Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Haikuesday in the Shipping Room

You know, there is SO much to J'onn J'onzz and Apex City, so many repeated themes --the meteors, the fires, the spinning, the ice cream cones, the falling safes and planes, the flocking and the statues, the finger snapping, the vibrating, the blowing, etc.-- that's it's hard to imagine a panel, or even a PAGE, that could get it all in. Not even if George Perez drew it (and that's a challenge to all your artists out there).

J'onn (like God, whom he symbolizes) and Apex (like the Universe, which it symbolizes) cannot be comprehended all at once by the human mind. It would, like, violate the Turing Principle, or some such.  Understanding of them can only be approached asymptotically from the slow accumulation of details, from the cumulative effect of a thousand different panels, each of them like the facet of a cubist painting, or as in one of those portraits composed of photos of other things.

The Martian Manhunter is perhaps less an actual character than a meta-character, an ever-changing synthesis of all that is alien to us, all that we do not understand.  J'onn has been portrayed as 'the one-man Justice League' for some time, but that is all part of his disguise, since he's more like a one-man Doom Patrol.

That said, there are some panels that contain more of JJ's essence than others, and this is certainly one:

We mustn't spend so much time making fun of comics that we fail to notice how brilliant they are from certain perspectives.  Never lose sight of that.

The invisibility silhouette. The falling safe. The floating flamethrower. J'onn's exclamation.  The counterbalancing of yellow, blue, red, black, and white.  This panel is a masterpiece of comic book art.

AND of comic book PROSE, if you read all the words:




You might charge that I'm 'cheating' in perceiving this haiku, because it's not entirely 'spoken'.  Well...NONE of the words are 'spoken'; they are all written. You, the reader, are the one making that distinction, in your own mind.  They are all just words on a page, you know...

What haiku can you compose about this panel, the Martian Manhunter, or the phenomenon of compositional character comprehension?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Mr. Moth Week #7: Vibration is Martian-made!

We last left Mr. Moth and the Martian Manhunter in a tense stand-off at the lighthouse!

J'onn's GOT to figure out a way to stop Mr. Moth, because, well, five pages are already gone and there's less than one left to go.  Perhaps .... the vibrations caused by spinning?  As previously mentioned, the first principle of Martian problem solving is: any problem that can be solved by spinning MUST be solved by spinning.  To wit:

It's best not to think too hard about how J'onn is apparently spinning all the individual parts of his body separately.
it doesn't look pretty, I'll guarantee it.

You'd don't kneed to know WHAT problem you're facing, really, as long as you can solve that problem by spinning.

No, I will not explain it.  If you can't figure out how to use spinning to stop a charging lion, then, I'm sorry, you're just not enough of a Martian Manhunter to know.

All J'onn has to work with is ... those colored bulbs?

Observe: the counter-intuitive Martian mind at work!

Not a lot of room to spin inside a lighthouse, but....!

Really; it's a wonder J'onn is still single.

Vibration is Martian-made!

Oh, dear. When J'onn spins, or vibrates, OR snaps his fingers...well, H'ronmeer alone knows what might happen! BRACE YOURSELVES!

Superior Martian understanding of pneumatics and anemology is J'onn's REAL superpower.

Wait...what?  That's .... well,  I wouldn't have thought of that, J'onn.  It seems to have surprised the artist, too, since he didn't have the fortitude to try to DRAW the bulbs being magically unscrewed by the inscrutable suctioning winds created by J'onn's vibrating hand.

Mr. Moth.  Undone by riveting sources of light? THE IRONY!

It was nice of them to let him keep the mask.

Mr. Moth  had a good run while it lasted, I suppose, but -- unlike the Human Flame -- he never got a second go.  Which is too bad, they would have been a great pair, for obvious reasons.  The helmet, which I'm guessing now is just molded plastic, had no special anti-Martian abilities.  The most fascinating thing about the entire story is that, although moths' attraction to FLAMES (as sources of light) is their essential characteristic, there is not a single fire in the entire story.  Fire is common in Apex City...but only when you don't expect it.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Mr. Moth Week #6: Have Special Ray-Gun, Will Travel

You know, I think I owe Mr. Moth an apology.  I called Killer Moth his "more successful Gotham counterpart."  But objectively it's the other way around.  The only thing Killer Moth successfully stole in his first two stories was that stupid pre-Incan Moth idol, and the only reason he got away with that is because he was a DIRECTOR of the museum it was in.  That's like buying a merit badge.  Meanwhile, Mr. Moth has stolen two larger, more public targets, in full view of the city, while facing off against a godlike alien being whose full catalog of powers would contain more words than the story itself.   

