Friday, August 10, 2007

The Martian Manhunter's Rogues Gallery!

With J'onn's panoply of otherworldly powers, any writer would naturally find the most powerful foes for him, the likes of Despero, Amazo, or Dr. Light.

Or, perhaps not.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present, with comparatively little commentary on my part, the Foes of the Martian Manhunter...

The Dangerous Martian Mandrills

I'm hard pressed to think of anything more "Silver Age" than Martian gorillas.

The Menace of Mothman

Nice hat. Some guys-- one overnight with Killer Moth
and they think they have what it takes to be a supercriminal.

Speaking of which...

The Human Flame

Poor Joey. He loved Mike, despite the Daliesque moustaches and flamboyent outfits.
But the "crime suit" was the final straw.

The Malevolant Mr. Falcon

Uh-oh; now who's going to walk Dynomutt?

And last, and certainly least....

The Human Squirrel
Best. Costume. Ever.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Blues Skies for the Martian Manhunter

So, this week at Heroclix, in honor of Martian Manhunter Week, I fielded a team composed of nothing but Martian Manhunters (the 167 pt. Experienced one, the 114 pt Rookie one, the 177 pt Unique, and the 144 pt. Detective John Jones). Between them, they had a vast array of powers, making them an unstoppable force.

Naturally, I lost. In fact, I got my butt whooped (or perhaps I should say, "driven over by a convertible"). A team of nothing but Martian Manhunters is pretty formidable, but against a team of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern-- well, let's just say my "unstoppable force" was forced to stop pretty quickly.

That's okay. There will almost surely be a new Martian Manhunter clix in the new JLA set that comes out September 5. The new "special powers" mechanic will enable them finally to do JJ justice on a Heroclix dial. I will be very disappointed if "Creating Ice Cream Cones With Your Mind" and "Road Bump Butt" aren't among his special abilities.

Batman was definitely one of JJ's problems on the board (that, and Superman shoving a dumpster in his face at Mach 4). Batman, as always, stealthing in bush and outwitting J'onn myriad powers, just as I was about to form a barrier by drawing gold from seawater or alter the path of a baseball to bean Batman on the head. So, to welcome the new improved Martian Manhunter clix I'm expecting I created a map where Batman won't be a problem:

Flyers only on this map! And lots of clouds for JJ to stealth in, and nothing to catch fire.

The battle is in mid-air, so only flying characters are allowed. Note also that no objects are permitted to be used on this board (for obvious reasons). Also, like the murky areas in our last map, the cloudy Hindering Terrain affects only line of sight, not movement. And, yes, characters can still "soar" while on this map.

Word of advice: don't use any characters with "Earthbound" on their dials! If a character does turn up "Earthbound" in the course of the game, it will fall to earth and is removed from the board. UNLESS, that is, a teammate can fly over adjacent to them and "catch" them on the first move of your next turn... but, then, of course, they can't let go as long as the figure has Earthbound!

Things That Made Me Happy...

in (and about) my comics this week.

  • Ollie wears a size twelve? No wonder Black Canary stays with him.
  • Black Adam gives new meaning to "determination"!
  • The price for Hank Henshaw's loyalty.
  • The Ant Map.
  • The Adam Strange Showcase, which I haven't cracked yet, because I know it will be so full of the loathsome vileness of dirty stinkin' Rannies, that it's gonna make me blow my top!
  • I really like the murder mystery when Batman meets the Club of Heroes. Very spooky; love the Black Glove splash pages. "The Most Dangerous Game" isn't exactly the most original plot, but since Grant Morrison can't write a comprehensible plot of his own, he's at least stealing the classic ones!
  • Bug pogs.
  • How the Justice League defeated Kid Amazo... and vice versa.
  • I'll be darned if the Sinestro Corps hasn't made me warm up to the Green Lantern Corps (a book I never ever would have bought before). I'm not sure the entire universe has enough scenery for all these villains to chew!
  • Playing Heroclix with Mr. Mxyzptlk.
  • Apparently, Atom Smasher likes ladyfingers.
  • The new episode of the Big Monkey Podcast, which is now available here and on the I-Tunes.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Support Your Local Martian!

I'm not just here to make fun of the Martian Manhunter this week (although, really, that would be purpose enough for a month's worth of posts). I'm here to help him. Sure, he may be crazy, ill-conceived, and dated; but he's classic, a pillar of the DCU, and full of potential. Unlike, say, Geo-Force.

