Title: House Of Mystery
Issue: No. 147
Date: December, 1964
Publisher: National Periodical Publications (DC Comics)
Cover Artist(s): Joe Certa
Everyone’s heard punk rock, funk rock, hip-hop and techno-pop – but thankfully, no one’s never had to endure the type of music performed by the Oddball “Orchestra Of Doom!” (Y’know, it must really be embarrassing when a longstanding superhero like J’onn J’onzz, The Manhunter From Mars is given editorial orders to fight goofy bad guys like a band of evil musical instruments! (And leave it to DC editor Jack Schiff to do exactly that!)
J’onn J’onzz, also known as “The Martian Manhunter”, a character that some historians consider to be the first new superhero of the so-called “Silver Age Of Comics”, first appeared as a back-up story in DC’s DETECTIVE COMICS No. 225 (November, 1955). (Other superheroes eligible for that honor include DC’s Captain Comet and Julius Schwartz’s revamped version of the Flash.) Written by Joe Samachson and drawn by Joe Certa, “The Strange Experiment Of Dr. Erdel” first introduced J’onn J’onzz. Accidentally teleported to Earth by Prof. Mark Erdel’s “robot brain”, the bald-pated, green-skinned, craggy-browed Martian’s bizarre image so startled the doctor that he immediately dropped dead from a heart attack! Unable to re-program Erdel’s robot-brain, the reasonable Martian (who, other than his outward appearance, really didn’t seem at all “alien”) decided to make the best of being stranded on another planet, adopted the Earth identity of “John Jones”, a police detective, albeit one with Martian superpowers. These included super-strength, flying, invisibility, shape-shifting, super-vision and super-speed. Although not in Superman’s league (although J’onn eventually did join the Man Of Steel in the original JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA), the Martian Manhunter was plenty powerful, with a single weakness: exposure to fire. Originally a detective strip with a smattering of sci-fi elements, “J’onn J’onzz, The Manhunter From Mars” eventually became a full-blown superhero feature. In DETECTIVE COMICS No. 311, he gained a mascot/pet/partner in the other-dimensional form of “Zook”, a little orange alien with a Smurf’s physique, Fred Flintstone’s haircut and Dondi’s speech pattern. Eventually moving from DETECTIVE COMICS (where he was replaced by “The Elongated Man”) to the pages of HOUSE OF MYSTERY, J’onn found a home there until its 173rd issue, still drawn by his original cartoonist, Joe Certa! J’onn finally was awarded his own DC comic book series, MARTIAN MANHUNTER, beginning in October 1998 (which was unfortunately cancelled a few years later.) He’s also charter member of the current JLA and appears as part of the title-team of Cartoon Network’s animated series, THE JUSTICE LEAGUE.
The 10-page “J’onn J’onzz, The Martian Manhunter” cover-story of this issue of HOUSE OF MYSTERY is “The Orchestra Of Doom!”, was written by Jack Miller and drawn by Joe Certa. It begins in the sealed mountain cave used by the Martian Manhunter and his orange “dimensional friend” Zook as they anticipate another challenge from a long-running source of trouble:
Another night of full moon! Maybe DIABLO HEAD not spawn evil menace this time and everything be okey-dokey, MANHUNTER!
I’m afraid that’s wishful thinking, Zook…DIABOLU’s been releasing its evils like clockwork on the full of the moon! If only we knew where Aroo, that menace we met last time, had secreted it, we could destroy the IDOL before it springs open…
“Aroo”? No relation to the star of cartoonist Jack Kent’s classic comic strip, KING AROO (1950 – 1965), I assume! Even as they discuss it, the Idol-Head Of Diabolu opens and discharges a half-dozen of the weirdest-looking living musical instruments ever seen!
MAESTRO OF DIABOLU’S MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS:
Tune your bodies! Our fist arrangement to be played against mankind will be “The Arms Of Morpheus”!
