Showcase Presents Martian Manhunter Vol. 2

Showcase Presents Martian Manhunter Vol. 2

First Published: May 2009

Contents: Martian Manhunters stories from Detective Comics #305 (July 1963) to #326 (April 1964),  Martian Manhunter stories from House of Mystery #143 (June 1964) to #173 (March-April 1968)

Key Creator Credits: Jack Miller and Joe Certa

Key First Appearances: Zook

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents Martian Manhunter Vol. 1

Overview: Welcome back to the Silver Age adventures of the Manhunter from Mars. This book can be broken up into two distinct sections, marked by which title the Martian Manhunter’s stories were appearing in each month.

Picking up where Vol. 1 left off, we have the ongoing adventures of the Martian Manhunter in the pages of Detective Comics. J’onn J’onzz would pose as an Earthman, Detective John Jones, working with colleagues such as Captain Harding and Diane Meade. These are all one-and-done stories, in particular when we get to Detective Comics #326. The idol-head of Diabolu is unearthed, and it releases an evil onto the world with each full moon. The first evil released in an energy-absorbing creature. To switch into his true identity, Detective John Jones ducks behind a car during a fight. Soon afterward, the creature destroys the car before it is destroyed. The police department all believes that Detective Jones was killed by the creature, and Martian Manhunter decides to go along with that theory, rather than trying to come up with an excuse or to reveal his dual identity.

No longer having a secret identity to manage, the Martian Manhunter takes his exploits over to the pages of House of Mystery. The initial stories all involve J’onn battling the latest threat to be released by the Diabolu idol-head on the first night of each fool moon. (What the Manhunter does for the other 29 days each month is never really explained.) Eventually, that threat is eventually brought to an end, when the idol-head is finally found and destroyed. The Martian Manhunter than relocates to Europe, taking over the identity of a wealthy playboy who happens to work for an international criminal organization, known as VULTURE. The Manhunter works in secret to stop VULTURE’s every initiative, while trying to unmask the Hooded One, the mysterious leader of VULTURE.

The one character that bridges the two titles along with our title character is Zook. In Detective Comics #311, aliens from another dimension invade Earth but are stopped by the Martian Manhunter. As they flee to their own dimension, they leave behind their pet, Zook, who is semi-intelligent and learns to communicate with J’onn. He becomes an unofficial sidekick, helping out J’onn on a variety of adventures. Like any other character created in this time, Zook has numerous abilities at his disposal. He can change his core temperature in either direction, becoming incredibly cold or incredibly hot. His antenna allows him to track anyone he has ever met before, and he can manipulate his body to work his way through any opening.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: It pains me to write this because I have been a huge fan of the Martian Manhunter for years. I loved his return to the Justice League in the 1980s (see below), and the way Morrison used him in JLA was brilliant. But these solo stories from the mid-1960s? Not good. I cringe up when I think back to reading this collection. The stories are bland and predictable. It really feels like they were writing for a target audience (7-10-year-olds, more than likely) with a short-attention span (as stories are recycled every few issues). In some cases, it almost feels like the goal was just to fill the six to eight pages per issue and move on. Even when the feature moved to the pages of House of Mystery, and they started developing some semblance on an ongoing story, the holes in each story are more prominent than ever. I can’t recommend this book unless you are compelled to complete a collection like I am.

Footnotes: The Martian Manhunter’s final appearance in Detective Comics was #326. In the next issue, future JLA-teammate Elongated Man took over the backup spot in the book. (Detective Comics #327 is also notable as the “start” of Batman in the Silver Age. Carmine Infantino took over art duties of the Batman story and introduced the yellow background to the bat logo on Batman’s costume.) Following his exit from Detective Comics, the Martian Manhunter took over the feature role in House of Mystery. He even got to be the cover feature for a year. House of Mystery #156 added a new feature, Dial H for Hero, and bumped J’onn J’onzz from the covers. Both features were bumped from House of Mystery completely following #173, as the title switched formats to become a horror anthology.

