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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Martian Manhunter Key Issues Part 3

We are back with Martian Manhunter key issues, and this is Part 3 if you can believe it. This is definitely one of the key issue series I've struggled more on, debating pretty hard on what to put in here and what to omit.

Even some that I decided to feature might be sketchy to some collectors or, perhaps, most. I wouldn't even doubt if hardcore fans of the character definitely think I should've put in some issues that I chose to omit or bypass.

Let's get this thing rolling! This Part 2 link will bring you back in case you missed the Martian Manhunter key comics in that one.

Intro Idol Head of Diabol?
Martian Manhunter begins in titled series

1st off, I'm not entirely sure why Overstreet notes this issue as the intro of Idol Head of Diabol when the idol is clearly in the pages of Detective Comics #326 prior. Perhaps, Detective Comics #326 might not be considered a 1st full appearance or whatever.

Who knows? So, Martian Manhunter stories begin in this issue and the Idol delivers its promise to unleash some new menace for our hero every month. This comic was published monthly and Zook was still a side kick for J'onn J'onnz during this comic series.

This issue here is starting to get more recognized in the market, but I have no idea what for or even why the entire run of Martian Manhunter in House of Mystery are extraordinarily significant to the character over-all. The stories actually get weird and whacked when the feature gets into the whole Mr. V and the VULTURE organization.

Just my opinion, but I'm sure someone else out there knows better. Not to say that this issue isn't valuable. It sure is currently in high grades. House of Mystery #143 has the cover date of June, 1964.

1st appearance of Mr. V
1st appearance of VULTURE
1st appearance & apparent death of Marco Xavier

After J'onn J'onzz defeats the Idol Head of Diabol, a new plot line takes hold for the character. This is where things get a bit whacky for Martian Manhunter.

So Marco Xavier is an international playboy that supposedly has ties to an international crime organization called VULTURE. When a special security department alerts J'onn J'onzz to this fact, Martian Manhunter scopes out Xavier.

Xavier apparently seems to die in a car accident and J'onzz assumes his identity to infiltrate VULTURE with the intent on bringing the organization down. This plot line would go until issue #173, the last Martian Manhunter back up feature in the titled series.

In issue #173, it's revealed that a character named Faceless (also known as Mr. V) and leader of VULTURE is actually the real Marco Xavier who did not die in the car crash shown in this issue of House of Mystery #160. Of course, Martian Manhunter defeats Marco Xavier and VULTURE.

Marco Xavier as Faceless and Mr. V is the Martian Manhunter's longest recurring villain during the Silver Age. A definite eye brow raise when it comes to that, and he may be the 1st recurring villain for the superhero if you don't count the Idol Head of Diabol.

This issue is also toted as the 1st DC appearance of Plastic Man. However, it really isn't Plastic Man as in Patrick O'Brian. It's Robby Reed who uses his Dial H for Hero to turn into Plastic Man.

I believe it's the only time Robby Reed turns into a duplicate of an existing superhero. House of Mystery #160 has the cover date of July, 1966.

Martian Manhunter quits team
J'onn J'onzz leaves Earth

Usually I don't care to write about a member leaving a team or thinking it's a big key issue, because usually it's short-lived. Although Martian Manhunter obviously returns back to the Justice League of America, there is a reason he quits the team worth addressing here.

So in this issue, Martian Manhunter seeks the aid of his Justice League comrades to fight a Benn Blanx character who has taken over Mars and wishes to return Manhunter's martian race back to their warlike ways. Of course, his evil plan threatens to destroy Mars also.

In the end, Mars is destroyed and the planet barren and dead. The rest of the martians blast off in rocket ships to seek a new world to inhabit. Martian Manhunter defeats Blanx and joins his race in seeking a new home.

Thus, he resigns as a member of the Justice League of America in this issue, and him and his people would find another world that they called Mars II. He still does show up in issues of the Justice League of America here and there before eventually returning to the team.

Justice League of America #71 has the cover date of May, 1969.

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1st appearance of  Bel Juz
1st appearance of Mars II

During this time in comics, J'onn J'onzz sporadically appeared in various DC titles. Before this issue here, he was seen briefly in Superman #253 volume 1.

