The Vile Tarot

While I was mired in Memorial Month, Scipio of The Absorbascon presented his natural progression from the Dynastic Centerpiece Model, the Villainous Tarot. Just as I did with the Martian Manhunter Dynasty, the Idol-Head must now chime in on the new archtypical hierarchy amongst the Vile Menagerie. The Absorbascon commentors added a few caregories and clarifications I liked, so I've incorporated them into Scipio's scheme. This is especially helpful, as the Tarot isn't far removed from the "Anti-Dynasty of Supervillainy," but allows for more room to play.

Mocker: Malefic
I considered a number of unusual choices here, including one that could have been fairly controversial. Still, Malefic is a Manhunter-specific foe, a loon, and always ready with a taunt. In fact, his being so clearly in the Joker mold (not to mention Venom) helps explain why I absolutely loathe the character. Beyond the "Ostrander/Mandrake" near-blackout here, I still haven't given him a Vile Menagerie listing. Hey, if you wanna know more, the loser appears in virtually every Martian Manhunter listing on the 'net. Grrr!

Crime Lord: Mr. V/Faceless
What a difference a word makes. In my reply to this section in the Anti-Dynasty of Supervillainy portion of the "Centerpiece" post, I originally listed Vandal Savage. Quite a few characters could lay claim to Savage as a major foe, including (but not limited to) Rip Hunter, Resurrection Man, Immortal Man, and a sizeable portion of the memberships of the JSA and JLA. What made the difference was "unstoppable," as Martian Manhunter fought a lopsided war against Savage for over a year & a half in the 90's, with repeated run-ins for most of that decade.

Mr. V hasn't appeared in a comic for just about forty years, and Martian Manhunter was present for his seeming death (twice!) However, as I recall only Hawkman ever joined Manhunter in facing the forces of VULTURE, and the Martian beat on them throughout the last year or so of his 60's run. Hardly "unstoppable," but Mr. V was certainly tenacious. Also, I like reenforcing the fact that "Faceless" was a crime lord, not the head of a spy/terrorist agency. There's a lot of confusion about that.

Opposite Number: Despero
There are those that would argue that Malefic should be in this role. Well, Malefic wasn't up to the challenge, and lacked both an essential Martian power and weakness.

There are also those who would say Despero is strictly a "Justice League" villain. I would dispute this. Despero certainly started that way, but specifically captured J'Onn J'Onzz in a 1980 story for a game of chess that imperilled the JLA. Then, Manhunter and Batman were the only Leaguers still standing when Despero was reworked in the mid-80's. It was 1990 though that the conflict became personal. J'Onn J'Onzz led the fight against a restored Despero, and was ultimately responsible for his humbling defeat. J'Onzz then bartered Despero to Manga Khan, who's hench-robot L-Ron was used to usurp Despero's mind upon his next return to Earth. J'Onn and L-Ron next used Despero's body to do their bidding for several years, with the sublimated villain seething the whole time. Despero's psychic "ghost" eventually returned the slight by possessing J'Onn J'Onzz's body. Finally, Despero sought out the Martian Manhunter personally as part of his assault on the JLA during "Final Crisis," assigning the Injustice Gang to handle the rest of the team. While Despero remains a League foe, he's more often than not singled the Martian Manhunter out as his personal nemesis for nearly thirty years.

Also, when Despero was "reborn," he became one of the rare few telepaths/telekinetics who are also superior physical combatants. J'Onn J'Onzz is another, allowing Despero to fully utilize his powers on the physical and psychic planes, not to mention shared energy projection. Further, Despero now derived his powers from the same source as Martian Manhunter's greatest weakness, and stands as a nemesis in the truest sense of the word in that he more often than not beats the Alien Atlas one-on-one. Comic books have trained us to believe that guys like Lex Luthor and the Joker are nemeses, which has been more true in later years. Earlier on though, their nemeses were Batman and Superman, not vice versa, as they consistently lost to their foe. A nemesis should be your equal are better to truly qualify for the term.

Twisted One: The Prophet
This is the one category in which the Manhunter excels. It seems like religious fantatics, fascists, and the like are drawn to him like Mr. Moth to a Human Flame. I went with the Prophet, as he was created for the Martian Manhunter Special and held his own. Tybalt Bak'sar, Brimstone, Cabal, Director Bones, and others appearing later could have served as well.

Unhelpful Helper: Triumph
This and the next two suggested categories were similar to "Twisted One," but with just enough nuance, to catch the massive run-off and still remain valid. Clearly, Triumph had the best, though never remotely selfless, intentions. He wanted everything he touched to turn out to the good, for his own personal aggrandizement, and was constantly surprised when he failed epically. I can't think of many super-villains treated as harshly and hatefully by the Martian Manhunter as Triumph, but I can't say he didn't beg for every throttle.

Misguided Idealist: The Master Gardener
A fellow Martian who arrived on Earth first to help lead his adopted planet toward the Great Evolution? That's swell! Doing it by manipulating the media, violently supressing dissent, and binding a fungus that causes spontaneous combustion within the bodies of the populace? Uncool!

Friend-Turned-Foe: R’es Eda
J'Onn J'Onzz became a fugitive from Mars and beat on a slew of innocent super-heroes in the name of poor R’es Eda, the victim of an assassination. Except he wasn't, and instead framed J'Onn J'Onzz in order to lead his people in an invasion against peaceful co-habitants on Mars II. That's forgetting N'orr Cott's inglorious death besides...

