Friday, September 21, 2018

Return To Destiny (DC)
Adventure Comics #450 When: March-April 1977 Why: Denny O'Neil How: Mike Nasser & Terry Austin

The Story So Far...
Mars lives again and welcomes the leadership of J'onn J'onzz, but celebrations on Mars II are cut short when his dear friend Re's Eda is murdered by sniper fire!

The erstwhile Martian Manhunter must apply his trade as detective and superhero to catch the killer -- but Eda's final words implicate a gunman from his former home of Sol! Since the only beings who know of Mars II's existence are the Justice League -- The Manhunter makes a grim vow to return to Earth!

He steals a spaceship from the resistant Martian Army and blazes to the stars, but the Earth-bound fury is pursued by one of his own! Commander N'or Cott uses torpedoes to shoot down the unarmed ship, sending it crashing towards the city of Metropolis! This looks like a job for Supergirl!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Draw 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Martian Manhunter 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Supergirl 5 (Super-Human)
Stamina: Supergirl 5 (Marathoner)
Agility: Martian Manhunter 7 (Unlimited)
Fighting: Martian Manhunter 4 (Trained)
Energy: Draw 5 (Lasers)
Total: Martian Manhunter 36 (Cosmic)

Today's battle pits two great heroes in an unlikely dream match! It's The Girl of Steel testing her mettle against the mighty Manhunter from Mars!

Drenched by Earth's yellow sun: Supergirl shares all the solar-charged gifts made famous by her Kryptonian cousin! She's super-humanly strong, durable, fast, has enhanced senses, can fly, use X-ray and laser heat vision, blow massive quantities of air with high intensity -- as well as a few other tricks!

In some incarnations its been suggested Supergirl's powers can rival, or even exceed, those of Superman's, but the one thing she undoubtedly lacks is his experience! Experience being something Martian Manhunter has to spare!

J'onn J'onzz was a policeman on his native Mars long before he was accidentally brought to Earth! He possesses a range of powers similar to Supergirl's, with the addition of telepathy, advanced shape-shifting, and intangibility!

We saw the Black Lantern Martian Manhunter exploit those extra abilities to vicious effect against Green Lantern and Flash [Green Lantern #44], while muscle was the main mode of victory against the Appellaxian Stone God [Secret Origins #32], and Professor Ivo's robot army [Justice League of America #261].

He's generally strong enough to go toe-to-toe with Supergirl, and need only to do a little light mental rewiring to prey upon her inexperience. The drawback to all those incredible powers is a Martian's physical and mental weakness to fire!

Supergirl need only glare intently to light a spark with her Kryptonian heat vision! She did it against Mary Marvel in Final Crisis #6, and used it to melt lead around Reactron back in Daring New Adventures of Supergirl #9! The glow of the flame was enough to stop J'onn J'onzz in his tracks in Secret Origins #35 and DC: The New Frontier #2, but he showed some greater resilience when rushing into battle with the towering Brimstone [Legends #2].

Both hero's power sets have been inconsistent in demonstration, but for the most part they're very evenly matched! Supergirl has the obvious trump card with her intense heat vision, but experience and mental powers makes Martian Manhunter the more compelling case. Let's see if those factors come to play...

The Tape: Martian Manhunter Ranking: Martian Manhunter (#23)

What Went Down...

An explosion and hail of spaceship debris signals the unannounced return of the Martian Manhunter to Earth! He ejects from the vessel just in time to avoid its destruction, but is still stunned and disoriented by the blast!

Spying the dazzling sky show while she soars above the city -- Supergirl rushes to intercept the deadly debris! Mistaking it for an attack by aliens, she flings the door in the direction of the tiny silhouette that was the pilot!

Struggling to see straight - the Martian Manhunter is tagged by the unexpected hunk of metal!

Instinctively perceiving threat, he swoops to return firing, forcing Supergirl to take evasive action while destroying the projectile with another of her own!

The young heroine recognizes her error, but the Martian's violent response leaves her uncertain of his motives. Given his strength rivals hers, she hopes a pulled strike will bring him back to his senses and delivers a stiff left!