And, I'll wager, he's about to steal a third.  Who's going to stop him? Det. Jones? Pfft.  The only way HE's going to find Mr. Moth is if he paints himself with phosphorous and gets stolen, and we all know that odds of THAT.

Such is Apex City's commitment to extraterrestrial research and its public appeal.

Actually, that just might slow down Mr. Moth long enough for J'onn to catch him.  After all, it's not like you can grab an entire model solar system from a planetarium with a skyhook.

The police? Yeah, maybe they'll send a detective to help you.
Call the FAA, you'll get a faster response.  

Unless you're Mr. Moth and you show up when it's being delivered.  Touche, Mr. Moth; who needs Monty Moran, any way?  

I'm sure the hat doesn't make that easier.

Well, he may not need The Getaway King, but Mr. Moth could use some better deliverymen.  Decent villains don't have to haul their own, um, hauls.  If only he were a scientist and could invent something to help do that, or had henchmen to assist.

Ooookay. You ....DO have henchmen. Henchmen whose sole purpose is to watch you do the heavy lifting and then open your Christmas presents for you.  And what's more... you have THE MARTIAN MANHUNTER!

You'll be forgiven if your first conclusion is that J'onn used some previously unmentioned martian power of "creating and then hatching from a big yellow cocoon".  

Mr. Moth did wind up stealing J'onn, who hid inside the sun, armed with multiple metaphors.    

Mr. Moth, a worthy foe, also knows how to wield a metaphor.  And a ray-gun.

Following the classic Golden Age tripartite formula for first-time villain encounters, J'onn:

  1. was taken by surprise at their first encounter (the Radium Clock);
  2. anticipated their second encounter, but was not prepared enough to capture the villain (the Atlas Statue);
  3. planned for their third encounter, allowing him the opportunity to capture the villain (the Golden Orrery). 

Or at least it would allow him to capture for the villain, were it not for Mr. Moth's holding a ray-gun on Aquaman's dad.

Can't take chances with lighthousekeepers, tricky blighters.  Best to use a ray-gun, one of your own devising, if possible.  I guess Mr. Moth is a scientist, after all.

Well, that's it.  All the stolen valuables -- the Atlas Statue, the Radium Clock, the Pier One stuff, the pretty pretty pony -- it's all in that henchman's briefcase, clearly.  Mr. Moth, whose brain is clearly quite large inside his tiny head, is going to make good his escape with his ray-gun and hostage.

Once again, there is nothing the Martian Manhunter can do, even with all his powers.

Or... IS THERE...?!M

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Mr. Moth Week #5: And it opened up my eyes, I saw The Sign.

We last left Det. John Jones at the unveiling of the statue of Atlas Phosphoratus Mundigerens.  

"I sure hope this attracts Mr. Moth! Otherwise I may actually have to go martian-manhunting him."

Like his fellow lazy-ass crimefighter, Green Armchair, J'onn hates to manhunt and prefers his prey delivered.  Unlike his Star City counterpart, who is an idle millionaire, however, J'onn is an actual police detective who spends all day wandering around, making his indolence nearly incomprehensible.

Fortunately, making his own wishes come true is one of J'onn's lesser-used powers, so, sure enough, soon Mr. Moth casts his terrifying shadow upon the assembled flock of Apexians.

Since it has no base and isn't bolted to the ground, clearly THAT is one exquisitely balanced statue. AND it glows in the dark; no wonder Mr. Moth wants it so much.

You know, with a helicopter and a grappling hook, you can bring much steal anything that's outside, with no one to stop you but the FAA regulation process, which you can easily out-fly.  Josh, gas up the Cobra; I know what we're doing this weekend.

J'onn's all prepped to go Martian, then go invisible, and then...well, it's not clear at all how J'onn would stop Mr. Moth, since he wasn't able to last time in nearly identical circumstances.  But then again, it's never clear how J'onn is going to do ANYTHING.  Spinning and some highly doubtful control of airflow would be involved, I'm sure.

Besides, Mr. Moth knows J'onn's weakness-- concern for the conveniently pre-assembled and easily endangered flocks of Apexians-- and acts accordingly. The ominous Mothcopter is equipped with gunnage and tracer bullets, the kind of ammo you can use to start fires! OH NO! Fire is J'onn's weakness!!!

