Though retroactively removed as a founder of the Justice League Of America, The Martian Manhunter is still my favorite of DC’s highest-profile characters.  Ever wonder who he is and how he came to be on Earth?

Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Detective Comics #225 awaits!

Writer: Edmond Hamilton/Jack Miller/Joe Samachson (?)
Penciler: Sheldon Moldoff/Ruben Moreira/Joe Certa
Inker: Charles Paris/Ruben Moreira/Joe Certa
Letterer: Pat Gordon
Editor: Stan Lee
Publisher: Whitney Ellsworth (credited); Jack Schiff (actual)
Cover Price: 10 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $8,000.00

Previously in Detective Comics: Though originally created by Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson as part of his National Allied Publications company, ‘Detective Comics’instead became the flagship title of Detective Comics, Inc.  Wheeler-Nicholson was forced out relatively quickly (the realities of the publishing biz were cutthroat even in 1937), and Detective Comics featured the adventures of Slam Bradley, Speed Saunders and pulpy detective types until #27, the legendary debut of Batman.  By 1955, the detectives were mostly gone, and science fiction reigned supreme, leading to the newest star in the DC lineup.  But before we get there, we must remember that Batman is still the star!

With an impending absence from Gotham, Batman somewhat foolishly agrees to be a part of a “Batman For A Day” contest, wherein lucky donators from around the city get to work with Robin to keep the city safe.  A nebbishy bookkeeper, a vain film star and even Commissioner Gordon himself get in the act before Robin desperately calls his boss back to save the day.  After realizing that it would be unfair to cancel the contest, Batman realizes that there’s one way he can step in and take down the menace to Gotham…

Of course, Bruce Wayne can’t just put on a costume and use the skills that he’s amassed in his days as Caped Crusader, as that would blow his whole secret identity thing out of the water.  Time for a little Bat-Reverse-Psychology!

If you’ve ever wondered about the animated opening sequence of the ’66 Batman TV show, it was clearly based on the work of Sheldon Moldoff, who handles art chores on this issue and defined Batman for the better part of fifteen years.  The main tale is one of the staples of the Silver Age, the kind of story that seems to have been derived from a cute cover idea, then expanded as the lead story.  Our second feature is the one to justify the D-word in the book’s title…

Probably best remembered for his modern supporting role in ‘Swamp Thing’ a few years ago, Roy Raymond uses a number of nearly impossible tricks to figure out a simple forgery-for-money case…

…and puts the malefactor in jail for his trouble.  All in a day’s work for the TV Detective!

Whatever that is…

With that out of the way (and a brief adventure featuring Casey The Cop with that lovely Henry Boltinoff touch), we get to this issue’s real selling point, as one Doctor Erdel prepares to activate his latest invention…

The Doc (named Mark in this telling, later known as Saul) is shocked when his robot brain doesn’t immediately solve all the world’s problems, instead teleporting an a strange green-skinned man into his lab…

Mostly interesting to me upon re-reading this tale is that J’onn’s first appearance features the beetle-browed form that I identify with J’onn from the 1980s forward, rather that the more normalized bald human face he wore in early JLA adventures.  Upon realizing that he’s going to have to blend in on Earth while Dr. Erdel reprograms the device to return him to Mars, he instinctively takes action to fit in…

The shock of an alien presence proves too much for Erdel, and J’onn realizes that he’s going to be on Earth for the foreseeable future.  But how to handle the human concept of “money?”

The idea that Martian naming conventions are so similar to Earth’s is always a silly one to me, but it’s fun to imagine J’onn’s friends S’amm S’mith, J’o Lo’Pez and Ch’aim W’itz wondering what happened to him.  Later tales would expand on that, but this one focuses entirely on our proto-Manhunter getting acclimated to Earth and showing off his multitude of superhuman powers…

Telepathy, shape-shifting, intangibility and telekinesis make their first-appearances here, with secondary powers like Martian vision, his super-strength and the other superhero-type abilities still unrevealed.  Realizing that his experiences in a more advanced civilization give him an edge (and remembering the title of the comic), J’onn has an idea about how to make his presence on Earth productive…

In these earliest tales, J’onn’s planet isn’t the dead wasteland that it would become in later tellings, and many of his first stories involved using his powers undercover as an a detective to solve his cases, transitioning slowly into the superhero role.  If the stories are to be believed, his status as JLA founder and flat-out superhero actually only comes from DC’ editorial worrying about over-exposure if Superman were a full-time Justice League member, forcing J’onn more and more into the role of Kal-El’s mighty understudy.  In any case, Detective Comics #225 is a lovely example of Silver Age storytelling across the board, with a clever Batman gimmick, a pseudo-scientific Roy Raymond adventure and a well-done eight-pager introducing a remarkable addition to their pantheon, earning a rare and coveted 5 out of 5 stars overall.  It’s kind of amazing to see the amount of storytelling done in just a few pages, with a number of talented creators showing the chops in these pages…



A perfect example of Silver Age storytelling: Engaging, quick, charismatic and accidentally transformative. Top-notch stuff with unintended consequences...

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Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

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