90s Week: Back to the Drawing Board with Bruce Wayne

In 1995 a team of "archaeologists" at DC discovered Bruce Wayne's long lost collection of concept sketches for his costume. These sketches were released in the form of an Elseworld entitled Batman: Knight Gallery, and let me tell you, it has not aged well.

From these historic drawings we learn that:

a) Bruce Wayne was ahead of his time in terms of costume design;
b) Bruce Wayne has terrible ideas, and
c) Bruce Wayne draws a lot like some of the top artistic talent at DC circa 1995 (and also Jim Balent)

By the way, I hope you like pointy shoulders, because you are going to be seeing a lot of them.

My favourite thing about the above design is that the Bat-emblem is a brooch. My least-favourite thing is everything else. But as you will soon see, this is probably the best costume design of the lot.

The answers to his shoulder questions are yes, yes, and yes. Also: they look ridiculous. And I would have to think that his cape being feathered that way on the bottom would make gliding difficult. And it has an ugly belt and it's Not dark enough.

Well this gives "sharp dresser" a whole new meaning.

Ears better - more fierce & intimidating. Also, can make shish kabobs on them.

Some vision and snag concern re shoulder hooks & gauntlet projections. SOME?! SOME?! Nothing could be within a foot and a half of him without getting stabbed.

"Robin, you head that way and I'll...oh shit, sorry Robin."

And what are the shoulder spikes good for? Does he have a problem with seagulls landing on him? (Also, this one was designed by James "Jim" Balent, who I am sure needs no introduction).

Bruce is worried that this look is "too fancy." I am more concerned by the fact that it is "too stupid," "too ugly," and looks "too much like Batman is being sucked down the drain."

I don't really see how this design would hinder agility more than the pointy ones.

We have the hilarious bat-emblam-as-brooch look going on again here, and we have a right shoulder adornment that I cannot figure out at all. I am also not sure how he puts the boots on.

Oh, I don't know if it sacrifices all of the fear factor. I would be pretty scared if I saw anyone wearing this. Because they would look crazy. I am picturing this entire suit being made out of crushed velvet in royal blue and shiny grey.

Bruce Wayne and I clearly have different definitions of "good."

This is...I just...

And you know if 1995 dudes were looking at this page and saying "Oh man, that is so wicked!"

And in case you were wondering what it might look like in red:

How would he even fit in the Batmobile with those things on his shoulders?

But wait, it gets worse:

It certainly is memorable, but I don't know about striking. Confusing is a better adjective. Why would he need hooks all the way up his thighs?

I am trying to picture Batman, whenever this was supposed to be (the past), sketching this thing. And being ok with it. Considering it.

I think I am actually going to keep this page in a drawer somewhere so when my future children ask me what the 90s were like I'll just show them that. And they will cry.

I would say it is more than "verging" on the bizarre. It has kicked bizarre in the nuts and just kept running. As for not being terrifying, well...I wouldn't feel comfortable if I was cornered at a party by someone wearing it.

But how about the Donnie Darko rabbit look?:

It also looks very uncomfortable. And I doubt it breathes well.

Y'know, even if you did as he suggests and combine the best elements of each of these designs, you would still have a truly hideous costume.

There were also some Robin costume concepts, which were...not great...

So there are a bunch of reasons why the 1990s was an ugly and regrettable decade for superhero comics.To DC's credit, at least they just put out this Elseworld book of crazy 90s costumes instead of actually changing Batman's costume to one of these. At least until Azrael showed up.

Review of Even More Martians Manhunter, By Johnathan

Howdy, y’all! The grand crossover that is Martian Manhunter Week continueth! Today, we’re going to keep on looking at alternate versions of J’onn J’onzz, Manhunter from Mars. Fair warning: there’s a chance of spoilers for the stories that these guys come from, though I’m going to try to focus on the green men rather than the plots surrounding them.

Here’s another look at J’onn in his natural state, oddly shiny and blasting eye-beams all over the place. Wotta guy, huh?

Sadly, this isn’t the J’onn J’onzz of Earth-X-Men-Movie or something, this is what he’s been wearing since Infinite Crisis or so. I’m not sure quite why I dislike this costume so much. I definitely favour heroes who wear a complete outfit instead of running around in their underwear, so that’s not it. Plus, I really like collars like the one that he’s sporting there, and this costume does a good job of incorporating elements from the classic Manhunter getup. I think that it might be the radical shift in the balance of colours in the outfit as a whole: green with some red and blue looks nice, while blue with some red and green looks bleh. NOT APPROVED.

