2009 Michael Netzer "December of Despero" Pin-Up

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I must confess my disappointment in "December of Despero." After years of too little attention being paid to one of the few truly great and broadly recognized Martian Manhunter villains, the plan was to have his every appearance through 1990 written up for this blog. He was going to finally get his Vile Menagerie listing, an index of his own, and more. Instead, the holiday crunch, side projects, and my own inertia led to a spate of pin-ups, custom toys, and outright filler. As I've said before, this is hardly the last December Despero will claim as his own, and he'll be making waves well before then. Still, I wanted his first to be something special.

Thankfully, this final week has given the month some validation. Although I never get much in the way of comments for them, I'm happy to have gotten around to more fake Manhunter from Mars comic synopses, all offering stories from a parallel universe pitting our hero against the three-eyed despot. I've never featured so many in such a short span, as Manhunter from Mars Annual #2 will close out our week. It was planned for tonight, but a last minute submission I feel really puts the first "December of Despero" over the wall of winners had to take precedence.

Mike Nasser is probably the second most important artist to draw J'onn J'onzz after his co-creator, Joe Certa. It was Nasser who restored the beetle-brow from the character's earliest appearances, revived his belt symbol,  designed his 1970s logo and offered a dynamic new art style that exposed the character's potential for greatness to then-modern readers. Sadly, Nasser's run was much too brief, and saw him illustrate only a couple of new villains, N'or Cott and R’es Eda. In recent years though Nasser, now known as Michael Netzer, has done real solid by Martian Manhunter fandom. He drew the beloved Idol-Head of Diabolu banner in 2007, then followed that up with a campaign to save Martian Manhunter from Final Crisis with his Take Me... but don't kill J'Onn campaign in 2008. This was supported by pin-ups pairing Manhunter with the Atom (Ryan Choi), Aquaman and the Atom (Ray Palmer).

Netzer's kept a lower profile in 2009, presumably to afford him the opportunity to work on his upcoming 150 page original graphic novel, Wave. Still, he found time to contribute the above pin-up of Despero, which I hope you enjoy as much as I do. A Happy New Year's Eve to all you Idol-Heads out there, and especially to Mr. Netzer, whose New Online Portal demands your attention.


Manhunter from Mars #175 (February, 1979)

On Mars II, J'onn J'onzz was visited by a clearly distressed Saranna. She had lost contact with her father Jasonar, who had left her on Kalanor to take on Despero as his full responsibility and laboratory assistant. The pair had been working together in isolation on a distant satellite, though Saranna and Manhunter could reach it through her dimensional traveler. Since Kalanorian authorities had long since washed their hands of Despero and his benefactor, J'onn J'onzz was Saranna's best hope for protection and investigative aid. The Manhunter from Mars agreed, and the pair were off.

Aboard the satellite, they found Jasonar's body lying on an interior floor. He had been battered, but his exact cause of death wasn't readily apparent. Saranna cursed the mutant freak who had committed this heinous act. J'onzz began to check the satellite's logs, and discovered Despero had fled the scene in a spaceship altered by Jasonar and J'onzz to include Martian technology. The Manhunter could follow Despero's trail of ionized anti-matter, his ship's fuel source. J'onzz also loaded Jasonar's body and personal log into the dimensional traveler, for study on the way to Despero's present location, the nearby planet Sirkus.

From the logs, J'onzz learned that Despero had actually blossomed as Jasonar's sole associate in his studies. Much of the former despot's aggressive tendencies had subsided, and he showed a seemingly genuine appreciation for their work. Still, Jasonar wouldn't dare risk Saranna's life in Despero's presence again, and regularly subjected himself to a recreation of the radiation from the dimensional traveler that immunized a person against Despero's mental powers. Saranna shook her head in disgust at Despero's taking advantage of Jasonar's altruistic gullibility, knowing full well the monster had been plotting her father's demise the whole time.

On Sirkus, the Manhunter was pleased to find he had super powers near those he enjoyed on Earth, and that the Sirkian Governor Kwim was perfectly willing to offer any aid in tracking down the bandit gone to ground on her world. It wasn't long before Despero was found, although Saranna was shocked to discover his powerful third eye, the presumed murder weapon, was still rendered inactive. In fact, Despero was only lightly armed, and the Alien Atlas made short work of his offensive.

Saranna cursed at the hideous Despero for his lethal duplicity, to which Despero hurtfully protested that it was in fact Jasonar who had tried to kill him! Despero had only defended himself, and knocked Jasonar unconscious. Panicked, Despero took the rifle Jasonar had attempted to slay him with, and fled to the nearest inhabited world. Saranna slapped Despero, and demanded he stop lying.

The Sleuth from Outer Space took Saranna by the wrist, and mournfully explained Despero likely spoke the truth. J'onzz's inspection of Jasonar's body had uncovered cancerous growths throughout, most probably caused by his constant exposure to radiation. A further review of Jasonar's logs revealed that he knew he was terminally ill, with at best days to live. Although he felt Despero was sincerely improving as a sympathetic being, after being fooled so often before, he felt he couldn't risk allowing Despero to live on without his guidance.

Unbowed, Saranna continued to curse Despero for robbing her of time she should have spent with her father in his final years. Again, J'onzz interjected. Although it's true Jasonar felt safer with Saranna far from harm's way, the Manhunter had observed her consistent pattern of suspicious, judgmental and generally prejudiced attitude toward Despero. While her bias was understandable, Jasonar surely recognized there was no hope of redeeming Despero so long as Saranna was present to reenforce Despero's toxic self image. Fully breaking down at this observation, Saranna damned Manhunter and his cruel Martian logic.

The Manhunter extended his hand to Despero, in hopes the former tyrant would be willing to continue ascending the path of righteousness. Despero swatted it away, spitting out his assertion that any hope the universe had of quelling his burning hatred had been left to die on that satellite lab. However, the Sirkians were touched by all this, and insisted Despero be left in their hands for further rehabilitation.

