Martian Manhunter

Martian Manhunter

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This article details everything related to Martian Manhunter (J'onn J'onzz).

Fictional Biography

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J'onn Jonzz.

Martian Manhunter makes his first appearance in Detective Comics #225, cover dated November 1955. This origin story sets up a number of important character points, many of which have carried onto the modern age with little or no change. In this first story, the character is pulled to earth by a experimental teleportation beam (originally presented as an attempted communication device) constructed by Dr. Erdel, the shock of the encounter kills Dr. Erdel and leaves J'onn with no method of returning home. The character decided to fight crime while waiting for Martian technology to advance to a stage that will enable his rescue. To that end, he adopts the identity of John Jones, a detective in the fictional Apex City (later retconned as Chicago).

During this period, the character and his back story differ in some minor and some significant ways from modern treatments. Firstly, as with his counterpart, the Silver age Superman, his power range is poorly defined, and his powers expand over time as the plot demands. The addition of precognitive abilities (Detective Comics #226) are quickly followed by telepathy and flight, "Atomic vision", super-hearing and many other powers. In addition, his customary weakness to fire is only manifested when he is in his native Martian form.

A more significant difference, is that at this time, there is no suggestion that Mars is a dead planet or that the character is the last of his kind. Many of the tales of the time feature either Martian technology or the appearance of other Martian characters, Detective Comics #236 (October 1956), for example, features the character making contact with the planet Mars and his parents.

J'onn eventually reveals his existence to the world, after which he operates openly as a superhero and becomes a charter member of the Justice League. He abandons the detective John Jones identity when Jones is ostensibly killed in action. J'onn spent the next several years involved in mystical adventures involving the Idol Head of Diabolu, an artifact which generates supernatural monsters. He later takes the persona of Marco Xavier in order to infiltrate the international crime cartel known as VULTURE.

His appearances with the League kept him in the public eye long after his own series were canceled. He is a founding member of the team, and served as a member during many of its various incarnations. From the late 1960s until the late 1970s, J'onn was absent from the JLA, having left Earth to find and become leader of New Mars. This time period is later retconned during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, and his period of absence is never again referenced.

In early 1987 DC revamped its struggling Justice League of America series by relaunching the title as Justice League International. This new series, written by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis with art by Kevin Maguire (and later Adam Hughes), added quirky humor to the team's stories. J'onn is present from the first issue and within the stories is used as a straight man for other characters in comical situations. The series also added a number of elements to his back story that have remained to the present (such as J'onn's obsession with Oreo cookies, partially due to Captain Marvel's influence).

The 1988 four issue mini-series Martian Manhunter by J.M. DeMatteis and Mark Badger further redefined the character and changed a number of important aspects of both his character and his origin story. It is revealed that Dr. Erdel did not die and that the character's humanoid appearance was due to physiological trauma and attempts to block out the death of his race, his familiar appearance a "compromise" between his true form and a human appearance based upon Erdel's mental concept of what a Martian should look like. (Later series state that his real form is private and that, even on Mars, his "public" appearance was the familiar version.) The series also adds to canon, the idea that J'onzz was not only displaced in space but in time and the Martian race, including J'onzz' wife and daughter, has been dead for thousands of years.

The 1990s saw the character continue to serve in many different versions of the Justice League of America. In addition to serving in the League under his own identity, he also joins (under duress) as "Bloodwynd".

The 1992 mini-series American Secrets explored the adventures of the characters against the backdrop of a changing America during the 1950s. Written by Gerard Jones and with art by Eduardo Barreto, the series finds the Manhunter drawn into a murder mystery that rapidly escalates into paranoia and alien invasion.

Martian Manhunter began as an ongoing series in 1998, written by John Ostrander and illustrated by Tom Mandrake (with fill-in art provided by Bryan Hitch among others). The series lasted 36 issues before being canceled due to low sales. Ostrander established that Martian Manhunter is the most recognized hero in the Southern Hemisphere, and that he maintains a number of different secret identities, many of them outside the United States. However, following two incidents later in the series in which John Jones separates from Martian Manhunter, he decides to focus on his original human identity and retire the others.

