Saturday, December 29, 2007

Justice League of America Annual #3 (1985)

Taking an even worse beating than the Justice League was their old satellite. Besides being ravaged by Martians in the previous year, it was supposedly destroyed again during the Crisis, then here it was blown up by an overloaded Red Tornado and fell out of orbit. Good thing the team had vacated the property after the very first attack. Satellite pieces began falling into Earth's atmosphere, which was especially strange since the intact ruins of the satellite would soon pop up in yet another JLofA story featuring Despero. But hey, let's not get sidetracked by too may writers taking out their aggression on a defenseless piece of orbiting architecture. In the annual, Firestorm, Black Canary, and Green Arrow teamed up to stop the debris from destroying property in Detroit. They were soon joined by Superman, Batman and the Outsiders without fanfare or introductions. Red Tornado's consciousness popped up in electric machinery, which he used to contact his girlfriend, Kathy Sutton. Various weather catastrophes engineered by Reddy, or more likely the Tornado Tyrant, afforded him the energy necessary to re manifest in non-robotic form. The new Tornado wanted to use his Crisis augmented power to restart life on Earth from a clean slate, its old inhabitants be damned. “Perhaps his madness stems from his mind’s separation from the android brain that housed it!” Manhunter’s notion failed to impress, and even Kathy's plea for peace failed, but betrayal on her part did cause the Red Tornado to discontinue his attacks. Feeling totally alone in the world, R.T. disappeared from the comics scene for several years...his place in the League taken by the Manhunter from Mars.

Martian Manhunter: “My Martian Vision confirms our worst fears! That is the JLA satellite... and it is heading this way! How could this have happened?” Manhunter swooped down to pick up Steel and Vibe to carry into the fray. “Come, my friends, there is work for us to do!” Reached maximum flight speed to deflect through personal impact the largest burning mass of debris before the flames wiped out his powers. “The Martian Manhunter! He was willing to sacrifice himself to deflect that huge chunk... but it wasn’t good enough!” He missed his aim by a shade, but Firestorm recovered the ball prior to rebound. When Green Arrow and Vibe began playing rough, J’Onn chastised, “Paco! Oliver!” I imagine he had the same tone a years later when he’d scold, “Guy! Booster!” Firestorm, the “original hothead,” spoiled his one chance to play peacemaker when he got in Steel’s face for calling the missing Red Tornado “the robot guy?” Manhunter physically came between the two, explaining, “Hold, Firestorm! I’m certain no offense was meant! Steel is simply uninformed!” Um, who was offending whom again? As for Reddy, a scan of the area with Martian Vision revealed tiny bits that, “my friends-- is all that remains of him!” Later flew Steel to a dam the Detroit Leaguers fought to save. Deduced that lightning was striking a bit too precisely, and followed the bolts to their orbiting satellite origin. Teamed with the arriving Superman to overwhelm the satellite’s force field with their combined might. The twin titans then departed to tackle more of these satellites solo. Later, when the Red Tornado Tyrant was briefly frozen, Manhunter managed to contain him with his malleable form.

Vibe: Began throwing shade toward Black Canary and Green Arrow on sight. Punched and generally manhandled by Ollie Queen. Freed workers trapped at a hydroelectric plant. Blasted Red Tornado repeatedly.

Steel: Punched random bits of flying debris, which y’know, doesn’t make it stop being random bits of flying debris or anything. Somehow caught a dead falling Manhunter after his collision with the fiery mass, using the same fantastic speed and accuracy that allowed him to punch random bits of flying debris. Held together a collapsing dam. Manhunter thought, “Hank possesses a strong spirit! It’s probably never occurred to him to doubt that he will succeed...”

Vixen: Used the power of eels to absorb rampant electric while helping shut down the power plant.

Zatanna: Paired off with Ralph to investigate rogue weather controlling satellites S.T.A.R. Labs had launched and lost mastery of. Was then set upon by same.

Elongated Man: Ralph shouldn’t have hit the red button, as his attempt to cause the weather satellites to auto destruct just alerted them to his location. Held Kathy Sutton as she shed tears over her betrayal.

Gypsy: Ran around the power plant barefoot. Caught in a blast by Red Tornado. Went incongruously Mr. Wizard on us with, “Stopped the airflow, Zatanna? The cycle of heat exchange from the equator to the poles? But that would cause all the high- and low-pressure systems to just deepen... to keep building up without an outlet!” Did she study really hard for a science test right before running away, or was there more to that “drabardi” business that Englehart was selling?

Dale Gunn: Brushed off his lab coat, but failed to put Red Tornado back together again. Guided Vixen in shutting down power plant. Studied spacial warps and red skies tied into the Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Sue Dibney: Fretted over her husband while buying groceries for the Bunker, concerned for his safety after the death of Supergirl and the seeming demise of Red Tornado.

The Creators: Rick Hoberg always had a bit of early Starlin in his Bronze Age melange, while Mike Gustovich’s classicist style recalled elements of later Starlin, yet the end product was more of the Neal Adams school. Pretty nonetheless. The story by Dan Mishkin was somewhat shy of enthralling, but pleasant enough, and the mingling of Satellite and Detroit Leagues was intriguing, not to mention mildly meta.

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: “JJ” – Firestorm
“Greenie.” – Vibe.
“Green Guy.” – Vibe.

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: “Maybe if you old dudes took better care of your space junk... we wouldn’a had to mop up after you at all!”

Friday, December 28, 2007

Justice League of America # 244 (11/85)

Dale Gunn: Piloted a borrowed NASA space shuttle 22,300 miles above the Earth.

Sue Dibney: Called shotgun.

Vixen: Marginally more useful than Sue Dibney.

Elongated Man: Acted as a ladder in a telescoping spacesuit to allow the Detroit Leaguers access from their space shuttle to the remains the JLA Satellite. Tried to explain the Multiverse to a disbelieving Paco.

Vibe: Talked jive. Blinded. Tried to talk more smack to Infinity Inc., but told by Zatanna, “Choke it down, Vibe. Choke it down.”

Gypsy: Coddled Vibe, who’d beem inadvertently blinded. “Zatanna, what did you do? Haven’t you done enough?”

Zatanna: Channelled sunlight into the Satellite’s storage cells, providing power enough for a year, and presumably drawing the eventual attention of Red Tornado. Healed Vibe and defended Detroit against baseball-sized hail.

Steel: Abandoned by Manhunter when the Alien saved the rest of the team. Tortured by his grandfather and Mekanique to make him “strong, as I was strong.” That pair also turned on the Infinitors, who were themselves rescued. Steel Junior upon release beat his grandfather into a short coma, eyes filled with tears.

Martian Manhunter: As Gypsy chided the deluded Vibe, who was calling for a rematch with infinity Incorporated, J’Onzz stated, “Your opinion is noted, Vibe. However, as current leader of the League, I must trust my own judgement.” He later said of his birthplace, "Perhaps if we had "freaked" when there was a fight, my young friend, Mars might still be a living planet...instead of a barren wasteland. You must learn to choose your battles wisely--as have I, at great cost." Employed the reinvigorated satellite’s capabilities to travel to Earth-2. He then led the Justice Society of America against the rogue hero they’d believed dead and his mechanical assistant, a foe they’d anachronistically faced decades previously. Just as that matter was resolving, “The ears of my people evolved from the thin air of Mars. I... hear something, despite the layers of soundproofing that protect the Bunker... a storm... and human cries...”

The Creators: Gerry Conway sent Commander Steel well past the point of redemption, though there would be some equivocation to come. Joe Staton continued what was becoming a tradition of having entirely inappropriate artists stiffly render a team of supposedly cool young heroes.

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: “You think jus’ ‘cause I’m a kid from el barrio, I don’t know spit?”

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Infinity Inc. #19 (10/85)

After his terrible first outing as team leader against Amazo (nevermind the rampant deaths and his general impotence in the JLA Classified retcon “A Game of Chance,”) J’Onn J’Onzz and his team sorely needed to save face. This was not to be, as Hank Heywood Sr. had journeyed to his former home Earth-2 with the aid of the mysterious Mekanique to deceitfully enlist the services of Infinity Incorporated against his squatters at the Bunker. Before the League could explain away the original Commander Steel’s manufactured rational for conflict, the senior Heywod launched an offensive, dragging the offspring of the Justice Society of America into the thick of it. While it was clear the Detroit kids were pulling their punches, they were still punked in fast and furious fashion, proving once and for all they could in no way lay claim to being true to the legacy of the Justice League of America.

Steel: Tried to make peace in the midst of his grandfather’s spurious accusations, only to be sent flying by an unwarranted blow from Commander Steel. Well okay, Jr. did toss grandpa out a window in a previous appearance, but getting jabbed in the throat with an elbow more than evened that score. Finally downed by a girder to the face, the last Leaguer previously standing before being rescued by the Martian Manhunter.

Zatanna: Knocked out cold when Steel Jr. slammed backwards into her. Victim of a gratuitous heiny shot that is doubly offensive for its lack of arousing quality. Happenstance doomed Detroit League with her handicap.

Elongated Man: Thought Vibe’s breakin’ skillz were “terrific!” Busted a lame gag, then quizzed, “Aw, where’s that famous Martian sense of humor, J.J.?” Confronted accusers (and copped a feel off Zatanna’s tush,) demanding, “That’s enough from you and your teenage gang, Heywood!” Trussed the Fury with his durable elastic form, before being rendered comatose when the daughter of the Earth-2 Wonder Woman landed from a considerable leap skyward.

Vixen: Tried to tear a chunk out of Silver Scarab, son of the Earth-2 Hawkman, before falling to his energy blast while distracted.

Gypsy: Punched the Fury in the back of the head while invisible, but detected by Northwind and left dangling off the side of a building.

Vibe: Break-danced. Dealt both Green Lantern’s daughter and Northwind respectable blows before Jade recovered to pound him.

Martian Manhunter: When asked by Zee what he thought of Vibe’s busting a move, “Such antics are not to my tastes, Zatanna...” After their home invasion, Jade was shocked to find, “Huh? My God-- a green man!” Manter deadpanned, “You should talk, young lady!” There’s that famous Martian humor, Ralph. Once Commander Steel’s abuse turned from verbal to physical, Manhunter tried to intervene, but was blasted backward by Mekanique. He was then throttled by Nuklon, loose kin to the Golden Age Atom, who proved his command of variable density was at this time better than a Martian’s. Only stunned (as should be modern readers at this travesty,) Mekanique recognized the danger still posed by “the Alien,” and presented him with, “FIRE! My only-- nemesis--!” Sorry, Professor Hugo. “As for J’onn J’onzz, he has powers besides mere flight and super-speed. Powers to be carefully husbanded in adversity. And one of them-- is Martian Lungpower! The unconscious JLAers are blown away from the scene of their ignominious defeat-- as if they were but straws in a tornado. And a truly invisible Martian will soon join them-- so that they may fight another day.”

