody. "Carmody’s Folly" was made of stone, and built to last. “While he built his empire, his wife supervised construction of their home. She died here, alone, within days of its completion. Carmody himself never set foot over the threshold… The entire house is constructed of granite, with walls averaging a meter thick… The lodge houses one of the finest collections of Plains Indians artifacts in the nation. And a library rivaling what you’d find at most top-rank universities. All relating to the occult... This is really the most extraordinary collection. Texts of magic representing every continent, culture and era of Earth's history... Trouble is, reading isn't enough. Shamanic lore requires a spiritual aptitude, much like the metagene that conveys superpowers, in those who seek enlightenment. You not only have to be born to the role, you also have to earn it by undertaking a series of ordeals.”

Further, the house contained, “catacombs that extend into the heart of the mountain. Fresh spring water. Medical supplies and food up the wazoo. Weapons. Generators and fuel for months. And not just electricity. There are more torches than I can count. Plus wood and coal galore.” It was noted, “That was a stipulation of Abel Carmody’s will. That his house remain intact and fully stocked, in perpetuity.” The resort hosts its own medical and security staff, as well.

At present, the nearest town is fifty miles from the valley. Although a lush forest oasis surrounded by a virtual desert, Black Spirit Lake was never settled by permanent inhabitants. No fish swim in its waters, and the green is barren of life, animal nor insect. The forest regenerates itself at a fantastic rate, so that even the most grievous damage to impact it could be regrown within a month. This process would appear to be a defense against the horror, as the wood is saturated with a resin that burns with the intensity of white phosphorous. In fact, the bowl-shaped valley could act as a natural blast furnace. The only exit from the valley is through Carmody’s Folly, and the monsters showed no ability to transverse the mountains surrounding it.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Abel Carmody


Real Name: Abel Carmody
Occupation: Industrialist, former U.S. Calvary soldier
Legal Status: United States citizen with no criminal record.
Place of Birth: U.S.A.
Marital Status: Married
Known Relatives: Unnamed wife, Kishana Lewis (descendant)
Base of Operations: Carmody’s Folly, Black Spirit Lake, the Badlands
Group Affiliation: None, formerly 6th Calvary “C” Troop
Eyes: Brown
Hair: Black
Intelligence: 19th century medium.
Strength Level: Normal human strength.
Superhuman Powers: None
First Appearance & Origin: JLA: Scary Monsters #1 (May, 2003)
Publisher: DC Comics
Status: Copyright 2003 DC Comics
Created by: Chris Claremont & Josh Hood

History:
In 1877, Abel Carmody was a “Buffalo Soldier” serving under Sergeant-Major Lincoln Freeman in the 6th Calvary “C” Troop. Disgusted by the orders of Colonel Daniel Rutledge to massacre a peaceful encampment of Plains Indians, Carmody and Freeman hid an elderly medicine man and his granddaughter, “same as my Pappy did runaways in slavery time.” The old man informed the black soldiers that their commander and fellow white soldiers who rode into a nearby valley to murder “surviving hostiles” were already dead. “There will be cold, and there will be snow… and horror will come for those who ride with him, to crack their bones and feast on the marrow of their souls. And then it will come for us! You must beat it back. You must keep the horror within the confines of this valley… or the world will end.”

Shortly thereafter, in the middle of summer, the snow fell, and the monsters came. “We fired our guns ‘til the barrels blazed too hot to hold. We never saw what wuz killin’ us. The snow wuz too heavy. They moved too fast. The only thing we learned for sure… wuz that iron made them hurt.” With only two men from the company left alive after the initial assault and one left standing, the medicine man explained further, “The portal that admits the horror to our world opens only for a time. When it closes, it must return to its own place. But each time, the door opens wider, and for longer. The horror means to claim our world for its own. It must be stopped.” The shaman was too old to survive a fight of the magnitude necessary to drive out the demons, and the Calvary had killed his son and intended successor. His granddaughter had the “blood for such a battle, but not the knowledge.” Sending Carmody and his granddaughter out of the mountains, the shaman explained, “I cannot destroy the dark trail, only block it for a time. The power I summon must be renewed, else the seals will be broken someday, forever! That, child, must be your task.” Freeman and the shaman stayed to face the horror, and perished in an explosion of flames.