The series establishes that J'onn has a disturbed brother, Ma'alefa'ak, who uses his shapeshifting abilities to pose as J'onn, capturing and torturing Jemm, Son of Saturn, and terraforming part of Earth to resemble Mars (areoforming). This is all part of a grand plan designed to convince the rest of the Justice League that J'onn has turned into a sociopath. However, J'onn is able to clear his name and defeat Ma'alefa'ak despite having most of his body destroyed in an exploding spaceship. (He is later able to regenerate his body from his severed hand.)

The series also further established the history of both the Manhunter and the Saturnian race. The first issue revealed that there was a "real" human John Jones, a police detective who is murdered by corrupt colleagues, and that J'onn subsequently assumed his identity to complete an important court case.

In issues of JLA written by Joe Kelly, J'onn attempts to conquer his fear of fire and makes a deal with a flame-wielding villainess named Scorch, who wants J'onzz' telepathic help in dealing with her own mental issues. The story served to redefine his traditional aversion to fire - he is now invulnerable to flames unless they are "flames of passion" or of some other "psychic significance." This change is forgotten about in later series and adventures.


Final Crisis: Requim

During the lead-up to the Infinite Crisis mini-series, the character is feared killed in an attack on the Justice League's HQ. He is later revealed to be alive and a captive of Alexander Luthor, Jr.. After Infinite Crisis, most of DC's series jumped ahead one year, having the weekly series 52 fill in the missing time. In 52 #24, it is revealed that the character had been working behind the scenes in an unsuccessful attempt to destroy Checkmate for its role in the death of Ted Kord.

Using the events of World War III as a catalyst, DC Comics redesigned the appearance of the character, changing his costume and giving an appearance that more closely resembles that of his Martian form. Those changes were further explored during a Martian Manhunter limited series that spun out of the DCU: Brave New World one-shot. Written by A.J. Lieberman with art from Al Barrionuevo and Bit, the series portrayed a Manhunter more mistrustful of humanity and their actions towards each other. The mini-series focuses on J'onn's search for other survivors of Mars.

Following this mini-series, J'onn was intended to be in Outsiders. He appeared in the third issue of the Outsiders: Five Of A Kind series with Thunder, and joined the team afterwards. Due to the change of writers, he is quickly written out within the last two issues. He is next seen working undercover during the events of the limited series Salvation Run. At the end of the series, J'onn is left captured and alone on an alien planet.

In Final Crisis #1, Libra summons a boom tube for J'onn at the behest of the Human Flame, who then kills J'onn in front of an onlooking Secret Society. Before his death he proclaims: "Your kind will fail... your kind will always fail... defeat is in your destiny, Libra... now and forever!" He is buried on Mars, where many of his colleagues attend the graveside burial service. The events of those two issues are explored in the one-shot, Final Crisis: Requiem.

The print version of the DC Direct solicitation included a teaser image of the Blackest Night series 2 figures, featuring a figure identified as "Black Lantern Martian Manhunter". At the end of the Blackest Night series, J'onn is returned to life by Hal Jordan (Avatar of the White Life Entity) as well as other formally dead heroes such as Hank Hall, Athur Curry, and Ronnie Raymond.

Other Versions

Many Alternate versions of the characters have appeared. Some of those have appeared in stories that set within the shared fictional DC Universe and others in self-contained stories. Those alternative versions have appeared in a range of genres and time periods and many appear in Elseworlds stories featuring a Justice League, including JLA: The Nail; JLA: Act of God; Justice Riders; the fantasy-themed League of Justice, the World War II-set JSA: The Liberty Files and John Ostrander's dark JLA: Destiny which features a world without Superman or Batman. Other notable stories provide a more pessimist future for the character. Kingdom Come, features a J'onn mentally shattered from his attempts to understand humanity, while Frank Miller's dystopian The Dark Knight Strikes Again has a powerless alcoholic J'onn (murdered by Joker/Dick Grayson using fire).

Within the shared DC Universe, J'onn appears in the 30th century as an acquaintance of Dream Girl and assists the Legion of Super-Heroes against Mordru. In the Grant Morrison penned series, DC One Million, a version of the character is shown merging with Mars and turning it into a home for humanity and other races.

In 52 #52, a new 52-Earth Multiverse is revealed. On Earth-3, the many-membered Crime Society of America exists, with a monstrous version of J'onn J'onnz showcased in 52 #52 (but not in subsequent Countdown appearances of the Society). Countdown to Adventure #1 depicts the Forerunner planet, in an alternate universe (Earth-48) where the races of the planets and dwarf planets in the universe conquer Earth; the leader of the Martian army and populace is General J'onzz.