The Creators: Since Gerry Conway and Alan Gold were credited as consultants, one assumes the gave their blessing for writer/editor Roy Thomas’ pet team to completely own the Detroit League. Maybe they wanted to show their team’s human fallibility, but in truth this just proved their detractors right, that the characters they were writing were not what their fans wanted in a Justice League. This character mass assassination was abetted by new penciller Todd McFarlane, whose developing style made for characters that looked like they were inflated and storytelling made difficult by an overemphasis on design elements. J’Onn J’Onzz caught a nasty case of Spawn-Cape as well, looking like the drape over the sides of a parade float.

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: “J.J.” – Elongated Man.
“Greenie.” – Silver Scarab.
“Green Man.” – Jade & Fury.
“Alien.” – Commander Steel and Mekanique.

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: “You’ll be sorry for that, amigo! Very sorry!”

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Crisis on Infinite Earths: Beyond the Silent Night (1985)

The real J'Onn J'Onzz, in the original continuity, finally showed up in Crisis #5, as part of a massive two-page crowd scene aboard The Monitor's satellite. A couple of pages later, Jemm: Son of Saturn was shown standing directly behind J'Onn, so this can be considered their first meeting. After a battle with the Red Tornado, J'Onzz swore, "This universe is imperilled.The new Justice League joins the battle.”

The Crisis was really hard on satellites. In #6, J'Onn held up part of The Monitor's damaged base, while offering help to the Outsider Katana and the angelic Azrael. Unfortunately, the Monitor's satellite was destroyed despite Manhunter's effort, so J'Onn joined the pair (plus the Golden Age Flash and the Legionnaire Blok in escaping to a parallel Earth. They arrived on Earth-4, the world of the classic Charlton Comics heroes. Blue Beetle, disbelieving the Monitor's story about the destruction of parallel Earths, led Captain Atom, Peacemaker, Nightshade, Judomaster, Thunderbolt, and The Question in an attack on J'Onn's team. "I'll question the how of it after I dispose of this 'Captain Atom'," J'Onn said, while blasting the hero with powerful Martian Vision. Blok then joined Manhunter in capturing the Beetle's Bug. Eventually, the Earth-4 heroes' terrified assault was revealed to be the Psycho Pirate's doing.

In #7 (Oct.'85) a group of heavyweights were chosen to enter the Anti-Matter Universe. The group included the Martian Manhunter, the Supermen of Earths 1 & 2, Wonder Woman, Firestorm, Supergirl, Wildfire, Jade, Captain Marvel, The Ray, Lady Quark, Mon-El, Pariah, Dr. Light, Captain Atom and Green Lantern Alan Scott. It was imperative that they directly challenge the Anti-Monitor, who had been destroying whole universes, then absorbing the power released by the destruction. Manhunter and Marvel stood together against giant stone guards, until Supergirl's making the ultimate heroic sacrifice to severely handicap the Anti-Monitor brought the battle to a halt. The heroes returned home, believing the threat had been ended along with the life of Kara Zor-El.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Ambush Bug Stocking Stuffer #1 (1986)

Keith Giffen's madman creation Ambush Bug, after a sort of "Red Skies" moment involving Dead Hukkas (don't ask,) needed help finding his stuffed sidekick (I mean it,) who had become a cannibal doll eater (just let it roll over you, already.) It seems the Crisis on Infinite Earths body count had gotten so high poor Jonni DC, Continuity Cop was backed up into the new year. While digging up the fallen's graves to confirm death, Cheeks the Toy Wonder had become a sort of zombie through contact with an irradiated bulldozer from Three Mile Island. Panicked, daddy Ambush Bug began calling all the super-teams he knew, including the Titans, the Legion, the Outsiders, and a certain Detroit based breakdancing outfit...

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: "Jes? Jes, man. Thees eez the Justice League of America. No, he is not here. No, he is not here, either. No, she is not here. Hello? Hello?"

Don't feel bad, Paco. He hung up on Metamorpho as well. Wait, do feel bad.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

JLA: Incarnations #5 (11/2001)

Retroactive continuity struck again, this time when the Detroit era League was revisited by John Ostrander and Val Semeiks. In this first Post-Crisis look at the team, the hypocrisy of Aquaman’s quitting a neophyte League he had himself forced into existence was highlighted by Zatanna. “I resign effective immediately. J’Onn, you should be chairman. You have the most seniority. Good luck.” Both as a good friend and “big picture” type, J’Onzz defended the position. “It’s probably for the best. He was in denial of his grief over the death of his child. It drove off his wife. Now, he’s facing up to what matters most to him. It’s a good sign.” In light of circumstances, Elongated Man (the only other member present) questioned whether there was a viable Justice League left, between the immaturity of its new membership and (as Zatanna pointed out) the recent proliferation of super-teams. Manhunter soundly rejected the notion. “Of course there is [a need for a Justice League]. I respect all the groups you’ve mentioned but none of them does what the League does. The League leads. When there is a crisis, the other heroes--and the world--look to us first to deal with it, to rally others. We set the example.”

Meanwhile, the newer Leaguers were arguing over an article in publisher Tully Reed’s popular super-human magazine, “Meta,” which lambasted the team. Steel quipped to Paco/Vibe, “How can they disrespect you, Taco, when they have no respect for you?” Manhunter condemned, “That was a slur, Steel. Don’t use it again.” Steel went on to question J’Onzz’s appointment as leader. “Your headquarters belongs to my grandfather.” J’Onzz retorted , “We leave and this place is just a large fallout shelter. We take a room and it becomes the headquarters of the Justice League of America. You are in the League. You are not the League itself.” Zatanna whispered to Ralph, “This isn’t the League! This isn’t even a team yet!” Elongated Man consoled, “Ah, J’Onn will whip ‘em into shape. We’ll be okay so long as we don’t go up against anything major!”

The Crisis On Infinite Earths struck, although there was no such thing as Infinite Earths in the Post-Crisis DCU. Ostrander’s explanation sounded more like Valiant’s “Unity” crossover than the seminal comic book event. As explained by suddenly scientific-minded Gypsy, “Our universe was under attack by the Anti-Matter universe of Qward, led by the Anti-Monitor. He seeks to destroy the vibrational walls between present and future. Some alternate futures have already been destroyed. By reducing everything to a single point in time, the Anti-Monitor then plans to blast it with an antimatter cannon, making his universe the only one. His opponent was The Monitor, who created...machines, like temporal tuning forks, to keep time aligned...” The new League members did an admirable job of defending the “forks” against Shadow Wraiths and defeating Fire-Eye unchaperoned. (Fire-Eye, for the many who wouldn’t recall, was the intelligent meta-dinosaur who had previously been encountered by founding Leaguers, but via temporal anomaly, was facing a JLA team for his first time here.) Vibe asserted, “Man, that’s sweet. I wish J’Onn was here to see what we done.” He was. “The crisis is far from over. There is still much to do...but I want you to know that I am proud of you all today...and I am honored to stand with you.”

Steel: Contrary and borderline racist this outing, but he did topple a dinosaur and watch over Vibe.

Zatanna: Virtually nothing. A remarkable duplication of her characterization from the period depicted.

Elongated Man: Fretted over Sue and questioned the usefulness of the Detroit League.

Vixen: Teamed-up with Hawkman to blind Fire-Eye. Effectively stood up to Batman. Took styling tips from Patti LaBelle.

Gypsy: So much it will require separate notation in her biography. Seriously. Stop laughing.

Vibe: Made to look stupid and irresponsible when he tuned out Harbinger’s constant pseudo-scientific droning during Crisis, as if the readership didn’t do the same exact thing. Tried to run game on Kole. Used vibrational powers as directed by Gypsy to repair damages to time.

Martian Manhunter: Separated from his team while trying to salvage the Monitor’s satellite. More on that later.

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: “This is muy weird, J’Onzz! I don’t do well with weird.”

Friday, December 14, 2007

JLA Classified #25 (9/06)

Vixen: Ran recon in the caves, ‘cuz she’s stealthy. Revealed she hated bears, but used their power and tried to save one that plunged to its death. “We’re still family!” Punched and kicked various bad people.

Gypsy: Powned everyone. Retroactively revealed to be some sort of minor vagabond goddess with a slew of powers and secret knowledge previously unknown to readers. Psychically guided all the Leaguers to where they needed to be to be while making them think they were just following intuition. Personally defeated Amos Fortune with a hook to the guy so severe it lifted him off the ground. Precognitive to boot. I can and likely will devote whole blogs to the impact this one issue would have on her history, if it were actually canonical. For instance, she’s way powerful enough to wander the streets of Detroit barefoot now, so that finally makes sense. Why didn’t I figure it out before?!? It was right in front of us the whole time!

Vibe: When not placed on the stealth squad, repeatedly protested “I’m very sneaky!” Fended off a fake lion. Zapped a Royal Flush Gangster. Thought of Gypsy, “Man, that chica digs me!” Instead, had his destiny secretly read. “Vibe--dead, in the future! The vision never changes!”

Steel: “And Steel, too!” D’oh! Beat up one old man, and contributed to the fatal coronary of another.

Martian Manhunter: “I’ll be fine, now that we’re away from the fire. To a Martian, fire’s like throwing an off switch. You’re completely helpless. Failed to deduce that Gypsy mentally manipulated him into position, unsure if she’d verbally called out to him, despite her protestation. Fought a faux she-demon. Outsmarted the bad lack powers directed against him. “I’m just walking-- putting one foot in front of the other. Luck has nothing to do with it.” Capitalized on the psychic feedback which struck the Royal Flush Gang after one of their members died. Hit a woman. “Something’s going on with Gypsy. But I still can’t read it.

Aquaman: Survived the fire with blood smeared on his person, but still collapsed from dehydration. Revived by a freak shower. Busts into the cave hideout just after the case was wrapped, shouting, “Thank Neptune! ...I would have been here sooner but I walked into the one thing I can’t handle--fire--” Manhunter replied, “Join the club.”

Dale Gunn: ...