The Manhunter agreed, with apprehension, and left the world with Saranna in the dimensional traveler. The Sirkians began discussing a course of treatment for Despero, and dismissed the barbaric practice of surgically disabling his third eye. His back to his would-be saviors, Despero allowed himself a small, nefarious grin...

Tony Isabella left the DC editorial staff midway through 1977, though stories he edited saw print throughout the year. Jack Harris took over all of Isabella's duties, and also edited his freelance writing on Black Lightning. After that title's last issue saw print late in '78, Harris moved its stunning artist, Trevor Von Eeden, to Manhunter from Mars. Although Harris had used a few Isabella scripts on the title in the past, the writer had left DC Comics some months prior, and the book struggled to find anything resembling a permanent creative team. Worse, just as Von Eeden was preparing for the assignment, the book shifted editorship to Ross Andru. Barely staving off cancellation during the infamous "DC Implosion," Andru had marching orders to burn off some inventory material as a cost-cutting measure before commissioning any new material. Von Eeden was left looking for fill-in work until his first issues shipped in the spring of '79.

In the meantime, this Martin "Marty" Pasko and Dick Dillin tale from the file drawer was extremely well received by readers, becoming an instant classic. It was made additionally poignant when Dillin himself passed on a year later. It was Dillin, after all, who drew many of the Martian Manhunter's guest appearances in the 60s and 70s that helped keep the character and his somewhat isolated solo series in the public consciousness. Dillin was also only the second artist to draw Despero, Jasonar, and Saranna (preceded of course by Mike Sekowsky.) While Dillin never again returned to the title, popular demand brought Pasko back for a number of stories. By the time Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn finally became the "regular" writing team in their first ongoing assignment, Len Wein had been handed the editorial reins, and would shuffle them off in less than a year. At least Von Eeden stuck around through #200...


Manhunter from Mars #125 (February 1973)

Reed Crandall had left Manhunter from Mars to work on Warren Publishing's black and white horror and war magazines, before leaving the field altogether in 1974. Writer Len Brown had himself exited for greener pastures. John Giunta had done a bit of work on the title, but passed on in 1970. By 1971, in a declining industry, editor Mike Sekowsky took on the extra workload of writing and drawing the bi-monthly adventures of J'onn J'onzz. This proved a smart move, as Sekowsky was relieved of his editorial duties at DC later that year, but the incoming Murray Boltinoff allowed him to continue on as a freelancer. With sales less than stellar, Sekowsky had planned to dump the Alien Atlas from the series, just as he'd ditched the "John Jones" portion of the title. He would instead shift the backdrop to the year 2070, and feature the bounty hunter Starker in the Manhunter role. Boltinoff was skeptical of the move, and insisted J'onn J'onzz remain in the title, leaving the three Starker stories Sekowsky had prepared to be printed in the anthology series Showcase. There would be yet another Manhunter before 1973 was out, this one a 1940s revival by Archie Goodwin and Walt Simonsion, featured in Detective Comics.

Anyhow, our concern here is with J'onn J'onzz, who under Sekowsky became a more rough and tumble character, not unlike his own Starker. However, long time fans constantly wrote in requesting the Manhunter from Mars face off against established super-villains. Sekowsky probably figured he could use the good will, and brought back a baddie he'd designed for the very first issue of Justice League of America, Despero.

The exiled survivors of Mars had been breaking their backs for months, trying to make a go of it on their newly adopted world, Vonn. The planet was far from hospitable, which left time for frustrated idleness. Some youths spotted a flash in the sky. Science (and now agricultural) leader J'onn J'onzz was alerted, as the elders recognized the flash as a spaceship making entry into the atmosphere. J'onzz and a security force followed the ship to its landing, where out stepped Jasonar, an other dimensional scientist from the world Kalanor. Jasonar explained that he and his daughter Saranna had been performing experiments on a space station in this solar system. Along with them was Despero, a mutant with psychic powers who had repeatedly battled the Justice League of America. Jasonar steadfastly believed that rehabilitation was possible, but after Despero's second attempted to conquer Kalanor, its populace refused to allow the villain to remain on their world. It fell to Jasonar to guide Despero to redemption, as he and his daughter surgically removed Despero's third eye, the source of his power, and insured it did not regenerate from his skull.

Unbeknownst to the pair, Despero had used his own scientific genius to maintain his severed eye in a small secreted fish tank, until it had developed sufficiently to be reattached. Despero attacked Saranna, leaving her in a sealed time release air lock, and extorting Jasonar's assistance in his surgery. Once it proved a success, Despero exited the station in a spacecraft with Saranna in tow, forcing Jasonar's continued silence about Despero's recovery to Kalanorian authorities. Jasonar discovered in the nick of time that he'd been left on a space station set to self destruct. Jasonar escaped in a spare starcraft, but with limited fuel and few resources, compliments of Despero. He was relieved that providence had led him to Vonn, and a former ally in J'onn J'onzz.

Shame then, that the Martian authorites demanded Jasonar's immediate departure. Life on Vonn was only just bearable, and they lacked more than the most basic sustenance. This left them too lethargic to power their only defensive weaponry, the robo-chargers they had inherited from their former masters, the Thythen. The Martian Council was unwilling to risk the safety of their people for the benefit of any one man, no matter his straits. Further, they would not bring down the wrath of his pursuer by offering any aid whatsoever. J'onn J'onzz reluctantly agreed with their decision, and saw Jasonar's ship off. Imagine the Martians' surprise, when J'onzz didn't return.

Despero had picked up the trail of Jasonar's craft, and forced it to land almost as soon as it had risen. Setting down roughly in the desert, the Martian Marvel made his way to cover before Despero could follow. On Vonn, J'onzz was a bit stronger than a human, and could engage in limited flight, but had no other super-powers. Although Despero wasn't fully recovered from his surgery, he could still easily track J'onzz through the desert, and offer up a series of stinging bolts of energy from his third eye. Despero demanded to know Jasonar's whereabouts, but at a distance, could not force the Manhunter to reveal the location through his telepathy. Still, keeping his confidence was a struggle for J'onzz.  Using his wits, the Manhunter managed to lead Despero on a false trail, then doubled back to free Saranna. Unfortunately, Despero had her under his mental thrall since his surgery, and had forced her to set the space station's self destruct. Further, she had been armed, and fired a paralyzing ray at the Alien Atlas. Finally in Despero's clutches, the Manhunter was powerless against the villain's mental prowess in close quarters. Through cold sweat, J'onn J'onzz revealed that he had left Jasonar behind at the Martian camp, in order that he may construct a weapon from parts of a robo-charger.