This is a fun one from a yarn called JLA: Riddle of the Beast that I haven’t actually read yet but which I understand to be the Justice League set in a fantasy world, one of the ones with goblins and such everywhere. From what I’ve gathered, he’s all hermitish and creepy, which is fun. And I always like it when non-humans don’t look completely human, so JOHN APPROVED.

So at one point, someone decided that they’d heard enough bitching and moaning about how a fear of fire was a stupid weakness for Martians to have and decided to justify it. The route they took was the same one that was ultimately used to explain the Green Lantern weakness to yellow. To whit: “It’s because of a monster! In the power battery!” Or in this case, in the Martian genome. Turns out that J’onn is descended from a race of flaming warmongers, and that the Guardians of the Universe did something to make them the nice green chaps that we know and love to this day, and that the fear of fire thing serves to seal the deal. So, when J’onn eventually conquers his pyrophobia, FAZAM! He becomes a giant, burning asshole named Fernus. It’s kind of a neat story, I suppose, but I mostly threw it in here because of that cover, one of my favourites ever. Go, Plastic Man, go! JOHN APPROVED.

Act of God was a neat idea for an Elseworld – one day, everyone on Earth who has super-powers loses them, and the world needs to adjust to this. Two big problems crop up pretty quickly: first, everyone who used technology to pull or fight crimes is unaffected, so there are a lot of guys like Captain Cold and Lex Luthor still running around causing trouble. Secondly, some of the former heroes find themselves unable to adjust to being unable to zap evil with their eyes and whatnot. In order to more effectively combat the former group, several members of the latter went to Batman and received training in vigilanteism. I’ll let our pal introduce himself:

“J’onn J’onzz, formerly the Martian Manhunter, now the Green Man – detective and martial arts skills, shock-value appearance, and a full range of multipurpose skull grenades.”

I don’t think that the 'multipurpose' part of the skull grenades was explored very thoroughly, beyond "You can put them down on the ground and they explode later, or you can throw them and they explode now." Regardless, they're pretty cool. As is J'onn, actually. Let's watch:

Possibly my favourite thing about this whole exercise was the effort that was put into creating new identities for the powerless heroes, without just saying "Okay, this is the new Aquaman, and since he can't breathe underwater any more, he'll be using a SCUBA rig. And the Flash takes a lot of speed." Yay, Green Man! JOHN APPROVED.

Okay, a bit of setup for the next one: J'onn J'onzz was once affiliated with the Justice League Task Force, which was a... task force made up of various members of the Justice League. At one point, this task force was off on a mission to a place full of alien Amazons. The team that was going on that mission consisted of a bunch of women and J'onn, and they convinced him that he would stick out like a sore something if he was the only guy in the whole damn place. And so, after much writerly effort and justification...

Joan J'onzz was born! Yikes, right? I mean, there are certain parts of my brain that are responding in a traditional ape-man fashion, but for once they are being shouted down by the peanut gallery that is the nerdy portion of my psyche. I have questions, Joan.

Okay, first question: what's with the costume? I mean, I appreciate the effort that you went to to shapeshift the classic elements of your regular costume (oh, ew. I just realized that the Manhunter's cape is almost certainly a part of him, like a curtain made of skin or something. *shudder*) into something that will cover up girl-parts, but... but you can do more than just cover them. The x-bra thing I can see - it's just too clever a modification not to use - but why the hell would you give yourself a thong, with what looks like a bit of camel-toe? Have you just been hanging around with lady super-heroes too much?

Secondly, and again this might have its roots in the fact that you hang around with people like Maxima all the time, why the hell do you look like that? I mean, I can understand wanting to look good, but disregarding the juvenile sexual aspect of the whole thing (and J'onn J'onzz is generally as asexual as a beet), what the hell is the point of having breasts the size of your head? Are you planning on hiding behind them in battle? Did you have a lot of extra mass to use up? Gah. Martians today...

Man, this cover is pure bondage cheesecake, but it's so blatant about it that it's almost admirable. Still and all, J'onn's gender-bending is too mind-bending and gets a stern NOT APPROVED.

Oh, man. Justice Riders. This one's easy to explain: the JLA in the Old West vs. Maxwell Lord as a corrupt rail baron. Not too much to say about this incarnation of the Manhunter, except that it was fun and well-characterized - like the whole book, really. Oh, and he had a great line when he first joined the team:

Man, if he had only said "I reckon." at the end, it would have been perfect. Still, JOHN APPROVED.

This next one's from early in the Grant Morrison run of JLA. Superman and the Martian Manhunter are trapped in a maze that is being generated by the Joker's mind and J'onn's solution is to, well:

I just threw this one in because it was a really neat solution to the problem, and the Manhunter looks great with that grin plastered across his normally-stoic face.