However, he did have a certain hiatus between Justice League of America #71 and Superman #253 which the later came out in 1972. This issue sees the 1st appearance of Mars II, also called New Mars or sometimes Vonn.

Vonn is the adopted home of the surviving martian race and Superman is teleported there. Explanation and story is continued from Superman #253.

After arriving, Superman discovers that the planet has been invaded by an alien race called the Thythens and the martians have been kidnapped. Martian Manhunter was in love with Bel Juz, but Superman and Martian Manhunter discover that she had betrayed her people to the Thythens.

She's a pretty minor villain for the Martian Manhunter anyways. World's Finest Comics #212 has the cover date of June, 1972.

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1st appearance of R'es Eda
1st appearance of N'Or Cott

Not really a major key issue. By this time, J'onn J'onzz is leader of his people on Mars II.

R'es Eda is a character that is 1st seen and dies in this issue. He is the friend of J'onn J'onzz and his last words were "was from...was...sol...".

Sol is the martian word for Earth's Sun. Since no one else but the members of the Justice League of America from that area know where Mars II is located, J'onn J'onzz suspects that one of the Justice League members might be behind the murder of his friend might.

So, this story line runs in Adventure Comics #449 through #451 and finishes in World's Finest Comics #245, which has N'Or Cott's final appearance. Yes, he's a martian from Mars II as well.

Considering that Mars II was retroactively eliminated since Martian Manhunter was later retconned to be the last of his kind, the martian characters and their 1st appearances aren't part of modern canon either.

I'll let you decide whether it's a Martian Manhunter key worth getting. February, 1977 is the cover date for Adventure Comics #449.

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1st appearance of J'en
Begins the Earth/Mars war

Nothing about the key issue notations above are extraordinarily important. Nothing to really get excited about.

This issue does see J'onn J'onzz permanently resurface in the DC Universe. Before this issue and after World's Finest Comics #112, Martian Manhunter had sporadic appearances here and there, often not showing up for a few years here and there.

His last appearance in 1972 was in Justice League of America #100 and then appeared next in issue #115 of the titled series in 1975. Two years later his next appearance was in Adventure Comics #449, and he appeared in a few titles in 1977 before another hiatus until 1980.

As for the martian character of J'en. She is very short-lived character who had the hots for J'onn J'onzz but chose to follow a character called the Marshall. Actually, Mars II all decide to follow the Marshall, and this baddie has it in his mind to conquer Earth.

So the story begins with Martian Manhunter racing back to Earth to seek the aid of his old allies the Justice League of America. This story line would run until #230, in which sees the final appearances of both J'en and the Marshal.

This story line is also not considered part of mainstream modern continuity. Post-Crisis stories would replace the martian fleet that invades Earth with another group of interstellar invaders call the Debris.

The Debris that retroactively replaced the martian invaders in this story first appeared in JLA Incarnations #4 that came out in 2001. After all and by that time, Martian Manhunter is suppose to be the last of his kind.

Just an interesting tid-bit concerning Martian Manhunter. Justice League of America #228 was published July, 1984.

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While Edgar Rice Burrough's was successful in creating an impressive and detailed world on Mars or Barsoom within the tales of John Carter of Mars nearly 47 years prior to J'onn J'onzz 1st appearance in Detective Comics #225, the creatives at DC Comics during the Silver, Bronze and even Copper Age failed to give their martian creation a decent back drop or back story of his martian roots. It is quite puzzling as to why there was such a limit placed on a whole world and mythos that could've been created around the Martian Manhunter during this time.

Not to say that it wasn't tried. J'en and Bel Juz were martian characters that could've sustained more than three or four appearances. The destruction of Mars story in Justice League of America #71 seems a waste of a world with loads of potential stories.

However, it seems that Martian Manhunter and his Mars tales was just a way to get the Justice League of America involved in more stories, as if they weren't all over the place by then anyways. It definitely appears that the creatives purely intended J'onn J'onzz to be a supporting character for the Justice League of America.