Just then, a shot rang out from the distance, striking Despero square on the brow. With little time to lose, Jasonar had followed J'onzz's plan to the letter, sneaking off to construct an energy rifle while the Martians were unsettled by their leader's unannounced departure. A penitent Saranna tended to J'onzz's injuries, as the unconscious Despero was dragged back to his stolen spaceship, and the party lifted off.

The Manhunter from Mars expressed his disappointment in his people, who had used the "greater good" as an excuse for cowardice. It was increasingly apparent that Vonn could never sustain the Martian survivors, no matter how hard they tried to till its soil. J'onzz wondered which they were more afraid of-- confronting a villain like Despero, or the uncertainty of continuing their quest for a new home planet. Jasonar offered Kalinor to J'onn J'onzz alone, but the Martian Manhunter could never abandon his people in their time of need, as they were willing to do to Jasonar and Saranna. Pleased that J'onzz had refused his tempting offer, Jasonar instead committed his keen mind to helping the Martians, whether in finding a way to bring Vonn to life, or to continue their exodus amongst the stars...



Alter Ego: Saranna
Occupation: Scientist
Marital Status: Single
Known Relatives: Jasonar (father)
Group Affiliation: None known.
Base of Operations: Kalanor
First Appearance: Justice League of America #1 (October/November 1960)
Height: Approx. 5' 4"
Build: Average
Weight: Approximately
Eyes: Gray
Hair: Pale Green

Saranna and her father Jasonar fled their alien home world after it came under the control of the mutant Despero. Hoping to find asylum on Earth, the pair worked for several days to perfect an anti-weapon against Despero's super-energy arsenal within an abandoned farmhouse. While testing the device, the pair inadvertently disabled the automobile of police scientist Barry Allen as he was driving past their shelter. Secretly the Flash, Allen donned his costume to investigate. Saranna was initially frightened of the super-hero when the Flash discovered them, believing him to be one of Despero's hunters, but her father assured her the Flash's thoughts were altruistic. While Jasonar explained their circumstances, Saranna was struck by a teleportation ray directed by Despero, and whisked away. Back on Kalanor, Despero read Saranna's mind, and used its information to launch a preemptive psychic assault against Flash's friends in the Justice League of America. Through the efforts of her father, the Justice League of America, and their associate Snapper Carr, Despero was eventually captured and Saranna freed.

Later, Saranna joined her father in further scientific study, as well as overseeing the rehabilitation of Despero, which included the surgical removal of his third eye. However, Despero recovered his powers in secret, faked his own death, and escaped supervision. Saranna and Jasonar were unaware that Despero had instead made his way to Earth, where he again battled and was defeated by the Justice League.

Jasonar can communicate through telepathy.

Distinguishing Features:
Green hair. Pointed ears. Inhumanly high arched eyebrows.

Articulate. Distrustful.

Weapons and Vehicles:
Saranna used her scientific knowledge to work on the construction of the anti-weapon, and presumably was familiar with the dimensional traveler craft, but was not shown operating either.

Quote: "We come from a dimensional world called Kalanor! There a three-eyed tyrant called Despero-- has seized control and made slaves of our people!"

Created by Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky


2006 Despero New York Comic Con Sketch by Chris Batista

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Him and his gf were very nice even though I was pretty much hounding him all day Sunday for a sketch... I eventually asked for either Zatanna or Despero due to his recent run on JLA: Crisis of Conscience arc. He said he had already done way too many Zatanna's throughout that show.
-Steve Lee


1999 Despero Convention Sketch by Franchesco!

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Oh, hey lookie-- art by Franchesco!

Ah, December... Whatever pleasure I've taken from this chore of a month has been mine by right. Unlike The March of Mongul, I haven't grown disenchanted with Despero through weeks of contemptuous familiarity. Truth to tell, I feel awful that the murderous despot has gotten such a raw deal, especially by comparison. Despero is truly an unimpeachable Martian Manhunter foe well deserving of a lengthy spotlight, and into our third year, he doesn't even have a Vile Menagerie page. All my grand plans lie in dust, but I swear, 2010 will see another December of Despero. As for January, well, that door remains open as well...


2009 Dave Grote Jr. Despero Headshot

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Here's a perfect example of why artists rarely want to draw the Silver/Bronze Age Despero-- all those scales! One day, George PĂ©rez will draw this guy battling Aquaman and Captain America, but until then, weep for Dave Grote Junior's attention to detail.


2005 Justice League "Heart and Minds" Despero Custom Figure

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Sad to say, not only haven't I seen the 2003 (Season 2, 9th & 10th) episodes of the animated Justice League series that featured Despero, but I only just learned tonight that he also starred in an episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold earlier this year. So after you check out Victor Kraven's custom Despero page, which has a second image and explains how he made it, try the clips from B:TB&TB out. They feature a script by blog favorite J.M. DeMatteis. For the record, I'm down with both redesigns...


2005 Justice League "Heart and Minds" Despero Custom Figure

Click For More

Sad to say, not only haven't I seen the 2003 (Season 2, 9th & 10th) episodes of the animated Justice League series that featured Despero, but I only just learned tonight that he also starred in an episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold earlier this year. So after you check out Victor Kraven's custom Despero page, which has a second image and explains how he made it, try the clips from B:TB&TB out. They feature a script by blog favorite J.M. DeMatteis. For the record, I'm down with both redesigns...


Despero's jetboat

During his assault on the capitol city of the planet Sirkus, Despero navigated the waters of the world with a jet-powered airboat. Though Despero commanded a force of Eel-Creatures and his own considerable powers from the jetboat, the craft itself seemed to be unarmed.