The attack has the opposite effect, only serving to further provoke the confused Martian hero! He lashes out with a devastating left hook of his own -- launching Supergirl sideways with the brunt of his impressive strength!

The young heroine is unshaken by the physical assault, but scrambles for the wisdom she presumes her cousin would have. Unsure, she steels herself and hopes to hold the Manhunter off until he regains his senses!

A flying torpedo dive gives pause for thought, while Supergirl's desperate cries for peace cut through the fog of the Martian's disorientation. He remembers!

No sooner than he recognizes Supergirl does the Martian Manhunter lock eyes with N'or Cott's spacecraft! Sensing danger, he warns Supergirl to watch out as two missiles fire in their direction and she prepares to save them both!

The Hammer...
It was a superhero fight in the classic style! A touch of brashness, with a hint of mistaken identity! Martian Manhunter was kept at a disadvantage thanks to his shuttle explosion, while Supergirl resisted going too far once she identified the JLA stalwart. The net result is an aerial slugfest destined to end in a tie!

If this were a face-off from the last couple of decades you'd probably find both characters intent on hitting much harder, with more efforts to demonstrate their unique abilities. The fact that today's fight isn't so bloodthirsty is actually quite refreshing! It's a little cheesy, but it's nice to think heroes can walk away from their scuffles without devolving into brutal blood feuds.

While we won't draw too many definitive conclusions from today's clash, it makes a case for the strength of both characters. Qualities that've been inconsistently depicted at various stages in their publication history.

It's always kind of amazing to think about Martian Manhunter's vast powers being so overlooked! The late Len Wein once joked about the propensity of a bygone era for reducing him to super-breath. The scourge of birthday cakes, he mocked. I'm glad 1977 was treating the character a little better!

In internal monologue, Supergirl surmises that the Martian's strength is nearly equal to hers. I've always preferred a modern scale that puts Martian Manhunter in the upper echelons of super-human strength, but the so-called "Swiss Army Knife of Superheroes" has often been minimized in that regard. I tend to think a mild manner and the simplicity of his fire weakness is the better balance.

My notorious bias against kid heroes means I usually think of Supergirl as a step behind her cousin, but when strength is derived from exposure to Earth's yellow sun, without a single iron pumped, it kinda stands to reason there's relative parity. Inexperience is the point of difference that makes Supergirl interesting.

As noted last month; I've been revisiting seventies issues of Adventure Comics to enjoy the heyday of another (sometimes) underrated hero: Aquaman!

The action-packed Adventure Comics #444 was the first to feature a full issue of Aquaman action, but the back-up stories quickly returned with issue #449. There, Martian Manhunter made his home on Mars II, before a murder plot sets him on a series of run-ins with heroes, beginning with Supergirl in #450.

I'm sure writer Denny O'Neil wouldn't consider this a narrative high point of his distinguished career, but you've gotta love these kinds of back-up stories! The easily overlooked and forgotten ones! With characters who matter, doing things just a little bit interesting. The less common the combination - the better!

Granted, these days Supergirl & Martian Manhunter go together like milk & cookies! It's one of the rare examples when film (or rather television) actually refines and exploits a character to their best elements! In Supergirl's case, one of the best improvements the show has made was the costume!

I can't say I have a lot of love for the seventies shorts/bloomers seen in today's featured fight, nor the small shield logo off to one side. Its leagues ahead of the micro skirt atrocities yet to come from the new millennium, but there's a lot to be said for keeping it simple and classic. Not just simple, as it is here.

Classic sure worked for J'onn J'onzz, who'll be back in a stylized version of the old look in a new DC Comics series announced by The Hollywood Reporter! It's a little weird visually, but shows promise as Martian Manhunter continues a comeback from the dark days of the New 52 reboot!

I'm sure we'll be talking more MM and Supergirl in the future! If you'd like to find more be sure to follow links throughout this post, or dive into the Secret Archive for featured fights indexed by publisher, series, and issue number.

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Winner: Inconclusive (Draw)
#23 (--) Martian Manhunter
#108 (+5) Supergirl

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