Abel Carmody went on to become one of the great industrialists of the 19th century, and has been claimed to be the only African-American to whom that honor can be applied. “Born a slave, he died a millionaire… From the moment he made his fortune, he started building "Carmody’s Folly," a massive fortress completed around the times of Carmody and his wife's deaths.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Comrades of Mars: Hunter Commander J'en



Alter Ego: J'en
Occupation: Hunter Commander, Former Personal Guard of the Marshal
Marital Status: Single
Known Relatives: None
Group Affiliation: Soldiers of the Red Brotherhood
Base of Operations: Mars II
First Appearance: Justice League of America #228 (July, 1984)
Height: Well above average (5'10"+, variable)
Build: Athletic (variable)
Eyes: Green (variable)
Hair: Strawberry-blond (variable)


History:
J'en was a young soldier on Mars II who was for a time the lover of governmental figure J'Onn J'Onzz. The couple drifted apart once J'en fall under the sway of the war-mongering Marshal, setting her against the Manhunter from Mars. Following years of incredible hardship on an adoptive world, the Marshal led J'en and his other Soldiers of the Red Brotherhood in a military coup.

As described by J'Onn J'Onzz, "There have always been those who dreamed of returning to Mars... I did not know how many, or how strongly they craved a return to what was no more... I looked at their faces, and I shuddered. Against such commitment, our leaders would be helpless. I looked again, and to my horror... I saw the face of the woman I loved. J'en... we shared our dreams, our fears... and I'd thought I knew her. I knew there was an anger deep inside her... I did not know how fierce an anger it was, until that moment... Within a week, the Marshal took command of the government. Those who resisted were imprisoned--or killed. I chose to flee...to warn the Earth... I barely escaped in a scout ship... and the Marshal's hunters were soon after me, J'en among them. We talked once over our communicators. We had nothing to say. We did not talk again..."

Fearing that J'Onzz's charisma might test the loyalty of any but his most trusted troops, the Marshal sent his personal guard in pursuit of the fleeing Manhunter. The Hunter Squadron was led by J'en, as they pursued J'Onzz's spaceship from a star in the constellation Cygnus across the light-years to Earth. Once J'en believed J'Onzz had met his end after taking fire over New York, the Hunter Commander returned to the Marshal's command vessel, as squadrons of Martians began an invasion of Earth.

In the face of seeming tragedy, J'en began to doubt her leader, and spied on the Marshal, along with his scheming partner Bel Juz. Upon learning J'Onzz was both alive and falsely incriminated for treason, J'en fired stun blasts at fellow soldiers and stole a scout craft to seek out her lost love. J'en found the Martian Manhunter floating unconscious in space, having been thrown clear from a destroyed vessel. J'enn revived J'Onzz, and though horrified at the thought of losing him again, drew arms against the Manhunter when he confirmed his intention to halt the invasion. J'Onzz insisted he would die by her hand for his beliefs, prompting J'en's tearful breakdown, and the laying down of her pistol.

Hunter Commander J'en stood with J'Onn J'Onzz in his final confrontation with the Marshal, noting her former leader's use of outlawed tactics during the duel. Though J'en finally saw the Marshal for his true self in defeat, she chose to return with her people to Mars II, and abandon J'Onn J'Onzz to Earth.

Powers & Weapons:
Presumably, J'en possesses all the powers and abilities of the Martian race. These include telepathy, invisibility, intangibility, flight, shape-shifting and "Martian Vision." However, J'en exhibited none of these abilities in her past appearances. Instead, she showed superior skill with her energy-based hand pistol, stunning three of her fellow soldiers before they could resist.

Weaknesses:
Hunter Commander J'en presumably suffers from the innate Martian vulnerability to open flame. The presence of flame typically causes members of the species to progressively lose all of their powers, abilities, and over extended exposure, their very lives.

Distinguishing Features: J'en appears to be a member of the same green-skinned Desert Dweller culture as J'Onn J'Onzz.

Vehicles:
Hunter Commander J'en has proven herself to be an exceptional pilot of Martian spacecraft.