First Appearance: Justice League of America #133 (8/76)



Alter Ego: Jasonar
Occupation: Scientist, Revolutionary
Marital Status: Unknown
Known Relatives: Saranna (daughter)
Group Affiliation: None
Base of Operations: Kalanor
First Appearance: Justice League of America #1 (October/November 1960)
Height: Approx. 5'0"
Build: Paunchy
Eyes: Gray
Hair: Pale Green

After the three-eyed tyrant Despero took control of their home world and enslaved their people, Jasonar and his daughter Saranna fled from Kalanor in a dimensional traveler. Arriving on Earth, the pair worked for several days out of an abandoned farmhouse to complete Jasonar's anti-weapon against Despero's energy-based arsenal. While testing the device, the pair inadvertently disabled the automobile of police scientist Barry Allen as he was driving past their shelter. As the speeding super-hero the Flash, Allen discovered the aliens, and learned of their plight. The Flash signaled his teammates in the Justice League of America for help, and while they waited for a response, Jasonar explained how his devices worked.

Suddenly, Saranna was struck by a teleportation beam, but Jasonar and Flash were immune due to a blue glowing radiation given off by the dimensional traveler. The Flash raced to secure Jasonar, his anti-weapon, and the dimensional traveler in a hidden cave. The men agreed to periodically expose themselves to the traveler's radiation to protect themselves against Despero. While the Flash was confronted by Despero at the Justice League's headquarters, Jasonar remained in hiding to concentrate on his anti-weapon.

After Despero cheated in a game of supposed chance and dispatched the Justice League to other dimensional worlds, he used his sonoscillator to crisscross Earth and locate Jasonar. At that moment, in his cave hideout, Jasonar perfected his energy-absorber. However, Despero captured Jasonar before the anti-weapon could be used against him, and stated his intention to instead direct the energy-absorber toward conquering Earth. Through the intervention of Snapper Carr, a young associate of the Justice League, the anti-weapon was employed against the dimensional tyrant that was its original target.

Defeated, Despero returned as Jasonar's captive to Kalinor, where the scientist surgically removed the third eye from which the despot derived his powers. Jasonar enrolled Despero in a rehabilitation program, and believing him to be reformed, saw Despero assigned to a scientific research laboratory. Unbeknownst to Jasonar, Despero's third eye regenerated, allowing him to fake his own death and escape Kalinor. Despero was soon recaptured by the Justice League of America, and has not been known to trouble Jasonar or his daughter since.

Jasonar could communicate through telepathy.

Friendly, overly trusting, and idealistic.

Jasonar's anti-weapon could absorb "energy as a sponge does water." The anti-weapon rifle could rob its target of all motion and strength, including living beings.

Jasonar possessed a dimensional traveler craft, which allowed him to visit any dimension he so chose. A blue aura of unknown radiation emitted by the traveler could temporarily render Jasonar and others in its presence immune to Despero's powers and weapons.

Quote: "Now Despero will be as other men on Kalanor, honest and good! He has reformed completely!"

Created by Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky


Despero's Super-Ship

A large robotic Super-Ship was used by Despero during his war against the planet Sirkus. Its metallic hide could resist super-human blows, though not indefinitely. The robot's groping "hands" could move with force enough to stun the Man of Steel. The dome from which Despero piloted the ship proved ineffectual in fending off a laser beam, however, and was shattered. From there, the Super-Ship was slowly dismantled, before crash-landing into oblivion.

First Appearance: Justice League of America #133 (August 1976).


DesperCameo: Justice League of America #239 (June, 1985)

After the Detroit-era Justice League rescued Superman, Wonder Woman and the Flash (Barry Allen) from the U.S.S.R., the representatives of two JLofA incarnations had a pow-wow at the Bunker. Aquaman was forced by Superman to justify his disbanding the original Justice League of America.

...You weren't here. Neither was Green Lantern. During the Earth-Mars War, the League fought at half strength... and it was only through the aid of J'Onn J'Onzz that the Martian attack was eventually turned back...

There was a time when the League stood as a symbol... 'the World's Greatest Heroes,' the press called us, gathered to stand in common cause against injustice. Do you remember how it was back then? The seven of us... the original League...

We faced each threat as a team, together, and the League was our highest priority. In those early days, none of us missed a crisis. We depended on each other, and we were always there.

As time passed, the League grew... adding more and more members to our roll call-- and yes, losing members as well. J'Onn J'Onzz was the first to resign; the Batman, the last. And somewhere along the way, that original sense of purpose and commitment was lost as well. For some of us, the League was no longer our first priority... sometimes, not even our second.

What happened during the Earth-Mars War was only the most recent, most obvious example of a continuing trend. Isn't it obvious? The League was already dead, at least in the original sense. I simply signed the death certificate.


2007 Despero Convention Sketch by Danielle Corsetto

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All day, I'd been planning a substantial post for tonight. It was either going to be the first chapter of "The Hypothetical Woman," or a retrospective of Despero's earliest appearances with extensive commentary. Instead, everything went to heck once I got home, and I just want to throw something at the wall. So, here's a cute sketch by Danielle Corsetto of girls with slingshots webcomic fame. She's also got a great big gallery of comic art here.


Superman: Our Worlds At War Secret Files & Origins #1 (8/01)

As part of the Superman Family’s never-ending battle to prove that the Man of Tomorrow is the most powerful and important being in creation this side of God Almighty, the Last Son of Krypton faced not just a transparent Galactus analogue, but an army of them. Instead of devouring one world at a time though, the forces of Imperiex made a years-long push to spread destruction and ultimate entropy through the universe. That’s really all the set-up you need for our comparatively brief review of Our Worlds At War, considering the 500+ page trade paperback blew off collecting numerous non-Superman Our Worlds At War specials and tie-ins that would have bumped the page count closer to 1,000.

