Friday, August 31, 2012
Well, we ignored Batman for two weeks with a couple of posts on the Dibnys - who are a couple of FREAKS! - and I guess we can ignore Batman again this week to discuss one particular story starring another longtime Detective Comics backup feature, J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter.
J'onn J'onzz was in Detective Comics for a long time. As you may recall from a previous post, he first appeared in Detective Comics #225 in 1955 (where, some say, he inaugurated the Silver Age) and stuck around for more than a hundred issues, departing in #326, from where he headed over to greener pastures in House of Mystery. It was probably a good career move as he was the cover feature for a while, and that's why we get covers like this one to scratch our heads over and wonder what the heck is going on:
Yikes! That's J'onn J'onzz fighting his space-monkey sidekick Zook after said space-monkey has been turned into an evil, gigantic version of himself!
Towards the end of the run in Detective Comics, J'onn J'onnz had accumulated a small supporting cast, notably Zook (who we will be talking about a lot today):
And Captain Harding:
Unfortunately, Captain Harding and Officer Meade don't appear much in the story I'm going to talk about today. (Meade doesn't appear at all.) So we'll have to save them for later.
Today, we will be looking at Detective Comics #318, with a cover date of August 1963. The Batman story is one of my favorites from this period, "The Cat-Man Strikes Again," guest-starring Batwoman, and I will be discussing this particular story in detail at a later date, hopefully quite soon.
The J'onn J'onzz backup is "J'onn J'onzz' Enemy -- Zook." Judging by the House of Mystery cover above, this appears to be something of a chronic problem.
The story starts in a mountain hideaway where J'onn J'onzz and Zook have their little headquarters. (It has no windows or doors because J'onn J'onzz and Zook both have the power to turn intangible and they are often shown walking through walls.) Perky, optimistic, fun-loving Zook has this to say:
"Manhunter! I'm going to a new circus that just open up outside of town! You come, too?"
But J'onn J'onzz can't go because he has to go to work. (He uses his camouflage powers to appear as a human detective and he works at a local police agency, you see.) However, he gets sent to the circus anyway, arriving just in time to see the bad guys running off with the loot! But just then, Zook shows up and purposefully scares the elephants by turning into a human iceberg and emitting frigid blasts!
Fortunately, J'onn J'onzz manages to corral the elephants without any damage or fatalities. But the bad guys have escaped! J'onn J'onzz scolds Zook, who looks sad, and responds:
I sorry, Manhunter! I guess I just got over-excited -- and forgot myself!
Yeah! That's it! He got over-excited and forgot not to panic the elephants by turning into an iceberg and showering frigid blasts on them!
The next day, back at the circus, the crooks pull another job and run for the Ferris wheel. A helicopter appears in the distance, and their plan is clear - they are going to stop the Ferris wheel at the top and then transfer to the helicopter and fly away. But J'onn J'onzz shows up and the clever plan seems doomed to failure. Until the crooks shout:
Zook! Zook! Help us!
To which J'onn J'onzz responds with a:
Zook, apparently in league with the bad guys, sets fire to a tent. Zook, seeing J'onn J'onzz falter at the sight of the fire, says:
Hee hee! So THAT your weakness, Manhunter -- FIRE!
J'onn J'onzz is understandably confused for a moment. Zook already knows that J'onn J'onzz has a weakness to fire! Zook must be suffering from amnesia!
J'onn J'onzz puts out the fire by knocking over a handy water tower and then sets out after Zook and the crooks.
In their hideout, the crooks discuss what a lucky break it was that Zook, on his way to the circus the day before, had stopped in the forest to eavesdrop on the crooks as they were planning their heist. Zook was on a tree limb that snapped and he hit his head and forgot who he was:
Who you? Who ME?
But one of the fast-thinking crooks stepped in with a fairy tale that trusting Zook immediately accepted as gospel:
Er ... you don't know? Well, er, little pal, we're all undercover agents investigating a gang of disguised aliens suspected of using circuses and carnivals as fronts!
As they are discussing what a lucky break that was, Zook shows up at the hideout and starts to tell the crooks about the Martian Manhunter's weakness in the face of fire, but J'onn J'onzz shows up just in time and wreaks havoc among the bad guys. In the scuffle, Zook hits his head again and is back to normal just in time to stop the head bad guy as he tries to escape in the helicopter.
And that quickly, everything is back to normal at the end: