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Take Me... But Don't Kill J'Onn
J'Onn J'Onzz
Written by MN   
Wednesday, 16 January 2008

An Open Plea to DC Comics

click to enlarge

Paul Levitz
Dan DiDio
And DC Comics Editors

Hello Everyone,

I hope the new year is finding the DC Comics family and staff in prosperous good cheer. It is inspiring to see the success that the first Superhero comics publisher continues to enjoy, and it's always a thrill to watch my favorite childhood characters soar out of the pages of the comics and into the Hollywood Heavens. With the promise of new Superman and Batman films ahead, may the year 2008 bring with it a grandstand achievement for the company that has been like a home to me for so many years.

I was somewhat saddened to read Rich Johnston's column, Lying in the Gutters, this week, hinting that J'Onn J'Onzz, The Manhunter from Mars, is being considered for demise, or rather that he will be killed off from the DC Comics family of characters, within the upcoming DC Universe continuity, presently in the planning stages. Now, I know that Rich is not reporting on a final decision yet, but being the prolific comics reporter and writer that he is, his track record of rumors that have turned out to be true, places his foreknowledge of comics industry news somewhere near the vicinity of downright prophecy.

And so, it is with a heavy heart that I turn to you with this plea to save the life of the Martian Manhunter, begging you to reconsider, and offering an alternative solution to the circumstances that are leading you into this decision.

I know you might be asking why I should care about J'Onn J'Onzz. Well, as the artist of the 3 issue Adventure Comics #449-#451, back-up series featuring the Martian Manhunter in 1977, a series which also featured supporting roles by Superman, Supergirl, Hawkman, Hawkwoman, Braniac 5 and more... well, I understand that this in itself might not seem like such a substantial relationship for an artist to have with a character.

However, over the years, and especially on comics related web sites and forums, there has been a notable fondness expressed for this series, which included that memorable logo I designed, and was later used repeatedly in various Martian Manhunter appearances. It was often said that it was this depiction of J'Onn J'Onzz which revived him inthe DC Universe, and brought back his pronounced brow that became, and remains, his visual trademark to date. Almost whenever the Martian Manhunter is cited by comics fans and aficionados, that series is remembered by J'Onn J'Onzz' lovers from all eras, and spanning the spectrum of comics fandom.

As an example, Frank Lee Delano, one of the premiere Manhunter from Mars chroniclers, who produces a site with new history research and commentary updated daily, The Idle Head of Diabolu: A Blog for J'Onn J'Onzz, (click logo at right), tells much about my affiliation with J'Onn and the memories it holds for him, while he also brandishes a recent logo I produced for his site, (notice the affectionate use of the Oreo Cookie), and who also, by the way, is likewise bewildered by the recent rumor and writes about it there. Frank is one of the shining examples of how loved this character remains and why it would be a terrible mistake to take his life now, while he remains in his prime.

And this doesn't even include the countless times I've drawn the Martian Manhunter for fanzines and fandom publications since that series because he's become a character my work is identified with. Such as the Whizzard interview from 1980, (click cover at right), which remains one of the more memorable artist interviews of that year, as can be seen in the introduction. And it was all under the banner cover of the association my work has with J'Onn J'Onzz. And so... considering all of the above, maybe it's now easier to understand why I direct this plea to you today.

Now, I understand that comics publishers just need to kill somebody every once in a while and that sometimes they get the best results when they kill someone very central and important to their universe. And though I am somewhat grieved by the taking of the life of any comic book character, many Martian Manhunter fans and myself would much rather see the axe fall on someone else's neck this time, noting and mourning all the undue sorrow this might also bring upon others.

And so... in the spirit of the image I produced to illustrate this plea, I'd like to offer my services as an artist to help revive the Martian Manhunter again, as I did back in 1977, and prevent the possibility of his untimely death... and to do it within an upcoming project of your choice for DC Comics.

Though I can't think of a good reason why this wouldn't be a high profile, well publicized and extremely profitable project, I'd like to turn your attention to the same column that Rich Johnston announced this rumor in, and to the first item there which talks about why a publisher using my work today can be expected to "make a lot of money" from it. And please remember that this isn't just me speaking these words, rather a premiere comics reporter, whose predictions and assessments have proven to be right in most cases, and who makes this unequivocal statement at his well read industry column, without any sign of visible reservations whatsoever. Such a statement alone is enough to go to the bank with, when considering its effect in contributing to the popularity of the idea and the anticipation of it amongst comics fans.

I can also understand reasonable questions that can arise from hearing such a proposal. For example, "Can Netzer deliver the goods for a modern progressive rendition of the Martian Manhunter, shedding the dated look that sticks to some artists' work from former eras?", or "What new techniques and innovations does Netzer bring to the comics medium today?"

I believe the answer to the first question is best answered by the image produced for this article and the array of work viewable at the gallery section of this site, much of which shows an ability to work in many progressive styles. What was once considered a weakness, studying other artists' work for influence, has in effect become a springboard for versatility, of the type rarely seen today in the comics industry.