Mental Challenger: Bette Noir
This is clearly the weakest link in Manhunter's "tarot," and its adverse effect on the hero is extraordinary. Typically, villains who can shut down Manhunter's telepathy are Justice League class threats. Even overlooking that advantage, few of Manhunter's foes are as smart as him, either scientifically or strategically. Dr. Trapp doesn't rate, because he really hasn't manage to take the Sleuth From Outer Space on by himself. Vandal Savage, despite his skill, seemed more a test for early members of the JLA and the JLTF than someone who could plausibly take J'Onn on. Bel Juz pulled the wool over J'Onn's eyes once, and helped install the Marshal, but posed no direct threat. Only Bette Noir has troubled J'Onzz on several occasions, through both telepathy and maneuvers. She's no Despero, but he already has a slot, so she slides into this place.

Physical Challenger: TNTL
If anything, Manhunter has too many of these. Nearly every creature released from the Diabolu Idol-Head qualified, as did most notable VULTURE and Middletown threats.

Gadgeteer: Professor Arnold Hugo
This may seem a demotion from "Mental Challenger," but it's much closer to the truth. Hugo invented one device after another that put the Martian Marvel out, but almost never truly endangered him. He often set circumstances into motion that would occupy the Alien Atlas, but really didn't overwhelm him. I love me some Hugo, and he's undoubtedly formitable, but ultimately more a nuisance than a mastermind.

Sexual Challenger: Scorch
A case could be made for Manhunter getting his freak on right through the Bronze Age, whether it be Diane Meade, J'en, or the plentiful arm candy from the Marco Xavier days. When his status as a widower was revealed, he went through a lengthy dry spell. Around the time of his ongoing series though, he started running buck wild with a number of flings and near misses. All told though, I can think of only one "bad girl," one "villainess" who ever got her hands on the guy mind, body and spirit-- to horrific consequence. While Scorch's intentions were the best, based on her history and the unlikelihood of her remaining "straight" should she return from her coma, Scorch is the only truly qualified selection.

Evil Genius: Darkseid
Another massive weakness of the Martian Manhunter-- his best foes aren't "his." I could have used a number of other gadgeteers and tried to cover by placing Prof. Hugo in this spot, but the truth will out. Most of the villains Manhunter has faced who are remotely at his mental level; Savage, Gorilla Grodd, Professors Ivo and Fortune, Despero; could just as easily be removed as options due to prior or multitudinous committments. Darkseid was the primary villain after Malefic during the "Ostrander/Mandrake" series, which is another reason I freakin' hate that series.

Manipulator: Commander Blanx
The guy managed to bushwhack J'Onn J'Onzz, pass him through a kangaroo court into exile, nearly ruin his Earthly reputation, and slaughter most of Mars-- all for the sake of a real estate deal! I'm still not sure he isn't alive and well, hidden within the Bush Administration. Dick? Karl?

Rival Twin: The Marshal
There's quite a few evil Martian Manhunters out there, from B'rett to The Hyperclan to B’enn B’urnzz and a bunch of prior selections. Maybe it's just that awesome Chuck Patton cover, but there's something about the genetically-engineered military leader who led the first true invasion from Green Martians that still gets me going.

Contingent Foe: Fernus the Burning Martian
Were there no J'Onn J'Onzz in pursuit of a cure for his people's natural(?) weakness, a bunch of White Martians and troops of Vandal Savage would still be alive today. I can't say I like Fernus, but maybe fanboys will think twice the next time they beg for the Manhunter from Mars to "realize his potential."

Personal Foe: N’orr Cott
A bit of a cheat, but most anyone else who could have fit this role have been taken up elsewhere. The Manhunter tends to be pretty unambiguously in the right, so beyond occasional lapses into New Age passivism, he doesn't mind blasting most foes overly much.


Justice League of America #254 (9/86)

Despero: "...you've underestimated the sheer hatred I feel for you and your companions in the Justice League. Allow me to make myself clear."

Batman: "He is the Batman, the Darknight Detective, legend among legends, leader of the new Justice League of America. Not for the first time in his life, but perhaps for the last, he wonders what it will feel like to die." Standing before Despero as he bathed in the Flame of Py'tar, the Caped Crusader thought, "He's growing. No doubt about it... that flame... feeding his alien metabolism at an astonishing rate. Must be at least nine feet tall-- and he's coming out. This is it. All the places I've been, all the things I've done... it all comes down to this moment. Face-to-face with an alien being... in a battle I can't hope to win. No problem. I've been facing the same lousy odds all my life." The Batman proved a minor distraction, and was easily recaptured. However, he still claimed a victory of sorts. "Destroying me isn't enough for you. You won't be satisfied till I beg. I won't give you that satisfaction. So no matter what you do to me now, Despero... I win. For all your power, you're a loser. A pathetic little lo--AAAHHH!" The Batman was eventually freed and rejoined the battle.

Vixen: Revived her teammates and explained the gameplan. "The Flame's a nuclear plasma. Whatever enters it is either destroyed... or reborn... Now he's got the power to manipulate matter... like Firestorm, I guess, but on a greater scale. He's even created a duplicate of the Py'tar Flame to recharge himself with... like Green Lantern's power battery. He calls himself a god." Well, he was a god laid low when Mari rammed into the back of his knee with the force of a buffalo. "Woman, your death will be long and painful." Freed the Batman and joined him in fighting hoards of stone demons.

Elongated Man: Caught Vixen and Batman before they could be injured in a fall. Encircled by stone monstrosities of Despero's creation, followed his leader's order to "Fight like hell!" Not so much the order to target the flame, as Vixen stated they needed a bigger distraction, and Ralph chided, "If we win this one, Bats, you can slap our wrists. And if we don't win-- it won't much matter, will it?" Carried out the wounded Steel in the aftermath.