The Creators: Steve Englehart digs on the Wiccan-Pagan-Devil-Worship-Jungle-Music, and his resume reflects it, so he clearly enjoyed writing Gypsy WAY beyond hr previously established perimeters as a Madonna/Cyndi Lauper wannabe with illusion powers. Tom Derenick also enjoyed drawing Gypsy’s physical development WAY beyond her years at this point in her history. Goddess or no, fifteen year olds shouldn’t look like that, nor astral project all nekkid like. At no point do either of them take Vibe remotely seriously, as illustrated by the turning of the severe downer reveal at the end of this fairly brutal arc into a jab at his complete cluelessness.

Aquaman, Vibe and Gypsy on the only cover to actually look like Mike Zeck drew it, though Jerry Ordway's inks still assimilate Gypsy.

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: “What, man! Whatchu talkin’ about?”

Thursday, December 13, 2007

JLA Classified #24 (8/06)

Vixen: Absolutely took charge, using her powers to sense changes in the fire’s path and repeatedly guide her teammates away from immolation. She’s so impressive she rated a two-page origin recap and...

Steel: Admired Vixen. Carried J’Onn’s limp body all over the blazin’ forest.

Gypsy: Ran enough that she should start thinking really hard about investing in some kind of footwear. Flip-flops? Clogs? Something?

Vibe: Still doesn’t get what the big deal with the Taco Bell chihuahua was. Partly because he was dead by then. Also admired Gypsy, if by admire you mean wanted to sex up.

Martian Manhunter: Made Professor Xavier look like a physical dynamo by comparison. “You’re the only member I don’t worry about, Vixen. My body’s gone inert, but my mind hasn’t. I still hear your secret thoughts. For all of you to survive the JLA, I have to train you—and to train you, I have to know you, better than you know yourselves. I have no doubts about you, Mari. You’ve applied yourself to your gift. If there’s a way to succeed, you’ll find it. But Steel has become almost artificial, inside his artificial body -- he deadens the pain of his life -- Vibe thinks life is a wide-screen movie. He’s careless, cocky... and Gypsy -- I can’t get a handle on yet. She thinks in her Gypsy language -- “

Dale Gunn: Clearly not even piloting the L.O.S.T, because...

Aquaman: Piloted a L.O.S.T. over the inferno, then dove off into a nearby stream. “This is the glory of the Justice League—that a man with only water powers flies through the air to a fire! The team makes all of us more than we are alone! And that’s why I wanted to be its leader! I could have settled for King of the Sea, three-fourths of the planet—but leader of the Justice League means more!” Later, Arthur commanded a local trout to bob its head out of the water and discuss the sweep of the blaze. I swear, Jack Miller had nothing to do with this. Aquaman made his way to the team’s abandoned campsite. “Damn J’Onn for breaking all contact!” Feeling like stir fry, Aquaman dumped a pot of leftover--and quite hot-- water over his head. No, Dave Wood didn’t have a hand in it, either, regardless of Manhunter’s utter impotence to fire, lame theme villains, and the left-of-center circumstances. Trapped and parched, Aquaman found the burial mound of the Royal Flush members, noting blood has almost the same composition as sea water and smearing himself in it.

The Creators: See, no clear Silver Age analogue for that, nor even Steve Englehart’s old Bronze Age scripts. Meanwhile, perhaps pained as I was by Jerry Ordway’s over-embellishing on the covers, Tom Derenick channelled his inner Zeck to look more like the real thing than Mike himself did. On Aquaman, it took especially well.

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: “You don’ haveta be so elusive wit’ us, chica!”

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

JLA Classified #23 (Late July, 2006)

Vibe: Caused the telepathically eavesdropping Martian pain with his mental mangling of the English language and delusions of competency, much less grandeur. “’Course, we ain’ got Superman or the Batman—but who needs ‘em. We got me. Throw in J’Onn J’Onzz, an’ Aquaman, an’ that’s plenty. The others... hey, a gang can always use numbers.” Meanwhile, in their time of need, Professor Amos Fortune returned to his Royal Flush Gang as a rather pudgy Ace of Spades, a spare Queen and Ten in tow to replaced the recently departed. While that may not sound like much of a challenge, Superman and Batman could have come in handy, as Fortune’s luck-altering device sent the Detroit League to seeming doom.

Martian Manhunter: “I’ve seen too many dead men, on too many worlds, to take any death lightly.” However, as this was the pre-new age Natural Martian, when Vibe asked if the League should uncover the squashed villains or let them stink, he replied, “We’ll take the bodies to the authorities when we go. We haven’t finished what we came here for. Just pile more boulders over the bodies to keep the animals away.” When his team was attacked again though, J’Onzz again failed to step up and actually lead his charges. He instead focused on a fistfight with the Ten of Spades, until an errant lighter and bad luck set the forest ablaze. J’Onn fell in to a burnin’ ring of fire. He went down as the flames went higher. It burns.

Vixen: Aside from razzing Vibe, took this mess in her usual stride. “J’Onn put Ten down for the count... of ten! With the viciousness of a wolverine, I should be able to get at least a five.” For the rest of us, that was more a count of three bad puns and another wink at the fourth wall. Got kind of bossy once J’Onn went down. Fell into a burnin’ ring of fire.

Steel: Whined. Buried. Fought. Trapped.

Gypsy: Whined. Eulogized. “...and we know nothing of their hopes for the afterlife, but we pray by Mary the gypsy that their best dreams will be realized...” Fought Amos Fortune, thanks to a brief reversal of fortune allowed by the Professor’s rivals, Jack and King. Trapped.

Aquaman: Must have gotten a sense of deja vu, as once again his team is getting it’s head handed to them in the Canadian wilderness and left for dead while he’s just now getting back to the Bunker. The snow’s melted into spring though, so I’ll just blame it on the Crisis.

Zatanna: According to the JLA status monitor, “beyond the pale.”

Elongated Man: According to the JLA status monitor, “Flash birthday party.” So definitely before the Crisis?

Sue Dibney: Barry’s party? Nope. “Boys only. Sexist macho piglets!” Questioned if Arthur valued her husband, to which he answered, “He’s proved himself time and again.” Arthur doesn’t call Ralph back because it would take too long, though, but insists he’s more concerned about the Manhunter. “J’Onn, in his infinite wisdom, shut off communications. He said something about getting to know the kids without interruption... Not that I don’t have faith in them-- but they haven’t proven themselves like Ralph.” I don’t care how sincere he sounds, that’s a backhanded comment for all concerned.

The Creators: Mick Zeck again buried under Jerry Ordway's cover inks, this time spotlighting Vibe and the Royal Flush Gang.

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: “Ya know, this game is jus’ too easy! Th’ Jay-El-Lay roolz!”

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

JLA Classified #22 (Early July, 2006)

Martian Manhunter:”This team has a long way to go before it achieves the coherence it needs. [The elder Leaguers] and I can provide guidance--but only if you hear us. To that end, I’ve brought you four here [Biskotasi Peak in Ontario,] to train together on unfamiliar tasks, far from the Detroit streets you usually inhabit. It’s my intent to improve your trust in each other, and in yourselves.” Well, not just that, “ my telepathy allows me to listen secretly—to your innermost thoughts... It’s up to me to make sure you all get better.” Also, to fix burgers, though Vixen asserted that using a portable, flameless electric stove is neither camping nor cooking. Anyway, thank retroactive continuity for explaining the lack of Martian mental powers for most of Conway’s run and those ugly JLA signal rings.

Steel: Had a nightmare his now mustachioed grandfather and Dale Gunn held him down fully conscious before ripping into him for the operations that turned him into a cyborg. He awakened from his revere en route to a hike into the Canadian woods, presumably after the mission against Amazo. The peace and quiet made Steel inconsolable, as his body was in constant pain from its modifications. He smiled and put up a false front for his teammates, though for readers, the angst was endless. Like his grandfather, he secretly acknowledged to himself “Second-stringers, third-stringers, and rookies. The Justice League has gone to hell.” Also, he thought of J’Onn J’Onzz, “He learned English pretending to be a cop... but he was pretending. Who knows what a Martian feels inside?” Henshaw was raised to be a hero like his grandpa, so he ran maneuvers with his team, despite his loathing of their status and his own. Later in the evening, members of the Royal Flush Gang tracked the team down and used mood-altering playing cards to cause the Martian Manhunter to attack Hank. Though Henshaw never landed a single blow in his brief row with the Manhunter, he was clever enough to deduce the cause of the attack and rush the Gang with an uprooted tree trunk. In the melee, he accidentally crushed Queenie and Ten of Clubs with rolling boulders. Hank was only too happy to gloat to himself over his decisive move, showing no remorse other than being part of a League characterized as losers by, of all people, the Royal Flush Gang.

Dale Gunn: Only up for a dream sequence this time out.

Vixen: Hopped around tirelessly for most of the issue. Came on to Vibe due to a mood-altering card, only to be backhanded by a close-fisted Paco.

Gypsy: Joined Vixen and Vibe against Steel in maneuvers, but the only panty shot was hers. Nearly asphyxiated by a playing card.

Vibe: You already read it, except the part where he got decked by Queenie before her untimely smooshing.

Zatanna, Elongated Man & Sue Dibney: Absent. They knew what was good for them.

Aquaman: The main continuity sticking point, as Vibe and Steel are in their second uniforms, both donned after Arthur quit the team. So let’s just pretend that after Aquaman and Mera returned with the League to Michigan, the couple decided to stick around a bit longer to see if they could settle in there. Arthur remained team leader after J’Onn’s disastrous first outing, but suggested the return trip to Canada to encourage team building, including much needed management experience for J’Onn. Oh, and Steel decided to test-drive his new suit, but it got all sweaty with grass stains here, so it was at the dry cleaners throughout Crisis on Infinite Earths. Did I mention a random walleye happened to overhear the Royal Flush Gang plotting to ambush the League, found the Scion of the Seven Seas swimming laps in Lake Erie, and warned him? Also, did I mention Jack Miller didn’t write that?

The Creators: ...It was actually Steve Englehart, clearly having a ball with the type of oddball super-heroes that made him famous. Tom Derenick supplied the gratuitous panty shot, though it’s really always been Gypsy’s fault for wearing a skirt to a knife fight. Derenick recalled Ron Lim and Chuck Patton in equal measure. Jerry Ordway's inks overwhelm a cover pencilled by Mike Zeck of the full camping party.

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: Still using the full name at times, but Steel, Gypsy and Vixen all drop just "J'Onn" most of the time.

"Big Green" -Vibe.

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: “C’mon, Jay-El-Lay! Le’s get ‘em!”

