Saturday, May 12, 2007

Man Up, Martian Manhunter! Pt. 1: Doomsday

On paper, the Martian Manhunter is probably the last person in the DC Universe you want to get into a fight with. Seriously, if the Justice League gave you a choice between two doors, with Superman kicking your ass behind one and Martian Manhunter kicking your ass behind the other, you’re going to want to go with Superman.

As J’onn himself recently explained on his blog* in discussin the current Justice League line-up, “I've got all of Superman's cooler powers plus mind-reading plus shapeshifting plus intangibility plus I'm not a monumental d-bag like Geo-Force. Ooo, lava blasts? Martian Vision, bitch."

Now, J’onn’s probably exaggerating a little bit there. I mean, he’s super-fast, almost as fast as Superman, but he can’t tie the Flash in a race like Supes can. And he’s extremely strong and extremely durable, but probably not quite as strong and durable as Superman. But for the most part, he’s like Superman with a head cold, or Superman on two hours of sleep...only with a bunch of other powers too, to compensate for not being able to beat Supes in a hundred-yard dash or juggle as many planets.

Think Superman and Charles Xavier and the Vision and Plastic Man all rolled into one, and that's pretty much Martian Manhunter.

I mean, he’s a guy who once took out Despero one-on-one using only his mental powersand just plain buried Ultraman, the evil Superman doppelganger from a neighboring antimatter universeYou hear him talking smack there? It’s not even a fight, the moment you think maybe you want to fight him, then bam! you’re DDDUUNNNNN, as Ultraman himself put it.

It’s a good thing for the supervillains of the DC Universe then that J’onn is a colossal pussy.

Really, that’s the only explanation I can think of for why a guy with that much power gets taken down constantly. At this point, he’s probably been rescued by Superman more times than Lois Lane. He’s been clobbered by such inferior opponents as Superboy-Prime and Black Adam. He’s been known to spend days at a time in space crying.

You can’t really blame the whole vulnerability-to-fire thing. While this has come and gone from story-to-story, in aggregate it would appear that fire is a psychological weakness of J’onn's, which, when he allows it to get the better of him, causes him to lose concentration on his powers and turn into a puddle of goo, but, when he’s concentrating (or has had his Martian version of Zoloft that day), it doesn’t hurt him any more than laser beams or lightning bolts.

J’onn’s perennial whipping boy status really seems to simply come down to a matter of a lack of confidence on his part. What he seems to need is a coach, someone to grab him by the shoulders, look him in the ruby reds and say, “Man up, Manhunter!”

That’s where Every Day Is Like Wednesday comes in.

For the first installment of our new feature, we’re going to examine an opponent J’onn should have been able to take or, at the very least, not gotten completely, embarrassingly destroyed by in a few panels.

His name? That’s right, Doomsday, the monster that killed Superman. Well, actually, he didn’t really kill-kill Superman; he simply beat Superman really, really, really badly, exhausting almost every ounce of solar energy Superman’s cells had gathered, draining him like a battery and sending him into a death-like state that lasted months.

As was revealed in Superman/Doomsday: Hunter/Prey (Collected in big, fat omnibus collection Superman/Doomsday: The Collected Edition, which I recently fishished reading), the big D was created over the course of centuries of brutal experimentation to be an unkillable killing machine. He has no internal organs and is almost solid throughout. He’s powered by solar energy, can survive any environment and, in the off-chance anything ever kills him, he returns to life, evolved so that he can’t be killed in the same way again.

In other words, Doomsday is one tough customer. In Hunter/Prey, dude shrugs off Darkseid’s Omega Effect (so named because no one shrugs that shit off), and mortally wounds the dark god. Orion’s astroforce doesn’t phase Doomsday, and in a short story we see a Green Lantern empty its ring on Doomsday, to little effect.

Now, given the level of awesomeness that is Doomsday (Superman only ends up defeating him at the end of Superman/Doomsday by having him hurtled forward through time to the absolute end of the universe), it seems logical that Doomsday could probably take J’onn in a fight, right? But at the very least, J’onn should be able to give the gray giant a run for his money. After all, an opponent can’t even punch J’onn if he goes all ghosty on them.The omnibus contained multiple fights between Doomsday and J’onn, and, I’m sorry to report, that J’onn does about as well against him as he did back when he was inadvertently impersonating Bloodwynd (Yeah, J'onn thought he was Bloodwynd for a's a whole thing).

