Monday, April 28, 2008

The Case for Mr. Jones

I don't usually get much help here writing the Absorbascon, so imagine my surprise when one of the DCU's darkest stars contacted me asking politely (with gun in hand) to do a guest column, or two. Apparently, his interest was sparked by all the recent chatter on the likely impending doom of everyone's favorite ice-cream conjurer, J'onn J'onzz. And who am I to say no to an armed lunatic?

So, with no further ado, I turn it over to former District Attorney Harvey Dent, who present in the next day or two the Cases For and Against the Martian Manhunter.

Thank you, Scipio, for your kindness in permitting me this public forum; call me "Harvey" again and I'll shoot you in the leg.


The Case for the Defense, by Two-Face

Today, you are being asked to decide whether Mr. John Jones, a.k.a. the Martian Manhunter, should die.

But for what crime? Has he violated the heroic code by killing, just as Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman have all done in the past? No. Mr. Jones is being condemned simply because he is in the wrong place and the wrong time. He's significant enough for his death to provide great impact and gravity for DC's latest orgy of cross-contuity, Final Crisis (itself the mad scheme of a writer known for his lunatic excesses), but not popular enough to stave off execution. He is guilty of no crime of character himself, but is the scapegoat DC is sacrificing to keep its more salable icons alive, like some bizarre form of Shirley Jackson's Lottery.

The only true crime here is the impending execution of Mr. Jones by the Editorship of DC Comics -- a waste of inhuman life and character potential it entails.

Mr. Jones is a heroic icon of the DCU, consistently holding his own alongside its greatest heroes. Indeed, while it would be naive to place him on the same level as the Heroic Trinity of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, it can be argued that he is above Flash and Green Lantern in status. They have been repeatedly replaced, becoming almost roles more than characters; Mr. Jones, on the other hand, remains one of a kind.

Mr. Jones is an outstanding character. He has shown himself to be infinitely adaptable and usable in a wide variety of stories and situations. He works well in a group or in short solo adventures and he can do high drama or dry comedy. He can be a hardboiled gumshoe, and international spy (as he was during his Marco Xavier days), or a sci-fi marvel. He can be a tragic loner or a well-adjusted mentor. He is as versatile a character as Batman or Superman. More so, in fact, which probably accounts for his longevity and multi-media exposure (despite getting second-class treatment from the Editorship).

The Prosecution may seek to turn Mr. Jones' success on its head, trying to convince you that a character so unable to fulfill his potential after 30 years has lost his right to live with his fellow JLAers. But isn't that the point? Isn't that the crux of Mr. Jones' problems? When we speak of Mr. Jones, we do not compare him to the lesser lights of the DCU, the 99 percent of our fellow characters who are less famous, less intriguing, less adaptable. Do we compare him to the Huntress, or Liberty Belle, or even Firestorm? No; we compare him only to DCU's first rank of heroes (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, and Aquaman). Who among us would not suffer by such a comparison?

Although most characters have never made it to another medium, Mr. Jones is continually before the public eye. He was a stand-out character in both the Justice League Unlimited animated series and animated film based on Darwin Cooke's New Frontier, two of the most popular iterations of the Justice League since its inception. He guest-starred on Smallville and was the central figure in the unaired JLA pilot. If the paper page has not favored Mr. Jones, the television lens loves him, and that alone should be reason to preserve him!

It's true that the Defendant has never had sufficient popularity to maintain his own series for very long. But is that a crime, and one punishable by death? If so, most heroes in the DCU would be dead. Now that his series is over, will we be putting Krypto to sleep? This madness must stop, ladies and gentlemen of the jury. Misguided editorial bloodlust has already claimed Mr. Jones' longtime close friend, Mr. Curry. And we did nothing. We stood by and watched, and were simply relieved it wasn't us. If DC's Pen of Death can fell the likes of Aquaman and the Martian Manhunter, then are any of us safe? Am I next? If we do not stop this sort of thing, how long before we are reading something like "Batman R.I.P."?

I submit to you that if Mr. Jones' deserves to die, then so do all those of us not among the top six of our respective roles, be they hero, villain, or supporting castmember. Is that the kind of universe you want to live in or read about?

The writers of the past, the men who created me, Mr. Jones, and perhaps you, were men of limitless imagination, who often colored outside the lines of what some might call "continuity". They could put more interest and potential meaning in a five-page Martian Manhunter back-up story then went into the entire run of Countdown. Yet we deride those men as hacks, just because they were more interested in telling an intriguing story than in real-world-style plotting. But they knew the difference between the horse and the hay; they knew that "continuity" is simple fodder for feeding stories, not the other way around.