"I read how you come from the green skins and done fought the white skins and did a powerful lot for the orange skins. But I got one question, Mr. Martian Manhunter; how come you never helped us purple skins...?"

Hm. Okay.  Or, I guess, you can use them to topple that sign onto the flocked Apexians, paralyzed purple with fear!

If JJ can't use his Martian powers while he is invisible...how does he turn visible again?
Also, can J'onn create an ice cream cone with his mind that's so large that even he can't lick it?

Hm. Okay.  Or, since the purple crowd has magically disappeared like a Tudor barn, the sign could fall upon a loaded bus.  One that just happened to have stalled right under it.  Just after you fired on the sign.  You're a lucky guy, Mr. Moth.

Oh, sure. A busload of WHITE people.  Purple lives matter, J'onn.

"How WILL I ever be able to catch him?!"  I dunno, 'Manhunter'; maybe you should hire a detective.

Oh. OR you could just wait for yet another opportunity for Mr. Moth to steal a valuable, newly unveiled installation with a skyhook...

How rich are comic book cities like Apex?  Rich enough to have gold solar system models for the sake of pure ostentation.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Mr. Moth Week 4: Money, Means, and Mania

We've focused so much on J'onn in this story. But what of the great menace himself. Mr. Moth?  And where does one hide a giant radioactive clock?

Why, in an isolated lighthouse, of course. [Which, by the way, is more proof, if more proof were needed, that Apex City is on the ocean (as most cities in Florida are).]

If you just remove the word balloons, this is nearly a perfect surrealist painting.

Wow; there's a lot going on here.  First is the fact that Mr. Moth probably doesn't seem as menacing to you in person as he does when the Mothcopter is looming overheard.  Why, he may even seem a tad risible to some jaded souls!  

But that's because, as a comic book reader, you're endured to object-headed villains.  I assure you, if you saw a white-gloved man in a purple suit wearing a moth-shaped helmet covering his entire face coming toward you in person, you would know with 100% certainty that you were about to die like an innocent suburbanite in a home invasion flick and would feel menaced accordingly.  Particularly if, as he advanced, he intoned, "Another light-giving prize to add to my collection of rarities!"

We need a gritty reboot of Mr. Moth, Hollywood!

Second is that his hideout is in a commandeered lighthouse.  That may seem way too obvious, in the manner of a Batman '66 villain, as in "Catwoman's at the abandoned Gato & Chat warehouse".  But remember: this is Apex, America's Most Flammable City.

Most businesses in Apex are about things that BURN.  Here, to demonstrate, is a page from the Apex City Telephone Directory of the day:

And that's just the A's.

Given that...there are a LOT of places that someone like Mr. Moth might be hiding out. Places he can stash his precious, stolen collection of light-giving rarities like...




Mr Moth (much like his more successful Gotham counterpart, Killer Moth) is clearly a villain who makes money for the purpose of committing crimes, rather than one who commits crime for the purpose of making money.  Men like Mr. Moth have money, means, and mania.

All of which he employs the next day, as Det. John Jones and the notoriously idle gawkers of Apex City flock to a new statue unveiling (which probably should have been held at NIGHT):

"Glowing Globe Greets Grateful Gawkers", writes Dominic Magenta, unveiling critic for the Daily Clarion.

I think the City of Apex's Department of Parks & Public Monuments needs its own back-up series, so we could see the process by which civic leaders decide that what their city REALLY needs is a statue of Atlas, painted in phosphorus...

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Mr Moth Week #3: Coal-Oriented!

When we last left Apex City, Officers Toody and Muldoon, blinded by Mr. Moth's super-spotlight, were careening their squad card into a flock of gawking Apexians.

If only J'onn would share with the world his marvelous Martian technology of 'brakes".

Naturally, nothing can be done, and scores of people die.  Ha, no; this is where the Martian Manhunter lives, after all. As mentioned in previous posts, he never has anything to do and is always wandering around, waiting to be imperiled by a garbage-can fire.  In fact, here he comes now...

In what world do detectives have 'routine rounds'?  

At this point I feel it important to emphasize: J'onn is an alien.  VERY alien.  J'onn does not see the world as you and I do, at all.  If J'onn sees a discarded light bulb or a used paper cup lying on the ground between him and a trash can, he does not think, "I shall pick this trash up and place it in the bin."

No. What J'onn thinks is: "A piece of trash! Lying on the ground in front of me, near that trashbin!  Hm... If I oscillate my hand quickly enough, it can create a vortex that will lift the debris up...up...and into the trashbin! And any bystanders gawking around this area will attribute it to a lucky gust of wind!"

