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