Monday, December 29, 2008

Ty Templeton JLA-Z #3 Royal Flush Gang Pin-Up (1/04)

Sorry I've been a bad boy this Christmas, having missed a week's worthy of Detroit posts. I'll make up for that later in the week, beginning a run of synopsis pitting former members of the Detroit League against departed Royal Flush Gang representatives-- the super-villains they faced in JLA Classified #22, #23, #24 and #25!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

1993 Skybox DC Cosmic Teams Justice League International Team Triptych Cards

Art by Ron Randall and Randy Elliott, featuring a rare instance of Ralph Dibney wearing a mask!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Impel 1992 Series I DC Cosmic Cards #77 in a series of 180

Here's a trading card of the Suicide Squad-era Vixen, as drawn by Luke McDonnell and Mike Clark. The market for these things exploded for Impel with Marvel Universe Series I in 1990, so it was only natural the company would follow-up with a DC set. That first Marvel offering was a mixed bag in terms of art quality, and they shared a universally boring white border with bare bones fonts. Cosmic Cards was an improvement, with some nice looking logos and lettering. Unfortunately, they were marred by the horrible, thick gray borders you see above, as well as mostly generic artwork. This allowed the vastly superior second Marvel series to leave both in the dust with its snazzy design work, bold fonts, and fan-pleasing images from the hottest artists of the day. Also, I seem to recall this "1992" series coming out late in '91, and I suspect a lengthier approval process at DC allowed MU II the advantage in the not-ugly-as-heck department, only more noticeable by its earlier arrival.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Justice League #1 (May 1987)

Maxwell Lord IV scanned television reports from outside the Justice League's mountain base: "... Many people question the effectiveness of a new J.L.A. in these times of, at best, grudging tolerance of super-- ...Two of the newer members arrive-- I'm sorry, one new member and a veteran of this oldest of super-teams-- ...A Martian. What effect his presence will have on public opinion is yet to be--"

An arrogant Green Lantern Guy Gardner brooded alone at the new Justice League meeting table, intent on demanding leadership of the fledgling team. He was soon joined by Black Canary, Mr. Miracle, Oberon, Captain Marvel, and, together, Blue Beetle with the Manhunter from Mars. Oberon felt the media circus surrounding the group's reformation couldn't hurt.

Martian Manhunter: "In light of recent events-- I would tend to doubt it."
Blue Beetle: "I think the Martian Manhunter's just being paranoid, group!"
Martian Manhunter: "Then I suggest you think again! ...They are wolves-- waiting to consume us. To them, we're novelties... Sideshow freaks-- viewed with amusement one moment, reviled the next."
Blue Beetle: "Look, J'Onzz-- we don't really know each other... but aren't you being a tad grim?"
Martian Manhunter: "You are correct, Beetle. You don't know me. Nor do you know what I have lived through... what the old League endured... what we lost.

J'Onn cued a monitor bank of images:





He gazed at them solemnly for a moment, then crestfallen, pressed a button to purge the vision of his former teammates. Dinah consoled, "J'Onn, I--" but before she could finish, the most obnoxious Green Lantern returned to demanding leadership of the outfit.

A screaming match with Black Canary developed, followed by rough handling of Oberon, prompting Manhunter to step between the pair.




Unlike with Superman, Guy Gardner felt no hesitation about tugging on the Martian Manhunter's cape, lifting him off the ground by the neck. "I strongly suggest you let me down."
"Just butt out, Jolly Green-- or I'll boot you back to the valley! Ho-ho-ho."

Gardner briefly relented, until Oberon renewed hostilities, prompting Mr. Miracle to complain, "J'Onn, this is utterly infantile..."
"You are correct, Mr. Miracle. This is infantile. And it's time our ring-wielding baby got the spanking he deserves!."

Batman and Dr. Fate walked in on a full scale brawl, as Captain Marvel took a power ring blast to the belly that launched him into a guarded Alien Atlas. The Dark Knight strode through the collection of heroes to pacify Guy Gardner with his overwhelming presence, and a meeting commenced.

Meanwhile, the heroic Doctor Light (Kimiyo Hoshi) was at the United Nations, where her new Justice League signal-device was paging her relentlessly. She was so distracted, she almost missed the terrorists who would hold her and the General Assembly hostage.

The Batman was alerted, so he sent Captain Marvel and Dr. Fate ahead while he joined the rest of the team in flying to the scene inside Beetle's Bug craft. On arrival, Manhunter noted, "Batman-- I don't see Dr. Fate..." ...who vanished to take care of another matter.

The Martian Marvel joined his team in stealthily entering the U.N., where he embedded the heads of several assailants quite forcefully into a corridor ceiling. The Sleuth From Outer Space then invisibly contacted Dr. Light, whispering in her ear, "Show no alarm. Make no sudden moves. I'm J'Onn J'Onzz of the Justice League--"
"Y-you're invisible?!"
"Obviously. Now, please-- listen carefully." At his signal, Dr. Light blinded everyone in her vicinity, as Green Lantern swiftly handled all but two of he remaining terrorists. Dr. Light had elbowed half the remainder.
"I admire you... efficiency."
"Years of practice."
"They paid off."

Batman stared down the final boss, who thereafter committed apparent suicide. Martian Manhunter was annoyed to face the press after.

Meanwhile, the tycoon Maxwell Lord IV watched all these events from afar, having bankrolled the terrorists as part of a plot to help put the new Justice League on the international map...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Who's Who Vol.VII: The Elongated Man (9/85)

I believe one of the first times I ever saw the Elongated Man, not to mention the whole of the Justice League (as opposed to "Super Friends,") was on George Pérez's magnificent cover to 1983's Justice League of America #217. I noticed this stretchy guy flinging his neck about in the background, and my response was, "oh, another one." Like most people, I never particularly liked super-heroes with that particular power set, and am never pleased when Martian Manhunter shows similar plying inclinations. What respect I have for Mr. Fantastic comes from his superior intellect, where I've had to unlearn decades of Plastic Man hate based on his cartoon show and lousy modern comic appearances. Turns out the Jack Cole originals are some of the best comics of the Golden Age.

Leading the discussion back to Elongated Man, I'm already fighting the urge for another tangent. Ralph Dibney's was an okay guy, and I liked Sue quite a bit. That doesn't change the fact that as far as I'm concerned, the only interesting thing Elongated Man did in 2 1/2 years of Detroit League service was to pown Vibe in his final outing. His time with Justice League Europe was similarly misspent-- the hero most obviously suited to be in a "funny" League that never pulled any laughs. When your non-powered, unadventurous wife outshines you simply by providing decent supporting work to other characters, you should have your hero card revoked. The only time Elongated Man ever worked for me was as a straight detective, but he was rarely shown in that light, and that was Plastic Man's original territory to boot!

Poor Elongated Man. So little love for you. Many heroes gain a soul with their passing, but even in death, Sue Dibney upstaged him...

Art by Carmine Infantino and Dick Giordano

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Justice League Spectacular #1 (1992)

Vibe: Still dead, five glorious years and counting.

Steel: Also dead, but soon to be replaced by a black man with a big hammer.

Dale Gunn: Last appeared about the time Steel was revealed to not be dead, so he could be killed again.

Gypsy: In limbo, aside from cameos in Justice League Quarterly as part of the Conglomerate.

Vixen: Suicide Squad was getting canceled hereabouts, though Mari had left the team by this point, in favor of the occasional "Animal Man" guest spot.

Elongated Man & Sue Dibney: Wrapped up their four issue mini-series, which led them to join a European diplomatic trip to Florida's Funny Stuff Park. Taken hostage by the Royal Flush Gang, who'd been hired by Maxwell Lord to cause an incident that would inspire the formation of a new Justice League. Things got out of hand when a second benefactor offered the the Gang advanced new weapons. Still, a new League did form, with Ralph's assistance and membership, and throttled the Royals. "I may not be as powerful as Big Blue over there-- or as fast as the kid [Flash]-- but give me a diversion and I can hold my own!" In fact, he even rescued Superman...

Batman: Approached by Max Lord to run a new League, but refused. Instead tried to recruit Superman for the role. "With the Martian Manhunter gone they need your muscle! They need your leadership, Superman. Care to sign up?" No, as he found the JLI to be a ridiculous bunch whose "nonpowered heroes" could never keep up with him. Superman was promptly captured when he brainlessly stormed Funny Stuff Park, was released by Elongated Man, and agreed to join one of two new Justice Leagues. Batman was wisely nowhere near Florida for any of this.

Aquaman: Helped Dr. Light II construct a suboceanic farm. Recruited by Green Lantern Hal Jordan as part of a third wave of heroes to enter Funny Stuff Park. Had Power Girl's back in the fight. Asked to join one of the new Leagues by Hal, his first time serving since the Detroit years. "...after what happened the last time I was a member-- I swore I'd never get involved with a team again! ...I don't know. Booster and Beetle acted so rashly today that they could have gotten civilians killed!" Finally sucked it up and fell in line.

Martian Manhunter: Name-checked by Batman above, as well as Green Lantern Hal Jordan, who said of the Detroit League. "Look, I realize things went badly back then-- but that should hardly be a condemnation for all time! ...with J'Onn and Captain Atom gone [the League is] going to need big-time muscle to do it!"

Bloodwynd: First unnamed cameo appearance, looking like a punch drunk boxer while watching a television in his apartment announce the new League. While the anchorman and the United Nations considered that the team may have previously been premature disbanded, Bloodwynd concurred. "Yes. I wonder too. If they're getting back together-- the Justice League will have me to deal with!"

Weapons Master: Seen only in shadow. Outfitted the Royal Flush Gang to test his toys and the super-heroes. On a mission for a Dominator to steal Guy Gardner's Power Ring. Only kept his blond bimbo Kiki around for the sex, which he indulged in during a slow point in the festivities. Worked out of his personal yacht.

Justice League America: Superman, Green Lantern Guy Gardner, Fire, Ice, Booster Gold, and Blue Beetle.

Justice League Europe: Green Lantern Hal Jordan, Aquaman, Elongated Man, Power Girl, Dr. Light II, Crimson Fox and the Flash.

The Creators: Dan Jurgens looked nice inked by Rick Burchett, but consistently wrote Superman as an overbearing jerk, Ice as a sentimental idiot and Fire as a valley girl. Gerard Jones continued to write the European League as painfully boring. Ron Randall looked great embellished by Randy Elliot, especially when drawing women in form-fitting duds.