If you like this volume, try: diving into the back-issue bin to find Justice League of America #228 to #230. Having been absent from the DC Universe for more than a decade, the Martian Manhunter returns to Earth, and his JLA colleagues, with an invasion force of Martians trailing after him. The Justice League and the Martian Manhunter are able to stop the threat, but at a great cost. The satellite is severely damaged, to a point where it is no longer usable. Various members of the team walk away, as they are exhausted mentally and physically from the unending fighting. And once again, the Martian Manhunter finds himself stranded on Earth. This story arc effectively brought an end to the Satellite-era for the Justice League. While a two-part JLA-JSA story followed this (using characters not involved in the Earth-Mars War), Justice League of America Annual #2 was released, which featured Aquaman disbanding the team when the other principle founders (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, and Green Lantern) all cite other reasons for not being able to commit to the JLA on a more regular basis. As that era ends, a new JLA team is formed around Aquaman and Martian Manhunter. Yes, this would become known as the JLA-Detroit era of the team. What makes this important is that since the start of the JLA-Detroit in 1983, the Martian Manhunter was a part of every incarnation of the Justice League, up until the New 52 reset in 2011. The Earth-Mars war issues have never been reprinted, so you will have to hunt to find and read this story.

Showcase Presents Martian Manhunter Vol. 1

First Published: July 2007

Contents: Martian Manhunter story from Batman #78 (August-September 1953),  Martian Manhunter stories from Detective Comics #225 (November 1955) to #304 (June 1962)

Key Creator Credits: Jack Miller and Joe Certa

Key First Appearances: J’onn J’onzz/John Jones/Martian Manhunter, Dr. Saul Erdel, Captain Harding, Human Flame, Diane Meade

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents Martian Manhunter Vol. 2

Overview: Following an accidental teleportation from Mars, J’onn J’onzz finds himself stranded on Earth. Making the most of his situation, J’onzz develops a human identity, Detective John Jones, to assist the local police department in rounding up criminals. Along the way, supporting characters like Captain Harding and Diane Meade are introduced to provide a cast to expand the stories.

During this era, the Martian Manhunter’s powers and abilities would change, depending upon the needs of the story. Among his many powers were superhuman strength; superhuman speed; superhuman senses; a genius-level intellect; superhuman endurance; shapeshifting; invulnerability; vortex breath, invisibility; tactile telekinesis; intangibility; flight; telepathy; and Martian vision. Like Superman and kryptonite or Green Lantern with the color yellow, the Martian Manhunter has a weakness to fire in any form, from the light of a match to one of the numerous fireworks factories in his city.

Also included in this volume is a story from Batman #78, which has a “Manhunter from Mars” landing in Gotham City, and enlisting Batman’s help to capture a rogue Martian. Maybe this served as the inspiration for the character that would be introduced two years later, or maybe it was just a true coincidence.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: The Martian Manhunter is a historically important character. He debuted at the tail end of the Golden Age, and has remained a part of the DC Universe ever since. These stories follow a basic formula of Det. Jones receiving an assignment; he uses his powers to track down the bad guy; and overcomes some random appearance of fire to bring the story to conclusion, all in six pages. There is not a log of imaginative stories in this volume. The more entertaining stories involving J’onn J’onzz come much later, beginning with the Justice League series in the mid-1980s.

Footnotes: Despite this volume covering seven full years of stories from Detective Comics, the Martian Manhunter does not appear on any covers during this run. His first cover appearance is The Brave and the Bold #28, which was the first appearance of the Justice League of America. In the early days of the JLA, the Martian Manhunter served as the Superman substitute (and Green Arrow served as the Batman substitute) to avoid overexposure of DC’s main characters.

If you like this volume, try: the Martian Manhunter series from 1998, written by John Ostrander. Sadly, no trades of this have been collected, but individual issues can be found in quarter bins everywhere. Given the success of Grant Morrison’s JLA book, this series launched during the DC 1,000,000 event, so there is a #0 issue and a #1000000 issue before issue #1 was released. The series ran until #36, before succumbing to declining sales. One story arc to look for in particular is the Revelations story from issues #20 to #24. This retold key events in J’onn J’onzz’s (revised) history, from coming to Earth to his first encounters with Green Lantern and Batman. The story arc is capped off with the memorable Oreo issue during the JLI years.