But now our destinies are controlled by "writers" whose main tool for character development is character assassination (in either sense of that phrase), with Mr. Jones their latest victim. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, make no mistake. I am not trying to convince you that Mr. Jones is without flaw or his continuity record spotless. Far from it. But he is interesting, iconic, and popular. Don't let DC waste that; make the Editorship challenge a writer to use Mr. Jones to his full potential rather than bumping him off for a month's worth of shock value. Do you want literature and philosophy in your comics or merely bread and circuses? How you decide on the fate of Mr. Jones may very well determine exactly that, so consider wisely the ramifications of this debate, not just for Mr. Jones, but for yourselves as well....

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think the astute attorney missed one more glaring argument against the Mr. Jones' execution. He touched upon Martian Manhunter's inclusion in Justice League Unlimited but failed to recognize the importance that appearance carries with it. Justice League and Justice League Unlimited have served as the introduction to the DC Universe for practically an entire generation of comic book readers, myself included. To kill John would make very poor sense from a business stand point considering the fact that DC has consistently promoted "entry level" readers in their business plan. To have such a stark contrast between entry level readers' introduction to the universe and their first comic experience would seem illogical. Keeping those "Main 7" characters from the series alive should be a main priority for DC for the foreseeable future for this reason alone if they are truly committed to entry level readers like they say they are.

TJ

GL2814E said...

Maybe someone else will get wacked? I mean I know they say it will have impact and is someone important to the League, but Brad Metzler believed that Red Tornado is somehow critical... So it could be some odd character the rest of us really could care less about but Morrison has a mad-on for...
"You won't believe it when Grant Morrison kills his revamped SNAPPER CARR!"

Or we could be Martian-less till the trademark is in danger of lapsing...

Anonymous said...

Miss Martian could use her shapeshifting powers to look exactly like him after he's gone. Problem solved.

(Of course, Supergirl did that after Superman died. But not any Supergirl WE know....)

SallyP said...

Oh bravo, Mr. Dent. I for one, am indeed fed up with bread and circuses. The arbitrary culling of heroes (and villains for that matter) has been going on for far too long, and has lost whatever shock value it ever had.

At this point, half of the fans scream, while the other half just shrug and say "meh, he'll be back." I understand that the grand poohbahs in Editorial are trying to whip up interest, and figure that negative is just as good as positive, which is really rather shortsighted of them. On the other hand, this IS comics, and shortsightedness is practically a prerequisite.

Doctor Polaris said...

Hear hear, my good friend. Those fools in DC editorial do not know what they possess until it is ruthelessly slain.

webrunner said...

"Justice League and Justice League Unlimited have served as the introduction to the DC Universe for practically an entire generation of comic book readers, myself included. To kill John would make very poor sense from a business stand point considering the fact that DC has consistently promoted "entry level" readers in their business plan. To have such a stark contrast between entry level readers' introduction to the universe and their first comic experience would seem illogical."

Tell that to the Question.

Richard said...

Well done, Mr. Dent. I think you presented a very persuasive case against the summary execution of Mr. Jones.

On the other hand. . .

Anonymous said...

And is this the prosecution?

My Favorite Martian
March 1, 2006
http://absorbascon.blogspot.com/2006_02_26_archive.html

Scipio said...

That will be cited as expert testimony.

Anonymous said...

I was reading this and chuckling until here:

Now that his series is over, will we be putting Krypto to sleep?

for pity's sake -- don't give them ANY IDEAS !!!!

ABS said...

While I am in favor of the defense, I look forward to reading Two-Face's Case for the Prosecution, as well.

Ben said...

Argue either way folks, but when you pit him against a man with at least 6 flame shooting nipples (depending on depiction), is there really any other expectable outcome? Flame nipples. How could any superhero stand against that?

Chance said...

Are you sure your name isn't Cicero, not Scipio?

Anonymous said...

Considering Morrison wrote DC One Million, where Jonn was alive and well as the spirit of Mars, I'm doubting this death is anything permanent. It might not even happen, since it's way too obvious and everyone and their grandmother has picked up on it.

And on the Aquaman front, didn't Morrison say that THE Aquaman was going to fight the Deep Six in Final Crisis?

Scipio said...

"Are you sure your name isn't Cicero, not Scipio?"

Heh; funny.

"didn't Morrison say that THE Aquaman was going to fight"

If Morrison brings back the Real Aquaman, I'll forgive him for Martian Manhunter.

Anonymous said...

I'll only accept a returned Aquaman on the condition they give him original Aqualad as a sidekick back...

(I never realized how useless he was til I used him in Heroclix... He almost got killed by a gang of pogs...)

totaltoyz said...

Flame nipples. How could any superhero stand against that?

I agree; they'd fall over laughing.

Frank Lee Delano said...

I was vote #8 for Martian Manhunter to die, for reasons discussed here: http://idol-head.blogspot.com/2008/01/mike-netzer.html