Hiya! A Review of Nothing in Particular, By Johnathan

Hokay, I'm back, but I'm not writing anything about the Human Flame. Not tonight, anyway. It's just too darned hot in here to concentrate sufficiently. This might just be ironic.

Two items:

- Thanks to everyone who offered up words of support and comfort when I said that I was too bummed out to write for a while. It was nothing more serious than a fairly amicable dumping (uh, I was the dumpee) followed by an increase in workload, but this doesn't change the fact that y'all are a grand bunch of folks. JOHN APPROVED

- As you may have noticed, I have adopted (and installed in the sidebar) one of Blockade Boy's many spare kittens. Chunkstyle-H - as he was labelled by the duplicator that spawned him, in compliance with the Anti-Forgery and Kitten-Related Confusion Duplicator Regulation laws of 2718 - is rumored to have many astonishing powers, but so far has spent most of his time asleep on a stack of Showcase Presents collections. I feel that perhaps something horrible is brewing. More as it develops. JOHN... TREPEDACIOUS

In any case, here's hoping that it's nicer in here tomorrow night. See you soon, folks!

First Impressions: Review of the Martian Manhunter, By Johnathan

Hallo! J'onn R'eview here, teaming up with the irrepressible Rachelle to bring you some Martian Manhunter tribute action. SPOILERS SPOILERS VERY RECENT SPOILERS (although not terribly spoilery ones, I guess) READ YE NOT THE REST OF THIS PARAGRAPH IF YE WISH NOT FINAL CRISIS NO 1 SPOILERS. Poor dead Martian - who's going to be the JLA Mom now?

Because it's one of the things I already do, and because Mr. J'onzz never tried out for the Legion (though the time that he hung out with them might just have to get a mention...), I'm going to cover his first appearance, in Detective Comics No. 225.

Here goes:

Good logo, I like the crossed "J"s (as a John, I have opinions about the letter - form is all!) and the fact that they're emphasizing the 'JOHN JONES' over the 'manhunter from mars'.

Introducing... CLARK KENT, a super man!
Introducing... BARRY ALLEN, who is quite fast!
Introducing... HAL JORDAN, a pilot with a ring!

Oh, the humour. Enough laffs, though - on with the show!

Here's the big ol' intro panel from JJ (the MM)'s first story. I include it here for a few reasons. First off, that text piece, I'll bet, probably reveals exactly how the Manhunter came to be. Detective had, by this point, had any number of, uh, detectives, including Slam Bradley (pugilist extraordinaire), Cosmo (racist master of disguise), Pow-Wow Smith (frontier sheriff), Roy Raymond (TV Detective) and Captain Compass (sleuth of the high seas). Someone was given the task of thinking up a new one and figured "Why not make him an alien? He'll fit right in."

Secondly, that's a great title. The Strange Experiment of Dr. Erdel, indeed.

Finally, see J'onzz over there, with the giant Martian head-halo? That was an effect that cropped up a lot when he was appearing to be a human but using his Martian powers, like an eerier version of Peter Parker's face turning half Spider-Man whenever the spidey-senses kick in. Not sure why, but I like the implication that the Manhunter has a huge cranium.

That's Dr. Erdel, who has, I just noticed, an incredibly cool desk. In fact, His whole lab is pretty bitchin'. My copy of Showcase Presents: Martian Manhunter says that Joe Certa is responsible for the art on this story and I think he did a bang-up job, yessir.

I mean, look at Doc Erdel! That is one skillfully rendered potty old science-man.

And this is one of several panels that I threw into this review purely for aesthetic reasons. If I had a really good scan of this I might be tempted to have it blown up into a poster. It's pure fantastic. The colours! The sound effects! One of my favourite panels ever.

Enter the Manhunter! Arms akimbo, he stands ready for adventure! I wonder, did he have some warning that he was about to be teleported somewhere where he could make a great entrance, or was Mars going through a 'dramatic body language' fad? If so then J'onn is lucky - he could just as well have been ostentatiously thinking with one foot upon a low wall and his appearance on Earth might have been marred by him toppling sideways as soon as he materialized.

Martian Manhunter is HUGE! His head is HUGE! And he looks inappropriately amused by the fact that he has been teleported to another planet.

This story was mostly about introducing the character of J'onn J'onzz, so stuff like this happened a lot. Doc Erdel is suitably impressed, I think, by the fact that all Martians can make themselves look like a young Ronald Reagan.

