This month, for the inclusion of underrated hero I decided to include the Manhunter himself, J’onn J’onzz of Mars. Martian Manhunter was originally created as a DC analogue to Superman that could be substituted if the Man of Steel was being used too much. That being said, over the years he has grown into hero status in his own right and became known as “the heart and soul of the Justice League”. Manhunter has grown to be one of my more favourite classic superheroes. I say classic because most of my favourites are anti-heroes or heroes so close to anti-hero status, it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference. Martian Manhunter had a brief stint in the DC drama Smallville where he was portrayed by Phil Morris as well as his current stint on Supergirl where he is portrayed by David Harewood.
Martian Manhunter was first introduced in Detective Comics #225 from November 1955, he was created by Joseph Samachson and Joe Certa.
Martian Manhunter was born to two green skinned Martians on Mars (go figure!). He was one of twins that were born to his parents, he was named J’onn J’onzz which in the Martian language means “Light of Light”; his brother, who was born without Martian telepathic ability was named Ma’alefa’ak which literally translates to “Darkness of Heart”. It’s honestly a wonder as to why the brother turned out to be an evil twin given a name like that by the people who are supposed to love you unconditionally… So J’onn grew up to become a Manhunter ( Martian Police Officer) while his brother grew to hate and resent Martian culture.
Ma’alefa’ak eventually developed a virus, the virus was called H’ronmeers Curse. This virus was transferred by Martian psychic link; which would cause each Martian affected to suffer such a psychosomatic trauma that their minds and bodies would burst into flames. J’onn attempted to stop his wife and daughter from using their psychic abilities but he was unsuccessful and he was forced to watched as his family burned in front of his eyes. The virus was responsible for the mass genocide of the green Martian population and left J’onn to be the “sole survivor” of Mars.
This all happened centuries before his arrival on Earth.
On Earth, centuries after the Martian genocide, a scientist named Saul Erdel had discovered some ancient Martian technology buried on Earth, and was attempting to reverse engineer it to communicate with alien life. He activated his contraption and aimed it at the surface of Mars. The beam traveled through both space and time grabbing J’onn shortly after the genocide and bringing him to the surface of the Earth centuries later. Erdel discovered J’onn outside of his laboratory and brought him inside. J’onn was near insanity after having just witnessed his entire species burn themselves to death and because of the trauma forged a psychic link between himself and Dr. Erdel, the only living being within several miles. When they linked their minds, Dr. Erdel saw what had happened to J’onn and attempted to help him my mentally fabricating a different history of the tragedy of Mars. Erdel took inspiration from various science fiction writers and was eventually able to put J’onn at ease. Erdel also instilled in J’onn the belief that he should be a champion of the people and thus, J’onn took on the persona of Martian Manhunter.
Martians have several powers along with their psychic abilities which I will get into later, but one of their most prominent abilities is shape shifting. Before venturing out of the lab, J’onn adopted a more humanoid appearance while still maintaining his green skin. Dr. Erdel was so surprised by this ability that he suffered a fatal heart attack. As he was dying, Dr. Erdel asked J’onn for forgiveness, due to him inadvertently trapping J’onn on Earth. J’onn provided the closure the doctor needed before passing away. J’onn used his shape shifting powers to take on an African American appearance and joined the local police department (Middletown U.S.A) under the identity of John Jones.
J’onn fought crime under many aliases before he helped to form the Justice League of America. He fought as Marcus Xavier to take down the international criminal syndicate VULTURE, he fought with Justice Experience as the Bronze Wraith, as well as with the League under his Martian Manhunter title and his alternate identity of Bloodwynd.
He briefly becomes the evil Fernus when he attempted to conquer his own fear of fire. It took the combined might of the entire League as well as several new recruits and a couple of Lanterns to stop him.
J’onn was thought to have perished during the explosion of the Watchtower prior to Infinite Crisis, but that was false. During Infinite Crisis, he was discovered to be attached Alexander Luthor’s tower along with several other heroes and villains. It took the combined effort of the Titans to separate him and the others from the tower. Upon being released from the tower, he telepathically coordinated the defense of Metropolis against the evil, Superboy Prime.
Following Infinite Crisis, he took on the identity of William Dyer to infiltrate Checkmate. Checkmate apparently had been holding several green Martians who had crash landed on the Earth. He rescued them with only one of the new Martians, Roh’kar dying in the process.
During an undercover assignment wherein he pretended to be Blockbuster to spy on a Supervillain prison. Catwoman outed J’onn after deducing who he really was ; J’onn was left in his cell after being tortured when the rest of the villains broke out. Libra, a new member of the Society of Supervillains, “rescues” J’onn and brings him back to Earth via a Boom Tube. Using the staff of the Human Flame, Libra stabs J’onn through the chest and lights him on fire. As he is burning he telepathically sends a message to several League members in their sleep requesting they record a portion of his life’s story. Upon discovery of his body, the heroes all said his name and recorded their portion of his history.
J’onn was interred on Mars at the base of a pyramid that had been moved to red planet to serve as his headstone. Many heroes both Leaguers and not attended his funeral where Superman delivered a eulogy in his honour.
BLACKEST NIGHT & RESURRECTION
During the crossover even Blackest Night, J’onn, along with several other deceased heroes and villains, was resurrected into the Black Lantern Corps. While Flash (Barry Allen) and Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) were standing over Batman’s grave site which appeared to have been pillaged, J’onn attacked them saying “You should be dead”. J’onn is soon joined by the Black Lantern resurrected versions of Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Elongated Man, Sue Dibny, and Firestorm. The Atom arrives to help but the heroes are unable to defeat the advancing zombified versions of their friends. With their backs literally against a wall, the heroes are eventually saved by two Indigo Lanterns that drive the black lanterns off. Following the final battle and the defeat of Nekron, the Entity resurrected several heroes and villains, J’onn being one of them.