Steel: Hit the hardest by Despero's earthquake, Hank had to be helped to his feet by J'Onn J'Onzz and Gypsy, and propped up from then on. However, when Vibe belittled himself and the team in the event of a renewed assault, Steel, through clenched teeth and in obvious pain, set him straight. "Hey Vibe... if that's what you think you are, then that's all you'll ever be. Maybe we're not the best League that ever was... but we're here... and we've got a job to do. So let's do it." Steel got in one good punch to the base of Despero's spine, but nearly fell over after and had to be rescued by Gypsy. Was struck by a jet of magma and had his back scalded. Carried out by J'Onn and Ralph.

Gypsy: Stuck by Steel, even when he asked her to save herself. Used her chameleon powers to conceal them from demons and Despero. Became enraged when Despero burnt Steel. "Hiding isn't the only trick I know, you scaly-skinned-son-of-a-- CHEW ON THIS!" Despero knows he isn't being flung into a solar corona, but he can't fend off the illusory sensation that "sears his skin, worse than the Flame of Py'tar, eating him alive... and he screams!"

Martian Manhunter: The first to rise at Vixen beckoning. Saw the wisdom in Batman's plan. "Now, while Despero is occupied fending off the others, we strike... Martians weaken in the presence of fire, but I do not intend to approach the Flame of Py'tar, Vibe. Despero will have set defences to protect the flame... I will deal with them, while you deal with the flame. Your shockwave power may be the one force we have strong enough to disrupt the flame. If anything can."

Vibe: Wanted his team to bug out of Gotham and let the Navy bomb the city flat. "Look around you, man... look at us! I know what people been saying... I've got ears. We're a joke... What've we got here? A Chicano from Detroit, a big green bald guy, a human rubber band, a no-name teenage girl who can make herself disappear-- some trick-- an ex-fashion model, and a redheaded tin woodsman. Where're the power players, man? We're strictly second string! We can't do it. Despero wiped the rug with us once already. Next time, he'll kill us. Losers, that's all we are." His team refused to quit though, and he damned himself for joining them. Under the Manhunter's direction, Vibe waited for the opportune moment to strike at the flame, but had his own demons to fend off until the Batman gave him the order. Like a candle being blown out, the flame was no more, and without the outside power source Despero's body "consumes himself" into seeming nothingness.

"Finally-- it is over."
"Thanks to Vibe."
"Guess I'm not such a loser after all, huh, Bats?"
"You never were, in my book."

The Creators: Luke McDonnell clearly relished drawing the Batman, and everyone kept busy, even if the ending was slightly anticlimactic.

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: "Big Green" -Vibe
"J'Onn" -Vixen
Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: "Aw-right. Does this mean we're buddies? Like, can we double date?"


Justice League of America #253 (8/86)

Martian Manhunter: "For him the nearby flames are more than a source of heat and smoky light; they are a threat as deadly to the Martian as hard radiation to an Earthman; but J'Onn J'Onzz forgets the fire, concerned instead with the threat to his comrades that looms before him."

Despero: "How gratifying to be remembered, J'Onn J'Onzz... especially by you. I hoped you'd come when you heard of my attack on Gotham City, and my capture of your leader, the Batman. As you see, I stand before you transformed. No longer am I the Despero you humiliated and imprisoned..." Origin told for the first time.

Elongated Man: Turned his body into a slingshot.

Steel: The most proactive member in the face of this horror. When Despero created a Winged Lorka of Kalanor (essentially a fire-breathing dragon) out of a skyscraper, Steel shoved a metal sign into its mouth. Next, he joined J'Onn J'Onzz and Ralph Dibney in launching a boulder through the dragon. The beast exploded into fragments, causing Despero tremendous pain through psychic feedback. In response, Despero ripped the Gotham street our heroes trod upon with a fiery explosion.

Vibe: Fretted and failed to make any lasting impact beyond briefly holding back the winged Loka.

Gypsy: Used her illusion powers to cause the Loka to believe it was underwater, buying her teammates the time to destroy it.

Batman: Taunted Despero to learn his origins and plans. "Despero needs the Flame of Py'tar to continuously re-create himself, Vixen. He told us as much himself. Without the flame, he no longer exists... If we can destroy the flame, here in this re-created temple... there's a... slim possibility... we might also destroy Despero." Freed himself and Mari.

Vixen: Spent most of the issue in bondage, but any negative karma was balanced out by having the Batman as her co-captive. In spite of herself, shivered as Despero rained havok on her team. Sent by Batman to explain the plan to their team while he remained to distract Despero. "New as I am to this, I probably wouldn't last ten seconds, and he knows it. Damn." Shocked to find her Detroit League lying deathly still in a roadside mound.

Zatanna: No time for subplots...

Sue Dibney: ...or supporting characters.

The Creators: Still bringing the game and career highs.

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: "Big Green" -Steel

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: "Gyp, you crazy? Haul your bottom outta here!"


Justice League of America #252 (7/86)

Vixen: Went on a date in Gotham in her civilian identity with Bruce Wayne, who surprisingly made no off-hand comments about wearing a latex mask to impersonate Wayne, or somesuch nonsense. A groundswell explosion shooting continuous flame hundreds of feet into the air broke up the intimacy. Investigating, Vixen was nearly killed by a flame directed by Despero, until she called on the Tantu Totem to fly to safety.

Batman: Dated Mari McCabe, to whom he revealed, "I've had lovers, but sooner or later, he always comes between us... The Batman." Despite his protests, Vixen detected the eagerness in him when trouble struck. "A wolf scenting its prey.. He was right. The Batman is real... Bruce Wayne... just a shadow." Evaded Despero's initial salvo with his usual skill, hoping things would go better for himself and Mari next time. Despero responded, "Ignorant fool, there will be no next time... not for you, or your world!

