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Five Goofiest Moments in the First Five Martian Manhunter Comics

Yes, you lucky devils you, a MONTH of this stuff! All throughout May, each day will have the five goofiest moment from a five-issue stretch of a particular comic book run. Once a week it will be the ten goofiest moments of a ten-issue stretch. Here is a list of the moments featured so far.

Today we’re looking at the first five Martian Manhunter comics, from Detective Comics #225 through #229, by writers Joe Samachson (for the first three stories) and Dave Wood (fro the last two) and penciler/inker Joe Certa.

Before we begin, let me refresh the ground rules. These stories were written to be read by children and then discarded. The writers of these comics had no idea that someone would be dissecting them over 50 years later, picking out the “goofy” stuff. These comics are well done comics. This is all in good fun.

The initial Manhunter from Mars (as he was called then) stories were much different from the Martian Manhunter stories you see today. These early stories were less superhero comics and more a mixture of science fiction and crime. J’onn J’onnz is pulled to Earth by the machine of a professor who promptly died of a heart attack, stranding J’onnz on Earth. Figuring he might as well make the best of it, J’onnz takes on the human identity of John Jones and decides to fight crime (which had long been eradicated on Mars. He would use his Martian powers to assist himself on cases (like the ability to turn invisible, or to fly, etc.). He would add a new power seemingly every week. His only weakness was fire. Okay, enough set-up, on with the list!


Wait, if you eradicated crime…

In Detective Comics #228, J’onn makes the following statement…

Which is sort of weird since he is always going on about how crime was eradicated on Mars. So what are law officials still doing getting confessions? I suppose he could mean that’s what they USED to do, before crime was eradicated, but it sure doesn’t read that way, does it?

5. That sure would make a lot of these cases easier…

As I noted, they tended to give J’onn a new power every issue. While all of them were certainly extra-ordinary, this one from Detective Comics #226 I think it is fair to call goofy, as suddenly J’onn reveals he can see into the future.

This is never mentioned before then and not mentioned in the other three stories that follow, so it really juts out as being out of place.

4. Your tax dollars at work…

In that same issue, Detective #226, the police seem to have an awful lot of free time on their hands if they think that the following is a good enough lead to assign a detective to follow up on it…

3. I’m just inventing fake powers at this point…

Later in that same issue, we see J’onn help out the reformed crook (just in case he thinks of throwing the game).

I have no idea what “molecular hypnosis” is supposed to be. Later in the issue, he uses “mind-over-matter” t0 telekinetically control the baseball (including taking a pop up and turning it into a game-winning home run), so it can’t be telekinesis. It might be just straight out hypnosis, but then the molecular part doesn’t have any use. Either way, it is a goofy power!

2. A point so nice, he said it twice.

From Detective Comics #228, this is just a straightforward goof…

1. Aliens taking our jobs!

Here is how J’onn got his job in his first appearance in Detective Comics #225…

It is like the Seinfeld episode “The Yada Yada,” they just yada yada’ed the entire explanation for how Jones would be hired as a detective right off of the street with no credentials!


So, there were no omitted panels in that last one? :)

Anyway, these do not really look that gooft compared to the FF ones.

no wonder darkseid wanted him dead so early in “final crisis”. this is a being whose true abilities were severely under-utilized!

great stuff, brian!

interesting stuff always thought martian manhunter when he first appeared seem to be a work in progress this list proves it

Cops do like smoking, hmm?

Wow, these were nowhere near as goofy as I expected, and I agree, they pale in comparison to the FF ones. I’m guessing these were not edited by either Schwartz or Weisinger or else they’d be a whole lot goofier.

David Serchay

May 3, 2011 at 9:42 am

The last entry reminds me of a 50s Superman story, where he loses his memory, and for reasons that I can remember disguises himself as a british man. Needing a job, he goes to the Daily Planet and Perry hires him as a reporter on the spot, even giving him the desk of the “vacationing” Clark.

I think J’onn vowed to never again look into the future after seeing them crooks molesting Michaels.

Billy Bissette

May 3, 2011 at 12:22 pm

So, is J’onn seeing multiple possible futures, or is he seeing a single future with his own meddling already accounted for? After all, he’s predicting the result of the game if the mob doesn’t molest Michaels, with the belief that he has to step in to prevent the mob from molesting Michaels.

Although it sure is nice that he can see the future well enough to realize that the game with no interference would be won by Michaels, as without that justification of foreknowledge, he’d be as or even more guilty of rigging the game himself.

As for number 2, if you think about it, it really gets conveyed three times. J’onn thinks it in the first panel, narrates it in the second panel, and it gets shown inside the second panel flashback.

Needing a job, he goes to the Daily Planet and Perry hires him as a reporter on the spot, even giving him the desk of the “vacationing” Clark.

I’m going off of memory here, but I’m pretty sure in Action Comics #1 Clark Kent was hired in the exact same way at the Daily Star, with little background check or anything.

Brian Cronin

May 3, 2011 at 1:16 pm

I’m going off of memory here, but I’m pretty sure in Action Comics #1 Clark Kent was hired in the exact same way at the Daily Star, with little background check or anything.