Quote: "Forgive me, J'Onn-- I'll never forget the love we shared, but you have betrayed our people... and you must die."

Created by: Gerry Conway and Alan Kupperberg

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Mars Needs Women!

Like a lot of modern readers, my Martian Manhunter fandom mostly began after the changes made to the character in his first solo mini-series. After decades as a bachelor, J.M. DeMatteis transformed the Martian into a mournful widower and father. As such, I, like I'm sure many of you, always thought of J'Onn as this lonely, tragic figure... and neutered. However, that vibe must have been exactly what he needed to begin pulling birds, because J'Onn has had more romantic entanglements since losing his retcon wife than the rest of his history combined! Who are some of these special ladyfriends, you may ask, so near to Valentine's Day? Here's a selection...



  • Patrolwoman Diane Meade: When the commissioner's daughter first showed up at Detective John Jones' Middletown precinct, he was sure taken with her pretty self. Jones even took Meade on a date in an issue of Justice League of America. Things seemed to cool once Diane became a member of the force though, and while she remained a friend to both Jones and J'Onzz, romance didn't seem to be in the cards. Since the character was revived in JLA: Year One, Officer Meade has seemed even further removed from Jones, mostly just taking amusement at his odd manner.
  • Marie Fouchere: A French double agent who dated the real Marco Xavier, and perhaps the alien who assumed the role as well? More here.
  • Bel Juz: It was never quite clear just how close this treacherous Martian Jezebel got to the Manhunter, but in the end she stood revealed for the manipulator she was. You can read her full profile here.
  • J'en: The lover J'Onn J'Onzz lost to The Marshal's invasion plot against Earth. One of the rare cases where both parties wanted to be together, but were tragically parted. My biography for J'en is here.
  • Vixen: After all those years in exile, J'Onn J'Onzz was greeted back to Earth with the amorous advances of supermodel Mari McCabe. It seems jungle fever hadn't yet set for the Manhunter, or perhaps he noticed Vixen tended to flirt with every non-villainous male within a ten-yard radius. They even had her retroactively fall for Steel, the Indestructable Man in an issue of JLA: Classified. In the end, Manhunter's animal-powered teammate from the Detroit League settled for a depressing sort of friendship, fueled by survivor's guilt.
  • M'yri'ah: Over thirty years after his first appearance, J'Onn J'Onzz learned everything he thought he knew was a lie, and that he was actually a widowed husband and father with an unpronouncible name. Since all retcons inevitably get retconned, his lost bride M'yri'ah was finally named a decade later. The great love of J'Onn's life died with their daughter in a fire caused by plague.
  • Her-Who-Must-Be-Served: Another unreciprocated love for the Manhunter from Mars, as this green-skinned hermaphrodite from an amazonian race wished only to turn a disguised-as-female J'Onn into his/her bride! Her story begins here.
  • Claire Jeffers: "I was responding to a woman-- in a way I never had before-- but a man would be crazy not to..." Claire was the scheming wife of a small time mayor covering for the murder of an alien mother and child by very effectively seducing J'Onn in his Martin Smith persona. Needless to say, things didn't progress far. Her story can be found in JLA Annual #1.
  • Princess Cha'rissa: The White Saturnian intended bride of Jemm, to whom she owed duty, but whose lust was all for J'Onn J'Onzz. Sure, it was perhaps less-than-heroic for the Manhunter to have an adulterous fling, but she was totally asking for it.
  • Kishana Lewis: A firefighter who fast became J'Onn's bedmate, until unearthed demons unleashed flame powers in Lewis, forcing the couple apart. Kishana co-starred in JLA: SCARY MONSTERS Prologue, #1-2, #3 #4-5, #6.
  • Scorch: Slightly demented, southern fried trailer trash with flame powers who sought to help the Martian Manhunter overcome his greatest weakness. The two actually became a couple, until Scorch accidentally unleashed a racial evil that lived within J'Onzz, and fell into a coma while struggling to put the genie back in its bottle. Say, that sounded really familiar!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Superman: Our Worlds At War Secret Files & Origins #1 (8/01)


As part of the Superman Family’s never-ending battle to prove that the Man of Tomorrow is the most powerful and important being in creation this side of God Almighty, the Last Son of Krypton faced not just a transparent Galactus analogue, but an army of them. Instead of devouring one world at a time though, the forces of Imperiex made a years-long push to spread destruction and ultimate entropy through the universe. That’s really all the set-up you need for our comparatively brief review of Our Worlds At War, considering the 500+ page trade paperback blew off collecting numerous non-Superman Our Worlds At War specials and tie-ins that would have bumped the page count closer to 1,000.

