Friday, March 7, 2008

My Martian Heart Will Go On

This morning, let's take a look at Showcase '95, issue #9 from October. Showcase was a fun, monthly anthology title that featured stories of all sorts of folks from the DC Universe. As you can see, this issue spotlights Lois Lane, Lobo and J'onn J'onzz.

What a cover (credited to Phil G. and Chip W.): looking around our modern media, I just don't think we have anyone in the real world who compares to Superman's spunky, tenacious journalist then-girlfriend. She's also smart enough to know you don't shove a microphone in Lobo's face without having the Martian Manhunter, or some other powerhouse, handy as back-up.

Really, though, they ought to have worked Jimmy Olsen into the cover (maybe getting his camera crushed by the "main man"), since he was really a co-star in Lois' interior tale.

"The Flock" (by Cindy Goff, with art by Sal Velluto and Dick Giordano)is sort of standard fare but still a good read, in which Lois and Jimmy are working a missing persons story and uncover a cult in the sewers of Metropolis, which they manage to break up without any assistance from their Kryptonian friend.

The second tale of the book features Lobo. I have to say, I've tried on any number of occasions through the years, and never really warmed to this character and his one-note lifestyle of murder and least, until he was re-purposed for 52.

This story "Four Funerals and a Wedding" is, wisely, uncredited. A three-eyed alien bride waits for her groom at the altar, and we learned with some horror that her husband-to-be's best man is none other than Lobo(This is NEVER a good choice, btw, as we shall see.).

Anyway, he and the groom show up late, and drunk...and the wedding quickly decays into a deathfest, as it's revealed that the bride is Maggie O'Knuckles, known as The Widowmaker, and Lobo is here in his capacity as intergalactic bounty hunter. As the title suggests, the bride and the rest of her three-eyed family are dead in short order.

Even my work experience as a jaded catering director didn't help me love this stupid, stupid tale of drunken groomsmen and nuptial blood-letting. Ugh.

Fortunately, the Martian Manhunter tale that follows is almost as efficient as Zatanna might be at wind-wiping my memory of the story and the time I wasted reading it.

In "Deep Down", writer Peter Tomasi and artist Eduardo Barreto tell a tale of the ill-fated ocean liner Titanic, several years before the frenzy of the James Cameron film or the Broadway musical.

J'onn finds a pair of bathyscaphes on the ocean floor at the site of the famous wreck, one piloted by a team of licensed salvagers. The other vehicle holds two young men, who've come from another nearby ship. When he's brought them to the surface, they won't tell J'onn why they're down there. He takes them to that other boat and he meets their great-uncle, Harold Jean Thomas, a survivor of the Titanic.

Thomas is surrounded by video monitors which show different angles on the decaying wreck down below. He's very old and breathing through an oxygen mask and he tells J'onn the heart-rending tale of how he and his wife Georgia were separated on the deck of the sinking ship that fateful night.

Mindful of the deaths of his wife and daughter, the Martian Manhunter feels a kinship with the old man, and offers to enter his mind to help bring him peace. As he does so, he's transported back in time to the night of April 15, 1912, where J'onn is intangible (naturally, as these are only memories) and he watches in horror as the historic drama unfolds.

Leaving the memories, J'onn learns that Harold and his wife had a plan to meet in their stateroom if they'd become separated. Diving under the waters, he finds the body of the old man's wife...the old man watching on the monitor screens. From the ocean floor, J'onn hears the old man turn off his oxygen tank and he dies by the time the martian is able to return to the surface.

The salvagers have an injunction to prevent J'onn or anyone from placing anything on the Titanic not related to its sinking, but J'onn pushes them aside, and gently lifts the old man, carrying him down to his long-submerged stateroom, where he is reunited with his wife.

"So late that day, I took an old man home...left him with his wife...left them there alone. Eighty-three years is a long wait to be with the one you love."

It's very interesting that this story was released two years before the feature film, which included lots of similar images and themes: the salvage teams, the video monitors of the ocean floor, the reunion of lost loves beneath the cold waves of the North Atlantic. It's certainly possible that Tomasi wrote this independently of Cameron's film...there's no copyright on the concepts, after all.

Let's chalk it up to an interesting coincidence, and just enjoy the sweet, sad story.

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