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House of Mystery 143
"The Giant-Maker!"

COVER IMAGE NOT FOUND June 1964; DC Comics; Jack Schiff, editor. The cover announces, "Introducing the New J'onn J'onzz, Manhunter from Mars, in "THE GIANT-MAKER!" The cover scene depicts J'onn J'onzz surrounded by a ring of electrical -looking energy and threatened by an enlarged and irate-looking version of his other-dimensional sidekick Zook, as he thinks, "The THING from the IDOL-HEAD of DIABOLU caused me to lose my Martian powers and has turned my pal, Zook, into a destructive giant!"

I promised to fulfill a request by reviewing this story, the first J'onn J'onzz story in HOUSE OF MYSTERY. It's not a terribly inspiring tale (neither were the rest of the JJ stories in HoM, really) but I'll see what I can do with it. Despite being cover-featured, the J'onn J'onzz story-- written by Jack Miller and drawn by Joe Certa-- is actually the last of three stories in this issue. On the splash page, the Martian Manhunter, carrying a normal-sized Zook, flies onto the scene just too late to stop a small-town sheriff from firing a rifle at a giant purple creature with no arms or hands. No, no, Sheriff-- you mustn't shoot it! That's what it HOPES you will do!"

In DETECTIVE COMICS #326, the last issue of that comic to feature J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter gave up his "human" identity as detective John Jones in order to pursue the Idol-Head of Diabolu, an evil mystic artifact that appears in a different spot at every full moon and unleashes a new supernatural menace. Now, the Idol-Head sits in a junkyard and opens to release a seed pod that floats on the wind until it lands in a farm field. At daybreak, the pod ripens to grow into the armless purple creature that frightens the farm couple. "I--I'll phone the authorities!" The farmer apparently convinces the "authorities" that he hasn't been hitting the moonshine again, and a radio report reaches the ears of J'onn J'onzz and Zook in their secret mountain hideaway. Manhunter recalls a legend from the "Book of Diabolu Legends" about a creature grown from a seed; "Man's fear will unleash its golden touch, and when its dark mission is completed, it will leave greater evil behind in its place!" Leaving their hideaway (J'onn phases through the solid wall, while Zook has to squeeze through a crack), our heroes fly to the scene but arrive too late to stop the local sheriff from shooting the purple creature. "Great stars! it was harmless before! That's just what it needed to activate its powers!" The creature suddenly extrudes a long arm and reaches out and touches a bystander named Harrison, and while the creature shrinks in size, Harrison grows into a giant. Crazed and running wild, Harrison swipes at the onlookers and tears apart a silo until the Manhunter knocks him out with a punch to his oversized jaw. Meanwhile, Zook chases the purple creature, hoping to capture it himself, but instead the monster grows another arm and touches Zook, turning him too into a hostile giant. Using his power to emit heat, Zook ignites some trees, creating flames that J'onn cannot approach. But he makes a giant shovel out of the wrecked silo and digs up a swathe of soil which he uses to smother the flames. Manhunter than uses a judo type throw on his overgrown mascot-- "This hurts me more than it does you, Zook!" and slams him to the ground, stunning him. Chasing the purple creature to learn what its "dark secret" is, J'onn spots it shooting out another appendage to enlarge a microscopic figure to normal human size. It is "the sorcerer Malador, reduced to atomic size by my ancient rival, Sorbo! But I knew someday, somehow the Idol of Diabolu would restore me to my full size and power!"

Malador challenges anyone to stop him from "subjugating this land", and Manhunter accepts the challenge. The sorcerer creates a stone bird of prey that shatters harmlessly against JJ's invulnerable body. Unfazed, Malador uses his magic wand to surround J'onn with "magic circles" that rob him of his Martian super-strength. As if that weren't bad enough, Zook shows up again, still giant-sized and in a testy mood. Using his thermal powers again, Zook freezes both J'onn and Malador in blocks of ice. Somehow, however, being frozen has the effect of restoring J'onn's Martian powers. And somehow, the Manhunter intuits that if he takes the frozen Malador and moves him closer to the frigid Zook, the intense cold will have the opposite effect on the wizard, causing him to shrink back to sub-atomic size. Zook shrinks back to his normal size and disposition, and rejoices, "Phew! Everything now okay!" "Not quite, Zook! It will never be until I destroy the IDOL-HEAD OF DIABOLU! Remember, there'll be another full moon next month-- and another weird menace!" Yes, there would be, and that would be the pattern of the J'onn J'onzz stories in HoM for the next year or two; the Idol-Head would pop up at some new spot, release another menace, and the Manhunter (sometimes with Zook, sometimes without) would show up to battle and defeat it. Apparently editor Schiff didn't want the J'onn J'onzz stories in HOUSE OF MYSTERY to be too different from the fare the comic's regular readers were used to, so he featured the same kind of monsters and supernatural menaces that appeared in other HoM stories at the time, only instead of some ordinary human finding a way to defeat them, it would be J'onn J'onzz doing so.