Because J'onn is WEIRD. I shudder to think what his house looks like.  He probably uses Martian-vision to make toast, then uses the unplugged toaster to butter it.  Wouldn't want to risk the bread catching on fire, now, would you?

A...a coal truck? What th--?!

Skipping the obligatory "change into Martian Manhunter" scene, here.

Obviously this must take MUCH less time than, say, just grabbing the car.

Once again, crazed alien disco queen J'onn J'onzz decides that spinning is the thing to do.  Even I'm non-plussed.  Even for J'onn this plan is absurd.  

The first rule of being a Martian is:
"All problems that can be solved by spinning
must be solved by spinning."

As a reminder: apparently, Apex City squad cars' brakes do not function if you can't see where you are going. 

I challenge you to come up with a more ridiculous way for J'onn to save the crowd from the squad car.  You can think about it all day, and you will fail.  Because YOU are not a Martian.  

You know, I think I have figured it out: there is some sort of Martian version of the Prime Directive that J'onn is trying desperately to uphold. He can't DIRECTLY interfere in anything, but if he sets up the right dominos, he can indirectly create the outcome he desires, and advert a war in the Gamma Quadrant.

Later, at police headquarters, Detective John Jones shows once again why the department would be lost without him:

"Good god, Holmes; it's so simple once you've explained it!"

"ORLY?," thinks Captain Harding. "That's a GREAT idea, Jones. And here I was, wondering whether I should ask him out on a date.  If you weren't the ONLY detective on the entire force, I would fire you so fast it would make your head spin.  But you'd probably like that..."

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Mr. Moth Week 2: Three O'Flock!

Have you even wondered what people in Apex City do for fun in their spare time?  The answer is: they flock.  All the time.  There is, as I recall, no evidence that there is television in Apex City. Unlike Star City, where heroes can just sit and wait for criminals to expose themselves on live teevee, Apexians in need of distraction need to don their brightly colored suits and fedoras, tighten their black ties and wander the crater-pocked streets of the city for some action.

Thus, Apexians wile away the hours looking for things to gawk at collectively, like falling safes, planes, and meteors.  If construction is the native industry of Central City, than Apex City's is insurance.  Fortunately for the listless citizens of Apex, as this story begins, the ACE TIME COMPANY is opening its new building!

I'm trying to picture this happening in my own life.

Scipio: "Josh, you simply must drive into the city right away!"
Josh: "Oh? What's up? Statue unveiling? Public demonstration of a dangerous weapon?  Or is it time for the Running of The Meteors again...?"  
Scipio; "No, it's the opening of a new WATCH company!"
Josh: "Grabbing my orange fedora! I'm out the door, text me the address en route!"

In all fairness to the fine citizens of Apex, the Ace Time Company does have a snazzy GIANT LADIES WATCH on its roof.

Josh does look pretty good in that hat, though.

If you are wondering why anyone would paint a public commercial monument in a toxic, radioactive substance... good question.  This was still in the era where science was in it's "oo, what do THIS button do?" phase of pre-adolescence.  People liked radium because it made stuff glow.  

Stuff like, say, Henry Ross.

And people used to love to have watches that glow in the dark for the same reason you now use your cellphone to light up a dark room.  They are technological tiki torches.

Eventually, as the bodies mounted up, science figured out, "Hey, stuff isn't really supposed to GLOW. Glowing is almost always a sign that something it bad for you."

Sometimes VERY bad.

But like Mr. Moth we are all attracted to the power of light. Speaking of whom...

Apexians are a cowardly, superstitious lot.

WHAT do they see? Whose shadow drapes over them? What ULTIMATE HORROR could be freezing these folks' souls?  Darkseid? Gamora? The Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man?


If he can see Mr. Moth from there, Officer Exposition must have the keenest vision in all of Apex.  Plus x-ray eyes.
Maybe it's the radium

Yes, using a special device called a 'crane', the terrifying Mr. Moth is stealing a giant prop clock.  

That is a REALLY small building.

So Toody and Moldoon decide to drive their squad car about 50 feet at top speed in hopes of getting up to the roof and stopping a helicopter by hand.  What could possibly go wrong?

See? There's a downside to having sensitive eyes, Muldoon.

Thanks to Mr. Moth's super-spotlight, the squad car is careening toward a crowd of flocking Apexians!  And (apparently) the driver can't possibly put his foot on the break when he can't SEE!