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: “J'Onn" -Green Lantern Hal Jordan
"Martian Manhunter" -The Batman

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

DC Sampler #2 (9/84)

Presenting: the first ever appearance of Justice League Detroit! Click on the image below to see the full, high resolution glory...

Drawn by Chuck Patton with inks by future "Martian Manhunter" artist Tom Mandrake, this piece was part of a free comic DC used to circulate once a year to hype their entire line. I loved these things growing up, as they really did feel like a window into another universe; always featuring exclusive art, synopsis, and other information on comics I didn't or couldn't read.

As was the case for most of Patton's run, J'Onn J'Onzz and Zatanna are the furthest in the background, though it's strange Steel is also way out. Maybe Patton wasn't as enthusiastic about a carryover from a long-canceled series by writer Gerry Conway as he was the new characters they co-created? After all, Gypsy is surprisingly prominent... as is her green eyeshadow, making her look like a glamorous raccoon. The Disco Dazzler had even abandoned that look by then.

Poor Aquaman. Patton drew him so well, and he seems so hopeful about his newfound spotlight as team leader. A shame he was guiding the lot to infamy, and that he himself would bail out midway through their run as Justice League of America. It's also funny that he's directly below Batman, his successor in the role, who himself vanished after one story arc without explanation.

Vixen was another leftover of Conway's, but Patton got to design an entirely new costume for her, though the domino mask vanished before it appeared elsewhere.

I wonder if Patton misjudged how much space he needed, crowding five team members onto one page, while only three spread out in the next. I suspect that's why Elongated Man was given such attention, as his power allowed his to cover a lot of ground. It's also funny to see Vibe so dark complected, a real reminder of the multicultural aspect of the team. I don't think he ever wore those dish washing gloves again, thankfully.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Legends #3-6 (1-4/87)

Suicide Squad: Initial line-up of Captain Boomerang, Enchantress, Blockbuster, Bronze Tiger, Col. Rick Flag, and Deadshot defeated Brimstone at Mt. Rushmore with a special weapon designed specifically for the task. Blockbuster killed in the process. Later aided in riot control during a G. Gordon Godfrey rally.

Vixen: No further relevant appearances in the mini-series, but will join the Suicide Squad early into their ongoing spin-off.

Elongated Man & Gypsy: Appeared in a couple of flashback panels recounting previous events.

Steel & Vibe: Same, but pretty much dead at this point.

Batman: Beat up the Joker for the billionth time. Among the heroes magically materialized at a G. Gordon Godfrey rally in Metropolis by Dr. Fate. Also included were Captain Marvel, Blue Beetle, the Flash, Black Canary, Changeling, Green Lantern Guy Gardner and Superman. Disabled a Warhound. Whupped a gang of thugs. Proud of Robin II's rallying of youth to convince their parents Godfrey was wrong. Co-founded a new incarnation of the Justice League.

Martian Manhunter: "I see Godfrey hasn't changed his tune at all, Doctor Fate!" Not summoned by the heroic mystic, but "Nevertheless, I go where I am needed!" Batman agreed, "Well, you're certainly needed here, Manhunter-- welcome!" Wonder Woman would also crash the party later. Superman asked if the rest of the League was coming. "I'm afraid not... At this moment in time... the Justice League of America no longer exists!" Disappeared during the action...

President Ronald Reagan: "They've come-- as I expected!" Masked gunmen blasted their way into the White House. "This office will not bow to terrorism! You have exactly five seconds to surrender yourselves!" Shot repeatedly in the chest, to little effect. "Now you have two seconds! Time's up! Game's over! What idiots!" Punched out the terrorists and revealed to be the Martian Manhunter as the real Ronny entered the Oval Office. "Green-skinned or otherwise, this man just risked his life for mine-- and I intend to thank him!"

Martian Manhunter: "There are no thanks necessary, Mister President. With my Martian physiognomy, I was never in any real danger! It was a simple matter of transforming myself to resemble you-- and then awaiting the inevitable!" Shook Reagan's hand.

President Ronald Reagan: "Nevertheless, I am in your debt. I won't soon forget what you did for me today."

Martian Manhunter: "I'd have done the same for anyone. Now if you'll excuse me, sir-- there are others who have more pressing need of my services!"

President Ronald Reagan: "Callahan, call the Press Corps. I'm rescinding my executive order banning super-heroes-- effective immediately! ...Wisest thing I've done these past few days!"

Martian Manhunter: Returned to the fray, standing amongst the heroes to confront Godfrey and control his mob. After Godfrey was rendered temporarily catatonic from donning Dr. Fate's helm, his spell was broken, and J'Onn J'Onzz accepted Fate's call to form a new League. "Indeed I will. Nowhere else is truly home." So too did Batman, Guy Gardner, Black Canary, Captain Marvel, and Blue Beetle. Flash, Changeling and Superman refused, while Wonder Woman returned to hiding wordlessly. "That lady is the very essence of the term hero."

The Creators: Is it just me, or did anyone else think J'Onn wasn't so much modest as a mildly resentful Carter/Mondale supporter who really would have saved the life of anyone like he did Reagan?

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: "J'Onn" -Superman
"Manhunter" -Batman
"The Martian Manhunter" -Dr. Fate

Thursday, October 30, 2008

JLA: Black Baptism #4 (8/01)

Dr. Occult mystically extracted the homunculus/bullet from Superman's body an took it into his own.

Martian Manhunter: "This is what we've been able to deduce so far. The Diablos' accumulated soul-energy will be used in conjunction with the stolen Fountain of Lessing to open a permanent Hell-Gate. This so-called 'Black Baptism' is doubtless planned for today, so we haven't much time. The tangential involvement of the street mage known only as Faust, coupled with the recent disappearance of his father-- sometime JLA adversary Felix Faust-- suggests that the elder man may have been the Diablos shadow-partner all along. As you may recall, our recent encounter with Felix Faust concluded with the banishment of the mad Egyptian sorcerer he raised from the dead named Hermes Trismegistus. Trismegistus had possessed the wizard, and was obsessed with extinguishing all life on Earth. He nearly succeeded. At the time, we all assumed that the undead spirit had finally been laid to rest. Now, however, I fear that the lich has reasserted dominion over Felix Faust, and plans to use the unsuspecting Diablos' dark ceremony for his own nihilistic ends."

Faust: An intended pawn of Anita Soulfeeda in her betrayal of the Hellfather and the Diablos in her pursuit of personal power. The vulnerable June Moon and the threat of Scratch were her leverage.

Martian Manhunter: Joined the JLA against the Diablos at their meeting with Felix Faust/Hermes Trismegistus, targeting the Hellfather Don Asmodeus. Told Superman, "I'll keep him busy, my friend-- Just remember that [Scratch] is just as magical as the bullet that felled you."

Faust: Fought Hermes Trismegistus against his using the Fountain of Lessing to help in birthing a genocidal "vile form" through the unwilling Anita Soulfeeda. Determined that Anita was actually the soul of Enchantress he'd condemned to Hell, and reintegrated it into June Moon, creating another offshoot supernatural persona called Soulsinger. This entity would eventually heal the Sentinels of Magic, while Dr. Occult would take her under his wing.

Blue Devil: Freed by Faust, he helped Superman against Scratch.

Martian Manhunter: Once again acknowledging Wonder Woman as team leader this mission, reported the lesser demons had been subdued, "but their lord is quite resilient." Flash had already fallen beneath Don Asmodeus' hoof.

Batman: Commanded Tempest to cut off the black mana flow to the Fountain of Lessing.

Faust: Absorbed soul-force from Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern and Superman to use against Hermes Trismegistus.

Blue Devil: Destroyed the Fountain of Lessing, and in a chain reaction, seemingly all the Diablos and Hermes Trismegistus.

Zatanna: Agreed to become the JLA liaison for magic users after being healed.

Bloodwynd: Back on his feet and smiling, this time incorrectly drawn with a face mask.

Faust: Hid himself and his father in a bid to nurture their relationship. "Ironically, I think I may have finally found the immortality I have dedicated my life to. The secret lies in having you to carry on the family name. So that there will be another generation of Faust. I'm proud of you, Sebastian." The junior Faust had retrieved a horn lost by Blue Devil in battle, and said, "don't call me Sebastian. Only Mom calls me that."

The Creators: For a little remembered mini-series, a good deal of consequence to minor characters took place here. This was basically the bridge to what became the Shadowpact. Not having followed that series, I wonder how many of the loose ends intentionally left untied here were ever resolved?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

JLA: Black Baptism #3 (7/01)

Batman, Flash and Wonder Woman encountered human sacrifice in Metropolis. Flash and Green Lantern put out a fire at the Infernal Comics Company of Jacksonville, Florida, where GL did some freelance work and the writer took a dig at Crossgen and/or Verotik.

Aquaman: Acknowledged Tempest was still recovering, and that the Fountain of Lessing was "a fountain of healing that hasn't worked in centuries. My ancestors used it to cleanse the souls of sick children.

Blue Devil: Tortured by the Diablos for information, with little forthcoming.

Martian Manhunter: Observed of the Diablos and Scratch, "They seem to operate well as a team, and in all cases, the fallen Sentinels of Magic have been alone when neutralized... When I was close enough to probe its mind, I detected no sentient thoughts. My studies of comparative mythology suggest Scratch predates every godlike being the League has encountered... This Scratch entity is the key to their success. How this Anita creature gained control over it is a mystery I am keen to solve. However, after seeing them both in action, I don't believe she is the leader of their whole operation."

Faust: Took a nap at the Detroit City Morgue with the help of his buddy Shane the mortician. Contacted his father for help. Captured alongside June Moon by Anita Soulfeeda and Scratch.

Plastic Man: Traced Rose Psychic back to the Scrap Bar, where she changed into Dr. Occult once the Diablos showed up. Wonder Woman and Green Lantern were sent to engage them. Dr. Occult returned with the JLA to the Watchtower.

Felix Faust: Revealed to still be possessed by Hermes Trismegistus and secretly backing the Diablos.

The Creators: The covers by Tim Bradstreet were one of the major selling points of this mini-series, and each was exceptional. It's a shame the story began to falter at this point, as the magnitude of the evil began to shrink rather than expand. Zatanna was ultimately the most formidable presence here, as the Diablos were too silly to take seriously, and Felix Faust long past registering as a real threat. Also, the emphasis on minor characters like the junior Faust and Blue Devil makes it feel like the JLA were shoehorned into their story, guest stars in a backdoor pilot.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

JLA: Black Baptism #2 (6/01)

Martian Manhunter: "An ocean stretches across the surface of the moon! Aquaman, what's happening in there?" Gravity-- physics-- all gone haywire at the will of magic evoked by the mad Zatanna.