If there's anything to learn from the examples of Batman & Superman (and the anti-examples of the Flash and Wonder Woman), it's that a solid and consistent supporting cast is conducive to popularity and longevity. In our modern multiversal world where heroes spend lots of time connecting with heroes in other titles, it's easy to forget that each major hero should have a "universe" of his or her own, a world of people and places that can sustain their stories indefinitely without requiring recourse to the outside world of the rest of the DCU. Any hero you can't do that for, simply isn't going to be a major hero.

I've chatted before about cobbling together a "dynasty" for Martian Manhunter, but that's a little different from a basic supporting cast. But a stroll through the MM Showcase edition gives us a number of characters who could be revived or reimagined as part of his supporting cast.

Jupiter the Dacshund

Nothing has ever made the Martian Manhunter a more human, more accessible, more sympathetic character to me than the fact that he adopted a dachshund. A dachshund who wears sweatshirts and is hecka strong. Named "Jupiter". Yeah, you can draw gold from seawater with your mind and phase through solid matter, but can you make a dachshund behave? No, I don't think so.

Unfortunately, despite John's promise that "we're going to real pals for a long time," Jupiter is never seen again in a Martian Manhunter story.

Diane Meade

A "lady police officer"; what will they think of next? Diane Meade was smart as a whip; she figured out JJ was the Martian Manhunter after spending one day with him, and she didn't see him change or anything; she deduced it. You rock, Diane. Plus, you look positively darling in that jaunty little WAC-cap (which should definitely be part of the costume design for any Diane redux).

You know, not every women in comics needs to be a beer-swilling, butt-kicking, Asian lesbian ninja. It would be nice to see someone who fights crime with some gentility (kind of like the Martian Manhunter himself does). How can you not love a character who says things like "Good gracious! A parked truck exploded! Lucky no one was around!"? Bring back Diane, and let her be a detective rather than a street cop.

Diane probably shouldn't be a romantic interest. That should be saved for Lady Cop (Chief Liza Warner of the Ivy Town police department). That way John Jones could be involved in a tense love triangle with her and MetroPD's Officer Devon Sanders, a Loose Cannon Cop Who Doesn't Play By the Rules.

Captain Harding

I like this guy. One, he wears a uniform, kind of like C. Everett Koop. Two, he almost never gets up from behind his desk (I got this rare photo capture from a disappointed Bigfoot aficionado). None of this Aging Action Hero crap for him. No Gordonesque "I was a beat cop once, and I still know how to use a gun, son!" nonsense for Cap't H. He worked hard to get where he is, and he ain't movin' now.

Third, he's got gravitas, the kind that comes from avoirdupois. You can tell when Cap'n H does make the effort to get out of that chair, it's to head straight for the cafeteria (twice on Porkchop Day).

Jim Wade, Editor of the Clarion

It's always helpful to have a reporter-type in your supporting cast because they can pop up pretty much whenever you need them, on the pretext of "following up on a lead". You can have, say, your dentist in your cast, but it strains credulity to have your dentist continually turning up at raging fires, hostage situations, and supervillain attacks (unless, of course, your dentist is Jaime Reyes). Supporting cast reporters are often focused on figuring out the hero's "secret identity", but I don't think anyone would assume a Martian would even have a secret identity. I'd rather seen him as a human buddy for John Jones, someone he could hang out with at the bar, having milk and Oreos together.

"Yes -- you couldn't possibly compete with a free paper, unless..."
... unless it's
The Onion?

Office Mike Hanson

A big palooka on the police force of Whateversville, who's devoted to John Jones. He says it's just his job to protect him, but I think-- well, I think the Strongest Man on the Force would have a much easier time owning up to his real feelings now in the PQM (Post-Queer Eye millennium). Who knows? He might may a fun love interest for polyfreakual J'onn J'onnz (assuming he can handle the whole "driving over J'onn's butt" thing).

Larry Loder, Financier/Feeb

If you crossed Jimmy Olsen with a stick-- well, whatever you got would still be 10 times smarter than Larry Loder, who, for no apparent reason, is one of the Martian Manhunter's dearest friends. JJ describes him as "the most honest man I've ever met" and I suppose if you are a Martian in disguise, a really honest guy who's dumber than Jimmy Olsenstick Junior would be a perfect best friend.

Larry's been unjustly accused of fraud in the past, and is trying to make up for it with Three Magic Devices That Work Only Once that somebody just sort of... gave him. Just think about that for a while.

Yeah, Larry; a Magic Treasure-Finder is just the thing to stop people from calling you a phony. Nowadays Larry would be late-night infomercials peddling the "Larry Loder Foolproof System for Wealth and Independence".