Kent was already working as a reporter when Action Comics #1 began.

Sorry, meant Superman #1, which was an expanded account of the story in Action #1.

Brian Cronin

May 3, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Sorry, meant Superman #1, which was an expanded account of the story in Action #1.

He does hire Kent without any credentials (that part has been consistent with most tellings of Kent’s hiring), but also what is consistent with most tellings is that Kent proves himself by getting a major scoop. In some tellings, it is getting the first Superman interview (or something involving Superman). In Superman #1, it is getting the scoop about the true crook behind a murder that an innocent woman was about to be executed for.

Now that you describe it, you’re right. I forgot that part.

So J’onn invented new goofy, convenient powers back in the 50’s. And this is differrent from his JLI incarnation how?

Trust me, J’onn had more powers Pre-Crisis than after (this issues barely cover them.) It’s just that even afterward he still had all of Superman’s powers PLUS psionics and shapeshifting, which makes him way more powerful than the average superhero. I always wondered why they didn’t drop the Kryptonian copycat angle since it mimicked Superman too much, and just kept the shapeshifting and telepathy which do suited the ‘alien among us’ theme.

I read several of his original adventures (in reprints, I’m not THAT old :p ) and even as a kid I went “wow, they sure are overdoing it with the powers here!” Then again, the thing with most Silver Age heroes is that they kept finding new ways to use their powers (and often never used them again) so this is hardly just Martian Manhunter’s problem, it’s just that in his case they were *specific* new powers instead of uses of already-existing ones.

And I never got why fire would be his weakness (it can’t be either the heat or the CO2 that weakens him, those are everywhere on Earth). Maybe the writer just liked seeing a superhero kneel before a lit cigarette, har har. (And btw, in the 50s, EVERYBODY smoked- even The Flintstones were used for a cigarette ad!)

He wasn’t a complete Superman copycat to begin with (plus those mysterious extra powers). For all his strength and telekinesis, he couldn’t fly. He’d usually use his “Martian breath” to blow things or himself where he wanted to go.

Also, originally he didn’t have a heroic alter ego. He would do all his super feats while invisible, usually while dressed as John Jones. They later gave him the weakness of being unable to use his Martian powers while invisible or shapechanged, and he reluctantly began his public career.

One of his odder powers pulled from a hat was an early Gardner Fox JLA adventure, where he’s caught in a trap and suddenly thinks, “I can duplicate the powers of anyone I’ve ever heard of, so I’ll use the stretching ability of the Flash’s pal the Elongated Man!”

Great columns Brian.

I love this new feature.

@ Mike Blake: I meant by the time the Crisis rolled over; by then he could do nearly everything Superman could and more, which kind of made Supes look unnecessary in the League.

And yeah, he couldn’t really fly at first; otherwise, he could just have flown to Mars by himself (if Superman could get there why not him?) Maybe that’s why they decided that the planet was uninhabited later (war caused them to leave; the mass extinction of Martians is a Post-Crisis idea).

Btw, the fact that Mars originally had no crime reminds me of Silver Age Hawkman’s origin where the Thanagarians didn’t even have the CONCEPT of stealing until The Manhawks introduced it, leading to many of them doing it for the thrill of it, and requiring the formation of the Hawkmen police. (Again, this was abandoned post crisis- OK it was silly, but on the other hand, they didn’t have to turn Thanagar into a warlike Police State either. Sheesh.)

I always loved his “Martian Angle Vision” which allowed him to see around corners. It did make me wonder though why he didn’t just use his X-ray Vision. Too bad you stopped at five issues for MM; I personally love the Superstition Gang from Tec 233 with the umbrella that warns “don’t open indoors” and the ladder saying “never walk under”.

The strange thing about which powers J’onn had in the early Silver Age is which have been omitted. Like someone else said, he couldn’t fly back then. Also, one more that doesn’t make an appearance in the first Showcase Presents book at least: telepathy. Nowadays, how often does J’onn pull the old telepathy trick out of his bag of tricks? It’s practically his primary superpower these days. But I never caught reference to his using telepathy in his earliest stories.

So…. His solution to prevent dude from throwing a game is to secretly cheat at the game?

But I never caught reference to his using telepathy in his earliest stories.

He has some form of telepathy in at least one of the stories (the one where he is trying to force a confession out of a guy he knows committed murder).

Technically, they *did* eradicate crime on Mars. Of course, they did that by eradicating *life* on Mars.

Given J’Onn’s weakness to fire, combined with the prevalence of smoking in years gone by, I wonder if he has exerted subtle mental manipulations leading to today’s broad bans on indoor smoking. To heck with the health issues, he did it to save his own skin!

I wonder if his fear of oxidation extends to rust? Also, isn’t a superhero supposed to courageously stand up to his weakness and refuse to let it control his life…rather than, say, gripe about it at every opportunity? Jeez, imagine if every issue of Superman featured at least one tirade against magic, or Billy Batson constantly fretted about the possibility someone might gag him.

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