Martian Manhunter: Outside Metropolis, at the Secret Sanctuary, the Martian Marvel gathered alongside the other Leaguers, fearing this was no meer test. "The League teleport link to Gotham City is dead, and our computer reports all communication lines to the city have been cut." The League arrived via helicopter, hovering near the wall of flame now surrounding Gotham. Humans transformed by unknown power into the visage of demons ran the streets. "...indeed, Zatanna is sorely missed. Nonetheless... my Martian Vision reveals an intense vibratory field preventing passage." Had Vibe use his powers against the force, but deduced "...it was too easy. We are expected."

Despero: "How perceptive. As always, Martian, you are a keen observer of the obvious. I owe you special consideration, for your part in my imprisonment. I shall save your destruction for last." The Manhunter's features sank to reveal his dispair in the face of this horror. From atop a cathedral, Batman and Vixen chained to his left and right, a declaration was made:

The Creators: Luke McDonnell and Bill Wray draw explosions and infernal things really well, and Gene D'Angelo colored the lava but good.


Despero in JLA/Avengers

The original Despero was part of a villain team (with the Construct and Amazo) that overwhelmed Thor. He was himself defeated by the L-Ron/Despero that stood with the Justice League Task Force. The heroic Despero was also among the Justice League of America membership masses that appeared on the cover of #3.


Silver Age Despero Sketch by Chris Samnee (2007)

If you run a Google image search for "Despero Sketch," the only relevant image that appears is CHRIS SAMNEE: Silver Age Despero. This fellow does mighty fine work at incredible speeds, and it seems to be keeping his busy in the field (most recently on "Checkmate.") Do check out his blog and comments on the piece. He reminds me a lot of the underappreciated Peter Snejberg of "The Sandman" not-quite-fame.


The Seventh and Final Book of Despero, the Reborn (Aug.-Sep. 1986)

"On my homeworld of Kalanor, I experienced pain and purification in the Flame of Py'tar. Now I possess a power beyond description. At a whim, I change matter to energy and energy to matter. I am like unto a god. No... not like a god...

Despero created a fire-breathing dragon from the stone of Gotham City, and launched it at the five standing members of the Justice League of America. "Enjoying yourself, Despero," asked Batman, before calling him a madman. "I hope your other friends show up soon... Superman, the Flash, Green Lantern. I've a special treat prepared for them... Mad or sane, who are you to judge such as me? See what I've accomplished already? As my will extends outward from this central point, I alter reality to fit my desire... remaking first Gotham City, and soon the entire planet in an extending circle, like ripples spreading in a pond. Earth is my world now. My... plaything... to do as I please... until at last I tire of the novelty, and crush it like an unwanted toy."

The League defeated the dragon, which in turn caused Despero great pain, and from there, great anger. The city block the team stood upon exploded, toppling them. In the peace that followed, Despero discussed his origins with Batman, then stepped back into his terrestrial facimilie of Py'tar. "Once I have renewed myself in the embrace of this ember of the true flame, then shall I begin to play in earnest." Batman of course escaped, and freed Vixen to aid the League. The Dark Knight himself disrupred Despero's renewal process, raising his ire. "You've made an unfortunate mistake, little man. For the last time, you have underestimated the power I gain from immersing myself in the Flame of Py'tar. And as well, you've underestimated the sheer hatred I feel for you and your companions in the Justice League. Allow me to make myself clear." Despero recaptured and began torturing the Caped Crusader, but Batman asserted, "Destroying me isn't enough for you. You won't be satisfied till I beg. I won't give you that satisfaction. So no matter what you do to me now, Despero... I win. For all your power, you're a loser. A pathetic little..." but his words were cut shorted by an eyebeam blast.

Vixen came to the rescue, though by this point Despero had grown in stature, so that she ran headlong into the back of his knee. "Woman, your death will be long and painful." The rest of the League continued the offensive. The most effect in direct approach was Gypsy, responding to painful injury inflicted upon her crush Steel. "In his mind, he knows this isn't happening. It's a trick by the girl who calls herself Gypsy, as much an illusion as the chameleon effect by which she hides herself at will. But in his heart, he knows only panic as the Solar Corona sears his skin, worse than the Flame of Py'tar, eating him alive... and he screams!"

Through information passed from Batman, Martian Manhunter employed Vibe to attack the source of Despero's new might, the terrestrial Flame of Py'tar, while he ran defensive against stone demons. "Like some enormous candlewick struck by an errant breeze, the Flame of Py'tar...blows out. For Despero, he who named himself the Destroyer, the effect is instantaneous and dramatic. Without an outside power source to feed on, he consumes himself. The next half second is really quite spectacular. And when it's over, it's over."


The Sixth Book of Despero, the Reborn (July 1986)

An unidentified and undetected molten mass "hot enough to vaporize flesh and blood" struck Maine near the Canadian, "as if guided by some invisible force." It lay in its woodland berth until late the next day, "its one passenger waits... and broods... and dreams." A hunter and his dog wandered near, only to be grievously assaulted by forces physical, mental, and perhaps even spiritual. "Where... are... they? Answer, and I will let you die. Where... is... the Justice League? Fear and pain block your thoughts. I must know what is in your brain. I will take your mind." The hunter was shattered in every sense and absorbed into Despero. "So. I see. The League that helped banish me to the prison planet of Takron-Galtos... is no more. But there is a new League... led by an old enemy. Through them, I will find and destroy those who dared oppose my dream of conquest. And they shall be but the first to die..."