Other Media

Justice League of America (TV Movie)

J'onn J'onzz, is played by David Ogden Stiers, in the 1997 Justice League of America live-action television pilot. He has difficulty shapeshifting, claims he can withstand heat over 300 degrees, and no mention is made of any other powers.

Justice League (Animated Series)

J'onn J'onzz appears in the Justice League animated series, voiced by Carl Lumbly. In this series, J'onzz' history is even more closely tied with that of the League. In the series, the Justice League originates as a temporary uniting of Earth's heroes against an alien invasion; the invaders had previously invaded Mars, wiping out all the inhabitants except J'onn J'onzz, who travels to Earth to warn of the invaders and join the fight against them.

For the animated series, executive producer Bruce Timm revised and reduced J'onn's powers somewhat; his superstrength was downplayed (though he was still seen performing great feats of strength on occasion), his superspeed, invisibility and Martian vision are not present, and emphasis was placed on his telepathy, shapeshifting and density alteration, specifically his ability to become intangible. J'onzz only increased his density sporadically on the series, usually noticeable by a glowing blue aura surrounding his body.

In the Season 2 episode "Comfort and Joy", J'onn lands on a childs roof and reaches down the chimney for cookies, which are drawn like Oreos. In the comics, J'onn has always displayed a liking for the cookie called Chocos, which are essentially Oreos.

Like the other member in the first two seasons he is used on a semi regular basis. In Tabula Rasa, he becomes disappointed in humanity after hearing their thoughts, showing how selfish some humans are. His faith is somewhat restored when he mentally spies on a group of people seeking a lost little girl. Spying on one guy who thought "I'm freezing my butt off for the girl and I don't even know her. But I know how I would feel if she were mine." It is J'onn who turns the tide in the battle with A.M.A.Z.O intentionally allowing the android to similate his powers. When Luthor tells A.M.A.Z.O he has all their powers, J'onn tells him to use them well (it is the use of J'onn's telepathy which enables A.M.A.Z.O to recognize Luthor's duplicity).

In the third, fourth and part of the fifth season he is in the Watchtower manning it. He takes the place of Kalibak when Flash goes with Mister Miracle and Big Barda to save Oberon. In task force X he fights off Flag, Plastique, Captain Boomerang and Deadshot single handedley. He leaves the tower at the end of season 4 to battle Luthor with the rest of the original seven. He leaves the tower again to help Wonder Woman against Killer Frost, Devil Ray and Giganta. At the end of that same episode he leaves the League, claiming he was too detached from humanity to serve them, and makes Mister Terrific the new man in charge of dispatching the League. He returns in the series finale taking the form of an elderly Asian man and seemed to have found love. He reunites with the League and helps to fend off the invasion.


See: Martian Manhunter (Phil Morris)

The Batman

See: Martian Manhunter (The Batman)

Justice League: The New Frontier

See: Martian Manhunter (Justice League: The New Frontier)

Video games

Similar characters

In Action Comics #16 (September 1939), the Zatara story is called Terror from Saturn. A teleportation beam plucks Zatara from Earth to Saturn where he meets Porra who is the spitting image of the Martian Manhunter.

In Batman #78 (Aug.-Sep. 1953), Batman met Roh Kar, First Lawman of Mars, who was on Earth chasing an alien renegade. Though displaing no innate super-powers, he uses technology to track brainwaves and fly. His appearance also resembles the Martian Manhunter.

Parodies and Analogues

There have been few parodies of Martian Manhunter made in recent times, due to the concentration on more well-known heroes like Superman and Batman.

  • Martian Anteater - a member of Just'a Lotta Animals
  • Mr. Martian, CH'kk Kk'xx (Chuck Cox) - a Big Bang Comics hero
  • Martian Man in the Guardians of the Globe from Invincible
  • Vigilante from Venus - a female character in Top Ten
  • Skrullian Skymaster from the Squadron Supreme
  • The Freedom City sourcebook for the role-playing game Mutants and Masterminds includes pastiches of many popular superheroes, including Pseudo, a shapeshifting alien telepath who is a member of the Freedom League, which is an analogue for the Justice League
  • Jack from Jupiter from the series The Boys.
  • Stalker from the "secret" Stormwatch team.

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