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Synopsis "Fears" (20-pages)
Previously in Young Justice (vol. 2) #6 (Sept 2011): Kid Flash’s suggestion to Miss Martian that they could roast marshmallows has unwittingly turned into a camping trip for the entire Team. They entertain themselves around the camp fire by each describing their entrance into the superhero business. Aqualad and Kid Flash relate their own origins, before Superboy stuns them by saying he remembers wanting to kill Superman.
The Batman refused to let Robin show his own secret identity to the Team. However, that doesn’t stop Dick Grayson’s mind from drifting to that day four-years ago at Haly’s Circus. His family’s aerialist troop, the Flying Graysons, were performing without a net when a group of Gotham criminals decided to make an example of them for Haly’s refusal to pay protection money. The only survivors of the sabotage were Dick and his paralysed uncle. Dick was taken in by billionaire Bruce Wayne. The loss of his own parents had led Wayne to become the Batman and he allowed Dick to become his apprentice as Robin.
Robin snaps out of his day-dream to find that the others are still are trying to convince Superboy that he’s more that what Cadmus has programmed him to be. Miss Martian then tells them that she is one of 12 sisters and 17 brothers. She was always closest to her Uncle J’onn. He was a founding member of the Justice League and saw how the other Leaguers were taking on young apprentices. J’onn returned to Mars and organised a series of games designed to find his own apprentice. M’gann entered the games and won the right to become his sidekick back on Earth.
With the stories done the Team move to their tents, but Superboy stays stood by the fire. He remembers the scenario that Cadmus placed in his brain, of an insane Superman wrecking the Daily Planet and attacking Lois Lane. In his memories Superboy, dressed in his white Solar Suit, kills the out of control Superman and is hailed a saviour by the crowd. The download was so strong that Cadmus had to replace his damaged pod. Superboy knows he is physically free from Cadmus, but he remembers vividly why he was created.
- Dick Grayson’s family aerialist trope “The Flying Graysons” included an aunt and uncle and a cousin John. His grandfathers died before he was born.
- M’gann has 12 sisters, 17 brothers, and over 300 cousins. There are at least three races of martian (Green, Red, White).
The origin of Robin was pretty classical. I did like the inclusion of an Aunt and Uncle in the routine as it made the Flying Grayson’s look more like a real aerialist troop. It set me thinking that a tragedy like that – the death of three family members, a fouth left paralysed, and a minor involved – would have been like gold-dust to the CNN rolling news channels. It’s the type of thing that would have run for years and would probably have ended up with new safety legislation in the State legislature, maybe even in the national legislature. But, enough of that digression.
While Robin’s origin was by-the-numbers Miss Martian’s secret origin was almost entirely new. The comic book Martians are an ill-defined mob at the best of time and Miss Martian has never really had an origin story, she just sort of appeared as a member of the Teen Titans following a break in their stories. So this is the first time that she’s really had a proper origin presented. The idea of M’gann as one of a vast extended family of telepathic, subterranean Martians works surprisingly well. It also fleshes out her character and shows that while she’s naive about Earth she’s certainly not without experience around other people.
These two issues have done what a lot of people often want from shows like Young Justice – the characters individual origins. This would have made for an odd episode of the cartoon, but makes for an excellent comic book. The use of the comic to explore the characters origins also demonstrates how immersed the book is with the cartoon’s universe. I think it would be an excellent idea if this two parter were bundled with the First Season DVDs.
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Page 1. This version of Robin’s origin is pretty much identical to his classic origin from Detective Comics (vol. 1) #38 (April 1940). His parents are normally given the names of John and Mary Grayson. The owner of the circus (Jim Haly) and the criminal (Boss Zucco) are also in place. Something I didn’t realise until recently was that there was actually a real Jim Haly – James Haley who worked for John Ringling Circus at about the time that Robin’s origin was published – whether he was a showman or just an executive I don’t know.
Page 3. The idea of the Flying Graysons having a signature move comes from the origin of the third robin Tim Drake. He had seen the Grayson’s perform whilst a young child and recognised that special move when he saw the original Robin perform it. It was the key piece of evidence he needed to link Robin to the Flying Graysons and ultimately Batman to Bruce Wayne. The names of Robin’s family was revealed by Greg Weisman in an Ask Greg answer:
Dick’s father’s name was John. His mother was Mary. And, yes, Cousin John was named after Dick’s father. Dick’s uncle is named Richard – Rick for short. (Dick was named for his own uncle , obviously – the two elder Grayson brothers were very close.) Dick’s aunt was named Karla.
Page 5. Robin’s uncle is paralysed. This may be a nod to a 1940s character called Robotman. He was a 1940s superhero whose alter ego Robert Crane had been fatally wounded by gangsters. His still living brain was transferred into a metal robot body. Those early versions of the characters were revived in the 1940s as the inhabitants of a parallel world called Earth-2. In the 1980s DC published a story where Crane regained his humanity when his lab assistant, Charles Grayson, died of a brain disease and donated his body to Crane. Charles Grayson was a distant cousin of Dick Grayson.
