Sunday, March 27, 2005

Are You Sleeping, Brother J'onn?

The interesting thing about the Absorbascon's new toy, the Dynastic Centerpiece model, is its potential use to build a mythos around a character without a dynasty. Take, for example, the ultimate also-ran, the Martian Manhunter.

"Poor J'onn", as everyone knows, couldn't maintain a series to save his himself. But if DC really put its mind to it, they could, without even making up new characters, build a Dynasty with J'onn as the Centerpiece that would not only enable him to have his own title but, eventually, would nearly demand it. A quick stroll through the DC Encyclopedia provides the raw material, simply waiting for Geoff Johns to arrange it one day while sitting on the toilet (or the J'onn, if you prefer cheap Golden Age puns).

The Martian Manhunter's role in the DCU is easily unique: he is the Ultimate Outsider (J'onn is unfailingly ALIEN, no matter how long he's been here) as Ultimate Insider (he's a shapechanger, reads minds, can turn invisible, and "JLA" is his middle name). So the dynastic themes are disguise, espionage, invisibility, detective work, infilitation (physical and mental), alienation and belonging. The Martian Manhunter mythos could become the home for a lot of unused or underused outre figures. There are plenty of pre-existing choices:

Dynastic Centerpiece: J'onn J'onnz
Junior Counterpart
: The Elongated Man (as long as we don't have to watch him talk to his dead wife), or Xer0 (a black basketball player who doubled in disguise as a white secret agent)
Female Version: Gypsy, Mirage, or Aruna (shapeshifting Indian girl; she was in "Batgirl", trust me, it's in the Encyclopedia)
Kid Sidekick: Gypsy (hey, if she's not in MM's dynasty, who would be?), Risk, Hero (the gay guy from the Ravers), or even Cassius Payne (Clayface's kid)!
Black Sheep: The Question, The Human Target, Praxis (remember him?)
Civilian Companion: Slam Bradley (the noir detective, like John Jones was)
Elder Statesman: Phantasmo (oh, just look it up), a retconned "The King", Nathaniel Dusk, Hamilton Drew (already associated with Elongated Man), Darwin Jones
Animal Companion: Detective Chimp (although he seems to be spoken for), Sam Simeon (another character who uses his mental powers to go undetected among humans), Rex the Wonder Dog (hey, he's a "property" they need to do something with him!)
Authority Figure: King Farraday, Mr. Bones
Contextualizing City: Midway (with its "neither fish nor fowl" halfway between Gotham and Metropolis image), wacky Delta City (home of Vext), National City (home of Xer0)

Add in the "anti-dynasty" (also easily supplied the Encyclopedia) and the series practically writes itself.


Axel M. Gruner said...

It's probably to late to think about... but did the MM not actually have an Animal Companion? Some Little space-creature? Zook or something?

Anonymous said...

The Martian Manhunter is best, I think, as a Phantom Stranger type: he remains an outsider, he can show up in any story at any time, and when he does it's grounds for celebration. Tough to build a dynasty around that.

Mind you, I love J'onn and the Phantom Stranger to pieces, but they're tough to build on.

Scipio said...

Oh, really?

Well, wait until you see what I have planned for the Stranger next...!

Simeon Bankoff said...

It frightens me how many of these characters have gotten air-time since this was written.

Anonymous said...

And now, of course, we have a better Junior/Female version available...

Accursed Interloper said...