Even the Earth/Mars war story line could've been an epic story to further progress tales that widened the scope of J'onn J'onzz and his martian race, but it seemed to be a second fiddle concept and wasn't expanded much upon. Even when the character left Earth and quit the Justice League, the character's adventures after always linked him again with the team.

Anyways, Part 4 is ready, so click the link below to continue.

Friday, January 29, 2016

War Comics Key Issues Part 5

Alright, we are getting a tad bit deeper into the Silver Age war comics genre. Things do get a bit interesting in this era.

More longer recurring specific characters are introduced and the most popular of them are from the DC side of publishing. I'm pretty sure you can already guess who I'm talking about.

However, there are some pretty boring keys as well, especially if we're talking about minor prototypes and whatnot. I won't be getting too in-depth with minor prototypes as I am no expert when it comes to them and the specific character addressed.

Click this Part 4 link if you missed the previous post. If not, here's more key war comics, troopers!

3rd Sgt. Rock prototype

When it comes to most of these different Sgt. Rock prototypes, I have no idea what differentiates one from the other. I mean, some I do get on why but some are just over my head.

Like I said, no Sgt. Rock or war comics expert here. In this issue, the 3rd Sgt. Rock prototype is in the story called "The Rock Sergeant". Somewhat a valuable prototype issue for Sgt. Rock, and Star-Spangled War Stories #53 has the cover date of January, 1957.

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Pre-Sgt. Rock Easy Company story

It seems that Easy Company had quite a few stories before the group became hugely tied to or identified with Sgt. Rock. Really wouldn't say this is a key issue, but some fans seem to make a big deal out of the early pre Sgt. Rock stories involving Easy Company.

Really don't know much about that, so really don't have much to write about concerning those. However, I figure I'll just make a generic list of the ones I could find in case you're interested in them:
  • All-American Men of War #48
  • Our Army at War #61
  • G.I. Combat #58
  • G.I. Combat #66 
  • Star-Spangled War Stories #64
  • Star-Spangled War Stories #67
  • Our Army at War #61
 All-American Men of War #42 has the cover date of February, 1957.

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Minor Sgt. Rock prototype

Here we have another prototype concerning Sgt. Rock, in which seems to be popular for fans of the character. There's quite a bit of them and not just in this title alone also.

I suppose I could try to ramble about how this is deemed as a Sgt Rock prototype, but I'd rather not talk about something I know absolutely nothing about. February, 1958 is the cover date for Our Army at War #67, and it's pretty valuable for a minor Sgt. Rock prototype.

U.S. nukes Russia story

The Fightin' Air Force comic title may not be as valuable or as popular as other war comic titles, but when it comes to this issue and the story that depicts the U.S. nuke the U.S.S.R, it is the most valuable one in the titled series.

As if that is any surprise. This isn't the 1st story that has the U.S. nuking Russia. That story has played out in other titles by other publishers as well.

Not a huge sought out comic or war comics key issue, but just wanted to add another example of some of the crazy type of stories that came out from this genre. Not crazy as is not plausible, but just crazy to think about if that were to ever happen or vice versa.

The story itself concerns the fear of Russia's newly developed ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) and the U.S.'s preventative measures and weapons of mass destruction to counter the new threat. It's a strange read as in more educational than to entertain.

"The Push-Button War Of The Future" is the story that has one of the last panels of the story show Russia being nuked. Fightin' Air Force #12 has the cover date of October, 1958.

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1st appearance Tank Killer

1st appearance of Tank Killer and this issue also has a pre Sgt. Rock Easy Company story as well. The Tank Killer feature would later move to All-American Men of War starting with issue #69.

The Tank Killer in actual reality was a nickname given to bazookas. Both were used during World War II and the Korean War. The 3.5 was called the new Tank Killer during the Korean War.

During World War II, common bazookas were the 2.36 inch rocket launcher, and there were three variations that were made during the era. The third was the M9 and was adopted in October, 1943.

I believe the Tank Killer stories were fought during World War II, as a German tank is shown on this cover.  December, 1958 is the cover for G.I. Combat #67.