It's also really creepy when he starts adding little "ha ha ha"s to every sentence. It's not even like he's finding anything amusing, it's just an eerie little vocal tic that comes with the Joker-brain. Brrr. JOHN APPROVED.

Not that I looked very hard, but this is one of the few pictures that I found of J'onn in his native form (and on his native planet). Everyone's so pointy! JOHN APPROVED.

From JLA: The Island of Doctor Moreau. Fairly straightforward: what if Dr. Moreau had turned various animals into analogues of the Justice League and they hunted down Jack the Ripper? J'onn is Komodo, the lizard-man, 'cos he's green. It was an interesting premise, but a bit stretched. I think that the lion with electric eels attached to his arm was supposed to be Superman maybe, and that's a head-scratcher.

Still, it's rare to see someone fill out a singlet like that nowadays.


This is just Kyle Raynor, trapped in J'onn's body and unable to control it fully. He's all melty.


Ah, the Legion appearance. J'onn showed up while Mysa Nal, the White Witch, was going on some grand spirit-quest in an attempt to reclaim her powers after they were sapped by a painful divorce (this is what happens when you marry the most evil sorcerer ever, ladies). I never quite got why he was so interested in helping her, but it was nice to see 20th Century/30th Century interaction again.

Okay, so J'onn wasn't exactly 20th Century anymore, what with his having lived through the intervening years and all, but you get the idea.

He looks like he's been bumming around the galaxy for a thousand years, doesn't he? The word is "weatherbeaten", kids.

I actually thought that I'd have more to say about this one. It was a good time, I suppose, even if nobody took J'onn's advice.

He's as quick on the uptake as ever, folks!


Okay, this one is weird. It's from All Access, a spin-off of the Marvel/DC Amalgam Comics collaboration. Now, I really enjoyed that whole event, what with the neato combinations of characters and so forth. Imagine my consternation, though, when I looked up J'onn's role in the proceedings and found that he had made only a one-panel appearance, merged with Phoenix and not even rocking a punny new name. Boo! Boo I say! Look, I'll make one up right now: J'onn Sampson, the Martian Hulkbuster. See? It's easy, Amalgam writers. NOT APPROVED.

(Aw, poo. It turns out that Mister X of the JLX comic was Manhunter, too - I just hadn't been looking in the right places [and god forbid I should go to the trouble of reading the comics again]. Well, live and learn, I say. I'll just change this one to JOHN APPROVED, hey? Wait, no... that amalgam's still hideous. Still NOT APPROVED)

The great hope for present-day Martian Manhunter to be alive: future Martian Manhunter! From Martian Manhunter 1 000 000, this is J'onn after 800 000 years or so of life, with all kinds of scraps and adventures and so forth having happened in the interim. Eventually he ended up as part of the since-terraformed planet Mars and got to make giant heads like this to impress Kyle when he came to visit. I liked this one - it was a good yarn, and J'onn looks good made of dirt.


From the JLA/Young Justice crossover Sins of Youth:

Klarion the Witch-Boy has pulled some mystic mumbo-jumbo on the assembled heroes of Earth, making the adults youngsters and vice-versa. According to a text page somewhere in the comic, the de-aged Manhunter is known as the Martian Kidhunter, which actually sounds a bit creepy (though not as much, I just realized, as the Martian Boyhunter would).

Aside from the fact that his boots are too big and that he hasn't yet learned how to make a nose, the Kidhunter isn't too different from the Manhunter, which is a shame. I guess that by virtue of the fact that he was super-serious all the time whilst in the Morrison-to-Infinite Crisis JLA, J'onn was cast as the quiet, responsible type of kid that I'm sorry to say that I might have been at one point. Meh. The above scene was neat, though, with the pint-sized JSA and JLA rampaging around in the old Justice League cave HQ while grown-up Stargirl tried to keep them in check. JOHN APPROVED.

Another one I haven't read yet, a JLA special called Primeval. I include it here because that green blob at the back is everyone's fave Martian Manhunter, J'onn J'onzz, all devolved and this is more the sort of thing that I was hoping to see him become in JLApe. JOHN APPROVED. (the cute little devolved Zauriel at the top of the panel is also JOHN APPROVED!)

From the Elseworlds 80-Page Giant:

I love "Slim Green Lord of Glam Rock" as an alternative to "Martian Manhunter". I'm going to try to use it more often in casual, Martian-related conversation. That mullet, however, is a hundred million times more horrifying than Superman's ever was. NOT APPROVED.

That's pretty much it, folks, though if you can think of some neato variation on the Manhunter that I missed, let me know. I'm going to wrap up with a look at some images from the Secret Origins version of J'onn's trip to Earth:

Okay, now that is an alien that could inspire a heart attack. Plus, he was apparently in a Martian mosh pit when he was teleported. I like Doc Erdel's goggles, but a flattop is no substitute for a gigantic walrus moustache.