I think the Martian Manhunter already has about half of everything he needs for Dynastic Centerpiece status, especially the villains. And a legitimate shortcut for filling in the 2nd half would be to annex the entire “Manhunter” franchise. It’s made to order. It comes complete with:
A Two vast shadowy global conspiracy type organizations, the Council and the interstellar Manhunters, plus the slightly-weirder Manhunter Cult, with legions of operatives, some robotic and some cloned. The Council organization is or should be a worthy rival to both the League of Assassins and the Kobra Cult. And it’s only been wiped out twice, so it could probably resuscitated via cloning technology (the Council’s trademark M.O.), and/or via Ultra-Humanite methods, which the Council would have access to based on their late-1990s association with that villain.
B Three distinct Golden Age Manhunter character legacies (*), two of them hardly developed at all, hence infinitely malleable.
* (Weren’t there? At that one huge meeting of the A.S.Squadron, the one that Aquaman actually showed up for, didn’t that include two more “Manhunter” characters? And one of them had a dog. Do I have to look this up?)
C A golden-age-based multi-generation character legacy in the Kirby / Simonson Paul Kirk character, who has at least two supporting casts, one from the 40s and one from the 70s. Plus one two of the coolest costumes ever.
D A bronze-age multi-generation character legacy in the Mark Shaw to Kate Spencer succession of characters.
It should be fairly easy to involve JJ,MM in a year’s worth of Manhunter-related plot, given the large number of unused plot points strewn around the DCU with the omni-purpose “Manhunter” label on them. From there JJ,MM could annex most or all of those 2 or 3 mythologies and integrate them into his own larger mythology.
Too many disparate elements? Superman gets away with it, and so does the Flash. Being a Dynastic Centerpiece pretty much requires a character to transcend a bunch of sub-genres and function in a wide variety of types of stories: street-level grit, loopy comedy, cosmic opera, whatever. A shape-changing invisible alien noir-detective with two dozen other super powers can do those things. Okay maybe not westerns but Superman couldn’t do westerns either.

Accursed Interloper said...

Scipio: "Add in the "anti-dynasty" (also easily supplied the Encyclopedia) and the series practically writes itself. "

The Physical Challenger
1/ Parasite versus JJ,MM: J'onn has an outlandish number of powers, plus vast knowledge, making him an ideal target for the Parasite, who steals both power and memory.
2/ The Composite Superman! He's got almost enough different super powers to pose some real problems, plus green skin!

The Mental Challenger:
1/ The Headmaster, from his own best series, circa 1998, but really ...
2/ Brainiac! Baldy-headed greeny-skinned alien uber-villain, made to order. Superman can afford to spare him, too.

The Femme Fatale, or maybe The Magician:
Strega, from the Ostrander/Mandrake series.

The Dark Reflection (not the Evil Opposite):
Fernus. The Hyde side of JJ,MM's noble and sedate character, wielding the right set of evil powers and abilities.

The Evil Opposite (not the Dark Reflection):
Malefik. Literally made-to-order for this role. He's J'onn's actual evil twin, for goodness' sake. Hokum that hokey can't be allowed to go to waste.

The Untouchable Crime Lord:
As I understand it, the U.C.L. gimmick is that despite the hero's vast powers, he can't get the UCL prosecuted and imprisoned because the UCL can kill all the witnesses and/or jurors, etc. This thwarts the hero's ability to work within the system, and brings home the moral problem of vigilanteism, because the hero is sorely tempted to just toast the scumbag. So a UCL-type villain for JJ-MM is no easy thing to find.

The Civilian Enemy:

The Arch-Enemy, for JJ,MM has got to be at minimum a galactic-level conqueror, the kind of threat that would ordinarily involve the whole JLA plus reinforcements. And of course, from now on J'onn has to be able to take him on alieno-a-alieno:
1/Bear with me a moment: Starro is a galactic conqueror. Starro deals with stuff like identity and community, making him a great anti-J'onn. Starro is vulnerable to commonplace lawn-lime, just like JJ,MM is vulnerable to commonplace fire.
... oh all right, then how about ...
2/ Despero. He has wielded vast levels of all kinds of different physical and mental powers, is very cunning, has a personal hard spot for JJ'MM, and vice versa, plus we once saw him conking Superman's and Captain Marvel's noggins together. Despero is bad ass.

And the Recurring, Between-Epics, Fill-In Villain
(Or maybe The Magician. Magicians rely heavily on trickery, right?):
Kanto, fronting for Darkseid. This is based on the pre-existing grudge between these rascals and JJ,MM, as established during the excellent Ostrander-Mandrake run, which, frankly, needs to get TPB-ed real quickly, and loudly, and with sufficient hype as to help wash the taste of the recent mini-series out of our brains.

Ely said...

Thanks for this post, pretty effective piece of writing.
online fishing games | dallas hotels downtown | Car Dealerships In MN | ink toner | Natural Looking Breast Implants