Zatanna: A stream of flies flew from her mouth as her words reshaped lunar reality. Faust tapped the souls of Green Lantern and the Flash, then created an illusion where Zee had to either regain composure or drown in Houdini's famous water torture trick.

"Manhunter to JLA. The moon is reverting to normal as quickly as it changed." Zee fell back into unconsciousness.

Faust: Visited June Moon at Detroit's Elysium Fields Sanitarium, who had been in a near catatonic state since he slit her throat to use the soul of the Enchantress to reignite the fires of Hell during the Day of Judgment.

Zatanna: Committed to a sound-dampened room at Arkham Asylum by Manhunter and Batman.

Martian Manhunter: Refused to take leave of this mission, despite the likelihood of demons bringing fire to bear. Felt that if magicians better communicated with one another, the attacks of the Diablos would not be as effective. Struggled to maintain psychic barriers against the insane babble of Arkham inmates. "The poor souls here... To think they experience first-hand the anguish I must actively fight to keep out. The very stones seem to weep with the desolation of the mad."

Batman: "John Zatara-- Zatanna's father-- was one of my greatest teachers. He taught me most of what I know of magic... both sleight of hand and the arcane mysteries."

Bloodwynd: Drawn with a Luke Cage-style tiara. In stable condition.

Blue Devil: Stabbed in the back with one of his own bones, kept by Faust when he resurrected the "demon" to keep him pliable. Faust wanted to dissuade the exceedingly loyal B.D. from following him deeper into damnation. Kidnapped by the Diablos.

Martian Manhunter: "Moons of Mars! The fiend masked its presence!" Transformed into an armored insectoid form to battle Scratch. Also present: "The succubus! She must be here for Zatanna! Incredible-- this creature is no mere demon, but of an older order altogether. How did the Diablos manage to tame it? ...Take what form you will, ancient one-- you will not pass!" Prevented Anita Soulfeeda from entering Arkham with his laser vision while fending off Scratch. Came to realize Anita Soulfeeda was Scratch's weakness for its concern, and tried to exploit it, but was shot in the hand by Anita's flame-emitting pistol.

The Creators: This was Jesús Saiz's first major work for DC Comics, after starting out in the European market. His work is almost unrecognizable here, as it is much more exaggerated than his later efforts for the company, "Manhunter," and "Checkmate." The look works best on the monsters and magical elements, aided by dramatic lighting and sex appeal. The super-heroes fare worse, coming off as silly intrusions in their own book.

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: "J'Onn" -Batman
"The Manhunter" -Wonder Woman
"Lousy green freak" -Anita Soulfeeda

Monday, October 27, 2008

JLA: Black Baptism #1 (5/01)

Zatanna: After the Day of Judgment, which altered the status quo in Hell and saw the formation of the Sentinels of Magic, Zee's profile rose sharply. Along with other Sentinels, she was attacked by mafia-styled demons calling themselves "the Diablos," who intended to sacrifice the magical heroes to resurrect more of the infernal fallen. Among them was "Anita Soulfeeda," a succubus who partially fed off Zatanna before being interrupted by Superman and Plastic Man.

Superman: Shot by poseur rhyming demon D'Monix with a magical gun that embedded a homunculus inside his body.

Martian Manhunter: Tended to Superman at the JLA Watchtower infirmary. "You are not a very good patient, you know. The dart seems to be lodged firmly in the wound. And it splinters at the slightest attempt to remove it." Others patients included Zee, Deadman, Madame Xanadu, Ragman and Bloodwynd. "Zatana's not responding. I am going to attempt a mind probe... She's hiding herself in a perverted version of her library."

Zatanna: Spouted gibberish on the psychic plane, from which she expelled Manhunter, after he assumed the appearance of her father.

Martian Manhunter: "No use. When that succubus drained half of Zatanna's soul, she was left on the brink of madness. I fear for those for whom the spell was completed..."

Batman: Initially refused Wonder Woman's suggestion that Faust, semi-heroic son of Felix Faust and an expert on soul magic, should be brought in to help. Relented, but ordered the injured Superman to inactive status pending recovery.

Wonder Woman: Visited the Scrap Bar, an underground club for freaks and misfits in Detroit, and a regular hangout of Faust. She found him in the company of Rose Psychic, receiving a piece of the Fountain of Lessing. Joined by Plastic Man and Blue Devil, the group questioned Samhain Diablo about his association with the Diablos. The group then joined Aquaman in a battle against the gang near Greenland.

Aquaman: Fought Scratch, a large shape shifting demon. Unable to defeat it, nor stop the Diablos from making off with the Fountain of Lessing, nor save the underwater city of B'miria. Faust allowed Tempest access to the knowledge of lost B'mirian sorcerers, which took Aquaman's ward out of the fight for a while. Meanwhile, the moon sprouted wings and a cyclopean eye.

The Creators: Writer Ruben Diaz was an assistant editor to Brian Augustyn and Paul Kupperberg in the 1990s before moving on to full duties, most famously overseeing the 1997 relaunch of "JLA." Diaz jumped ship to Marvel before fully reaping the benefits of that effort, then reappeared at DC as a freelancer before quitting comics for teaching. This mini-series represents his only major work as a writer. This first issue was respectable at establishing a threat to scale with the deified JLA, thanks largely to the vagueness of magic and our heroes vulnerability to it.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

JLA Annual #2 (1998)

For most of the 1990s, DC Comics linked their annuals into "crossover events" of increasingly predictable poor quality and general lack of impact on continuity. By 1998, only eight were released, one for each founding member of the popular new "JLA." The existence of a Martian Manhunter annual as a result of "Ghosts" was about the only noteworthy occurrence over the nearly 400 pages produced. The individual annuals were self-contained stories based more around a theme, making "Ghosts" a hybrid of the years where a concept trumped an interconnected event. The cause and culmination of this supernatural phenomenon were alluded to in the group annual.

Felix Faust, recognizing his lifetime of magical transgressions had doomed him to inevitable torment in Hell, sought the secret of immortality from the likes of Vandal Savage. The key was a centuries-lost Emerald Tablet, so Faust opted to resurrect its last known possessor, ancient Egyptian alchemist Hermes Trismegistus. However, the fellow had gone to considerable pains to end his own life, and took such great exception to Felix's disturbance, he decided to insure his peace by killing everyone on Earth.

J'Onn J'Onzz was the first to be warned of this impending genocide, when Felix spoke to the Martian Manhunter through characters in an old detective movie he had been watching. At the Watchtower, J'Onzz explained to his teammates, "According to Faust, I was contacted first because I was most sensitive to his telepathic distress call... but after hearing him out, I thought it was best for the rest of you to hear his story... He's genuinely terrified. Mind probes confirm it." Faust explained that the Emerald Tablet was a talisman through which Hermes could "actually remove the Life Frequency from our universe." Superman mistook this for the Anti-Life Equation, while Faust continued, "Surely you've noticed the weakening of borders between worlds... Your meta-human energies are like beacons to the other side. You'd be the first to see them... ghosts." Everyone had, including J'Onn J'Onzz, with his departed wife and daughter. Felix Faust charged the League with finding the Emerald Tablet, which had been divided into three parts and hidden around the world by Freemasons, so that he could destroy it.

Martian Manhunter assumed a clear leadership role. "I am convinced this threat is genuine. I will stay here and look after our guest. I suggest the rest of you split up into three teams. Flash... Aquaman... you start in France...

Aquaman: Explored the Pierre-St. Martin Cavern with Wally. Found their piece of the tablet underwater. Surprised by unexpected visitor upon emerging from the depths. "Vibe--? But-- I thought you were dead--!"

Vibe: Startled the Flash when he appeared from out of the darkness of the cavern, accompanied by music. "You not the right one, man... What's happenin'? Where's Aquaman, Holmes?"

Ice: Appeared at the China-Nepal border after Green Lantern Kyle Rayner and Superman recovered their piece of the tablet. "What am I doing here? Is Overmaster defeated?"

Batman: Used a Waynetech prototype sub to reach the bottom of the Marianas Trench with Wonder Woman. Nearly drowned when the vehicle proved unable to withstand the pressures of the deep.

Steel: Took cybernetic control of Batman's craft, sealing it and commanding a crane to capture the final third of the tablet. "It's all right, Batman... I'm here... It's under control."

Martian Manhunter: "For the benefit of our younger members, the face you see on the video screen behind us belongs to a man named Henry Heywood. He was the cyborg Justice Leaguer named Steel. He was killed by Starro the Conqueror* a few years ago. We can't find the source of the signal to these screens..."

Aquaman: Noted that the music everyone could still hear was provided by Vibe.

Vibe: Though unidentified, I'm confident it was the "Beat Street" soundtrack, as projected from a Sanyo MX series jambox. Wikki-wikki-wogga.

Martian Manhunter: "We all know Tora-- Ice. Her death at the hands of the Overmaster touched us all... It seems impossible to communicate with them, even telepathically. I'm not entirely convinced they're really there. I think these manifestations of dead Justice Leaguers are more like psychic or telepathic playback... possibly from our own memories..."

Felix Faust: Had several JLAers form an elemental circle around the reconstituted Emerald Tablet. "Wonder Woman, you are made from the earth itself. Aquaman from water. Green Lantern controls the green fire... J'Onzz. Turn intangible, and you become the air. Join hands around the tablet..." Faust was revealed to be possessed by Hermes Trismegistus, allowing Felix to speak honestly while bound by the Lasso of Truth, which serving Hermes dire intentions. Flash and Superman were immediately removed from consideration by Hermes' superior sorcery.

Batman: Assumed command amidst the chaos. Directed Green Lantern to project his energies into the tablet.

Martian Manhunter: "Batman. This is J'Onn. Your plan requires a distraction." Tried to engage Hermes/Faust, but learned "J'Onzz. Intangibility is another form of energy interaction. You cannot touch this body unless I choose it to be so. Why fight me? I bring you perfect death..."

Aquaman: Telepathically lent his willpower to Green Lantern's own.

Martian Manhunter: Ditto.

Vibe & Steel: Joined Ice, Amazing Man, Crimson Fox, the first Black Canary, the original Mr. Terrific, Johnny Quick, Deadman, Robin II and Blue Devil in distracting Hermes Trismegistus long enough for Green Lantern's might to finally destroy the Emerald Tablet. Wonder Woman noted Ice's closing speech consisted of the exact same words she spoke before being killed by the Overmaster.