Robin’s costume has the same black leggings, red tunic, and yellow highlights as his Flying Grayson’s costume.
Page 6. This is the same deliberate arrangement around the camp fire as last issue. The fire/heat adverse Aqualad and Miss Martian are at the back, the friends Robin and Kid Flash are at the front, and the lone Superboy is on the other side of the fire, part of yet still distance from the rest of the Team.
Page 8. Early space probes showed that the surface of Mars was inhospitable, but more recent probes have shown that there is a possibility of liquid water, and hence life, will existing under the surface. Admittedly the scientists are thinking of microbial life and not large colonies of Burroughseqse humanoids.
Pages 9-10. Martian Races. The original Martian, J’onn J’onzz, was green, but a version of his back story from Justice League of America (vol. 1) #71 (May 1969) has him as the military commander of the desert dwellers who was fighting a war against a group of white-skinned pole dwellers before he came to Earth. The later interpretation of the Green Martians turned them into near-pacifists while the White or Pale Martians were a group who forswore peace for brutality and violence. The comic book Martians are almost extinct, but the cartoon shows their society still healthy and well.
Grant Morrison used a had a group of White Martian survivors pose as a superhero group called the Hyperclan in an attempt to usurp the Justice League. Those White Martians were the inspiration for the Imperium who were the enemy in the opening Secret Origins three-parter for the DCAU Justice League series.
The Red Martians were originally Saturnians from the J’emm Son of Saturn mini-series (it was originally meant to be about Martians, but DC got cold feet and had aliens renamed to Saturnians). Writer John Ostrander later explained that the Saturnians were an off shoot of the Martian Race.
The comic book Miss Martian looks like a Green Martian, but is actually a White Martian who uses her shapeshifting to hide her identity out of fear for how people would react to her. It’s pointed here that M’gann describes both her parents as Green while noting intolerance towards the Whites. She does not however tell us why there is intolerance.
Greg Weisman described Martian society in his Ask Greg answers:
She doesn’t. She has twelve sisters. And seventeen brothers. And something like 300 cousins.
And the Martian race is still alive and well in the Earth-16 Universe. (From my point of view, killing them off wasn’t the greatest addition to the Martian Manhunter mythos. It’s stealing from Superman’s schtick. Superman is the last Kryptonian. Martian Manhunter wasn’t the last Martian for years and years, until that notion was added or retconned or whatever you want to call it into J’onn’s backstory.)
And that’s NOT why Martian Manhunter came to Earth. At least not originally when he first appeared in 1955 and not in our continuity either. He was brought here as a result of a Zeta-Beam accident.
Wow. Revealed way more than I planned to. Oh, well.
Page 11. The Justice League are shown fighting a many tentacled thing in homage to the cover to their first appearance in Brave and the Bold #28. We’ve already seen the frozen Earth-16 Starro in “Downtime” so this tentacled thing isn’t the usual giant starfish. The figure hovering above it looks like Wotan – the sorcerer who drew the Justice League’s attention in “Independence Day” thus creating the opening for Robin, Kid Flash, and Aqualad to investigate Cadmus Labs.
Why J’onn J’onzz came to Earth isn’t explained, but his relationship with the Martians mirrors the pre-Crisis Superman’s relationship with the population of the bottle city of Kandor – they all knew his secret identity and religiously followed his exploits as Superman.
Last panel – M’gann is shown talking, but she’s wearing her normal Team costume and not the t-shirt and jacket she’s wearing at the camp fire.
Page 12. A minor parallel, but the competition aspect of the Earth-16 Miss Martian’s origin parallels the part of Wonder Woman’s origin comic book origin where she had to compete in a contest in order to win the right to journey to Man’s World.
Page 13. The Team’s back yard was established in “Welcome to Happy Harbor” when they greeted the Red Tornado.
Pages 14-15. It’s a hypothetical scenario, but the camera boy and woman would be the first appearance of the Earth-16 Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane. The man who says “What’s the meaning” would probably be Perry White.
Page 16. Superboy is flying. The real Superboy can’t fly – it’s not something that Cadmus had unlocked in his development yet, but they obviously planned for it if its part of his mental downloads.
Page 19. This is a flashback to Cadmus prior to “Independence Day”. The scientist in the Hawaiian shirt is Mark Desmond, the director of Cadmus who turned himself into Blockbuster to fight the Team. The woman is Amanda Spence who was also shown in “Independence Day” and “Fireworks”, but did not speak. She was the one who accidentally allowed the Team into the Project-K vault.
Page 20. The g-gnomes are shown behind Superboy downloading Cadmus’s teaching into him. One of these three escaped Cadmus and followed Superboy to the Cave in Young Justice (vol. 2) #2 (May 2011).