Soon, Despero caused an inferno to erupt where Gotham City once stood. Human beings were transformed into demonic shapes and persuasions. The city itself was reconfigured into a wretched vision. Batman would not stand for such an offense, if he had any choice in the matter. "Around him, the air is furnace-hot. The sky a tortured crimson. He ignores the heat, ignores too the pain of raining lava against his costumed flesh, and charges the vaguely humanoid figure at the heart of the madness. Laughing, forehead agleam with alien energy, the figure gestures... and the madness explodes." Despero's form distorted into a horror, then the Dark Knight was charged by a molten mammoth and collapsed.

"The Batman, isn't it? Yes, I thought so. I remember that this was your city. I saw it, once, in your mind. Have you summoned your friends? Yes, I see you have. Good. We'll await them, you and I, and I'll speak of the changes that have occured to me since last we met."

The Dark Knight struck Despero in the face, with Vixen following in the belly, forcing the despot into the blaze of his making. Batman collapsed from his injuries, while Vixen looked on as Despero emerged unscathed. "Pathetic humans... don't you yet understand? I survived the Flames of Py'tar... and in that sacred pyre, all that I was, stripped away. No longer am I flesh as you know flesh; I am energy and hate incarnate. What is molten rock to such as me? Non-organic... non-living... I AM A NEW BREED OF BEING. I AM DESPERO THE REBORN!

A flare of power exploded across the city. Hell had come to Earth, drawing the rest of the Justice League to Gotham. The Martian Manhunter, instrumental in Despero's last defeat, was at the fore, and recognized his handiwork.

"How perceptive. As always, Martian, you are a keen observer of the obvious. I owe you special consideration, for your part in my imprisonment. I shall save your destruction for last." The Manhunter's features sank to reveal his dispair in the face of this horror. From atop a cathedral, Batman and Vixen chained to his left and right, a declaration was made:


The Fifth Book of Despero, the Reborn (Justice League of America #251, June 1986)

Despero flew through space in a golden craft vaguely resembling a grasshopper, heading toward a massive amorphous blob of violet and green...

"Rage seethes inside him, as constant as a heartbeat. Since the agony of his transformation, he has had but one desire, one goal, one plan: He will destroy the Justice League. In pursuit of this end, Despero the Reborn will allow nothing to stand in his way.

The Torq grew to maturity a billion years ago, on a giant gas planet orbiting a star in the galactic core. For more than thirty million years, it has wandered this arm of the galaxy, thoughtful and at peace, a silent, wondering observer of the universe. The Torq is the very definition of innocent bystander. Even the warlike Psions would alter their course, rather than harm such a harmless creature."

Despero's craft erupted through the Torq, spray purple ectoplasm into the void.

"The thought never crosses the hunter's mind. A billion years of wonderment are snuffed out in an instant. He has places to go, things to do. People to kill. Nothing can stop him now."

Further on, Despero spied the former Justice League Satellite, still hovering 22,300 miles above Earth. As was said, nothing would stop Despero, as he plowed his spacecraft headlong into the vessel. "Where are you, my enemies? Show yourselves, that I may destroy you!"

"Beneath his booted feet, the skeletal satellite shifts and sways, knocked from its orbit by the impact of his starship. Already, he could feel it drifting Earthward... but what he sees about him makes all other considerations unimportant. They are not here. Their satellite headquarters is empty... a ruin... abandoned. The thought is a hot blade twisting in his skull. THEY... ARE... NOT... HERE!"


Despero vented his fury audibly and through energy beams emitted from his eyes.

"There is only one place where they could be. Under his feet, the satellite's movement is more pronounced now; and he feels the first whispers of atmosphere rushing past like a distant wind. Earth. They are below him... somewhere... on the Earth. Then that is where he will join them. Atmosphere shrieks about him; the heat of re-entry is incandescent, but no more incandescent than the raging fury in his heart. He survived the Flames of Py'tar, and came forth reborn; this too shall he survive. Nothing will stop him now. He is Despero. He is destiny."


Desperately Seeking Despero in June '08

Written by Geoff Johns & Jeff Katz
Art and cover by Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund

In order to correct the past and save the future, Booster Gold faces a startling reality - someone from his past must live and someone must die! Can the greatest hero the world has never known do what must be done to save all of time?
On sale June 11 o 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

The best-selling action figure line continues with its sixth set of figures, this time based on the popular story arc Enemies Among Us, illustrated by Ethan Van Sciver!

Each figure features multiple points of articulation and a base.
Clamshell 4/C blister card packaging.
Advance-solicited; on sale November 5, 2008 * Action Figures * PI

Figures included:
Batman o 6.75" h
Superman o 6.75" h
Green Lantern o 6.75" h
Despero o 7.25" h
Another reason why running the Flame of Py'tar last week would have been perfect was that Ron at the JLA Satellite blog could have been concurrently running a quasi-Third Book of Despero with his coverage of his two appearances in 1976. As this is a light post day, why not check his synopsis for Justice League of America #133 and Justice League of America #134?


The Second Book of Despero (Justice League of America #26, March 1964)

Just a few months later, Despero would attempt his revenge. "The last time that you saw me, Snapper, I was the defeated one, being taken by Jasonar back to my dimensional world for punishment... That ‘punishment’ took the form of a rehabilitation program during which my third eye-- the hypnotic one that gave me all my powers-- was surgically removed. I was a model citizen for a while. But what Jasonar-- and no one else knew-- was that my body possessed regenerative powers! Because of my high mental rating, I was assigned to a scientific research laboratory--where I "honestly" did a good day’s work---while my third eye kept developing..."