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Justice League of America #243 (11/85)

Aquaman: Returned with his wife to an empty Bunker. Took another L.O.S.T. up north to find his team. “Believe me, Mari... I’m sorry. I’ve no excuse for what I did, leaving the League.” Joined Vixen and Martian Manhunter against Amazo. “I failed the League, J’Onn... but I found the woman I love. And in finding her I found myself. I weighed duty and love in the balance. Love won. Under the circumstances, when we return to Detroit... I think there’s nothing else I can do but resign from the Justice League. Maybe then I can rediscover my life... with Mera by my side.”

Vixen: Freed herself from bonds, then shattered the boulder and rescued her friends. Mistook the Aquaman-piloted L.O.S.T. for Dale and J’Onn, only to complain about the Sea King’s tardiness. Met Mera. “Arthur said you were the one who convinced him to seek me. We owe you a debt of thanks I can never repay.” Possibly because she would soon be driven insane by Earth’s polluted oceans, get impaled while trying to murder her husband, and kiss this world goodbye back to her own other-dimensional home. Sucks to be an Aquaman supporting character. Still, Mari was pleased. “Well, how do you like that? Old Arthur’s got a heart after all.” Less pleasing: getting beat on by Amazo some more. But as Vixen noted, “Back when I was a fashion model, I spent a week in Vancouver--lovely town. Let’s keep this creep from flattening it.”

Elongated Man: Limp body used as a rope by Vixen.

Zatanna, Vibe, & Gypsy: Got saved by Vixen.

Steel: Tore up enough that Mera freaked out over the exposed artificial musculature of his right hand. Woke up hot over Amazo and screamed at Mera, “Where is he?” Caught Vixen before she could be smooshed against the side of the L.O.S.T.

Dale Gunn: Mistook a giant key for “that old-fashioned airplane marker.”

Martian Manhunter: J'Onn entered Superman's Fortress of Solitude by using its giant key. Why an intangible wraith would need to do so, I don't know, but at least MM was one of the few characters who could actually lift the key and use it. “Long ago Superman programmed safe passage into the Fortress computers for all members of the original League--“ While J’Onzz was investigating, an innocent trucker (and his truck) was slain by Amazo. J'Onn redeemed himself slightly by using the information he uncovered at the Fortress to defeat the android. “He was created by Professor Ivo solely to obey commands. No sadder, lonelier creature has ever existed. When not driven by outside programming, Amazo has but one desire. Oblivion... Left to his own devices, Amazo would shut himself down instantly. Obviously, the fact that he has not done so indicates he is under the command of a human intelligence." A stray meteor had pierced the Fortress’ defenses, inadvertently reactivating the android and sending it to wander cluelessly until its program absorbed the malevolent consciousness of Slick Jake MacGregor. A constable had found a picture of MacGregor in the wreckage of St. Jude, which was all Manhunter needed to assume his form. This logic trap worked well against the artificial intelligence of Amazo/MacGregor, allowing Aquaman the chance to deliver a knockout blow.

The Creators: Especially under Manhunter’s “leadership,” the character Gerry Conway created to star in her own aborted series continued to prove herself one of, if not the, most effective current Leaguers. I like Vixen though, so I won’t hold that or her Storm-lite bout with claustrophobia in the pit against her. Steel also continued to perform well for his age and status, though maybe getting five issues of “Steel: The Indestructible Man” out before the implosion got some of the excess paternal love out of Conway’s system. George Tuska continued to be graced by Mike Machlan’s inks.

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: “Big Green.” -Dale Gunn
“JJ” –Dale Gunn, who also just called him "J'Onzz," because he's cool like that.

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: Not a word. Just blissful, accent-free silence.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Justice League of America #242 (9/85)

Aquaman: “For the past six weeks he’s lived for duty and honor. But now he knows duty and honor are not enough. A man must have love in his life... Six weeks ago, his wife left him. For six weeks he tried to bury her memory. He could not. He is determined to find her, or die in the trying.” Checks the sunken city of New Venice off the Florida coast where he used to live, but fishies redirect him to the Place of Dark Currents. There he’s reunited with Mera, and it feels so good. Reunited! Now--it’s understood! “After our son’s death... I thought, if I ever truly acknowledged that I was suffering... that it would destroy me... When I cut off the grief, I cut off the love.” Also, the “do not telepathically manipulate your charges” light.

Zatanna: Left under a rock. No, not figuratively, but I can see how you might take it that way. No, she was literally beaten by Amazo’s use of invisibility, heat vision and super-speed, tied up, dumped in a pit, and covered by a boulder. Oh, and foiled by her one weakness, a gag. You thought fire was lame...

Steel: Same as above, but with elasticity, super-strength, and especially the Canary Cry.

Vibe, Vixen: As above, but just plain beat.

Gypsy: Fended off attacking grizzly bear with her powers of illusion, seeing as it could still smell through her invisibility.

Elongated Man: The master detective failed to notice the above, but was on hand to help Gypsy fall to Amazo.

Dale Gunn: Woke up before J’Onn, complaining of a ringing in his ears and a feeling of helplessness that was worse than his time in ‘Nam. “J’Onzz... you don’t look too good, Big Green.” Dale helped J’Onn to a nearby watering hole, where the Martian uttered Golden Turkey dialogue, “Dale... Water... So much water...Water. Drink. So much water, so rich a land." I still can't figure whether Gerry was writing Hulk or Super Chief there, but I digress. While his team was buried alive in a big ol' hole, J'Onn flew off with Dale in search of the Fortress of Solitude. Dale questioned the move, but J’Onn brushed his concerns aside. “Have no fear for them, Dale Gunn. My orders were clear—they will not engage Amazo in combat, without first consulting me,” who was absentee and incommunicado. Ouch.

Martian Manhunter: Steel ignored Manhunter’s order not to engage Amazo, as the android was in the midst of clobbering Steel and Gypsy. Zatanna held back, followed orders, and tried to contact J’Onn, who was still sleeping off the effects of his attack. So who was in the right, Steel or Zee? There was a half-assed explanation in that J’Onn’s signal ring was busted, but Dale’s worked fine, and scouting the area (especially with night having fallen) should have been first priority. Let's just say J'Onn's not a natural leader, or else he was pulling his “tough love” shtick, and move on. If not, I’m bound to make a pun about J’Onn being green in his role. Oh, dag.

Introduced this issue: Martian Manhunter’s leadership ineptitude. No wait, that was last issue. It was introduced that the signal rings aren’t a good idea, but we knew that already, as well.

The Creators: Gerry Conway & George Tuska w/Mike Machlan.

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: “J.J.” –Dale Gunn
“Big Green.” Dale & Vibe.

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: While tripping and falling down a slope, “S-serious? AHH-KHEWW! I’ll tell you serious, señora! KHEWWWW! I jus’ figured out... I got... ahahaaa--ahhh----KHEEWWWW----hayfever!”

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Justice League of America #241 (8/85)

Vixen: Goaded Aquaman into considering reconciliation with his estranged wife, despite his protesting her “asinine pop psychology.” Hung out with her fellow Leaguers as they cooked lunch. When Aquaman came up missing just as the team was alerted to the return of an old threat, she kept her knowledge of his likely whereabouts to herself.

Aquaman: Marriage to Mera established at seven years to this point. Aquaman was prideful, evasive, and passive-aggressive in Vixen’s presence, but equivocated in solitude. Arthur questioned the true motivation behind all his recent decisions, and owned up to his transferring his tumultuous emotional state onto the new team he brought into existence. Finally, he jumped off a pier in search of his lost love.

Steel: After dominating most of the previous issues with his presence, Steel backed off a bit here. Had a macho mini-brawl with Vibe over dating his sister; a conflict resolved with Vibe’s blessing the courtship. Beyond that, he coasted this issue.

Zatanna: Continued to be as much, and most likely more, of a non-entity on the team than Sue Dibney this outing. She paired-off on the mission with Steel, and spoke exactly one line of dialogue.

Vibe: Turned his powers against Steel until his old-school protectiveness was sated by Steel’s formally asking permission to date Paco’s sister. Vibe then debuted his new costume. This move advanced his people five years—up from the ten Vibe’s very existence set them back. Sure it was mostly black and red, but with studded belts, a plunging neckline, fingerless gloves, and chunky ankle boots. He might as well have thrown in a sombrero and fringe. He paired-off with Vixen on the mission.

Dale Gunn: Cooked up some Texas-style chili. Flew the L.O.S.T. to the mission site. Pulled a Bones McCoy with his “I’m just a glorified engineer doubling as a pilot... but...” riff. Got knocked out.

Gypsy: Helped Dale make the chili, but slipped and lost her grip on the bowl. Made pointed comments about Ralph and Sue’s sitcom couple marriage, then even less tactfully blew J’Onn J’Onzz off when he questioned her bitter stance. Thought Vibe’s new outfit was “cute,” prompting him to puff-up and rant. Threw Manhunter shade about it being Aquaman’s job to brief the team on missions, not his.

Elongated Man & Sue Dibney: Ralph used his incredible powers to save a bowl of chili and quoted Emily Post. Sue had eighteen times as much dialogue as Zatanna, as she kidded her husband and helped make peace between Vibe and Steel. Ralph paired-off with Gypsy on the mission.

Martian Manhunter: Wearing an apron around his waist as he diced onions for the chili, Manhunter noted “After three decades on your world, I thought I was beyond the possibility of new experiences. It would appear I was mistaken.” When Gypsy almost nullified his culinary effort, J’Onn actually exclaimed “--Gods of Mars--!” Meanwhile Amazo, the android “one-man Justice League,” escaped confinement at the Fortress of Solitude and absorbed the life force/personality of drunken lout Slick Jake MacGregor. The repurposed Amazo then slaughtered the town of St. Jude in the Canadian Yukon, population 200, as revenge for its treatment of MacGregor. This tragedy prompted the Manhunter to call the League together, both to address Amazo and their being short one leader. J’Onzz called the shots, but not without question, and rightly so. When evidence suggested Amazo could have headed off in any of three directions, he splintered the group to follow each lead, quartering their effectiveness. J’Onzz one-upped Gunn’s Bones with his own take off Phil Hartman’s Caveman Lawyer. “I ask myself...Dale Gunn. What would Aquaman have done, I wonder? On Mars, I was thrust into a position of command, but I too am a scientist by nature. Command does not come naturally” Up from under the ground sprang Amazo, who swiftly used his super-breath to blow Dale and the Martian Manhunter up against consciousness-depriving rocks.