Martian Manhunter: Felt his theory about telepathic memory playback being behind the ghosts was, "One of many possible conjectures... but I do not discount the possibility of their existence. My religion and experience teaches me to expect an afterlife. It's something I know to be true. I don't dwell much upon it..."

Felix Faust: Institutionalized, maddened as he was by the perpetual screaming on Hermes Trismegistus, still trapped inside his body...

*: Steel was severely damaged by an android employed by Professor Ivo, leaving him a vegetable on life support for years. What was left of him was killed by Despero the Destroyer. Either name could be confused with Starro the Conqueror, whom Steel never encountered in a recorded adventure. I kind of hope he really was "killed" a third time by the giant alien starfish though, just because.

The Creators: Ty Templeton's story was cute, but lightweight considering the subject matter. Mark Pajarillo was one of several awful artists routinely utilized by JLA editors of the time, possibly because he was either very quick on a demanding book, or especially cheap.

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: "You not the only one who knows how to move energy around, man. It's showtime!"

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Who's Who Vol.XXV: Vixen (3/87)

I was introduced to Vixen back around 1988 or so through discount copies of "Suicide Squad." I always liked her look, but her personality never seemed strong enough to match. After her second team book was canceled, I'd see her here and there, too often in that awful purple get-up that made her seem all the more bland and trivial. It occured to me she was basically the stock black female of the DC Universe, a pale Storm imitation trotted out to say, "Look, we have black heroines too! We just hide them out back in the shed!" Oh no, DC doesn't practice tokenism while avoiding viable minority characters like the plague, right? That's about the only praise I can give Dan Didio, as he's clearly pushed DC out of its entrenched, institutionalized racism.

Back to Vixen, after all those years of dismissing the character, I finally had the opportunity to learn what she was really about through her Justice League appearances. I found her vivacious, capable, and one of the great pleasures of the Detroit years. I suspect part of the problem with her "Suicide Squad" appearances was that J.M. DeMatteis had given her a similar arc to the one John Ostrander intended for Bronze Tiger, rendering Vixen as just "the girlfriend." Moving on, my interest in Vixen expanded thanks to the excellent design work and vocal talent of Gina Torres on the "Justice League Unlimited" cartoon. I'm pleased her appeal has been recognized at DC proper on the relaunched "Justice League of America," though I'm disinterested in the book, but her upcoming mini-series is one of the few things DC has me looking forward to these days.

Art by Luke McDonnell and Bob Smith.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

JLA: Incarnations #5 (Third Story, Nov. 2001)

The lead story in the December, 1988 issue of editor/publisher Tully Reed's Meta Magazine was intended to cover the murders of Steel and Vibe. "J'onn J'onzz, the alien acting as head of the allegedly disbanded League, denied that either of the former members were acting on its behalf and maintained that the League had disbanded. The murders, the Martian maintained, were carried out by robots created by Professor Ivo... G. Gordon Godfrey, the voice of the anti-metahuman movement sweeping the country, released the following statement through a press secretary: 'I am saddened by the deaths of these two young men, mislead into a life that they were clearly ill suited for by the false promise of glory and fame. Inadequately trained, they fell before ruthless foes. This is part of the reason for my crusade- to save our children! How many have been hurt already simply by tying towels around their necks and jumping off roofs while pretending to be Superman or some such?"

Tully Reed looked over the article, and asked himself, "What have I done? What am I doing?"

Reed's former editor was Roz Leung, whose scathing article on the Detroit League had triggered angst and strife in the group. It wasn't the kind of magazine Reed, a hero-loving Phil Sheldon type, wanted to publish. "Sure it is, sweetie! We cover the metahuman scene but we do it with attitude. I mean, who can take these steroid queens in their underwear pounding the poo out of each other seriously?" Reed loved Roz, but argued against her cynicism. As the couple embraced, Reed made clear "'s my magazine, Roz. And we're going to do things my way." Roz smirked, "Over my dead body, sweetie."

During the Crisis on Infinite Earths, Elongated Man, Vixen, Vibe and Gypsy were shown battling Shadow Demons and rescuing citizens in the chaos. Tully Reed was trying to calm the hysterical Roz Leung down on a ravaged New York street, but she was hysterical. "We're all going to die! ...This is one of my recurrent dreams! The red skies and black shadows and in the end everything goes black!" Tears in her eyes, Roz tore loose of Tully's grip and ran aimlessly, only to be killed almost immediately after by a Shadow Demon. Just as quickly, an unseen Green Lantern blew the demons away, and Vixen arrived to see if the couple was alright. Reed cradled Roz's body and cursed at Vixen for not arriving five seconds sooner. He felt his faith in heroes had been betrayed.

"I'm sorry for your loss but we couldn't be everywhere at once! Despite what you think, we are only human! We've saved as many as we could! ...We didn't betray you. We just couldn't be what you wanted us to be. Excuse me. I'm needed elsewhere."

Later, Reed met with G. Gordon Godfrey, who wished to use Meta Magazine as another soapbox for his crusade against super-heroes. After all, since his girlfriend's death, Reed had turned the magazine from a cheerleader to skeptic of metahumans...

Still staring at the printer's proof alone in his office, Tully Reed called to have the entire run pulped. "Yeah, I know what it'll cost. You're right. We probably will lose advertisers. Do it anyway." Reed realized he'd allowed grief to cloud his judgment. "And that creep Godfrey played me like a violin. Vixen was right. They're only human. I was the one who wanted them to be legends. They're not perfect but they are heroes and I'm never going to forget that again."

"Doubt" by John Ostrander, Eric Battle and Keith Champagne.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Justice League of America #261 (4/87)

Professor Ivo: Continued to be conflicted by his own murderous actions, seeing visions of himself in a padded room. The Ivo in a straight jacket thought Amazo was a silly name, was saddened "A Martian killed my son," but felt he couldn't himself have killed anyone. "Murder is a sin. Bad. Bad." The Ivo in a tux continued to argue with his android "psychiatrist," before deciding to trigger its self-destruct mechanism.

Dale Gunn: Drank a toast to Steel with the boy's grandfather and Martian Manhunter. Watched J'Onn J'Onzz toss his drink to the floor, cursing "Damn it!!" As the Martian slumped against a wall, Dale explained, "J'Onn? Listen to me. I knew Hank since he was just a kid. I've been working with his grandfather for more years than I'd care to count. We're all hurting, but there's nothing to be gained by throwing fits. Hell, what I know of you-- this just isn't your style."

Martian Manhunter: Answered, "My style? Dale-- you don't know what my style is. And neither does Ivo. I've never wanted blood so badly in my life."

Commander Steel: After analyzing the android that killed his grandson, devised means to track other androids with the same power source.

Martian Manhunter: "Before this day is out, Hank will be avenged."

Dale Gunn: Halted J'Onn J'Onzz's intended departure to deliver a speech. "I thought the name of your team was the Justice League... not the Revengers. Justice means you find the ones responsible for what's happened, and you let the law take care of it. Revenge isn't justice, J'Onn. You know that. Revenge goes against everything you and the Justice League stand for."

Martian Manhunter: "The League is dead, Dale-- or hadn't you noticed?"

Vixen: Continued to stalk New York's rooftops. "Dead. Can he really be dead? Steel? My friend? If he's dead, it's my fault. I knew what the situation was. G. Gordon Godfrey turned the whole country against us. Yet I let Steel go out there... No... It's not my fault. It's Ivo's fault. And I'm going to find that murdering scum-- and he's going to pay." Dropping to a subway entrance, a group of bums made their way toward her. "Predators. They think I'm a woman. They think I'm something that can be taken, used, and discarded. But I'm not a woman. I'm Vixen. I'm a panther. An elephant. A vulture. A snake. I'm whatever animal-spirits I need to be to hunt my prey. To hunt-- and kill."

Vixen continued to wrestle with her bestial drive and more reasoned humanity. "I'm not an animal. I'm Mari McCabe. I'm a fashion model. I'm a woman." This didn't stop her from roaming barefoot in a New York sewer, beating rats to death as an aggression vent. Finally, Vixen located the underground headquarters of Professor Ivo, who greeted her with a poisoned meal. While Ivo was terribly civil, Vixen offered him a variety of means by which she could kill him, and threw tainted coffee in his face. "I'll feast on your dead flesh... How stupid do you think I am! You think I'll just sit here like a good girl and drink my cup of hemlock?"

While Vixen battered the immortality-ravaged Ivo, a dozen of his pretty shirtless androids appeared to wrestle her to the ground. Vixen destroyed several of them, but their programming was altered to specifically target her weaknesses. She was drowned in numbers.

Martian Manhunter: "IVO!!" J'Onn J'Onzz smashed his way into the Professor's lair, who stammered, "No! Not you! You're one of the real ones! You always beat me!" J'Onzz emphasized, "To a pulp." Learning of Vixen's plight, the Manhunter barreled through all but two of the Ivos before the Professor came to a realization. "Oh, of course! He's a green man from Mars. And Martians can't abide fire." The Professor then lit up J'Onzz with a tricked-out lighter. "I knew I carried this with me for a reason. You can't hurt me now, Green Man... Now I would deeply appreciate it if you'd die."

Vixen: The two remaining Ivos could find no pulse, heartbeat or respiration, but just as they were prepared to certify she had expired, Vixen came alive. She smashed the pair.

Martian Manhunter: "You turned your back on me, Ivo. A very big mistake... You have the audacity to ask for mercy? You've got a lot to learn, Professor. And I'm going to teach you. Right now. I'm going to teach you about pain. About fear. And death... I can't. Dammit-- I can't."

Vixen: "I can!!" Vixen tore Professor Ivo's head off... not clean, as various wires and other mechanical bits left it dangling. "This 'droid was extremely sophisticated. It even mimicked the scent of a living man." She caught the real Ivo's scent behind a door, and found those visions of the Professor in a padded cell were factual.

Professor Ivo: "He escaped from Arkham Asylum, built an army of androids, even created a near-perfect duplicate of himself to fool the authorities with in case he was discovered. And yet, he was totally insane." The androids' minds modeled after Ivo's, they too were filled with madness and conflicting impulses, and locked away their own imperfect creator in a new cell. "Indeed. He pushed them to murder. While his soul burned in shame."