Despero had camouflaged his third eye to escape detection during this time. "It was simple to fake an explosion--after which the only trace of me ever found was my belt..." Despero then secretly made his way to Earth, where he caused several Justice Leaguers to age rapidly through radiation, while the rest he trapped in individual hourglasses. "I could never have captured any of you super-heroes without the use of the unusual energies you all possess!" Though he had chronal energy enough to set the dominoes falling with Snapper Carr, the energy he stole from the various heroes using their powers in turn provided the fuel for his traps.

The Leaguers confined under glass were further traumatized by having their bodies convert to sand. "Even now I have created three alternate earths of which reptilian life-- insect life-- marine life-- have evolved into the dominant life-forms! ...Though my Kalanor nature will not permit me to slay you, I’ve arranged for you to travel to these chronal worlds... but---on these worlds you will be even more helpless than you are on your own world---for you shall no longer have your super-powers! Though you have changed to chronosand, you still possess enough life-force to understand the completeness of my victory! Your failure will be as bitter ashes in your mouths for the rest of your futile lives!"

There should be some doubt about Despero’s "creation" of these worlds, not only because he lacked the power, but because three parallel Desperos sought to conquer these planets. One was defeated by Flash, another by Green Lantern (despite this Despero having stolen and wielded Jordan's power ring,) and a third by the Aquaman/Manhunter team (all aided by friendly natives, naturally.) On each earth, Despero had failed to reckon with the inhabitant’s ability to replicate the heroes’ former powers when in physical contact with them.

In a bid to salvage his scheme, Despero cast the illusion of himself as a withered Superman to imprison the Leaguers at the Sanctuary. Wonder Woman wasn’t convinced though, knowing Superman could only be affected by magic or kryptonite, not chronal energy. She bound him in her lasso, forcing the restoration of the League. Flash questioned, "Now the problem is--what do we do with Despero?"

“Four Worlds To Conquer!” was written by Gardner Fox and drawn by Mike Sekowsky with Bernard Sachs.


The First Book of Despero (Justice League of America #1, Nov.1960)

Blank-eyed heroes sat at their meeting room table, surrounding the standing chairperson of the proceedings. As their judge thumped a gavel, his decree was made. "Members of the Justice League of America, you are gathered here to deal with the menace of Despero! But I--Despero himself--am taking over! Since I have defeated you all, I now declare this meeting adjourned... forever!"

Their involvement began earlier, when Barry Allen’s car lost all power while travelling a lonely country road. The Flash made his way to a farmhouse, where he was surprised to spy a green-haired alien girl and her elderly father. She feared he was one of Despero’s hunters, but father explained, "No, Saranna! He’s an earth-being! I can read his thoughts!" Saranna enlisted Flash’s assistance by describing the circumstances of their presence on his planet.

"We come from a dimensional world called Kalanor! There a three-eyed tyrant called Despero--has seized control and made slaves of our people! Some days ago my father--Jasonar--and I fled from Kalanor in a dimensional traveler, hoping to find asylum on Earth where we could perfect an anti-weapon... Then Despero’s super-energy weapons would be useless---as was your four-wheeled vehicle---and our people will be able to overthrow the tyrant!" Jasonar continued, "Even now he’s searching for us! If he finds us, he’ll drag us back to Kalanor and our people will never be free!"

Flash sent a call out to the Justice League, but upon arriving was faced with the grim scene previously described. "Come in, Flash! I, Despero of Kalanor---have been expecting you! Don’t bother to look to your friends for help or information, Flash! Only I can release them from this trance, which is why you won’t dare attack me!" Despero kidnapped Saranna and then launched his surprise attack via teleport beam. "...My mystic mental powers overwhelmed all the members but you, Flash! You are still protected by that blue glow you absorbed," radiation from Jasonar’s lab. "Being a sportsman, I have decided to play a simple game with you! Win---and I will release your fellow JLA members and go back to Kalanor, freeing Saranna and giving up my pursuit of her father and his anti-weapon device!" Despero then described a game that bore a passing resemblance to poker and chess, with each Leaguer represented by a game piece. As explained, the odds were overwhelmingly in Flash's favor. "If you place your piece on a single disaster square, your fellow member will be teleported instantly into a dimensional world---from which I’ll make sure he can never return!"

Flash agreed to play, only to lose piece after piece to his shock and horror. With his entire team wiped out, Flash was led to a rocket ship to be sent off world, as the rads that protected him from Despero’s mind-control also prevented him from being teleported. One thing they didn’t guard against was sensory manipulation. "Flash didn’t realize my third eye was causing a change in the number of every card he chose---blanking out the right number and causing the disaster square number to appear!"

Despero continued his pursuit of Jasonar, but was distracted by Snapper Carr. "Rash youth! Do you think you can match mental powers with Despero?" The League mascot pretended to be effected by Despero’s telepathy, though actually protected through exposure to Jasonar’s equipment. "Now to punish you for defying me, Jasonar..." With his back turned, Despero didn’t catch Snapper reaching for Jasonar’s energy-absorbing machine, which was turned against his very person! "I saw how you worked this gizmo before! I’ll leave Despero just enough energy, like to barely stay alive..." An ignominious end to the inaugural appearance of what would become Martian Manhunter’s greatest foe. Moments after the League’s return to Earth, Jasonar departed for Kalanor to reunite with his daughter, the helpless Despero and his anti-energy weapon in tow.

“The World of No Return!” was written by Gardner Fox and drawn by Mike Sekowsky with Bernard Sachs.


Fourth Book of Despero, the Reborn: Justice League of America #250 (5/86)

On the planet Kalanor, atop a narrow spire leading to garbed aliens standing before an enormous pyre... "Hail, O Master... You have braved the cleansing, transforming Flame of Py'tar... and no longer are you the creature you were when you welcomed that all-consuming embrace. In form, in substance, you are reborn. What is your will, Walker In The Flame?"