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1st lead up Sgt. Rock prototype

Jimmy "The Rock" is the character in this story and it's simply entitled "The Rock". This character is the 1st of the trio of prototypes that finally introduces the true 1st appearance of the favorite war comic hero, Sgt. Rock.

I think the character is depicted as a private in this story and a former prize fighter. January, 1959 is the cover date for G.I. Combat #68. The story "The Rock" was written by Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert.

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1st appearance of Gunner & Sarge

Two popular characters that would emerge from  DC's war comics genre would be the soldier duo known as Gunner & Sarge. Despite online sources, they are 1st introduced as a team in this comic here - All-American Men of War #67 and not Our Fighting Forces #45.

I do have to say that it is a bit confusing the way Overstreet notes both issues as 1st appearances, but Our Fighting Forces #45 has the cover date of May and this one has the cover date of March. So it should be just be Gunner & Sarge stories begin when it comes to Our Fighting Forces #45.

Also, this has the publishing date of January, 1959 and Our Fighting Forces #45 has the publishing date of March, 1959. So I have no clue why these two comics are noted by both CGC and Overstreet as 1st appearances.

CGC also notes both issues as the  "1st appearance of Gunner & Sarge". Makes it confusing, and unless both have some secret inside knowledge as to why we have two 1st appearances for this duo, I think the pair's 1st appearance as a featured duo is in this issue here.

It should be noted that some out there are noting All-American Men of War #61 as the 1st appearance of Gunner. I have no idea if this is true or if it's even the same character, but Overstreet does note issue #61 as a "Gunner c/s", meaning cover and story.

So, no clue about that and All-American Men of War #67 has the cover date of March, 1959.

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1st appearance of Sgt. Rocky (prototype)

Marvel has Sgt. Nick Fury, but DC's most popular war character is Sgt. Rock. The 1st prototype lead up for this character was in G.I. Combat #68 as listed above.

In this issue, the Sgt Rock prototype was called Sgt. Rocky and is depicted as a 4th grade rate sergeant and known as "The Rock of Easy". The story in which this prototype appears is titled "The Rock of Easy Co!" and was written by Bob Haney and Ross Andru.

Like Nick Fury, Sgt. Rock is a World War II Army officer. His  real name is Franklin "Frank" Rock.  He is the leader of Easy Company. There are three prototype lead ups to this character that Overstreet notes.

CGC notes this as the last prototype for the character and Our Army at War #81 has the cover date of April, 1959. Though this issue was believed to be the 1st appearance of Sgt. Rock back in the day, it's not any longer.

Chris Pedrin wrote a book called Big Five Informational Guide. It is a reference book that covers the five major war titles published by DC Comics: All American Men of War, G.I. Combat, Our Fighting Forces, Our Army at War, and Star-Spangled War Stories.

In it, he analyzes the evolution of the character of Sgt. Rock and concludes that this issue is indeed a prototype. Overstreet must have concurred with Chris Pedrin, because they also note it as such and so does CGC.

However, according to DC Comics and reprints of the Our Army at War #81 in later comics, the publisher does note issue #81 as the 1st appearance of Sgt. Rock. Yeah, I know, confusing.

1st appearance of Sgt Rock?

Ah, this crap gets confusing and lame the more I read about it. So apparently, issue #82 finally has a character finally called "Sgt. Rock" but it's not considered the 1st true appearance of Sgt. Rock?

Well, Sgt. Rock is present visually in this comic book and is finally called "Sgt. Rock." Overstreet notes that he's only in 6 panels in a 6 page story, and this issue is the last lead up trio to the character's 1st true appearance. 

However, CGC notes the last lead up trio as issue #81. CGC only notes this issue as "Character named Sgt. Rock in Easy Company Story".

Like in issue #81, this Sgt. Rock is depicted as a 4th grade rate sergeant, and I have no idea how much bearing that actually has. Seems to have some bearing for it not to be considered Sgt. Rock's official 1st appearance. Of course, there's debates on comic forums as to whether this should be considered Sgt. Rock's 1st true appearance or not.