Martian Manhunter: "I find it impossible to hate someone so filled with remorse... so lost and anguished. And I feel such a need to hate. Such a deep need... Mourning. And forgiveness. And something more... I see it so clearly. Let the President and his orders go to hell. Let every man, woman and child in this nation come to loathe us. But, in order for Steel and Vibe's deaths to have any meaning-- the League must continue. Politics and opinion shift. Tomorrow we may be heroes in the eyes of the world again. But that doesn't matter. What matters is that we are duty-bound to do our job, despite praise or blame. Fate took me from my homeworld... brought me to this earth for a reason: To help. To fight for what's right. For justice. And, for the sake of justice, the League must never dissolve. We've got to go on.

Vixen: "I looked inside myself these past few days. I saw a demon... a demon that had to be exorcised. And I did exorcise it. Vixen died... For the first time in my life... I'm truly, wholly-- Mari McCabe." Mari wasn't sure if G. Gordon Godfrey wasn't right, considering the violence that surrounds super-heroes, and the deaths of her friends. "We choose to live like this! We choose this bloody path! There are a million ways to help people, to make the world a better place... ways that don't have anything to do with fists and suns and corpses... I don't intend to beget any more violence in this lifetime, JJ. I want to be free of the animal, and embrace the human. Maybe the League should continue. But it won't continue with me... I'm sorry. I didn't mean to sound so... judgmental."

Martian Manhunter: Tried to convince Vixen to remain, but acknowledged her path led elsewhere, and hugged her goodbye. J'Onn stared into a monitor bank at the Secret Sanctuary for a time... into the faces of the departed Gypsy, Vibe, Steel, and Vixen. An emergency signal sounded, and the Manhunter from Mars was off.

Gypsy: Retired from super-heroics to return to her family and school, for now.

Vibe: Family in mourning, including a younger brother who will develop similar powers.

Steel: Grandfather shut off life support, but for good?

Vixen: Her hiatus from the life will be short, but she will return in very different company.

The Creators: J.M. DeMatteis did wonderful work here, and his take on madness hints at what would become one of his most famous stories, the Death of Kraven the Hunter. It's no wonder editor Andrew Helfer asked him to stay on for the Justice League relaunch. Bob Lewis provided inks in a style reminiscent of Terry Austin, which set him apart from any of the others on this arc. This was some of Luke McDonnell's best work, but his style would soon change with his moving on to Suicide Squad. These were not the characters or situations one would expect to close out over two decades of JLA comics, but the story was well told regardless

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: "JJ" -Vixen
"J'onn." -Dale Gunn, Commander Steel
"J'onn J'onzz." -Ivo
"Green Man" -Ivo

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Who's Who Vol.XXII: Steel (12/86)

Steel II is a character I didn't care for on first reading. Then, on second try, I still didn't care for him. Third time was the charm, as it was then I began to realize the potential of the character.

Hank Heywood II, like his grandfather, was a sort of roughhewn, inexperienced, right wing Captain America. In Hank Sr.'s case, that made him a bit redundant in the midst of the WWII bravado typical of Golden Age-styled super-heroes. With Hank Jr. though, it made him an intriguing anomaly. Here's this Reagan Era neophyte in a minority-skewing, lefty super-hero team based out of bombed out Detroit, Michigan. He was the stiff, sure, but also the sensitive Colossus sort under his rigid exterior. He had his own secret headquarters in "The Bunker," access to Heywood Industries gadgets and fortunes, the L.O.S.T. aircraft, a mentor in Dale Gunn, and adversaries/legacy tied to Commander Steel. Of all the new Detroit members, he was the one most ready made to stand on his own as a viable soloist.

Steel was also ahead of his time: Among the first of many old school super-heroes to loosen up by shedding a skullcap... the first to have a cybernetic endoskeleton, ala Steve Austin or "the Terminator," allowing him to take horrific battle damage... among the rare heroes with a clear political ideology... and of course he served on the prototype for misbegotten new line-ups replacing beloved super-hero teams. Steel's career is like a blueprint for '90s comics. All he needed was a brown bomber jacket, useless pouches, and a big gun.

So let's all shed a tear for the lost opportunity that was Steel. He certainly would have.

Art by Chuck Patton & Larry Mahlstedt

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Justice League of America #260 (3/87)

Professor Ivo: Continued to be conflicted by his own murderous actions, seeing visions of himself in a padded room.

Vixen: Rented Orson Welles' "A Touch of Evil" and tried to take Hank's mind off things with pleasant conversation. Argued with Hank that the President's ban prevented their doing anything more, but was told her she sounded like the Manhunter. "Well, with Batman out of the picture, the Manhunter is the senior member of the team, and--" Hank became more forceful, grabbing hold of Mari's arms. "Take your hands off of me, Steel-- or I swear I'll dismantle you." The pair relaxed, and Mari explained, "...when it comes down to it, Mari McCabe is as big a fraud as Hank Heywood. I'm Vixen. I'm a hunter... a fighter. But all the breast-beating and self-pity in the world won't change anything." Hank decided to become Steel, and while Mari tried to stop him at first, soon relented. In fact, unable to keep Steel in check, Mari went on the hunt for Ivo by herself, though in plain clothes.

Steel: Couldn't stand idly by at Mari's apartment with Ivo on the loose. "Dammit, Mari! A friend of ours was murdered-- and because of that idiot G. Gordon Godfrey-- our hands are tied! Where's the sense in that? Where's the justice?" Mari threatened Hank when he got grabby, and things cooled down. "Funny. You got mad-- and called me Steel, not Hank. And that's who I really am... Steel, the unstoppable cyborg. Strong enough to give Superman a run for his money. But of course I can't use my strength. The President won't let me." Hank stormed off into a bedroom, and emerged in his Steel costume. Mari thought he was out of his mind, but Steel demanded, "Away from the door, Vixen-- or I'll dismantle you."

Walking the streets of New York in broad daylight, Steel expected to attract Ivo's attention. That and more, as Steel was dismayed by the fear and disrespect that greeted him from the G. Gordon Godfrey-influenced public. Police arrived and drew down on him. Steel gave a somewhat effective speech extolling the virtue of costumed heroics, until he attacked an Ivo android dressed as NYPD, dissipating good will in favor of panic. Steel hauled the manipulative automaton to a discrete alley to extract information, but received only head games and energy blasts. Steel valiantly pressed the Ivo into reaching critical mass with its energy projection, absorbing the resultant explosion with his own body to protect bystanders. Steel was severely damaged when found by the Martian Manhunter, in terrific pain, and barely conscious. "Got to go b-b-back... to... De... Detroit... Got... t-t-to go... home..." Hank Heywood Sr. cried as he found his grandson too badly damaged to function on his own, and eventually turned off his life support.

Martian Manhunter: Was attacked by the Ivo he found at Gypsy's house. "I don't want to fight you, android... There is no reason for this! 'Though your creator, Professor Ivo, sent you to slay Gypsy-- you spared her life! You have proven that you can transcend your programming-- and think independently!" The Ivo argued that Gypsy was harmless, while Manhunter was among those responsible for turning Ivo into "a reptillian grotesquerie!" Manhunter tried to explore the Ivo's mind to determine its master's location, but was hobbled by its lunacy. Out of gratitude for its sparing Gypsy, Manhunter tried reason one final time, and the Ivo tried wringing his Martian neck. "It... won't be that easy... machine... You won't do to me... what your "brother" did to-- VIBE!" Having boxed its head off, the Ivo still claimed Manhunter was responsible for Paco's death. Manhunter angrily pounded at the dismembered android, demanding it "SHUT UP!!"

Manhunter disallowed Gypsy from rejoining the former League members, requesting, "Please Gypsy... no tearful farewells. It's not the Martian way." Still, he turned back toward the girl and received her affectionate goodbye.

On finding what was left of Steel, among police offers who couldn't figure out what to do with him, Manhunter proclaimed, "You-- do-- nothing!" Manhunter knelt down to cradle the agonized Steel in his arms, intent on carrying him home to Commander Steel. The police thought otherwise. "And are you going to stop me? No-- I didn't think so." Manhunter tried to comfort Hank Sr., but learned there was nothing that could be done as the plug was pulled on Hank Heywood Jr. J'Onn, head in hand, despaired for the loss.

Gypsy: Looked on as Manhunter tore the Ivo that had befriended her to pieces, learning from taunts that Vibe had been killed. Intended to pursue Ivo with the Justice League, but was flat refused. Manhunter believed that the law was right, that the situation was too dangerous for her, and that she needed to focus on her family. "You've been away from them for too many months, away from the normal life you deserve... I know that you're all strong... that you love each other... and that, together-- you'll find a way to heal your wounds." Gypsy cried and hugged J'Onn goodbye.

The Creators: J.M. DeMatteis gave Steel a stronger and more character-specific send-off than Vibe. There are more precious moments between characters here than I'd be inclined to detail further, but am happy to applaud. Luke McDonnell continued to be passed round robin amongst inkers, this one being Steve Montano. The results were average, aside for a lovely page with a prowling Vixen.

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: "JJ" -Steel, Gypsy
"J'onn." -Steel, Commander Steel
"J'onn J'onzz." -Ivo
"The Manhunter." -Steel, Vixen
"Manhunter." -NYPD
"Mr. J'onzz." -Gypsy's Mom

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Who's Who Vol.X: Gypsy (12/85)

Like most of the new Detroit League, my first reaction to Gypsy was "eh." Since I had dropped JLI before her appearances there, I first made her acquaintance in the first issue of "Justice League Task Force." Like I suspect a good many readers at the time, my thought was "who is this person?" She kept popping up though, and I started raiding back issues, filling in the gaps of my knowledge. I paid special attention to Gypsy in light of her connection to J'Onn J'Onzz though, and with time his affection toward Gypsy rubbed off on me.

I believe the character has a great deal to offer now, and in retrospect I find her very influential. She was like the anti-Kitty Pryde: Secretive... spiteful... sarcastic... as often the cause of problems as the solution... quite often the damsel in distress very much needing a save from teammates. No Wesley Crusher showboating for Gypsy!

I can see where that wouldn't play with fans of the Justice League in the mid-80's, but I can just as easily see the genesis of characters like DKR's Carrie Kelly, the X-Men's Jubilee, and every other Joss Whedon creation. While I can understand her Cyndi Lauper/Stevie Nicks/Madonna shtick rubbing people the wrong way, I find it interesting that she's one of the very few super-heroes dating back a quarter century for whom snarky dialogue is entirely appropriate, as opposed to forced. She was both behind and ahead of her time at once.