"My will... is vengeance against mine enemies. My desire... is the destruction of the Justice League. And when I tread their bloody remains beneath my booted feet, I wish only one reward: let them whisper my name in horror...


Unaware on Earth, Gypsy dreamt of an idealized version of her suburban home life before running away, which turned into a nightmare pitting her against her teammates. Her Manhunter taunted, "We are your family! ... Now and evermore," prompting Gypsy to push him away, but instead caved in his chest. She awoke, encircled by former League members. Martian Manhunter was a passive lump for most of the issue, until talk of recalling veteran Leaguers to service came up. He approached the distant Batman, saying "Old friend, I've been told you left the League... unhappily. I cannot judge the right or wrong of that leaving. Nonetheless, today's events prove this is where you belong. You should lead the League, not I."


Third Book of Despero, the Reborn: Justice League of America #249 (4/86)

Interlude: On the planet Kalanor, servants tended to a blazing pit. "Behold the Flame of Py'tar. Those who are not destroyed by its purifying embrace achieve wisdom and power beyond imagination. Will you risk the flame, master?" A nude silhouette with a scalloped head answered, "For what I seek, I would risk eternity." This being then allowed the blaze to immolate him. "The pain is indescribable: It goes beyond agony to the far reaches of madness. He welcomes the pain, he embraces the madness. Soon he will have power enough to take vengeance on the Justice League. His wild laughter ends in a scream."


Second Book of Despero, the Reborn: Justice League of America #248 (3/86)

Interlude: Kalanor was a peaceful, fertile world until, "the world and its inhabitants were his possessions... to do with as he pleased; to toy with... to mutilate... even to destroy, if the whim took him." While for a decade, things returned to normal, there were still some who worshipped him as a god. The escaped convict from last issue arrived there and set foot on Kalanor, flanked by white hammer-headed aliens garbed in purple robes. "It's good to be home."


First Book of Despero, the Reborn: Justice League of America #247 (2/86)

On the prison planet of Takron-Galtos, home of the galaxy’s most dangerous arch-criminals, a fuschia fiend in a blue hoodie murdered a guard. This dastardly desperado then stole a rifle, with which he gunned down two more alien guardsmen with one blast. He jacked a ship, and used his telepathy, limited as it was by prison-drugs, to learn the pattern of the laser defense field to escape. “My followers wait to greet me on Kalanor. I shall not disappoint them.”


The Dynastic Centerpiece of Diabolu

Returning to my lecture subject from yesterday, Scipio's Theory of Dynastic Centerpiece as it applies to the Martian Manhunter, I feel we should first look to his examples of same in other hero "families." It seems to me that, ironic though it may be, the grandaddy of Dynastic Centerpiece wasn't a DC character until what, 1986? Later? Anyway, that would be the Marvel Family. Captain Marvel/Billy Batson is of course the "DC," Captain Marvel Jr. the "Junior Counterpart," "Mary Marvel the "Female Counterpart," Tawky Tawny the "Animal Companion," the wizard Shazam the "Elder Statesman," Beautia Sivana could stretch as "the Romantic Interest," Uncle Marvel the "Civilian Companion," Black Adam "the Black Sheep," Sterling Morris the "Authority Figure" and so on.

Expanding to the rest of the DCU (sans the too obvious,) we can get an even better understanding of the iconic DC family...

Dynastic Centerpiece: Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green Arrow, Hawkman
Kid Sidekick: Wonder Girl III, Aqualad, Speedy, Golden Eagle.
Junior Counterpart: Troia, Tempest, Connor Hawke, Northwind
Black Sheep: Artemis, Koryak, Shado, Fel Andar
Elder Statesman: Phillipus, Atlan, Wildcat, Carter Hall/Prince Khufu
Female Counterpart: Champion, Dolphin/Aquagirl, Black Canary, Howkgirl/woman
Animal Companion: Kangas, Tusky
Romantic Interest: Steve Trevor, Mera
Civilian Companion: Etta Candy, Vulko,
Authority Figure: Hippolyta
Contextualizing City: Themyscira, Poseidonis, Star, Midway

Next there's the concept of the Anti-Dynasty of supervillainy...
Arch Enemy: Cheetah, Black Manta, Hath-Set
Lunatic: Dr. Cyber, Piranha Man, Byth
Hero-worshipping Villain: Silver Swan, Golden Eagle
Civilian Enemy: Veronica Cale, Kristopher Roderic
Untouchable Crime Lord: Ares, Kanjar Ro
Magician: Circe, Gentleman Ghost
Evil Opposite: Artemis, Ocean Master, Merlyn
Femme Fatale: The White Magician, Hercules, Mera
Mental Challenger: Dr. Psycho, Shadow Thief
Physical Challenger: Giganta, Lion-Mane

Now, you'll note that four heroes enter each category, but as few as one actually enjoy a relevant slot. Green Arrow has developed a pretty solid positive DC, but his anti-DC is about as bad as it gets. Merlyn? For serious? This is why the Idol-Head Blog is so important to me: Martian Manhunter has got this, man. I filled every slot with relative ease, usually turning back equally worthy candidates. In fact, I specifically avoided as many upcoming Vile Menagerie entries as possible, and look who I have to work with! Really look, especially if you have the opportunity to write the Martian Marvel. All your work has been done for you if you'll just take advantage...

Junior Counterpart: Jemm, Son of Saturn
Since Morrison connected the character to Mars in "Rock of Ages," and especially with Ostrander's follow-up in J'Onn's own title, this was an early lock.