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

This has been a paid political advertisement

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Dr. Polaris

Ruth Buzzi

Bomilcar Garling

Rocco DiSpirito

Aquaman, Sword of Atlantis

Egg Fu

Kevin Federline

Grant Morrison

Puffy Ami Yumi

Sonny Bono's widow

Extra Income

Really, there are only so many times you can bring a pile of seaweed-laden gold-dust into the surveyor's office with arousing the suspicions of the authorities. "Mr. Hoover," the field officer would report, "we've got another 'sea-gold' incident, this time at Grover's Mill."

And a detective's salary? Puh-lease; this is J'onn J'onnz we're talking about. Do you know what long distance calls to Mars cost, even to your Fave Five? Mars needs money, folks, not women.

Fortunately, JJ arrived during the repressive 1950s. Being a manhunter, JJ had a ready and obvious source of income:

Blackmailing closeted gays for money.

Oh, and sexual favors. Disturbing things, that involved toys, and props, and fishing tackle.

J'onn, you are so weird....

And the less said about the "dropped soap in the prison" incident, the better...

Of course, this was just a phase J'onn was going through, which ended when he discovered sweet sweet octopus love.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Never Enough

It's not enough, you know, that the Martian Manhunter is a shape-shifting mentalist with superstrength, superspeed, superhearing, x-ray vision, heat vision, microscopic vision, and the ability to become invisible or intangible.

Not nearly enough. J'onn's greedy, you see; he wants powers you've never heard of, powers that only frumpy middle-aged Manhattanite sci-fi geeks in the 1950s could imagine, and so many of them that he can use them once, then discard and forget about them, like disposable towelettes.

He can draw gold from seawater with his mind.

"Earthian"? You're so weird, J'onn...

Okay, I'm sorry; I know everyone's already seen this panel. It's from the Origin of the Martian Manhunter. But what better way to start Martian Manhunter Week than with this perfect example of his absurdity? But that's nothing...

He can create ice cream cones out of thin air by summoning powers from the void.

Didn't believe me, did you?

Next time someone at your neighborhood comic book store is talking about how dumb Jonn'z weakness to fire is, pipe up knowingly with, "Sh'yeah, I mean, why doesn't he just recreate the atom combinations of a giant ice cream cone using the powers from the void of space and use it to smother the flames?" That'll shut everyone up, and all the girls will drop their copies of Local and run over to hang on you admiringly. Works every time.

J'onn can make your clothes wash and iron themselves through substitutiary locomotion.

Treguna, mecoides, tricorum, satis dee!

They aren't exactly proud of it, but everywhere other than Earth, Martians aren't manhunters; they're launderers. Yes, everywhere from Rann to Rimbor, there are little mom & pop Martian laundries, as well as Martian take-out places famous for their "Summoned From the Void"-flavored ice cream, whose owners go home nightly to Martiantown on the edge of the city. Once a year, tourists visit during Martian New Year to enjoy the parade of water-breathing dragons and watercrackers. And speaking of water-breathing...

He can breathe underwater.

Must remember that for my Aquaman-themed Heroclix games on the water maps.

Really, J'onn; would it kill you to put the helmet on, in case someone sees you? Show-off. Actually, he's probably just being greedy: "As long as I'm down here, I'll fill my helmet with gold dust I extract from the seawater with my mind, then make up some lame, last-minute explanation for it when I surface to rejoin my colleagues!"

He can magnetize metal through sheer concentration.

Good lord; is Tony Robbins a Martian?

He can grow to gigantic proportions (furthering my Tony Robbins Theory, I might add).

I'm sparing you the next panel, which shows a car driving over his butt.

Now, that is a power so useful and impressive in battle, that he surely will use it again and again. What, never? Well, hardly ever. Wizkids, please remember to make a giant Martian Manhunter figure, or at least give him 'Enbiggen' as a special power. Oh, and, conversely...

He can shrink to mini-mate proportions.

If I had to choose a sound effect for shrinking, it wouldn't be "Ka-zoom". Maybe the wizard Shazam gave him the power?

Naturally. As if the god-like Martian Manhunter wouldn't covet the power of people like Bumblebee and Doll Man.

There are more powers; many more, including such lulus as the ability to scare sharks with his appearance, "atom vision", and "around-the-corner vision" (because x-ray vision is not enough, never enough). But, honestly, I don't have the strength to scan them all. So, before I leave you either to ponder what they are or to simply go buy the Martian Manhunter Showcase, I give you one final power...

He can violate the Fourth Wall at will.

"I'll use my power of Martian-winking to seek aid!
Kids, clap if you believe in Martians!"

Tony Robbins, Grant Morrison-- the Martians are everywhere!

P.S. Remember when I said I would spare you?

I lied.