Poor Dr. Erdel. The Martian Manhunter didn't have one of those giant, tragic origins like Superman or Batman, but it always struck a chord with me. Erdel dies while realizing his dream, while J'onzz is trapped on Earth - a very sad little origin scene, with nary an exploding planet or murdered parent to be seen, just a little old man with a tenuous grasp of where his heart is located.

See? Touching! Though I half suspect that that whole 'Xymo Serum' thing is a scam, just in case Erdel was holding out on sending the Manhunter home. Clever, cold-hearted Martian bastard.


I need a minute to myself...

Okay, I'm back.

Ah, the classic John Jones look., back in the days when he was a detective first and a Martian second. As I've blogged before, I really wish that someone would take the opportunity to write him as a super-detective again, rather than constantly increasing his level of alien-ness and alien-ation. His being an alien that had adopted humanity was always a lot more endearing to me than Superman's equivalent gesture, given that J'onn did so as an adult. Come on, DC! J'onn J'onzz as the immigrant done good! You know it could be cool!

As Rachelle has been pointing out in her posts, The Martian Manhunter used to have a whole lot more powers than he does now. Good thing he got all of that gold before that happened, hey?

Post gold-harvesting, J'onn decides to take a trip around the world, looking at Earth stuff while thinking about how much cooler the stuff on Mars is. Here, I will pointedly refrain from comparing this to the manner in which North Americans tour the rest of the globe.

At the end of the tour, he absent-mindedly wanders out into traffic, while thinking about traffic. This incredibly focussed forgetfulness has got to be another one of those since-discarded powers.

Luckily, he had intangibility on his side (still does, too!)! This is the other panel that I threw in for purely aesthetic reasons, by the way. Between the angle, the colours and the reaction, it looks super-nice. There's not even a caption on there - possibly the captioneer thought it was as nice as I do and didn't want to clutter it up.

I'm not sure if this younger planet = more primitive inhabitants thing was cultural or if it was just a DC Comics theory, but I remember seeing it quite a few times in Silver Age comics, like Batman would end up on a planet and there would be dinosaurs everywhere and he'd assume that the place was geologically younger than Earth. I wish I knew a scientific historian so I could ask 'em about it.

After his powers have been established, J'onn spends a page or so thinking about how much crime "Earthians" (fantastic) have to put up with and deciding to help out with cleaning it all up. The origin story is nearly complete!

There we go, a weakness! Everything required for a super-character is now present: origin, costume, secret identity, motivation, powers, weakness. And all in six pages - highly efficient!

You know, life must have been considerably rougher for Mr. J'onzz back when everyone and their dog smoked. Could he be covertly influencing anti-smoking regulation? Probably.

I need to meet a police historian, too. Could you really just walk into a police station and sign up to be a detective? That's great!

Well, there's a somewhat rambling review for you. Personally, I really enjoyed the Manhunter's origin tale. It was compact and well told and looked real pretty. J'onzz, you're


Plus, I just realized exactly why The Martian Manhunter isn't dead: he was killed in a Grant Morrison yarn, and Morrison continuity is frequently more cohesive than the DC continuity that it lives in. So, since Martian Manhunter No. 1,000,000 laid out a future history that did not include J'onzz being a mouldering corpse in the far future, it's likely that he'll be back (and better dressed) by the end of Final Crisis. That's what I'm telling myself, anyway.

Johnathan Presents: Another Review of Showcase Presents, By Johnathan

A while back I did a mass-review of all of the Showcase Presents books that I had purchased. Well, I just keep on buying those things - due to my overpowering weakness for the Silver Age - and so it's time for more of that.

Showcase Presents: Adam Strange

All of the old stories about Adam Strange getting zapped to Rann via Zeta Beam so that he can kick alien ass and score with alien ladies (well, lady). I'm pretty fond of the little pre-adventure that Adam always gets into whilst getting his ass to the site of the incoming beam. Also fun: the sheer amount of trouble that the Rannians get themselves into ("Adam Strange! In the month that you were away we were conquered by robots! Again!"). Finally, a true statement: Adam Strange has the best helmet in comics.


Showcase Presents: The Atom

Good fun. Ray Palmer gets into all sorts of scraps as a tiny man. Like Green Lantern, this comic made an attempt to pass itself off as hard science fiction, with plenty of super-scientific explanations for stuff like shrinking physicists, but readily flew off on crazy tangential plotlines to keep things interesting. The three basic plots of a Silver Age Atom story: 1) Ray Palmer shrinks in order to help his main squeeze Jean "will be evil someday" Loring solve a case so that she can become a successful lawyer and prove herself and then quit the law and marry Ray. 2) Ray Palmer encounters something weird whilst going about his daily business; shrinks. 3) Ray Palmer shrinks and travels into the past via his scientist pal's Time Hole. While in the past he fights injustice with a passion that makes lovers of causality cringe. Take that, historical figures! Take that, history!