I don't know that I'd be as excited about a Gypsy mini-series as I was Vixen, but still, a character deserving of less animosity and even, dare I say it, TLC? I imagine Gypsy being a "Cloak & Dagger" type for the DC Universe-- a street-level heroine dealing with teen runaways, junkies, alternative lifestyles, and prostitutes alongside a helping of "teh wierd." You may laugh, but try to remember Gypsy counts Lady Shiva, Vandal Savage and Despero amongst her personal foes, and still carried a membership in the Birds of Prey last I heard. You've come a long way, baby...

Art by Chuck Patton & Bob Smith.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Justice League of America #259 (2/87)

Gypsy: Encouraged teen runaway prostitute Pamela Cross to return to her family home, only to find it empty. Gypsy kept Pam from bolting until her parents arrived, comforting her with a hug. Gypsy made way for the group hug, as Pam and her folks reunited, and Gypsy silently hit the road. "...Oh, and if it wasn't for Gypsy, I would've never come back so soon! ...My friend... My best friend. Wait a minute, I'll introduce you to-- her... I don't get it-- why'd she leave?"

"I'm going home," the once and future Cindy Reynolds thought to herself. She knew she needed to reconcile with her family, instead of using the Justice League as an excuse to avoid the issue. To steel her resolve, she ignored a League emergency signal, and hitched a ride with a mysterious stranger in a yellow VW Bug. "Something creepy about his voice. But he looks normal. Anyway, if he's really some drooling maniac looking for a helpless young thing to molest-- he's gonna be in for a big surprise."

Along the drive to New Paltz, NY, Gypsy opened up to the stranger about her troubles and decision. "Hey, uh, thanks for letting me ramble like this... So, um, what about you? You have a family." He had no mother; a cold, self-involved father... and was truly sorry that it was time for what he'd been programmed to do.

Professor Ivo's self-modeled robot blasted Gypsy through his car door. Injured, Gypsy tried to escape into the forest. "Please, Gypsy-- don't resist me! Surrender to me-- and I promise I'll make your death as quick and painless as possible!" Gypsy was again blasted off her feet. "Y'know, I don't know whether you're a man... or some kinda machine... or what-- but you just got me mad! GO TO HELL!" Gypsy's powers briefly affected the Ivo's sensor, until it adjusted for conflicting data. As she ran, Gypsy thought, "Gotta remember what J.J. always says: 'Where there's life, there's-- hope.'"

Struck by another blast, Gypsy lay at the Ivo's feet, who blasted a hole through the belly of the young girl. An Ivo death mask was placed over her lifeless face...

Professor Ivo: Watched Martian Manhunter through an undetected camera as the League discovered Vibe's body and the Professor's culpability. "Keep that name at the forefront of your consciousness, Manhunter. Let it haunt you... Let it hound you-- just as the Justice League has haunted and hounded me. One by one, Manhunter-- I will murder the members of this new League-- and, in so doing, hurt the original Justice League far more that a direct attack ever could. You will all know pain... It's a pity the Manhunter is so directly involved in this... He could prove to be a minor annoyance. Ah, but the rest of the original Leaguers who still have ties to the JLA won't get in the way... Which just leaves J'Onn J'Onzz... and those children... Children... Oh, and Gypsy... she... she's the youngest of them all. How can I--?"

Ivo was conflicted between his obsession with punishing the Justice League for a crime they didn't actually commit, and the monstrosity of killing an innocent girl. He discussed the issue with an Ivo robot that had served as his psychiatrist. "Vibe-- he was arrogant-- like the rest of those super-heroic scum! But Gypsy..."

Ivo instilled this confusion in his own "son," who he'd sent after Gypsy. As Professor Ivo watched Gypsy die from his monitor, he was at first elated, then collapsed in horror at what he had done. Once Professor Ivo stopped monitoring his robot, it told Gypsy his "father" no longer had to be fooled by the young heroine's illusion of her own demise. "I said before that I was very well made. That was something of an understatement. Although my father's mind is... unbalanced, his genius is unparalleled... Professor Ivo had doubts about murdering you. Great doubts-- that were born in me, as well." The Ivo drove Cindy home to a tearful reunion.

Vibe: Had his body gently kicked by a pedestrian trying to figure out what his deal was. Had the still steaming Ivo death mask peeled from his face. Had his body carried back to the Secret Sanctuary, where it was placed in a cryogenic chamber for preservation until it could be returned to Paco's family.

Vixen: Was irrational as she seethed at a witness at Vibe's murder scene. Briefly calmed, only to launch a snarling attack on two policemen who pulled up with guns drawn, convinced by G. Gordon Godfrey of the threat super-heroes posed. Back at the Secret Sanctuary, Vixen tried to shake Manhunter into a confession. "You keep saying that! Who is he? Who is Ivo? Answer me! If you know who killed Vibe..." Vixen though Manhunter had lost his mind when he reiterated that the League had been disbanded, and could not pursue Ivo.

Steel: Pulled Vixen off a bystander, explaining that G. Gordon Godfrey's lies were making people frightened enough without heroes turning on people. When police arrived to spout more of Godfrey's fear-mongering garbage, Steel smashed their squad car. On his knees, tearfully expressed disbelief Vibe was dead. Thought the body needed to be returned to the Ramone family, but distracted when Manhunter revealed who the murderer was. "Don't worry, J.J.-- we'll find Ivo! We'll make that animal pay for what he did to Vibe!" Angry when Manhunter denied him vengeance due to the U.S. ban on super-heroic activity. "Mister, I don't give a damn about the President's order!"

Martian Manhunter: Approached Vibe's body and the bystander looking over it cautiously. "There is no reason to be afraid. We are the Justice League. We won't hurt you." While Vixen and Steel dealt with the bystander, Manhunter knelt at the side of Vibe's body, determining that he was dead, and who was responsible. "Professor Ivo." Tried and failed to calm Steel through Vixen's example of overreaction. Carried Vibe's body back to the Secret Sanctuary. Manhunter told the current League about Ivo's history with the old, his creation of Amazo, his cursed pursuit of immortality, and his misplaced blame of the League for his plight. "It's so demented... that it's almost funny." With that, even Manhunter allowed himself to lash out as an inanimate object. However, he still would not allow the League to pursue the case. "With the national situation such as it is, we cannot do anything... I have always believed in the law... on Mars... and on Earth. We violated the law by appearing on the streets in costume tonight. We will not do so again. The Justice League of America has been disbanded-- and it will remain disbanded. Is... that... clear?" However, Manhunter himself flew off with Ivo on his mind and the Reynolds' home in his sights-- where he found the Ivo android looking on...

The Creators: J.M. DeMatteis blessedly did not kill off Gypsy, but wrung the threat and Vibe's passing for all the impact he could. Ivo's never been as interesting outside this story. Bill Wray returned to ink Luke McDonnell-- an improvement over other hands, but not as dramatic a difference as earlier in the run. McDonnell himself was all over the nine panel grid this issue, continuing a trend on his part.

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: "J.J." -Gypsy, Steel, Vixen
"J'onn." -Steel
"Manhunter." -Vixen, Ivo
"J'onn J'onzz." -Ivo

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: ...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Who's Who Update '87 Vol.5: Vibe (12/87)

Sure, poor Vibe didn't get a Who's Who profile until the second series, but he also got a logo! Pretty good one, too! I can't honestly say I cared for Vibe, and I don't think his death was exactly a waste. In fact, I think he was a blight on all minority super-heroes, and an embarrassment to Latinos the world over. Still, he was a Detroit Leaguer, a very special honor/shame, and so rates a memorial post. Art by Luke McDonnell.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Justice League of America #258 (1/87)

Martian Manhunter: Following their defeat by Brimstone during "Legends," the team returned to their Secret Sanctuary to regroup. A fight broke out between Vibe and Elongated Man, which Manhunter broke up, and speaking of breaking up: "That will be enough... We've all been through quite an ordeal these past hours... and although I can't condone it, I understand why you two have reacted this way. But it doesn't make what I'm about to say any easier. Our League was once a much-needed and much-respected organization. I think we were well on the way to being that again. But, considering the President's recent statement ordering all so-called super-heroes to withdraw from public life-- I see no alternative. Until further notice, I am disbanding the Justice League... It's only temporary... till the President rescinds his order... I fully intend to keep in touch with all of you in the coming weeks. Just because we can't function as a team doesn't mean we can't function as friends. And in the end, it is your friendship that I've come to value most. Believe it or not, Vibe-- that includes you. For some months now, I've had the pleasure of watching you all grow... evolve... reach toward your full potential... You've made me very proud."

Elongated Man: Vibe began to openly disparage the team, sending Ralph into a rare fit of rage. "Vibe-- shut the hell up!!!" Elongated Man snared and punched Vibe, under protest from J'Onn J'Onzz. "Forget it, Manhunter! I've had it with this arrogant punk!" Vibe tried to fend off Ralph, but continued to be ridiculed until Martian Manhunter broke up the pair. After things cooled down, Manhunter announced the disbanding of the team, to some relief from Ralph. "Maybe it's time we all got our personal lives together." Ralph tried to apologize to Vibe, but was rebuffed. Ralph said goodbye, and left.

Sue Dibney: Not featured, but Ralph assured, "I, for one, owe my wife a vacation. A long one. Starting right now."

Gypsy: Protested the disbanding. "No! The League's too important to the world... to us!" Settled down by Vixen, then tried to console Vibe. "My friend Pam's waiting for us. Maybe the four of us could go out to eat or something."

Vixen: Took the news the easiest. Talked with Gypsy about reuniting with her parents. Tried to calm Steel and Vibe, to no avail.

Steel: Shattered the meeting room table. Stormed off.

Professor Ivo: Completely insane, Ivo blamed the Justice League for the physical deformity caused by his own immortality formula. Ivo had created an army of android duplicates with his former, human appearance. Bolstered by the rhetoric of the demagogue G. Gordon Godfrey, Ivo unleashed his automatons with murderous intent. "My dear old comrades, Batman and Superman and Aquaman and the rest, thought they could escape me by resigning from the League-- and leaving those untrained babies in their place." Ivo decided to kill the League's "children" with his own.

Vibe: "We blew it!! Firestorm came to us for help-- and what do we do... get our butts wiped all over the street!" Vibe verbally assailed his teammates, until Elongated Man delivered a beating. An invisible Manhunter separated them. "Hey-- Where'd you come from?"