So, not counting that first time when the Manhunter thought he was Bloodwynd, J'onn and Doomsday first faced off in Superman: The Doomsday Wars, by Dan Jurgens and inker Norm Rapmund (also collected in the omnibus). The Watchtower Era JLA is responding a distress call from "the Georgia authorities," and it's a pretty serious line-up that goes to survey the damage. J'onn's there alongside Wonder Woman, Orion, Plastic Man, Green Lantern Kyle Rayner, The Flash (Wally West) and, um, the Huntress.

The Leaguers all split up and investigate, and, before you know it, Huntress and Orion find the rest of the team all laid out flat......except J'onn, who's not only knocked out, but hung up by his cape. Sigh. Oh J'onn...

Now Huntress doesn't realize it yet, but we the readers know that it was Doomsday that just pwned the whole Justice League. Actually, it's Doomsday with Brainiac's brain in him. Or mind. How is this possible, if Doomsday doesn't have any internal organs? I don't know, so let's ignore it. Well, let's first state that if Doomsday doesn't have a brain and/or a mind, then he should be invulnerable to J'onn's telepathy, meaning that J'onn can't give him the old Martain mindfuck that he used to take out Despero, nor can he read his mind to anticipate his moves as he did Ultraman. So maybe that explains why J'onn can't lay a glove on the guy.

Actually, J'onn makes some more excuses...Okay, we know Doomsday must be super, super fast, because he fights Superman hand-to-hand, and Superman's, like, Flash fast. And J'onn says he got nailed before he had a chance to phase. Okay, I'll buy that. Of course, I thinkt he Martian doth protest too much, because he also says he was protecting someone, which is another good excuse for getting beaten up by Doomsday and hung by his own cape...he couldn't phase because he was protecting a bystander, and if he went intangible instead of taking the punch, the bystander woulda been pulped. I'd buy that too. The two excuses don't work in concert, but whatever. This is a Dan Jurgens story, not a Grant Morrison one, so we let little things slide a little.

Okay so now J'onn knows he's up against Doomsday, the monster that killed Superman. He knows just how fast he is and how hard he hits. Now he's ready for him. Time to get back in there and show Doomsday what Martians are made of!Just four panels later, J'onn returns.Oh J'onn...

To be fair, GL, Flash, Orion and Wonder Woman don't do much better. We can assume Wondy's lariat didn't work because Doomsday's invulnerable, being mindless (although he has Brainiac's mind here) and he's invulnerable to GL because he's evolved around Green Lantern rings from his previous encounters with GLs and Guardians. There's no reason why Flash couldn't have pushed him at lightspeed and sent him off-planet though. Anyway, I only mention this to make more excuses for J'onn. Maybe it's not his fault he got taken down so easily here; so did a bunch of other people that should be able to take Doomsday out, if their powers were written as they were being written in JLA and their own titles back then.

Jurgens has the League fold like a a set of lawn furniture before the fury of Doomsday, and so the Brainiac-possessed engine of destruction takes them back to his HQ, putting them all in silly little traps that incapacitate their powers.

I don't know if anyone's pointed this out before, but Superman can kinda be sort of a dick sometimes, huh?

After storming Braniac/Doomsday's city, tearing off his shirt and resucing the League, he tells them that he's teleported Doomsday to the moon, and he's going up there to tackle him head on. When Orion's like, "Yeah, let's go get him," Superman gives him a patronizing..."Alright, fine, but don't come crying to me if you get impaled on a bone shard!" Dick.

The plan is for Superman to assemble a bunch of teleporter tubes and set them up in a loop, so Doomsday is in a state of constant teleportation. To do that, he'll need Orion and Martian Manhunter to buy him some time—one minute, exactly. He doesn't think that the two heroes, each of whom could go 100 rounds with Superman, can do it, but, as Jurgens writes the pair, hes's right.Sigh. Oh J'onn...

At any rate, Superman's plan works, and he saves the day. Yeah, Superman! Why can't you be more like that strange visitor from another world in a fight, J'onn?