Among the worlds and peoples destroyed by the OWAW onslaught were the citizens and planet of Kalanor, birthplace of Despero. A probable victim, after hearing one of many cries to flee, answered, "Flee to where? When Imperiex comes, there is no answer save death!" Next on the list for stakes-raising planets of Asparagus People* were Almerac and the Gordanian homeworld Karna (at least the second dispossession of surviving Thanagarians, to boot.) Whole worlds that joined in the defense against Imperiex included Daxam, Apokolips and Rann. As one might expect, Darkseid, his son Grayven, Maxima, Adam Strange and Starfire spearheaded the defensive, along with the unfortunately named Massacre and the unfortunately conceived Mongal.

*Since this is a DC blog, I’ll note this is a reference to the Dark Phoenix Sage from Uncanny X-Men. Marvel Zombies should not only get the joke, but assert that their proper name was the D’Bari, which was also a franchised Martian salad bar Pre-Crisis.


The Krill

Albon and Nordon were the self-proclaimed last survivors of an ancient alien race called the Krill. Their people having vanished eons prior, the pair were all that remained. Their long life bred incredible boredom, so they took to spying on others sentients from their vast alien space-station. Happening upon the Justice League of America and the despotic Despero, the Krill used their Spacial-Disruptor to emit a crystal light which teleported all parties into their mobile home. The Krill then encouraged Despero to battle the heroes in pairs, across various locations, and with weapons they provided. The Krill were ecstatic from the sensations these bouts instilled in them, and they intended to exploit their abductees indefinitely. However, Albon and Nordon were duped into fighting one another, allowing everyone else to escape.

The Krill stood several stories tall, and their space-station was filled with extraordinary devices. From their Space-Time Observation Point, they could use a gleaming crystalline device to view the past on their triangular-jewel video-screen. They provided Despero with a rifle that could solidify air, as well as a force field that could withstand blows from Supergirl. The Krill could seemingly teleport most anything at will, and could control the minds of others. Their present whereabouts are unknown.

The Krills' first and final appearance was in Justice League of America #134 (9/76.)


2005 Despero: Master of the Third Eye VS CCG Card

I never played the Upper Deck VS System collectible card games, so no lengthy explanations like I gave for Overpower. Instead, I'll note that the painted art is by Arthur Suydam, who included every JLA founder but Martian Manhunter here. Grr! It was released in November 2005 as part of the Justice League of America expansion.


Gigant #1 (Semic, 1979)

Gigant was a series of thick DC Comics reprint collections published several times a year and distributed throughout Europe. The choice of material was seemingly random, presumably whatever was seen as the most commercial prospects for various markets. Early on, their emphasis was on big guns like Superman and the JLofA, but by the end more obscure material reigned. This included Wein/Wrightson Swamp Thing, Vigilante, Camelot 3000, and most surprisingly, Jemm: Son of Saturn.

Most of the time, U.S. covers were just cropped or otherwise rejiggered for foreign release, but especially in the 1970s, new cover images were produced. Such is the case here, as Ernie Chan's cover for Justice League of America #134 was redrawn from a different perspective by an unknown artist. Presumably, the sellable figures on the original piece were too tiny, or the overall image too crowded. Elongated Man and Wonder Woman were excluded in the new image, while Superman and Batman's profiles were greatly expanded.

Both chapters of the third Despero story were reprinted, along with a Pasko/Grell Ray Palmer Atom back-up from Action Comics #442, the entirety of O'Neil/Adams' Green Lantern/Green Arrow #76, and a two page profile on Wonder Woman.

Oh, and in case you're curious, Despero translates as "Despero," so nothing gets lost in translation.


Justice League of America #134 (9/76)

Despero had defeated the real Superman and an imitation Justice League in the previous issue. The despot next left his just-conquered planet Sirkus with these captives along with him (in suspended animation) on the journey to invade Earth. It just so happened his spacecraft was on a collision course with a Thanagarian star-ship in search of Superman containing Supergirl, Batman, Wonder Woman, Elongated Man, the Atom and of course Hawkman. From a third vehicle, the voyeuristic aliens Albon and Nordon watched. These last surviving Krill chose to intercept both vessels for their own good, as well as for their personal enjoyment. As he was teleported away while at the controls of his ship, Despero exclaimed "By the many moons of Mandigor! A ray-- hitting me-- making me fade away!"

The six questing heroes were just as shocked to find themselves whisked off to a hall also containing one of the JLofA's oldest foes. Elongated Man wasn't around for Despero's first or second assaults on the team, but his nose could smell the stink of villainy, and launched an offensive! Despero thought, "Eh...? The other Justice Leaguers? And-- Wonder Woman? How could that amazon have escaped? She-- eh? Who is this foolhardy freak attacking me--?"

Despero greeted Elongated Man with his third eye: "No one assaults Despero! Mine is the power of the mind unleashed-- a power that can punish, by causing your malleable molecules to stretch out of control-- or a power which can destroy!" E-Man let out a "EEEYOW" before Supergirl could fly his mishandled frame to a safe distance from Despero's wrath. Batman asked, "Is Elongated Man okay, Supergirl?" She cradled his limp but normalizing frame while answering, "I think so, Batman!"

After his devastation of an ersatz Justice League that included a faux-Wonder Woman, Despero was more cocky that ever... even when the true Amazing Amazon lunged at him, wanting answers! "Your question is irrelevant, female! The Kryptonian is indeed my captive now-- just as you have been!" While the Amazon Princess displayed incredible gymnastic maneuvers to evade destructive blasts from his third eye, Despero began to question just who were those super-heroes on ice back on his spaceship. "Obviously, either she or you is the impostor! For the sake of my ego-- I prefer to believe the impostor is youuuuuhh!" Wonder Woman tumbled into Despero, sweeping his legs out from under him. Disoriented and under too much pressure to think straight, he chose to avoid an interrogation from the Dark Knight. "On the contrary, detective... now is the time-- for escape!" With that, Despero vanished in the blink of an eye.

The Kalinorian ran through the vast alien space-station of the surviving Krill. "There must be someone aboard here-- unless it's fully automated! If I can find that someone, I can control him with my third eye-- then force him to explain the purpose behind-- eh? Unless I'm greatly mistaken, this is some sort of weapons chamber-- and the object on that pedestal-- a weapon!"

