Monday, April 26, 2010

Not-So-Secret Origins of the JLA Week- Martian Manhunter

This week, I'm going to further highlight the original Justice League of America- One member at a time.

Since the JLA debuted already formed in Brave and the Bold #28, I have decided to spotlight them each in the order they (or their Silver Age origins) debuted in the comics.

We start with Martian Manhunter or, as he was originally known, John Jones, Manhunter from Mars. Mr. Jones debuted as a new back-up feature to Batman in Detective Comics #225, November, 1955. As you can see from the story you are about to read, the emphasis of the comic was on the detective angle of the character. John wouldn't be written as a more conventional Superhero for a few years.

Enjoy "The Strange Experiment of Dr. Erdel" . Script by John Samachson, art by Joe Certa.

I don't know a lot about 1955, but I still find it unlikely that you could walk in off the street and become a police detective. I doubt it was like walking into a diner holding up their "Help Wanted" sign.


  1. yeah, it's like..."so, you want to be a detective,eh?...Yeah ok why not!".
    they so easily could have explained it by having him use alien mind powers or whatever!

  2. Well, considering that they only had six pages to tell an origin story, how else would you have liked him to have gotten hired?

  3. Anonymous: yeah, I have to say I've watched enough "Law and Order" to kill an ordinary man and that ain't how it works!

    LissBirds: Off the top of my head? I'd have had him assume the identity of an existing police detective killed in the line of duty. OR at least have him provide a resume.

  4. Option one is a little too dark for the Silver Age...but Ostrander did use that in the solo series. Option two makes sense...but the Silver Age isn't about realism, no?

  5. Well, there's not about realism-i.e. a flying man in tights and then there's not about realism, i.e. everyday things are ignored like the years it takes to become a police detective. In order to make the first sort credible, it often helps to make sure you observe the second sort.

    I'm just saying, if Green Lantern can devote a word balloon's worth of exposition to how he's going to pay some unseen farmer back for some quicklime, we could have had a better explanation for how any ol' Alien, using an obviously fake name walks in off the street and becomes a Police Detective.

  6. Sure, I suppose. But ending the story with John Jones enrolling in the Police Academy wouldn't have had the same punch. The creators just wanted an instant Martian detective. Besides, hardly anything in any Silver Age John Jones story make sense, so why not start out that way?

  7. So, you condone and endorse sloppy writing then?

  8. Um...ok, if you say so. I don't see how J'onn J'onzz's origin story is sloppy. Maybe some later stories are, and there's nothing wrong with liking camp. What I don't condone or endorse are criticisms of the Silver Age based on modern expectations of storytelling, style, or custom. I find it a little unfair to expect a Silver Age story to follow modern day poloce procedure, for example, when movies of the same era didn't either.

    Besides, it was a simpler time, and I don't think audiences needed everything in stories to be like real life in order to enjoy them. I have a feeling that people didn't read that much into the story when it first debuted...they just saw a Martian who decided to become a detective, accepted that as the premise and moved on.

  9. Alright, alright. Let's rewind this a little. Things are getting on the wrong tack. You don't know me, and obviously since I'm just writing things and not speaking, a little gets lost in translation, like my tone of voice. "So, you condone and endorse sloppy writing then?"Should have probably been followed by a ;-)

    Let me say this regarding Silver Age comics, which I truly love: I enjoy them on multiple levels. I enjoy their frank creativity. I enjoy their beautiful art. I also enjoy them ironically from time-to-time for their unintentional humor. I don't see anything wrong with that.

    I enjoyed John Jones' origin story. The fact that, as a 38-year-old man living in the 21st century, I found it odd that a man would walk in off the street and get a job as a police detective doesn't mean that I didn't like or respect the story. I don't think the story is sloppy, I was just being a smartass. It just means that it dawned on me that that was weird and I thought I would point it out in case anyone missed it.

    I much prefer Silver Age comics to modern ones, over all. I find them much more fun and often more creative. I do not hold them up to "modern expectations". I am fully aware that they were written for an audience with an average age of 13. However, being written FOR 13 year-olds should not be equated with being written BY 13 year-olds.

    So let's all relax and enjoy some comics. :)

  10. Okay, I guess that works for me. I like a lot of aspects of the Silver Age over modern comics as well, too, and I enjoy an out-of-context panel (like Comics Make No Sense) just as much as the next person. But oddball things like people getting a job on the spot happened a lot in old movies and TV shows as well, so they don't stick out to me when I see them in a comic, but I can understand why things like that are funny. What I meant by "modern expectations" were things like police procedure and due process and all of that, in an era when Miranda Rights didn't even exist. Not even Batman would fare well under modern police procedures...