House of Mystery has long been associated with horror but it actually featured superhero stories from #143- #173. Martian Manhunter aka J’onn J’onzz was the main attraction for the majority of that span. He’s always confused me a little. Not the character overall but rather his popularity. The dude is a straight up heavy hitter in the DC Universe and when he comes up in conversation among fans there is genuine affection there.
So why can’t J’onn hold on to a solo title like the other big guns? He’s an original member of the Justice League who has appeared in video games, animation and live action TV. He’s also been in so many titles, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him DNA tested on Maury.
” Grant Morrison is a HO!”
I suppose it’s fitting to follow up a paternity test anecdote with Martian Manhunter battling a race of prophylactics. Wait, don’t tell me you don’t recall the Clash with the Condoms back in ’65? All good, that’s what I’m here for. Let’s take a peek at House of Mystery #148 “The Beings in the Color Rings” ( I preferred my title too) by Dave Wood and Joe Certa.
Before we examine the story, I have to be honest with you. I don’t care for sidekicks. Some have a place. Marvel’s Rick Jones or DC’s Robin for example, had important roles in comic book history. Mention the likes of D-Man or say, any animal in a cape to me and prepare for a look that will melt your face off. J’onn may have had one of the worst of the bunch in Zook. He’s cute, resembles a teddy bear, speaks like a child and every time he appears on panel, I want to punt the little bastard into next week.
“I’m gonna bring you home and flush you like a turd.”
The issue begins with Bedford City being attacked by a strange creature from the sky. J’onn hears the radio bulletin while chilling in his mountain lair and deducts it must be a manifestation of “The Idol Head of Diabolu”. Other than having a name that rolls off the tongue, Diabolu was an artifact from Mars that granted ordinary folks powers. If his suspicion of it’s involvement is true, we can add giving baby toys sentience to it’s resume.
“Let your kid play with these at your own peril pal…”
So what form of evil is this thing capable of? Basically, it tosses rings around that suck up items of corresponding colors only to spit them back out sans pigment. Yellow ring picks up a yellow taxi and voila, it’s white. Before you head to the rooftops and start yelling “Cheeseballs!” at the heavens let me remind you this was the sensational Silver Age. An era chock full of random plot points, so there is one cool thing it can do… summon an electrified two headed octopus!
“J’onn please. Don’t be rude. It’s name is Larry and he has a Massage License.”
This proves to be a let down. The wannabe Wacky Wall Crawler is merely a mirage. Something that does please me however, was back in the day heroes had powers to suit any pickle. Kids nowadays with their search engines will never understand the importance of “Super Memory”. That’s right, us old timers used to walk to school during blizzards and had to use our alien brains to access the Encyclopedia Britannica. The struggle was real. Oh before I forget, the Earth is about to be enslaved by ringworm hungry for paint.
“The Rainbow Paint Factory appears to be constructed from a crossword puzzle.”
Rather than fight any more imaginary beasts, J’onn has a plan. It’s terribly stupid but hey, if you haven’t noticed already, this isn’t the finest work of fiction. He decides the ringworm is absorbing colors and sending them somewhere. If he can become bait maybe the source will be revealed. Showing exemplary carpeting skills, he rolls up giant piece of turf to call attention to green. The trick works and he’s whisked away to another dimension. May I remind you he’s already the correct hue so the sod sushi is a bit unnecessary.
“Little known fact: Martian Manhunter taught Bob Marley how to twist a spliff.”
At the start, I referred to this yarn as the Clash with the Condoms. Well I’ll be damned if the “disk people” he encounters are not related to rubbers. Seriously. They seem harmless at first. “Color gives us power” and all that jazz but their real intent is to oppress Earthlings and coat the world in latex. Just kidding, I made that last part up but it’s actually an improvement to the plot.
“This Halloween, tell your friends it’s a Disk Person costume.”
Now that our hero has found himself at the mercy of sinister love gloves, how does he save the day? Surprise…he doesn’t. J’onn actually gets his Martian mutton roasted by the baddies. All seems lost until, and I’d rather swallow nails than say this but Zook comes to the rescue. A character I can’t stand shows up, yanks him out of out of trouble and this issue wraps up with J’onn remarking he owes the city a patch of grass.
This book was ghostwritten and I completely understand the creators not wanting to be associated with it. Rancid from start to finish, I had zero enthusiasm to check out the back up feature “The Man who Hated his Powers”. The story was one of the worst I’ve ever read. That’s saying something. I can usually justify the existence of a comic by relating to the time period it was released but in this case, the defense rests.
If your a hardcore Martian Manhunter fan or just someone interested in learning more about him, this is not for you. On the other hand, if you’re eager to get your Zook on, He’s the true protagonist in this drivel. Read away and prepare for a robust slap to be delivered by yours truly.
David Schultz is the Creator/Co-Host of the Parlipod Podcast. Give it a listen on Soundcloud or via the GWW Radio Network. If you have a comic you would like to see reviewed on Two Staple Gold or just want to harass Dave, follow @lavahog on Twitter.
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