Dunno and could care less to be honest. Our Army at War #82 has the cover date of May, 1959.

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1st true appearance of Sgt. Rock

Despite the actual DC publisher referencing Our Army at War #81 as the 1st appearance of Sgt. Rock, it seems Overstreet and CGC note Our Army at War #83 as the 1st "true" appearance of Sgt. Rock.

This story finally depicts Sgt. Rock as a Master Sergeant and has a specific narration that defines the character according to Overstreet and most likely Chris Pedrin. This key issue is perhaps the most valuable Silver Age war comic out there even beating out Nick Fury's 1st appearance in Sgt. Fury & his Howling Commandos #1.

Definitely one of the Holy Grails of war comics. Actually, issue #81 and #82 are also quite valuable and sought out as well. Sgt. Rock's 1st "true" appearance is in the story "The Rock and the Wall".

Specific or recognizable members of Rock's Easy Company would not be introduced until later issues. Important issue for Frank Rock and the long evolution of the character to finally be defined as Sgt. Rock.

Our Army at War #83 has the cover date of June, 1959.

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So a bunch of prototypes for Sgt. Rock and some weirdness concerning his 1st appearance. I wonder if anyone bothered to ask Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert what issue they believe the 1st official appearance of Sgt. Rock is in since they are credited as creators of the character.

I mean, no matter how much of a fan you are and know of the character, how can you argue with the actual creators? Maybe Chris Pedrin did ask them. Dunno about that.

One thing that is clear is that the character of Sgt. Rock is pretty much the most popular character to come out of the Silver Age war comic genre. If he wasn't, who would actually care about all these pre Sgt. Rock Easy Company stories or Sgt. Rock prototypes?

However, early Silver Age war comics stayed pretty true to the genre. Later Silver Age & Bronze Age war comics would once again revert into more fantastical tales, connecting many characters to the superhero, fantasy, and even horror genres. 

One thing I do have to admit concerning war comics: A lot of the covers are definitely bad ass!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Martian Manhunter Key Comics Part 2

This is Part 2 to this Martian Manhunter key comics series. Some, if not most, of the Martian Manhunter key issues featured here in this part to the series wouldn't seem very major at 1st glance if you're not really a fan of the character.

However, some are actually somewhat important to the character's development even if they are subtle changes. I'll try to explain best as I can.

Click this Part 1 link if you missed it. Otherwise, here's more key issue comics pertaining to the character of J'onn J'onzz or the Martian Manhunter.

1st appearance of Justice League of America
1st Martian Manhunter cover?

And we are back to this one. The 1st appearance of the Justice League of America has become a hot and quite valuable book.

Not too long ago this book was extremely undervalued and there is more than meets the eye for this major key besides being the 1st appearance of one of comics most popular superhero teams ever. This issue just also might be Martian Manhunter's 1st comic cover appearance.

Being a backup feature in Detective Comics, it's pretty obvious that Batman is the feature and commands being on the cover. I don't think Martian Manhunter ever made a cover in Detective Comics when he was a back up feature in the title.

He doesn't appear in any other title other than Detective before this comic here. I am not sure if there were foreign edition comics around the time that may of had him on a comic cover, though. Couldn't find any information on that.

The move in placing Martian Manhunter in the Justice League of America would impact the character. Some say they are significant to the evolution of the character.

You'll see what I'm saying as we progress further with this key issues series. Brave and the Bold #28 has the cover date of March, 1960.

2nd appearance of Justice League of America
2nd J'onn J'onnz cover?

Might as well throw this one in here as well. Not only is this the 2nd appearance of the Justice League of America, this comic may have the 2nd J'onn J'onzz cover appearance.

Yep, that could mean that Brave & the Bold #30 is the character's 3rd cover and Justice League of America #1 might very well be his 4rth cover appearance.

Not really sure if that gets Martian Manhunter fans all excited or not. The 2nd appearance of the Justice League of America key issue worthiness alone is more than enough reason to snag this issue. May, 1960 is the cover date for Brave & the Bold #29.

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Martian Manhunter returns to Mars

Some might think that this shouldn't even really be counted as a significant key issue to the character, and it is debatable. I'll explain why it may be.