Just then, Albon and Nordon materialized two super-heroes into the room. "Batman-- and Hawkman! No time to learn the details of this device-- only time-- to use it! How perfectly ingenious! This weapon solidifies air-- making it a gluey mud! Fight your way out of that, you over-rated clowns! Now, while you're both helpless-- I'll destroy you, as I destroyed your comrades on Sirkus! I've always hated you Justice Leaguers with a special passion-- and I'm particularly going to enjoy-- hmmm?! What in the name of sanity is happening to me--? I'm vanishing-- again?"

Such quick work had been made of the Caped Crusader and Winged Wonder, Albon and Nordon were disappointed. "Obviously, this Despero is too powerful to battle these heroes with our weapons." They remotely disabled Despero's gun, and sent him to a desert to face Wonder Woman and the Atom, who encouraged Diana to "Hit 'im-- and hit 'im hard!" The Krill were similarly enthused. "Yes, female-- yes! Strike the scaled man!-- Strike him hard! Never have I felt such-- such ecstasy, Nordon!" The Tiny Titan dealt his own damage-- dive-bombing Despero's hypnotic eye. However, a lasso-produced sandstorm made it clear the flailing Atom had not disabled the orb. "You forgot my power of mental control, Atom! Through my third eye, Wonder Woman is now my slave-- and so she shall remain-- till the Justice League is destroyed!"

Five of our heroes had fallen before the extraterrestrial tyrant. "It's just like your Terran nursery rhyme-- about 'Ten Little Indians'-- being picked off one by one! There's so much about your world I enjoy, Wonder Woman... Perhaps that's why I wish to conquer it! I've often wondered about my little obsession... this craving I have to own the planet Earth! I imagine it has something to do with my childhood... not that it matters! I think I'll teleport us back to the alien space-station now! One of the other abilities of my third eye: I can move myself through space at will! Believe me... it's quite convenient!"

"The would-be kingpin from Kalanor" arrived at an observation deck alone. "Eh? Where is Wonder Woman?" The interloping Krill had struck again, changing Despero's company to that of the Elongated Man. "I wouldn't know, Three-Eyes-- Suppose you tell us? This is one situation where I don't feel like playing detective! Ralph entangled the Kalanorian despot, while his partner Supergirl snared Despero's feet. All three were then transported to a whole other, icy environ as they tumbled. The heroes were disoriented, with Supergirl asking how this came to be. "I always used to love a mystery, Supergirl-- but not when the prisoner is escaping!"

The Maid of Might blew Despero to the ground. Fatigued, Despero refused to carry on, but the mysterious aliens somehow turned his mind toward pure blood lust against Supergirl. "I'm sorry... I'm sorry, but I can't go on! Whenever I turn around, something happens... something I don't understand! I can't possibly fight under these conditions, you see-- I-- I-- I-- I must FIGHT! --I must KILL!"
"Now what? Has Despero gone insane?"
"Trying to choke an invincible girl like you? He's gotta be crackers! Might as well knock the guy out of his misery! Huh? One of my best punches-- and he's still moving?"

"Fight! Must-- FIGHT!" Despero's suddenly superior strength tapped Elongated Man out with a left hook. Supergirl repeatedly batted the deranged despot away, only for him to shrug off her blows, rising again and again! "Great Krypton-- this is getting monotonous!" Supergirl finally spotted Albon and Nordon watching in the distance, which shouldn't have been much trouble, since they stood several stories tall. Supergirl determined the aliens were getting their jollies off the violent bouts, and offered, "A suggestion, Krill! If you want real excitement-- why don't you each choose sides?" Obviously not a good judge, seeing as Supergirl was comically holding back Despero's swinging fists with her palm to his brow, Nordon bet on the Kalinorian. "Don't be an idiot! Despero can't possibly lose-- not with the force-field we've given him!"

Well... "I've thrown Despero hard enough to put him into orbit!" Then... "I'm counting on a force-field, my alien friend! Nothing else could explain Despero's invulnerability! Unfortunately, not even the best" could withstand one of Supergirl's fiercest blows. However, either Nordon got so excited he forgot who he'd championed, or else scripter Gerry Conway did, since he proclaimed himself victorious. This provoked Albon to sock him in the kisser, and the last two Krill became enemies.

The Justice League escaped the Krill in Hawkman's ship, along with Superman, and a Despero bound by Elongated Man in tow. While all ended well enough, Supergirl felt guilty. "After all, we did introduce the last survivors of an ancient race to war!" Wonder Woman chimed, "And that's a curse I wouldn't even wish on Despero!"

"The Battle at the Edge of Forever!" was created by Gerry Conway, Dick Dillin & Frank McLaughlin. It seems like Gerry Conway wrote the first script, then a month later the second, based only on a vague recollection of the first. Issue #133 really only features one actual League member, and while it was interesting to watch Despero tear the fake batch apart, it was ultimately pointless. Then in #134, only a random sampling of League members from the first chapter appear, and the only elements of the previous chapter carried over in a significant way were Superman as a captive and the presence of Despero. Speaking of which, Despero's accomplishments were mostly due to the alien interlopers, whose story is wrapped in slapdash fashion, and by a non-Leaguer to boot! A bit of a mess, this one was. Dick Dillin & Frank McLaughlin are better on the art front, though their hearts always seemed to belong more to the look of newspaper romance comics than sci-fi super shenanigans.



Sirkus is a planet "some 400 light-years away" from Earth which orbited a vast blue star. While its inhabitants include Flamebirds and Eel-Creatures, the term "Sirkian" has been specifically applied to an all-female terran race. These Sirkians were fairly tall, very lean, had only one centered eye, and no mouth. They communicated through telepathy, and often invoked the hallowed name of Cormak. According to a Sirkian leader, "It's been so long since we've had a war on Sirkus, we have no skill in fighting!"