Among the worlds and peoples destroyed by the OWAW onslaught were the citizens and planet of Kalanor, birthplace of Despero. A probable victim, after hearing one of many cries to flee, answered, "Flee to where? When Imperiex comes, there is no answer save death!" Next on the list for stakes-raising planets of Asparagus People* were Almerac and the Gordanian homeworld Karna (at least the second dispossession of surviving Thanagarians, to boot.) Whole worlds that joined in the defense against Imperiex included Daxam, Apokolips and Rann. As one might expect, Darkseid, his son Grayven, Maxima, Adam Strange and Starfire spearheaded the defensive, along with the unfortunately named Massacre and the unfortunately conceived Mongal.

*Since this is a DC blog, I’ll note this is a reference to the Dark Phoenix Sage from Uncanny X-Men. Marvel Zombies should not only get the joke, but assert that their proper name was the D’Bari, which was also a franchised Martian salad bar Pre-Crisis.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Krill


Albon and Nordon were the self-proclaimed last survivors of an ancient alien race called the Krill. Their people having vanished eons prior, the pair were all that remained. Their long life bred incredible boredom, so they took to spying on others sentients from their vast alien space-station. Happening upon the Justice League of America and the despotic Despero, the Krill used their Spacial-Disruptor to emit a crystal light which teleported all parties into their mobile home. The Krill then encouraged Despero to battle the heroes in pairs, across various locations, and with weapons they provided. The Krill were ecstatic from the sensations these bouts instilled in them, and they intended to exploit their abductees indefinitely. However, Albon and Nordon were duped into fighting one another, allowing everyone else to escape.



The Krill stood several stories tall, and their space-station was filled with extraordinary devices. From their Space-Time Observation Point, they could use a gleaming crystalline device to view the past on their triangular-jewel video-screen. They provided Despero with a rifle that could solidify air, as well as a force field that could withstand blows from Supergirl. The Krill could seemingly teleport most anything at will, and could control the minds of others. Their present whereabouts are unknown.

The Krills' first and final appearance was in Justice League of America #134 (9/76.)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

2005 Despero: Master of the Third Eye VS CCG Card



I never played the Upper Deck VS System collectible card games, so no lengthy explanations like I gave for Overpower. Instead, I'll note that the painted art is by Arthur Suydam, who included every JLA founder but Martian Manhunter here. Grr! It was released in November 2005 as part of the Justice League of America expansion.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Gigant #1 (Semic, 1979)



Gigant was a series of thick DC Comics reprint collections published several times a year and distributed throughout Europe. The choice of material was seemingly random, presumably whatever was seen as the most commercial prospects for various markets. Early on, their emphasis was on big guns like Superman and the JLofA, but by the end more obscure material reigned. This included Wein/Wrightson Swamp Thing, Vigilante, Camelot 3000, and most surprisingly, Jemm: Son of Saturn.

Most of the time, U.S. covers were just cropped or otherwise rejiggered for foreign release, but especially in the 1970s, new cover images were produced. Such is the case here, as Ernie Chan's cover for Justice League of America #134 was redrawn from a different perspective by an unknown artist. Presumably, the sellable figures on the original piece were too tiny, or the overall image too crowded. Elongated Man and Wonder Woman were excluded in the new image, while Superman and Batman's profiles were greatly expanded.

Both chapters of the third Despero story were reprinted, along with a Pasko/Grell Ray Palmer Atom back-up from Action Comics #442, the entirety of O'Neil/Adams' Green Lantern/Green Arrow #76, and a two page profile on Wonder Woman.