Showcase Presents: Batman, Volume 2

Rachelle gave me this one for my birthday, whilst simultaneously foiling my plot to borrow Volume 1 from her by lending it to every other person in Halifax (this is a lie. It was just lent to Tiina [the Tea Devil]). I don't know if the first volume was a great as this, but I hope so. Featured were both the first appearance of the original Blockbuster, with his hatred for Batman yet love for Bruce Wayne, and the crazy-great saga of the Outsider. The Outsider, for those of you who have avoided 30 or 40 years of spoilers, was actually Batman's butler Alfred, who everyone thought was dead but who was only mostly dead and who was turned into a lumpy psychic monster by a well-meaning scientist. Ever since I read about this fantastic mishmash in Jeff Rovin's Encyclopedia of Supervillains I wanted very much to read it, what with Robin getting turned into a coffin and all, so thanks again, Rachelle!


Showcase Presents: The Flash

Good solid Silver Age tomfoolery. Nothing other that the extremely unlikely origin of Kid Flash really sticks out in my memory, but rest assured that it's full of crazy crimes and stupid plots and all of the rest of the good stuff. I grew up with Wally West as the Flash, but i gotta say that Barry Allen was a helluva character.


Showcase Presents: Green Arrow

A lot of the comics that are collected in this one are actually from the late 50s, so they have a really neat feel to them, like the Batman comics of the same era. You can almost see the Comics Code symbol hovering over every character's shoulder, watching; judging. Anyway, Green Arrow and Speedy fight the crime and drive around in a great car (it launches them with catapults!) and meet at least two clowns who use wacky clown arrows to make folks laugh and then to fight crime in a crazy clown fashion. Plus, remember the Batmen of All Nations? Green Arrow has some too! Dudes from all over the world show up for a convention in his honour and bring their lava arrows and so forth - it's a hoot!


Showcase Presents: Martian Manhunter

Haven't finished this one yet, but I'll tell you what my favourite thing about it is: that J'onn J'onzz isn't really a super-hero in his first batch of adventures, he's just a detective who happens to be an alien and have all kinds of crazy powers. I really wish that someone nowadays would write some comics focusing on that aspect of the Manhunter's personality. It seems like all of the J'onzz character development lately has had the effect of making him really alienated (ha!) from humanity, while in those early stories he had a whole lot of charm. I don't know. I just want a comic about a hard-boiled private eye who can turn invisible and is scared of fire and sometimes has a hound dog to hang out with. Oh! Also, his brother T'omm J'onzz shows up at one point!


Showcase Presents: Shazam!

This one's a lot of fun. They got C.C. Beck, the original artist for the character, to draw the DC comics revival, so everything looks fantastic. The stories are a bit child-oriented and entirely insane - my favourite character was Sunny Sparkle, the Nicest Kid in the World, who has it really tough because everyone loves him so much at first sight that they give him ridiculous and extravagant presents (and apparently name ponies after him). He just keeps donating the stuff to charity and declaring that he'll become a hermit when he grows up. I think that Sunny Sparkle Come Down Off the Mountain, with a tangled beard and a crazed look in his eyes and hordes of glassy-eyed, gift-bearing acolytes, is number 3 on my list of "characters that I wish would make an appearance in DC continuity", right after Carbon Monoxide Gangster and Parade Hater Horace. As for Shazam!, it's pretty great but it peters out at the end as the series hits hard times, but not before Dr Sivana goes on a crazy crime-spree road trip and Billy Batson and Uncle Dudley have to hop in their camper van and chase him all over the country. Whee!


Showcase Presents: World's Finest

I just got this one today, so I haven't read much of it, but what I have taken in is fantastic. Silver Age Batman and his pal Superman were each at least as concerned with keeping their secret identities safe as they were with, say, fighting crime, so when they got together all bets were off. Rachelle did a pretty great post about one of the messed-up adventures that resulted from this here. It's all Batman dressing up like Superman and then pretending to be Clark Kent while Superman's dressed up like Batman and also being Clark Kent and all to mess with Lois Lane's head... it's almost Shakespearian at times. Plus Superman and Batman are one of the most fun BFF pairs in comics, even without considering the subtextual homoeroticism - that's the icing on the cake!