Within the hour, Manhunter and Zook overhear a startling radio-bulletin that “strange creatures resembling musical instruments are assembling over City Square.” Flying to investigate, they discover that the music from the “orchestra of music creatures” is putting everyone within earshot to sleep – literally! While J’onn uses super-speed to rescue falling workers from their scaffolds, Zook uses his other-dimensional powers to freeze traffic in place. When J’onn tries a direct attack on the living musical instruments, they change their tune, creating a sudden crescendo that somehow forms a “super-natural sonic barrier”. The bizarre “doom band” fades from sight, but reappears a few hours later, playing a weird melody that forces anyone who hears it to laugh uncontrollably. If that wasn’t bad enough, a gang of hoodlums, their ears stuffed to take advantage of the situation, are pulling a bank-heist in the midst of the cacophonous commotion! J’onn and Zook swiftly stop the crooks, but once again, the “big prize” gets away! The next day, the Martian Manhunter’s super-hearing detects the return of the creatures – but this time, they’ve split up into three teams! Zook travels northward, where he finds a flute-creature playing “solo”; the shrill notes it emits threaten to shatter a towering skyscraper. Strangely, it leaves before it can do further damage, so Zook takes off to find his Martian ally, who’s witnessing a duet between two violin-creatures. Their music creates a track of “weird sound rails”, which lift a commuter train high into the sky! But when the music-monsters suddenly stop playing their unearthly music, it’s up to J’onn J’onzz to catch the falling train and safely set it back on its own track. Manhunter flies to the city’s park, where a quartet of musical creatures creates an eerie song that forces everyone there to become “fighting mad”. What’s worse, Zook’s among them! As J’onn tries to return the “little feller” with the Fred Flintstone haircut back to normal, the musical creatures flee. Resuming his regular demeanor, Zook and J’onn compare notes:
You’ve regained your senses, Zook! The quartet’s stopped playing…they seem to be fleeing in panic! But why so suddenly? Hmm-m…They reacted when this park band began to play! Could music, other than theirs, be a menace to them?
But music played from radio when people sleep and creatures still stick around! And car radio blare out music when people chuckle themselves to pieces! Menaces not go away then, either!
You’re right, Zook – it couldn’t be just another band they’re allergic to! But wait…I think I’ve hit on their weakness! C’mon…
The next day, the “orchestra of doom” appears over the harbor district of the city, its insidious music causing the ships to collide with each other. Suddenly, they find themselves weakened the sounds created by Manhunter’s one-Martian-band! As J’onn continues to beat out the melody, the musical creatures are shattered, their fragments scattered to the winds:
They go! They go! How you know that melody get rid of them for good, MANHUNTER?
The musical creatures fled in panic when they heard the park band! And since we know they’re not allergic to other music…it had to be the PARTICULAR MELODY the park band was playing – “Last Rose Of Summer.” Ironic title, eh, Zook?
And appropriate! ORCHESTRA OF DOOM has played last notes of evil!
Also included in this issue are the stories and features:
- “Children Of Tomorrow!:”, a black-and-white inside-front-cover public service page, written by Jack Schiff and drawn by Bernard Baily.
- “The Cosmic Curse”, drawn by Howard Sherman. – Chosen among thousands to make the long, perilous journey into outer space, Archie is the designated astronaut to man the controls of Cape Canaveral’s “super-secret project, Missileman One”. Although considered a perfect specimen, both physically and mentally, Archie’s a cigarette smoker (!), so his pal Doug gives Archie one last drag before he blasts off for the project’s goal, Asteroid Gamma. When Archie returns from the space mission and passes every physical and mental test with flying colors, Doug is justifiably proud of his barracks-mate. But that night, Doug is awakened by “strange, groaning noises” only to witness Archie transforming into a weird alien being that looks like the result of crossbreeding Universal Studios’ “Creature From The Black Lagoon” with “the Mummy”! With “the power of 100 men”, Archie attacks Doug, hurling him into the wall. Then next morning, Doug awakens in the space-base’s hospital; as he recovers, he learns that Archie is not only okay, he apparently slept throughout the attack on Doug! Later, Doug confronts his astronaut pal, but Archie asks Doug to back off. That night, Archie undergoes his bizarre transformation once again, but this time, Doug trails him. But to spare his friend from getting shot by one of the base’s guards, Doug creates a distraction, during which he loses track of Archie’s alien incarnation. After fruitlessly searching for his pal, Archie returns to the barracks, where he finds Archie, back to normal, sleeping peacefully. Noticing Archie’s full cigarette box, Doug realizes that he hasn’t seen his buddy smoking once since he returned from outer space. Suddenly aware that Archie isn’t really “Archie” at all, he forces a confession out of his friend’s otherworldly “stand-in”. An inhabitant of Asteroid Gamma, his leaders instructed him to return to Earth to retrieve the plans for building duplicates of Archie’s spacecraft -- one which they consider to be the perfect “invasion vehicle”! What’s even worse, the alien threatens to kill the real Archie if Doug refuses to cooperate by handing over Missileman One’s “super-secret formulas”. With no other choice available to him, Doug returns with a full knapsack, and two days later, he and the alien “Archie” blast off for Asteroid Gamma. There, Doug and the real Archie are reunited, and Doug soon reveals that his knapsack is full of explosives rather than plans and photographs! The alien “Archie” tries to stop them from leaving, but Doug kicks the weapon out of his hands. After successfully blasting off, Doug and Archie head home to Earth. During their trip, Archie makes a request of Doug, “Hey, pal – I know it’s against regulations – but I’m dying for a smoke! How about a cigarette?”