Vibe wandered the South Bronx, reminded of home and his own failings. "Man, I coulda killed Elongated Man for sayin' what he said. 'Specially since it was true. I've been nothin' but a loud-mouthed, whining brat since I hooked up with the League." Vibe met a Latino boy on a stoop drawing Superman, whom he first criticized for not idolizing one of his own people ("Vibe, man!") then let alone. Vibe was attacked by one of Professor Ivo's robots, as the kid shouted, "Vibe? You mean-- you're a real super-hero?!" Vibe tried to send the kid away and fend off the robot, but wavered. "I can't stop a guy who ain't human! I can't! I'm not Batman... or the Martian Manhunter... I'm just Vibe! I'm just a joke!" Vibe rallied as he thought of the boy and others. "...What about JJ? ...I'll be damned if I'm gonna let him down! Maybe I wasn't ready for the League when they took me-- but I'm ready now!"

Vibe ripped into the robot, causing it to malfunction, and earning a devoted fan in the kid. As the boy departed, Vibe prepared to cart the android back to League headquarters. Suddenly, its hands detached from its body and choked Vibe to death. The automaton left a mask resembling Ivo's human face over Paco's as a calling card. "Father will be so proud."

The Creators: J.M. DeMatteis begins one of the greatest League epics of all time, and certainly the best Vibe story ever. The humble, somber figures of Luke McDonnell compliment the tale of a League revealed in its inadequacy.

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: "JJ" -Vibe

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: "What's with this Superman thing everybody's got? I've seen the guy-- he ain't nothin' special."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Who's Who Vol.XVIII: Professor Ivo (8/86)

In light of the horrors soon to be visited upon the Detroit League, I thought it best to offer a primer on Professor Ivo, their primary author. Click image to enlarge. Art by Irv Novick & Rodin Rodriguez.

Monday, September 22, 2008

An apology

You'd think that if I could manage to generate material for two daily blogs with rare failure, one more post a week for this blog wouldn't be a problem. Clearly, that is not so. It's true that this blog was always intended as a side project for my main obsession, the Idol-Head of Diabolu, and its coverage of the Martian Manhunter. Still, that's no excuse for not holding up an obligation that should be within my grasp. I never installed a counter here, and have no idea if anyone visits on a regularly basis, but as this was my idea, I'd just a soon not fail my own self. To that end, I'll try to make up for lost time with at least two posts a week over the next month or so, to gear up for the Justice League Detroit Blog's renewed focus on members not from the planet Mars. Coverage of "The End of the Justice League of America" will begin shortly, and Detroit-related posts will continue to appear here before the Idol-Head, when not exclusive to this page...

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Legends #2 (12/86)

Zatanna: Left the team. Missed out on Darkseid minion G. Gordon Godfrey whipping the nation into anti-superhero frenzy. Absent when President Ronald Reagan issued emergency executive order banning super-heroic activity. Nowhere to be seen when League faced a titan on a city street.

Batman: No longer on the team. Blinded during riot before he could save Robin, who was later hospitalized from the severe beating he received from an angry mob.

Sue Dibney: As if.

Vixen: Stood near Vibe, and previously heard the warning of a towering being composed of molten plasma terrorizing the United States, "the fallen angel-- come to purge this frail Earth of false gods and graven idols!"

Steel: Stood near Firestorm, who alerted the Detroit League to the threat of Brimstone.

Gypsy: Stood near Cosmic Boy, the temporally-displaced Legion of Super-Heroes member who tried to help against Brimstone.

Vibe: The only member of the Justice League to launch an offensive against foe. Used vibratory powers to knock Brimstone off its feet.

Elongated Man: "J'Onn-- wait! You're not thinking straight! That monster is composed of living fire-- and fire is a Martian's greatest weakness!"

Martian Manhunter: "If you're looking for a fight, behemoth-- the Martian Manhunter is more than willing to oblige!" Flew at Brimstone, but changed course at the last minute. "I allowed my emotions to overwhelm me for a moment-- and that could have proven disastrous!" Saw Brimstone level a somewhat indirect attack. "He's bringing the entire building down on top of us-- more rubble than even I can handle! Take cover, Justice League!"

Firestorm: "Too late--! Nowhere to hide--! We're all gonna be buried-- alive!!"

The Creators: The Detroit League get the chance to be drawn by John Byrne in his prime, with Karl Kesel on inks, and perspective leaves most of them the size of ants. At least Manhunter and Paco looked good. Plotter John Ostrander gave Vibe a rare spotlight moment, but Len Wein's dialogue was all exposition.

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: "J'Onn!" -Elongated Man

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: "You are one ugly sucker, amigo-- and too hot to get close to!"

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Legends #1 (11/86)

Darkseid looked down upon the Earth, and saw that it was good. This displeased him, as it should simply be under his thumb. His minion DeSaad showed him images of Earth's most inspiring super-heroes: Martian Manhunter, the Flash, Captain Marvel, Batman, Green Lantern, and Superman. To crush the hearts of mankind, Darkseid sought to destroy their legends.

Brimstone: A flaming giant under the control of Doctor Bedlam that began to terrorize New York.

Firestorm: The Nuclear Man and former member of the Justice League of America called from Pittsburgh to face Brimstone. Took a beating, and realized that he was out of league, so he went to fetch one.

Task Force X: Reformed under Amanda Waller, nicknamed the Wall based on her size and stubbornness. Enlisted Colonel Rick Flag to gather a team of super-villains for her Suicide Squad.

Cosmic Boy: A founding member of the 30th Century's Legion of Super-Heroes, on vacation in his past. The second champion to face Brimstone alone, and though he held up longer than Firestorm, was still the worse for wear.

"Need a helping hand, fella?

"Name's Vibe, Amigo!"
"They call me the Elongated Man!"
"I'm Vixen!"
"J'Onn J'Onzz-- the Martian Manhunter!"
"I answer to Gypsy!"
"My code-name is Steel!"
"And everyone's favorite Nuclear Man makes it an uneven baker's dozen! But, for simplicity's sake, Pinkie-- just call us... Justice League of America"

"Well, you're not exactly the Legion-- but boy, am I glad you're here!!"

The Creators: What's so simple about "Justice League of America?" That's kind of a mouthful, in fact. And how do you say it with a logo in your word balloon, like Firestorm did? Does this mean he's an honorary member of one of the most disreputable super-teams ever? Worse, did he claim it without consent?

Anyhow, here's "Crisis 2," since the other planned sequel never materialized("Crisis of Souls," I think it was to be called. I couldn't find reference to it on the 'net.) Where "Crisis" was relentlessly grim, Len Wein's scripts for "Legends" gave it an old school feel that everything would turn out okay in the end. This was in direct opposition to John Ostrander's plot, which was arguably darker than "Crisis," seeing as how personal and permanent the punishments were here. The art by John Byrne and Karl Kesel contributed to the lightening of the book, as even the villains seem too clean and neat to mean anyone real harm. In other words, Legends has aged very poorly, but is still hard to hate, especially when offering a two page spread of the kids from Detroit.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Justice League of America #257 (12/86)

Martian Manhunter: Tried to keep Pamela Cross and Adam calm-- one so as not to distract his concentration, the other to stabilize ever-shifting reality that threatened to shatter Pam's mind. "Calm yourself, Pamela. You're beginning to sound... hysterical. Forgive me. That was unnecessarily cold." Dismayed by Gypsy and Zatanna's troubles in Adam's psyche. Detected the presence of Zatanna's father Zatara with her in Adam's being, but continued to declare that "patently im-- possible...?" After demanding the returned Gypsy maintain a constant illusion, she snapped, "Y'know-- sometimes you can be the most hard-hearted--"

"I know. Now concentrate. Please. Don't do it for me, Gypsy. Don't do it for yourself. Do it for Pam. For Zatanna. For Adam." The situation came to its resolution, prompting Manhunter to bemoan, "Being neither a romantic nor a spiritualist-- I remain skeptical. And I remain worried."

Once Manhunter sensed Zee had reached the Godhead, he commanded her to fight, but she would not. He was furious when Zatanna returned to the physical plane. "Damn you woman-- I hope you're happy... Look at Adam... at what you've done... For all intents and purposes-- he no longer exists. Answer me, now-- and honestly, is there some way to reverse this? ...Did Adam hurt you that badly? Are you that hungry for revenge?"

Gypsy: "Dragged down by the demons of [Adam's] subconscious. Devoured by the demons within!" Remembered by Zee once she'd liberated herself. "How simple... to chant an incantation and bring Gypsy to me. But no magic I know can restore her to life! No magic I know can repair the spiritual damage this encounter may have caused her! Why? Why did I insist that she come with me? Was it really because I needed her? Or was it because Gypsy insisted that we help Adam-- despite all the evil he's done-- despite the hell he put me through! Maybe I wanted to put Gypsy's idealism to the test. Well, the test is over now, Zatanna. Are you happy with the results?" Gypsy came around, heard Zee say she was sorry, and was returned to the material plane. Grossed out Pam by being covered in "residual psychic sediment," which dissolved eventually. When Gypsy wondered why Zee was sorry, Manhunter said "I have my suspicions, but it isn't my place to say." Asked J'Onn if he could send her back in. "Even if I could-- I would not... Now please don't distract me, Gypsy." Commanded by Manhunter to cast an illusion of normalcy in Pamela's mind as Adam's condition and Pam's hysterics worsened. When Zatanna returned and Adam lay broken on the floor, Gypsy chastised J'Onn for speaking harshly to the sorceress.

Zatanna: Drug herself out of the morass of Adam's subconscious. "And then, a cold panic spreads out from her chest as she remembers something... someone." Pulled Gypsy loose, as well, and sent her packing. Met her ideal man realized, not dissimilar from Adam's appearance. "He is her desire made flesh. And she wants him." Started making out, until her father's voiced admonished her and made her see Adam's bestial lust given form. More seductive entities entice Zee, but her father's voice compels, "You are my daughter-- you know what to do." Cover her face in a spell of "heartless stone," it seemed. Zee overcame additional challenges until she reached the Godhead, where at her father's suggestion, she gave in rather than fight. The Godhead destroyed Adam's ego, swallowed Zee, and spit her back into reality.

Adam: When Zee fell willingly into the Godhead, "I saw everything... that ever was or will be. And I saw my father. I saw The Father. I saw the plan. I know now. And so does he." Adam saw that everything, even his prior evil, was meant to be in the greater scheme of creation. "The Godhead wanted us, Gypsy. Adam and I have a destiny together. The Godhead did what it had to-- to bring that destiny about." Pamela Cross had suffered a nervous breakdown, but Zee fixed her mind. Adam assured "The full memory will return when her mind is prepared to handle it." Manhunter deadpanned, "How kind of you to allow it." Zee and Adam then disappeared to parts unknown. "I don't like this," said Martian Manhunter. Gypsy replied, "You're always being so negative! Couldn't you feel the love pouring out of them? The joy?"