Oh, and in case you're curious, Despero translates as "Despero," so nothing gets lost in translation.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Justice League of America #134 (9/76)



Despero had defeated the real Superman and an imitation Justice League in the previous issue. The despot next left his just-conquered planet Sirkus with these captives along with him (in suspended animation) on the journey to invade Earth. It just so happened his spacecraft was on a collision course with a Thanagarian star-ship in search of Superman containing Supergirl, Batman, Wonder Woman, Elongated Man, the Atom and of course Hawkman. From a third vehicle, the voyeuristic aliens Albon and Nordon watched. These last surviving Krill chose to intercept both vessels for their own good, as well as for their personal enjoyment. As he was teleported away while at the controls of his ship, Despero exclaimed "By the many moons of Mandigor! A ray-- hitting me-- making me fade away!"

The six questing heroes were just as shocked to find themselves whisked off to a hall also containing one of the JLofA's oldest foes. Elongated Man wasn't around for Despero's first or second assaults on the team, but his nose could smell the stink of villainy, and launched an offensive! Despero thought, "Eh...? The other Justice Leaguers? And-- Wonder Woman? How could that amazon have escaped? She-- eh? Who is this foolhardy freak attacking me--?"

Despero greeted Elongated Man with his third eye: "No one assaults Despero! Mine is the power of the mind unleashed-- a power that can punish, by causing your malleable molecules to stretch out of control-- or a power which can destroy!" E-Man let out a "EEEYOW" before Supergirl could fly his mishandled frame to a safe distance from Despero's wrath. Batman asked, "Is Elongated Man okay, Supergirl?" She cradled his limp but normalizing frame while answering, "I think so, Batman!"

After his devastation of an ersatz Justice League that included a faux-Wonder Woman, Despero was more cocky that ever... even when the true Amazing Amazon lunged at him, wanting answers! "Your question is irrelevant, female! The Kryptonian is indeed my captive now-- just as you have been!" While the Amazon Princess displayed incredible gymnastic maneuvers to evade destructive blasts from his third eye, Despero began to question just who were those super-heroes on ice back on his spaceship. "Obviously, either she or you is the impostor! For the sake of my ego-- I prefer to believe the impostor is youuuuuhh!" Wonder Woman tumbled into Despero, sweeping his legs out from under him. Disoriented and under too much pressure to think straight, he chose to avoid an interrogation from the Dark Knight. "On the contrary, detective... now is the time-- for escape!" With that, Despero vanished in the blink of an eye.

The Kalinorian ran through the vast alien space-station of the surviving Krill. "There must be someone aboard here-- unless it's fully automated! If I can find that someone, I can control him with my third eye-- then force him to explain the purpose behind-- eh? Unless I'm greatly mistaken, this is some sort of weapons chamber-- and the object on that pedestal-- a weapon!"

Just then, Albon and Nordon materialized two super-heroes into the room. "Batman-- and Hawkman! No time to learn the details of this device-- only time-- to use it! How perfectly ingenious! This weapon solidifies air-- making it a gluey mud! Fight your way out of that, you over-rated clowns! Now, while you're both helpless-- I'll destroy you, as I destroyed your comrades on Sirkus! I've always hated you Justice Leaguers with a special passion-- and I'm particularly going to enjoy-- hmmm?! What in the name of sanity is happening to me--? I'm vanishing-- again?"

Such quick work had been made of the Caped Crusader and Winged Wonder, Albon and Nordon were disappointed. "Obviously, this Despero is too powerful to battle these heroes with our weapons." They remotely disabled Despero's gun, and sent him to a desert to face Wonder Woman and the Atom, who encouraged Diana to "Hit 'im-- and hit 'im hard!" The Krill were similarly enthused. "Yes, female-- yes! Strike the scaled man!-- Strike him hard! Never have I felt such-- such ecstasy, Nordon!" The Tiny Titan dealt his own damage-- dive-bombing Despero's hypnotic eye. However, a lasso-produced sandstorm made it clear the flailing Atom had not disabled the orb. "You forgot my power of mental control, Atom! Through my third eye, Wonder Woman is now my slave-- and so she shall remain-- till the Justice League is destroyed!"