J'onn would get another chance to fight Doomsday a few years later, during Lex Luthor's presidency (2001's Superman #175, to be exact). This story was written by Jeph Loeb and, like most Jeph Loeb stories, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense, and it makes much less sense when thought about in the context of previous stories. (This was also around about the time Loeb was either losing his mind, or testing to see just what he could get away with in a comic book script and still get paid for it; this issue, for example, is intercut with quotes from President Luthor's state of the union speech for some reason. Other Loeb-written issues from this period had random speeches from American history used as narration for "Our Worlds At War" chapters.)

Now at some point during the "Our Worlds At War" story, Doomsday was freed from the teleportation loop, skeletonized by Imperiex, brought back to life, and then, in this very issue, given Joker venom. Oh, and he can talk and think now and is, for some reason, really, really weak, to the point where Superman beats him down solo, somethng he's never been able to do before.

J'onn, on the other hand, still can't put up a good showing against the monster. He tries the old Martian mindfuck on Doomsday, and then throws a couple of punches. Now, we've established that Doomsday's probably invulnerable to telepathic attack already, right? Or else how else could he have taken the Manhunter out so easily during Doomsday Wars? Plus, he doesn't have a brain or mind, so telepathy shouldn't work, right?

Well, it doesn't. But this is weird. In the second panel here, J'onn says "Sentient!" Like he's suprrised that Doomsday's sentient. Like he just discovered it when Doomsday started talking to him. But if he didn't think DD possessed any sentience, why was he trying to mess with his mind on the last page?

Oh, and I like how Doomsday breathes fire all of a sudden here. When the hell did he get that power?

J'onn, as always, comports himself with dignity, even in defeat. "Ackkkk!" Sigh. Oh, J'onn....

Luckily, Superman flies in and saves J'onn's ass from Doomsday. Again.

For J'onn's sake, let's hope he never finds himself having to fight Doomsday again, but if he does, what should he do? Other than, of course, manning the fuck up?

Don't worry, J'onn, we're here for you. I say you shapechange to resemble Superman, but lower your mass until your intangible, so that Doomsday will be totally focused on you, but unable to hit you. Then you can lead him away from bystanders and into a trap of some sort you can arrange with your fellow superheroes via telepathy.

If you want to take a more active approach, you can always throw him into space (22,300 will put him in orbit of Earth, right? So that he neither just falls back down or goes hurtling into some other poor planet). Or throw him into the sun. And if you're afraid of grappling with him (hey, I would be too), you can always turn completely invivible, fly at him at top speed, and straight up knock him into space like that.

But most importantly J'onn, and I just can't stress this enough, the first thing you need to do is man up. Or Martian up. Whatever. Just get it together, guy.

*Okay, actually it was, but click on that link anyway because it’s hilarious. DC oughta get J’onn to write the introduction to “The Tornado’s Path” hardcover collection

Related: Actually Essential Storylines: Martian Manhunter


Unknown said...

That was fucking hilarious AND damn well thought out, sir. :)

JohnF said...

Two of my favorite superheroic characters are Colossus and Martian Manhunter. It drives me nuts how they're always getting their respective heads handed to them. Just once I'd like to see Colossus totally kick someone's ass. He's usually the first one to get knocked out. This is the same guy that went toe-to-toe with Gladiator, now he gets knocked out by "generic strong guy character that just got invented for this issue" whenever they damn well please.
And poor JJ. He should be THE badass in the DCU. Instead he's "guy that gets beat down first, just so you know that the bad guys mean business".

Unknown said...

Wow, I can't believe someone else thinks these things also. It's always disappointing to see JJ taken out so easily all the time. Lobo, Doomsday, the Bull Host of Angels ect., ect. Although Grant Morrison has been guilty of this also he has portrayed the Manhunter as the heavyweight champ he is supposed to be for the most part.(see DC 1 Million, Earth 2). Also there was that whole Fernus story line with the prehistoric Martian where Supes actually admitted that J'onnz should be able to kick his as at anytime. If you want to see how tough J'onn is supposed to be just look at how white martians are portrayed. This illustrates perfectly that it's all in the attitude.

John Foley-that Colossus stuff gets me too. Seems that Pete was always getting dusted off by cats like Nimrod, Juggy, Arclight(!). As a matter of fact, has the guy EVER beat anybody one on one?

Tony said...

J'onn is like the Sammy Davis Jr. of the DCU. Every bit as talented as Frank and Dean, nowhere near as respected.

Is it the color of his skin? Who knows?

That's the Spirit said...

YES. Yes.

Drugsex said...


Superman > Martian Manhunter

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