The world tour from the original J'onn J'onzz origin tale was neat, but I like the newer version, as shown here, where he just watched a whole lot of TV. That's one of the reasons that he was such a great character in New Frontier, I think: the 1950s broadcast enthusiasm that he had about things and life and stuff.

And those are just the cutest couple of panels ever. JOHN APPROVED.

Good night, folks! I've got one more Manhunter-related post in the works - look for it soon.

Review of Martians Manhunter, By Johnathan

Hello again, folks! Time for the second installment in our portion of the Paul and John Review/Living Between Wednesdays crossover tribute to our favourite dead Martian, J'onn J'onzz! Today, I'll be looking at some of the Manhunter's different appearances in Elseworlds yarns and what have you and trying to review how he looks instead of the book as a whole. Easier than you think, though, because I haven't read some of this stuff yet.

For comparison, here's J'onn J'onzz in his standard configuration, before he made his head pointy and started wearing that terrible uniform that he died in.

I'm writing these in no particular order, so first up is J'onn in an Elseworlds tale about the JLA, called Destiny (I think that I might have to do little mini-reviews of these things to keep my opinions about them from seeping into the main reviews. In brief, this one is about a world in which there is no JLA: no Superman, no Batman, etc. There are some really neat original characters and I remember liking it enough that I'm not going to spoil it more than I have to. Thoroughly JOHN APPROVED). As I recall (it's been a while), J'onn has been half-dead in a desert for years, and is slowly dissolving or something like that.

Or maybe it's his mind that's dissolving, since you can see him floating in the middle of the forehead there. In any case, for the purposes of this story, J'onn J'onzz is an immobile, intangible green giant lying in a desert and conversing with Destiny, the title character.

He acts as a sort of informant and clues the good guys into some of what's been going on in the world (if this isn't one of the 52, it should be. It's a damn sight better than that crappy Red Rain universe, I can tell you that.). It's really fun; I wish I could tell you more but there are ethical considerations. Read this one if you get the chance.

Oh, he's also really ugly, even for a giant. Even so, I enjoy the creative use of the character - this is the good kind of Elseworld, where it's not just Batman in a pirate outfit (not that that's necessarily a bad time, just that it's not as cool).


Here's the Manhunter from the much-maligned JLApe event (I haven't actually read this yet, but I like the concept and the name is kind of clever, so it's tentatively JOHN APPROVED):

I have to admit, I was hoping for some sort of Martian primate, or a weird lizard-man or something. This just looks like Beast Boy doing some cosplay or something. This:

terrific look/sound of surprise kind of makes up for that, but doesn't mitigate the fact that the Manhunter immediately uses his shapeshifting powers to become normal and wreck the whole premise of the thing. Damn internal consistancy.


Three quick ones:

First, Mr. Mxyzptlk takes him out in World's Funniest:

Nothing new, really, but it's a great comic, so I felt compelled to mention it at one point or another. (JOHN APPROVED!)

Next, the Manhunter in an Elseworlds called League of Justice, which is a fantastically creative name:

I haven't read this one, but the J'onn-analogue is really creepy looking, so I felt like including it here. Bug eyes and veiny head? ugly is one thing, but this guy is ugly-ugly.


And here's the funny animal version of him, from Captain Carrot No.14:

Martian Anteater? Mediocre at best - better than Rat Tornado but nowhere near Elong-Gator. Though it wouldn't have quite as effectively hammered home the THIS IS AN ANIMAL VERSION OF THE JLA message, I feel that calling him the Martian Anthunter would not have caused panic and rioting in the streets. NOT APPROVED

Here's the Manhunter in Kingdom Come:

He's a shell of his former self, but he doesn't deserve this:

Real tactful, Spectre.

I have a theory about why J'onn ended up this way here (and it applies to his similarly neutered state in Dark Knight Strikes Again): Ross (and Miller) had written his great big epic featuring a conflict between Superman and Captain Marvel (or Superman and Batman's brain), the two most powerful forces in the DCU, and then remembered that there was a third, slightly more green guy floating around in the same weight class. Thus, the telepathic self-lobotomy is born (or the nanotech-to-the-brain. Nanotech that both invalidates mental powers and makes someone all hard-boiled and Sin City-esque). It kind of makes sense, but it's an ignominious end for the noble Martian.


Here's a non-pathetic-looking Ross Manhunter, just for the hell of it.

Guh. I'm done for the day. Turns out, though, that I have enough of these pictures for a whole 'nother day of this. Tune in next time for J'onn J'onzz as a kid, as a cowboy and as a lady!