- “The Magic Genie”, a half-page gag-strip by cartoonist Henry Boltinoff.
- “The Riddle Of The Weird Warrior!”, drawn by Bernard Baily. – Marlton is a sleepy little American town that’s scheduled to have a new high and interchange built nearby. The project’s contractor, a local-boy-made-good named Dudley, is in charge of the massive project. But Mr. Dudley is astounded when one of his steam shovels uncovers a living 30-foot-tall Indian warrior! The giant emerges from a cavern hidden in the hillside that overlooks Marlton, hurling tons-heavy construction equipment through the air and smashing the freight train that brought the projects raw materials into town. While the giant Indian stands guarding the town like some sort of sentinel, Dudley investigates the cavern that contained him. Inside, the construction engineer discovers chlorine gas fumes, the probable cause of the warrior’s suspended animation, or “maybe the result of some old Indian medicine man’s sorcery”. Using chlorine gas, Dudley knocks out the giant Indian brave, then turns him over to Marlton’s mayor, who puts the unconscious “big brave” on display as a tourist attraction. Later, Dudley’s construction crew uncovers the remains of a log village, artifacts that Dudley recognizes as being from the Lost Colony, “a pioneer settlement somewhere in this area which vanished without a clue”. Dudley’s crew discovers a strange object in a nearby bog – some kind of ancient “log juggernaut”, covered with Indian carvings, that must have been responsible for flattening the Lost Colony! Suddenly, they’re distracted by the frightening sight; on a mountain road above Marlton, the brakes on a nitro truck have slipped – and it’s heading right for town! To save Marlton, Dudley frees the giant Indian warrior from his gas-filled canister. But instead of stopping the highly explosive truck full of nitroglycerine, the warrior smashes a path through the town, then digs a gully down the middle of his swath of destruction. Dudley suddenly realizes that the ancient warrior has smoothed a path for the super-sensitive nitro to pass through town upon! His job done, the giant fades from sight, as Dudley explains, “Evidently he was sent by a friendly Indian medicine man long ago to save the Lost Colony when the juggernaut threatened the town…But cavern gas overcame him and the village was flattened! When we awakened him, he attacked the trucks and train because they looked like the juggernaut menace – and Marlton appeared to be the town he was to defend!” In fact, Marlton owes its survival to the fact it was built practically on the same spot as the Lost Colony. With the juggernaut and the Lost Colony bound to attract tourists, Dudley realizes he’d better get back to work finishing that highway and interchange!
- A “house ad” for SHOWCASE No. 53, featuring DC’s rarely-seen version of “GI Joe”, drawn by Joe Kubert. (Please note that this single ad features the title “GI Joe” a whopping seven times!)
- “Quick Quiz”, a half-page educational feature sharing space with an ad for an early appearance of Oddball superhero “Metamorpho” in THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD.
- A back-cover ad for the “Superman” model kit from “Aurora Plastics Corp.”, drawn by Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson.
ODDBALL Factoid – Longtime “J’onn J’onzz, Manhunter From Mars” cartoonist Joe Certa also drew many issues of Gold Key’s four-color adaptation of the supernatural soap opera, DARK SHADOWS!