DC Comics History: Martian Manhunter (1960 - 1964: the Silver Age)
By Deejay Dayton
June 9, 2017 - 09:53
The Martian Manhunter continued to run in Detective Comics throughout the period 1960 – 1964: the Silver Age. As super heroes were now popular, one might have expected J’onn’s series to really kick off. Not so much. It did take on a much more overt super heroic bent, but that kind of removed what had made the character special in the beginning.
Diane Meade appeared in most stories, hovering around detective John Jones and making it hard for him to change into the Martian Manhunter. And in these years, the supporting cast expanded.
J’onn’s younger brother T’omm makes his debut in Detective Comics 287. Despite the destruction of Erdel’s machine many issues ago, J’onn has repaired it in this story. He accidentally makes it bring his little brother to Earth. Which is really a mind-blowing coincidence. J’onn defeats some thieves, and T’omm helps him cover his identity. The machine has only enough charge for one more teleportation, so J’onn sends his brother back home.
T’omm is next seen in Detective 301. A band of Martians attack Earth, stealing radium, and John is unable to change and go after them because Diane Meade is there. A scientist goes missing, and John tracks him, and the Martians, and realizes that the scientist has managed to rebuild Erdel’s teleportation machine. J’onn follows them to Mars, and is re-united with his parents and little brother.
He has little time for reunions, though, as he winds up tracking the rogue Martians and renegade scientist, defeating them. The scientist gets injured during the fight, and winds up with no memory of his time on Mars. J’onn bids his parents and brother farewell, and returns to Earth.
Why he wants to return isn’t explained beyond bringing back the scientist, but I would theorize he grew to enjoy the time away from his family. We saw no other connections of his on Mars aside from them.
The Martian Manhunter joins forces with Green Arrow in Brave and the Bold 50, the very first of the super-hero team ups to be featured in that book. The pairing may seem odd at first glance, but these were the two members of the Justice League of America who did not have their own books, and was likely viewed as a kind of try out. The story opens on Green Arrow and Speedy, called in to help out with three escaped criminals, who use super-powers to get away from the heroes.
Green Arrow notes a resemblance between them and the Martian Manhunter, and suspects they may be aliens. Green Arrow meets with the Manhunter, and discovers that he is correct. The heroes face off against the villains, but with no luck. Green Arrow even gets captured, and subliminally mind controlled to fight against the Manhunter.
The Martian Manhunter also travels back to Mars in this story to learn more about the evil leader of gang, Vulkor. This is more or less in contradiction of his own series, as he uses Dr. Erdel's machine to travel, yet in his own strip, the machine is broken at this point. The heroes figure out that the villains are gathering pieces of a deadly weapon, and the Manhunter takes preparations against Green Arrow still being a victim of mind control, by disguising himself as the hero. Looking like Green Arrow, the Manhunter is able to approach Vulkor and his gang and take them down.
In Detective 311 two alien criminals come through a really funky space warp to Earth, pursued by an alien bounty hunter, and little alien creature called Zook. J’onn gets caught in the middle of the whole thing. Zook, although he will stick around, is really a peripheral character for much of this story, which centres on the lawmen and the chase.
The trip they take back to their planet is certainly the most vibrant scene this series has had. As I mentioned, Zook stays behind, sort of adopted by the Martian Manhunter. Diane Meade also gets to know the creature, which becomes important in the following issue.
Zook is much more in focus in issue 312. J’onn keeps the creature in a cave, from which he keeps escaping, wanting to get in on the action. Zook, who can turn red and radiate heat when stressed, messes up one of J’onn’s plans, barging in when he mistakenly thinks J’onn is in danger.
When he escapes a second time, he runs into Diane Meade, who brings him to the station, where he encounters J’onn in his John Jones identity. But in the end, Zook winds up using his heat powers to melt a cube J’onn is trapped in by some bad guys, which convinces him the creature could be his sidekick, and doesn’t need to spend the rest of it’s life alone in a cave.
Arnold Hugo, who had debuted in the pages of Detective Comics fighting Batman, makes his return in Detective 322, fighting the Martian Manhunter. Alerted by Batman, J’onn goes after Hugo, but falls prey to a machine he invents that siphons off part of J’onn’s powers.
J’onn figures out that it also would have siphoned off some of his weakness to fire, and gets Zook to heat up and weaken Hugo enough to be beaten.
Batman cameos in the final panel. Arnold Hugo returns to face J’onn again in the next period.
The Martian Manhunter’s series comes to a close in Detective Comics with issue 326, which sees some huge changes to the series before it switches books. The Idol Head of Diabolu is introduced, and emits its first monstrous effects, a destructive gas cloud, and it also makes a man emit energy beams from his eyes. J’onn frantically tries to deal with both threats, both as the Manhunter, with Zook in tow, and as policeman John Jones, working with Diane Meade.
The police see the cloud descend on John Jones, who survives it, but uses the situation to fake the death of his human identity. J’onn gets the eye beam man and cloud together, and they neutralize each other. But he joins Diane and Zook for the funeral of John Jones.
The series moves in the next period to become the cover feature of House of Mystery, bringing Zook and the Idol Head with it. Diane is left to mourn her former partner in ignorance of his actual survival.
Martian Manhunter continues in the next period, 1964 – 1967: the New Look.
Martian Manhunter: Detective Comics 276 - 326 (Feb 60 – April 64)
Brave and the Bold 50 (Oct/Nov 63)
Next up – Challengers of the Unknown!
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DC Comics History: Martian Manhunter (1960 - 1964: the Silver Age)