Following his resurrection, J’onn noticed that something was off. Whenever he was around plant life, it would mysteriously die. He went to visit his niece M’gann M’orzz (Miss Martian) who was doing a meditation quest in the outback of Australia. When he arrived to her hut he discovered her badly beaten and tied up. When he asked her who did this to her she replied saying an unknown Green Martian had attacked her. As he is helping M’gann, J’onn receives a telepathic communication from the Entity (the being that defeated Nekron and resurrected him) telling him to burn down the newly formed forest. Knowing the devastation that had befallen Star City and the new forest that had mysteriously grown in its place, J’onn believed the forest he needed to burn was in Star City. after coming into conflict with Green Arrow and attempting to start the blaze, J’onn is again contacted by the Entity, and told the forest he needed to burn was on Mars. J’onn takes off for his home planet leaving the new Star City alone.
On Mars, J’onn confronts the rogue green Martian that had attacked M’gann. She reveals her name to be D’kay D’razz and wishes to take J’onn as her mate. When J’onn refuses she telepathically attacks him and forces him to see visions of the Mars that could be with the power of the Entity to resurrect everything. J’onn sees through the ruse and wrings her neck, and throws her into the sun, killing her. Upon completion of his task the Entity asks J’onn to choose between Earth and Mars, when J’onn chooses Earth he is absorbed by the Entity. When the “Dark Avatar” (Black Lantern Swamp Thing) attacks, J’onn who has been deemed to be an Elemental along with several other heroes (Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Aquaman,Firestorm); combine with the body of Alex Holland (Swamp Thing) to fight the Dark Avatar. Upon defeat of the Dark Avatar, the Entity with the help of Swamp Thing restores the Elementals to normal.
During the DC Comics re-launch under the New 52 banner, Martian Manhunter was removed as a member of the League and placed in the covert team called Stormwatch. It is teased that he tried to join the League but came to blows with the other members and was cast out, it’s unclear what caused the rift between the heroes. J’onn is recruited by Amanda Waller into the Justice League of America as the counter agent to Superman. The Justice League of America was recruited to specifically counteract individual members of the Justice League should they ever go rogue.
During the Trinity War crossover J’onn was investigating the Secret Society of Supervillains and their new leader, the Outsider. When they discovered the Outsider was Alfred Pennyworth of Earth-3, it was too late and the Crime Syndicate arrived on Earth-1. The heroes were soundly defeated and imprisoned inside the Firestorm matrix until Forever Evil, when Batman freed them with the help of Luthor and several villains. Following the release from the Matrix, J’onn along with fellow JLA members Green Arrow and Stargirl went on to form the Justice League United Team based out of Canada.
J’onn arrived in the Dark Metal event stating he had been on Thanagar looking for answers.
POWERS & ABILITIES
All Martians share the same powers as Martian Manhunter to a degree. While they all have the genetic ability to utilize these powers, they may not have mastered the techniques and thus don’t use it. The powers of the Martian people are as follows:
- Corporeal Form Manipulation – Malleability, Elasticity, Plasticity and Elongation of his form and extremities.
- Superhuman Durability
- Superhuman Strength
- Superhuman Stamina
- Superhuman Speed
- Extrasensory Input
- Enhanced Senses
- Martian Vision – Able to see Electro-magnetic Spectrum, Infrared Spectrum, Telescopic Vision, Microscopic Vision and Heat Vision similar to Superman.
- Telepathy – Able to conjure Illusions, Astral Prjection, Possession, Mind Control, Telepathic Relay (connect multiple minds together to “speak”), Telepathic Assault, Thought Sensing, Mayavana (ability to create a mental reality as real as any other reality, can only be used once in a lifetime. J’onn used his during Despero’s attack on the JL Headquarters to stop the assault and save his friends/teammates)
- Meditate instead of sleep
In addition to all his powers listed J’onn J’onzz also has: Genius Level Intellect, adept firearms skills, incredible detective skills and the ability to understand any language.
A Martian’s only documented weakness is to fire. Which stems from the H’ronmeers Curse and the psychosomatic trauma it caused.
J’onn is known to be very fond of the Earth snack Chocos, so much to the point of borderline addiction.
WHY THEY’RE UNDERRATED
Martian Manhunter is widely underrated because of how much he is underused. This is a being that was able to solo the Justice League on more than one occasion. He has shown time and time again that he is the willing to take the hit in order to save another teammate from getting hurt, and he believes that while Mars was his origin planet, that Earth is his home. As I stated before he has been called the “Heart and Soul of the Justice League” and he wears this title proudly. When all the other heroes falter and become lost they can always look to J’onn to help put them back on the right track.
During the Injustice comic run, J’onn came into conflict with Superman and his regime. He openly stood against the tyranny and was murdered as a result. He does help to deliver one of the best lines of the whole series. The panel is directly below.
J’onn has gone to star in several films and live action series, more so than the Dark Knight himself, which begs to question as to why he isn’t a more popular hero? Superman himself has said that J’onn is the one of the very few beings that he is afraid to engage in open combat because he is the most dangerous man on the planet.
J’onn J’onzz has so much potential and he is always wasted by being relegated to a back up character. I’m not saying his inclusion in the Justice League film would’ve saved it, but it couldn’t have been any worse than what we got right? DC needs to give some of their other great properties a chance instead of sticking with the same heroes. Yes, they’ve branched out with some out there inclusions like Justice League Dark and Cyborg, but looking at how many batman and Superman imprints there are… they could easily drop a couple of those and bring in someone like Manhunter for his own series. I just hope for J’onn J’onzz to one day become a household name like the characters he helps to keep on the right path.