Five of our heroes had fallen before the extraterrestrial tyrant. "It's just like your Terran nursery rhyme-- about 'Ten Little Indians'-- being picked off one by one! There's so much about your world I enjoy, Wonder Woman... Perhaps that's why I wish to conquer it! I've often wondered about my little obsession... this craving I have to own the planet Earth! I imagine it has something to do with my childhood... not that it matters! I think I'll teleport us back to the alien space-station now! One of the other abilities of my third eye: I can move myself through space at will! Believe me... it's quite convenient!"

"The would-be kingpin from Kalanor" arrived at an observation deck alone. "Eh? Where is Wonder Woman?" The interloping Krill had struck again, changing Despero's company to that of the Elongated Man. "I wouldn't know, Three-Eyes-- Suppose you tell us? This is one situation where I don't feel like playing detective! Ralph entangled the Kalanorian despot, while his partner Supergirl snared Despero's feet. All three were then transported to a whole other, icy environ as they tumbled. The heroes were disoriented, with Supergirl asking how this came to be. "I always used to love a mystery, Supergirl-- but not when the prisoner is escaping!"

The Maid of Might blew Despero to the ground. Fatigued, Despero refused to carry on, but the mysterious aliens somehow turned his mind toward pure blood lust against Supergirl. "I'm sorry... I'm sorry, but I can't go on! Whenever I turn around, something happens... something I don't understand! I can't possibly fight under these conditions, you see-- I-- I-- I-- I must FIGHT! --I must KILL!"
"Now what? Has Despero gone insane?"
"Trying to choke an invincible girl like you? He's gotta be crackers! Might as well knock the guy out of his misery! Huh? One of my best punches-- and he's still moving?"

"Fight! Must-- FIGHT!" Despero's suddenly superior strength tapped Elongated Man out with a left hook. Supergirl repeatedly batted the deranged despot away, only for him to shrug off her blows, rising again and again! "Great Krypton-- this is getting monotonous!" Supergirl finally spotted Albon and Nordon watching in the distance, which shouldn't have been much trouble, since they stood several stories tall. Supergirl determined the aliens were getting their jollies off the violent bouts, and offered, "A suggestion, Krill! If you want real excitement-- why don't you each choose sides?" Obviously not a good judge, seeing as Supergirl was comically holding back Despero's swinging fists with her palm to his brow, Nordon bet on the Kalinorian. "Don't be an idiot! Despero can't possibly lose-- not with the force-field we've given him!"

Well... "I've thrown Despero hard enough to put him into orbit!" Then... "I'm counting on a force-field, my alien friend! Nothing else could explain Despero's invulnerability! Unfortunately, not even the best" could withstand one of Supergirl's fiercest blows. However, either Nordon got so excited he forgot who he'd championed, or else scripter Gerry Conway did, since he proclaimed himself victorious. This provoked Albon to sock him in the kisser, and the last two Krill became enemies.

The Justice League escaped the Krill in Hawkman's ship, along with Superman, and a Despero bound by Elongated Man in tow. While all ended well enough, Supergirl felt guilty. "After all, we did introduce the last survivors of an ancient race to war!" Wonder Woman chimed, "And that's a curse I wouldn't even wish on Despero!"

"The Battle at the Edge of Forever!" was created by Gerry Conway, Dick Dillin & Frank McLaughlin. It seems like Gerry Conway wrote the first script, then a month later the second, based only on a vague recollection of the first. Issue #133 really only features one actual League member, and while it was interesting to watch Despero tear the fake batch apart, it was ultimately pointless. Then in #134, only a random sampling of League members from the first chapter appear, and the only elements of the previous chapter carried over in a significant way were Superman as a captive and the presence of Despero. Speaking of which, Despero's accomplishments were mostly due to the alien interlopers, whose story is wrapped in slapdash fashion, and by a non-Leaguer to boot! A bit of a mess, this one was. Dick Dillin & Frank McLaughlin are better on the art front, though their hearts always seemed to belong more to the look of newspaper romance comics than sci-fi super shenanigans.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Sirkus



Sirkus is a planet "some 400 light-years away" from Earth which orbited a vast blue star. While its inhabitants include Flamebirds and Eel-Creatures, the term "Sirkian" has been specifically applied to an all-female terran race. These Sirkians were fairly tall, very lean, had only one centered eye, and no mouth. They communicated through telepathy, and often invoked the hallowed name of Cormak. According to a Sirkian leader, "It's been so long since we've had a war on Sirkus, we have no skill in fighting!"