Of the two non-series weird stories in the issue, the first is "The 300-Year-Old Manhunt!" I don't know the writer and don't recognize the artist's style. On the splash page, a modern man struggles as armored guards take him into custody as a judge intones, "In the name of King Charles II, this royal court finds you guilty of MURDER!" "This is insane! I-- I live 300 YEARS IN THE FUTURE!" Historical fiction author Martin Knorr is jealous of a rival writer named Bart Colfax, whose novels always seem to have more authentic detail of the past eras they are set in. Knorr is so angry at Colfax that he invades the latter's home, intending to destroy his latest manuscript, but he discovers a set of magical capsules and a scroll explaining their function-- to transport the user to a past time. Knorr realizes that Colfax is so successful at depicting the past because he has visited it! When Colfax discovers Knorr in his house, the two scuffle, and Colfax is killed. "But--- so what? No one will suspect ME!" Trying out one of the magic capsules, Colfax finds himself in the year 1214, where he is caught up in a battle between King Philip Augustus of France and King John of England. Discovering the way to return to the present, Knorr is delighted he can now duplicate Colfax's writing feats, and even more pleased when he finds a page of manuscript suggesting Colfax actually stole his last novel from a 17th century writer. Deciding to ruin his late rival's reputation by proving it, Knorr travels to the year 1662, but is arrested by red-uniformed guards who call themselves "Charlies" after their sovereign, King Charles II and are "England's first peace officers". (I've never heard of the "Charlies"-- my historical reading indicates that England's first regular police showed up over a century later and were called the "Bow Street Runners".) Knorr is taken to court and "charged with killing the illustrious writer John Harvey-- and stealing his lifework!" Knorr insists that he is innocent, but his strange clothes and his possession of a page from Harvey's manuscript cause him to be convicted of the crime that Colfax actually committed. Knorr tries to return to the present, but finds that his magic capsule has been smashed in the fight with the "Charlies" and he is trapped. Waiting for his execution, he reflects ruefully that "In a way, HE (Colfax) paid with his life for killing an ancient writer-- and I'm going to pay HIS debt, to the world of 1662, with MY life!"

The other story in the issue is "The Man Who Borrowed Brains!" which looks like it's drawn by Mort Meskin. An unnamed scientist has invented a "Mental-Extractor Ray" which can steal the mind of one creature and implant it in another. After testing the device on animals-- causing a squirrel to think it is a bird that can fly-- the scientist plots how to use his invention for his own unfair advantage, perhaps by stealing a safe combination from a bank president or stealing the mind of a high government official and selling secrets to a spy. But then, the scientist spots a flying saucer, and decides, "There must be an ALIEN in there-- with more advanced mentality than anyone on Earth! And that mentality could be MINE!" The scientist shoots his "extractor ray" at the saucer and indeed finds himself with the mind of an alien scientist, able to create new devices such as an "invisibility ray". But the scientist finds himself stalked by another alien who is able to negate his invisibility with a "locator ray". The new alien demands that he return the first alien's mind, and the scientist agrees to do so, but actually plots to steal the second alien's mind as well. But before he can do so, the first alien's spaceship crashes atop his lab, severely injuring the evil scientist. Meeting with human authorities (who seem unperturbed about the whole thing), the alien explains that the first alien was himself a criminal scientist trying to escape execution. After the Earth scientist stole his mind, the alien scientist was unable to pilot his spacecraft safely and it ended up crashing. "What irony! Two crazed scientists-- living many millions of miles apart-- meet for their DOWNFALL!" (Though in theory HOUSE OF MYSTERY was a weird-mystery-supernatural mag and TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED, another Schiff-edited book, featured science fiction, Schiff was shaky on the distinction between the two and often featured sci-fi tales in HOUSE and supernatural menaces in UNEXPECTED.)