Superman was unwittingly drawn to Sirkus to defend these people from the diabolical Despero, alongside an ersatz Justice League. Despero sought the surrender of their Cosmic Cannon, and threatened to destroy the world if he had to take it by force. Located ten miles south of the capital, Mushroom City, the Cosmic Cannon rested inside a conical tower within a tropical swamp. Although Despero was kept from acquiring the Cosmic Cannon at first, after the defeat of Sirkus' borrowed champions it is assumed it came into his possession. Though Despero promised and Sirkus' people feared an ultimate sanction, the despot's last word on the world's fate was his intention to enslave them. However, Despero soon departed Sirkus in a ship also containing Superman and the Sirkian Justice League. Presumably, the Sirkians were returned to their home after Despero was defeated by the actual League.

Sirkus' only appearance to date was in Justice League of America #133 (8/76).


Director Ergon & Governor Kwim

Director Ergon was a scientist and strategist from the planet Sirkus. She employed a Travel-Beam consisting of ethereal energy that could draw a single being toward it at a speeds several multiples greater than light. When Sirkus found itself under siege by Despero, a Travel-Beam was sent to retrieve Superman. Since the Travel-Beam could only transport one being at a time, Ergon was unable to call the entire Justice League of America. Instead, she devised "The Scenario," in which she outfitted members of her single-gender race with gadgets and disguises to appear as though they were the JLA, complete with simulated powers. However, the plan failed, as "My women are actresses, not heroes. Most of them are confused-- playing the unfamiliar roles of men-- men with super-powers!"

Like Director Ergon, Governor Kwim operated out of the Mushroom City. Though possessed of official power over Ergon, Kwim was unaware of "The Scenario" until after it went into effect, and highly critical of it from that point onward. "Excuses! Don't you realize what will happen if Despero captures the Cosmic Cannon? He could use it to reduce our world to a cinder! I'm sorry, Ergon-- but since your plan failed, we must turn to mine! We must use the Cosmic Cannon-- and burn Despero out of the sky!" However, a blast intended for Despero's Super-Ship instead struck Superman, though the aggressor's craft was downed by an imitation Wonder Woman. Ultimately, Kwim came to the conclusion that the fault in "The Scenario" was not the "actress-heroes," whose courage overcame their lack of real powers, but in its misleading Superman...

"We created our substitute JLA because we feared Superman would be too upset about his missing friends to help us! But our impostors can't battle like the originals-- and so they're being smashed! --and it's thoroughly demoralizing the Man of Steel!" The Kryptonian was felled by Despero, who stated his intention to enslave Sirkus.

When last seen, a despondent Governor Kwim moaned, "We've failed... and now we're doomed!" Director Ergon was more hopeful. "Not yet, Governor! There's still a chance... a slim chance... if only we can reach the real Justice League...! Cormak help us-- to reach them-- in time!"

First and final appearance of both was in Justice League of America #133 (8/76)


Justice League of America #133 (8/76)

"The deadliest foe of the... Justice League of America... is back... and he's more dangerous than ever! His name's Despero, and on a world hundreds of light-years from our own, he's managed to defeat and destroy the JLA!"

22,300 miles above the Earth, in the JLA Satellite, were the concerned heroes Aquaman, Elongated Man, Green Arrow, Green Lantern Hal Jordan, Flash, Wonder Woman, Black Canary, the Atom and Hawkman. Joining them was Supergirl, who fretted over her missing cousin...

Superman was "some 400 light-years away, above the planet Sirkus," which he had been drawn to defend by Director Ergon & Governor Kwim. Before the Sirkians could revive the Man of Steel, they were attacked by Flamebirds at the order of Despero. However, Ergon had outfitted members of her species as imitation members of the Justice League of America, who turned back the Flamebirds at the cost of their Flash. An "understudy" stepped in as a new Scarlet Speedster almost immediately. The Man of Steel was then duped by Ergon and Kwim into believing these were his teammates, all of whom having been summoned to combat Despero's forces.

"Attention, Sirkians... This is your new master, mercifully providing you with one last ultimatum! Surrender your Cosmic Cannon to me at once-- or suffer total destruction when I take it by force! This demand is non-negotiable!"

"Despero-- possibly the most dangerous would-be conqueror in the universe-- who began his galaxy-spanning career on his home world of Kalanor!"

Launching an attack meant to seize the Cosmic Cannon, Despero piloted his Super-Ship and thought, "The fools have refused my command-- as I expected! Because of their impudence, they must die-- DIE!" Despero was surprised by "Superman-- and the Justice League!? What in the name of Kalanor's second sun!?" The Man of Tomorrow responded "It must be kismet, Despero-- but we always seem drawn together somehow! You try to take over a world-- and we always stop you!"

"Not this time, Kryptonian! This time-- I stop YOU!"

While his Super-Ship fended off Superman, Despero's mental powers grounded a faux Green Lantern Hal Jordan. "Hah! In the years since we last fought, I've developed the power of my Third Eye-- increasing it to undreamed of levels! You're doomed-- all of you!"

While Superman was taken out of the battle by a misfired Cosmic Cannon, Despero's paralyzing hypnotic blast rendered all the soldiers responsible for the cannon unconscious. The phony Wonder Woman and replacement Flash managed to breach the Super-Ship, but the latter soon veered out of control and through an open window. "Is there no end to your suicidal courage? Haven't you a single ounce of self-preservation? ...The mighty Flash--skidding like a sports-car out of control!"

The Sirkian actress playing Wonder Woman blamed Despero for Flash's plight, and swore he'd pay. "Such violent threats from a peace-loving woman? Your behavior is odd, Amazon! Come to think of it, so is the behavior of your fellow-Leaguers!" As he pinned the "princess" down, Despero continued, "Tell me-- when did the Flash gain the ability to fly? And why is the great Wonder Woman suddenly so--weak?"

While pondering this distraction, Despero's Super-Ship crash landed, and only the despot rose from the wreckage. "Something's wrong here... some kind of trickery...! It may be my Kalanorian intuition, but I've the strange notion I'm not fighting the real Justice League!" Just then, Flash recovered, only to belly-flop after a "shattering hypnotic blast!" The true Superman followed, disbelieving that he'd just seen the fastest man alive taken like a rookie. "You'd better believe it, Superman! He isn't the first Leaguer I've crushed-- and he won't be the last!" Despero then burrowed to freedom into the earth, thanks to an unseen "device."