I totally asked for many more of these things for Christmas, so there's certainly going to be more of these reviews, yay.

Review of Music, By Johnathan

This here's from the Phantom Zone miniseries back in the day:

I kind of really like the idea of a super-hero-inspired musical subgenre - sometimes it seems like the people in comic-book universes live in this state of disinterest re: superstuff. Unless, say, Booster Gold punches his way through their front door for some reason, they have no real day-to-day thoughts on the issue of the heavily-muscled spandex models flying through their towns. Except for a whole lot of exceptions that I just thought of of course. Culturally, though, it's this and that one arc in Legend of the Dark Knight where there was a fad for bat-clothes.

The lyrics seem to be about a hundred times better than is usual for comic-rock. Possibly because there are so few of them. And because they aren't composed entirely of 'baby', 'hey' and 'yeah' (see all music featured in, say, Showcase Presents: The Teen Titans).

Oh, Bizarro-music. Everyone born after 1961 is an imperfect duplicate. Why isn't this all over current continuity?



Well? Which side won?

Review of an Heroic Nadir, By Johnathan

Man, do I love the Atom. All five of them, from little 40s tough-guy All Pratt to current Atom Ryan Choi's friend Panda (Atom V as of last week or so). My absolute fave, however, is Ray "Totally Missing" Palmer, the man who forever quashed all cries of "Shrinking is a crappy superpower!" Seriously, read Showcase Presents: The Atom or any incarnation of the Justice League that has the good sense to have ol' Ray - you will see a tiny man kicking ass. Could Batman disarm someone by jumping onto the end of their gun? Well, probably, but it wouldn't be as cool as when Ray does it.

But that was Ray at the height of his coolness. This review is focussed on another time, a dark time. No, not the 'ex-wife is a murderous, insane super-villain' time, as that is just standard hero stuff. Instead, we're looking at the time that comic book writers thought that Ray had absolutely no life.

The preceding page is perhaps the saddest I've ever read. Not in a 'Death of Superman' kind of way or a 'Black Adam murders an entire damned country and by the way why isn't the whole DC Universe out looking for him, seriously, like Mary Marvel didn't even mention that he killed millions of people when they ran into each other. He'd better not ever get redeemed, I mean really - it'd be like having Hitler on the Justice Society' kind of way, but in a 'the writer went a bit too far in making the hero look like a regular Joe' kind of way. Let's break it down:

Okay: Ray Palmer is devoted to his (awful, murderous) wife. I guess I can respect that. She's out of town and he's lonely.

See, now this is where things start to fall apart. Ray's wife (killed Sue Dibny, killed Robin's dad, killed Captain Boomerang) is out of town and he's so bored. He has nothing to do without his wife (slept with the Spectre, tried to sleep with Mary Marvel) around. He certainly doesn't have any friends, and especially not super friends.

Personally, I think that the artist just wanted to draw this shrinky/growy leapy thing and so they had to think up an excuse. I just wish that it could have been a better one than 'Jean's out of town and Batman didn't feel like going out for nachos.' Doesn't the Atom travel through time on a regular basis? instead of hopping around, he could be stealing George Washington's teeth or something.

... that's the saddest thing that I've ever read in a thought balloon. Seriously. It's like something that an elderly shut-in would think. Ray, dude, I'm certain that Green Arrow or someone would like to hang out with you. Or you could watch TV. Just... just don't make me cry on my Action Comics.


Almost forgot: I'm going to try to post something every night this week. Tune in, kids! Watch me fail!

Review of Showcase Presents, By Johnathan

Showcase Presents has lately been presenting some pretty awesome stuff, in the form of 500+ page reprints featuring comics of the 60s and 70s and I've been doing my part by buying a whole lot of them. It's time, I think, to pony up some reviews.

Showcase Presents: The Elongated Man

This was the first of these black-and-white beauties to cross my path and I was pretty glad that it had. It featured Ralph Dibny's start as a rival/partner to the Flash, followed by his marriage to Sue Dearborn and their subsequent travels around the world. Ralph's a very atypical 60s DC hero in that his identity is known to the world (and in that he's married instead of being in an extended engagement or flirtation). He and Sue encounter all manner of mysteries while being socialites, some of which are quite charming. Ralph also hits people with a disturbing array of pliable body parts. These early stories are a great illustration of the fact that even though the Elongated Man may have the same power as Mr. Fantastic or Plastic Man, the way that he uses it is all his own.