So we all know that his early stories in Detective Comics had the character stranded here on Earth. Yep, that was one of the reasons for having a secret identity and stuff.

Well, then he reveals his identity to the world. Before, he'd mostly take Martian form when he was invisible. That had to change. Why?

That changed so he could get his superhero on in the Justice League of America. Once you throw a super powered group like that into the mix for this character, it's kinda unbelievable that the character would still be stranded on Earth with no way of returning home or going anywhere else in the universe, right?

You betcha, especially since the Justice League of America are traveling all throughout space and different dimensions. Would be odd that Martian Manhunter couldn't get a lift from Green Lantern or Superman, even if Martian Manhunter was seen flying or something like it as early as Detective Comics #227.

So out with the whole stranded theme. Just wouldn't make sense for the character anymore.

J'onn J'onzz doesn't fly to Mars in this issue. He is teleported there by some martian technology, and has a brief reunion with his parents.

Eventually, Martian Manhunter would be able to fly as fast or faster than Superman, making traveling to distant planets even less of a problem for J'onn J'onnz. Detective Comics #301 has the cover date of March, 1962.

1st appearance of Zook

I don't really think anyone out there counts Zook as an important supporting character for Martian Manhunter, do they? The character kicked around Martian Manhunter as his sidekick or pet for a while until they did away with the character for quite a while also.

Zook is an alien from "a parallel world in another dimension" and has the powers to increase his body temperature to be boiling hot or freezing cold. He also has limited shape-shifting abilities as well.

Basically one of the campy pets that DC slapped a long side their heroes like Bat-Hound for Batman or Krypto for Superboy. I think Zook was intended as comic relief for Martian Manhunter.

I don't consider this an entirely important Martian Manhunter key comic, but some out there might. Detective Comics #311 has the cover date of January, 1963.

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1st Martian Manhunter crossover
Team up format begins for title

So Overstreet notes this issue as the 1st Martian Manhunter cross-over outside of Detective Comics. Brave and the Bold #28 doesn't count.

Some might think this 1st crossover outside of Detective Comics would be in House of Mystery, but this issue precedes it. This issue also begins the team up format that Brave and the Bold is known for, especially for being a Batman team up book.

Before Batman, however, Green Arrow and Martian Manhunter would kick off the team up goodness. Brave and the Bold #50 has the cover date of November, 1963.

1st appearance of  Idol Head of Diabol
Last J'onn J'onzz feature in comic series
Martian Manhunter drops secret identity

In the story of "The Death of John Jones, Detective", John Jones is presumed dead and this does change quite a bit for the character of Martian Manhunter. For one, the character drops the whole John Jones identity after this issue.

Two, out with the whole detective job thing-a-ma-bob as well. Onto full-time superheroing for the green martian. 

The Idol Head of Diabol is a notorious plot device, and fans of the Martian Manhunter often point to it. This Idol Head of Diabol promised to unleash a new evil upon our hero and would do so every month in the Martian Manhunter stories featured in House of Mystery.

Not only did it secure an on-going plot for Martian Manhunter, it also supplied the creators of this plot device - Jack Miller and Joe Certa - continued work. Overstreet has House of Mystery #143 as the intro of this Idol Head, but it is first seen in this issue here. It's actually the thing that supposedly kills John Jones or makes his death appear to be so to Diane Meade and Captain Harding.

This is the last issue where Martian Manhunter is an on-going back up feature. He would move to House of Mystery and this story is continued from there. April, 1964 is the cover date for Detective Comics #326.

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There is Detective Comics #305 that has the 1st and only appearance of B'enn B'urnzz, another martian criminal that finds his way to Earth to cause trouble, but he's just a one-off character or villain. Not sure if he is even worth mentioning. 

So, some of these keys definitely helped evolve the character, but they are kind of subtle. It's not clear if the parents of Martian Manhunter depicted in the early stories are the same in later canon when his mythos was more fleshed out and developed after the Bronze Age of comics.

Part 3 is ready. Click the blue link below to read onward.