Superman was unwittingly drawn to Sirkus to defend these people from the diabolical Despero, alongside an ersatz Justice League. Despero sought the surrender of their Cosmic Cannon, and threatened to destroy the world if he had to take it by force. Located ten miles south of the capital, Mushroom City, the Cosmic Cannon rested inside a conical tower within a tropical swamp. Although Despero was kept from acquiring the Cosmic Cannon at first, after the defeat of Sirkus' borrowed champions it is assumed it came into his possession. Though Despero promised and Sirkus' people feared an ultimate sanction, the despot's last word on the world's fate was his intention to enslave them. However, Despero soon departed Sirkus in a ship also containing Superman and the Sirkian Justice League. Presumably, the Sirkians were returned to their home after Despero was defeated by the actual League.

Sirkus' only appearance to date was in Justice League of America #133 (8/76).

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Director Ergon & Governor Kwim



Director Ergon was a scientist and strategist from the planet Sirkus. She employed a Travel-Beam consisting of ethereal energy that could draw a single being toward it at a speeds several multiples greater than light. When Sirkus found itself under siege by Despero, a Travel-Beam was sent to retrieve Superman. Since the Travel-Beam could only transport one being at a time, Ergon was unable to call the entire Justice League of America. Instead, she devised "The Scenario," in which she outfitted members of her single-gender race with gadgets and disguises to appear as though they were the JLA, complete with simulated powers. However, the plan failed, as "My women are actresses, not heroes. Most of them are confused-- playing the unfamiliar roles of men-- men with super-powers!"

Like Director Ergon, Governor Kwim operated out of the Mushroom City. Though possessed of official power over Ergon, Kwim was unaware of "The Scenario" until after it went into effect, and highly critical of it from that point onward. "Excuses! Don't you realize what will happen if Despero captures the Cosmic Cannon? He could use it to reduce our world to a cinder! I'm sorry, Ergon-- but since your plan failed, we must turn to mine! We must use the Cosmic Cannon-- and burn Despero out of the sky!" However, a blast intended for Despero's Super-Ship instead struck Superman, though the aggressor's craft was downed by an imitation Wonder Woman. Ultimately, Kwim came to the conclusion that the fault in "The Scenario" was not the "actress-heroes," whose courage overcame their lack of real powers, but in its misleading Superman...

"We created our substitute JLA because we feared Superman would be too upset about his missing friends to help us! But our impostors can't battle like the originals-- and so they're being smashed! --and it's thoroughly demoralizing the Man of Steel!" The Kryptonian was felled by Despero, who stated his intention to enslave Sirkus.

When last seen, a despondent Governor Kwim moaned, "We've failed... and now we're doomed!" Director Ergon was more hopeful. "Not yet, Governor! There's still a chance... a slim chance... if only we can reach the real Justice League...! Cormak help us-- to reach them-- in time!"

First and final appearance of both was in Justice League of America #133 (8/76.)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Justice League of America #133 (8/76)


"The deadliest foe of the... Justice League of America... is back... and he's more dangerous than ever! His name's Despero, and on a world hundreds of light-years from our own, he's managed to defeat and destroy the JLA!"

22,300 miles above the Earth, in the JLA Satellite, were the concerned heroes Aquaman, Elongated Man, Green Arrow, Green Lantern Hal Jordan, Flash, Wonder Woman, Black Canary, the Atom and Hawkman. Joining them was Supergirl, who fretted over her missing cousin...

Superman was "some 400 light-years away, above the planet Sirkus," which he had been drawn to defend by Director Ergon & Governor Kwim. Before the Sirkians could revive the Man of Steel, they were attacked by Flamebirds at the order of Despero. However, Ergon had outfitted members of her species as imitation members of the Justice League of America, who turned back the Flamebirds at the cost of their Flash. An "understudy" stepped in as a new Scarlet Speedster almost immediately. The Man of Steel was then duped by Ergon and Kwim into believing these were his teammates, all of whom having been summoned to combat Despero's forces.