Female Version: Ms. Martian
Not so long ago, this would have either been a reach or just a token slot for the next candidate up. Now, simplicity itself.

Kid Sidekick: Gypsy
Cindy had to get in here. Ever since her reappearance in JLI, Gypsy and J'Onn have been closely linked as surrogate daughter/father.

Black Sheep: Glenn Gammeron
Never heard of Gammeron, the bounty hunting frienemy with history dating back to before J'Onn lost his family? Speak up now if you're hot for an entry on ol' Glenn. I dig this cat a lot, and the JLTF synopsis are likely years away...

Civilian Companion: Cameron Chase
Damned if this DC thing isn't vindicating many of Ostrander's choices, but linking his run to D.C. Johnson's late, lamented series was a great idea.

Elder Statesman: King Faraday
Darwyn Cooke didn't see this team-up coming, and it was his own notion, and wouldn't you know J'Onn & King grew to be among his favorite "New Frontier" characters? Mine too.

Animal Companion: Zook
Junior counterpart, kid sidekick... you just knew Zook would get in here, as well. I'm still not comfortable referring to Zook as a sentient "pet," but that was how the character was usually described.

Authority Figure: H'ronmeer
Don't get much more authoritative than your own personal Jesus.

Arch Enemy: Despero
No. I'm sorry, I thought you were trying to correct this choice with anyone else. I'm glad we see eye to eye on this.

Lunatic: Malefic
Like someone might claim Malefic as an archenemy. Malefic does my heart good by insuring Ostrander is also villified here. One a lousy, one-note, derivative waste of multiple story arcs Malefic was. But he's assuredly nuts and someone was bound to chime in if I left him out.

Hero-worshipping Villain: Triumph
Potentially a controversial choice, but if anyone delivered fan service to the haters of this continuity implant, it was Big J'Onn and his left arm of iron. That's also either the second or third point for Christopher Priest's efforts. Shame he never developed the Osprey...

Civilian Enemy: Director Bones
Another no-brainer, although I understand Amanda Waller could have served just as well.

Untouchable Crime Lord: Vandal Savage
This was a tough call, as Savage is a greater DCU villain and Flash has some degree of ownership. The Faceless Mr. V could have gone here, but he was ultimately touchable. Savage, while not typically associated with J'Onn J'Onzz, was probably his second most common foe of the 90's. I look forward to providing greater detail, and only regret the trend didn't continue into the oughts.

Magician: Lord Asmodel
This was the only tricky one for me, as J'Onn tends not to deal with magic types. There was that one fight with Etrigan, and the witch he teamed-up with the Spectre to fight, but those were pretty weak reaches. Asmodel meanwhile has a history of kicking Martian Manhunter's ass, so he seemed a solid choice.

Evil Opposite: The Marshal
One of the greatest Manhunter covers of all time was by Chuck Patton, and the only way you could tell J'Onn from the Marshal was their costumes. Let's not forget, it was the Marshal and his brotherhood forces who were responsible for permanently evicting the JLofA from their satellite.

Femme Fatale: Bel Juz
I had more options here than I expected, but since no one else can really claim Bel Juz as one of their own, she seemed appropriate.

Mental Challenger: Professor Arnold Hugo
The man! The myth! The melon!

Physical Challenger: Brimstone
He's big, he's strong, he's made of fire, he has ties to Darkseid, and several fights with the Alien Atlas under his considerable belt.

Contextualizing City: None. I don't know when it was decided John Jones was a detective in Middleton, but his generic beat was almost never identified in the Silver Age. After he quit the force, whatever city he happened to be in was also rarely named, and pretty near never the same. Marco Xavier was all over Eurasia. There's just no good reason to pin J'Onn down to one burg, unless maybe Haven: The Broken City is still around somewhere. I do think J'Onn should have a cool base, whether it be a new Z'onn Z'orr, a repurposed Satellite/Watchtower, or what have you.


Crisis on Infinite Earths #10 (1/86)

The Martian Manhunter resurfaced in Crisis #10 (Jan.'86,) having discovered a large central collection of the evil-doers (including Despero!) "No, Hector Hammond, nothing can help you now. I am tired of you humans! Tired of your evil! Tired of your lust for power!" The furious Manhunter, eyes ablaze with Martian Vision blasts, commanded "Surrender to us now. Let us return order and justice to this Earth!" It goes without saying that J'Onzz, Platinum, and The Atom taught the creeps a little something about opportunism. Sometimes in the midst of all this, the Detroit League sans Steel regrouped at the Bunker to check on Commander Steel, filled with regret over his actions and the fate of his still-missing grandson. Manhunter chastised, “Haven’t you done him harm enough? ...We can only hope that he finds us. Assuming he’s still alive.” Back in the midst of Crisis, the Anti-Monitor returned, and Manhunter joined with the most powerful collection of heroes ever before seen in an attempt to stop him. They failed. "And, from the dawn of creation...comes death...It is the end of all that was."

The History of the DC Universe had been rewritten, and all alternate Earths merged into one reality. Now, there had only ever been one Batman, and he began his war on crime just a few years prior to the Crisis. Supergirl and Wonder Woman never existed. The Justice Society members were the first ever super-heroes, protecting the Earth from World War II until a congressional committee helped bring their careers to an end in the 1950's. There was still a heroine called The Huntress, but Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle never married, so her entire life and parentage had changed. J'Onn J'Onzz joined with the rest of Earth's heroes to destroy the Anti-Monitor, saving the last existing reality from destruction in Crisis on Infinite Earths #12 (Mar.'86). It would be another two years before we would learn just how much the Crisis changed the history of Mars, and The Manhunter himself.