Introduced this issue: Justice League signal rings-- gold bands with a gigantic red light/gem that beeped team members and acted as a verbal communicator. Conway was still ignoring J’Onn’s mental powers, and the Legion of Super-Heroes thought we weren’t just cavemen, but tacky cavemen.

The Creators: Gerry Conway, still struggling to balance the mundance with the fantastic, forced poor George Tuska to spend 2 ½ pages on the chili skit. Thanks largely to the rich inks of Mike Machlan, the grizzled old veteran managed to make the rampant inanities of the issue reasonably appealing to the eye. At times, he even invoked Alex Toth and Bob Oksner instead of the usual “Don Heck of DC.”

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: “The Big Green Guy.”-Gypsy.
“Big Green”-Vibe.

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: “Cute? You call me cute? Do people call the Batman cute? Do people call Superman... cute? With this suit, I’m making a statement. I’m saying, ‘you’d better give me your respect, or I’m gonna bust your head.’”

Monday, November 5, 2007

The New Teen Titans #4 (1/85)

"...or George Pérez was pulling full art chores at his peak along with Marv Wolfman on the highest quality paper in the industry, and all I got was this lousy panel." But hey, by this point Pérez's immaculate inks and experimental wash techniques had made the flagship book in DC's new direct market-only deluxe line very late, imperiling a bold direction that eventually proved ill-fated, and requiring old NTT inker Romeo Tanghal to step in. All things considered, Justice League Detroit were lucky to look this good on a book that saw print while they were still together.

The prophesy of the even more ill-conceived Raven turning evil and drawing her demonic absentee father into our world had come to pass. Think "The Coming of Galactus," but in a 50 foot loincloth and white leather hip boots instead of an armored purple tunic. So basically, Armageddon had never been quite so threatening to irresolute heterosexuality below the Bible Belt... not that there's anything wrong with that. The Titans themselves were "pawns whose minds Trigon had tapped, whose secrets spilled forth, who possessed knowledge of others like themselves with abilities far greater than any ordinary man... Others whose mighty powers can disrupt the course of raging rivers, or fight injustice in this country, and others... Those who live throughout the known world, and in lands beyond mortal ken... those others whose steely determination stands for all that is right and good. Those others... who must be dealt with before this earth can become Trigon's own."

Superman, Batman, and the Justice League were clearly depicted in this sequence, but one featured fantastic figures who could as easily be Amazons as the Norse, or some little known Global Guardians types. I assume they were intentionally vague one-offs (unless they were from another of the mostly under performing deluxe format line, or short series I never read myself. Amethyst?) Through knowledge gleaned from Raven, Trigon sent earth's mightiest heroes through a dark night of the soul. Unlike when the X-Men began trumping A-listers like the Avengers based on sales in the 80's though, the Titans were both responsible for Trigon's success at remaking their world into a fresh flesh hell, and they defeated him through their own weakness. You see, each Titan, like presumably J'Onn J'Onzz and the other heroes, were confronted with a cruel doppelganger of themselves responsible for realizing their worst fears (Nightwing's failure as a soloist leading to Batman's demise, Wonder Girl slaying her unpowered husband, and so on.) One imagines the Manhunter from Mars abandoning both his own people and the neophyte Leaguers to their mutual dooms due to his divided loyalties, though no such thing was depicted here. Eventually, the individual Titans forsook their heroic ideals to murder their grey-toned tormentors, taking on first their glowing red eyes (a masterful effect that resembled spot varnish) and then becoming negative images of themselves ensconced in nefarious crimson. Finally, these wicked Titans were made to kill their own possessed teammate Raven to free themselves. One might guess most of the world's heroes were continuing to fight this slippery slope, though the Titans were additionally influenced by both Raven and Lilith.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Justice League of America #239 (6/85)

Elongated Man & Sue Dibney: Noted that the missing Leaguers had been gone to Earth-2 for three weeks, though to them it seemed mere hours.

Martian Manhunter: "May I suggest you were caught in a probability paradox while traveling between Earths? A ripple in the river of time?" J'Onn noted that his people on Mars II were detecting an increased frequency of temporal anomalies before he left them, which would later tie into the epic mini-series we all know and love, "Crisis-Earth." Make that "Universe." No, they settled on the unwieldy "Crisis On Infinite Earths," didn't they? Anyway, the missing Leaguers accepted the explanation, with Superman asserting that if the new League needed help, they knew who to call. J'Onn confirmed, "We can never forget." Later, Aquaman again abused his telepathy in a bid to bend the considerably more willful Vixen to his will. The Manhunter pulled "Arthur Curry" toward him by the shoulder, then seized him by the collar and demanded, "That is enough!"

"Get your hand off me, J'Onn. Who do you think you are?"
"The question, my friend, is who do you think you are? ...Your determination to dominate has done harm enough for one night, my friend. Let her go. We must allow her to handle this matter alone... for the sake of the League."

Aquaman: Played all sincere and nice around Superman, Flash, and Wonder Woman, while Sue tried to let go of his rude remarks from a previous issue. Watched his friends set off on a Cosmic Treadmill to make up for their missing time.

Steel: Antagonized then apologized to Flash. Recalled the mental whammy Aquaman laid on him.

Vixen: After a two page myth sequence referencing her powers, focus of the issue shifted toward Vixen. On page nine, when she tried to get her freak on, she was distracted by Vibe's sister alerting the team Mother Windom had been kidnapped by General Maksai. She swore to confront her uncle, who was trying to extort her Tantu Totem from her, but was assaulted by Aquaman. Released, the book became entirely a Vixen solo issue for it's second half, wherein she had a deadly final confrontation with the killer of her father, "the Gored Ox."

Vibe: Shook Wonder Woman's hand, who patted him on the head.

Zatanna: Hugged Wonder Woman. Caught Vixen making out with Dale Gunn. Questioned Aquaman's recent actions.

Dale Gunn: "Since when did you become irresistible?"

Gypsy: Stood around.

The Creators: Conway, Patton, and Machlan make me angry as an Aquaman fan, with their unfair characterization of a hero that would fit right in with today's adulterated vigilantes. As a Manhunter fan though, I'm proud to see J'Onn speak truth to power and stand up for the sanctity of a person's mind and will.

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: One time, Arthur called him "J'Onn." The rest of the time, Aquaman and the rest of the League (including Barry Allen) use his full name.

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: "Rosita, mi hermana, what are you doing here?"

Friday, October 26, 2007

Justice League of America #238 (5/85)

Superman, Wonder Woman, and the Flash: Beaten by wraiths conjured from a souped-up Casio synthesizer slung like a guitar. Held captive by stock evil Commie, only to be rescued by Justice League Detroit. Rumor has it Barry died not during the Crisis, but from the embarrassment.

Vixen: Provided early example of meta-commentary by directly addressing Detroit League hatas.

Steel: Enabled Vixen.

Zatanna: Hated on Vixen, possibly because she broke the 4th wall, or perhaps because she came off as kind of a tramp back then. Used magic to control a thunderstorm and down Soviet Migs.

Vibe: Rightly impressed that Zatanna finally used her powers right. Vibrated a rogue Soviet trooper. Fried by a "key-tar."

Aquaman: Probably forced Vixen to make lame speech with his telepathy or something. Trash talked Gypsy. Made no mention of the concept of "morale."

Elongated Man: Stretched by Steel like a rubber band in an elastic double-team with Martian Manhunter.

Martian Manhunter: As Zatanna observed, "J'Onn J'Onzz, we're the only two in the group who can fly, so..."
"Your point is well taken, Zatanna. Shall we see how backward-spell magic and Martian adaptive power fare against military hardware?" While invisible and not, J'Onn tore apart a Mig with his bare hands, and was mistaken for a demon. "Strange, the effect I seem to have on people. I'm not that frightening in appearance, am I, Zatanna?" Before she could reply, Vixen asserted, "Hey-- not in my book, Big Green. Matter of fact, I like my men tall and lean." J'Onn and Zee also fought a fire-breathing pterodactyl wraith.

Gypsy: Projected her illusion powers directly into the evil Commie's mind, sending him into shock as he imagined himself falling from a great height.

Dale Gunn: Still flying that personnel transport.

The Creators: Have to date faced the Detroit League with such impressive foes as street gangs, embassy security agents, a baseball-themed villain, weak poseur heralds of a lame Galactus wanna-be, Soviet military forces, and a dude with a keytar. Indulge in meta-commentary because, for some reason, fans think the new team stinks.

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: "Big Green" - Vixen
J'Onn J'Onzz wants to know why everyone calls J'Onn J'Onzz "J'Onn J'Onzz." J'Onn J'Onzz doesn't stand for ceremony. J'Onn J'Onzz just likes the spicy chicken.

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: "Hey, relax, amigo."

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Justice League of America #237 (4/85)

Vixen: Listened to Aquaman moan. Not like that. Disparaged by Hank Heywood Sr.

Aquaman: Moaned about his busted-up marriage, kingdom, and team to Vixen. Anxious when he learned Superman, Wonder Woman, and to a lesser degree Flash were back from whatever hole they'd crawled into, necessitating the League to work at half-strength during the Earth/Mars War.

Elongated Man & Sue Dibney: Alarm interrupted something that forced the pair up in their robes. Disparaged by Hank Heywood Sr.

Gypsy: Acknowledged as actual member of team living in the Bunker. Disparaged by Hank Heywood Sr.

Vibe: Disparaged by Hank Heywood Sr. Understandably.

Dale Gunn: Karate practice with Steel and pilot of L.O.S.T. for trip to visit Steel's powerful military-industrial-complex-proponent grandfather Hank Heywood Sr.

Steel: Cried some more. Tossed Hank Heywood Sr. out a window. He was sensitive like that.

Zatanna and Martian Manhunter: The only other heroes to show up in costume and ready for action after Aquaman's alert that the missing founding Leaguers were spotted flying into the U.S.S.R.

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: None. He hardly appeared.

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: "Amigo, if this was a test..."

Creators: Conway, Patton, and Mike Machlan let the old Leaguers get all the action, while the new tended to foreshadowing of upcoming issues.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Doodles: Detroit & JLA Eyeline

Back in the days of "Martian Manhunter: The Rock of the JLA," I had probably the most sprawling online enshrinement of J'Onn J'Onzz ever. Not just synopsis, scans, and biographies, but really extraneous stuff like personal reminiscences, rambling opinions, and the like. The one thing I never had though was fan art. Like fan fiction, I find the stuff near uniformly awful and embarrassing. However, blogs have a nasty habit of breaking down one's resistance to indulgences, especially as there has to be something new up on the daily. As I attempt to clean up as much junk accumulated from my life as possible, I'm bound to throw trash like this out there every now and then. It's also important to note, these are my lousy drawings. Bad enough I'm unleashing my own personal dreck on an unwilling public; I'm certainly not soliciting anyone else's equally crumby work. I'm not looking to work a gong or a hook here.