"Attention, Sirkians... This is your new master, mercifully providing you with one last ultimatum! Surrender your Cosmic Cannon to me at once-- or suffer total destruction when I take it by force! This demand is non-negotiable!"

"Despero-- possibly the most dangerous would-be conqueror in the universe-- who began his galaxy-spanning career on his home world of Kalanor!"

Launching an attack meant to seize the Cosmic Cannon, Despero piloted his Super-Ship and thought, "The fools have refused my command-- as I expected! Because of their impudence, they must die-- DIE!" Despero was surprised by "Superman-- and the Justice League!? What in the name of Kalanor's second sun!?" The Man of Tomorrow responded "It must be kismet, Despero-- but we always seem drawn together somehow! You try to take over a world-- and we always stop you!"

"Not this time, Kryptonian! This time-- I stop YOU!"

While his Super-Ship fended off Superman, Despero's mental powers grounded a faux Green Lantern Hal Jordan. "Hah! In the years since we last fought, I've developed the power of my Third Eye-- increasing it to undreamed of levels! You're doomed-- all of you!"

While Superman was taken out of the battle by a misfired Cosmic Cannon, Despero's paralyzing hypnotic blast rendered all the soldiers responsible for the cannon unconscious. The phony Wonder Woman and replacement Flash managed to breach the Super-Ship, but the latter soon veered out of control and through an open window. "Is there no end to your suicidal courage? Haven't you a single ounce of self-preservation? ...The mighty Flash--skidding like a sports-car out of control!"

The Sirkian actress playing Wonder Woman blamed Despero for Flash's plight, and swore he'd pay. "Such violent threats from a peace-loving woman? Your behavior is odd, Amazon! Come to think of it, so is the behavior of your fellow-Leaguers!" As he pinned the "princess" down, Despero continued, "Tell me-- when did the Flash gain the ability to fly? And why is the great Wonder Woman suddenly so--weak?"

While pondering this distraction, Despero's Super-Ship crash landed, and only the despot rose from the wreckage. "Something's wrong here... some kind of trickery...! It may be my Kalanorian intuition, but I've the strange notion I'm not fighting the real Justice League!" Just then, Flash recovered, only to belly-flop after a "shattering hypnotic blast!" The true Superman followed, disbelieving that he'd just seen the fastest man alive taken like a rookie. "You'd better believe it, Superman! He isn't the first Leaguer I've crushed-- and he won't be the last!" Despero then burrowed to freedom into the earth, thanks to an unseen "device."

An hour later, "Wonder Woman" was in the hospital, and the Last Son of Krypton was on to Director Ergon's ruse. "When Despero first attacked us, we probed his mind telepathically-- and learned how much he hated you... and how much he feared you! That's why we brought you here! The battle against our planet is merely practice for him-- before he tackles your world, the Earth!" Superman swore to hold the line at Sirkus, just as Despero launched an attack via jetboat while commanding Eel-Creatures! "It's Despero again-- and this time he means business!"

The ersatz Emerald Gladiator was first to engage Despero. "Arrogant whelp! Do you think to defeat me with an emerald laser beam? You'll pay for your stupidity-- with your life!" The Strange Visitor from Another World was aghast as he watched Despero kill "Green Lantern" with his mind. "That's how I deal with inferiors, Superman! And while you're catching your dear-departed-comrade-- I'll turn my attention to your other friend-- Aquaman!" The Sea King was next to die!

Filled with a "sudden white-hot rage," Kal-El charged in without thinking. "Superman forgets the nature of my mental power-- how I can hypnotize instantly, as well as destroy! I have to time this carefully-- and strike-- NOW!"

"Mind-stunning mental energy hits the raging Superman-- and in an instant, turns his rage against him-- with the force of a solar explosion!"

"Justice League-- or pathetic impostors-- I've destroyed you! And with your destruction-- I'm free to enslave this world!"

"Missing--One Man of Steel!" by Gerry Conway, Dick Dillin & Frank McLaughlin.