Showcase Presents: Superman Volumes 1 and 2

This is some pretty great Silver age ridiculousness right here. You've got Superman obsessing over his secret identity, kryptonite simply everywhere, more mermaids than you can shake a stick at, Lex Luthor, Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane, Clark Kent looking like Steven Colbert and plenty of aliens. Plus Volume 1 was one of the first of these bad boys out and so only cost $9.99.


Showcase Presents: Superman Family

This reads pretty similarly to just plain Superman, only with more Jimmy Olsen. Jimmy: a) has lots of different jobs. b) foils lots of gangsters. c) occasionally betrays/ is betrayed by Superman for dramatic effect. d) frequently develops superpowers - in one of the coolest stories he uses some of Superman's trophies to put together a super-powered crime fighting suit, then develops a 'best-buddies' relationship with a paper boy (who collects souvenirs of his exploits and summons him via a signal-pen).


Showcase Presents: Green Lantern

Another $9.99 wonder. With this one I got an interesting look at just how different comic book series used to be from one another. The Elongated Man dealt with really intimate little mysteries, while Superman lived in a world that hovered between soft sci-fi and fantasy, genre-wise. Green Lantern was by no means hard sci-fi but it drew from some of its conventions (and of those of the classic space opera) to create a comic that took itself a bit more seriously. Some good, solid, fun comic yarns here.

Showcase Presents: The Brave and the Bold

Bob Haney writes Batman and guest. This was a terrific read, with lots of Haney lunacy. The guests included Metamorpho (good), Plastic Man (dismal), The Metal Men (terrific - everyone goes to a robot convention) and Deadman (two times!). The best issue involved Batman having Wonder Woman and Batgirl pretend to fall in love with him as part of a plat to catch Copperhead, then when the time came to nab him they really had, such is the power of the Bat-charisma. Copperhead escaped in the kerfuffle, but was nabbed later on. Duh.


Showcase Presents: Justice League of America, Volumes 1 and 2

Good solid Silver Age fun. The JLA whomp some aliens, Starro the Conquerer, more aliens, Dr. Light, and some aliens. Snapper Carr is surprisingly endearing, J'onn J'onzz is surprisingly pudgy. He also tends to use his "Martian Breath" almost to the exclusion of all of his many other powers, possibly to distinguish him from Superman.


Showcase Presents: Teen Titans

Another Bob Haney masterwork, featuring the sidekicks of various Justice League members. The Titans answer calls for help from teenagers across the world and so end up dealing with giant monsters, inter-dimensional invasions and submarine pirates. Also notable is Haney's mastery of contemporary slang (assuming that sixties-teens used 'fab', 'ginchy' and 'gear' in every other sentence) and creative use of nicknames (Kid Flash = 'Twinkletoes', Aqualad = 'Gill Head', Wonder Girl = 'Wonder Chick'). All this and the Mad Mod!


Showcase Presents: Legion of Super-Heroes

My thoughts on this topic are already known.


Showcase Presents: Metamorpho the Element Man

Bob Haney strikes again! This time out he's penning the adventures of Rex Mason, whose brush with an ancient meteor/artifact gives him a hideous appearance and the ability to change into any element found in the human body. This one's got great art, as well as my favourite Silver Age supporting cast: Simon Stagg, Rex's boss, famous scientist and so close to being a super-villain that his private security forces dress like Cobra Commander; his daughter Sapphire Stagg, Rex's fiance; Java, a formerly-frozen Neanderthal given a modern brain by Stagg - Java's in love with Sapphire and occasionally tries to bump Metamorpho off but is a colossal coward and so never succeeds; and Urania Blackwell, the Element Girl, Metamorpho's female counterpart. One sad thing: Metamorpho, like Aztek, had his comic canceled before its time and so you'll never learn just who it was that was plotting against the Element Man toward the end of his series.


Showcase Presents: The Phantom Stranger

I'm still reading this one, but so far it's great. The basic format involves a supernatural setup, followed by the appearance of both the Phantom Stranger and Dr. Thirteen, the Ghost-Breaker to lend a hand. The two squabble over the existence of the supernatural, then tell stories to illustrate their points. Then they solve the mystery. At the end of the story the Phantom Stranger disappears, which really ticks off Dr. Thirteen, and it seems to be cumulative, because in the last story I read he pretty much just punched the Phantom Stranger in the face as soon as he showed up. Also notable: four teenagers keep showing up and their names are Spartacus, Attila, Wild Rose and Mister Square.


Well, that's it for now. I'll almost certainly be getting more of these things and when I do I'll write about it on the Internet. I'm so cool.