Speaking of work, I hate my job. I'm currently studying for the SATs about fifteen years too late because I also hated the last job I had, and most any other I've held besides the three that sustained me for most of the aforementioned decade-and-a-half. My present meal ticket is especially distasteful and mind-numbing, so after my boss busted me on my semi-undercover educational pursuit, I turned to the bottom drawing here. It's shown pretty much actual size, from off the corner of my TPS Report. All in pen, freehand, without reference. I tell you this not in some deluded boast, but to minimize the awfulness of all those asymmetrical faces and especially off-balance eyes (& brows that sprawl everywhere.) There's a little bit of the inaugural Martian Manhunter doodle left to the left, but it was somehow far worse than these, and the god-awful Ralph Dibney caricature I tossed in after will never be spoken of again.

Anyway, this is a Manhunter blog, and since (literally) today's doodle resembled an old job I did on the box I used to carry my Overpower cards in (circa '98 or so, another secret shame I'll further expose in the future,) I figured a pass at it was called for. The image here is less than a quarter of the original size, and spotlighted my favorite DC Overpower characters of the time (plus an Ambush Bug reference, though he wasn't in the game, and the intentional absence of the "bedraggled" Aquaman, in case rob! ever wondered where I stood on his favorite character's wanting to be a pirate.) This was the first and likely only time I ever tried to replace solid black feature outlines with colored marker, aping a popular printing technique of the time that thankfully went out of fashion.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Justice League of America #236 (3/85)

Rebirth Part Four: Gypsy Genius

Aquaman: Teleported involuntarily with team to mountain headquarters of the Overmaster, who claimed he's what killed the dinosaurs. Overmaster and his evil super-team the Cadre attacked Aquaman's rudderless collective. Caught and returned a super-charged crowbar. Whined to self about his miserable failure as a monarch and group leader. Proven right when even Ralph ignored his orders. Wrestled freakin' Crowbar, only after the guy had lost his only weapon. Tried to redeem self with Captain America-brand speechifying. Vied for embarrassing quote spot with "Neptune's Trident!"

Steel: Bragged about his cyborg eyes again. Saved Vixen from Fastball, whom he later pitched. Narrowly avoided a second "Embarrassing Quote" spotlight with that "Man alive!" line.

Zatanna: Failed attack on Overmaster. Glorified lamp.

Vibe: Pulled a stupid face when saved from an Overmaster energy blast by Aquaman. Nailed by Crowbar. Saved by Steel from being blown away by Shrike, who also had to explain to Vibe how to use his power.

Vixen: Repeatedly rescued. Kicked Shatterfist in face.

Elongated Man & Sue Dibney: Light recon, fought Black Mass, caught a falling sorceress.

Martian Manhunter: Rescued Vixen from energy blast. Analyzed and explained Black Mass' powers. Ordered team to retreat into a crevasse. Bragged, "A Martian's eyes are sensitive to the shadows..." Deduced Overmaster was a phony "god" relying on stolen alien machinery. Along with Aquaman, detected the "telepathic presence" of the gigantic sleeping alien victim of this theft. Only member to follow a command of Aquaman, "J'Onn, we're both telepaths... but you have more experience communicating with alien minds. You know what to do. The others and I will buy you time. As you say, my friend, good fortune." Took on the big boss himself. "Have you in your godlike travels ever seen a Martian shigar? Allow me to broaden your education!" Felled Overmaster with Gypsy's help.

Gypsy: Alerted Dale Gunn of the team's peril, who flew the both of them in a L.O.S.T., which traced the League's location. Blasted Overmaster in his/its Achilles tendon with laser. At the command of Martian Manhunter, reached the hovering pyramid that awakened the sleeping alien, who caused the Cadre to vanish and left Earth in its massive spaceship. Threw her hat in the embarrassment ring by admitting to self "Vibe is sexy..."

Dale Gunn: Looking for a parking space?

Creators: Conway & Patton w/Rick Magyar. Part of the rational behind a less powerful and experienced League was to avoid making established heroes look foolish or weak in combating a common monthly foe. Seems that rather than fixing a storytelling trap, the writer just introduced foolish and weak characters so that they could be written the same or worse without protest. Steel and Martian Manhunter are portrayed as the only seemingly competent members here (though Vixen performed well while injured.) Zatanna especially has had nothing to do since the new team formed, despite being arguable its most powerful member.

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: "JJ" -Steel, repeatedly.
"Martian" -Overmaster
Often referred to as "J'onn J'onzz," in full, this issue. Only Aquaman uses just his first name, and just as often in conjunction with the surname.

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: "Taste the air, amigos."

Friday, October 12, 2007

Justice League of America #235 (2/85)

Rebirth Part Three: Heavy Metal

Vixen: Now a wanted suspect, McCabe attacked her uncle at the M'changa Embassy. General Maksai proved a dominating force, and his niece was shot in the shoulder. Wasn't this a Steel spotlight issue?

Steel: Stood up for the fugitive Vixen before having his mind clouded. Saved himself and Gypsy from an attack by Fastball, the assassassin super-pitcher (not a typo.) Unloaded his emotionally twisted origin story on Zatanna, shedding a tear. Age is established as 19.

Gypsy: Loitered invisibly at JLA HQ, then flirted with Steel before they were attacked. Blew Vibe a raspberry and bailed.

Vibe: Helped cool down Steel, man.

Zatanna: Used magic to trace Vixen and in later battle.

Aquaman: Cursed Vixen's vigilantism and intended to bring her to justice. Used his telepathy to cloud the particularly susceptible mind of Steel when the lad voiced objection. Led the team against Maksai's security agents to rescue Vixen. Denied New York police demands that he turn the heroine over to them.

Martian Manhunter: Detected Aquaman's abuse of power against Steel, and silently displayed shock and disapproval over six panels, half of which being solely close-ups. During the assault on the M'changa Embassy, disguised himself as a green door with his creepy mannequin hand as the knob. I always thought it was just Marilyn Chambers behind that one. Cradled the ailing Vixen, who again teased, "For you... tall, green... and handsome... anything. Elongated Man noted, "Y'know, Zee, it's pretty hard to tell with a Martian... but I could swear Big Green's blushing.
"I wouldn't be surprised, Ralph. After all, Mari McCabe is a former fashion model, quite aware of her beauty... and how to use it."

Elongated Man & Sue Dibney: Stretching in work and play.

The Creators: Patton played to his art strengths this issue. Shame some of that gumption was wasted on Fastball.

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: Besides using his full name repeatedly...
"Big Green" -Elongated Man

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: Paco was well-behaved this outing, expressing a functional command of the English language. Instead, we'll use an excerpt of Steel cursing..."BUNK!" Harsh word, b'gosh! No wonder Aquaman had to reign this wild card in! Alternately, there's Aquaman being written as a total, well, that actually would be an expletive. Try lines like "When I want your questions... I'll ask for them" directed at Sue Dibney, or calling Steel a "young idiot" whom he orders to "Sit down and shut up."

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Justice League of America #234 (1/85)

Rebirth Part Two: Claws

Vixen: Saved a black church congregation led by the Reverend Richard Pryor (er--Andrew Sinclair--) from ebony & ivory hippy terrorist duo trying to run everyone over with a convertible. I can't make this kind of thing up. Turned out Oreo hoods were in cahoots with an evil visiting African dictator who also happened to be Vixen's uncle (and the murderer of her father.) Vixen tore out a jailhouse wall at a Detroit police department to go all Jack Bauer on the thugs for information on General Mustapha Maksai, ruining the new League's relationship with the local law.

Steel: Flexed muscles in speedo. Whined to self. Made out with Vibe's sister. Used cyborg vision to track Gypsy briefly. Humiliated by Aquaman. I thought this was supposed to be Vixen's issue?

Aquaman: Jacked with Steel for no good reason.

Zatanna: Pushed Aquaman in pool for jacking with Steel. Both chuckle over incident.

Gypsy: Stalked Steel on his date, then distracted him into giving chase. Age established as 14.

Vibe: Fully recovered from knife wound. Angry about Steel making time with sister. Pop-locks. Wears mid-drift bearing muscle shirt. Joined Steel in trailing enraged Vixen to and from jail.

Elongated Man & Sue Dibney: Ate sandwiches while watching tv. No, seriously.

Martian Manhunter: When Vixen was researching the general, J'Onn eavesdropped on her thoughts, then questioned, "Who is his man, Maksai? Why do you hate him so?" Though Vixen reaffirmed her "thing for big green guys," she wasn't in the mood to share. J'Onn thought, "For your sake-- for the sake of our budding friendship-- I must know." J'Onn deduced(?) Vixen's hidden past as a survivor of Maksai's coup fifteen years prior (establishing her age as roughly 25) and unveiled much of it to an assembled League.

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: None, unless you count the overly formal use of "J’Onn J’Onzz" in full.

Creators: Conway, Patton, and Bill Anderson, vastly improving on the previous entry. Plus, a "Crisis" teaser with the Monitor and Harbinger and the first appearance of Shatterfist.

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: "Chu not bad--chu sad."

Justice League of America #233 (12/84)

Rebirth Part One: Gang War

Vibe: Breakdanced. Flaunted public identity. Threatened by black gangbanger with superhuman crowbar-weilding skills. Rescued by elderly African-American woman. The aforementioned Mother Windom was then harassed by pair of butch white chicks from one of those infamous multi-racial, transgendered street gangs you were always seeing in 80's Charles Bronson movies. They're beaten by Zatanna and Vixen, with a last minute save by a humiliated Vibe. Vibe tried to prove himself by harassing his gangleader brother, who ran a crew of "greasers," hopefully less anachronistic than just covering for an inability to use "beaners," itself bearing all the sting of "honkies." Vibe stabbed in back by butch chick from rival Rainbow Ruffs gang. Saved by League, while his brother continued to preach "el barrio" self-esteem through street brawling. Oh, and the black dude with a crowbar was given actual super-powers by an alien presence. Note how lame Vibe is in his own cover-featured spotlight story.

Vixen & Zatanna: Shop. Use incredible powers to brutalize the most silly-looking, non-threatening gangstas since the Sharks and the Jets.

Steel: Nearly killed himself trying to prove he could lift a whopping three tons to Aquaman. Rumbled in hood, ya'll.