As to the second question, and as the image for this article again illustrates, I've produced this image, and most everything else since 1995, completely using a computer as a drawing tool, without the need for paper and conventional tools at any stage of the work. From sketch to finish, it's all digitally created using the same drawing techniques as conventional tools, but with the aid of powerful software and an electronic pen and tablet, replacing the pencils and inks. The result is a swift and quick process which provides far more versatility... and a finished output ready for production, bypassing the unnecessary scanning of pages, which can sometimes lose something of the art's integrity during the transformation to digital media. The work I produce today is fast and of the highest quality, more ready for the production process than any other work publishers receive from artists using conventional tools.

And finally, I can also understand an additional concern, such as, "We all know Netzer has a lot on his mind and some extracurricular activities like saving the world and all that. How does this affect his ability to commit himself to a comic book project today?" Well, the best answer I can give is first in the many projects that I have completed throughout my long career and the unreserved commitment I make here to see this project through, and perhaps others to follow. More so, in my seasoned years, I've come to embrace the notion that drawing comic books is in itself an invaluable tool to help make the world a little better, and in that lies a profound motivation.

In light of this, such a drive and commitment within a comics artist, who lives his life as if it's a Superhero story itself... well, isn't this the kind of spirit that publishers and editors can feel as also being an important contribution to the Superhero mythology that's presently leading a widely visible conquest of pop-culture and the entertainment industry, spearheaded by DC Comics? Isn't this a welcome springboard from which to produce new vibrant, relevant, widely appealing and market-profitability determined comic books?

In closing, I hope I've been able to state a convincing case for DC Comics to take me on to illustrate a Manhunter from Mars project, as being a more timely and potentially far more profitable idea than simply sending him to the graveyard of comic book heroes. To this end I lay my services upon the alter of editorial reverence at DC Comics and hope you'll consider this plea with the positive regard in which it is made.

But... if perchance, there isn't enough in this plea to change your future decision, I can only ask that you also take me on to illustrate the traumatic series in which J'Onn J'Onzz will be killed. I propose this not only because of my preparedness and desire to draw comics again, but also to help relieve others from the possible suffering and trauma that drawing such a heart-wrenching storyline could surely inflict upon any comic book artist.

I thank you for having read this and for considering it.

Sincerely and with fondest regards,

Michael Netzer
Jan 2008

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Tim   |2008-01-18 21:00:45
I hope you can convince them!
DO NOT KILL THE MARTIAN MANHUNTER!The Manhunter from Mars, J'Onn J'Onzz, has
always been one of my favorite characters despite periodic exiles imposed by the
editors at DC Comics. Although reminiscent in some fashion to the Last Son of
Krypton given their shared status as male survivors of a lost extraterrestrial
civilization who immigrated to Earth and joined the Justice League of America,
the Martian Manhunter is more alien than Superman yet paradoxically is more
"everyman" in the sense that his shapeshifting abilities allow him to
physically resemble anyone or anything else he can imagine. He is a more
tortured being (than Kal-El)who as an adult on Mars had a wife and offspring and
other family members whom he remembers yet he transcends, in part, his profound
existential alienation through a commitment to justice for the innocent from the
street level to the cosmic, bonding with other adventurers , heroes, and law
enforcement in this knightly enterprise. He is a well-rounded, three-dimensional
being, who broods and philosophizes and ponders the meaning of this life but
yearns for junk food. His short-lived series in the Silver and Modern Ages were
intriguing, showing the complexity of this powerhouse detective, combining
Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent, and his telepathic abilities made him the closest DC
equivalent to Marvel's Professor X (excluding Saturn Girl of the Legion of
Super-Heroes)If anything the Martian Manhunter, a functionally immortal
character, ought to be far more visible in the DC Universe than he has been so
rather than "killing him off" for cheap thrills, ratings,and sales, make
this wise, mind-reading, polylingual shapeshifter more integral, advising the
JLA, the Teen Titans, the Outsiders, the Doom Patrol, Checkmate, the Suicide
Squad, the Omega Men and individual heroes. Give him more limited series. Team
him up with more heroes. Expand his rogues gallery. Allow him to time-travel and
meet up with the Legion and the Wanderers. Put him in the Brave and the Bold.
Truly, the Martian Manhunter is one of the most distinctive change agents in
comics history. Let him live!
Ray Bottorff Jr  - C'Mon, What is the matter wit   |2008-01-22 01:57:32
Stop! Stop! Stop, killing off characters as an excuse for a story line.
Senseless and pointless carnage is not good writing and killing off characters
just to kill them off does not an epic event make.
The Martian Manhunter
deserves not to die. Period. Kill off the annoying Monitors, Anti-Monitor,
Monarch, Superboy-Whine and other crud characters we have been abused by you
with having to read.
Save the Martian Manhunter, and rid us of the real
villains--the hacks that have pretended to be writers and editors!
IBAH 9999   |2008-05-30 03:47:51
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