An hour later, "Wonder Woman" was in the hospital, and the Last Son of Krypton was on to Director Ergon's ruse. "When Despero first attacked us, we probed his mind telepathically-- and learned how much he hated you... and how much he feared you! That's why we brought you here! The battle against our planet is merely practice for him-- before he tackles your world, the Earth!" Superman swore to hold the line at Sirkus, just as Despero launched an attack via jetboat while commanding Eel-Creatures! "It's Despero again-- and this time he means business!"

The ersatz Emerald Gladiator was first to engage Despero. "Arrogant whelp! Do you think to defeat me with an emerald laser beam? You'll pay for your stupidity-- with your life!" The Strange Visitor from Another World was aghast as he watched Despero kill "Green Lantern" with his mind. "That's how I deal with inferiors, Superman! And while you're catching your dear-departed-comrade-- I'll turn my attention to your other friend-- Aquaman!" The Sea King was next to die!

Filled with a "sudden white-hot rage," Kal-El charged in without thinking. "Superman forgets the nature of my mental power-- how I can hypnotize instantly, as well as destroy! I have to time this carefully-- and strike-- NOW!"

"Mind-stunning mental energy hits the raging Superman-- and in an instant, turns his rage against him-- with the force of a solar explosion!"

"Justice League-- or pathetic impostors-- I've destroyed you! And with your destruction-- I'm free to enslave this world!"

"Missing--One Man of Steel!" by Gerry Conway, Dick Dillin & Frank McLaughlin.


Despero Custom Valentine Card

For those in search of that most elusive of Valentine's Day sentiments...


For your love, I am DESPERO!

My bishop will take your queen, placing you in check!

Your people will succumb to my HYPNOTIC POWERS!

Your resistance will crumble at the sight of my THIRD EYE!




During his campaign against planet Sirkus, Despero enlisted Eel-Creatures for an assault against its capitol city. One was shown in combat with an Aquaman impostor whose strength was amplified by an exterior robotic skeleton.



Flamebirds are beings from the planet Sirkus with large wings that can fly and fire jets of flame from their hands. They were employed by Despero to attack an area of Sirkus they had been exiled from for centuries during the despot's campaign against the world. The Flamebirds were rebuffed by an ersatz Justice League of America created by Director Ergon, mostly through direct attacks, but not before they killed a Flash impersonator. It is unknown if these beings have any connection to the Kryptonian Flamebird, as Superman was unconscious during their sole appearance in Justice League of America #133 (8/76.)


Justice League of America #1 (11/60)

“I’ve got this game rigged so that every time Flash makes a move, a member of the Justice League disappears from the face of the Earth!” Right there on the first cover of the first issue of “Justice League of America,” Despero announced his wicked ways. Not enough to just defeat a league devoted to a cause as unobjectionable as justice, but he was perfectly willing to lord it over them through underhanded means, to boot! What an awful creature!

So too thought Jasonar and his daughter Saranna, who came to Earth to develop means to counter the tyrant’s energy weapons, which he’d employed to conquer their home world Kalanor. “When my weapon is completed, it will absorb energy as a sponge does water!” Tests of the device caught Flash’s attention, who in turn alerted the Justice League.

“In the asphalt jungles of a metropolis,” Detective John Jones burst through the door of a slum, a pair of unkempt perps firing on the armed police officer with a desperation that didn’t phase their manhunter. “My Martian super-hearing is picking up a Justice League call. As soon as I snap the cuffs on these hoods, I’m off to answer it... as J’onn J’onzz, Manhunter from Mars!”

J’onzz answered a call all right, to become in thrall to Despero! Flash arrived at the Secret Sanctuary to find all his teammates set around their meeting table in a vegetative state, himself only immune thanks to radiation he was exposed to from Jasonar’s lab. Flash agreed to a game of chance against Despero, which was of course rigged, and led to the whole team being sent to different worlds of doom.

Could someone please explain why Flash didn’t scoop up each Leaguer, and expose them to Jasonar’s radiation to hopefully release them from Despero’s power? At least after he’d already lost a couple friends to unknown peril and knew Despero had to be cheating? It’s not like he had any way of knowing they wouldn’t remain defenseless zombies once off-world!

Thankfully, Despero only had three worlds handy, so the two Leaguers per planet were able to find one another and work together toward escape. Such was the case with Batman and J’onn J’onzz on Narx, whose inhabitants were counting down the seconds until Despero used a missile to detonate their sun. Narx had disarmed and given up on war, so their only defense were spaceships grounded by Despero’s super-energy gun turrets. J’onzz proclaimed, “We’ve got to save these innocent people--as well as ourselves!”

“I’ll tackle that metal tower and its ray-gun, Batman...” while the Caped Crusader would pilot a spaceship during the distraction. J’onzz first guided the weapon’s sights away through flight, before hurling hurricane force winds and makeshift cannonballs at the structure. The Manhunter then hollowed out the ground beneath the tower, causing it to sink. “As J’onn J’onzz’s signal comes, Batman hits the firing stud and rises spaceward!”

Manhunter continued on the tower, tearing through its metal plating as though it were paper. Unfortunately, Despero had a sentient flame being running the tower, which felled the Martian, who was rescued by winds created by the Flash. In a painful deus ex machina, the Scarlet Speedster had teleported to Narx once his protective radiation wore off. Uh-huh.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, “You’re a real ‘bad dad’, Despero! I’m gonna queer your game!” Snapper Carr, protected by Jasonar’s radiation and taking a more pro-active stance than Flash, defeated Despero with the anti-energy weapon. I hereby dub Despero's seminal outing ignominious.

In their first meeting, Manhunter and Despero didn’t so much as exchange words, much less blows. However, sooner rather than later, there would be a next time...

“The World of No Return!” by Gardner Fox, Mike Sekowsky, and Bernard Sachs. Garish “pop art” coloring by Frank Lee Delano, without any reference, so grain of salt.