Aquaman: Began consistent characterization in this run as first-rate jerk by imperiling Steel. Whomped hoodrats. Indulged in white guilt at denouement.

Elongated Man & Sue Dibney: Painted a room chartreuse, to the chagrin of J'onn and Arthur.

Gypsy: Stole an apple. Knocked out Crowbar with his own tool while invisible.

Martian Manhunter: Appeared on about eight pages in not many more panels. J'Onn was present for Steel's testing, and argued with the overbearing Sea King.
"Aquaman, Steel is just a boy, after all-- not yet a man by human reckoning. He wants desperately to prove himself..."
Arthur countered, "Then let him. He's a Justice Leaguer, J'Onn. You were one of the first members of the original team-- you should know what that means--"
"I know what it does not mean, Aquaman-- it does not mean testing oneself to destruction--"

As Steel collapsed from the strain, an excellent text piece examined his saviors:
"J'Onn J'Onzz, one-time leader of Mars II, now an exile from his land and his people. Aquaman, born Arthur Curry-- former Lord of Atlantis and King of the Seven Seas, deposed by his former subjects, abandoned by his wife... despite his half-human heritage, an outcast among men. Two who share a similar past-- and possess very different attitudes for the present." While Arthur slipped into jerk mode, J'Onn played the cool-headed, supportive counterpoint. Here though, it was Dale Gun who butted heads with Arthur, leading him to waffle.
"Why is it so hard to admit my mistakes, J'Onn?"
"Habit. Old monarchs make poor drill sergeants."
"It's just this new League is so important to me-- I want us to succeed."
"You musn't let it distort your vision, Arthur..."

The Martian Manhunter joined in on the gang war, though he seemed to see humor in the deeply unfair odds. At one point, he grew into a hulking giant and batted thugs about like a boy manhandling G.I. Joes.

Dale Gunn: "Back off, Fish-Man. The kid did his best. I told you he was at his limit." Then, when Aquaman told him to mind his own business, "Maybe it slipped your mind, but I designed and built this place for the kid's grandpa. Your League is just borrowing it" Dale pressed further his devotion to Hank, and even jabbed Aquaman repeatedly in the chest with his finger. Dale later confided to Hank he thought Henshaw Sr. had made a mistake in opening the Bunker to the JLofA, and in allowing Steel to join the team. Dale was a wise man.

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: Arthur remains the only Leaguer to refer to "J'Onn" by first name alone.

The Creators: Artist Chuck Patton was plainly giving this awful issue his all, painfully over-rending against his natural clean style to capture a Frank Miller grit the script undercut at every turn. Conway is the problem at this point, as he could put the Justice League in Detroit, but he couldn't get Detroit into his Leaguer's dialogue, yet. There was a two issue fill-in gap between the annual that introduced the new team and this first issue, which made for a terrible first foot forward with regards to anyone still undecided about the new take.

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: Tough call, as Vibe started the issue doing some sort of doo-wop/human beat box hybrid, but I settled on, "See wha'chu made me do? I could'a handled this withou' chu, man, it wasn't your fight!"

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Justice League Detroit

(Art by Tom Grummet and Bob Petrecca from JLA-Z #2, Dec. '03)

In the early 80's, like much of DC's line, Justice League of America's sales stunk. Marvel had slowly but surely overtaken DC as the comic book sales leader in the 70's, and DC was feeling the heat. This sales crunch would lead to the "Marvelization" of DC in 1986, but what good would that be to Gerry Conway in 1984?

Conway was a popular Spider-Man writer in the 1970's, who made the move to DC late in that decade. After a number of failed series, and the modest success of Firestorm, Gerry took on JLofA. At that time, royalties were just beginning to be given to comic creators, but up to that point JLofA was the last book anyone would want to work on. While a popular title, writers and artists were not compensated for the extra work involved in producing a series about a 1/2 dozen + heroes with diverse looks and powers, often fighting villains of equal numbers. The series was creatively stagnant, buoyed by name brand characters and the Super Friends cartoon show.

For several years, Conway plugged away at fun JLofA stories that didn't attract much attention in the rollicking 80's, and sales continued to falter. Eventually, something had to be done. I doubt anyone at DC would admit to this, but it looks like they attempted to give JLofA the same X-Men flavor that turned The New Teen Titans into DC's gangbuster sales juggernaut of the early 80's. Instead of an international cast, JLofA would be the first major multicultural super-team. The group would consist of an Hispanic, a woman of African descent, a runaway teen of vaguely ethnic origins, an alien, a disenfranchised youth, and a few mainstays. Instead of a satellite in orbit over earth, the JLofA would now work out of a warehouse in Detroit. Sporadic Denny O'Neil style "relevant" stories would be told. None of the team members would have series outside of JLofA, giving Conway creative control that outstripped even Claremont's. There would be more personal interaction, and character's lives would actually be at stake. Kind of like the X-Men.

It looked good on paper, anyway.

Back to that alien. Conway, and penciller Chuck Patton, had created their "streetwise" team. Too bad most were terrifically underpowered to face anything remotely resembling a significant threat. Super-strength, invisibility, elasticity, animal mimicry, under-water breathing, and vibratory powers are not especially impressive. While Conway still had the magical Zatanna, the team needed a powerhouse to carry them. Guess who Conway picked?

Justice League Detroit was not an official title at the time, but it stuck in fan circles, even though they spent only half their life in the city. Initially despised within comic circles, they were still featured in some pretty good stories, which may have made them cult favorites after the fact. Sells held up for a while, but it just wasn't the JLofA. Editor Alan Gold expected trouble from the change, and allowed himself a full page editorial in the annual to discuss his rational behind accepting writer Gerry Conway's proposal. Conway had wanted to reuse his short-lived Steel and Vixen characters from the 70's, while artist Chuck Patton had been looking for a place to put his ideas for Vibe and the Stevie Nicks/Cyndi Lauper/Madonna inspired Gypsy.

Detroit (featuring Aquaman)
Justice League of America Annual #2 (1984)
The New Teen Titans #4 (1/85)
Justice League of America #233, 234, 235, 236, 237, 238,239
JL of A #240 was an inventory story featuring the previous team.
Justice League of America #241, #242, #243
JLA Classified #22 (Early July, 2006)
JLA Classified #23 (Late July, 2006)
JLA Classified #24 (8/06)
JLA Classified #25 (9/06)
Ambush Bug Stocking Stuffer #1 (1986)

Crisis On Infinite Earths
JLA: Incarnations #5 (11/2001): First Story, Third Story
Crisis on Infinite Earths: Beyond the Silent Night (1985)
Infinity Inc. #19 (10/85)
Justice League of America # 244 (11/85)
Justice League of America Annual #3 (1985)
Crisis On Infinite Earths #8-12 (11/85-3/86)

New York
Justice League of America #246, 247, 248, 249

Gotham (featuring Batman)
Justice League of America #250, 251, 252, 253, 254, 255

Justice League of America#256, #257
Legends #1, #2,
Justice League of America #258, #259, #260, #261
JLA: Incarnations #5 (Third Story, Nov. 2001)
Legends #3-6 (1-4/87)

Friday, September 28, 2007

Identity Crisis #7 (2/05)

As occurred earlier when J'Onn and Arthur vanished in pursuit of a villain of interest who wouldn't appear for another four issues in other heroes' custody, the Manhunter and Batman stopped mattering after a major build-up. One panel saw J'Onn exclaim "By H'Ronmeer..." while in another Batman assured, "Ray? It's not Ray..." and the book was turned over to the aforementioned Mr. Palmer in his bedroom with ex-wife Jean Loring. Perhaps it's a limitation on my frame of reference, but I've always known the Atom as a scientist and adventurer-- not so much as a detective. That might explain my pet theory that when J'Onn J'Onzz reached out to find Ray's mind, he perhaps influenced or even usurped it as Palmer began grilling his once and present lover on the death of Sue Dibney.

We learned Jean used one of Ray's leftover size-changing belts from their divorce to attack Sue in a bid for both Ray's attention and for the benefit of neglected significant others of super-heroes everywhere. She inadvertently killed Sue, then began to cover for her crime with further indiscretions that led to the more deaths. Ray committed his clearly insane ex to Arkham Asylum and went into isolation, whereabouts unknown for many years. Surrounding events led to another heroine turning in her cape, as Manhunter stated before a gathered JLA, "So that's Atom and Firehawk off the reserves... Anyone else?" While he tried to have Flash act as liaison for a training session with the Teen Titans, West was distracted by thoughts of what exactly Batman remembered about the League's betrayal of him. New cracks began to show...

Again, Rags Morales and Michael Bair provided gorgeous interiors, though word has it Rags was scarred by his involvement with the book. Just as his star was ascending from cult favorite to star, he himself went into seclusion, with little output beyond a very brief run on Wonder Woman in the years following. Brad Meltzer eventually launched a new Justice League of America series that again favored the "Satellite Era" to the exclusion of J'Onn J'Onzz and inclusion of more Pre-Crisis elements. The effect of the mini-series was undeniable, as the entire DC Universe took a turn for the dark and twisted interlaced into its continuity.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Identity Crisis #6 (1/05)

Believing the murder spree over, our heroes breathed a sigh of relief and buried their death. Green Arrow explained, "...we... mourn in our own ways..." Aquaman and the Martian Manhunter's involved remembering their lost children together while look out into space from the Watchtower. Arthur explained, "...just the sound of his laugh..." to which J'Onn consoled, "Believe me Arthur-- I understand." However, just as Mr. Terrific and Dr. Mid-Nite were astonished by the results of their autopsy of Sue Dibney, Batman deduced the only possible portal of entry for her killer... tiny footprints on her brain which blocked her bloodstream. Batman called out from the Bat-Cave, "J'Onn, I need you to find Ray!" Surprised by his telepathic cry, Manhunter responded, "Is everything okay?" Batman scowled, "J'Onn, get out of my head! Just find him! Now! And keep him where he is!"