Steel: "One pizza and two hours later-- at Justice League Headquarters..." Hank had been apprised of these recent events by J'Onn and Gypsy.

Elongated Man: Couldn't understand why Manhunter was so upset while retelling the tale. "Sounds like Zee and Adam came out of that mess in pretty good shape."

Vibe: Called Ralph a "real jerk," thinking Zee might be under mind control. "Y'know-- like a... cosmic moonie!"

Vixen: Figured Zee and Adam just needed time to digest the experience.

Sue Dibney: Stood silently in the background.

Firestorm: Stumbled into the meeting with a warning: "You'd better keep worrying! But not about Zatanna! About the safety of the world-- and a lunatic called... Brimstone!"

The Creators: Those annoying caption boxes encompassing Zatanna and her father's thoughts are back, leading one to suspect DeMatteis may have scripted an earlier issue under a pseudonym. Whether intentional or not, this story allowed Zatanna sideways entry into the "End of the JLofA" arc, as her departure (and Batman's, in the midst of it all) marked the steady dissolution for the team. My understanding is that the dangling Zatanna story was picked up in the 80's Doug Moench Spectre series. It seems the Godhead was a hoax and Adam was killed off, but at least Zatara was finally laid to rest. I've never read the issues in question, myself.

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: "Manhunter" -Elongated Man
"Big Green" -Firestorm
"Mr. Green Man From Mars" -Pamela Cross
"J.J." -Gypsy

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: "'Authentic mystical experience'? Yeah. I had one o' those once-- when I stuck my finger in an electrical socket!"

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Justice League of America #256 (11/86)

Sue Dibney: Nope

Steel: Uh-uh.

Vibe: Forget it.

Elongated Man: Sorry.

Vixen: Wrong number.

Batman: What, you thought this was a team book? Batman isn't even on this team anymore! Get outta here!

Martian Manhunter: The apartment Detective John Jones was left in became a tinderbox. Reverted to Martian Manhunter form, saw visions of H'ronmeer. Embraced death-- but instead found he'd accepted a mystical invitation to Zatanna's presence. Also in the room was teen runaway Pamela Cross, who observed, "He's green." Her guide Gypsy explained, "He's from Mars, that's all." Manhunter recognized Zatanna's mind "cried out to the depths of our minds... nightmare to nightmare." Gently restored her consciousness telepathically. Had favor returned when he became lost in Adam's mind. Guilted Zatanna with this speech: "Gypsy, please-- I understand your concern... but you must let Zatanna come to this decision herself. She has been with the League far longer than you. She knows full well what we stand for. She'll make the right decision. Zatara's daughter could do no less." Served as a psychic anchor to reality for Zee and Gypsy.

Gypsy: Apologized to Pamela Cross for coming down on her so much she was asked to stop. "Enough, already! For cryin' out loud, you thought I was part of the plot that set up your pal, John Jones." Stopped to give money to an elderly homeless woman, who forcibly grasped her hands and stared at her. "Eyes that run deep with future days; that neither mock nor plead, but simply say: I am you, child. I am what you will be... what you will collapse into. I am loneliness and heartbreak. I am time. I
am Gypsy." The heroine rejected this foretelling, but could not effect the woman with her illusion powers. Gypsy saw a vision of the derelict with demonic features and broke free. Then, a trash can fire erupted into a firestorm, as she and Pamela Cross were transported to a hospital room. Pled Zatanna to aid Adam: "The League's supposed to help people... no matter who they are! No matter what they've done!" Went with Zee into Adam's psyche, because "Your ability to cast illusions... is indicative of a very vibrant... and resilient... mind! Few people alive could make this journey and remain sane." Gypsy asked, "And... I can?" Zee responded, "Let's hope so."

Adam: Driven mad by his absorption of the Homo Magi gene pattern, began altering reality. M.C. Escher, giant props, Dante's Inferno, infinite space and more psychedelic trips were represented. Sweating and unsteady, Adam begged for the Leaguers' help. "Creation... is so vast! And, I-- I'm so very, very small. So small... So very, very small..." Gypsy ignored Zee's warning and comforted the fool. Martian Manhunter followed with a mind probe, to which Zee whined, "Why won't anyone believe me?" J'Onzz was cast through nebulous space, "lonely beyond words," and learned Adam's ego had been sundered when he "touched the force that molded the universe! We touched the Godhead! ...Everything is so magnificent... full of wonder... and terror! But... we cannot feel the way we once felt... We cannot see the way we once saw! So vast... Give us back our self..."

Zatanna: Found writhing on the checkerboard floor, where she was cradled and revived by J'Onn J'Onzz. Reflexively flung the Martian against a wall for his trouble. Believed the ghost of her father Zatara brought the two Leaguers to help, but Manhunter doubted, saying "You are understandably confused by your ordeal." Had to force the Manhunter to break his maddening psychic connection to Adam. Zee acknowledged that touching the Godhead is the ultimate goal of mystics, but without preparation, they'd end up like Adam. Zee argued with Manhunter against helping Adam, to serve as both punishment for his crimes against her and foreshadowing of the revelations of her conduct years before in "Identity Crisis." Took Gypsy with her into Adam's very being, where they were drowned in a psychic abyss.

The Creators: Zatanna playing a pivotal role in the action? You know Gerry Conway's gone now! J. M. DeMatteis revels in his trademark transcendental mumbo-jumbo, but it works perfectly for this story, as a solution for the corner others had written him into. Worth noting that as soon as J. Marc made the scene, he invented a god for J'Onn and expanded his "screen time" considerably. The love was there from the very beginning. Bob Smith proved a poor replacement for the embellishments of Bill Wray. Luke McDonnell's pencils were revealed as too loose for this type of book, though the effects on display in this issue were very nice.

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: "John Jones" -Pamela Cross
"J.J." -Gypsy, Zatanna

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Zatanna Pin-Up by Jeff Parker

Here's another piece from Martian Manhunter Special #1, a.k.a. the Justice League Quarterly dumping ground. Still, a nice piece by a fellow best known for his writing on Marvel titles like "Agents of Atlas" and "Marvel Adventures: Avengers."

Monday, August 4, 2008

The All-New Conglomerate Pin-Up

Okay, what we have here is an oddity. Published as a two-page spread in the 1996 Martian Manhunter Special, it seems likely this was excised for space from 1993's Justice League Quarterly #12. The credited artists on the JLQ story were Dan Rodriguez, Antonio Daniel, Ken Branch, and Frank Percy, but none were developed enough at that time for me to be able to tell them apart with confidence in assigning credit to this piece. The All-New Conglomerate made only one appearance, and consisted of Nuklon (formerly of Infinity Inc., later of the JLA and "Atom Smasher" of the JSA,) Templar, Jesse Quick (later "Liberty Belle" of the JSA,) Echo, and most importantly Hardline (formerly "Reverb," brother of Vibe.) Gypsy had also been a member of a prior incarnation, forming a solid bridge to the Detroit League. Mostly though, this image appears because I wanted new material to greet anyone crossing over from the Tuesday post at the Idol-Head of Diabolu. Since my synopsis for JLofA #255 debuted here two months ago, I needed space filler.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"Infinitely Heroic" Giclee by Alex Ross

I decided to go ahead and post a spotlight on this item, rather than list it among this month's "Martian Sightings." I'll never own it, and it doesn't have to be in circulation to be discussed.

"Infinitely Heroic" is my current desktop wallpaper, so I clearly enjoy the piece. For too many years, Ross rendered the fabulous heroes of the DC Universe as his friends and neighbors in pathetic looking costumes, while everyone here (but Flash)is appropriately sexy. The colors are more vibrant than I'm used to from Ross, and there's a more potent airbrush look, rather than the affected appearance of oil. Of all the times Ross has used this exact same layout, this is my favorite.

On the other hand, I've been suffering from Ross fatigue for a long time. I know the guy's stuck in the 70's, but must he shoehorn Shazam and Plastic Man into everything? The Big Red Cheese looking over at the Atom on his shoulder is grievous revisionism that cannot be tolerated! Ross-- Captain Marvel wasn't a fully DC-owned property until the mid-80's, at which time he very briefly joined Justice League International, and never again since. Here's a thought, why don't you paint the "funny" League for once, perhaps over pencils from Kevin Maguire's 30th variation on his cover to "Justice League #1?" It would be ever so meta. As for Plas, not a Leaguer until the late 90's, so how about working him into a retread of Howard Porter's "JLA #1?" Another thought-- could we maybe use Jack Cole's work as a reference, as I've loathed every interpretation of the character since his creator's passing?

I'm sorry, but I must protest being afflicted by Red Tornado and other perpetual D-listers because they were in the League in the same years "Super Friends" was on the air. If we must go there, can we get Zatanna in the Sindella suit, or with the bug in her hair again? I know that look was a Scarlet Witch knock-off, but the top hat and tails is both sexist and, more importantly, drab. This is supposed to be a super-heroine? Looks more like a party stripper.

For goodness sake, Metamorpho? If you're going to paint the entire DCU third-string, I think it's about time we got to see Paco Ramone, Hank Henshaw, Cyndi Reynolds, and Mari McCabe in their cheese-tastic glory! Let's go to Detroit, blast it! You can maybe reference a "Welcome Back Kotter" cast shot, if that will grease the wheels. It's clearly working on your subconscious, as you grouped all the Detroit team but Batman together in this giclee.

Infinitely Heroic features 18 of the most celebrated heroes in the DC Universe.

Illustrated by award-winning comic book artist, Alex Ross, Infinitely Heroic is painted by Ross in his trademark photo-realistic style. Alex Ross’s artwork adds a new dimension to the exciting graphic world of comic book art by creating renditions of superheroes and villains whose proportion relates to a viewer on more of a human level. Published in an edition of 250 on paper, each fine art Giclee print is hand numbered and then signed by Alex Ross. This print is a companion piece to “Infinitely Evil,” a giclee released in March 2007 which featured 20 ruthless villains from the DC Universe.

Image Size: 14 ½ “ H x 29 “ W Paper Size: 18 ½ “ H x 33” W”
Edition Size: Limited to 250

This product will be in stock on Friday 29 August, 2008