As the book fast tracked to it's conclusion, I as a reader was placed in a difficult position, which was repeated in Mark Millar's similar "Civil War" event at Marvel Comics. Here was an unoriginal premise, in this case a locked door mystery, reinvigorated when told in a new mileau that profoundly effected long-established concepts. An exceptional creative team was highly effective at telling a compelling story which would have intriguing ramifications for years to come. I really enjoyed a new perspective being brought to sometimes hoary old chestnuts. Unfortunately, the circumstances and editorial interference caused heroes to act both decidedly unheroic and painfully out of character, while events in the tale are off-puttingly sordid and borderline inappropriate for the medium. As a result, I'm to this day conflicted about the story, though for certain elements I reserve a dedicated loathing, the big reveal being one...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Identity Crisis #2-5 (Sep-Dec. 2004)

Veteran members of the Justice League of America had secrets the Wally West Flash and Green Lantern Kyle Rayner wanted revealed. In the early years of the League, teams of super-villains had a dangerous habit of learning the heroes' true identities, but nothing ever seemed to come of it. The pair of legacy heroes learned this was because, once the World's Finest duo left the scene, the other Leaguers would wipe the memories of their foes to protect themselves. This practice reached critical mass when Dr. Light managed to board the Justice League satellite at a time when only Sue Dibney was present. He proceeded to rape her, until he felt the combined wrath of the Barry Allen Flash, Batman, Hawkman, Zatanna, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Green Lantern Hal Jordan, the Atom, and her husband, the Elongated Man.

The heroes decided they'd had enough, and as Light projected a holographic representation of his recent transgression, they voted on whether to not only wipe his memory, but alter his personality. The deciding vote was cast by Barry Allen, and through Zatanna's magic Dr. Light was reduced from a nefarious arch-foe to a blundering idiot coward easily managed by the Teen Titans. However, Batman was not a party to this decision, and discovered his fellows' intentions midway through the process. The Caped Crusader immediately moved to stop his friends, but he was subdued and mindwiped himself. This final betrayal of the heroic ideal created a fault line within the group, and retroactively explained the infighting of this era's League, which led to its dissolution in the mid 80's. While Kyle Rayner seemed fairly accepting, these revelations and more regarding his beloved mentor sparked a whole new crisis of conscience in Wally West, who was forced to question his own decisions about keeping secrets and facing a now shady history. This included another confrontation with Dr. Light, which caused his memory to be restored, and the League's conspiracy to be illuminated upon the super-villain grapevine.

Meanwhile, the death toll mounted. Vixen shed tears as she watched Firestorm meltdown after receiving a mortal wound. The current Robin's father, Jack Drake, and the Flash villain Captain Boomerang were killed by one another in a confrontation. The Atom's ex-wife Jean Loring was nearly hung, and Lois Lane received a death threat.

Despite repeated assertions by Green Arrow that other Leaguers, specifically Superman, knew only as much as they were willing to acknowledge about what was happening, J'Onn J'Onzz was left utterly blameless for their crimes. Best-selling novelist Brad Meltzer is an unabashed fan of the 70's "Satellite Era" League, one which despite retroactive continuity, J'Onn J'Onzz had no part. I'm thankful for this, as his participation in these psychic rapes would have turned him into an unforgivable hypocrite after his many assertions of respect for the privacy and integrity of other beings' minds. On the other hand though, J'Onn's unwillingness to molest the thoughts of others once again allowed him to be blindsided by the revelation of treachery in his midst, leaving him ineffectual in averting tragedy.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Identity Crisis #1 (8/04)

Sue Dibney, loving wife of the Elongated Man, was murdered in her Opal City apartment after sending her husband out on patrol to distract him from her planning his birthday celebration. Somehow, her killer managed to enter undetected an apartment safeguarded by "Thanagarian, Martian, and Kryptonian technology. Not to mention all the upgrades Steel stole from a Mother Box." J’Onn J’Onzz attended the funeral, alongside many of his and the victim's shared acquaintances. This included much of the JLI and all of the surviving members of the Detroit-based League. Afterward, Green Arrow noted, "J’Onn and Arthur (who both buried children) search for Mirror Master. The mood they're in, he better hope they don't find him.) Though Mirror Master was a potential suspect, a secret cabal of JLofAers had someone specific in mind they intended to visit while everyone else was on fool's errands.

Among the creative credits given to Brad Meltzer, Rags Morales and Michael Bair was the much smaller notation of assistant editor Valerie D'Orazio. After a stormy departure from DC Comics, D'Orazio began a series of posts on her Occasional Superheroine blog which noted the behind-the-scenes maneuvering to create a series where one of the rare happy, healthy marriages in comics ended in the brutal murder of a pregnant woman. Allusions were made to the trauma inflected on both characters and the creators forced to depict increasingly aberrant actions in what was marketed as a mainstream "event" comic.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Flash #208-209 (May-June ’04)

Martian Manhunter was part of an assemblage of heroes who forcibly teleported the Flash onto the JLA Watchtower for questioning. After the murder of Flash’s unborn children by the new (no-longer-Professor) Zoom, the Hal Jordan incarnation of the Spectre wiped the memory of the the Flash’s secret identity from the face of the earth, including within the very mind of Wally West himself. Batman deduced and informed West of his own alter ego, and demanded West explain the situation to his teammates. Among them were Firestorm, who wondered aloud why the Manhunter didn't simply read the Flash’s mind to gather information.

“Superman wants to give him the opportunity to open up freely to us, Ronnie. The Flash has his reasons for what has happened, and as a longtime friend, I am sure they are inculpable.” West recognized, “I can feel the Martian Manhunter lingering on the outer edge of my mind. The back of my scalp is numb, but I keep my distance. J’Onn lost his family a long time ago. I think he can ‘see’ the same kind of sorrow and pain in my eyes—because I hear three words float into my head. ‘I am sorry.’” More concerned about finding his estranged wife than clearing matters up, Flash had to be convinced by Superman to again unveil his visage to his teammates. J’Onn tried to console Wally, verbally this time. Also present at this "mindwipe intervention" were Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern John Stewart, Green Arrow, Zatanna, Hawkman, Elongated Man, Black Canary and the Atom. This specific assemblage would foreshadow dark revelations to come. Geoff Johns, Howard Porter and Livesay tell the tale.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Justice League of America Annual #2 (1984)

While Aquaman and his fellow Leaguers sifted through the wreckage of the Justice League Satellite, floating dead in space, he declared this the end. Sickened by the state of his super-team and disheartened by his wife having left him after years of emotional absence, Aquaman came to a startling decision. Before a U.N. assembly, he disbanded the Justice League of America, citing the absence of the League's most powerful members in Earth's time of need.

"During what's come to be called the Earth/Mars War... Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Green Lantern-- all were absent... The world deserves something more than a part-time organization of uncommitted dilettantes." He suggested the formation of a full-time League, made up of individuals with no other duties placed before the team. "In a hundred and more languages, the world's representative react with shock-- as one quiet observer in the shadows nods slowly in thoughtful agreement with Aquaman's words." This lone Martian continued to look on as Red Tornado, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Hawkman, Hawkwoman, and a deeply reluctant Firestorm refused the demands of Aquaman's re-conceptualized defenders. Zatanna rose to the challenge, as did Elongated Man, but only with the stipulation that his wife, Sue Dibney, would be along for the ride. A tear rolled down Ralph Dibney's face as he considered, "We should have seen this coming months ago... when the Batman quit, and Flash took a leave of absence... and the Atom disappeared in South America... the old gang's been breaking up for almost a year now."

Finally, the long-lost Leaguer who's return proved the catalyst for this dynamic change decided it was time to step out of the shadows. "If it is a commitment you seek, may I offer mine? I stayed on earth, because I am no longer wanted on the world I once called home. Every living creature needs a home, my friends--and I would be proud to share yours." Aquaman replied, "We'd forgotten--when the war ended, you stayed on Earth--! J'Onn J'Onzz, the honor is ours." While Elongated Man had been an official member since 1973, he'd barely ever encountered J'Onn J'Onzz, who went into exile to guide his people to a new homeworld several years prior. "The Martian Manhunter, hey? Now we're cooking!" The announcement of a new League had attracted the attention of Mari McCabe and Hank Heywood Sr., which would pay off in short order.

The heroes held up at the Hilton until they could make other arrangements, which afforded John Jones the opportunity to fully embrace the 1980's with his poofy hair, brown windbreaker, and blue jeans. He asserted, "...We must find a headquarters here in New York, or in another large city. Only by living among the people we are sworn to defend can we maintain our sense of purpose and commitment." It was then Arthur introduced John to Sue Dibney, who nearly dropped the drinks she was serving when the Martian dropped his disguise. "Yoick! This is gonna take getting used to!" Zatanna reassured with a hug, "You'll be fine, Sue. Your unaffected, totally human outlook will keep us honest." At that moment, Zatanna spotted a feminine yet bestial prowler outside their window, who was seized by a Martian Manhunter combining his flight, intangibility, and giant elongated hands. A likely deflated Elongated Man asked, "Neat trick, JJ. Going through walls. Mind telling me how to do it sometime?" J'Onzz replied, "You'd have to have been born on Mars, my friend. Now, female, explain yourself." The response was a snort and laughter."...Big, green and handsome. You're much too cute."

"Cute? Woman, who are you?" She was former Metropolis super-heroine and fashion model Vixen, and she had come to join the team. McCabe was soon joined by Steel, but this was not the Black Superman of Shaquille O'Neal vehicle fame. This was the grandson of Heywood, who was himself known in the 1940's as Commander Steel, before becoming a millionaire industrialist. Heywood Sr. supplied the team with a base, equipment, and they also got L.O.S.T. (Low Orbital Supersonic Transport), providing plenty of fodder for pundits. On the support side was Dale Gunn, who'd met General Heywood in Vietnam and become his chief designer, technician, and the inventor behind the League's new toys. He could also handle security if it came to that, with his body armor and sophisticated weaponry. When J'Onn J'Onzz wasn't suffering from Vixen's unwanted advances, he traded barbs with the nineteen year old street kid Paco Ramone, soon to be better known as trash-talking Latino breakdancer Vibe, one of the worst stereotype characters in modern history. "Told chu people...Gill-Man! Chu like my new costume? It's so chill, it's bad!" It sure is Paco. It suuuure is...

Clearly horrified by what his decision had wrought, Aquaman whispered, "J'Onn, this is not what I had in mind for the new League." The reply? "Life is full of the unexpected, Arthur. Accept it. You've no choice." Another such surprise came when, while impersonating a piece of machinery, J'Onn J'Onzz caught the invisible Gypsy sneaking around in the League's new base. "My vision embraces a broader spectrum than your Earthborn eyes..." Gypsy managed to cut and run, but would join the team in a later issue. In the meantime, neighborhood residents alerted to their newly resident super-team pulled together a street party in front of their not-so-secret headquarters, where J'Onn downed a brewski with a Motown native and other Leaguers got their groove on. "Let's boogie!"

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: "JJ" & "J.J." -Elongated Man

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: Aside from those previously quoted, there's still so many to choose from. "Chu don' smell like no fish."